Friday, January 12, 2018

Dirty College Secrets

Walter E. Williams
A frequent point I have made in past columns has been about the educational travesty happening on many college campuses. Some people have labeled my observations and concerns as trivial, unimportant and cherry-picking. While the spring semester awaits us, let’s ask ourselves whether we’d like to see repeats of last year’s antics.

An excellent source for college news is Campus Reform, a conservative website operated by the Leadership Institute. Its reporters are college students. Here is a tiny sample of last year’s bizarre stories.

Donna Riley, a professor at Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, published an article in the most recent issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Engineering Education, positing that academic rigor is a “dirty deed” that upholds “white male heterosexual privilege.” Riley added that “scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing.” Would you hire an engineering education graduate who has little mastery of the rigor of engineering? What does Riley’s vision, if actually practiced by her colleagues, do to the worth of degrees in engineering education from Purdue held by female and black students?

Sympathizing with Riley’s vision is Rochelle Gutierrez, a math education professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her recent book, she says the ability to solve algebra and geometry problems perpetuates “unearned privilege” among whites. Educators must be aware of the “politics that mathematics brings” in society. She thinks that “on many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness.” After all, she adds, “Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.” What’s worse is that the university’s interim provost, John Wilkin, sanctioned her vision, telling Fox News that Gutierrez is an established and admired scholar who has been published in many peer-reviewed publications. I hope that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s black students don’t have the same admiration and stay away from her classes.

Last February, a California State University, Fullerton professor assaulted a CSUF Republicans member during a demonstration against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration. The students identified the assailant as Eric Canin, an anthropology professor. Fortunately, the school had the good sense to later suspend Canin after confirming the allegations through an internal investigation.

Last month, the presidents of 13 San Antonio colleges declared in an op-ed written by Ric Baser, president of the Higher Education Council of San Antonio, and signed by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and 12 other members of the HECSA that “hate speech” and “inappropriate messages” should not be treated as free speech on college campuses. Their vision should be seen as tyranny. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech doesn’t come when he permits people to be free to make statements that he does not find offensive. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech comes when he permits people to make statements he does deem offensive.

Last year, University of Georgia professor Rick Watson adopted a policy allowing students to select their own grade if they “feel unduly stressed” by their actual grade in the class. Benjamin Ayers, dean of the school’s Terry College of Business, released a statement condemning Watson’s pick-your-own-grade policy, calling it “inappropriate.” He added: “Rest assured that this ill-advised proposal will not be implemented in any Terry classroom. The University of Georgia upholds strict guidelines and academic policies to promote a culture of academic rigor, integrity, and honesty.” Ayers’ response gives us hope that not all is lost in terms of academic honesty.

Other campus good news is a report on the resignation of George Ciccariello-Maher, a white Drexel University professor who tweeted last winter, “All I Want For Christmas is White Genocide.” He said that he resigned from his tenured position because threats against him and his family had become “unsustainable.” If conservative students made such threats, they, too, could benefit from learning the principles of free speech.


Tuition fee reductions for British university students?

The Conservatives need to do this. In the last election, the Labour party got a lot of votes by pledging to cancel all student debt

Theresa May is now free to carry out reform of tuition fees after she sacked the two ministers who blocked her plans, her former chief of staff says today.

Nick Timothy says Justine Greening, the former education secretary, opposed plans for a review to cut tuition fees during her time on Whitehall, forcing the rethink into the long grass.

The Prime Minister sacked her earlier this week, prompting Ms Greening to leave the Government altogether in protest at being offered another job. She was replaced by Damian Hinds.

Alongside the former universities minister Jo Johnson, Ms Greening refused to back a wide-ranging review which could have allowed institutions to charge different fees in a bid to increase competition.

The Prime Minister announced a watered-down rethink on the eve of the party's annual conference last year but after fierce opposition from her two ministers the plans were later dropped


Leftist West Australian government reverses cuts to education services for country children

The WA Government has backflipped on a controversial plan to shut down the state's Schools of the Air (SOTA), following an angry backlash from families in isolated and regional areas.

Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery revealed the Government would reverse its decision to close all five schools at the end of this year, saying the Government had taken its efforts to find savings too far.  "We made a rushed decision that left many Western Australians feeling anxious and distressed," Mr McGowan said. "We've listened to their concerns."

The decision comes just months after the Government was forced to reverse a decision to relocate Perth Modern School — the state's only selective high school — after a strong community backlash.

Along with the Schools of the Air closure, Mr McGowan said he would shelve planned cuts to gifted and talented programs and the closure of accommodation at Northam Residential College, and reverse a decision to freeze the intake of Level 3 classroom teachers.

The decision will reverse $23 million worth of cuts, which the Government says will be made up from spending cuts in other portfolios.

The decision to close the Schools of the Air, which educate hundreds of students, was announced in mid-December as part of a $64 million cut to the Department of Education budget.

At the time, Ms Ellery said remote students who had been enrolled in SOTA would continue to receive the same service through remote learning resources including the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE).

Parent groups responded angrily, with the Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA) describing the decision as "absolutely brutal".

Other groups claimed the decision was made without consultation with the affected families.

In the lead-up to Christmas, hundreds of people attended a rally in Kalgoorlie to protest the school closures, with Wheatbelt Labor MLC Darren West telling the crowd the Government's decision took him by surprise.

The five SOTA schools have campuses in Carnarvon, Kalgoorlie, the Kimberley, Meekatharra and Port Hedland.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

CAIR's Terror Ties an Issue in San Diego School Lawsuit

Terror ties and "hostility toward Israel" are directly relevant to a civil suit challenging the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) work with San Diego public schools, plaintiff's attorneys argued in court papers filed Friday.

CAIR helped the San Diego Unified School District develop an anti-bullying program. But five local families and two community groups sued last spring, claiming the program elevated Muslim students above others. The school board agreed to stop working with CAIR in July, acknowledging that CAIR is a religious group and the partnership may cross the line on church-state separation.

The ligation continues, however, and the school board asked the court last month to strike references to CAIR's anti-Israel positions and its connections to Hamas from the case, saying they were irrelevant.

The Anti-Defamation League, which took over the anti-bullying program after the board broke with CAIR last summer, has cited CAIR's "long record of anti-Israel activity," a response filed Friday by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) said. CAIR and its founders were part of a Hamas-support network in the U.S. during the 1990s, records seized by the FBI show.

The school district knew about CAIR's history before it was sued and had opportunities to disavow the organization, the FCDF response said.

"Contrary to what Defendants would have this Court believe, there is ample evidence demonstrating CAIR's harmful influence within the District, including its manipulation of instructional materials to advance their sectarian agenda," the FCDF wrote.

None of the cases the school district cited to justify removing the references to Israel or extremists "addresses a situation like this one, where a religious organization with an internationally reprehensible reputation functions as the ministerial arm of a government institution," the FCDF said.

Proselytizing is part of CAIR's religious mission, and it has chosen to use public schools as a forum for spreading its religious message under the cover of an anti-bullying program, the FCDF argued.

"Indeed, Nihad Awad, CAIR's National Executive Director, testified that 'informing the American public about the Islamic faith is a religious obligation and educational exercise,'" the FCDF said.


Connecticut parents pull kids from school as Ivanka Trump visits

First daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump made a surprise visit to a Connecticut high school—prompting some parents who oppose President Trump’s agenda to yank their kids from classes Monday.

Trump appeared at the Norwalk Early College Academy to talk to its students about the importance of career education.

“To see the passion and enthusiasm for bringing real life skills into a classroom environment but then coupling it with real life experience through internship creates this really beautiful virtuous angle,” she said, News 12 New Jersey reported.

Parents say they didn’t know that Trump was scheduled to speak to their kids—information they suspect was withheld due to security concerns.

Ivanka Trump needs to step up to protect working women
“This should have been brought to our attention, although I do understand security reasons,” parent Karey Fitzgerald told News 12. “I think we should have had the choice to send our child to school or keep them home.” she added.

Not all parents were opposed to the visit.

Parent Angela Yaneth Guzman replied to a photo from Trump's visit on Facebook, and thanked her for speaking to her son.

"My son Nicolas Guzman is a NECA student and you talked to him today and he's so excited about it. It's something He will never forget. Thank you Ivanka," she wrote.

Eminem envisions putting Ivanka Trump ‘in the trunk’ in new song
Trump was joined by IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who developed the NECA academic model.

Students at NECA earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in software engineering in four years.


UK: Damian Hinds is new education secretary, replacing Justine Greening

Damian Hinds has been announced as England's education secretary in the prime minister's cabinet reshuffle. He will replace Justine Greening, who is leaving the government.

Ms Greening, the first comprehensive-educated Tory education secretary, refused a switch to the Department for Work and Pensions, the BBC understands.

Mr Hinds, a former DWP minister, went to a Catholic grammar school in Altrincham and then studied at the University of Oxford.

School funding

The MP for East Hampshire is a former chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.

Mr Hinds wrote on Twitter that he was "looking forward to working with the great teachers and lecturers in our schools, colleges and universities giving people the opportunities to make the most of their lives".

The incoming education secretary will face pressures over school funding and decisions about university tuition fees.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said he was disappointed to see Ms Greening's departure. "She has tried hard to tackle the school funding crisis, without any help from the chancellor or prime minister," said Mr Barton.

University challenges

The National Association of Head Teachers called for more stability and investment.

"Where budgets are at breaking point and recruitment is still a massive challenge, education does not need more upheaval," said NAHT leader Paul Whiteman.

School funding proved to be an important doorstep issue in the election - and Ms Greening announced that an extra £1.3bn of the education department's budget would be moved to schools.

The new education secretary also faces big decisions over higher education, including the future of tuition fees and university funding.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised there will be a major review of how students pay for university - after pledges from Labour to young voters that they would scrap tuition fees.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said Mr Hinds had "assiduously" raised social mobility since becoming an MP in 2010.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bankruptcy court settlement could bring relief to some ITT students
Thousands of students nationwide who attended the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute would have nearly $600 million in loans canceled under a proposed court settlement, a significant win for consumers in Massachusetts and elsewhere who have long claimed that the for-profit chain defrauded them out of money and an education.

The settlement, which must be approved later this month by an Indiana federal bankruptcy court judge, also acknowledges that students who attended the college between 2006 and 2016 have a $1.5 billion claim against ITT. That means if any money is left over from the school’s assets after its bankruptcy, students could receive a share. Students who continued to pay their loans to ITT, even after the bankruptcy, will also get almost all of their $3 million back.

The settlement is “a victory for former students who were defrauded by ITT,” according to a letter sent to former ITT students by Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represented consumers in the bankruptcy case. “However, we know that the student class still faces billions of dollars of federal and private student loans from ITT, and we will continue fight for all ITT-related debt to be canceled.”

Officials with the predatory lending project declined to comment since the judge has yet to sign off on the terms of the agreement.

The trustee in the ITT bankruptcy also declined to comment. However, in documents filed in federal court on Wednesday, trustee Deborah Caruso described the settlement as, “fair, equitable . . . and well within the range of reasonableness.”

Since ITT abruptly shut down its nearly 140 campuses nationwide and declared bankruptcy in the fall of 2016, students have been seeking financial relief. In Massachusetts, more than 560 students, many of them low-income or veterans, attended ITT campuses in Norwood and Wilmington when the school closed. Across the country, ITT had an estimated 35,000 students enrolled in classes.

Last January, a group of students led by the Harvard project, filed a lawsuit claiming that they had a right to ITT’s remaining assets, like any other creditor of the bankrupt institution. They claimed that ITT employed aggressive tactics to recruit them and then deceived or misled them on multiple fronts, including about the cost of attendance, the school’s accreditation status, the experience of instructors, and the likelihood of job placement and salaries they would earn after graduation.

On social media, where former ITT students have shared their challenges and struggles with student loans, news of the settlement was greeted with relief.  “This is an amazing start,” said one student on a Facebook page.  “Progress,” another student wrote.

But many also acknowledged the settlement is still limited.

The nearly $600 million in debt cancellation only affects loans made directly to students by ITT and still held by the school. Those loans tended to be smaller amounts, usually a few thousand dollars, and were meant to close any gaps in funding, between what students could pay out of pocket for tuition and fees and what was covered by their much larger federal loans.

ITT also sold millions of dollars in its private loans to an organization formed by seven credit unions, including Workers Credit Union in Fitchburg, that are not part of the settlement.

“It is at least admitting they owe us,” said Alyse Zachary, 33, from Florida who attended ITT from 2008 to 2010.

Zachary said she was already attending ITT classes when the school told her she needed to take out a $14,000 private loan to continue. She still has the debt, and it has affected her credit and prevented her from getting jobs at a bank and for the federal government.

Many students who attended ITT and other for-profit colleges that closed or that state and federal regulators found had committed fraud and misled students are still also waiting for relief from their federal student loans.

Consumer advocates and some lawmakers have criticized the US Department of Education under the Trump administration for moving too slowly in providing student loan forgiveness to defrauded borrowers who attended for-profits schools.

A July 2017 government report found that although the Trump administration had received 25,991 claims for loan discharges, it had made decisions on only a handful of them.

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is also considering higher standards for borrowers to qualify for federal student loan relief. Under the draft rules, students would have to prove with “clear and convincing” evidence that the school intentionally deceived them.


UK: Crisis in teacher recruitment as applications fall by a third

Teacher training applicants have fallen by a third in a year, the latest figures show. Head teachers’ leaders blamed concerns over classroom stress and accountability, and confusion about routes into the profession, for the drop.

By mid-December 12,820 people had applied for postgraduate routes into teaching starting this autumn. This compares with 19,330 people at the same stage in 2016 and 20,330 in 2015. The decrease of 6,510 between 2017 and 2016 equates to 33 per cent.

The government has missed its teacher-recruitment targets for the past five years despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds on training new teachers. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the figures as disastrous


Australia: Students’ skills ‘no issue’ for employers

Universities and academics have hit back at claims some graduates are being poorly prepared for work, accusing Education Minister Simon Birmingham of using ­student attrition rates as “political fodder” and questioning how ­recent $2.2 billion funding cuts will improve the sector.

Senator Birmingham said yesterday that new figures on completion rates and degree suit­ability in the workforce showed an increase in non-completions and a fall in employer and graduate satisfaction levels, “so we need to nip that in the bud”.

An annual government-­funded employer satisfaction survey found that more than 10 per cent of graduates surveyed said their qualification was “not at all” ­important and another 15 per cent “not that” important for their job soon after beginning.

Innes Willox, head of employer organisation Australian Industry Group, said the survey showed that some new entrants to the labour market were “verging on the unemployable” ­because their tertiary credentials were not relevant to the field they were in.

Universities Australia chief Catriona Jackson saidg employer satisfaction had risen in all categories of graduate skills since last year’s survey, including employability, teamwork, adaptability and general communication skills.

“This survey gives us important, transparent information to guide our understanding of the complex transition from study to work,” Ms Jackson said.

She said the research found that more than four in five ­employers were satisfied with university graduates who worked for them, and 88 per cent of ­graduates felt their qualification prepared them well for their current job.

She stepped up criticism of $2.2bn in funding cuts recently pushed through in the form of a two-year freeze in federal grants funding.

Senator Birmingham yesterday defended the cuts, saying they were designed to “actually see outcomes from unis that are a value to not only taxpayers but importantly to the students themselves and, of course, to our overall economy”.

National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea ­accused Senator Birmingham of creating “political fodder” out of university outcomes.

She said the question of whether ­students found their ­degrees relevant immediately upon entering the workforce needed to take into account “ongoing qualification needs” in many industries.

“The more interesting thing is to look five years out, so that someone might start in a job with an undergraduate degree, then in order to progress their career go on to a masters, and so on,” Ms Rea said.

“One of the things that’s also missed is that it’s not all people in their early 20s, but many are ­mature-aged students who’ve had to change their job; sometimes they’ve been made redundant and had to choose a new field where they start again at the bottom of the pile.”


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Book Title:  The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids

Author: By Joy Pullmann; Reviewer: Sandra Stotsky

Libraries cannot set out politically balanced displays of books on the Common Core project because advocates and critics of it are far from evenly distributed. Most books on the subject do not consider the project a desirable reform (i.e., they do not favor workforce preparation for all students in place of optional high school curricula and student-selected postsecondary goals).

Nor have parents lauded Common Core’s effects on their children’s learning or the K–8 curriculum. Indeed, few observers see anything academically worthwhile in the standards funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and promoted by the organizations and foundations it has subsidized for that purpose (e.g., the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence), with aligned tests funded by the Obama-led U.S. Department of Education (USED) and guided by Arne Duncan’s and John King’s many appointees still in the USED, despite the change in administration after January 2017.

Joy Pullmann’s book helps us to understand why there is so little on the advocacy end of a library bookshelf holding works on Common Core.

Pullmann’s purpose is to explain what Common Core is and how it got to be implemented in almost every public classroom in almost every state in a remarkably short period of time (less than five years). She does so chiefly from the perspective of the many parents and teachers she quotes. Organized in seven chapters, her book describes how the Gates Foundation promoted and continues to promote one extremely wealthy couple’s uninformed, unsupported, and unsupportable ideas on education for other people’s children, even while their own children are enrolled in a non–Common Cored private school. It explains how (but not exactly why) the Gates Foundation helped to centralize control of public education in the USED ; why parents, teachers, local school boards, and state legislators were the last to learn how the public schools that their local and state taxes support had been nationalized without congressional knowledge or permission; and why they were expected to believe that their local public schools were now accountable to a distant and faceless bureaucracy for what they taught, how they taught, and how it was graded, not to the local and state taxpayers who fund the schools or to locally elected school boards.

Overnight, teachers discovered they were accountable to faraway anonymous bureaucrats for students’ scores on tests that these teachers had not developed or reviewed before or after their administration. In some cases, teachers were accountable for the achievement of students they had never taught. Yet, amazingly, the Common Core project was presented to state boards and school administrators as “state led” (see, for example, Ashley Jochim and Patrick McGuinn, “The Politics of Common Core Assessments,” Education Next 16, no. 4 [Fall 2016]: 44–52) even though it was not accountable to the states despite the fact that the federal government pays for only about 8 to 10 percent of the costs of public education on average across states.

The complex story of how sets of English language arts and mathematics standards (and, later, compatible science standards) created by nonexperts selected chiefly (so far as we know) by Bill Gates got adopted legally by math- and science-illiterate state boards of education (most state board members in most states do not understand the content and sequence of a K–12 math and science curriculum, to judge by the absence of documented questions on Common Core’s math standards at the time they were officially adopted) is carefully told in a relatively short book.

What we miss in the book are analyses of four crucial topics: the academic quality of Common Core’s standards, why they were adopted by state boards of education, why state legislatures can’t seem to replace them with stronger academic standards, and to whom our public schools should be accountable.

The first topic is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Common Core project—the inferior academic quality of its standards. The mission statement in the first documents released by the Common Core project claims that its English language arts and mathematics standards “are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” Yet, curiously, there is no chapter in Pullmann’s book on whether independent academic experts in mathematics, science, or literary scholarship (such as E. D. Hirsch Jr. at the University of Virginia) have ever judged as “robust” Common Core’s “collegereadiness” standards and the tests aligned to them.

Pullmann does make it clear in a subsequent blog post how Common Core’s mathematics and English language arts standards limit if not damage the education of all children, including those it claims to want to make “college ready" but there is no cogent discussion of this central issue in her book.

Second, because the Common Core standards were never judged by independent academic experts as reflecting the “knowledge and skills” needed for success in college and careers, why did state boards or other state agencies (often appointed by a governor) make a decision in 2010 to adopt them, knowing that billions of dollars were needed to implement them, to alter textbooks and other curriculum materials, to prepare new teachers, to retrain practicing teachers, and, above all else, to assess teachers and knowing that many more billions would eventually be needed for continuing implementation?

That is the puzzle some investigative reporters will need to tackle in the future because Pullmann’s book offers no analysis of this situation. Case studies might shed light on why state boards of education across the country chose to adopt secondary mathematics standards (and, later, compatible science standards) that most board members were incapable of understanding on their own (most were not engineers) and without a public meeting with academic experts at their own public universities.

Why did they think they could rely on the staff at their own departments of education, on mathematically weak K–12 teachers, or on a sales pitch from organizations subsidized by the Gates Foundation rather than on people who actually teach mathematics or science at the postsecondary level and have specialized in the subject in undergraduate and graduate school or used mathematics in their daily professional work?

Third, how does “school choice” address any of the problems with the Common Core project? Pullmann’s commendable effort to describe the spider web spun by two wealthy people to ensnare all the nation’s children in their misconceived education agenda ends with a puzzling recommendation extolling school choice, as if giving low-income parents a choice of school building or school management solves the many problems that parents have had with Common Core’s standards, tests, and data-collection activities. Where readers might expect suggestions for how states or school districts might escape or have tried to escape from the Common Core spider web, we find instead a justification for school choice.

It is common knowledge that charter schools or vouchers for private schools (the forms in which school choice most often occurs) are available chiefly to low-income parents and their children. No means test was used for many of the original charter schools in the 1990s. But in 2017 it is quite clear that charter schools and vouchers are designed to help low-income children escape “failing” schools.

If the entire system of public education is trapped in Common Core’s spider web, what helps children of low- to middle-income families (perhaps the bulk of the population in our public schools) escape the curriculum shaped by its standards, statemandated tests, and data-collection activities in the schools they apparently must attend unless they are homeschooled? How can charter schools (mostly public schools) escape the Common Core net?

Fourth, we needed a discussion of accountability in the context of the Common Core project. Why did our governors and state boards seem to agree to the idea that our local public schools and its teaching force are accountable not to the parents of the children in them, not to the local taxpayers who pay on average about 45 percent of their public schools’ costs, and not to the state legislatures that pay on average (across states) about 45 percent of their costs, but to a partisan (and constantly changing) federal government or a Congress that appropriates on average about 8 to 10 percent of their costs?

Even so-called conservative organizations (e.g., the Manhattan Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and National Review) don’t seem to understand why parents whose children are trapped in Common Cored public schools don’t see their (often governor-appointed) commissioners of education and (often governor-appointed) state boards of education as speaking for their children’s interests. Elimination of USED-written accountability rules for the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, voted on by the U.S. House and the Senate in March 2017, is only a baby step toward a solution of the problems in American education.

For sure, Joy Pullmann’s useful addition to the negative side of the library bookshelf on Common Core won’t be the last.


UK: Toby Young is not the problem: Hysterical academics are letting the Office for Students off the hook.

2018 was just minutes old when the custodians of acceptable thought honed in on their latest target – the contrarian turned educationalist Toby Young. As news broke of Young’s appointment to the board of the government’s new Office for Students (OfS), Twitter went into meltdown and Guardian journalists abandoned New Year celebrations to screenshot Young’s beyond-the-pale utterances.

Labour MP and Brexit-basher David Lammy tweeted ‘Welcome to Trumpland’ and declared Young ‘a sexist misogynist’. Never one for understatement, Paul Mason described Young as a ‘Tory eugenicist and educational apartheid guru’ who ‘despises working-class kids who try to make good through education’. Economist Danny Blanchflower called for Young’s removal from the OfS board, arguing he was ‘totally unfit [and] unqualified’. Academics rushed to join the hate-fest.

I have no intention to defend Young’s tweets about women’s breasts, gay sex or even his more detailed plans to incentivise breeding in order to enhance intelligence. Young is more than capable of defending himself. He has described his past comments as ‘sophomoric’ and purged his Twitter account of thousands of politically incorrect statements. Some of Young’s opinions flipped between deliberately provocative and vile. Yet, incredibly, the response of the social-media mob has been more hate-filled and unhinged than anything spilled from Young’s keyboard.

Outraged Twittermobs demanding apologies for thoughtcrimes and social media pile-ons are now a routine part of life. But, even by today’s norms, the furious reaction to Young’s appointment has been hysterical and embarrassing. Labelling him a eugenicist and a fascist doesn’t only display a spectacular historical illiteracy - it also ignores what Young has been up to for the past few years. The more sober response to Young’s appointment is that he is simply unqualified. But Young does have experience in the education sector: as he was quick to point out to Paul Mason, he has opened four free schools in London that will educate almost 2,000 children and take in an above average number of children on free school meals.

In all the hysteria over Young’s tweets, the real problem for higher education – the establishment of the Office for Students (OfS) – has been overlooked. Academics arguing Young is unqualified, that he lacks experience of higher education, score an own goal. Presumably they believe that a better qualified candidate – or even, as some have suggested, a student – would make the OfS acceptable.

The OfS is a regulatory body set up with the aim of ensuring the market in higher education works so that students receive value for money and a satisfactory university experience – as such, it will undermine the autonomy of institutions. None of these demands upon universities is new. Successive governments have sought to bring about efficiency in higher education through the workings of the market. That many students have come to see themselves as customers, in receipt of a service and a certificate in return for tuition fees, has been a fact of life for the past decade. The OfS, while not bringing these problems into existence, will certainly exacerbate existing trends.

The hysteria over Young’s appointment is a distraction from the real issues facing higher education. Worse, the outrage whipped up over one politically incorrect individual actually lends legitimacy to the OfS and the government’s reforms. It makes it appear as if higher education’s biggest problem is Toby Young, and with his sacking, and a politically palatable replacement, everything will be just great. Rather than Young, his critics argue, we should get representatives of the NUS on the OfS board – that is, get students to regulate universities!

It seems likely Young has joined the OfS in order to meet Jo Johnson’s goal of enforcing free speech in universities. Last week, Johnson again reiterated his concerns with No Platforming and censorship in higher education. Ironically, the hysteria directed at Young from academics and the demand that he should be sacked (No Platformed from a job he hasn’t yet begun) shows Johnson’s concerns are not misplaced. It illustrates the need for someone like Young to shake up a higher-education sector that has become censorious and politically conformist.

But unfortunately, Johnson is as ignorant about free speech as the Twittermobs criticising Young’s appointment. Johnson’s desire to see the OfS legislate free speech into existence on campus is not just misguided, but impossible. Much of the current impetus to restrict free speech stems from various government policies. The Prevent Duty, which compels universities to monitor external speakers and report students deemed susceptible to radicalisation, is only the most obvious.

The Teaching Excellence Framework and the importance universities have come to place on student satisfaction also has a corrosive effect on free speech. Lecturers, conscious that students are evaluating their performance, are perhaps less likely to push teaching into terrain that is too intellectually challenging or emotionally discomforting. If students demand trigger warnings and a decolonised curriculum, then all too often that is what they get.

Similarly, the marketisation of higher education, with its institutional onus on brand image and reputation management, keeps a lid on academic freedom. Psychotherapist James Caspian had his research into the experiences of individuals who transition from one gender to another shut down by Bath Spa University. ‘The fundamental reason given was that it might cause criticism of the research on social media, and criticism of the research would be criticism of the university. They also added it’s better not to offend people’, Caspian said.

The remit of the OfS is to enhance the power of students within higher education and to promote the market. It cannot do this and promote free speech at the same time. Its very existence undermines the institutional autonomy that is fundamental to academic freedom. Yet, tragically and embarrassingly, academics and journalists have been far too busy projecting outrage at Toby Young’s tweets to take up these substantive issues.

Late in the day, some are now arguing that it’s possible to campaign both for Toby Young to be sacked and for the abolishment of the OfS. But so far, all the bluster has been directed at the easier target: today’s hate figure who once made nasty remarks about disabled children and working-class students. Meanwhile, the Office for Students has had a free pass. The ignorance, ideological conformity and intellectual cowardice that has been on display since the beginning of this year does not bode well for academia in 2018.


Australian workers and businesses say universities failing to deliver useful degrees

MORE than a quarter of university graduates say their degrees are almost useless for their jobs, while a leading employment group says some new graduates are verging on unemployable.

The results come from the largest survey of Australian employers and workers ever conducted which raises questions about the worth of some university degrees.

The Employer Satisfaction Survey, released today, reveals more than 10 per cent of graduates believe their qualification is “not at all” important to their job, while another 15 per cent say their qualification is “not that” important for their job.

Graduates from management and commerce degrees, as well information technology and creative arts degrees, were the most likely to believe their degree wasn’t important for their current work.

The government-funded survey also reveals that employers do not believe the nation’s most prestigious universities are producing the best workers.

None of the Group of Eight universities appeared among the top eight of 41 universities around Australia that were compared for employer satisfaction.

James Cook University received the highest approval rating, at 91 per cent, and University of South Queensland received the lowest rating at 77 per cent.

Overall, the survey found 84 per cent of employers were satisfied with their workers.

“If there was any advice I would give the wave of young people about to enter tertiary studies in the next few weeks, it would be to focus on employability skills and seriously consider developing the science, technology, engineering and maths qualifications new workplaces increasingly require,” he wrote in an opinion piece today.

“There is no doubt that work is changing and jobs along with it.

“Digitalisation means fast-moving workplaces, globally connected systems and rapid change.

“With these daunting developments taking place and the education system failing to keep up, the result for frustrated employers is that they find some new entrants to the labour market to be verging on the unemployable.”

Mr Willox said Australia’s education and training institutions were ramping up their connections with industry to better focus degrees but there was a long way to go.

Universities Australia’s acting chief executive Catriona Jackson rejected the criticism, saying employers had given university graduates “the equivalent of a high distinction”.

“These results tell an overwhelmingly positive story about graduates in the labour market and that universities are preparing their students well for their chosen careers,” she said.

“Employers are seeing, first-hand, the world-class quality of university graduates that we’re producing in Australia.”

The federal government has introduced a two-year freeze to per student funding for bachelor level degrees and has made further funding increases contingent on performance outcomes.

“Australia has excellent universities but they must place student outcomes at the forefront of their considerations to meet the needs of our economy, employers and ultimately boost the employment prospects of graduates,” he said.

“That’s precisely why the changes we announced in MYEFO will link additional funding for bachelor courses to performance outcomes.

“By further incentivising performance in areas such as employer and student satisfaction, completion and retention we should see better outcomes for graduates and better value for taxpayers.”

Steve Shepherd, chief executive of youth career coaching firm TwoPointZero, called for more focus on career education in schools and said targeted performance funding for universities was not the answer.

“It doesn’t actually address the issue, just distracts from it and could lead to higher education being out of reach for many young people today,” Mr Shepherd said.

“What we should be looking at and funding instead is improved career education in schools, as most schools currently spend less than a cup of coffee per student per year on careers advice.

“We need to provide more guidance to parents to help them understand the employment market isn’t the same as when they left school. “And, we need to stop thinking going to university is the be all and end all.”

Mr Shepherd said many young people were picking any degree to simply say they had been to university, without thinking about the impact it would have on their careers.

“We’re essentially suffering from ‘degree inflation’, where the value of a degree is diminishing and rapidly,” he said.

About 97,000 graduates and 4000 employers were surveyed.


Monday, January 08, 2018

LePage Spending Welfare Dollars on After-School Programs

Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage is spending $1.7 million of federal welfare dollars on after-school programs.

The Bangor Daily News reports over a dozen nonprofit organizations received funding this year from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant.

Since 2015, Maine's asked such after-school programs to show how they help prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies and encourage two-parent families. Such goals are outlined under federal law, which lets states use welfare grants with few restrictions.

More than 80 percent of the funds were awarded without using a competitive bidding process. The Department of Health and Human Services says it's part of a push to fund programs outside of southern Maine.

The number of Maine families with children receiving cash assistance has fallen from nearly 12,800 in 2012 to 4,200 in December.


Choosing a School Should Be as Easy as Choosing a Hair Salon

Think about all the things you spend money on in life. Why do you pick one product or service provider over another? Is it because government told you to?

As I was getting my hair cut the other day, I struck up a conversation with the beautician, who told me about being certified as a “Paul Mitchell Master Stylist.” Paul Mitchell is a network of beauty schools and salons that trains stylists. To become a “master stylist,” a salon employee must provide a certain dollar amount of services in a month, which proves he or she has reached a high level of competency and has built up a clientele.

The conversation got me thinking, as I often have, about how naturally and effectively many parts of the private sector set standards – as well as how government, particularly when it comes to education, stinks at it.

Think about all the things you spend money on in life. Why do you pick one product or service provider over another? Is it because government told you to? Unless there’s a tax incentive, probably not. But in the case of education, we are often told one school is better than another by government, which sets its own historically horrendous standards by which to judge its own schools. What an absurdly flawed system!

The Market Helps Consumers Choose

I didn’t choose the salon I went to because it’s Paul Mitchell certified (though I had heard of the brand), but I would be inclined, after having a satisfactory experience there, to choose another Paul Mitchell salon in the future over a non-affiliated salon, if I had a choice. That’s how the free market works.

Many people swear by AAA-approved auto repair shops and will only have their cars serviced at facilities the American Automobile Association labels “high quality.” Similarly, while growing up, I went on a lot of road trips with my family. We stayed at numerous campgrounds and learned that when we saw the “Good Sam” seal of approval, the campground would be top-notch.

People who become personal trainers have loads of options as to what type of certification they earn, and some are recognized to be more highly rated and well-regarded than others, meaning you’ll be more likely to land a better-paying job. It’s the same with college. Everyone used to know if you attended an Ivy League school (the reputation is becoming less accurate all the time), you were likely smart, well-educated, and capable of a high-level career.

Yelp!, Angie’s List, Michelin stars, and product reviews on Amazon all do the same thing. They inform us which products and services are the best. I could go on listing hundreds of examples of ways in which people trust the free market to make informed decisions about economic choices every day. When it comes to education, though, few have a choice, and the “choices” government makes for us are often based on, as I noted before, sub-par (that’s being polite) standards they invent.

High-Stakes Standards

As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote in 2015,

High-stakes standardized testing has become a hallmark of modern school reform for well over a dozen years, starting with the use of these exams in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law to hold schools “accountable.” The stakes for these exams were increased with President Obama’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition, in which states could win federal education funding by promising to undertake specific reforms – including evaluating teachers by test scores and adopting “common standards.”

Ah yes, “common standards.” The most recent set of common standards has proven to be – like most things government oversees – an epic disaster. The Common Core State Standards were sold to the states (they were literally bribed to adopt them) as a feel-good/look-good scheme to dupe taxpayers into believing government schools would be held to an ideal. The standards turned out to be awful; all they did was serve as a reminder that, whatever standard government is being held to now, it’s too low.

It’s time our education system was given the same opportunity to earn students.

Every successful business, school, and person (you must do a good job to be recommended) has built a superior reputation on merit, not on a government-approved standards. It’s time our education system was given the same opportunity to earn students, by aspiring to standards families actually care about.

Giving parents a choice in where their children are educated would guarantee schools are held to a high, parent-set standard, as opposed to the low bar public schools aspire to now, and it would dramatically improve the system for everyone across the board.


Australia: Push for the International Baccalaureate to be in NSW public schools

The IB is not exactly the answer to a maiden's prayer but its curriculum is less dumbed down than many others

The NSW Department of Education is investigating how other states offer the International Baccalaureate in public schools in a signal that NSW could introduce the diploma as an alternative to the HSC.

NSW is the only state in Australia that does not allow the IB in any public schools but the diploma has been growing in popularity in private schools across Sydney, with 14 schools last year offering the program in year 12 and several others introducing it into their primary years.

The IB, founded in 1968 in Geneva, is described as a program to achieve the "intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalising world" and is designed for students who have "excellent breadth and depth of knowledge".

The president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council, Chris Presland, said the IB would be a "worthwhile option" in NSW public schools.

"There is no doubt that the HSC remains the most highly regarded credential in Australia and it is also very respected overseas," Mr Presland said. "But I think the IB would also be a worthwhile credential and something that could be made available to any school that wants it."

Mr Presland said providing choice to public school students would be welcomed by most principals and schools.

IB students in Australia received their results on Thursday, with 22 achieving a perfect score of 45. Several of those students were from NSW.

Students must study English, maths, science, a language, a humanities and a theory of knowledge subject, as well as doing a 4000-word essay of their choice. They also complete a community service, physical activity and creativity program similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

The department's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation is reviewing how other states run the IB program in their public schools.

In Queensland, three public selective schools offer an IB-only program for students in years 10 to 12, while in Victoria, two government high schools, Albert Park College and Werribee Secondary College, offer the diploma.

In South Australia, the only student to achieve a perfect IB score this year went to a public high school.

The IB co-ordinator for NSW and ACT, Antony Mayrhofer, said the introduction of the three public selective IB schools in Queensland had been very successful. "The IB is not for all students but at the moment it is financially selective for students in NSW," Mr Mayrhofer said. "If the IB was in the government sector, it would offer students choice."

Around the world, more than 50 per cent of the 170,000 students who do the IB attend a government school and between 2012 and 2017, the number of IB programs offered worldwide has grown by almost 40 per cent.

Mr Mayrhofer, who is also director of learning at St Paul's Grammar School, said introducing an alternative curriculum could be costly but Australia routinely performed well in the diploma, which is described as offering a more rounded way of studying and providing a strong preparation for university.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

Education in 2018 - Three major challenges facing America's schools and students

Now that President Trump has signed tax cuts into law to strengthen our economy, there’s much more to be done, starting with education reform. Three glaring problems need fixing: our underperforming K-12 schools, our politicized universities, and the enormous student debt burden.

Candidate Trump promised to revive the American Dream – the idea that whoever you are, you can get ahead, and that your kids will have it better than you did. If the dream is broken, our schools are a big reason.

We throw more money at our schools than just about any other country, and what do we get? For our K-12 school system, an honorary membership in the Third World.

Not so long ago, we had a superb public school system, but now we trail most countries. In math, we’re 38th in the world among developed countries in terms of how15 year-olds perform. And it’s getting worse, not better.

Our public schools don’t lack for defenders in the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, but the defenders can’t explain away our mediocrity.

The problem is not that we spend too little, and it’s not because of what are delicately called our “demographics.” Instead, that problem is what you would expect when an educational blob resists state-support for private schools and for schools run by religious groups.

Government funding for non-public schools plays a large part in the educational success of students in other countries, but our nation has refused to emulate the practice, even though other countries are beating the pants off of us when it comes to student performance.

Government funding for non-public schools plays a large part in the educational success of students in other countries, but our nation has refused to emulate the practice, even though other countries are beating the pants off of us when it comes to student performance.

The Democrats who tell us they’re the party of equality have thrown in their lot with teachers unions who are the main obstacle to reform. Cruel hypocrites!

Happily, President Trump has called school choice the great civil rights issue of our time. At the 2017 Value Voters Summit the president told religious conservatives that “my plan will break the government monopoly and make schools compete to provide the best services for our children. The money will follow the student to the public, private or religious school that is best for them and their family.”

The budget President Trump submitted to Congress called for $1.4 billion to be allocated to voucher programs that parents could use to pay for tuition at private or religious schools. And in time, this might be ramped up to a $20 billion program.

In another area, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has reversed one of the more idiotic “Dear Colleague” letters that President Obama’s Education Department sent to university administrators. In a 19-page missive, the department forced universities to comply with a detailed code of quasi-criminal procedure to respond to the “deeply troubling” atmosphere of sexual misconduct and violence.

The letter encouraged the appointment of compliance officers and lowered the standard to proof of misconduct to a preponderance of evidence. It was so tilted towards prosecutions, and so very intrusive, that college administrators began to hope for a Republican administration. When DeVos rescinded the letter, even the New York Times recognized that President Obama had gone too far.

That’s a good start, but it’s time for a few new “Dear Colleague” letters. At too many colleges, conservative faculty, students and speakers are bullied and shouted down. Real education has taken a back seat to the most oppressive forms of political indoctrination.

Course catalogues have also been littered with idiotic offerings on tree-climbing and selfies. If parents want to pay for this, that’s fine. But I see no reason why such colleges should receive a cent of federal money.

Finally, there’s the student loan crisis. Like us, other countries stepped in to guarantee student loans. But unlike us, they told the universities they’d have to cap their tuition increases. We didn’t do that, so our institutions of higher learning ran up the cost of tuition way in excess of inflation.

Then colleges failed to educate the students, or worse yet still taught them radical chic courses that left them unfit for real jobs. Not that the jobs were there anyway in President Obama’s economy.

The answer is obvious. Graduates used to have the right to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy, but that right was taken from them in 1978. Back then, tuition was cheap and there were plenty of jobs. That’s no longer the case, and now the total student debt load is $1.5 trillion, with an average student debt of nearly $40,000.

Debt loads in excess of $100,000 are not uncommon. We’ve let colleges run up tuition, made debt slaves of millions of young Americans, and then we’re surprised when they’re radicalized. Let’s bring back the discharge of student debt in bankruptcy.


California Democrat Wants to Mandate State Colleges Have Abortion Pills Ready for Students

California lawmakers are debating whether to adopt a bill that would require California’s public universities and colleges to offer abortion drugs at their health centers.

Senate Bill 320, sponsored by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, will mandate that the state’s community colleges and public universities provide women with abortion pills for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy so they don’t face the “burden” of traveling to obtain an abortion.

While the bill—if passed—isn’t set to take effect until 2020, it would also require the state’s public university health centers that don’t already offer abortion pills to provide transportation to an abortion facility or to arrange an abortion for students requesting the procedure.

“If a UC, CSU, or community college already has a student health center, it makes sense that they provide this health care service within that facility so that students do not have to travel many miles away from their work and school commitments in order to [have an abortion],” Leyva said, according to LifeNews. She claims the bill is a necessity so that young collegiate women don’t have to foot the cost of abortions themselves or travel long distances to have abortions.

The state’s health centers already provide reproductive services like birth control, condoms, and STD testing, but this bill seeks to stretch its offerings to a whole new level. The bill would also require the schools to cover the cost of the abortions.

“Not only will this bill destroy the lives of innocent children, but the chemical abortion medication being mandated has a notorious reputation for being very painful and traumatic,” California Family Council CEO Jonathan Keller said, LifeNews reports. “These drugs are known for not just causing physical pain to the mother, but psychological anguish that could last a lifetime,” he added.

“These pills will hurt our daughters and end the lives of our grandchildren by forcefully inducing a miscarriage up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, with hemorrhaging and delivery of the baby into the dorm room toilet,” said Californians for Life, according to LifeNews. The pro-life group is made up of a diverse coalition of students, educators, legislative advocates, churches, families, business owners, and citizens who are united together to end abortion in California, according to its website.

Pro-lifers are also displeased that the already taxpayer-funded colleges would require citizens against abortion to fund those procedures at the state’s public higher education institutions.


West Australia: Leftist State government cuts back education assistance for disadvantaged children

They need the money to hire more bureaucrats, presumably

THE decision to close the five Schools of the Air is short-sighted, showing an alarming mix of hubris and ignorance, and must be reversed.

At a time of year when families celebrate and relax, parents, teachers and children in regional WA have been left feeling anxious, isolated and vulnerable.

School of the Air delivers online lessons to children aged four to 11 in remote WA. The schools are housed in standalone buildings in Port Hedland, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Derby and Carnarvon.

The day before school broke up for 2017, staff, parents and students were told that their schools would be closed at the end of 2018. Just like that. The ramifications have been immediate.

Teachers are being offered redundancies, and those who take them will not return for 2018. Families have been thrown into a state of flux, unsure of what they will find at the start of the new school year. Teachers, afraid to speak publicly for fear of career-ending reprisals, are devastated.

The State Government argues the School of Isolated and Distance Education and SOTA duplicate services. Parents reject that assertion.

The issue is not the educational material. The significance of SOTA is the access to teachers who live in, and understand their region, and importantly, know the children.

When families go into town, the children can attend the school. Parents say that teaching isolated children can be stressful for tutors, often mothers, and that the option to drive into town when things get dire is invaluable. Even if it is a 400km round trip.

Kirsty Forshaw, of Nita Downs Station, near Broome, says that wearing the unique uniforms gives children a sense of belonging.

“Kids need to see a physical building; a school in Perth like SIDE is too foreign and far away,” she says. “Some of these little kids have never even heard of Perth.”

During a radio interview, Education Minister Sue Ellery told me the schools were iconic. So why close them? If SIDE is to become more like SOTA, what is the rationale for the closures?

How much money will the Government save by the time SIDE replicates the most valuable parts of SOTA?

Seven-year-old Harry lives near Wiluna and is so worried he asked his mother if his teacher and principal would be out of work, and if so, “could they come and work here?”

The devastation in the bush is palpable and the pain and mental stress that has been inflicted is unnecessary. This is an own goal.

And what of the push to develop the beef industry? How can cattle producers lure families and permanent staff with education under a cloud? Lest the Government think there are not enough votes in the regions, there are plenty of Labor voters in the city with ties to the bush, who also care about core Labor values like universal education.

At hastily convened rallies to protest the closures, Labor MPs illustrated a lack of knowledge about the schools and regional education, further upsetting an already wounded community.

Raelene Hall runs the Save Our Schools of the Air Facebook group, teeming with past SOTA students and supporters. “It takes a lot to get us angry,” she says of the 4000-plus followers, “but we’re not going away.”

Her commitment is reiterated by Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association president Tash Johns, who is adamant the rallies will continue in 2018.

In an open letter to Premier Mark McGowan, and ministers Sue Ellery and Alannah MacTiernan, Gina Rinehart has called for the decision to be reversed.

She asked: “What Government could do this with any regard for innocent children, families, or even any conscience?” I’d like an answer to that.