Friday, February 09, 2018

High school cancels musical after white student lands lead role

The race obsession of the Left again

Social justice activists at a New York high school successfully shut down a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” after a white student landed a lead role.

Protests of the production began when an African-American student quit Ithaca High School’s musical production due to the role of Esmeralda being given to a white classmate.

“It shows you that theater wasn’t made for you," the student told the Ithaca Journal. "And it shows you that, if you can’t get the parts that are written for you, what parts are you going to get?”

Student activists then banded together under the umbrella of Students United Ithaca and wrote a letter that included a list of demands, saying that, while the young lady cast as Esmeralda was “a stellar actor, singer, and dancer” any production would be “lucky to have,” she couldn’t be cast in this role because she is the “epitome of whiteness.”

“At best, this is cultural appropriation,” the student group wrote, alleging racial bias within the Performing Arts Program at IHS, and “at worst, it is whitewashing, a racist casting practice which has its roots in minstrelsy.”

While the student activists demanded “brown and black female students” be considered for the role, the character in question is half Roma, half French, according to the novel by Victor Hugo. SUI stressed “the book and the musical should not be conflated” because the musical is only “inspired” by Hugo’s manuscript.

The group points out that the Musical Theater International production guide lists her role as a “Romani woman” who is “an outcast racially and culturally.”

The Ithaca City School District announced it canceled the musical in an attempt to be “more inclusive and culturally responsive” in their “efforts to eliminate institutional biases.”

The high school is planning on putting on “another collaborative project” instead, adding that “this is not about any particular faculty member or ICSD employee.”

“We thank everyone for their contributions as we delve further into complex conversations,” the district said. “In addition, we ask that you please stay engaged as we continually work to create community-wide support for our students and school community.”

After the cancelation, the student group made more demands in a recent Facebook post.

“Stop the racist and openly stated policy of ‘color blind’ casting in the ICSD,” the group wrote, adding “because of institutionalized racism this results in white children being cast in roles written as white parts and also white children being cast in roles that were specifically intended for people of color.”

Members of the group told Fox News that their ultimate goal is in line with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of love, unity, understanding, and inclusion.

“Our endgame,” the group said, is a performing arts program with more unity, more inclusion, and musical where we can all experience the joy and bonding of inclusive performing arts following best theatrical practices.”


California takes a step back in school choice, while other states move forward

By Natalia Castro

Lucas Saunders and his parents never thought graduating high school was a possibility. Saunders struggled for years to sit still and learn in the classroom, but his entire life took a turn when he began attending an independent school in Vermont, catered to students who needed individual attention. Saunders experienced the life-changing effects of school choice and attended his state capital this week to convince the Vermont legislature to give more children this opportunity.

The school choice bug is creeping up into states across the country for a simple reason — it works.

More and more states are passing legislation to allow students and parents control over their education rather than arbitrary and disconnected state legislators.

Saunders story in the Bennington Banner highlights the success of their state voucher program. This form of school choice allows students to receive vouchers to attend schools outside their districting public school to attend to specific needs unique to the individual student.

Mississippi lawmakers advanced similar legislation this year to allocate more public money to provide students with the option to attend public school. Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison noted that this initiative would be a “drastic, disruptive change” to the states’ education system but argues that this is necessary to empower students and improve performance.

Other forms of school choice, such as education savings accounts (ESA) have also gained traction in states across the country.

As the Heartland Institute’s Teresa Mull explains, “ESAs grant parents access to the money allocated for their children’s government school education to spend on approved alternatives such as private school tuition, homeschooling textbooks, learning therapies, and tutoring.”

New Hampshire Senate Bill 193 would grant eligible families up to $3,500 per year to use of educational expenses for low income and special needs families. This comes after President Trump and Congress approved a provision in the recently passed tax bill that will give 50 million students across the U.S. a tax-free way to open an ESA for primary school or college.

Iowa is also following the school choice trend with their Senate bill to allow homeschooling families to utilize online courses to expand the rigor and learning opportunities for these students. As Shane Vander Hart of the Iowa based conservative publication Caffeinated Thoughts explains, “This program was designed to help high school students that had schedule conflicts with other classes they needed. It was also designed to allow local schools to provide courses or advanced subjects that otherwise would not be available.”

School choice legislation across the country is playing an integral part in expanding opportunities and building more personalized curriculums for students who do not fit the traditional schooling model.

As the Foundation for Economic Freedom’s Corey Iacono found in a Jan. 2015 report, school choice is integral to a functioning market economy. Iacono found school choice dramatically improves academic outcomes and saves taxpayers money by eliminating waste. These programs also reduce racial segregation and benefit low-income students, as school completion rates increase by 15-20 percent while antiquated school districting laws stifle these student’s opportunities. Finally, they find that school choice does not harm public schools but improves their quality by introducing market competition.

Yet, still not every state is seeing the clear benefits of school choice legislation.

Following a tragic case in Riverside County in which two parents chained, malnourished, and clearly abused their 13 children, California legislators have decided to blame the fact that these kids were homeschooled. The “solution” to preventing this grotesque child abuse, lawmakers claim, is to force these children to attend school.

While attending school may have allowed the signs of abuse to appear to authorities sooner, there is no correlation between homeschooling and child abuse, so to remove the program following one case of clear parental abuse does a disservice to the children whom homeschooling benefits and ignores the real problem at hand.

As Jenna Ellis of the Washington Examiner reminds, “In published studies among such experts as the World Health Organization, the U.S. Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, the American Psychological Association, the Mayo Clinic, and others, none of these sources list homeschooling as a risk factor for child abuse and neglect. In other words, there is no evidence or data to even suggest that homeschooled children are being harmed or at risk of harm at a rate higher than children in other non-homeschooled and private schooling communities.”

In fact, homeschooling has been proven to assist children achieve more and mitigate bullying, which plays an integral role in reducing symptoms of early age depression and anxiety.

By attacking homeschooling, California lawmakers are taking a step in an opposing direction than states across the country and harming the opportunities and well-being of students who need the benefits school choice can provide.

Now, Lucas Saunders has received acceptance into all five colleges he applied to and will be studying to become a mechanical engineer. This is an opportunity that would never have been possible without Vermont’s school choice initiatives. It is encouraging that states across the country are adopting similar policies, all states must give students the chances they deserve.


Australia: Melbourne mother gets shamed for including a LAMINGTON in her child's lunchbox

A Lamington is an iconic Australian treat. It is anti-Australian to ban it as well as being an arrogant know-all. A lamington consists of a small pieces of sponge cake coated with chocolate icing and sprinkled with dessicated coconut. I would like to see proof that any of those are unhealthy. There is no such proof. It is just poorly-founded and now obsolete theory.

A Melbourne mother has been slammed by a school after she packed a lamington in her child's lunchbox.

The tasty treat was returned to the mortified mother uneaten along with a note from the kindergarten, Seven News reported.

The note said the lamington 'did not comply with the school's nutrition policy'.

The mother was told never to include a lamington in her child's lunch again.

This comes a year after a South Australian mother was left mortified when her three-year-old child's preschool sent home a note about the contents of the lunchbox she had packed that morning.

She had included a piece of chocolate cake for her child to eat during the day, which she quickly learned was against school policy.

People took to social media to express their shock at the policy.

'That's bad, Australia getting too PC!! It's a bloody lamington,' one person wrote on Twitter.

'Kindergarten needs to keep their noses out of kids lunch box! If the parent gives it to their child it's none of their business!' said another.

When her child arrived home, she came with a note featuring an oversized, red frowning face image.

'Your child has chocolate slice from the red food category today,' the letter read.  'Please choose healthier options for kindy.'


Thursday, February 08, 2018

New England colleges have one big worry: 2025

To improve "diversity", students are being accepted who can't even fill out the normal application forms!

Although colleges for years now have made at least some effort to diversify their campuses, the country’s changing demographics will soon give them no choice.

The nation’s high school population is becoming increasingly diverse and increasingly unable to afford high tuition prices. Additionally, experts predict a major drop in the number of high school graduates overall after the year 2025 — especially in New England — because people have had fewer babies since the 2008 economic recession. As a result, local colleges will have to work harder to bring students to campus and offer them significantly more financial assistance. And some of them, experts predict, will find this a daunting new calculus, leading to more college mergers and even closures.

“Institutions in places like Massachusetts and New York and Illinois are going to be really challenged to maintain enrollments,” said Joseph Garcia, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, whose research on this topic is the industry gold standard. “There are just not going to be enough wealthy, full-paying students to go around.”

College admissions offices know about these new demographics, which are predicted to continue, and many have begun to alter their recruitment strategies so they don’t find themselves with a sudden dearth of applicants. They are recruiting in new locations, connecting with students in new ways, and trying to find more money for scholarships and ways to cut tuition prices.

Saint Michael’s College, in Vermont, offers some students the chance to enroll in a free college course online during their last semester of high school to help persuade them to attend and also save money.

Suffolk University, in downtown Boston, has a new agreement with state community colleges that guarantees students with good grades a tuition discount to finish their degree at Suffolk.

Hampshire College in Amherst has twice the number of first-generation students and students of color as it did five years ago. To help them afford the $50,000 tuition, it has decreased its merit scholarships and used that money instead for need-based aid.

Earlier this month at Trinity College in Connecticut, Angel Perez, the vice president for enrollment and student success, met with his staff to formulate a plan for how they will recruit amid the expected demographic shifts.

“This is the biggest challenge higher education has right now,” Perez said.

When Perez sends out his recruiters each year, he urges all of them to seek out low-income, first-generation students, even though it can be more time-consuming and expensive. They meet students not only during the day at high schools but increasingly at after-school programs that help such students successfully make it to college.

According to data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the decline in high school graduates will come largely because of a decline in white public school students.

The number of high school graduates has been growing for the past 15 years, according to the research, but starting around the year 2025, the number is expected to decline. The pool of graduates will be down by 8 percent by the early 2030s, the commission predicts.

Regionally, the story is more nuanced. The number of college applicants from the South and West is predicted to grow, while the number in the Northeast and Midwest will likely decline. About 45 percent of the nation’s high school graduates will be from the South by 2030, according to the commission’s latest report on the topic, which means New England colleges will likely focus more of their recruiting efforts there.

Very well-known schools like Harvard and Yale, with their national appeal and vast resources for recruitment and student aid, are likely to navigate the demographic shifts with ease, but not so those with less name recognition, wealth, and prestige. Many have spent recent years beefing up amenities (fancy athletic centers, gourmet dining halls) to attract students who can pay the sticker price. And many will still be paying down that debt when enrollment of full-tuition students is likely to ebb.

In a report released in December, Moody’s Investors Service changed its outlook for the higher education industry from stable to negative because of the expected slowing of tuition revenue growth.

The sector faces even more uncertainty, Moody’s said, because of potential changes to federal policies that could squeeze financial aid and philanthropic support, and raise the cost of borrowing.

Public colleges are not immune from these trends, either. Amid years of declining state support, public schools increasingly recruit out-of-state students because they pay more. About three quarters of undergraduates at the University of Vermont are from out of state, for example. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, about a quarter of students are from other states.

For years, many schools have leaned on international students as a major source of full-pay students. But President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and tighter federal policies have made it harder for students to obtain visas, so they increasingly go to other English-speaking countries like Australia and Canada.

To encourage a more diverse pool of students to apply, many colleges have waived application fees, modified their application forms, and even accepted simplified applications to make the process easier for families who are new to the process and have limited time and money.

Amherst College is translating a brochure for prospective students into Spanish for the first time, according to Katharine Fretwell, the Amherst dean of admission and financial aid.

Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, does not require parents who make $60,000 or less to pay at all. The school’s top admissions official, Matt Proto, said he believes that policy has helped the school become more diverse. Two years ago about 7 percent of the entering class was very low-income; this year that figure was 14 percent, he said.


Surprise: Obamacare Projections on Student Loan Profitability Hit a Snag

A recently released report reveals that projections of revenues meant to offset some of Obamacare’s costs were as flawed as its projections for lower health insurance premiums and healthcare costs. And taxpayers should brace themselves for yet another bailout: this time of the federal student loan program.

An often-forgotten provision of Obamacare, a/k/a the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was its take-over of the federal student loan program, with claims that doing so would provide vast financial windfalls to help offset the ACA’s costs: $61 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Before the ACA, about half of federal student loans originated with private lenders while being guaranteed by the government. With the passage of the Act, the government became both the lender and the guarantor.

Unfortunately, reality is turning out quite differently. In a report released February 2nd, the Education Department shows revenues from the student loan program plummeted by 80% between 2012 and 2015—the most recent year for which figures are available. Further, the data show the total costs for all loans ... approaching an overall positive subsidy.

In case you are wondering, a “positive subsidy” is government double-speak for “Loss.”

With the federal government now in charge, millions of Americans have enrolled in the feds’ debt-forgiveness plans for their student loans, draining $11.5 billion from the program in 2015 alone—an eventuality neither politicians giddy to pass the misnamed Affordable Care Act nor the supposedly nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office apparently could foresee.

Thus, the take-over of the federal student loan program, rather than throwing off vast sums of money to cover spiraling healthcare costs, is instead saddling taxpayers with another bail-out: this time, of the rising number of students now failing to repay their loans.

Undiscussed, unaddressed, and presumably absent from the CBO’s or the Education Department’s projections for the future is the multiplier effect of government’s pouring easy money in the form of federal student loans in turn fueling spiraling tuition rates in turn requiring ever-larger student loans.

If borrowers walking away from loans secured by an over-valued asset—in this case, a college degree—sounds familiar, taxpayers might well be wary of dejá vu all over again. (Can you spell B-u-b-b-l-e?)

43 million Americans currently hold almost $1.4 trillion in federal student debt. With student loan forgiveness increasingly viewed as expected, Obamacare’s costs will easily enter the stratosphere.

The question now remaining: will sense prevail and government be banned from both healthcare and student loans, or will we blindly continue over the precipice to the end of healthcare and educational excellence in America?


Berkeley spent almost $4 million to keep campus safe from people angry about opinions

Free speech can be expensive.

Case in point, a new report reveals the University of California, Berkeley, blew just under $4 million in just over four weeks last fall, faced with the daunting prospect of keeping students safe as people with different viewpoints descended upon campus to express them.

That staggering figure comes courtesy of a Daily Californian report published Sunday, based on public documents the outlet obtained disclosing university police expenses from the time period. Per their report:

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 27, UCPD spent $3,910,259 on security fees and other expenses for three events: counterprotests held in response to the “alt-right” rally Aug. 27; conservative speaker Ben Shapiro’s appearance Sept. 14; and events related to the ultimately canceled “Free Speech Week,” which featured a brief appearance from Milo Yiannopoulos and the Patriot Prayer rally that followed on Sept. 26.

More than $830,000 was spent on Sept. 13 alone, the day before Shapiro's lecture, a figure that even exceeds estimates circulated at the time. Roughly $2.9 million was spent during "Free Speech Week." Neither Shapiro's appearance nor "Free Speech Week" generated the chaos many anticipated; the Shapiro lecture drew a sizable protest, but his speech went undisrupted, while "Free Speech Week" fizzled for a variety of reasons mostly attributable to its organizers.

"The vast majority of UCPD’s expenses," the Daily Californian reported, "went toward reinforcements from outside law enforcement agencies, with $485,283 spent Sept. 13 and $1,858,320 spent Sept. 24–27."

The university's expectation of violence was not entirely unreasonable given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage protesters caused before Yiannopolous' canceled lecture earlier that year, though administrators are on the hook for allowing the environment on campus to ever escalate to that point. It's hardly the fault of the conservative students who invited a mainstream author like Shapiro to campus that protesters credibly threatened to derail the event.

The university enabled a level of groupthink that should be antithetical to the mission of a university, and then faculty and administrators at Berkeley began to discover the price of their mistakes. And it's not cheap.


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Video: Leftist Students Busted Hating on Obama Speech

It's John Jay College students' turn to share in the embarrassing State of the Union spotlight.
Campus Reform recently inquired into what NYU college students thought about Trump’s State of the Union address before it even happened. Oops.

Now it’s John Jay College students’ turn to share in the embarrassing spotlight. Campus Reform wondered what they thought about some statements from Trump’s SOTU. (Hint: They weren’t favorable.) There was just one little wrinkle — they weren’t Trump’s words; they were excerpts from Obama.

Of course, after the true orator was exposed, the students went into full defense mode, claiming that, yes, prejudices and close-mindedness aren’t good either. Too bad they didn’t think about that before getting caught on film.


Harvard bigots commit to Ban on Single-Sex Organizations, But Will Allow 'Gender-Focused' Female Groups

Female groups are allowed to remain "gender focused," while male groups are penalized.

As Harvard reaffirms its ban on single-sex organizations, female clubs will become "gender-focused," while all-male organizations will be slapped with sanctions.

In May 2016, Harvard University banned single-sex clubs, stating such groups "propagated exclusionary values" and maintained "forms of privilege." The ban, which bars members of single-sex organizations from leadership positions, athletic teams, and scholarships, targets all single-sex organizations from finals clubs to fraternities.

While many at Harvard championed the new policy as a necessary antidote to the campus's sexual assault problem, others were concerned about how the ban would impact single-sex female groups. Legions of female students protested across campus and #HearHerHarvard became an online rallying cry. The Crimson felt the ban was unfairly targeting "spaces for women," yet hailed the ban's treatment of male organizations as rightfully addressing "the role exclusionary social organizations play in perpetuating outdated notions of elitism, classism, and exclusivity on campus."

In December, after months of debate, Harvard reaffirmed the ban on single-sex organizations. While all-male groups will be immediately punished by their choice to remain sex exclusive, all-female groups will be given up to a five-year grace period during which they could remain "gender-focused" while complying with the policy.

This update to the ban has caused a handful of groups to go gender neutral; most notably, Harvard's Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter—now The Fleur-de-Lis—is the first sorority to become gender neutral since the ban in 2016. Recruitment for gender-neutral group's like The Fleur-de-Lis will be open to all genders, yet activities held within the group are "gender-focused," according the the group's press release.

Though such "gender-focused" organizations are encouraged to move towards full inclusion, Harvard's policy seems like a semantic loophole to allow certain groups (i.e., women's groups) to remain essentially single-sex while punishing the disfavored groups (i.e., men's groups). Not only does this harm students' free association rights, but it also creates a potentially discriminatory double standard. What makes an organization "gender-focused," if not the gender of its members?

While some may feel like all-male groups create dangerous environments, simply banning these organizations does not fix the underlying cultural problems that lead to such environments. Nor does this ban stop these unsavory people from associating unofficially in less regulated spaces, creating an even more dangerous climate. While it's fair to say inclusive programs and spaces for gender-non-binary individuals are both positive and necessary things, this policy substantially burdens free association among students.

Other Harvard groups feel the same way. While Harvard's prestigious Fly Club may be lawyering-up over the ban, Sororities Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha released a joint statement announcing they would continue with single-sex recruitment moving into 2018. The statement, titled,"We Believe Women Should Make Their Own Choices," reads: "While Harvard's sanctions claim to support women's right to make their own decisions, these sanctions actually force women to choose between the opportunity to have supportive, empowering women-only spaces and external leadership opportunities."


Even at elite colleges, students go hungry

What happens when even ramen noodles are out of reach? It’s a problem that elite colleges across the country are now confronting, as a significant share of students are unable to afford even basic staples and find themselves skipping meals.

Even at colleges that boast generous financial aid plans, some students are struggling to find sufficient nutritious food. As a result, food pantries, meal-plan sharing programs, and care-package deliveries have emerged on campuses including Dartmouth College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Emerson College.

At MIT, administrators were caught off guard last year when about 10 percent of students who responded to a student-life survey reported going to bed hungry at least once in the previous week, because they lacked money for food.

MIT has a $15 billion endowment, a commitment to meet students’ full financial needs, and an e-mail list-serve that alerts the campus to free leftovers. On the surface, it might seem hunger shouldn’t be a worry.

High-achieving, low-income students, often the first in their families to attend college, struggle to feel they belong on elite campuses.

“We were surprised,” said Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean of student life.

Hunger was once considered a problem isolated to community college and state school students, but estimates now suggest that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of students at four-year colleges have struggled with enough to eat.

Chase Ybarra, 44, a senior at Emerson, is one such student. “There’s an illusion that to come to this institution you have to be wealthy,” he said. “No one wants to admit they’re hungry. It’s hard to talk about when other students are talking about how their parents went on a trip to Bali.”

Ybarra, who worked at a call center before returning to school and until recently relied on his partner for a place to live, shopped for his meals at a local food pantry last year and said he has learned to “go long periods without eating.”

Still, having a food pantry on campus is a big help, Ybarra said. He relied on Bunker Hill Community College’s pantry while he earned his associate’s degree there and is now advising Emerson officials on how to build up the school’s food bank.

The Emerson pantry, a nook of shelves on the second floor of an administration building, started last fall, funded by contributions from faculty, staff, and alumni. It’s packed with canned food, bread, macaroni and cheese, milk boxes, snacks, and toiletries, and it is available to students during office hours. The college opened the pantry after professors reported that some students’ grades were slipping because they couldn’t afford to eat, said Chris Daly, the college’s director of retention and student success.

“A lot of students can figure out how to finance their tuition,” Daly said. “But it’s these little costs. They are working two or three jobs and struggling with the ability to get consistent food.”

Most experts say that hunger is more acute among college students attending two-year institutions, with a recent study estimating that about 36 percent sometimes didn’t eat because they couldn’t afford it. Many of those campuses have long operated food pantries, and some are experimenting with giving students food vouchers and food scholarships.

The prevalence of food insecurity at private and four-year colleges is more difficult to measure, because not all schools have surveyed their students. The College and University Food Bank Alliance lists 582 member campuses, including Syracuse University, Georgetown University, and Cornell University.

“I don’t know of a college that doesn’t have this problem,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a higher education policy professor at Temple University who has studied food insecurity.

College costs have skyrocked, and financial aid doesn’t cover all the expenses, she said.

For example, the standardized financial aid forms that colleges use to assess need don’t consider what a family owes in debt. Students may have to work in college and use their financial aid to send money home to help their families pay bills, forcing them to cut back on meals, Goldrick-Rab said.

Incidental expenses, from the fees to join clubs to the cost of making photocopies, buying supplies, and putting deposits down for rent, may also cut into a student’s food budget.

“There are often expenses that a student faces that are reality for them, that the college doesn’t want to face,” she said. “It’s a miserable financial-aid system that doesn’t deliver for anybody right now, and this is the collateral damage.”

After MIT’s survey, the university in December launched a program called SwipeShare that allows students to donate meals to classmates. Students with unused guest meals available on their dining plan can submit them to a bank, and students who need food can request a meal be added to their own account. They can then swipe their own meal card for entry into the dining hall. So far, 900 meals have been donated to the program.

The school is also exploring the idea of opening a low-cost pantry and plans to hold food budgeting classes, Nelson said.

Additionally, a student-led group helped organize tote bags of donated food, including fruit, lentils, and canned goods, for 20 students who remained on the MIT campus during the January break, when dining hall operations were limited.

Food is “flowing everywhere when you don’t need it, but when you need it, it’s not anywhere,” said Bettina Arkhurst, a New Jersey senior studying mechanical engineering. Arkhurst arranged the January delivery after hearing from friends about the difficulties finding food during the break. She hopes to make it available in the summer, too, for students who are staying in the area because they are working or can’t afford to return home.

“Food is not something any student should have to worry about,” Arkhurst said.

But many still do.

Dartmouth provided 75 students with bags of groceries to tide them over during the January break.

Like MIT, Tufts University established its own program for meal-plan sharing, Swipe it Forward, last spring. Last semester, nearly 300 students requested meals through the program, almost depleting the 2,411 meals donated, said Robert Mack, associate dean for success and advising.

Anna Del Castillo, 21, a senior from Mississippi, has used the Tufts meal-plan donations for the past two semesters. Del Castillo, who lives off campus and receives financial aid to cover most of her tuition and rent, said she scrimps on food.

She works part time to pay for some of her rent, books, and food. Every two weeks she goes to the grocery store to buy supplies so she can cook at home. She usually avoids meeting friends at the university dining halls, where a meal can cost $14, and suggests a coffee instead.

But the Tufts Swipe it Forward program has helped during the end of the semester, when she is too busy studying for a grocery run, and allowed her to eat with her friends in the dining hall occasionally.

“Going into a major cafeteria, it’s a big social space,” Del Castillo said, adding that she is glad she can feel part of the community there.

But students and administrators acknowledge that food pantries and shared meal-plan programs are emergency measures.

Tufts officials said they are looking at how to address the hidden expenses of college beyond tuition, room, board, and books.

MIT is studying where students have options to get food and wants to create a handbook for those on a tight budget, said Nelson, the student life dean.

Still, money is an inescapable barrier, and food pantries are just a signal of the shortcomings of college pricing, Goldrick-Rab said.

“This is a systematic problem,” she said. “The point is to go beyond the food pantry.”


Tuesday, February 06, 2018

If more money was diverted to school choice efforts, our education system would necessarily be upended

Columnist Star Parker wrote recently on this issue and the urgency of school reform amidst horrible proficiency statistics.

As Parker notes, America’s financial contribution to education is second to none. Yet none of that additional investment is evident in overall grades. Students here rank 23, 25 and 40 globally when it comes to reading, science and math, respectively. Moreover, she writes, “In the case of our black children, the results are dismal. In the 2015 NAEP math scores, 17 percent of black fourth-graders and 11 percent of black eighth-graders performed at ‘proficient’ levels. In reading, 16 percent of black fourth-graders and 15 percent of black eighth-graders were ‘proficient.’” Minority-filled schools often take the brunt of the effect of our current education system whose structure creates poor results.

However, according to the Cato Institute, “Our education system’s troubles are not confined to low-income districts — America’s students as a whole lag behind many other industrialized nations on international tests. Government expenditures on K-12 education have more than doubled over the last 40 years (adjusted for inflation), and yet U.S. students’ academic performance at the end of high school is flat. Top-down regulations intended to improve quality instead stifle diversity and innovation. And rather than foster harmony, too often government schools force citizens into social conflict.”

This is a despicable return on investment. Making matters worse, the people who justify the status quo are demonizing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for what Parker describes is her “brutally honest assessment about the state of education in our country.” At least the Heartland, where school choice is proliferating, is on DeVos’ side. Parkes adds, “Today, there are 63 different school choice programs across the nation involving 469,000 individuals, according to EdChoice. But total expenditures on school choice programs are still less the 0.4 percent of the $586.8 billion we spend annually on K-12 education.”

If more of that money can be diverted to school choice efforts — where the results speak for themselves — the return on investment would be so remarkable that education in America as we know it would be completely upended. No wonder elitists are fighting so hard to maintain a system that breeds dependency.


What's the Purpose of Higher Education?

College is About More Than Simply Getting a Job

I recently spoke with a college-bound student and his mother in my career services office. These types of meetings have significantly increased in the last few years as families want to inquire about all the statistical data related to job placement. I asked the young man what his ideal college experience looked like. His answer: “I want to roll through my classes, get the parchment, then get a really good, high-paying job.”

Is that all a college education is? A piece of paper that gets you a job? My fear has been that this is what the college experience has come to for current education “consumers.” It seems my fears have been confirmed. According to Jeff Selingo, one of the nation’s leading higher education strategists, New York Times best-selling author, and Washington Post columnist, “Prospective students and parents now study the financial benefits of higher education and career outcomes of graduates of campuses they’re considering as thoroughly as they scrutinize a college’s academic offerings, social life, and location.”

Selingo has captured the mindset that most college seekers and families bring to the college search. Families are shopping around to buy an education as a “transaction” to purchase a job. This view is affirmed by Hunter Rowlings, a former president of the Association of American Universities. He states that “most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house.” He goes on to say:

A college education is no car. The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Most public discussion of higher education today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.

Both Salingo and Rowlings prompt us to ask the extremely important question: What is a college education? Having invested my life in college students and having talked with thousands of parents and high school seniors over nearly a quarter-century, I have indeed pondered the purpose of education. Many individuals I have interacted with have articulated this misinformed and shallow definition of education and the pursuit of happiness. They say that success is found by going to college, buying a degree, satisfying the basic requirements, securing a well-paying job, going to work, getting a paycheck, and acquiring material possessions.

I have led a nationally ranked career services office, motivating students to find their calling and either secure a meaningful career or go off to professional or graduate school. You might think I would enthusiastically endorse this job-focused philosophy. I don’t. A college education should not be viewed as a product to buy that delivers self-centered opportunities. This is an inward-focused, narcissistic, and limited view of education.

Yes, the cost to attend college, the placement rate, the return on investment numbers, the on-campus recruiting stats, the acceptance rate to graduate school, and the average debt load of the alumni are all important figures to consider (all have their place in the equation/discussion/evaluative process). But these numbers provide a very superficial appraisal of the true hope, heart, and intrinsic “value” of education. Legitimate education assists students in their sincere pursuit of instruction, character development, competence, and virtues to deliberately and accountably engage all of life. Think about it: Where will students prepare for being an ethical employee, a faithful husband or wife, a loving father or mother, an involved neighbor or community member, a devoted friend, etc?

I proposed a follow-up question to the young man sitting in my office, asking him if there were other things he wanted to experience, be involved in, or develop. His answer was direct and firm. “No, not that I can think of.” With this response, a number of thoughts quickly ran through my mind. What about the development of his moral compass and the building of lifelong friendships? Or his character development and leadership opportunities? What has happened to becoming a lifelong learner? To grappling with the significant questions of life? Learning how to live in community, respecting people much different than himself, seeking out opportunities to serve, and landing on a set of values that will direct his life — where do these come in?

The narrowly focused, data-driven view of the college experience espoused by this young man is consistent with the current research, but is it valid? No. Grove City College professors Gary Smith and Paul Kemeny note: “The goal of education is to help students to think deeply about the major ethical, historical, cultural, philosophical, and theological issues of our day. This will effectively equip them to work in crucial culture-shaping institutions, such as business, education, the media, government, and the church, in order to serve the common good.”

College graduates should not be viewed as round pegs to go into round holes but as individuals who have the hearts, souls, minds, and skills to make a difference in the lives of others and the world. Students should be wholly educated to prepare them to serve their Maker and their neighbor in their particular vocation and in all of life. This preparation, this transformation, does not happen by the vending-machine approach to higher education. As I often say to parents and prospective students, a career or grad school “fit” is an appropriate expectation of a personal and financial investment in an education. But personal growth, learning, and maturity are much more profoundly important than “the job.” This is education, and it is worth the investment!


Why We Must Save Intellectual Freedom

It is imperative that we restore intellectual freedom in higher education in order to preserve freedom for society itself.

It’s no secret that the modern college campus has become a place hostile to intellectual freedom. Trigger warnings, thought control and speech laws have transformed what used to be places of learning into microcosms of ideological conformity. Students across the country have learned to conceal their thoughts, opinions and even questions in exchange for a passing grade. Acceptance by the group-think ruling elites supersedes the pursuit of knowledge, learning and truth.

The “right” to not be offended has replaced the right to have an opinion differing from accepted academic dogma. Ironically, in a country founded upon freedom of speech and the value of the individual, many American universities function as independent totalitarian regimes with full rights to punish intellectual dissidents with lower grades. It is as if the American university has morphed into East Berlin, while the rest of the country lives in the freedom of West Berlin.

Restoring intellectual freedom to the university means examining the fault lines and courageously confronting them. In his book, The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom, National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood states, “Academic freedom is a combination of freedom from indoctrination and freedom to engage in disciplined inquiry, which includes the freedom to read, hear, and consider views that differ from those of their instructors.”

Academic freedom therefore consists of two things. 1) Freedom from indoctrination and 2) Freedom to consider other views. First, freedom from indoctrination means that professors should teach facts, not opinions. They should fairly represent all views. They should grade on basis of the quality of the student’s work, rather their own opinions. Professors should not take advantage of the youth and naïveté of students in order to further their political aspirations to indoctrinate others.

Furthermore, students should have the freedom to consider other views and question presuppositions. Wood describes this freedom as, “The freedom to ask questions; the freedom to challenge assumptions and doctrines; the freedom to criticize; the freedom to speculate; the freedom to re-examine old evidence and to search for new evidence; the freedom to express what one has found; the freedom to hear others who seek to express what they have found; the freedom to engage in dialogue with informed peers; the freedom to read and consider the views of people who lived before one’s own time; the freedom to teach what one has, by diligent effort learned; and even the freedom to refrain from speaking.”

This type of freedom has traditionally made the university experience a unique time of life in which students take the time to reflect and ask questions. If academic leaders bar certain questions or conclusions, it compromises the pursuit of knowledge and critical thinking. It only encourages students to memorize and parrot facts, in order to stay safe and pass the class. In contrast, Wood notes, “Intellectual freedom is the freedom of an individual to make up his own mind.”

Students also have a right to a third freedom: the freedom to learn without interruptions, disruptive protests, yelling, or having a student dominate the class discussion. Students must have the freedom to pursue their education and learning experience. When a university gives “freedom” to disruptive students on the basis of freedom of speech, they actually deny the freedom of the other students to learn. Disruptive students perceive freedom as being the “right” to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they please. Yet this is not freedom, but rather, license. True freedom does not exist without responsibility. It is responsibility to oneself and responsibility to others. It was known in prior days as “civility.”

Wood observes that the implementation of intellectual freedom ultimately depends upon the collective willingness of students, faculty and administrations to abide by the rules of civility. Such civility and mutual respect allows students the freedom to question, criticize, test new evidence and ultimately to learn.

Without an honest pursuit of intellectual freedom, we fail to shape students into responsible citizens capable of understanding and stewarding a free society. Transposing the totalitarian nature of some universities that bar speakers and arbitrarily label dissident opinions as “hateful,” “insensitive,” “bigoted” or “racist,” onto the rest of society, we see the inevitable thought-control bleeding into our culture. Yet, who decides the acceptable from the unacceptable speech? The loudest voice. The strongest voice. The most coercive voice. And this voice rarely reflects the voice of the people. It is therefore imperative that we restore intellectual freedom in higher education in order to preserve freedom for society itself.


Monday, February 05, 2018

College Defends Art Professor Who Desecrated American Flag
When Marine veteran Jess Karcher first saw the desecrated American flag at Broward College, he was confused. Then, he became angry.

“It was extremely disrespectful to our flag and to every American,” Karcher told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show.”

Karcher is a student at Broward College and on Jan. 26 he came across an American flag that had been desecrated as part of a faculty art exhibit at the campus art gallery.

Lisa Rockford, an assistant professor of art, covered Old Glory in white paint, cut the flag in half and laid it on the ground like a door mat. The artist had reportedly set up a camera to take photographs of people unknowingly stepping on the flag.

“There were so many other ways of getting her message across other than disrespecting the flag and tricking people into doing so,” Karcher told Starnes.

He told Campus Reform the professor would laugh as people unknowingly stepped on the red, white and blue.

I reached out to Professor Rockford by email but she did not respond to my questions. Broward College issued a statement defending the exhibit.

“The provocative nature of the piece is protected by the artist’s Constitutional rights, specifically the First Amendment right to the Freedom of Speech,” the college said.

The statement went on to say the desecrated flag represents the opinions of the artist and are “not indicative of the values at Broward College.”

The exhibit has been moved elsewhere in the gallery “to give gallery guests the choice to opt out of the experiential nature of her art.”

In other words, the college wanted to accommodate patrons of the art who do not wish to step on the Stars and Stripes.

“It’s such a kick in the gut to have to come to school on a daily basis and see our flag disrespected, especially when so many of our brothers and sisters died defending it,” Karcher told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show.”

It’s tragic that so many of our public colleges and universities have becoming breeding grounds for anti-American sentiment and hostility.

“As a U.S. Marine, the flag means everything,” Karcher said. “From the air we breathe, to the freedoms we have, our flag represents us as a nation no matter who you are or what you stand for.”

The college seemed dismissive of Karcher’s concerns, citing freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Those are the same constitutional rights I’m sure Broward College will cite when a faculty members burns a copy of the Koran or desecrates an Islamic flag.


Teacher Ridicules Students Wearing Marine Shirts, Curses Soldiers
A high school history teacher in southern California was secretly filmed calling members of the military “dumb s—ts” and berating pro-military students for wearing Marine Corps sweatshirts.

The teacher at El Rancho High School was identified as Gregory Salcido. He also happens to be a member of the city council in the town of Pico Rivera.

A 17-year-old student in the classroom secretly videoed Salcido as he launched into a profane tirade against the military and two students who were wearing Marine Corps shirts.

“Think about the people you know who are over there,” Salcido said. “Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumb s—ts. They’re not high-level bankers. They’re not academic people. They’re not intellectual people.”  “They’re the freaking lowest of our low,” he ranted.

Fox News reports the teacher went on to question why military recruiters were allowed inside the school.  “We don’t allow pimps to come into the school,” he said.

The brave and patriotic student who filmed the video spoke exclusively to the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” on Monday. His parents asked that we not identify the young man by name.

“I was so angry,” the student told Starnes. “He has a history of being anti-military. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but at the same time they shouldn’t be disrespecting the veterans who have fought for our rights, who give up their lives and do stuff that other people are not willing to do.”

The student told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show” the teacher was triggered by his Marine Corps sweatshirt.

“He called me out in front of the whole class,” the young man said. “He wanted to ask why I wanted to join the military.”

“I told him it’s a family tradition; it’s something I’ve been wanting to do as a kid,” the student said. “And he ended up saying, ‘So if it was a family tradition to beat women, would you continue it?’”

Instead of back-talking the teacher, the young man said he sat down in his seat and started filming the teacher. “This wasn’t meant to go viral. It was just meant for my mom and dad to see,” he said.

The student said he wants to join the Marine Corps after graduation — just like his dad and uncle. “My dad — he’s a veteran — he went to Afghanistan,” he said. “I have an uncle who was in Desert Storm, another uncle that was in the Vietnam War.” The school district released a statement vowing to investigate the incident and take appropriate action.

It acknowledged the video shows one of its teachers appearing to “disrespect the family values of our students and families in the classroom.”

“Our classrooms are not the appropriate place for one-sided discussions that undermine the values our families hold dear,” the statement read.

Sadly, many public schools across the fruited plain have been overrun by America-hating leftists who are hell-bent on indoctrinating innocent children.

Instead of teaching the next generation how to read and write, many taxpayer-funded schools are teaching children how to hate America.

I salute this 17-year-old young man who boldly took a stand in his classroom by exposing his foul-mouthed, military-hating teacher. May God bless this great American patriot.


When School Choice Is Too Little, Too Late

Real education choice must start at birth
For decades, we've relied on the K–12 public schools to ensure opportunity for all children and to develop strong future generations of Americans. Yet despite years of "school reform" along with much-increased spending, achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children have remained persistently large. Indeed, growing armies of school reformers agree on just one thing: We're still leaving way too many children behind.

A parade of reform initiatives – higher standards, smaller schools, better teachers, more accountability, Common Core – have come and gone, leaving notably minor impact in their wake. Now the next strategy is moving onto center stage: "choice," highlighted last week as National School Choice Week carried out its 2018 "celebration of opportunity in education."

Families who can afford "choice" have always had it, paying for private school or moving to neighborhoods that have schools they want their children to attend. But school choice advocates argue that all parents, regardless of income, should be empowered to choose the learning environments that best enable their child to "learn and grow," gaining the skills and knowledge needed for a successful, productive life. As Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stressed in remarks to a recent American Enterprise Institute conference on federal reform: "Equal access to a quality education should be a right for every American and every parent should have the right to choose how their child is educated."

"Choice" includes an expanding range of policies that delink a family's home address from the publicly funded education their child has access to, allowing parents to choose their child's school regardless of family income or where they live. Starting with magnet schools in the 1970s, choice policy has grown to include charter schools, school vouchers, homeschooling, online learning and most recently, Education Savings Accounts.

Often described as choice's revolutionary "new frontier," ESAs are a marked departure from previous policy because they promote education choice rather than school choice, providing funds that parents can use to fully customize learning experiences for their children. By giving parents direct control over public dollars spent, ESAs aim to increase families' access to a much broader spectrum of education options, maximizing parental power over all aspects of their children's learning and development.

All but one, that is. ESA proponents advocate parental control over all aspects of a child's education – except the age of the child when that education starts. Even on choice's most radical frontier, an entrenched vestige of K–12 schooling remains unchallenged: that the crucial learning needed to "live a life of purpose and meaning" begins at age four or five.

Yet a growing body of scientific research has established that the very bedrock of children's lifelong potential is laid in the first years of life. A broad set of essential skills and abilities begin developing in children's very first months, build over time and are critical determinants of school and workplace success. It's true that schooling starts several years into children's lives. But education begins at birth. And for many children, the education opportunities they most need to succeed occur even before they can walk.

In fact, for millions of children, the "achievement gap" neither originates in the K–12 schools nor can be closed there. Gaps between higher- and lower-income children have been observed among children as young as nine-months old. By 18 months, toddlers from low-income families can already be several months behind their more advantaged peers in language development. One widely cited study found that by age three, children with college-educated parents had vocabularies as much as three times larger than those of children whose parents did not complete high school – a gap so big, researchers concluded, that even the best intervention programs could, at most, keep it from growing larger.

So millions of children "arrive at the schoolhouse door, already far behind." Under half of low-income five-year-olds enter school ready to learn; some are up to two years behind their more advantaged peers. And subsequent schooling rarely closes those initial gaps.

Indeed, the very design of the public schools now leaves large numbers of children behind every year, by failing to heed what science shows and parents know: The most crucial years of learning and development occur long before children enter formal schooling. The bottom line is that for many children, school choice is just too little too late.

Our nation's K–12 system is predicated on a past world in which children's essential early foundation was largely laid at home. But today, the majority of American parents have to work outside the home to make ends meet. That means that millions of children are now spending a large proportion of their earliest years in the care of people other than their parents.

And while we've long viewed school as where children learn, for young children wherever they are is a learning environment – whether home, childcare, or grandma's house. We now know that the quality of those environments is as important as school quality for children's long-term success. That's why real choice must start at birth: enabling parents to make sure their child's foundation is built right in the first place, not mandating that they wait until their child reaches a government-defined "starting gate," years into life and already very far behind.

For many parents, the power they need more than anything is to ensure their child enters kindergarten ready to succeed. Only when we empower them to advance their children's healthy learning and development during the most crucial period of human development will we give them the choice that matters most.


Sunday, February 04, 2018

With patience, Kochs sow conservatism on campuses
Two Wellesley College students took the stage here at the Koch brothers’ winter retreat and described a lefty campus hostile to the conservative and libertarian ideas that the Kochs and their wealthy allies hold dear.

“It is considered polite not to challenge authority,” said Kaila Webb, a Wellesley sophomore speaking to a gathering of roughly 550 Koch donors who pay at least $100,000 a year to be here.

Margaret Flynn Sapia, a Wellesley junior, added that a “hazardous political climate” prevents students from voicing conservative views.

Wellesley this week became the poster child for liberal intolerance, held up by the arch-conservative activist network as an example of how America’s higher education system is deeply flawed. And the billionaire Kochs are offering a solution: Wellesley, and other liberal colleges, can be reshaped by funneling money to choice projects within those institutions that are in synch with the Kochs and their allies’ broader libertarian philosophy that, among other aspects, promotes small government and unencumbered markets.

Charles Koch, with an estimated net worth of $49 billion, has led the way by ramping up campus spending from his personal foundation to $100 million a year in 2017, from about $35 million in 2014, according to figures provided by the Charles Koch Foundation. The money underwrote projects at roughly 350 colleges and universities last year.

At Wellesley, the Charles Koch Foundation supports the Freedom Project, an academic hub that highlights speakers challenging the conventional wisdom on issues, including conservative thinkers.

“Many folks are asking if higher education in this country is having a positive impact on the direction of this country,” said John Hardin, the director of university relations at the Charles Koch Foundation, said before bringing the Wellesley students on stage to discuss the Koch-funded Freedom Project, which is aimed at — from the Kochs’ perspective — improving campus culture.

“These are all programs for students that are modeling how civil discourse can work,” he told reporters earlier. “That can give students a chance to see how the collision of ideas is absolutely fundamental.”

But critics say there’s reason to be suspicious of these initiatives. The Kochs have a history of trying to attach conditions to their donations. At Florida State University, the Kochs tried to control the curriculum and some hiring in the economics department in exchange for giving millions of dollars, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which has closely tracked Koch giving.

They’ve also used their education dollars to elevate climate-change deniers, including Willie Soon, a solar researcher at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who called predictions of rising oceans “crazy.” That belief puts him at odds with most scientists.

Over the weekend the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which describes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas,” was specifically credited with doing the academic work to support the $1.5 trillion tax cut passed in December. It has benefited from tens of millions of dollars from Koch groups.

“That research turned out to be absolutely essential to cut through the propaganda that was put out by the cronies and the special interests who were opposing reform,” said Brian Hooks, the Seminar Network co-chairman and former Mercatus executive director, addressing donors over the weekend.

Wellesley served a different role in the conversation: As a stand-in for liberal intolerance, it was meant to galvanize donors to take matters into their own hands, and try to tilt the collegiate discourse toward the right.

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said that the higher education world has been watching closely. “The Kochs have been an increasingly visible force on college campuses at a time when there is widespread criticism by conservative voices that higher education promotes progressive liberal causes,” Pasquerella said.

She said the “concern” for many is whether the Kochs are trying to control curriculum and faculty hiring.

At Wellesley, the Kochs don’t have influence over picking teaching fellows or speakers. Still, their ideological bent raises concerns from those who pay close attention to university giving.

“It is corrosive,” said Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, who is known for finding ways of connecting donors with projects that align with their interests. “Using money as an ideological club is a fact of life, but it’s an unpleasant one. It’s a nasty fact of life that you have to accept is nasty.”

But Botstein said that elite colleges like Wellesley are adept at sidestepping the more extreme inclinations or intentions of donors, and tend to find ways to accept large gifts and spend the money in ways that don’t undermine the institution.

Sofiya Cabalquinto, a spokeswoman for Wellesley College, said the Koch money is overseen by the college. “The Freedom Project is just one of many ways in which Wellesley students engage in a diversity of political viewpoints and participate in critical thinking and debate,” she said.

The project at Wellesley started when Thomas Cushman, a sociology professor at the college, applied to the Kochs for a grant to bring speakers to campus. He started with $10,000. Seeding individual professors or departments with money is a common strategy for the Kochs, who encourage professors to apply directly for grants.

At Wellesley, the project has been focused on free speech. “People think we have some kind of right-wing agenda going on,” Cushman said in an interview. “But it’s not that at all. I don’t get involved in their electoral projects at all.”

But the Koch Foundation liked what they saw Cushman doing at Wellesley, and Cushman wanted a more ambitious program — so in 2016 the Charles Koch Foundation gave him a $1 million grant to supersize the project.

The Kochs also helped persuade two other donors with ties to the college, George and Nancy Records, to join their effort instead of giving unrestricted money to the college. “They had a check ready to go — they hit the pause button,” Hardin told donors.

In the end the Recordses also gave $1 million to the Freedom Project. “We increased the amount we were planning to give to meet the program’s needs, and have been happy to learn how much students value it,” said George Records, the former chairman of the Midland Group in Oklahoma, in a statement e-mailed to the Globe.

Wellesley’s Freedom Project now includes up to 24 student fellows who apply to be part of it, and funds postdoctoral fellows to do research and teach some classes at the college.

Speakers have included Columbia University’s Mark Lilla, who is critical of identity politics, and Northwestern University’s Laura Kipnis, who has questioned policies barring sexual relationships between students and teachers at colleges and universities. And the program welcomed libertarian author Charles Murray, who was shouted down during a speech at Middlebury College.

Cushman said there have been some protests to his program at Wellesley, but that he also has a well of support. He said he has control over the program and isn’t beholden to donors.


Inside a Public School Social Justice Factory

The city of Edina has changed the way it approaches public education, putting social justice above learning. The results will shock you.

For decades, the public schools of Edina, Minnesota, were the gold standard among the state’s school districts. Edina is an upscale suburb of Minneapolis, but virtually overnight, its reputation has changed. Academic rigor is unraveling, high school reading and math test scores are sliding, and students increasingly fear bullying and persecution.

The shift began in 2013, when Edina school leaders adopted the “All for All” strategic plan—a sweeping initiative that reordered the district’s mission from academic excellence for all students to “racial equity.”

“Equity” in this context does not mean “equality” or “fairness.” It means racial identity politics—an ideology that blames minority students’ academic challenges on institutional racial bias, repudiates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s color-blind ideal, and focuses on uprooting “white privilege.”

The Edina school district’s All for All plan mandated that henceforth “all teaching and learning experiences” would be viewed through the “lens of racial equity,” and that only “racially conscious” teachers and administrators should be hired. District leaders assured parents this would reduce Edina’s racial achievement gap, which they attributed to “barriers rooted in racial constructs and cultural misunderstandings.”

As a result, the school system’s obsession with “white privilege” now begins in kindergarten. At Edina’s Highlands Elementary School, for example, K-2 students participate in the Melanin Project. The children trace their hands, color them to reflect their skin tone, and place the cut-outs on a poster reading, “Stop thinking your skin color is better than anyone elses!-[sic] Everyone is special!”

Highlands Elementary’s new “racially conscious” elementary school principal runs a blog for the school’s community. On it, she approvingly posted pictures of Black Lives Matter propaganda and rainbow gay-pride flags—along with a picture of protesters holding a banner proclaiming “Gay Marriage Is Our Right.” On a more age-appropriate post, she recommended an A-B-C book for small children entitled A is for Activist. (Peruse the book and you find all sorts of solid-gold: “F is for Feminist,” “C is for…Creative Counter to Corporate Vultures,” and “T is for Trans.”)

At Edina High School, the equity agenda is the leading edge of a full-scale ideological reeducation campaign. A course description of an 11th-grade U.S. Literature and Composition course puts it this way: “By the end of the year, you will have . . . learned how to apply marxist [sic], feminist, post-colonial [and] psychoanalytical . . .lenses to literature.”

The primary vehicle in the indoctrination effort is a year-long English course—required of all 10th-graders—that centers, not on reading literature and enhancing writing skills, but on the politicized themes of “Colonization,” “Immigration” and “Social Constructions of Race, Class and Gender.”

One student characterized the course this way on the “Rate My Teachers” website: “This class should be renamed . . . ‘Why white males are bad, and how oppressive they are.’”

Increasingly, families who are serious about education are leaving the Edina schools. For example, Orlando Flores and his wife pulled their son—an academic superstar—out of Edina High School in his senior year to escape its hyper-political environment.

Flores, who fled a Marxist regime in Nicaragua as a child, had this to say: “Years ago, we fled Communism to escape indoctrination, absolutist thinking and restrictions on our freedom of speech. If we see these traits in our schools in America, we must speak out and oppose it.”

Flores says that when his son was at Edina High, teachers routinely pushed politicians and political positions they favored, shamed and browbeat students with dissenting views, and forced them to defend themselves against baseless allegations of racism. According to his son, he says, classroom discussions were often “one-sided indoctrination sessions,” and students feared their grades would be penalized if they spoke out.

The final straw for the Flores family occurred when an English teacher subjected their son and a classmate to a lengthy, humiliating and ideologically charged grilling—unlike that faced by other students—after the boys made a presentation with which she disagreed following racially-charged incidents in Ferguson, Missouri.

When Flores’ son requested an apology, school authorities indignantly took the teacher’s side, says Flores. Fearing retaliation, the boy asked to transfer to another English class. There, a student teacher informed the class they would not be reading classic books because “dead white men are boring,” according to Flores.

Flores believes that “Race and racism should be discussed” at school. But “relentlessly obsessing about race—pretending it’s the only thing that matters—is counterproductive and harmful to everyone,” he says.

Like Edina students, the district’s faculty and staff must submit to racial equity re-education.

One such mandatory session for school bus drivers is illustrative. The widow of a bus driver who had been required to attend the training sent the entire 25-page instructional curriculum to Center of the American Experiment, where I am a senior policy fellow.

The training session was entitled “Edina School DIstrict Equity and Racial Justice Training: Moving from a Diversity to a Social Justice Lens.” In it, trainers instructed bus drivers that “dismantling white privilege” is “the core of our work as white folks,” and that working for the Edina schools requires “a major paradigm shift in the thinking of white people.” Drivers were exhorted to confess their racial guilt, and embrace the district’s “equity” ideology.

The result of all of this? Four years into the Edina schools’ equity crusade, black students’ test scores continue to disappoint. There’s been a single positive point of data: Black students’ reading scores—all ages, all grades—have slightly increased, from 45.5 percent proficiency in 2014 to 46.4 percent proficiency in 2017.

But other than that, the news is all bad. Black students “on track for success” in reading decreased from 48.1 percent in 2014 to 44.9 percent in 2017. Math scores decreased from 49.6 percent proficiency in 2014 to 47.4 percent in 2017. Black students “on track for success” in math decreased from 51.4 percent in 2014 to 44.7 percent in 2017.

The drop was most notable at the high school level. Math scores for black students in 11th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 31 percent proficiency in 2014 to 14.6 percent in 2017. In reading, scores for black students in 10th grade at Edina Senior High dropped from 51.7 percent proficiency in 2014 to 40 percent in 2017.

* * *

Recently, conservative students at Edina High School filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the district has violated its members’ rights of free speech and association.

The suit grew out of events following a Veteran’s Day assembly in the high school gym on November 9, 2017. There, a group of veterans spoke about their military service, and the school band played the National Anthem and Taps. During the music, some black students “protested” by refusing to stand, slouching by the bleachers, talking loudly, and blaring music on their cell phones.

Members of the school’s unofficial Young Conservatives Club (YCC) responded by criticizing the protesters’ behavior, at school and on social media. In response, the protesters and their allies harassed the conservative students, with groups “as large as 30 students . . . daily surrounding club members and threatening to injure them if they did not change their political views,” according to the lawsuit complaint. In addition, a group styling itself the “Edina High School Anti-Fascists” (you have to see the group’s Twitter feed to believe it) posted a threatening YouTube video aimed at the YCC, which declared, “[W]e will not stop until every tentacle of your evil monstrosity is sliced off at the nerve.”

When the conservative students complained, the school’s principal “responded to their security concerns by saying that [they had] brought it upon themselves by criticizing the protests” at the Veterans Day program, according to the complaint.

The principal disbanded the YCC after pressuring its president to show him texts its members had sent one another about these incidents on the club’s private GroupMe. Yet school authorities apparently took no disciplinary action against the protesters and other students who had threatened and harassed YCC members.

The Edina Public Schools’ “policies suggest that ‘all are welcome here,’” the complaint asserts, “but what EPS really means is that all are welcome except conservatives.”


Academics Accuse Donk bigshot of Repeating Falsehoods About Halloween Costume Scandal

One of the professors at the center of the 2015 Yale Halloween costume controversy, who publicly accused the former governor of Vermont and Democratic leader, Howard Dean of dishonesty for his remarks at a free speech panel held at an Ohio college last year, is finding support among other prominent academics.

Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociology professor at Yale University, slammed the former Democratic National Committee Chair for spreading “off-base and reckless” misinformation about him and his wife at the “Free speech, Civil Discourse” conference at Kenyon College in a series of tweets.

“We have maintained a policy of near silence for over two years—but Dean is a former presidential candidate in the U.S.A. and a former governor,” Christakis told Quillette. “The great amount of evidence that is nevertheless in the public record is one of the reasons that I think it is so important to make the effort to get the facts right if people are going to make public statements.”

Steven Pinker, who shared the stage with Dean at the conference in September, agreed with Christakis’ complaints. The Harvard cognitive scientist told Quillette that Dean indeed got some of his information “badly wrong.”

“Without a commitment to accuracy, debate becomes demagoguery and intimidation, rather than a way to ascertain reality and promote defensible policies,” Pinker said. “Certainly, the Left cannot honestly criticize the mendacity of Donald Trump while allowing fabrications and distortions such as those of Howard Dean to stand uncorrected.”

The Harvard professor recently fell victim to a misinformation campaign when a video clip of him speaking at a Harvard panel about the alt-right was lifted out of context and misrepresented by activists. Pinker says the personal cost to him was ultimately minor but for dissident academics who are untenured or without reputation, “the costs could be severe.”

At the conference on free speech at Kenyon College, organized by the Center for the Study of American Democracy, Dean faulted Erika Christakis, wife of Nicholas Christakis and a former Yale childhood development instructor and administrator, for offending students by writing a letter suggesting that they should not need institutional policing of Halloween costumes. Nicholas Christakis took particular issue with Dean’s characterization of her letter, originally written in response to guidelines issued by Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee when Dean summarized it as saying “political correctness is B.S.” and “don’t be a snowflake.”

“If [Dean] did read the Christakis Halloween costume letter and concluded that its main thrust was that political correctness was B.S., he still lacks the capacity to grasp not even particularly complex arguments,” Heather Mac Donald, a conservative commentator and writer who was on the panel, told Quillette. “[Erika’s] point, carefully couched with concerns for allegedly marginalized students, was that experimentation and alleged transgression—as if a costume is truly transgressive—is part of the process of growing up and that the adults should stop trying to overregulate student behavior. Hers was an argument based on her work in child development.”

The infamous Halloween cultural appropriation controversy occurred in October 2015 at Yale, where hundreds of students and faculty protested Erika Christakis’ email, accusing her of fostering racist violence and demanding her firing. The firestorm culminated in an aggressive student confrontation with Nicholas Christakis, which was caught on video and subsequently went viral. Both Nicholas and Erika later resigned from their administrative roles as college masters (Yale has now changed that administrative title to “head of college” for sensitivity reasons).

At the panel discussion, Dean blamed the Christakis couple for inciting the campus backlash and welcomed their resignations. While he conceded that the couple has a right to say what they want, he emphasized that “there are consequences to free speech.”

“Being the leader of the college, means you are the students’ advocate,” Dean said. “If you then choose to debunk what one group thought was protective, you have lost your purpose to having that job.”

Heather Mac Donald pushed back against Dean’s characterization of the Yale controversy on stage at the time and so continues to question if he even read Erika Christakis’ letter. I made repeated attempts to contact Howard Dean for comment, specifically to inquire if he read Erika Christakis’ letter before the conference.

I did not receive a response.

Mac Donald continued: “His claim that the Christakis’s deserved to lose their job on the basis of the innocuous, cautious, Halloween memo is a terrifying demonstration of how far campus intolerance has infected the non-academic world. If the Howard Deans of the world seize more political power, the core bedrock of American society—free speech—will disintegrate.”

Two years on from the Yale Halloween costume scandal, Nicholas Christakis is still fascinated at how he and his wife are characterized depending on the politics of the person or group. “One of the most surprising things to me about our experiences at Yale in 2015 has been the way that both the Left and the Right, and various actors both locally and nationally, have so overlooked and distorted—often willfully, I would say—basic facts about what happened.”

Heather Mac Donald echoed Christakis’ concern and issued a warning about the consequences of perpetuating misinformation based on partisan ideology: “If opponents in the ideological divide refuse to honestly characterize their opponents’ arguments, but instead deal with ignorant caricatures, there is no hope of ever bridging those divides and arriving at some common truth or mode of respectful coexistence.”

Other academics, some who were embroiled in similar controversies with social justice activists, expressed support for the Christakis couple on social media.

Bret Weinstein, a former Evergreen State College biology professor who resigned after a series of highly publicized campus protests last year, wrote two hypotheses about the ordeal on Twitter. Weinstein predicted that if Dean “was accidentally repeating falsehoods,” then on the “discovery of the truth, he will apologize fully and publicly.” His second hypothesis states that if the “falsehoods were deliberate,” then there will be “silence.”

Nicholas Christakis says he has not heard from Howard Dean.