Friday, February 16, 2018

University: Drag Queens Are Welcome, Creationists Are Not
The University of Central Oklahoma has opened its arms to drag queen shows and safe sex carnivals, but it draws the line at Christians who believe God created the heavens and the earth in six days.

The university has no problem with students tossing dildos through cardboard vaginas, but it draws the line at exposing impressionable young minds to the teachings of a creationist.

Ken Ham, the founder of the popular Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, was disinvited from speaking on the public university campus after an ugly campaign of bullying by LGBT activists.

The “Todd Starnes Radio Show” obtained exclusive emails between the UCO Student Association and Answers in Genesis explaining why the school had to rescind the invitation and opt out of a signed and legally binding contract.

“We are currently getting bombarded with complaints from our LGBT community about Ken Ham speaking on our campus,” student body president Stockton Duvall wrote on Jan 25. “I was going to request that Mr. Ham refrains from talking on this issue, even if asked his views during the Q&A.”

Ironically, Ham was going to deliver his remarks in the university’s Constitution Hall.

“I find it highly ironic that after being booked to speak in the school’s Constitution Hall, our constitutional right to free speech and the exercise of religion, guaranteed under the First Amendment, have been denied,” Ham said.

“While I know this looks awful censoring certain parts of Mr. Ham’s views, I want to ensure that we stay on topic of the research Mr. Ham and his team have done over creationism,” Duvall wrote.

For the record, Ham’s March 5 lecture was titled “Genesis and the State of the Culture.”

Paul Blair, the pastor of a local church that sponsors a student ministry called “Valid Worldview,” told me Ham’s speech had nothing to do with LGBT issues.

“The backlash we are already receiving is quite immense and I do not want this event to be spoiled due to a topic that isn’t relative to Mr. Ham’s research of creationism,” Duvall wrote.

On Jan. 27, the university’s student government group canceled the speaking engagement.

“A small but vocal group on campus put up a fuss about my talk and the university caved in, tearing up the contract and contradicting its policies of promoting ‘free inquiry’ and ‘inclusiveness’ on campus,” Ham said.

Pastor Blair told me he does not fault the student government association president for caving in to the LGBT mob.

“I think this young man was bullied and intimidated,” Blair said. “I think he succumbed to the bullying that these LGBTQ groups are known for. Those that scream out and demand tolerance are in actuality the least tolerant group of individuals on the planet.”

A university spokesman told me there had been no complaints of LGBT bullying.

“The UCO community is an inclusive environment that encourages the civil expression of diverse thoughts and ideas, while also keeping the safety of our students a top priority,” the spokesman said.

Blair, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church, pointed out the university’s blatant hypocrisy and what he called “the obvious discrimination against Christianity on campus.”

“I am beside myself with frustration that our tax dollars go to promote a drag queen show and safe sex events with carnival games that are obscene and graphic,” he said. “Yet when it comes to something like debating Darwinian evolution or talking about the literal Creation account of Genesis — well that kind of speech must be censored.”

The pastor has a valid point.

If the University of Central Oklahoma expects Christian students to be tolerant of LGBT-themed events, why isn’t it demanding that same expectation from LGBT students when it comes to Christian events?


Massachusetts College Talks About Diversifying The ‘White, Male World Of Construction’ With Women

Smith College is hosting a panel advocating to get more women into the construction industry, after government estimates report approximately three percent of construction workers in the U.S. are female.

Organized by college professor Carrie Baker, the all-female Massachusetts college will host the panel discussion titled, “Only 3% are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” to try to get more women to join what has traditionally been a male-dominated profession. Baker teaches courses on gender, law, public policy, and feminist activism, including topical courses on sex trafficking, reproductive justice and sexual harassment.

Three local carpenters, along with a local businesswoman and a Smith College engineering professor will speak at the event.

“Women need to know that there are training pathways and job opportunities for them in construction, plus role models and supportive peers/managers when they pursue such work,” Smith College professor Susannah Howe said in an interview with The Republican. The panel will draw parallels between the lack of women in STEM and the female void that exists in the construction world, she noted.

There are significant challenges for women seeking to break into the male-dominated field of construction, the professor claims and is hopefully the panel discussion will encourage more women to advocate that construction companies hire them for projects.

There are close to 6.5 million construction workers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Following manufacturing, construction work is the second most fatal industry in America, a very likely deterrent to women entering the industry.

“Meet the pioneering tradeswomen who are organizing for equity and diversity in the field of construction,” the panel discussion description states. “They are on the frontline of a working-class movement of women and people of color fighting to open up the white, male world of construction.” The description also notes that currently only three percent of tradespeople in western Massachusetts and nationally are women.

The event will take place on Thursday and is free and open to the public. The Women and Gender Studies department and Smith’s Engineering Department are organizing the event.


Evergreen College Will Replace Day When It Asks White Students To Leave Campus

Evergreen State College will replace the day when it asks white students and faculty members to leave campus, according to a Monday report.

The Washington state college formed a committee to deliberate on what kind of programming will replace its annual “Day of Absence,” which former Evergreen professor Bret Weinstein protested in 2017 to nationwide media coverage, reported The College Fix.

The college wants students, faculty, and staff to assist in the creation of a “new equity symposium,” according to an email from Evergreen president George Bridges that was obtained by The Fix. Chassity Holliman-Douglas, which the school hired as its first vice president for equity and inclusion a month after the campus protests, will spearhead the new initiative.

“I have asked [Holliman-Douglas] to convene and chair a planning group comprised of students, faculty, and staff to shape its content and structure such that all members of our campus community are invited to engage in dialogue and discussion with one another and the speakers we invite to campus,” said Bridges in his email. “It is my sincere hope that this event reinforces our commitment to addressing these critical issues facing the college and society.”

Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, received a $500,000 settlement after suing Evergreen for discrimination following the protests. Campus police had told Weinstein they could not guarantee his safety during the May incident.

Stacy Brown resigned as chief of Evergreen’s campus police a couple of months following the protests, alleging that the school would not let her or her fellow officers use rifles.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nazi attitudes at the University of Maryland (UMD)

Professor Melissa Landa was fired from her teaching position at the University of Maryland (UMD) due to her vocal pro-Israel views and fighting BDS.

 The University of Maryland needs to be held accountable for the injustice it has inflicted.

For ten years, Dr. Melissa Landa was an Assistant Clinical Professor in the College of Education. She won awards for her teaching and research and created some of the most popular courses in the College. Students described her as "one of the best professors at this institution," and colleagues praised her as an "honest, fair, and collaborative professional."

In Spring 2016, Melissa appeared in the national press for her leadership in confronting anti-Semitism and BDS at Oberlin College, her alma mater. She joined the Academic Engagement Network, a faculty organization that opposes BDS; she became an affiliate professor at Haifa University; and she planned to begin a research partnership with a college in Tel Aviv. Weeks later, Melissa began to face discriminatory treatment and a hostile work environment from the Chair and Associate Chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership – Francine Hultgren and John O'Flahavan. They:

* Criticized Melissa for her efforts to confront anti-Semitism;
* Withdrew from a conference presentation with Melissa, who was discussing her research in Israel;
* Reprimanded Melissa on the first night of Passover when she was observing the holiday in Israel;
* Threatened to fire her for being "out of bounds of acceptability with regard to campus policy" for missing classes during Passover;
* Reassigned Melissa from a literacy course she had helped to create and taught for over ten years, preventing her from pursuing a partnership with her Israeli colleagues.
* Removed Melissa from the Elementary Education Program, stripping her of her central role in the College of Education.

Melissa filed a Faculty Grievance against Dr. Hultgren and Dr. O'Flahavan, and on June 5, the Grievance Board reported

"In the interest of the program, the Hearing Board hopes that a professional path for Dr. Landa can be found that harmonizes her teaching and scholarly interests with the needs of the Department…"

Three days later, Francine Hultgren emailed Melissa in Israel and informed her that her contract was not being renewed. Melissa was the only Clinical Professor to be terminated.

We are deeply disturbed by Dr. O'Flahavan's and Dr. Hultgren's discriminatory and retaliatory conduct, and by Dean Jennifer Rice's defense of their actions. They have destroyed Melissa Landa's academic career and disgraced the University of Maryland.

Via email

The Education Department Says It Won't Act On Transgender Student Bathroom Access

Do transgender boys or girls have the right to use the restroom at school that corresponds with their gender identity? The U.S. Education Department said Monday that it won't hear complaints about or take action on this question.

Almost one year ago, the department under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made national headlines by rolling back Obama-era steps on transgender student protections. While the Trump administration rescinded that guidance, the department never made clear how it would handle future discrimination cases filed by transgender students.

Last month, the Huffington Post reported that the Education Department had recently dismissed several such cases.

And on Monday, BuzzFeed reported and department spokeswoman Liz Hill confirmed to NPR that the department is taking that rollback a step further.

"Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity," Hill stated. (The Obama-era guidance declared the opposite, stating that the civil rights law covered student gender identity as well as sex.)

Hill went on to say that complaints about harassing, bullying or punishing transgender or gender nonconforming students would fall under Title IX: "Where students, including transgender students, are penalized or harassed for failing to conform to sex-based stereotypes, that is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX."

But, she said, access to accommodations such as restrooms, or presumably locker rooms, would not: "In the case of bathrooms, however, long-standing regulations provide that separating facilities on the basis of sex is not a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX."

"The facts now on the table are devastating, though by now unsurprising," Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, an organization that supports LGBTQ students, said in a statement. She added that the "cruel new policy flies in the face of the highest court rulings on this issue, which found unequivocally that denying transgender students appropriate bathroom access is a violation of Title IX. "


School's Powderpuff Football Game Stirs PC Controversy
Powderpuff football games are a longstanding tradition in many high schools across the fruited plain. It’s a gender-swap of sorts — the girls wear helmets and jerseys and the guys dress up like cheerleaders.

Students at Chaffey High School in Ontario, California, made the powderpuff football game a part of their annual “Backwards Day” celebration. It’s a tradition that dates back decades.

But now Chaffey’s fun-filled tradition is at the center of a bizarre controversy.

The Chaffey Joint Union High School District banned the boys pep squad from dressing up as cheerleaders over fears that it might give the impression the boys were mocking cross-dressers.

“Some felt the activity was hurtful and offensive to some students,” Supt. Mat Holton told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. "There was some who felt this made more of a mockery of those who cross-dress.“

Girls will still be permitted to wear jerseys and helmets, but the boys will not be allowed to wear short skirts.

"I think our principal is doing this because it’s to protect certain students,” parent Patricia Luna told television station KABC.

The school district said its decision to ban boys from dressing like cheerleaders is a “thoughtful compromise in response to the sensitivities that have been raised by a number of students and staff.”

“While this activity has been a campus tradition, we understand, too, that there are sensitivities on all sides of the issue,” the district said in a prepared statement.
In other words, folks who promote tolerance and diversity were triggered by a bunch of boys dressing up like cheerleaders.

As you might imagine, students, parents and alumni are befuddled by the school district’s decision.

“It’s a gender-swap activity. That’s the whole point,” senior Stevie Mendoza told the local newspaper. “Girls play football, and boys dress up as cheerleaders. It’s just a fun time.”

“I think it is silly,” parent Diane Ramirez told KABC. “They did that when I was in high school and it’s all in just good fun. It’s not trying to be offensive to anybody, it’s just having fun.”

But as we know all too well, liberals have taken all the fun out of extracurricular activities.

“I think it’s a major disappointment for the whole school. It’s been a tradition for so long,” said another student.

But the school district seems to believe that some things are more important than tradition. “We will always be sensitive to the feelings of our students,” the superintendent told the newspaper.

So another beloved high school tradition goes down in flames for the sake of protecting the perpetually offended. Political correctness is nothing to shake your pom-poms at, America.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Student's science fair project questioning the IQ of non-whites causes upoar and sparks school district investigation

The body representing American psychologists, the APA,  has accepted as proven everything that the kid below has said -- but the grip of censorship on public life has made him seem hopelessly wrong. It's a great testimony to how unpopular but true ideas will not be believed

A science fair project in California has drawn the ire of many after the project called the intelligence of non-whites into question.

The project, titled 'Race and IQ', hypothesized that non-white students do not have the same innate intelligence of their white and northeast Asian peers.

The project originated in Sacramento's CK McClatchy High School's academically rigorous Humanities and International Studies Program (HISP) - and it asked whether non-white students were up to the task of the program's demands.

The project also asserted that if the average IQ of white and northeast Asian students is higher than those of other backgrounds, than the lack of ethnic diversity in the HISP program is justified.

The controversial project was put on display at McClatchy's science fair last Monday - it remained on display until Wednesday, when the school removed it after a round of complaints. It was in plain view both parents and students.

'Race and IQ' also used source material that was over a century old and argued that South African blacks were mentally inferior to South African whites.

'I think that a lot of people, especially of color, are really hurt and upset by this,' said Chrysanthe Vidal, a senior in the HISP program to the Sacramento Bee.

Although the school hasn't identified the student behind the project because he's a minor, Vidal said he has a history of making racist comments and is of Asian descent.

The HISP program teaches students by widening their cultural horizons - but of the 508 students in the program, just 12 are African-American, as opposed to 80 Hispanic students and 104 Asian students. The rest are white.

'It's just kind of shocking to think someone could enter into that program knowing that is what we are learning about and being so closed-minded,' said one McClatchy freshman.

Sacramento Unified school district spokesman Alex Barrios said the district was aware of the controversy and is looking into the matter. Barrios said that the investigation will determine whether the idea violated any school district rules.

'No student should ever be made to feel that their race has anything to do with their ability to succeed,' Sacramento Unified school district superintendent Jorge Aguilar said.

'I want to be clear that at McClatchy High School we promote and embrace an inclusive environment and way of thinking which excludes any form of discrimination,' principal Peter Lambert said in email to parents wrote. 'Many of you have asked me what our school is doing in response to this incident.

'I want you to know we are taking this incident very seriously and we will be reviewing the incident and implementing all measures as appropriate to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all of our students.


Debt: The federal student loan program was supposed to make money. Instead it will cost tens of billions of dollars, forcing hardworking Americans to subsidize college-educated deadbeats

Thank you Obama

A report from the Department of Education notes that the net cost of the federal government's direct loan program is quickly heading into the red. This program, mind you, was supposed to be a moneymaker for the government, as students paid back federal loans with interest.

But as it turns out, borrowers have been flocking toward various loan forgiveness programs, by which the government will lose money, erasing gains from other loans. The report shows that the direct loan program went from a $25 billion surplus in 2012 to less than $5 billion by 2015.

A separate report says that this program ran a $36 billion deficit last year, up from $8.4 billion in 2016.

This is not how this federal loan program was supposed to work when President Obama launched it eight years ago.

In 2010, President Obama effectively nationalized student lending by cutting banks — which had been offering government-backed loans to students — out of the equation and having the government make the loans itself.

"By cutting out the middleman, we'll save the American taxpayers $68 billion in the coming years," Obama said when he signed this change into law. "That's real money."

As a result, federal student loan debt shot up from $154.9 billion in 2009 to $1.1 trillion by the end of 2017.

The problem is that at the same time Obama was getting the government into the lending business in a big way, he was making it easier for students to avoid paying back their loans.

One program, called "income-driven repayment," lets borrowers avoid payments if their income falls below a certain threshold, and then caps payments as a percentage of total family income. Any debt left over at the end of 25 years is forgiven.

Not surprisingly, students flocked to these and other programs that let them avoid paying back all their loans, even though the interest rates they had to pay were already subsidized.

Between 2011 and 2015, the portion of loans being repaid through these IDR plans shot up 625%, according to the report.

The direct lending program even earned the nickname "Obama Student Loan Forgiveness," and surveys of student borrowers by LendEDU found that half of them don't expect to have to pay back all their debts because the federal government would forgive them.

The rising expectation that loans wouldn't have to be paid back in full also had the perverse effect of making students increasingly indifferent to college costs, thereby fueling tuition inflation.

As the Education report says, "Decision makers and others may not be aware of the growth in the participation in these IDR plans and loan forgiveness programs and the resulting additional costs."

Given the $1 trillion in loan debt on the federal books, one hopes that awareness comes soon. Otherwise, the student loan program will quickly turn into one of the most regressive taxes on the books.


Britain: How No Platform conquered the academy

Campus censorship has been on the march for decades.

The National Union of Students’ No Platform policy dates back to 1974. Its targets back then were Britain’s then sizeable far-right groups: the NUS wanted to keep such outfits off campus. But campus politics has changed a great deal in the intervening decades. Today, a far wider range of controversial speakers falls foul of SU policies. No Platform was wrong in the past, even when it was only aimed at the far right, but it is even worse now – it has become all-encompassing.

A key example of 1980s-style No Platforming was when controversial Tory MP Harvey Proctor was silenced at Coventry Polytechnic. It was November 1984, and the Miners’ Strike was dominating politics. New to the city, my roommate and I spent much of our time collecting, picketing and campaigning for the miners (the local pit at Keresley was solidly on strike). Students’ union meetings were big, raucous affairs – it was an exciting time politically.

The Thatcher government was engaged in a class war with the miners. Naive as we were, we realised that something beyond our own feelings and emotions was at stake here, and we wanted to be part of it. No one seemed worried about being offended or having their sense of identity undermined. We were pretty clear about who we were and what we wanted. As were Harvey Proctor and the Federation of Conservative Students who invited him to speak.

A few hundred of us turned up to ‘welcome’ him – that is, to prevent his event from happening. Red paint was thrown, and in the melee Proctor snuck away, in an unmarked police car, it was later claimed. At the next Labour Students meeting, opinion was split. Some regarded the prevention of the Proctor meeting as a mistake – the papers were referring to us as ‘Red Fascists’. Others saw it as a necessary show of force against reaction, even as a blow struck for the miners.

We were right to protest against Tory policy and raise our banner for the miners. But we were wrong to No Platform Proctor, and we achieved nothing by doing so. His complicity in the class war against the miners and his racist views on immigration made him a hate figure for us. Looking back, however, it seems pretty clear that our ‘success’ in preventing him from speaking was just a displacement activity from our failure to win the argument about broader political problems: the miners lost their struggle, the unions were reduced to a shadow of their former selves, and Thatcher went on to win another election. Barricading Proctor’s lecture room was easier than confronting the fact that the labour movement and the left more broadly were in serious trouble.

On campus today, in some ways as a consequence of that demise of the labour and radical left in the 1970s and 1980s, the politics of identity trumps the politics of class. (When class is raised, it tends to be treated as just another identity: some students’ unions now paternalistically provide working-class students with ‘liberation officers’ to help guard them against middle-class ‘unconscious bias’.) And consequently, No Platforming now takes a different form, too.

Its range, its censorious logic, extends far beyond the small number of extreme organisations it targeted in the past. It no longer focuses only on right-wing hate figures like Proctor. Under today’s Safe Space policies, all sorts of speakers, from the right and the left, find themselves being vetted by small cliques of student officials to see if the words they use might cause offence to ‘vulnerable’ groups on campus, or ‘promote hate’. These policies are the means through which the culture of ‘You Can’t Say That’ is formalised on campus.

Under these policies, in recent months alone, we have seen a UKIP MEP being told he must submit his speech for vetting before he could speak on campus (he refused, and was banned); a feminist who criticised some trans activists during a radio discussion having her invitation to speak at a university rescinded; and Safe Space Marshalls literally policing speech in situ at debates at a London university.

In backing the No Platforming of Proctor in 1984, we foolishly attacked freedom of speech as a universal principle; we made the freedom to speak contingent on what was being said, on who the speaker was. Safe Space culture extends that contingency and normalises the idea that if someone finds something offensive – even if he or she is finding it offensive on behalf of another – then that is reason enough to censor that thing, whether it’s a pop song, an MEP, an Islamic preacher, an Israeli academic, a pro-Palestinian activist, a trans-sceptical feminist, and so on. Entrenched over decades, this censorious culture now has a deep and insidious effect on the open and free debate that is vital to intellectual life and democracy in the academy. It must be confronted.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Parents Furious about Sexually Explicit Maya Angelou Math Assignment

A mom in Ohio posted her daughter's homework on her Facebook page and it has been shared almost 37,000 times. Despite her modest friend total of 513, the post has been liked almost 4,200 times. The reason? In an episode of political correctness and social justice run amok, her eighth-grade daughter's math homework included graphic questions about sexual assault, drug dealing, and prostitution.

According to the picture she posted, multiple choice math questions were combined with the early life abuse and exploitation experienced by poet Maya Angelou. The questions include:

Angelou was sexually abused by her mother's _______ at age 8, which shaped her career choices and motivation for writing.

a. (0,2) boyfriend

b. (4,6) brother

c. (-3, -1) father


Trying to support her son as a single mother, she worked as a pimp, prostitute and ________.

a. (-3, -2) Bookie

b. (9, 10) Drug Dealer

c. (4, 5) Night Club Dancer

The mother, Kindra Sue Brandon, expressed shock at the reach of her post, saying, "My daughter brought this homework home on Wednesday Jan 31st and I posted this on my page to my friends on Facebook. Like wow. Look at this !!! I had nooooo idea it was going to go this far."

Brandon said in a Facebook message to PJ Media that the assignment blindsided her. "I went to the school the next morning and had a meeting with the principal and vice principal about this assignment. They had no idea about this worksheet. They were just as in shock as all of us," she said. "They claim... the teacher got the material from Teachers Pay Teachers. And the preview of this worksheet didn't have these questions on it. The teacher was not there Thursday or Friday and school was closed yesterday due to snow. So we shall see today if the teacher who assigned this will be there."

It turns out that the teacher never made it to the meeting, so those specific questions never got answered.

Teachers Pay Teachers is an open source platform to share lesson plans and teaching resources among teachers. Some materials are presented at no cost, and some are paid lessons. An article in The Atlantic explained some of the pros and cons of Teachers Pay Teachers and other open source platforms:

On the site, teachers upload a mixture of resources that are free to download and ones that are listed for sale, ranging in price from 99 cents for a slideshow or activity worksheet to $40 for an entire unit plan. Individual teachers are generally the shoppers, sometimes paying out-of-pocket, sometimes using school funds allocated for materials. Copyrights on materials can also be pretty guarded: Some teachers sell licenses for the right to re-share materials with colleagues while others offer their work only as un-editable formats like PDF.
PJM asked Brandon about the Maya Angelou material. "It actually was a four-page math workbook with the third page being this," she explained. "It had a short paragraph about Maya Angelou and those were the questions they decided to ask. They were using cross-curriculum, obviously, with the math but they are not or will not be studying Maya Angelou in any subject in 8th grade nor in any other grade in the school."

When one looks up the Maya Angelou math curriculum on Teachers Pay Teachers, this is what it says:

Bring to life the traditional practice class or homework assignment with some global competency and diversity! While your students practice solving systems of equations with substitution, they can learn about the poet, activist, teacher, inspiration Maya Angelou!

CAUTION: Mature content is integral to her biography. This is not suggested as homework and if you choose to you it, should be in your classroom where you can control the conversation.

Person Puzzles are designed to highlight individuals with diverse backgrounds who have made significant contributions to our world. I typically use Person Puzzles as timed warm-ups which allows me to share a little about the person's background before my daily lesson. I can also drop some college readiness info like majors, degrees and careers!

Scrolling down the page, one quickly arrives at the reviews section with this at the top:
On December 31, 2013, nikki Longworth (TpT Seller) said:

Make sure # 2 & 3 are appropriate for your class before distribution. I had to explain to my students it was proof that someone can have a rough life and still achieve great things! Otherwise great, as always
On December 16, 2014, Sharee H. said:

I rated this a little lower on practicality because I don't think questions 3 &5 are very appropriate to have on a school assignment, especially in this day and age. It could be a trigger for some, but also it just opens up conversations that I really don't want to have with the students that I teach. Otherwise this is a resource that I would use for sure!
Brandon says that, while the principal and vice principal shared her shock, nothing appears to have been done about this issue in the week since she brought it to their attention. In a follow-up message, she said, "The teacher is actually still at the school and it seems they have just swept this under the rug."

Of course, today's culture routinely requires prostration to the gods of political correctness, injecting social justice into every aspect of learning and life. Even still, it remains unclear how an understanding of Angelou's history of abuse and graphic details of her past life could enhance the skill set required to pass eighth-grade math.


Thousands of British teachers caught cheating in exams

Teachers cheat in exams nearly as often as pupils but escape with far lighter punishment, according to figures that OCR, one of the country’s leading exam boards, tried to suppress.

The scandal has come to light after the information commissioner ordered OCR to answer questions from The Sunday Times.

Education experts said this weekend that the revelations were “shocking” and called for cheating teachers, who often act as examiners and invigilators, to be sacked. They said cheating in exams was like “taking drugs in athletics”.

Nearly 2,300 “malpractice” offences were committed by staff in schools, colleges and other centres offering OCR exams between 2012 and 2016. More than half were cases of “improper assistance” to youngsters sitting tests.


The new blasphemies on campus

In 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley was banished from Oxford University for publishing a pamphlet called ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. His act of heresy was punished by close-minded dons who could brook no dissent. More than two centuries later, there are still blasphemies on campus that students commit at their peril.

Today spiked launches the Free Speech University Rankings 2018, our fourth annual analysis of campus censorship in the UK academy, and it makes for grim reading: 55 per cent of the 115 universities and students’ unions we survey are this year ranked Red under our traffic-light rankings system, meaning they actively censor speech and ideas.

This marks a dip in Reds from last year. But policies dictating what can and can’t be said on campus are still becoming more severe in many areas. A startling 46 per cent of institutions restrict discussion of transgenderism: Leeds Beckett, Newcastle, Imperial and more appear to ban ‘transphobic propaganda’ outright, while St Andrews, Sussex, Cardiff and others commit themselves to ridding the curriculum of ‘transphobic material’.

This is remarkable stuff. In some of our most esteemed universities, supposed citadels of free thinking and scientific endeavour, administrations are demanding that debate about transgenderism be shut down and courses be cleansed of un-PC material. How any course about, say, biology, can coexist with this is unfathomable.

And it’s not just in relation to trans issues, that most testy and inflamed subject in politics today. We also found that 48 per cent of institutions have policies which warn against insulting faith groups or offending religious sensibilities. One students’ union insists that ‘the religious sensibilities of the union’s members must be respected’. Shelley must be turning in his grave.

What’s more, when it comes to who is being censored on campus, it isn’t even just provocateurs, coming to campus to stir up controversy – it’s students themselves. Over the past three years, students and/or student groups at 17 campuses have been punished for everything from criticising gay marriage on Facebook to organising a Thatcher vs the Miners themed party.

Starker still, both of those bans were the work of university administrations, rather than students’ unions. Campus censorship, you see, isn’t just the work of Safe Space belligerents, blue hair flying in the wind. In fact, while SUs tend to be more extreme in their censorship, in that more of them are ranked Red, the proportion of Red universities has been rising over the past few years, while the proportion of Red students’ unions has begun to level off and fall.

There’s a good deal of hypocrisy here, too. While, for instance, the University of Cardiff won plaudits in 2015 for pressing ahead with a talk by Germaine Greer, despite protests from students over Greer’s ‘transphobic’ comments about gender, at that very same time it had a policy on its books committing itself to cleansing all curricula of ‘transphobic material’. So, many universities don’t practice what they preach.

The fracas at the University of the West of England in Bristol on Friday night, in which anti-fascist protesters tried to disrupt a speech by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, shouting ‘no platform for fascists’ and scuffling with his supporters, reminds us that student activism remains thoroughly intolerant. And, for the fourth year running, students’ unions are far more likely to be ranked Red than universities in our survey. But we can’t let universities off the hook.

So, what’s to be done about it? Suffice it to say, the plans being drawn up by the newly established Office for Students to fine or otherwise punish universities that censor would only make the problem worse. It’s fighting one form of illiberalism with another; as SUs are independent organisations, they wouldn’t be touched by such measures; and, even if you somehow prohibited campus authorities from censoring, illiberal activists would merely take matters into their own hands.

The problem here isn’t technical – it’s cultural. Universities have become so bureaucratised, so estranged from their core mission, that they blithely undermine free speech for the sake of avoiding bad press or keeping a lid on campus protest. Meanwhile, students’ unions are run by unrepresentative identitarians who genuinely think words are like bullets.

If we want to change that, we need to change minds. We need to build a culture of free debate and argument so that censorship is no longer enacted so casually. And we need to defeat the patronising argument that censorship must be done for our own good. Students, academics and university leaders need to assert, as Shelley might have put it, the necessity of freedom: the most dangerous idea of all.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Puerto Rico’s Bold School Choice Plan Mirrors New Orleans’

In the months following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September, Puerto Rico has struggled to find its footing and rebuild.

Unfortunately, dysfunction was already rampant in the debt-ridden territory before the storm.

Now things are worse, but perhaps there is an opportunity to finally make some badly-needed changes.

Bailouts and federal meddling are unlikely to turn things around. It’s clear that deeper local changes are needed to get the territory on a more sustainable long-term path.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can't be done alone. Find out more >>

On Monday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, a member of the conservative New Progressive Party, announced a plan to introduce private school choice options to parents in his territory.

This is in line with his other recent move to privatize the state-backed energy company that has performed poorly for Puerto Rico’s citizens and is a huge reason the island has been so slow to bring power back on for many residents.

These are welcome changes.

“Every child, regardless of their economic condition or where they come from, must have access to that education; in a system where parents are involved and have the right to choose a high-performance school,” Rossello wrote in a statement. “Over the past decades, this has not happened in Puerto Rico.”

This proposal includes charter schools that will be managed by nonprofit organizations, and vouchers so that parents can decide where their children will be educated. Rossello also announced a decentralization of the public school system in place and a pay raise for teachers.

Of course, not everyone was pleased with the move.

Teachers unions, which have generally opposed school choice, were quick to denounce its introduction in Puerto Rico.

“Instead of the wholesale closing of public schools proposed by this fiscal plan—or privatizing these—schools need to be transformed into centers of their communities to provide stability and support to help students overcome trauma and continue to learn,” said Aida Díaz, president of the island’s teachers union, in a joint statement with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, according to The 74.

Naomi Klein, an author and left-wing activist, harshly condemned the sudden changes on Twitter.

However, after such long-term failure, it’s clear that something needs to be done to change the trajectory for Puerto Ricans, especially for their children. The already poorly performing school system is now literally falling apart.

“It became obvious that the system isn’t driven by what’s best for the student, and that there’s an enormous bureaucracy,” Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher said, according to the Associated Press. “The system has a lot of problems.”

Rossello’s decision to adopt school choice policies opens up some hope that a long-term turnaround may come. The problems they face are clearly not just the result of a single storm.

Puerto Rico’s move to adopt private school choice is reminiscent of what took place in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Though New Orleans was prepared to adopt school choice programs before the storm battered the city in 2005, the widespread destruction of school districts in the city opened the door for more sweeping reforms.

While there have certainly been challenges for school choice in New Orleans, largely due to the fact that it remains so heavily regulated, there have been positive developments for what was one of the poorest-performing school systems in the country.

Puerto Rico has a much bigger hill to climb than even New Orleans. The numbers, even pre-storm, are depressing.

A 2015 assessment of math scores, for instance, shows that Puerto Rico is far behind the worst-performing U.S. states. In fact, Puerto Rican fourth-graders performed three grade levels below even the Bureau of Indian Education schools that fall far below every state, and zero percent of students in the territory received a proficient rating in math.

That can’t continue if Puerto Rico wants to recover from the storm and long-term economic failure.

These numbers have been bad for far too long to think that there isn’t a fundamental problem. The education system was already underperforming for decades. The recent disaster just pushed it over the edge.

So, Puerto Rico has a long way to go to create an acceptable education system for its students, but it’s clear that sweeping changes are needed.

Taking the first steps to introduce school choice opens the door for the beleaguered island to finally get on the road to success.


Why Happiness Is Eluding College Students

Bill Donohue

College students attend Psychology professor Laurie Santos' course "Psychology and the Good Life." (Screenshot)
The most popular course at Yale these days—enrolling 1,200 students (they had to move the class to a huge building)—is called Psychology and the Good Life. It's not just Yale where courses in positive psychology are all the rage: they're packing students in all over the nation, and have been doing so for some time. The goal is to make students happier.

What is happiness? For Aristotle, it meant the ability of each person to reach his potential. That required hard work and was dependent on virtue. Aquinas cited the necessity of virtue as well, though "perfect happiness," he insisted, was not possible without God. For today's students, such conceptions of happiness are foreign at best, and anathema at worst.

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, happiness is not analogous to pleasure; its analogue is joy. Pleasure may arise from self-indulgence, but true happiness stems from its opposite: self-giving. It is the joy we receive by giving of ourselves to others. People of faith understand this, especially practicing Christians, but to secularists, which include a lot of college students these days, it is unintelligible.

Can happiness be learned? That is what positive psychology is predicated upon. Indeed, it assumes it can be taught.

Happiness can be acquired, but to say it can be learned, and taught in a classroom, is not only a stretch, it is deceiving. No one doubts there are aids, exercises, and tips that can be tapped when we are down, but there are no shortcuts, or cheat sheets, that can be accessed to make us happy.

To put it differently, there is no happiness pill or injection. True happiness, dependent on virtue as it is, has a long apprenticeship; it must be carefully nurtured. It's more like cooking a great chili or tomato sauce: it's a slow boil, taking time to mature. It is not microwave ready.

Virtue is an expression of morality, and morality is typically grounded in religion. These are three attributes—virtue, morality, and religion—that are treated by those who teach positive psychology as if they were a communicable disease. Most of these professors are thorough-going secularists, bent on a quest for happiness without God.

A decade ago, Todd Kashdan was one of the early big names in positive psychology. He taught at George Mason University, and was smart enough to know the difference between pleasure and happiness; he aptly tied the latter to selflessness. But he was just like his colleagues in one important respect: he had an aversion to religion. Indeed, he boasted that he never used the word morality, or God.

Daniel Gilbert, who has long taught positive psychology at Harvard, goes beyond Kashdan. He is concerned that his work on happiness seems to have all the trappings of a religion. "I guess I just wish it didn't look so much like religion." That makes him unhappy.

Despite this professorial aversion to religion, the empirical evidence on happiness overwhelmingly shows that the most happy people in America are also the most serious about their religion; the most unhappy are the secularists. This is one of the conclusions I came to writing “The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful.”

Well-being is a term that describes our physical and mental health, our degree of happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Those who have the highest well-being are the most religious; those who score the lowest are the least religious.

I tested this conclusion by comparing practicing Catholics, priests, nuns (especially cloistered sisters), and saints to Hollywood celebrities and intellectuals. The latter, almost all of whom are secularists, suffer from poor physical and mental health, and are decidedly unhappy.

How can this be? Beliefs, bonds, and boundaries—the Three B's—explain it all. Catholics believe in God, are bonded to each other, as well as to God, and respect behavioral boundaries. Celebrities, by and large, have no time for God, are narcissistic, and behaviorally reckless. Intellectuals are too smart to believe in God, are self-absorbed, and find boundaries to be suffocating.

A young college graduate, Rachelle Hampton, writing in Slate about the popular Yale course on happiness, recently spoke openly about her depression and the depression of other college students. She found herself "meditating" in her classes at Northwestern, electing to find solace in a course on Buddhism (this is a religion without rules, suited to the needs of secularists).

Rachelle is not alone. She shared this statistic: "Almost 50 percent of students surveyed by the American College Health Association in 2016 reported feeling that things were hopeless—and almost 37 percent reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” during the previous 12 months."

It is sad that so many bright young people are in a moral fog, falling back upon themselves to set anchor. Catholicism is anything but foggy—it is a clear-eyed prescription for well-being, anchored in the Ten Commandments and the Catechism. But don't look for the positive psychologists to acknowledge this, even though it is supported by scientific evidence, the very god they worship.


A tale of two sixth forms: inside the East End Eton at the heart of Britain’s education divide

What does the new breed of “super-selective” free schools mean for social mobility in deprived boroughs like Newham?

Looming over a tangle of railway lines and traffic islands in London’s Stratford is a former council office building now known as the “East End Eton”. A block of green and yellow-framed glass and concrete, the London Academy of Excellence is a world away from the manicured grounds and Tudor brick of its nickname-sake – but its pupils’ results are not far off.

The first sixth-form college established under the Conservatives’ free school policy, set up by seven private schools in 2012, the LAE is celebrating its record number of Oxbridge places – 22 students received offers this year (that’s one-in-ten year 13s). More than half will be the first generation in their family to go to university – with one whose first language is Albanian.

The flagship of former education secretary Michael Gove’s reforms, LAE prides itself on telling a social mobility success story about the local borough, Newham, which has London’s second highest poverty rate. In 2015, Newham ranked as England’s 25th most deprived borough – a huge and rapid improvement from second place in 2010, but inequality persists. It has one of the highest GCSE attainment gaps in London between its disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers.

“The whole social mobility agenda is very real to me,” says Scott Baker, headmaster of LAE since last September. We meet in an almost surgically clean, white classroom off a corridor (which are all illustrated with famous “independent thinkers”; I spot Srinivasa Ramanujan and Coco Chanel on my way round).

Baker most recently taught at an academy and a selective girls’ grammar, but spent nearly 20 years working in east London state comprehensives, where he himself was educated. He was one of the first from Robert Clack School in Dagenham to go to Cambridge, and the first in his family to go to university.

“The whole LAE mission really resonates with me,” he tells me across a long classroom table. “I recognise a lot of that in the students we have here.”

Six partner private schools, including Eton, provide the school mock Oxbridge interviews and other workshops, exchange visits, resources and even teachers – two English teachers from Eton work at LAE one day a week.

LAE benefits from £500,000 of yearly funding from HSBC, which goes towards sport and extracurricular activities, ranging from mindfulness to still-life drawing. A recent lecture series at the school saw particular interest in outspoken drug expert Professor David Nutt.

All this extra cash and private school help means students have more time at school; the average student here does 760 hours of guided learning a year (compared to the sixth form minimum of 540 hours). But they also put in extra time. To prepare for her Cambridge interview, Popan used her free periods every Friday afternoon to go through practice questions with a friend.

While making impressive headlines, the school’s methods are controversial. It has highly selective entrance criteria. Applicants need minimum five 7s at GCSE (the equivalent of A grades under the old system, which changed in 2017), including in their chosen A-Level subjects, with minimums of 6s in maths and English. It’s a big ask in a borough like Newham, where 56.1 per cent of state school pupils get five or more A*-G grade GCSEs including English and Maths (below London’s average of 59.7 per cent).

Prospective pupils must also attend an interview, which is scored as part of the application process.

LAE is part of “a new breed of sixth form provider” – 16-19 free schools unusually selective in their intake – which has emerged in recent years, according to the Sixth Form Colleges Association. A spokesperson says there are now around 30 or 40 of these “either up-and-running or in the pipeline” across the country.

More HERE 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Inspissated ignorance at Southern New Hampshire University

So much for American university qualifications. Looks like you can even get a dumbed down Ph.D.. Australia is the only country to have an entire continent to itself -- plus over 3,000 islands, some of which are of outstanding natural beauty. UPDATE: The moron professor has been fired

An American university lecturer failed a student's assignment because she didn't believe Australia was a real country.

Ashley Arnold had to write a paper comparing a social norm in the U.S. and another country, and chose social media use in Australia.

The 27-year-old was shocked to fail the assignment because her teacher at Southern New Hampshire University said Australia was a continent, not a country.

As a result, the stay-at-home mother got zero marks in three sections of her sociology assignment for not answering the question.

'I was in shock. It was the most ridiculous thing ever... Part me thinks this is a joke but it's real life, she is totally for real,' she said.

'I was like, I did not get this wrong, right? It made me doubtful for a second. Thankfully the facts were on my side.'

Ms Arnold, from Idaho Falls in Idaho, was confused as to why the lecturer, who has a PhD in sociology, didn't just Google Australia to confirm it was a country.

She wrote back explaining that Australia was actually a country as well as a continent, even providing references, but the teacher was unconvinced.

'Australia is a continent; it is not a country. That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly,' she replied.

Ms Arnold sent a link to the Australian Government's 'about Australia' page, and finally the teacher said she would do independent research into the issue.

'I mean no disrespect but my grade is affected by your assumption that Australia is not a country when it in fact is,' she said.

Finally, the paper was re-graded as a B+ and she acknowledged a 'misunderstanding about the difference between Australia as a country and a continent'.

'I learned I can advocate for myself successfully even in the face of opposition brought on by a stubborn professor with a PhD,' Ms Arnold said of the bizarre experience.

The university said it was looking into the matter after Ms Arnold came forward to make sure no other students were given bad grades for the same reason.

'At SNHU, we hold our professors to a high standard of excellence and strive to provide high-quality degree programs for all students,' it said.

'On this question, the student is right. We take this concern seriously and our academic team is working to resolve the matter.'


What on Earth Is an 'Education Desert'?  

The Left is always looking to exploit its next group of victims. Sure, there will always be those who fall through the cracks of the American political, social or economic system. And we should always look for ways to utilize free-market solutions to help people rise up and realize their dreams. But progressives are only interested in helping the afflicted in order to expand the authority and influence of the State.

The latest in the Left’s parade of exploitables are those affected by what they call “desertification” — an area of some size that doesn’t have [insert desired service here]. Add this to a growing list of terms drummed up by leftist think tanks in recent decades. Some examples include day care deserts and even food deserts. Now it’s higher education deserts.

This is what the Nanny State has done to our mindset. Some Americans really think it’s unfair or even discriminatory that others should have to drive half an hour to access the services they desire.

A study conducted by the Urban Institute, entitled “Disconnected from Higher Education,” argues that millions of Americans don’t have access to either a four-year university within 25 miles of where they live or don’t have access to Internet speeds of 25 Mbps to efficiently enroll in online degree programs.

Kristin Bragg of the Institute suggests, “For people who do not have a university nearby, online education may be the only avenue to pursue higher education. We estimate that 41 million American adults lack access to a physical university, and of those, 3 million also lack access to an internet connection suitable for online education. An additional 2 million adults lack access to online education but have a physical university nearby.”

Let’s be honest here. Twenty-five miles is hardly a burdensome distance to travel for college students. Do we really need to build more colleges in every town in America? Apparently the Left thinks so. And what’s all this about needing 25 Mbps Internet speed to take online courses?

The FCC’s Broadband Speed Guide notes that a student only needs a minimum of five Mbps for online education platforms. Most online classes feature a wide range of components beyond reading and posting to discussion forums, but most of these require far less than 25 Mbps. For example, streaming a professor’s HD video lecture only requires five to eight Mbps, HD video teleconferencing with classmates requires six Mbps, and downloading important course files takes only 10 Mbps. Sure, it’d be great if every online student in America had the very highest Internet speeds in their homes, but it’s simply not necessary for online courses. Similarly, we could build a four-year university in every town, but who’s going to pay for it?

Elizabeth Bauer writes at The Federalist, “Maybe the Urban Institute and the report’s authors didn’t have access to data that measures Americans’ access to the internet at these lower speeds, but that doesn’t justify writing a report, with a call for action for more satellite locations for public universities, and greater federal subsidy of broadband/high-speed internet, based on that faulty data.” Bauer adds, “These results are not really that dramatic in the first place, given that they’re reporting that 99 percent of Americans have either easy driving access to a 4-year university, or the ability to contract ultra-high-speed internet access, or both.”

Like most leftist think tanks, the Urban Institute offers no real solutions to these supposed education deserts other than expanding Internet access, but President Donald Trump is already on top of this. The difference is that the president’s plan lets the markets solve the problem.

In January, President Trump signed an executive order that seeks to “reduce barriers to capital investment, remove obstacles to broadband services and more efficiently employ government resources.” He also announced at a speech in Tennessee before thousands of American Farm Bureau Federation members that “those towers are going to go up, and you’re going to have great, great broadband.” USA Today notes that “the order does not appear to allocate any financial resources to the broadband effort.”

And that’s a good thing. When the government touches something, it becomes bureaucratic and inefficient. We really shouldn’t be spending taxpayer money to ensure that every single American lives within walking distance of a four-year college or university, or has premium high-speed Internet for online classes. But the free market can make this determination, as it should.

As Bauer notes, “Here’s the bottom line: People living in rural areas naturally lack access to urban and suburban conveniences, amenities and ‘necessities.’ You could just as easily speak of a ‘symphony orchestra desert’ in rural areas. … Now, as a result of e-commerce, we’re seeing ‘bookstore deserts’ and ‘toy store deserts,’ what with the latest Barnes and Noble and Toys ‘R’ Us closings. Or, less facetiously, you could map out the portion of the country which relies on well water and septic systems rather than city water and sewer, then sound the alarm at the scandalous lack of provision of clean water and sewage treatment in these areas.”

Good point. And if we’re going to talk about “education deserts,” let’s wake up and realize that many four-year colleges and universities today are philosophical deserts themselves — with agenda-driven administrations, politically motivated professors, campus speech codes and “safe spaces.” Do we really want to expand a higher education system that’s rotting away at its core?

The Left has dreamed up many “deserts” in recent years to show that there are millions of Americans without access to something. Unfortunately, their solution would be a socialist dystopia in which fewer people would have access to anything, and the quality of good and services (including education) would diminish.

In the end, the only people who benefit from “desertification” studies are policy wonks working at think tanks and organizations like the Urban Institute. And the fact that, even by Urban’s measure, 99% of Americans already have access to either a four-year university or sufficiently speedy Internet means that leftists are working overtime to spend your money on problems that don’t exist. Imagine that.


From drinks at the bar to back at her house: The new 90-minute sexual consent test Australian university students must pass before they are allowed to enrol

The range of what is called sexual harassment has widened enormously in recent times.  Rape however is a lot LESS common in the universities than elsewhere so singling out students as likely evildoers is offensive

Students starting at some of Australia's most prestigious universities will need to prove they understand sexual consent by sitting a mandatory course.

An online 90 minute test has already been implemented at University of Melbourne, where all undergraduate students must pass the test before beginning study.

New students at the University of Sydney must also sit the compulsory test, and those living in residential colleges at the Australian National University will need to pass it as well, The Age reports.

The one and a half hour long animated course touches on how levels of intoxication would affect each person's ability to give consent to sexual activity.

Students are also schooled on boundaries, misconceptions about consent and how others should intervene if they see sexual harassment occurring.

Desiree Cai, University of Melbourne's student union president, praised the move for being an important first step in addressing sexual harassment.

'Discussions about what consent is didn't exist a couple of years ago,' Ms Cai said. 'There has been a real shift but we would like to see more action in the future.'

The progressive move comes in light of the Australian Human Rights Commission's startling findings in its report on sexual harassment and assault on campuses.

The report found one in two students were sexually harassed at least once on university campuses in 2016.

So far about a quarter of University of Melbourne's students had sat the test, but Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said it would take more than one quiz to solve the problem.

'There's a significant amount of activity occurring and a comprehensive effort is very much in evidence,' Ms Robinson said.

National Union of Students women's officer Kate Crossin also felt more was required in order for significant societal change to occur. She was not convinced the Consent Matters course was effective, saying 'It hasn't been found to reduce sexual harassment or assault. Face-to-face training is much better.'