Friday, February 23, 2018

Corrupt black school in Washington graduates students who have done no work

African culture comes to America

Brian Butcher, a history teacher at Ballou High School, sat in the bleachers of the school's brand-new football field last June watching 164 seniors receive diplomas. It was a clear, warm night and he was surrounded by screaming family and friends snapping photos and cheering.

It was a triumphant moment for the students: For the first time, every graduate had applied and been accepted to college. The school is located in one of Washington, D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods and has struggled academically for years with a low graduation rate. For months, the school received national media attention, including from NPR, celebrating the achievement.

But all the excitement and accomplishment couldn't shake one question from Butcher's mind:

How did all these students graduate from high school?

"You saw kids walking across the stage, who, they're nice young people, but they don't deserve to be walking across the stage," Butcher says.

About This Investigation

This project is a collaboration between NPR's Ed Team and WAMU's Kate McGee, an education reporter covering education in our nation's capital. Six months ago, we reported that for the first time, 100 percent of seniors who graduated from Ballou High School had applied and were accepted to college. We spoke with 11 current and recent Ballou teachers and four recent Ballou graduates, and we reviewed hundreds of attendance documents, class rosters and emails that show many students graduated despite chronic absenteeism. Records show half the graduates missed more than three months of school, or 60 days.

An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School's administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou's attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present — missing more than 90 days of school.

According to district policy, if a student misses a class 30 times, he should fail that course. Research shows that missing 10 percent of school, about two days per month, can negatively affect test scores, reduce academic growth and increase the chances a student will drop out.

Teachers say when many of these students did attend school, they struggled academically, often needing intense remediation.

"I've never seen kids in the 12th grade that couldn't read and write," says Butcher about his two decades teaching in low-performing schools from New York City to Florida. But he saw this at Ballou, and it wasn't just one or two students.

An internal email obtained by WAMU and NPR from April shows two months before graduation, only 57 students were on track to graduate, with dozens of students missing graduation or community service requirements or failing classes needed to graduate. In June, 164 students received diplomas.

"It was smoke and mirrors. That is what it was," says Butcher.

Pressure to pass students

WAMU and NPR talked to nearly a dozen current and recent Ballou teachers — as well as four recent graduates — who tell the same story: Teachers felt pressure from administration to pass chronically absent students, and students knew the school administration would do as much as possible to get them to graduation.

"It's oppressive to the kids because you're giving them a false sense of success," says one current Ballou teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her job.

"To not prepare them is not ethical," says another current Ballou teacher who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"They're not prepared to succeed," says Morgan Williams, who taught health and physical education at Ballou last year. Williams says the lack of expectations set up students for future failure: "If I knew I could skip the whole semester and still pass, why would I try?"

Williams taught physical education and health at Ballou for two years. She says her students were often chronically absent, but the gym was always full. Students skipping other classes would congregate there, she says, and her requests for help from administrators and behavioral staff to manage these students were often ignored.

Williams, and other teachers we spoke to for this story, say they often had students on their rosters whom they barely knew because they almost never attended class.

Near the end of a term, Williams says, students would appear, asking for makeup work like worksheets or a project. She would refuse: There are policies, and if students did not meet the attendance policy, there was nothing she could do to help them. Then, she says, an administrator would also ask how she could help students pass.

At one point, while she was out on maternity leave, she says, she received a call from a school official asking her to change a grade for a student she had previously failed. "[They said] 'Just give him a D,' because they were trying to get him out of there and they knew he wouldn't do the makeup packet."

Williams says she tried to push back, but she often had 20 to 30 kids in one class. Repeatedly having the same conversation about dozens of students was exhausting. And the school required extensive improvement plans if teachers did fail students, which was an additional burden for a lot of already strained teachers.

Many teachers we spoke to say they were encouraged to also follow another policy: give absent or struggling students a 50 percent on assignments they missed or didn't complete, instead of a zero. The argument was, if the student tried to make up the missed work or failed, it would most likely be impossible to pass with a zero on the books. Teachers say that even if students earn less than a 50 percent on an assignment, 50 percent is still the lowest grade a student can receive.

During the last term of senior year, some seniors who weren't on track to graduate were placed in an accelerated version of the classes they were failing. Those classes, known as credit recovery, were held after school for a few weeks. School district policy says students should only take credit recovery once they receive a final failing grade for a course. At Ballou, though, students who were on track to fail were placed in these classes before they should have been allowed. On paper, these students were taking the same class twice. Sometimes, with two different teachers. Teachers say this was done to graduate kids.

Credit recovery is increasingly used to prevent students from dropping out, but critics argue credit recovery courses rarely have the same educational value as the original course and are often less rigorous. According to class rosters, 13 percent of Ballou graduates were enrolled in the same class twice during the last term before graduation. Often, teachers were not alerted their students were taking credit recovery. Many we spoke with say they didn't realize what was happening until they saw students whom they had flunked graduate. They say the credit recovery content was not intensive and that students rarely showed up for credit recovery.

If teachers pushed back against these practices, they say, administration retaliated against them by giving them poor teacher evaluations. Last year, the district put school administrators entirely in control of teacher evaluations, including classroom observations, instead of including a third party. Many teachers we spoke to say they believe this gives too much power to administrators. A low evaluation rating two years in a row is grounds for dismissal. Just one bad rating can make it tough to find another job. Teachers we spoke with say if they questioned administration, they were painted as "haters" who don't care about students.

"If they don't like you, they'll just let you go," says Monica Brokenborough, who taught music at Ballou last year. She also served as the teachers union building representative, responsible for handling teacher grievances and ensuring the school follows the district's teacher contract, among other duties. Last year, 26 grievances were filed by teachers at Ballou.

"Either you want your professional career on paper to look like you don't know what you're doing," says one teacher who asked for anonymity to protect her job. "Or you just skate by, play by the game."

Playing by the game can have financial benefits. If an evaluation score is high enough to reach the "highly effective" status, teachers and administrators can receive $15,000 to $30,000 in bonuses. D.C. Public Schools wouldn't tell us who gets a bonus, but teachers we spoke with did say the possibility of such a large bonus increases the pressure on teachers to improve student numbers.

Butcher, Brokenborough and Williams no longer work at Ballou. They received low teacher evaluations after the 2016-17 school year ended and were let go for various reasons. They believe they were unfairly targeted and have filed complaints through the local teachers union. Butcher and Williams found new teaching jobs outside D.C.; Brokenborough is waiting to resolve her grievance.


Are We Free to Discuss America’s Real Problems?

Amy Wax, University of Pennsylvania Law School

There is a lot of abstract talk these days on American college campuses about free speech and the values of free inquiry, with plenty of lip service being paid to expansive notions of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. What I’ve learned through my recent experience of writing a controversial op-ed is that most of this talk is not worth much. It is only when people are confronted with speech they don’t like that we see whether these abstractions are real to them.

The op-ed, which I co-authored with Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego Law School, appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 9 under the title, “Paying the Price for the Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture.” It began by listing some of the ills afflicting American society:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

We then discussed the “cultural script”—a list of behavioral norms—that was almost universally endorsed between the end of World War II and the mid-1960s:

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These norms defined a concept of adult responsibility that was, we wrote, “a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.” The fact that the “bourgeois culture” these norms embodied has broken down since the 1960s, we argued, largely explains today’s social pathologies—and re-embracing that culture would go a long way toward addressing those pathologies.

In what became perhaps the most controversial passage, we pointed out that cultures are not equal in terms of preparing people to be productive citizens in a modern technological society, and we gave some examples of cultures less suited to achieve this:

The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.

The reactions to this piece raise the question of how unorthodox opinions should be dealt with in academia—and in American society at large.

It is well documented that American universities today, more than ever before, are dominated by academics on the left end of the political spectrum. How should these academics handle opinions that depart, even quite sharply, from their “politically correct” views? The proper response would be to engage in reasoned debate—to attempt to explain, using logic, evidence, facts, and substantive arguments, why those opinions are wrong. This kind of civil discourse is obviously important at law schools like mine, because law schools are dedicated to teaching students how to think about and argue all sides of a question. But academic institutions in general should also be places where people are free to think and reason about important questions that affect our society and our way of life—something not possible in today’s atmosphere of enforced orthodoxy.

What those of us in academia should certainly not do is engage in unreasoned speech: hurling slurs and epithets, name-calling, vilification, and mindless labeling. Likewise we should not reject the views of others without providing reasoned arguments. Yet these once common standards of practice have been violated repeatedly at my own and at other academic institutions in recent years—and we increasingly see this trend in society as well. 

One might respond, of course, that unreasoned slurs and outright condemnations are also speech and must be defended. My recent experience has caused me to rethink this position. In debating others, we should have higher standards. Of course one has the right to hurl labels like “racist,” “sexist,” and “xenophobic” without good reason—but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Hurling such labels doesn’t enlighten, inform, edify, or educate. Indeed, it undermines these goals by discouraging or stifling dissent.

So what happened after our op-ed was published last August? A raft of letters, statements, and petitions from students and professors at my university and elsewhere condemned the piece as racist, white supremacist, hate speech, heteropatriarchial, xenophobic, etc. There were demands that I be removed from the classroom and from academic committees. None of these demands even purported to address our arguments in any serious or systematic way.

A response published in the Daily Pennsylvanian, our school newspaper, and signed by five of my Penn Law School colleagues, charged us with the sin of praising the 1950s—a decade when racial discrimination was openly practiced and opportunities for women were limited. I do not agree with the contention that because a past era is marked by benighted attitudes and practices—attitudes and practices we had acknowledged in our op-ed!—it has nothing to teach us. But at least this response attempted to make an argument.

Not so an open letter published in the Daily Pennsylvanian and signed by 33 of my colleagues. This letter quoted random passages from the op-ed and from a subsequent interview I gave to the school newspaper, condemned both, and categorically rejected all of my views. It then invited students, in effect, to monitor me and to report any “stereotyping and bias” they might experience or perceive. This letter contained no argument, no substance, no reasoning, no explanation whatsoever as to how our op-ed was in error.

We hear a lot of talk about role models—people to be emulated, who set a positive example for students and others. In my view, the 33 professors who signed this letter are anti-role models. To students and citizens alike I say: don’t emulate them in condemning people for their views without providing a reasoned argument. Reject their example. Not only are they failing to teach you the practice of civil discourse—the sine qua non of liberal education and of democracy—they are sending the message that civil discourse is unnecessary. As Jonathan Haidt of NYU wrote on September 2 on his website Heterodox Academy: “Every open letter you sign to condemn a colleague for his or her words brings us closer to a world in which academic disagreements are resolved by social force and political power, not by argumentation and persuasion.”

It is gratifying to note that the reader comments on the open letter were overwhelmingly critical. The letter has “no counterevidence,” one reader wrote, “no rebuttal to [Wax’s] arguments, just an assertion that she’s wrong. . . . This is embarrassing.” Another wrote: “This letter is an exercise in self-righteous virtue-signaling that utterly fails to deal with the argument so cogently presented by Wax and Alexander. . . . Note to parents, if you want your daughter or son to learn to address an argument, do not send them to Penn Law.”

Shortly after the op-ed appeared, I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen for a while and asked how his summer was going. He said he’d had a terrible summer, and in saying it he looked so serious I thought someone had died. He then explained that the reason his summer had been ruined was my op-ed, and he accused me of attacking and causing damage to the university, the students, and the faculty. One of my left-leaning friends at Yale Law School found this story funny—who would have guessed an op-ed could ruin someone’s summer? But beyond the absurdity, note the choice of words: “attack” and “damage” are words one uses with one’s enemies, not colleagues or fellow citizens. At the very least, they are not words that encourage the expression of unpopular ideas. They reflect a spirit hostile to such ideas—indeed, a spirit that might seek to punish the expression of such ideas.

I had a similar conversation with a deputy dean. She had been unable to sign the open letter because of her official position, but she defended it as having been necessary. It needed to be written to get my attention, she told me, so that I would rethink what I had written and understand the hurt I had inflicted and the damage I had done, so that I wouldn’t do it again. The message was clear: cease the heresy.

Only half of my colleagues in the law school signed the open letter. One who didn’t sent me a thoughtful and lawyerly email explaining how and why she disagreed with particular points in the op-ed. We had an amicable email exchange, from which I learned a lot—some of her points stick with me—and we remain cordial colleagues. That is how things should work.

Of the 33 who signed the letter, only one came to talk to me about it—and I am grateful for that. About three minutes into our conversation, he admitted that he didn’t categorically reject everything in the op-ed. Bourgeois values aren’t really so bad, he conceded, nor are all cultures equally worthy. Given that those were the main points of the op-ed, I asked him why he had signed the letter. His answer was that he didn’t like my saying, in my interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian, that the tendency of global migrants to flock to white European countries indicates the superiority of some cultures. This struck him as “code,” he said, for Nazism.

Well, let me state for the record that I don’t endorse Nazism!

Furthermore, the charge that a statement is “code” for something else, or a “dog whistle” of some kind—we frequently hear this charge leveled, even against people who are stating demonstrable facts—is unanswerable. It is like accusing a speaker of causing emotional injury or feelings of marginalization. Using this kind of language, which students have learned to do all too well, is intended to bring discussion and debate to a stop—to silence speech deemed unacceptable.

As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice, we can make words mean whatever we want them to mean. And who decides what is code for something else or what qualifies as a dog whistle? Those in power, of course—which in academia means the Left.

My 33 colleagues might have believed they were protecting students from being injured by harmful opinions, but they were doing those students no favors. Students need the opposite of protection from diverse arguments and points of view. They need exposure to them. This exposure will teach them how to think. As John Stuart Mill said, “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”

I have received more than 1,000 emails from around the country in the months since the op-ed was published—mostly supportive, some critical, and for the most part thoughtful and respectful. Many expressed the thought, “You said what we are thinking but are afraid to say”—a sad commentary on the state of civil discourse in our society. Many urged me not to back down, cower, or apologize. And I agree with them that dissenters apologize far too often.


Peer Review: the Publication Game and “the Natural Selection of Bad Science”

John Staddon

Professor Brian Wansink is head of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. The lab has had problems, some described in an article called “Spoiled Science” in the Chronicle of Higher Education early in 2017:

Four papers on which he is a co-author were found to contain statistical discrepancies. Not one or two, but roughly 150. That revelation led to further scrutiny of Wansink’s work and to the discovery of other eyebrow-raising results, questionable research practices, and apparent recycling of data in at least a dozen other papers. All of which has put the usually ebullient researcher and his influential lab on the defensive.

More recently, Wansink’s lab published data purporting to come from 8- to 11-year-old children that were in fact obtained from 3- to 5-year-olds.

Compared to these gaffes the lab’s next problem looks like a very minor one:

Wansink and his fellow researchers had spent a month gathering information about the feelings and behavior of diners at an Italian buffet restaurant. Unfortunately their results didn’t support the original hypothesis. ‘This cost us a lot of time and our own money to collect,’ Wansink recalled telling the graduate student. ‘There’s got to be something here we can salvage.’ [my italics]

Four publications emerged from the “salvaged” buffet study. The topic is no doubt of interest to restaurateurs but unlikely to shed light on the nature of human feeding behavior. It’s entertaining. The study is correlational, not causal—no experiments were done. These are all characteristics typical of most of the “science” you will read about in the media: a distraction and a waste of resources, perhaps, but not too harmful.

The real problem, the probable source of all of Wansink’s other problems, is hinted at by the bit in italics. It’s pretty clear that Professor Wansink’s aim is not the advancement of understanding, but the production of publications. By this measure, his research group is exceedingly successful: 178 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 books, and 44 book chapters in 2014 alone. Pretty good for 10 faculty, 11 postdocs, and eight graduate students.

The drive to publish is not restricted to Professor Wansink. It is universal in academic science, especially among young researchers seeking promotion and research grants. The concept of the LPU (“least publishable unit,” i.e., the least amount of data that will get you a publication so your total can be as large as possible. The analogy is to physical units such as BTU=British Thermal Unit.) has been a joke among researchers for many years. I described the new industry of “pop-up” journals that have arisen to meet this demand in Part I.

The positive feedbacks I described earlier—popularity allows a journal to be selective, which makes it more popular and more able to select and so on—has nevertheless produced a handful of elite journals. The two most popular general-science journals are Nature, published in the U.K., and the U.S.-based Science.

But the emphasis in academia on publishing is misplaced. The number of publications, even publications in elite journals, is not a reliable proxy for scientific productivity. Great scientists rarely have long publication lists, and a paper in an “elite” journal isn’t necessarily a great paper. I will give just two examples. W. D. “Bill” Hamilton (1936-2000) was probably the most important evolutionary biologist since Charles Darwin. He published his first paper in 1963 and by 1983 had published a total of 22, a rate of just over one paper a year. Several of these papers were groundbreaking, his discovery of the importance of what evolutionists call inclusive fitness being perhaps the most important. But the number of papers he published is modest—compare them with Professor Wansink’s prodigious output or Brian Nosek’s promotion package below. One paper a year would now be considered inadequate in most research institutions.

My second example is personal: my first publication, which was in Science. The basic idea was that pigeons (the standard subject for operant conditioning experiments) could follow the spacing of rewards: working hard for food when it came frequently, more slowly when it came less frequently. Here is what I found. Never mind the details, just notice that the output cycles (individual in the middle, the average of three subjects at the bottom) track the input cycle at the top beautifully. But, paradoxically, the pigeons worked harder when the reward was infrequent (low points of the cycle) than when it was frequent (the high points). An older colleague pointed out a possible artifact, but I could find no evidence for his suggestion at the time.

It turned out he was in fact right; I confirmed his idea much later with a better recording technique. Pigeons do track rewards but they track in terms of something called wait time, not in terms of response rate. By the time I found that out, this area of research was no longer fashionable enough for publication in Science.

So why did Science publish what was, in fact, a flawed article? I think there were three reasons: the data were beautiful, very orderly, and without any need for statistics. Second, feedback theory was then very much in fashion and I was trying to apply it to behavior. And third, the results were counter-intuitive, an appealing feature for journal editors wishing to appear on the cutting edge.

Do top journals such as Nature and Science really publish the best work? Are they a reliable guide to scientific quality? Or do they just favor fashion and a scientific establishment, as the two writers in this Times Higher Ed article claim? Nobel Prize winner Randy Shekman, in a Guardian article, along with the many authors whose work is described in a 2013 review article, co-authored by German researcher Björn Brembs, agree that fashion is a factor but point to more important problems. First, painstaking follow-up work by many researchers has failed to show that elite (or what Shekman calls “luxury”), high-rank journals reliably publish more important work than less-selective journals. Brembs et al. write:

In this review, we present the most recent and pertinent data on the consequences of our current scholarly communication system with respect to various measures of scientific quality…These data corroborate previous hypotheses: using journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice [my emphasis].

Acceptance criteria for elite journals do not provide, perhaps cannot provide, a perfect measure of scientific excellence. Impact factor (journal rank) is an unreliable measure of scientific quality, for reasons I described earlier. Elite journals favor big, surprising results, even though these are less likely than average to be repeatable. Neither where a scientist publishes (journal rank) nor how often he publishes (the length of his CV)—the standard yardsticks for promotion and the awarding of research grants—is a reliable measure of scientific productivity.

The top journals are in fierce competition. Newsworthiness and fashion are as important as rigor. As Shekman says:

These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called “impact factor”…. Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of the bonus culture, which drives risk-taking that is rational for individuals but damaging to the financial system, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals. The result will be better research that better serves science and society.

The present system has additional costs: the peer-review process takes time and often several submissions and re-submissions may be necessary before an article can see the light of day. The powerful incentives for publication-at-any-price make for “natural selection of bad science,” in the words of one commentary.

Efforts to change the system are underway. Here is a quote from a thoughtful, if alarmingly titled, new book on the problems of science by Richard Harris, a science correspondent for National Public Radio: Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions:

Take, for instance, the fact that universities rely far too heavily on the number of journal publications to judge scientists for promotion and tenure. Brian Nosek [who is trying to reform the system] said that when he went up for promotion to full professor at the University of Virginia, the administration told him to print out all his publications and deliver them in a stack. Being ten years into his career, he’d published about a hundred papers. ‘So my response was, what are you going to do? Weigh them?’ He knew it was far too much effort for the review committee to read one hundred studies.

Clearly, change is needed. Science administrators can change right away: less emphasis on quantity and place of publication, and much more attention to what aspiring researchers’ papers actually say.

The way that science is published should also certainly change. But exactly how is difficult to discern: open publication (there are a few examples), substitute commentary for formal review, encourage longer, more conclusive—or shorter, but quicker to appear—papers…

New practices will certainly take time to evolve. What they might be is a topic for another time.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Some profound thinking from a distinguished Canadian  university

Below are some excerpts from a Leftist academic article which displays vividly how filled with rage and hate Leftists  are -- rage that can only express itself, not argue coherently for anything.  It's good evidence of how degraded academic discourse has become since the Leftist takeover of academe.  Apologies for the language but it is as it occurs in the original:

The lad himself. I am betting that he has never done a day's worth of real work in his neo-Marxist life

Fuck Neoliberalism

Simon Springer (

Department of Geography, University of Victoria

By saying ‘fuck neoliberalism’ we can express our rage against the neoliberal machine. It is an indication of our anger, our desire to shout our resentment, to spew venom back in the face of the noxious malice that has been shown to all of us. This can come in the form of mobilizing more protests against neoliberalism or in writing more papers and books critiquing its influence. The latter preaches to the converted, and the former hopes that the already perverted will be willing to change their ways. I don’t discount that these methods are important tactics in our resistance, but I’m also quite sure that they’ll never actually be enough to turn the tide against neoliberalism and in our favour.

There is nothing about neoliberalism that is deserving of our respect, and so in concert with a prefigurative politics of creation, my message is quite simply ‘fuck it’. Fuck the hold that it has on our political imaginations. Fuck the violence it engenders. Fuck the inequality it extols as a virtue. Fuck the way it has ravaged the environment. Fuck the endless cycle of accumulation and the cult of growth. Fuck the Mont Pelerin society and all the think tanks that continue to prop it up and promote it. Fuck Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman for saddling us with their ideas. Fuck the Thatchers, the Reagans, and all the cowardly, self-interested politicians who seek only to scratch the back of avarice.

International Journal for Critical Geographies

The thrust of Britain's education system needs to take a big step back in time

BRITAIN’S education system has been the victim of multiple experiments, few of which have been improvements. One of the most idiotic changes has been the idea that everyone should go to university.

The idea that everyone should go to university made the system no longer affordable.  Students used to get grants to pay for their keep with parents contributing according to their means. The state picked up tuition fees.

Now that more than half of all school leavers go to university that system is deemed no longer affordable and the now discredited student loan was invented.

But an even bigger mess is on the cards with variable tuition fees. Under this scheme degree courses that lead to potentially higher salaries will cost more than arts and social science subjects.  ‘Soft’ degrees could cost less in review of university funding

Lines will be drawn inevitably leading to unfairness and many students will end up on courses that are wrong for them just because they are cheaper.

Many young people would be far better off following a practical career but the accent on academic achievement has made that choice seem inferior and in any case genuine apprenticeships are rare.

One of the reasons East European tradesmen have become so popular is that they are better trained than homegrown workers.

The whole thrust of our education system needs to take a big step back in time to when it reflected individual abilities and the country’s needs instead of some idealised dream


Australia: 'Gender-neutral' science teacher who doesn't identify as a man or a woman angers parents after asking students to use 'Mx' instead of 'Mr' or 'Ms'

A gender neutral high school teacher is dividing the classroom after announcing they did not want to be referred to with traditional titles.

The teacher identifies as gender neutral meaning they do not identify as a man or a woman.

The secondary teacher in Sydney's northern suburbs asked students to call them 'Mx' instead of 'Mrs' or 'Mr'. 

The Year 10 science teacher angered some of the school community with one father angry at the principal for not warning the parents, Daily Telegraph reported.

'I don't think my son's ever met a transgender person,' he said. 'I'm sure the same could be said for a lot of other students too. The school really should have, at the very least, spoken with the parents of the students who would be taking the class.'

While not trying to be negative, the father reportedly wanted to see if other parents felt the same way and shared his view to Facebook - which has been deleted.

People who identify as gender neutral may not want to use single-sex bathrooms or be referred to by titles that imply a specific gender. Gender neutral people may express a mix of both male and female characteristics.

The NSW Department of Education told the publication it 'adheres to the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity in all aspects of teacher recruitment and promotion'.

Two weeks ago, an elite Christian girls school announced to parents they had a transgender student who was a 'born into a boy's body'.

The Glennie School in Toowoomba, Queensland, welcomed the student and openly discussed the young girl's attendance to squash any rumours.

Discussing the transgender addition in the school community, the Christian school sent an email to parents - an act the Year 10 student's father wished the principal had done about the transgender teacher.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lessons in nature boost classroom engagement afterward, researchers report

Third-graders who spend a class session in a natural outdoor setting are more engaged and less distracted in their regular classroom afterward than when they remain indoors, scientists found in a new study.

    This effect, reported in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, was large and occurred week after week, regardless of teacher expectations.

    The study carefully matched lessons presented indoors and outdoors and controlled for teacher expectations, teaching style, time of day, week of semester and other factors that might have contributed to the differences observed.

    “Teachers hoping to offer lessons in nature may hesitate for fear that the experience will leave kids bouncing off the walls and unable to concentrate afterward,” said University of Illinois natural resources and environmental sciences professor Ming Kuo, who conducted the study with Matt Browning, a U. of I. professor of recreation, sport and tourism; and Milbert Penner, of the Cold Spring Environmental Studies Magnet School in Indianapolis, where the study was conducted. “We found just the opposite, however: Classroom engagement was significantly better for students after lessons in nature than after lessons in the classroom.”

     The study relied on teacher ratings and outside observer reports of student attention in the classroom. Independent observers tallied the number of times a teacher had to interrupt a lesson to redirect students’ attention to the task at hand. Other observers who did not know whether students had been indoors or outdoors in a previous class evaluated student engagement based on photos taken in the classroom during classes. Students’ own reports were not useful because the students ranked their own classroom engagement as high, regardless of the condition.

    Previous studies have shown that students in a variety of contexts benefit from exposure to green space. For example, a study conducted in Massachusetts public schools found that standardized test scores were higher among students in classrooms in areas with more vegetation nearby. The correlations held when controlling for income and other factors that might influence test scores. Kuo collaborated on a study led by U. of I. crop sciences professor Andrea Faber Taylor that found that children with ADHD perform substantially better on neurocognitive tests of attention after taking a walk in a natural area than after walking in an outdoor setting with few natural features.

    One theory proposes that experiencing nature induces “a state of ‘soft fascination’ that allows the mental muscle underlying our ability to deliberately direct attention to rest,” the researchers wrote. This may enhance a person’s ability to focus again later.

    Being in nature or viewing it from a window also is associated with lower heart rates and stress hormones in children and adults, other studies have found. Since stress can interfere with learning, factors that reduce stress likely also enhance the educational experience, Kuo said.

    “We found the teachers in our study were able to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long after the outdoor lesson than after an indoor lesson,” Kuo said. “The students simply paid better attention after being in the outdoor class.”

    Kuo said she hopes the new findings will encourage teachers to experiment with outdoor lessons.

    “They should try it a few times to get the hang of it and see what they notice. If it works like it did in our study, the benefits will be pretty obvious,” she said. “If it still doesn’t work after you’ve tried it a few times, I’d give up; teachers can tell what’s not working for them.”


Be like Michael Jordan? Not at Air Force Academy

Back in the 1990s, it seemed that almost everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan. But apparently those days are over.

This week the U.S. Air Force Academy issued an apology after a commandant cited the former pro basketball star as an exemplar of good grooming and professional appearance.

“He was never seen with a gaudy chain around his neck, his pants below his waistline, or with a backwards baseball hat on during public appearances,” Master Sgt. Zachary Parish wrote in an email to cadets, according to the Gazette in Colorado Springs.

Parish is the top enlisted airman assigned to the student body, called the cadet wing. Across the military, top enlisted personnel enforce haircut regulations for lower-ranking personnel.

But some recipients of Parish’s email took offense, interpreting his message not as well-intentioned advice, but as a slight against African-Americans, the newspaper reported.

An academy colonel quickly attempted corrective action. “Let me apologize for the email sent earlier today by our first sergeant,” Col. Julian Stevens wrote, according to the newspaper. "The comments were very disrespectful, derogatory and in no way reflective of (cadet wing) permanent party views.

“Microagressions such as these are often blindspots/unintentional biases that are not often recognized, and if they are recognized they are not always addressed,” Stevens added.

But even the colonel’s message drew criticism, as some Air Force sergeants writing on Facebook accused the officer of being overly sensitive. “This is a perfect example of why we're going to lose a war with Russia/China,” one commenter wrote, according to the Gazette.


Ready for More Good News?

We wrote on Tuesday about the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) efforts to ban prayer from a local high school in Beloit, Ohio, and how the good people there are not backing down, aided by our good friends at First Liberty Institute. On Wednesday, I interviewed Brooke Pidgeon, a parent from the school district, and he shared what he and fellow community members are doing to fight back. Now we’re hearing word that the resistance is spreading.

Our own Pastor Tim Throckmorton, Midwest Field Representative in Church Ministries, reached out to Pastor John Ryser of the Damascus Friends Church, who’s been leading the “controversial” pregame prayers for the last 12 years (a practice that goes back four decades). Pastor Ryser expressed how tremendously grateful he was for the support of FRC and the good work we’re doing for the nation. He went on to share that his church had been praying for God to open doors in the community for them to share the Gospel but had no idea God would work so strongly in this fashion.

Rather than being discouraged by the FFRF’s efforts to censor prayer, Pastor Ryser enthusiastically declared: “The opportunities to talk about prayer and the Gospel are tremendous everywhere right now … all because of ‘No Prayer at Basketball Games!’” He’s had a number of powerful conversations with members of the community through the distribution of now over 5,000 “Prayer Matters” T-Shirts. He also related how three members of his church youth group and who play on the basketball team have led three of their teammates to faith in Christ as a result! As if that weren’t enough, half of the attendees at last week’s basketball game were sporting “Prayer Matters” shirts — and last night, when the team played on the road, the home team they visited made and wore their own “Prayer Matter” tees in a sign of solidarity!

So God has taken the devices of the enemy and turned them into an opportunity to spread the Good News and bring more people to Him. Pastor Ryser quoted 1 Corinthians 16:9: “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Let’s pray that God will continue to use what was intended for evil and turn it around for good, not only for the good folk in northeastern Ohio but also for every community across America where faith is under fire!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Parent Revolt: Oregon School Board Cancels Valentine's Day after Tossing out Thanksgiving, Christmas

A board that wanted to be "welcoming" to all students was not at all welcoming to concerned parents. Typical Leftist hypocrisy

The Bethel School District in Oregon is facing serious pushback after deciding to cancel Valentine's Day and all other holidays this year, resulting in no class celebrations or card exchanges. Instead, the district renamed the day "Buddy Day" and had plans to teach students about kindness and friendship. The school board believes they are being "inclusive" to children who do not celebrate Christian holidays by just canceling or renaming them all. Parents all over the district were incensed and showed up to protest the decision at a recent board meeting.

Busy mom Amanda Loomis made sure she went to voice her opinion. "I am tired of every fun event and holiday being taken away from our kids," she told PJM. Loomis was one of a large crowd of parents who filled the district office and spilled into the hallway to protest the holiday decision. Parents reported feeling unwelcomed by school board members who refused to change venues to accommodate the large crowd even after being notified to expect a large audience. "They tried to dismiss the meeting before anyone was even able to come in to talk," said Loomis. "They literally turned their backs to us and hardly acknowledged anyone. I felt very unwelcome."

One school board member, Debi Farr, posted on Facebook after the meeting that the board felt threatened by the crowd. Parents in attendance heartily dispute that claim.

"I did not see anyone or hear anyone in the crowd being rude at all," Loomis responded. "I thought everyone in the crowd was calm and polite for the amount of people in the small space. Even children were there and they were very well behaved." Video of the event confirms Loomis's account. Rachel Hansen, another district parent, was filming and caught a passionate and sometimes loud but earnest crowd addressing their elected officials.

Hansen was displeased with the response parents received. "I attended the meeting because I'm not happy with the fact that our school board has decided to take away holiday celebrations from the schools. Not only have they made this decision, which I completely disagree with, but they made it without taking into consideration parent concerns," she said. "In fact, it's been a slow and quiet transition the last few years. Halloween costumes weren't allowed after years and years of children wearing them and parading around classrooms." Others also noted that holiday books were being slowly removed from the school library.

Hansen described the meeting as chaotic, "but not because of the parents but because we weren't allowed in the boardroom and because we were too great a number to fit. The board had been given notice that a good number of parents would be attending and we asked for a bigger venue to accommodate, but the board refused," said Hansen. "One of the board members even went so far as to call 911 due to disorderly [conduct] which couldn't have been further from the truth."

In Hansen's estimation, it was the board that behaved badly. "The board reacted with complete and utter disrespect with one board member literally turning his back to the first speaker, refusing to listen. It was disgraceful," she said.

The Bethel School Board's response is a typical government reaction to finding out people don't like something they did. Most boards hate hearing criticism and label it "threatening" so they don't have to continue listening. This is a common tactic used by elected officials to avoid hearing from angry constituents. Some will even go so far as to break state law to avoid hearing from voters. It appears that the Bethel School District may have done just that.

The very first rule of the Oregon Open Meetings Act states clearly that all public meetings are to be open to the public and provide accommodations. If there isn't enough space, the board is responsible for finding space and hearing each citizen's concern. The Bethel board's refusal to provide space, even when warned ahead of the meeting that they needed to, could be a violation of state law. Further, attempting to shut down a meeting before public comment has been made is also a violation of state law.

Thankfully, the board decided to reschedule the meeting for later in the week in a bigger location, but not before attempting to get away with not naming a new date. The crowd refused to let that happen and forced them to name a date and time. Several parents are still concerned they will change the venue without notice.

Contrary to the board's claims of unruliness and disorder, this meeting was a classic example of democracy in action. Board members tend to forget that they work for the people and a strong reminder is often needed to get them back on track. The parents of the Bethel School District are doing what every American should be doing: holding elected officials accountable for their actions. If parents don't stand up against the onslaught of anti-Americanism and the destruction of our traditions and culture we will soon have no traditions left.


Pell Grant reform could mean good paying jobs for middle America

By Natalia Castro

President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan won’t just be looking to refurbish the nation’s bridges and roads but is also aiming at reforming our nation’s educational institutions. To combat some of the most significant problems within our labor force and education system, President Trump has included a provision in his infrastructure plan that could increase access to non-college job training programs without increasing spending.

As the legislative outline for Trump’s infrastructure proposal explains, the American workforce is integral to a properly running country and economy. But with nearly seven million individuals around the country looking for work and six million unfilled jobs, America’s skills gaps are leaving workers behind.

Despite jobs growth and decreasing unemployment, while a disproportionate share of Americans go to college, jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, called middle-skilled jobs, are not being filled. In states like Iowa, more than half of all available jobs are middle-skilled jobs, which leaves both jobs unfilled and skilled workers unemployed.

In Palm Beach County, Florida jobs for welders and mechanics are going continually unfilled.  Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post notes how strange this phenomenon is in their area, considering top welders can make $70,000 a year or more, and skilled mechanists can earn $65,000.

However, following the insecurities generated from the Great Recession and the fueling misconception that a four-year degree is necessary, owing to lower unemployment rates for college-educated individuals, middle-skilled jobs go unfilled. Besides the higher education bubble, other factors to the skills gap include Baby Boomers retiring and regional mismatches.

To make up for this, the Trump administration has called for Pell Grants to be made available for students achieving certifications as part of apprenticeship programs and has expanded Pell Grant eligibility to pay for these more of these short-term programs.

President Trump also calls for changes our post-secondary education system and workforce development policies in order to encourage students to enter technical fields.

As the President’s plan explains, “The Federal Work Study program (FWS) currently is not well-suited or targeted to support students pursuing career and technical education, especially for low-income and low-skilled students seeking to enter or return to the workforce quickly. FWS funds are disproportionately distributed to four-year non-profit and flagship public institutions, leaving out quality two-year programs, many of which have a uniquely strong focus on workplace readiness.”

Agree or disagree with the Pell Grant program, the question the administration is addressing is how to best allocate the funds Congress is already providing. By reforming this program, Trump does not add money to the existing budget but instead reprioritizes funds to more proportionately represent the needs of our economy.

Before announcing this plan, the President met with 70 mayors to discuss needs of cities across the country. Mayor Karen Best of Branson, Missouri explains to the Branson News, “My question was geared towards jobs and workers. Finding the workforce to fill those jobs… The infrastructure bill is going to have to do with workforce, workforce training, workforce management, also making Pell Grants available to trade schools, not just four-year universities and colleges…Being at the White House yesterday gave a name and a face to the community of Branson.”

These holes in the labor force already offer high paying opportunities; the federal government now must remove barriers that discourage students from pursuing two-year degrees. Trump’s plan allows for this to occur, giving a chance to employers and students across the country.


Zoning Out on Free Speech

“The Death of Free-Speech Zones,” reads a recent headline in Inside Higher Education. It’s a demise that anyone who believes in the First Amendment can cheer.

The zones were intended to mollify college students who (rightfully) protested the proliferating rules aimed at restricting their ability to speak up on campus. Want to say what’s on your mind? Just walk over here, to this one specific piece of real estate, and say it. Problem solved! Except it wasn’t.

For one thing, the zones that campus administrators so generously deeded to their students were often ludicrously small (at Pierce College in Los Angeles, for example, it was about 600 square feet, or roughly the size of three parking spaces). Others were located in campus areas that placed students out of the way of most foot traffic.

In some cases, it was worse: You couldn’t simply go to one of these zones and start handing out your literature, or begin speaking. You had to reserve the space beforehand. “At the University of South Dakota, a student needs to reserve a free-speech spot at least five days in advance,” the Inside Higher Education article notes.

But logistical problems were the least of it. Even if the zones were larger, more accessible, and could be used spontaneously, you’re still dealing with a cowardly “solution” that violates the U.S. Constitution. It’s a shame to have to point out the obvious, but these administrators don’t seem to realize that the entire campus is already a free-speech zone. And not because they allow it, but because it’s located in the United States of America.

I call it cowardly, of course, because these zones only cropped up in the wake of the insane assault on free speech that’s been occurring on campuses for some time now. Students raised in politically correct bubbles have arrived on campus blissfully unaware that anyone disagrees with their worldview. So when, say, a speaker shows up to criticize affirmative action, or pro-life students begin handing out flyers on abortion, they can’t handle it.

I don’t mean they offer a counterview. That would be fine, of course. Everyone’s free-speech rights would be honored in that case. No, they form mobs. They yell, shriek and shout down those with whom they disagree. They attack them, both verbally and physically. “Triggered” by the horror of a different point of view, they have a meltdown.

Have administrators reacted to these tantrums by standing up for the Constitution? Used these “teachable moments” to educate their young charges in the process of civilized debate?

Very few, unfortunately. Many tucked tail and surrendered to student demands. They’ve cravenly disinvited speakers and, yes, restricted students to “free-speech zones.”

Fortunately, some brave students and organizations — such as Intercollegiate Studies Institute (where I’m a trustee), Students for Liberty, the Leadership Institute, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — have been challenging these zones in court. And they’ve been succeeding.

“In the last year, state legislatures, including those in Colorado, Tennessee and Utah, have stepped in and banned free-speech areas,” according to Inside Higher Education. “Virginia, Missouri and Arizona also previously outlawed the zones. Florida’s Legislature will consider a bill this session that wouldn’t allow them.”

The zones are hanging on in some locations, so the job isn’t finished. But Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, thinks their days are numbered. “Every public college in America is going to do away with the notion of free-speech zones,” he predicts.

Free speech is hard. The fact that John Adams, of all people, could sign the Alien and Sedition Acts is proof of that. That’s why we should be grateful this key right is enshrined in the Constitution. Even then, as we see throughout our history and right down to the present day, we must fight to maintain it.

Don’t let the bullies win. Let’s all speak up proudly for the right to disagree — and ensure that the U.S. again becomes one giant free-speech zone.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Students Ban National Anthem at California High School

Students offended by the third verse of the National Anthem have banned it at one California high school – and school officials say they’re okay with the move.

The move is tied to a national controversy over the Anthem, The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

“Students at California High School in San Ramon decided at a recent pep rally that the national anthem will no longer be played, bucking tradition and drawing the school into a national controversy about what and whom the anthem represents.”

The school district has voiced support for dropping the nation’s anthem:

"School administrators referred questions to Elizabeth Graswich, director of communications for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. Graswich emailed a statement to The Chronicle, emphasizing the students’ autonomy in making decisions on rallies.

“'The students made their decision after learning that the third verse is seen as offensive to some groups,' Graswich wrote. 'The ASB is committed to creating a school culture that is welcoming to all students.'


Fears over ‘diluted’ teacher training standards in Scotland

Desperation to get teachers into their crappy school system

Universities in Scotland have been told to accept students on to teacher training courses even if they do not hold basic qualifications in English and maths in a move that experts said could dilute standards in schools.

Guidance backed by ministers shows that the longstanding requirement for trainee teachers to hold the equivalent of a higher in English and standard grade in maths has effectively been ditched after difficulties filling courses. Instead, applicants will be accepted if they agree to gain the school-level qualifications at the same time as completing their training. Critics insisted that students who do not hold the qualifications in advance may not have a sufficient grasp of literacy and numeracy to complete teacher training successfully.


Good for graduates, bad for society. Why university is a waste

Never have I been more excited than on my first day at university.

Orientation week, which is about to begin throughout the nation, opened a door to an entire world of courses, clubs, concerts, films, friends and beautiful facilities in which to have endless fun and be treated like an adult without ever having to act like one.

Ditching the idea of science, my original first choice, I chose drama, because I fancied myself as a producer of radio plays, politics, because I was obsessed with it, and economics because there was so much about it in the papers, and it was really, really, interesting; all the more so because no-one seemed to know the answers.

At university I was allowed to grow up slowly and learn stuff I wanted to learn, for its own sake. Never, for a second, until the final few months did I think about whether it would get me a job.

I don't know what's changed in more recent years, perhaps the economy, but it doesn't seem to be like that these days. Students often work part-time, they choose courses on the basis of job prospects and they limit the time they spend on campus.

If I had my way, I would recommend the full university experience to everyone, but I'd be wrong.

Financially, there's an advantage, one I didn't know much about at the time.

Over their lifetimes university graduates earn 40 to 75 per cent more than workers who go to work straight from school. One estimate puts the lifetime earnings of male graduates at $2.3 million compared to $1.7 million for those who go straight to work. The earnings of female graduates are put at $1.8 million compared to $1.4 million.

You might have noticed those figures say nothing about whether or not university education is the cause of those extra earnings. Those people might have done well anyway. It is my unfortunate duty to tell you most would not have. University education brings about extra earnings, rather than being merely associated with them. An ingenious Australian study of identical twins (“by definition, the same innate ability and family background”) found that it's the twin that does the extra study that gets the extra earnings.

Research conducted by Dr Andrew Leigh, now a member of parliament, found that each extra year of education beyond Year 10 added an extra 10 per cent to lifetime earnings.

But it didn't answer the more important question: what is it about those extra years that makes the students so much more valuable? If you think the answer is "learning more stuff" you'll have to answer to Bryan Caplan.

A university professor himself, he has just published a book titled The Case Against Education. Its implications are enormous. He is in no doubt that graduates earn more, and that graduation is the reason. But he thinks it has little to do with what they learnt.

Consider two students who had each learnt as much. One had a family tragedy and couldn't sit the final exam, the other could. US statistics show that the one who got the final piece of paper earns roughly 10 per cent more than other people for each extra year of education, whereas the one who learnt the stuff but missed out on the certificate gets only 4.2 per cent more.

Or ask someone whether they would have rather have learnt stuff without getting a degree or got a degree without learning stuff.

And what could they possibly have learnt at university that would be of use to an employer anyway? Calculus? Literature? Most jobs don't even require algebra, and literature doesn't help people write, which is what's required in jobs. There are exceptions: economics might be one, engineering another. But most courses teach things that aren't useful for employers.

So why do employers pay so much for people who've done them, or at least have got the certificates to show they once did them?

Caplan reckons it's profiling, a bit like racial profiling, where police use the way someone looks as a rule of thumb to work out whether they are likely to commit a crime, or the profiling by insurance companies who use postcodes to tell them what to charge. It mightn't be fair, but it's quick.

Seen that way, university is a sorting tool for employers, one they don't pay for. It helps them identify characteristics that will be needed on the job but have nothing to do with what was learnt. One is intelligence. You need a certain amount to get enough marks to pass, whatever the subject. Another is conscientiousness. You need to apply yourself. And the third is conformity. Sane free-thinkers realise quickly there's not a lot of point to what they are learning and drop out. Degrees certify IQ, the ability to knuckle down and a worker who won't make trouble.

So they are great for employers and great for graduates, albeit at the cost of enormous wasted resources. Employers could get the same outcomes if the courses lasted for two years instead of four, or even one. Or if they administered tests themselves.

If Caplan's right, we should be pushing politicians for less education rather than more, especially as the ageing of the population makes workers more scarce. My own company, Fairfax, is doing just that. It has taken on several truly excellent journalists precisely for the reason that they left university rather than see it through. They wanted to do the job rather than study it.

University isn't for everyone, but life is. And it's even better than university.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings so far this year

If you’ve been online in the last 24-hours you’ve probably heard this factoid about the number of school shootings that have (supposedly) taken place so far this year:

But as the Washington Post points out today, this claim comes from the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety which uses some dubious methods to pad the numbers.

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counts as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when — at 1 a.m. — a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting…

Just five of Everytown’s 18 school shootings listed for 2018 happened during school hours and resulted in any physical injury. Another three appeared to be intentional shootings but didn’t hurt anyone. Two more involved guns — one carried by a school police officer and the other by a licensed peace officer who ran a college club — that were unintentionally fired and, again, led to no injuries. At least seven of Everytown’s 18 shootings took place outside normal school hours.

Even Everytown agrees the first shooting doesn’t belong on their list, telling the Post (after the story went up today) that it would stop counting the suicide near an empty school as a school shooting.

This isn’t the first time the Post had called out misleading claims based on Everytown’s counting methods for school shootings. In 2015 one of the Post’s fact checkers gave Sen. Chris Murphy four Pinocchios for this misleading claim, “Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week.”

The source for the claim then, and for Murphy’s recent statement, is a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, which describes itself as “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”

The group keeps a tally of school shootings since Sandy Hook, counting at least 126 as of June 8, 2015…

This list comprises a variety of shootings at or near a school, including: attempted and committed suicides, accidental discharges, armed robberies, gang fights, shootings resulting from altercations, and shootings similar to the rampages at Sandy Hook or in Charleston, where a person intends to kill multiple people…

There are many ways to define school shooting. But applying the “reasonable person” standard, as is the standard at The Fact Checker, it is difficult to see how many of the incidents included in Everytown’s list — such as suicide in a car parked on a campus or a student accidentally shooting himself when emptying his gun and putting it away in his car before school — would be considered a “school shooting” in the context of Sandy Hook.

The fact is, even if there were five school shootings this year, that’s more than we want to see. Reality is bad enough without padding the numbers with incidents that have no relation to what most people think of as a school shooting. Everytown is a repeat offender in efforts to mislead people about the facts.


Catholic School Fired Gay Teacher Because She Got Married, Church Says

A gay schoolteacher has been fired by a Miami Catholic school after marrying her same-sex partner in an apparent violation of church rules, church officials said.

Archdiocese of Miami officials confirmed to the Miami Herald that first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi lost her job at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School on Thursday, the day after she returned from her Florida Keys wedding.

“This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result,” Morffi said in a post on social media. “In their eyes I’m not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”

Several parents say they were surprised and upset at Morffi’s firing, which they learned of in a letter from the school Thursday evening. About 20 parents went to the school Friday morning to demand an explanation.

“We were extremely livid. They treated her like a criminal and they didn’t even let her get her things out of her classroom,” said Cintia Cini, the parent of one of the children in Morffi’s class.

Cini told the newspaper the parents didn’t know Morffi was gay, but they didn’t care about her sexual orientation.

“Our only concern was the way she was with our children, the way she taught our children and this woman by far was one of the best teachers out there,” Cini said.

She said the principal spoke to each of the parents but did not give a reason for the firing.

The school didn’t respond to a request for comment, but archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta confirmed Morffi broke her contract under church rules of conduct.

“As a teacher in a Catholic school their responsibility is partly for the spiritual growth of the children,” Agosta said. “One has to understand that in any corporation, institution or organization there are policies and procedures and teachings and traditions that are adhered to. If something along the way does not continue to stay within that contract, then we have no other choice.”

Morffi worked for the school for almost seven years. She also coached basketball and ran a volunteer organization called #teachHope70x70 that takes students around downtown Miami on weekends to distribute meals to the homeless, said Morffi’s friend, Katerina Reyes-Gutierrez.


What Left-Wing Educators Don't Teach During 'Black History Month'

Larry Elder
When will Black History Month be … history?

Apart from the bizarre notion that educators should set aside one month to salute the historical achievements of one race apart from and above the historical achievements of other races, Black History Month appears to omit a lot of black history.

About slavery, do our mostly left-wing educators teach that slavery was not unique to America and is as old as humankind? As economist and author Thomas Sowell says: “More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. White slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire, decades after blacks were freed in the United States.”

Are students taught that “race-based preferences,” sometimes called “affirmative action,” were opposed by several civil rights leaders? While National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young supported a type of “Marshall Plan” for a period of 10 years to make up for historical discrimination, his board of directors refused to endorse the plan. In rejecting it, the president of the Urban League in Pittsburgh said the public would ask, “What in blazes are these guys up to? They tell us for years that we must buy [nondiscrimination] and then they say, ‘It isn’t what we want.’” A member of the Urban League in New York objected to what he called “the heart of it — the business of employing Negroes (because they are Negroes).” Bayard Rustin was one of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s key lieutenants and helped to plan and organize the civil rights march in DC that culminated in King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Rustin, an openly gay black man, also opposed race-based preferences.

Do our left-wing educators, during Black History Month, note that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s celebrated New Deal actually hurt blacks? According to Cato Institute’s Jim Powell, blacks lost as many as 500,000 jobs as a result of anti-competitive, job-killing regulations of the New Deal. Powell writes: “The flagship of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act, passed in June 1933. It authorized the president to issue executive orders establishing some 700 industrial cartels, which restricted output and forced wages and prices above market levels. The minimum wage regulations made it illegal for employers to hire people who weren’t worth the minimum because they lacked skills. As a result, some 500,000 blacks, particularly in the South, were estimated to have lost their jobs. Marginal workers, like unskilled blacks, desperately needed an expanding economy to create more jobs. Yet New Deal policies made it harder for employers to hire people. FDR tripled federal taxes between 1933 and 1940. … By giving labor unions the monopoly power to exclusively represent employees in a workplace, the [1935] Wagner Act had the effect of excluding blacks, since the dominant unions discriminated against blacks.”

Are students taught that gun control, widely embraced by today’s black leadership, began as a means to deny free blacks the right to own guns? In ruling that blacks were chattel property in the Dred Scott case, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney warned of that the consequences of ruling otherwise would mean that blacks would be able to own guns. If blacks were “entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens,” said Taney, “it would give persons of the Negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one state of the union, the right … to keep and carry arms wherever they went … endangering the peace and safety of the state.”

Are students taught that generations of civil rights leaders opposed immigration — both legal and illegal immigration? After the Civil War, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass implored employers to hire blacks over new immigrants. Twenty-five years later, Booker T. Washington pleaded with Southern industrialists to hire blacks over new immigrants: “One third of the population of the South is of the Negro race. … To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South: Cast down your bucket where you are. Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your fireside.”

About illegal immigration, an issue that nearly all of the today’s so-called black leaders simply ignore, Coretta Scott King signed a letter urging Congress to retain harsh sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. The letter said: “We are concerned … that … the elimination of employer sanctions will cause another problem — the revival of the pre-1986 discrimination against black and brown U.S. and documented workers, in favor of cheap labor — the undocumented workers. This would undoubtedly exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in communities where there are large numbers of new immigrants.”

These are just a few historical and inconvenient notes left on the cutting room floor during Black History Month.