Friday, March 09, 2018

Women Now Leaving STEM Fields to Pursue ‘Social Justice’ Degrees

Two engineering professors have published the results of a new study that sheds light on why so few women graduate college with a STEM degree.

Led by Colorado School of Mines professor Greg Rulifson, the study tracked 34 freshmen engineering majors over the course of four years to explore what makes students, especially women, abandon engineering in lieu of other fields.

Of the 21 female students interviewed, fully one-third left engineering by their junior year. Rulifson and his co-author Angela Bielefeldt identified one factor common to all female students who left: the desire to “help society/other people,” or “social responsibility.”

The “social responsibility” definition includes “care for the marginalized and disadvantaged,” “environmental conservation,” and “empathy,” the professors noted.

Of the 21 female students, 14 expressed a strong dedication to social responsibility. Half of those students eventually switched majors upon realizing they wanted to pursue fields they felt had more to do with helping people.

One student, Maggie, switched to Community and International Development to study “systemic problems in different communities and how to address” them.

Jocelyn, another student, left engineering to study Environmental Policy, and hopes to become a lawyer. “I can make a bigger impact [that way],” Jocelyn told researchers.

Rulifson and Bielefeldt stated that they weren’t exactly surprised by the results.

They pointed to a 2014 Purdue University study, which discovered that the vast majority of young girls want to grow up to be “successful and caring,” but they don’t see that as an option for engineering professionals.

That study urged engineering departments to infuse a “feminist care of ethics” into their curricula to help retain women. By doing that, engineering students would be “provided with opportunities to define, address, and apply social responsibility continuously.”

Published in the new issue of the journal Engineering Studies, Rulifson and Bielefeldt’s new study similarly concludes that “engineering should include concern for people, communities, and societal welfare at the heart of the profession.”

“Women in engineering are more motivated by helping others, and engineering education needs to provide more examples of engineering as a helping profession,” the professors wrote.

Emerging research suggests that the effort to produce more female engineers has suffered from the Left’s activism in service of the “gender pay gap” narrative. As PJ Media reported last week, a recent study by Skidmore College professors found that scare stories -- false tales about how women are allegedly treated in STEM -- significantly decreased women’s desire to pursue STEM fields.

If one accepts that the lack of women in STEM is indeed a problem -- which it may well be -- this latest information shows that the problem was misdiagnosed as being primarily a bias issue, and thus led to failed solutions.

The efforts to push women into STEM have not only been ineffective, but have backfired. The taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation continues to grant millions of dollars every year to fight this issue; the money has been wasted.


I Go to a School Where an Attack Was Foiled. Here’s Why I’m Against Limiting Gun Rights

Police cars surrounded my high school as I walked fast across the street to the science building. Eyes were glancing in many directions. The slight panic—bordering on hysteria—was obvious.

Hundreds of students stayed home, but I did not. Why? Because the threat was safely locked away in jail.

Four months before the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, my own school in Cherokee County, Georgia, was under serious threat in October from two 17-year-old students.

Together, the two juniors at Etowah High School planned a Columbine-style attack using explosives, law enforcement authorities said.

But campus police and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office learned about the pair’s plans ahead of time through a tip, and reacted immediately to the first report. The two students are charged as adults with attempted murder and other offenses.

If that threat had not been stopped, many people at my school would be dead. It could have been me, my brother, my closest friends, or all of us.

But it was stopped. We are alive.

Having this perspective, my heart was shattered into pieces when I heard the news Feb. 14 about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. I have been praying for all of the students, teachers, and families who are going through hell right now.

“Take away gun rights. Something needs to be done,” my friends keep telling me.

Yes, something absolutely does need to be done, but not that way.

Reports and tips need to be taken seriously. Death is an unchangeable thing, and anyone who jokes about it is sick. A threat is not a joke; it is illegal, and it demands an immediate response.

Next, teachers should be trained and armed with guns, if they choose to be. I am constantly hearing friends say that if teachers were armed, they would be too scared to shoot back. That is an offensive statement, and it needs to stop.

A coach at Douglas High died because he ran into the shooting and jumped in front of a bullet. How could anyone say that man would have been afraid to shoot back? He chose to die so his students didn’t have to, yet people say teachers would have been hiding if they had guns.

Taking away gun rights isn’t going to help the cause. Immediately after our Founding Fathers listed our God-given rights, they decided that every American’s right “to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Everyone needs a way to defend himself or herself. I realize that many people simply want to add restrictions to buying a gun for everyone, which I thought seemed reasonable at first until I researched it.

Some of the most infamous shooters were approved to buy a gun because their previous felonies had not been reported to gun shop owners. Those shooters should not have been approved, but they were.

The system of background checks needs to be tightened to include felons and those who courts say are mentally ill.

Taking away Second Amendment rights from everyone is not the solution.


How This Ohio Program Trains Teachers in 12 States to Carry Guns

When a school shooting occurred barely an hour away, administrators with the Mad River school district in Riverside, Ohio, looked for ways to keep it from happening at their schools.

“The safety of our students is paramount,” Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen told The Daily Signal. “After several shootings in schools across the U.S. and some locally, I found myself not asking why but what is the most logical thing I can do as a superintendent to keep students and staff safe in my district.”

A 14-year-old boy shot at two other students in the cafeteria of Madison Junior/Senior High School in western Ohio in a nonfatal encounter in February 2016.

By that July, the Mad River district’s Board of Education had voted to arm certain trained teachers and staff.

“After much research, discussion, and thought, it became clear that creating an armed response team was the best way to ensure children in Mad River would have the best chance to survive if confronted with an armed intruder,” Wyen said in an email to The Daily Signal.

“My hope is we will never have to deal with a situation like what happened recently in Florida. But if we do, I at least know that we had the tools and resources to save lives,” the superintendent said.

Mad River is among school districts in Ohio that have put teachers through a 26-hour, three-day course that exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

The school district worked with the Riverside Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in implementing the program.

Trained Mad River faculty and staff have access to handguns that are locked in biometric safes during the school day in strategic locations; the safes open with the thumbprints of those authorized to use them.

The idea didn’t provoke opposition in the community, Mad River district spokeswoman Jennifer Alexander said.

“Teachers and staff apply. There is an interview process,” Alexander told The Daily Signal. “The training they receive is in line with police officer training.”

Teachers and staff from 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties have received training from a program called FASTER Saves Lives, which also has trained school personnel in 11 other states. FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response.

Among the earliest school districts to enroll five years ago was Ohio’s Newcomerstown Exempted Village Schools, where designated school staff were authorized to carry concealed weapons.

Parents in Newcomerstown, near Columbus, asked for school personnel to be armed, Superintendent Jeff Staggs said.

“Training for the FASTER program is top of the line,” Staggs told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Some people try to say teachers are not qualified to handle guns. That’s insulting. I was obviously a teacher before I was a superintendent, and I wasn’t qualified to teach before I was trained.”

Staggs said some have tried to make the matter political, but locally it is viewed as keeping kids safe. He noted the rapid pace at which the gunman killed 17 in Parkland.

“When you have a stopwatch of death, time is not a luxury,” Staggs said, adding:

Who is calling 911 when you’re running away from a shooter? It takes a minute to get a call through to 911. It would take 50 seconds for 911 to connect to dispatch and another minute for police to arrive. That’s why 17 people can be shot in three or four minutes.

In the past five years, the FASTER Saves Lives program has trained about 1,300 school personnel at public and private schools from 225 districts across 12 states. Sponsored by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, the program will train more than 200 this year, Director Joe Eaton told The Daily Signal.

The organization has two training facilities in Ohio, one in the town of West Union near Cincinnati and the other in the town of Rittman near Akron. It operates a third training center in Denver.

Eaton stressed armed response is just one facet of the program, which also trains school personnel on crisis management and emergency medical aid.

All training is at no cost to the schools. The program survives through private, individual donations, he said.

Under the program, generally only the superintendent, principals, and a few others are aware who is authorized to use the firearms.

Arming teachers has sparked a national debate since President Donald Trump suggested it as a solution in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting Feb. 14, in which a 19-year-old former student carrying an AR-15-style rifle killed 17.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the union’s members are decidedly against the idea.

“I spoke to 60,000 educators last night in a telephone town hall,” Weingarten said in a public statement, referring to a Feb. 21 event. “The response was universal, even from educators who are gun owners: Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be, sharp shooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15.”

Eaton, director of the gun-training program, said he isn’t surprised about opposition from some.

“It is human nature to think of the one person you wouldn’t want to be part of this program,” Eaton said.

But, he added, once the public learns about the level of training that school staffs go through, they generally support the idea.

Since the idea of arming teachers leaped back into the news, Eaton said, the program has averaged 10 inquiries per day from teachers and administrators.

The Trump administration hasn’t been in contact with the organization, he said.

“We were a nonprofit educational charity who previously worked with youth firearms safety [and] suicide prevention, and partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics here in Ohio to encourage safe storage of firearms by parents of young children,” Eaton said.

The program began to do firearms training for teachers in 2013, in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, where a young man shot and killed 20 children and six adults in December 2012.

“Five years ago, after Sandy Hook, we were contacted by schools wanting help to put together a safe and effective security plan,” Eaton said. “In short, we decided we were tired of watching our kids die in schools.”


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Florida public school teacher, 25, is 'removed from the classroom' after it emerged she hosted a white nationalist podcast where she boasted about spreading her political views to children

One hopes that extreme Leftsts are similarly sanctioned

Florida middle school teacher Dayanna Volitich has been 'removed from the classroom' after being named Saturday as a white nationalist podcaster. She tweeted and hosted the show 'Unapologetic' under the name Tiana Dalichov

Volitich, 25, is a teacher at Crystal River Middle School in Florida. The Citrus County School District, which includes Crystal River, issued a statement that Volitich is now under investigation by human resources

On Twitter, 'Tiana' said institutional and systemic racism were 'bulls***' concepts

The account also makes reference to the 'JQ', which stands for 'Jewish Question'  This is an anti-Semitic concept purporting to look at how to deal with the civil, legal, national and political status of Jews as a minority within society

On her podcast, 'Tiana' said a Swedish child and Nigerian child would not learn in the same way, and that she was 'underhanded' with spreading her views

In her most recent episode, the 'Tiana' character discusses her white nationalist views and how she was careful about spreading them among the children she was teaching.

On social media, 'Tiani' tweeted that institutional racism and white privilege were 'bull****' concepts. 

The School District said in its statement that it was 'made aware of a concerning podcast by a Huffington Post reporter' on Friday, March 2.

Scroll down for video

Though Tiana deleted all of her social media accounts, her podcast is still live on iTunes     +9
Though Tiana deleted all of her social media accounts, her podcast is still live on iTunes

'The Human Resources department was notified and an investigation was initiated immediately,' the statement continued.

'The teacher has been removed from the classroom and the investigation is ongoing. Pursuant to Florida Statute an open investigation and materials related to it are exempt from public record and cannot be discussed until the investigation is complete.'

The 'Tiana' Twitter account has supported tweets about white supremacists including KKK figurehead David Duke, and is gushing in her praise of authors who others have been deemed anti-Semitic.

Volitich was linked to the podcast this week by The Huffington Post which published her tweets and social media photographs on Saturday before she deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Pictures which came from those accounts match her profile on the Crystal River Middle School Website.

The last 'Unapologetic' podcast featured guest subject Lana Lokteff, the host of Red Ice TV, a white nationalist internet YouTube channel based in Sweden.

In the podcast, 'Tiani' says she is 'getting more underhanded' in how she espouses her views to the children she teaches.

Regarding white supremacists becoming teachers in public schools, a guest said on the 'Unapologetic' show:

'They don't have to be vocal about their views, but get in there. Be more covert and just start taking over those places.'

To that, 'Tiana' replied: 'Right, I’m absolutely one of them.'

On social media, 'Tiana' had also referred to the 'JQ', a casual abbreviation for 'the Jewish Question' which refers to treatment of Jews in the 19th and 20th Century.

It's an anti-Semitic concept, used to refer to the 'issue' of Jewish people in society.

'Tiana' admitted during the podcast that one parent emailed the principal of the school where she worked, which was not named, to express concern about her political views.

'She emailed the principal over my head and basically told her: "I'm worried that your teacher is injecting her political bias into her teaching,"' the voice said.

'She came to me and said, "I'm not worried, should I be worried?". I was like "no" and she believed me and she backed off.

'I get it. If it were the other way around with leftists, I would be paranoid.' 

Lokteff suggested they should start a private network of right-wing schools where they could teach children about Slavic traditions and Pagan and Christian beliefs. 

'That's a good idea! Hit me up!' 'Tiana' replied. 

They then discussed whether two children from Sweden and Nigeria would achieve the same IQ or grades.

Lokteff led that strand of conversation, saying: 'Grades are also tanking with our super diverse all inclusive society where the kid from Nigeria and the kid who came from Sweden are supposed to learn exactly the same and have exactly the same IQ because equality!


Mass. students borrowing more to attend public universities

Once upon a time in Massachusetts, students looking for an affordable path to a college degree turned to the state’s public colleges and universities.

But that option is becoming increasingly pricey for students and their families and forcing more of them to borrow ever larger sums of money to graduate, undermining a long-held reputation of public colleges and universities as the cheaper alternative for the middle class.

Between 2004 and 2016, the average student loan debt for graduates of Massachusetts’ public four-year colleges and universities rose by 77 percent, faster than in any other state in the country except Delaware, according to a report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning research group that advocates for more state funding for higher education.

Deep cuts in scholarships, reductions in state funding, and increases in tuition and fees have shifted more of the burden of paying for college to students and their families, the report says.

Graduates of the University of Massachusetts system and state universities now leave with about $30,250 in debt, just 7 percent less than the $32,355 of debt held by graduates of private colleges in Massachusetts.

We tell students they need a bachelor’s degree to get ahead. But for too many, the numbers no longer add up.

In 2004, public university graduates in Massachusetts borrowed 28 percent less, with average loans of $17,130, while their peers in private schools took on $23,800 in debt.

“We don’t have in Massachusetts an affordable school that students can call a financial safety school,” said Bob Giannino, the chief executive officer for UAspire, a Boston-based organization that counsels students on college affordability. Many students have to borrow the maximum amount in federal student loans to attend public universities in Massachusetts, he said.

“We used to say, ‘A state college is always affordable,’ ” Giannino said. “Now it’s more nuanced. There were places to more easily steer students; there are few to none for vast numbers of students now.”

The sticker price for public universities remains lower than that of private institutions. For example, a year of tuition, room, board, and fees at Fitchburg State University costs about $20,713. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell it costs $27,300. And at private Merrimack College it costs $55,400.

But higher education experts said many private colleges have endowments and can offer more in scholarships and discounts to offset their tuition costs. Private schools also attract more higher-income students and families who can pay more of the price out-of-pocket without tapping federal loans.

Public universities tend to draw lower-income students, who have to take out larger student loans to afford the tuition, fees, and room and board. Many may face financial pressures to also work while taking classes, extending their time in college, and the ultimate bill.

Furthermore, in Massachusetts, the cost of a public college education has shifted from state budgets to parent and student pocketbooks, said Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

State higher education funding has fallen by 14 percent since 2001, from $1.4 billion to $1.2 billion in 2018, when adjusted for inflation, even as enrollment has increased, the report says.

A college education is even more crucial in Massachusetts than in other states, because the economy relies on an educated workforce, and a bachelor’s degree can more than double a resident’s yearly income, Berger said.

‘We don’t have in Massachusetts an affordable school that students can call a financial safety school.’

Requiring students to borrow so much for a degree can deter them from stepping onto a college campus, which could endanger the state’s thriving economy, particularly since public university students tend to stay and work in Massachusetts, he said.

Jen Ford, who is finishing her final semester at Bridgewater State University, said she sometimes envies her friends who went to trade schools and are now working as electricians and truck drivers and are facing far less debt than her $40,000. She also wonders whether it would have been cheaper for her to attend community college first, then finish her final two years at a state university.

“I knew I was going to graduate with debt — it’s common knowledge,” Ford said. “As I get older and thinking about implications of debt, it’s different. It’s stressful.”

Ford, 25, said her loans aren’t enough to cover her entire cost of attending college, so she has also had to work part time — holding jobs as a campus organizer, in retail, and as a security officer at the college — to supplement her income in recent years.

She wants to attend law school but worries about adding to her debt, and is looking for options that will allow her to take out as few loans as possible for her advanced degree.

State officials said they recognize that college affordability is a stumbling block for many students and parents.

The reduction in state investment in higher education has hurt, said Marty Meehan, the president of the University of Massachusetts system.

“It’s fair to say we are a private university that receives a 20 percent subsidy from the state,” Meehan said.

But the value of the education students receive at UMass for their money is far superior to many small private colleges in Massachusetts, he said.

The UMass system expects to do more fund-raising to increase scholarships, is developing more and better paying internships with businesses so that students can earn money while in college, and is trying to find new sources of revenue to reduce tuition costs, Meehan said.

Governor Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2019 budget also “is taking important steps to address the issue of college affordability,” said Carlos Santiago, the commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

The budget calls for an additional $7 million to increase grants to needy community college students and to a program that provides financial incentives and rebates for students who earn their bachelor’s degree in 4½ years, he said.


Australia: Some Sydney schools lifting their NAPLAN results

Fundamentalist Christian school does well

While declining or flatlining national test results have become a cause for concern, one tiny school in Sydney's west has bucked the trend to improve its scores dramatically in both literacy and numeracy.

The latest NAPLAN results showed the proportion of students meeting national minimum standards in all domains has flatlined or declined for most year groups, and were described as a "wake-up call" by federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

However, Christadelphian Heritage College in Kemps Creek is one of 81 schools in NSW, and 330 across Australia, that have been identified by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) as showing significant NAPLAN gains in literacy or numeracy, and one of the few schools to improve in both.

The school's principal Felicity Shields said intervening before students start kindergarten and extensive profession development for teachers were the major factors behind its success in the standardised tests, which all Australian students sit in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

"We have a transition class in term four before kindergarten starts, where students come in one day a week for that entire term," Mrs Shields said.

"They just have a normal school day but it allows us to see if there are any early things like hearing and speech we need to work on before they even start school."

Mrs Shields said year 11 and 12 students also provided mentoring and homework help for younger students at lunchtime every day, and teachers had a special focus on "character, learning and teamwork" in the classroom.

"I think our environment and culture and their attitude towards school flows through; we have very high attendance and great participation," Mrs Shields said.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Florida Senate rejects ban on assault weapons, votes to arm teachers

 The Florida Senate rejected a proposal to ban assault weapons, and voted for a measure to arm some teachers, weeks after 17 people were killed in the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

An amendment that would have banned assault weapons attached to a wider bill failed on Saturday in a largely party-line vote, in response to the Feb. 14 killing of 14 students and three faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland.

The vote was 20-17 against the assault weapon ban, with two Republicans joining all of the senate's 15 Democrats in support of the proposal, the Miami Herald reported.

The full bill, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, is expected to pass the state Senate on Monday, then go to the Florida House.

After the Senate rejected the ban, Stoneman Douglas student Jaclyn Corin tweeted, "This breaks my heart, but we will NOT let this ruin our movement. This is for the kids."

Fellow classmate David Hogg, who has become one of the school's leading activists on gun safety, tweeted, "Elections are going to be fun!"

Also, an amendment to remove a provision to train and arm some teachers failed.

The bill raises the minimum age to buy a rifle or a shotgun to 21 from 18 and bans the use, sale or possession of bump stocks, which were used in the Oct. 1 shooting deaths of 58 people in Las Vegas. The device effectively turns semi-automatic weapons into automatics.

The bill includes $400 million in funding for schools to address mental health issues, the Herald reported.

Nikolas Cruz, the accused 19-year-old killer who was expelled from Stoneman Douglas, had a history of run-ins with the law and school officials. The Broward County school system and sheriff's department have been criticized for not acting on red flags on Cruz's mental health problems and potentially violent behavior.


Look No Further Than DC for School Choice Need

Just 42% of high school seniors will graduate in '18. School choice naysayers ignore the evidence at their feet.   

Our nation’s capital is home to many rich and affluent lawmakers and lobbyists. Which means most of them have the resources to send their children to the most prestigious private schools inside the Beltway. That’s understandable, but their school selection also adds to the enormous disconnect they have with lower-income groups.

School choice is vehemently opposed by Democrats, but the fact is that Washington, DC, is Exhibit A in the need for a wider range of options for ill-prepared students. Last year, 73% of high school seniors in DC graduated, The Washington Post reports, but that figure is estimated to plummet to just 42% this year.

Interestingly, there’s a nefarious reason for the considerable decrease. The Post writes that DC “had celebrated a 20-point increase in its graduation rate since 2011.” However, “The likely drop in the graduation rate is the latest fallout from an investigation that cast doubt on the validity of diplomas awarded last year. The graduation rate in 2017 was 73 percent, but the probe revealed that one in three graduates received their diplomas in violation of city policy. Those students had walked across graduation stages despite missing too many classes or improperly taking makeup classes.”

In other words, DC schools were inflating the graduation number. The Post points out that “teachers felt pressured to award diplomas even if teens failed to meet requirements, all in the name of improving graduation rates.” This is a nationwide problem, but it’s evidently a monolithic one in the nation’s capital. In December, The Washington Post published another report on overall U.S. graduation rates. As of 2016, cumulative data showed that 84% of students graduate.

That Post report also noted: “There are … reasons to be skeptical. Some districts have used questionable methods to get students to the finish line, including softening grading scales and using credit recovery programs, which allow students to take abbreviated versions of courses to make up for failing grades.”

The fact of the matter is that, as John Sexton points out, a participation trophy is the entirely wrong way to approach education, especially when “many of the kids receiving them weren’t even participating.” A 42% graduation rate is simply unacceptable. As it turns out, the best evidence for school choice — translation: accountability and better performance — is sitting right outside lawmakers’ and lobbyists’ homes.


School Suspends War Vet Who Vowed to Protect Students
By nearly every account, Timothy Locke is one of the most beloved and inspirational teachers in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, school district.

Locke is a veteran of the Iraq war, and for the past 17 years he’s flavored his classroom lessons at Cherry Hill East High School with real-life experiences.

But on Feb. 22, the veteran school teacher was summoned to the principal’s office, where his bag was searched and he was placed on administrative leave and ordered to undergo physical and psychiatric evaluations.

According to parents and students, Locke’s only crime was to address his concerns about school safety with youngsters in his Advanced Placement History class. The teacher feared a similar attack could happen at Cherry Hill East.

“During the course of the conversation he indicated that he would protect his students if something like [Parkland, Florida] happened here,” parent Eric Ascalon told the “Todd Starnes Radio Show.” “He was raising safety concerns about the school with the students. And the intent of his statement [was that] he would protect his students at all costs.”

Imagine that, folks. An Iraq war veteran reassured his students that if someone tried to attack the school he would be there to protect them. That’s a good thing, right?

Well, the leadership at Cherry East felt otherwise after a student in the classroom complained.

The school district refuses to comment on what was said or why Locke was placed on administrative leave. Locke, too, has stopped talking on the advice of his attorney.

But before that happened he granted an interview to

“The bottom line is that I was very concerned about the security at my school,” Locke told the newspaper. “I was adamantly concerned with the welfare of my students.” reports the school is guarded by two unarmed “campus police,” but the officers are not employed by local law enforcement.

“He was speaking up and addressing an issue that has to be addressed,” Ascalon told me.

Ascalon said his son was enrolled in one of Locke’s classes last year and called him an “amazing teacher who has an ability to connect with the students on a variety of levels.”

He also pointed out the discussion was held during an advanced academic class.

“It’s an upsetting topic [school safety], but it’s a topic the students are crying out to address,” Ascalon said. “He speaks to them like young adults who are capable of critical thinking,”

It’s too bad the Cherry Hill East High School does not share the same capability — to think critically.


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

This Bill Won’t Help Coal Communities, but Rolling Back Regulations Will

If you see thousands of children in West Virginia out of school this week, rest assured they are not playing hooky. In fact, it’s their teachers who are.

Last week, a massive strike of almost 20,000 teachers occurred in the state, leading to widespread school closures. On Tuesday, every single public school in West Virginia was closed.

Despite several failed negotiation attempts, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice finally struck a deal with the teachers and their union representation. As a result, children in West Virginia will be able to return to school on Thursday.

West Virginia public schools are certainly in trouble. Only 33 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in math, while only 27 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading, according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Additionally, West Virginia ranks 48th in the United States for teacher pay.

But a massive teacher walkout leaving nearly 300,000 children without an education and working parents in a childcare pinch is not the solution to the troubles facing West Virginia public schools.

One reason teacher pay for many might be lower than they deserve? Unions. Unions, which hold significant political power, such as the American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Education Association, claim to represent the needs of teachers. But in fact, such unions may serve as a significant barrier to reforming teacher compensation.

For instance, paying teachers based on performance would enable effective teachers to be recognized and financially rewarded for good work. Unfortunately, union-backed policies such as compensation based on years in the school as opposed to impact on students’ achievement fail to adequately recognize good teachers, and remove strong incentives for poor teachers to raise the bar.

Instead of walking out of their classrooms, an action that hurts children, teachers should be turning their attention to how the policies pushed by unions run counter to their interests as professionals.

Matthew Ladner and co-authors Mark Francis and Greg Stone explain in a paper for the Goldwater Institute how a combination of performance pay, improved teacher evaluation, and an option of modestly larger classes could easily enable schools to pay their “rock star teachers” more than $100,000.

As they note, “the United States has made a tragic error in emphasizing teacher quantity (through efforts to limit average class size) rather than teacher quality. The growing literature on student learning gains clearly demonstrate that teacher quality trumps the impact of class size variation by a wide margin.” Moreover, school choice programs could alleviate many of these issues.

As I have previously argued, there is no limit to what a teacher can earn under an education savings account model. Why not reward good teachers by allowing parents to pay a teacher directly, using state funds, for giving their child a customized math curriculum? A system that breaks apart the education bureaucracy and truly allows teachers to thrive and earn as much as they deserve is vastly superior to the union-dominated near-monopoly that exists in traditional districts.

And of course, it’s worth noting that while teachers may be making less than they deserve in the current system, union officials aren’t being hurt: union employees at the West Virginia Education Association average almost six figures, far exceeding the average teacher in the state making $45,622.

As teachers and students return to school on Thursday, parents should encourage policymakers to pursue policies, such as merit pay and school choice, that would break the public education monopoly status quo. More bureaucracy and union policies have not worked out well for students in West Virginia—or their teachers.


The School-To-Mass-Murder Pipeline

Ann Coulter

Nikolas Cruz’s psychosis ended in a bloody massacre not only because of the stunning incompetence of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. It was also the result of liberal insanity working exactly as it was intended to.

School and law enforcement officials knew Cruz was a ticking time bomb. They did nothing because of a deliberate, willful, bragged-about policy to end the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This is the feature part of the story, not the bug part.

If Cruz had taken out full-page ads in the local newspapers, he could not have demonstrated more clearly that he was a dangerous psychotic. He assaulted students, cursed out teachers, kicked in classroom doors, started fist fights, threw chairs, threatened to kill other students, mutilated small animals, pulled a rifle on his mother, drank gasoline and cut himself, among other “red flags.”

Over and over again, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reported Cruz’s terrifying behavior to school administrators, including Kelvin Greenleaf, “security specialist,” and Peter Mahmood, head of JROTC.

At least three students showed school administrators Cruz’s near-constant messages threatening to kill them — e.g., “I am going to enjoy seeing you down on the grass,” “Im going to watch ypu bleed,” “iam going to shoot you dead” — including one that came with a photo of Cruz’s guns. They warned school authorities that he was bringing weapons to school. They filed written reports.

Threatening to kill someone is a felony. In addition to locking Cruz away for a while, having a felony record would have prevented him from purchasing a gun.

All the school had to do was risk Cruz not going to college, and depriving Yale University of a Latino class member, by reporting a few of his felonies — and there would have been no mass shooting.

But Cruz was never arrested. He wasn’t referred to law enforcement. He wasn’t even expelled.

Instead, Cruz was just moved around from school to school — six transfers in three years. But he was always sent back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in order to mainstream him, so that he could get a good job someday!

The moronic idea behind the “school-to-prison pipeline” is that the only reason so many “black and brown bodies” are in prison is because they were disciplined in high school, diminishing their opportunities. End the discipline and … problem solved!

It’s like “The Wizard of Oz” in reverse. The Wizard told the Scarecrow: You don’t need an education, you just need a diploma! The school-to-prison pipeline idiocy tells students: You don’t need to behave in high school, you just need to leave with no criminal record!

Of course, killjoys will say that removing the consequences of bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. But that’s not the view of Learned Professionals, who took summer courses at Michigan State Ed School.

In a stroke of genius, they realized that the only problem criminals have is that people keep lists of their criminal activities. It’s the list that prevents them from getting into M.I.T. and designing space stations on Mars. Where they will cure cancer.

This primitive, stone-age thinking was made official Broward County policy in a Nov. 5, 2013, agreement titled “Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline.”

The first “whereas” clause of the agreement states that “the use of arrests and referrals to the criminal justice system may decrease a student’s chance of graduation, entering higher education, joining the military and getting a job.”

Get it? It’s the arrest — not the behavior that led to the arrest — that reduces a student’s chance at a successful life. (For example, just look at how much the district’s refusal to arrest Nikolas Cruz helped him!

The agreement’s third “whereas” clause specifically cites “students of color” as victims of the old, racist policy of treating criminal behavior criminally.

Say, in the middle of a drive to cut back on the arrest or expulsion of “students of color,” how do you suppose the school dealt with a kid named “Nikolas Cruz”? Might there be some connection between his Hispanic last name and the school’s abject refusal to do anything about Cruz’s repeated criminal behavior?

Just a few months ago, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, Robert W. Runcie, was actually bragging about how student arrests had plummeted under his bold leadership.

When he took over in 2011, the district had “the highest number of school-related arrests in the state.” But today, he boasted, Broward has “one of the lowest rates of arrest in the state.” By the simple expedient of ignoring criminal behavior, student arrests had declined by a whopping 78 percent.

FOOTBALL COACH: “When I took over this team a year ago, we were last in the league in pass defense. Today, we no longer keep that statistic!”

When it comes to spectacular crimes, it’s usually hard to say how it could have been prevented. But in this case, we have a paper trail. In the pursuit of a demented ideology, specific people agreed not to report, arrest or prosecute dangerous students like Nikolas Cruz.

These were the parties to the Nov. 5, 2013, agreement that ensured Cruz would be out on the street with full access to firearms:

Robert W. Runcie, Superintendent of Schools

Peter M. Weinstein, Chief Judge of the 17th Judicial Circuit

Michael J. Satz, State Attorney

Howard Finkelstein, Public Defender

Scott Israel, Broward County Sheriff

Franklin Adderley, Chief of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department

Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice

Marsha Ellison, President of the Fort Lauderdale Branch of the NAACP and Chair of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board

Nikolas Cruz may be crazy, but the parties to that agreement are crazy, too. They decided to make high school students their guinea pigs for an experiment based on a noxious ideology. The blood of 17 people is on their hands


Senate votes; West Virginia teachers say strike won't end

Unions representing West Virginia teachers and service personnel said Saturday that they will stay out on strike after the state Senate voted to cut the 5 percent pay raise they had negotiated with Gov. Jim Justice.

In a joint statement, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association said Senate President Mitch Carmichael and his leadership team had left them with no choice after they voted to reduce the raise to 4 percent.

The statement said all public schools in West Virginia would be closed again Monday "and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made."

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Saturday evening to approve the lower pay raise, bucking teachers, Republican Gov. Jim Justice and the Republican-controlled House, which approved the 5 percent raise on Wednesday. The two bills will now have to be reconciled. It was unclear how soon that process would begin.

The Senate's vote came as the teachers' strike rolled into its second weekend. Republican Sen. Greg Boso of Nicholas introduced the amendment to lower the raise, which the full Senate adopted by a vote of 19-15.

Senate Republicans have repeatedly emphasized exercising restraint with state spending, while agreeing that teachers and West Virginia's other public workers are all underpaid.

"That compensation increase is long overdue," said Sen. Charles Trump, a Berkeley Springs Republican. "We've been able to do this without tax increases."

Approving a 4 percent raise, instead of the 5 percent hike, will save the state $17 million, Boso said.

Democratic lawmakers said their Republican counterparts should approve the deal the governor negotiated with union leaders for a 5 percent raise.

"We're all caught up in our egos," said Democratic Sen. Douglas Facemire of Sutton. He noted the impact of the impasse on students, including those who depend on schools for their meals. "For 1 percent we're going to let kids go hungry," he said.

Hundreds of teachers and supporters, including students, rallied at the Capitol on Friday, the seventh day they've shuttered classrooms.

Teachers are protesting pay that's among the lowest in the nation, rising health care costs and a previously approved 2 percent raise for next year after four years without any increase.

Justice told school superintendents gathered at the Capitol on Friday that he believed the votes for the raise were there. One administrator noted the impasse is affecting 277,000 students and 35,000 employees.

Protesting teachers have argued that education in West Virginia — where more than 700 classrooms lack fully certified full-time teachers — needs to be a higher priority among politicians. Pay starts at about $33,000 a year, lower than in surrounding states.


Monday, March 05, 2018

Harvard arrogance gets a just reward

They put donor money into the hands of investment "experts".  The experts did well out of it but Harvard did very badly.  Trust in experts is a very foolish game. In managing my share portfolio I go by form and form only.  And I weathered the 2008 collapse unscathed

If only because of weather variability, farming is a very tricky and unpredictable business even for someone who has been doing it all his life.  To think you could do it by remote control was real hubris

Six years ago, Jane Mendillo, then head of Harvard’s endowment, spent a week in Brazil, flying in a turboprop plane to survey some of the university’s growing holdings of forest and farmland. That year, Harvard began one of its most daring foreign adventures: an investment in a sprawling agricultural development in Brazil’s remote and impoverished northeast. There, workers would produce tomato paste, sugar, and ethanol, as well as energy after processing crops. The profits, in theory, could outstrip those of conventional stocks and bonds and keep the world’s richest university a step ahead of its peers.

Harvard bet the farm in Brazil and lost. The university, which invested at least $150 million in the development, is now exiting, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the investment. The venture contributed to the decision by its current endowment chief, N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, to write down the value of its globe-spanning natural resources portfolio last year by $1.1 billion, to $2.9 billion. Harvard, which manages $37.1 billion, has said those investments produced strong returns but now face “significant challenges.” Current and former officials otherwise declined to comment.

Harvard made many mistakes over the last decade, according to Thomas Gilbert, a finance professor at the University of Washington, but almost all of them boiled down to a single miscalculation: the belief that its top money managers—who were paid $242 million from 2010 through 2014—were smarter than everyone else and could handle the risks almost all other endowments avoided. “They became loose cannons,” Gilbert says. “When you’re managing donor money, it’s appalling.”

Harvard over the past decade ended June 30 posted a 4.4 percent average annual return, among the worst of its peers. It even lagged the simplest approach: Investing in a market-tracking index fund holding 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds, which earned an annual 6.4 percent. Some of Harvard’s blunders have been well-chronicled. Facing heavy losses after the financial crisis in 2008, Mendillo sold private equity stakes at deep discounts before they could recover. Her successor, Stephen Blyth, experimented with expanding the endowment’s in-house team of stock traders before retreating in the face of tens of millions of dollars of portfolio losses. Blyth stepped down in 2016.

But perhaps no bet damaged Harvard more than its foray into natural resources. The university invested in central California vineyards, Central American teak forests, a cotton farm in Australia, a eucalyptus plantation in Uruguay, and timberland in Romania. Harvard has been reevaluating and selling some of those investments, such as part of the Uruguayan plantation it sold to insurer Liberty Mutual last year. “The natural resources portfolio was supposed to be the crown jewel,” says Joshua Humphreys, president of the Croatan Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable capitalism. “But they were known for taking outsize risks, and those can cut both ways.”

Such investments haven’t always lost. Mendillo took the lead flipping U.S. timberland in the 1990s, delivering substantial profits when she worked for then-endowment chief Jack Meyer. Harvard similarly scored big gains when it bought and sold timberland in New Zealand in 2003. When Mendillo returned to Harvard after managing Wellesley College’s endowment, she tried for a reprise. This time she thought U.S. timber was expensive. Instead, Harvard could tap forestry Ph.D.s and other sharp minds to find opportunities in emerging markets, taking advantage of growing demand for scarce resources around the globe, she said in a 2012 Bloomberg interview.

Mendillo saw these investments as decades-long wagers, which her board embraced. “Natural resources is our favorite area,” she told a July 2012 investor conference. At the time, Brazil’s economy was booming, and the government was pouring development money into the impoverished, rugged, semi-arid northeast. The university, working with Brazilian private equity firm Gordian BioEnergy, established a company called Terracal Alimentos e Bioenergia, according to tax filings and people familiar with the matter.

Terracal planned to spend more than 5 billion Brazilian reals ($1.5 billion) on the agricultural complexes. The first development would transform thousands of acres around the remote town of Guadalupe on the Parnaiba River using modern irrigation technologies. By the time Mendillo stepped down as endowment chief executive officer in 2014, the economy in Brazil was slowing, and a government corruption scandal was deepening, spooking Harvard and other foreign investors.

The strategy paid off for one constituency: Harvard’s money managers. Alvaro Aguirre, who oversaw natural resources investments, made $25 million over four years, tax records show. His boss, Andrew Wiltshire, was paid $38 million over five years. Both have since left Harvard. Mendillo earned as much as $13.8 million in a single year.

Narvekar, who took over in 2016, has decided to shift most of Harvard’s investments to outside managers. While considering further writedowns of natural resources investments, he’s indicated that he may continue to hold some if they’re a good value now. A group of alumni from the class of 1969 recently had a suggestion for Narvekar: Invest in index funds.


When Activism Replaces Education: The Rise of New Civics   

The modern American university has increasingly become a place of walk-outs, demonstrations and protests. Students appear to spend more time waving signs and yelling their opinions across the quad than actually studying in the library. It seems that education has been replaced with activism. Because it has.

A report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) reveals the infiltration of so-called New Civics programs that seek to replace traditional civics education with “service learning.” The report notes, “Instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings and stage demonstrations.”

New Civics has become the means by which the New Left has repurposed higher education for progressive activism. Part of the goals of “fundamental transformation” include redistributing wealth, compromising the free market, advocating against the fossil fuel industry, expanding the welfare state, intensifying identity politics, elevating global “norms” over American law, minimizing our common history and ideals to a narrative of racism, misogyny and exploitative colonialism, and channelling university funding to progressive causes and “allied” programs.

While civics used to mean teaching students about representative government, the separation of powers and landmark Supreme Court cases, New Civics emphasizes participation in leftist causes. This they call “civic engagement.” While traditional civics prepared students to understand and steward a free society, New Civics teaches students how to deconstruct it. Rather than learning the foundations of the United States and the fundamentals of the Constitution, students learn how to fight the government and to solve grievances through protest rather than debate.

This civics ignorance is an enormous threat to our Constitution.

This trend of problem-solving through protest rather than debate has bled into popular culture as evidenced in the myriad of marches and protests our country has experienced lately: the March for Women, the March for Science, the March for Climate and Black Lives Matter, or marches for #notmypresident, illegal immigration, gun control, fossil fuel divestment, antifa, abortion, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, “LGBTQ” rights, and so on.

While differing views within a free society are inevitable and healthy, the solution to reconciling those differences consists in an honest debate about the merits and faults of those views, not in yelling at each other. This concept would be taught in a traditional civics class, which would, for example, discuss James Madison’s Federalist 10 on factions. A student would also learn that factions result from differing human opinions and only two ways exist to stop it: Either remove the causes or control the effects. Removing the cause means removing differing opinions (i.e. destroying Liberty through mandated groupthink and ideological conformity). Managing its effects takes place through the representative government process as described in the Constitution.

Traditional civics would teach students how to vote, how to write their congressman, how to run for office and how to participate in our republic. New Civics, by contrast, teaches students that rallies, protests and activism are the only way to change things. It teaches, by example, that change can only occur by destroying due process, the Rule of Law and the necessary confinements of government. This is what is meant by “fundamental transformation.”

Yet where did service learning originate? According to the NAS report, the service-learning pioneers composed of teachers, administrators and community organizers all “traced their commitment to service learning to their far-left political commitments.” William Ramsey began the first “service learning” program in 1965 at the Tennessee-based Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies. Robert Sigmon, whose motivations were to use education as “a tool to promote revolutionary change,” meaning leftist ideology, joined Ramsey in 1966.

Service learning combined the teaching theories of socialists John Dewey and Paul Freire, who emphasized learning through doing. The service learning model also incorporated the Open-Door Schooling movement of Mao’s Communist China. Under Mao, schools sent children, as part of their education, into factories and fields to learn socialism from workers and peasants. In addition, the ideas of Saul Alinsky, most notably community organizing (or organizing against the government) entered higher education through the service-learning method.

At first, this concept seems like a noble cause: to transform learning from simply memorizing data into a hands-on experience. Most people remember the “volcano” experiment of vinegar and baking soda for elementary science classes because they experienced the dramatic eruption. Yet a remarkable difference exists between hands-on experiments in science class and hands-on activism masquerading as “education.”

Additionally, the service-learning method not only compromises teaching, and the regular discipline of a university education, but it also compromises volunteerism, which should be voluntary, not required. Much of the joy found in volunteering is rooted in the concept of giving without receiving. When volunteering becomes compulsory, it ceases to be “volunteer.” Americans, by nature, tend to be others-minded and led by a spirit of volunteerism. New Civics takes advantage of that spirit and redirects it toward a progressive political agenda.

NAS notes that “New Civics advocates want to make ‘civic engagement’ part of every class, every tenure decision, and every extracurricular activity.” It thus has begun to change the authority structure from the faculty and professors to the administrators and offices of civic engagement, student affairs, diversity and sustainability.

New Civics sounds non-partisan and inclusive because it encourages students to “engage in the community.” Yet, the “community” narrowly means the community of progressive organizations. Using semantics and language to neutralize their objectives, service-learning progressive activists don’t call it progressive activism training, but rather civic engagement, community-focused projects, social justice activism, global civics, deliberative democracy, intercultural learning and a slew of other neutral terms designed to deflect real meaning.

While we face threats of terrorism and nuclear war, the often-overlooked threat is the university, which not only incubates leftist ideas but teaches students to actively engage against freedom, ironically calling it “civic engagement.” By replacing history with propagandistic “perspectives” and exchanging the teaching of the U.S. legal tradition with progressive deconstructionism, the New Civics movement has compromised the education of students, the merits of true volunteerism and the stewardship of Liberty in this country.


Australia: Sydney's extraordinary international student boom

Asians spooked by school shootings in America?

Overseas student numbers have surged at Sydney's universities during the past few years. While the number of foreign students has been trending upwards for years, the current growth is unprecedented in such a short time.

Foreign student numbers in Sydney jumped 50 per cent more in the past two years than they did in the entire decade prior.

The student fees being collected by the city’s biggest tertiary institutions capture the scale of this boom.

At Sydney University, overseas student fees rose 92 per cent in three years - from $391 million in 2014 to $752 million last year. At the University of NSW, consolidated revenue from overseas student fees jumped 26 per cent between 2015 and 2016 alone to a handy $560 million.

Sydney University and UNSW in particular have reaped the rewards in the recent race for the international student dollar.

More than one in three students at Sydney University is now from overseas, the majority of them from China.

But with such rapid growth - and big dollars - comes risk. Critics say universities are now over-dependent on the money international students can bring in, especially as government funding for teaching and research is squeezed. Others say the dependence on overseas - and especially Chinese - cash is “corroding the soul of our universities”.

Higher education is being transformed the world over as rising living standards in Asia, and especially China, drives unprecedented demand for tertiary qualifications.

“We are witnessing one of the largest investments in higher education and research in history,” says Laurie Pearcey, Pro-Vice Chancellor, International, at the University of NSW.

Academics and university administrators have emerged as improbable heroes in Australia’s export story.

Sydney’s universities are sought after as higher education becomes a mass global commodity and members of Asia’s new middle class aspire to degrees from institutions that rank well on international league tables.

Financial Times columnist John Gapper has labelled big urban universities “the new global brands” and a “core industry of city-states in a globalised world”.

The inner districts of Sydney - home to the city’s biggest universities - have benefited disproportionately from the surge in international student numbers.

Total employment in tertiary education in the inner-Sydney region jumped by 37 per cent between the 2011 census and 2016 census, analysis by regional economist Terry Rawnsley shows. It was a similar story in inner-Melbourne where tertiary education employment was up 28 per cent in the period.

Then there are flow-on effects from the money spent by students - and their visiting friends and relatives - on things such as accommodation, dining, retail and entertainment.

In 2016 the fee income from overseas students in NSW universities surpassed the fee income from domestic students for the first time. It now makes up a quarter of all university revenue in NSW and seems likely to rise further, as government funding comes under continued pressure.

“Successive governments have been actively encouraging universities to seek out alternative sources of revenue,” says Melbourne University education economist Michael Coelli.

Nationally, about one in three international students are Chinese, but the figure is double that at Sydney University and UNSW.

Last year nearly one in four of all students enrolled at Sydney University - the state’s biggest tertiary institution - were Chinese. That share was more than one in five at the University of NSW and one in six at the University of Technology, Sydney.

A NSW Auditor-General’s report in June found some of the state’s universities have become “vulnerable” to fluctuations in overseas students’ intake and drew attention to the sector’s “concentration” risk.

“The increasing number of overseas students can have significant financial benefits to a university,” the report said. “However, there are associated risks, including pressure on capacity constraints and the need to maintain teaching quality. There is also a concentration risk from reliance on overseas students from the same geographical location in the event of an economic downturn from that region.”

Even the Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University, Michael Spence, is worried about the dependency on the overseas student dollar. Back in 2014, amid debate about a controversial Abbott government proposal to deregulate university fees, Professor Spence told ABC television “we are over-dependent on international student fees”.

Andrew Norton, who heads the higher education program at the Grattan Institute, says that despite these concerns universities have decided the opportunities are simply too big to ignore. “The universities are taking the calculated risk that, even if it doesn’t last, the benefits are so great while it does last, that you should not forgo them,” he says.

Although Norton questions whether high academic standards can be maintained amid such rapid growth in student numbers. “I am concerned about the rate of increase and whether you can deliver the expected quality when you are expanding at that rate.”


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Taxing college endowments will make higher education less affordable

What George J. Mitchell says below is broadly reasonable but he fails to address the fact that many  colleges have become Madrassas of the Left.  That is a considerable betrayal of their mission and Republican legislatures have noticed. So special treatment of the colleges is harder to justify -- and taxing them is a sign of that.  The tax is small so far but colleges would be wise to see it as a shot across the bows

Growing up in a small town in Maine, I never thought we would arrive at a time where the value of a college education — long the hope of everyone who wanted more for their children — would be questioned by some Americans, including by some of our government officials.

Nothing was more important to my parents, who had no education themselves and very little in the way of material resources. My mother was an immigrant. My father was the orphan son of immigrants. They were right about the power of education, and because of them and because of the openness of American society, all five of their children graduated from college; I was able to become majority leader of the US Senate and to engage in activities of which they could not possibly have ever dreamed.

My path in life is linked directly to my education and to the people who assisted me along the way. That’s why, since leaving the Senate, I have worked to ensure that students in Maine with the talent and ambition to go to college have a helping hand that will allow them to get there and to thrive. It’s also why the current doubt by some about the value of higher education is so deeply troubling.

Today, our colleges and universities — the engines of opportunity, economic growth, and scientific discovery in America — are under fire for any number of asserted transgressions. Most of all, they are criticized for being too expensive and for not controlling costs. Tuition and fees have certainly increased, and that is a legitimate concern. But so have the funds set aside by our nation’s strongest colleges and universities for financial aid. In fact, during the past decade, the actual price at many of these institutions — the amount paid by students after financial aid is factored in — has closely tracked inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

These colleges and universities are following through on their commitment to low-income and first-generation college students and to diversity of all kinds. And they are doing it with endowment resources provided by donors who understand the immense value of higher education and who restrict their gifts for this purpose.

Concerns about cost were clearly behind the recent move by Congress to impose an unprecedented and self-defeating new tax on the endowment earnings of our most respected colleges and universities. But this tax makes no sense. It hampers efforts to make college affordable for students who would be unable to attend without financial aid.

I was one of those students when I was admitted to Bowdoin College. I graduated from high school at the age of 16, insecure, uncertain, and as naive as a human being can be. It was only because of the generosity of others that I was able to enroll and graduate four years later. I have no doubt that Bowdoin changed my life. In addition to learning from great professors across the curriculum, I gained resilience, the ability to think critically, empathy for others, how to adapt to change, and how to take advantage of new opportunities — abilities that are considerably more important today. Most important, for the first time in my life I gained a measure of self-confidence.

There is nothing wrong with holding our institutions accountable, and some recent criticism of our colleges and universities is surely warranted. But reasonable accountability is a far cry from the astonishing views, revealed in recent polls, that these institutions are having a negative effect on America or that a college degree isn’t worth the cost. Without our colleges and universities and the opportunity they provide, America would be unrecognizable.

The good news is that these schools are seeing record applications, partially because of the aid and opportunity they provide and also because Americans from every corner of our country and from every circumstance know — as my parents did — that higher education changes lives. Rather than disparaging our colleges and universities and imposing new taxes, we should acknowledge and celebrate the central role they continue to play in the American dream and in the strength of American society. We can do so by making college available to more of the talented young men and women who want to improve themselves and their country.


Repealing Gun-Free School Zones Act Would Make Schools Safer, Kentucky Lawmaker Says

Schools would be better protected from mass shootings if federal legislation enacted in 1990 that bans guns from school zones is repealed, a Kentucky congressman says.

“I have used the statistic on ‘Meet the Press’ Sunday that 98 percent of mass public shootings happen in gun-free zones, and I believe that we should put our children in the category of the 2 percent, instead of the 98 percent,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday. “We should put them in the category which is much less likely for them to be engaged by a shooter.”

The Crime Prevention Research Center found that from the 1950s through July 10, 2016, 98.4 percent of mass shootings have happened in gun-free zones, The Blaze reported.

Massie, who was first elected to the House in 2012, says he has introduced his repeal bill the first week of Congress of each term he has served and says it would help solve the school shooting epidemic.

“All of the naysayers don’t even look at the data that we already have, because if they did, they would see that the scenarios they are worried about—for instance, a teacher shooting a student, or a student taking a teacher’s gun, or a cop showing up and shooting a teacher—those don’t happen,” Massie said, “but what does happen is that these kids are safer, and these mass shootings don’t happen in the schools where the teachers carry and the public knows that the teachers carry.”

The 1990 law, called the Gun-Free School Zones Act, makes it “unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone,” according to Massie’s website.

The Kentucky lawmaker hopes his legislation, the Safe Students Act, will gain traction as the gun control debate heats up in the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead.

President Donald Trump voiced support Wednesday at a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers for arming teachers.

“I was mostly appalled by the meeting yesterday, and the president’s comments, but at least he did repeat that statistic that 98 percent of mass public shootings happen in gun-free zones, and I mean, there’s no better argument for repealing the 1990 Gun-Free Zone Act than that statistic,” Massie said.

The Kentucky lawmaker said his state is leading the way on gun measures that keep students safe.

“They’re not a problem in the private schools in Kentucky that allow teachers to carry. I talked to a Kentuckian who was in D.C. this week, and he said that he is so glad that his child’s school allows teachers to carry, and they can do that because they are a private school,” Massie said. “And we just had our first public school in Kentucky vote this week to allow teachers to carry in their schools.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that he recognizes why Massie thinks the Gun-Free School Zones Act should be repealed.

“I understand the sentiment and purpose behind this bill,” von Spakovsky said. “Gun-free zones stop law-abiding citizens from being able to defend themselves. They don’t stop criminals.”


New Poll Shows Major Backing For Teachers Being Armed at School

Over the past two weeks, President Trump and a number of lawmakers have magnified the idea of trained teachers being able to carry concealed firearms inside their classrooms.

"We have to take steps to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack.  This includes allowing well-trained and certified school personnel to carry concealed firearms.  At some point, you need volume.  I don't know that a school is going to be able to hire a hundred security guards that are armed," Trump said during a meeting with the nation's governors at the White House earlier this week.

Now according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll, the concept has significant backing.

Hundreds of school districts across the country already allow for staff and teachers to carry firearms on campus. In 18 states, adults with legal carry permits are also allowed to carry into schools after being granted permission from administrators.

"Texas authorized schools to adopt policies to implement a school marshal program where individuals would be trained to have a weapon and to be able to use that weapon.  And we now have well over a hundred school districts in the state of Texas where teachers or other people who work in the school do carry a weapon, and are trained to be able to respond to an attack that occurs," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during the White House meeting.

"Now, it's not always a schoolteacher.  It could be a coach, it could be an administrator, it could be anybody who works in that school.  But it's a well-thought-out program with a lot of training in advance.  And, candidly, some school districts, they promote it.  Because they will have signs out front -- a warning sign: "Be aware, there are armed personnel on campus" --  warning anybody coming on there that they -- if they attempt to cause any harm, they're going to be in trouble," he continued.

For years, the Ohio based organization Faster Saves Lives has been providing firearms training for teachers free of charge.

    FASTER stands for Faculty / Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response.

    Created by concerned parents, law enforcement, and nationally-recognized safety and medical experts, FASTER is a groundbreaking, nonprofit program that gives educators practical violence response training.

    Funded by donations, classes are provided at NO COST to your school district!

    The program offers a carefully-structured curriculum offering over 26 hours of hands-on training over a 3-day class that exceeds the requirements of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.

    The purpose is not to replace police and EMT, but to allow teachers, administrators, and other personnel on-site to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately.

    When violence strikes and students’ lives are on the line, every second matters. Faster response is better response.