Thursday, March 29, 2018

Florida Becomes First State to Offer Student Safety Scholarships

 Florida is now the first state in the country to offer students scholarships to attend safer schools.

Last week Governor Rick Scott signed legislation creating the Hope Scholarship Program, which offers scholarships to public school students victimized by an array of safety incidents, including:

“Every child in Florida should have the opportunity to get a great education at the school of their choice so they can achieve their dreams,” said Gov. Scott upon signing the bill into law (HB 7055).

The Hope Scholarship Program also stands out for its unique funding mechanism.

Unlike publicly-funded voucher programs, such as federal Pell grants and 26 state-level K-12 programs, Hope Scholarships are privately financed by car buyers who may donate up to $105 of their registration fee to the program. In return, donors receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their car purchase sales tax.

Non-profit scholarship funding organizations (SFOs) administer donations and scholarships, report to the state education department, and participate in annual audits by the auditor general.

Students transferring to another public school outside their current district may receive Hope Scholarships worth up to $750. Scholarships for students transferring to private schools will average around $6,800.

Tallahassee mother of five Alyson Hochstedler praised the new law, stating that “When the conflict is not resolved for the safety and welfare of the child, having another recourse like the Hope Scholarship becomes just that ... hope.”

Hochstedler added that a Hope Scholarship would have benefitted her son, who was tormented at his previous public school from third to fifth grade. Bullies punched him, slammed him into lockers, and even threatened to stab him. Yet school administrators did little to improve the situation.

Thankfully, another Florida choice scholarship program for low- and moderate-income families enabled Hochstedler to transfer her son, now 15, to a safe private school where he is “thriving.”

But not everyone supports the Hope Scholarship Program.

Deborah Temkin, senior program area director for Child Trends, insists that “bullying is a school climate issue, which isn’t solved when the child leaves the school.”

Well, school climate isn’t “solved” by keeping victimized students trapped schools that are unsafe for them, either.

Lead sponsor of the Hope Scholarship legislation Rep. Byron Donalds (R) recognizes this reality noting, “What we are trying to do is with these students who are subject to these outrageous acts of violence or abuse is to give them a path to continue their education.”

Current estimates (pp. 173-177) suggest that if just 10 percent of car buyers participate, their donations could fund scholarships for roughly 5,800 students—approximately 12 percent of the reported 47,000 students bullied annually in Florida.

The Hope Scholarship Program represents an important stride toward ensuring no child is victimized at school. And, combined with Florida’s existing and recently expanded choice programs, it increases educational opportunities for even more students statewide.

Importantly, the Hope Scholarship Program introduces powerful pressure for administrators to stop school bullying or risk losing victims to other schools—a practice that improves school safety for all students.

Florida’s progress stands in stark contrast to California.

Ten years ago California lawmakers also attempted to give student victims a path to safer schools.

Under the California Constitution all public school students and staff “have the inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure and peaceful”(The Right to Safe Schools, Article I, Section 28 (c)). Yet as of 2008 not one of California’s more than 9,000 public schools had ever been classified as “unsafe” because the state’s definition was so narrow. Had schools been deemed unsafe, students would have been eligible to transfer to a safer school under the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO) requirements.

The proposed Safe School Guarantee legislation would have allowed parents with a reasonable apprehension for their children’s safety to transfer them immediately, without having to wait years for some state bureaucrat’s say-so.

The California Federation of Teachers opposed the bill, and the author of the official bill analysis questioned parents’ ability to determine whether or not a school was safe. Ultimately, the bill was defeated in the Assembly Education Committee.

No parent should have to play “Mother, may I” with the state or federal government to enroll their child in a school they think is safe. Florida’s new Hope Scholarship Program helps return power over children’s education and safety where it belongs: with their parents.


3 Common Traits of School Shooters

It’s time to get serious about school safety.

Nearly 20 years separate the horrible tragedies at Columbine High School in Colorado and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In that time, too little has been done to make our schools safer.

That’s why our grieving nation is again searching for a solution. If America is ready to get serious about school safety, we need to focus on a range of pressing issues—including mental health, family breakdown, culture, media, and more.

Our children and grandchildren deserve to be safe at school. We can’t allow another tragedy to occur. It’s time to set aside political agendas and get serious about school safety.

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That’s why we just published a comprehensive Heritage backgrounder, “Focusing on School Safety After Parkland.” Each op-ed in this series highlights one aspect of that paper, which provides real solutions to this complex problem.

What do school attackers have in common? Several things.

In addition to often exhibiting signs of increasingly violent and dysfunctional behavior, they are significantly more likely than the average population to suffer from undiagnosed or untreated mental illness; they often come from broken homes; and their shootings may be related to economic insecurity.

Let’s take a closer look at these factors.

1. Mental Illness

Even when serious mental illness is not present, school attackers almost always exhibit common traits of extreme resentfulness, anger, and a desire for revenge because of perceived social alienation.

It is not uncommon for a school attacker to have acted in increasingly disruptive and violent ways before the shooting. But for a variety of reasons, these individuals are often not involuntarily committed to a mental health institution or ordered by a court to receive mental health treatment.

This does not mean that mental health disorders are synonymous with violence—the vast majority of individuals suffering from mental health disorders will never commit violent acts.

It does mean, however, that the early identification and treatment of students with mental health disorders is of particular importance in reducing large-scale violent attacks at schools.

School attackers often “leak” their intentions to their peers, whether in person or via social media.

One of the Columbine attackers wrote online blogs that included statements about his desire to kill those who annoyed him, as well as specific violent threats directed against his classmates and teachers.

Before gunning down 17 students in Florida, the Parkland attacker was reported to the FBI for a YouTube posting in which he bragged about becoming a “professional school shooter.” He also reportedly joked to classmates on numerous occasions that he would be the one to “shoot up a school.”

It is also not uncommon for school attackers to show more indirect warning signs, such as an unhealthy fixation on firearms, writing projects focused on grotesque violence, or praising other infamous school attackers.

It is essential that teachers and other school professionals be attuned to these warning signs and take appropriate action up to and including engaging with outside mental health professionals and local law enforcement officials.

2. Broken Homes

Familial dynamics may also play a role in the early detection of students on the verge of committing catastrophic acts of violence.

Sadly, a majority of school attackers come from broken homes, often growing up with absent fathers or in the midst of divorce or domestic violence.

The Parkland attacker, who was raised alone by his adoptive mother since the age of 6, was merely the latest in a long line of troubled young men who grew up in less than ideal family situations.

The gunmen at Sandy Hook, Chadron High School, Isla Vista, SuccessTech Academy, Northern Illinois University, and Santana High School (just to name a few) all had divorced parents.

The young man who killed his grandfather before murdering seven of his classmates at Red Lake Senior High School had parents who never married, a father who shot himself, and a mother and stepfather who divorced. He also lived with a grandmother who was separated from her husband.

This does not mean that all students with difficult home lives should be considered potential school attackers or that students with intact, stable families should have troubling behaviors overlooked or dismissed.

It may mean, however, that holistic approaches to school safety should include an appreciation of the impact that a chaotic family life can have on a student’s feelings of desperation and violent actions.

The unfortunate fact that broken family relationships are often associated with greater risk factors for youths is nothing new. For decades, study after study has shown that stable, intact families play a vital role in developing thriving children and adolescents.

Adolescents living in intact families are less likely to exhibit violent behaviors or engage in physical fighting, and youths in fatherless homes are significantly more likely to be incarcerated than are those from two-parent homes.

Several studies have found that adolescents from intact families tend to report lower levels of emotional and psychological stress, while those who do not live with both biological parents are more likely to exhibit psychological affective disorders such as hyperactivity, irritability, and depression as adults.

The importance of having actively involved fathers and father figures cannot be overstated when it comes to the mental and emotional development of children. Fathers are important role models for sons. They play a key role in helping to maintain authority and discipline in the home. They help with self-control and feelings of empathy toward others—key character traits violent youth often lack.

Psychologist Marsha Kline Pruett notes that “[f]athers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they in fact have more authority.”

3. Economic Insecurity

Socioeconomic trends may provide clues to identify further risk factors related to school violence.

A major study by criminologists at Northwestern University looked at the effect of economic conditions on the prevalence of school shootings and concluded that there is a significant correlation between periods of increased economic insecurity and periods of increased gun violence at schools.

The findings are particularly robust in that the effects are seen across several different economic indicators, and the relationship remains even when analyzing the data on national, regional, and city levels.

The researchers noted that the results of this study are in line with other evidence that joblessness is related to low self-esteem and detrimental behavior, that minors are responsive to the unemployment of their parents, and that the attitudes of youths have a significant impact on their future economic outcomes.

They further posited that “gun violence at schools is a response, in part, to the breakdown of the expectation that sustained participation in the educational system will improve economic opportunities and outcomes.”

This suggestion is profound in the context of the backgrounds of many individuals who commit violent attacks at schools and were either struggling to finish or failed to finish their educations, and had limited future economic opportunities.

For example, the Sandy Hook attacker was removed from high school by his parents due to sensory integration disorder, failed to obtain a degree after attending classes at Western Connecticut State University, and was unemployed without any likelihood of holding a job in the near future.

The Parkland attacker had been expelled from high school for disciplinary problems, was taking adult education classes to get his GED, and worked at a Dollar Store.

The Isla Vista attacker graduated high school but dropped out of a local college within a year and was investigated by local law enforcement because of concerns about the state of his mental health.

Tackling the Root Problems

Real solutions to problems start with facts, and the fact is that school shooters often share the same traits—traits that are not connected to or related to guns.

If we are going to get serious about school safety, we must soberly acknowledge the fact that mental illness, broken families, and economic insecurity all play a role in many, if not most, school shootings.

Addressing those societal ills, with proven strategies, will help reduce not only school shootings, but other violent acts by at-risk youth.


The well-paid career path that parents don't want their kids to take

Some figures from Australia

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Its an eternal question and often young people nominate practical, outdoors or active careers. Ask parents what they want for their children career-wise and answers will include rewarding – both financially and personally - with opportunities to progress and work-life balance.

A career in a trade can deliver all of this and more – working outside on challenging projects, earning good money and having the satisfaction of seeing your efforts contribute to society through much-needed infrastructure or housing and even ensuring people’s safety.

But I fear children are missing out on the opportunities offered by this career path due to societal misconceptions and parental bias towards university.

Government figures show apprentice numbers dropped 5.6 per cent over the year to September 2017, and the number of apprentices in training - at just under 262,000 compares with 443,000 in 2012.  There is some debate around the figures as the type of training that is counted as an apprenticeship has changed during that period, but it is a useful yardstick.

As well as having broad and adverse economic implications, this indicates to me that we’re limiting the opportunities we’re offering our young people.

There are many answers why apprentice numbers are dropping but there is one important factor that is rarely explored; the influence of parents, who don’t realise their hopes for their children can be achieved with a career in a trade.

I hear time and again that young people are being put off apprenticeships by well-meaning parents who want to see their children in traditionally well-paid and respected white-collar roles – lawyers, accountants, general managers etc.

This is especially true of the parents of young women, who often think a building site isn’t a place for their daughters.

We are the first to concede that more needs to be done by the profession to encourage young women to enter a career in the trades. But we need the support of parents. We want them to look at the benefits of a trade for their daughters and be open to the idea of them working on a construction site, delivering technical projects.

More broadly, we need parents to think about their child and the sort of career they’ll excel at rather than just assuming they need to go and get a university degree.

A quick look at the numbers explains why. NECA provides electrotechnology apprenticeship training, with around 90 per cent of our apprentices successfully completing their apprenticeship and almost all of them finding a well-paid job straight after graduation. This compares favourably to university graduates: only 71 per cent of graduates secure a job straight out of university. Fifteen per cent are still unemployed four years after graduating, and median starting salaries are just $54,000. And students are saddled with large debts with once they enter the workforce.

Add to this the opportunity to work outdoors on challenging projects, and establish and run your own business, and an electrical apprenticeship is even more compelling.

The electrotechnology industry is increasingly embracing initiatives that will help support and develop apprentices during their apprenticeship. For example, NECA has teamed up with the Federal government to run the Industry Specialist Mentoring for Australian Apprentices scheme.

Mentors are no longer the reserve of aspiring tech entrepreneurs or professional services firms, and ISMAA is connecting experienced tradespeople with apprentices, benefiting both parties.

It’s therefore not surprising Ms Hanson is advocating for more apprenticeships – it is an excellent career option. So, next time there’s a career discussion consider an apprenticeship; a career path which can fulfil parents’ and children’s ambitions.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

These are not schools, they are Stalinist indoctrination camps

It has been almost a week since the “student” walkout over school safety. After studying the event and the aftermath, it has become increasingly clear the walkout was nothing more than a political stunt. It had nothing to do with safety; it had nothing to do with allowing students to voice their opinions, it was all about progressives in national politics and the schoolhouse using children as political props. This begs the question, why are we funding these political indoctrination camps?

The students didn’t walk out over cellphones and driving. The students didn’t walk out over bullying which leads to thousands of teen suicides each year. No, the students walked out over the Second Amendment which the progressive left has been trying to eliminate for decades. Following the horrendous events in Florida, progressives seized on the opportunity to use the children to get what they wanted. A few examples across the nation show just how political the walkout was.

A student in Hilliard, Ohio made the decision he did not want to get involved in the politics of the anti-gun debate. He chose to stay in class. The student should be celebrated for wanting to concentrate on education instead of skipping class time for a political reason. Not so in today’s education system. The student was suspended for not partaking in political speech.

What type of message does that send? What kind of bullies run a school system that force students to participate in political speech?

The bullies in Ohio must be the same type in California. Julianne Benze, a teacher at Rocklin High School in Rocklin, California, was a victim of this bullying. Before the student walkout, Benze discussed the situation with her class. The teacher asked the question, “[If] a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?”

This was too much for the administration; no one is allowed to stray from the progressive dogma. Benze was suspended for the imagined infraction, not the students that skipped class. Seems hypocritical for school administrators to bully a teacher for not adhering to progressive ideals while hosting anti-bullying campaigns themselves.

Perhaps the most crystal-clear example of the children being used as political pawns comes from Baltimore. Just this past January the Baltimore Teachers Union sent a letter to the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, Sonja Brookins Santelises, complaining about the lack of heat in many classrooms. The teachers called the conditions “inhumane.”

But apparently, there is plenty of money to pull children out of school for the day and send them to Washington D.C. to participate in political activities. It is estimated the city spent $100,000 to send the children to protest. Is that really the best use of taxpayer money? The people of Baltimore believe their schools are in disrepair, but the administration somehow finds money for political events.

The actions of the teacher’s unions, progressive leftists, and education officials are not surprising. The most disturbing event to take place involving politics and schools didn’t happen with this walkout; it happened when Chicago teachers walked out on their students in 2012. The highest paid teachers in the country didn’t think they were earning enough and went on strike.

They marched through the streets chanting the usual union slogans, but the shirts they were wearing stole the show. Teachers, the people Americans entrust their children to, were wearing shirts with Che Guevara on them.

In case you don’t know, Guevara was a racist, homophobic mass murderer trying to spread communism throughout Latin America including Cuba. Not only did he personally execute people without a trial, but he also tried to convince the Soviet Union to use nuclear weapons on New York, Los Angeles, or Washington D.C. to bring about war. Teachers were celebrating this man by proudly wearing his image in front of students they are supposed to be educating.

Is there any wonder the U.S. education system is failing?

The purely political acts prove the U.S. school system has nothing to do with education and everything to do with political indoctrination. That is why it is clearly time to get the federal government out of the education system and return this function to the states. By all measures it has failed. Look at what it has wrought: it is overtly political while failing to educate our students. It is time to end federal control of education and give the money back to the taxpayers — and end the propaganda mills once and for all.


Tennessee Passes Bill To Place 'In God We Trust' in Every Public School

The Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would require all public schools in the state to display the words "In God We Trust" in a prominent location. The governor, Republican Bill Haslam is expected to sign the legislation into law very soon.

The bill, HB 2368, was sponsored by state Rep. Susan Lynn (R). According to the website of the Tennessee General Assembly, the "National Motto in the Classroom Act" would require "each local education agency to display the national motto, 'In God We Trust,' in a prominent location in each school."

"Our national motto is on our money," said Rep. Lynn. "It's on our license plates. It's part of our national anthem. Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things."

Placing the motto on American currency was established by Congress in 1864. The first coins with "In God We Trust" inscribed on them were the one- and two-cent coins in 1864. Since 1938, all U.S. coins bear the motto, according to the Treasury Department. Congress declared "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto in 1956.

When Gov. Haslam signs the bill into law, which he is expected to do, the law will go into effect immediately.


Australia: Child sodomized by classmates; assaults recorded on school-issued iPads, lawsuit claims

A Grandville kindergarten student was sodomized by fellow classmates, with portions of the assaults recorded and shared, leading the boy to “cover himself with mulch’’ to avoid more harassment, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The disturbing allegations are contained in a 23-page federal lawsuit filed in Grand Rapids by the parents of a boy who attended Century Park Learning Center starting when the boy was five years old.

School officials did not protect the boy and turned a blind eye to the abuse once it was brought to light, parents of the boy, identified in court records as Jimmy Doe, claim.

“The assailants told Jimmy that if he did not cooperate with them, or if he told about the touching and pictures, they would not be his friends and they would say the sexual activity was Jimmy’s idea,’’ the lawsuit claims.

Grandville Public Schools Superintendent Roger Bearup released a statement Thursday saying the district cannot respond in detail to the allegations.

’’However, we assure you that our focus is and always will be on the safety and care of every student who walks through our doors,’’ the statement reads.

“Litigation is meant to be an avenue to the truth,’’ Bearup says in the statement. “We patiently wait for that truth to be revealed. Until then, we will have no further comment.’’

The lawsuit claims the abuse started in the fall of 2014 and continued until April, 2015. It says four boys took Jimmy Doe to the mudroom area of the classroom where they touched and sodomized him and took photos of his genitals using classroom iPads. It occurred when kindergarten teacher Hillary Huberts attended the classroom’s ‘free time,’ the suit claims.

“The four boys directed Jimmy as to what and how he was to pose and for how long while the boys used classroom iPads to take photographs,’’ the suit claims.

Images were continuously deleted to create space for additional photographs “each time they attacked Jimmy,’’ the lawsuit claims.

Dissemination of the photos to other students led to continued harassment, forcing the boy to dig hiding places beneath playground equipment where he would “cover himself with mulch,’’ the lawsuit claims.

His parents noted both a physical and emotional deterioration in their son, who was born in 2009. They raised concerns during a parent-teacher conference.

When the boy’s mother asked for a police investigation, she was told by Principal Tonia Shoup that an investigation had already been completed and found “no indication of coercion or assault.’’

Shoup told the boy’s mother that she interviewed the four boys involved in taking the photos. “The four boys said that it had been Jimmy’s idea to display his genitals in the classroom and that Jimmy had admitted to showing his ‘privates’ and to having his picture taken,’’ the lawsuit claims.

In a subsequent meeting with then-Grandville Superintendent Ron Caniff and Assistant Superintendent Scott Merkel, the parents were told the pictures had been deleted “and they could move Jimmy to another school district if they wanted,’’ the lawsuit claims.

Caniff and Merkel “stressed that the pictures needed to be viewed in the context of kindergarteners’ normal curiosity and suggested that if the parents insisted on pressing the matter, Jimmy would be the one to be disciplined as he was the only child whose genitals were photographed.’’

Caniff, who is now superintendent of Kent ISD, issued a statement Thursday refuting several of the allegations.

“At the time I was at Grandville Public Schools, there was never any suspicion, suggestion or complaint expressed about inappropriate physical contact between the students involved in this matter, nor did the investigation indicate any concerns in that regard,’’ Caniff says in the statement.

“As I read through the complaint, there are several allegations that will be refuted, but since attorneys are involved, that will occur in due course through the legal process. Beyond this, I do not have more to add at this time since this is a pending legal matter.’’


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Pennsylvania school district that gave students buckets of ROCKS to defend themselves in mass shootings say they will now use armed guards

The Pennsylvania school district that stocked its classrooms with a bucket of stones last week has announced that they will replace the rocks with armed guards.

Blue Mountain School District put a five-gallon bucket of river stones - which are smooth and used for landscaping - in the closet of every elementary, middle and high school classroom on Friday.

But on Sunday, David Helsel, the superintendent of the district, wrote on Facebook that the district will be putting armed guards in schools in a letter addressed to parents, students and staff.

'As all of you are aware, recently there has been a great deal of media attention brought to Blue Mountain School District.

'This attention was due to social media posts that took comments out of context and misrepresented our actual planned response to armed intruders (particularly with the planned use of stones),' the post read.

'This unfortunate circumstance has increased our concern regarding the possibility that something may happen because of the media attention. Starting tomorrow [Monday] and into the near future, we have arranged for additional armed security for our buildings.

Helsel said the district will continue to reevaluate the situation moving forward.  

On Friday, the district stocked every classroom with a bucket of stones so students as young as four could use them to fight off shooters.

Students were encouraged to arm themselves with a stone and get out of the shooter's line of sight rather crawl under their desks, which the president of the district believes makes them more vulnerable.

Helsel told ABC News: 'We've been trying to be proactive just in case. 'We wanted to provide some type of last response to an intruder... rather than crawling under a desk and getting shot.'

Hesel said he still advises teachers evacuate their students if an armed shooter gains access to a school building.

But if the intruder gets near a certain class, they should bolt the door and arm themselves with one of the stones.

These can be used if the shooter gains access, he said, adding: 'How can you aim a gun if you're being pelted with rocks?

'While I don't like that we need to do this, this response is better than doing nothing.'

Blue Mountain School District has 2,700 students and is located 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia.


How This College Conservative Counters Liberal Intolerance on Massachusetts Campuses

The leader of Republican groups at Massachusetts colleges says the position is rewarding because it allows him to support fellow students, such as the one who felt attacked by a professor who openly derided President Donald Trump.

The episode occurred last fall at Bridgewater State University, where Jason Ross is a senior.

“It wasn’t a class I was in, it was actually a girl I know [and] a class she was in,” Ross, 22, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “The professor, he posted on Facebook, ‘F— Donald Trump and f— anyone who voted for Donald Trump, you are not welcome here.’”

“And that Facebook [page] was something he would use to promote things for the class as well,” Ross added.

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Ross, who is chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans, said his friend was reluctant to speak with the English professor who posted such statements.

“She didn’t know how to approach it. I mean, it is her professor, it is someone who grades her papers, it is someone who determines if she graduates,” Ross said.

He offered to go to bat for his fellow student, Ross said. He set up a meeting with the president of Bridgewater State University, Fred Clark, to discuss the English professor, Garrett Nichols, and what his friend considered intimidating attacks on Trump and the president’s supporters.

Nichols made derogatory comments about Trump only on Facebook, Ross said, but “was also very divisive in class.”

He said he was pleased when the university put Nichols on temporary leave as a result.

The Washington Times reported that Bridgewater State University released a statement saying:

A member of our campus community made statements on his personal social media account that do not represent our institutional values of respect. The success of our students is paramount; we aspire to have all members of our campus community model civility for our students and for each other.

As state chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans for nearly a year, Ross oversees all 24 College Republicans chapters in the liberal state, encompassing about 2,000 students.

Ross previously was secretary for Massachusetts College Republicans and chairman of the Bridgewater State University chapter of the group, which he founded.

The college senior is among young Americans participating in the White House’s “Generation Next” conference for millennials, scheduled Thursday afternoon at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The gathering will focus on jobs, the opioid drug crisis, and free speech on campus, and include appearances by Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump.

Ross is a political science major, with a concentration in public administration.

“Political campaigns can be fun, and stressful, but my true passion is public service,” he told The Daily Signal. “As a proud Eagle Scout, I love helping people and the community, so I would ultimately love to be a town administrator.”

Ross is from West Bridgewater, a small farm town in Massachusetts. His father repairs trucks and sells truck parts, and his mother is a makeup artist.

“My parents are both moderately conservative, but we very rarely discussed politics growing up, so I would say my parents did not influence my political beliefs,” Ross said.

“Philosophically, I would say they did shape me, by encouraging me to grow up as a Roman Catholic. And my dad always encouraged me to stay involved in Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts, and my journey to achieving Eagle Scout, I would say had the greatest impact shaping who I am today,” he said.

Ross is the first in his family to go to  college, which he says should be a place that welcomes opposing or minority viewpoints.

“Regardless of your political party … if someone is not welcome, or a certain type of group based simply on beliefs is not welcomed, I mean, that’s absurd.”

Even though his views don’t align with those of the school administration, Ross said, he credits it for decisiveness.

“I’ve got to give it to the university president, Fred Clark. Obviously we don’t agree on many things, but what we do agree on is when action needs to be taken, action needs to be taken,” Ross said.

“Discrimination against anyone is unacceptable, especially for … a college campus, where civil discourse and diversity of beliefs, thoughts, and ideologies should be accepted and welcomed.”

The Daily Signal requested comment from both Nichols and Clark, but did not receive a response by publication deadline.

This wasn’t the first time Ross met with the university president to discuss concerning comments made by professors.

A professor in the political science department, the Republican student leader said, made remarks in class that were disrespectful of military veterans as well as Trump.

“He said derogatory things toward veterans,” Ross said. “I don’t remember the exact quotes, but he said something along the lines of, ‘They’re not the brightest bunch; anyone who votes for Donald Trump or a Republican, they’re not the brightest, they’re stupid.’”

Ross said the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans faced a big protest when it hosted an event with veterans on issues important to them and included the head of the Massachusetts chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“A lot of the students were outside protesting, putting Iraqi flags outside, like planting them in the ground,” Ross said. “This would be like Saddam Hussein-era Iraqi flags, it was just so disrespectful.”

His role as state chairman of College Republicans exposes him to the sort of personal attacks from the left that he seeks to defend other students from, Ross said:

I have gotten a lot of negative feedback from people who do not even know me necessarily, which I think is always funny. I probably get four [Facebook] friend requests a day from people I don’t even know. And I’d say half of them are very left wing and they—not every day, occasionally—they will message me. And … it will be nasty stuff, just mean stuff.

Despite such pushback, the college senior sounds optimistic.

Massachusetts chapters of College Republicans have grown during his tenure, he said, expanding from roughly 10 active chapters and fewer than 1,000 members statewide to 24 active chapters and more than 2,000 members:

Under my leadership, we have also fundraised significantly more than ever before. Because of that, we have been able to produce chapter supplies such as posters, koozies, and stickers, all proudly produced locally in Massachusetts by a small business, which has effectively helped recruit more members and keep current members interested and proud to be part of the organization.

We’ve grown so much, and that’s what I want. I am not doing this for a Republican cause, I am doing this … for the people to just get involved and learn more.


Higher Education: Dividing to Conquer

Most of us don’t need polls to tell us what we already know: America is increasingly divided. But where, exactly, are those splits — and what’s driving them? What Pew Research found might surprise you.

It’s no secret that white evangelicals are overwhelmingly Republican, but what is news is how much that percentage has grown. A larger swath of evangelicals than ever is identifying with or leaning toward the GOP: 77 percent at Pew’s last count. That’s a 16-point increase since 1994. But what’s raised even more eyebrows may be the large defection of white Catholics from the Democratic Party to the GOP. Today, the Republicans’ share of the white Catholic vote is 54 percent, compared to 45 percent two and a half decades ago. Obviously, the Obama-era attacks on conscience, taxpayer-funded abortion, and faith-based groups like Catholic Charities are having a major impact on the voting trends of this once heavily-Democratic population.

Democrats are also reaping one of the only rewards of their anti-faith crusade — a larger share of the religiously unaffiliated vote. It seems that kicking God out of their platform and declaring war on religious freedom made the party more appealing to these small, but growing, number of Americans. “Religiously unaffiliated voters, who made up just eight percent of the electorate two decades ago, now constitute about a quarter (24 percent) of all registered voters,” Pew points out.

Obviously, social media shows us every day just how polarized America has become. But there may also be a growing gap between the two political parties that wasn’t nearly as pronounced as it is now. In the last 17 years, researchers have noticed a big uptick in the percentages of people who identify as “conservative” or “liberal” within their party — a 10-point jump for Republicans and an even bigger leap, 18 points, for Democrats. Conservatives still dominate the Republican Party (making up 68 percent) more than liberals dominate the Democratic Party (who make up 46 percent), but the factions within both are climbing — and fast.

Another area of Pew’s survey that’s incredibly significant is the sharp rise in college Democrats. When you look at the voters who’ve gotten their degrees, a majority of them (58 percent) identify as Democrat. There was a time not too long ago when that number was split right down the middle. Now, it seems more obvious than ever why liberals are fighting to control speech on college campuses. Apparently, these are their most productive recruiting centers! In public schools, the groundwork has already been laid for the intense indoctrination teenagers experience when they leave for college.

What can parents do about that? A lot. The Left doesn’t want you to know what a tremendous influence you can have on the future of America by raising your children to know Christ. First, we have to start at home by teaching our children the truths of Scripture — not just Bible stories, but the truths of God’s Word. As moms and dads, we need to live those truths out and model them at home to our kids. Then, when they’re ready to leave the nest, let’s try to invest in education that affirms what we stand for. If you can, send them to Christian universities and colleges that have a biblical foundation — not to liberal campuses that will only undermine the values you’ve been teaching.

The media would love to say that Pew’s survey is another death rattle for the GOP, that its evangelical support is tapped out. But nothing could be further from the truth. As more evangelicals live up to their name and share their faith, more hearts and minds will change. Our numbers will continue to grow as people begin to live differently and look at the world differently. And that includes their political engagement. Our faith is transformative. If anything, that’s how we secure America’s future.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Cut off research funding to Fascist universities

In recent years, the foundational values of free speech and open inquiry have increasingly come under assault at the nation's colleges and universities. Every week, it seems, there is a story concerning campus speech codes being imposed, speakers being silenced, or faculty members being assailed for wrong-think. In response, some have proposed reforms intended to compel colleges and universities (public ones, at any rate) to honor academic freedom and free inquiry. Some critics have called for cutting off all public funds — including student aid — to institutions judged to limit protected speech.

While the impulse is understandable, the problem is that such measures threaten to give public officials extraordinary power over colleges and students. One needn't possess much imagination to envision how quickly that kind of authority could go awry. The challenge, then, is to identify how policymakers might promote academic freedom and free inquiry in a manner consonant with the university's fundamental mission and independence.

One promising response is also straightforward. Colleges and universities are not just places of learning; they are also research enterprises. Indeed, in the years after World War II, the federal government began using the nation's universities as subcontractors — farming out big-dollar research in medicine, defense, energy, and more. Universities conducted the work, used the dollars to fund faculty and students, and collected overhead at hefty rates. This win-win relationship was always marked by concerns that federal funding could interfere with free inquiry. Historically, this resulted in measures designed to protect research from federal interference. Today, however, a new risk is posed by the myriad universities no longer invested in securing free inquiry. It is both reasonable and appropriate to insist that federal funds no longer support research at institutions that choose to circumscribe speech and thought. If this stance winds up exerting a healthy influence in favor of open inquiry, so much the better.     

Colleges and universities constitute a crucial thread in America's civic fabric. In his 1818 plan for the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson recounted the "benefits & blessings" of higher education, on which "public prosperity, & individual happiness are so much to depend." Higher-education institutions train young minds and produce the research and knowledge that help sustain and enrich a free society.

That distinctive public purpose is why Washington disburses upward of $150 billion each year in federal grants, student loans, work-study funding, and education tax benefits to support higher education. Like all institutions that receive federal funds, colleges and universities are required to adhere to copious policies, regulations, and guidelines. And while discussions about federal funding for higher education tend to focus on student aid and student loans, there is another, quite substantial, source of revenue that tends to fly under the radar.

Since World War II, the United States has consciously made higher education a pillar of the nation's approach to research and development. The National Science Foundation reports that Washington spent almost $130 billion in fiscal year 2015 on R&D, nearly $38 billion of which went to higher-education institutions. These funds include more than $20 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health); more than $5 billion from the NSF; more than $5 billion from the Department of Defense; and more than $1 billion each from the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Agriculture. The American Association for the Advancement of Science calculates that federal dollars represent roughly 60% of all university-based R&D funding.

In spending these tens of billions, Washington is not seeking to support higher education's degree-granting and teaching; rather, it's engaging scholars at colleges and universities as subcontractors with the skills and capacity to conduct research that federal officials want done. Whether this involves bench science, materials engineering, climate research, or analysis of Russian political behavior, these grants and contracts are funded with the expectation that the data and conclusions will be valid, reliable, trustworthy, and of some use. 

This subcontracting relationship is why Washington pays colleges and universities hefty overhead rates on top of the actual costs of research. Such funds are intended to help these subcontractors pay necessary upkeep and related expenses. For instance, the base "indirect-cost" rate for NIH grants averages about 52%, so that a school awarded $100,000 for grant-funded research will receive an additional $52,000 to cover overhead costs. All told, about $10 billion a year in federal funds — more than a quarter of all federal funding for university-based research — goes to these indirect-cost payments (for things like administrative salaries and building depreciation), atop the salaries of researchers and necessary research expenses. Because they help to pay for administrators, facilities, and institutional operations, taxpayer-funded research grants constitute some of the most sought-after dollars in higher education.

The size and nature of Washington's investment give it a clear stake in ensuring that colleges and universities that take federal research funds adhere to the tenets of responsible science — including the assurance that research questions, methods, and reporting will be guided by an inviolable commitment to free inquiry. It's important to highlight the crucial distinction here: between campuses as self-regulated communities of teaching and learning on the one hand, and as places of research on the other. The focus here is solely on the latter. If campuses choose to cater to cosseted enclaves of like-minded ideologues, that's undoubtedly a societal problem, but it's a question distinct from ensuring that research funded by American taxpayers is uninhibited by ideological or political constraints.

Federal funds support university research because universities are deemed to be equipped — in terms of human capital, infrastructure, and environment — to conduct the necessary work. As an Institute for Humane Studies report aptly observes, "[H]igher education receives special financial and policy protections in exchange for providing society with a good that is distinctive to its mission: the pursuit of truth accompanied by the utmost freedom of speech and inquiry." To be sure, the special relationship between the federal government and higher-education institutions has long been cherished by both parties, with a history that can be traced back at least to the Morrill Act of 1862.

Federal investment in and support of university research was catalyzed, however, by World War II. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Office of Scientific Research and Development "for the purpose of assuring adequate provision for research on scientific and medical problems relating to the national defense." Led by Raytheon co-founder and MIT engineer Vannevar Bush, OSRD eschewed government-run laboratories in favor of contracting out its research and development efforts to private firms and to colleges and universities. By the end of World War II, OSRD had channeled contracts of at least $1 million to some 50 universities.

Drawing on his wartime experience, Bush prepared a 1945 report for President Harry Truman that framed the postwar research relationship between Washington and higher education. Entitled "Science, The Endless Frontier," Bush's report stipulated the basic principles of governmental support for scientific research and education. He held it paramount that scholars must be unmolested in their research efforts. In the introduction to the report, Bush penned a section titled "Freedom of Inquiry Must Be Preserved," which asserted:

[C]olleges, universities, and research institutes are the centers of basic research. They are the wellsprings of knowledge and understanding. As long as they are vigorous and healthy and their scientists are free to pursue the truth wherever it may lead, there will be a flow of new scientific knowledge to those who can apply it to practical problems in Government, in industry, or elsewhere....Scientific progress on a broad front results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown. Freedom of inquiry must be preserved under any plan for Government support of science.

Bush was concerned, sensibly enough, about federal authorities impeding academic inquiry. The underlying understanding was that institutions would respect and defend "the free play of free intellects" and the freedom to "pursue the truth wherever it may lead." Inherent in this was the expectation that Washington would subsidize institutions because (and only as long as) they were repositories of such freedom.

Appreciation for untrammeled inquiry has deep roots. In 1220, Pope Honorius III entreated the then-fledgling University of Bologna to protect its "libertas scolastica" — its "scholastic freedom" — from external threats to its autonomy. Emblazoned upon the seal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — one of the oldest learned societies in the United States, founded by John Adams and James Bowdoin and formally established in 1780 by the Massachusetts legislature — is the motto "Sub Libertate Florent" (roughly, the arts and sciences "flourish in freedom").

In 1915, the American Association of University Professors — then headed by John Dewey — issued its famed "General Declaration of Principles," which proclaimed, "[T]he university cannot perform its [primary function] without accepting and enforcing to the fullest extent the principle of academic freedom." The AAUP continued, "[A]ny restriction upon [academic] bound to react injuriously upon the efficiency and the morale of the institution, and therefore ultimately upon the interests of the community". A quarter-century later, the AAUP and Association of American Colleges restated those principles in the "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure":

Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good....[And the] common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth.

The 1940 Statement has been endorsed by more than 250 professional associations and scholarly and education organizations. Following the tumult that roiled the nation's campuses in the 1960s and early 1970s, the 1974 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale — more prominently known as the "Woodward Report" — reaffirmed these principles:

The primary function of a university is to discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function a free interchange of ideas is necessary not only within its walls but with the world beyond as well. It follows that the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom. The history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.

The Woodward Report would become the model for colleges and universities across the nation. In 2005, the American Council on Education — the major coordinating body for the nation's higher-education institutions, representing nearly 1,800 college and university presidents and executives of related associations — joined with nearly 30 other higher-education organizations to issue the "Statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities." It held, "Intellectual pluralism and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education." Further, "Colleges and universities should welcome intellectual pluralism and the free exchange of ideas....Neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions."

More recently, in 2013, the Association of American Universities adopted a statement of academic principles in the same spirit (and drawing on a 1967 Supreme Court case), insisting,

Like freedom of speech or of the press, academic freedom is "of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned."...[U]niversities play a vital role in the functioning of our democracy. Freedom of inquiry, exercised through academic freedom and supported by institutional autonomy, underpins that mission.

These principles were yet again enumerated in the 2015 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. The report, often called the "Chicago Statement," argued,

[T]he University's fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose.

As of January 2018, the Chicago Statement had been adopted or endorsed by 34 institutions and faculty bodies, including Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and Georgetown.

Vannevar Bush feared in 1945 that the government might unduly restrict necessary freedoms in its oversight and management of contracted research. The possibility that many universities would themselves act as censors perhaps never occurred to him. Yet that is what has come to pass.

The academy today reflects a decided ideological lean. In some disciplines — such as the arts, humanities, or law — the tilt is overwhelming. On its own, this ideological imbalance is arguably problematic for robust debate around important questions regarding race relations, immigration, social policy, climate change, and more. After all, researchers, like anyone else, can fall prey to confirmation bias — and the more ideologically uniform a research environment, the greater the risk of that bias going unnoticed, being reinforced, and tainting results. Yet, individual colleges and universities are and should be free to set their own ideological compasses.

The salient issue here is what happens when that ideological homogeneity starts to yield formal policies and practices that stifle free inquiry. Speech codes, the heckler's veto, and attempts to discipline those expressing "improper" thoughts can stop certain questions from being asked and lines of research from being pursued, and they can make it less likely that suspect findings or methodologies will be thoroughly scrutinized.

As a team of social psychologists led by José Duarte explained in a 2015 study published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, ideological and political uniformity "can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike." Such phenomena raise questions about the rigor and reliability of federally funded research produced at institutions that fail to safeguard free inquiry or that proscribe certain words and questions.

Absent a principled commitment to free inquiry and expression, certain lines of thought can quickly become hazardous. Last May, Duke divinity professor Paul Griffiths resigned after facing administrative backlash and formal punishment for criticizing the intellectual rigor and ideological tolerance of university-sponsored anti-bias training. In December 2016, then-Johns Hopkins professor Trent Bertrand was barred from his classroom and suspended for telling an off-color joke in order to emphasize a point in his lecture. When campus policies governing speech and expression yield investigations or sanctions, they create a culture wherein certain lines of inquiry and research are almost inevitably foreclosed and others may escape rigorous examination.

The costs of challenging prevailing orthodoxy were strikingly illustrated by the experience of former UCLA environmental-health-sciences professor James Enstrom. Enstrom, a non-tenured member of the UCLA faculty for more than 35 years, was fired by the public institution in 2010 after he questioned the veracity of several climate studies used to justify the state's proposed diesel regulations. In 2008 and 2009, Enstrom had exposed faulty data in a California Air Resources Board study underlying the regulatory proposals, helped unearth the fraudulent credentials of the study's lead researcher, and documented that several members of the study's scientific review panel were serving without being properly nominated.

At least five of the nine panel members — one a prominent UCLA scientist — were removed after Enstrom's whistleblowing. As a result, UCLA repeatedly retaliated against Enstrom, depleting and redirecting his research funds without his knowledge or consent and then terminating his position due to "lack of funding." Enstrom later sued the university, earning vindication in 2015 when UCLA agreed to pay him $140,000, grant him a title, and restore his access to university resources.

The threat to free inquiry is more systemic than a catalogue of one-off controversies might suggest. Limits on speech and expression have become ingrained in campus culture — largely due to the proliferation of campus policies intended to regulate conduct. In fact, official policies restricting free speech are held today by most colleges and universities: In a 2017 study, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reviewed 449 higher-education institutions — 345 public institutions and 104 private institutions — and found that an amazing 93% maintained policies that prohibit certain categories of constitutionally protected speech.

For example, Middlebury College's hopelessly broad "General Conduct Standards" stipulate that "[b]ehavior that violates common standards of decency, fails to comply with local laws or statutes, or demonstrates contempt for the generally accepted values of the intellectual community is prohibited." Such nonsensical language means that any view deemed to violate "generally accepted values" may be officially prohibited. (Of course, when guest speaker Charles Murray was shouted down in spring 2017 and his host, a Middlebury professor, assaulted, the ability to flexibly and asymmetrically apply such a policy was fully in evidence.)

Penn State University defines sexual harassment as encompassing any inappropriate "verbal" conduct (i.e., speech), while specifying under its "Gender-Based Harassment" policy that such conduct includes anything considered to exhibit "gender-stereotyping." (University employees "are required to report" all potential violations.) Policies like those at Middlebury and Penn State can intimidate and put at risk faculty pursuing work that — just for starters — fails to hew to contemporary academic conventions around topics like public morals, gender, or family structure.

Speech codes and so-called "civility" policies frequently run afoul of constitutional protections when challenged in court. They are often undone by concerns about vagueness and overbreadth — as in the 2010 case of McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, in which the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that the university's policy prohibiting the infliction of "emotional distress" created a "blanket chilling" of protected speech. Such policies can lead researchers to self-censor or risk punishment for any expression deemed "disrespectful" or "uncivil." This serves to inevitably privilege certain questions and lines of inquiry, regardless of academic merit, and discourage and deter others.


Utah Attorney General Credits School Safety App for Intercepting 86 ‘Credible’ Threats

Students and teachers at Utah schools have access to an app that allows users to report threats of violence and seek help from crisis counselors.

The software application, designed to promote school safety and student well-being, has flagged 86 credible threats of school violence over two years, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a phone interview with The Daily Signal.

“‘Credible’ ranges on a scale from imminent to yes, we think there are some means, motive, and ability to accomplish the threat,” Reyes said. “It can range anywhere from a hand-held weapon to a bomb or other types of threat.”

Called SafeUT and initiated in 2016, the app is downloaded to smartphones and other mobile devices. It allows students, teachers, or other users to start a chat with a crisis counselor by phone or electronic text, or to submit a tip about a possible threat.

“The powerful part of this is that on the other end of the line, it’s not a voice answering machine, it’s not a calling tree, it is someone who will text back immediately who’s a trained professional,” Reyes said.

The professionals, trained in behavioral and mental health, are experts from the University of Utah’s University Neuropsychiatric Institute who “work staffing the SafeUT lines 24/7,” he said. “And we work with them on funding, they are part of our state system.”

The Utah Legislature funded the app for use in public and private schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, in collaboration with the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Office of the Attorney General, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

Reyes said he thinks the technology of SafeUT could have helped stop the 19-year-old with a rifle who killed 17 and wounded 17 others Feb. 14 at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“The tragedy in Florida is just horrible,” the Utah attorney general said, “and I don’t want to sound like we are second-guessing anybody or any agency. But I do think that if young people, including this particular young person, may have had more help and attention from some experts earlier in his life, he might have had a better chance to be more productive and less destructive.”

The confessed shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was a former student at the school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He could have been deterred by technology such as the SafeUT app, Reyes said.

“How does this tie back into school safety?” the Utah attorney general asked. “You have the immediate component of 86 threats that were intercepted, thwarted, because we got real-time information about a physical threat, somebody making a threat to other students or the school at large.”

Threats could include tips such as an overheard conversation, a post on social media, or a personal challenge faced by a student, he said.

According to the University of Utah, the app has reached 75 percent of Utah’s students and receives an average monthly ratio of 819 tips and 1,493 chats.

The University Neuropsychiatric Institute refers threats deemed credible to local police departments, and no statistics on follow-up are available, a spokeswoman for Reyes said.

Aside from the convenience of the software application, which can be downloaded from the app store and used 24/7, the big advantage is the availability of crisis counselors to respond to the messages, Reyes said.

“To me, some of the magic that is happening is that we also created an opportunity for youth to text in if they are in a mental, physical, [or] emotional crisis,” he said.

Reyes said Utah officials settled on an app rather than a crisis hotline to gear their outreach to what students would be more comfortable with.

“We did some research and talked to students and teenagers,” he said, “and figured out very quickly that they never called the hotline numbers because they never called anybody. They just don’t call, they text and use other social media for interaction.”

The app is an optimal tool to address issues students struggle with before those issues escalate to security threats, he said.

Reyes said he hopes more students will use the app for access to resources that could help them avoid “becoming destructive” toward themselves or others.


Australia: Federal Leftists trying to buy the Catholic vote with school funding

Bill Shorten’s promise to give an extra $250 million to the Catholic school system has been credited as a decisive factor in Labor’s victory in the Batman by-election last weekend. The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria actively campaigned for the Labor candidate, reigniting the war of words between the Turnbull government and some elements of the Catholic education system.

Both the Catholic school system and government school advocates (such as teacher unions) have been rallying against the government’s ‘cuts’ to school spending.

This ignores the facts. Under the Coalition’s Gonski 2.0 plan, real per-student funding for the Catholic school system is going up by 3.7% per year (well above inflation and enrolments) for the next 10 years — and the Catholic system will retain the right to distribute the funding however it likes. Both the government (5.1%) and independent (4.3%) school sectors are receiving large yearly per-student increases as well.

The average increase for each sector is less than it would have been under Labor’s original (unfunded) Gonski 1.0 plan, which was full of ‘special deals’ and funding inconsistencies. While it is reasonable for any group to advocate for more funding, it is highly disingenuous to describe Gonski 2.0 as a ‘cut’.

The Catholic school system should be far more concerned about preserving the right of religious schools to decide who they hire, who they enrol, and what they teach. These freedoms currently rest largely on precarious exemptions to state-based anti-discrimination laws, and are under attack by some activists. Catholic schools should be pushing the major parties — at both state and federal levels — to confirm exactly what their positions are on religious freedom in education.

The priority issue for religious schools at the next federal election should be religious freedom. It would be a shame if it is overshadowed by incessant clamouring about non-existent funding ‘cuts’.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Australian Teachers' union backs call for comprehensive approach to education

This is another shot in the long war between those who want education to lead to jobs versus those who see education as a general cultural experience.  It seems clear to me that if the taxpayer is paying for it, it should be useful in some way.  I see only three options there: education for jobs, education for citizenship and English language education, where that includes instruction in reading and writing, which in turn includes spelling and grammar. Education for citizenship should cover primarily history and how the political system works.

I see no role for literary education or foreign language education.  Literature and language can be left to adult education courses and other evening courses.  There are already in the country people of many ethnic origins who grow up bilingual so foreign language education seems particularly useless

The Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch has welcomed comments from NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes calling for a balanced approach to education, with no extra emphasis on any one discipline.

Stokes said on Wednesday that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects must not be preferred over the arts, sports or social sciences.

IEUA NSW/ACT Secretary John Quessy said providing a comprehensive education was the best strategy to create adaptable and employable adults.

“All disciplines, whether it be languages, sport, arts or science can and do contribute to greatness in Australian society,” Quessy said.

“It is important that teachers from all disciplines are supported and provided with professional development that enhances the education they can provide to students.

“While we totally support and understand the need to encourage the study of STEM subjects, students should never be discouraged from studying other disciplines.

“Everyone needs to be allowed to find their niche and be given a chance to shine.”

Media release

Iggy the Crusader Victimized by a Misguided Crusade
A liberal, the old joke attributed to Robert Frost goes, is someone too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel.

Something similar is going on with Catholics. Just ask Iggy the Crusader, who for years served nobly as the mascot of the College of the Holy Cross.

Holy Cross is throwing Iggy under the bus.

This was a necessary step in the larger effort to purge the school of any association with the Crusades. “The visual depiction of a knight, in conjunction with the moniker Crusader, inevitably ties us directly to the reality of the religious wars and violence of the Crusades,” the Rev. Philip Boroughs, president of Holy Cross, explained in a statement.

This is all ludicrous.

Let’s start with poor Iggy. Knights are not synonymous with the Crusades. There are knights in “Game of Thrones.” Do you immediately think of the sacking of Jerusalem when you watch that show? How about when you play any of a gazillion video games, or even the old-school Dungeons and Dragons? How about when you watch King Arthur movies? Or when you listen to “Knights in White Satin,” Giorgio Moroder’s disco homage to the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”?

Maybe you do. But if that’s the case — if you see a knight in shining armor and immediately think of “the reality of the religious wars and violence of the Crusades” — well, that’s on you.

Let’s be honest: If you’re the sort of person who can’t let go of Christianity’s role in the Crusades nearly 1,000 years ago, excommunicating Iggy won’t solve the problem.

And yet, Holy Cross is just the latest of many institutions to abandon any association with the Crusades. Campus Crusade for Christ shortened its name to Cru a few years ago because the C-word had become too radioactive.

“It’s become a flash word for a lot of people,” Cru’s vice president, Steve Sellers, told Christianity Today in 2011. “It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East. In the ‘50s, 'crusade’ was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups.”

That’s all true. The word “crusade” does have different meanings to different people.

And that’s the irony. For most of last millennium, if you talked about the Crusades, you’d offend Christians. Why? Because the Christian West lost the Crusades, for the most part. Meanwhile, Muslims rarely talked about the Crusades, and if they did it was a matter of pride.

In the last century or two, the story of the Crusades was rewritten to fit an anti-imperial, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist narrative. The European invasion of the Middle East was the first chapter in the evil empire that was Western civilization.

This is all nonsense. Christianity — which is older than Islam — was in the Middle East far earlier (and Judaism has squatters rights going back millennia). Christianity originates as a Middle Eastern faith (you can look it up). The forces of Muhammad took the Holy Lands from the Christians, but this was not some indigenous anti-colonial uprising. It was a relatively minor conflict in a backwater region of the Muslim world. The real action was to the west in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

Bernard Lewis, arguably the greatest living English-language historian of the Muslim world, writes: “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war.”

Or, as historian Thomas Madden has written: “Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The Crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West’s belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world.”

It is absolutely true that horrible things were done on both sides of the conflicts. And as a guy named Goldberg I don’t have much skin in this fight.

But what I object to is this reflexive assumption, peddled by a diverse unintended coalition of Western social-justice warriors and Muslim radicals, that the West is the villain in every tale and that to demonstrate a progressive worldview, Christians — and Westerners generally — must shed their own cultural heritage to appease people looking to be offended by things they don’t understand.


Train Teachers To Shoot Intruders


Five years ago I wrote a column titled: "Time to Arm Teachers." That wasn't a popular notion in 2013 but perhaps its time has come after the Florida shootings last week.

The idea was pitched to me by men uniquely qualified to train those teachers willing to carry concealed weapons and confront armed intruders in schools. One was father to a former student who'd done several tours in the Middle East as a Green Beret. He was still doing three-month hitches in Afghanistan with his team of other highly-trained, contracted soldiers who would deploy for ninety days over there, then serve another ninety here in New England protecting courthouses, then back to Afghanistan, and so on.

When asked my opinion of their proposed enterprise I said it was a great concept, but public schools would never allow it, being almost completely staffed by anti-gun leftists who believe only stricter gun laws will prevent school shootings. Maybe school officials have since taken a lesson observing Chicago over the interim five years where even with the strictest gun laws, almost as many young people are shot every weekend as were shot last week in Florida.

Our schools have been "gun-free zones" for twenty-eight years now since Senator Joe Biden introduced the bill that became federal law in 1990, and how has that worked out? We could argue that "Gun-Free Zone" signs posted at schools attract whackos like Nikolas Cruz who can be assured that nobody in the school will be able to shoot back.

People like guns where I live in rural Maine because when seconds count, the police are minutes away - and my town doesn't have a police department. We rely on the Oxford County Sheriff's Department and the Maine State Police. They do as good a job as they can, but it's not enough. Armed criminals tried to break my neighbor's house across the street and were repelled after discovering the old man who lived there with his elderly wife had a gun of his own. Police arrested the men later based on my neighbors's descriptions.

"When you see something, say something" we're told by the FBI, but people have said something several times lately to no effect. The FBI was warned about the Tsarnaev brothers who blew up the Boston Marathon. They were warned about Omar Mateen before he shot over a hundred people in the Orlando night club massacre. And, they were also warned about Nikolas Cruz before he killed students and teachers last week.

When I started teaching here in rural Maine forty years ago, young men came to school with high-powered, semi-automatic rifles on racks across the back windows of their pickup trucks during hunting season. Those guns could have been used to shoot up the school but they weren't. Guns haven't changed since then but people have - and that's clearly the problem.

Mainstream media don't report stories like that, or incidents like my elderly neighbors scaring off intruders with their gun. They don't fit the progressive, Democrat, gun-control narrative. Media did print warnings about what would happen if Maine and New Hampshire allowed citizens to carry concealed weapons without permits, but those states went ahead anyway.

Concealed carry permits were never required in Vermont and sensible people knew it wouldn't be a problem in Maine or NH either. It'll be three years this summer here in Maine and there's been no increase in gun violence. It's been a year in New Hampshire. Vermont never had a problem.

There's a squad car parked outside Whole Foods in Portland every day. Inside stands an armed cop who I asked one day why he was always there. There's usually a cop in Portland supermarkets he said, often in plain clothes. We see them in airports and court houses. The student council at my last school had to pay a cop to guard school dances. During my last few years I could only use the main entrance because other doors were locked on the outside. Why not post an armed guard there and arm teachers in every wing of the school? That's what Israel does - a country in a constant state of war. They've had only two school shootings in over forty years.

Ever since Columbine twenty years ago, brave teachers have died shielding students with their bodies at nearly every school in which shootings have occurred. Imagine if those teachers had been armed. How many students could they have protected if they shot back at the intruder instead of just absorbing his bullets? Had they been armed, we would likely be seeing stories of how Nikolas Cruz was killed attempting to enter the school instead of the national keening we're undergoing now.