Friday, April 06, 2018

University event aims to combat ‘Christian Privilege’

George Washington University diversity workshop to be held four days after Easter

Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”

The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”

Hosted by the university’s Multicultural Student Services Center, the event will teach that Christians enjoy a privileged, easier life than their non-Christian counterparts, and that Christians possess “built-in advantages” today, according to its online description.

The workshop will also discuss how Christians receive “unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”

The “Christian Privilege” workshop is one of 15 “free training opportunities” offered through the center to “equip students and staff with the necessary skills to promote diversity and inclusion in the different environments,” according to its website.

Other workshops offered through the center focus on “heteroesexual privilege,” “cisgender privilege,” “abled-bodied privilege,” “socio-economic privilege,” “unconscious bias,” and more.

Efforts by The College Fix to reach a campus spokesperson, the multicultural center and the host of the Christian privilege workshop were to no avail Monday afternoon.

The Christian privilege event aims to make people aware of the privileges that Christians have and “what is meant by privilege overall and white privilege specifically,” the event description states. Furthermore, the event will try to educate those of the “role of denial when it comes to white privilege” and the difference between “equality and equity.”

By the end of the training, the organizers want participants to be able to name “at least three examples of Christian privilege” and “at least three ways to be an ally with a non-Christian person,” the website states.

Organizers also want the participants to be able to describe words like: “privilege, Christian privilege, denial, quality, equity, Christianity, bias, unconscious bias, micro-aggression, ally,” the website states.

The workshop will last 90 minutes and will feature a PowerPoint presentation and Q&A.

It will be hosted by Timothy Kane, the interim associate director for inclusion initiatives at George Washington University, according to his biography page. As interim associate director, Kane works to expand the diversity and inclusion efforts at GWU, specifically the LGBT community. He did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

Kane, who has a master’s degree in divinity and theology, is “dedicated to ensuring that all types of diversity at GW are celebrated and meant to feel included in campus culture and student life.” Being a “proud gay member of the LGBT community” at the university, he hopes to “promote this kind of solidarity amongst the LGBT community, and work towards celebrating the richness of diversity here at GW,” his online bio states.

Kane also hosts the “heterosexual privilege,” “cisgender privilege,” “abled-body privilege,” and “socioeconomic privilege” workshops. White privilege is a specific focus in each of these training sessions, according to the multicultural center’s website.


No men allowed: UVM hosts women-only debate championship

The first rule of a North American debate tournament to be held in Vermont this weekend: No men allowed.

Some 150 debaters from 18 schools across the U.S. and Canada will compete in the special tournament, which is designed to be a safe space for women who complain of bias when they debate against men.

Although some men will be allowed to serve as judges, organizers say the tournament at the University of Vermont offers women a chance to hone their speaking and arguing skills and gain confidence and friends without being subject to sexism.

"There is also a lot of sexual predation that happens in the debate community," said UVM debate director Helen Morgan-Parmett. "The tournament, I think, provides a safe space where people feel they are debating other women, and their bodies aren't necessarily on display."

College debating is one of the few intercollegiate competitive activities in which women and men compete directly against one another. While some women do win, the debaters say they have to be that much better than men to overcome bias on the part of many judges. And they point to statistics that show they are less likely to reach the top echelons of the activity.

"Like with a lot of collegiate activities, debate has a tendency to be male-dominated," said UVM sophomore debater Miranda Zigler, of Boston.

The UVM event will be run using the British Parliamentary debating style, in which participants learn the topic they will be debating only 15 minutes before the competition begins. More traditional college debate, known as policy debate, uses a set topic for the entire season and the debaters must be ready to argue for or against. Both formats are judged by a panel.

Collegiate debate began to grow after World War II, and for the first decade or so men and women debated separately. That began to change in the late 1950s and early 1960s but still few women signed up, said Dallas Perkins, the former debate coach at Harvard University and now the spokesman for the National Debate Tournament, held earlier this month in Wichita, Kansas.

Women have broken through to the top ranks: Two of the final four debaters at the national tournament this month were women.

Georgetown debate director Mikaela Malsin whose team lost in the finals this year and coached one of the women said she hadn't heard of the women's debate tournament. She said college debate is prone to the same sexism and misogyny that pervades American culture, and that far more men than women compete.

"We want it to be more inclusive and more accessible on its own terms rather than retreating or creating a separate space," Malsin said. "I certainly think there is value to that kind of thing, but, like I said, I don't think it would catch on quite as much in the policy world for the reason that I think women and people of color primarily want to keep pushing back and continue to elevate or improve the activity from within."

What has evolved into the North American Women's and Gender Minorities Debate Championship being held in Burlington this weekend began in Canada in the 1990s. It disappeared for several years but was revived in 2009, said Sarah Sahagian, the program director for the nonprofit group Speech and Debate Canada.

"I think even when I was a participant there were women who did well, there were women who won things, but on average, the average female debater did not do as well. Disproportionately, male debaters did better," she said.

The first women's debate championship in the United States was held at UVM in 2015. The last two years it was back in Canada. Organizers now hope it can remain an annual event, alternating between the two countries.

The women at UVM recognize the women-only tournament can make them targets of people who feel they are asking for special treatment, but say it's good to raise awareness of the issue.

"I think there is just no bad publicity," said UVM debate coach Stela Braje, "especially if you're trying to make a point."


Australia: Universities need charters of intellectual freedom

The latest politically correct madness at the University of Sydney — gender, race, sexuality, and class background quotas at the nation’s oldest debating club — is another demonstration of the extent to which ‘Unlearn U’ has mainlined postmodern identity politics.

It isn’t just the violation of core liberal principles of merit, equality of opportunity, and respect for the individual that is of concern — despite later day converts to the diversity agenda dismissing the importance of such ‘philosophical beliefs’.

What is also at stake are the foundational freedoms of speech and thought which universities ought to uphold as bastions of civil debate, rational discussion, and intellectual freedom.

Underpinning identity politics is an ideological agenda that seeks to shape, set and enforce the boundaries of acceptable, as opposed to so-called offensive ‘racist, patriarchial or homophobic or transphobic’ thought and speech.

This is creating a hostile and intolerant intellectual environment for students with the ‘wrong identity’: witness the Student Union-led a counter protest that took violent direct action to ‘unlearn’ conservative students who supported traditional marriage at Sydney University during last year’s marriage equality plebiscite campaign.

Australian universities are highly likely to follow the US path towards a full-blown campus free-speech crisis unless intellectual freedom is properly protected.

This should be the responsibility of university governors. But greater external accountability may be required, given the propensity of modern administrators to indulge in identity politics and view their mission as making universities less “old, white, male”.

Perhaps it is time to investigate requiring universites to sign up and comply with —  as a condition of taxpayer funding — a  charter of intellectual freedom, which could be based on the University of Chicago’s Stone Committee Report of 2015 on freedom of thought and expression at the university

Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.

These words would serve as worthy credo for all Australian universities — if they are to remain worthy of that name.


Thursday, April 05, 2018


Matt Ridley below acknowledges his indebtedness to the iconoclastic Toby Young.  Read more of Toby here

The good news is you can save on school fees. A new study finds that selective schools add almost nothing to the exam results of students, because the advantages teenagers come out with are mainly ones they arrived with, and are for the most part genetic. The bad news is that this implies genetic stratification of society is happening, and more than we thought. But then that is bound to happen in a meritocracy. If you make everything else equal, differences will be increasingly determined by genes.

The new study comes with impeccable credentials, from a team led by Robert Plomin, a professor at King’s College London and the acknowledged leader in the genetics of intelligence. Co-authors include the researcher Emily Smith-Woolley and the prominent school reformer (and social media witch-hunt victim) Toby Young, whose father coined the word “meritocracy” 60 years ago.

It is no longer controversial that genes influence intelligence. Studies of twins repeatedly show that in typical western society, measures of general intelligence derived from IQ tests have about 30 per cent heritability (that is, 30 per cent of the variation between people can be explained by their genes) in childhood, 40 to 50 per cent in adolescence and 60 per cent in adulthood. This increasing heritability with age may appear paradoxical but it makes sense: adults are free to find their own intellectual level, whereas children can be forced by pushy parents and good schools, or by bad friends and bad schools, into seeming less like they really “are” deep down.

The politics of this are also paradoxical. The left has tended to downplay the role of genes in intelligence, while the right has welcomed it. Yet if you argue that nurture is everything and nature is nothing, then you effectively condemn people who went to poor schools to being second-rate and irredeemable; if you think nature matters, then it follows that there are gifted people in bad schools who the system should discover and rescue through affirmative action. Professor Plomin’s own talents were recognised after an IQ test: he came from a home with no books and neither parent went to university.

Likewise, when scientists began speculating about whether homosexuality had a genetic contribution, about 20 years ago, some commentators were surprised to realise that gay people generally liked the idea, because it implied that being gay was not a “choice” but inherent to who they were.

Transgender activists have also welcomed recent work implying a genetic contribution to transgender identity. It supports the notion “that transgender is not a choice but a way of being”, as one geneticist put it. The same switch to thinking that genetics tends to be on the side of the progressives has not yet occurred with respect to intelligence.

Knowing that genes matter is not the same as knowing which genes matter. For a long time it was impossible to match intelligence to any particular genes. That has changed thanks to the ability to detect the influence of many hundreds of genes, each of small effect, in large samples of genotyped people. The resulting “genome-wide polygenic scores” (GPS), are measures of which gene combinations are present. Those with a high score proved twice as likely to go on to university as those with low.

So it is now possible to see whether good schools get good results because of good teaching or good selection. The new study looked at a representative sample of 4,814 students in non-selective state schools, selective state schools (grammars) and selective private schools. The students in selective schools did better at GCSEs than those in comprehensives, as expected. But the scientists then compared the genes of the three groups, using the GPS scores that predict the number of years spent in education.

They found that three times as many students in the top tenth of the population on a GPS score went to a selective school compared with the bottom tenth. Once they controlled for factors involved in pupil selection, the variance in exam scores at age 16 explained by school type dropped from 7 per cent to less than 1 per cent. “These results show that genetic and exam differences between school types are primarily due to the heritable characteristics involved in pupil admission.”

Crikey. So all those talented Etonians were pretty talented to start with. I’m an underachiever, having gone to the same school as the last prime minister, the current foreign secretary, the Archbishop of Canterbury and recent winners of a Nobel prize for medicine (Sir John Gurdon) and an Oscar (Eddie Redmayne).

Of course, the genes involved in making somebody succeed in school may not directly determine intellect; they could somehow have caused the child’s parents to be more conscientious and read to them every night, or they could have affected the child’s appetite rather than aptitude for learning. And parents send their children to private schools for reasons other than educational achievement: to marinate their kids in a certain social set, say.

Genes cannot be wished away. As the Harvard geneticist David Reich said: “Well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science.”

When it comes to gender, some sex differences are genetic; breasts and beards are not social constructs. It is harder to decide which sex differences in behaviour are derived from nature, but again the paradox of heritability provides a clue. Two psychologists last month published a paper showing that in countries where women are least discriminated against, women are most under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The percentage of STEM graduates who are female is twice as high in Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia as in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It appears that the more freedom girls have, the less likely they are to choose STEM subjects.

Today we rightly try to make sure that any differential outcomes by sex, race or education are not caused by discrimination. But the result is that we will maximise the contribution of innate preferences and abilities instead. A perfectly meritocratic society would be one in which people who went to Oxford were genetically, not socially, advantaged.


British taxpayers gave £20m to Palestinian schools which teach children that martyrdom and jihad are 'the most important meanings in life'

A government minister has admitted that more than £20 million of British aid money is being spent on schools in Palestine that teach children about jihad and martyrdom.

A report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education reveals that the Palestinian Authority school curriculum 'utilizes a variety of tools to convince children—mostly boys—to risk their lives and die as martyrs'. 

Alistair Burt, the aid minister, admitted in parliamentary answers that British taxpayers are funding the salaries of 33,000 teachers who follow the curriculum that also promotes violence against Israel.

The report also revealed that the word Israel 'typically appears as the Zionist Occupation' throughout the curriculum which has been accused of exerting pressure on young Palestinians to be martyrs.

A science textbook Newton's second law of physics by using an image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers, to explain power, mass, and tensile strength.

It reads: 'Palestinian youths used slingshots to confront the soldiers of the Zionist occupation and defend themselves from their treacherous bullets. What is the relationship between the elongation of the slingshot's rubber and the tensile strength affecting it?'

Meanwhile, a maths book for nine-year-old students teaches them to count up and work out the number of Palestinian martyrs.

Another textbook encourages nine-year-olds to be martyrs with a picture of students looking at an empty desk with the sign 'The Martyr'.

A poem in a history book also glorifies martyrdom and calls for violent resistance against Israel.

It reads: 'I vow I shall sacrifice my blood to saturate the land of the generous and will remove the usurper from my country.'

It also teaches that the families of terrorists will be rewarded in paradise. 

The shocking report concludes that radicalisation is 'more pervasive across this new curriculum' than the old one, which was also widely criticised.

The curriculum 'exerts pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence in a more extensive and sophisticated manner'.  

According to the Times, minister Burt admitted 'all of their schools in the West Bank are using the revised 2017 PA curriculum. UK-funded public servants and teachers … are therefore involved'.

Joan Ryan, chairwoman of Labour Friends of Israel, told the Times that the situation is 'absolutely appalling'  as the curriculum promotes violence, terrorism and antisemitism.

She called on the government to suspend all aid to the Palestinian Authority to be suspended.

Two days ago, at least 17 Palestinians were killed and 1,400 were left hurt during one of the largest Palestinian demonstrations along the Israel-Gaza border in recent years.

The Department for International Development said: 'Our support is helping around 25,000 young Palestinians go to school each year. The UK government strongly condemns all forms of violence and incitement to violence.'

Last year, Mail on Sunday investigation found that 24 schools were named after Palestinian terrorists. Also discovered was evidence of widespread encouragement of violence against Israel by teachers, with terrorists routinely held up as heroes for schoolchildren.

Pictures of ‘martyrs’ were posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols were painted on premises used by youngsters, sports events were named after teenage terrorists and children were encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays.  

Head teachers openly admitted to flouting attempts by British and European donors to control the curriculum at schools. They revealed they printed overtly political study aids for pupils, some even denying the existence of Israel.


Australia: The poisonous Left once again trying to destroy good community relationships

A refugee family is outraged at a high school for making Year 12 students write essays and make videos on Muslim 'exclusion'.

Leumeah High School in Sydney's south-west is asking Society and Culture students to present a five-minute oral presentation on the 'social exclusion faced by people of Muslim faith in Australia'.

The Year 12 Higher School Certificate students are also required to explain 'the barriers' Muslims face in 'accessing socially-valued resources' in a YouTube video.

Yuhan Houth, who was born in a Thai refugee camp after his parents escaped Pol Pot's murderous regime in Cambodia, said he regretted recommending that school for his younger brother, who turns 16 this year.

The 32-year-old welder said the assessment task was based on a leading question rather than an analysis of facts.

'From what I see here, I wouldn't call it propaganda but you can't really call it anything else,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday. 'I see it as indoctrinating them young.

'I would have thought examinations would be more concerned about empirical things, objective matter not subjectivity dressed up as an opinion piece.'

Mr Houth said the assessment topic also wrongly implied that immigrants weren't welcome in Australia.

'I'm more concerned about this particular narrative that's been perpetuated,' he said.

'I don't believe what they're demanding from the students is accurate of the reality of what the situation is.'

He said students doing the assessment were effectively being forced to give a set answer, as part of a presentation which must be recorded or uploaded to YouTube for the teacher.

'They would be obliged to give only the answers that they would be satisfied with in terms of any possible biases as opposed to just giving an honest opinion,' he said.

Former federal Labor leader Mark Latham said the school, in his old electorate of Werriwa, had forced students to argue a left-wing narrative that 'Muslims are hard done by because Australia is a racist nation'.

'Given the contentious nature of current political debates about Islam, the students have been placed in a difficult position,' he told his Facebook followers on Tuesday.

'If their YouTube videos are too soft or too hard on Islam they might face different types of backlash. I feel sorry for the students and families facing this conundrum.'

Mark Latham's social media followers were also outraged. 'Islamic indoctrination by the left and the education system,' one man  wrote. 'My god, we are seriously losing the country.'

One woman said it was outrageous students were taught Muslims weren't welcome in Australia. 'Simply outraged. Muslims have been welcomed into this country for decades,' she said. 'They have the same chances and opportunities as all others, in some cases more than people born here.'

Another woman suggested students were being groomed to hate Australia. 'These kids are being groomed and brainwashed in Islamics and sharia law,' she said.

'No, this is wrong. Politics should be kept out of schools.'

Daily Mail Australia contacted school principal Paul Zielinski and New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes for comment.


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Toxic Progressivism Champions Toxic Masculinity

Many progressives support the symbolic castration of American males, promulgated as "toxic masculinity."

Seven states — California, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin — have laws in place requiring the chemical castration of men convicted of violent sex crimes. Oklahoma is attempting to become the eighth state to enact a similar measure. Time magazine characterizes these laws as “controversial” and Oklahoma’s ACLU chapter spokeswoman Allie Shinn insists such laws may violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment. No doubt most progressives would heartily agree. Yet many of those same progressives support the symbolic castration of American males, promulgated as “toxic masculinity.”

Unsurprisingly, college campuses are leading the charge. “Duke University is famous for its science and engineering programs, as well as its dominance in college basketball,” Fox News reported in 2016. “Now, it may also become known as a great place for men to gather and contemplate why they’re such horrible people.”

The Campus Women’s Center launched the project, targeting “male identified” students and subjecting them to discussions about “male privilege, patriarchy, ‘the language of dominance,’ rape culture, pornography, machismo and other topics,” Fox adds.

The term “male identified” is a window into this poisonous mindset, one that first denies biological and chromosomal reality and then presumes that the default position for any man or boy who refuses to abide progressive assertions of gender “fluidity” is toxic.

And like every leftist effort to promote their odious agenda, a full-scale, coordinated propaganda campaign is an essential part of the mix. “The term ‘toxic masculinity’ has crept into the lexicon in the past 12 months, having appeared in mainstream news articles, popular feminist blogs and, as of November, the crowd-sourced online repository of slang words, Urban Dictionary,” columnist Hayley Gleeson explained in 2017. “Generally used to denote how some aspects of masculinity — such as entitlement, homophobia and sexual aggressiveness — can harm women and families and cripple men’s own health, toxic masculinity, at its most extreme edges, has been linked with acts of violence like mass shootings and university campus sexual assault.”

Cue the tie to the Parkland shooting. “As I read about [the assailant’s] passion for guns, I was not surprised,” declares columnist Ziad Ahmed. “As an American teenage boy, the gross glorification of violence, weapons, and arms in our culture is not the least bit surprising. In fact, it’s deeply entrenched into the idea of American masculinity, beginning as early as in elementary school.”

Really? American masculinity per se is at best entitled, homophobic and aggressive, and at worst homicidal? Such pernicious garbage can only be asserted by one almost wholly ignorant of American history. Boys were once allowed to embrace their natural rambunctiousness, but that now constitutes “abnormal” behavior requiring life-altering drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall to treat the nearly one in five children between the ages of four and 17 — overwhelmingly boys — who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

As for guns, Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said it best: “When I was in high school, every one of those rigs in the high-school parking lot had a gun in the gun rack. Why? We went hunting on the way home. None of those guns ever walked into a school, none of those guns ever shot anybody. … Did the gun change or did you as a society change?”

Society has certainly cultivated an unprecedented level of hypocrisy. How many of the same celebrities who attended last weekend’s anti-gun fest have starred in movies or written songs that glorify violence — and have armed security protecting them?

And while those very same purveyors of the pop culture glorify guns and violence, they also seek to undermine masculinity by producing entertainment containing “endless variations on the omega male, who ranks even below the beta in the wolf pack,” as columnist Hanna Rosin puts it.

Ironically, it’s most likely that the least hysterical progressive assertion about toxic masculinity is the one that is the most deleterious, as in the oft-stated feminist assertion that men are unnecessary. In their book, The Flipside of Feminism, authors Suzanne Venker and Phyllis Schlafly assert, “In the space of just a few decades American women have managed to demote men from respected providers and protectors to being unnecessary, irrelevant, and expendable.”

Unfortunately, more and more men are buying into that assertion. In 2016, NPR revealed more American men between the ages of 18 and 34 live with their parents than a spouse or partner, while the numbers for women are exactly reversed. In 2017, The Atlantic revealed that the 58%-42% ratio of men versus women attending college in the 1970s “has now almost exactly reversed.” A couple of weeks ago, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson illuminated an even deeper crisis, noting that men are dying younger, are fatter, kill themselves more often, and are imprisoned at far higher rates than women.

Government has aided and abetted the notion of expendability as well, and nothing did it better than Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative. Before the Great Society, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was reserved for widows, as a means of funding once-married women who had lost the primary male supporter of the family. Johnson and Congress changed the qualifications, making any household where there was no male family head present eligible for taxpayer subsidies.

The resulting tsunami of men failing to take responsibility for their own children has become irrefutable. In 1965, 24% of black children and 3.1% of white children were born out of wedlock. By 2013, those numbers had skyrocketed to 72% and 29%, respectively.

“Males in particular have been neutered by the Entitlement Society and the Welfare State,” Forbes Magazine asserted in 2015. “Groups which have the most contact with the welfare state, especially through various public assistance policies … have seen the greatest amount of male neutering,” the article adds.

One might conclude such neutering is a bug in the system. That conclusion is naïve. Toxic masculinity, beta male-worship and the wholesale destruction of the nuclear family engendered by “unnecessary” men is a feature of the progressive project that is all about the acquisition and maintenance of government power by any means necessary, even if it includes tossing self-reliant men — a trait now deemed to be “associated with negative mental health outcomes” by the American Psychological Association — on the ash heap of history.

Tucker Carlson spoke to the “elemental biology” of men and women needing each other. Progressives speak to the necessity of completely eliminating the terms “men” and “women” in pursuit of a utopian society that is really about “tearing away the old in search of the new, evidence be damned,” as columnist Ben Shapiro asserts.

Not evidence, Mr. Shapiro. Liberty.


Brown University Offers ‘Tuition-Free’ Master’s Degree to DACA Recipients

Brown University plans to offer “tuition-free” master’s degree programs to beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals if the federal government ends the Obama administration protections.

DACA, an executive action implemented by then-President Barack Obama, authorized renewable two-year deferrals of deportation along with eligibility for work permits for illegal immigrants brought to this country as children.

President Donald Trump sought to phase out the program and asked Congress to decide by law what to do about the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients and others like them.

“Should DACA be eliminated, we will create in-school and postgraduate opportunities for students unable to work legally to engage in stipend-supported research and education that is not citizenship-dependent,” Richard Locke, Brown University’s provost, said in a statement published on Today@Brown.

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

In the same post, Locke announced that the private Ivy League university in Providence, Rhode Island, will offer tuition-free, fifth-year master’s programs for eligible 2018 graduates.

“Admitted students would receive a stipend and health insurance,” he said.

Brown also offers to cover the $495 DACA renewal fee, “if renewal is an option,” as well as legal services for DACA recipients.

“I do think it’s problematic that the program is being offered exclusively to DACA students and not available to actual U.S. citizens, who may also be in need of support during a fifth year,” Brown freshman Jake Ruggiero said in a phone interview with The Daily Signal.

“I don’t see a problem with helping DACA students,” he said. “But this should occur in tandem with helping other Brown students who are in need and are already citizens.”

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said Brown’s program is both a legal and moral issue.

“Brown University is trying to obstruct and nullify federal law, which puts it in the same boat as segregationists in the old South,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal. “It is immoral to discriminate against American citizens in favor of aliens who are here illegally and have shown their contempt for the rule of law.”

Along with creating on-campus resources for DACA recipients, Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, wrote a letter to Trump urging the administration and Congress to preserve DACA.

According to the letter, staff said ending DACA would violate Brown University’s core values of service to the campus community and of providing opportunity in a  fair, courteous, responsive, and efficient way.

A Brown spokesman declined to comment further.

University staff also made clear in a statement that Brown does not share information with law enforcement regarding the immigration status of undocumented students, and would not do so unless presented with a subpoena.

Brown is not the only school to implement such programs. Willamette University in Oregon and the University of California at Berkeley both offer resource pages for DACA recipients.

According to the Naples (Florida) Daily News, the University of Miami will expand its financial aid program for immigrant students with DACA status to all high schools and transfer applicants from Florida beginning next fall.


For small, private colleges, fewer students means more worries

Brookline: Joseph Chillo has a luxurious office in a beautiful building with a view of a leafy neighborhood in this wealthy town. But while his perch may look idyllic, his job is not.

As the leader of Newbury College, a small, struggling, liberal arts college where enrollment has declined 86 percent over the past 20 years, he has a lot of sleepless nights.

Chillo worries about a lot of things: Will next fall’s crop of students materialize, will there be enough financial aid, which majors should be cut, how much will the school get for a building it is selling, and will that be enough to close a 10 percent budget deficit.

They are all facets of the same nagging question: How can schools like Newbury survive?

“This stuff keeps you up all hours,” Chillo said in an interview in his office recently. “It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week job. . . . You are constantly worrying about the institution.”

Chillo is among a growing number of presidents of imperiled small colleges fighting every way they know how to stay open. A Globe review of undergraduate enrollment trends across New England over the past 20 years shows that 20 percent of the 118 four-year, private colleges in the region have seen their enrollment drop by at least 10 percent.

Newbury College saw the biggest drop, except for two schools that merged with others so they now have no students at all. Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire lost 40 percent of its enrollment over the 20 years but still has 1,800 students. Other colleges survive on microscopic enrollments, like Boston Baptist College, which saw a lesser decline but has only 77 students, according to data from the US Department of Education data analyzed by the Globe.

The main reason these schools struggle is demographic. The number of high school graduates has been shrinking — and will continue to. Experts predict a major drop in the number of high school graduates overall after the year 2025 — especially in New England — because people have had fewer children since the 2008 economic recession.

The other thing these schools have in common: They are small and have relatively high tuitions, an increasingly hard sell as middle-class families struggle financially and think twice about debt.

“The demand for higher education is not rising like it was,” said Richard Vedder, a retired economics professor at Ohio University who studies trends in higher education.

Vedder predicts that 500 US colleges will close in the next decade. This will cause a rift in the industry, with titans such as Harvard untouched and much of the rest of the private college landscape decimated, he said. More families are looking toward large, public schools because they are more affordable.

Decades ago, when four-year degrees were less common, such a credential made a big difference in job and salary potential, so schools could charge more, Vedder said. But these days, data show the value of a degree from a relatively unknown college is much less.

“The benefits are sort of stagnant,” he said. “The costs are continuing to rise, and this is squeezing the schools that are less well endowed.”

Newbury has a $2 million endowment, tiny even for a school its size. Regis College, which just signed an academic partnership with Newbury, has a $34 million endowment. On the other end of the spectrum, Smith College has an endowment of $1.6 billion; Boston University, $1.96 billion; and Harvard, $38 billion. Tuition plus room and board at Newbury is around $47,000.

As they fight to survive, many struggling schools have employed several common tactics to try to resurrect their enrollments. They deploy social media marketing, expand financial aid if they can, and offer more practical majors that students believe will get them jobs.

Colleges have begun using aggressive recruiting techniques to lure students away from other schools. Some admissions officers visit the homes of admitted students with gifts and certificates, said Lawrence Jensen, president of the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vt. (His school does not do that, he said, but competitors do.) “It’s a much more concentrated, organized, deliberate attempt to stay in touch with the students,” Jensen said.

Springfield College saw a 26 percent drop in enrollment over the past two decades, from 2,844 to 2,114, but recently managed to stabilize its numbers and even saw an increase this year, to 2,228 according to Stuart Jones, the school’s vice president for enrollment management. Among other tactics, the school used targeted digital marketing to recruit a subset of students it believed was likely to attend, he said.

“The higher education industry is as competitive as any other industry in the country. It has become that way because revenue is paramount,” he said.

For most students, accepting a college’s offer boils down to how much financial aid a school offers them.

At the College of St. Joseph, enrollment dropped 32 percent over 20 years, from 336 students to 230, according to federal data. To help counter this trend, the school lowered tuition for students entering this fall, from $23,000 to $17,500. It will also give students a laptop and help pay for books.

Instead of lowering the sticker price, however, many schools deeply discount their tuition on a student-by-student basis. For example, tuition at Newbury is $33,000 per year, plus about $15,000 for room and board. The average discount at Newbury is 52 percent, Chillo said, meaning the college collects only about half the revenue that it could per student.

As a result, small schools nationwide saw lower growth in net tuition revenue than larger colleges in 2016, and that pattern is likely to continue, said Dennis M. Gephardt, a vice president-senior credit officer at Moody’s rating agency who specializes in higher education.

Gephardt said there will likely be more college closures and mergers to come, but not all at once or even quickly. There are ways for these schools to survive, or even thrive, with lower enrollment, he said, but it will be more difficult. For small schools with small endowments, the difference of a few students can be significant.


Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Gobbledegook in English Literature studies

written by S. A. Dance

Like any responsible book collector, I’m often forced to decide which books deserve a spot in my limited shelf space. During these purges, one type of book always gives me pause. These are the books I acquired during the two years I was a graduate student in comparative literature; books unheard of by most people outside of academia but, to many inside, akin to scripture; books by Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Giorgio Agamben, György Lukács, and Slavoj Žižek, to name just a few from the pantheon. I’ve held on to some thinking one day I might return to graduate school to complete a PhD, and what would a graduate student be without his copy of The Origin of the German Tragic Drama? But with a tenured teaching position, two kids, and a mortgage, I no longer entertain such fantasies. Now I’m free to finally make a confession: I never knew what these books were talking about.

The demands of my bourgeois existence grow with each passing year, and I didn’t want this little secret to metastasize each time I crossed paths with a true initiate or cracked open Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia to finally figure out “how anti-production appropriates the productive forces.” I realize that in making my confession, I may only prove my own obtuseness, but so be it. It has been quite cathartic so far.

My last book purge found me deciding the fate of Slavoj Žižek’s Tarrying With The Negative, a book I read in a class on Shakespeare and political theory. Žižek is known for threading pop culture, German idealism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis into a confounding tapestry. His pop culture references include kitsch like Kung-Fu Panda, and they lend his thoughts an air of accessibility. That air quickly dissipates, however. As a high school teacher, I know students understand a text if they can summarize its main point in a few sentences. I imagine a house guest surveying my bookshelf and, impressed by my erudition, asking, “What’s this Slavoj Žižek book about?” In a panic, I try to muster a coherent sentence about dialectics, Hegel, ideology, or something, but nothing comes. I quickly thumb through the book, looking at my copious annotations. Still nothing.

Turning to a random page reveals one reason I found it impenetrable: “In Reading Capital, Louis Althusser endeavored to articulate the epistemological break of Marxism by means of a new concept of causality, ‘overdetermination’: the very determining instance is overdetermined by the total network of relations within which it plays the determining role.” The first five words alone posed a significant barrier. I had never read Althusser’s Reading Capital and I had never read Marx’s Capital, which, perhaps, guaranteed my floundering in grad school given the pervasiveness of Marxist thought in the humanities. If my professors expected me to engage in any significant way with neo-Marxist theorists, they must have assumed I was intimately acquainted with Marx himself. I was not. I went to graduate school because I found studying literature exhilarating and fulfilling. In my undergraduate honors thesis I analyzed the significance of Herman Melville’s allusions to the Book of Job in Moby Dick. I wanted to do more of that: studying and understanding the great works of literature. Instead I was asked to understand how “The Althusserian ‘ideological interpellation’ designates the retroactive illusion of ‘always-already;’ the reverse of the ideological recognition is the misrecognition of the performative dimension.”

Since I couldn’t read Žižek to understand Žižek, I had to look elsewhere. The most lucid explanation is Roger Scruton’s essay “The Clown Prince of the Revolution,” in which he traces the influence of the dubious psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan on Žižek. Scruton explains Žižek’s main thesis throughout his corpus “We become self-conscious by an act of total negation: by learning that there is no subject…This is the aspect of Lacan that Žižek finds most exciting—the magic wand that conjures visions and promptly waves them to nothingness.” When Scruton observes that Žižek “is a lover of paradox,” he echoes Adam Kotsko’s analysis of Giorgio Agamben’s work: “[W]hat is most distinctive about Agamben’s style of thought comes from his love of paradox and contradiction.” The humanities professor and Agamben’s English translator admits that Agamben is really, really hard to understand but he believes this is a good thing. Concerning Agamben’s “study of animality,” The Open, Kotsko writes, “It’s not clear how all the pieces of Agamben’s argument fit together, but this only increases the book’s effectiveness for me: it’s not a definitive answer to the question of how humans and animals relate, but a book to think with.”

I quickly learned that, like Kotsko, many of my professors valued paradoxical and obscure arguments. And I got pretty good at making them. In an essay on Wallace Stevens, I concluded by asserting, “If everything is nothing, then that nothingness is everything. For poetry to encompass one, it encompasses the other. When Stevens’s mind of winter descends into the inescapable nothingness of his subjectivity, he has claimed for himself the totality of everything.” I don’t know what this means. But I wrote it and I was rewarded for it.

I knew my analysis of Wallace Stevens would please my professor, but I was bothered by a nagging thought that I really didn’t understand Wallace Stevens. I wondered if my graduate school training just amounted to a parlor trick. Last year, at my high school, the students enjoyed arguing if a hotdog is a sandwich, the millennial equivalent of asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The hotdog question made its way to the whiteboard in our staff lounge. By the time I arrived, my colleagues had written their responses. Some argued that a hot dog is not a sandwich because a sandwich requires two pieces of bread and a hotdog bun isn’t supposed to separate. Others averred that it most definitely is a sandwich: Meat between bread is a sandwich, end of story. I saw these responses and thought, “Simpletons!” before putting my graduate education to work: “In order to determine if a ‘hotdog is a sandwich,’ we must first determine the proper understanding of ‘is’ for if we do not grasp the ontological necessity of being itself, we fall into an abyss wherein ‘being’ is and is not itself and thus a hotdog is and is not a sandwich for it is and is not its very self.” I was quite amused by the whole situation until a colleague told me that a student had seen the whiteboard and said he wanted to study philosophy so that he could write like me.

The so-called Sokal Hoax was a clear indictment of the humanities’ love of nonsensical arguments. Physics professor Alan Sokal put to the test his hypothesis that something was afoul in the humanities. He wondered if “a leading North American journal of cultural studies [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions?” His article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” makes abundant use of Derrida and company, theoretical jargon, and paradoxes. He expounds, for example, “that any space-time point, if it exists at all, can be transformed into any other. In this way the infinite-dimensional invariance group erodes the distinction between observer and observed.” The farcical essay proved his hypothesis when it was published in the academic journal Social Text. When Sokal revealed the essay to be a hoax in the journal Lingua Franca, he blasted both the editors of Social Text, who “apparently felt no need to analyze the quality of the evidence, the cogency of the arguments, or even the relevance of the arguments to the purported conclusion,” and the state of the humanities where “incomprehensibility becomes a virtue; allusions, metaphors and puns substitute for evidence and logic.”

That was in 1996. The hoax continues, but now with unknowing pranksters. My Master’s degree is proof. Like Sokal, I got away with nonsense cloaked in a semblance of meaning. In constructing this illusion of comprehension, I also got away with some downright atrocious prose. In an essay on Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Towards A Minor Literature, I eked out this abomination: “Similar to Kafka’s use of German, Wole Soyinka wrote ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ in English and not Yoruba, his mother tongue. The implications for this are immense, and the deterritorialization is not merely a theoretical suggestion but infects and plays a role within the represented, diegetic world of the play.” I might have gone through my entire graduate school career writing like that had my advisor not been the department curmudgeon, who would not tolerate unparallel sentence structure or a single dangling modifier. It is possible I never would have crossed paths with such a relic, and surely many graduate students never do.

Of course, my horrendous style was a symptom of my failure to understand anything of significance in what I was reading. (I don’t know what “deterritorialization” or “diegetic” mean.) I see pretentious prose masking empty thinking in my high school students’ writing. I often read sentences like this: “The persistent continuance of racially prejudiced ideologies in the minds of many Americans has only diminished to small degrees or some might think not even at all.” Clearly, the student meant to write “racism is still a problem in America,” but, realizing the banality of this statement, injected it with prepositional phrases and multisyllabic words. This style of writing is almost encouraged in graduate school. Theorists, by and large, write sloppily. And the prose I ingested, I spewed out. Derrida, for example, writes in On Grammatology:

Unless my project has been fundamentally misunderstood, it should be clear by now that, caring very little about Ferdinand de Saussure’s very thought itself, I have interested myself in a text whose literality has played a well known role since 1915, operating within a system of readings, influences, misunderstandings, borrowings, refutations, etc. What I could read—and equally what I could not read—under the title of A Course in General Linguistics seemed important to the point of excluding all hidden and “true” intentions of Ferdinand de Saussure.

If a Jack Derrida wrote that in my English class, he would have some considerable revisions to do. I would suggest the following:

I am interested in an influential text from 1915: Ferdinand de Saussure’s A Course in General Linguistics. My interpretation of this much-discussed text is quite important even if it disregards Saussure’s true intentions.

The second sentence remains a bit vague, but without asking him his “true” intentions, I’m not sure I can improve it further.

George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” so clearly explains the causes and consequences of bad writing, that it’s no surprise I read it for the first time after leaving graduate school. He observes that “[Our language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” The bad and predictable style “will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.” Obscure arguments and poor style exclude independent thought and new ideas. Orwell would not be surprised to see the poor style and the growing intolerance to free speech in many of our universities today.

Of course, I should have known what I was getting into. In 1989, Robert Alter lamented the eclipse of literary scholarship by theoretical language games in his book Pleasure of Reading in an Ideological Age. The research done in most English departments, he observed, no longer cares to “engage the literary work in its subtle and compelling specificity but rather to use it as a prooftext for preconceived, and all too general, views.” He estimates that “many young people now earning undergraduates degrees in English or French . . . have read two or three pages of Lacan, Derrida, Foucault, and Kristeva for every page of George Eliot or Stendhal.”

That estimate is too conservative by today’s standards. I’ve never read George Eliot or Stendhal and I have a Master’s. Free from academia, I should begin studying literature again. It’s time to ditch the Žižek.


Why raising my son made me question what female empowerment is doing to boys

My son Fin is four. He loves reading, endlessly plays with Lego and has developed a sudden and surprising obsession with bats.

Needless to say, I adore him — and am trying to raise him, like the good feminist I am, to empathise with others, articulate his emotions without fear or repression and to play with pink prams if he wants to.

It recently occurred to me, however, that if I had a daughter I might be more concerned with passing on different messages.

Just as my own mother repeatedly told me throughout my youth, I would be advising my daughter of the importance of being independent, becoming educated, earning her own money and not relying on anyone. I would be encouraging her to be strong.

But I'm not teaching my son any of those sorts of things. Why? I suppose I've always thought it was a given that males will grow up to be strong and independent, self-sufficient and confident, no matter what messages they receive in childhood.

Only recently have I started to feel decidedly uncomfortable with my own preconceptions about gender.

While I passionately believe that, after years of discrimination, women and young girls deserve a chance to shine and to be cheered on to achieve whatever their heart desires, I can't help feeling that in the process, we're in danger of swinging too far the other way. In empowering girls, we're also disempowering our boys.

So keen have I been to bring my son up to appreciate female achievement and to know that women can be strong, that I've been reading him a collection of children's books called Little People, Big Dreams.

Sumptuously illustrated hardbacks, they take the life stories of famous women in history — artist Frida Kahlo, authors Agatha Christie and Maya Angelou, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and others — and retell them in a child-friendly way.

Fin enjoys them because they're great stories about people who change things, and is too young yet to notice that these books are all about women.

But while reading them to him before bed, I've been feeling a little odd. While I know that regular history books have long been criticised for ignoring women and being too male-centric, I'm not sure the answer is to present our children with girls-only books.

Doesn't that only succeed in perpetuating the original problem — but for boys, rather than girls? Are we just reinforcing gender stereotypes, albeit in the other direction?

The Little People collection has been such a success that it's spawned many copycat books, which devotedly tell the stories of great women of science, sport, politics and more. They are in the same spirit as so many deserving schemes that aim to inspire girls to reach for the stars, be it professionally or intellectually.

And my feminist heart applauds the intentions of such initiatives. Yet as a mother of a young son, I can't help but worry.

While we're all happy to talk about our desire for 'strong women' in society these days, I'm ashamed to admit that I somehow feel disconcerted to hear someone discuss a 'strong man'.

Because, if I'm honest, when hearing the words 'strong man' I subconsciously think of negative connotations — things like misogyny or bullying. But when I hear the words 'strong woman', I think of victory over oppression.

So engrained has this divide become that any display of male strength seems almost discouraged. And when I imagine Fin growing up, that doesn't sit well with me.

Why? Well, it seems we already have a lost generation of boys, a whole underclass of disenfranchised young men who don't know where they're going in life or what their purpose is. Surely every mother wants her son to appreciate that women can be strong and successful — but no one wants a situation where young boys simply don't know what it is to be a strong and successful man, either.

Other mothers are similarly unnerved about their sons' futures in this new landscape. Recently, someone told me of a picture she'd seen on Instagram — a woman, posing with her young son and daughter. The smiling mother and daughter are wearing t-shirts declaring 'The Future is Female'. Meanwhile, her son looks decidedly lost and perplexed, perhaps uneasy at the thought of a future where he is seemingly obsolete.

Shouldn't the future be about change? Or ideas? Not one gender over another?

I suppose you could say I was raised to believe the future was, indeed, female. From a young age, my mother made sure that I knew I could be anything I wanted to be, I just had to work for it — albeit harder than the boys in my class.

Otherwise, my childhood was entirely average — I grew up in East Anglia, went to a local comprehensive and my best friends from school, both male and female, are still my best friends today.

Gender roles in our house were pretty distinct: my father, an electrician, left for work at 4.30am most mornings and my mother only ever worked part-time, around school hours. As for careers advice, well, in common with most children whose parents worked hard in manual jobs, there was a limited awareness of what options I had.

I was told I could be a doctor, lawyer or accountant. I was a fan of the U.S. drama Ally McBeal at the time, starring Calista Flockhart as a lawyer, so I went with lawyer. When I qualified, the first partner I worked for happened to be not only the youngest partner at the firm, but also a woman. She was astute and inspirational, and I wanted to be like her — and with her example, never felt my gender would hold me back.

That changed when I started working as a lawyer for a technology firm, where I was often the only woman in the room. I was frequently talked over, and in one tax structuring meeting, was asked to fetch the sugar (yes, really).

It only made me work harder, and I became deputy CEO, next to the male founder.

Motherhood changed me — not least professionally, because it inspired me to set up my app Peanut, a social network that connects like-minded women who happen to be mothers.

I'm married and we share parenting equally, but I felt isolated when I had Fin in 2013. My friends either didn't have children yet, or didn't live locally. I often felt lonely and bored — and then guilty for feeling this way.

If I was desperate for an app like Peanut, other mothers would be too, I reasoned.

But motherhood also forced me to confront preconceptions about gender that had become embedded over the years.

I admit that when I discovered I was having a son, I worried about not having anything in common with him. All the things I loved as a child — drama, ballet — seemed decidedly girly. I felt terribly concerned I didn't know anything about football.

And then Fin was born and I realised that, just like the male sexists I'd met throughout my life and career, I, too, had quickly reduced my son to a stereotype. Because he's not just a predictable boisterous 'boy' of clichי. He's his own person.

He's not like me — not because he is a boy, but because he is an individual. His endearing shyness, his lovely bookishness have nothing to do with his gender. They're part of his personality.

And yet I, a lifelong champion of equality, still find myself falling back on stereotypes when caring for him. For example, I admit I have told him more than once 'big boys don't cry'. I would never dream of saying the equivalent to a four-year-old girl.

Imagine then, how I felt, when Fin's nursery teacher told me of an incident when he had somehow become physically entangled with another boy. She offered him a cuddle because he was upset, which he stoically refused — and when told it was OK to be sad, my little four-year-old, red-faced with anguish, permitted one solitary tear to run down his cheek.

I felt terrible. Because it seems that while society is trying to allow girls to be all things — strong, independent, emotional, empathetic — we will only permit boys to show aggression or boisterousness.

Yet any mother will tell you her boy can be just as sweet and vulnerable as a girl, and that the complex, wonderful reality of a son challenges any football-obsessed clichי that exists.

Of course, girls still all too often come off badly when it comes to stereotyping. Boys are described as 'assertive' and 'inquisitive'; girls are quickly deemed 'bossy' and 'talkative'.

I should know — I was one of those little chatterbox girls.

It's also inarguable that while things are changing for girls, boys appear to be in limbo.

I recently read a comment from comedian and writer Michael Ian Black which summed up just this situation: 'The last 50 years redefined womanhood … [but there was] no commensurate movement for men, who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated, model of masculinity. Men are adrift … and nobody is talking about it.'

Black's words really struck a chord with me, as they should any mother. Indeed, with what he says in mind, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the attainment gap between boys and girls is growing ever larger.

A girl born today is 75 per cent more likely than a boy to proceed to higher education. Previously male-dominated professions are becoming distinctly female. Two out of three new GPs are women and, among lawyers, more than three in five trainees are female.

Yes, some of this is certainly down to righting the wrongs of a past where women were restricted to being nurses and secretaries; and yes, there are still industries where there is a lack of diversity — engineering and architecture to name just two.

But overall, has it meant some boys and young men are languishing intellectually and aspirationally? Are the seeds of this sown from the earliest days of primary school, where just 15 per cent of teachers are male?

We mustn't forget that the true definition of feminism is equality. Yet last year, 71 per cent of female GCSE entries were awarded at least a C grade, compared with just 61.5 per cent of boys. Attempting to address that gap shouldn't be seen as anti-women.

I'm thrilled so much has changed for women since those days when my mother told me how important it was that I grew up to be independent. We're still many decades away from true gender parity in the UK. I don't have all the answers. But I do know men are not the enemy.

I know this for sure because one day my lovely, sweet-natured son will be a man. And I want him to accomplish whatever he wants, not because of his gender, but because of his self-worth.


Study of High School mathematics declining in Australia

This could be fixed by giving double weight to STEM courses.  Pretending that they are no more valuable than literature courses is fantasy

In the warm-up before ABC’s Q&A a couple of weeks ago, panel members were asked which subject they liked least at school. Almost all nominated maths or chemistry. Few people would be surprised at this. Maths gets a bad rap, and many school students drop it like a scorching spud as soon as they get the chance.

Media reported this week that the proportion of students taking higher level maths for the NSW Higher School Certificate has declined over the past 10 years, continuing a long-term trend across Australia. This is despite the greater academic prestige that tends to be attached to what is now called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) — as pointed out by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes in a speech that attracted heated debate.

The drop in students’ maths skills is not just an academic problem. A report released by Engineers Australia says the drop in participation in STEM subjects at a level sufficient to allow studying engineering at university is affecting Australia’s capacity to produce qualified engineers, and resulting in an over-reliance on skilled migration, which carries some risks. Permanent and temporary migration accounts for almost two thirds of new engineers, who are crucial in numerous areas of the economy, both present and future.

Engineers Australia recommends that students be ‘encouraged’ to study advanced and intermediate maths and science to Year 12. Unfortunately, encouragement is not enough; the seeds of participation in high cognitive demand courses are sown early in school.

The typical response to this sort of recommendation is to make maths and science more appealing by using ‘hands-on’, inquiry approaches to teaching; but this is misguided. Study after study has shown that explicit instruction is more effective, and is more likely to give children a sense of self-efficacy (these days called ‘growth mind set’) and confidence in their abilities. Once children have achieved mastery through methodical and sequential teaching, inquiry can be useful — but not before.

Preoccupation with inquiry learning as the solution to all our educational problems is associated with the cliché that traditional, teacher-directed approaches are an out-dated “industrial model” of education that is unsuited to the modern world.

The irony of this is not lost on cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham who put it this way: “Apparently schools are bad because 100 years ago evil corporations duped them into prepping workers for factories. And the solution is to emphasize cooperative, creative work, because that’s what present-day, non-evil corporations say is needed for jobs of the future. Got it.”


Monday, April 02, 2018

A Quiet Win at the U.S. Department of Education

It’s been a tough stretch for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. DeVos looked overmatched in a big 60 Minutes interview just when memories of her abysmal confirmation hearing were fading. She was rebuffed by a Republican Congress in the new federal budget, and she has struggled to make her case in heated debates over student discipline and school safety. The ensuing cascade of negative coverage has been unfortunate, not least because it obscures some of the quieter things that have gone right on DeVos’s watch.

In a noteworthy development, DeVos’s team this month radically revamped the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) that governs the 3,900 employees at the U.S. Department of Education. The new CBA, between the department and Council 252 of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), includes big changes from the 2013 agreement negotiated under the Obama administration.

The new agreement doesn’t address compensation or benefits, of course, since those are governed by federal law, but it does include a raft of sensible, taxpayer-friendly changes.

The new CBA eliminates the set-aside of “official time” for union business. Under the old agreement, designated union representatives were free to work on union business during normal, government hours — all on the taxpayers’ dime. The old CBA stipulated that “no fewer than 75” (!) union stewards across the country could work up to 40 hours a year on “official time,” while another three union officers would devote 100 percent of their time to union business. Henceforth, union business will be done on union time, rather than on the taxpayers’.

Under the old agreement, department employees were given only a solitary 48-hour window each year in which they could opt out of union membership; miss that, and they were automatically enrolled. Henceforth, employees who wish to be in the union each year will be free to do so, and they will have an extended period in which to enroll — but they will have to actively choose to join.

The revamped accord also removes the requirements for “pre-decisional consultation.” Under the previous CBA, the department was required to consult the union before every agency-wide decision that could be construed as affecting the work of employees (such as transferring employees from one office to another, or even shifting employees from one project to another within the same office). Now, the department needs only notify the union of such decisions.

Under the new CBA, the union will be charged “fair-market rent” for the use of government office space and federally furnished equipment to conduct union business. Under the Obama-era accord, taxpayers were required to provide space and equipment to the union free of charge.

More generally, the new agreement removes a number of provisions that added burdensome procedural directives above and beyond statutory requirements when it came to things such as telework and grievance procedures.

Now, the story isn’t yet finished. AFGE Council 252 has filed a complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), alleging that the department improperly moved to unilaterally impose the new CBA. However, a senior Department of Education official familiar with the negotiations dismisses the claim as unfounded.

The senior official explains that the Education Department was able to adopt the new agreement because the union has consistently refused to sit down at the negotiating table, forfeiting its standing under federal law. In October 2016, while President Obama was still in office, the department’s labor-relations team gave formal notice that it wished to negotiate a new CBA. From that time to December 2017 — when the previous CBA technically expired — the process went nowhere as the union was unable or unwilling to agree on ground rules for the negotiation.

In February 2018, the department offered to negotiate its proposed new CBA; the union refused, insisting it preferred to continue haggling over ground rules. Consequently, on March 9, 2018, the department informed AFGE Council 252 that — in accord with federal law — since the old agreement had expired, they’d be implementing the new CBA starting March 12.

For all the union caterwauling — the AFGE has denounced the new CBA “an illegal management edict” — the department appears to be on solid ground. According to the Federal Employment Law Training Group (FELTG), which trains both agency and union practitioners, this scenario represents “the Civil Service Reform Act playing out just the way it was written back in 1978.” As FELT puts it:

Management notifies the Union of an intended change to employee working conditions.

Upon demand by the Union, Management enters into bargaining regarding those parts of the change that are negotiable.

If Management and the Union cannot reach agreement (i.e., reach an impasse), Management notifies the Union of its final offer.
If the Union does not respond by initiating the impasse resolution procedures provided for by law, Management has the right to implement the change without further bargaining.

Indeed, the FLRA has ruled previously that, when a union refuses to negotiate in a timely fashion following an agency notice, the agency is free to implement policy changes.

Time will tell how things play out before the FLRA. But, with talk of teacher strikes cropping up across the land, it’s a propitious moment to distinguish between better pay for professionals and contractual perks that serve neither practitioners nor taxpayers. On this count, DeVos’s team has taken a meaningful step in the service of responsible management — one deserving of an extended look from the nation’s educational leaders.


How the Trump Administration Is Protecting Free Speech on College Campuses

Sarah Flores spoke at the White House’s Generation Next forum for millennials Thursday. As director of the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, she spoke about free speech on colleges campuses and the opioid crisis. The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Harkness and The Federalist’s Bre Payton also asked her about being a “problematic woman.” An edited transcript of the interview is below.

Kelsey Harkness: We’re coming to you from the White House. There’s an event happening that’s focusing on millennials, so I wanted to start out this interview by asking about a recent action the Justice Department took on behalf of millennials on college campuses relating to free speech. Take it away.

Sarah Flores: We have this crisis across the country that’s just not getting the coverage that it should, frankly, and I’m so glad that you are talking about it, and obviously incredibly grateful to the president for hosting this event today, because I think it is so important.

I think if we were in college right now, we would be having a very different experience, or at least I know I would, because I spoke my mind in college. Right now, you can get expelled for that; you can get shut down for that.

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

What the Justice Department has done is tried to find those most egregious cases and filed what we call a statement of interest. But think of it as an amicus brief or a friend of the plaintiff, or defendant in some cases, to show that the federal government has an interest in protecting free speech on these college campuses.

The most recent one that’s certainly been a famous school for doing this is Berkeley. In that case, if you want to bring a speaker to campus, you’re the head of College Republicans, and you want to bring a speaker that they deem might be controversial on campus, well, you can’t have it at certain hours, you can’t have it at certain places.

What that means is, if the school thinks that you have a different viewpoint, they can really shut down your speech based on a hecklers’ veto idea. Which is really terrifying, because what’s the point of college if you can’t explore new ideas and challenge your viewpoint that you came to college with?

So, we feel pretty strongly about it. We filed in at least three of these cases. In another one, a student was handing out the U.S. Constitution and the school said he didn’t have a permit to do that, so he can’t hand out the Constitution.

Harkness: Now, are these all public schools that you’re engaging in? Are you engaging with private schools on this issue?

Flores: We have filed in public school cases, but obviously private schools accept a lot of federal dollars as well. I don’t think you’ve seen the end of this issue for public or private schools.

Bre Payton: Yeah, certainly. And with the ongoing opioid crisis that is overtaking the country now, more people are dying of opioids than of breast cancer. What are some of the additional steps that the Department of Justice has been taking under Attorney General Jeff Sessions to combat what’s going on?

Flores: Well, part of the reason I’m here today and you don’t get Jeff Sessions is because he’s actually in Tallahassee right now talking about opioids. Tomorrow, he’s visiting a neonatal unit in Birmingham, Alabama, to visit babies who were born addicted to opioids. The statistics on this are incredibly heartbreaking and they’re growing. The president has told us to take a lead on this as an administration and to end this crisis.

One thing that I think your viewers in particular would be interested in is we have a team called the J-CODE team, which I like the name, because it sounds cool. It sounds like we could have a sitcom on it. The J-CODE team, though, specifically targets online darknet elicit fentanyl-type websites that are selling these.

We had a 13-year-old boy die in Utah recently because the drugs that were ordered online, I know, shockingly, weren’t what they said they were. They had fentanyl in them; he overdosed and died. I think it’s really hard to imagine what those parents must have gone through. Did you even know you could order fentanyl on the internet?

Harkness: I didn’t know you could order drugs online. News to me.

Flores: We had two … actually, a prosecution today. One in San Diego, another in Ohio. The Ohio one I think will just blow your mind.

They arrested someone with three pounds of fentanyl and charged them with this. Three pounds of fentanyl is enough to kill everyone in the city of Toledo several times over. That is how powerful this stuff is, so what the president’s message has been is, “Don’t start.”

There’s rehab, and there’s treatment, and there’s all these things that are so important, but the best way to not get addicted and to not end up as one of these statistics: Don’t start.

Payton: I guess he’s taking that example, too, right? Doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do anything. Just not going to risk it. Speaking of the dark web, you and I were talking a little bit earlier about just human trafficking issues. What are some steps that the Department of Justice is doing or what’s a message that the DOJ would like to send to Americans about this issue?

Flores: Well, we have a lot of resources dedicated to human trafficking. It’s one of those issues that really lives below the surface; it’s not something that I think a lot of people see every day as they drive around, but it is every day.

The Super Bowl is probably the No. 1 day for human trafficking in the country. We have this huge sports event and everyone’s watching the Super Bowl and what you’re not seeing is what’s happening behind the scenes. I think it can be a silent crisis. The thing that I would say to you guys and to your viewers when it comes to human trafficking: It is a see something, say something problem. If you think something doesn’t look right—people who are being trafficked don’t wear T-shirts that say, “I am a human trafficking victim”—it’s up to us to all ask questions.

These girls can be young. MS-13, a gang that the president has talked a lot about, they traffic girls as young as 12-years-old. They’re in your junior high school, they’re in your high school. It’s up to all of us to ask questions and raise alarm bells, because while law enforcement does an incredibly impressive job with this, they can’t be everywhere the way that we all can.

Harkness: It seems like, so often, people are looking to the government for the solutions. But on this case, you’re saying the most important thing that members of your local communities is to really be aware that human trafficking is happening and then keep our eyes out for it. We appreciate that message and we will do our part to spread it.

I want to ask, in spirit of our podcast, “Problematic Women,” first off: Is that something you would perhaps identify with? Do you view yourself as, at times, problematic? What was it like coming in to the Justice Department? What’s your experience been like?

Flores: I think other people will have described me as a problematic woman throughout my career. I hope they have, actually. I think that means you’re probably doing something right along the way. So, love being with you; I think that’s really fun.

I came from a campaign background. Political background. Campaigns are startups; it’s why I always tell young people, particularly college-age folks, “Try a campaign.” Just go do it for a summer for a couple months. If you find it addictive and love it, great. If you don’t, you had a cool time in random state whatever.

So, you go from this really startup mentality to … the Department of Justice. It has 115,000 employees, and it does important work. Every day you feel like you’re making a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s reducing crime, or fighting the opioid epidemic, or protecting the border, national security. There’s so much cool, important stuff we do every day.

But, yes, 115,000 people is a large number of people to move into categories, but the most fun part of my job every day is working with Jeff Sessions, who is so much fun. He is really funny behind the scenes. I think he’s pretty funny on camera, too. Last week we watched one of the SNL skits about him and he died laughing.

There’s little moments that you’re going to remember when you’re in these jobs and take with you. Those are the really good days and days you’re really excited to be in this job, even if it’s not quite the startup mentality that you’re used to.

Payton: Something we always like to ask guests, too, is we talk about feminism and what feminism means to you. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Or is that label a little bit troublesome? What do you think about all that?

Flores: That’s tough, because I feel like, as conservative women, of course. I feel like it goes without saying; of course we believe that women should have the same opportunities as men.

Payton: Exactly, right.

Flores: Then it’s just a question of, “Do you wanna take back the term feminist so that that is what it’s supposed to mean?” In that sense, yeah, I’m a feminist.

But that’s not what we use it as in our society anymore. It has been so hijacked. So, I don’t know if I’m on team take back the word or team define your own word. I know what I am and I think I know what we are, and I know what conservative women are. I don’t think we’ve ever been particularly bothered by labels or we probably wouldn’t be here in the first place.


Radical gender propaganda fed to Australian trainee teachers

IF you’re wondering how we’ve reached the alarming point where children are coming home from school confused about whether they are girls or boys, look no further than what one university is teaching its trainee teachers.

At the University of Technology, Sydney, first year students studying primary and secondary school teaching are obliged in their first semester this year to take a compulsory course called “Beyond Culture: Diversity in Context”.

Taught by two baby boomer academics with PhDs, Dr Wendy Holland and Dr Myra Dunn, the course thus far this year has delivered lectures on the topics of gender fluidity, race and identity.

In Week 3, in a lecture titled “Exploring Gender,” students were provided with Powerpoint notes which are mind-boggling, unscientific propaganda straight from the academic fringes of gender theory.

These UTS trainee teachers were taught that there are two views of gender.

One view, dismissed with just 13 words in the 15-page PowerPoint document, is described as “Essentialist”, and holds that ‘gender’ is “fixed and biologically determined … set at birth”. In other words, it describes reality as experienced by at least 99.7 per cent of people (not to mention animals).

The other view, which is the subject of the rest of the lecture, is described as “Constructivist”. It sees gender as “socially constructed, fluid and dynamic … a construct of language and discourse.”

The lecture goes on to claim that biological sex “Exists on a
spectrum, with genitalia, chromosomes, gonads and hormones” merely “playing a role”.

It says about one in 100 people are born neither male nor female.

This is just not correct. According to the British Medical Journal, citing a 1975 chromosomal study of 14,069 newborn infants, “The incidence of genital ambiguity that results in the child’s sex being uncertain is 1 per 4500”, that is 0.02 per cent. So the UTS gender lecture is only wrong by a factor of 50.

As for “gender identity”, the most generous statistics across the world show up to 0.3 per cent of people identify as transgender.

In Australia, in the 2016 Census, just 3,700 people identified themselves as a gender other than male or female, which is a rate of 16 per 100,000 people or just 0.016 per cent. Even then, only one third of those were “validated as intentional” answers.

Back to the UTS lecture notes which:

— Included a glossary of 21 terms such as genderqueer, genderfluid and cisgender and refers to the Safe Schools website, even though the controversial program has been banned in NSW.

— Said referrals to gender clinics have “skyrocketed (e.g. Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne: 1 in 2003 — 100 in 2014”.

- Advised “policing gender roles” in preschool

— Claimed that allowing children “free play” can “reinforce gender stereotypes”.

Trainee teachers who questioned any of the material were told the subject was “more a thinking subject, not a content subject”.

“The table I was sitting at in my tutorial was in a bit of shock,” said one student who asked not to be named. “I thought, ‘I’m not being taught how to be a good teacher.’”

The trainee teachers were also taught to keep an eye out for “sport and male hegemony [and] who dominates various playground areas?”

And they were encouraged to teach children about gender using “a wide range of resources that reflect diversity — e.g. The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch, William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow; units about families reflecting diversity of possibilities — two mums, single dads, etc.”

In other words, UTS is training the next generation of students in pure gender theory, a doctrine that holds that there is no such thing as biological sex, as in male or female, but a fluid continuum which changes at whim.

Gender theory holds that gender identity, gender expression and sexual preference exist independently of biological sex. If you don’t believe that you are “heteronormative” which is a bad thing, like being a bigot.

Gender theory is part of a variant of Marxist philosophy called “post modernism” which looks like a utopian substitute for religion, according to historian Keith Windschuttle, who says the ideas arose in the sexual revolution of the 1960s but only took off “after the fall of that other religion substitute, communism, in 1989-90”.

Canadian psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson has said that postmodernists view the world as made up of fragmented identity groups, divided into victims (according to race, gender and sexual preference) and oppressors (straight white males).

“Postmodernists have replaced Marxist claims of economic oppression with claims of identity oppression.

“Part of the postmodern attempt is to undermine the … classical social structures in the same way a Marxist wants to produce a revolution in a capitalist society to undermine the central power structures by whatever means are necessary.”

This radical ideology which turns science, logic and reason on its head is not about being compassionate to a tiny minority of transgender people. Quite the opposite.

It uses them as tools to coerce the rest of us to go along with the lie that biological sex does not exist.

Schoolchildren are at the frontline of this war on truth, as we saw with the Safe Schools program which posed as an anti-bullying program but was really about brainwashing children in gender theory.

“Gender identity policies can quickly generate politically correct speech codes in schools and workplaces,” writes Ryan Anderson, in his new book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.”

“Antibullying” programs can turn into antidisagreement programs. Dissent is equated with bigotry and hate, so no dissent will be tolerated. All students must accept gender ideology, and their parents will have no say in the matter.”

Most of the UTS trainee teachers are school leavers, aged 18 or 19. Some could be heard complaining as they walked out of the lecture theatre. “This is absolute bullshit” said one young man. “This is ridiculous. It’s so stupid.”

Yes, the ideology is all that, but it’s also creeping into every school, successfully warping the minds of children when they are at their most vulnerable, and is rapidly being mandated in new speech codes and law