Friday, April 27, 2018

UNREAL: Parkland Teacher Compared Pro-Gun Survivor To Hitler During Class

Kyle Kashuv, one of the few Pro-Second Amendment survivors of the Parkland, Florida High School shooting, tweeted on Wednesday about attacks from one of the tolerant history teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Two students have now confirmed the teacher compared Kashuv to Hitler in a rant that lasted around ten minutes during class.

Kashuv tweeted, “So… I just got a call from a friend of mine from @GregPittman1957’s class and he apparently compared me to Hitler in class and said I am a piece of crap. The rant was about 10-minutes during class time and how he was right and I was wrong with my comments…”

The Daily Wire reported:

According to the high school junior, who sought to remain unnamed for fear of reprisal, Pittman stated that posting photos from a gun range would get you into trouble, and then went on to “compare Kyle to Hitler in terms of what he believes.”

This is insanity. Teachers attacking students in the classroom for their mainstream political beliefs is obviously beyond the pale. It remains to be seen whether the high school administration will call Pittman on the carpet in the same way school security called Kashuv on the carpet for outside-of-school activities.

The history teacher, Greg Pittman, may need to brush up a bit on his history knowledge.

One user pointed out an obvious, yet difficult fact for the left to understand, “Hitler murdered 6 million Jews after he disarmed them, what are they teaching at your school?”

The Daily Wire then received confirmation from another student of the class:

I was in class on April 25th with Gregory Pittman and near the end of class the discussion led to Kyle Kashuv’s tweet about going to the gun range. Pittman expressed that he could not speak badly about Kyle because he was specifically told by administration not to. Pittman began talking about what an ass Kyle was and called him “the next Hitler” and said that he was “dangerous” and something needed to be done about him.

Welcome to the wonderful world of public education where Democrats indoctrinate students into their views.

It’s starting to seem pretty standard for Democrats to call anyone they disagree with “Hitler.” Just asked Donald Trump.


Fight over controversial speaker lands at Skidmore College
'Free speech' signs taken down, defaced

A group of Skidmore College students are pressing forward with a plan to bring a controversial Canadian academic to campus in the fall – a plan that has stirred outrage among other students.

Freshman Madelyn Streb is among the students trying to bring Jordan Peterson, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, to the college for a speaking event. Peterson has been hailed as a powerful public intellectual by his supporters and denounced as peddling hateful, far-right politics by his detractors.

Streb said she thinks Peterson would challenge Skidmore students intellectually and would draw interest from within and outside the school community.

“I’ve been to talks on campus. The people they bring are puff people,” she said. “It doesn’t draw interest. It doesn’t draw students. It doesn’t challenge you to think.”

She has the support of the Skidmore College Republicans – that group’s vice president said they would sponsor the Peterson visit if need be – but she has also experienced resistance from other Skidmore students who argue Peterson represents racist, misogynistic and transphobic views.

Opposition to Peterson, who has raised ire on both sides of the border over comments about transgender students and other subjects, was formally articulated in an online petition aimed at keeping him from visiting the college.

“There is monumental opposition to this, as Dr. Peterson has made a career of peddling paleo-fascist, outdated, social-Darwinist pseudoscience to the alt- and far-right,” Skidmore student Darien Watson wrote in the introduction to the online petition that drew more than 350 signatures. “His thinly-veiled racism, classism, misogyny, and blatant transphobia have no place at Skidmore College.”

Watson wrote that the petition and a letter written by Skidmore students “who would be affected by, excluded from, and appalled at Dr. Peterson’s visit,” would be delivered to Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach. (Watson did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article.)

Watson and other opponents of Peterson pointed to his opposition to a Canadian law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and extends hate speech protections to transgendered people. At the time, Peterson argued controlling and compelling speech was a step toward tyranny and suggested he wouldn’t refer to students by their preferred gender pronouns.

Those positions should disqualify him from speaking at Skidmore, the students suggest.

“For the vast majority of marginalized people, politics cannot be separated from real life,” Watson wrote in the petition. “A lecture delivered by a man who purposefully disrespects trans identities by intentionally misgendering them is not a lecture for all students.”

It’s unclear whether Peterson will ever make it to Skidmore. Streb and other students are applying for grants to help support Peterson’s $35,000 speaking fee – up from $15,000 when Streb first explored bringing him to campus earlier this school year.

A GoFundMe page Streb set up had raised just $475, as of Tuesday, but she said she and others pushing for Peterson to visit Skidmore are confident they will come up with the money. Streb and David Solovy, vice president of the Skidmore College Republicans, said they have received assurances from an outside organization that it would cover much of the cost, but they didn’t specify the organization.

“I don’t believe that money will be an issue ... the issue is more the social repercussions on campus,” said Streb, who comes from Andover, Massachusetts., and studies neuroscience.

They also held out the possibility that Skidmore administrators could quash a Peterson visit by asking the student organizers to also pay for security for any speaking event.

Solovy pegged the chances that a Peterson visit would materialize at “60/40,” while Streb thinks it's more like an 80 percent chance.

“If we do end up not being able to bring him, I hope we can say we tried our best -- gave it our all,” Solovy said.

College officials said in a response to questions that the administration does not generally approve or deny invitations to speakers, which are usually made by formal campus organizations. But they also raised the issue of security costs and suggested free speech can be promoted in many ways.

“The college would not support a speaker whose presence on campus presented issues of physical safety or would require extraordinary resources to assure the physical safety of the speaker or others,” college spokeswoman Diane O’Connor said in an email response to questions. “We encourage students to engage our community in conversations about issues of free speech, and there are other ways of doing so, besides bringing a specific individual to campus.”

Streb and Solovy said they have faced “vile” comments on social media from students who oppose their efforts. They also said that, as the controversy was heating up over the winter, they placed dozens of signs around campus that said “free speech.” Those signs were torn down or defaced, they said. They put up more signs, which they said were also torn down or vandalized.

Streb said the response she has seen doesn’t seem to fit with the values espoused by a liberal arts college like Skidmore.

“I thought the motto that ‘creative thought matters’ would be taken under consideration,” Streb said, referring to the school’s motto. “For a community that preaches open-mindedness, it’s actually quite closed-minded.”

But they also said they felt they had already accomplished something by just presenting their plans for a Peterson visit, arguing the debate has spurred discourse about free speech and how students should engage with controversial speakers.

Peterson, who has posted more than 100 lectures on his YouTube page, is seen by his supporters as a crusader against political correctness and identity politics. He argues on Fox News and elsewhere that social justice movements alienate vast swaths of society.

“They are too preoccupied with identity politics by a large margin, and they tend to categorize everyone by their ethnicity and their sex and their gender,” he said of liberals on Real Time with Bill Maher over the weekend. “I think all that does is turn people into tribal actors, and the end result of that is catastrophe.”


Australia: Victoria University exposed as future teachers found wanting

Victoria University was in franker times Footscray Tech. It still seems to have tech college standards

Students of a Melbourne university that has enrolled teaching undergraduates with ATARs significantly below Victoria’s minimum entry prerequisite have performed poorly in a national literacy and numeracy test, with about a quarter failing to meet the standard required for entering the profession.

Victoria University, a major provider of initial teacher education degrees, was one of the worst-performing universities to sit last year’s test, with 27 per cent of students failing the literacy module and 24 per cent failing numeracy, sparking calls for entry requirements for initial teacher education courses to be tightened.

Almost 1000 students from the university sat the test, which aims to assess whether aspiring teachers have literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30 per cent of the adult population.

Nationwide, standards fell slightly in 2017 compared with the previous year, with 92 per cent of 23,000 students passing both components of the test. In 2016, 95.2 per cent passed the literacy component and 94.2 per cent passed the numeracy component.

Victoria University was among 19 out of 52 tertiary institutions to report failure rates in excess of ­10 per cent in at least one component of the test. In contrast, students from the University of Western Australia were among the highest achievers, with 98 per cent meeting the literacy standard and 99 per cent numeracy.

The results, which have been provided to The Australian, are set to reignite a push to toughen university entry requirements for teaching courses. In Victoria, the government requires that students achieve an ATAR of at least 65 — rising to 70 next year — to be admitted to study teaching.

Yet a Victoria University report detailing the profiles of incoming students reveals that the median ATAR of those offered places in Education (P-12) and Physical Education (Secondary) courses this year was 58.45 and 56.65 respectively. The lowest ATAR of a student to be offered a place was 45.3.

The university has recently rolled out a new Bachelor of Education Studies as a pathway course that is not bound by the minimum ATAR score requirement. Students are able to transfer at a later stage into a Master of Education.

Associate professor Anthony Watt, director of learning and teaching in the university’s education faculty, said the ATARs listed were “raw scores” and did not account for “special consideration bonuses” applied to disadvantaged students. He said he was confident that, after adjustments, “every student admitted to study education had achieved an ATAR of 65”.

Dr Watt likened the numeracy and literacy test to testing for one’s driver’s licence: “You don’t always get it first time. We’re keen to support everyone to achieve the benchmark and we’re working with students on that,” he said.

Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham said it was concerning that some universities continued to enrol teacher candidates with low ATARs as the results suggested there was a correlation between rankings and poor literacy and numeracy.

“The literacy and numeracy assessment does actually not set a high bar; it’s really the equivalent of a Year 9 level of literacy and numeracy,” Dr Buckingham said.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said parents rightly expected graduating teachers would have solid literacy and numeracy. “These results highlight that some higher education providers simply aren’t delivering the skills Australians would expect of graduate teachers or are dropping standards too far,” he said.

“The Turnbull government has been crystal clear in our view that students who don’t make the minimum literacy and numeracy standards should never make it into the classroom.”

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino expressed his disappointment. “For too long universities in Victoria have been accepting students with ATARs as low (as) in the 30s or the 40s. It isn’t good enough and it has to change.”


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Government Fat Cats Bulk Up on Taxpayer Dollars

Many taxpayers have seen little economic gain in recent years but the salaries of government education bureaucrats “have exploded” as the Sacramento Bee reports. Sarah Koligian of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District gets $240,000 and Christopher Hoffman of Elk Grove Unified bags $330,951, more than the $324,029 of Sacramento State University boss Robert Nelson. Next year it will balloon to$342,232,and the whopper salaries come with benefits such as car allowances, travel pay and such.

School board bosses try to make the case that the superintendents are like the CEOs of major corporations and should be compensated accordingly. The comparison might be valid if Costco got customers’ money even if they decided to shop at Walmart. A government bureaucracy with captive clients and guaranteed state funding is not equal to a corporation in any way. The huge salaries of bureaucrats, taxpayers should note, are not tied to any gains in student achievement, reductions in truancy, or savings in administrative costs. Instead, as we have noted, the huge salaries and outlandish raises are based on comparisons with other school districts. So no wonder the state sometimes fails to release salary information, even when requested to do so.

Government monopoly education is a collective farm of ignorance, mediocrity and failure. In this system, taxpayer dollars must trickle down through multiple layers of bureaucratic sediment. They money keeps coming, regardless of results and the biggest beneficiaries are superintendents, essentially bagmen and public relations specialists. Twin Rivers Unified boss Steve Martinez bagged raises of $25,000 in 2014 and $20,000 in 2015. That helped boost his 2013 salary by 43 percent to the current level of $308,112, and this year the district increased his retirement contribution from $7,500 to $21,000. Taxpayers remember, it’s all for the children.


Teachers With Guns

What should be done about school shootings? After the horrible shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers carry guns. "We need to let people know, you come in to our schools -- you're gonna be dead."

Anti-gun activists were horrified. But they probably didn't know that many teachers have brought guns to work with them for years.

Some teachers at the Keene Independent School District in Texas carry concealed weapons at school. "We know our staff and our teachers are gonna go" defend students, Texas' Keene Independent School District superintendent Ricky Stephens told me for this week's online video. "Do we want them to go with a pencil or go with a pistol?"

Stephens acknowledges that an attacker might have heavier weaponry than his teachers' handguns. "It's not much, but it's better than nothing," he argues. "If you go there with nothing, you have no chance of stopping anything."

His teachers saw how in Florida the "school resource officer" simply waited outside during February's school shooting.

"It made me mad," a teacher in Stephens' district told us. She's glad she carries her gun. "We have to have a fighting chance if something should happen." For my video, superintendent Stephens asked us to obscure her identity. He doesn't want potential attackers to know which teachers are armed.

Opponents of armed teachers fear that guns will create new dangers. But even though teachers carry at hundreds of schools, I could find only one instance where one of those guns hurt a student. A California teacher accidentally discharged his weapon at the ceiling. A student was cut by falling debris. That's it. One minor injury.

By contrast, armed school staffers have stopped school shootings. In Pearl, Mississippi, an assistant principal held a boy who killed two classmates at gunpoint until police arrived.

No one knows how often armed teachers deter shootings. The media can't cover crimes that are never attempted.

Of course, the media distort proposals to allow teachers to carry. One commentator shouted, "Teachers should not be required to protect!"

But no teacher is required to carry. It's voluntary. Those who want to can bring their guns to school.

On MSNBC, pundits criticized President Trump for advocating "arming" teachers, as if he'd proposed a federal program. He didn't. He just talked about "armed educators." Since lots of teachers already carry guns, all a school has to do is allow some to bring their weapons to work.

The Keene district, however, does go further. "The school purchases the gun, and we register them to (some of) our teachers," says Stephens. Those teachers get 80 hours of firearms training and are paid an extra $50/month.

I gave Stephens grief about creating a "new government program." Why not just let teachers bring their own guns to school? Stephens explained that he wants teachers trained on the same gun "so if a gun is dropped, another teacher will know how to use it."

I pushed back again. "Why create a program at all?" There's no epidemic of school shootings. In fact, non-gang, non-suicide shootings have declined over the past 25 years. It's media hysteria that makes it seem like there's an increase.

I said to Stephens, "School shootings are much less of a threat to students than driving, suicide, drowning, even suffocating!"

"Exactly right," he replied. "But we do train our kids in school how to not suffocate and how not to drown. ... One shooting is more than we would want."

Certainly Stephens' armed teacher program is cheaper than what my town does. New York City spends millions of dollars stationing police officers in schools. Here, and in most blue states, suggesting that teachers be allowed to bring weapons to school horrifies people.

"They don't understand," says Stephens, "a responsible trained teacher with a firearm is better than having a teacher with nothing."

It's good that America has 50 states and many school districts. That allows for different experiments. Politicians in New York City hire extra police officers, but in Texas, the staff at the Keene school district can serve and protect.


Educational Fraud Continues

Walter E. Williams

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation's Report Card, was released. It's not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just 7 percent reached at least a proficient level in math.

The atrocious NAEP performance is only a fraction of the bad news. Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math. For blacks, the news is worse. Roughly 75 percent of black students received high school diplomas attesting that they could read and compute at the 12th-grade level.

However, 83 percent could not read at that level, and 93 percent could not do math at that level. It's grossly dishonest for the education establishment and politicians to boast about unprecedented graduation rates when the high school diplomas, for the most part, do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify attendance.

Fraudulent high school diplomas aren't the worst part of the fraud. Some of the greatest fraud occurs at the higher education levels -- colleges and universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of white high school graduates in 2016 enrolled in college, and 58 percent of black high school graduates enrolled in college.

Here are my questions to you: If only 37 percent of white high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 70 percent of them? And if roughly 17 percent of black high school graduates test as college-ready, how come colleges are admitting 58 percent of them?

It's inconceivable that college administrators are unaware that they are admitting students who are ill-prepared and cannot perform at the college level. Colleges cope with ill-prepared students in several ways. They provide remedial courses. One study suggests that more than two-thirds of community college students take at least one remedial course, as do 40 percent of four-year college students. College professors dumb down their courses so that ill-prepared students can get passing grades. Colleges also set up majors with little analytical demands so as to accommodate students with analytical deficits. Such majors often include the term "studies," such as ethnic studies, cultural studies, gender studies and American studies. The major for the most ill-prepared students, sadly enough, is education. When students' SAT scores are ranked by intended major, education majors place 26th on a list of 38.

The bottom line is that colleges are admitting youngsters who have not mastered what used to be considered a ninth-grade level of proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic. Very often, when they graduate from college, they still can't master even a 12th-grade level of academic proficiency.

The problem is worse in college sports. During a recent University of North Carolina scandal, a learning specialist hired to help athletes found that during the period from 2004 to 2012, 60 percent of the 183 members of the football and basketball teams read between fourth- and eighth-grade levels. About 10 percent read below a third-grade level. Keep in mind that all of these athletes both graduated from high school and were admitted to college.

How necessary is college anyway? One estimate is that 1 in 3 college graduates have a job historically performed by those with a high school diploma. According to Richard Vedder, distinguished emeritus professor of economics at Ohio University and the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, in 2012 there were 115,000 janitors, 16,000 parking lot attendants, 83,000 bartenders and about 35,000 taxi drivers with a bachelor's degree.

I'm not sure about what can be done about education. But the first step toward any solution is for the American people to be aware of academic fraud at every level of education.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Penn State says wilderness is too risky for outdoors clubs

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A near-century-old outdoor recreation club will now refrain from going outside because it is too dangerous out in the wilderness, according to officials at Penn State University.

The Penn State Outing Club, originally founded in 1920, announced last week that the university will no longer allow the club to organize outdoor, student-led trips starting next semester. The hiking, camping and other outdoors-focused activities the student-led club has long engaged in are too risky, the university’s offices of Student Affairs and Risk Management determined.

Richard Waltz, the Outing Club’s current president, said that the decision was made by an office that never consulted them.

The decision was based on a two-month review that didn’t include consultation with student leaders at any of the clubs deemed too risky, according to students.

Two other outdoor recreation clubs — the spelunking Nittany Grotto Caving Club and the Nittany Divers SCUBA Club — also have been directed to end trip offerings.

“Safety is a legitimate concern, but it wasn’t an open dialogue,” Waltz said.

Christina Platt, the Outing Club’s incoming president, said, “I can hardly blame Penn State for protecting itself against further litigation after a number of high-profile scandals in the past decade.”

Student safety is the school’s primary focus, university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in a statement.

Penn State conducted a “proactive risk assessment” not based on any previous participant injuries, according to Powers. She said Outing Club activities were rated high risk because they take place in remote environments with poor cell service and distance from emergency services.

Penn State still will offer a university-operated outdoors trip program, Powers said. The university-run program also costs much more for students, Waltz contended.

Michael Lacey, president of the Caving Club, told the Centre Daily Times he’s not surprised by the decision but says the university’s reasons for ending the club trips don’t make sense to him.

There’s a difference between going with somebody you paid to take you on a trip and going with a bunch of your friends, Lacey said.

Powers said Penn State staff members are meeting with student leaders about the transition and how the university might still support each group’s goals.


Progressive Ideology Trumps Student Safety

Two months after the Parkland massacre, all Broward County has to show for it is clear backpacks.

In the end, it was all about gun control, not safety.

“Two months after a massacre in Parkland made security the top focus in Broward County schools, many parents and students say the school district is doing too little to ensure safety,” the Sun-Sentinel reports. “An emotionally charged school security forum at Plantation High drew hundreds who complained about what they saw as an ineffective response by the school district both before and after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas” that claimed 17 lives.

Those who expected genuine school security following the massacre have a lot to learn about the progressive mindset. On the first day back from spring break, clear backpacks and ID lanyards were issued to students, and police officers were stationed at the four doors students were allowed to enter. Band instruments and sports equipment were turned over to teachers and coaches, non-clear back packs were confiscated, and a number of bags were searched.

All well and good, but an essential element was apparently a bridge too far: neither metal-detecting wands or metal detectors are part of the equation. “It feels like being punished,” Principal Ty Thompson complained. “It feels like jail, being checked every time we go to school.”

That a “jail” is preferable to a slaughterhouse apparently eludes Thompson.

Moreover, the clear back pack requirement is apparently devolving into the farce it always was. Some students have added non-clear liners to them, and others have placed sheets of paper in them with the words “clear backpacks are stupid,” or “this backpack is probably worth more than my life.” Several students have criticized the lack of privacy, and female students are embarrassed by being forced to display feminine products they’d rather keep under wraps.

Michael Dorn, executive director of the non-profit campus safety organization Safe Havens International, gets to the heart of the Left’s absurd determination to promote a feel-good solution in lieu of real security. “They take a book and hollow it out and put a gun in the book,” he explained. “This is not an anomaly. It’s a repeatedly used method. They buy all of these different containers and put the gun in there, or they put it in a tennis shoe or wrap the gun in their gym shorts. They get a rifle and put it in a musical instrument case.”

Moreover, as senior student and forum attendee Angelina Lazo implied, despite the massive failures evinced by the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) during the shooting, little has changed. “Why do we have clear backpacks if they aren’t being enforced?” she asked. “Why do we have BSO everywhere if they aren’t doing their job and just seem to be hanging around our campus?”

Not just hanging around. Just over a month after the shooting, Deputy Moises Carotti was suspended for falling asleep in his patrol car while on duty. “Of all the schools in America, you would think this would be the safest one right now,” declared Sen. Marco Rubio at the time. “This is so outrageous it’s almost impossible to believe.”

Is it? We may soon find out. Last Wednesday, Broward Circuit Judge Jeffrey Levenson ordered the release of a redacted version of the footage captured by exterior cameras at Marjory Stoneman the day of the shooting.

The Broward County School Board and the Broward State Attorney’s Office had sought to block the release. The Board insisted it would weaken school security, and the Attorney’s Office contended the tapes were part of an ongoing criminal investigation and might present problems with regard to the prosecution of the murderer. Levenson decided otherwise, noting the video is not part of an active investigation and that the “potential harm” to Stoneman’s security measures are “outweighed by the strong public interest in disclosure.”

The BSO has until May 2 to appeal the ruling.

Whether the tapes will reveal anything as damning as former school resource officer Scot Peterson’s refusal to enter the school while the massacre was taking place remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the failure of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, headed by political hack Scot Israel, is beyond dispute.

So is Israel’s ongoing arrogance, for which he is facing a historic no-confidence vote from the union representing his own deputies. When asked by reporter Bob Norman whether he lied when he asserted that Peterson was the only deputy at the school — despite radio transmissions by his own department revealing the presence of three other deputies — Israel told Norman he was disappointed by the newsman’s “constant reporting” and “misrepresentations.”

That exchange took place in late March, just prior to Israel’s visit to the Weston Democratic Club — where he “blamed partisan Republican politics for the criticism against his agency,” as ABC News characterized it.

If one wishes to address charges of partisan politics, one need look no further than the Democrat/Media Complex’s lionization of Parkland students advocating gun-control and blaming the NRA for something it had nothing to do with, and compare it to the equally-orchestrated marginalization of their pro-Second Amendment peers. Even Barack Obama got in on the act, asserting that if Parkland students (along with Dreamers and Black Lives Matter activists) “make their elders uncomfortable, that’s how it should be.”

If anyone should feel uncomfortable, it’s Obama. A bombshell expos√© by Paul Sperry reveals the former president’s efforts to racialize school discipline standards — eagerly embraced by Broward County school officials and the sheriff’s office in the form of the PROMISE program — has engendered the “highest percentage of ‘the most serious, violent [and] chronic’ juvenile offenders in Florida, according to the county’s chief juvenile probation officer,‘” Sperry writes.

Nonetheless, when the PROMISE program was criticized by Broward student Kenneth Preston at the April 10 meeting of the Broward County School Board, Superintendent Robert Runcie characterized the attempt to connect it to the shooting as “reprehensible.”

Not nearly as reprehensible as the action taken by the Board itself. In response to the shooting, the state established the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named after the hero football coach who died while protecting students. It allocated $67 million statewide for training and payments enabling certain school employees to be armed.

The Board unanimously voted to decline participation.

Adding insult to injury, the Board and Runcie decided to leave the PROMISE program in place. “We’re not going to dismantle a program in this district that is serving and helping kids appropriately because of news that is not fact-based,” he said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, weapons possession, fighting, bullying and attempted suicide all rose for Broward high schools between 2013 and 2015. Additionally, state data reveal that Broward County has the highest level of weapons-related incidents in South Florida.

Those are the facts. Thus, while the progressive clarion calls for gun control remain front and center, and the race-based PROMISE program that shields minority student miscreants remains in place, all students ultimately remain as vulnerable as they ever were.

At the meeting, Runcie insisted changes to the status quo are “not going to happen overnight.”

Really? Why not?


Australia's University entrance system should be simplified or even abolished, says chief scientist Alan Finkel

If it discourages STEM enrolment it certainly should be altered

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel says the national system for university entry should be simplified or even abolished entirely because it is "completely obscure" and lacks transparency.

The controversial call prompted the head of the NSW committee on HSC scaling to concede it was impossible for the system to be simple and transparent as well as being equitable.

Dr Finkel said the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank "might be fantastic" as a university selection tool but was "very, very poor" in helping students choose their year 12 subjects.

The disagreement arises from concern the ATAR motivates students to pick HSC or VCE subjects based on how well their scores will "scale", or convert, into their final ranking.

Speaking upon the release of his report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education - first reported by Fairfax Media on Saturday - Dr Finkel said the perception that the ATAR rewarded easier subjects was having a detrimental impact on the take-up of STEM courses.

"For whatever reason – rightly or wrongly – the ATAR is leading to students being given poor advice," he told Fairfax Media.

"It’s completely obscure. As a tool for university selection, ATAR might be fantastic. But as a tool that guides students as to what they should choose, through the consultations we saw that it was very, very poor."

Experts have defended the integrity of the ATAR system but Dr Finkel said that did not matter because "the reality is not what it is but what it’s perceived to be".

"We did not come across anybody who was capable of explaining it to us, and there was no value for us to go and find out from an absolute expert because it doesn’t matter," he said.

"When you make something sufficiently complex – and it is – then the perceptions of it will necessarily be either confused or simplified or completely erroneous."

Dr Finkel's STEM report, which is under consideration by the country's education ministers, urged governments to review the ATAR but did not make specific recommendations.

The chief scientist said he was not certain of the solution but one "extreme" option would be to abolish the ATAR in favour of the US system whereby individual universities manage their own entrance schemes.

Alternatively, Dr Finkel said, "let's at least simplify the ATAR so that every single parent and every single teacher and every single career adviser can understand it".

However, the chair of the Technical Committee on Scaling in NSW, Rod Yager, said complexity was necessary if the calculation of student rankings was to be kept fair.

"Everyone wants us to have a system that is equitable, simple and transparent. Unfortunately those three things are mutually exclusive," he told Fairfax Media.

"In order to be equitable, one has to consider and make adjustments for a whole host of factors that take away the simplicity and the transparency."

The complexity was illustrated by research that found the scaling system had led to lower scores in some language subjects and contributed to the declining popularity of languages.

But Mr Yager denied the ATAR could be "gamed" or manipulated by strategically choosing subjects that were disproportionately rewarded by the system.

"That’s not how it works in reality. There is some perception out there that that’s what happens, and unfortunately people react to that perception," he said.

"Don’t play the scaling game. We work really hard to make sure that there is no advantage from taking one course or another."

But the two men agreed universities had erred by largely abandoning mathematics prerequisites for courses such as science and economics.

"There is no doubt that that has been one of the worst decisions that universities have made, in my opinion," Mr Yager said.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Arizona Teachers Vote To Strike, Sparking Statewide Walkout

Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched Arizona's first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise — instead demanding increased school funding.

The Arizona Education Association and the grass-roots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.

At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.

Initially, Ducey's plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. But both groups have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.

AZPTA President Beth Simek, in a video statement, said that an analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, coupled with her group's research, led to their decision to oppose Ducey's plan.

"In light of the funding streams that have come to light regarding the '20 by 2020' plan, we can no longer support the governor's proposal," said Simek. "As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process."

School support staff groups say they feel left out of the governor's plan.

In a tweet, Save Our Schools Arizona said, "It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona's classrooms and schools."

Both groups said that they are still ready to work with the governor on a new plan.

Arizona's teachers plan to strike is an unprecedented move and comes with high risk.

According to The Associated Press:

"Teachers themselves could face consequences in this right-to-work state, where unions do not collectively bargain with school districts and representation is not mandatory. The Arizona Education Association has warned its 20,000 members about a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion saying a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials."


A Nutty Professor Strikes Again

It happened again this week, another university professor was exposed as an unhinged liberal, filled with uncontrollable rage.

In the aftermath of the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, tributes flowed in from around the world, except not from Randa Jarrar, a Fresno State University English professor. Jarrar tweeted that Mrs. Bush was a “racist” and that she was glad the “the witch is dead.” In response to the outpouring of support for the Bush family, Jarrar tweeted, “F… outta here with your nice words.” She also expressed extreme hatred for the relatives of Barbara Bush, tweeting “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise.”

While it is sad that a so-called English professor had to resort to profanity to express her point of view, it is even worse that someone entrusted to educate young people harbors such hatred. In response to the controversy, Fresno State University President Joseph Castro said, “Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.” It was announced that an “investigation” into Jarrar’s behavior was underway.

This semester, Jarrar is on sabbatical and is traveling overseas. She crowed that because she was tenured she could not be fired. Her arrogance only enraged people even more and after her real phone number was posted, calls started flooding in to her office. To distract her critics, Jarrar falsely claimed that her work phone number had not been officially activated and posted another one for those who “really wanna reach me.”

Unfortunately, the phone number she posted was for a University of Arizona mental health crisis line. The volunteers operating the phones were inundated with calls from people wanting to complain about Jarrar, not those in need of mental health counseling. Jarrar’s stunt may have prevented those who were suffering from an actual mental health crisis from receiving critical assistance.

The sad episode not only exposes the sickness of Jarrar, but also the clear problems on many college campuses today. Throughout the country, in far too many colleges and universities, administrators have hired nutcases like Jarrar to teach impressionable youngsters. As a result, many parents are paying exorbitant tuition for their children to be indoctrinated, not educated.

Presenting alternative perspectives to liberalism is not allowed on many campuses. Just this week, Professor Josh Blackman tried to present a lecture, ironically on the importance of free speech, but was shouted down by protestors at the City University of New York School of Law.

On a regular basis, conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos face threats of violence on college campus and outright hostility from administrators who look for every opportunity to cancel their speeches. Often, university officials delight in canceling conservative speeches by claiming that security costs are too high or adequate facilities for the speakers are not available.

In contrast, leftist viewpoints are seemingly always welcome and liberal professors are celebrated and protected no matter how extreme their views. Last year, Lars Maischak, another hateful Fresno State University professor, made news when he tweeted that President Donald Trump “must hang.” The history instructor was not allowed to teach during last Fall’s semester but, incredibly, was not fired.

In the case of Jarrar, Fresno State University should immediately terminate the employment of this detestable individual. She does not possess basic decency or respect for other points of view. Jarrar represents the antithesis to the type of atmosphere that should be cultivated on college campuses where differing opinions are encouraged and welcomed.

Another reason that may cause Fresno State to act involves the negative response from some of their major contributors. A few large donors are raising objections to Jarrar and threatening to withhold their usual financial support. One such contributor, Ed Dunkel, Jr., said, “I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It's hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person's character and what she's about.”

In fact, donors may be the key in forcing universities to end the stifling environment of liberal indoctrination. If major donors started boycotting, university administrators would get the message quickly and may start to adjust their policies. Otherwise, the abuse of conservatives, the indoctrination of students and the vile hatred spewing from professors will continue unabated.


Harvard grad students vote to unionize

Harvard University graduate students have voted to join the United Auto Workers, part of a wave of teaching and research assistants on private college campuses embracing the labor movement.

In a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned election held Wednesday and Thursday, the vote was 1,931 to 1,523, creating a bargaining unit of nearly 5,000 students, including several hundred undergraduates in teaching positions, the UAW and Harvard said Friday. The union said Harvard is committed to bargaining on a contract, but the university said it has not yet decided.

The UAW, with its deep blue-collar roots, has become a seemingly unlikely bastion of academic organizing, attracting more grad student members than any other union.

Since 1990, when the union successfully organized graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it has brought graduate students at four other public universities into the fold, including the massive California State University system. The effort accelerated at private universities following a 2016 NLRB ruling that recognized Columbia University students’ right to organize.

At Harvard, those backing the union said they are looking for stability in their wages (the usual 3 percent annual raise was cut in half this school year), more robust health care, and a better process for resolving grievances. But above all, they are seeking bargaining power, said Ben Green, a fourth-year PhD student in applied math.

“The main thing that we really want is to have a greater say, greater democracy, in our working conditions,” he said. “By joining with UAW, we’re also joining with these other universities organizing with them. We’re building power not just for graduate workers at Harvard, but for graduate workers across the country.”

This is the second time Harvard graduate students have held a union vote. The results of the first election, in the fall of 2016, were scrapped following disputes over the voter list, leading to months of litigation.

“Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students,” Harvard said in a statement. “We want every student to thrive here and to benefit from Harvard’s extraordinary academic opportunities.”

The rise in unionization among graduate students reflects the growing role of younger, more white-collar workers in unions. Last year, a third of new union members nationwide were in professional or technical occupations, and more than three-quarters were under age 35, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Teaching and research assistants at many public-sector colleges and universities are covered by state collective bargaining laws, most of which consider grad students to be employees. Their counterparts at private schools, however, are at the mercy of the NLRB, which has gone back and forth on the issue.

The UAW, officially the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, has 45,000 grad students and 30,000 academic workers among its 400,000 members. Although the bulk of its members are auto workers and other manufacturing employees, it also represents legal aid attorneys, Foxwoods casino workers, Museum of Modern Art employees, Village Voice writers, and Sierra Club staffers.

Interest from those at private colleges and universities was sparked in 2013, when NYU grad students voted to join the UAW through a non-NLRB election. It remains the only private university with a collective bargaining agreement. The following year, the New School and Columbia kicked off campaigns to join the UAW, followed by Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University.

“From that point on there was tremendous energy,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which covers New England.

A 2016 decision by the NLRB, reinstating the right of grad students at private universities to organize, stoked the fire further.

Last year, grad students at Tufts and Brandeis both voted to join SEIU Local 509, among the more than 20,000 private-sector students involved in union campaigns in the past year and a half, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

But with President Trump in office, and his three appointees giving the NLRB a 3-2 Republican majority, the pendulum could swing back.

Given all the back and forth on whether grad students at private universities have the right to organize, and the possibility that a more conservative labor board would say they don’t, some students have become reluctant to test their luck with the NLRB. Rather than risking setting a new legal precedent that could crush other union drives, some grad students — including those organizing at BC, Yale, and the University of Chicago — have abandoned their efforts to unionize through the NLRB and are trying to pressure universities to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with them, which can be difficult.

“These workers and our union are not defeated or demoralized by the threat posed by an anti-worker labor board put in place by President Trump and the Republican Congress,” Kushner said. “We are inventing new strategies, switching tactics, and taking bold steps to go outside of the NLRB.”

Some campaigns have reached a fever pitch. Graduate students at Columbia, whose membership with the UAW has been certified by the NLRB, voted to strike next week if the school continues to refuse to bargain.

At Harvard, the administration has sent a series of e-mails to students making a case against unionization, referencing the Columbia strike and noting that school deans and leaders would be “legally prohibited from working directly with individual students” on matters of wages and working conditions.

Along with increased stipends, better health care coverage, and more stability in their work, Harvard organizers want a sexual harassment policy that gives students more protection. Just last month, the prominent Harvard government professor Jorge Dominguez was placed on leave, and then abruptly retired, after allegations of sexual misconduct spanning three decades came to light. Despite the fact that multiple women had complained to university administrators over the years, Dominguez continued to climb the ranks.

A contract recently negotiated by the UAW at the University of Connecticut strengthened protections against sexual harassment, union officials note, including detailing specific offenses — such as sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, and standing too close — and expanding the time period that students have to file a complaint.

Grad students are highly dependent on their advisers, especially in science, where research tends to be funded by grants awarded to specific professors, making those students more vulnerable to abuse because their jobs depend on that person, said Green, the Harvard applied-math student. And as it stands, there is no clear process for addressing complaints, said Niharika Singh, a fourth-year PhD student in public policy.

“With a union we have expanded options for dealing with sexual harassment on campus,” she said. “These are not minor issues. They are pervasive.”


Monday, April 23, 2018

Charter schools continue to show the need for school choice

By Natalia Castro

Charter schools are transforming American education. For the country’s most at risk students, charter schools are playing a critical role in building educational opportunities for students. As the Department of Education expands charter school use, studies proving their effectiveness have begun pouring into academia, proving that school choice is the best path toward educational advancement.

The biannual National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has released their 2017 National Report Cards assessing achievement across American schools through controlled variables. On a national level, charter schools appear to be even with non-charter schools, but John Valant of the Brookings Institute explains there is a clear reason why. In his March 2016 article, Valant explains charter schools are often clustered in urban areas and use a lottery system to take on a district’s most poor and underserved students. This allows them to show particular growth in America’s most needed areas.

This is further illustrated by the NAEP report, which showed on the district level, charter schools far outperform traditional schools. In America’s most diverse cities, charter schools are leading the way.

In Atlanta, with 19 percent of schools now being charter schools, charter school students produce average math test scores that are 17 points higher than their non-charter school counterparts. Similarly, in Los Angeles, charter school students score on average 28 points higher on math test scores.

In Cleveland, Ohio’s most diverse county, charter school students score on average 18 points higher than their non-charter counterparts on reading exams. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s most diverse county, charter school students outperform non-charter school students on reading test scores by 14 points.

The Center for Public Education fact sheet on charter schools attests this is due to diverse teaching staffs that can teach free from excessive state and federal regulations. With the ability to craft entire curriculums around student success, charter schools are able to experiment different methods of success.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has seen these positive impacts first hand in her home state of Michigan.

Findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan compared students who received admittance into a charter school system through a lottery with those who also applied for the lottery but got denied in order to measure school success. While transitioning students showed the smallest progress, by the time charter school students graduated they displayed higher scores in both math and reading.

But this was by far the greatest impact.

In these Michigan charter schools, teachers are 47 percent more likely to be viewed as mentors than administrators. Principles observe teaching roughly 9 hours per day versus roughly 2 hours in traditional schools, due to administrative tasks. While teachers are paid less in charter schools, they are 20 percent more likely to receive performance bonuses.

Charter schools encourage the entire administrative staff to work for and with students, thus creating a holistically stronger learning environment. Last September, Secretary DeVos decided to allocate significant funds toward charter school development. Across the country, for our most at-risk students, those funds are paying off. But states do not have to wait federal intervention, they are already proving that once broken free from centralized control, particularly in urban areas, charter schools are providing better opportunities for the nation’s most at risk students.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Governmen


School Dist. Condemns Employee’s Retweet of Mom Whose Son Was Killed by Drunken, Criminal Illegal

An Oregon School District has denounced, and parents are demanding the firing of, a school official who retweeted a post by a woman whose son was killed by a drunken, criminal illegal alien.

The parents’ petition denounces Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips for being “anti-undocumented alien,” The Oregonian reports:

“A petition demanding the Beaverton School District fire ‘anti-undocumented/immigrant and xenophobe Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips’ gained steam Tuesday, the day after it was reported that Phillips retweeted an anti-undocumented immigrant tweet.”

Phillips’ “xenophobe” offense? He shared a March 25 post by Mary Ann Mendoza, whose Arizona police sergeant son was killed in a head-on crash by a drunk-driving, previously-deported Latino illegal alien. In her Tweet, Mendoza called illegal alien crime “one of the most PREVENTABLE causes of death in America:

“One of the biggest PREVENTABLE cause of death in America? An Avg of 12 Americans are killed daily by Illegal Aliens in our country. That’s over 4300 Americans a YEAR!! They are more dangerous than assault rifles and should be BANNED from our country #Marchtoendillegalkillings”

Superintendent Dan Grotting issued a statement condemning Phillips’ retweet of Mendoza’s pro-border security post as contrary to the school district’s “deeply held” pro-illegal immigrant “values”:

“The views expressed in a recent social media post and retweet by the Deputy Superintendent are not in keeping with the standards and values we hold as the Beaverton School District. The views are contrary to our deeply held values as expressed in our Strategic Plan and Pillars of Learning. We apologize for the hurt this has caused our staff, students and community.”

Mendoza’s son was killed in 2014 by 41-year-old Raul Corona-Silva, a convicted criminal who had lived in the U.S. illegally for more than 20 years, according to a report by The Phoenix New Times.

Following her son’s death, Mendoza helped found Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC). According AVIAC’s website, the organization “was started by several who have suffered the ultimate tragedy of losing a loved one to illegal alien crime.”

The group says its mission is to advocate for victims, as well as for deportation of all of those illegally living in the U.S.:

“As our name implies we want to be advocates for those who have been impacted by crimes committed by illegal aliens. The only successful accomplishment would be to stop illegal alien crime and that can only happen with the deportation of all people that are in the country illegally.”

Mendoza’s statistics appear to be based on data previously released by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' claim that federal intervention hasn't improved outcomes for students is based on the most recent data.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” caused quite a bit of backlash from critics.

As my colleague Jonathan Butcher has written, “60 Minutes” ignored many of the facts about the state of education in America. Response to the interview drew quite a bit of criticism of DeVos and her policy solutions.

Perhaps one of the most pivotal moments came when she suggested that the United States’ heavy federal investment in education has not yielded any results. Stahl hit back, asserting that school performance has been on the rise.

But the latest government data show otherwise. According to the recently released 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s “report card,” we now have more evidence that DeVos was correct.

In fact, recent scores show virtually no improvement over 2015 scores. Eighth-grade reading saw a single point improvement over 2015 scores (10 points is considered equivalent to a grade level), while all other categories saw no improvement.

These lackluster results come on the heels of declines on the 2015 assessment, suggesting the beginning of a trend in the wrong direction for academic outcomes.

Indeed, Stahl’s claim that the state of public schools has gotten better simply doesn’t hold up to the data. It fact, DeVos is entirely correct to point out that public school outcomes have not meaningfully improved, and that our nation’s heavy federal intervention in K-12 education has failed to help the problem.

As Heritage Foundation education fellow Lindsey Burke writes:

Forty-nine out of 50 states were stagnant on the 2017 report card, and achievement gaps persist. Historically, federal education spending has been appropriated to close gaps, yet this spending—more than $2 trillion in inflation-adjusted spending at the federal level alone since 1965—has utterly failed to achieve that goal.

Increasing federal intervention over the past half-century, and the resulting burden of complying with federal programs, rules, and regulations, have created a parasitic relationship with federal education programs and states, and is straining the time and resources of local schools.

Indeed, for decades, Washington has poured billions of dollars into the public education system under the assumption that more federal spending will close achievement caps and improve the academic outcomes of students. With mounting evidence that more federal spending is not the answer, it may be time to consider other policy approaches.

DeVos is correct to suggest school choice as a solution to lackluster school performance. Parents who cannot afford to send their child to a school that is the right fit deserve to have options. As DeVos told Stahl:

Any family that has the economic means and the power to make choices is doing so for their children. Families that don’t have the power, that can’t decide, ‘I’m gonna move from this apartment in downtown whatever to the suburb where I think the school is gonna be better for my child.’ If they don’t have that choice, and they are assigned to that school, they are stuck there. I am fighting for the parents who don’t have those choices. We need all parents to have those choices.

In light of recent evidence from the nation’s report card, “60 Minutes” and other school choice critics should consider that DeVos was correct in her framing of problems facing the nation’s schools and is on the right track with possible solutions—namely, that empowering parents is the right approach to improving American education.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

UC Berkeley Student Newspaper Moans That Students Voted For A Squirrel For The Student Senate

Probably a prank by students sick of Lefist preaching

On Tuesday, The Daily Cal, the student newspaper of the University of California, Berkeley, convulsed in agitation that students on the campus didn’t take their votes in the ASUC election seriously enough, as 538 of them voted for a squirrel.

The ASUC is the officially recognized student association at the university.

The Daily Cal noted that on Monday, Chancellor Carol Christ sent a campus-wide email urging students to fight tuition hikes. The Daily Cal huffed, “Members of the ASUC commit their lives to helping fellow students — but now, that mission is at risk.”

Then the lecture: “It’s a shocking display of privilege to vote for a squirrel over candidates who have actual plans to help students who need it. Instead of electing qualified students who had real, tangible ideas — improving UCPD relations, boosting housing, bolstering sexual violence or mental health awareness — many of you (at least 538 strong) thought it might be a funny joke to have a man dressed up in a squirrel costume with no real platforms represent you at the administrative table.”

The Daily Cal was referring to “furry boi,” a satirical squirrel candidate who was represented by campus sophomore Stephen Boyle. The paper sneered, “Boyle had no campaign promises — and he didn’t even show up to the tabulations ceremony. Still, you voted for him.”

The paper added, “But this ASUC election season showed that students just vote for the latest meme trend. It’s not just that: So many students don’t vote at all. So many students vote for their one friend senate candidate and nothing else. And this year, so many students even voted in response to a fraternity-wide email that seemed to borrow liberally from the fear-mongering rhetoric that fuels populist political campaigns.”

Then, a warning: “It’s up to the new ASUC executives and senators to make sure that the student body takes the ASUC more seriously for the next election. With one of those senators being a squirrel, our confidence is wavering.”

So with all the pontificating The Daily Cal has published about students acting responsibly, it ‘s fun to remember this from 2017, when they ran an op-ed that was actually a series of op-eds talking about why violence was useful in shutting down political debate.


The Chinese Communist Party Is Setting Up Cells at Universities Across America

It’s a strategy to tighten ideological control. And it’s happening around the world.

In July 2017, a group of nine Chinese students and faculty from Huazhong University of Science and Technology participating in a summer program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) formed a Chinese Communist Party branch on the third floor of Hopkins Hall, a campus dormitory.

The group held meetings to discuss party ideology, taking a group photo in front of a red flag emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, according to a July 2017 article and photos posted to the Huazhong University website. The students’ home institution had sent four teachers on the trip, directing them to set up the party cell to strengthen “ideological guidance” while the students were in the United States.

The Illinois university partners with several Chinese universities in exchange programs; at least two of those Chinese universities have directed participants to form party cells on the Urbana-Champaign campus, using those cells for ideological monitoring and control, according to articles posted to university websites and interviews with student participants.

One Chinese exchange student who studied at UIUC in the fall of 2017 says that before embarking on the study tour in Illinois, the students had to attend a lecture on the dangers of the Falun Gong, a strongly anti-party spiritual group banned in mainland China but active in the United States.

After the students’ arrival in Illinois, their home university asked the group to set up a temporary party branch and requested that the students hold a viewing party to watch the 19th party plenum in October, the major party planning conference held every five years. (The plenum was the subject of a major global propaganda push, with Chinese embassies and consulates reaching out to Chinese community organizations around the world, asking them to organize events for their members.)

The exchange students at UIUC were also asked to report on any potentially subversive opinions their classmates may have evinced while abroad, according to the student.

“After we went back to China, we had one-on-one meetings with our teachers. We talked about ourselves and others performance abroad,” the student says. “We had to talk about whether other students had some anti-party thought.”

Illinois is not alone. Party cells have appeared in California, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The cells appear to be part of a strategy, now expanded under Chinese President Xi Jinping, to extend direct party control globally and to insulate students and scholars abroad from the influence of “harmful ideology,” sometimes by asking members to report on each other’s behaviors and beliefs.

Members of a Chinese Communist Party cell at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hold a meeting on July 20, 2017. (Fair Use/Huazhong University of Science and Technology)

These overseas cells fit in with the party’s broader goals, says Samantha Hoffman, a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “You still know that if you actively protest against [the party], or if you make some kinds of comments, you know that that could harm you later on,” she says. “Information gets around. It’s a way of controlling what you are willing to do.”

Since assuming office in late 2012, Xi has implemented a sweeping campaign to consolidate more power in the party’s hands. A major reorganization announced in late March transferred control of key government bureaus to party organs, changes that appear to undo some elements of the party-state divide set up by party leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

Xi has also cracked down on universities, calling for greater ideological control on campuses. In early 2016, the Ministry of Education released a directive calling for more “patriotic education” for students — including Chinese students studying abroad. And in December 2017, Xi urged overseas Chinese students to adopt the attitude of “studying abroad to serve the country.”

The overseas party branches are typically established by a group of Chinese exchange students or visiting scholars at the direction of their home institution’s party committee, according to articles and reports viewed by Foreign Policy. Each cohort forms its own cell, which is typically then disbanded when the group returns to China.

The party isn’t shy about the purpose of these new branches. “The rising number of overseas party branches is a new phenomenon, showing the growing influence of the [Chinese Communist Party] and China,” according to a November 2017 report in the party-aligned Global Times newspaper. “Overseas party cells are also responsible for promoting party and government policies.”

The UIUC public affairs office declined to comment on whether it was aware that party cells were being established on campus.

“We take the safety and security of all of our students seriously and work extremely hard to ensure that they have the opportunity to freely pursue the full educational experience we promised them when they chose to come to Illinois,” the university said in a statement to FP.

China’s effort to establish party branches at universities abroad has already hit some road bumps. In November 2017, a group of visiting Chinese scholars at the University of California, Davis attracted international media attention after it was revealed that they had founded a party branch on the Davis campus.

The scholars disbanded the branch shortly after its creation, citing unspecified concerns over compliance with “local laws.”

Yet other efforts appear to have gone largely unnoticed.

In August 2017, three teachers and five visiting scholars from Zhejiang University of Technology School of Pharmacy formed a party cell at the University of California, San Diego, holding meetings in a campus dormitory in which they selected their party secretary and discussed Xi’s recent speeches.

In July 2017, a group of visiting teachers from Shanghai Business School set up a party branch at West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, where they held joint events with the Confucius Institute there, according to an article posted to the Shanghai Business School website. Other branches have been set up at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, Ohio State University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of North Dakota’s aviation department, according to Chinese-language articles published on WeChat.

Grouping students into party cells while abroad sounds like a “downward extension” of a policy that has long been applied to high-ranking Chinese officials who travel overseas, says Andrew Chubb, a fellow at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World program. “This is important information that should be carefully considered by universities hosting exchanges. Host institutions need to make sure they are familiar with the kinds of situations their exchange students may be in,” he says.

The party cells popping up on campuses across the United States aren’t the Communist Party’s only expansion abroad. The U.S.-based party branches are part of a growing network of cells located on campuses in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, South Korea, Thailand, and elsewhere.

One hub for the establishment of party cells on campuses around the world is Shanghai International Studies University, which has partnerships with institutions in 56 different countries and regions, including in the United States. According to the November 2017 Global Times report, the university’s School of European and Latin American Studies started setting up party branches at its study abroad locations in 2009; it now operates party cells in a number of countries, including Spain, Portugal, Chile, Greece, Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.

The cells aren’t always used for ideological purposes. In March 2011, as the Arab Spring protests devolved into a civil war in Libya, Beijing sent a warship to the region to evacuate all 35,000 Chinese nationals there. A small group of Chinese students on Crete, members of a party cell at the University of Athens, participated in the evacuation effort, according to an article in the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s main newspaper.

Helping to evacuate compatriots from a war zone is the type of humanitarian work many university groups would want to promote, but the students’ mobilization demonstrates Beijing’s growing capacity to establish functional party cells in Western countries that can be activated if needed.

“The party branches are the channel through which political power is exercised. It does not mean good or bad — power is not that,” says Peter Mattis, a China analyst at the Jamestown Foundation. “The way and purpose for which it is used is what matters.”

At least one Chinese university connected to the military has established party branches abroad as well. In 2012, the National University of Defense Technology, an institution affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), set up eight overseas party cells, including in the United Kingdom, according to a report in the official PLA Daily.

The branches were required to collect written ideological reports from members each quarter and submit them to their political department. The goal, according to the PLA Daily, was to strengthen the “management” of overseas students and to “resolutely resist the corrosion caused by harmful ideology.”

For Chinese students abroad, there’s a clear message, according to Hoffman of the Mercator Institute.

“You know that the party’s there,” she says. “It’s integrated directly into your study abroad experience.”


Western civilisation at risk from its ignorant young

Left-dominated schools have erased most of our history

JANET ALBRECHTSEN writes from Australia

A friend of mine came to Australia from Czechoslovakia as a 14-year-old in 1970. Like others who have lived through another form of government, he views democracy differently from those of us lucky enough to know no other system. He treasures it more, understanding its intrinsic connection to freedom. And he sees more clearly the warning signs of a system that is being undermined from within.

My friend left his home country two years after the Prague Spring, that brief period in 1968 when reformists stood up to the communist yoke of the Soviet Union. Reform was extinguished when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August that year. It wasn’t until 1989, and the Velvet Revolution, that the central European country was freed from communist rule.

My friend’s escape from communism turned on a dime. His mother sought authority to leave their closed country to visit her “dying” mother in Austria. It was tricky. It took years, so the “dying” mother was on her deathbed until the authorisation came through. They packed up their tiny car and headed for the Austrian border. A checkpoint officer asked the boy’s mother for her citizenship papers, then waved them on. Then the officer shouted: “Stop!” The family froze, thinking they had been caught trying to escape. The boy’s stepfather reversed the car back to the officer, who handed back the citizenship papers. “You’ll need these,” he said. In that moment, he was the white knight silently helping them escape.

After a few months in a refugee centre in Vienna, where the boy heard ABBA singing Fernando on the radio and drank Coca-Cola for the first time, the family left for Australia. At his local high school in Sydney’s Hunters Hill, he was the cool kid with a ghetto blaster. Except he wasn’t listening to music. He recorded his lessons so that, at home, he could slowly decipher the words in this strange new language. He recalls a terrific indigenous teacher who spent afternoons teaching him English.

Now in his early 60s, my Czech friend, a doctor and brilliant businessman who cares about boosting educational outcomes, is worried about the future of our democracy. He doesn’t pine for the patriotic indoctrination of Czech communists or their repression. But he tells me that he is worried by a different kind of indoctrination in the West.

Today, hurt feelings and being offended are enough to limit fundamental freedoms. And a swath of laws and bureaucracies are committed to those same repressive ends. It doesn’t matter that the intentions behind these laws were once good, it is enough that the outcomes are now rotten.

Consider the poor barber at the Hunters Hill Barber Shop just down the road from my friend’s old school. Late last year Sam Rahim turned away a woman who wanted him to cut her daughter’s hair. Sam the barber told her he was qualified only to cut boys’ hair, politely directing her to a salon up the road. She took to social media and ran to the Australian Human Rights Commission claiming he breached anti-discrimination laws. He offered an apology. And now he has been served with court papers for a claim that he breached the Sex Discrimination Act.

Sam and his wife, Ronda, have set up a GoFundMe page because, as he told the media, “The legal costs are more than we have ever anticipated.”

If his actions contravene the law, then the law stinks. But even being drawn into the morass is a travesty of common sense. Yet this is where we are today: common sense is on the decline.

That said, the Rahims have support from people who understand the end point of these doctrinaire laws. As Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, wrote on the Rahims’ fundraising page: “Your treatment is absolutely reprehensible. An individual should not be forced to do a service that they do not provide, nor should they have to defend themselves in court. Good luck.”

Good luck to rest of us, too. We live in an age of hyper-reactions by givers and takers of offence. At Starbucks in the US a couple of employees in an organisation of 175,000 workers make a mistake, and now 8000 stores will be closed while all employees are sent to racial-bias training. A basic sense of proportion has been lost.

Today, words are being struck off as unacceptable by workplace language police. Schools and librarians are more fixated on the word “nigger” than the moral teaching in a text such as To Kill a Mockingbird, to the point that the whole book has been banished.

Our basic biology is under attack by an obsession with transgender identity when only a small fraction of people swing that way. Jobs are lost when a dissident ­employee says something even slightly nonconformist about a workplace diversity policy.

And worst of all, we’re not having a debates over ideas. We’re having a contest over whether there should be a contest of ideas. Increasingly, words and ideas are being censored for psychological reasons, where they are treated as a form of emotional violence, and those who utter such words are seen as not just wrong but evil.

As writer Lionel Shriver wrote in Prospect magazine earlier this year, “If words that cause umbrage are acts of violence, the state has every right to impound your dictionary.” We’re not there yet, but the empowering message that words will never hurt me is lost to a past era. And the whiff of a new kind of repression is unmistake­able to those who recognise the smell.

It’s worth asking whether the ideas of the Enlightenment are at risk of being forgotten. Is Western civilisation headed down a path of un-Enlightenment? Will it be too late before more of us understand what is being sacrificed on the altars of politically correct fashion and self-loathing?

My Czech friend raised some of these questions during a recent visit to Australia by Robert Tombs. The historian, who has taught history at the University of Cambridge for almost a half-century, spoke to sold-out audiences about Western civilisation. Maybe there is hope on the horizon. Jordan Peterson is a cultural rock star for retelling some common sense. And Tombs’s tremendous book from 2014, The English and Their History, was named book of the year by five publications: The Economist, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, The Times and The Spectator. Even The Guardian lauded it as “a work of supreme intelligence”.

Speaking to audiences in Sydney and Melbourne at events organised by the IPA (of which I am a director), Tombs pointed out that a generation ago if he had told colleagues he was off to Australia to defend Western civilisation, they would have yawned and wondered why he needed to do the bleeding obvious. Today it’s provocative.

Tombs defies the self-loathing critics because he is no rah-rah cheerleader for Western civilisation. “The West,” he says, “ravaged continents, burnt heretics, invented the gas chamber and the atom bomb, and almost destroyed itself in two world wars.”

But Western civilisation, when seen in its full sweep, is also how we learned to end slavery, to defeat totalitarianism, to be ashamed of war and genocide and persecution. It is a story of innovation, one of unsettling change and impassioned debate. It is, he says, “an action-packed adventure story, not a philosophical treatise”. And that is how it should be taught at school and university.

Tombs recalls speaking to a class of senior secondary students in Britain. He asked the class whether they could see any parallels between Hitler and Mussolini. The teacher interrupted: “We don’t do Mussolini.”

Did the class understand the relationship between Hitler and Stalin then? “We don’t do Stalin, either,” said the teacher.

Tombs suggested they consider the connection between Hitler’s rise and World War I. You guessed it. “We don’t do that anything before the second world war,” said the teacher. Tombs reminded us we short-change students by teaching history as a series of ad hoc skirmishes.

Learning from history, understanding the full sweep of Western civilisation, depends on understanding perspective, throwing up parallels between events.

As we sit on the cusp of an era of un-Enlightenment, we should remember that this story of innovation, of ideas about equality, the rule of law, universal human rights, property rights and freedom, is not one preordained towards success.

Tombs suggests we view the story of Western civilisation as being ruled by something akin to the laws of cricket rather than, say, the laws of physics. “We don’t discover them, we make them up and agree to them.”

That was a few weeks before some Aussie cricketers in South Africa cheated, but you get his drift about ideas emanating from us and needing our commitment.

Tombs mentioned a young PhD student supervised by one of his colleagues at Cambridge. The young woman was a Mormon, she was home-schooled in Salt Lake City and studied at Brigham Young University, a Mormon university. She told her Cambridge supervisor that she felt freer at that Mormon University to express views outside the orthodoxy of the Mormon community — at least they believed in redemption. When she expressed ideas outside the confines of orthodox thought at Cambridge, she was seen as beyond the pale.

When freedom of expression is lost, we lose the ability to continue that story of innovation. Here are a few clues that suggest the story of Western civilisation is not being taught. An annual Lowy Institute poll tells us that only 52 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 29 believe democracy is the preferable form of government.

Now brace yourself further. Polls in the US suggest that 50 per cent of American millennials say they wished they lived in a socialist country rather than a capitalist one. In Britain, 24 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds see big business as more dangerous to the world than communism.

And this: almost one-fifth of Americans aged between 21 and 29 see Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as a hero (23 per cent). Even more consider Vladimir Lenin a hero (26 per cent), while Kim Jong-un is a hero for 23 per cent of them.

A third of millennials think ­George W. Bush killed more people than Stalin did.

And here’s the rub: 71 per cent of millennials can’t define communism and four-fifths don’t know how many people died under communist rule.

If the younger generation haven’t lived it or learned about the horrible consequences of repressing freedom, how can they value the freedom they have?

My Czech friend knows better than most that our challenge is to make sure they do learn, so they don’t live it. The alternative is us sliding further into an age of un-Enlightenment.