Friday, May 04, 2018

The Left is heading for a reckoning with the new genetics

Toby Young

Writing about the link between genes and educational attainment can be dangerous, as the psychologist Arthur Jensen discovered. After publishing a paper in the Harvard Education Review in 1969 entitled ‘How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement?’ he was compared to Hitler and, for a time, had to be accompanied to work by bodyguards. Last year, the political scientist Charles Murray, who addressed this subject in The Bell Curve, was attacked by a group of student protestors at Middlebury College and a female colleague who tried to protect him ended up in hospital.

Jensen and Murray both strayed on to the live rail of black-white IQ differences, but even those who steer well clear of that can get into difficulty. At the beginning of the year, I was accused of being a ‘Nazi’ after an article I’d written for an Australian magazine in 2015 about the deepening link between IQ and socio-economic status was dug up. My sin was to include a solution to this problem that I labelled ‘progressive eugenics’. It was a million miles away from what is commonly understood by ‘eugenics’, but few people bothered to read the piece. The fact that I’d used the E word was enough to damn me. ‘With his views on eugenics, why does Toby Young still have a job in education?’ thundered Polly Toynbee in the Guardian. A few weeks later I didn’t.

So kudos to the science journalist Philip Ball for daring to venture into this territory. He’s written a long piece in the New Statesman entitled ‘The IQ trap: how the new genetics could transform education’ that, among other things, talks about the rapid progress that has been made in the last 12 months in identifying the genetic markers linked with intelligence via genome-wide association studies (GWAS). These studies, often involving hundreds of thousands of people, aim to identify loci throughout the genome associated with an observed trait, such as the number of years spent in full-time education. This is an exciting development since, until recently, behavioural scientists had to rely on family studies, twin studies and adoption studies to demonstrate that differences in general cognitive ability are linked to genetic differences. Soon they will be able to point to actual genetic variants (tens of thousands of them) that explain more than 10 per cent of the variance in IQ – expected to rise to 30 per cent as the datasets get larger. These findings make it nigh on impossible for anyone to claim that intelligence differences are all to do with nurture and nothing to do with nature. Blank slate fundamentalists are beginning to look more and more like flat-earthers.

By the standards of most journalism on this topic, Ball’s piece is remarkably well-informed. It’s particularly brave of him to tackle this subject since his attempt to write about it in Prospect a few years ago provoked a lot of criticism and he had to publish some ‘clarifications’ afterwards. Stuart Ritchie, a psychology lecturer and the author of a book on intelligence, described Ball’s Prospect piece as ‘one of those articles proving that a small amount of genetics knowledge is dangerous’. Other experts have said similar things about my attempts to get to grips with this complex material.

In the New Statesman, Ball discusses some of my articles on genetics and is gracious enough to describe a blog I wrote for Teach First about the impact of children’s DNA on exam results as ‘rather accurate’. Teach First removed that post and apologised for publishing it, saying it was ‘against what we believe is true and against our vision and values’ – a small taste of the controversy that was to engulf me in January. He also points out that the piece I wrote for the Australian magazine three years ago does not, in fact, make me Dr Mengele:

To read some media reports of his 2015 article on ‘progressive eugenics’, you might imagine he was advocating eradication of the IQ-deficient poor. On the contrary, he was pointing to the possibility that de facto eugenics might arrive soon in the form of people using genetic screening of embryos in IVF to select for those with the best intelligence profile. When such technology arrives, said Young, it should be made available freely to poorer people to avoid a widening divide in intelligence between the haves and have-nots. Indeed, he said, it should then be welcomed as a means of raising the intelligence of the whole of society – surely a morally valid goal?

It’s rare for anyone to give me a fair hearing on this subject so I’m loathe to criticise Ball. But his generosity deserts him when he tries to summarise my views about the policy implications of the link between DNA and academic attainment, i.e. that children’s genes account for between 60 and 70 per cent of the variance in GCSE and A-level results. He says I favour ‘a sink-or-swim approach that will (he believes) let the most able rise to the top: a philosophy far more suited to the instincts of the right’. That’s emphatically not what I believe and he made a similar mistake when trying to summarise the views of Dominic Cummings in his Prospect piece. (See Dom’s response here.) I have argued many times that all children should be taught the best that has been thought and said, regardless of background or ability, and the four schools I’ve helped set up embody that philosophy. If a child is struggling as a result of this approach, he or she is given additional help, not taught a less challenging curriculum or allowed to ‘sink’.

One of the most common accusations made against those of us who point out that IQ is a stronger predictor of a person’s life chances than their parents’ socio-economic status, and that IQ is about 50 per cent heritable in adolescence, rising to 80 per cent in adulthood, is that we’re right-wing Social Darwinists, appealing to these facts to justify extreme levels of inequality. So it’s disappointing to see Ball repeating that smear. I’m actually more sympathetic to the opposite point of view: the fact that the distribution of material wealth is linked to the distribution of genetic wealth – and we’ve done nothing to deserve our genetic endowments – is an argument for more redistributive taxation, not less (although not a knock down argument, as I explain in my Australian piece). As the philosopher Alan Ryan put it, ‘A belief in the importance of inherited differences need not lead to apocalyptic conservatism.’

What are the implications for education policy? Most psychologists and geneticists who engage with this subject, going back at least as far as Jensen, think that once we have accumulated more knowledge about the link between genetic differences and individual differences in behaviour, intelligence and personality we can start to design personalised learning programmes for each child based on his or her innate proclivities, thereby maximising their potential. Ball summarises this view as follows: ‘This would not be about the vague and contested notion of “learning styles”, but a more rigorous analysis of how certain genetic profiles respond better to particular types of problem or environment.’

I’m not a fan of personalised learning and took part in a debate on this point with Kathryn Asbury, a senior lecturer in psychology in education at York and co-author of a book called G is for Genes. You can read her contribution here and mine here. This is the gist of my argument:

One of the reasons I favour a largely undifferentiated curriculum, in which all children are taught the same core body of knowledge up to the age of 16, is because I share ED Hirsch’s belief that introducing all children to the best that has been thought and said, and teaching them to value logic and reason and evidence-based argument, is the best way of instilling a sense of common culture and purpose, as well as creating a shared framework in which political disputes can be resolved. It is a way of mitigating the risks associated with multi-culturalism and democratic pluralism. More broadly, vigorously promoting the values of the Enlightenment is the best bulwark against the darkling plain of anti-Enlightenment movements, whether on the far left or the far right.

I suspect the popularity of the ‘personalised learning’ recommendation among the experts in this field – as well as Philip Ball – is partly because they don’t want to antagonise their left-wing colleagues. After all, who could object to maximising a child’s potential? Ball’s article is essentially saying, ‘Don’t worry fellow liberals, the scientific understanding of the link between genes and academic attainment need not cause us any sleepless nights.’ Indeed, he chastises me for presenting this material as posing a challenge to the progressive orthodoxy in education. ‘[T]he debate would be better served by turning to more serious minds than those of incontinently provocative liberal-goaders,’ he says.

But some of the implications of the latest genetic research are guaranteed to provoke and goad liberals, however diplomatically they’re couched, just as the findings of earlier generations of intelligence researchers were furiously contested by the left. Take the debate about why poor children under-perform in standardised tests. One of the most common criticisms of grammar schools is that only a tiny percentage of the children admitted to them are on free school meals (FSM) – just 2.4 per cent, according to a recent report. That is cited as evidence that their admissions arrangements are biased in favour of middle class children; the argument being that, if they were fair, their FSM admission figures would match the percentage of FSM children in England’s secondary schools as a whole (12.9 per cent in 2016-17). But that criticism assumes that IQ is distributed randomly among England’s schoolchildren, which we know isn’t the case. At present, children on free school meals make up six per cent of high-attaining children at the age of 11 as measured by their performance in Key Stage 2 tests (i.e. children likely to pass the 11+). True, that’s more than double the percentage currently admitted to grammars – and we should do our best to address that – but it’s lower than you’d expect if the distribution of cognitive ability was genuinely random.

The standard progressive explanation for the under-representation of children from disadvantaged backgrounds among high-performers on standardised tests is that various environmental factors conspire to impede their cognitive development – poor nutrition, chaotic home life, low parental expectations, etc . – and a number of policies have been introduced to compensate for this. That’s one reason left-wing intellectuals have been so hostile to intelligence researchers who suggest there’s a strong genetic component to how children from different backgrounds perform in tests, although nurture clearly plays a part as well.

So it’s naïve to imagine that these same people won’t object to the latest findings of behavioural scientists, using GWAS data, which point to the same conclusion. I recently co-authored a paper with Robert Plomin, whom Philip Ball correctly describes as ‘one of the leading experts on the genetic basis of intelligence’, looking at the differences in exam performance between pupils attending selective and non-selective schools. We found that the higher the socio-economic status of a child’s parents, the higher that child’s polygenic score for years of education (one of the genetic markers linked to intelligence). Similar discoveries have been made in Australia and New Zealand. Not surprisingly, one of the most hostile responses to the paper was by Eric Turkheimer, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a leading critic of the view that differences in children’s cognitive ability are strongly influenced by their genes. He particularly didn’t like the finding about middle-class children’s polygenic scores. (You can read that paper here – I was one of several-co-authors and made a very minor contribution.)

More generally, I don’t expect the left to abandon its environmental determinism without a fight, even though it’s now scientifically indefensible. The nub of the issue was identified by EO Wilson, the Harvard biologist who attracted the ire of left-wing scientists in the 1970s when he suggested that sociology and Darwinian biology could be combined to explain many facets of human behaviour:

When the attacks on sociobiology came from Science for the People, the leading radical left group within American science, I was unprepared for a largely ideological argument. It is now clear to me that I was tampering with something fundamental: mythology. Evolutionary theory applied to social systems is an extension of the great Western traditions of scientific materialism. As such, it threatens to transform into testable hypotheses the assumptions about human nature made by some Marxist philosophers. Its first line of evidence is not favourable to those assumptions, insofar as most traditional Marxists cling to a vision of human nature as a relatively unstructured phenomenon swept along by economic forces extraneous to human biology. Marxist and other secular ideologies previously rested secure as unchallenged satrapies of scientific materialism; now they were in danger of being displaced by other, less manageable biological explanations.

That same view of human nature – that all human differences can be explained away with reference to economic and historical forces and have no basis in biology – underlies many current progressive orthodoxies, such as the belief that gender is a ‘social construct’. Indeed, this Durkheimian notion of human beings as entirely the product of their social environment underlies the post-modernist critique of contemporary bourgeois society, with its ‘hetero-normative’ values and oppressive ‘patriarchal’ hierarchy. Like Marx, post-modernists believe that man’s true nature is reducible to the totality of social relations, that individuals are nothing more than the embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests, and that everything comes down to the struggle for power. I wouldn’t expect an uncritical acceptance of the new genetics from that quarter.

Many eminent behavioural scientists have long maintained that individual differences in intelligence and personality are linked to genetic differences – and have been vilified for it by their left-wing colleagues. But this latest evidence surely decides the debate in their favour. It’s now just flat out wrong to think that varying levels of ability and success are solely determined by economic and historical forces. That means it’s a dangerous fantasy to think that, once you’ve eradicated socio-economic inequality, human nature will flatten out accordingly – that you can return to ‘year zero’, as the Khmer Rouge put it. On the contrary, biological differences between human beings will stubbornly refuse to wither away, which means that an egalitarian society can only be maintained by a brutally coercive state that is constantly intervening to ‘correct’ the inequities of nature. Seen in this light, it’s not surprising that nearly every hard left socialist experiment has resulted in the suppression of free speech, the imprisonment and torture of political dissidents, economic stagnation, mass starvation, etc. The standard response from Marxist apologists for Stalin and other Communist dictators is to say you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. To which Orwell retorted, ‘Where’s the omelette?’

Philip Ball may point to the above and say, ‘What’s that if not a Darwinian defence of inequality?’ But I’m not advocating survival of the fittest or trying to justify the current Gini coefficient in Britain and America. I think it’s indisputable that the body of knowledge that’s been built up by behavioural scientists in general, not just behavioural geneticists, threatens some of the core tenets of progressivism ­– one reason academics working in these fields are targeted by left-wing hate mobs. But that doesn’t means the findings of evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists, cognitive neuroscientists, biosocial criminologists, and so on, inevitably lead to Alan Ryan’s ‘apocalyptic conservatism’. On the contrary, I think they’re compatible with a wide range of political arrangements, including – at a pinch – Scandinavian social democracy. (You can read a lecture I gave on which political viewpoints are threatened by the behavioural sciences, and which aren’t, here.) But progressive liberals are going to have to do some serious re-thinking once they move beyond the fingers-in-ears phase and take on board the work that’s being done in these fields, particularly the new genetics.

I interviewed Charles Murray about this for a Radio 4 documentary I presented last year and he thinks we’re only a few years away from some kind of collective nervous breakdown by the left. In particular, he’s concerned that once left-wing intellectuals finally let go of environmental determinism they may veer too far in the opposite direction and embrace gene editing technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 to try to create the perfect socialist citizen:

I think that we will see the intellectual orthodox blank slate stuff go by the wayside by 2025. Because if you follow what’s going on in genetics and in neuroscience, it’s happening so fast that I think by 2025 any sociologist that tries to write about what causes what without taking genes into account will no longer be able to be taken seriously. I think it’s on its last legs. It’s a decade away from being blown up by genetic advances. But once that happens, it’s going to be very interesting to see the reaction. You have right now a lot of cognitive dissonance whereby people in academia are saying things they don’t really believe. It’s slowly becoming apparent to them that there’s a great deal of tension between what they’re saying out loud and what they want to believe, and what’s true. And when that rubber band is let loose it’s going to snap back way too far in the other direction if we’re not careful.


Liberate America From Public Schools

Eighth-grade students all across America took the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in reading and mathematics in 2017 and the results demonstrate two facts.

First: Public schools are doing a bad job teaching their students these two basic subjects.

Second: Catholic schools are doing a better job.

But that is just one win the Catholic schools scored over the public schools. In fact, the current standings in this rivalry are: Catholic schools 2; public schools 0.

The initial contest was academic. Let's review the scoring in that one.

The NAEP tests are scored on a scale of 0 to 500 and students are assigned an achievement level based on their score. These include basic, proficient and advanced.

In the reading test, public school eighth-graders had an average score of 265 in 2017 and 65 percent failed to attain at least a "proficient" level of achievement.

Catholic school students, by contrast, had an average score of 283 and only 45 percent were less than "proficient."

Fans of the public schools may look for secondary factors to explain why Catholic school students did better than public school students in an impartial government-sponsored reading exam. But merely attending a Catholic school, it turns out, was a better indicator of scoring higher in the reading test than most other factors.

For example, eighth-graders with at least one parent who graduated from college (276), or whose families earned too much to be eligible for the school lunch program (277), or who attended school in a rural area (265) a suburb (271), the Northeast (271), the South (264), the Midwest (269) or the West (265) all scored lower than eighth-graders in Catholic schools (283).

So, too, did students who already knew English (269) and, therefore, were not English language learners (226).

The percentage of Catholic school eighth-graders who were proficient or better in reading (55 percent) exceeded the percentage in any state. Massachusetts came closest with 49 percent.

The mathematics half of the academic contest was a little closer — but still a win for the Catholic schools.

Eighth-graders in public schools scored an average of 282 in math, and 67 percent attained an achievement level that was less than proficient.

Catholic school eighth-graders scored an average of 294, and 56 percent attained an achievement level less than proficient.

Students who grew up with at least one parent who graduated from college (294) tied Catholic school students (294) in the math test and students whose families earned too much to be eligible for the school lunch program scored slightly higher (296).

But students in the country (282), the suburbs (288), the Northeast (288), the South (280), the Midwest (286) and the West (281), as well as those who were not English Language Learners (285) all scored lower in math than eighth-graders in Catholic schools (294).

The percentage of Catholic school eighth-graders who were proficient or better in math (44 percent) beat the eighth-graders in 47 of the 50 states.

In some areas, the public schools are now an obstacle a young person must overcome.

In the Detroit public schools, for example, 93 percent of the eighth-graders were less than proficient in reading. In Cleveland, it was 90 percent; and in Baltimore, 87 percent.

In Philadelphia — where the Founders declared that all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — 80 percent of the eighth-graders in public school were not proficient in reading.

In Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, it was 79 percent.

Then there is the second contest in which the Catholic schools beat the public schools: Teaching values.

Public schools generally teach secular left-wing values — that, in some instances, cannot be reconciled with the laws of nature and nature's God, whom the Founders invoked when they created this republic.

Catholic schools teach Catholic values, which are wholly consistent with the natural law, which must ultimately form the foundation of every American law.

In 2015, according to the Census Bureau, there were 45,531,000 students in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States and state and local governments spent $610,857,320,000 on those schools.

That works out to approximately $13,416 per pupil.

Parents who sent their children to Catholic and other private schools paid twice: once for the public schools with their taxes and once for the private school with their tuition.

But many parents who sent their children to public schools also got a bad deal — because their child got a bad education.

States should take every penny they now spend on the public schools and give it to parents in the form of a voucher that carries just one requirement: Educate your child where you see fit.


Here’s How Few Republicans Are On College Faculties

Just within the past week or so, some shocking professorial behavior has come to light.

In the wake of Barbara Bush’s death, California State University, Fresno professor Randa Jarrar took to Twitter to call the former first lady an “amazing racist.” Jarrar added:

PSA: either you are against these pieces of s— and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. that’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeeee.

In New Jersey, Brookdale Community College professor Howard Finkelstein, in a heated exchange, was captured on video telling a conservative student, “F— your life!”

At the City University of New York School of Law, students shouted down guest lecturer Josh Blackman for 10 minutes before he could continue his remarks.

When Duke University President Vincent Price was trying to address alumni, students commandeered the stage, shouting demands and telling him to leave.

None of this professorial and student behavior is new at the nation’s colleges. It’s part of the leftist agenda that dominates our colleges. A new study by Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert—”Homogeneous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty“—demonstrates that domination.

(By the way, Academic Questions is a publication of the National Association of Scholars, an organization fighting the leftist propaganda in academia.)

Langbert examines the political affiliation of Ph.D.-holding faculty members at 51 of the 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News & World Report. He finds that 39 percent of the colleges in his sample are Republican-free—with zero registered Republicans on their faculties.

As for Republicans within academic departments, 78 percent of those departments have no Republican members or so few as to make no difference.

Langbert breaks down the faculty Democrat-to-Republican ratio by academic department, and there are not many surprises.

Engineering departments have 1.6 Democrats for every Republican. Chemistry and economics departments have about 5.5 Democrats for every Republican. The situation is especially bad in anthropology departments, where the Democrat-to-Republican faculty ratio is 133-to-1, and in communications departments, where the ratio is 108-to-zero.

Langbert says, “I could not find a single Republican with an exclusive appointment to fields like gender studies, Africana studies, and peace studies.”

Later on in the study, Langbert turns his attention to Democrat-to-Republican faculty ratios at some of our most elite colleges. At Williams College, the Democrat-to-Republican ratio is 132-to-1. At Amherst College, it’s 34-to-1. Wellesley’s is 136-to-1. At Swarthmore, 120-to-1. Claremont McKenna, 4-to-1. Davidson, 10-to-1.

Only two colleges of the top 66 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 list have a modicum of equality in numbers between Democratic and Republican faculty members. They are the U.S. Military Academy, aka West Point, with a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of 1.3-to-1, and the U.S. Naval Academy, whose ratio is 2.3-to-1.

Many professors spend class time indoctrinating students with their views. For faculty members who are Democrats, those views can be described as leftist, socialist, or communist.

It is a cowardly act for a professor to take advantage of student immaturity by indoctrinating pupils with his opinions before the students have developed the maturity and skill to examine other opinions. It is also dereliction of duty of college administrators and boards of trustees to permit the continuance of what some professors and students are doing in the name of higher education.

Langbert’s findings suggest biases in college research and academic policy, where leftist political homogeneity is embedded in the college culture. The leftist bias at most of the nation’s colleges is in stark contrast to the political leanings of our nation.

According to a number of Pew Research Center surveys, most Americans identify as conservative. These Americans are seeing their tax dollars and tuition dollars going to people who have contempt for their values and seek to indoctrinate their children with leftist ideas.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Case Against Free College Tuition

Two highly contradictory happenings have occurred over the past year. On the one hand, published research increasingly suggests that the high returns on investments in higher education are minimally exaggerated (my argument in a forthcoming book) and often even non-existent (Bryan Caplan’s point in his new The Case Against Education). The private personal gains from college do not reflect much vocationally relevant learning, but rather diplomas tell employers that recipients are smarter, more disciplined, more motivated workers for reasons unrelated to college skill acquisition. This research suggests that we are over-invested in universities, and that public subsidies for colleges have a relatively low rate of return for the broader society.

The second contradictory trend is a growing movement to encourage attendance by making college “free.” States such as New York, Oregon and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Tennessee, have embraced the concept of free tuition for community college attendance. The newly elected New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has enthusiastically embraced the idea, first prompted most conspicuously by Bernie Sanders, to be financed in New Jersey by raising taxes on affluent residents, with the top rate on the income tax going to 10.75% from 8.97%, as well as increasing the sales tax.

There are some seemingly good arguments for free community college –we have free tuition for 11th and 12th grade, why not 13th or 14th grade (community college?)  The cost of  community college is usually low –far less than that at conventional four year universities –and often even less than per pupil costs at some outrageously inefficient large K-12 school districts. Therefore there is a case for nudging high-risk students with problematic academic records to go to these lower cost schools rather than expensive four-year universities, with easy transfer to the four-year schools if successful at the community college level. There are also attractive arguments supporting those wishing to acquire skills like driving long distance trucks or welding, well-paying vocational jobs in much demand.

However, there are three problems: the poor academic track record of community college attendees, the potentially very negative economic growth implications from financing so-called free college, and even some fairness issues. The most recent National Student Clearinghouse data show that 47% of community college enrollees drop out of school, far more than the 27% who graduate (others are still in school). Other research shows that completion rates fall the less students pay towards the cost, hinting that free tuition might raise already scandalously high dropout rates.

Decades of research by large numbers of scholars, including myself, show a huge negative relationship between income tax rates and the growth of income. High marginal tax rates, such as proposed by Governor Murphy, are also associated with big out-migration of productive citizenry. Factoid: from 2010 to 2017, some 2,520,022 native-born Americans on net moved into the nine zero state income tax states from the 41 others with such taxes. It is no wonder zero state income tax states like Texas, Florida and Tennessee tend to economically outperform high income tax states like California, New York, and New Jersey.

Rather than greater college attendance enhancing economic growth, my bet is it would be retarded. I have run literally hundreds of regression equations on the relationship between state higher education spending and economic growth: the relationship is almost always negative –higher spending, lower growth. Raising taxes on private sector earnings to fund colleges lowers growth because the output reduction associated with higher taxes on the highly efficient and market-directed competitive private sector is far greater than any positive effects of more education administered by less efficient and market disciplined higher education providers.

Lastly, it is unfair, creates poor academic incentives and an un-level playing field when you give free tuition to the academically marginal student entering community college, while her academically superior but perhaps financially similar status classmates face significant tuition charges at four years colleges.

The bottom line: on both growth and equity grounds, the “free tuition for all” model appears far less appealing than it first appears. Perhaps Governor Murphy would achieve better social outcomes by giving state assistance to students not universities, based largely on financial need but also on prospective academic success –in other words, some variant on voucher plans used at the K-12 level in several states. But given the research on higher education’s low social return mentioned in the first paragraph, even that approach may be undesirable.


UK: Justine Greening is wrong to pick on Eton

The former education secretary, Justine Greening, has urged firms to discriminate against applicants from Eton on the grounds that it is easier to get good A level grades if you’ve been to Eton rather than a comprehensive. There are several odd things about her statement.

First, why single out Eton? In terms of A level passes at grade A* or A, Eton is 12th in the independent school league table, behind Westminster, Wycombe Abbey, St Paul’s and City of London School for Girls, among others. Cardiff Sixth Form College is top, with 91.9 per cent of its students gaining A* or A in their A levels last year. I guess urging employers to discriminate against applicants from a sixth form in Cardiff wouldn’t have generated the same headlines.

Second, how many Etonians are going to be applying for jobs at 18 or 19, where the critical factor will be their A level results? According to Eton’s own stats, only four boys in 2015 started their career upon leaving the school, while 261 of the class of 267 went on to university. So is Greening urging employers to discriminate against the tiny handful of Etonians each year who apply for jobs at the age of 18 or 19? Not sure how much that will do to boost social mobility.

Third, Greening referenced ‘contextual recruitment’ in her speech and said that ‘software’ is available that enables employers to put this into practice. What this software does is ‘contextualise’ A level results by taking the postcode of the applicant into account – and just the postcode – so if two people apply for the same job with the same grades, the one from the more deprived postcode will be judged more impressive. But Greening is overlooking the fact that approximately 70 Etonians in each class of 267 are on means-tested full bursaries, which means they’re likely to live in the postcodes the contextual recruitment software will value more highly. So is Greening urging firms to modify this software so it discriminates against applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds if they happen to have gone to Eton? That will subtract from social mobility, not add to it.

Finally, Greening commits the common mistake of over-estimating the effect schools have on attainment. Secondary school exam results are between 50 and 60 per cent heritable and insofar as differences in the environment influence those results, the impact of schools is negligible once you control for different pupil characteristics. The general consensus is that schools alone account for less than 10 per cent of the variation in educational attainment – and I recently contributed to a research study that found their contribution is less than one per cent.

Greening may not realise it, but she’s given a massive endorsement to Eton, effectively claiming that it’s such a good school – so far ahead of every other school when it comes to the positive effect it has on its pupils’ A level results – that employers should take the boys exam results with a large dose of salt. It’s total balls of course, but if I was the headmaster of Eton I’d stick her speech in the next school prospectus.



Four current articles below

Half of all university degrees will be useless in ten years - as majority of employers admit business degrees are a waste of time

Almost half of Australian university degrees are at serious risk of becoming obsolete in the next 10 years unless they're overhauled, a new research paper has revealed.

Ernest & Young has called on universities to future-proof or risk major disruption following the release of its latest report, titled The university of the future.  

The dominant Australian university model is under threat of becoming unviable, and will leave graduates with more debt and poor job prospects, according to the report released on Tuesday.

More than 50 university leaders and policymakers were interviewed and more than 3000 students and employers were surveyed.

The dominant Australian university model is under threat of becoming unviable, and will leave graduates with more debt and poor job prospects, according to a new research paper    +5
The dominant Australian university model is under threat of becoming unviable, and will leave graduates with more debt and poor job prospects, according to a new research paper

Large numbers of academics, teachers and employers consider that many of the degree courses offered will soon be obsolete unless they are overhauled to reflect the rapidly-changing nature of industry and employment, the report found

Around 42 per cent of current and past graduates felt their degree needed to be overhauled. 

Only 36 per cent of those studying humanities, culture and social sciences and just 41 per cent of science and mathematics students thought their degree was relevant to their job.

The report follows a recent Grattan Institute prediction that more than 50,000 of the 250,000 students who started a bachelor degree in Australia this year will drop out.

'Australian universities are under threat from changing learner preferences, new competitive models and international competition,' Ernest & Young Oceania Education Leader Catherine Friday said.

'They need to move now to ensure they meet the needs of a changing society and changing economy. To succeed, they will need to deconstruct the higher-education value chain, offering new formats such as unbundled degree programs, continuous subscription-based learning and just-in-time learning options.'

The report urges universities to collaborate more closely with industry in creating course content to produce more work-ready graduates after 50 per cent of employers claimed that management and commerce degrees are not worthwhile.

'Australian universities are ranked last in the OECD ranking for the ability to collaborate with business on innovation,' Ms Friday said.

'Fixing that has become an urgent priority - 51 percent of international students believe their degree needs to be transformed and the university leaders we spoke to estimate that 40 per cent of existing degrees will soon be obsolete. Those institutions that can crack the new, flexible teaching learning models required will reap the benefits, as they outpace competitors that persist in delivering three to four-year degree programs that employers simply do not value.'

Just 41 per cent of science and mathematics students interviewed thought their degree was relevant to their job    +5
Just 41 per cent of science and mathematics students interviewed thought their degree was relevant to their job

Ms Friday believes there's a role for governments to define what they want out of the sector and needs to motivate the development of future offerings in collaboration with industry.

'For better or worse the policy choices of the past 40 years have given us today's education sector,' Ms Friday said.

'The policy choices we make now will define the education sector of 2030. Policy makers need to step above the fray and start making decisions that encourages a more effective and efficient model that builds on existing strengths.'

Marketing executive Michael Nguyen said little of what he learnt from his commerce degree had been relevant in the workplace.

'When you get out there, you have to know how to use platforms and create campaigns on social media,' Mr Nguyen told the Sydney Morning Herald.

'You don't learn that at university, you only learn textbook theory on things like what consumers do.'

University of Technology Sydney vice-chancellor for education Peter Scott is already planning for the future.

'One of the things UTS is now doing is developing our strategy for 2027 and looking at unbundling the degree, redesigning the physical campus and working with industry,' Professor Scott told the Sydney Morning Herald.


Outraged parents slam 'fun police' schools that force kids to sit in supervised areas instead of playing before class

Parents have slammed Queensland schools for forcing their children to sit down instead of running around the playground before class.

The move is to keep kids from being too energetic before lessons.

Mother Tiff Lawrance sends three of her children to Scarborough State School, north of Brisbane.

'I think it's crazy. Why should our children have to miss out on playtime before school. My nine and seven-year-old hate having to sit down and wait until the bell rings,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'I believe there are way too many restrictions placed on children these days and it's unfair. They are the ones that school is supposed to be about and at the end of the day they are the ones it's affecting.'

Ms Lawrence took to social media to express her frustration and quickly found out Scarborough State School wasn't the only one with the policy.

'My kids primary school, kids aren't allowed morning play time before school. They have to sit under the undercover areas until the bell goes to go into school. Just interested to see if any other schools enforce this as I don't agree with it,' she wrote in Facebook group The Redcliffe Peninsula Community.

In response Sarah Bell wrote: 'Our school has just introduced this, it's not a supervision issue, it was kids playing sport and getting hurt… that's what kids do! I think they need to be able to run around and burn of some energy ready to sit in the class and learn, crazy society we seem to be creating!'

Patricia Truscott said: 'At our school they have said strictly no playing on the equipment even if parents are supervising.'

Many parents said the rules were in place for the safety of children, particularly if they arrive at school early and are unsupervised.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education said principals at each school made decisions regarding the safety of students.

They said classes at Scarborough started at 8.40am and students who arrived early were supervised in covered areas to make sure they were safe.

'The principal has not received any complaints about before-school supervision,' the spokesperson said.

The Catholic school funding shambles 12 months on

One year after the unveiling of the Gonski 2.0 package, it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on the shambolic and tortuous process the Turnbull Government is bumbling through as it tries to devise a new school funding policy, Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Executive Director Stephen Elder says.

‘The warning bells started ringing when Senator Birmingham decided he knew how to develop what he called a fair, consistent and equitable funding model without consulting anyone other than the independent school sector,’ Mr Elder said.

‘In taking that approach he ignored detailed research from Catholic education that showed the key parameter in his model – school SES scores – was deeply flawed and biased in favour of elite independent schools.

‘Unsurprisingly, the Minister went on to announce a new funding approach that has been rightly labelled the best special deal independent schools have ever had.

‘But that approach was riddled with policy mistakes, and the Minister has been playing catch-up ever since, much to the concern of his marginal seat colleagues in the Reps who don’t share the luxury of his six-year Senate term.

‘We’re now in the bizarre situation whereby the Minister promised he would deliver schools “absolute certainty” over their funding, but most Catholic and independent schools don’t know what they will receive in a matter of months when school SES scores are replaced for the 2019 school year.

‘In fact, looking back at all the claims made by the Minister when he announced his new funding policy, one wonders whether he actually knew what he was talking about.

‘Most of these claims are deeply misleading, and bear no resemblance to what has actually transpired – or to the funding model that the Turnbull Government legislated in June 2017, as the attached CECV Research Brief outlines.

‘The one-year anniversary is also a good time to reflect on the worst policy development process in recent times. Senator Birmingham:

·     Increased the importance of SES scores in school funding by removing the option of system-average SES scores for non-government school systems thereby:

o  Ignoring recommendations from the original Gonski review to replace SES scores.

o  Ignoring detailed research from Catholic education that demonstrated school SES scores were flawed and biased against Catholic schools.

·     Announced a new school funding policy that would fundamentally reshape Catholic education in Australia by making Catholic primary schools in many parts of Australia fundamentally unviable – without consulting with Catholic education.

·     Legislated new funding requirements for state and territory governments which have the potential to dictate how much funding these governments provide to schooling – again without actually consulting with states and territories.

·     Decided to use dodgy new data to fund students with disability in schools, even though he had said himself it failed a basic credibility test – leading to a situation in Victoria where independent schools now claim more than 25 per cent of their students have disabilities.

·     Published figures on the funding that Catholic schools would receive under his policy proposal that were deliberately based on an incorrect starting point to disguise funding cuts for over 600 Catholic schools.

·     Informed all principals and school communities in schools that are part of systems of the funding they would receive from the Australian Government, while simultaneously insisting that system authorities – not the Government – would determine the funding that these actually received.

·     Claimed to be implementing the ‘full vision’ of the Gonski Review panel, even though some of the changes he announced contradicted aspects of the Gonski Review final report.

‘It is entirely predictable that this appalling process has delivered a flawed funding model. Ignorance and arrogance have never led to good policy.

‘One can only hope that Senator Birmingham learns from this experience as he now scrambles to fix his school funding shambles.’

 Media release. Further information: Christian Kerr, 0402 977 352

Australian schools have 'failed' a generation of students

It’s taxpayers’ money and real solutions that are Gonski

IF the new Gonski report on education is a “blueprint” for building student achievement, as described by the Prime Minister yesterday, we should all grab our kids and pets and evacuate.

The report is so lacking in substance and rigour that the roof is very likely to cave in.

Worse, it is a clear example of taxpayers’ money being soaked up by another review that not only did not deliver on its brief, but actually suggested spending more money to establish yet another review.

The committee’s task was to “examine evidence and make recommendations on the most effective teaching and learning strategies and initiatives to be deployed” in order to improve student achievement in school and maximise their opportunities post-school.

The review was commissioned in the wake of an announcement last year of significantly increased Commonwealth funding for schools. It was supposed to mitigate the risk that this extra funding would fail to improve results over the next 10 years — just as previous funding increases have failed over past years.

What the committee provided instead was a series of proposals that largely have no evidence basis and which would probably take up to a decade just to develop and implement.

The headline proposal is for a ‘continuous assessment tool’ — for which there is no evidence to support the grandiose claims of its impact — but there is also a wideranging set of 22 other recommendations. Some will increase administration burdens and bureaucracy, and some simply endorse things that are already happening, such as the reforms started by the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) in 2014.

What should actually be happening classrooms in terms of effective teaching for high standards of learning barely gets a look-in. The report doesn’t investigate the evidence on curriculum design and teaching strategies that lead to the most growth in learning, or advise on how to ensure that teachers use them.

Instead, there is a strange preoccupation with the idea of ‘growth mindset’ as being a key factor in student performance. According to this concept, students who believe they can do well are more likely to, so schools and parents should facilitate this attitude.

‘Growth mindset’ has the ring of a Pentecostal preacher about it — the idea that a dyslexic child who cannot read or write can be helped by simply being told to have a positive mental attitude is like a faith healer telling a blind person he can see if he believes he can. It follows that according to recent meta-analyses of mindset research, the relationship between mindset and achievement is weak at best.

And what about the idea to “deliver at least one year’s growth in learning for every student every year”? Again, it sounds obvious that this should be a goal for every student but there is a lot of missing detail in the report, and the complexities of Professor John Hattie’s research have been lost in translation.

How do we determine what is a year’s growth in learning in every single subject? Will it change as children move through school? Is it the same for typically-developing children and those with learning disabilities? Not so straightforward, after all.

It is easy to see the appeal for federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham of the recommendations about individual student growth and low-stakes assessment tools. They appear to tick both the student-centred progressivist box and the data-driven, instrumentalist box. There is enough ambiguity in the recommendations to bring states and territories to the table and hopefully come up with something useful and workable.

Unfortunately, the cupboard is bare. Rather than giving concrete advice, the report glides over the crucial ‘who’ and ‘how’, with recommendations like “ensure all students have the opportunity to be partners in their own learning” and “create the conditions necessary to enable teachers to effectively engage and benefit from professional learning.” What conditions are those, whose responsibility is it to create them, and what should happen if they don’t?

The Gonski 2.0 report got one thing right: Australia’s performance in international assessment has been sliding for a decade and action must be taken. Too many children are leaving school unable to read, let alone be the idealised ‘creative, connected and engaged learner’.

But the solutions posed in this report will take us further in the wrong direction. If implemented, the Gonski 2.0 report will just be another chapter in the story of Australia’s sad educational decline.


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Trump to pull feds out of K-12 education

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to start pulling the federal government out of K-12 education, following through on a campaign promise to return school control to state and local officials.

The order, dubbed the “Education Federalism Executive Order,” will launch a 300-day review of Obama-era regulations and guidance for school districts and directs Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to modify or repeal measures she deems an overreach by the federal government.

“For too long the government has imposed its will on state and local governments. The result has been education that spends more and achieves far, far, far less,” Mr. Trump said. “My administration has been working to reverse this federal power grab and give power back to families, cities [and] states — give power back to localities.”

He said that previous administrations had increasingly forced schools to comply with “whims and dictates” from Washington, but his administration would break the trend.

“We know local communities know it best and do it best,” said Mr. Trump, who was joined by several Republican governors for the signing. “The time has come to empower teachers and parents to make the decisions that help their students achieve success.”

Ms. DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence were on hand for the ceremony, which was attended by about 25 people, including teachers, lawmakers and the governors.


School District Forbids Parents From Opting Kids Out of LGBT Lessons

Parents in Orange County, California, may not opt their children out of lessons related to gender identity or sexual orientation, according to a memorandum written by the school district’s general counsel.

“Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction,” read the memorandum from Ronald Wenkart to the Orange County Board of Education.

A school district spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the memorandum sent to us by a parent.

“However, parents are free to advise their children that they disagree with some or all of the information presented in the instructional program and express their views on these subjects to their children,” the attorney wrote.

His analysis was included in a March 29 memorandum that was supposed to be a comprehensive legal review of the California Healthy Youth Act.

The legislation requires school districts to provide students with comprehensive sexual health education. The law mandates that schools “teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and the harm of negative gender stereotypes.”

According to the law, students can be excused from the comprehensive sexual health education portion of the law. But it’s what kids are not exempt from that has parents concerned.

The school district’s general counsel said that exemption does not apply to “instructions, materials or programming that discusses gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, discrimination, harassment, bullying, intimidation, relationships, or family and does not discuss human reproductive organs and their functions.”

Perhaps even more alarming is the belief that school districts and the California General Assembly know what’s best for school children. From

“The courts have held that parents do not have the constitutional rights to override the determinations of the state legislature or the school district as to what information their children will be provided in the public school classroom,” the memorandum read.

Allow me to be blunt — the idea that parents do not have the constitutional right to determine what is best for their child is downright evil. Yes, evil.

Our nation’s public schools have been turned into indoctrination centers by a gang of radical sex and gender revolutionaries. Our education system has been taken hostage.

We must rise up and take back our public schools.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German theologian, once said that silence in the face of evil is evil itself. Friends, we are facing evil in our great nation and we must not be silent.


Teacher Sent Home for Wearing Shirt with Beautiful 2-Word Message

It’s a beautiful two-word message that the world needs right now — and it got an Alabama teacher kicked out of her classroom.

According to WALA-TV, Mobile County Public Schools teacher Chris Burrell was told to go home after wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Just Pray” on it.

Burrell said she wore the shirt to support 11-year-old Aubreigh Nicholas, a young dancer from the local town of Semmes who has been fighting an inoperable brain tumor. The shirt has been sold as part of a fundraiser to pay for her treatment.

“So at the point of looking and seeing ‘pray’ on it, the principal said, can you put on a sweater or something, knowing that there are other people who object to that. We have to be cognizant of everyone’s beliefs or everyone’s thoughts in a public school,” said Martha Peek, the superintendent for Mobile County Public Schools.

Apparently they have to be aware of everyone’s thoughts except Burrell’s, of course.

“I didn’t think twice about it. I wasn’t trying to promote religion, it was just my Monday feel-good shirt,” Burrell said in a now-deleted Facebook post, according to Fox News.

Peek insists the principal wasn’t aware that the shirt was in connection to Aubreigh, whose plight has attracted a cadre of supporters called “Aubreigh’s Army.”

“We’re totally supporting her, I think that this was just an unfortunate connection there, but still the principal would have had to exercise her judgment,” said Peek, noting that school policy is to ban any clothing that expresses a belief.

Let’s not forget that the policy, as per Tinker v. Des Moines, is blatantly unconstitutional. That decision — authored by Abe Fortas, an appointee of the Lyndon Johnson administration — set in stone that “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Beyond that, it’s highly unlikely that any school would have exercised this unconstitutional policy for a student wearing a “Love Trumps Hate” or “#MeToo” T-shirt. One gets the distinct feeling, from recent history, that only certain messages that express a belief would run afoul of the fine people with the Mobile County Public Schools.

Given the Constitution, one could only reasonably restrict Burrell’s clothing choice on two grounds: it either was disruptive to the classroom or lent itself to the official establishment of a religion on the part of the school.

I think we can safely dismiss the first scenario without a second thought. As for whether it established a religion, it’s worth noting that Burrell was simply acting as an individual who happened to be a teacher. This wasn’t a decision for her to wear the T-shirt on the part of the district (far from it, actually) and it didn’t specify any religion, simply that she believed in the power of prayer.

While the Supreme Court has upheld laws that religious garb cannot be worn in the classroom if there is a state law prohibiting it in two separate cases involving a Sikh man in Oregon and a Muslim woman in Pennsylvania — both of whom were denied the right to wear religiously-identifiable clothing in the classroom — there isn’t a state law here, simply a school policy (which is unconstitutional, anyhow).

According to the Newseum, First Amendment Center cautions that “teachers should not wear clothing with a proselytizing message.”

However, to proselytize, one first needs to specify a religious belief that one is proselytizing for. Burrell’s shirt didn’t specify anything — and as for intent, it can be traced back to a fundraiser for a sick girl. Could one be said to be proselytizing for wellness, or simply for a miracle?

This shirt should not have alarmed anybody, unless they believe the simple act of prayer — an act that’s central to the life of most every religious believer across this planet — has now become an in-your-face obloquy to unbelievers.


Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Parkland Teacher Who Attacked Kashuv Gets Bad News

One Florida teacher is getting a lesson in accountability for adults.

Since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the teenage “survivors” with politically acceptable points of view have gotten a taste of celebrity and liberal adulation many Democrat politicians spend their lives dreaming of.

But an apparently quick-tempered teacher at the school is finding out things can be a little different if you’re actually old enough to vote.

Greg Pittman, an American history teacher at Stoneman Douglas, is under investigation by the Broward County School District for remarks he allegedly made in class comparing pro-Second Amendment student Kyle Kashuv to Adolph Hitler, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Friday.

For a guy with apparently impeccable liberal credentials, the news that he’s on the receiving end of a school district inquiry has to be pretty devastating news. After all, the Sun-Sentinel describes him as an “outspoken gun control advocate” and his Twitter bio brags about joining in the students’ “March for Our Lives” demonstration last month in Washington. How could he be in the wrong?

But maybe he should have thought about the consequences before reportedly calling Kashuv the “next Hitler.”

At least three students said they’d heard Pittman make the remarks during a class discussion, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Kashuv was not in the classroom at the time.

According to Fox News, a junior who was in the class recalled the wording a bit differently, but did describe the discussion as “hate fest.”

“They were just saying means things about Kyle,” the student said. “He (Pittman) talked about how he was right, and how Kyle was making an ass of himself. He did say he ‘was the Hitler type.’ I don’t really know what that means exactly, but I think he was just being crazy.”

In a Twitter post Thursday, Kashuv pointed out one particularly disturbing aspect of Pittman’s comments.

“My grandfather was one of the only survivors of the holocaust out of his entire family, and now a teacher is calling me the next Hitler because I have different political views,” he wrote.

Both Fox and the Sun-Sentinel said Pittman did not respond to requests for comment, but the Sun-Sentinel confirmed the school district is looking into the situation.

“School leaders take all matters involving students and staff seriously,” Nadine Drew, a Broward Schools spokeswoman, told the Sun-Sentinel. “They are aware of the allegations and are looking into the matter.”

The irony here, of course, is that of all the teenagers who’ve been in the public eye since Parkland, Kashuv has exhibited the fewest characteristics of a budding fascist leader.

It hasn’t been Kashuv who’s been the subject of endless adulation by a bootlicking media. It hasn’t been Kashuv standing before throngs of people making proto-fascist salutes. It hasn’t been Kashuv calling for mass demonstrations and advertising boycotts against media personalities who fail to fall into line.

That’s been the other Parkland students who’ve become darlings of the gun control movement, particularly, of course, David Hogg. He’s been the kid who’s gotten a free pass from the media since he burst onto the scene after the Feb. 14 shooting, and started fulfilling gun grabbers’ fantasies about student rebellions in the cause of conformity.

Free passes are for kids, though. With word of the school district’s probe of the Pittman comments, it looks like one Florida teacher’s getting a lesson in accountability.


Attending a Dumbed-Down College Can Lead to Depression

With National Decision Day (May 1) fast approaching, guidance counselors throughout the country are ramping up their pressure on high school kids to choose the right college. It turns out that there may be more at stake than even guidance counselors know. A new study is claiming that choosing the wrong college can lead to depression.

The study, conducted by Noli Brazil and Matthew Andersson, uncovered that "depressive symptoms increase by 27% for students experiencing lowered peer ability across their college transition, relative to no substantial change in peer ability. In addition, heightened peer ability in college links to neither diminished nor enhanced student well-being across the transition. Overall, student well-being relates more closely to collegiate than high-school peer ability."

In non-peer reviewed journal speak, that finding can be translated that if students attend a college where the classes are less academically challenging than they're used to and where their peers are less academically focused than their high school classmates, the risk for depression rises substantially.

The study's authors discovered that 50 percent of high school students transition to a college that matches their rubric for "lower peer ability." Writing about their study, the authors assert, "This finding held even after we accounted for a number of other factors, including family income, parents' education and gender. We also took into account the high school-to-college transition itself."

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the authors combed through the responses from over 1,400 students representing 100 high schools across America. Within the study, the students were asked questions designed to measure their mental health as they transitioned from high school to adulthood. Brazil and Andersson then,

Measured school academic ability using average scholastic and cognitive aptitude tests. We then examined the effects of going to a college with higher, lower or the same average scores relative to high school on student depression and self-esteem levels.

Prior research has examined the consequences of school academic ability on a variety of outcomes, such as academic performance and self-image. From these studies, a clear finding emerged: equally able students have a lower academic self-image in high-ability schools than in low-ability schools, a phenomenon known as the “big-fish-little-pond effect.”

But because prior research had focused on specific schools rather than school transitions in general, researchers may have failed to detect that movement to a lower-ability school may be harmful to a student’s mental well-being. In particular, going into a lower ability academic setting may be viewed by the student as a failure. If such a student experiences elevated depression levels, it could be the result of unmet or frustrated expectations for achieving personal success and being around peers who share similar interests, habits and goals.

Most people recognize that transitioning from high school to college can be stressful. However, I doubt many people would have guessed that attending a less academically challenging college than your high school would be one of the causes of that stress.


Australian PM backs education report calling for a move from mass learning to tailored education

Gonski is a lawyer and a notable networker. He has no experience as a teacher or educationist.  His report is an expression of conventional pious hopes and nothing more.  It's all old hat to real educationists.  The devil is in the detail.  How do you make it happen?  Nobody knows.  Most British private schools achieve something like it but they cost a bundle.  They need to charge like that to get the low staff-student ratios required.

So even to attempt to carry out its recommendations in government schools would take at least a doubling of teacher time.  Where do we get the extra teachers?  How do we pay them? 

Turnbull is safe in endorsing it as he won't have the job of implementing it.  The States will. The State governments will regard this as just a Chinese puzzle and do very little in response to it. It's just a pipe dream

David Flint comments: "Gonski- more of the same. More reviews, more money, poor discipline and a national disaster- constantly falling standards in education. As usual, Canberra  succeeds in only making the problem worse"

The Prime Minister has thrown his support behind what he's described as a blueprint to lift Australia's lagging educational performance, laid out in a report by businessman David Gonski.

Malcolm Turnbull has urged state governments, teachers and parents to back the recommendations in Mr Gonski's report on achieving excellence in Australian schools.

Mr Gonski's second major review into Australian education said the country must urgently modernise its industrial-era model of school education and move towards individualised learning for all students.

Too many Australian children are failing to reach their potential at school because of the restrictive nature of year-level progression, the report said.

It calls for the implementation across states of a new online assessment tool that teachers would use to diagnose the exact level of literacy and numeracy a child has achieved.

Teachers could then create individual learning plans for students that would not be tied to what year group they are in.

If formative online assessments were established and reported nationally, it would downgrade the intense focus on the yearly NAPLAN tests in favour of continuous, real-time measurement of student progress.

The Federal Government has agreed to implement all of the report's recommendations, and it hopes to use it to develop a new national schooling agreement.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he would enter into talks with the states and territories about how to implement Mr Gonski's recommendations.

"We want to see a system out of this report where each student is stretched to the maximum of their capabilities each and every year over the 12 or 13 years of their schooling," Senator Birmingham said.

"It really is essential that teachers know and are able to chart where their students are up to in terms of what they're learning, how they're progressing and that parents are fully engaged as part of that process as well."

Mass education model holding back students

The report was commissioned by the Federal Government last year after the passage of its amended schools funding legislation.

Mr Gonski said in his report that the structure of Australian schools reflected "a 20th century aspiration to deliver mass education to all children".

The report recommended shifting from that industrial education model to one where schools focused on achieving each individual student's "maximum potential growth in learning each year".

It found current assessment tools in schools did not provide teachers with "real-time or detailed data on a student's growth".

"In our report we're suggesting: let's take some time to allow teachers to have more time to improve their art — and not to improve it because it's not good, but to keep up-to-date with all that's happening around the world and in their profession."

While tests like NAPLAN and the international sample test PISA provided "a useful big picture view of student learning trends across Australia and the world", they provided limited assistance to teachers at the classroom level, the report said.

It also said the current "rigidity of curriculum delivery, and assessment and reporting models" were holding Australia back.

Several state governments lodged submissions to the Gonski review, pointing out that current assessment tools used by teachers were not uniform across all schools.

The Victorian Education Department described current assessment tools in its state as "idiosyncratic".

Mixed-ability classes preferable

Many schools rely on gifted and talented programs to extend bright students but the report said evidence showed that mixed-ability classes were preferable.

It said streaming children by ability "has little effect in improving student outcomes and [has] profoundly negative equity effects".

It recommended overhauling the curriculum to focus on "learning progressions" that extended all students, regardless of ability.

Other key recommendations included:

    Setting up a national inquiry to review curriculum and assessment in years 11 and 12

    Establishing a national educational research institute

    Implementing greater principal autonomy

    Providing more rewards for high-performing teachers

    Overhauling the current A-E grading scale to instead measure progression gains

    Introducing a "unique student identifier" for all students that allows progress to be tracked across time, even if a student changes schools or moves interstate

A special meeting of the Education Council will be held on Friday to discuss the recommendations in the report, titled Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools.

Mr Gonski was commissioned by the Gillard government in 2011 to compile a major report on school funding.

The review formed the basis for what is known as the Gonski legislation that created a baseline resourcing standard across all schooling sectors.

Findings 'not supported by research', 'lack detail'

But the report has not been welcomed by all in the sector, with the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) describing it as a failure.

Senior research fellow at the CIS, Jennifer Buckingham, said the report offered no clear guidance to schools and did not meet the review's terms of reference.

"Many of the findings are not supported by research, and lack detail about implementation," Ms Buckingham said.

    "For example, the disproportionate attention to policies that facilitate 'growth mindset' have no evidence-basis in terms of impact on student achievement.

"Likewise, the pre-occupation with increasing the focus on general capabilities has no support in rigorous research about curriculum design and how children learn."

The Australian Education Union said it was concerned the report was coming at a time when the Federal Government was cutting funds to public schools over the next two years.

Union president Correna Haythorpe said it was about properly resourcing disadvantaged schools and students.

"We do have outstanding teachers across Australia who are delivering a very high-quality curriculum, but the reality is that they are missing out on the resources needed to close the student achievement gap," she said.


Monday, April 30, 2018

New AP History Text Categorizes Trump Supporters as Racist, Questions President’s Mental Fitness

“His not-very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters.”

It is sadly common for conservative presidents and political leaders to be portrayed in a less-than-flattering light in the left-leaning textbooks used in public school and college classrooms, but a new volume on American history gives a new spin on the term “rush to judgment.” Less than a year-and-a-half after taking office as America’s sitting president, Donald Trump is already being maligned in the pages of an upcoming high school history text which insinuates that he and his supporters are driven by racism and that he is mentally unfit to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.

Textbooks rarely receive a high profile before their publication, but the new history text “By the People: A History of the United States” written by New York University Professor James W. Fraser and set to be published by the Pearson Education publishing company has already proved controversial for its radical left-leaning and insulting narrative on Donald Trump’s election as president. The book’s one-sided nature was exposed not by an educator but by high school student Tarra Snyder, a junior and AP History student at Rosemount High School in Minnesota, who was provided with Fraser’s book as a sample text that might be used for class instruction next year. Snyder was so incensed by the work’s slanted portrayal of history that she shared images of the book with Indianapolis radio show host Alex Clark, who tweeted images of the text along with commentary that quickly went viral:

The book’s concluding section titled “The Angry Election of 2016” puts NYU Professor Fraser’s hatred and disdain for President Trump on full display. “Most thought that Trump was too extreme a candidate to win the nomination, but his extremism, his anti-establishment rhetoric, and, some said, his not-very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters,” Fraser writes.

“Trump supporters saw the vote as a victory for people who, like themselves, had been forgotten in a fast-changing America—a mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white group,” he adds, blatantly stereotyping those who supported Trump’s victory.

In another section, he has the audacity to question Trump’s mental fitness for office: “Clinton’s supporters feared that the election had been determined by people who were afraid of a rapidly developing ethnic diversity of the…country…They also worried about the mental instability of the president-elect and the anger that he & his supporters brought to the nation.”

“It was really, really surprising to me,” whistleblower Tarra Snyder commented on viewing Fraser’s text, which is intended to replace an older AP History text in classrooms across the nation next year. “I really believe that learning should be objective and that students can make their own decisions based on what they’re able to learn in a classroom and if the facts are skewed then students aren’t able to make well-rounded decisions on what they believe.”

Responding to Fraser’s claims that Trump supporters are mostly older white rural voters, Snyder said, “I really am surprised by that, I know the multitudes of people who are diverse and who do want to be represented, and when the Democratic Party…pushes them out of the frame, that’s what’s doing the Democratic Party harm because people do feel like they are being forgotten, not just white suburban people living out in the country.”

Snyder is correct in her assertions. Trump, in fact, garnered a higher percentage of African-American, Asian, and Hispanic votes than Republican candidate Mitt Romney did in 2012.

Fraser’s left-wing bias does not begin and end with President Trump. His text also contains a section on the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter movement which casts the police in a highly negative light. According to Fraser, Michael Brown’s parents “were kept away at gunpoint” after he was shot and “The nearly all-white police force was seen as an occupying army in the mostly African American town…the police increased the tensions, defacing memorials set up for Brown and using rubber bullets on demonstrators.”

Scott Overland, a spokesman for the Pearson publishing company, told Fox News that the text was “developed by an expert author and underwent rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity.” He further asserted that it was “designed to convey college-level information to high school students” and “aims to promote debate and critical thinking by presenting multiple sides” of the 2016 election.

Pearson Education’s defense of an obvious ideological left-wing smear campaign to discredit President Trump and his supporters in the eyes of American schoolchildren is ultimately even more disturbing than the content of Fraser’s text itself. The notion that a textbook this one-sided was reviewed by multiple academic historians in a “rigorous peer review” process and found to be not only acceptable but to promote “debate and critical thinking” should be cause for even greater concern. 


We need to keep trans politics out of schools

British schools have become laboratories for contentious ideas about gender

Teachers wanting to transition – to change their gender – now have a new resource. This week, the National Education Union released its Trans Equality Toolkit, a series of documents ‘designed to support trans education professionals in the workplace and to help make your transition at work as smooth as possible’. The teachers’ union argues that ‘every school and college should have a policy in place to support employees who intend to transition’.

Despite anti-bullying policies and inclusion statements being piled up in every staffroom, schools can still be ruthless workplaces. Individual transgender teachers should, like other members of staff, be supported if they confront difficulties in carrying out their role. Allowing transgender teachers to dress how they see fit is common sense.

But every school having its own formal policy on transgender teachers takes us beyond common sense. The overwhelming majority of schools are unlikely to have any transgender teachers – estimates suggest that less than 1 per cent of the adult population is transgender. So the ‘toolkit’ becomes less practical advice for school leaders (treat your staff humanely) and more a political statement in support of trans activists. It is less about supporting individuals and more about formalising a particular set of assumptions about gender at the heart of the education system.

The toolkit reflects the fact that many schools now find themselves, often unwittingly, at the frontline in a battle over contested ideas about gender. School uniform, toilets and changing rooms have moved from being practical concerns to political statements. Currently under review, mandatory sex-and-relationships classes look certain to include transgender issues. Government-backed guidance issued last December advises school leaders to ‘celebrate’ transgender people and ‘ensure the visibility’ of trans perspectives in the classroom. Primary schools are advised to use books featuring transgender parents.

Schools are teaching and enacting trans activists’ ideological outlook – that people are born with both sex and gender firmly fixed, but whereas sex is merely bodily and located in the genitalia, gender is innate and located in the brain. According to this way of thinking, assuming a child’s gender based simply on their biological sex is an act of violence, an invalidation of the transgender child’s identity. In transitioning, the trans person is not making a choice, but simply bringing their body in line with their real, brain-based gender. That this fundamentally contradicts what children are taught in biology lessons appears to be of little concern in the rush to issue new guidelines.

Influencing what goes on in schools allows trans activists an audience for these highly contested views about gender while avoiding complex arguments with adults. Schools that are slow to come on board with the demands of trans activists can find themselves the subject of organised social-media campaigns and emotive claims that ‘education should be inclusive not abusive’. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most schools simply change their policy and practice – often without consultation with parents, and perhaps at great expense.

Despite an exponential rise in the number of children referred to Gender Identity Development Services, the time and money schools devote to transgender issues remains out of all proportion to the total number of transgender children in the population. In 2017, there were a total of 2,016 referrals for children aged between three and 18 – a six-fold increase in five years. Trans activists argue that the increase in referrals better reflects the ‘true’ number of transgender people, as removing stigma allows more people to seek help in transitioning.

Well, the increase certainly represents a greater degree of confusion among children about what it means to be a boy or a girl today – confusion often now planted by teachers. For children, especially teenagers, changing gender becomes a legitimate – if limited – means of self-expression, of marking yourself out as different and non-conforming but also beyond all criticism. Bizarrely, schools will have rules for sixth-formers about inappropriate clothes or body piercings, and yet changing gender is not just permitted but celebrated.

Schools celebrating the transgender child can do a disservice to other children struggling with puberty. Those wanting the privacy of single-sex toilets and changing rooms can find they have to include the boy or girl who is transitioning. Although disabled toilets or staffrooms can be made available, this often does not meet the demands of trans activists, who argue pupils need to be able to use their chosen toilet and changing rooms in order to feel recognised and included.

Always, it seems, the feelings of teenagers who are not struggling with their gender identity, but simply struggling with the changes to their bodies that come with growing up, must give way to the feelings of the transgender child. Trans children are presented as more vulnerable than their classmates. Research is cited claiming transgender people are 40 per cent more likely to have attempted suicide – the assumption being that not supporting children through gender transitioning is a cause of mental distress. But it might be the case that mental-health problems pre-existed, and perhaps even initially took the form of, questioning gender identity.

Schools should not be compelled either by trans activists or government directives to rush headlong into changing provision or teaching about transgender issues. But to argue this point prompts campaigners to draw comparisons with Section 28 – government legislation introduced in 1988 and repealed in 2003 that prevented councils, and therefore schools, from intentionally promoting homosexuality or publishing material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. Section 28 was illiberal and I would have opposed it. It prevented local authorities from being able to provide support and services for their communities and prevented teachers from being able to discuss issues around sexuality in an honest and open manner.

But the comparison between homosexuality and transgenderism made by today’s activists is simplistic and crude. It asks us to compare tolerance for an expanded human sexuality forged privately between consenting adults with publicly demanded changes in everyone’s behaviour, language and perception of reality. Someone who refuses to tolerate gay people might be a deeply unpleasant individual, but they do not invalidate the gay person’s right to exist and live as they choose. Yet the trans person, activists tell us, only exists through public acts of recognition. It is therefore vital that we collude with their demands, even if they impose a more constrained and conservative gender identity on us.

Turning schools into laboratories for testing out new ideas and practices around gender is damaging to children and to education more broadly. Teachers should be free to answer pupils’ questions as they arise and offer individuals the advice and support they need. But schools should resist pressure from trans activists to do any more than this.


Australian jihadi's Sydney high school was a 'religious hothouse that made him ashamed of his heritage' - before he fled to Syria to join a terror group

An Australian government school is a hothouse of Sunni Muslim  preaching???

The father of an Australian jihadist jailed for travelling to Syria to join an Islamist terror group says his son's secular high school was a 'religious hothouse' that made him ashamed of his heritage.

Mehmet Biber, 25, who flew from Sydney to the Middle East in 2013 to join Jabha al-Nusra, was sentenced on Friday to at least two-and-a-half years jail after pleading guilty to entering a foreign state intending hostile activity.

During sentencing, the court heard of his father's concerns about Parramatta High School in Sydney's west, where his jailed son was a student.

'We were very happy Australian public schools were totally secular and glad we sent Mehmet to one. We were misinformed... We came to learn it was a religious hothouse,' the court heard, according to The Daily Telegraph. 

The court heard Biber's father, Gaven, believed religious practices were 'a constant feature' of education at the school, and that teachers thought they were being were being 'culturally sensitive' by encouraging it. 

The court heard the father believed Biber was made to feel ashamed of his Alawite heritage, a branch of Shia Islam.

'Visiting mullahs and prayer groups and school employed emirs were a constant feature of education there. All of them it seemed legitimising a strain of Sunni fundamentalism,' the court heard.

The father tried four times to alert authorities before his son travelled to Syria. He later went to Turkey himself to persuade him to come home.

Outside court on Friday, Mr Biber said Mehmet posed no risk to the community and just wanted to get on with his life.

'We did everything in our power to stop him but, unfortunately, the authorities gave us no assistance whatsoever,' he said. 'Any parent would have done the same thing that I did.'

Justice Christine Adamson on Friday jailed Biber for four years and nine months with a non-parole period of two and a half years.

During a NSW Supreme Court hearing last week, Biber insisted he never went near the front line because his hosts - from the moderate Ahrar al-Sham group - were protective of Australians.

However, he conceded he would have tried if allowed. Justice Adamson accepted part but not all of his evidence.

She considered his offending 'well below the mid-range of seriousness' for the charge which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Biber's youth and naivety at the time of the trip were mitigating factors, the judge said.

His decision to leave behind his pregnant wife in Australia and pose for photos during the trip with a group of men holding assault rifles were indicative of his immaturity.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Home schooling

Regardless of what we think of the story below, Edison really was home-schooled. Edison had very little formal education as a child, attending school only for a few months. He was taught reading, writing, and arithmetic by his mother, but was always a very curious child and taught himself much by reading on his own.

Parents Stand Up for Children in ‘Sex Ed Sit Out’

Parents across the country pulled their children out of public schools on Monday for the “Sex Ed Sit Out”—a grassroots awakening of frustrated parents who are sick of the sexualization of children in their taxpayer-funded schools.

The Sex Ed Sit Out was conceived by Elizabeth Johnston, who blogs at Activist Mommy, and other moms on social media who are concerned about the increasingly graphic, unscientific nature of sex education in public schools.

Parents protested in cities across the United States, as well as in England, Canada, and Australia.

In solidarity with the event, parents in Northern Virginia held a conference on Saturday on the radical changes in sex education and how schools deliberately deceive parents.

A common note struck at the conference was the anti-science approach of the Fairfax County sex ed curriculum. Students are taught that they weren’t really born male or female—rather, a sex was assigned to them at birth by a delivery room doctor who might have gotten it wrong.

In fact, sex ed curriculum advisers recently announced that “biological sex is essentially meaningless,” and the phrase is being scrubbed from all lessons and replaced by the phrase “sex assigned at birth.” It’s a little sexual-revolutionary agitprop to keep the youngsters off balance.

Parents discussed how “transgender identity” is now presented in schools as a healthy alternative for children, but the risks of surgical and hormonal “sex transition” are not mentioned—such as the serious risks of untested, experimental puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for children, or side effects like stunted growth and ruined reproductive systems.

Informing children about medical risks was voted down by the school board advisers.

Several parents discussed how they are sick of being played for fools in Fairfax. The eighth-grade lesson called “abstinence” is a scam. It doesn’t teach children abstinence until marriage, but abstinence “until a person is in a faithful, monogamous relationship.”

In fact, the word “marriage” doesn’t even appear in the actual lesson—not even once.

Sex ed in Fairfax is called “Family Life Education,” but savvy parents know that’s a joke.

In the more than 80 hours of sex ed that kids are subjected to during their public school career, children are asked to become experts on every contraceptive drug and device imaginable, and yet no time is spent on how to form healthy marriages and happy families.

In fact, the only lesson that focuses on fathers is a ninth-grade lesson on sexual assault, where students are shown a video about a father who repeatedly rapes his terrified daughter. It’s a disgrace.

Fairfax schools now teach the use of a daily drug regimen known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP is a drug that promises reduced risk of HIV/AIDS to gay men who have condom-free sex.

LGBT advocates have called PrEP a “catastrophe” that will lead to risky behavior, and today the rates of HIV infection are skyrocketing. Yet PrEP is pushed on kids every year from ninth grade on—even though the Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use for those under the age of 18.

Shocking? Absolutely. But then you discover that one lesson plan for eighth-graders includes 18 separate mentions of “anal sex.”

A highlight of the Saturday conference was the appearance of Judith Reisman, an internationally acclaimed researcher and author on the ideologically driven origins of the modern sex ed movement. Reisman detailed the child abuse and fraud at the core of Alfred Kinsey’s research, and how the Kinsey model has corrupted classroom education on human sexuality. (Kinsey was an early sexologist who had a lasting influence on sex education.)

We are light years away from bird-and-bees biology. We are now into the age of recruitment. And it’s parents’ tax dollars that are used to fund the recruitment of their children into the sexual revolution—a revolution that has destroyed more lives than any other in human history, if you consider deaths from diseases such as HIV/AIDS and the tens of millions of children lost to abortion.

The sexual revolutionaries’ answer to all of this misery, noted one parent, is that we just need a little bit more—more sexually explicit lessons, more judgment-free choices, more sexual identities, more daily sex drugs, more hormones, more surgery.

And more silence from parents and the church.

But parents will be silent no more. They are sick of sex ed lessons for children that sicken their bodies and burden their souls.


Are non-government schools really on the way out in Australia?

Federal government modelling suggests demand for non-government schools is going to fall substantially in the next 10 years, according to news reports this week. Only 21% of new students between now and 2027 are projected to enrol at non-government schools,  down from 35% of all students today.

As with most projections of this kind, there are inherent uncertainties, modelling is based on imperfect assumptions, and at best they represent an educated guess.

Last year the proportion of students in government schools rose slightly, from 65.4% in 2016 to 65.6% in 2017, the independent school share rose from 14.4% to 14.5%, while the Catholic system proportion fell from 20.2% to 19.9%.

The past two years have seen a small increase in the proportion of government school enrolments, which bucks the general trend of the past 50 years, where the government school share of all students has declined steadily from 77% in 1966 to 65% today. It is unlikely  this 50-year trend will be reversed in the next 10 years.

But many parents are not satisfied with either non-government or government schools, and so are turning to homeschooling. The number of children being taught at home has increased by more than 80% in the past six years, which indicates school systems have to do more to cater for parental expectations.

One possible reason for this is the transparency of the MySchool website, where parents are able to examine the literacy and numeracy results of local schools, and often are not satisfied. For example, even though some non-government schools charge significant fees, parents can see that frequently the local government school can provide just as good academic outcomes. That is, putting more money into a school doesn’t necessarily lead to better student results.

This shows the prevailing narrative around government schooling is contradictory. Advocates of the government school system, such as teacher unions, consistently make three statements:

* Government schools are just as good as non-government schools.
* Government schools currently get much less money than non-government schools.
* Government schools need much more money.

At least one of these statements has to be false…