Friday, May 25, 2018

NYC Public Schools No. 1 in spending: Spent $24,109 Per Pupil; But 72% Not Proficient in Reading, 72% Not Proficient in Math

The New York City public schools spent $24,109 per pupil in fiscal 2016, according to data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

That ranked New York City No. 1 in per pupil spending among the nation’s 100 largest public school districts, according to the Census Bureau, and was more than twice the nationwide per-pupil spending in public elementary and secondary schools, which was $11,762 in fiscal 2016.

Meanwhile, in those same New York City public schools, 72 percent of the eighth graders were not proficient in reading and 72 percent were not proficient math, according to results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Boston public schools spent $22,082 per pupil in fiscal 2016, ranking Boston No. 2 in per pupil spending among the nation’s 100 largest school districts.

In the Boston public schools, according to the NAEP results, 68 percent of eighth graders were not proficient in reading and 67 percent were not proficient in math.

The other large public school districts that made it into the Top 10 for the highest per pupil spending were Howard County, Md. ($15,476); Montgomery County, Md. ($15,195); Baltimore City, Md. ($15,168); Prince Georges County, Md. ($14,582); Columbus, Ohio ($14,582); Fairfax County, Va. ($13,991); Hawaii Public Schools ($13,748); and Baltimore County, Md. ($13,512).

The per pupil spending published by the Census Bureau for these school districts is what the bureau calls "current spending" and excludes "capital outlays" for "construction of buildings, roads and other improvements" and "purchases of equipment, land and existing structures."

The Washington, D.C., public school district, which was not among the 100 largest school districts in the nation when measured by enrollment numbers, spent $19,159 per pupil in 2016. That was less than New York City or Boston, but more than any of the four Washington suburbs (Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, and Fairfax County) that did rank in the Top 10 in per-pupil spending among the 100 largest school districts.
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In the Washington, D.C. public schools, according to the NAEP results, 79 percent of eighth graders were not proficient in reading in 2017 and 80 percent were not proficient in math.

The NAEP reading and math tests are scored on a scale of 0 to 500. The eighth graders in the New York City public school scored an average of 258 in reading and 275 and math. To see how the NAEP test defines whether a student is "proficient" in reading click here, and to see how it defines whether a student is "proficient" in mathematics click here.


‘Party Like It’s 1776’ Theme Too Offensive for New Jersey School Prom

A New Jersey high school principal apologized Friday for a “Party Like It’s 1776” theme at prom.

Dennis Perry, principal of Cherry Hill High School East, posted on his Twitter feed an apology for the theme printed on prom tickets, calling the decision “insensitive and irresponsible,” reported Fox News.

“I especially apologize to our African-American students, who I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording,” Perry wrote in a statement.

To make up for what he deemed an indiscretion, the principal said students would not need to bring their prom tickets in order to get into the event—they would instead only need to state their names to be matched up with a list of who bought tickets. Cherry Hill High School would also give every student attendee a “commemorative” ticket displaying a new design at the prom. Perry stated that a “diverse group of people” would review information distributed by the school prior to its dissemination in the future.

Lloyd Henderson, president of the Camden County NAACP East Chapter, saw the incident indicative of a school culture “where African-American students’ needs are not considered along with the rest of the school,” but mentioned that he appreciated Perry’s speedy response.

Cherry Hill High School made headlines in February when it suspended social studies teacher Timothy Locke after Locke told students to remember him if he died defending them during a school shooting.


Distorted history from Duke University’s Nancy MacLean

 Even though the dust-up over Duke University historian Nancy MacLean in 2017 should have prepared me, I came away from my belated cover-to-cover read of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America even more deeply troubled than I expected. The book is a thoroughgoing attack on public-choice economics and the Nobel Prize–winning (1986) co-founder of the sub-discipline, James M. Buchanan. MacLean also sends broadsides toward Charles Koch and the Koch Foundation, but this extension of her argument is strained at best (perhaps a case of the tail wagging the dog?).

MacLean’s disingenuous polemic is far more problematic than her obvious and shallow misrepresentations of leading scholars, the libertarian movement, and the academic discipline of public-choice economics. While dozens of MacLean’s critics have weighed in, two fundamental flaws in her work haven’t received enough discussion or play. These errors, in my opinion, were severe enough that her book manuscript would not have been accepted as a graduate thesis or dissertation in the social sciences. If this book represents the state of art in the research and critical thinking in her field, History as an academic discipline is in serious intellectual trouble.

Some reading this column might think I am simply overreacting because of my own background in public-choice analysis or because I hold a faculty position at a university with several public-choice economists. I have also publicly self-identified as a libertarian since the 1970s (although my thinking and place on the various spectra within the movement have evolved significantly).

However, I do not self-identify or consider myself a public-choice economist, or a follower of James Buchanan. My career has focused on policy development and formulation, policy evaluation and impact, institutional design, the practical workings of government, and its impacts on the economy and citizens. I also specialize in urban economic development, land use, and housing, academic specialties far afield from typical public-choice analysis. Of the more 40 professional and academic publications, plus another 40 technical reports and policy studies, only a handful could be properly framed as public-choice analysis. My Ph.D. is in public administration (with concentrations in urban planning and public finance) from The Ohio State University. I would likely be tenured in departments of urban planning, public administration, or perhaps a highly interdisciplinary economics department with an applied focus on undergraduate and masters level education, but not a mainstream economics department with a doctoral program. In short, I have no personal or professional vested interest in rescuing James Buchanan’s reputation, or, for that matter, public-choice economics.

Democracy in Chains, however, raises much more serious questions of academic integrity and the nature of scientific analysis generally.

For those unfamiliar with the controversy, the nut of MacLean’s argument is that Buchanan’s pioneering work applying economic frames to politics was designed to undermine public confidence in democracy in an effort to restore a southern white-male patriarchy. This patriarchy held sway in the American South until the 1950s when the U.S. Supreme Court, American political liberals, and the Civil Rights Movement combined to dismantle it through progressive policies that strengthened unions, implemented widespread social programs such as Social Security and Medicare, restored the franchise to African-Americans and other minorities, and made good on the promise of popular democracy.

Now, she claims, government reflects the will of the people and should be preserved, while the “radical right” attempts to shackle democratic government and subvert this popular will. Buchanan and other public-choice economists run afoul of MacLean’s naive view of democratic government by arguing that elected officials respond to incentives and act on their own self-interest rather than as principled advocates and representatives of the public interest. (And yes, her argument for democracy in Democracy in Chains is that simplistic and naive.)

Given my own thirty years’ experience with policy change, policy impact evaluation, and the policymaking process, the inaccuracies and misrepresentations embedded in MacClean’s narrative made it a tough slog. As others have pointed out (see Duke University economist Michael Munger’s rebuttal, among others, here), MacLean clearly misrepresents the views of researchers and leaders in the libertarian movement as well as public-choice economists. Indeed, Russ Roberts, the eminently fair and balanced host of the popular EconTalk podcast, took the unusual move of saying publicly that MacLean owed an apology to George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen for her clear, incontrovertible misrepresentation of his views on democracy. (Not only did she decline to apologize, but she evaded the issue by obfuscating and diminishing the importance of misquoting him. ) She hasn’t softened or modified her interpretation or conclusions based on withering—and academically necessary—criticism. Recently, MacLean doubled down on her themes and conclusions at a lecture at Florida State University (which I attended).

Despite the increasingly voluminous articles criticizing (and defending) MacLean, I believe two issues in the controversy have not been adequately addressed or vetted.

First, despite its subtitle, MacLean’s book is stylistically and methodologically a polemic, not deep research or scholarly analysis. Or at least her book does not represent the research thresholds expected in social sciences. While she has a thesis and collects data, her methods are rhetorical, lack rigor, draw on popular journalism rather than academic analysis, and narrowly construct the data to support her thesis rather than test its validity. Economist Steve Horwitz and others have claimed that this is an example of “confirmation bias”—the tendency for researchers to look for evidence that supports their thesis even when faced with contrary evidence. I think this conclusion is too charitable.

My reading of Democracy in Chains suggests she never seriously looked for contrary evidence. This lack of skepticism is a fundamental break from accepted, mainstream scientific methods. Skepticism, in fact, is embedded in the concept of hypothesis testing. Whether a hypothesis is valid depends on whether it holds up to evidence that might confirm or disprove it. The ethical, professional, and practical duty of the scientist is to collect all the relevant data, or as much as practical, to test the validity of the hypothesis. MacLean apparently feels she is under no obligation to present, let alone evaluate, alternative data. She does not, for example, present any contrary data about Buchanan’s beliefs in the so-called white male patriarchy or endemic racism, even though she had easy access to three former presidents of the Public Choice Society on her own campus who could have provided insight into Buchanan’s values, motivations, and his behavior.

The point of a polemic, however, is to make a case. It does not weigh alternative hypotheses, consider alternative explanations, or provide a balanced narrative, except as a way to further the narrative’s own hypothesis. MacLean’s narrative structure, unlike her foreward, makes no pretense to being thorough, nor is there evidence she is. For example, MacLean claims that Buchanan’s ideas were central to providing the intellectual foundation for the modern libertarian movement partly financed by the Koch Brothers. She cites what is probably the best source on the growth of modern libertarianism—Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism—but shows no indication she really read the book or understood its contents despite Doherty’s clear-headed journalistic style. (Doherty takes on MacLean in this review “What Nancy MacLean Gets Wrong About James Buchanan.)

As someone who was an integral part of the first wave of state-based free-market think tanks (as a co-founder of an Ohio think tank in 1989), I can attest to the fact that Buchanan was far down the list of influential thinkers and intellectuals for most libertarians. My libertarian education, for example, began in earnest when, as a high school student, I read Murray Rothbard’s For A New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto and Henry Hazlett’s Foundations of Morality in the 1970s. My education continued as an undergraduate through academic study (in supervised independent study courses, not mainstream classes) of F. A. Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty and Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action. I was not introduced to Buchanan’s work in a rigorous way until I began graduate work at George Mason University in 1987, a full two years after my applied research in urban development and policy began while working toward a masters degree at Wright State University. While an important figure, Buchanan was not the person most libertarians looked to first for intellectual clarity or inspiration.

For someone truly knowledgeable about the modern libertarian movement and public-choice economics, processing the substance of MacLean’s argument is a bit like Alice peering through the looking glass. MacLean has conjured up fanciful creatures with exaggerated features and odd worldviews only tangentially connected to the real world. She has created a work of narrative nonfiction, or creative nonfiction, but certainly not history in an objective sense (let alone “deep” history). In fact, her analysis is so shallow and superficial, her efforts have created a fictional story best suited for entertaining conspiracy-obsessed fans on the left than providing anything meaningful for public discourse in today’s political environment.

Nevertheless, Democracy in Chains is very well written in terms of structure and rhetoric, even if the foundation on which the narrative rests is ephemeral and unstable at best. MacLean’s prose is clean and polished, even masterful at times. Her argumentative structure is cogent and logical. The book itself might rank as one of the best polemics on politics published in recent years. But Democracy in Chains is not being promoted or branded as a polemic. Rather, it’s projected by the author and the publisher as history, a deep history at that.

As history, Democracy in Chains raises the spectre of academic ethics. MacLean has not just failed to find contrary evidence. She has intentionally excluded it. MacLean limits her research just to Buchanan’s documents trying, she says, to understand the man. Then she “reads between the lines” to make judgments about his intentions, motivations, and character. In the process, she intentionally ignores vast swaths of information about the libertarian movement, James Buchanan, and public-choice economics as an academic discipline that would have provided contrary evidence to her main hypothesis. She doesn’t even interview professionals who knew, worked with or studied under Buchanan. Indeed, when asked, she dismisses the relevance of these sources—a blatant disregard for principles of qualitative research—by categorically saying (without evidence) they would simply provide supporting testimony for Buchanan because of loyalty.

This failure to follow basic research standards leads her to misrepresent the sources she does cite. One paragraph (among many) discussed prison privatization. The radical right’s mission, she writes in the paragraph’s first sentence, “pushes for corporate prisons,” implying a lack of skepticism by its proponents about the consequences of privatization. (Note the term “corporate prisons” rather the more common but also inaccurate term “privatization.”) She takes specific aim at Alexander Tabarrok (pp. 218-219) and his edited book Changing the Guard (published by the Independent Institute). Tabarrok is a Ph.D. economist who holds a named chair at George Mason University and is the author or coauthor of eleven books and over fifty academic journal articles. These academic credentials are not provided to the reader for context even though they were literally one or possibly two clicks away with a decent internet search engine.

Instead, MacLean characterizes Tabarrok’s work as part of the partisan, right-wing conspiracy without qualification or nuance. “The mission [of prison privatization],” she writes, “seems important enough that Alexander Tabarrok, a GMU economist then moonlighting as research director for the Koch-funded Independent Institute, issued a whole book on the subject in 2003, with the coy title Changing the Guard.” (p. 218) MacLean’s rhetorical sleight of hand intentionally diminishes Tabarrok’s professional accomplishments and identity by tagging him with a Koch-funded think tank, with no evidence that the project was actually funded by a Koch-affiliated foundation. (In fact, the Independent Institute received no Koch funding for or during the book project.) Tabarrok is presented as a tool of the “radical right’s” master plan.

Indeed, MacLean’s rhetorical tone suggests that prison privatization is so important to the so-called radical right that Tabarrok is driven to “moonlight” as research director for a think tank to edit “a whole book.” A whole book! This must be important, right? As a historian, MacLean knows that books are valued and often essential part of the promotion and tenure process for historians. A book on a curriculum vitae would be routine and expected, not an exception, hardly necessitating such a qualifier.

MacLean also neglects to mention that most policy books are driven by the interests of the individual researchers, not commissioned for a movement. She also does not provide any evidence that the peer-reviewed Changing the Guard was a commissioned work. MacLean’s tone and rhetorical structure suggests that Tabarrok’s work is somehow an example of how the radical right creates policy discussion. She does not bother to mention that the potential benefits and disadvantages of prison privatization are actively discussed in the mainstream policy and criminal justice community. A quick Google Scholar search using the search term “prison privatization” brought up six books and 30 citations in the first three pages of the search (among more than 13,000 results) for work published prior to 2003. (Note and disclosure: I organized a conference on the topic, which included supporters and critics of prison privatization to identify areas of agreement, disagreement, and common ground in 2015.) MacLean then has the audacity to criticize Tabarrok for not considering alternative interpretations.

MacLean’s paragraph, which is about 150 words long spanning four very long sentences, concludes with the following: “While warning of ‘special-interest groups,’ in particular the correctional agencies and the prison guard unions that push for more prison spending, he neglected to note how the profit motive could lead private prison corporations to push for tougher sentencing to drive up prison populations and to cut costly items such as job training and substance abuse counseling.” The only citation to the entire paragraph, which includes MacLean’s own commentary on the policy issue, is to Tabarrok’s book Changing the Guard and comes at the end. Mechanically, distinguishing between Tabarrok and MacLean’s ideas is virtually impossible except for the quoted text which is presented in the middle of the paragraph. Democracy in Chains is plagued with similarly ambiguous and mixed citations, making fact and quote verification nearly impossible without dedicated research assistants and access to the papers she cites.

Unfortunately, this misrepresentation of Tabarrok’s views and work is the norm, not the exception, in Democracy in Chains. MacLean’s shoddy research methods, conspiracy driven hypothesis, and inability to give an authentic voice to her subjects casts a pall over the discipline of history. If history’s most prominent and notable scholars cannot distinguish between a polemic, substantive academic discourse, or sound social science research (qualitative or quantitative), the discipline is facing increasing marginalization and relevance.

Paradoxically, MacLean writes in areas I have keen personal and professional interests—social movements, social justice, racism, public policy, and social change. My earliest research focused on economic development in marginalized urban communities, and my policy work embeds empowerment in its lens. My research also includes a strong historical component. My education in economic history, as well as relationships with historians interested in balance and thorough research, allowed me to pick up a book or read an article thinking that historical accuracy was a valued principle of the research. No longer.

Nancy MacLean and Democracy in Chains have disabused me of the naive belief that academic historians are interested in objectivity. Reading history texts must now be filtered through deep skepticism of the source, as well as research on the author to understand how their personal and professional biases influenced their conclusions. As an academic discipline, history is much less valuable to understanding and acting on broader questions of public and social policy as a result. In trying to prove her point, Nancy MacLean has marginalized her profession and discipline. This is an unfortunate consequence for all academia.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hatred at Harvard

Hatred just consumes the Left. All of their accusations against Kushner and Trump are refutable but they show no awareness of that. They are just bigots

Graduates of the Harvard class of 2003 are making known their displeasure with the current White House administration in an unusual way, using the platform of their 15th reunion alumni notes to launch harsh, personal attacks on a former classmate.

“Shame on you, Jared Kushner,’’ Sophia Macris wrote in the traditional Harvard Red Book alumni listings, in the most blunt of multiple critiques targeting President Trump’s son-in-law and official presidential adviser.

The salvos against Kushner — by a small number of alumni — are tucked in among the usual fare of alumni notes, where former classmates proudly recite their latest accomplishments, volunteer work, a move across the country, or the birth of a child.

Kushner is not expected to attend the 15th reunion festivities that begin Thursday in Cambridge, but his younger brother, Josh, is planning on attending his 10th Harvard reunion. Jared Kushner, through the White House, declined to comment.

Harvard has a tradition dating to the 19th century of allowing alumni to write in updates about what they’ve been up to — coming in five-year cycles and known informally, because of its crimson cover, as the Red Book — in a practice meant to encourage them to stay in touch with one another. Normally, those entries are more anodyne; rarely, if ever, do they involve attacks on a fellow classmate.

The Globe spoke to some 2003 Harvard grads who contributed to the Red Book alumni listings ahead of their 15-year reunion, and thumbed through the book itself.

Organizers of the anti-Kushner effort set up a private “Shame on You, Jared Kushner’’ Facebook page about six months ago and urged their class of 2003 peers to use the Red Book as a platform of personal protest. Part of the goal is to let Kushner know that his service in the Trump White House will have lasting consequences, resulting in his potential ostracization from a valuable social network of his peers.

“Mostly, I feel low-grade, constant horror as I watch attacks on refugees, minorities, my most at-risk patients, women’s rights, and the environment, and new threats of nuclear war,” wrote one of Kushner’s classmates who said her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. “Shame on you, Jared Kushner.”

“Shame on you, Jared Kushner,” Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote. “And shame on Harvard.”

“I, for one, am actually glad that our Class of ’03 finally has a real, live fascist among us,” Jon Sherman wrote. “Who says Harvard isn’t diverse?”

Kushner, who attended his fifth reunion but not his 10th, did not submit an entry this year. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is an honored guest during part of the festivities, receiving the prestigious Radcliffe Medal on Friday.

The younger Kushner did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Harvard declined to comment, but the controversy gained attention after one member of the class — Ben Wikler, who is the Washington director of — shared several entries on Twitter. The Globe also has a copy of the book and reached several of Kushner’s classmates.

By some accounts, Kushner was not a standout student in high school, but his father had dreams of sending his son to Harvard. Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to the school to help ensure he got in, according to “The Price of Admission,” an exposé by journalist Daniel Golden.

During his years on the Harvard campus — and living in Kirkland House — Jared Kushner fit in on the leafy campus. He had an active role in the Harvard Chabad, a campus Jewish group; played junior varsity squash; and was a member of an exclusive social club called The Fly. His yearbook entry listed him as the cooking editor of Current Magazine, a news and campus life publication.

But while getting his degree in government, he managed and developed properties in Somerville. The Globe reported last year on how he made a profit from those properties, but also made costly business errors, amassed housing complaints, and forced one group of tenants to take him to housing court to recover their security deposit.

Harvard students in the past have also tried to appeal to Kushner. Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, a student posted an open letter that was signed by more than 2,000 alumni in 24 hours.

“Harvard’s motto is simple. It is just a single word: Veritas. Truth,” the letter read. “We have seen disturbing signs that the Administration will suppress open thought and debate.”

As some of Kushner’s classmates began preparing for their reunion, they took different approaches in how to respond.

Macris’s full entry is only five words long: “Shame on you, Jared Kushner.”

“For me, I definitively felt like it was more impactful to say you’re not going to hear from me for another five years. This is a one-shot deal,” she said. “Would I have liked to [have] told my classmates to buy my book? Yeah. That would have benefited me a lot more. But that’s not where my head is.”

One classmate wrote a haiku:

“Real tough world right now

Our classmate really involved???

Get out of there now”

Another classmate, Angelina Fryer, alluded to a litany of controversy Kushner has been involved in over the early start to the Trump administration.

“I think what I’m most proud of, however, is what I’ve managed to avoid during the past five years,” Fryer wrote. “I haven’t been accused of making false statements on or material omissions from security clearance disclosure forms. I haven’t been accused of colluding with representatives of a foreign government to affect the outcome of an election. I haven’t been accused of using my government position to sell visas to foreign investors in my family’s businesses. I haven’t been sued for mistreating tenants of violating rental laws. I think we can all be better than that.”

Sherman, a Washington-based public interest lawyer, said his entry was inspired by animus toward Kushner. His grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor, losing 35 members of her family, and he views Kushner’s defense of Trump as a dishonor to her memory. So after updating his classmates on his legal career, and how he’s fallen in love, he turned to Kushner.

“It’s an opportunity — and other people saw it as that as well — to shame him,” Sherman said, calling Kushner “an utter disgrace.”

“I’m glad people are speaking out. This is a free country and there are going to be consequences for the way they’ve behaved during this time. Social consequences. . . . They can’t just return to their old life and walk around and go to restaurants in New York and D.C. and not get constant backlash.”

Prescod-Weinstein said she wanted to be more confrontational. “We should be uncomfortable with the way Harvard functions as a steppingstone for people in power who may have terrible values,” she said.

“He was in Jerusalem with his wife while people were being massacred. I feel so emotional about that,” she added. “He’s a person who is doing horrible things. As a black woman and a Jewish woman, I think it’s disgusting. He’s not alone in doing these disgusting things, but he’s certainly one of the active participants.”

Kushner sat next to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, during May 14 dedication of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
She said she was also disappointed that only a small portion of the 1,600 members of the class decided to speak out against Kushner.

“It’s emblematic of Harvard culture. I think people thought it was rude and didn’t want to be rude. But I think genocide is rude. And I was happy to be rude.”


Evidence-Based Legislation Will Best Protect Our Students

After the Parkland high school shooting, school safety vaulted back atop the list of national priorities. Now, the issue has become even more urgent after the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas last week. Student demonstrators have received a warm reception by the media and by a public that favors some kind of gun reform.

But while high schoolers declaring that “we don’t feel safe at school anymore” after Parkland, and that “we have a right to a safe education” can be powerful prompts to action, we have yet to see real change at the federal level. Congress did modestly strengthen the federal background-check system and drop prohibitions preventing the CDC from studying gun violence. But significant near-term action is unlikely, with President Trump’s School Safety Commission off to a slow start, and given the rise and rapid fall of popular concern over gun control — evident just two months after Parkland — is liable to be repeated after Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, there has been more action at the state level. On gun control, only a few states (Florida, South Dakota, and Vermont) have passed gun restrictions since Parkland, and due to heavily pro-gun state legislatures, action after Santa Fe is also unlikely. But the less-contentious issue of school safety is getting a lot of traction. Two-hundred pieces of legislation have been introduced in 39 states in the past year — half since the Parkland shooting. The most common address arming school staff, emergency response plans, school resource officer regulations, reinforcing building security, access to mental health services, and emergency drills.

After events like Parkland and Santa Fe, strong emotions, engrained opinions, and calls to action make immediate legislation feel like the first priority. But legislators should resist the urge to enact plans that sound good but aren’t supported by evidence. Instead, they should be responsive to how safe schools actually are, the cost of their proposals, and whether they will truly make schools safer.

Students understandably feel scared in the wake of traumas like Parkland and Santa Fe, and public officials must take these concerns seriously. But evidence deserves its due, too. And, counterintuitively, the data show that, nationwide, schools are safe and becoming safer.

The recently released 2017 Indicators of School Crime and Safety shows improved school safety across nearly every measure. In 2015, 3 percent of students aged 12–18 were victims of a crime at school, down from 10 percent in 1992; the percentage involved in fights at school was halved, from 16 to 8 percent. Additionally, the percentage of students reporting gangs at school dropped from 20 to 11 percent between 2001 and 2015. Measured outside the context of national tragedy, students’ sense of safety also improved, with the percentage “afraid of being attacked or harmed at school” dropping from 12 to 4 percent over 20 years. 

If school safety is improving in general, what about school shootings in particular? According to a forthcoming study by Northeastern University researchers, shootings too are on the decline, with the number of gunshot victims in schools dropping from 0.55 victims per million students in 1992 to 0.15 per million in 2015. (It is important to keep in mind that, while this study gives a general trend, it does not include recent events from 2016-18). By comparison, in 2015, the child motor vehicle fatality rate was 18.6 per million — making vehicular child deaths roughly 120 times more frequent than school-shooting injuries.

Consider the costs of some of the most popular policies. The most common — arming school staff — could be incredibly expensive. In Oregon, school insurance premiums jump $1,500 per armed staff member with safety certification and a military or a law enforcement background, and by $2,500 for those only certified. Arming just 10 percent of Oregon teachers could cost the state $7 million in insurance alone. Another popular option is the one Maryland took: requiring armed school resource officers in every school — at a cost of $15 million for the state and $98 million for local governments. These expensive actions may not work as hoped. In the case of Maryland, for instance, a school resource officer recently engaged, but did not necessarily stop, a school shooter. Even more significant, Santa Fe High School had two resource officers who confronted the shooter early. Worse, these solutions could pose additional dangers — as in Parkland where an armed teacher left a loaded gun in a public (not school) restroom for a homeless man to find and fire.

Of course, costs can be justified to improve safety. But hastily passed measures often look more like quick bets than prudent investments. Given the reality of limited funds, bets that don’t pay off end up wasting resources that could have been used for more prevalent, but less charged, issues. For example, national indicators show that bullying and drugs affect more than one in five students. Resource officers and armed staff can’t address these more commonplace issues the way school counselors can. However, there is only one counselor for every 482 students in U.S. schools, even though they might be a better, though less popular, bet for school safety. Additionally, these resources could have been used for evidence-based ways to protect students as much as possible from gun violence.

Hidden costs also come from layering new programs on already strained school staff. Busy administrators and teachers may not have the bandwidth to juggle carrying guns safely, or to develop more elaborate emergency plans and drills (over 90 percent already have such plans) without dropping other balls. These hidden costs are easy to overlook in the rush to pass legislation after a tragedy.

In the wake of Parkland and Santa Fe, all Americans should be concerned about school shootings. Even if these horrors are rare, no parents, teachers, or students want to risk having their school be next. Smart gun regulation could address the problem of gun violence writ large, but real leadership on school safety should begin by recognizing that schools are actually safer than they feel. Yes, we all want to keep students safe and to find effective solutions, but hasty actions will not accomplish this, and the status quo will continue. Lawmakers should use the time and evidence needed to find legislative actions that actually work without wasting scarce resources or straining existing ones. Our students deserve no less.


Australia: Bringing a new meaning to nanny state: Primary teachers forced to answer 1,000 questions about their students' progress every five weeks so schools can assess their 'feelings and needs'

Teachers are being made to fill in over 1,000 questions about the progress of their students every five weeks under a new system that will assess how children 'express feelings and needs.'

The new Assessing Literacy and Numeracy (ALAN) program is 'over the top,' according to NSW Primary Principals Association executive Rob Walker.

Mr Walker told the Daily Telegraph some schools had been forced to hire relief teachers just to enter data.

The process involves grading every K-2 child on 791 literacy and 307 numeracy indicators every five weeks.

A spokesperson for the program said it will 'help track students movement along the literacy and numeracy continuum.'

Teachers will need to fill out an online form marking each child on listening, speaking phonics, grammar punctuation and interaction.

The Assessing Literacy and Numeracy program is being implemented at 661 schools across NSW this year.

The questionnaire software, called PLAN 2, will be available to all teachers by the end of 2018.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Stokes said PLAN 2 is just one way the department is hoping to improve the learning experience.

'The Department is always looking at better ways to help students and support teachers,' the spokesperson said.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

4-to-1: Liberals Outnumber Conservatives as Commencement Speakers

Liberals outnumber conservatives by a margin of nearly four-to-one among 2018 commencement speakers at 50 of the nation’s largest public and private colleges.

According to the Campus Reform report, “Campus Reform identified 37 speakers with demonstrably liberal leanings, compared to just 10 verified conservatives.” Meanwhile, “[o]nly four speakers” are political moderates – two of which were invited to speak at the same ceremony at the University of Georgia.

“The list of liberals includes several major names, including Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Cory Booker,” noted Campus Reform. “The conservative speakers, meanwhile, are mainly state-level elected officials.”

Notably, “[c]onservative darling Liberty University” invited former President Jimmy Carter, “perhaps the most prominent liberal on the list,” according to Campus Reform,  to speak at their commencement, while universities with traditionally liberal leanings, “such as New York University, the University of Maryland, and Florida International University, stayed within their comfort zones by selecting uniformly left-leaning speakers.”

New York University invited Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; University of Maryland, College Park invited Al Gore; and Florida International University invited Moishe Mana, Nelson Adams, Rose Ellen Meyerhoff Greene, and Shaun Budnik.

The 10 conservative speakers include Former Speaker of the Florida House Steve Crisafulli, CEO of Times Publishing Company Paul Tash, Professor David L. Denlinger, Senior VP of Penn State Health Judy E. Himes, Texas State Supreme Court Justice James Blacklock, Founder and CEO of the 4R Restaurant Group John Rivers, Former Indiana Governor and Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Speaker of the Texas House Joe Strauss and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

A full listing of the commencement speakers at 50 of the nation’s largest public and private colleges can be found on Campus Reform’s website


Black people in UK 21 times more likely to have university applications investigated, figures show
Very few blacks have the secondary school achievement level to justify University entrance, so applications that fly in the face of that must generate suspicion

Black students seeking a place at university are 21 times more likely to have their applications investigated for suspected false or missing information than their white counterparts, The Independent can reveal.

The data, from the Ucas admissions service, has prompted accusations from Labour of “institutional racism” in the higher education system and demands for urgent action to stamp out “racial profiling”.

Ucas said it is “extremely concerned” by the figures, released under freedom of information rules, and has launched an investigation. 

The data shows that 419 black British applicants to undergraduate courses last September were highlighted as a cause for concern, compared to 181 white British applicants, despite there being far fewer black applicants.

Figures show there were 42,580 black applicants, meaning that one in every 102 applications was investigated.

During the same period, there were 388,465 white British applicants, meaning just one in every 2,146 applications triggered further interrogation.

Ucas has insisted ethnicity is not taken into account during the screening of applications – even though prospective students declare their ethnicity in the forms they submit.

The figures come at a time when black students’ experiences of the higher education system have been in the spotlight.

Labour MP David Lammy revealed last year that 13 Oxford university colleges failed to make a single offer to black A-level applicants over a six-year period.

There have also been a number of recent reports of racist incidents at universities. Last month, two 18-year-old males were arrested after a Nottingham Trent University student posted video footage of racist chants in her student halls. A black student captured two males chanting “We hate the blacks” outside her bedroom door.

Members of a student law society at the University of Exeter were suspended after private WhatsApp conversations containing racist comments were shared on social media.

And earlier this month, Sheffield Hallam University launched an investigation after a rotten banana was reportedly thrown at a black graduate student during an ice hockey match.

On the latest figures, Mr Lammy, the former Labour higher education minister, said: “Questions clearly have to be asked about what is behind this disproportionality within the Ucas verification system, and why applications made by black students are more likely to be flagged and investigated.

“The evidence suggests that unconscious bias may well be a factor.”

Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, said: “This shocking practice highlights just how pervasive institutional racism is across the higher education sector. Ucas has been completely unable to justify this discriminatory practice.

“Ucas must urgently investigate this and make clear what steps will be taken to end the racial profiling of students.”

Fraud and similarity detection software, as well as input from universities, are used when deciding whether an application needs investigating. The process looks out for a variety of things – including fake qualifications, plagiarised personal statements and inaccurate information.

Since the findings have come to light Ucas has said it will publish data, showing the gender and race of applicants flagged, to the public annually – with the first figures expected next month.

The total number of applications cancelled after investigation is small. But these figures do not take into account applications that have been withdrawn by the prospective student themselves.

One prospective black student told The Independent that he decided to pull out of the application process after he found Ucas’s investigation to be “intimidating”.

Samuel Babarinde, who had his application flagged by Ucas during this academic year, said: “I have been very emotionally distressed by this whole process. I felt I had been singled out.

“It felt like I was already guilty before being found guilty. It was intimidating and frustrating.”


Australia: Elsternwick Primary School in Victoria fenced off an old  tractor in the playground as a health and safety risk to children

A school has caused outrage by banning children from a playground tractor. Elsternwick Primary School in Victoria fenced off the tractor because it was deemed 'too dangerous' and posed a health and safety risk to children.

One father Glenn Riseley protested by posting a picture of his son playing on the tractor to Facebook. He wrote: 'Just asked my son why there's a fence around this old playground tractor? 'Apparently some bureaucrats with cardigans and clipboards and diplomas in clipboard management did a 'safety audit' and deemed it too risky... so it has to be removed.

He added: 'It seems the biggest risks to children these days are lack of physical activity, excessive screen time, poor nutrition and an alarming epidemic of type 2 diabetes, online bullying and mental health issues. None of which are connected to cemented in old red tractors.'

Commenters on his post agreed. One wrote: 'World gone made' while another said: 'Growing up on a farm and riding in dad's rusty Bedford truck was the highlight of my childhood.'

Mr Riseley told Daily Mail Australia: 'The lad on the tractor is Oscar. He’s four years old. He starts at Elsternwick primary school next year. His older brother is already there. Sadly the tractor won’t be when he starts.

'It's not the school's fault - Some overpaid public servants with too much time on their hands I suspect.'


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No more boys, no more girls - and no more Winnie-the-Pooh or Barbie dolls: Books and toys could be banned from Australian schools due to radical push to make classrooms 'gender-neutral'

This is just ideology.  What proof is there that boys who are deprived of male role-models are better off?  There is none.  It's just Leftist theory. Most role-model researchers say that boys need MORE male role models in our feminized schools

Winnie-the-Pooh books, Barbie dolls, and superhero play are among things children could be banned from after a radical study on 'gender stereotyping'.

A number of Victorian councils will respond to the study by Australian National University, which found educators should avoid using the terms 'boy' and 'girl' and classifying children according to gender.

The study means Melbourne schools, kindergartens and libraries could be without children's classics such as Thomas the Tank Engine, which wouldn't pass the guidelines, Herald Sun reported.

The research found 'prejudice along race and gender lines can be observed' in children as young as three-years-old.  

Girls who played with 'feminised characters', such as Barbie dolls, had fewer career options, while those who engaged with Disney princess toys had more female-stereotypical views.

Meanwhile, boys who watched superhero shows were more gender stereotyped in their thinking, the study found.  

Now councils across Victoria are set to review educational resources, ensuring stories and experiences go beyond 'gender stereotypical narratives'.

Teachers will also be encouraged to not select toys in gendered colours, or to use expressions such as 'boys will be boys', according to the publication.

Manningham City Council already checks books for gender modelling and diversity, while teachers are asked to refrain from calling girls 'honey' and 'sweetie'.

Libraries in Maribyrnong City Council are asked to promote 'gender equity' and to 'challenge gender stereotypes' in their book selections.  

Minister for Women and Prevention of Family Violence Natalie Hutchins told the publication that 'the change needed won't happen' without gender equality. 

But Opposition youth and families spokeswoman Georgie Crozier slammed the possible decision to ban certain books. She said: 'It's crazy. Boys should be boys and girls should be girls.

'Any funding should be focused on interventions to prevent family violence, and not radical gender-based theories.' 


Should Your Child Attend an Ivy League?

Everyone is graduating now and if you look around, you see the happy faces of graduates everywhere. Is the happiness a feeling of accomplishment or relief that they are out from under the thumb of the university that has been the bane of their existence for the past two to six or more years (depending on the degree)?

In New York, the Ivy League schools seem to be spitting people out at a fast clip -- but what about the ones who fell to the wayside along the way, or worse, ended their life due to the stress of the school? This is nothing new of course; there have been articles about the high suicide rates at the Ivy League schools for years, such as this one from a 2010 article at Inside Higher Ed:

Of all the things Cornell University wants to be known for, suicide isn’t among them. And yet, after years of trying to shake the image that it’s a “suicide school,” as one official called it Monday, recent deaths have made it difficult not to associate the upstate New York institution with an above-average suicide rate.
And one Yale professor even warned parents not to send their kid to the Ivy League (article from The New American) :

William Deresiewicz, who spent 10 years on the faculty of Yale University, including a day on the Yale admissions committee, has become disillusioned and somewhat cynical about the whole process smart kids must go through to get into one of the prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, Stanford, or Williams. He also includes in the process the elite high schools, private tutors, and test prep courses that upper middle-class parents force their bright kids to go through to get to the top.

The professor writes in the New Republic of 8/4/14:

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different.... Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of prestige, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they are doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

That’s quite an indictment of a system we are all supposed to envy. But apparently there is less to envy than we’ve been conditioned to believe. The well-endowed top universities, with their celebrity professors who spend more time writing books than teaching, have come to represent the essence of success for the middle-class social climber who dares not fail in anything academic. The admission standards have become so onerous that getting into one of these schools is like winning the lottery. Yet, the professor writes:

Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation…. One student told me that a friend of hers had left Yale because she found the school “stifling to the parts of yourself that you’d call a soul.”

Of course, not all students have problems like this, some just feel irritated and move on. However, those students who already have mental health issues or who handle stress poorly may find the environment toxic to their well-being and become sick more often or have more emotional issues at school.

If your child is one of these more sensitive souls who handles stress poorly, the Ivy League may be a mistake. There are plenty of good schools in this country that have more interest in student well-being that might be a better fit for your child. Or your child may need more assistance and emotional help during his or her time at the Ivy League if they choose to go.

Whatever path your child decides on, make sure he or she knows that the pursuit of happiness does not always mean an Ivy League education or even a college education at all. Give them books like Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. And help make sure their decisions are the right fit for them, not the society at large.


The Human Capital Purist Case Against Tax-Funded College

Bryan Caplan

In the Soho Forum debate on "All government support of higher education should be abolished" , I heavily based my argument on the signaling model of education.  But if I were a human capital purist, I still would have defended the abolitionist position - albeit less triumphally.  Here's how:

1. Prospective college students, unlike K-12 students, are adults - both legally and practically. 

2. Hence, if they want to invest in themselves, they or their families can and should pay for it.  This would be a lot easier than it is today, because government subsidies have greatly inflated tuition.

3. If prospective college students or their families don't have the money, they can borrow the money on the free market.  This will normally be doable as long as the investment is worthwhile. 

4. As an added bonus, lenders will provide useful feedback about the wisdom of prospective students' educational plans.  If you can't get finance on reasonable terms, you're probably making a mistake with your life.

5. While a free-market for educational loans suffers from numerous credit market imperfections, so does a free market for any business loan.  In the real world (as opposed to a homework problem), government is unwise to second-guess lenders' reluctance to lend large sums to borrowers with no/bad credit and little/no collateral. 

6. It's especially unwise to arbitrarily pick out educational investments for special treatment.  If investment is socially suboptimal, government should adopt across-the-board pro-investment policies (for example, by making investment interest tax-deductible), not play favorites.

7. Educational philanthropy provides a massive safety net for poor talented, motivated youth who can't obtain financing.  In the absence of government funding, we should expect this philanthropy to be even more generous than it already is.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Right-wing students are being subjected to vile abuse on campuses with one undergraduate finding 'Tory b***h' written on her bedroom door

Students are being subjected to vile abuse on campuses for holding Right-leaning views, the universities minister has warned.

One undergraduate found ‘Tory bitch’ written on her bedroom door after airing her political views in a lecture, Sam Gyimah said.

In another example, a student had his car egged for expressing his political opinions.

Mr Gyimah, who has been touring universities to talk with students, said: ‘I think that is an unacceptable way to deal with people for expressing quite valid views.’

Speaking at King’s College London, the minister expressed ‘serious concern’ at the state of free speech in universities.

He said: ‘We have a danger of developing a mono-culture, where some views are in and some views are out.’

The MP for East Surrey is currently overseeing new guidance that will require all universities to protect freedom of expression. He said he worried that intolerance on campuses may be originating from professors with strong views.

‘Let’s say you happen to be quite Right-wing, but your lecturer disagrees with your politics,’ he said.

‘You can suddenly become quite conscious about expressing your views because they mark your essays and grade you.’

Criticising what he suggested was a Left-wing bias on campuses, Mr Gyimah said: ‘I have never seen a Left-wing politician in this country treated on campus the way some Right-wing politicians are.

‘If you are going to condemn Toby Young, you have to condemn Ken Livingstone too. Free speech has to cut both ways.’

The minister also expressed concern at the growing culture of ‘safe spaces’ at universities, which has led to speakers being banned simply because they might offend someone.

He said: ‘You might think someone’s views offensive and abhorrent, in which case challenge them.

‘I do not think we can progress by sticking our hands in our ears to views we simply do not want to hear.’

Earlier in the day in a Commons debate on free speech, Christian MP Fiona Bruce revealed how she was rebuked by a university official for giving a talk at a campus ‘pro-life’ society.

She was informed she was ‘offending students’ – and asked to screen off the event so it could not be observed from outside.

‘I believe it is emboldening students who want to silence or censor views that they think are wrong or offensive,’ she told the Commons human rights committee.


Christian Colleges Press Their Suit on Mandate
On Obamacare’s eighth birthday, most Americans probably wanted to blow out the candles and wish it all away. The courts have certainly tried. Almost 100 lawsuits into this miserable failure, Obama’s train wreck of a health care law isn’t just unpopular with the American people but with judges too.

Ninety-one rulings into their fight for the abortion pill mandate, liberals have lost every case but three. For the pro-abortion Left, which is used to the friendly turf of the courts, the drubbing speaks to just how bad the law is. And it shows no sign of slowing. This week, a federal district court knocked the Left’s winning percentage down another peg when it sided with four Christian colleges that objected to paying for pills and procedures that violate their faith.

After a five-year legal battle they should’ve never had to fight, Southern Nazarene University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oklahoma Baptist University, and Mid-America Christian University finally got the news they were hoping for: The threat of government punishment is over. Judge Stephen Friot agreed that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated, and Defendants now concede, that requiring Plaintiffs to comply with [the HHS mandate], to the extent such compliance contradict[s] Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs, violates their rights protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Forcing these campuses to violate their faith would make them “suffer irreparable harm,” Friot wrote in his order, which granted the schools complete and permanent relief from the Obamacare mandate.

Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who are representing these universities (and others), celebrated the decision now a half-decade in the making. “These universities no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs,” Senior Counsel Greg Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these drugs without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”

Before President Trump, abortion activists could lean on the Justice Department to argue for the mandate in court. Now that crutch is gone, and liberals are on their own to argue a losing case. The DOJ under this White House refuses to lift a finger to defend a policy as flawed and unconstitutional as Obama’s. If anything, President Trump only made the Left’s job harder when he broadened the pool of people who could take advantage of the mandate’s exemptions.

Unfortunately, the nightmare for religious liberty isn’t over yet. The only way to resolve that — and the laundry list of problems with the law — is to repeal it altogether. And believe it or not, that’s still a possibility. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hasn’t given up on conservatives’ top gripe, telling reporters Wednesday that he plans to take another crack at the bill he and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) floated last year. “I’m just trying to get a product together,” Graham explained. “We’re talking to everybody.” Including the president. Asked if the White House would back another shot at repeal, Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said yes. “The White House fully supports the efforts of a broad coalition working to address the Obamacare disaster and increase affordable healthcare options for middle-class Americans.”

For the sake of American families and freedom, let’s hope they try.


It's Now 1984 at the University of Michigan
Students at the University of Michigan, beware. If you say anything politically incorrect or out-of-line with the political and social orthodoxy on your campus, you may get a knock on your dorm room door from the university’s equivalent of the Thought Police and be forced into a reeducation camp. Or you may be suspended or thrown out of school, potentially damaging your educational prospects and your entire future professional career.

If this sounds like an exaggeration, consider a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Michigan by Speech First, Inc., against the president of the University of Michigan, other senior university officials, and the entire board of trustees. Speech First is a nationwide membership organization of students, faculty, and alumni (including students at Michigan) dedicated to preserving First Amendment rights on college campuses.

That is a very tough job these days when so many students and administrators don’t believe the First Amendment should apply in their dormitories, their classrooms, or anywhere else on campus (or off campus, for that matter).

Don’t be surprised if what I am about to describe sounds like a scene out of George Orwell's 1984, where the Thought Police would arrest any citizen criticizing the regime or otherwise disagreeing with the official view on everything from politics to culture. And they used surveillance that included informers and electronic devices like cameras and microphones.

That is what the University of Michigan has been transformed into — the equivalent of Oceania in 1984 or the former East Germany. As the lawsuit says, the university has created an “elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress and punish speech other students deem ‘demeaning,’ ‘bothersome,’ or ‘hurtful.’” Yes, really: The student disciplinary code defines “harassment” as any “unwanted negative attention perceived as intimidating, demeaning, or bothersome to an individual".

In other words, as the complaint says, “the most sensitive student on campus effectively dictates the terms under which others may speak.” Under this absurd but dangerous policy, a student expressing his positive opinion about Donald Trump could be considered “bothersome” to the many (or any of the) liberal students on campus.

One of the students in the lawsuit believes that Black Lives Matter is “a hateful group that promotes racial division” and has “sowed division [on campus] through intimidation by, for example, disrupting speakers and events and vandalizing student displays.” But that student is afraid to express those views because he “credibly fears” that those views will be considered harassment or bullying. There seems little doubt that he is right.

Given the protests I have encountered giving speeches on campuses about immigration, including criticizing sanctuary policies and praising the enhanced enforcement efforts of the Trump administration, there is also little doubt that any student voicing similar sentiments or even using the politically incorrect but accurate legal term “illegal aliens” would be charged.

This speech code violates fundamental First Amendment rights to speak freely and will have a profoundly chilling effect on students and faculty — assuming there are any faculty members at Michigan who stand out from the liberal academic hierarchy that runs most campuses these days like the Inner Party in Oceania.

The university has its version of the Stasi and Orwell’s Thought Police — a “Bias Response Team” that investigates supposed “bias” complaints from offended students — students who can file their complaints anonymously. So if you are accused of wrongdoing, you don’t even have a right to confront your accuser — just like the former citizens of East Germany where the Stasi had literally hundreds of thousands of informers who could be your next-door neighbor or even a member of your own family. Or in this case, a student down the hall or from one of your classes.

If you think this Star Chamber process is limited to verbal speech, think again. Just like the electronic surveillance in Oceania, the “Bias Incident Report Log” posted by Michigan on its website shows that the Bias Response Team may come after you for what you do and say in “On-line/Social Media” communications including texts, emails, and Twitter.

The log also shows that the campus secret police — sorry, the Bias Response Team — also goes after “Off Campus” speech. So students aren’t safe anywhere. Their First Amendment rights are severely restricted, no matter what they are doing or where they are.

So a student may literally receive a knock on his door “from a team of University officials threatening to refer the student to formal disciplinary authorities” for something some unknown, anonymous informant alleges that he said, something the informant doesn’t like, or doesn’t agree with, or is uncomfortable with. Unless, of course, as the complaint says, the student agrees to submit “to ‘restorative justice,’ ‘individual education,’ or ‘unconscious bias training.’”

In other words, the only way a student may be able to avoid formal charges against meritless claims is by agreeing to submit to the academic equivalent of a communist-style “reeducation” camp or brainwashing about the latest liberal fad like “unconscious bias.”

The University of Michigan doesn’t seem to care that, as the U.S. Supreme Court has said, “First Amendment protections [do not] apply with less force on college campuses than in the community at large." Moreover, "the mere dissemination of ideas — no matter how offensive to good taste — on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.’” In fact, the point of the First Amendment — and this is particularly important in the academic setting — is “to shield just those choices of content that in someone’s eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.”

The complaint contains a list of specific incidents that show that this draconian speech code is a one-way ratchet: it is used against those who express conservative opinions and ideas. Disruptions by liberal students against conservatives are tolerated and ignored by the university. Or as one student says in the complaint, “the University has only made it a safe place for those who have the same democratic views that the University promotes.”

We can only hope that this lawsuit succeeds in forcing the University of Michigan to throw out its shameful policy. Universities are supposed to be places where vigorous and often contentious — but civil — discussions take place and where the flow of new ideas and new concepts is promoted so they can be examined and discussed.

Today, the University of Michigan — and many other colleges — is not that place.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

UK: ‘Why I left the law to teach – and became headteacher in just six years’

After landing his dream role as a solicitor, Mouhssin Ismail decided to change tack. Find out how he rose to the top in his teaching career, and why it’s the best thing he’s ever done
As a youngster, Mouhssin Ismail’s one and only career ambition was to become a lawyer. Inspired by TV shows like LA Law and Rumpole of the Bailey – and with strong encouragement from his parents – he completed a law degree before joining leading City law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. But just four years in, he gave up the high-flying world of banking and finance law for a career in teaching.

Explaining his dramatic career change, he says: “I loved everything about being a lawyer but I soon realised, even though my A Levels and degree were strong, there were certain things my schooling hadn’t prepared me for. Born and educated in Newham, I simply didn’t have the social and cultural capital and the connections that the large majority of people in City law firms could boast. [In other words he was of too low a social class for much success in that job. Class matters in Britain.  He was probably hired as an affirmative action appointee]

“It was clear that you were more privileged in that respect if you were born into a particular family – and that stirred something up in me about social justice and social mobility.”

One night in 2007, while Mr Ismail was up working until 2am drafting a £50-million banking document, he also drafted his letter of resignation – which he handed in the next day.

Although he had nothing immediately lined up, Mr Ismail had already given serious thought to teaching. “I asked myself whether I was really making a contribution to society. I decided that teaching was the way to go, if I were to find a career that allowed me to do that.”

Getting down to business

He successfully completed his teacher training before joining Seven Kings High School in London, initially as a business studies teacher. He became head of the economics and business department and eventually director of Key Stage 5.

“I’d left the legal profession with the goal of running a school, so I could provide an education that gave students like me better access to the profession,” he says. “I did everything I could to expedite my teaching career, asking for head of department positions early on and applying for vacancies I spotted – in my view, it was worth my while to travel anywhere in London, and forego a pay rise, if it meant I could get that next step up.”

Just six years after completing his teacher training, Mr Ismail returned to his hometown to become headteacher at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre. Throughout that journey he has credited his professional legal experience for adding real value to his role as a teacher.

“From the start I was organising work placements in the legal sector for students, using my network of contacts, and focusing on the extra skills they needed, such as etiquette, meeting people for the first time, and writing emails.”

That experience also paid dividends as he moved into leadership roles. “Heads and deputy heads all have to deal with employment issues, finance issues and legal issues,” he says. “With the skills and knowledge I developed as a lawyer, this part of the job does not faze me at all.”

His status as a qualified lawyer has also earned him respect from the students. “They also recognise that I genuinely want to make a difference to their lives, and have given up a successful law career to do that!”

Nurturing talent

The most rewarding aspect of his role as headteacher is still the interaction he has with young people. “It is a great feeling to see them succeed and achieve, but equally, during those moments where they are suffering a crisis of confidence, I can be the adult who is instilling a sense of belief in them, telling them that they can do it.”

And they have. Last year, 95 per cent of his students gained a Russell Group university place, and the school saw its first student win a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In recognition of these achievements, Mr Ismail has been nominated for the TES Award for FE Leader of the Year, a milestone which he credits to the college’s team of talented staff.

He says: “My dream has come to fruition, and watching these kids do all the things I knew they could – with the right support – has been fantastic. It’s all about believing that your goals are possible.”


Muted Reaction to Student Presenting Thesis in Her Underwear Shows Corruption of Our Colleges

The most remarkable thing about the title of this column [“Cornell Student Presents Thesis in Her Underwear”] is that not one reader will think it’s a joke. That, my friends, is further proof of the low esteem in which most Americans hold our universities.

The left has rendered our universities, in the description of Harvard professor Steven Pinker, laughingstocks.

As reported in The Cornell Daily Sun and then around the world, this is what actually happened last week at Cornell University, one of our “Ivy League” universities: Senior Letitia Chai presented a trial run of her scholar senior thesis wearing a blue button-down shirt and cutoff jean shorts. Her professor, Rebekah Maggor, asked her, “is that really what you would wear?”

The professor went on to say that Chai’s shorts were “too short”—that as a speaker she was making a “statement” with her clothes. As reported in the newspaper, “The class does not have a formalized dress code, but asks students to ‘dress appropriately for the persona [they] will present.'”

Offended and hurt by the professor’s suggestion, Chai decided that she would present her thesis in even less clothing. She appeared before her fellow students in her shirt and shorts and then removed them. As she stripped down to a bra and panties, she explained:

I am more than Asian. I am more than a woman. I am more than Letitia Chai. I am a human being, and I ask you to take this leap of faith, to take this next step—or rather, this next strip—in our movement and to join me in revealing to each other and to seeing each other for who we truly are: members of the human race. … We are so triumphant, but most importantly, we are equals.

Twenty-eight of the 44 audience members followed suit, stripping down.

Chai’s presentation was livestreamed. It can still be seen on Facebook.

Eleven students who were present wrote a long statement defending both the professor—who apologized profusely—and Chai. It read:

As students who firmly believe in the tenants [that Cornell students do not know the word is ‘tenets,’ not ‘tenants,’ is not surprising] of justice and the commitment to fair representation, we feel that it is our duty to make the following statement. We support Letitia’s commitment to the cause of women’s rights. … We strongly support and identify with Letitia’s fight for equality in the treatment of all people, regardless of race, gender, color, creed, sexuality, or appearance. The majority of us are students of color, from multiethnic backgrounds, who very much relate to Letitia’s frustration with systemic oppression that is part of the fabric of this country. … Our recollection of that day is as follows:

Letitia stood up to give her speech. Before she began, our professor asked Letitia if she would wear ‘those shorts’ to her actual presentation on Saturday. Our professor regularly asks all of the students, male and female, such questions to clarify appropriate attire for public speaking. Our professor went on to say that what you wear and how you present yourself make a statement. She noted that if you were to wear jean shorts to your thesis presentation, that is a statement. Her focus on attire was a means of noting the importance of professionalism in certain public speaking situations. … Throughout the semester … We have also had several meaningful dialogues on privilege, discussed how to avoid [white] savior narratives. … Our professor … often illustrates the ways to us in which society can institute a socialized behavior (for females, acting apologetic for opinions) due to systematic oppression.

It’s hard to know which aspect of this story is the most ludicrous and the most disturbing. Is it the students stripping down to their underwear? That delivering a senior thesis in one’s underwear before fellow students, most of whom also stripped down, is acceptable—even honored—at Cornell University tells you just about all you need to know to understand the degraded state of Cornell and most other American universities. And if delivering a senior thesis in one’s underwear is a blow for women’s equality, why wear underwear? Why not deliver the thesis naked?

Is it the pervasive assumption of America’s “systemic oppression” of women and ethnic minorities? If there are luckier young women in the world than those who attend Cornell and other American universities, it is hard to imagine who they might be. Yet they have been so effectively indoctrinated by their left-wing instructors in elementary school, high school, and college they walk around thinking of themselves as victims of “systemic oppression” in what is probably the freest and most opportunity-giving society in human history.

Or is it the apparent absence of any criticism of Chai by even one of the 1,650 faculty members of Cornell University? It is inconceivable that even at Cornell, there is not one faculty member who found this young woman’s behavior an insult to Cornell and the once-exalted field of higher education. Yet they so fear their left-wing colleagues and left-wing students that they have said nothing.

This story reconfirms what I regularly tell parents: Sending your child to college is playing Russian roulette with their values.


Australia's nationwide school tests are much more gain than pain

More than a million Australian students sat NAPLAN tests this week, assessing their standards in reading, writing, language and numeracy.

Despite some hysterical criticisms, the national assessment program remains a vital educational tool and there is no rigorous evidence it has widespread negative effects on students. And in general, parents groups continue to support the tests.

Claims that it harms students are at best superficial, and at worst downright misleading. There have been very few studies to date on the impact on students, and the existing research is mostly based on surveys or samples so small as to be insignificant.

There is a world of difference between serious mental health issues and the low levels of nervousness associated with any school assessment.

The other target of NAPLAN naysayers is the MySchool website, where school results are published and can be compared to other schools and the national average. It is argued MySchool harms schools by making them focus excessively on NAPLAN test results. But again, there is little evidence to support this claim, and ultimately schools focusing more on literacy and numeracy is almost always a good thing.

MySchool is important for parents. Parents choose schools based on multiple factors, including academic achievement. Having access to NAPLAN results allows parents a more informed choice for their children’s education success.

And when we’re constantly told parents should be more engaged in their children’s education, it would be bizarre to tell parents they shouldn’t know how their local school is performing compared to national standards.

NAPLAN helps improve schools and teaching, by identifying problems in the school system over time and enabling potential solutions — from the national level all the way down to individual students. It also provides transparency for school results. And it holds governments and schools accountable for the more than $50 billion of taxpayer money invested in the school system every year.

So what is the future for NAPLAN?

It is reasonable to investigate how NAPLAN data can be used more effectively to help students. A possible review of NAPLAN — which education ministers are currently considering — should focus on such issues, rather than simplistically scrapping the whole program.