Friday, June 15, 2018

How Harvard Secretly Discriminates Against Americans of Asian Descent

In April, a group launched a lawsuit against the school, insisting that Harvard University release hidden information regarding its admissions.

The organization leading the lawsuit is Students for Fair Admissions, which is comprised of Asian-American students who applied to get into Harvard and were rejected. The group says it believes the school is guilty of racial discrimination, specifically against students of Asian descent.

“The public has a right to know exactly what is going on at Harvard,” said William S. Consovoy, a lawyer for Students for Fair Admissions, according to The New York Times. “Even if this were a commercial issue—as Harvard would like to portray it—the public would have a right to know if the product is defective or if a fraud is being perpetrated.”

Harvard has refused to release information about its application process, calling it a vital trade secret.

This case could certainly make its way to the Supreme Court. But beyond the legal issue at stake, the case reveals the general problem with the cult of diversity peddled on American college campuses.

The devotion to multiculturalism—the ever-present left-wing philosophy framing the issue of race in terms of oppressor vs. oppressed groups—utterly dominates America’s “elite” institutions.

In this case, the desire to lump students into groups and tailor admissions around the objective of racial diversity has made that system discriminatory toward well-qualified individuals.

The stultified culture of diversity becomes malignant when it’s used to discriminate against some groups for doing too well, such as with Asian applicants to an elite school. But even without these egregious examples, it damages the idea that Americans are to be judged as individuals, not groups.

Research on who ends up getting into Ivy League schools shows just how much more difficult it is for Asian students to do so than other ethnic groups.

One Princeton study from 2009, for instance, shows that Asian students have to score on average 140 points higher on their SATs than white students to gain admission to the school.

A recently released paper published by the Center for Equal Opportunity and authored by Althea Nagai, a research fellow, demonstrates this point about admissions.

What was revealing is that in schools that did not have affirmative action programs, such as Caltech, there was an explosion of Americans of Asian descent getting into the schools in the past two decades.

The study found:

Even when statistically controlling for other variables including social class, gender, extracurricular activities, test scores and grades, AP [Advanced Placement] classes, and athletics, Asian-American applicants were less likely to be admitted to America’s elite colleges and universities compared to whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics.

So-called holistic admissions and diversity goals enable discrimination against Asian-American applicants, much as the Harvard plan of the 1920s, also using holistic admissions, did against Jewish applicants.

What Nagai and others claim is that the opaque admissions process at Harvard and other Ivy League schools is simply a mask for a system to get the “right” numbers for racial groups. In other words, a quota.

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and conservative commentator, explained in USA Today how Ivy League schools used similar methods to discriminate against Jews in the past.

To ensure fewer Jews at their schools, schools would change their admissions criteria “to reward ‘leadership’ and ‘well-rounded’ candidates—a thin disguise for ‘WASPs—and, following closely on, actual quotas for Jewish students, so that no matter how many applied, their numbers on campus would stay just about the same,” Reynolds said.

“After several decades, this came to be seen as racist and unfair, and the quotas were dropped,” he said.

Harvard’s admissions system demonstrates the problem with racial categorizing in America. Much of what college campus ideology teaches is that diversity is everything.

However, increasingly, the only diversity that matters is racial diversity, not diversity of opinions or thought.

When a racial category breaks the mold of the prevailing ideology of grievance, the system swoops in to punish them, possibly creating a new round of genuine grievance.

Perhaps in the end, this country is better and stronger when our schools, at least, enforce the idea that citizens will be treated equally as Americans and nothing but Americans.


Harvard tries to defend its admissions policies

In essence, they say they need to keep Asians out so that they can let blacks in. Having blacks in the student body trumps all other considerations.  So they are clearly tremendously bigoted racially.  They are race fanatics

Harvard University is preparing for what is likely to be the fiercest attack yet on its use of race in student admissions and a court case that could fundamentally transform the legal landscape on affirmative action.

In anticipation of court filings on Friday by a group representing Asian-Americans who contend that they were unfairly denied admissions to Harvard, outgoing university president Drew Faust went on the offensive.

In a letter sent to the university community on Tuesday, Faust called the claims of discrimination by the group, Students for Fair Admissions, “inaccurate.”

“These claims will rely on misleading, selectively presented data taken out of context,” Faust said. “Their intent is to question the integrity of the undergraduate admissions process and to advance a divisive agenda.”

The case is likely to go to trial this fall in US District Court in Boston, and may ultimately be decided years from now by the US Supreme Court. It is being closely watched by the Department of Justice, legal experts, and advocacy groups, for in several ways it opens a new front in the battle over affirmative action.

Previous decisive cases centered on whether white students were disadvantaged by the use of race in college admissions, and involved public, not private, universities.

“This is the best known university in the country that has a bull’s-eye on it,” said Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, a trade group representing college presidents.

But the question of how to achieve racial diversity on campus — and the government’s role in those decisions — is “a fundamental concern to all colleges and universities,” Hartle said.

Edward Blum, who leads Students for Fair Admissions, was previously involved in an affirmative action case against the University of Texas involving a white student. There, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that colleges could continue to use race as one of several admission factors, as long as the schools could show they could not achieve diversity through other ways.

Neither Harvard nor Blum would disclose what they expect to say in court filings Friday. But each is likely to offer its own analysis of Harvard’s admissions data.

On Tuesday, Blum declined to comment on Faust’s letter, saying he would “let our forthcoming filing speak for itself.”

Attorneys for Students for Fair Admissions have reviewed thousands of documents on the inner workings of the Harvard application and decision process, along with internal e-mails. They have also questioned the university’s admissions officers about how they decide who gets into the Ivy League school.

Some of the documents filed on Friday will include redacted information, and US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs will decide what can be released and become part of the public record.

Harvard University has fought hard to keep much of the information private, arguing that it contains sensitive information about students and trade secrets about how it evaluates freshman candidates.

At issue is whether Harvard has a cap on the number of Asian-American students it admits every year.

Harvard has argued that it strives to create a diverse student body and considers a multitude of factors in offering admissions, from students’ test scores, to their backgrounds and even their ambitions. In her letter to the university community, Faust said Harvard’s approach is both legal and fair.

Of the nearly 2,000 students admitted into the incoming freshman class at Harvard, around 23 percent are Asian-Americans, while African-Americans make up about 16 percent, Latinos about 12 percent, and Native Americans about 2 percent. The remaining students are white.

Still, some Asian-Americans have complained they have to meet a higher academic bar for admissions at elite universities. They point to a 2009 study by a Princeton University sociologist that showed that Asian-American students had to score 140 points higher than white students on their SATs, and much higher still than Hispanics and African-Americans to gain entrance into elite colleges. That research, however, did not consider other factors colleges use, such as extracurricular activities, recommendation letters or essays, and counselor letters.

In 2015, after a nine-year investigation into allegations of bias against Asian-American applicants at Princeton University, the Department of Education cleared the school. Federal officials determined that Asian-Americans had a hard time getting into Princeton — but so did everybody else.

Opponents of affirmative action have found allies in the Trump administration. The Department of Justice last year launched its own investigation of Harvard’s admissions polices, and has filed documents in court in support of Blum’s group.

While the Supreme Court has previously upheld the use of race in college admissions, that could change by the time it reviews this lawsuit, said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of Berkeley Law at the University of California.

“There is the prospect that when it goes to the Supreme Court there will be different justices and ones more hostile to affirmative action,” Chemerinsky said.


Alabama Governor Lets Schools Keep Gun Ready Against ‘Armed Intruders’

Alabama school administrators will now have the option of keeping a firearm on school grounds for dealing with an “armed intruder” incident if they meet certain qualifications after Gov. Kay Ivey signed a memo permitting the practice.

Ivey’s May 30 memo will give all Alabama school administrators the option to keep a firearm on campus, provided they have a concealed carry permit, undergo training, are subject to random drug screenings, are sworn in as a deputy county sheriff, and work at a school without a school resource officer.

“Unlike teachers, school administrators have complete access to their schools and are responsible for the safety of all students at the school, not an individual classroom,” the governor’s office said in a press release.

The voluntary program requires any gun to be kept in a biometrically secure safe, along with ammunition and body armor, and only be taken out in the event of imminent threat from an “armed intruder.”

Ivey said she signed the memo without waiting for a bill from the Legislature because “with the unfortunate continued occurrence of school violence across our country, we cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session.” The Alabama Legislature is out of session until early next year.

Ivey’s action drew harsh criticism from Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control organization, which released a statement saying “there is no evidence that arming teachers or other school staff or administrators will protect children in schools.”

“School officials have other jobs they are meant to be doing. They aren’t trained sharpshooters and don’t have ongoing training,” the anti-gun group said.

But Amy Swearer, a legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, took issue with the Moms Demand Action claim.

“There are numerous examples of lives being saved because active school shooters were quickly confronted by armed personnel, including just this year at schools in Maryland and Indiana,” Swearer said. “Even in [Santa Fe, Texas], where 10 lives were tragically lost, the immediate response of armed school resource officers prevented the situation from becoming much worse.

“Moms Demand Action may not consider these instances ‘evidence’ of how protecting our children with armed and competent adults increases school safety, but the students whose lives were saved might beg to differ,” she said.

Swearer said that arming school administrators was “a much more financially practical solution for some school districts than hiring school resource officers,” adding that “the provision of armed personnel is most effective when used in combination with other security measures.”

She noted that in Utah, qualified teachers have been permitted to carry concealed firearms for more than two decades, and “not one person has been injured as a result of the policy.”


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women Earn 57% of U.S. Bachelor’s Degrees—For 18th Straight Year

Women earned approximately 57 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. institutions of higher education in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to data released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

That, according to NCES data, makes 2016-2017 the eighteenth straight academic year in which women have earned approximately 57 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities.

The NCES this week released a “first look” report—“Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance 2017-18; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2016-2017; and 12-Month Enrollment, 2016-2017"—that listed the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the 2016-2017 academic year by U.S. institutions that participate in Title IV federal student financial assistance programs (plus the U.S. military academies).
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According to Table 4 of the report, these institutions awarded a total of 1,956,032 bachelor’s degrees in the 2016-2017 academic year. Of these, 836,045 (or 42.74 percent) were earned by men and 1,119,987 (or 57.26 percent) were earned by women.

The 2017 version of Table 322.20 from the NCES’s Digest of Educational Statistics includes comparable data (from institutions that participate in Title IV) going back to the 1999-2000 academic year.

According to that data, in each of the seventeen academic years from 1999-2000 through 2015-2016, women earned at least 57.11 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in any given year but never earned more than 57.54 percent.

By contrast, during those same seventeen years, men earned at least 42.46 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in any given years but never earned more than 42.89 percent.

The lowest percentage for women in those seventeen years—according to this Department of Education data—came in the 2014-2015 academic year, when U.S. postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV awarded 1,894,969 bachelor’s degrees to U.S. citizens and nonresident aliens and 1,082,276 (or 57.11 percent) went to women and 812,693 (42.89 percent) went to men.

The highest percentage for women in those seventeen years came in the 2005-2006 academic year, when the institutions participating in Title IV awarded 1,485,242 bachelor’s degrees and 854,642 (or 57.54 percent) went to women and 630,600 (or 42.46 percent) went to men.

The last year that women earned less than 57 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. institutions of higher learning participating in Title IV was in the 1998-1999 academic year. That year, according to Table 322.20 published with the 2016 Digest of Educational Statistics, these institutions awarded a total of 1,202,239 bachelor’s degrees. Of these, 519,961 (or 43.25 percent) went to men and 682,278 (or 56.75 percent) went to women.

Data published in Table 236 of the 1995 Digest of Education Statistics, which includes bachelor’s degrees from institutions of higher education from the 1960-1961 academic year to the 1992-1993 academic year, shows that 1981-1982 was the first academic year in which women earned a larger number of bachelor’s degrees than men.

In 1980-1981, according to this data, U.S. institutions of higher education issued 935,140 bachelor’s degrees. Of these, 469,883 (or 50.25 percent) were earned by men and 465,257 (or 49.75 percent) were earned by women.

The next year—1981-1982—U.S. institutions of higher education issued 952,998 bachelor’s degrees. Of these, 473,364 (or 49.67 percent) were earned by men and 479,634 (or 50.33 percent) were earned by women.

In each academic year since then, according to the data published by NCES, more women have earned bachelor’s degrees in the United States then men.

Back in the 1960-1961 academic year, according to Table 236 of the 1995 Digest of Education Statistics, U.S. institutions of higher education awarded 365,174 bachelor’s degrees. Of these, men earned 224,538 (or 61.49 percent) and women earned 140,636 (or 38.51 percent).

According to the report published this week by the NCES, women also earned more master’s degrees, doctoral degrees and professional degrees than men did in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Table 4 in the report indicates that U.S. institutions participating in Title IV awarded 804,684 master’s degrees in 2016-2017. Of these 477,792 (or 59.38 percent) were earned by women and 326,892 (or 40.62 percent) were earned by men.

The data also indicates that these institutions awarded 70,811 “research/scholarship” doctoral degrees. Of these, 35,620 (or 50.30 percent) were earned by women and 35,191 (or 49.70 percent) were earned by men.

It further says that these institutions awarded 108,509 “professional practice” doctoral degrees in 2016-2017. Of these, 59,882 (or 55.19 percent) were earned by women and 48,627 (or 44.81 percent) were earned by men.


Indiana Teacher Forced to Resign After Refusing to Kowtow to Transgender Policies

An Indiana high school teacher alleges that he was forced to resign because he wouldn’t ascribe to the school’s policy of calling transgender students by their chosen names and pronouns.

“I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle,” former Brownsburg High School orchestra teacher John Kluge told NBC News. He alleges that compelling him to address students with pronouns that do not accord to their biological sex violates his religious beliefs as well as his constitutional right to free speech.

“I’m fine to teach students with other beliefs, but the fact that teachers are being compelled to speak a certain way is the scary thing,” Kluge also told NBC.

The school requires that teachers call students by their chosen name or pronoun provided that the student has a written note of consent from a parent and doctor. The school previously allowed Kluge to call students by their last names but changed the policies two months ago to mandate that Kluge call them by their chosen names and pronouns.

Advocates of queer inclusion at the school and in the community don’t see the requirement as an infringement upon Kluge’s rights but simply as a requirement of respect. “Using a trans student’s chosen name is an invaluable support. Educators need to lead by example with respect for students’ identities, names, and pronouns,” said GLSEN advocacy group education manager Becca Mui, NBC reported.

GLSEN is “a national network of students, educators, parents, & community leaders working to create LGBTQ-inclusive schools,” according to its Twitter handle.

“Everyone deserves to be called by their name, and in doing so teachers are able to effortlessly respect their students and enable them to live authentically,” the Trevor Project’s head of advocacy and government affairs, Sam Brinton, also said. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

A Brownsburg representative maintains that Kluge voluntarily resigned before the end of the school year, but Kluge claims he only sent in a resignation letter because the school threatened to fire him. “I’m pleading … I still want to work here,” Kluge explained.

Kluge has indicated he will appeal to the school board if he and the school can find no compromise that will allow him to continue teaching at Brownsburg High School.


Teaching quality is the biggest challenge facing Australian country areas

It will surprise few people that students from rural areas tend to perform worse on average than those in cities. In fact — as shown by the results of NAPLAN and two different international standardised tests — the more remote the area, the lower the average student test score.

Decades of research show the most significant in-school factor that affects student achievement is the quality of teacher instruction. But in country areas, it is a particular challenge for schools to attract and retain experienced and expert teachers.

This was the most pressing issue discussed by the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education, authored by Emeritus Profession John Halsey and commissioned by the Turnbull government. The review received hundreds of submissions, and the vast majority rated the area of teachers and teaching as the most important.

But this is not just an Australian problem. According to an OECD report, the city-country gap in achievement exists in most countries; and internationally it is much harder on average for rural schools to attract experienced and more qualified teachers. Realistically, this is a problem we can only mitigate, rather than solve entirely.

So how can the size of the problem be reduced? The Halsey review proposes few specific actions, but unfortunately doesn’t give any analysis of the costs and benefits of each approach. It suggests: university teacher education degrees include a subject specifically covering rural education, more teacher professional experience placements in rural schools, and using targeted salary and conditions packages to attract experienced teachers to rural schools for fixed term appointments.

In theory, these ideas are sensible, but are potentially expensive — and it is unclear if they are cost-effective uses of taxpayer money to increase teaching quality in rural schools.

Unfortunately, it seems the trend for Australian government-commissioned education reviews these days is to be overly general and not address the pros and cons of their ideas. The Gonski 2.0 review into schools was the epitome of the genre — full of clichés and jargon at the expense of practicality and evidence.

To be fair, the Halsey review doesn’t quite reach the Gonski 2.0 level of platitude litanies. But the fact that the Turnbull government’s response to Halsey’s review was simply to accept all 11 (very broad) recommendations and then note that the more specific 53 suggested actions were just “examples of what could be done to implement these recommendations” and “are very specific and may cut across existing initiatives” shows the practical policy utility of the Halsey review is limited. Prepare the mothballs.

The Halsey review also focuses arguably too much on curriculum and technology.

One recommendation is about “ensuring the relevance of the Australian Curriculum” for students in rural areas. It seems absurd that, when faced with a gap in achievement in the curriculum, a response is to blame the curriculum. Why is the gap a problem if what is being measured is supposedly irrelevant for country kids? And no evidence is presented to suggest that the reason students in rural schools are underperforming is because the content being taught isn’t relevant enough for them.

Another focus of the review is technology for rural schools. Of course, access to fast and reliable internet is often a challenge in country areas, and technology has the potential to open up many mobile learning opportunities for students.

But there is too much faith in the possible productivity gains from technology in schools. There is no clear relationship between use of education technology and student achievement. In fact, some studies suggest there is a negative relationship. Australian schools already use technology much more than most other OECD countries — including the top-performers like Singapore — according to the international education datasets. So more technology is no silver bullet for rural education.

Nevertheless, Halsey’s review is an important contribution, expresses aspirations we all support, and is at least “a starting point for many conversations” — to quote the federal government’s response.

But state and territory governments are going to have to do much more detailed analysis if they are to come up with a blueprint to improve teaching in rural areas; and minimise the educational disadvantage faced by country students.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Six Forces Disrupting Higher Education

Universities and health care, “eds and meds”, have been in a huge growth cycle over the last few decades. Many communities have been pinning their hopes on anchor institutions like a university or research hospital to retool their economies for the 21st century.

Yet the higher education industry is facing a convergence of several trends and forces that threaten their future. At a minimum, schools need to be figuring out how to navigate these choppy waters ahead.

Here are six forces converging on colleges today and in the near future:

1. The number of college students will soon plunge. Professor Nathan Grawe, in his book Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, built a model that projects the future demand for college. He found that starting in 2025, the number of college bound students is likely to decline substantially.

The elite top 50 will continue to experience robust demand, but others won’t be so luck. As Grawe told the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The bottom line is there’s almost nothing that’s going to get us around the fact that, in the late 2020s, we should see really significant reductions in enrollment. If your strategy for this is to try to increase enrollments, the model suggests that that’s a bad idea.

Grawe has provided a large amount of grim data on his web site.

2. Tuition is soaring at rates far higher than inflation. This chart from Carpe Diem and AEI says it all. Tuition and textbooks have nearly tripled in price since 1997:

How much more can students and their parents take?

3. Student loan debt is soaring. Earlier this year New York magazine put together this astonishing chart of the growth of student loan debt relative to other kinds of loans:

Over the last decade, college-loan balances in the United States have jumped more than $833 billion to reach an all-time high of $1.4 trillion, according to a recent report by Experian.

The average outstanding balance is now $34,144, up 62 percent over the last 10 years. In addition, the percentage of borrowers who owe $50,000 or more has tripled over the same time period, according to a separate report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The $1.4 trillion in student loans outstanding new exceeds total credit card debt and total auto loan debt. Some people now have over $1 million in student loan debt.

4. The over-education problem. One factor that’s seldom directly pointed out is the disconnect between the number of people who go to college, and the number who can plausibly cash in from a degree.

34.9% of people ages 25-34 have a bachelors degree or higher. This is probably a fair proxy for the share of younger people who will likely get degrees. But is 35% of the American public able to get a high paying job? Indicators are not.

Much as been made of income inequality, the decline of the middle class, etc. Some share of the population, probably 20% or less, is reaping disproportionate rewards in the modern economy. Others have seen stagnating real wages. For example, the Atlantic just ran a cover story talking about the “9.9%” that had this chart showing the share of wealth held by the 0.1%, the 9.9%, and the bottom 90%:

Even if people in the next decile below the 9.9% are doing well, that still leaves a ton of people with degrees who don’t necessarily face great economic prospects.

They might instead end up changing diapers at a DC day care center. Washington put forth a mandate that day care workers have a college degree, which indicates they must believe there will be no shortage of takers.

Combine a degree that won’t grant access to the high wage economy with student loan debt and it’s a recipe for big problems for young people.

This is an area that deserves more study.

5. University inequality. It’s not just workers who face inequality, but schools themselves. The Wall Street Journal has been reporting on a potential shakeout among colleges, in which the higher end universities continue to do well, but those ranked nearer to the bottom are in trouble. In one article related to this divergence they note:

For generations, a swelling population of college-age students, rising enrollment rates and generous student loans helped all schools, even mediocre ones, to flourish. Those days are ending. According to an analysis of 20 years of freshman-enrollment data at 1,040 of the 1,052 schools listed in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking, U.S. not-for-profit colleges and universities are segregating into winners and losers—with winners growing and expanding and losers seeing the first signs of a death spiral.

Similar they written that many non-selective small liberal arts may be in trouble.

6. MOOCs. The rise of online education, notably in the form of “massively open online courses” has yet to disrupt the higher education model, but with the factors above bearing down, there’s a huge financial incentive to make this work. Industry after industry have been radically restructured by technology innovation, and it’s reasonable to believe that the business model of higher education will one day end up on the receiving end.

7. The credentialing cartel. It’s widely understood that the primary value in a degree is having it. The degree itself is perceived as a key credential granting access to the job market. As Austen Allred put it, “Would you rather have a Princeton diploma without the Princeton education, or a Princeton education without a Princeton diploma?”

Universities are in effect a cartel who can levy an entrance toll to the professional job market. This may last for quite some time, or even strengthen, but there is again great value to be unlocked in breaking this cartel. The tech industry is a good example, where even famous companies have been founded by drop outs. If you are a great developer, it doesn’t matter what your credentials are. This has been one secret to that industry’s success.

None of these inevitably spells doom for colleges, and certainly not for any individual one. There is also a lot of nuance not captured in this short posting. But as a highlight of potentially disruptive forces, it shows that there is quite a collection of powerful disruptors and potential disrupters arrayed against the university environment. Savvy institutions should be working hard to get fit for the road ahead.


Building boom at Boston charter schools outpaces that at other city schools

Eleven-year-old Serenity Withers and her schoolmates have lived a nomadic existence at Bridge Boston Charter School over the last five years as the school bounced from one lackluster building to another. One location was largely devoid of sunlight, and tutoring and instrumental lessons took place in the hallway. Recess was relegated to a parking lot.

But this year, after Bridge Boston spent $25 million renovating a shuttered community health center in Roxbury, Serenity finally enjoyed everything a public school building should offer: a cafeteria, gymnasium, science lab, several playgrounds, and a sunlit atrium that doubles as a library and assembly space.

“When I first walked in I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is my school,’” she said. “It’s nice to have a place to call home.”

From East Boston to Mattapan, most of the 16 charter schools in Boston have either a major construction project underway, recently completed one, or are about to embark on one. The 11 projects collectively total almost $300 million and will create about 600,000 square feet for 5,700 students in kindergarten through grade 12, according to a Globe analysis.

The flurry of activity among these independently run public schools over the past five years starkly contrasts the anemic pace of a school construction program launched by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who made a campaign pledge in 2013 to spend $1 billion to fix the city’s deteriorating school buildings.

But city and school officials have yet to devise a plan detailing which schools would get new buildings or major renovations, and no plan appears forthcoming. Just last month, Superintendent Tommy Chang told the School Committee, while responding to one member’s pointed questions, that an advisory group of more than 30 people will be assembled for more community engagement before any plan is drafted.

Meanwhile, the only large-scale projects moving forward have been in the pipeline since the days of then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino: The Dearborn STEM Academy is slated to move into a new building this fall, the Eliot K-8 Innovation School finished renovating a building last year, and Boston Arts Academy’s building will be replaced with a modern structure. Planning for a fourth project, Quincy Upper School, has repeatedly stalled.

The Boston Public Schools defended its construction investments, noting that the combined costs of the Dearborn and Boston Arts projects are $200 million, which includes $86 million in state reimbursements. The school system also said it is planning to renovate the Carter School and is spending $18.5 million to refurbish another building for the Eliot, giving that school three locations.

“BPS and the City of Boston are in the process of developing a thoughtful, deliberate long-term strategy to address the individual needs of schools and the overall needs of the district,” Richard Weir, a school system spokesman said in a statement.

That charters are establishing a stronger track record than the city in bringing large-scale projects to fruition defies expectations for these schools, which are barred under state law from receiving lucrative reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority for any construction or repairs.

Charters also cannot borrow money under the city’s very strong bond rating. Instead, they must cobble money together from a variety of sources, often securing private-sector loans, launching multimillion-dollar fund-raising campaigns, and squirreling away some of their per-student state aid that is earmarked for facility expenses.

All the while, charter school leaders have to hunt for an ideal site in Boston’s tight real estate market, while sometimes wading through contentious community debate.

Jon Clark, codirector of Brooke Charter Schools, said charters are probably achieving construction success because of pressing urgency. Many charters have been running out of space in woefully inadequate buildings because of rapid enrollment growth.

He also noted that even though charters face greater challenges in financing projects, their small size makes it easier for them to make a decision than in a large system like Boston, which must come up with an equitable plan for all of its 125 schools.

“We are a lot more nimble,” he said.

In addition to Bridge Boston, Boston Preparatory Charter School in Hyde Park opened a new building this year. Brooke Charter Schools will follow in the fall with a new high school in Mattapan — its third project in four years — while Boston Collegiate Charter School is expanding its Dorchester site.

More are probably on the way. Conservatory Lab Charter School recently received city approval for a building in Dorchester, and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School is in the midst of a heated neighborhood debate over erecting a high school in Roslindale.

All these projects follow others completed in recent years by Codman Academy in Dorchester, KIPP Academy in Mattapan, and Excel Academy in East Boston. Brooke also did two projects for its lower-grade students in East Boston and Mattapan.

“It has been a very long journey,” said Yully Cha, executive director of Bridge Boston, noting that more than 20 locations were vetted. “The incredible responsibility to put forward something that will last, and the number of zeros attached to each decision was overwhelming.”

But she added, “The new facility elevates the expectations of our students and reflects the value of our students.”

The project, which was the subject of 16 community meetings, raised concerns in the neighborhood over traffic. But school leaders eventually won over some detractors by emphasizing they wanted to become part of the neighborhood’s fabric while noting they would be near many nonprofit partners and students’ homes.

The Roxbury Prep project would be the largest, housing 800 students in a three-story building featuring a cafeteria, gymnasium, and 66 parking spaces. Although some neighbors support the project, others oppose it, worried about traffic and parked cars flooding their neighborhood.

About a half-dozen elected officials sent a letter last month to the Boston Planning and Development Agency objecting to the project, arguing that Roxbury Prep has insufficiently addressed the concerns of residents.

Roxbury Prep leaders say they have taken steps to address some issues. For instance, they added an underground parking garage and reduced the number of students who would attend.

“Everyone knows there is development fatigue in many communities in Boston,” said Anna Hall, a chief operating officer for Uncommon Schools, an out-of-state charter management organization that runs Roxbury Prep. “We are super sympathetic to it.”

But she added, the location, which currently is an underutilized auto services site, will eventually be redeveloped by someone, and for Roxbury Prep it solves a big problem: Its high school is currently split between two locations in two neighborhoods.

Officials for the Greater Belgrade Avenue Neighborhood Association Inc., a vocal opponent of the project, declined to comment for this story.

When officials at Codman Academy scoured their section of Dorchester for a place to house their primary grades, they knocked on the doors of buildings not even for sale. Their tenacity paid off. They purchased a building across the street from their high school program that was not on the market but had been struggling to fill empty storefronts and offices.

The design of the $12 million project took on a novel theme that emulates a walk in the woods, inspired by research on how students experiencing trauma can find comfort in nature.

Classrooms and hallways are painted in earth tones instead of bright primary colors and feature twig and leaf designs. The school also boasts a garden-like play area outside.

“We saw a big shift in students’ eagerness to be in school and saw more smiles,” said Thabiti Brown, Codman’s head of school. “I think over time we will see those academic results.”


Gutless Australian National University

Bettina Arndt

My latest concern is the decision by the ANU to buckle to pressure from students and the union and pull out of negotiations with the Ramsay Centre over the proposed course on Western Civilisation. I’m sure you will have read about what’s going on there.

I have a long history with what was once a great university. My brilliant father, the economist Heinz Arndt, was one of the founding professors and worked there for over 50 years. I was on the ANU Council for over 17 years and watched many of the university’s leaders establish a formidable institution. 

I have just written to the current Vice-Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, telling him my father would be turning in his grave about the Ramsay decision. 

As the university’s own website makes clear the Ramsay negotiators were not desiring an undue level of influence over delivery of the programs, staff appointments, what was to be taught and by whom. Indeed, I was surprised to hear that Ramsay had agreed to allow the ANU to have ultimate control over all these matters – a very brave decision given the fact that many academics currently working in the humanities at the university are so clearly antagonistic to the values inherent in the Western Civilisation course.

You may not be aware that these issues had been fully discussed and agreed upon by the two parties to the negotiation, as the University’s CASS website demonstrates. Here is the link:

Here are some extracts from that website:

7. What are the risks to the ANU? ….The University’s legal framework requires ANU to retain control of the delivery of its programs. Our strong University academic structures govern academic curriculum, delivery and standards and any new degree would need to be approved by the usual ANU processes and subject to the usual quality reviews. The proposed Ramsay Scholarships would be ANU Scholarships, and, as such, also fall under University policies and procedures. Students in the proposed program would be subject to ANU legislation, policies and procedures regarding academic progress, misconduct and discipline. Similarly, staff appointed under any funding arrangements would be appointed by an ANU selection committee and would be ANU employees, subject to the University’s HR processes and procedures.

15. Who will decide the curriculum? Curriculum recommendations will be made by the Partnership Management Committee (consisting of two academic staff from the Ramsay Centre and two academics from the ANU, one of whom is the Dean of CASS) and considered through the normal ANU academic processes.

Also clause 25 regarding selection of staff for the Centre spells out that hiring decisions will be made in accordance with the normal hiring procedures and that the staff will be all ANU employees. “Ramsay would have a limited number of nominees on the selection committee but the committee would be chaired by the Dean of CASS and have a majority of ANU nominees.”

As this website states,  this is all normal practice at the university. It is clear from the wording of the website that the two parties had reached agreement on all these key issues, prior to intervention from the union and the decision by the ANU to back away from the long negotiations. I believe you are being misled by one or more key players who have sought to scuttle the deal.

I am already aware of many eminent people connected to the university who are very alarmed by what is happening and I can assure you that the public concern will only increase. I know there are many current academics staff who are shocked by this turn of events but too nervous to speak out – which demonstrates the impact the current corrosive climate is having on academic autonomy and intellectual freedom.

Please help me spread the word about what’s going on behind the scenes in the Ramsay/ANU scandal – many people are working really hard to misrepresent the facts. 

Via email from

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

De Blasio plans to destroy New York's best schools in the name of "diversity"

It's their selective admisions that make them "best"

A plan to diversify New York City’s most elite public high schools is drawing fire from the minority group that has come to dominate them in recent years: Asian-Americans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last weekend that he wants to scrap the test that governs admission to eight specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, calling the test ‘‘a roadblock to justice, progress, and academic excellence.’’

Fewer than 10 percent of students who score well enough to gain admission to the schools are black or Latino, despite the fact that those two groups make up two-thirds of the city’s 1 million public school students.

‘‘It’s not fair. It’s not inclusive. It’s not open to all,’’ de Blasio said.

But such a change might mean fewer seats for Asian-American students, who now make up 62 percent of the pupils.

The proposal “causes chaos in the Asian-American community, and we’re here to reject this policy,’’ said John Chan, head of the Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights. Opponents of the proposed change accused the mayor of pitting minority groups against each other.

‘‘For many of these Asian-American families I represent, they’re mostly new American families, new immigrants who came here,’’ said Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Queens Democrat. ‘‘They’re just following the rules that were set. For the chancellor to imply they own the admissions test, I think it’s completely uncalled for. They didn’t create this system.’’

Tough entrance standards, a rigorous curriculum, and a reputation for graduating some of the world’s top scholars have made the city’s exam schools highly sought after among high-performing students.

The Bronx High School of Science alone has graduated eight future Nobel Prize winners. Stuyvesant High has had four.

In 2018, about 28,300 middle school students took the test to get into the eight specialized schools. About 5,000 were offered seats.

Asian students were the largest number of test-takers, about 8,800, and had the highest acceptance rate, with 29.7 percent of the students getting an offer, compared with 3.6 percent of the 5,730 black students who took the test and 26.2 percent of white students.

City Councilor Margaret Chin, a Bronx Science alumna and a Democrat whose district includes Manhattan’s Chinatown, wrote in a letter to de Blasio that Asian-Americans have ‘‘a unique relationship’’ with the specialized high schools.

‘‘For many families, particularly low-income immigrant families, the specialized high schools are the only pathway to a world-class education,’’ Chin asserted.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who was recently appointed after serving as superintendent in Houston, hit back in TV appearances, telling Fox 5 New York, ‘‘I just don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admission to these schools.’’

Overhauling the specialized high school admissions process entirely would require action by the state legislature, which won’t vote on the plan until 2019 at the earliest.

As a stopgap measure, the mayor said he would expand a program to offer seats at the schools to low-income students who score just below the cutoff grade. Under the expanded version of what’s known as the Discovery program, 20 percent of specialized high school seats will be reserved for those low-income students.

Defining the plan’s beneficiaries by income skirts the legal issues that would be raised if the city tried to favor any particular ethnic group.

Some students at Stuyvesant, the school that requires the highest score on the admissions test, expressed doubts about even that modest adjustment.

Senior Jessica Sun, a Chinese-American student, said students who missed the test cutoff might struggle at a high-pressure school like Stuyvesant. ‘‘I don’t think they would do too well, since it’s very hard and you need a lot of support from your family,’’ she said.

Sun added that the specialized high school test is ‘‘very fair.’’ ‘‘You study for it. You make the cutoff. You get in,’’ she said.

The three-hour, multiple-choice test is offered to eighth-graders every fall. Many parents spend thousands of dollars on tutors to prepare their children for the exam.

The city has sought to diversify the specialized high schools by offering free test-prep classes to disadvantaged youngsters, but those efforts have not yielded measurable results.

De Blasio’s proposed overhaul would eliminate the test entirely and offer specialized high school slots to the top students at every middle school in the city.

City officials estimate that under the plan, similar to the University of Texas system, 45 percent of offers to specialized schools would go to black and Hispanic students.


Many Factors Drive the Rise in Homeschooling

The long list includes mass shootings, sexual indoctrination, and poor academic performance.  

In 2010, Patriot Post columnist Burt Prelutsky said of our underperforming public school systems, “It’s not a school system, it’s a penal colony with report cards.” At the time, it seemed humorously hyperbolic. Today, it seems depressingly understated.

Perhaps that’s why, as The Washington Times recently reported, there has been a surge in parents turning to homeschooling.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 1999-2012, the number of homeschooled children in the U.S. more than doubled from 850,000 to 1.8 million. That number has since risen to an estimated 2.3 million.

One thing is certain: In the wake of recent school mass murders, interest in homeschooling has skyrocketed. Louisiana alone has seen a 50% increase since 2011, and in Texas, homeschoolers now outnumber private schoolers.

The “why” is multi-faceted. Safety is near the top of the list for many parents, but it is much more than that. Many parents are fed up with poor academic results despite the vast amounts of money spent on education, and parents think they can do better.

Others cite the prevalence of drugs or a system openly hostile to Christianity. More and more parents are unwilling to continue tolerating schools undermining the values they teach at home — schools where condoms and birth control are dispensed to youth without parental permission, where alternative gender theory is treated as fact (forcing students to share bathrooms and showers with students of the opposite sex), and where the Rainbow Mafia’s agenda is pushed aggressively through sex-ed curriculum so graphic and so pornographic that it has been deemed inappropriate to read at school board meetings.

During the Obama administration, “LGBT” activist Kevin Jennings was appointed “safe school czar.” Jennings, the founder of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), one of the largest homosexual activist organizations in America, had a mission to promote homosexuality in K-12 schools. This was done over the objections of parents, who were told they had no right to dictate curriculum content to schools. This indoctrination continues today, trampling parental rights and putting children at risk.

Bullying is another major factor in the decision to homeschool. Far from the schoolyard taunts and name-calling of past years, today many children are being assaulted and psychologically traumatized. One such heartbreaking example is that of a Maryland family. The mother found a suicide note written by her nine-year-old son that read, simply, “Kill me. I mean nothing. I have issues.” The boy was the target of relentless bullying at school; mocked, punched in the face and thrown in the mud by another student. When his parents complained to school officials, little was done.

That wasn’t all. When their 12-year-old daughter was repeatedly sexually harassed by another student, the parents again complained to school officials, but were told the offending student has rights. And when their 18-year-old son reported another student with a knife, and the student made subsequent threats against him on the bus, the school told the family they would not remove the student from the bus, and if their son was scared, he should find another way to get to school.

Part of this insanity is due to Obama’s Department of Education threatening to withhold federal funding to schools where there was a “disproportionate” level of discipline of minority students versus white students. This led to intentional underreporting of bullying, assaults and other criminal acts by minority students in order to stay out of the Obama administration’s crosshairs.

Students are also being pressured into engaging in sexual activity and drugs. And it’s not just other students who are the offenders. A recent report by the Chicago Tribune revealed more than 500 reports of sexual misconduct in the Chicago Public School system — over 100 of which involved adults sexually assaulting and enticing children. These were principals, teachers, coaches, security officers and others in positions of authority.

The report found, despite it being a criminal act to fail to report such sexual misconduct, none of the school employees who stayed silent or covered up the incidents were charged. In fact, the CPS Law Department, which has the responsibility to defend the school system in lawsuits, is also tasked with investigating the incidents and interrogating the victims; a blatant conflict of interest.

With a variety of homeschool networks, support groups, online and even hybrid-homeschooling options, the number of homeschoolers is still relatively small, but it’s increasing rapidly. That’s causing serious heartburn for many public school officials who see a growing threat to their funding.

Takisha Coats Durm, lead virtual school teacher for the Madison County (Alabama) school system, claims homeschooling parents are teaching their kids the wrong lesson. “Even though it seems we may be protecting them,” she says, “we may be sheltering them instead of teaching them to work and find a solution for the issues and not necessarily running away from them, because these things are going to happen.”

Of course, she conveniently ignores the fact that if these things — physical and sexual assault, drug use, bullying — were done in the adult world, they are crimes for which the perpetrator can be prosecuted. When they’re committed against children, often permanent damage is done. Yet in our school system, she insists they are simply tough lessons to be learned.

School shootings may have been the final straw that drove many parents to homeschool, but it’s the tip of an iceberg that has been building for years.


Lewis McLeod’s legal battle over Duke University sexual assault accusations is finally over

The terms of the settlement between the former student Lewis McLeod and the university are confidential, according to both parties

AN AUSTRALIAN student’s long battle to clear his name in a sexual assault case is finally over. But it came at a heavy toll.

Lewis Meyer McLeod has reached a settlement with an American university after a sexual misconduct claim against him spanning almost five years was dropped in February.

But the 27-year-old has revealed just how intense the lengthy struggle affected his emotional wellbeing and job prospects.

“I’ve received many job offers, and they’ve either been taken away from me upon hearing about (the case), or I’ve told them about it, and it was taken away from me,” he told The Australian. “I had built my life around building a reputation, I worked hard to build this reputation and overnight it gets completely destroyed. People who you once thought were friends are no longer friends.”

Four years ago, everything was going well for Mr McLeod. The then-23-year-old had gone from Sydney Grammar School to the elite Duke University in North Carolina, where he completed a $250,000 psychology degree.

The student was offered a lucrative position as an analyst in the New York financial district. Then — with one allegation — it all came crashing down.

Duke University banned Mr McLeod from graduating after he was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old female student.

At the time, police didn’t press charges against him, but Duke conducted an internal investigation and decided it was “more likely than not” that sex between the pair had been non-consensual due to the girl’s alcohol intake.

The girl told campus investigators she didn’t want to have sex with him.

Days before his graduation, Duke was told he was “not entitled to that honour”.

Mr McLeod sued Duke in 2014, arguing the university had breached its contract with him by failing to follow rules of impartial treatment.

He claimed the pair had consensual sex after meeting at a popular university bar, Shooters, and heading back to his Sigma Nu fraternity house.

His lawyers said he didn’t buy her drinks and saw “no signs” that she was drunk.

What followed was over four years of legal bills, lost employment opportunities and smears.

He said every aspect of the legal battle was a long drawn-out, tough experience, noting that the reputation he’d spent a lifetime building had been shattered in the course of one night.

“I think having studied law, the whole notion of innocent until proven guilty is still one of the most important principles in society,” he told The Australian. “I think in this day and age, people are too quick to rush to judgment. As soon as they see a headline, they jump on it. They don’t read into the facts.”

He said he fully supports the #MeToo movement, but added that both the accuser and accused should be given equal opportunity to present their accounts — something he felt was lacking in the Duke case.

“Duke was no easy litigant, they made everything difficult. Every document, every motion, every legal battle was a long drawn-out, tough experience. And very expensive,” he said.

Mr McLeod is now back in Sydney and is ready to move on, with plans to pursue a career in either law or financial services.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Why do students want to be treated like children?

In the past, students fought for independence – now they want protection.

The chemistry department at the University of Essex is not the most famous site of student activism. But in May 1968, a lecture given by Dr Inch, a scientist from the notorious military laboratory Porton Down, sparked protests that made national headlines. A small group of students, fresh from protesting against the Vietnam War, challenged Inch and the use of chemical weapons in Vietnam. One student, David Triesman, read out an indictment against Inch; another poured a sachet of powdered mustard over him. The police were called and three students were promptly suspended by the vice-chancellor, Albert Sloman.

Students and many members of staff were outraged at the suspensions. Over 250 students delivered a petition to the vice-chancellor’s house calling for the punishment to be lifted; 1,000 passed a motion calling on Sloman to explain his actions to the university. When he refused, staff and students abandoned all routine teaching and declared a Free University. During this time, more issues came to the fore. Protesters discussed the Vietnam War and chemical weapons, the running of the university, the nature of knowledge, the role of the press, and free speech.

Students wanted to have their voices heard on all these issues. Still Sloman refused to readmit the suspended students. Protesters then occupied the university, drawing widespread media attention to their cause and winning high-profile support from Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell.

Eventually, Sloman was forced to readmit the suspended students. In the aftermath, he initially blamed communist agitation for the events that had occurred. Then he admitted to a breakdown in communication between students and administrators and permitted student representation on university committees. Finally, Sloman came out against institutional in loco parentis legislation and urged the government to recognise students as autonomous adults, free to live their lives as they saw best.

This was a major victory for student protesters. In 1968, protests swept universities around the world and covered a range of issues from war to free speech. But behind every campaign was the demand for students to be recognised as adults, independent from their parents and free from paternalistic institutional directives. Students wanted their views on Vietnam, immigration and the management of the university to be taken seriously, and in order for this to happen they needed to be recognised and treated as adults.

Sadly, it seems many of today’s students no longer consider adulthood and autonomy to be worth striving for, and instead want universities to focus on better caring for them. In 2015, students from Goldsmiths University occupied Deptford Town Hall in south-east London. First on their list of demands was for the university to ‘recruit more counsellors’. They wanted the ‘standard six-session cap’ on counselling sessions to be removed and ‘a permanent additional CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] therapist’. It is hardly surprising that students make such demands: the perception of 18- to 25-year-olds as vulnerable not-quite-adults, in need of colouring books to cope with exams and discount fares to cope with the cost of commuting, is promoted by schoolteachers, academics and politicians – it has come to be seen as common sense.

Currently, academics and administrative staff cannot contact a student’s parents without the student giving their permission. Likewise, a parent cannot expect to discuss their child’s progress or welfare unless the student, a young adult, agrees. But recent headlines about student suicides have further increased calls to overturn the assumption that university students are independent adults.

At Bristol University, where there has been a spate of suicides over the past 18 months, students’ parents will be asked to inform staff if their children are experiencing difficulties. Likewise, the university will contact parents to notify them if students are struggling away from home.

Calls to bring back institutional in loco parentis legislation are now being made explicitly. Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, has called for the age of majority to be raised to 19: ‘We have to stop assuming that 18-year-old school-leavers are capable of running their own lives’, he said. In February, Sam Gyimah, minister of state for universities and science, said in a speech to launch the Office for Students that for students away from home for the first time, ‘the “uni experience” can be disorientating and demanding, as it should be. But, in this, the universities need to act in loco parentis – that is, to be there for students offering all the support they need to get the most from their time on campus.’

Fifty years ago students fought to be recognised and treated as adults. They knew they couldn’t make an impact on the world if they were patronised and treated as children in need of looking after. Now, adulthood is rarely seen as worth aspiring towards and 18-year-olds enter university having had far fewer opportunities to practice independence at school or at home.

Today’s students don’t just perceive of themselves as vulnerable – they often are less capable of looking after themselves than young adults in previous decades were. As a result, they demand not adulthood but the benevolent, caring regulation associated with childhood. Universities can neither turn back time nor magic children into adults overnight. However, liaising with parents and reintroducing in loco parentis legislation will only prolong childhood further. If students want to be taken seriously, they will need to fight for their independence once more.


U.S. Student Loan Debt Hits Staggering $1.5 Trillion

The amount of outstanding student loan debt just hit a staggering number: $1.5 trillion. An important statistic associated with this number? Women hold nearly two-thirds of all U.S. student debt, according to a report recently published by the American Association of University Women.

CNN Money notes that one reason women hold more debt than men is because more women go to college than their male counterparts. In fact, 56 percent of students who enrolled in higher education in fall of 2016 were women. But that's not all. "More women take out loans, and when they do, they borrow more money. The average woman owes $2,740 more than a man upon finishing a bachelor's degree... Women are also repaying their debt more slowly, which can mean they're paying more in interest over time."

Student loan debt seems to be a bigger source of strain on Americans than other common forms of debt, such as auto loan debt (which is currently at $1.1 trillion) and credit card debt (which currently stands at $977 billion). According to CNN, of the 42 percent of people who took out debt upon going to college, 30 percent of them took out forms of debt beyond just student loans, "like credit card debt or a home equity line of credit," according to a Federal Reserve report based on a 2017 survey.

Perhaps the most unsettling information recently released on student loan debt reveals that 20 percent of those who borrow are behind on their payments. Apparently, people who have not finished their degree have a more difficult time keeping up with payments, but a small percentage of bachelor's degree holders (11 percent) and graduate degree holders (5 percent) are behind as well.


Australia: Cairns’s Trinity Ang­lican School fought bullied-girl case — and lost

In the Bible, King Solomon advises: "Be not righteous over much" (Ecclesiastes 7:16).  The school board would have done well to follow that. It would seem that they were full of themselves.  But their conspicuous efforts to defend themseves may have paid off as demonstrating their innocence of what they were accused of.  They lost their case on a technicality, not on the facts

When Anthony Woolley and Janet Kencian were unhappy with how a top Queensland school had responded to allegations that their daughter was being bullied and ­racially abused, they wrote to the state’s top education bureaucrat.

What they had hoped for was an investigation into alleged bullying at Cairns’s Trinity Ang­lican School. They also wanted an apology for their adopted daughter Gowri, who had survived on the streets of India’s Bangalore and moved to Cairns for a better life. Instead, they were hit with a claim for defamation that has taken 5½ years to resolve and cost them about $850,000 in legal fees.

In April, a jury threw out the defamation claim launched by then principal Christopher Daunt Watney, now deputy principal of private girls’ school Queenwood, on Sydney’s north shore. The jury found Mr Daunt Watney was unlikely to sustain harm because of the circumstances in which the letter was sent.

Back in 2011, the couple, who have four adopted children, had been horrified to hear Gowri had been called a “black bitch” by other students. They allege that her sister was called a “black ­retard” at the school, which bills ­itself as the “leading independent school in far north Queensland”.

It was not part of the childhood they had imagined for Gowri, who had dazzled them with her huge smile when they met her at age nine in a crowded orphanage.

Mr Woolley and Dr Kencian, a pathologist, raised their bullying and racial-vilification concerns with the school in 2011, including at a meeting with Mr Daunt Watney. Dissatisfied with the ­response, which included an external investigation of the allegations, they wrote to the then director-general of education, Julie Grantham, the following year.

The letter, according to a 2017 appeal judgment, was five pages long and headed “Repeated and Systemic Failures of Duty of Care in response to bullying at Trinity Anglican School White Rock”. It alleged the investigator’s reports were deliberately biased and “in effect a whitewash”, and asked the ­director-general to “conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into what is going on at TAS”.

The letter was marked confidential and sent to one person: the director-general, who then “republished” it to one other person, the chair of the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board.

In December 2012, the couple received letters of demand from the school and the principal for $75,000 each, citing their letter of complaint. Mr Daunt Watney then filed the defamation action claiming $389,000 in ordinary and aggravated damages.

A jury first rejected the defamation claim in 2016 on the grounds the letter to the ­director-general was not defamatory. But Mr Daunt Watney — backed by the school, which funded his legal expenses — appealed against that decision.

The Queensland Court of Appeal found there had been a “perverse” result from the jury and substituted its own finding that the letter was defamatory, ordering a fresh jury trial on whether any defences applied. The period for lodging an appeal from the second jury decision has now expired but a decision has yet to be made on costs.

Mr Woolley said that although their legal ordeal was over, his daughter — now 19 and working as a pathology laboratory assistant — was yet to receive an apology from the school. “The financial and emotional distress we have endured from 5½ years of litigation against us has been extreme but our resolve to follow through on the issues we raised is undiminished,” he said.

Dr Kencian said that when the couple brought Gowri to Australia, their hope for her was simple: “to achieve her potential and to have a happy childhood.”

She said bullying was insidious. “Gowri came into our family a resilient and outgoing child who had overcome her adverse start in India and enthusiastically embraced life in our family and Australia,” she said. “But the bullying and the school’s terrible response has impacted on her and our whole family.”

Mr Daunt Watney said the legal action was launched in his name, but it was funded “entirely” by the school, and was a decision of the board. “I was the head of the school at the time,” he said. “The decision to proceed with any kind of action is not the decision of the head of the school; it’s the decision of the school board.”

He said he could not comment on whether he agreed with the decision, or argued against it.

Asked if he regretted putting the parents through the trauma of litigation, he said: “I regret the fact that the whole thing got to where it got to in the first place.”

Trinity Anglican School chairman Jason Fowler said the school was “committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all school children” and had a strict anti-bullying policy. “The school board has at all times been supportive of our former principal, Christopher Daunt Watney, and we were disappointed to learn of the ultimate outcome,” he said. “It was our belief that his good name and reputation, as a top academic leader, had been damaged.”


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Orthodox Jewish school in London appeals to Education Secretary over negative rating

Argument focuses on differences over 'approach to protected characteristics'. Loyalty to the Torah not allowed, apparently.  Such authoritarianism is not remotely on the same scale as Hitler's but it is of the same kind

A Chasidic girls’ primary school in Stamford Hill has appealed to Education Secretary Damian Hinds to intervene after inspectors said it was still falling short of independent school standards.

Although Ofsted has recognised Beis Ruchel d’Satmar has improved since being rated inadequate, the inspection service has withheld full approval.

The school is due to go to a tribunal next month to contest a Department for Education order restricting the intake of pupils.

A recent follow-up inspection confirmed that leaders of the school have “worked effectively to enhance pupils’  spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, especially in relation to the fundamental British values of democracy and the rule of law”.

They promoted greater understanding and respect for people with some of the “protected characteristics” under equality law, such as disability, age and race.

But Ofsted reported that leaders maintained that any reference to the protected characteristics relating to religions and beliefs, sexual orientation and gender reassignment was a red line “that will never be crossed”.

Inspectors added there was “no evidence” to suggest the school was undermining fundamental British values or discriminating against pupils.

A school spokesman said: “We are proud of the changes our school has made in a very short space of time. We have addressed many of the points raised in last year’s report and the new report recognises our improvements.

“Despite the progress we have made, we are prevented from meeting all the Independent School Standards due to our values and approach to protected characteristics. We would urge the Secretary of State to remove us from the tribunal process


'Lockdown, lock the door. Shut the lights off, say no more': Disturbing nursery rhyme teaches kindergartners how to survive a school shooting

A mother has been left horrified after she saw a nursery rhyme teaching kindergartners how to survive a school shooting.

Georgy Cohen posted a picture of the rhyme which was hanging up in the kindergarten class in Somerville, Massachusetts, that her five-year-old daughter will attend in the fall.

In a disturbing sign of the times, the poem - sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, teaches young children what to do in case of an active shooter.

It reads: 'Lockdown, lockdown, lock the door. 'Shut the lights off, say no more. 'Go behind the desk and hide. Wait until it's safe inside. 'Lockdown, lockdown it's all done. Now it's time to have some fun!'

The post has already been liked and shared more than 60,000 times with many other parents sharing their outrage that the spate of school shootings had inevitably led to this.

Many contrasted it with their own childhoods when the worst they had to worry about at school was a fire drill. 

'This should not be hanging in my soon-to-be-kindergartener's [sic] classroom,' Cohen wrote, adding that she didn't blame the school, but the current climate which has already seen 23 school shootings where someone was hurt or killed this year. 'The school is doing exactly what they need to be doing, and I am glad for it,' she said.

'My issue is with the political & cultural factors that brought us to this sad state. Please talk to your legislators about the need for gun reform.'

She and Somerville Public Schools declined to identify the school, but district officials confirmed it was the work of one teacher and is not used across all of the city's schools.

The Somerville district enrolls about 5,000 students in a suburb north of Boston.

In a statement, Superintendent Mary Skipper and city Mayor Joseph Curtatone applauded the teacher's creativity, but they lamented that lockdown drills have become as common as fire drills.

'As much as we would prefer that school lockdowns not be a part of the educational experience, unfortunately this is the world we live in,' they wrote. 'It is jarring - it's jarring for students, for educators and for families.'

There has been almost one school shooting a week, on average, since January. Just last month, in Santa Fe, Texas, shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire in an art room, leaving ten dead and another ten injured.

But the worst shooting this year took place in Parkland, Florida when a 19-year-old former student began shooting students and staff members with a semi-automatic AR-15 type rifle. 17 people were killed, and 17 others were injured.


Political correctness gone mad: Outrage as students are marked down for using 'mankind' and 'workmanship' in essays – and some universities have even banned the word 'she'

After being put under the spotlight, some university representatives are denying that this is their official policy. That may well be so but it is clearly an unofficial polcy and is no less authoritarian for that

Top universities across Australia have taken to slashing students grades for using banned 'gendered language'.

Terms such as 'man', 'she', 'wife', 'mother' and any other terminology that angers the PC brigade have been blacklisted.

Students claimed they have lost marks for referring to 'mankind' or 'workmanship' in assignments, as they are not deemed 'inclusive language.'

'People are losing marks for using everyday speech because it's not gender-neutral,' a politics student told The Courier Mail.

The student said the university can't just ban every word with 'man' in it, as more blacklisted words are uncovered, including 'sportsmanship' and man-made.'

The acting executive dean of The University of Queensland's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Julie Duck, thinks the penalties are justified. 'Students are advised to avoid gender-biased language in the same way they are advised to avoid racist language, cliches, contractions, colloquialisms, and slang in their essays.'

She said these issues should only marginally impact marks, depending on the severity of the infringement.

Queensland University of Technology students are also being impacted by the university's political correct crusade. Students are being penalised for failing to use 'inclusive language', and warned against describing women in a secondary position to something or somebody else. This includes, but is not limited to 'wife of', 'mother of' or 'daughter of'.

The suffix 'man' is deemed sexist, due to the implication that the comment is referential of a male.

Griffith University tells staff and students to 'look for non-binary pronouns so that misgendering doesn't occur'.

Universities are going so far as to reject notions of correct grammar in favour of excluding gendered language.

The University of Sydney prefers students to create sentences that are grammatically incorrect but politically correct, rather than use the words 'he' or 'she'. The example their style guide provides to exemplify this is: 'If a student wants their results early, they should go to the student centre.'

The University of Newcastle is yet another institution joining the fold, with an inclusive language guide that bans gendered language, telling students to use words such as humanity, human race or humankind instead.  

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham openly disagrees with the policies, claiming that they were enforcing 'nanny state stuff' on students. 'Our universities should be better than this rubbish,' he said.