Friday, August 10, 2018

At Smith College, the racist incident that wasn't

by Jeff Jacoby

Oumou Kanoute is a black student at Smith College with a summer job on campus. This is what happened after she ate lunch in a mostly empty dining hall one day last week:

A college employee saw her "laying on the couch" alone, mistook her for an unfamiliar male who "seem[ed] to be out of place," and phoned the campus police. An unarmed officer was sent to check things out. He spoke politely to Kanoute, saw that nothing was amiss, and left her in peace.

Here's what didn't happen:

Kanoute wasn't threatened, attacked, or restrained. No weapon was brandished. No voices were raised. No racial slur was uttered — in fact, according to the transcript of the police call, there was no racial reference of any kind. No one picked a fight with Kanoute, accused her of wrongdoing, or denied her right to be where she was. A minor misunderstanding by a cautious employee was quickly resolved, and never escalated into anything dangerous.

That might have been the end of it — except that Kanoute, by her own description, "had a complete meltdown after this incident." She took to Facebook to denounce the unknown "racist punk who called the police on me." In a follow-up post the next day, she urged followers "to put pressure on the [Smith College] administration" to name the employee who called the campus police. By Day 3, she was demanding that Smith address "this racist incident," and raising the issue of "punishment for this outrageous and racist act."

Kanoute's story has become the latest racial uproar, a caldron of angry outrage and mistrust, complete with intense media coverage and an elaborate apology from Smith's president. Meanwhile, the worker who called the police has been suspended pending an "external investigation."

It's not hard to empathize with Kanoute's bitterness at having the police summoned by someone who thought she looked out of place. "I did nothing wrong," she wrote. "I wasn't making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black." Her indignation is especially understandable given the wave of recent stories about whites calling the police to report black people who were doing nothing wrong.

But Kanoute's emotional response doesn't justify the over-the-top media attention, or the rush to treat this incident as if it exemplifies naked American racism.

On the record so far, there is no evidence that Kanoute's color was what precipitated the employee's call. She herself claims that she was mistaken for a "suspicious black male," and the transcript of the police call has the employee referring to Kanoute as a man: "He seems to be out of place. . . . I don't see anybody in the building at this point and, uh, I don't know what he's doing in there, just laying on the couch."  At Smith, where all undergraduates are women, the sight of what appeared to be an unfamiliar young man sprawled on a couch in a room where men normally aren't present might well make a staff member uneasy.

It's easy to castigate the concerned employee for not approaching Kanoute before calling the police. A few seconds of conversation is all Kanoute would have needed to reassure the staff member that she was not a male interloper. But that's wisdom after the fact. In the moment, wasn't it at least as reasonable for the Smith employee to avoid direct confrontation with a person who seemed out of place?

"Get involved by becoming more security conscious," Smith College says in its guide to campus safety, "and by reporting all incidents of suspicious or criminal activity, no matter how insignificant, to Campus Police immediately."

It explains that "suspicious behavior" isn't always articulable:

"Sometimes, callers are unable to identify what is suspicious about a person, and often the person about whom a concern is filed is . . . here for legitimate purposes." But even if there are "innocent explanations," it says, "your campus police department would rather investigate these situations sooner rather than be called when it is too late."

So the employee apparently did just what an uneasy employee in such a situation is supposed to do: Err on the side of safety, and call security.

Americans are exhorted repeatedly: If you see something, say something. More often than not, "something" turns out to be nothing — just a kid having her lunch, for example. But there have been times as well when failing to say something has led to tragedy. It may be obvious in hindsight that a call to the police was unnecessary. But life isn't lived in hindsight, and even at Smith College — as progressive and politically correct a campus as you can find in America — the official policy is: better safe than sorry. Smith asks people to call the police on a hunch, "no matter how insignificant." It doesn't ask them to first calculate the potential political and media fallout, or worry that their call will later be deemed racist.

Misunderstandings happen. One aspect of maturity is learning to distinguish malice from error. What happened to Kanoute last week was unfair, but it was a momentary unpleasantness, not a hateful assault on her dignity as a black woman. If Kanoute can't tell the difference — well, she's still just a teenager. What's everyone else's excuse?


UK: Replacing blackboards with interactive whiteboards was a waste of money, Education Secretary says

Yet another educational innovation that was not pre-tested

Replacing blackboards with interactive whiteboards was a waste of money which did not help pupils’ learning, the Education Secretary has said.

Damian Hinds is today urging headteachers to embrace modern technology as a classroom aide. But he acknowledged that ministers’ attempts to harness digital innovation have in the past been ill-conceived.

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, he says: “I recognise that in the past, Governments have been guilty of imposing unwanted technology on schools. “Over a decade ago expensive interactive whiteboards were rolled out to schools, without the support of teachers, and we saw no subsequent rise in pupils’ attainment directly linked to that technology.”

In 2004, [under the Labour Party] the then Education Secretary Charles Clarke launched a modernisation drive which included axing blackboards and chalk, or whiteboards and felt-tip pens, in favour of interactive whiteboards.

As part of a £15 billion drive to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in Britain, it was announced that all primary schools would receive the new boards and they would be automatically installed in every classroom when new schools are built.

At the time, the National Union of Teachers hailed the demise of blackboards, with a spokesman saying: "Interactive whiteboards are extremely beneficial. Getting rid of blackboards would also put a stop to that awful screeching noise made by chalk." 

Two years later, a Cambridge University study into interactive whiteboards found that they had “been introduced in British classrooms at a rate unprecedented anywhere else in the world”.

Researchers said that by 2004, almost two thirds (63 per cent) of primary schools in England and Wales had at least one interactive whiteboard, adding that “it seems likely that every primary schoolchild in England and Wales has some experience of them”.

However, the research paper concluded that while interactive whiteboards enable innovative teaching styles, their use “cannot be claimed to ‘transform teaching’ in terms of the classroom dialogue and underlying pedagogy".

Mr Hinds writes today that schools must decide which products suit them best, as he warned teachers not to get duped by novelty items which offer little value to learning.

“With around a thousand tech companies selling to schools, it’s by no means easy to separate the genuinely useful products from the fads and the gimmicks," he said.

He told how he has seen state-of-the-art technology allowing pupils to explore Amazonian rainforests, steer ships and programme robots in some schools.

But Mr Hinds said it is “disappointing” that many in the education sector are failing to embrace these kinds of digital advances.  

He said if used appropriately, technology has a huge potential to support students’ learning, save money and reduce the workload of teachers.

“Technology will never be able to replace the motivated, inspirational effect of a great teacher, but it can support great teaching and save teachers’ time so they can focus on what matters,” Mr Hinds said. 

“By forging a strong partnership between government, technology innovators and the sector, we can transform how education is delivered for the learners of today and tomorrow.” 

The Education Secretary said he intends to host a summit of education and technology leaders to discuss what kind of products are actually needed in schools.

Officials at the Department for Education said they are particularly interested in technology that can be used to help children with particular educational needs, to speed up the process of marking tests and to ease the administrative burden on teachers.


Australia: Freedom of speech comes first as uni upgrades campus rally security

La Trobe University administrators will pay to beef-up security on campus for a Liberal Party event featuring prominent therapist and social commentator Bettina Arndt, after protesters threatened to derail the event with a “rally against sexism and bigotry”.

Liberal students at La Trobe have considered changing the date of Ms Arndt’s address over fears they wouldn’t be able to pay for ­security to restrain a rally planned to coincide with her speech.

But university administrators yesterday told The Australian they had decided the university would cover the cost of security, out of a desire to preserve free speech and discussion on campus. “We welcome free speech and the event will go ahead,” a spokesman said.

“Event security will be provided by the university at no cost to student organisers.”

Liberal students arrived at university this week to find the campus dotted with posters urging students to protest against Ms Arndt, who will deliver an address challenging claims of a rape crisis on campus.

University administrators have charged the club $235 for room booking and one security guard to cover the event. The invoice also stated the club was liable for the total cost, which will depend on final numbers, hours worked and other variables such as damage.

Club members had said they were concerned additional security costs could force them to pull the event. But they applauded the university’s decision yesterday to meet the security costs.

“It’s an exciting development, it just a shame that it came after a bit of media pressure and hopefully next time they’ll think twice before moving to censor an event off the bat,” La Trobe University Liberal Club president James Plozza told The Australian.

La Trobe University has ­repeatedly defended its desire to encourage free speech and robust debate on campus, despite administrators initially voicing concerns about Ms Arndt’s speech failing to align with the uni’s own campaign against sexual violence.

Free-market think thank the Institute of Public Affairs applauded the decision, and said more Australian universities should follow suit because the risk of protests was pricing clubs out of putting on provocative speakers.

Analysts pointed to Sydney University Conservative Club, which had to spend hundreds of dollars on additional ­security for an event headlined by conservative commentator Mir­anda Devine, on “the dangers of socialism”.

“The charging of security fees is censorious. It is punishing the victims of a potential abusive protest,” IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh said. “This also creates a ‘heckler’s veto’ because if they amass a big enough protest with high enough security costs then the Liberal students will not be able to afford to have her on campus. If (universities) fail to protect the speech of controversial figures they are failing to live up to their legal mandates to safeguard free expression.”


Thursday, August 09, 2018

California Parents Need Educational Choices, Not Court Battles

California fancies itself as a progressive paradise for the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. In reality, it’s more like Dante’s eighth circle of hell, based on a recent lawsuit filed on behalf of several public school students and taxpayers.

The lawsuit, Ella T. and Katie T. v State of California, was filed in December and alleges that after five years the state still has not implemented its plan to improve student literacy. Consequently, minority elementary students spent years in schools that allowed them to founder at sub-standard levels of literacy. Plaintiffs argue that not only did the state violate their 14th Amendment equal protection rights, the state also engaged in fraudulent spending of taxpayer dollars by financing a public-school system that discriminates against minority students.

The state fought to have the case dismissed, but in July Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos overruled nearly all of its claims, which allows the case to proceed based on several compelling facts too glaring to ignore.

Nearly half of the country’s 26 lowest-performing districts are located in California, 11 in all (see p. 2 of the complaint). The next most populous states don’t come close to having so many failing districts. For example, Texas, the second most populous state, has just one of the country’s lowest-performing districts, while the fourth most populous, New York, has two. Meanwhile, the next most populous state, Florida, has none of the country’s worst-performing districts. (See also here, here, and here.)

The situation is particularly dire for the plaintiffs who’ve attended Los Angeles Unified School District’s La Salle Avenue Elementary School, Stockton Unified School District’s Van Buren Elementary, and Inglewood Unified School District’s Children of Promise Preparatory Academy charter school.

During the 2016-17 school year, for example, alarming majorities of students at these schools did not meet the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) English language arts/literacy standard: fully 82 percent of La Salle Avenue Elementary School students; 75 percent of Van Buren Elementary students; and 68 percent of Children of Promise Preparatory Academy students (see also pp. 20-22, 29-31, and 35-37).

But don’t blame such under-performance on under-funding.

The average California unified school district receives $12,229 per pupil in total local, state, and federal funding. The three districts the plaintiffs have attended receive significantly more average per-pupil funding: Stockton Unified School District, $13,468; Inglewood Unified School District $13,613; and Los Angeles Unified School District $14,645.

Yet the plaintiffs contend those funds were not used to provide students with the help they needed. Consider the outcomes of the student plaintiffs, all of whom are black, Latina, or multi-racial.

Despite having scored at the lowest level on the state test year after year (“standard not met”), none of the plaintiffs received the additional help they needed from their schools. As a result, these students are now performing years behind grade level, and in many cases, their performance puts them in the bottom 5 percent nationally.

Parents shouldn’t have to wait years at a time or have attorneys on speed dial just to ensure their children’s schools provide basic literacy instruction. Nor should taxpayers be on the hook for the state’s legal bills.

Expanding education options through education savings accounts would help students and taxpayers alike.

Under current ESA programs in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Carolina, parents who are dissatisfied with their child’s current public-school education may opt out, and their states deposit most or all of students’ associated state basic-formula funding into dedicated ESAs instead. Public schools keep the remaining associated non-formula local, state, and federal funding for at least one year.

With ESA funds, parents pay for tuition, tutoring, testing, and other approved education services that best meet their children’s unique needs. Under some ESA programs, the unused funds roll over for future education expenses, including college tuition. Quarterly expense reporting and independent audits help ensure ESA funds aren’t misspent—a win-win for students and taxpayers.

California could improve on existing ESA models by funding them with tax-credit contributions instead of state funding. Similar to the 23 tax-credit scholarship programs currently operating in 18 states, non-profit organizations would collect donations to fund student ESAs. Donors would receive credits against their state income taxes.

Right now California corporations are allowed to claim up to $1.5 billion in Research and Development Tax Credits annually, while Hollywood filmmakers can claim up to $330 million. There’s no good reason California taxpayers shouldn’t be allowed to make tax-credit donations to student ESAs as well.

More than 40 years ago, in its 1976 Serrano v Priest ruling, the California Supreme Court recommended publicly funded voucher scholarships as a constitutionally permissible remedy for disparities in education funding and performance. ESAs are an even better remedy because they empower parents to choose how, not just where, their children are educated, which customizes learning in ways that no one-size-fits-all system could ever match—no matter how lavishly funded.


Walter Williams: Colleges: A Force for Evil

Many of the nation's colleges have become a force for evil and a focal point for the destruction of traditional American values. The threat to our future lies in the fact that today's college students are tomorrow's teachers, professors, judges, attorneys, legislators and policymakers. A recent Brookings Institution poll suggests that nearly half of college students believe that hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment. Of course, it is. Fifty-one percent of students think that it's acceptable to shout down a speaker with whom they disagree. About 20 percent of students hold that it's acceptable to use violence to prevent a speaker from speaking. Over 50 percent say colleges should prohibit speech and viewpoints that might offend certain people. Contempt for the First Amendment and other constitutional guarantees is probably shared by the students' high school teachers, as well as many college professors.

Brainwashing and indoctrination of young people has produced some predictable results, as shown by a recent Gallup Poll. For the past 18 years, Gallup has asked adults how proud they are to be Americans. This year, only 47 percent say they are "extremely proud," well below the peak of 70 percent in 2003. The least proud to be Americans are nonwhites, young adults and college graduates. The proudest Americans are those older than 50 and those who did not graduate from college. The latter might be explained by their limited exposure to America's academic elite.

Johnetta Benton, a teacher at Hampton Middle School near Atlanta, was recorded telling her sixth-grade students, "America has never been great for minorities." In a tirade, she told her class: "Because Europeans came from Europe ... you are an immigrant. You are an illegal immigrant because you came and just took it. ... You are an immigrant. This is not your country." To exploit young, immature young people this way represents an act of supreme cowardice. The teacher should be fired, but I'm guessing that her colleagues share her sympathies. At the same school, students were given a homework assignment that required them to write a letter asking lawmakers for stricter gun control laws.

One might be tempted to argue that the growing contempt for liberty and the lack of civility stem from the election of Donald Trump. That's entirely wrong. The lack of civility and indoctrination of our young people have been going on for decades. UCLA history professor Mary Corey told her class: "Capitalism isn't a lie on purpose. It's just a lie." She added that capitalists "are swine. ... They're bastard people." An English professor at Montclair State University, in New Jersey, told his students, "Conservatism champions racism, exploitation and imperialist war." An ethnic studies professor at California State University, Northridge and Pasadena City College teaches that "the role of students and teachers in ethnic studies is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." The University of California, Santa Barbara's school of education emailed its faculty members to ask them to consider classroom options concerning the Iraq War, suggesting they excuse students from class to attend anti-war events and give them extra credit for writing about it. Rodney Swanson, a UCLA economics professor, told his class, "The United States of America, backed by facts, is the greediest and most selfish country in the world."

There is little question that colleges stand at the forefront of an attack on America and Western values. Leftists often say that the U.S. is the world's worst country. But here are some empirical facts they might explain. According to a recent Gallup Poll, about 13 percent of the world's adults — 630 million people — would like to move to another country. Roughly 138 million would like to live in the U.S. — making us the No. 1 destination, followed by the U.K., Canada and France. There's something exceptionally appealing about America and the Western world that leftists choose to ignore or lie about.


Do you know your foo foo from your joystick? How Australian university students are being forced to use bizarre, childish terms for their genitals in politically correct 'consent classes'

University students are being forced to take classes about consent during which they're told to use words like 'joystick' and 'vajayjay' rather than anatomically correct names for genitalia.

The Consent Matters class at the University of Technology, Sydney was brought in this year as a compulsory module that all students must complete in order to pass their course.

The class involves an online test in which students must score 100 per cent to pass. The test features slides of social scenarios, some involving drinking, and uses words such as 'hotdog' and 'vajayjay.'

A voiceover to the test informs the young adults that using slang like this instead of standard language makes it easier to discuss sex and consent.

The module is part of an initiative to deal with issues of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

'Our program of work is focused on a broader goal of bringing about a sustainable cultural change to enable a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence in our community,' the University webpage says.

The Introduction to Diversity class at the University of Sydney is required for anyone who wants to minor in 'diversity' and is run by lecturer Dr Jane Park, who regularly brings her white poodle cross to class.

'It is not just about let's hate all men and white people, that can be fun for like five seconds and then it gets boring. Also my dog is white. It is about white dog privilege. The idea of divide and conquer which brought us here — colonisation, capitalism, patriarchy,' Dr Park told a packed lecture theatre, reported The Daily Telegraph.

'Our identity and our value is defined by our commodification as being valuable in a capitalist society that has to become something else, that has to become definable,' she said.

Australian Catholic University lecturer and education commentator Kevin Donnelly said he is concerned universities are no longer places of open debate where people can argue the evidence on certain topics.

'It is part of the PC movement, where we have safe spaces, victimhood, and students are no longer able to have robust debate because everyone is part of some victim group,' Mr Donnelly said.


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

How it works

Public Schools Bring in Drag Queens To Teach Kindergartners About Gender Ideology

Today in “Your Tax Dollars at Work,” public school liberals are bringing in drag queens to read to children in order to teach them, um, something.

Most conservatives probably don’t have the Drag Queen Story Hour on their radar. But it’s a program in which said drag queens in full regalia read to your kids.

According to the Drag Queen Story Hour website, the program “captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”

Well, whatever. These events usually take place in a library or a book store. While the former is a taxpayer-funded institution, I generally can’t get myself worked up over Drag Queen Story Hour at either venue. After all, you have to bring your children there. I might fervently wish that any parents who wish to indoctrinate their children in this fashion would forever be cursed with brown avocados on their artisan toast, but that’s more or less where my caring ends.

Public schools, however, are a different matter entirely. Not only are schools funded by taxpayer dollars, but children are generally roped into such presentations without significant parental input.

TRENDING: Young Black Conservative Turns Uppity Millennial into Stammering Mess

And, in classrooms such as those of the Maurice Sendak Community School in Brooklyn, Drag Queen Story Hour is flourishing — at least, according to a video by Stop K-12 Indoctrination and the David Horowitz Freedom Center. After bringing in the program during the last school year, Sendak School first-grade teacher Alexis Hernandez is planning to bring it back when school resumes, according to The Daily Caller.

“Drag Queen Story Hour gave my first graders a fun and interactive platform to talk and think about social and emotional issues like acceptance, being yourself, and loving who you are,” Hernandez wrote.

“During our debrief … (students) were preaching the incredible lessons they had learned, like ‘it’s OK to be different,’ and ‘there’s no such thing as ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ things.’”

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Yes, well, try that out on your kids and see how that works. I’ve spent enough time around children to know that if you give a boy a doll and a girl a toy car, in most cases the Barbie will be quickly launched from a slingshot onto your roof and the Hot Wheels will probably have dandelions sticking out of their die-cast wheel wells. But I digress.

It’s also unlikely that Drag Queen Story Hour is simply limited to the Maurice Sendak Community School, either. The program advertises itself as being for schools as well as libraries and book stores.

According to The Daily Caller, books include “Jacob’s New Dress” — about a kid named Jacob who wears a dress to school, so pretty much exactly what it sounds like — and “Red: A Crayon’s Story,” in which a red crayon gets itself successfully labeled blue. (It might be too much to suspect a political motivation behind turning “red” things “blue,” but just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean everyone’s not out to get you.)

Consider that these were likely being read aloud at a school named after one of the greatest children’s book writers of all time, the man responsible for “Where the Wild Things Are.” I’m fairly certain that even Mr. Sendak — who was gay himself — would probably gag at the prospect of these didactic pieces of kiddy lit being pushed on children in hopes of teaching them a Valuable Lesson.

Speaking of LGBT individuals, weren’t we supposed to be looking at drag queens with some circumspection? After all, they’ve been banned from one major pride event in Glasgow, Scotland, according to The Daily Wire, because transgender and non-binary people would be “uncomfortable with having drag performances at the event.”

“It was felt by the group within the Trans/Non Binary Caucus that some drag performance, particularly cis drag, hinges on the social view of gender and making it into a joke, however transgender individuals do not feel as though their gender identity is a joke,” a statement from Free Pride Glasgow read, according to Pink News.

“This can be particularly difficult for those who are not out and still present as the gender they were assigned at birth. While it was discussed whether we could have trans drag acts perform, it was agreed that as it would not be appropriate to ask any prospective drag acts whether or not they identified as trans.

“It was therefore decided that having no drag acts perform would be the best option as it would mean no-one would feel pressured to out themselves.”

And if it’s good enough for Scotland, shouldn’t it be good enough for all of us? After all, these are adults who are feeling “pressured to out themselves.” These drag performers have privilege these poor youngsters don’t have, having perhaps never even considered whether or not they believe they are “the gender they were assigned at birth.”

As previously stated, if you want to keep this in a library or private bookstore, fine. Even if my tax dollars are being used for indoctrination as they would be in the case of the library, as long as there’s choice involved I can’t work myself into too much of a tizzy.

However, the fact that this is being done in school — where it likely isn’t voluntary and put before children who aren’t fully informed about the social, political and religious forces at play in this debate — is beyond inappropriate.

But something-something-something gender fluidity, yadda-yadda-yadda defying rigid gender restrictions, etc. etc., and therefore, love Trumps hate. Wonderful.

Meanwhile, good luck trying to bring a Christian pastor into a public school for story time. That kind of indoctrination isn’t viewed with such unequivocal warmth, for whatever reason.


Australia: School students re-enact flight from conflict zone

This seems very unbalanced.  How about equivalent attention to the many grievous crimes committed by "refugees"?

Lauren Martyn-Jones

A BRISBANE school is taking an extreme approach to teaching students about asylum-seekers, simulating a full refugee crisis where they will have to flee a conflict zone and navigate checkpoints and boat crossings.

Hundreds of high school students at Northside Christian College will walk 12km, carry buckets of water, and role-play sick and struggling family members in a challenge designed to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

The school's re-enactment of a refugee crisis, which includes class activities for Years 7, 8 and 9, as well as the optional trek for those in Years 7-12, is a radical take on the World Vision 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge.

Northside's science and drama teacher Rob Burgess, who has organised the simulation, said the activities were designed to give students a perspective on the world around them. "In Year 7, the focus is very much on survival, how to cope when your backs are against the wall and you have to make hard choices between things like food and education," he said.

Mr Burgess said Year 8 children were split into family units, and those families then broken up, with different members having to go off and complete hunting and cleaning challenges to gather enough resources to move through a checkpoint and try to make it to a boat crossing.

He said hula-hoops were used during the challenge as makeshift asylum-seeker boats. But only a handful of children in any year make it across the "sea", with the others being directed to a refugee camp where they're left to "languish" as the activities progress.

World Vision chief executive Claire-Rogers said she was personally inspired by the level of commitment and devotion displayed by the staff and students of Northside Christian College in raising awareness for the global refugee crisis.

"The 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge campaign aims to bring a deeper level of understanding to students across the nation by introducing a challenge where participants will understand a little of the experience of refugees," she said. "However, Northside goes above and beyond — offering their students the chance to experience and connect in a profound and immersive way," Ms Rogers said.

Northside Christian College also uses World Vision curriculum resources which teach students that if Australia were Syria, every single person in Melbourne would be killed.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he hoped the simulation would be done without a political agenda. "If school students are nailing their core subject areas there's also a clear benefit in helping them to understand the lives of others, so long as it is undertaken free of political bias or influence," Senator Birmingham said.

This article does not appear to be otherwise online but appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 5 August, 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Boston’s schools are becoming resegregated

So what?  Who is that harming?

An alarming pattern of racial segregation has re-emerged in the Boston Public School system over the last two decades, according to a Globe analysis, largely the consequence of steps taken by city and school officials to allow more students to attend schools in their neighborhoods as they did prior to court-ordered busing.

Nearly 60 percent of the city’s schools meet the definition of being intensely segregated — meaning students of color occupy at least 90 percent of the seats. Two decades ago, 42 percent of schools were intensely segregated. Many of these schools are low performing. [Surprise!]

All the while, the shifting student population is slowly creating more schools where the majority of students are white, climbing over the past two decades from two schools to five.

The resegregation of the school system, which many advocates have been monitoring with frustration for years, is raising fears that the city could wind up with the wide disparities in academic programs, enrichment opportunities, and resources that existed prior to court-ordered desegregation in the 1970s, when majority-white schools had more robust offerings than those attended mostly by black and Latino students.

“This is devastating,” said City Council President Andrea Campbell of the Globe’s findings. “Not only does there need to be a sense of urgency to address this, but there also has to be a willingness to try new things. From where I sit, it’s important for every student and family who chooses to enter the system to have a spot at a quality school, but that is not currently happening in Boston.” [A school is only as good as its students]

The majority-white schools are emerging in the same neighborhoods that had them prior to court-ordered desegregation. At the Perry K-8 in South Boston, more than 60 percent of students are white, the highest in the system, the Globe review found. The other majority-white schools are the Eliot K-8 in the North End, the Lyndon and Kilmer K-8s in West Roxbury, and the Warren-Prescott K-8 in Charlestown.

Collectively, these five schools educate about 1,400 white students, accounting for 18 percent of all Caucasians enrolled in the system. The largest number of white students in any single school in the system, about 1,125, attend Boston Latin School, filling 46 percent of seats there.

Overall, white students make up 14 percent of the school system’s enrollment, down 2 percentage points from two decades ago.

The gaps in performance and opportunities at majority-white schools and intensely segregated ones can be stark, according to the Globe review.

For instance, on the premiere of the revamped MCAS test in 2017, 52 percent of students at the Eliot met or exceeded expectations in English and 57 percent did in math, beating state averages in both subjects. At the King K-8 school, where students of color fill nearly all the seats, 8 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in English and 6 percent did in math.

Eliot parents also raise tens of thousands of dollars for Italian, music, art, robotics, and other programs. Less than a quarter of Eliot students live in poverty. By contrast, over three-quarters of students at the King school live in households receiving government assistance, making fund-raising more difficult.

In a city where the wounds of court-ordered desegregation still linger, city leaders have shown little appetite to upend the school system and create more diverse schools as part of a strategy to close gaps in achievement and educational opportunity.

When Boston overhauled its school assignment system five years ago, achieving racial balance in its schools was not even part of the equation, as then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino, school officials, and an advisory committee were intent on moving the system back to more neighborhood schools, which had defined the city prior to desegregation.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh two years ago also halted an effort to overhaul admission requirements at the city’s exam schools as tensions began flaring among families after the Globe reported that an advisory group was quietly looking at ways to increase diversity by moving beyond a strict reliance on test scores and grade-point averages.

Yet a few hundred miles away in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been gaining headlines for pushing proposals to foster integration in that city’s highly segregated system. De Blasio is pushing to scrap entrance exams for the city’s elite high schools and has proposed reserving a portion of seats at high-performing schools for students with low test scores, angering scores of Asian-American and middle-class white parents.

“I think Boston is a sad case,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles. “I find that Boston is the least interested in talking about race and social issues. People want to be satisfied with the status quo and don’t want to think about the long term. . . . If you want a school system that prepares students for life, you have to think about diversity. Students need to learn how to function across racial and ethnic lines.”

While the Boston school system doesn’t have enough white students to integrate every school, the system still has enough of them to create more racially diverse schools than what currently exist, said Orfield, whose institute was formerly located at Harvard University.

But he warned, “if you begin to resegregate, it gains momentum.”


Class sizes rising in Ireland

Average class sizes rose in almost half of primary schools in the Republic last year despite an increase in teacher numbers.

The Department of Education said that 44 per cent of primary schools had higher average class sizes than in the previous year.

Data on 22,430 classrooms across the country’s 3,111 mainstream national schools indicates that those in counties along the east coast are more likely to have overcrowded classes. Large numbers of teachers have been hired over the past few years but continuing growth in the number of pupils attending primary school has meant that class sizes are still increasing in many schools.

Average sizes have risen in 42 per cent of schools compared with four years ago even though there has been a period of improved investment in the sector.

The average across the country fell to 24.5 pupils in the most recent school year from 24.7 the year before. The pupil:teacher ratio is at a record low of 15.3 pupils to each teacher, according to the Department of Education.

A spokesman for Richard Bruton, the education minister, said that nearly 2,250 extra teachers had been hired in the primary sector in the past two years, including 278 last year, bringing the total number to 22,430.

“Improvements to the staffing schedule at primary level in Budget 2016 and Budget 2018 bring the teacher allocation ratio to the lowest ever seen at primary level,” he said.

“The central aim of the Action Plan for Education is to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.”

Another 643 primary teaching posts are being created for the forthcoming year, when the number of students in primary schools is expected to peak at almost 568,000.

Just over 563,400 were enrolled in national schools across the country in the most recent year.

The analysis shows that schools along the east coast are far more likely to have above-average class sizes than the rest of the country. Almost three quarters of schools in Louth and about two thirds of those in Kildare and Meath have class sizes above the national average.

Other counties where more than half of schools have above-average sizes are Carlow, Waterford, Wicklow, Wexford and Dublin. In contrast, less than a third of schools in Mayo, Clare and Sligo have average classes in excess of 25 students, while only one in five in Roscommon have above-average numbers.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation said that Ireland remained well above the EU average of 20 pupils per classroom. A spokeswoman said that meeting this figure was a priority. “We know that children do better with smaller class sizes, particularly at younger ages. It’s an import issue for child education and welfare,” she said.

The spokeswoman said that last year’s reduction in average class sizes “didn’t go nearly far enough, as is clear with figures increasing in a large number of schools”.

She claimed demographic changes that will mean fewer pupils attend primary school from next year onwards presented a great opportunity to lower average class sizes further.

“The average class size will come down if the government maintains the current level of teachers into the future,” she said.

The school with the highest average class size in the country is Scoil Mobhí in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin which has almost 260 pupils.

The gaelscoil, which has been involved in a campaign against the proposed use of its grounds as a construction site for the new Dublin metro system, had an average of 32.4 students per class last year.

The national school in Abbeydorney, Kerry, had one classroom with 42 pupils last year — the largest in the country.


NZ High school students horrified to find security cameras installed INSIDE their toilets overlooking urinals and changing areas

A mistake?  Maybe!

Students have discovered video cameras installed inside school bathrooms, suspiciously overlooking urinals and changing areas.

Tauraroa Area High School students in New Zealand's north were disgusted to discover two surveillance cameras fitted in the grade 9-11 bathrooms of both female and male students.

The NZHerald reported the school's principal, Grant Burns, believed the cameras were mistakenly added to the bathrooms.

They were commissioned, he allegedly wrote in an email, to remain at the entrance of the bathrooms, overlooking an area in the vicinity holding student lockers.  

'I have already let a number of staff, parents and students know this. Steps have already been put in place to remedy this,' he said in the email.

Year 11 student Aart Lewis spoke up on behalf of his cohort, telling the publication he felt 'pretty disgusted because, in the boys toilets, [the camera] looks straight onto the urinal.'  

'And the girls toilets, they all get changed for netball and after school sports in those toilets,' he said.

He said it was baffling how the mistake was even made in the first place.

'Surely the people installing it would question if it was meant to go in the bathrooms or not because it is not really right,' he said.

He also raised a concern regarding the time in which it took the school to respond to student complaints.

When their claims weren't being heard, male students took it upon themselves to rectify the situation, covering the camera in their bathroom with toilet paper.

On three separate occasions, they claim staff removed this toilet paper, suggesting a staff awareness that the cameras were lodged in the wrong positions.

The speed in which the toilet paper was removed, led Lewis and some of his fellow students to the assumption the cameras were on, and monitoring activities.

The school, which hosts students aged five through to eighteen, assured concerned parents the incident would be rectified as soon as possible.


Monday, August 06, 2018

Harvard Study: Trigger Warnings Might Coddle the Mind

A new study out of Harvard—the first randomized controlled experiment designed to examine the effects of trigger warnings on individual resilience—may indicate that Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt were right about trigger warnings.1

In the fall of 2015, Greg Lukianoff, First Amendment Lawyer and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (for which I work), and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business, published an article in The Atlantic.2 In it, they detailed how college campuses may inadvertently promote mental habits identical to the “cognitive distortions” that cognitive behavioral therapists teach their clients to recognize and overcome. The pair argued that some campus practices—presumably intended to protect students from being harmed by words and ideas deemed offensive or distressing—seemed to be interfering with students' ability to get along with each other, and could even be having a deleterious effect on their mental health.

Among those practices: training students to identify microaggressions (things people say or do, often unintentionally, that are interpreted as expressions of bigotry), turning classrooms and lecture halls into intellectual safe spaces (where students are protected from words and ideas they might find upsetting), and the issuing of trigger warnings: alerts about the potentially “triggering” content of written work, films, lectures, and other presentations.

A “trigger” is something that affects those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It viscerally reminds them of a past traumatic experience, and provokes an extreme and maladaptive negative emotional response. The trigger itself is not harmful, but is something in a person’s environment that reminds that person of past trauma. The thinking behind issuing trigger warnings is that for people who have experienced trauma, distress will be reduced by warning them about possible ways in which they could be “triggered” by content that could remind them of their traumatic experience. The warning ostensibly allows them to mentally prepare for the challenge of confronting potentially triggering material, or to avoid the prospective trigger altogether.

Harvard psychology professor and PTSD expert, Dr. Richard McNally (an author of the recent study) explained in 2016 essay in the New York Times that “severe emotional reactions triggered by course material are a signal that students need to prioritize their mental health and obtain evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral therapies that will help them overcome PTSD.”3

In other words, severe emotional reactions are not an indication that professors or others should warn students in advance that material could be triggering for those with PTSD, nor that potentially triggering material should be removed from the syllabi. Constantly warning people with PTSD about potential triggers could potentially even interfere with their recovery. As Lukianoff and Haidt point out in their newest book, The Coddling of the American Mind,4 the avoidance of triggers is not a treatment for PTSD; it is a classic symptom of it. In fact, according to Dr. McNally, therapies that promote recovery from PTSD “involve gradual, systematic exposure to traumatic memories until [the capacity of those memories] to trigger distress diminishes.”5

The use of trigger warnings originated on the internet, and they are applied much more broadly than to actual PTSD triggers—which are typically more about an individual's personal experience of trauma than representations of similar kinds of trauma. A trigger can be something as simple as a smell, a sound, a certain color shirt, or the place or type of place where the trauma occurred. A trigger can even be a language, an accent, or the lilt of someone's voice.

On campus, however, anything that trauma survivors find upsetting—regardless of whether they suffer from PTSD, and regardless of whether it's an actual trigger—can be a candidate for a trigger warning; as can any material about the mistreatment of people from marginalized groups, and anything else that students or professors predict could be upsetting can be given a “trigger warning,” even without trauma survivors.

For example, in 2014, Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen published an essay in The New Yorker outlining the effects of trigger warnings of pedagogy, and how the concept of "triggers" had come to mean content that was generally upsetting, not just material that could trigger an emotional reaction from those with PTSD. She reported that campus organizations were requesting trigger warnings for classes covering rape law, and were advising students who believed they might be triggered not to “feel pressured” to be present at class sessions in which rape law would be covered. “Some students,” Gersen lamented, “have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress,” and further, some professors had stopped teaching rape law altogether because they feared that covering the potentially triggering material could make the classroom “a potentially traumatic environment” and emotionally “injure” their students.6

In their 2015 article, Lukianoff and Haidt used examples of requests for trigger warnings for things like misogyny, classism, and even privilege, and argued that “rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control.”7

It is essential for trauma survivors to learn how to go through life without constantly being warned about potential reminders they will undoubtedly encounter,8 but as Lukianoff and Haidt worry, trigger warnings could contribute to trauma survivors seeing themselves as constantly at risk of being triggered and perpetually unable to tolerate reminders of trauma.

They also contend that trigger warnings and other protective campus practices could prompt even students who have not experienced trauma to perceive threat and harm where there is none, rendering them more emotionally vulnerable, more fragile, and less resilient. The recent study out of Harvard by Bellet, Jones, & McNally indicates that—at least one of these points—Lukianoff and Haidt could be right.9

Many people experience trauma, but PTSD is rare. While symptoms of acute post-traumatic stress in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event are common, more than 90% of people who have experienced trauma are able to move forward without developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the vast majority of those who do suffer from PTSD eventually recover—all without the aid of trigger warnings.10

The Harvard study’s lead author, U.S. Army veteran Benjamin Bellet, told me how important it is to “dispel the myth that trauma equals PTSD.” But trigger warnings, the study indicates, not only contribute to the misconception that trauma equals PTSD. They may serve to intensify rather than eliminate the stigma associated with experiencing trauma, reinforcing the impression that trauma always leaves people emotionally impaired. The whole premise of trigger warnings seems to be an outgrowth of that myth—that those who have experienced trauma will necessarily be permanently scarred by it and must be protected from any potential reminders.

But trigger warnings aren't just bad for trauma survivors and people who suffer from PTSD. According to the Harvard study, for people who have not experienced trauma, trigger warnings seem to decrease the belief in their own and others’ resilience, and increase the belief in their own and others’ post-traumatic vulnerability to developing a mental disorder, being unable to effectively regulate emotions, and generally becoming unable to function. This is of particular concern because beliefs about one’s own post-traumatic vulnerability have a meaningful impact on post-traumatic recovery.

In other words, the belief that experiencing acute symptoms after a traumatic experience (which is common) means one is will suffer enduring impairment and PTSD (which is rare) can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the researchers point out that trigger warnings may have the effect of encouraging trauma to become central to the identity of those who have experienced trauma; and this is associated with increased severity of PTSD symptoms.11

Employing trigger warnings may also inadvertently communicate to members of the school community that ideas and material that students find upsetting or uncomfortable is harmful to them or to others. For people who are predisposed to thinking that words have the capacity to do harm, trigger warnings serve as a threat-confirmation. And the tendency to negatively interpret ambiguous situations—to see threats where no threats exist—is associated with increased risk of developing PTSD in the event of trauma.12

Perhaps the most striking finding, however, is that trigger warnings appear to confirm that words can cause harm for people who already believe that they do. The idea that words cause harm has begun to take hold on campus. In an opinion essay in the New York Times, respected psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett even claimed that "speech can be a form of violence."13

Lukianoff and Haidt responded with an essay in The Atlantic explaining why it's a bad idea to tell students that words are violence. Citing "aggressive and even violent protests [that] erupted at some of the country’s most progressive schools, such as Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Evergreen State College," they argued that encouraging students to believe that words are violence "tells the members of a generation already beset by anxiety and depression that the world is a far more violent and threatening place than it really is."

In my own rejoinder to the Feldman-Barrett piece, I argued that telling people they will suffer can make it more likely that they will.

"Students who believe that hearing certain words or listening to certain speakers can harm them, may in fact succumb to a self-fulfilling prophecy. is the belief that words can do harm that causes the harm, not the words, themselves."14

This seems to be borne out by the Harvard study: Subjects who believed that words caused harm experienced increased anxiety when they were presented with material preceded by a trigger warning, whereas subjects who did not already believe that words caused harm did not. In other words, as Bellet told me, “beliefs regarding harm and trauma matter."

At least for people who are not survivors of trauma, it appears that trigger warnings can be remarkably disempowering.


Phonics science vs the ‘feels’

The phonics debate co-hosted by the Centre for Independent Studies and the Australian College of Educators was supposed to be about the best way to teach phonics. It is a given that numerous other factors contribute to reading success, including children’s language experiences in early childhood. But phonics instruction is still a point of contention — so much so, that 480 people turned up to the debate and another 1000 watched online from all over the world.

The thousands of scientific studies on reading development are incredibly complex, yet remarkably consistent. They show the primary neurological pathway for beginning readers is between the visual (print) and phonological (sound) areas of the brain. The semantic (meaning) part of the brain is engaged when children know what the word they are reading sounds like. Over time, skilled readers can make the leap straight from print to meaning but the distinction between novice and skilled reading has important implications for teaching reading.

My team at the debate included Distinguished Professor Anne Castles and champion primary school teacher Troy Verey. Professor Castles is among the world’s best reading researchers. What she doesn’t know about reading development is probably not worth knowing, so we possibly had an unfair advantage. We concisely outlined the scientific evidence of reading development and explained which teaching methods best reflected the evidence. Our case was that ensuring all children learn to read relies on teachers having high levels of knowledge and expertise, and not accepting that some children will not learn. Good teaching is crucial.

Instead of providing evidence and arguments to counter ours, the opposing team — Professor Robyn Ewing and Dr Kathy Rushton from Sydney University and Mark Diamond, principal of Lansvale Public School — took the debate in a different direction.

Having resurrected and waved around the fallacious straw man argument we thought we had buried at the beginning of the debate — that we believed phonics alone is enough for reading — the opposing team argued that learning to read has very little to do with the way children are taught at school. The message seemed to be: children will learn to read if their mothers talk and read to them from birth, and if they have access to books. (The corollary being that if children can’t read, they have bad mothers?). At school, teaching reading is about ‘rich conversations’ and ‘relationships’.

The strange dichotomy is that the latter perspective is perceived as being the teacher-friendly view, while the perspective that recognises that evidence-informed expert teaching is critical and should be valorised, is disparaged as being ‘robotic’ and anti-teacher.

There was applause from the audience when Dr Rushton admitted she has not engaged with the scientific research on reading instruction; she relies on what she learned in her teaching degree some years ago, and what she has seen in the classroom. While ever this is considered acceptable, let alone laudable, teaching will struggle to be seen as a profession.


Australia: Islamic convert principal dumped from a Muslim-majority high school over allegations he was radicalising students is back in the classroom

A high school principal who was dumped amid allegations he refused to put his students through an anti-terror program has returned to the classroom.

Chris Griffiths was removed from his job as principal at Punchbowl Boys High School, along with deputy Joumana Dennaoui, in March last year.

Allegations against Mr Griffiths included complaints from parents of students being made to participate in prayer sessions, police concerns of radicalisation and claims from teachers regarding 'a high level of staff disunity and disharmony'.

Mr Griffiths, a Muslim convert, has now been appointed to a high school in outer-western Sydney, The Daily Telegraph reported.

His new job follows the discontinuation of two separate actions in the NSW Supreme court and Industrial Commission by Mr Griffiths, Ms Dennaoui.

Mr Griffiths has allegedly accepted the findings of an internal investigation by the Employee Performance and Conduct unit.

The paper also revealed departmental charges against Mr Griffiths related to the ­'administration' of the school and 'staff disunity'.

At the time there were allegedly a raft of other issues which led to his termination from the school.

Senior female staff members at the Mulsim majority school who had previously taken part in official events such as presentation days were reportedly given no explanation for their exclusion.

There were also claims that relations had broken down with local police liaison officers and that non-Muslim staff were subjected to verbal attacks.

It was also alleged that he refused to run a voluntary departmental deradicalisation program to counter extremism despite the school being deemed 'high risk'.

'As a result of a recent appraisal of Punchbowl Boys High, there has been a change in the leadership of the school,' a NSW Department of Education spokesman confirmed to Daily Mail Australia at the time.

Mr Griffiths denied the allegations levelled against him, pointing out photographs on his Twitter profile show women at school ceremonies and multicultural community dinners. 


Sunday, August 05, 2018

Harvard lawsuit divides many in Asian American community

Asian-Americans may be at the center of a discrimination lawsuit against Harvard University, but the case has left them deeply divided about whether they are penalized in elite college admissions and whether affirmative action policies are at fault.

In intensely personal stories and sweeping accounts of past legal battles, Asian-American students and organizations from across the country staked out positions on the case in court documents filed this week.

Some argued that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies hurt Asian-American applicants and compared their treatment to the anti-Semitism that Jewish applicants encountered at the Cambridge university in the first half of the 20th century. Others insisted that affirmative action helped land them a coveted spot at Harvard.

“The discrimination in education against Asian-American applicants causes real and tangible harm,” the Asian American Legal Foundation and the Asian American Coalition for Education said in legal filings that backed the complaint against Harvard’s policies. “It causes Asian-Americans to feel that they are not valued as much as other citizens. It causes many young Asian-Americans to feel a sense of inferiority, hopelessness and anger.”

But Thang Diep, 21, a rising senior at Harvard whose family immigrated from Vietnam to Los Angeles when he was in elementary school, said he believes race-conscious admission policies gave him a boost. Diep recounted how as a young boy he would stick a pencil between his teeth and read hundreds of books aloud just so he could improve his pronunciation and minimize his accent.

Harvard says the group suing the school over alleged admissions discrimination has created “900 paragraphs of supposedly undisputed facts — many of which are neither undisputed nor even facts.”

“When I applied to Harvard, I had good grades, but I did not have competitive SAT scores,” Diep said in court filings. But he did discuss his struggles as a Vietnamese immigrant in his personal statement for Harvard. “I benefited from Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy because it allowed the university to look at me as a whole person and take into account the adversity that I have overcome because of my race.”

The lawsuit, brought by Students for Fair Admissions on behalf of some Asian-American students, alleges that Harvard’s race-based selection process discriminates by limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits every year — a contention that Harvard has denied.

Students for Fair Admissions points out that its review of six years of Harvard admissions data and internal documents found that Asian-American applicants across the academic spectrum received lower ratings on their personal traits, such as courage and kindness, from the university’s admissions office than their peers.

The organization also contends that a preliminary report by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research in 2013 showed that Asian-Americans face a penalty in the admissions process. Harvard has said that report was incomplete.

Harvard has rejected allegations that it discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The university has defended its use of race to ensure a diverse campus as legal and fair. It said its admissions rate for Asian-Americans has grown by 29 percent in the past decade and accused Students for Fair Admissions of cherry-picking data.

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, who has been involved in anti-affirmative-action cases and most recently backed a challenge to race-based admissions at the University of Texas that centered on a white student, has also been the target of criticism. Harvard and its allies claim that because Blum and his organization failed to persuade the Supreme Court to overturn the use of race in college admissions in the University of Texas case, they are now trying again with Asian-Americans.

The case is scheduled for trial in US District Court in Boston in October, but experts anticipate that it will eventually be decided by the US Supreme Court.

The lawsuit has highlighted longstanding splits within the Asian-American community based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and political persuasion.

“A lot of Asian-Americans are feeling really torn; they don’t know where people are coming from,” said Sally Chen, 21, a rising senior at Harvard who was among about two dozen Harvard students to submit declarations in the case.

Chen, a Chinese-American who grew up in San Francisco living in a one-bedroom apartment with her parents and three siblings, said she worries that the lawsuit oversimplifies the experience of Asian-Americans. Students for Fair Admissions emphasizes a myth of Asian-Americans as the “model minority” who perform well academically and don’t need affirmative action and are harmed by it, Chen said in an interview.

But that masks the situation of many Asian-Americans who are struggling, who may have fled war and have gaps in their education, or who may live in poverty and attend under-resourced high schools, Chen and other Asian-American students said.

For example, more than one-third of Laotians, Cambodian, and Hmong adults in the United States don’t have a high school diploma, according to the US Census.

“We are still impacted by racism,” Chen said, calling the lawsuit “misleading and harmful for Asian-Americans.”

But Harvard’s data about how Asian-Americans are scored on personality traits used by admissions officers suggest that the university’s policies are harmful and discriminatory, said Lee Cheng, an attorney for the Asian American Legal Foundation.

Cheng, a Harvard graduate, said he has spent 25 years conducting alumni interviews of applicants for the university and believes that Asian-Americans must meet a higher bar.

“Out of 100 students I have interviewed, I have never interviewed an Asian-American who has gotten in,” Cheng said. “In some cases, it was shocking.”

He questioned the Harvard students who said they had benefited from race-conscious admissions and said these students were an anomaly, considering the analysis of the admissions data by Students for Fair Admissions.

And, he said, because they benefited from Harvard’s procedures and got in, these Asian-American students also don’t have a right to speak out about these policies that others see as unfair.

Cheng said it would be akin to a child of a slave-owner arguing that slavery should remain in place, or a beneficiary of segregation arguing in favor of it.

“You can’t say there’s any legitimacy to a beneficiary of an unfair program,” Cheng said. “They don’t have a right to speak for all those other kids who haven’t gotten in.”

But Asian-American Harvard students who have filed court documents in support of the university said they felt compelled to speak out about what they’ve seen of the university’s admissions process and what a diverse campus community has meant to their college experience.

Many also stressed that Harvard can still be an isolating place for minority students, where elite clubs charge exorbitant fees for membership and exclusive social spaces are still dominated by white students. For years, students have been urging Harvard to develop an Asian-American Studies academic track but have seen little progress. And many are concerned about the lower ratings given by admissions officers to Asian-American applicants on their personal qualities and urged the administration to consider additional training against bias.

Jang Lee, 21, a Korean-American from Texas, said the lawsuit has sparked conversations among his friends about race and Harvard, issues that many have shied away from because they can be controversial and polarizing.

“This is one of the biggest issues for Asian-Americans that has come up in years,” Lee said. “For me, it’s been empowering to talk about it.”


Trump administration seeks deregulation, innovation in higher education

The Trump administration plans to discuss overhauling the rules governing higher education’s accrediting agencies, a move officials think will inspire more innovation.

Reducing compliance requirements for accreditors and clearly defining their sphere of influence are Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ main goals, according to Undersecretary Diane Auer Jones.

The department plans to “promote greater access for students to high-quality innovative programs,” including online programs and competency-based education models. In the past, the rules governing accrediting agencies disincentivized them from approving similar models that fall outside of the higher education norm.

In a rule-making session to “rethink” the roles of accreditors in higher education, the administration will discuss the requirements for online education and the standardized definition for academic coursework – the credit hour.

Interestingly, Jones said that “the credit hour probably interferes with innovation [in higher education] almost more than anything.” Defined as one hour of classroom instruction and two hours of out-of-class work, institutions must offer programs meeting a minimum number of these hours in order to be approved.

As higher education changes, however, measuring all institutions by the same metric makes less sense, especially as the credit hour does not mesh well with online education. Yet, these educational institutions may have even more data on student mastery and faculty instructional hours due to their digital footprint than do traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

Yet, focus on educational quality will still be a core goal of accrediting agencies, even if they are given more flexibility in other areas of oversight.

A near reversal of the Obama administration’s approach, which empowered accreditors to be tougher on non-traditional programs, the Trump administration believes that reconceptualizing their role will encourage higher education institutions to innovate without fear of being shuttered.



Some good wisecracks below

College football season is just around the corner. It was a mild, wet spring in the South, great for growing SEC [South Eastern Conference] football players.

Nick Saban at Alabama reloaded his talent and is the preseason number two again. During the recruiting season, the Discovery Channel decided to suspend “Shark Week” as the sharks were distracted watching “Nick Saban Week.”

The SEC dominates college football. That doesn’t look like it will end this year with Georgia ranked number one, [Ala]Bama number two and Auburn number five.

Football is akin to a religious experience in the South. Psychiatrists will tell you that football satisfies the primal human thirst for war. But government goes ahead and gets us in a bunch of wars too, just to be on the safe side. It’s the modern-day “bread and circuses” to placate the citizens.

The non-SEC contender is either Clemson or Oklahoma. Oklahoma got rid of the Confederate flag and changed the names of schools named after Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Then they surprised everyone when they legalized marijuana, showing they’d do anything to get a recruiting edge over Georgia and Bama.

College football is a great business model. Brand loyalty is built in and labor is free. If it hosted a TV signing day, I’d suggest for symbolism that it be held at Colonial Williamsburg. Coaches observe preseason practices and games from a high tower in case any players get any fancy ideas about escaping.

And while NFL players continue to damage their brand by kneeling during the national anthem, college football continues to shine. The only way a Southerner kneels during the national anthem is if his bourbon flask slips out of his sock. Southerners believe that a “silent protest” has no place outside a marriage.

In other football news, in this hyperbolic P.C. world the left has created, Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter just got in trouble for purportedly racist comments and had to step down. Long associated with football advertising, the pizza chain is trying to do damage control over its brand. The Papa John’s lawyers even asked Peyton Manning to tone down his Southern accent until this all blows over.

I kid Peyton, who has a great sense of humor (I hope) and is a wonderful representative of the SEC. He holds many records, chief among them that he was the only player drafted in the same year by the NFL and for the Vietnam War.

To sum up the preseason rankings, aside from the perennial powers like UGA, Bama and Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State surprisingly cracked the top 25 this year.

Lore has it that Ole Miss redshirts Miss Americas, but they are down this year. They have yet to recover from their holy-roller coach resigning after escort phone service numbers were found on his cell phone. It was profoundly embarrassing to the SEC when a head coach in a college town like Oxford, MS had to pay women to sleep with him.

Being an SEC coach is a non-linear job, a feast-or-famine gig. You are either making millions landing five-star athletes or, if you don’t, driving fans to games in hopes of them giving you a five-star rating on Uber.

My favorite team, Vanderbilt, is academically pricing itself out of the SEC. Nashville’s liberal mayor had to step down after it was discovered she was paying her lover with tax money. Now Nashville can continue its liberal trajectory by becoming a sanctuary city for bad football teams.

As a libertarian and free-market person, I am all for paying these players. If you watch “Last Chance U” (and I suggest you do), you learn that most of these kids are overwhelmed by college and the workload of football. It blurs a university’s stated academic goals, is run by egghead college presidents, and structurally invites corruption. The NCAA, started in the Roosevelt era, has not seen the football since the kick off. They got so mad at UNC for cheating, they put Alcorn State on probation.

Football schools need to admit that they lower academic standards for athletes. If you are Alabama, it’s hard to pretend to be an academic powerhouse when one of your most famous alumni is Forrest Gump.