Friday, September 14, 2018

Attempt to Diminish Heroism of Alamo Defenders Is a Shameful War on History

The next generation of Texans may not care to “remember the Alamo” after a recent decision by the Texas State Board of Education.

The Battle of the Alamo, which occurred during the Texas Revolution of the 1830s, is one of the most famed military actions in Texas and American history.

Just a few hundred Alamo defenders, who hailed from numerous countries and all walks of life, held off a Mexican army, led by Gen. Santa Anna, of nearly 2,000 for hours before being overrun.

The brave actions of a few, patriotic men against incredible odds has been compared to the Battle of Thermopylae, in which a handful of Greek soldiers fought against a massive Persian army. In fact, a plaque saying as much sits on the wall of the fort today, which is located in the middle of downtown San Antonio.

But in June, an advisory group of educators concluded that calling the Alamo’s defenders “heroic” was a “value-charged word,” so the State Board of Education decided to remove this from the state’s seventh-grade curriculum.

The board recommended specifically removing classroom reference to a famous letter from Alamo commander William B. Travis, which galvanized Texans and Americans to the cause of Texas independence from Mexico.

On Twitter, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blasted the move as out-of-control “political correctness.”

Among the illustrious group of slain warriors were David Crockett—a frontier folk hero who had served in the Tennessee Legislature—and James Bowie, another famed frontiersman who popularized the “Bowie knife.”

Their deaths were a rallying cry for Texans and galvanized supporters of Texas independence. Shortly thereafter, Texans defeated that same Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto, effectively securing their independence.

Texas joined the United States a decade later, and the story of the Alamo became an American one. The story has risen to prominence over the years as an example of extreme courage in the face of overwhelming odds—a trait we should hope many future generations of Americans would emulate.

It’s no wonder the move to strip the heroics and patriotism of this famed battle was met with anger and a deluge of animosity, as it should be, especially in light of other attempts to banish old heroes in Texas.

After intense scrutiny, the Texas State Board of Education indicated after a hearing on Tuesday that it might back off removing Travis’ letter from the curriculum.

One of the committee members, Stephen Cure, said it was not the committee’s intent to diminish the heroism of those who fought at the Alamo, according to LMT Online.

Cure said that under a revised standard, Texas schools would recognize “the heroism of diverse defenders who gave their lives.”

The board will announce its final decision about the curriculum in November.

However, regardless of how the Alamo issue plays out, the board’s action should be a wake-up call to the people of Texas that there need to be more options for their families and children than the one-size-fits-all public school system currently available to parents.

Despite its reputation as a deep-red state, Texas has lagged badly in creating private school choice options for parents. This is not just a Texas problem; this is a problem for many red states, which should theoretically have school choice-friendly legislatures and governors. But many have dropped the ball in making it a priority issue.

For the sake of future generations, this needs to change.

Not only do school choice programs allow parents to put their children in higher performing schools, but they allow them to move them into schools that reflect their beliefs.

Education is not merely about test scores and gearing up to get into top colleges. It’s also about civics and teaching young Americans to be citizens.

If Texas public schools don’t care to teach young Texans to remember the Alamo, then perhaps parents need the option to send their children to schools that will.

In a climate in which we are witnessing a concerted war on our history, where great men and high ideas are being stripped from public places—from Hollywood, media, and certainly academia—it is essential that young Americans have access to an education that will continue to instill patriotism.

Without this, we risk losing the values that make us the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Lawsuit over Louisiana school's hair policy is dismissed

Parents of two New Orleans-area school girls have dismissed their lawsuit against a Catholic school over its policy forbidding hair extensions.

In a notice of dismissal filed in federal court Monday, lawyers for the girls noted that Christ the King Parish School had ended the policy, a decision the school announced two weeks ago after a state judge blocked its enforcement.

The school and the Archdiocese of New Orleans drew widespread online outrage after video spread of sixth-grader Faith Fennidy tearfully leaving school after being told her hair style violated the policy.

Her mother and the mother of another student filed a state court lawsuit, which was moved later to federal court.

The archdiocese declined comment and lawyers for the families did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. Both sides have been quiet about the case in recent weeks and neither has said whether either of the girls returned to Christ the King or enrolled elsewhere.

Faith's brother posted a Facebook video that showed the girl, her braids pulled back and hanging just below the neckline, dejectedly leaving school with family members in late August. It included an explanation that there were practical reasons for Faith's use of hair extensions.

The video won her quick recognition and support from, among others, social activist Shaun King on Twitter and rapper T.I. on Instagram. The P&G brand flew her to New York to attend the Black Girls Rock award show on BET.

Meanwhile, the superintendent of schools for the archdiocese said she would work with school officials to "create a uniform policy that is sensitive to all races, religions, and cultures."


Australia: Race-conscious schoolkid refuses to stand for national anthem

She has obviously absorbed the Leftist political attitudes of her academic parents.  Seeing us all just as Australians is beyond her. Why?  Because seeing us all just as Australians is exactly the opposite of what Leftists do. As part of their program of destroying our "unjust" society, they do their best to divide people against one-another.

It's undoubted that there are many ways in which Aborigines are not "equal" to other Australians but what do you do about that? The kid probably hasn't heard that all Australian governments, Left and Right, State and Federal, have done just about everything conceivable to help them but nothing works.  Only the missionaries did any good for them but the Leftist hate of rival religions precludes any repetition of that.

This event is of no broad importance but it took my attention because I too in my High School years made a similar refusal. No anthem was sung at Cairns State high in 1961. Kids were told to salute the flag. I refused. I was very religious at the time and considered that my only loyalty was to the Kingdom of Heaven.  I was not penalized in any way but got to have a good chat with Principal Crosswell.  The kid below was also eventually allowed to go her own way. We are lucky in Australia that we do have such freedoms even for kids, even if the freedoms are used in pursuit of dubious causes

Teachers at a Brisbane primary school have disciplined a nine-year-old girl for refusing to stand for the national anthem during assembly. Primary school student Harper Nielsen was given a lunch time detention on Friday for peacefully protesting against the song she said is "wrong".

"When it says 'we are young' it completely disregards the Indigenous Australians who were here before us for over 50,000 years," she said. "When it was originally written, Advance Australia Fair meant advance the white people of Australia."

Harper told ABC Brisbane she felt annoyed the school was punishing her for expressing her beliefs. "I felt like they were trying to take my power away and that made me feel a bit upset because everything that I fight for is for equality and for equal power for everyone," Harper said.

The Year 4 student said the decision to take a stand was made "mostly" by herself but the subject had been discussed with her parents.

Her father Mark Nielsen, who is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, said he completely supported his daughter and her views.

"She's shown incredible bravery in wanting to stick to what she believes in and make a stance for something she believes right and I couldn't be more proud of her for wanting to do this," he said.

Associate Professor Nielsen said despite meeting with the school to discuss the issues, they claimed the school rules would not allow his daughter to continue to protest. "They have said that she has to stand or she has to leave the assembly area," he said.

Associate Professor Nielsen said forcing his daughter to go against her stance "doesn't fit" what she was trying to achieve.

"One of the things she was really hoping to do with this is to raise awareness and get people thinking about institutionalised racism and how that looks and how that might feel to people who these kinds of things affect," he said.

In response to criticism of his daughter's actions, Associate Professor Nielsen said it was important to give everyone the opportunity to stand up for things they believed in. "This is not just someone wanting to do whatever the heck they want — this is just a very specific isolated incident for which there are sound, thoughtful reasons behind that, that have to do with human rights," he said. "This is not someone just saying they don't want to go to math class."

Harper's mother, Yvette Miller, is an Associate Professor in Public Health at Queensland University of Technology.

Brisbane Aboriginal community elder Sam Watson said Harper's parents should be congratulated.

"They've obviously raised a very bright and vivacious young woman and this one is going to grow up and do big things in her life," Mr Watson said.

Talkback callers on ABC Radio Brisbane had mixed opinions, with some calling it "flat-out disrespect", while others said freedom of expression should be encouraged in children.

However, in a video posted on Facebook, Senator Pauline Hanson rejected the nine-year-old's views, saying "here we have a kid being brainwashed".

"I tell you what — I'd give her a kick up the backside," Senator Hanson said. "We're talking about a child who has no idea about history — what we should do and what we need to do to pull everyone together, regardless of their cultural background — we are all Australians. "This is divisive and I don't know what the other kids around her are thinking, but where is it coming from?

"This kid is headed down the wrong path, and I blame the parents for it for encouraging this — no, take her out of the school."

In a statement, a spokesperson for Queensland's Department of Education said it had met with the student and family involved to discuss the issue.  "The school has been respectful of the student's wishes and has provided other alternatives to singing the national anthem," the spokesperson said.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

NYU attempts to solve doctor problem Obamacare helped create

More big government policies should not be the answer to problems created by big government. Yet that is exactly what New York University is trying to do. The New York University (NYU) School of Medicine announced last week that it would offer a full tuition scholarship to all students in the medical school regardless of merit or need. While the goal of the program is to produce more doctors; instead, this program will only raise costs for everyone while failing to address the underlying problems within our health care system.

The United States desperately needs more doctors.

An April 2018 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians by 2030. At the same time, the AAMC predicts a shortage of between 33,800 and 72,700 specialty doctors.

This shortage is caused in large part by the Affordable Care Act, which increased demand for physicians while burying them in paperwork and regulations.

A series of studies reported on through Investor Business Daily found, 54 percent of doctors claim they are “suffering burnout,” 83 percent of doctors were thinking about quitting, and 40 percent said they would retire or seek other work because of Obamacare.

Clearly, the U.S. needs more doctors, but free tuition is not a good plan to make that happen.

NYU Med students pay an average $55,018 in tuition each year. The free tuition plan is expected to cost the school $600 million to fund. While the school hopes the generosity of donors will cover the cost, more than likely, other NYU students will be hit with the bill.

A January 2017 George Mason University Mercatus Center study found that increases in loan and grant programs within universities create artificial demand, largely resulting in greater tuition increases and produce little benefit to enrollment numbers. Similarly, in February of 2018, the Heartland Institute merged 25 studies on tuition costs and student aid to find that subsidizing college tuition raises prices for all students as universities raise tuition across the board. Flooding labor markets with these degrees in turn makes them less useful.

The NYU program will be costly and ineffective in producing more doctors.

Even worse, the free tuition for future students and student loan repayment for current students comes with no strings attached. So, a student does not even have to practice medicine in order to receive the benefits.

This is important considering a Mayo Clinic study cited in the aforementioned Investors Business Daily notes, “nearly one in five doctors plan to switch to part-time clinical hours, 27 percent plan to leave their current practice, and 9 percent plan to get an administrative job or switch careers entirely.” This has significantly exacerbated the doctor shortage.

It was the big government policies of the Obama administration that caused the doctor shortage we are dealing with today. If schools like NYU want to do their part, they should help encourage the rollback of Obamacare rather than attempting to put a band-aid on the problem. The free tuition myth will increase costs for other students while failing to help Americans still struggling with the impact of Obamacare.


Amid secrecy, Acadia University professor at centre of free speech debate fired for controversial comments

The secrecy tells its own story

Rick Mehta came under fire for saying multiculturalism is a scam, denying the gender wage gap, and dismissing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

A Nova Scotia professor who stoked a national debate about free speech on campus after making controversial comments on social media and in the classroom has been fired.

Acadia University confirmed Friday that Rick Mehta has been dismissed, several months after the Wolfville, N.S., school launched a formal investigation into complaints against the psychology professor.

University spokesman Scott Roberts said he is unable to comment or “provide any elaboration” on the dismissal as it is a confidential personnel matter.

He also was unable to provide details of the findings of the investigation overseen by Dalhousie University professor emeritus Wayne MacKay, noting that it’s a “privileged document.”

The Acadia University Faculty Association said in a statement Friday it was informed of the firing on Aug. 31, and has since filed for arbitration.

“The termination of a tenured professor is very serious, and (the faculty association) has filed for arbitration while its senior grievance officer and legal counsel examine the administration’s disciplinary procedures and evidence,” the statement said.

Mehta could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday. However, he retweeted a blog article that discussed his firing.

Last month, he said in an email that the only way he could have a copy of the investigation report by MacKay was by signing an agreement, which he called a “gag order.”

Mehta was outspoken both on campus and online about a range of contentious issues including decolonization, immigration and gender politics, garnering both supporters and opposition.

He came under fire for saying multiculturalism is a scam, denying the wage gap between men and women, and dismissing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a vehicle for “endless apologies and compensation.”

On Twitter, he retweeted a post that said it is “statistically impossible for all Native children to have had a negative experience with residential schools.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were taken from their families – often by force – to attend government schools. The commission heard testimony from roughly 7,000 survivors, including graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse at the schools, and found at least 6,000 Indigenous children died from malnutrition, disease and widespread abuse.

While his defenders called his voice an antidote to political correctness run amok, his critics said his polarizing comments attacked marginalized people and perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

In a Feb. 26 letter, Mehta’s designated department head, Rob Raeside, detailed some of the complaints against him, indicating that the level of anxiety in the class was high and some students had stopped attending.

Raeside said students have accused Mehta of spending excessive class time on non-class related matters, using non-academic sources for lecture content, testing on content not dealt with in class or in assigned readings and making provocative comments in class.

The acrimonious debate has spurred a Halifax-based activist to launch a petition demanding his removal from the small-town Nova Scotia university, while a counter-petition called for him to stay in the classroom as a beacon of freedom of expression.

In March, the Canadian Association of University Teachers appointed a committee to review how Acadia handled grievances against Mehta to determine whether his academic freedom had been breached or threatened.

“Professor Mehta’s case raises important questions about the scope of academic freedom in teaching and the exercise of extramural speech by professors,” David Robinson, executive director of the association, said in a statement at the time.

“These issues are of broad significance to all academics in Canada.”


Strange histories of conservatism

The growing tendency of late for liberals and conservatives to regard each other as not just opponents, but enemies, has been one of the most alarming in an alarming era. At the root of this fear and loathing is mutual incomprehension: Liberals simply don’t understand conservatives, and vice versa. In years past, the historical profession has done little to improve matters. Liberal historians typically treated conservatives and their ideas with disdain, when they deigned to notice them at all.

The end-of-century victories of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, however, forced historians to realize that conservatism could no longer be dismissed as a mere road bump on the inexorable progression toward a liberal future. The result, over the past two decades, has been a veritable tsunami of historical literature on conservatism. Virtually all of these works have been written by liberals. Nonetheless, historians of this new generation consider themselves to be unbiased and even sympathetic observers of conservatism. Many believe their collective efforts have produced a profound historical understanding of conservatism as an intellectual and cultural phenomenon, and thus contributed in some measure to bringing politically opposed citizens together.

Color me skeptical. I was a graduate student at the beginning of this new wave of conservative studies and I couldn’t help but notice that it coincided with the historical profession’s purge of any scholars who could be described as Republicans or conservatives. Some of the new works on conservatism have been excellent, others awful. But nearly all reveal the pitfalls for liberals writing about a movement with which they have no personal experience. If you’re a historian who has not a single conservative colleague—and perhaps not even one conservative friend—chances are you’ll approach conservatism as anthropologists once approached tribes they considered remote, exotic, and quite possibly dangerous.

The result is that two decades’ worth of scholarship hasn’t contributed as much as one might have hoped to our understanding of conservatism, especially in the age of Trump. This is particularly true of the works that have been most popular with the broader public. That’s a shame, because historians could provide deeper answers than they have so far to the questions many citizens now wrestle with: How did our political system become so divided and dysfunctional? To what extent is the conservative movement responsible for Trump’s rise? What have been the movement’s greatest successes as well as failures, and what relevance do they have to our understanding of ourselves as a nation and a people?

Those answers aren’t just relevant to our understanding of the past. A more robust, even-tempered account of conservatism is key to understanding what role the political and cultural phenomenon will play in our country’s future—whether liberals want to believe it or not.


A common flaw of the new political histories is to take the extreme right as representative of conservatism (or the Republican Party) as a whole. Lisa McGirr’s 2001 Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right was one of the earliest and best of these histories, but many of its readers came away convinced that the rabidly anti-communist John Birch Society dominated the Republican Party in the early 1960s, when it was a marginal element at best.

There’s little in McGirr’s scrupulously nonjudgmental account of the Birchers that alludes to their wild, conspiratorial fantasies, like the notion that the United Nations was training an army of barefoot African cannibals in Georgia to take over the United States, or that a “1313” committee of University of Chicago eggheads was plotting to deprive Americans of their rights to vote and hold property. Bircher-type thinking has had a resurgence on the present-day political right and points toward the enduring appeal of conspiratorial thinking in American life, so the organization merits study. But scholars should keep in mind that National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr., as part of his larger “fusionist” project that eventually led to Reagan’s election, branded the Birchers as “kooks” and was able (for a while) to keep them out of the conservative mainstream.

The success of Buckley and his “movement” conservatives at transforming the GOP into an ideological vessel has led scholars to overlook the internal party warfare between moderates and conservatives that raged throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and continues in a diminished form today. Some scholars also downplay the real differences that separate traditionalists, libertarians, paleo-conservatives and neo-conservatives, among any other number of ideological splinter groups. Like many liberal voters, they assume that the Tuesday Group faction in the House of Representatives is just like the Freedom Caucus, or that Speaker Paul Ryan’s beliefs are more or less interchangeable with those of President Donald Trump or Ohio Governor John Kasich.

In fact, one of the more influential studies of conservatism, Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind, insists that such seemingly disparate figures as Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, Milton Friedman and Sarah Palin are all more or less the same, sharing the overarching goal of preserving the ruling order’s power and privilege against liberationist movements from below. In his view, the ideals conservatives tout (greater freedom, robust public morality, economic growth and deference to the Constitution) are nothing but fig-leaf cover for oppression, and anyone outside the elite who thinks otherwise is a victim of false consciousness. Robin—who, full disclosure, helped make my Ph.D. years miserable by leading a grad student unionization effort at my university—advances his argument with considerable force and erudition. But his reductionist thesis is the mirror image of the sloppy right-wing canard that liberalism is no different from socialism, or even communism.

Some scholars bring their present-day political concerns to bear on the past, particularly in relation to the Republican Party’s approach to racial matters, assuming that it’s inherently a party of racial oppression . In this view, African-American demands for racial equality have always entailed a program of economic redistribution—and because such programs are anathema to both moderate and conservative Republicans, then by definition Republicans cannot support civil rights. Of course, this presentist position is at odds with the historical reality, which is that civil rights activists of the 1960s viewed the considerable majority of congressional Republicans as allies, and acknowledged that the movement’s great advances could not have been achieved without their help.

Heather Cox Richardson’s To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party actually posits that the current GOP upholds the racist and elitist principles of the pre-Civil War slaveholding class. Richardson’s account is a mélange of liberal errors regarding conservative history. Like Robin, she dismisses Reagan’s populism as a screen for rapacious business interests. She contends that racism was the essence of Buckley’s New Right, and further that the Birch Society spread his ideas to ordinary voters. Buckley’s endorsement of Southern segregation was a moral blot on the conservative movement, and he later acknowledged it as his gravest error. But it’s anti-historical to assume that Buckley was little more than a Klansman with a large vocabulary, or to dismiss the monumental divisions on the right as minor quarrels within a united white supremacist alliance.

Some of the most highly praised scholars of conservatism in recent years have openly acknowledged their political opposition to the movement. Rick Perlstein, whom New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently pronounced “our leading historian of modern conservatism,” wrote a column a few years ago declaring “There Are No More Honest Conservatives, So Stop Looking for One.” Perlstein made a big splash in 2001 with Before the Storm, a well-researched account of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign that even conservatives praised for its empathy and insight. But Perlstein’s subsequent works, Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge, portray conservatives like Richard Nixon and Reagan as cartoon villains, all but ignoring the progressive parts of Nixon’s record and the pragmatic dimension of Reagan’s.

Perlstein’s treatment of conservatism is positively Solomonic, however, in comparison with Duke University professor Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, a 2017 National Book Award finalist that focuses on Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist James Buchanan. In MacLean’s telling, Buchanan’s “public-choice” school of economics provided the intellectual blueprint used by billionaire Charles Koch to advance a “diabolical” and “wicked” plan to suppress democracy by handcuffing government—a crime to which the entire Republican Party is now, apparently, a willing accessory. As numerous critics from across the political spectrum have pointed out, MacLean’s conspiracy theory owes more to her strained interpretations than actual evidence, and her account is replete with errors and distortions.


It’s true that the era when historians ignored conservatism or dismissed it as a curio is over; many universities now offer entire courses on its history. But a closer look at their syllabi typically reveals a paucity of writings by actual conservatives and a glut of hostile interpretations by writers such as Robin, Cox Richardson, Perlstein and MacLean. One teacher of such a course, Seth Cotlar of Willamette University, who was recently the subject of an admiring piece in Vox, apparently believes that the two major conservative intellectuals of the 1990s were Gingrich and Dinesh D’Souza—an error that no one who was personally involved with the conservative movement would ever make.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

In Due Process Lawsuit, Appeals Court Sides with Michigan Student Expelled for Sexual Misconduct

A male student who was kicked off campus has alleged that the University of Michigan did not give him the opportunity to properly defend himself against sexual misconduct charges.

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the lawsuit filed by ex-student "John Doe" against the university has merit. In a decision written by Judge Amul Thapar—a judge with a reputation for defending due process norms in cases involving Title IX, the federal statute that sets rules for campus sexual misconduct cases—the court held that Doe's lawsuit should survive a motion to dismiss.

"If a public university has to choose between competing narratives to resolve a case, the university must give the accused student or his agent an opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and adverse witnesses in the presence of a neutral fact-finder," wrote Thapar. "Because the University of Michigan failed to comply with this rule, we reverse [the lower court's decision]."

Thapar's strong defense of the right of the accused to cross-examine the accuser is a timely development. As reported in Reason and The New York Times, the Education Department is currently workshopping a new approach to Title IX that would correct some of the due process deficiencies found in previous guidance issued under the Obama administration. An official with knowledge of Education Secretary Betsy Devos' plans told Reason that the new Title IX guidance would require cross-examination or "an effective substitute."

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Samantha Harris praised the Sixth Circuit's decision.

"This is the latest—and most strongly worded—decision to date holding that when credibility is at issue, cross-examination is essential to due process in a campus sexual misconduct proceeding," Harris told Reason.

Michigan's handling of Doe's dispute with "Jane Roe" shows precisely why the existing sexual misconduct adjudication procedures are often unfair to the accused. Doe, a junior, and Roe, a freshman, met during a party at Doe's fraternity, where they drank a lot of alcohol and then had sex. According to Roe, she told Doe she didn't want to have sex just before collapsing onto his bed. She was immobilized and unconscious while he initiated intercourse with her. Doe remembered the night differently: He said he asked her if she wanted to have sex, and she replied "Yeah." Two days later, she filed a Title IX complaint against him.

The university's Title IX investigator interviewed 23 "witnesses," though none were witnesses to the actual encounter. Male witnesses backed up Doe's account, insisting that Roe did not seem drunk to them, while female witnesses said the opposite. The investigator determined that the evidence in Roe's favor and the evidence in Doe's favor was equally compelling, and there was simply no way to break the tie. Thus the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard could not be met, and it was recommended that Doe be cleared.

Roe appealed this outcome, and the university reversed the decision "without considering new evidence or interviewing any students," according to Thapar. Since expulsion was a possible penalty, Doe decided to withdraw from the university, just 13.5 credits short of graduating.

Doe's lawsuit accused the university of violating his due process rights and discriminating against him on the basis of sex, a violation of Title IX. The due process claim concerns Michigan's refusal to grant him any sort of hearing where he could have challenged the accounts of Roe and her adverse witnesses. The discrimination claim stems from the fact that the university's appeals board held that the female witnesses' testimony outweighed the male witnesses' testimony.

On both counts, the lawsuit should proceed to trial, according to the court.

Thapar's decision holds that cross-examination is required when at least one party's credibility is at stake. "Without the back-and-forth of adversarial questioning, the accused cannot probe the witness's story to test her memory, intelligence, or potential ulterior motives," he wrote.

KC Johnson, a Brooklyn College professor who often writes about campus due process issues, noted on Twitter that it is "reasonable for universities not to want an accused student to personally cross-examine his accuser," and no court has mandated that direct cross-examination is necessary. Instead, Thapar's decision proposed a serviceable alternative: permitting a representative of the accused student to perform cross-examination.

"To the extent the court here is saying that cross-examination is essential, but personal cross-examination is troubling, this is the strongest language we've seen from a court to date in support of the right to some kind of representation, at least in certain proceedings," Harris told Reason.

Currently, very few universities allow a student's legal representative to take an active role in Title IX proceedings. According to Harris, it would be wise for the Education Department to "encourage, though probably not require, schools to allow the active participation of an advisor." (Harris also wrote about the decision here.) We will have to wait until the new guidance is formally unveiled to see what it says about representation and cross-examination.


Scotland:  Opposition to testing 5 year olds

Politicians from every opposition party at Holyrood have formally backed a call for the testing of five-year-olds in schools to be scrapped.

A motion calling for an SNP U-turn over the assessments, which were introduced last year but criticised for allegedly upsetting children and wasting school time, was lodged by Labour yesterday and backed by 20 MSPs within hours.

Supporters included Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Tories and Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Lib Dems.

The motion is seen as a first step in a parliamentary push to force the Scottish government to abandon the tests, which ministers maintain are essential.

The Times understands that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are planning to use their opposition time in parliament to organise a debate on the policy, which will mean a vote in which the SNP is highly likely to lose. While it would not be binding on the government, to ignore the will of parliament, as well as teaching unions and parent groups, would be politically difficult thanks to her plans for a new independence vote.

After the Brexit referendum in which a significant majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU, Ms Sturgeon’s call for a second ballot on Scottish independence was formally backed at Holyrood.

After a UK government pledge to block the vote until after the Brexit process had concluded, the first minister condemned the “democratically indefensible” attempt to stand in the way.

Progress must be made because it was the “will of parliament”, she had said. So, to ignore a Holyrood vote over P1 testing may be politically fraught.

Ms Sturgeon launched a fresh defence of the policy yesterday. The computer-based tests are designed to adapt, depending on how difficult a child is finding them, and are not supposed to be seen as “high stakes” by children, parents or teachers. Initial plans to publish school-by-school results were abandoned after a backlash.

The first minister said: “The assessments are there for good reason. They produce lots of valuable information. Let’s take a step back from the politics of this. This is part of an approach to raise standards in our schools and close the attainment gap. Getting access to information about how young people are doing, to inform the judgment teachers make, is important. These assessments take less than an hour out of an entire school year.”

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said Ms Sturgeon was “deeply deluded” over the value of the tests.

He said: “It is an insult to teachers to make out testing takes up so little of their time and absolutely outrageous to suggest it gives them any information that they won’t have ascertained themselves over the nine or ten months they’ve been teaching them.

“The first minister is adamant her policy is worthwhile. But teachers across the country have made clear the information these tests produce does not provide them with any unique or useful information. The first minister’s misleading and obstinate approach is standing in the way of teachers being able to make the most of precious classroom time. This must end now.”


Duped by diversity: Colleges corrupt their curriculum to satisfy modern progressive sensibilities

Another new college year, another opportunity to teach students that “America was never that great,” to quote Gov. Cuomo. From the moment that college students set foot on campus, they will be inundated with the message that the United States in particular and Western civilization in general are the world’s primary sources of oppression and injustice.

That idea is rapidly infusing the world outside academia, as Cuomo’s recent comment suggests.

Here is what to expect over the next nine months.

The anti-meritocratic assault on science will accelerate. The lack of proportional representation of females, blacks and Hispanics in computer science, engineering, and other math-based fields will be attributed to a racist and sexist commitment to the “male-socialized traits” of “objectivity and rationality,” as a recent article in The Physics Teacher put it.

Teaching will be slowed down, and standards loosened (a process officially known as “culturally responsive pedagogy”), in an effort to “diversify” the STEM classroom. A professor at the University of Akron announced in May 2018 that he was boosting females’ grades in his Systems Integration class as part of a “national movement to encourage female students to go into information sciences.” He withdrew the policy after criticism from conservative media, but such efforts will continue in other forms.

The big tech companies will mimic this commitment to “diversity,” ordering recruiters and managers to prefer females and so-called applicants “of color” over white and Asian males. Medical schools will admit, hire and promote in part on the basis of race, rather than solely on academic qualifications.

The metastasizing campus diversity bureaucracy, costing taxpayers and parents millions of dollars a year, will drum into students that they are either victims or oppressors. Lavishly paid diversity deanlets and vice chancellors of equity and inclusion will propound a patently delusional idea: that to be a female or minority college student today is to be the target of life-threatening racism and sexism. (Never mind that these allegedly racist colleges employ large racial preferences to order to admit as many as “underrepresented minorities” as possible.)

Bias response teams, discrimination reporting hotlines, coursework on white privilege, workshops on toxic masculinity, faculty training in implicit bias — all will pour forth from university coffers in wild abandon. Universities will be held harmless for the resulting increases in tuition, which will be treated as a naturally occurring phenomenon, solvable only by more federal aid.

Self-engrossed students will jockey for position on the ruthlessly competitive totem pole of victimhood. While today the “trans” student reigns supreme, his/her/their/zhe position is not secure.

Let some creative students come up with a new category of oppression that is preventing them from studying for exams or attending class, and their college president will penitently promise to make amends by hiring more diversity bureaucrats and setting up academic programs in this newly discovered form of bias.

Students who have been primed to see oppression where none exists will carry that chip on the shoulder into the “real world.” It will prevent them from seizing the many opportunities available to them and will further engulf society in the culture of complaint.

The foundational belief in victimology will be leveraged to further suppress speech that challenges campus orthodoxies, all in the name of preventing existential harm to members of favored victim groups. The “real world” will follow suit and punish anyone who violates diversity taboos, as we saw this summer with the torpedoing of a qualified judicial nominee who had mocked racial identity politics as a college student and the firing of a Hollywood executive who had referred to black male-female dynamics as part of a script discussion.

If the Republicans hold the House in the mid-term elections, college administrators will probably deploy an army of petting dogs and cartloads of stress-reducing chocolates to protect student Resisters from trauma.

As for actual learning, our intellectual patrimony will be further eroded. Culturally illiterate students who could not name a single artist or philosopher from Periclean Athens, the Renaissance, or the Enlightenment will announce that Western civilization is racist and patriarchal. Being forced to study the West’s monumental accomplishments of imagination and reason, whether by Plato, Aeschylus, Mozart or Hume, jeopardizes their very survival, they will whine.

And their professors will kowtow to such ignorance and create more alternative courses based on an author’s gonads, melanin and sexual preference.

At Reed College, students calling themselves Reedies Against Racism occupied class sessions of the college’s signature humanities course during the 2016-17 academic year, surrounding the lecturers with denunciatory signs. Humanities 110, which had been taught since 1943, was a headlong plunge into the explosion of artistic creativity in the ancient Mediterranean world, starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh and ending with the Bible and Apuleius.

Too white, male and Eurocentric, whined the Reedies — even though early Mediterranean societies were neither exclusively white nor European. Naturally, the faculty caved, with the chair of Humanities 110 even praising the protesters for their fortitude in getting up at “9 in the morning, three days a week,” to occupy the class.

The new “decentered” course bumps an as-yet-unspecified number of texts to make room for two new modules on Mexico City in the 15th through 20th centuries and Harlem from 1919 to 1952.

While these substituted periods contain works worthy of studying, they fail to expose students to the building blocks of Western literature and philosophy; they were chosen simply to meet an identity-based political agenda.

Reedies Against Racism, of course, were not placated. The new Humanities 110 should focus on cities outside Europe, “as reparations for Humanities 110’s history of erasing the histories of people of color, especially black people,” they complained in a post.

A class called Major English Poets has been the gateway into Yale’s English major for decades, exposing students systematically to the most influential poets of English literature: Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Milton and Wordsworth.

Such foundational significance is irrelevant, according to the nearly 160 students who circulated a petition in 2016 against the class. “A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity,” the petition declared. “The Major English Poets sequences creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color.”

In response, Yale’s English faculty remained resolutely mum about why these poets are so central and why students are privileged to immerse themselves in their works. Instead, they meekly removed the requirement that English majors take the course and created an alternative sequence that has “inclusion as its goal,” Yale’s director of undergraduate studies told the Yale Daily News. No period will “simply and exclusively focus on the writing representations of aristocratic white men,” another English professor explained — even if the greatest writers in any given period happen to be, irrelevantly, “aristocratic white men.”

Education in the monuments of the human imagination must now take the back seat to identity politics.

At the University of Pennsylvania in 2016, students removed a large print of Shakespeare from the English department and replaced it with a photograph of Audre Lord, a self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” In response, the department chair blandly invited “everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols.”

Here’s what he should have said instead when students first complained about the unsafe space created by the Bard’s picture: “Please provide your analysis of ‘Hamlet,’ ‘King Lear,’ ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Twelfth Night.’ Until you read Shakespeare, there is no negotiating over him.”

To see the local effects of academic diversity ideology, look no further than Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s war on school standards. Their plans to scrap objective entrance tests to the city’s selective high schools and middle schools parrot the specious rhetoric of “privilege” and “bias” that college victimologists have perfected. In fact, there is no better guard against bias and inequality than color-blind, high standards and the expectation that all students will work hard to meet them.

De Blasio and Carranza’s grotesquely wasteful $23 million anti-bias training for the city’s teachers is also a direct import from the university. Education schools marinate already left-leaning students in social justice theory to produce the most “progressive” profession on earth. Yet we are to believe that these immaculately “anti-racist” teachers are discriminating against students of color in their grading and disciplinary practices and are in need of another taxpayer-funded boondoggle in order to overcome their racism.

The solution to corrosive identity politics lies in a return to universities’ core mission: joyfully passing on the precious inheritance of Western civilization, which happens to have been disproportionately shaped by white males.

If a work by an allegedly “marginalized” author is unknown and great, by all means include it in the canon, not because of social justice but in order to discover new sources of pleasure and enlightenment.

But to pretend that Western civilization is not worth studying and respecting because it does not happen to reflect the gender and racial diversity of American cities, or the uber-liberal values of students who attend universities today, is pure bunk.

Until universities return to their core mission, the diversity delusion will continue poisoning and dividing the country.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Book Takes On The Coddling Of American Minds

Rachel Martin talks to co-author Jonathan Haidt, who argues in a new book that a culture of "safetyism" — including safe spaces and trigger warnings — is setting up a generation for failure.


College campuses face a question - how to balance free speech against demands for safe spaces and trigger warnings. You may recall that last year, students at the University of California at Berkeley demanded the cancellation of speeches by conservative commentators Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter.

INSKEEP: In Vermont, students at Middlebury College shouted down controversial speaker Charles Murray.

INSKEEP: A new book argues that such efforts on campus are harming an entire generation's intellectual development because they're shutting out ideas. The book is called "The Coddling Of The American Mind." It's written by free speech activist Greg Lukianoff and New York University Professor Jonathan Haidt. Both have spent a lot of time in classrooms. They're used to students being provocative, and that was the starting point for Rachel Martin's conversation with Jonathan Haidt.

JONATHAN HAIDT: But then suddenly around 2014, students began objecting to things that we thought were just strange and sometimes objecting in ways like not coming to talk to us but reporting us to authorities. So, you know, I showed a 19th-century painting of Ulysses tied to a mast, and it showed the sirens, and the sirens are topless as sirens tend to be, and someone complained that this was sexist for me to show this. Nationally, people are complaining about Halloween costumes or not even the costumes but the possibility, a memo, about Halloween costumes. Just - there seemed to be a lot more conflict over things that seemed not malintentioned, often even helpful. And so a lot of us began to feel we don't understand our students. That some of them - and again, this is not most - but a subgroup were becoming kind of thin-skinned and sometimes kind of vindictive in ways that just were hard to understand.


Although, we should point out the other view on this - right? - is that these students are speaking out for the first time, whereas before maybe they did not feel empowered to do so if someone were to say something that they would perceive as racist or misogynist or that that did, quote, unquote, "trigger" a past trauma.

HAIDT: Well, students have been very outspoken about these issues for as long as I've been in the academy - in fact, when I was a student in the '80s. So it's not that students are suddenly empowered to speak out. It's that many students seem to be interpreting things not through the lens of is this right or wrong, or even is this offensive or acceptable, but is this dangerous or safe? And this, we think, is what is so damaging.

MARTIN: You identify three great untruths. You want to tick through those? I know we could talk for a long time about each of them, but can you explain what they are?

HAIDT: Sure. So my first book was about these psychological ideas that the ancients had - East and West. And what Greg and I found is that on college campuses nowadays, you can find areas in the curriculum or various departments where students are being taught exactly the opposite. So the first great untruth that we talk about is what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. So obviously, everybody knows the, you know, the great truth is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger because people are anti-fragile. We actually need challenges. We need to sometimes even be afraid in order to overcome our fears. And if we try to protect kids from that, we actually are damaging them. The second great untruth is always trust your feelings. Students are, again, increasingly told that their feelings are a legitimate guide to reality...

MARTIN: You don't think students should trust their feelings?

HAIDT: Well, the whole point of cognitive behavioral therapy is that we engage in emotional reasoning. This is what people do, and this is what anxious and depressed people do a lot more, is if I feel unsafe that means I am unsafe. If I'm not fully comfortable around someone, that means they don't like me, and that is often wrong. But when people's feelings become acceptable as an argument in class, we are doing the opposite of teaching them critical thinking skills.

MARTIN: And lastly, life is a battle between good people and evil people?

HAIDT: Oh, yes. This is the most important one. So my second book was all about how we are by nature tribal creatures. We are so good at dividing ourselves into us and them and then hating them and organizing to fight them. So that's wonderful if you're doing a gang fight or a war, but a college is a special place. What we're trying to do is turn down the tribalism, turn down the combat mode. And only then can we engage in curiosity mode or truth-seeking mode. So to the extent that we play up identity, to the extent that as soon as students arrive on campus, they're often hit by a lot of programming that emphasizes identity issues, that encourages them to see each other in terms of their identities. This is so contrary to the most basic principles of social psychology, which are that we should be emphasizing our common identity, our common humanity, and then we'll be much better able to deal with issues of injustice and exclusion.

MARTIN: Although, can you make the argument that, in colleges especially, this is the place where you are supposed to learn how to grapple with difficult ideas in the real world? And so why not set up buffers to kind of curate those debates, trigger warnings or allowing certain students to opt out of certain assignments?

HAIDT: Well, on the surface, that sounds very sensible, reasonable and nice. But Americans have been grossly overprotecting their kids since the 1990s. So our kids have already had - they've already gotten the kid-glove treatment. College is their first chance to really get out of that. There already are enormous buffers and safeguards. We have wonderful norms of civility. But actually, here I'd love to turn to one of my favorite quotes in the book. This is from Van Jones. So, you know, Obama's green energy czar. He's been just speaking wonderfully about the political situation in this country and the need to deal with it more productively. So when he was at the University of Chicago, he was asked by David Axelrod about all this stuff, about trigger warnings or, you know, what should universities do to protect students from politically offensive speakers. And he says - this is amazing - he says I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong. That's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. So Van Jones really gets anti-fragility. He really gets that that great untruth - what doesn't kill you makes you weaker - is wrong. It's terrible advice for how to deal with students.

MARTIN: The book is called "The Coddling Of The American Mind," written by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. Thank you so much for your time, Jonathan.


Harvard’s Jewish president wants to restore faith in higher education

Harvard University Jewish students take note: You may want to be on your best behavior during High Holiday services.

Lawrence Bacow, who began his new position as the Harvard president on July 1, and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow, plan to spend some of the High Holidays at religious services at the Ivy League school’s Hillel. The Jewish couple met on the campus more than 40 years ago, when Bacow began Harvard Law School, he recalled.

Attending student services was a habit he picked up in his previous job, president of Tufts University, a nearby Boston-area school.

“We plan to follow a similar pattern and split our time between our synagogue, where we have deep ties and have belonged for a very long time,” Bacow told JTA in a recent conversation at his spacious new office in Loeb House, a stately early 20th-century building within the gates of Harvard Yard. “From time to time we’ll be spending time with the students.”

Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, executive director of the Harvard Hillel, told JTA in an email: “Students in our community are thrilled at seeing someone who cares so deeply about Jewish identity and tradition assume the presidency of Harvard. It will be a joy to have Larry and Adele as part of our Jewish community.”

Bacow, 67, said he intends to draw on that identity and tradition in restoring faith in higher education, a field under scrutiny for its enormous price tags and perceptions of elitism and political bias. He is concerned about affordability, and that the value of higher education is now questioned among parents and the broader public.

“These are tough times for higher education,” Bacow acknowledged in the conversation with JTA.

Bacow, a longtime advocate for public higher education, intends to use his new high-profile leadership position to impart the “enduring values of colleges as enablers of the American dream,” citing himself as a good example.

As the son of immigrants who had nothing when they arrived in this country, he credited higher education with allowing him to succeed. Bacow wants to ensure that opportunity is available to future generations — and now he has a national platform to address the subject.

“I really see this in many respects as a call to public service,” he said, and not just a chance to lead Harvard.

Appointed in February as Harvard’s 29th president, Bacow succeeds Drew Gilpin Faust, the college’s first woman president, who stepped down in June after serving 11 years. He is the school’s third Jewish president, preceded by Neil Rudenstine (1991-2001) and Lawrence Summers (2001-2006).

Bacow, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduated from Harvard Law and also earned his doctorate from Harvard, in public policy. He’s an economist and a specialist in environmental policy.

After 24 years at MIT, where he taught and served in senior leadership positions, Bacow became president of Tufts. In his decade there, he was credited with transforming the liberal arts school into one with a competitive global presence and expanding accessibility for students from families with low and modest incomes.

Following Tufts, he was a senior scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and at its Kennedy School of Government.

Born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan, Bacow grew up in a family deeply engaged in Jewish life.

His father, Mitchell, who died in 2007, was a refugee who fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. His German-born mother, Ruth, who died in 1994, was a Holocaust survivor — the lone Jewish survivor from her town. Bacow, a warm and engaging conversationalist, spoke openly about their poignant life stories and the influence it continues to play in his personal life and profession.

“I had a very unusual upbringing as a child of a survivor,” he said. “I’ve seen the literature of children of survivors, and that was not my experience. My mother was not protective of me.” Defying some stereotypes about survivor parents, “She actually encouraged me to take risks.”

His mother was beloved for her sunny disposition and was a strong woman, he recalled.

Bacow said his parents instilled in him and his sister a sense of gratitude and a responsibility to share their good fortune.

In his relationships with students, he said he has tried to convey that “all of us … fortunate to study and work at a place like this bear a special responsibility to use this education and this opportunity to make the world a better place and to help those less fortunate.”

At one time his family belonged to the city’s two congregations, Bacow said with a chuckle.

“Life revolved around the synagogue,” he said, where he recalled spending four or five days each week, in Hebrew school and religious services.

It’s a tradition he has carried throughout his life. The Bacows are regular Saturday morning minyan goers at Temple Emanuel, a Conservative congregation in Newton, the Boston suburb where they raised their now-grown sons.

Bacow served for a time on the Hebrew College board in Newton Centre and in 2004 received an honorary degree from there. In a speech at the commencement, he challenged the notion that anti-Semitism was rampant on American college campuses, calling it a “gross distortion,” as described in a recent Harvard Magazine profile.

A critic of petitions on colleges to divest from Israel, including one at Tufts, Bacow nonetheless cautioned in his address that labeling boycott proponents anti-Semitic shuts down conversation. He recommended viewing such disputes as a teachable moment.

Bacow describes himself as a passionate champion of free speech and academic freedom. “Veritas,” or truth, is the Harvard motto. “‘Emet’ in Hebrew,” Bacow said. “Universities are fundamentally about the search for truth.”

Debate is healthy, he believes.

“We need to go out of our way to make sure people don’t feel excluded or marginalized,” Bacow said. But “fundamentally, we have to stand for academic freedom. It’s a core value of the academic mission.”

Over the years, he has shared his expertise with several Hebrew College presidents, including Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, whose presidency did not overlap with Bacow’s time on the board. With that school weighed down by debt, Bacow was generous in offering guidance on a range of issues, from attracting new sources of revenue to expanding student enrollment, Lehmann told JTA in a phone conversation.

“He was comfortable about being explicit about his Jewish commitments,” said Lehmann, now president of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. “He wants to see American Judaism flourish. For someone in his position, that is quite remarkable.”

Bacow’s staunch belief in a richly diverse undergraduate experience is being challenged in a high-profile federal lawsuit brought against Harvard by Students for Fair Admissions asserting that the school’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American students. It’s a claim the school and Bacow deny. The case is expected to be heard beginning in October.

Harvard attracts more than 40,000 applicants each year and accepts only a small portion, Bacow said. But he said the school embraces diversity in its admissions — from academic and extracurricular interests to geography — to enhance the experience of its students.

He is familiar with those who compare the claims about Asian-American admissions to the quotas used against Jews applying to Harvard and other colleges in the 1930s and 1940s.

“Sadly, in times past, at many universities, there were quotas against Jews,” Bacow said. “This is totally different. There are no quotas here. We are not discriminating.”

Bacow said the percentage of Asian-American students enrolled at Harvard has increased more than 25 percent in the past eight years and “The data at trial will show that.”


AUSTRALIAN experts have called for a blanket ban on mobile phones in primary schools after France outlawed the devices

As a safety measure they should be usable as soon as school is out

EDUCATIONAL experts have called for a blanket ban on mobile phones in Australian primary schools to ensure children are no longer distracted, socially isolated, or bullied using the technology.

The call comes as the French Government banned all students under the age of 15 from using smartphones during school hours, and just months after one state launched an inquiry into whether Australia should follow its lead.

Currently, individual schools are allowed to set their own mobile phone guidelines in all Australian states, even though research has shown struggling students get better marks once smartphones are removed from schools.

About 89 per cent of Aussie students admit to using the devices in class.

Extend After School Care chief executive Darren Stevenson backed France’s ban on mobile phone use for young students, saying the devices were an unnecessary distraction for students and encouraged anti-social behaviour. “Mobile phones do not have a place in the school classroom,” he said.

“By and large, mobile phones should be banned from primary schools. Really, they should only be used as a telephone device, when necessary, so a young person can contact a parent or a caregiver. They’re not an effective learning tool.”

Mr Stevenson said he regularly witnessed young students isolate themselves from others to look at their phones and, without guidance or restrictions, the devices could see them fail to develop real-world social skills.

“The mobile phone is a device that can significantly influence the behaviour of a young person, so when they have opportunities to build relationships or work in a team, it takes that opportunity away from them,” he said.

“As adults and professional educators, allowing that is not responsible. That borders on issues around duty of care for young people.”

It’s a proposal backed by incoming University of New South Wales education professor Dr Pasi Sahlberg, who said a “clear ban” on smartphones in primary schools “would be the easiest for everyone,” though he also recommended educating students to regulate their use of technology.

“I have heard hundreds of stories from teachers here and abroad how having your smartphone in your pocket and sensing the incoming messages vibrating (distracts) students’ attention from learning,” he said.

“Many teachers are upset that they have to serve as police officers, hunting down misusers and those who violate in-school or classroom-based rules.”

Calls for Australian guidelines came after the French Government banned all students under 15 from using mobile phones during school hours, preventing children from using the devices between classes.

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said the move was designed to limit distractions and cyber bullying, as well as encouraging children to socialise.

“These days the children don’t play at break time anymore,” he said. “They are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view that’s a problem.”

A study from youth advisory group Year13 found 89 per cent of Australian students had used their mobile phones in the classroom regardless of their school’s policy, and a report from the British Centre of Economic Performance found banning mobile phone in school improved students’ performance by more than six per cent.

“Banning mobile phones improves outcomes for the low-achieving students the most and has no significant impact on high achievers,” the authors concluded.

The NSW state government has also launched a study into the effect of banning mobile phones from schools, releasing terms of reference for the inquiry late last week.

The investigation, led by child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, will consider phone bans in France and Albania, as well as the technology’s links to cyber bullying and sexting, with recommendations expected by the end of the year.

But Western Sydney University technology and learning researcher Dr Joanne Orlando said an outright ban on smartphones would not eliminate bullying behaviour and could have a chilling effect on students, particularly in high schools.

“When I talk to teenagers about these sort of bans, they normally saying something like ‘well, that just means I have to use my phone in a less obvious way’,” she said. “It can lead to children being more secretive in their phone use and that means adults and teachers might not be made aware when things go wrong.”

Dr Orlando said students of all ages should be taught about the safe use of technology, including smartphones, and “extensive research” was required before national guidelines could be set.


Monday, September 10, 2018

The real reason degrees are getting easier

'Learning objectives’ have reduced higher education to tick-box training

Grade inflation in British universities is rocketing. A report published by the educational charity, Reform, reveals that from 1997 to 2009, the proportion of first-class degrees awarded almost doubled from seven to 13 per cent. From 2010 to 2017, the proportion of firsts doubled again from 13 to 26 per cent, climbing from 22 to 26 per cent from 2016 to 2017 alone. The percentage of students getting a 2:1 has also increased from 40 to 49 per cent since 1995, when figures were first recorded. The proportion of students getting a good honours degree (a first or 2:1) has increased from 40 to 75 per cent since 1995.

The Reform study rightly dismisses most of the usual explanations for this, which all fall under the broad heading of ‘marketisation’, such as league-table competition and students seeing themselves as ‘customers’. These trends may be worth challenging in themselves, but as the report notes, there is little research evidence demonstrating the impact of these changes on grades.

Instead, it suggests grade inflation can be put down to two main causes. The first is the use of ‘degree algorithms’, which are used to translate marks achieved during a degree programme into a final classification. Around half of the UK’s universities have changed their algorithms over the past five years. They made these changes to try to ensure that students are graded similarly to those at comparable institutions. One way these algorithms cause grade inflation is that many of them effectively discount poor performance in one or more modules, which leads to a higher final result.

Secondly, the study confirms what academics already knew to be true anecdotally – that lecturers are being pressured to mark their students more generously, particularly those from disadvantaged or minority groups. Most lecturers simply comply with these demands. And when others insist on maintaining standards in the face of this pressure, they tend to get into trouble with university managers. They can also find themselves isolated by colleagues who see high standards as a threat to achieving social justice.

But while algorithms and managerial pressure have played a role, the Reform report misses another important factor: the introduction of ‘learning objectives’, which spell out what students are expected to learn, and ‘marking criteria’, which assess students’ work according to these objectives. These criteria degrade education enormously, turning the pursuit of knowledge and insight into a regurgitative, tick-box exercise. If a student has to write a 3,000-word essay on a topic with six learning objectives, the easiest approach to get the top grade is to write 500 words on each objective. The lecturer then marks it in accordance with the matching marking criteria. Lazy student work is met with lazy marking by lecturers. Under this instrumentalist approach, marks inevitably increase and standards decline.

This style of teaching and marking reflects the transformation of higher education into what is, in effect, higher training. Working to reach tick-box objectives is usually a feature of training programmes, where at each stage people are required to demonstrate that they have acquired a particular skill. In education, however, students are supposed to learn and develop their ideas in response to criticism – it’s a naturally more open-ended process.

The shift towards this tick-box culture is often blamed on marketisation and the introduction of business-like practices into universities. But it is really the result of academics’ failure to defend education as an end in itself. Few challenged the introduction of ‘learning objectives’ and few today challenge their consequences.


Texas Republican mad at proposal to remove 'heroic' from Alamo class

Social studies classes for seventh graders in Texas schools may omit the word 'heroic' when talking about the men who guarded the Alamo.

The Texas State Board of Education's advisory panel suggested the change in efforts to tackle the restructuring of the curriculum, claiming that 'heroic' was a 'value-charged word.'

The curriculum currently states that the 'siege of the Alamo and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there,' according to Dallas News. The phrase 'and all of the heroic defenders who gave their lives there' would be cut.

'Stop political correctness in our schools,' Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said on Thursday.

'Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were 'Heroic'! I fully expect the State Board of Education to agree. Contact your SBOE Member to complain.'

George P. Bush, state land commissioner, also voiced his disdain for a plan to allow students to not have to write a separate assignment about 'the Travis Letter,' written by Lieutenant Colonel William Barrett Travis at the Alamo during the battle. 

'This politically correct nonsense is why I'll always fight to honor the Alamo defenders' sacrifice,' he said. 'His letter & the defenders' actions must remain at the very core of TX history teaching. This is not debatable to me.'

The letter could be included in overall Alamo teaching, however.

Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, explained to the Dallas News that they had aimed to see if things could 'be reduced by either deleting information, combining standards or clarifying.'

Ratcliffe added: 'That was the goal. They suggested deleting the Travis letter because they think when teachers talk about the Alamo they will absolutely mention it, but not having it outlined specifically just meant teachers would spend less time on it.'

According to a tweet from the Board of Education, a public hearing will be held on Tuesday.

'The #TXSBOE will hold public hearings Tuesday on language arts and reading textbooks and social studies standards,' the tweet said.

The Battle of the Alamo is regarded as the climax of the Texas Revolution, but is seen as a controversial topic in depicting who the actual heroes were.

For 'Anglo' United States immigrants at the time, annexation meant freeing the state from the autocratic rule of Mexico and General Santa Ana. These white Texan immigrants also wanted to maintain slavery as the Mexican government had abolished all forms of the human enslavement in 1829.

'The early depictions of Texas history was good guys against bad guys, white guys against brown guys, democracy against tyranny,' said James Crisp, a historian at North Carolina State University, according to Splinter News.

'Then, there was a counter-story switching good guys and bad guys—the Americans were all racist, taking the Mexicans' land. Both of those stories are way overly simplistic.' 


You must NOT argue that men and women are born different

Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole

Theodore P. Hill

In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’ (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom.

Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.

Darwin had also raised the question of why males in many species might have evolved to be more variable than females, and when I learned that the answer to his question remained elusive, I set out to look for a scientific explanation. My aim was not to prove or disprove that the hypothesis applies to human intelligence or to any other specific traits or species, but simply to discover a logical reason that could help explain how gender differences in variability might naturally arise in the same species.

I came up with a simple intuitive mathematical argument based on biological and evolutionary principles and enlisted Sergei Tabachnikov, a Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, to help me flesh out the model. When I posted a preprint on the open-access mathematics archives in May of last year, a variability researcher at Durham University in the UK got in touch by email. He described our joint paper as “an excellent summary of the research to date in this field,” adding that “it certainly underpins my earlier work on impulsivity, aggression and general evolutionary theory and it is nice to see an actual theoretical model that can be drawn upon in discussion (which I think the literature, particularly in education, has lacked to date). I think this is a welcome addition to the field.”

So far, so good.

Once we had written up our findings, Sergei and I decided to try for publication in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the ‘Viewpoint’ section of which specifically welcomes articles on contentious topics. The Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and the History of Science at Smith College. She liked our draft, and declared herself to be untroubled by the prospect of controversy. “In principle,” she told Sergei in an email, “I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one. After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protestors had read the book they were protesting, we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard, and providing links to them.”

Professor Senechal suggested that we might enliven our paper by mentioning Harvard President Larry Summers, who was swiftly defenestrated in 2005 for saying that the GMVH might be a contributing factor to the dearth of women in physics and mathematics departments at top universities. With her editorial guidance, our paper underwent several further revisions until, on April 3, 2017, our manuscript was officially accepted for publication. The paper was typeset in India, and proofread by an assistant editor who is also a mathematics professor in Kansas. It was scheduled to appear in the international journal’s first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation. All normal academic procedure.

*     *     *

Coincidentally, at about the same time, anxiety about gender-parity erupted in Silicon Valley. The same anti-variability argument used to justify the sacking of President Summers resurfaced when Google engineer James Damore suggested that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley hi-tech jobs. For sending out an internal memo to that effect, he too was summarily fired.

No sooner had Sergei posted a preprint of our accepted article on his website than we began to encounter problems. On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women. “As a matter of principle,” she wrote, “I support people discussing controversial matters openly … At the same time, I think it’s good to be aware of the effects.” While she was obviously able to debate the merits of our paper, she worried that other, presumably less sophisticated, readers “will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas…”

A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”

On September 4, Sergei sent me a weary email. “The scandal at our department,” he wrote, “shows no signs of receding.” At a faculty meeting the week before, the Department Head had explained that sometimes values such as academic freedom and free speech come into conflict with other values to which Penn State was committed. A female colleague had then instructed Sergei that he needed to admit and fight bias, adding that the belief that “women have a lesser chance to succeed in mathematics at the very top end is bias.” Sergei said he had spent “endless hours” talking to people who explained that the paper was “bad and harmful” and tried to convince him to “withdraw my name to restore peace at the department and to avoid losing whatever political capital I may still have.” Ominously, “analogies with scientific racism were made by some; I am afraid, we are likely to hear more of it in the future.”

The following day, I wrote to the three organisers of the WIM lunch and offered to address any concrete concerns they might have with our logic or conclusions or any other content. I explained that, since I was the paper’s lead author, it was not fair that my colleague should be expected to take all the heat for our findings. I added that it would still be possible to revise our article before publication. I never received a response.

Instead, on September 8, Sergei and I were ambushed by two unexpected developments.

First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science.

The ostensible reason for this request was that our paper was unrelated to Sergei’s funded proposal. However, a Freedom of Information request subsequently revealed that Penn State WIM administrator Diane Henderson (“Professor and Chair of the Climate and Diversity Committee”) and Nate Brown (“Professor and Associate Head for Diversity and Equity”) had secretly co-signed a letter to the NSF that same morning. “Our concern,” they explained, “is that [this] paper appears to promote pseudoscientific ideas that are detrimental to the advancement of women in science, and at odds with the values of the NSF.” Unaware of this at the time, and eager to err on the side of compromise, Sergei and I agreed to remove the acknowledgement as requested. At least, we thought, the paper was still on track to be published.

But, that same day, the Mathematical Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief Marjorie Senechal notified us that, with “deep regret,” she was rescinding her previous acceptance of our paper. “Several colleagues,” she wrote, had warned her that publication would provoke “extremely strong reactions” and there existed a “very real possibility that the right-wing media may pick this up and hype it internationally.” For the second time in a single day I was left flabbergasted. Working mathematicians are usually thrilled if even five people in the world read our latest article. Now some progressive faction was worried that a fairly straightforward logical argument about male variability might encourage the conservative press to actually read and cite a science paper?

In my 40 years of publishing research papers I had never heard of the rejection of an already-accepted paper. And so I emailed Professor Senechal. She replied that she had received no criticisms on scientific grounds and that her decision to rescind was entirely about the reaction she feared our paper would elicit. By way of further explanation, Senechal even compared our paper to the Confederate statues that had recently been removed from the courthouse lawn in Lexington, Kentucky. In the interests of setting our arguments in a more responsible context, she proposed instead that Sergei and I participate in a ‘Round Table’ discussion of our hypothesis argument, the proceedings of which the Intelligencer would publish in lieu of our paper. Her decision, we learned, enjoyed the approval of Springer, one of the world’s leading publishers of scientific books and journals. An editorial director of Springer Mathematics later apologized to me twice, in person, but did nothing to reverse the decision or to support us at the time.

So what in the world had happened at the Intelligencer? Unbeknownst to us, Amie Wilkinson, a senior professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, had become aware of our paper and written to the journal to complain. A back-and-forth had ensued. Wilkinson then enlisted the support of her father—a psychometrician and statistician—who wrote to the Intelligencer at his daughter’s request to express his own misgivings, including his belief that “[t]his article oversimplifies the issues to the point of embarrassment.” Invited by Professor Senechal to participate in the proposed Round Table discussion, he declined, admitting to Senechal that “others are more expert on this than he is.” We discovered all this after he gave Senechal permission to forward his letter, inadvertently revealing Wilkinson’s involvement in the process (an indiscretion his daughter would later—incorrectly—blame on the Intelligencer).

I wrote polite emails directly to both Wilkinson and her father, explaining that I planned to revise the paper for resubmission elsewhere and asking for their criticisms or suggestions. (I also sent a more strongly worded, point-by-point rebuttal to her father.) Neither replied. Instead, even long after the Intelligencer rescinded acceptance of the paper, Wilkinson continued to trash both the journal and its editor-in-chief on social media, inciting her Facebook friends with the erroneous allegation that an entirely different (and more contentious) article had been accepted.

At this point, faced with career-threatening reprisals from their own departmental colleagues and the diversity committee at Penn State, as well as displeasure from the NSF, Sergei and his colleague who had done computer simulations for us withdrew their names from the research. Fortunately for me, I am now retired and rather less easily intimidated—one of the benefits of being a Vietnam combat veteran and former U.S. Army Ranger, I guess. So, I continued to revise the paper, and finally posted it on the online mathematics archives.

*     *     *

On October 13, a lifeline appeared. Igor Rivin, an editor at the widely respected online research journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, got in touch with me. He had learned about the article from my erstwhile co-author, read the archived version, and asked me if I’d like to submit a newly revised draft for publication. Rivin said that Mark Steinberger, the NYJM’s editor-in-chief, was also very positive and that they were confident the paper could be refereed fairly quickly. I duly submitted a new draft (this time as the sole author) and, after a very positive referee’s report and a handful of supervised revisions, Steinberger wrote to confirm publication on November 6, 2017. Relieved that the ordeal was finally over, I forwarded the link to interested colleagues.

Three days later, however, the paper had vanished. And a few days after that, a completely different paper by different authors appeared at exactly the same page of the same volume (NYJM Volume 23, p 1641+) where mine had once been. As it turned out, Amie Wilkinson is married to Benson Farb, a member of the NYJM editorial board. Upon discovering that the journal had published my paper, Professor Farb had written a furious email to Steinberger demanding that it be deleted at once. “Rivin,” he complained, “is well-known as a person with extremist views who likes to pick fights with people via inflammatory statements.” Farb’s “father-in law…a famous statistician,” he went on, had “already poked many holes in the ridiculous paper.” My paper was “politically charged” and “pseudoscience” and “a piece of crap” and, by encouraging the NYJM to accept it, Rivin had “violat[ed] a scientific duty for purely political ends.”

Unaware of any of this, I wrote to Steinberger on November 14, to find out what had happened. I pointed out that if the deletion were permanent, it would leave me in an impossible position. I would not be able to republish anywhere else because I would be unable to sign a copyright form declaring that it had not already been published elsewhere. Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated. “A publication in a dead journal,” he offered, “wouldn’t help you.”

*     *     *

Colleagues I spoke to were appalled. None of them had ever heard of a paper in any field being disappeared after formal publication. Rejected prior to publication? Of course. Retracted? Yes, but only after an investigation, the results of which would then be made public by way of explanation. But simply disappeared? Never. If a formally refereed and published paper can later be erased from the scientific record and replaced by a completely different article, without any discussion with the author or any announcement in the journal, what will this mean for the future of electronic journals?

Meanwhile, Professor Wilkinson had now widened her existing social media campaign against the Intelligencer to include attacks on the NYJM and its editorial staff. As recently as April of this year, she was threatening Facebook friends with ‘unfriending’ unless they severed social media ties with Rivin.

In early February, a friend and colleague suggested that I write directly to University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer to complain about the conduct of Farb and Wilkinson, both of whom are University of Chicago professors. The previous October, the conservative New York Times columnist Bret Stephens had called Zimmer “America’s Best University President.” The week after I wrote to Zimmer, the Wall Street Journal would describe Chicago as “The Free-Speech University” based upon its president’s professed commitment to the principles of free inquiry and expression. Furthermore, Professor Zimmer is a mathematician from the same department and even the same subfield as Farb and Wilkinson, the husband-wife team who had successfully suppressed my variability hypothesis research and trampled on the principles of academic liberty. Surely I would receive a sympathetic hearing there?

And so I wrote directly to Professor Zimmer, mathematician to mathematician, detailing five concrete allegations against his two colleagues. When I eventually received a formal response in late April, it was a somewhat terse official letter from the vice-provost informing me that an inquiry had found no evidence of “academic fraud” and that, consequently, “the charges have been dismissed.” But I had made no allegation of academic fraud. I had alleged “unprofessional, uncollegial, and unethical conduct damaging to my professional reputation and to the reputation of the University of Chicago.”

When I appealed the decision to the president, I received a second official letter from the vice-provost, in which he argued that Farb and Wilkinson had “exercised their academic freedom in advocating against the publication of the papers” and that their behavior had not been either “unethical or unprofessional.” A reasonable inference is that I was the one interfering in their academic freedom and not vice versa. My quarrel, the vice-provost concluded, was with the editors-in-chief who had spiked my papers, decisions for which the University of Chicago bore no responsibility. At the Free Speech University, it turns out, talk is cheap.

*     *     *

Over the years there has undoubtedly been significant bias and discrimination against women in mathematics and technical fields. Unfortunately, some of that still persists, even though many of us have tried hard to help turn the tide. My own efforts have included tutoring and mentoring female undergraduates, graduating female PhD students, and supporting hiring directives from deans and departmental chairs to seek out and give special consideration to female candidates. I have been invited to serve on two National Science Foundation gender and race diversity panels in Washington.

Which is to say that I understand the importance of the causes that equal opportunity activists and progressive academics are ostensibly championing. But pursuit of greater fairness and equality cannot be allowed to interfere with dispassionate academic study. No matter how unwelcome the implications of a logical argument may be, it must be allowed to stand or fall on its merits not its desirability or political utility. First Harvard, then Google, and now the editors-in-chief of two esteemed scientific journals, the National Science Foundation, and the international publisher Springer have all surrendered to demands from the radical academic Left to suppress a controversial idea. Who will be the next, and for what perceived transgression? If bullying and censorship are now to be re-described as ‘advocacy’ and ‘academic freedom,’ as the Chicago administrators would have it, they will simply replace empiricism and rational discourse as the academic instruments of choice.

Educators must practice what we preach and lead by example. In this way, we can help to foster intellectual curiosity and the discovery of fresh reasoning so compelling that it causes even the most sceptical to change their minds. But this necessarily requires us to reject censorship and open ourselves to the civil discussion of sensitive topics such as gender differences, and the variability hypothesis in particular. In 2015, the University of Chicago’s Committee on Freedom of Expression summarized the importance of this principle beautifully in a report commissioned by none other than Professor Robert Zimmer:

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.