Friday, October 05, 2018

Teachers and Students Get Shortchanged by K-12 Spending Priorities

The United States is the fourth leading country in per-capita spending on K-12 education—trailing only Norway, Austria, and Luxembourg, according to the available data. But the U.S. spends only 54 percent of its education dollars on teacher compensation, compared to an average of 63 percent for developed countries. In a new op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger, author of Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children, puts these dire percentages into perspective.

U.S. schools have seen the supply of teachers grow faster than student enrollment—a rate of five to one since 1969—but the number of school administrators has grown even faster, outpacing enrollment by more than eight to one, according to Alger. “Had the growth in administration simply matched student-enrollment growth starting in fiscal year 1992, public schools would have saved enough money to give every teacher a permanent raise of more than $11,000,” Alger writes.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of Education, which was created in 1979 to “improve administrative streamlining and provide expert leadership,” has been an utter failure. And while the agency has recently lifted hundreds of regulations on public education, spending priorities are unlikely to improve significantly until parents are allowed to exert meaningful control over their children’s education funding. “Evidence suggests that student achievement and teacher salaries are higher when parents—not bureaucrats—control where and how their children are educated,” Alger writes.


Obama’s Anti-Discipline Policies Set Our Students Up for Failure

President Barack Obama’s first education secretary, Arne Duncan, gave a speech on the 45th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where, in 1965, state troopers beat and tear-gassed hundreds of peaceful civil rights marchers who were demanding voting rights.

Later that year, as a result of widespread support across the nation, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. Duncan titled his speech “Crossing the Next Bridge.” Duncan told the crowd that black students “are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers,” adding that Martin Luther King would be “dismayed.”

Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and her special assistant and counselor, Alison Somin, have written an important article in the Texas Review of Law and Politics, titled “The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline” (Spring 2018).

The article is about the departments of Education and Justice’s “disparate impact” vision, wherein they see racial discrimination as the factor that explains why black male students face suspension and expulsion more often than other students.

Faced with threats from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, schools have instituted new disciplinary policies. For example, after the public school district in Oklahoma City was investigated by the office, there was a 42.5 percent decrease in the number of suspensions.

According to an article in The Oklahoman, one teacher said, “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting, and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors.” According to Chalkbeat, new high school teachers left one school because they didn’t feel safe. There have been cases in which students have assaulted teachers and returned to school the next day.

Many of the complaints about black student behavior are coming from black teachers. I doubt whether they could be accused of racial discrimination against black students.

The first vice president of the St. Paul, Minnesota, chapter of the NAACP said it’s “very disturbing” that the school district would retaliate against a black teacher “for simply voicing the concern” that when black students are not held accountable for misbehaving, they are set up for failure in life.

An article in Education Week earlier this year, titled “When Students Assault Teachers, Effects Can Be Lasting,” discusses the widespread assaults of teachers across the country: “In the 2015-16 school year, 5.8 percent of the nation’s 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student. Almost 10 percent were threatened with injury, according to federal education data.”

Measures that propose harsh punishment for students who assault teachers have not been successful. In North Carolina, a bill was introduced that proposed that students 16 or older could be charged with a felony if they assaulted a teacher. It was opposed by children’s advocacy and disability rights groups.

In Minnesota, a 2016 bill would have required school boards to automatically expel a student who threatened or inflicted bodily harm on a teacher for up to a year. It, too, was opposed, even in light of the fact that teachers have suffered serious bodily harm, such as the case in which a high school student slammed a teacher into a concrete wall and then squeezed his throat. That teacher ended up with a traumatic brain injury.

There are plenty of visuals of assaults on teachers. Here’s a tiny sample: Florida’s Seminole Middle School, Pennsylvania’s Cheltenham High School , Illinois’ Rich Central High School.

Byongook Moon, a professor in the criminal justice department at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says that according to his study of 1,600 teachers, about 44 percent of teachers who had been victims of physical assault said that being attacked had a negative impact on their job performance. Nearly 30 percent said they could no longer trust the student who had attacked them, and 27 percent said they thought of quitting their teaching career afterward.

My question is: Is there any reason whatsoever for adults to tolerate this kind of behavior from our young people?


De Blasio, Carranza are leading NYC schools to a dead end

Not so long ago in New York, teacher evaluations were the hottest button in public education. Gov. Cuomo was the chief proponent, arguing that up to 50 percent of teachers’ grades should be based on how well their students did on standardized tests.

These days, nobody, including Cuomo, even talks about teacher evaluations. Instead, thanks largely to Mayor de Blasio and his chancellor, Richard Carranza, racial quotas are the new hottest button.

As Carranza recently declared at Al Sharpton’s headquarters, “We’re not about improving the system. We’re about changing the system.”

The implications involved in this change of focus are enormous. Most important, the results of imposing a radical race-based social-justice experiment on schools could be tragic for thousands of children and their families.

The concept of linking teacher evaluations to student performance was a reform idea of its time pushed by then-Mayor Bloomberg and others who were searching for ways to measure the impact of good and bad teachers. It was aimed primarily at improving failing schools in the poorest neighborhoods because many were dumping grounds for the worst teachers.

A linkage between teacher quality and student outcome is such a no-brainer that it quickly went mainstream. President Barack Obama’s administration supported it, despite the fact that he and other Democrats counted on the political backing of teacher unions.

The unions fought back. Constant in their commitment to protect every teacher from firing, including those facing serious criminal charges, they wanted to keep the lopsided system where virtually every teacher was rated “acceptable” even when as few as 15 percent of students were reading at grade level.

The unions succeeded when the entire political establishment of both parties surrendered. Teacher evaluations and student performance are now effectively seen as separate issues in New York.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the student performance gap between racial and ethnic groups. A report last year from the city’s Independent Budget Office that followed 71,000 students starting in 2008 found that black and Latino students started third grade behind in math and reading comprehension, and the gap grew by the time they reached eighth grade.

And the dismal results released last week from state tests showed a similar pattern, with Latino and black students combined averaging 35 percent in English proficiency and 28 percent in math in grades 3 through 8. Asians and whites together averaged about 67 percent in English and 67 percent in math.

In short, little has changed — except de Blasio and Carranza are giving up on helping failing students and fixing failing schools in favor of blaming everything on racism, including test results. It certainly makes their jobs easier and helps them with their progressive pals.

It is also cruel to both good and bad students. Depending on the program, from one-quarter to one-half of the seats at some highly ranked schools will be reserved for failing students.

That means some good students will be denied the best schools. It also means students who are the least prepared will be thrust into the best schools.

Race, ethnicity and lotteries will replace merit in many cases.

Those failing students who get plunked into Stuyvesant or Bronx Science high schools will have little chance of succeeding because they are simply too far behind to catch up to their classmates.

While there will be some exceptions, most of those students are likely to fail.

There is, of course, another option: charters. Most specifically, Success Academies, which again posted extraordinary scores in the latest state exams.

With the city averaging 46.7 percent proficiency in English and 42.7 percent in math, Success students scored 91 percent in English and 98 percent in math.

About 93 percent of those students are nonwhite, proving that “children from all backgrounds can achieve exceptional results when given access to great schools.”

That’s how Eva Moskowitz described the results. She’s the CEO and founder of Success Academies, which now operates 47 schools with 17,000 students, and should be the chancellor.

Year in, year out, her results prove that the slow start of at-risk students can be overcome and the racial and ethnic achievement gaps can be erased.

She is also proving that de Blasio and Carranza are headed in the wrong direction, one that will be a dead end for education. Nonetheless, they will go on with their racial bean counting because, in an upside-down world, it’s a good career move for them.

Parents and children are out of luck.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

Why Virginia teachers are leaving the classroom: ‘We are already at bare bones’

RICHMOND, Va. -- On a warm summer night, Sarah Pedersen and Brad Mock sit in the living room of their Church Hill home playing with their 1-year-old daughter, Eleanor.

"You want to get a book, Eleanor?" Mock asked the rambunctious toddler. Eleanor's parents love watching her learn, but worry about what lies in the future.

"Having that little one has made it that much more of a passion for us educating," Mock explained.

The young couple have been educating students in Richmond Public Schools for nearly five years.

Mock teaches eighth grade civics and economics at Martin Luther King Junior Middle, while his wife teaches sixth and seventh grade social studies at Binford Middle School.

Both share a passion for their work, but admit teaching in the Commonwealth isn't easy.

"I love my job. I don't want to do anything else," Pedersen stated. "We are fiercely committed, but that commitment comes with sacrifices and challenges."

The Virginia Department of Education reported in 2016 that as many as 1,000 teaching positions remained vacant - and the problem persists.

Just weeks before the first day of classes in 2018 and RPS has 52 open teaching positions. There are 41 vacant teaching positions at Henrico Public Schools. Chesterfield Public Schools are currently searching for candidates to fill 39 positions. Hanover Public Schools reported they were full.

Why are Virginia teachers leaving the classroom in droves?

"They leave primarily because they don't feel supported in a city or a Commonwealth that doesn't compensate them properly," Pedersen explained. She frequently speaks with former colleagues who have left the teaching profession for a job in the private sector.

Virginia Education Association (VEA) President Jim Livingston explained that Virginia teachers are underpaid compared to others throughout the country.

"Right now, Virginia pays teachers $9,218 less than the national average salary for teachers. When you consider pay in constant dollars, average teacher pay has actually decreased 8.5 percent since the recession," Livingston said.

Livingston explained that educating the future generation is becoming a career that requires individuals to choose between their job and raising a family.

"There are numerous school divisions in our state where teachers can work for 20 years and still are paid less than $50,000—that’s a starting salary for many young people graduating from college and beginning their careers," he stated.

Pedersen explained often educators feel overworked - with the requirements that come with Standards of Learning tests, frequent meetings about data, and the expected duties of teaching.

Those requirements are more strict when schools are unaccredited. Both Mock and Pedersen teach at schools that were denied accreditation in 2017.

"Your teachers have to sit in endless professional development by the state that doesn’t really lead to students learning more, we have far more stringent requirements for our lesson plans, and we have meeting upon meeting on data," Pedersen explained.

Often educators come to a head with the decision whether or not to stay around their fifth year teaching.

"When Brad and I got married five years ago we expected to have a large family. After our daughter's one year we are concerned that perhaps we are raising an only child," Pedersen feared.

Dr. Jesse Senechal, interim director of the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium with VCU's School of Education, wrote about the issue in his 2016 study, 'Understanding Teacher Morale.'

Superintendents from seven Central Virginia school districts asked him to interview instructors and administrators about how much they like or dislike their professions.

"You're pretty much always in a situation as a teacher where you have way more work to do than you can possibly do. So, you have to make decisions on what gets done," Senechal explained.

Senechal found when teachers feel overloaded and undervalued, they do their students a disservice.

"It leads to frustration, which leads them to lose hope in their profession and ultimately to leave," he stated.

When school systems lack enough teachers in the classroom to go around, those schools rely on substitutes or individuals not qualified to teach.

"We already at bare bones - at our best we are bare bones," Pedersen said. "If you're used to being in an underfunded situation you just start to think you deserve it."

RPS officials said they're working to fix the problem. Richmond Schools Chief of Staff Michelle Hudacsko said long-term substitutes will fill open positions to ensure a teacher is in the classroom on the first day of school.

More than 50 vacancies have been filled at RPS in the last two weeks and they hope to have more in place on September 4.

"Getting [teachers] here is part one. Part two is keeping them here and making sure they’re successful. A lot of that is making sure they have the right support, the right resources and the right leadership so they can be successful," RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras explained.

The school districts included in this report said they were confident they'd fill their open positions by the first day of classes.

Pedersen and Mock both said they're optimistic Kamras and his new administration are on the right path to creating better work environments for teachers.

Lawmakers are also working to make it easier to become a teacher in the Commonwealth.

The General Assembly approved legislation making various changes to teacher licensure requirements, according to the VEA. A new law makes it easier for individuals with provisional licenses to teach in the classroom while taking required courses.

The budget approved by the 2018 General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam also included $131 million for a three-percent pay raise for state-supported teachers and school support staff that will go into effective on July 1, 2019.


UK university bans CLAPPING at student union events so it doesn't trigger anxiety with undergraduates told to use 'jazz hands' instead

Students have been told to wave 'jazz hands' instead of clapping at a university union to avoid triggering anxiety problems.

Officers at the University of Manchester Students' Union argued that the loud noise of clapping and cheering can also trouble those with sensory issues.

A motion was put forward by the union's liberation and access officer Sara Khan to replace it with British Sign Language clapping, also known as 'jazz hands'.

The union decided to make the switch and to 'encourage student groups and societies to do the same, and to include BSL clapping as a part of inclusion training'.

The motion was passed last Thursday at the union's first meeting of the academic year, reported student newspaper The Mancunion.

But Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine tweeted a picture of First World War soldiers, saying: 'Glad some brave young souls decided to ignore the difficulties caused by sudden noises 100 years ago.'

The issue was discussed on ITV's Good Morning Britain today, with presenter Piers Morgan saying: '"If you're happy and you know it clap your hands" - that's going to have to go now, isn't it?

'If you're happy and you know it and you want to clap your hands, be careful - it may trigger anxiety. So, if you're happy, don't clap your hands, children.'

Another said: 'I suffer from anxiety and depression, the ability to clap and cheer causes euphoria that is crucial wellbeing! The world has gone crazy! Absolute tosh!'

But 'Ladykarma' said: 'My son has a sensory (processing) disorder which means all loud noises can set of anxiety or a melt down.

'Why should he have to miss out on receiving an award or miss out on an event because of his disabilities? Using silent clapping will help my son share in the same experiences.'

However Karen Garrett responded: 'I have a child with autism and I teach him to clap - and if you get them used to all noises they will process them and acclimatise to different sounds.'

And 'Penny' said: 'I suffer with anxiety but I find the clap ban ridiculous. You can't just change a well known tradition because of a minority.

'Dogs make me anxious but I'm not calling for all dogs to be killed in this world you can't ever please everyone so just go with the majority.'

Nicky Lidbetter, the chief executive of Anxiety UK, told MailOnline: 'Our experience is that noise is not necessarily a typical trigger of anxiety though it can be for some, e.g. those who have anxiety associated with autism.

'That said, we support any initiative, such as this which promote and support inclusivity.'

The National Union of Students first started using 'jazz hands' in 2015, when delegates at its women's conference were asked to stop clapping to avoid anxiety.

Speaking at the time, Nona Buckley-Irvine, the then general secretary at the London School of Economics union, said: 'I'm relatively new to this and it did feel odd at first.

'But once you've used jazz hands a couple of times it becomes a genuinely nice way to show solidarity with a point and it does add to creating a more inclusive atmosphere.' 


Australia: Five ways universities can advance free expression

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear, George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm.

At a 1943 symposium, Univer­sity of Sydney professor of philosophy John Anderson spoke out against religion in the school curriculum. “Religious doctrines are a direct attack and assault on a child’s common sense,” he said. “If a child is forced to swallow doctrines of a religious nature, it will undermine his understanding of things in general.”

The learned members of the NSW Legislative Assembly condemned Anderson’s comments for undermining “the principles of the Constitution of the Christian state”. Not one member of the assembly spoke in Anderson’s support. The Legislative Council (parliament’s other house) passed its own motion asking the governing body of Sydney University to “define the limits” universities should place on the discussion of controversial matters. The world still awaits its response.

Anderson was unrepentant. His call for campus speakers to be “as blasphemous, obscene and seditious as they like” was strongly supported by students, sympathetic colleagues and a few univer­sity leaders.

Fast-forward to the present. The right to speak on campus remains as contentious as ever but the protagonists have reversed roles. Politicians now lament campus censorship while students — and even academics — are becoming increasingly intolerant. Convinced of their own fragility, today’s students believe exposure to challenging ideas can be harmful, even traumatic. Students demand to be “protected” from controversial speakers.

A poll of 3000 students in the US conducted by the Knight Foundation last year found 37 per cent believed it was acceptable to shout down speakers and 10 per cent thought using violence against speakers was sometimes acceptable. The Brookings Institution reports even larger numbers: 50 per cent of university students consider it acceptable to disrupt speakers by shouting, and 19 per cent condone the use of violence to silence those whose views they find objectionable.

One victim of student intolerance is sex therapist and columnist Bettina Arndt. Her heresy is to disagree with the conclusions of a report produced by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which claimed that 21 per cent of Australian university students were “sexually harassed” in a university setting.

Arndt pointed out that the commission’s definition of harassment included unwanted compliments, leering, staring and bad jokes. The number of respondents who reported being assaulted was 1.6 per cent (and some of those incidents took place on public transport, not at the university). The incidence of sexual assault on campus is lower than the rate of sexual assault in the general ­community.

Students at Melbourne’s La Trobe University invited Arndt to speak. At first, university administrators refused permission, claiming Arndt’s views did not “align with the values of the university and its campaign … against sexual violence on campus”. It seems that La Trobe has an “official position” on sexual assault. As a consequence, the university would rather have students, and the public, believe its campus was unsafe than let Arndt speak.

La Trobe relented when Arndt took her story to the press, but no one heard her speak. Protesters sil­enced her by shouting her down.

Her next talk, at Sydney University, simil­arly was shouted down and required mobilising police to protect her and the audience from aggressive protesters.

In the 1940s, Anderson urged his students to fight hard for free speech “without restrictions”. Today’s student activists are intent on achieving the exact opposite.

Expressing alarm at the censorious environment on our campuses, Human Rights Commis­sioner Ed Santow is encouraging universities to develop codes of conduct that protect robust debate.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan agrees, expressing support for the University of Chicago statement on principles of free expression, which commits universities to unfettered “debate and deliberation” even when “the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community to be offen­sive, unwise, immoral or wrongheaded”. The statement also forbids anyone from interfering with the freedom of others to “express views they reject or even loathe”. (That is, no shouting down speakers.) The Chicago statement has been adopted by dozens of American universities, but none in Australia.

Echoing Orwell, former High Court chief justice Robert French said this week that “offensive or hurtful” speech was the price we paid for liberty. He says universities erode their public standing and perhaps even face legislative intervention if they fail to defend free speech. French’s prediction is not just hypothetical. The US states of Arizona and North Carolina already have legislated speech codes for their universities and so has the University of Wisconsin board of regents.

Australian universities would avoid the erosion of their public standing and advance liberty by adopting five rules.

* Affirm the value of free speech.

* Forbid administrators from disinviting speakers.

* Discipline students or staff who try to silence speakers.

* Remain institutionally neutral on matters of public policy.

* Levy security charges on all speakers, not just those on one side of an issue.

It is fitting to end where we began. After being condemned by parliament, Anderson addressed students. His words are worth repeating: “There is no absolute right of free speech. It exists only so far as people are prepared to maintain it and fight for it.”

Universities owe it to the public to join the fray.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Tech-Groomed Totalitarians

As always, Google is data-mining personal information — in schools across America.
Big Tech wants control of your kids.

“An estimated 80 million students and teachers are now signed up for free ‘G Suite for Education’ accounts (formerly known as Google Apps for Education); more than 25 million students and teachers now use Google Chromebooks,” columnist Michelle Malkin reveals. “A Google logon is the key to accessing homework, quizzes, tests, group discussions, presentations, spreadsheets and other ‘seamless communication.’ Without it, students and teachers are locked out of their own virtual classrooms.”

As always, Google is data-mining personal information. Yet when children are the target? Over the past few years, Great Britain has been rocked by a series of “child grooming” scandals. Because many of the predators involved were Muslim men, government investigations — when there were investigations — were filtered through a politically correct lens. Charges of “racism” trumped concerns for sexually exploited children.

Google epitomizes the political correctness that makes it equally impervious to serious scrutiny. “Local administrators, dazzled by ‘digital learning initiatives’ and shiny tech toys, have sold out vulnerable children to Silicon Valley,” Malkin writes. “Educators and parents who expose and oppose this alarmingly intrusive regime are mocked and marginalized. And Beltway politicians, who are holding Senate hearings this week on Big Tech’s consumer privacy breaches, remain clueless or complicit in the wholesale hijacking of school-age kids’ personally identifiable information for endless data mining and future profit.”

British Muslims were grooming sex slaves. Google is grooming totalitarians.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who refused to show up for an initial round of questioning by Congress earlier this month, met last Friday with Republicans — behind closed doors. Republicans want to talk to Pichai about “bias in its search results, violations of user privacy, anti-competitive behavior, and business dealings with repressive regimes like China,” stated Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). In the previous meeting, politicians expressed similar indignation toward Facebook and its data mining, censorship of conservative content, etc. The same Facebook that had 50 million user accounts hacked last month.

Inquiries about one of the most pernicious data heist in the history of the nation? Nowhere to be found.

Why not? Because the politicians are co-conspirators, and have been for quite some time. Common Core was created and copyrighted by two Washington, DC, lobbying organizations “without any input from state legislators, local school boards, teachers or parents,” wrote columnist George Guynn Jr. — five years ago.

The program was sold to individual states coercively: governors were promised large sums of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a., the “stimulus” to sign on, and enticed by waivers relieving them of the requirements demanded by No Child Left Behind legislation. If they resisted, they were threatened with a loss of funding. As a result, Common Core was adopted by 46 states.

As of January 2017, some 22 states were revising their curriculums, due in part to parental resistance.

One suspects that resistance would be far more intense if parents were aware that data mining was part of the equation as far back as 2009. While the feds can’t create a national database of student information, stimulus funding also enabled individual states to develop State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), cataloguing data generated by Common Core testing. Two years later, the Obama administration’s Education Department concluded that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was to be “reinterpreted” to allow the dissemination of that student data to virtually anyone — without written parental consent. A year after that, 24 states and territories reached a deal to proceed with data mining in exchange for grants.

It get worse. A 2010 technical brief released by the National Center for Education Statistics that served as a guideline for the SLDS, noted that “Sensitive Information” would also be extracted — as in the intimate details of students’ lives. Details such as the political affiliation of their parents; mental problems of the student or family; sex behavior and attitudes; religious practices; and anti-social, self-incriminating, and demeaning behavior.

Common Core was followed by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that further enabled government collection of this data. “The racket includes Facebook’s Digital Promise partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and the social/emotional behavior tracking system of TS Gold (Teaching Strategies Gold) targeting preschoolers,” Malkin explains.

Moreover, parents are left out of the loop. “In many districts, school information officers usurp your family authority and are logging on your sons and daughters en masse without your consent or knowledge,” Malkin adds. “You don’t get to see the terms of service, the privacy policy or the G Suite agreement between Google and your school.”

What about logging off the system? Two parents who were also school employees told Malkin that even if they logged out of their G Suite accounts, “their personal passwords, bank account information, parents’ personal data, spouses’ sensitive data and children’s browsing habits were being stored on district-issued Google Drive accounts.” Accounts that allow “the collection and archiving of non-education-related information across the extended family’s devices,” Malkin reveals.

College admissions testing services, such as the ACT and the College Board, are scammers as well. Students are offered optional surveys they fill out under the assumption they’ll gain knowledge about colleges and college scholarships. In reality they’re signing away personal information that both entities sell to universities and scholarship organizations looking to profile prospective students. ACT’s ad spiel gushes that purchasing data about minorities “is a great way to increase diversity at your campus.” And “asks students for their name, birth date, race, religion, home address and citizenship status and whether they have ‘impairments’ like H.I.V., depression or a ‘relative w/Alzheimer’s,’” The New York Times reveals.

And as Malkin noted, even toddlers are data-mining targets. The aforementioned Teaching Strategies Gold system advertises itself as a “Birth Through Kindergarten Assessment Toolkit,” and TS Gold assessors at a Colorado public pre-school recorded data about a child’s bathroom trips, hand-washing habits, and ability to pull up his pants. “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted,” stated Vladimir Lenin.

Including pre-school and kindergarten, America is giving tech titans like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook etc., 14 years to sow progressive seeds that embrace the social-justice agenda, in coordination with the collection of data regarding a person’s values, habits, mental health, political affiliation, etc. Data we’re supposed to believe would never be used for nefarious ends by the very same companies — even when Google has already decided to help Communist China maintain its totalitarian regime.

America is besieged by political polarization and increasing levels of fascist behavior, most amply demonstrated by Democrats’ orchestrated destruction of the Supreme Court nomination process. But unless we’re going to address the contemptible combination of indoctrination and potential data-based coercion precipitated by tech companies and their government enablers, the nation is doing little more than rearranging Titanic deck chairs.

All while the totalitarian iceberg remains dead ahead.


High Cost of Free College for All

During the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders advocated a new federal entitlement making U.S. public colleges and universities tuition free. Since then, Democratic Socialists and some mainstream Democrats have begun supporting such a proposal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx, NY candidate running on a socialist platform who became a media star after unseating a senior House Democrat in a primary upset, has made it one of her central campaign issues. 

Sanders argues that countries like Germany, Finland, Norway and Sweden have successfully made college free, but there are some major differences between the education systems of continental Europe and those of the United States that make Sanders’s proposal impractical.

Everyone has access to higher education in the United States

According to data collected by the U.S. Census, 90 percent of adults between ages 25 and 34 have a high school degree or its equivalent, and after high school about two-thirds of adults went on to one of America’s more than 4,500 institutions of higher education.

While many people’s archetypal idea of “college” is a selective private university or liberal arts college or a flagship public research university, academically selective institutions only serve a small segment of the population. Only about ten percent of the total number of US colleges and universities are ranked on the US News and World Report lists of “Best National Universities” and “Best Liberal Arts Colleges.” The majority of institutions, including about 1,700 two-year colleges, are much less academically selective or have open enrollment and accept anyone with a high school diploma.

Americans believe everyone should go to college, and public policy supports that belief with heavy subsidies, in the form of grants for low-income students and military veterans and government-guaranteed subsidized loans for everyone else.

America’s 65 percent college matriculation rate is high by global standards, even when compared to countries where tuition is free. But universal access isn’t entirely beneficial. The percentage of U.S. students who go to college substantially exceeds the percentage of U.S. students whose academic records suggest that they are capable of doing college-level work. The 35th percentile composite score on the SAT, based on a nationally-representative sample, is a 930. The College Board, which administers the SAT places its college-readiness benchmark at a 480 verbal and a 530 math, or a 1010 composite score, which places a tester at the median of the sample. Meeting that benchmark means that the student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or better in first-year college reading and math classes.  

This measure roughly predicts student outcomes; 46 percent of 25 to 34-year-old Americans have at least a 2-year degree, and 36.5 percent earned a four-year degree. However, about 19 percent of Americans enrolled in college but never earned a credential of any type—that’s nearly a third of all students.

As an institution’s admissions selectivity drops, so does its graduation rate. Overall, 60 percent of students who matriculate at a 4-year college as freshmen graduate within six years, according to data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics. At schools that accept fewer than 25 percent of applicants, 88 percent of students graduate, and at schools that accept fewer than half of applicants, 70 percent graduate. However, at schools that take 90 percent of applicants, fewer than half graduate, and at open enrollment schools, only a third of freshmen complete their degrees. At community colleges, only 39 percent of all students earn a two-year degree within six years. Full-time community-college students have better odds; 55 percent of them graduate. But only about a quarter of part-time and mixed-enrollment students complete their degrees.

Colleges with low graduation rates criticize the methods by which these statistics are measured, because part-time students often take longer than six years to graduate, and the set of students who matriculate at an institution and do not graduate from it includes both students who drop out and students who transfer to other schools, some of whom earn degrees elsewhere. Swayed by these arguments, a federal committee convened to study low college graduation rates resulted in the Education Department changing the way the government measures graduation rates in 2017 so that the numbers look better. But no amount of finessing the data can change the fact that 19 percent of all 25-34 year olds went to college and didn’t earn a degree.

Like less-selective colleges, the US military requires a high school diploma or its equivalent to enlist, but it also makes prospective soldiers take a test called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and, while each branch has a slightly different cutoff, about a third of enlistees are rejected due to low test scores. By comparison, any US citizen with a high school diploma or its equivalent can currently qualify for student loans, without regard for other factors, such as the student’s credit history or test scores. The hitch is that student loan debt can carry high-interest rates, and, unlike other debts, it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.

In other words, college is so accessible in the United States that it’s easier to get student loans and enroll in college than it is to enlist in the armed forces.

The cost of dropping out

While much media coverage of high college costs focuses on the debt loads taken on by students at selective and elite schools, those students are actually managing their debts well. For example, New York University is one of the most expensive private schools in the country, and students there borrow significantly more than average. After four years, an average NYU graduate has about $29,000 in student loans.

But despite that burden, three years after leaving school, only two percent of borrowers at NYU had defaulted on their student loans, compared to a nationwide average of 7.2 percent. That’s because over 85 percent of students who enroll at NYU graduate, and because NYU graduates are competitive for high-paying jobs.

Other selective schools have similarly low student loan default rates, because, despite the high cost of attending these schools, the wage premium that comes with a respected credential more than covers the loan burden. But, for those who don’t graduate, there’s no wage premium. While less-selective public four-year schools and two-year community colleges typically cost a lot less than elite universities, it’s easier for elite graduates to manage large debts than it is for borrowers who don’t earn a credential to manage small ones.

Education Sector, a non-profit behavioral and social science organization, found in a 2013 survey that 514 US colleges and universities had higher percentages of students who defaulted on student loans than graduated. A disproportionate number of these institutions were for-profit institutions, but 314 were public two-year colleges. That means that one in five community colleges has more students who default on student loans than graduate.

Every academic measure shows that a large percentage of American high school graduates lack the reading, writing and math skills to pass introductory college courses, and despite reliable data warning that these students are unlikely to succeed in college, hundreds of thousands of them are permitted to enroll in college each year, only for them to inevitably to fail out. The practice of admitting students who are not capable of doing college-level work causes a great deal of misery and an enormous waste of time, public resources and the students’ money.


I am a Male Teacher Surrounded by Women. But Please Don’t Call Me a Victim of Sexism

written by N.P. Ingram

The conversation surrounding gender discrepancies in workplaces and universities often focuses on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — because these are high-paying fields in which women typically lag men in both representation and advancement. There is far less attention paid to similar or greater disparities in other disciplines. Rarely, for instance, does one hear much complaint about lower-status professions such as construction, logging or roofing, all fields where, in the United States, men make up over 96% of workers. The pattern is similar in my own country, Canada, and in the wider Western world more generally. In regard to skilled occupations that women dominate — such as accounting, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, veterinary medicine, social work and nursing — advocacy groups fighting for equal representation tend to fall mute.

My own field, education, also features a striking gender imbalance. As a man with hopes of becoming a teacher, I am embarking on a career that is overwhelmingly dominated by women. According to Statistics Canada, women make up roughly 60 percent of high school teachers, 84 percent of elementary school teachers, and 97 percent of early childhood educators. A similar trend plays out in all OECD countries. If across-the-board gender parity were the priority of those who fight for equal representation in STEM, surly those same voices would also be militating on behalf of men in education. But this isn’t happening.

The Canadian Teachers Federation, a national trade group that represents teachers, holds an annual Women’s Symposium that “aims to gather women teacher leaders from across the country to study a particular theme or issue which will strengthen the status of women and improve the situation for women within the teaching profession.” Such an event would make sense in a field such as physics or manufacturing, where there really is a relative dearth of women. But in the teaching field, an event like this makes as much sense as a “Men’s Symposium” conducted by air force pilots.

Studies that have been conducted on the lack of female representation in STEM typically concern themselves with male prejudice as both indicator and cause of sexist bias. The demographics of enrollment at universities, participation rates in the workforce, and the selection of award recipients in a given field also are held up as proof of a wider climate of discrimination. A whole typology has emerged to categorize this evidence, a process that has made terms such as unconscious bias, stereotype threat and microaggressions common currency in media and academic discussions of the issue, even though such concepts rest on shaky scientific footings. In STEM, this body of evidence would serve to include anything from a “stereotypical ‘geeky’” work environment to a workplace with “an emphasis on logical thinking.”

My own experience has led me to question such arguments. That’s because all of these exact same indicators could be applied, in precisely the same manner, to make the case that men are the subject of systematic discrimination in the field of education. Yet I see no first-hand evidence of such discrimination. In fact, I see the opposite. My experience shows that sometimes gender discrepancies develop within a professional field for reasons that have little to do with discrimination, and everything to do with personal choice.

Because I am not inclined to think of myself as a victim — and have not been encouraged to do so by my educators—I do not systematically catalog instances in which I perceive myself to be discriminated against or subject to artificial barriers. While I am still completing my degree at a Canadian university, I already have served as an unqualified emergency supply teacher at the elementary level. During this time, a number of my experiences could certainly be taken as evidence of discrimination if I were eager to interpret the actions of those around me in the most negative possible manner. In one case, it was assumed that I was the parent of a young child, and not the teacher. On other occasions, it was presumed that I would prefer to teach older children, since that would follow the usual pattern among male teachers. In another instance, I sat around a table in the staff room as the lone male, and listened as female teachers discussed their experience at a male strip show in Las Vegas. Surely this could be categorized, by some, as a toxic and alienating work environment. I also was once warned by a fellow teacher that I should keep my distance from female students because one never knows when, and from whom, accusations may arise. If I were looking to cast myself as a victim, I would go to my bosses — or even the media — and claim discrimination, torquing these stories in such a way as to suggest that I had endured real emotional harm; that the field of education is truly hostile and exclusionary towards men. I would also name names and shame their alleged misandry.

But I don’t have a victim mentality, so I would never do such a thing. Moreover, I know that, even to such negligible extent that my experiences could be construed as expressions of sexist bias, they are orders of magnitude less significant than the very real (and often vicious) discrimination that generations of women faced when they began courageously taking their place in the workforce in the latter half of the twentieth century.

My parents were both teachers. Unlike my father and I, some men no doubt have abandoned thoughts of becoming a teacher because of the anticipated discrimination they might face, or because they felt the urge to pursue a more stereotypically male profession. But that’s their choice. And I won’t patronize them by calling them victims. Moreover, many of these men probably made the right choice, because, by my observation, there is something about teaching that really does appeal more to women than to men.

I have taught everything from kindergarten to grade eight, and am comfortable with students of all ages. Despite my lack of experience, I believe I am an effective teacher who creates a climate of comfort and safety for my students. But as a general rule, the younger the children, the less interest I have in teaching them. Not because my confidence has been sapped by prejudicial, misandrous colleagues scrutinizing my every move, but simply because, I, as an autonomous individual man, prefer teaching older children, full stop.

As noted above, my preference fits in with a commonly observed pattern. As pupils rise in age, so too do the number of men inclined to instruct them. This gender-based difference in professional focus should not surprise anyone, since men and women have different kinds of brains. On average, men are more interested in things and less interested in people. They underperform in verbal fluency compared to women; and score lower on the Big Five personality trait of agreeableness, and the Gregarious aspect of extraversion.

When teaching very young children how to read and write, teachers must rely on oral communication to maintain an enthusiastic, cooperative and amicable learning environment. Men, more than women, might balk at this kind of work. Also worth noting is the male tendency to score higher in the assertiveness aspect of extraversion, which might help explain a disproportionately high preference for instructing children who respond to sterner forms of direction without tears.

To say that women score higher than men in an area such as verbal fluency does not mean all women score higher in verbal fluency than all men. What this means is that within a large population sample, more women will tend to score higher on verbal fluency than men. Put another way: To the extent that measures of such traits may be represented by a normal distribution curve, the average (corresponding to the peak of the curve) will be shifted to the right for women vis-à-vis men.

Note also that most women and most men are not teachers; but those who become teachers tend to be those who score especially high on verbal fluency — a fact that exacerbates the female “advantage” (if one may use that term) thanks to the mechanics of Gaussian probabilistic distribution. Although you cannot determine on an individual level who would score better on a certain ability simply by looking at someone’s sex, you can, on a population level, determine what sex will be overrepresented in careers that tend to attract people with that ability. And despite what James Damore’s bosses at Google would have you believe, describing human abilities in this way isn’t tantamount to discrimination, because it isn’t inconsistent with the need to view people as individuals with unique talents and desires.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The facts behind the teacher strikes

This spring has been marked by a remarkable phenomenon: the first statewide teacher strikes in recent memory. The strikes have been greeted with glowing press coverage and a remarkable degree of public support. After starting in West Virginia, things spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and most recently to Arizona and Colorado. Given all the claims and confusion surrounding these developments, it’s worth taking a moment to explain what’s going on, why both teachers and taxpayers have valid complaints, and how understanding all this can help point the way forward.

First off, the teachers have a legitimate concern. Teacher pay is mediocre for college-educated professionals, and has fallen over time. Teacher pay declined by two percent in real terms (after adjusting for inflation) between 1992 and 2014. According to data tracked by the National Education Association (NEA), in 2016–2017, the most recent year for which data are available, average teacher pay nationally was $59,660. In the states where teachers have walked out, average pay is generally substantially lower than that. For instance, Kentucky’s teachers rank 29th nationally at $52,338; Arizona’s teachers 44th at $47,403; West Virginia’s 49th, at $45,555; and Oklahoma’s 50th, at $45,292.

Second, the notion that stingy taxpayers are to blame for stagnant teacher pay is hard to credit — despite frenzied media coverage suggesting just that. Now, it’s wholly true that Arizona has modestly cut school spending over the past decade and that Oklahoma’s per-pupil spending is flat over that same span, but the notion that taxpayers are defunding schools is just wrong. Indeed, in the two-plus decades between 1992 and 2014, even as teacher salaries declined across the land by two percent, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending actually grew by 27 percent. In Kentucky and West Virginia, over that same period, teacher pay fell by three percent even as real per-pupil spending increased by more than 35 percent. In Oklahoma, over that same stretch, a 26-percent increase in real per-pupil spending translated only into a four-percent salary boost for teachers. As Grant Addison and I have noted in the case of West Virginia, “If teacher salaries had simply increased at the same rate as per-pupil spending, teacher salaries would have increased more than $17,000 since 1992 — to an average of more than $63,000 today.”

Third, teachers have raced to defend two of the big culprits responsible for their stagnant pay: costly employee benefits packages and added ranks of non-instructional staff. Even as teachers are frustrated by their take-home pay, their total compensation is a lot higher than many realize. That’s because teacher retirement and health-care benefits are far more generous than those of the taxpayers who pay for them. As former Obama-administration official Chad Aldeman has observed, “While the average civilian employee receives $1.78 for retirement benefits per hour of work, public school teachers receive $6.22 per hour in retirement compensation.” Between 2003 and 2014, even as teacher salaries declined, per-teacher average benefits spending increased from $14,000 to $21,000 — much of which goes to paying down pension debt rather than benefits for current teachers. In the case of Kentucky, where teachers have been fighting pension reform, Aldeman has calculated that if the state wasn’t forced to spend vast sums paying down pension debt, teacher salaries would be $11,400 higher today. There’s a big disconnect; taxpayers see dollars flowing out of their wallets, but current teachers don’t see those funds showing up in their paychecks.

Meanwhile, as organizations add employees, it becomes harder to pay them all well. Yet, in West Virginia, while student enrollment fell by 12 percent between 1992 and 2014, the number of non-teaching staff actually grew by ten percent. The story is similar in other strike states: In Kentucky, over that same stretch, enrollment grew by seven percent while the non-teaching workforce grew at nearly six times that rate — by a remarkable 41 percent. And Oklahoma saw a 17-percent growth in enrollment accompanied by a 36-percent increase in non-teaching staff. Nationally, while student enrollment grew 20 percent over that period, non-teaching staff grew by 47 percent. While some of these hires can represent a good investment, many represent little more than administrative bloat — and their sheer numbers soak up dollars that could otherwise fund teacher pay.

While it’s not unreasonable to argue that we should have increased school spending in recent years more than we have, it’s a mistake to blame stagnant teacher pay on a lack of taxpayer support. If teachers want sustainable pay increases and more than stopgap Band-Aids, school spending needs to be tackled in a way that addresses the concerns of teachers, taxpayers, and students. The contours of such a deal aren’t that hard to see, though they’re far tougher to enact.


Congress: On September 26, the Committee on the Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held a hearing to examine First Amendment rights on college campuses

“All of education, but especially postsecondary institutions, have a duty to develop students’ problem-solving skills. By encouraging students to engage in civil discourse and challenge their own perceptions, they sharpen their analytical skills so that they are prepared to lead the workforce once they graduate,” said Chairwoman Foxx in her opening statement. “But many institutions are taking deliberate steps to curb speech, and are thus extinguishing students’ critical thinking at a vital stage in their professional — yes, professional — development.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ individual liberties, chief among them the freedom of speech.  However, freedom of speech on university campuses has increasingly come under partisan attack.

“Somewhere over the past two decades, the land of the free has become the home of the easily offended,” Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University, told members. 

Paulson continued, “You can’t shout down a speaker if you truly understand how diversity of opinions have bolstered our democracy. You can’t censor students or their media if you understand what Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the first generation of Americans meant by freedom of the press. You can’t try to zone protests off your campus if you appreciate the value of petition and assembly.”

In fact, Joseph Cohn, the Legislative and Policy Director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), testified that these very rights are being trampled at postsecondary institutions across the country.

“Far too many universities—about one in ten, according to our most recent survey—have ‘free speech zones,’ which limit rallies, demonstrations, distribution of literature, petition circulation, and speeches to small and/or out-of-the-way parts of campus,” Cohn said. “Some schools even require students to inform university administrators in advance that they intend to engage in expressive activity, even going so far as to require university permission for such activities.”

When Zachary Wood was a student at Williams College, he presided over the student group “Uncomfortable Learning” that aimed to confront inflammatory topics head-on. However, when Wood invited a provocative speaker to campus with the intent of challenging the speaker’s rhetoric, the Williams College president shut the event down.

Wood testified to members, “I believe a college education should challenge students to grapple with unsettling ideas. I believe America’s colleges should foster critical thinking, exemplify the pursuit of knowledge, and help prepare students to contribute meaningfully to society. I believe a college campus should be conducive to challenging conversations about pressing issues of our time.”

Campus free speech is not a partisan issue. In a 2018 Gallup survey, the majority of college students reported they believe that speech is being stifled on campus. Upholding students’ First Amendment rights is critical to our democracy, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce will continue to examine the evolving postsecondary education landscape and ensure that students’ freedoms and individual liberties on campus are upheld.


Brighton University slammed over Sex Workers’ Outreach Project stall

A SCANDAL has engulfed a UK university after it was accused of encouraging students to turn to prostitution to pay their bills.

The furore started when Brighton University in southern England hosted it’s annual fair for new undergraduate students.

The fair featured stalls representing a number of student groups as well as other external organisations, including the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project Sussex (SWOP).

During the event, SWOP distributed condoms, lubricant and flyers to students — as well as handing out underwear prizes — and also provided advice on how to get into sex work.

And in several tweets promoting the group’s attendance at the fair, it posted: “1 in 6 students does sex work or thinks about turning to sex work. We can help.”

It also tweeted: “If you’re topping up your fees with sex work, or struggling to balance work and studies, or want to talk and don’t know where to go... we’re here for you. We respect your autonomy, privacy and confidentiality.”

The group describes itself as “a discreet and confidential trans inclusive service for women working in the sex industry who live or work in Sussex.”

Included in the information were tips on “safer escorting”, including: “If you don’t have anyone to look out for you, fake it! “Make your punter think that someone else knows where you are. “Pretend to make a call... to make it look like you are confirming your arrival... put men’s shoes or clothes out.”

Since the festival, the university has been slammed for allowing the group to promote itself to students, with some accusing the campus of promoting and normalising sex work.

Law reform group Justice for Women co-founder Julie Bindel said the stall was “beyond disgraceful”. “It makes me so angry that the sex trade’s become normalised and pimped to women as though it is a harmless and respectable way to earn a living,” Ms Bindel posted on Twitter. Other social media users described the stall as “disgusting”, “appalling” and “sad”.

As the outrage unfolded, SWOP defended it’s position on Twitter, posting: “SWOP have never idealised sex work. However, we understand why students may turn to sex work, and navigating the legal precariousness as well as potential danger mean that students are extra vulnerable and we will help.”

But a University of Brighton spokesman told The Guardian it would launch an investigation into the incident. He said the institution “does not promote sex work to its students”.


Monday, October 01, 2018

DOJ civil rights investigation expands from Harvard to include Yale, Brown and Dartmouth affirmative action policy

The Department of Justice took a stand against prejudice last month when the department filed a complaint against Harvard College for discriminated against Asian American students. Now, the DOJ has taken this a step further by expanding their complaint to include three other universities known for discrimination in their admissions process. By expanding the scope of their complaint, the DOJ is reaffirming their commitment to justice and equality for all.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the DOJ is investigating Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth colleges for holding Asian-American students to a higher standard than students of other races and use an illegal quota to cap the number of admitted Asian American students.

The Asian American Coalition for Education continued in a Sept. 2018, “Compelling evidence indicates that Yale University and many other selective colleges in the U.S. fail to comply with [antidiscrimination] laws. On the contrary, they have applied de facto racial quotas, racial stereotypes and higher admissions standards to discriminate against Asian American applicants. After extracurricular activities and other factors are adjusted, an Asian-American applicant has to score on average 140, 270 and 450 points higher than a white student, a Hispanic student and a black student on the SAT, respectively, in order to enjoy the same chances of admissions. Such blatant and widespread discrimination against Asian American children needs to be stopped.”

According to the Wall Street Journal report, Yale has “unequivocally” denied any discrimination in admissions proceedings.

The Department of Justice and Asian American groups blame this discrimination on affirmative action policies, which are meant to provide historically marginalized minority groups with greater access to higher education. Unfortunately, Asian Americans are not viewed as marginalized enough to receive equal opportunities.

When the DOJ began investigating Harvard University in August, Attorney General Jeff Sessions noted, “No American should be denied admission to school because of their race. As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements. The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people. This case is significant because the admissions policies at our colleges and universities are important and must be conducted lawfully.”

In the lawsuit filed against Harvard, Students for Fair Admissions argued if the admissions process was based on an “academic-only” model, Asian Americans would comprise of 43.4 percent of the admitted class. Instead, this group makes up only 18.7 percent of the Harvard class. The Wall Street Journal found that Asian American students only make up 21.7 percent of the incoming class at Yale.

Clearly, discrimination is going on in universities across the country. A process intended to be built on fairness and merit has become one based on oppression Olympics and identity politics. Schools who collect taxpayer money cannot be allowed to discriminate against hardworking Asian American students or anyone else and the DOJ took a strong stance against this racism by combating these elite university policies.


Sexual Assault on Campus: Advice for Parents

The Department of Justice apparently has plans to create a Title IX sex offender database, a development rife with problems of inadequate due process for the accused, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy, in an op-ed for the Daily Caller. Nevertheless, headlines about sexual assault and American campus life have many parents justifiably worried. Independent Institute Research Fellow Samuel R. Staley offers them advice in a recent op-ed published at Inside Sources and elsewhere.

Parents should be on notice: Extracurricular campus life may be more extreme today than they remember it from their own college years. Two great resources for becoming informed are American Hook-Up: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, by sociologist Lisa Wade, and We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out, by two assault survivors, Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino. The books offer a variety of illuminating perspectives about the problem and its consequences for young people and their parents. Staley also offers his own book on the topic, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, which explains why, in Staley’s words, “a pro-active and comprehensive approach to addressing the problem is crucial.”

“The first step for parents to help their children navigate the dark side of modern college life is to become better informed,” Staley writes. “The second step is to show unqualified compassion and empathy. The third step is to help guide our children onto a path toward healing and recovery. Together these steps can build emotional connection and offer buoyancy to young lives otherwise at significant risk of being lost at sea.”


Scientists should be disabused of their pseudoscientific beliefs about learning

When I first met the physics professor, it was explained to him that I was a science teacher. This prompted something of a reaction. As an aside to the real purpose of the meeting, he proceeded to tell me how school science teaching should be improved. He explained, as if he was the first person to ever think of the idea, that students should learn through doing experiments and that they would remember concepts much better if they discovered them for themselves. He related an anecdote of a hands-on lesson he taught to secondary school teachers who visited his lab at the university. I couldn’t be bothered to argue back. We had other matters to address, limited time available and anyway, where do you start with such ignorance? But I think I missed an opportunity.

It can be baffling.

Science professors are often at the forefront of campaigns against pseudoscience. They will warn us against alternative medicines, promote vaccination and tirelessly point to the evidence that climate change is real. But when it comes to education itself, they often believe the woolliest load of old bunk. Why?

Firstly, I don’t think many of them realise that there is evidence about the most effective approaches to teaching and learning. I think they assume that it’s all a matter of opinion and, to be fair, hard evidence is the Cinderella of our education faculties.

Secondly, they suffer from a number of biases. The curse of knowledge means that they underestimate the vast amounts of specialist knowledge they possess and therefore downplay the role of education in imparting that knowledge. There is also evidence that people often remember concepts and ideas without remembering how and when they learnt them. Again, this could lead to scientists underestimating the role of schooling in this process. Perhaps they think they just quickly picked-up concepts as and when they needed them or independently from books.

It is also the case that professional scientists are likely to be outliers. They will have a high level of general intelligence and a high level of intrinsic motivation. An investigation that they imagine will be motivating for school children may be nothing of the sort. It is true that students generally like doing experiments, but it is not the case that this is always because of the science – sometimes students are motivated about playing with the equipment or having a break from reading and writing.

If you meet a profsplaining scientist, call them out. I did this with Brian Cox. I copped a bit of flak but I reckon it was worth it. If your scientist waxes lyrical about inquiry learning then point to the negative correlational evidence from PISA. If they show an interest in investigating further then send them to Kirschner, Sweller & Clark (2006), which does a good job of covering a lot of ground. Stay classy but stand your ground.

It would be great if we could persuade scientists to apply the same standards to educational ideas as they do to their own fields of expertise.