Friday, October 12, 2018

Is the test for Boston’s exam schools receiving a failing grade?

This is just the latest Leftist push to dumb down schooling so blacks don't look so bad.  But the black/white gap will always be there.  Nothing has succeeded in changing it.  All that dumbing down will achieve is to reduce the quality of the education that all get -- including whites.  It will destroy a good school.  The problem does not lie with the admission test.  It lies between the ears of (some of) the students

Hundreds of the city’s 11- and 12-year-olds flock to a handful of testing sites on a Saturday morning each November in hopes of gaining entry to Boston Latin School or one of Boston’s other two public exam schools.

A student’s score can realize or crush dreams of attending one of the prestigious schools, and it can decide whether a family pays a fortune for private school or moves to the suburbs. Such high stakes have spurred a cottage industry of pricey tutors and programs, giving wealthier students an edge and exacerbating one of the school system’s starkest racial inequities.

Now a growing number of parents, education advocates, and civil rights leaders say the exam must go, following the release of a Harvard study that indicated the test is a major barrier for black and Latino students. [Of course it is.  It is doing a strong job of excluding the less able] Some city councilors say the school system should, at minimum, convene a panel to explore changing the admission requirements, in what would be a sharp rebuke of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who halted a similar effort two years ago.

“It can’t be shelved or put on the back burner,” said City Council president Andrea Campbell, a Boston Latin School graduate.

In one of the most striking findings, the report revealed that black and Latino students with MCAS scores similar to their white and Asian peers do not score as well on the Independent School Entrance Exam, dashing their chances for admission. The report also found that the average grade point average for black and Latino students in this group was also one point lower than their white and Asian peers.

Test for Boston’s exam schools might hinder diversity efforts
The students could have a much better chance of winning a spot at such schools as Boston Latin if admission hinged on MCAS scores instead of the current test.

The School Committee has not changed the admission criteria to Latin School, Latin Academy, and the O’Bryant School of Math and Science since 1999 when race was dropped as a factor amid legal challenges from white families. Admission is currently based on the Independent School Entrance Exam, which is used by many of the nation’s elite private schools, and a student’s grade point average.

The report, by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, found that if the school system scrapped the ISEE and simply relied on MCAS scores, the representation of black and Latino students at Latin School could increase by 50 percent. (That calculation also calls for the random assignment of qualifying students to the three exam schools instead of having students rank their preferences.)

“This is a glaring example of one of the things we need to change in the school system,” said the Rev. Willie Bodrick, of the Boston Network for Black Student Achievement. “We have stalled long enough on this.”

At this point, however, it seems unlikely the school system will overhaul admission requirements. In an interview, Michael Loconto, chairman of the School Committee, said the school system should instead continue to work on improving the quality of education in its lower-grade schools and increasing access to test prep programs.

“We are making steady progress with the changes we have made and will continue to look at ways to increase access and opportunity,” he said.

Walsh in 2016 committed to expanding the Exam School Initiative from 450 seats to 750. While it was unclear if the program has reached that capacity, diversity has increased.

But the effort so far has not led to any notable shifts in student demographics at Latin School, the crown jewel of the system. Nearly half the students are white, though whites account for just 14 percent of Boston’s students. Enrollment of black students slid to 7.9 percent last fall, down from 8.5 percent in fall 2015. But the portion of Latino students grew to 12.7 percent last fall, from 11.6 percent in fall 2015, according to the most recent state data.

Overhauling admission requirements has been controversial, especially among white middle-class families who spend years plotting their children’s ascent to the schools. Walsh halted a review of admission requirements two years ago, fearing it could aggravate racial tensions. The review took place while Latin School was in turmoil over allegations that administrators didn’t take complaints of racism seriously, prompting a federal probe and settlement agreement.

Boston Latin, founded in 1635, has been using a standardized entrance exam since 1963, replacing a process that was largely based on a student’s grades. The other schools started using exams around that time as well.

That exam, developed by the school system, was replaced a few years later by the Secondary Schools Admissions Test. In the mid-1970s, the school system adopted the ISEE, as part of Judge Arthur Garrity’s desegregation order, said Michael Contompasis, who was a Latin School teacher then and later served as headmaster for two decades. That order also set aside 35 percent of exam-school seats for black and Latino students.

The ISEE has long been criticized by many families and advocates because it does not measure what students have learned in the Boston school system under the state’s academic standards. It was designed to winnow admission offers to the nation’s most elite private schools.

A good swath of the material in the ISEE’s math and literature sections is not even taught in the fifth or sixth grades in Boston. That has led families — and, to a certain degree, the school system — to fill in the gaps with tutoring and specialized programs, resulting in highly stressful SAT-like cramming sessions for preteens, and financial headaches for many parents.

Cynda Pinto, whose 12-year-old son is a sixth-grader at the Roosevelt K-8 School in Hyde Park, said she couldn’t believe how expensive the programs were, with tutors going for $25 an hour and many private programs charging several hundred dollars. All those options, she said, were beyond her budget.

“My son really has his heart set on going to one of the exam schools,” she said. “It’s very disheartening. I feel bad my son doesn’t have the same chances of getting in as other kids whose families have financial resources. It’s not fair.”

Pinto ended up enrolling him in an afterschool test prep program at the Roosevelt that cost $200, but she wonders if it will give him the same boost. She also worries about the stress her son is enduring as he crams for the test.

Switching to the MCAS would involve other complications. State rules would need to be changed to allow the MCAS, which was designed to measure public school performance, to be given to private-school students. Or the school system could utilize a dual testing system — the MCAS for public school students and the ISEE for private school students — and find a way to equate the scores.

Contompasis said in an interview last week that there is no perfect admission system, but that the ISEE does a good job of measuring whether “kids can function well in a high-powered academic environment.” He also said the test, which students can take for free in Boston because it’s used for admission to the public exam schools, also opens doors to private schools for many black and Latino students.

“I don’t think tinkering with the exam is the answer. It’s getting more kids what they need — better academic preparation — to be in a position to gain access to the three exam schools,” said Contompasis, who is chairman of the trustees of the Boston Latin School Association, an alumni group that raises funds for the school, and the state-appointed receiver for the Dever Elementary School in Dorchester.

Meanwhile, the NAACP and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have been holding neighborhood meetings for the past year to generate new methods for admitting students to the exam schools. One idea: reserving a portion of seats for the top-performing students at each of the city’s public elementary and K-8 schools.

“Low-income families keep getting the short end of the stick,” said Julia Mejia, founder of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network. “I think the whole system has to be redesigned so it is more equitable, but I don’t think there is enough political will to do right by all kids in Boston.”


University offering course on 'Trumpaganda'

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is offering a course this semester focusing on what it calls “Trumpaganda.”

Students will examine Trump’s “war on facts, press and democracy,” according to the eight-week course title.

The class is offered through the university’s journalism program, according to the Daily Illini.

“As a candidate, Trump employed the most common propaganda device, name-calling, to define, degrade, discredit and destroy his primary opponents as well as the “fake” news media,” the course description reads.

Mira Sotirovic, associate professor in media, is teaching the class, and told the Daily Illini that students will look at President Trump’s strategies for dealing with the press to look how propaganda can exist in a democracy.

“Propaganda is effective only if it is concealed and camouflaged as something else, such as news, advertisements or PR releases, and it is critical to learn how to detect propaganda and recognize propagandistic features of any communication, including presidential,” Sotirovic told the paper.

Sotirovic contributed a chapter to the scholarly text: “Communication in the Age of Trump.”


South Australian Education Department Told Primary School Not To Celebrate Christmas

This would have been under the previous Labor government.  The new conservative government has other ideas

An Australian primary school was told by its education department not to celebrate Christmas for the benefit of non-Christian students.

Dr Darryl Cross revealed details of a conversation he had with a teacher at the concerned school:

    “What they said was for me somewhat astounding,” Dr Cross said on Tuesday. “They weren’t looking forward to this term because they weren’t allowed to sing Christmas carols or get into the spirit of Christmas... because there were certain children in the class who weren’t of the Christian faith… therefore they weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas at all through the school because it was regarded as a pagan festival…”

    “From what I can work out it was a departmental directive. I understood from the conversation that it didn’t come just from the school, that it was in fact a departmental directive…

    “We seem to be giving away the very nature of our culture, the very root of our society by not celebrating our traditional roots in this way. I think that’s a blight on our society…

    “I think we’re losing our culture, we’re losing our valuable traditions, and I think that’s a serious blight on our whole community and where it’s headed.”

Leon Byner said he knew the name of the school but would not reveal it out of consideration for the report’s source.

A statement regarding the claims from SA Education Minister John Gardner read:

    “I’ve always argued that it should be a decision for local school communities how they celebrate Christmas, but to remove all ambiguity our proposed Education Bill, which is currently in the parliament, explicitly states that Christmas can be celebrated, Christmas carols sung etc.

    “I believe Labor will support that aspect of the bill which means it will become part of the new Education Act.”


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Should Brett Kavanaugh be stopped from teaching at Harvard Law School?

Now that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has been confirmed, many law students are demanding that he be punished by ending his teaching career at Harvard Law School.

This effort reminds me of the time when I was a student in Brooklyn College in the 1950s, witnessing professors who were fired because it was suspected they might have been Communists years earlier. It didn’t matter whether they were innocent or guilty. Being suspected was enough to make them unsuitable to teach students, especially if they had pleaded the Fifth Amendment or angrily condemned the Un-American Activities Committees of Congress.

Now, flash forward 65 years as Harvard Law students and some faculty demand that Kavanaugh, who had taught with distinction since 2008, no longer be allowed to do what he loves and what many students loved. When Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, Harvard Law School was exuberant in its praise of his teaching. Dean John Manning thanked Kavanaugh for his “superb teaching” and “generosity, dedication, and collegiality he has shown our community.” A group of more than 80 former students sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, attesting that “[we] may have differing views on political issues surrounding the confirmation process, but we all agree on one thing: Judge Kavanaugh is a rigorous thinker, a devoted teacher, and a gracious person.”

After the accusations of sexual assault emerged, “hundreds of Harvard Law Students walked out of class . . . to protest Kavanaugh” demanding that he be barred from teaching, according to The Crimson. It also reported that students at a viewing party of the Kavanaugh testimony “applauded” and “burst out in cheers when Kavanaugh lamented the fact that these allegations may prevent him from teaching again. Harvard Law School has announced that Kavanaugh would not teach in winter term 2019. Although Harvard claims that it was Kavanaugh who decided, before he was confirmed, not to teach next semester, there can be little doubt that whoever made the decision, it was influenced by the student demands that he not be allowed to continue teaching.
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To be sure, Kavanaugh would not have been my nominee of choice, since I am a liberal Democrat who strongly believes that Merrick Garland was improperly denied his seat on the court. Nor do I have any idea about whether I would have enjoyed his course were I a student. These issues are beside the point.

Despite his lack of tenure, there is a long tradition at Harvard Law School to encourage judges to continue to teach in the winter term, if they satisfy the general academic criteria and receive excellent student evaluations. I do not know Kavanaugh, though I encountered him once or twice in the faculty lunchroom. This is not so much about Kavanaugh as it is about a new form of McCarthyism that is quickly descending on university campuses and spreading throughout the country.

Nor has this successful effort to end Kavanaugh’s teaching career based on neutral or objective standards that are equally applicable to all suspected serious crimes, regardless of the political or ideological backgrounds of the teacher.

Recall that former terrorists, some of whom were convicted of causing or intending the deaths of innocent people, are now teaching at several American universities. Consider the cases of former Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and Bill Ayers. Boudin was convicted of complicity in the murder of police officers, served her term, and is now a member of the faculty and co-director of the Center for Justice at Columbia University. Ayers, who has boasted of his past association with terrorism, recently retired from a faculty position at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

I am aware of no efforts to deny them their teaching positions. Had Boudin been a left-wing male who had completed a prison term for sexual assault, I’m certain that many of the same students who now oppose Kavanaugh teaching at Harvard Law Scool would be demanding the right to take a course from the convicted terrorist.

Is what Kavanaugh been accused of — whether truthfully or falsely — really worse than participating in the murder of innocent people? How can this double standard be tolerated by thoughtful students and faculty members? Do we really want to distinguish between alleged crimes committed by people of the left and people of the right?

Before a teacher is terminated on grounds such as those at issue in the Kavanaugh case, neutral and objective standards equally applicable to all must first be established. There cannot be ad hoc decisions based on mob-rule and political correctness demands of the day. These standards have not been met in the Kavanaugh case. He should be invited to continue to teach. I would understand if he declined the offer, but fairness demand it should be his decision to make. Students should, of course, have the right to refuse to attend his class for any reason or no reason, but as long as there are students, no matter how few, who wish to learn from him, they should be accorded the opportunity to do so, regardless of other students might think.


UK: Identity politics is killing off healthy debate

Universities are on the front line in a culture war that stifles disagreement and is threatening liberal democracy

It is a year since the Eurosceptic Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris, then a government whip, wrote to universities requesting a list of the names of professors involved in the teaching of European affairs “with particular reference to Brexit”, together with copies of each syllabus and links to the course. He was accused of a “McCarthyite” attempt to undermine academic freedom with his “sinister” demand for information, which was sent out on House of Commons headed notepaper.

Lord Patten of Barnes, chancellor of Oxford University and former Tory chairman, described it as “offensive and idiotic Leninism”. David Green, vice-chancellor of the University of Worcester, condemned the letter as “the first step to the thought police, the political censor and newspeak”.

Mr Heaton-Harris has since been promoted to minister in the Department for Exiting the EU. Many of the universities complied with his request — of the 59 institutions that responded to his letter, 28 provided him with most or all of what he asked for. But now Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, has made a significant ruling warning that disclosing discussions about Europe could harm academic independence and undermine rigorous debate.

In response to a freedom of information request following Mr Heaton-Harris’ letter, she concluded that the vice-chancellor of Worcester was right to refuse to release emails containing the word “Brexit”.

“If the university is required to put this information into the public domain,” the ruling states, “the commissioner agrees that those views would be likely to be much more cautious and risk averse in the future and those concerned would be inhibited from providing a free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation.”

Professor Green sees it as a landmark judgment. There was “a clear attempt to misuse the law for coercive and illiberal purposes,” he says. “This is a real victory in protecting academic freedom and the basic human right to engage in open debate and not surrender to sinister attempts to chill discussion and to bully.” Having grown up in 1950s America, with a father who was a scientist in the Air Force Research Laboratory at MIT when McCarthy demanded a list of “reds”, he is acutely aware of attempts at political interference. “There’s a new form of McCarthyism,” he told me. “The language is all about ‘a war’ and ‘the enemy’ as opposed to fellow citizens having a rational debate. Wherever it comes from on the political spectrum it’s to be opposed.”

As politics turns into a culture war, universities are finding themselves on the front line, under fire from left and right. On one side, academics are accused of pro-European bias, on the other they are criticised over their attitudes to gender and race. Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said at the weekend that the hounding of Nigel Biggar, the Oxford University professor who suggested there were some good elements to the British Empire, showed a worrying slide towards “Stalinism”. The feminist writer Germaine Greer and the veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell have both been “no-platformed” by student groups over their supposedly “transphobic” views.

One researcher, James Caspian, was refused permission to study cases of people who have surgery to reverse gender reassignment because his university thought the thesis could be “politically incorrect”. Angelos Sofocleous, a philosophy undergraduate, was sacked by his student newspaper after retweeting a comment that “women don’t have penises” — an opinion that his critics said could “belittle trans experiences”.

Perhaps not surprisingly there has also been a rise in “silent seminars”, where students refuse to express an opinion on controversial issues for fear of causing offence. Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent University, says young people are self-censoring because, unable to differentiate between critiquing an argument and criticising a person, they believe that disagreeing with someone may be a “cultural crime”.

Instead of encouraging diversity of thought, the education system seems to be narrowing the scope of acceptable opinions. At the Tory conference in Birmingham last week, a secondary school teacher told a fringe meeting that she did not dare to admit she was a Conservative at work because the staffroom had become a “socialist convention”. One minister says: “Left-wing identity politics has provoked right-wing identity politics. There’s an unhealthy situation where both sides feel that people can only speak from the silos into which they’ve been put in the culture war. It’s about facts rather than emotion and it’s narrowing the scope within which you can have a proper free exchange of ideas.”

The phenomenon has also infiltrated the arts world. The novelist Rose Tremain says it is increasingly difficult for authors to write from their imaginations: she is convinced that the BBC recently turned down a television series based on The Road Home, her award-winning novel about immigration, because she is not a young Polish man, so her text cannot be “authentic”. If writers can only draw on personal experience, then literature will become narcissistic and narrowly focused, she says.

The bitter row over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice in the US is symptomatic of a wider trend on both sides of the Atlantic. Politics is about whose side you are on rather than what you believe. The liberal protests against his confirmation following allegations of sexual assault were mirrored by a surge of support for the Republicans among conservative voters ahead of the midterm elections, in what Donald Trump’s allies are already calling the Brett bounce.

From Trump to Brexit, Scottish independence to climate change, politics is increasingly polarised along identity rather than partisan lines. Margaret Thatcher used to talk of cabinet ministers approvingly as “one of us” and now social media divides everyone into tribes. Virtue-signalling to friends is combined with vicious denunciations of enemies. The language of “mutineers” and “saboteurs” on the right is matched by attacks on “traitors” and “melts” on the left. MPs who refuse to conform face deselection or even death threats. There is a lack of civility that derives from the fact that people are playing the man (or woman) and not the ball.

If politics is no longer about persuasion but personal identity, then it is much harder for anyone to change their mind. But a liberal democracy depends on rational debate rather than emotional allegiance. It is based on constantly questioning, challenging and testing ideas. The “will of the people” should be an expression of these freedoms, not an excuse to divide and rule.


Rosemount educator resigns after 'kill Kavanaugh' tweet

A Rosemount special education teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave after posting a tweet Saturday that appeared to call for the killing of new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The teacher, listed as an instructor at the Intermediate School District 917’s Alliance Education Center, has since deleted her Twitter account but her tweet was captured and shared by scores of users who said they reported it to the FBI and U.S. Secret Service.

A spokesman for the FBI in Minneapolis said Monday that the bureau was aware of the tweet, which read: “So whose [sic] gonna take one for the team and kill Kavanaugh?”

The Star Tribune is not naming the teacher because she has not been charged with a crime. In a statement on the district’s website Monday morning, ISD 917 Superintendent Mark Zuzek confirmed the district received a complaint about an employee over the weekend and placed the employee on paid administrative leave “pending the outcome of the investigation.”

“Pursuant with the data practices act, we are limited to providing additional information regarding this matter,” Zuzek’s statement concluded.

Also Monday, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it was aware of the alleged tweet but neither the office nor Rosemount police were “currently investigating any incidents we believe to have happened at the school.”

Calls to a phone number listed for the teacher were not immediately returned. The tweet was published hours after Kavanaugh was sworn in after a bitter weekslong fight over his nomination, mired by allegations of sexual harassment and a contentious confirmation hearing.

It is unclear whether the teacher will be charged with a crime or what law enforcement agency is responsible for investigating the tweet. While Twitter users wrote that they reported the tweet to the FBI and Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for protecting the federal judiciary. The U.S. Supreme Court also has a small federal police force in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota has prosecuted at least two people in recent years for making threats against federal district court judges in the state. Last month, jurors convicted former Hopkins mayoral candidate Robert Philip Ivers with threatening to kill a federal judge overseeing a civil suit he brought. Meanwhile, Khaalid Abdulkadir is serving a term of probation after tweeting death threats against a federal judge and agents in 2015.


Australian PM plays down changing gay student laws

A long-awaited review into religious freedoms in Australia does not recommend any changes to the basis on which faith-based schools can reject students or teachers, the attorney-general has confirmed.

Some states - but not all - already allow schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

Commonwealth laws also contain some provisions to permit faith-based schools to exercise this discretion.

A Fairfax Media report suggested a religious freedoms review recommended the right be enshrined in the federal Sex Discrimination Act to ensure a consistent national approach.

The review's panel, chaired by former Liberal minister Phillip Ruddock, said it accepted the right of schools to select or preference students who uphold their religious convictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down the proposal on Wednesday, saying such exemptions to anti-discrimination laws already exist.

"We're not proposing to change that law to take away that existing arrangement," he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast.

Attorney-General Christian Porter later clarified that no changes to the current arrangement, created by Labor in 2013, are proposed in the report. "The Ruddock report does not recommend any changes to this regime," Mr Porter said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he can't believe the prime minister hasn't ruled out the "silly" idea completely. "The fact is every child is entitled to human dignity. We shouldn't even be having this debate," Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne, demanding the government release the report.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Labor's concerns about discrimination against children were jumping the gun, insisting the government would "get the balance right" and leave existing laws untouched.

But Special Minister of State Alex Hawke strongly supports the proposal, saying it is up to individual Christian schools to negotiate their handling of gay students. "I don't think it's controversial in Australia that people expect religious schools to teach the practice of their faith and their religion," he told Sky News.

Fellow Liberal MP Tim Wilson said he wouldn't be supporting any new laws that would broaden grounds for discrimination, and does not think the coalition would either.

The Ruddock review was commissioned after the 2017 national same-sex marriage vote and handed to the government several months ago, but is yet to be released.

Gay rights activists have slammed the proposal as a shameful assault on equality. Alex Greenwich, who co-chaired the national campaign in support of same-sex marriage, is demanding the federal government rule it out.

The panel reportedly did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, such as denying a gay couple a wedding cake.

The review also found civil celebrants should not be entitled to refuse to conduct same-sex weddings if they became celebrants after it was was legalised, Fairfax Media reported.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Not all schools follow Harvard’s lead on race-conscious admissions

Ithaca College in upstate New York doesn’t consider race at all in its admissions decisions.

At Davidson College, a top-ranked liberal arts institution in North Carolina, admissions officers say they value diversity and are aware of applicants’ race, but it’s not a factor in choosing individual students.

The College of Charleston in South Carolina dropped race from its admissions review two years ago, only to reverse its decision this past summer after community members discovered the change and protested.

On the eve of Harvard University’s court trial over affirmative action in admissions, many US colleges continue to wrestle with whether — and how much — race should be considered in offering an applicant a seat.
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They have adopted a patchwork of practices, and hundreds of higher-education institutions have retreated from race-conscious admissions altogether. Some have been prompted by state bans; others have done so voluntarily, skittish about divided public opinion and potential lawsuits.

“Certainly, schools are committed to a racially diverse student body; they don’t hide that. What’s misunderstood is how they get there,” said Lorelle Espinosa, an assistant vice president at the American Council on Education, a higher-education trade group. “It’s a complex issue. The way the work is done is not necessarily transparent and talked about in a way people understand.”

The rethinking of race-conscious admissions comes as the overall diversity of the country and particularly of college-age students has grown.

The white, college-age population in the United States dropped from 62 percent in 2000 to 54 percent in 2016, according to the US Department of Education. Meanwhile, the black, college-age population ticked up from 14 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2016. Hispanics saw an even larger jump, from 18 percent to 22 percent. Asians increased their share of college-age residents from 4 percent to 6 percent in that time.

Yet even with race-conscious admissions, many highly selective colleges fall short of mirroring the racial breakdown of the country as a whole.

The lawsuit accusing Harvard of discrimination in its use of affirmative action is likely to make the already-fraught issue of race in admissions even more contentious. The case is scheduled for trial on Monday in US District Court in Boston.

“This case channels the deeply held beliefs of a vast majority of Americans that race and ethnicity should not be a consideration in college admissions,” said Edward Blum, the leader of Students for Fair Admissions, which has sued Harvard.

For Harvard, the stakes are high. The school has argued that its admissions policies are legal and have been cited by the Supreme Court as an appropriate application of affirmative action. Eliminating race-conscious decisions would threaten diversity on campus, where 21 percent of students are Asian, nearly 12 percent are Hispanic, and 8 percent are black, the university said.

“America has traditionally been a melting pot. That’s one of the strengths. Colleges and universities should reflect that melting pot,” Lawrence Bacow, Harvard’s president, said in an interview with the Globe. “To say we should ignore race also suggests we’re ignoring an essential component of society.”

If the lawsuit succeeds in knocking down Harvard’s system, it would weaken race-conscious admissions nationwide, Bacow said.

Still, nearly 60 years after President John F. Kennedy coined the term “affirmative action” and after the Supreme Court has narrowly but repeatedly upheld the practice, the number of colleges that continue to consider race in admissions has shrunk.

In 1994, 60 percent of the country’s nearly 1,000 competitive colleges publicly stated that they considered race in admissions. By 2014, it had dropped to 35 percent, according to a recent study.

Slightly under half of those colleges ending race-conscious admissions were public institutions that were required to do so because of bans in states such as California, Michigan, and Washington.

Most of the remaining universities that reported they did not consider race were generally less-selective institutions, said Daniel Hirschman, a Brown University professor who coauthored the study.

Some of those colleges accept a significant share of applicants and may feel that affirmative action is unnecessary. Others may simply want to avoid the costs and headaches of a lawsuit, Hirschman said.

The most elite colleges in the United States, including the Ivy League institutions, have not backed away from their public support of race-based admissions in recent decades, according to Hirschman.

“Conservative backlash and the 30 years of litigation have led schools to be more cautious,” he said. “Some of them have removed the explicit use of race, and for a small subset that has meant lower black and Latino enrollment.”

Ithaca College reported that for nearly two decades it hasn’t given extra weight to individual applicants’ races when admitting a new class of students. But the college does focus on recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, said Bob Wagner, a spokesman.

At Ithaca, about 22 percent of the 6,020 undergraduates are biracial or from racial minorities. At Harvard, about 47 percent of the 6,700 undergrads are biracial or from racial minority groups.

But Wagner said Ithaca has more than doubled the percentage of freshmen who identify as students of color in the past decade.

Even schools that do consider race give it varying weight, according to an annual survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, an industry group.

Nearly 4 percent of the institutions that participated in the survey reported race had a considerable influence, while 17 percent said it had a limited influence. About 66 percent said it had no influence.

At Harvard, race seems to be part of the discussion from the beginning, as students are sorted by their grades, extracurricular activities, personal characteristics, teacher recommendations, and alumni interviews, according to documents filed in the case. Athletes, students whose parent attended Harvard, low-income students, and racial and ethic minorities are given an advantage, according to court documents.

The consideration of race continues through the end of Harvard’s process, as admissions officials fine-tune the prospective incoming class through a procedure the school calls “lopping.” Students on the bubble for admission are reviewed on a handful of factors, including race.

The lawsuit has shed some light on the inner workings of Harvard’s admissions process, but how race is evaluated at most other colleges largely remains a mystery.

Some institutions may only consider the race of applicants who need a closer review because their grades and academic scores just narrowly meet the cut-off requirements, said David Hawkins, executive director of educational content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Other colleges may check for racial demographics after they select a pool of applicants for admission to ensure the overall profile meets the school’s goals, Hawkins said.

Until 2016, the College of Charleston’s admissions officers conducted a second review of applicants of color who were initially rejected. The college dropped that second look and focused on recruitment two years ago, only to reinstate it after civil rights leaders questioned the change.

While rare, some institutions, such as Tulane University in New Orleans, have adopted more race-conscious admissions in recent years.

As a city, New Orleans has among the highest percentage of African-Americans in the United States, but Tulane didn’t integrate its campus until 1963 and had previously argued that its endowment specified it should be for white students.

Tulane eliminated race-conscious admissions in the late 1990s, most likely due to concerns over the legal challenges that were being raised nationwide, said Satyajit Dattagupta, Tulane’s dean of admission.

But in 2015, a committee of faculty, students, and staff urged Tulane’s new president to increase the university’s diversity and to consider an applicant’s race as one of many factors in admissions, Dattagupta said.

Since 2015, Tulane has increased its enrollment of students of color, from 17 percent to 22 percent in 2018.

“The current university administration is committed to developing a diverse and inclusive campus in order to further our overarching goal to enroll the best and brightest student body — one that is capable of tackling the complex problems facing an increasingly diverse world,” Dattagupta said.

Advocates of affirmative action often point to the California example to illustrate the drawbacks of eliminating affirmative action.

In 1996, voters barred the state’s public colleges and universities from using affirmative action. Since then, the most competitive schools, the University of California Berkeley and the University of California Los Angeles, have experienced the most profound drops in black and Latino students in the state university system and have not returned to their pre-ban levels.

Less-selective colleges in the system have returned to pre-ban levels but have failed to keep up with the soaring Latino population during that time.

The gap between the percentage of Latino students who graduate from California’s public high schools and those who enroll as freshmen in public universities grew wider, from 14 points to 24 points between 1995 and 2014, according to a 2015 study.

“The bottom line here in California is that we have really never recovered,” said Patricia Gandara, codirector of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, who cowrote the study.

At Harvard, where students are intently watching the affirmative action lawsuit, sophomore Aba Sam, 19, said diversity in the classroom is crucial for elite institutions educating future presidents and corporate leaders.

“It would be easier to reach pretty erroneous conclusions about black people . . . if you don’t have black people sitting in the classrooms,” said Sam, vice president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Black Students Association.

Sam fears that without race-conscious admissions, elite schools such as Harvard would repeat the California experience of cratering black and Latino enrollment. Those declines leave the minority students who are admitted feeling isolated, Sam said.

Despite Harvard’s diversity, black students still hear the n-word tossed around, get critical questions about their hair, and have to speak up to ensure that black scholars and experts aren’t brought in just for diversity events, Sam said.

Having a sizable number of other black students to talk to about these shared experiences has been helpful, she said.

“My biggest fear with this lawsuit is that . . . there won’t be enough opportunity for comfort and support from one another,” Sam said. “We are expecting black students to be isolated, to be silenced.”


Teacher Ridicules Black Child for Supporting President Trump
A Florida school district is investigating a teacher who allegedly rebuked a black student for being a supporter of President Trump.

The parents of the ninth-grader at Cypress Bay High School reached out to “The Todd Starnes Radio Show” with their concerns and provided a letter detailing their claims.

I have agreed not to identify the teacher or the young man because his father is an active-duty member of the military.

On Sept. 25, the student noticed that his math teacher stayed seated during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, he asked the teacher why she did not stand.

“Her response was something to the likes of, ‘Our country is in a mess…because of our president,’” the parent wrote in a letter to the school district.

When the teacher discovered that the young man was a Trump supporter, she seemed dumbfounded.

“[She] said, ‘You’re African-American, how can you possibly like Donald Trump?’” the parent wrote.

On a side note, oh, how I wish my friends Diamond and Silk had been inside that classroom!

The boy responded by telling the teacher he did not identify as African-American. His father is Norwegian and black and his mother is white.

“We have raised our son to not see the world in color,” the parent wrote. “I cannot trust his education, the influence of his mind, his access to knowledge to be in the hands of someone with such racist intent.”

The child’s parents accused the school teacher of racial intolerance and trying to push a political agenda in the classroom.

“The classroom should not be her political platform,” she said.

A Broward County Public Schools spokesperson tells “The Todd Starnes Radio Show” they are investigating the allegations.

“Broward County Public Schools supports inclusive and diverse learning environments,” the spokesperson said. “Upon becoming aware of the allegations, the school immediately initiated an investigation, which is open and ongoing. The school’s leadership remains in communication with the family involved. Due to the ongoing investigation, we are not able to provide additional information.”

Meanwhile, the parents have a few questions for the veteran math teacher:

Why does she not honor the United States flag and stand during the pledge?

Why should their son not be a Republican because he is black?

Why should their son not like Trump because he is black?

Why did the teacher assume their son is African because of his skin color?

The teacher’s classroom behavior sent a very disturbing message to that young patriot.

“Our family is proud and we celebrate freedom,” the parent wrote. “With an immense love of country and beautiful blended family, it has never mattered what color we are.”

Martin Luther King Junior dreamed of a society where children would not be judged by the color of their skin. Sadly, it appears that dream has yet to be realized at Cypress Bay High School.


University isn't everything when it comes to employment outcomes

There is increasing pressure being placed on universities to deliver better "value for money". UK Universities minister Sam Gyimah wants school leavers to have greater access to the labour market outcomes for each individual course. This would mean that prospective students could see which ones provide a good return on their investment.

It's thought by the government, that subject level awards, detailed information on employment outcomes and performance rankings would help to reveal differences in teaching quality – allowing students to makeinformed choices in the higher education market.

The underlying assumption is that employment rates are a direct outcome of how well students are taught in higher education. There is a wider acceptance that workers with graduate qualifications are a distinct group of "better educated" people, whose "advanced skills" should convey higher wages in the labour market. And so if graduates are not finding (suitable) jobs or are not paid premium wages, something must be wrong with what and how they are taught at university.

Better educated?

The idea that universities need to take responsibility for how well students do in the labour market is far from new. In fact, over the last two decades, the success of higher education has been increasingly measured by the employability of its graduates. And because students in England are paying high amounts for their degrees, institutions are now meant to deliver the type of graduate that employers (are deemed to) want.

Of course, there is such a thing as a "graduate premium". Those workers with degrees earn, on average, higher wages than those who don't. Those who study particular subjects, such as medicine, maths and economics, and those who have studied at more prestigious institutions tend to earn particularly well. Graduates are also more likely to be employed and to work in higher skilled roles.

The issue here, though, is the presumption these superior labour market outcomes must be the result of the skills and knowledge students develop during those years spent in higher education. But the evidence for this is not convincing.

The role of education in work

Social science research suggests that the "graduate premium" is not positively driven by what graduates have learnt in higher education. Economists have tried to measure the pure effect of education – controlling for differences in preexisting abilities such as general intelligence. This proves to be quite tricky to do, but it does seem as though this seriously reduces the impact of the "graduate premium".

Sociologists and labour market researchers have also pointed out that employers select and reward graduate workers on a much wider basis than merely the skills and knowledge developed at university. This includes factors such as personality, work experience, exclusive credentials, networks, cultural characteristics and skills not necessarily developed at university. They have also pointed out that because this access to many high-paying sectors, occupations and positions have become virtually closed off to those without (elite) university degrees.

My recent study looks at four occupations that are commonly thought of as "graduate roles": lab-based scientists, software engineers, financial analysts and press officers. My research shows that among these occupations higher education is not actually very valued by employers and workers. Also, the meaning of degrees within these occupations differs a lot between roles as well as between organisations and sectors.

Graduate outcomes

So as my research shows, although qualifications still matter – in particular to access certain occupations – the skills and knowledge developed in higher education certainly does not drive many forms of high-skilled work.

Also, it's employers who offer jobs and set wages, not universities. So just because occupations with large shares of graduates pay well, it does not mean university education itself drives wages. Why particular degrees pay better than others depends on the jobs graduates do after university, rather than simply the degrees they hold. It seems hard, therefore, to believe that universities can be held responsible for their graduates' labour market outcomes.

The universities minister has been rightly criticised for his crude instrumentalism. But Gyimah's recent drive for university courses to offer value for money also shows a crucial misunderstanding of the relationship between higher education and labour market outcomes. He isn't the first person to overestimate and misinterpret the role higher education plays in many occupations – and I'm sure he won't be the last.


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Harvard Students Want Kavanaugh Banned From Public Life, Because of #MeToo

Day by day, the #MeToo movement’s credibility is getting chipped away. The allegation being peddled by porn actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is one obvious example.

Accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of spiking girls’ drinks and running a gang-rape ring at parties in high school isn’t only not credible, it’s offensive and undermines the more plausible allegations brought by Christine Blasey Ford. (Although, according to the memorandum prepared for Republican senators by Arizona sex crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, Ford handled the job of undermining her credibility herself.)

Tragically, the same thing is happening on a smaller, less obvious scale elsewhere. According to The Harvard Crimson, “several students filed formal complaints alleging Kavanaugh’s presence in Cambridge would violate Harvard’s policy prohibiting sexual and gender-based harassment.”

By using Title IX, the federal law that outlaws gender-based discrimination in schools, the students contend that if Kavanaugh were to return to campus, sexual assault survivors wouldn’t feel safe.

The complaints were brought by Jacqueline L. Kellogg and Julia B. Wiener, both in the graduating class of 2019. They argued Kavanaugh’s “presence on campus would create a ‘hostile environment’ as defined in Harvard guidelines related to sexual harassment.”

The strategy was designed several days before Harvard announced that Kavanaugh wouldn’t be returning to teach at the law school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has lectured since 2008.

“If you had a meeting in Wasserstein [Hall], you don’t know if [Kavanaugh is] going to be there,” Wiener told the Crimson. “It would be pretty terrifying for any survivor or any person to walk into a building on campus and see someone who has been alleged of a very serious crime.”

The Crimson reported that at least 48 students got on board with the highly misguided, if not dangerous, strategy.

On one hand, the strategy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Liberal activists for years have attempted to use Title IX to strip away due process for the accused, and as a weapon to advance identity politics.

What’s new, however, is Harvard’s attempt to use Title IX in the #MeToo era. What these students are really saying is that unless we #BelieveAllWomen, they can’t feel safe on college campuses—and anything less qualifies as gender-based discrimination.

Ford’s claims are uncorroborated, inconsistent, and now, directly refuted. In a matter of days, an FBI investigation could clear Kavanaugh’s name. Despite that, some Harvard students still want Kavanaugh banned from teaching, and ultimately, from public life.

If that is the direction in which the #MeToo movement is heading, only the most radical will be on board. And as a result, real victims of gender discrimination and sexual abuse will suffer.

One would think when it comes to something as important as Title IX’s role in #MeToo, the “smartest” students in the world wouldn’t act so stupid


Public Education Failed My Child. So I Started Unschooling Her Instead

There are a lot of things going on the world right now that have me enraged on a daily basis.

I think most of us can agree that things are double plus ungood right now, and while I worry about things like not having any savings, not having steady income, whether I’m doing my best as a mom to a child with disabilities, there is one terrible thing that I have been able to make better in our lives: the public education system.

How, you ask, did I make public education better for my daughter?

I opted her out. I decided to homeschool.

My daughter is autistic, which causes her to have extreme social issues with other children her age, she has ADHD which makes it incredibly hard to focus in a classroom with 26 other kids, and she is also intellectually disabled, so she learns and matures much slower than typical children.

When it came time to put her in middle school, certainly one of Dante’s forgotten circles of hell, I panicked on her behalf.

Middle school is hard enough on typical children, and I could only imagine how terrible it would be for her to be among “kids” who are maturing (in body and mind) at an accelerated rate when I’ve lost the battle of bringing a stuffed animal to school with my eleven year old.

Schools don’t do enough to prevent and handle bullying, that’s a given, but that’s a whole other post.

Public school completely failed my disabled child.
When we started our homeschooling routine last fall, a routine that has evolved to become a sort of Montessori unschooling hybrid, I discovered exactly how far behind she was compared to other kids her age.

For five years my daughter, Elise, was shuffled through the grades with a modified curriculum and included in most class time (usually with an aide to keep her on track) to be exposed to all the ideas and concepts as the other children.

She was pulled out of class every day for math, which again was a modified curriculum of what the other kids were doing, and a few days a week to help with reading comprehension.

Now, I’ll admit I wasn’t keeping my finger on the pulse of her education last year.

Her school had a no-homework policy, so it was hard to keep track of what she was doing based on what she was bringing home, and anyone who has an autistic child with ADHD and a low IQ knows how hard it is to get concrete, coherent information out of them.

But what I realized when I started working with Elise one on one completely stunned me. She was eleven, and didn’t know how to tell time. She was helpless when it came to the concept of money.  She couldn’t subtract two digit numbers.

I was stunned, and heartbroken. And really, really pissed off.

I knew right away that I had made the right decision to homeschool, because finally I would be able to teach her the things that are actually important in life, and not just allow her to be exposed to “concepts and ideas” along with the emotional abuse and isolation that came with being different in a world that hates different people.

I just couldn’t believe that the answer of public education to the mysteries of kids with disabilities is to just push them on through, grade after grade, because you can’t have an eleven year old in a third grade class, even if that’s the level they are on, emotionally and academically.

No. The public school system will allow your children to remain ignorant so they can remain unbothered by them.

Every child is different, this we know, but the public education system doesn’t cater to differences. It really should be called the “Standardized Education System”.

Homeschooling and unschooling are a huge part of our lives now, and I look forward to writing more about it, sharing our experiences, and seeing what everyone else thinks of public education in the US, and whether you’ve decided to homeschool if it’s failed you, too.


Australian schoolgirl, 6, pulled out of school after cruel bullies punch her in the face, pull her hair and expose themselves to her - as teachers say they can't do anything to stop them

The Left-influenced breakdown in school discipline again

A family has taken the drastic step of pulling their six-year-old girl out of school, amid claims she was relentlessly bullied for months.

Gold Coast youngster Summah Hillhouse says she is too scared to go to school after she was repeatedly punched in the face, called names and had her hair pulled.

Summah says she told teachers what was happening but nothing was done.

'She said 'Summah it is not called bullying, she doesn't do it to you every single day.'  It made me feel sad,' the little girl told A Current Affair.

Her grandmother Kim Den Hertog described the situation as 'absolutely ridiculous.' You can't send a six-year-old to school when she is frightened. It's like then we become the abusers,' she said. 'We are meant to send our children to school to learn and to be protected, but they're not being protected.'

Her family also claims two older boys flashed their private parts at Summah and a friend in the school playground last month.

The recent bullying has given Shaye Hillhouse no other choice but to try and find her youngest daughter another school before term four starts in the coming weeks.

'The teachers don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. It’s so frustrating,' she told The Gold Coast Bulletin last month.

'We had a meeting with a deputy principal, who was very good to us, and she promised there would be consequences for the offender but it’s too late. I've been to Southport police but I was told there is nothing they can do because a child under the age of 11 cannot be criminally responsible for his or her behaviour.'

A Queensland Department of Education spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia it cannot comment on individual cases for student privacy reasons. 'Bullying is not tolerated in Queensland state schools. Any situation that threatens the safety and wellbeing of students is treated extremely seriously, and dealt with as a matter of urgent priority,' the spokeswoman said in a statement.

'All Queensland state schools are committed to providing a safe, respectful and disciplined learning environment for students and staff. 'All schools have a Responsible Behaviour Plan which sets out very clear standards and expectations for all students. [Translation:  Bullsh*t]

'The school involved continues to work closely with the students and their families to address their concerns.'

Meanwhile, Summah had this message for bullies. 'I would say stop bullying somebody because that's not nice,' she said.


Monday, October 08, 2018

Why should universities be socially inclusive?

The obsession with diversity actually harms less well-off students.

The new academic year has barely started and already critics are lining up to fire shots at ‘elitist’ universities.

Oxford, Cambridge and other leading institutions are derided as ‘bastions of privilege’, most specifically, ‘white privilege’. Universities are not judged according to what students might learn, or the scholarship undertaken by professors, but by statistics: how many students are black, how many had free school meals, are from a disadvantaged area or went to a state school. Bean-counters insist that universities are held accountable for goals that have nothing whatsoever to do with education or, worse, which actively run counter to teaching and learning.

The latest Sunday Times Good University Guide berates the fact that just four in 10 students at the top universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College went to non-selective state schools. The data was gathered for a league table ranking universities for social inclusion. Unsurprisingly, Oxford is the least socially inclusive university. The Labour MP David Lammy was quick to herald these social-inclusion league table results as ‘evidence that Britain’s finest universities remain gated communities for the privileged.’ But we need to ask why universities should be socially inclusive.

Placing social inclusion at the heart of higher education suggests students should be picked to represent a diverse array of gender, skin colour, sexuality and social-class characteristics, with more traditionally disadvantaged groups placed firmly to the fore. Recruiting this diverse group of students might enable institutions to produce publicity material worthy of a Gap advert, but inclusion and diversity are not ends in themselves. What are universities including students into?

From predetermined outcomes that reduce learning to a join-the-dots exercise to student satisfaction that privileges enjoyment over effort, quantifying inputs and outputs distances universities from higher education itself. This is rarely seen as a problem because so few people involved with universities see the value in conserving, transmitting and pursuing knowledge. Over several decades we’ve been told that universities are for building the national economy, or about getting people into work, or individual social mobility, or social inclusion, or safeguarding the mental health of a generation of supposedly vulnerable young people. Round in circles we go, each reinvention taking us further away from education.

If higher education is an intellectual project, then universities should be free to select the most talented students who best demonstrate the potential and interest to contribute. At present, universities work hard to find such individuals. Almost all now have outreach programmes sending representatives to schools in disadvantaged areas to encourage bright students to apply. Such programmes have had some success — there is simply no big group of people who do well at school, get decent A-level grades, but then opt out of going to university. Neither is it the case that large numbers of students with top exam results are going to universities or taking subjects for which they are hugely overqualified.

For those intent on using higher education for social engineering, outreach can only have a limited impact while universities still insist on having entry criteria. Expecting students to have achieved certain exam results in order to be considered for a place immediately rules out potential recruits who don’t make the grade. Pupils taught in private or selective schools are more likely to pick up top A-level grades than youngsters from comprehensives. This is appalling: a child’s educational success should not be determined by social class or geography.

But instead of looking at why some schools appear to be more successful than others, and demanding that all schools be brought up to the standard of the best, universities are called upon to lower their entrance criteria for students who have been to comprehensives, or had free school meals, or lived in a poor neighbourhood. The message that goes out to these students is that they cannot overcome disadvantage through their own efforts, so institutions will have to lower their expectations instead.

Cambridge University has announced plans to introduce a transitional year for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who fail to meet the entry requirements. In effect, Cambridge is offering two-track degree programmes — traditional three-year degrees for some and new four-year courses for those who don’t make the grade. Elsewhere, contextual admissions — taking an applicant’s background into account when deciding to offer a university place — are now all the rage.

Under both schemes there is an assumption that disadvantaged students can quickly make up any lost ground and go on to fulfil their potential. But this is hard to substantiate because grade inflation has been generally rampant across the whole higher-education sector and has increased most significantly for those entering university with the lowest A-level grades. We do know that universities with the lowest entry criteria have the highest rate of students dropping out before the end of their first year.

Offering some potential students lower grades than others sends them a message that they are victims of their circumstances and, instead of hard work, they need institutions to make concessions to accommodate them. This undermines students who have gone to great lengths to succeed and lets schools off the hook for low standards.

Yet none of this matters to those who think universities are about social inclusion rather than higher education. Instead, diversity — an entirely hollow concept — has become an end in itself. This is tragic for those students newly arrived at university excited to learn as much about their favourite subject as possible.


US professor who wished ‘death & castration’ to Kavanaugh defenders is sent on paid working trip

A Georgetown University professor, suspended from Twitter over calls to murder ‘entitled white men’ for supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh and to ‘castrate their corpses,’ is being sent to travel internationally for research.

Dr. Carol Christine Fair made headlines this week when she tweeted that “entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s arrogated entitlement” deserve “miserable deaths” and that, as a bonus, their corpses should be castrated and fed to pigs.

Twitter suspended her account over that post on Tuesday, temporarily, as it turns out, because Fair was back on the social network within a day. Meanwhile, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where she teaches, has decided to “punish” her by sending her on a trip abroad.

“We can and do strongly condemn the use of violent imagery, profanity, and insensitive labeling of individuals based on gender, ethnicity or political affiliation in any form of discourse,” SFS dean Joel Hellman said on Friday.

“To prevent further disruption to her students and out of an abundance of caution for the security of our community, we have mutually agreed for Professor Fair to go on research leave, effective immediately,” Hellman wrote in a statement, explaining that she will “accelerate previously scheduled international research travel.”

Fair, who describes herself on Twitter as an “inter-sectional feminist, pitbull apostle, scotch devotee, nontheist, resister,” was unrepentant. Taking a page from New York Times’ editor Sarah Jeong’s playbook, she argued that the tweet was “using the language of the abuse I receive by the hundreds.”

On Thursday, the National Coalition for Men (NCFM) filed a Title IX complaint against Fair with the Department of Education, arguing she is “an active and ongoing security threat to her male students, she cannot be expected to teach her male students in a fair manner, and her presence creates a hostile environment against young male students on campus.”

NCFM lawyer Marc Angelucci expressed surprise that Fair was not fired by Georgetown, saying that “if a male professor said those horrific things about female senators, he'd be fired immediately, not to mention mobbed and vilified in the media.”

Fair called the complaint “absurd” and “basically weapons-grade misogyny.”

“Anyone who confuses a critique of male privilege with animus towards men is being daft or willfully mendacious,” the professor told PJ Media. [There must be a lot of liars around, then]


Australia: Teachers’ union stance wrong on reading

I have been a member of teachers’ unions since I began teaching 30 years ago. The role of unions is to protect the pay and conditions of their members. However, as a practicing teacher, I am becoming increasingly concerned with their present stance on the teaching of reading that seems to undermine the very thing they claim to protect — teacher workload — as well as doing a disservice to the children they educate.

The NSW Teachers Federation commissioned a paper titled “Exploding some of the myths about learning to read” by Professor Robyn Ewing, who participated in the recent phonics debate. Professor Ewing will be given a further platform to present the ideas in her paper at a Federation-endorsed professional development session in October.

Professor Ewing’s report misrepresents the case for effective phonics instruction — including the adoption of a straw man argument that a systematic and explicit approach teaching phonics precludes other aspects of literacy such as vocabulary development. Professor Pam Snow has summarised the shortcomings of Ewing’s report by stating, “Nothing was exploded in Professor Ewing’s union commissioned paper. Rather, a number of tired though conveniently protean myths have simply been perpetuated; unhelpfully and uncritically so.”

In contrast, Professor Snow’s research documents the consequences of failure to develop essential literacy skills, and she draws our attention to the overly high rates of illiteracy amongst incarcerated youth who disengaged from society and the education system, as evidenced in the 2015 Young People in Custody Report.

As a learning and support teacher I see students every day who have difficulty with reading and spelling. Engaging these students in the classroom becomes increasingly difficult as students become older and the gap becomes wider. This adds to teacher workload and stress through having to manage disruptions and robs all students of valuable instructional time.

The gap need not become wider if teachers engage with the findings of reading research and trials. The South Australian phonics check trial showed that the check was not stressful for students and teachers and school leaders were overwhelmingly positive about it. More teachers are beginning to understand the importance of this check and the Queensland Catholic Education Commission will now trial the check in 2019.

Many teachers were surprised that the Phonics Check detected a deficiency in students’ decoding abilities that was not evident in the more cumbersome and time-consuming ‘running records’ mandated by many education departments throughout Australia.

Teacher unions should be arguing for teaching strategies that reflect a strong evidence base, and for assessment tools such as the Phonics Check that reduce teacher workload.


Sunday, October 07, 2018

The origins of the fragile student

‘Snowflakeism’ isn’t all down to cranky student-union leaders.

This week, Manchester University Students’ Union banned clapping at its events. The traditional round of applause has been replaced with the more ‘inclusive’ jazz hands to make students feel more comfortable.

The move has rightly been ridiculed in the media as yet another example of student ‘snowflakes’, of political correctness gone mad. The policy is certainly laughable. It benefits no one besides the students’ union officers, who get to fantasise that their petty policies are striking a blow for social justice.

Yet for all the media’s mockery of zany student policies, they themselves are complicit in this state of affairs.

Of course, student silliness makes great headlines, and unions’ authoritarian behaviour deserves criticism. But, contradictorily, when the media aren’t bashing students for being ‘snowflakes’, they are talking up a campus mental-health crisis, fretting over an alleged epidemic of student suicides, and telling us that students are overwhelmed by stress even from routine assignments, coursework and exams. What’s more, according to numerous media reports, universities are hotbeds of rape culture, racism and bullying.

It is actually these scare stories, and the often questionable statistics behind them, that form the basis of many of the mad policies and campaigns on campus that the media then condemn.

Calls for sexual-consent classes, the removal of ‘colonialist’ statues, or the demand for trigger warnings on Shakespeare all stem from the absurd view of students as a uniquely vulnerable and put-upon section of society — a view the media are happy to indulge and promote.

The media are correct to scorn the excesses of student politics, but they uncritically propagate the ideas that give rise to these excesses.

Of course, like all people, some students will be disadvantaged or will face problems during the course of their studies. But the vast majority will have a perfectly enjoyable university experience without the intervention of mental-health professionals or students’ union ‘liberation’ officers.

It is time for both students’ unions and the media to start treating students as adults and to tackle the idea that students are inherently vulnerable. Only then will the demands to ban such allegedly terrible things as clapping or controversial ideas start to disappear.


Is the Electorate Really Informed?

Just one in three Americans could pass a 10-question test derived from the U.S. Citizenship Test.   

While last week we were singing the praises of Millennials for staying together in matrimony, one area where they’re falling short is the understanding of our basic system of government. Then again, they’re not alone: According to a survey conducted for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, just one in three Americans could pass a 10-question test derived from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which is required of all immigrants who wish to become American citizens. Tellingly, those under age 45 had just a 19% passage rate, meaning that fewer than one in five could answer six or more of the 10 questions correctly. (On the other hand, respondents over 65 had a 74% passage rate.)

“Unfortunately this study found the average American to be woefully uninformed regarding America’s history and incapable of passing the U.S. Citizenship Test,” said Foundation president Arthur Levine. “It would be an error to view these findings as merely an embarrassment,” Levine warned. “Knowledge of the history of our country is fundamental to maintaining a democratic society, which is imperiled today.”

Regular readers will recall that we’ve sounded this alarm bell before, particularly when Constitution Day comes around. All kidding about “Civics for Dummies” aside, though, ignorance of the basic tenets of our government leaves our citizenry vulnerable to abuse by those people who realize how simple it is to game the system to their advantage. “We don’t need a citizenry made up of constitutional experts,” wrote our own Brian Mark Weber, “but how can we expect voters to make informed decisions if they know next to nothing about our system of government or their rights under the Constitution?”

It’s almost too easy to blame the educational system, whether it’s the replacement of traditional American history by “New Civics” classwork at the college level or a lack of emphasis in high school — a glaring deficiency that prompted the Obama administration to simply stop measuring the lack of progress in teaching these subjects. Noteworthy was a 2012 Tufts University study, which found that while most states required a basic civics course for high-school graduation, only eight had a civics portion as part of mandated testing to graduate. Moreover, the remaining tests were becoming easier, having dropped their short-answer and essay requirements in favor of simpler multiple-choice questions. Those 2012 students are today donning the civics dunce cap.

Picking up on the admonition of the Woodrow Wilson Institute, the editors at The Wall Street Journal are correct in stating flatly: “It’s embarrassing.”

When just 13% of Americans can recall when the Constitution was ratified — most said 1776, meaning they can’t keep the Constitution and Declaration of Independence straight — and 60% don’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II, woe is us. And is it merely comical or downright shameful that “only 24% can identify something that Ben Franklin was famous for, and 37% credit him for having invented the light bulb.” In Millennial-speak: “OMG!”

With Election Day less than a month away — in fact, early voting has already begun in a few select states — this study should be yet another wake-up call to ratchet up our awareness a few notches. Unfortunately, subjects that don’t lend themselves to becoming popular iPhone apps aren’t high on the Millennial priority list — and, hey, they don’t mind socialism anyway.

Barbie once complained that “math class is tough.” Maybe so, but try convincing today’s education establishment that it’s important to properly teach our young people about the Constitution and the role of government. Given these latest dismal results, it’s time to take on this toughest of tasks.


Australian University chiefs unite to defend free speech

Good if it happens

University of Western Sydney chancellor Peter Shergold has warned that attacks on free speech are a relatively recent development.

Leading university heads have warned of the urgent need to take a stand against encroaching threats to free speech across Australia’s tertiary institutions, including US-inspired boycotts of speakers and classroom “trigger warnings” about details that might upset students — with one high-profile chancellor dis­avowing the notion that campuses should be “safe spaces”.

University of Western Sydney chancellor Peter Shergold has warned that attacks on free speech are a relatively recent development in Australia and university governing bodies should be prepared to make tough decisions to defend the integrity of their institutions.

Speaking to The Australian following a robust panel discussion on the topic at the University Chancellors Council annual conference in Adelaide yesterday, Dr Shergold said his personal view was that universities should default to a position of enabling “as much freedom as possible — not to constrain, not to control”.

“Universities need safe spaces for students, be they LGBTI or Muslim … where they can go and talk to each other,” said Dr Shergold, the council’s chairman. “But university campuses cannot be safe spaces in terms of ideas.  “People should be challenged by ideas, see a diversity of ideas. That’s the heart of the institutional ethos of a university.”

Dr Shergold’s comments — which come amid mounting concerns that universities are increasingly becoming closed intellectual shops, prone to groupthink and the censoring of diverse ideas — were echoed by Australian ­National University chancellor ­Gareth Evans.

While Mr Evans has recently been forced to defend the univer­sity’s decision to withdraw from plans for a new degree in Western civilisation — which was to have been funded by the John Howard-chaired Ramsay Centre — he too slammed the emerging phenomenon of staff and students seeking to shut down debate under the premise that people should not be exposed to ideas with which they disagreed.

“We are hearing about ‘no-platforming’ — disinviting or shouting down visiting speakers espousing various heresies; about the need for ‘trigger warnings’ — alerting students to potentially upsetting racially, politically or ­gender-sensitive themes,” Mr Evans said.

“Most disconcerting of all, the need for ‘safe spaces’, where students can be completely insulated from anything that may assault their sense of what is moral and appropriate.”

Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh cited recent publicised threats to free speech such as opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, which ANU staff and students accused of pushing a “racist” and “radically conservative agenda”, as well as the violent protest over psychologist Bettina Arndt’s appearance at the University of Sydney. These were just “the tip of the iceberg”, Mr Lesh said.

He told the conference that the proliferation of social justice policies around cultural inclusion, global citizenship and sustainability were to blame for restraining free speech. “I speak to academics and students at your institutions ­almost every day … (they) tell me about a worrying culture of censorship,” he said.

“Australia’s universities are lacking in viewpoint diversity — a range of perspectives challenging each other in the pursuit of reason, truth and progress. This leads to groupthink, self-censorship, and sometimes active shouting down.”

He said universities had a choice between either encouraging free inquiry or treading a social justice path and seeking to “change the world” — but choosing the latter would “not only undermine academic scholarship and student learning, it could be seriously damaging to the reputation and viability of the institutions”.

Mr Evans said it wasn’t only universities that were at risk, referring to the decision by the Brisbane Writers Festival this year to disinvite former NSW premier Bob Carr and feminist Germaine Greer as “absurd to the point of indefensibility”.

Joking that he was perhaps an “unreconstructed child of the 1960s”, the former Labor senator and foreign affairs minister said principles of “timeless significance” were at stake and university administrators and governing bodies “simply must take a stand”.

“Lines have to be drawn, and administrators’ spines stiffened, against manifestly un­conscionable demands for protection against ideas and arguments claimed to be offensive,” Mr Evans said. “Keeping alive the great tradition of our universities — untrammelled autonomy and untrammelled freedom of speech — is a cause to which university chancellors … should be prepared to go to the barricades.”

Concern about the impacts of growing campus activism has been on the political radar for some months.

Education Minister Dan Tehan recently proposed to the Group of Eight universities that measures to protect freedom of thought and expression should be considered, such as requiring student activists who sought to disrupt an event to pay for additional security costs. He expressed concerns that in the case of Sydney University, event organisers were being levied with the bill.

Steven Schwartz, a former vice-chancellor at three universities in Australia and Britain, said: “Today’s university students will grow up to be tomorrow’s lawyers, politicians, and judges. For the sake of our democracy, we cannot allow a generation of graduates to grow up believing that there are issues that are too dangerous to discuss.

“Expanding the meaning of words such as ‘violence’, ‘aggression’ and ‘traumatic’ to describe speech provides universities with a spurious excuse for censorship.”

Professor Schwartz said if universities failed to defend free speech, governments might intervene: “I am sure they will not like the result.”