Friday, February 15, 2019

British Education Secretary sets out vision for character and resilience

Sounds worthy but this is just a distraction from the failure of many British schoolchildren to reach basic academic goals.  If you look busy, people might think you are achieving things. Teaching character in British State schools is a bit of a laugh.  It's more of a "Lord of the Flies" environment in many school playgrounds

Character and resilience are as crucial to young people’s future success as academic qualifications, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said today.

Addressing the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference today (7 February), Mr Hinds laid out the 5 Foundations for Building Character and pledged to work with schools and external organisations, including membership bodies and charities, to help every child access activities within each of those foundations.

To make this happen the Education Secretary announced:

Plans for an audit of the availability of out of school activities across the country, to help understand where more focus is needed to increase access and choice. The Government will also work with organisations to look at how it can support greater provision in areas where it is limited.

A call on businesses and charities to offer more work experience and volunteer placements to young people.

Relaunching the Department for Education’s Character Awards, which highlight innovative or outstanding programmes that develop a wide variety of character traits including conscientiousness, drive and perseverance, as well as virtues, for other schools to learn from.

A new advisory group, led by Ian Bauckham - who led the work to update the Relationships, Sex and Health Education guidance for schools - will now develop a new framework to help teachers and school leaders identify the types of opportunities that will help support their pupils to build character. The framework will also provide a self-assessment tool for schools to check how well they are doing.

Alongside this work Mr Hinds also underlined the significance of pupils learning about the importance of positive personal attributes – such as self-respect and self-worth, honesty, courage, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice - as part of the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum.

These wide ranging proposals are aimed at building on the great work already being done by many schools to ensure young people build strong and positive relationships and embrace the character and resilience needed to deal with life’s inevitable challenges.

In his speech the Education Secretary said:

Character and resilience are the qualities, the inner resources that we call on to get us through the frustrations and setbacks that are part and parcel of life. How do we instil this in young people, how do we make sure they are ready to make their way in the world as robust and confident individuals?

I have heard repeatedly from teachers, parents and young people themselves about the areas of activity that will help develop character and resilience. They combine elements that will stretch and challenge and will help young people think, develop and grow and which will enhance their self-esteem and their confidence.

This is not about a DfE plan for building character. It has to be about schools learning from other schools, it’s about business pitching in when it can, it’s about community groups speaking up and inviting schools in. It’s about individual adults volunteering. All of us need to work together using the wide range of resources and experts that there are out there.

Today’s announcements follow a series of activities to help schools focus on more than just academic achievement. These include:

Ofsted’s plans to introduce a new inspection framework that will specifically look at how schools will ensure a child’s education is about more than just exams.

A £2.5million programme with the British Council to ensure more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to go on school exchanges and benefit from the opportunity of experiencing other cultures first hand.

New research by the Social Mobility Commission looking at the impact of extra-curricular activities on social mobility. This will help ensure the most effective practices are scaled up and targeted at the areas that need them most.

The 5 Foundations for Building Character cover a number of key areas - sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership, and the world of work. In his speech Mr Hinds said that these activities are a crucial part of a child’s development and will teach them the qualities that cannot solely be learned in the classroom.

These key areas cover an extensive list of activities. The foundations are:

Sport – which includes competitive sport and activities such as running, martial arts, swimming and purposeful recreational activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, orienteering, gym programmes, yoga or learning to ride a bike.

Creativity – this involves all creative activities from coding, arts and crafts, writing, graphic design, film making and music composition.

Performing – activities could include dance, theatre and drama, musical performance, choir, debating or public speaking.

Volunteering & Membership – brings together teams for practical action in the service of others or groups, such as volunteering, litter-picking, fundraising, any structured youth programmes or uniformed groups like Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts, Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh.

World of work – practical experience of the world of work, work experience or entrepreneurship. For primary age children, this may involve opportunities to meet role models from different jobs.


More Colleges are Saying ‘No’ to Student Loans

Students Should Explore Other Options

The federal student loan program is, in my judgment, the single biggest public policy mistake made in American higher education in the last century. The February 2019 issue of the Review of Financial Studies includes still another detailed empirical study (by David Lucca, Taylor Nadauld, and Karen Shen of the New York Federal Reserve Bank) confirming what former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said in 1987: most of the benefits from federal student loan programs accrue to colleges, not students attending them. Increase subsidized loans to students by $1000, colleges will typically raise their sticker tuition price by about $600. The newest study adds another wrinkle: it appears higher federal assistance also leads to somewhat lower institutional student financial support, so the net tuition growth from increased federal aid might be even greater than the already strong results shown with respect to published tuition fees.

With this in mind, I have long argued (and do in my book Restoring the Promise, out May 1) that we need to reduce or eliminate federal student loan programs and find other ways of financing schooling, such as private income share agreements. But a new development is modestly accelerating the achievement of that goal: some schools are just saying no to student loans, no longer administering federal student loan programs on behalf of their students. For decades a few schools have done this, such as Grove City and Hillsdale colleges. But now it has spread to a number of community colleges.

Several large California community colleges are turning down federal student loan assistance for their students, a requirement under a new “free college” bill providing one-year free tuition for California community college students. Bruce Baron, chancellor of the large (24,000 students) San Bernardino Community College district, is quoted in Inside Higher Ed: “When we had the federal student loan program, we had an extremely high default rate.” He added, regarding the use of student loan money, “My observation…is if you get a student loan and go to the college bookstore to buy textbooks, you may also walk out with sweatshirts and a few other things.” Apparently, that kind of thinking has led many North Carolina schools to also leave the federal system.

Under federal law, if a school’s student loan default rate exceeds 30%, it loses eligibility to receive federal funds. Very few schools are at that figure, but some are well above 20%. For years, higher education reformers of many political stripes have urged Congress to require schools to have more “skin in the game,” meaning they have to share funding the financial shortfall arising from students reneging on repayment of loan obligations. If strong “skin in the game” legislation were to pass, elite selective admissions schools would feel no impact, but lowly endowed small liberal arts colleges, obscure state universities with mediocre reputations, historically black colleges and universities, and community colleges could face extinction—they are vulnerable to having to make big payments given the high loan default rates of their students. Many already are in tenuous shape financially even before “skin in the game” rules.

It may sound cruel and insensitive to the poor since low-income persons disproportionately attend these schools with many high-risk students. Yet too many of them are not graduating, but nonetheless face two burdens: first a crushing financial obligation of repaying loans when their post-schooling income is quite low, and second a sense of failure arising from not achieving their educational goal. We need to help many of these students in ways that are likely to be more successful and less costly, such as sending them to non-degree training for a year or so resulting in a skills certificate qualifying them for very specific jobs such as welding, being a paramedic, or driving a big truck. And perhaps we should finance this training by private income share agreements rather than a failed bureaucratic federal student loan system that is a primary cause of soaring tuition fees.


Australia: Men are rated as better teachers of some university subjects and people from foreign countries are rated as less successful teachers generally

A lot of Leftist bias here.  All men (and women) are not equal!  Horrors! That the Dean of Science at UNSW wants to "smash" things sounds very Trotskyite. Why is anybody surprised that men are better at teaching some things and that people who don't speak English well are rated as less successful teachers in general?  Only a Leftist would be surprised

Students are more likely to rate male university teachers higher than their female counterparts in some areas of STEM and Business, according to Australia’s largest review of student experience surveys.

The study, published today in PLOS ONE, examined almost 525,000 individual student experience surveys from UNSW Sydney students from 2010-2016 across five faculties. It is the first study to examine the interaction between gender and cultural bias.

“These results have enormous flow-on effects for society, beyond education, as over 40% of the Australian population now go to university, and graduates may carry these biases with them into the workforce,” said Associate Professor Yanan Fan, lead author on the study and statistician from UNSW Science.

The study showed that in Business and Science, a male teacher from an English-speaking background was more than twice as likely to get a higher score on a student evaluation than a female teacher from a non-English speaking background. In Engineering, there wasn’t a significant swing against female teachers, except male English-speaking teachers were 1.4 times more likely to get a higher score than teachers in all other categories.  For Medicine, local students were more likely to give lower scores to female teachers from non-English speaking backgrounds.

“In the Business and Science faculties in particular, male English-speaking teachers have the highest probability of getting the highest possible grade at six, out of six possible scores,” Associate Professor Fan said.

In Arts and Social Sciences, there was no statistically significant bias against female teachers. The results suggest that where there is a larger proportion of female teachers, such as in Arts and Social Sciences, there is less bias. Bias was observed, however, against male non-English speaking background teachers when evaluated by local students.

“The results show universities must be models of equity and diversity in order to breakdown inequalities that persist in even the most progressive of workplaces,” said Professor Merlin Crossley, UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic.

Dean of Science at UNSW and co-author of the study, Professor Emma Johnston, says encouraging more women at the professorial level, in leadership positions and in membership of key committees will help shrink these biases.

“We need to continue to support women at all levels of academia in STEM across Australia, in order to smash stereotypes that create the partiality that exists within our community.”

Media release. Contact: Lucy Carroll,

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Outrageous NYC Education Pensions

If you were wondering why teachers trend so overwhelmingly left-wing, consider the education pensions paid out in New York City:

Six-figure pensions paid to retired city education professionals [have] more than quadrupled since 2008, according to recent data from Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY, a fiscally conservative think tank.

Encroaching socialism may bleed the rest of us dry, but it works great for some employed by Big Government.

Last year, some 3,416 New York City Teachers’ Retirement System retirees received pensions of $100,000 or more compared to 3,029 in 2019 and 856 in 2008, according to the data.

This also helps explain why taxes are so high.

This year, the top educator to receive a city pension was a retired Queens College professor who earned $561,754.

It used to be that you had to produce wealth to make that kind of money. But those were the bad old days of the capitalist robber barons. Now you can make a fortune spouting moonbattery and stuffing young skulls with corrosive rot.

It isn’t just New York. Education pensions may sink the entire state of Illinois into bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, teachers around the country continue to strike, confident that their increasingly outrageous demands will be met.


Education in W.Va. swings Left

Less than 24 hours following the public hearings Monday, more changes have been made to the West Virginia education bill.

The House Finance Committee has removed the controversial Education Savings Accounts from the bill, and only two charter schools will be allowed in the state.

"I persuaded them that I thought that this would probably be the best decision that we could make right now," said Del. Eric Householder, Chairman, (R) Berkeley - Education Committee. "And the bill advances and it lives another day."

The maximum number of charter schools has become a main focus for educators who are against the bill. One Delegate is hearing similar rumbles back home.

"I'm here to represent the folks that voted for me," said Del. Lisa Zukoff, (D) Marshall. "I'm hearing from home that they don't want charter schools."

More potential changes can arise once the House of Delegates have been introduced the bill. A final House vote should happen towards the end of the week.


These are the new reforms set for French schools

France's much-debated new education reform bill was presented to parliament this week.

Dubbed the law for bringing 'trust back into schools' (in French l'école de confiance'), the bill was presented by France's education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer in the hope it will lead to greater social justice and improve the overall academic level of students.

The proposed reforms are part of a much wider set of changes to the French education driven by Emmanuel Macron who made improving education one of his top campaign promises. 

Some measures have already been been rolled out including smaller classroom sizes in the first year of primary school, a shake-up in university admissions and a ban of mobile phones in most classes.
Here are the key elements of the new education reforms being debated this week.

Compulsory school from age 3

The government wants to make school obligatory for all children from the age of three. Currently in France, children only have to attend school from the age of six, when primary school (École élémentaire) begins. In reality most children however (98.9 percent) also attend nursery (maternelle) for three years beforehand, leading critics to say this reform is merely a symbolic one.

Teachers to have a duty to be 'exemplary'

The bill wants to enshrine the notion that teachers have a duty to be exemplary models for their pupils.

Critics fear this could curtail freedom of expression however the government responded to this critique by adding that this duty would apply in the context of a current law that guarantees civil servants freedom of opinion.

A new body to rate the school system

The government wants to create a new body to rate the French education system.

The new 'Conseil d'évaluation de l'école' would take over some of the tasks currently undertaken by an independent council called Cnesco, which was set up by Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande.

The new body would be made up of 14 members mostly appointed by the government. Unions and others have voiced worries that this means the council won't be independent.

More room for experimenting

The French school system is sometimes criticised for being rigid and centralised. The government wants to give more independence to schools by allowing individual establishments to decide on certain aspects of education, such as school hours.

Extra training for teaching staff

The government wants to boost training for teachers and intends to create a new institute to do this. To bridge current regional disparities in the quality of teacher training, the heads of these establishments would be appointed by the government and not locally.

The bill also aims to increase the number of international state schools and allowing assistants who are training to be teachers to teach some classes.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

At Harvard, Asian-American students urge diversity efforts beyond admissions

On the stand in federal court, on social media, and during rallies, they defended Harvard University in a landmark trial over affirmative action in college admissions last year, helping to shore up the school’s case that it doesn’t discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

But in recent weeks, some Asian-American students and alumni say they have been frustrated by the glacial pace of Harvard’s efforts to improve diversity beyond admissions.

The imminent departures of two Asian-American professors who specialize in ethnic and racial studies has stunned many. The moves have also drawn attention to the meager number of minority faculty on campus and renewed calls for Harvard to create an ethnic studies department.

“I feel let down,” said Sally Chen, 21, a senior who was one of eight current and past students who testified in support of race-conscious admissions during the trial last October. Chen said she shared her family stories, her dreams, and her academic journey with lawyers, the media, and eventually a judge to defend diversity in admissions. But her mentor at Harvard is one of the professors now leaving.

“It struck a personal chord. I had worked with [these professors], it felt crucial to my ability to testify,” she said.

The faculty departures reminded students that just 18 percent of Harvard’s 2,517 professors are minorities, according to 2016 data, and that going back nearly 50 years students have been demanding an ethnic studies department, dedicated to teaching and research about Asian, Hispanic, Arab-American, and Native American communities.

The two professors taught classes on Asian-American history and diversity and equity in higher education. Genevieve Clutario, an assistant professor of history at Harvard has taken a job next fall at Wellesley College’s Asian-American studies program. Natasha Kumar Warikoo, an associate professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, who frequently spoke and wrote about affirmative action in admissions in recent years, was not put up for tenure last fall and said she plans to leave the college.

Harvard officials declined to comment about personnel decisions.

But President Larry Bacow said he is “not unsympathetic” to the demands for an ethnic studies department.

College administrators have been discussing this issue and are recruiting faculty to teach ethnic studies, Bacow said.

“Ultimately, new programs or curriculum are the purview of the faculty,” Bacow said in a statement. “We have been focused on ensuring that any new program would have the faculty and resources essential to deliver it. ... We know there is more work to do, and we will continue to make progress in the months ahead.”

Students and alumni are frustrated because they’ve been asking for ethnic studies for decades, said Albert Maldonado, a 2014 graduate of Harvard’s Divinity School, and a member of the university’s Latino Alumni Alliance.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Maldonado said. “Especially with the lawsuit going on, on the one hand we support Harvard, but on the other hand we’re bringing to their attention they need to do a lot more for us.”

Harvard has formed committees and studied the viability of an ethnic studies department for decades, even as its competitors, including Stanford University and Columbia University, have created the departments and invested in them, advocates said.

‘On the one hand we support Harvard, but on the other hand, we’re bringing to their attention they need to do a lot more for us.’

After the recent admissions trial and Harvard’s emphasis on a diverse campus, current and former students want to see progress, said Jeannie Park, a 1983 graduate of the college and the president of the school’s Asian American Alumni Alliance.

“The university has been talking about diversity non-stop, and the loss of [the professors] feels harsher,” said Park, who helped organize rallies to support race-conscious admissions last year and was often in the crowd during the three-week trial. “There’s a lot of committees, at some point somebody’s got to put a budget down and a head-count down.”

On Friday, organizers who used social media to rally crowds last fall in support of race-conscious admissions activated those same networks to bring together about 60 students outside of the Charles Hotel near Harvard to demand an ethnic studies department.

Bacow spoke briefly with the protesters outside. And as he was meeting with alumni inside the hotel, the students, wearing shirts and pins declaring “Ethnic studies now,” chanted “Out of the courtroom, into the classroom.”

The case, which played out over three weeks in a Boston federal district courtroom, drew international attention and could eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court. Legal scholars believe the case has the potential to overturn decades of race-conscious admissions practices in the United States.

Students for Fair Admissions, which brought the lawsuit, alleged that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions data showed that the college’s use of personal ratings, which measure likability, leadership, and vivaciousness, discriminates against Asian-American applicants. Getting a high personal rating is crucial to gaining entry to Harvard where so many of the applicants are academically strong and active in sports and clubs.

Harvard denied that it discriminated against students and said that its admissions policies were legal and that officials consider more than 200 variables, including race, in evaluating applicants. Harvard accused Students for Fair Admissions of cherry-picking data and trying to turn back the clock on racial diversity on college campuses.

On Wednesday, both sides are scheduled to appear in court again to present their final oral arguments before Judge Allison Burroughs. Burroughs will then decide on the case in the coming months.

At Harvard, the trial has mobilized students who are prepared to keep the pressure on administrators for more diversity, Chen said.

“There’s a level of wanting to see them stay true to their word,” she said.


The state school system in Britain systematically produces people lacking the most basic skills

The British economy continues to grow slowly, but output per hour worked remains stubbornly flat. This means that economic growth can occur only by the employment of ever more people (usually immigrants) or by extending working hours. Neither makes for a happy outcome.

Why is British productivity so stagnant? Economic journalists puzzle their brains over it. I do not have the definitive answer, but an anecdote recently told me by a man with a small catering business may shed some light on at least one factor.

The caterer urgently needed some carrots and went to a nearby small supermarket to buy them. The supermarket was about to close, and only one bag of carrots was left, selling for £1.20. He took it to the checkout, where the checkout girl noticed that the bag was torn. She said that she could not sell it to him, as some carrots might have fallen out. He said that he did not mind—he needed the carrots and was prepared to pay the full price for them.

Nevertheless, she insisted on calling her supervisor, who said that she should sell the carrots but deduct 10 percent from their price. “How do I do that?” she asked.

The supervisor said that he did not know, either; and my informant, the customer, offered them £1.00 in place of £1.20, which they accepted with relief because it absolved them from having to make the difficult calculation, with or without electronic assistance.

The main point to note is that the checkout girl and her supervisor had received between them an education lasting 22 years and costing several hundred thousand pounds, yet neither could work out what 10 percent of 1.2 is.

They were not mentally defective by genetic endowment or by birth accident: theirs was what one might almost call state-programmed mental defectiveness, whether that program was deliberate or an unintended consequence of educational policy. They were far from isolated cases of this defectiveness; employers in Britain are constantly complaining that young people who cannot read properly or perform the simplest of arithmetical calculations offer themselves for work, with credentials from the national educational service. The state-sponsored production of mental defectiveness acts in concert, alas, with a popular culture that promotes, reflects, and almost glorifies it.

A workforce with a large proportion of de facto mental defectives is difficult to train to perform any but the most menial tasks, and even those it will probably perform badly. Their labor will be scarcely worth more than the minimum wage, if that much. Thus, both the economy as a whole and millions of individuals are trapped in low productivity, all the more galling because it has been produced at such great expense. 


Bettina Arndt on Heather Mac Donald

Bettina's most recent report below. She opposes the feminist demonization of men, particularly in Australia's universities


"What a lonely job, working the phones at a college rape centre. Day after day, you wait for the casualties to show up from the campus rape epidemic. But hardly any victims ever show up"

Pretty funny, eh?  That’s the provocative idea which introduces Heather Mac Donald’s chapter on the campus rape myth from her new book, "The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture".

It’s typical punchy stuff from a woman who has had long, impressive career as a writer and commentator. Heather Mac Donald is currently a contributing editor to City Journal and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She’s an outspoken commentator, for instance taking on lies in the ‘black lives matter’ narrative when speaking out about criminal justice reform and race relations, immigration and policing.

I was delighted to talk to her recently, particularly about her strong views on gender politics and the universities, an area where we have had remarkably similar experiences and similar concerns. Experiences like facing a howling mob of protesters at a university campus. My regular viewers will know the riot squad was brought in last year at Sydney University to remove protesters denying entry to the venue where I was supposed to be talking about the fake rape crisis. Heather was prevented from giving a talk about racial issues at Clairmont University – she ended up speaking to an empty room while the police protected her from the baying mob.

I’m very alarmed about the grip of the campus rape myth in Australia and thought it was timely to have Heather Mac Donald explain how this manufactured feminist scare campaign was used in her country to bully politicians into setting up tribunals where so many young men were falsely accused and thrown out of their universities – with dire consequences for the higher education sector, particularly when many of these students successfully sued over the failure of the colleges to protect their legal rights. 

This is exactly where we are heading in Australia – which is why I wanted Heather to reveal the dire consequences for male students if we fail to stand up to this orchestrated campaign.

I’m sure you will be impressed by her passionate, articulate presentation of this important issue. Please circulate my video (

And read Heather’s book. Her detailed description of the armies of diversity bureaucrats now running American colleges will send shivers down your spine.

Don’t let the wicked witches win!

I’m really concerned that feminist campaigners are winning round after round in this battle. Look at our Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek’s promise to remove funding from universities which fail to promote the rape crisis, or the Union of Students promise to provide funding for activists opposing my talks on campus. Most recently we have seen our notorious feminist domestic violence organisation, OurWatch, in league with the universities to promote this nonsense.

We need to get active on this issue. Please write to your MP’s, contact people you know in universities, talk to students, write comments on online newspapers, contact editors over articles promoting the rape crisis. I’m going to attach a few documents to help you, outlining recent events in Australia. I’ll include evidence regarding university regulations which have recently been introduced to adjudicate rape cases – without proper legal protections for the accused and using lower standards of proof. Plus a list of articles outlining recent key events.

I’ll soon be announcing the first of my campus tour stops this year. I hope some of you will be able to come along and support me. I have big plans for Sydney University. It’s infuriating that we have heard nothing about the progress of my complaints about the protesters. Clearly, they hope I will just go away – but they have another think coming.

Finally, my YouTube Q&A is happening this Wednesday, February 13.

Yes, I know this was supposed to take place last week. I’m so sorry I didn’t manage to let you all know we’d been forced to postpone it. Here’s the link for the YouTube session 

Subscribers can visit this page now to receive notification when the Q&A goes live.

Via email from Bettina:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Universities will take the cash, even if it’s "dirty" cash

Right now, MIT, Tufts, and other local universities are grappling with important questions: Is it OK to accept tainted money when it funds a just cause? Is it ever right to accept donations that help deplorable people launder their reputations?

MIT answered both more or less in the affirmative on Wednesday, announcing that it would not sever its financial and research ties with Saudi Arabia. This, despite the kingdom’s heartless role in the civil war that has brought Yemenis to their knees, and the growing certainty that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

There’s no question MIT’s ties with the kingdom have legitimized its autocratic ruler: When Salman visited MIT (and Harvard) in March, university president L. Rafael Reif spoke of his country’s “promising new future.” A photograph showed Reif warmly holding the ruler’s hand in both of his.

On Wednesday, Reif sought to undo that disastrous PR by condemning Saudi Arabia’s “brutal human rights violations, discrimination and suppression of dissent, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.” But he stopped short of terminating relationships between MIT and institutions controlled by the Saudi government, arguing that the partnerships involved “worthy Saudi people who share our principles and are doing good work.” He said it would be up to individual researchers to decide whether to continue their connections with the kingdom.

Reif didn’t go nearly far enough. Surely there’s a way to avoid entanglements with a brutal regime without severing working partnerships with, and scholarships for, its unfortunate subjects. Saudi money represents just 0.2 percent of the university’s operating budget, officials told the Globe. MIT should replace that tainted money from its own hefty coffers. Because as long as MIT continues to accept funds from the kingdom, its denunciations ring hollow, and its own reputation suffers. The same goes for Harvard, Babson, and other universities with ties to Saudi Arabia.

The question of questionable partnerships, this time with big business, is more clear-cut — and more damning — at Tufts University. There, officials are grappling with troubling revelations in Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. The company has been accused of pressuring and misleading doctors and the public about its blockbuster opioid OxyContin, deceptions that helped fuel an epidemic of addictions.

At Tufts, Purdue’s donations didn’t just launder the company’s image: Purdue, owned by the Sackler family, turned Tufts into a marketing arm for its dangerous opioids. And, according to the complaint, faculty at the Tufts Sackler Graduate School of Biomedical Science were all too willing to help.

A 1999 Purdue donation established a Master’s of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy at Tufts. There was an annual Sackler lecture on pain medicine — no conflict there! The program “bought Purdue name recognition, goodwill in the local and medical communities, and access to doctors at Massachusetts hospitals,” the complaint says.

According to e-mails and other internal documents obtained by the AG, Purdue staff taught a Tufts seminar about opioids, and influenced the curriculum — and doctors connected to the school — in other ways.

In the wake of these astounding revelations, Tufts has vowed to review its connections to the Sacklers for possible conflicts of interest. That ought to take about five minutes. Tufts has been compromised to the point where the only way back is to cut off Purdue and the Sacklers, no matter the cost.

Reasonable people can disagree over whether museums should sever connections with compromised donors like Saudi Arabia or the Sacklers. There’s not nearly as much moral wiggle room at colleges and universities, which are in the business of shaping young minds, and urging students to try to do good in the world.

Time to practice what they preach, and not what pays.


British school is forced to cancel its play based on Charles Darwin after parents complain about sexually suggestive dance move and the representation of Christian views

A British school has cancelled a performance of a musical about Charles Darwin after parents complained about the representation of Christian views.

Students from the Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire were due to perform the 'Darwin Rocks!' musical next month but it has been scrapped after six parents raised concerns over lyrics that 'refer to bump and grind' - a sexually-suggestive dance move.

The headteacher of the school, Simon Kidwell, said a handful of parents believed a bishop in the play was 'mocked' in a scene.

Musicline, the musical's publishers, said it was written by a Christian and said they were unaware of the performance having 'courted controversy before'.

The production is meant to be a 'light-hearted look' at the work of Darwin's theory of evolution, according to Musicline's website.

One concerned parents said they did not want their daughter to think her ambition to be an engineer went against Christian values, Mr Kidwell told the BBC.

The school board was not involved in the decision to drop the muscial, Mr Kidwell added, and denied suggestions made in a local newspaper that a local vicar influenced the decision.

Mr Kidwell said the school teaches evolution as part of its syllabus.

Mike Smith, managing director at Musicline, said the play had been performed in schools around the world since 2017.

He said: 'You can't please all the people all the time, but having been in the school musical business for over 25 years, we can't ever recall having courted controversy before.'


Australia: Thousands back call for minister to reinstate principal dragging defiant child

If the principal cannot enforce discipline, who can?

Parents have rallied behind a Melbourne principal accused of dragging a primary school-aged pupil through a playground.

Steve Warner, the principal of Manor Lakes P-12 College in Wyndham Vale, was stood down after video footage of the incident emerged last month.

Almost 15,000 people had signed a petition calling on Victorian Education Minister James Merlino to reinstate Mr Warner by midday on Monday.

Parent Mark England said the school community had written to federal and state ministers but the principal's fate remained uncertain.

The footage is being investigated by both the Department of Education and Victoria Police.

The petition, started by Mr England on, said Mr Warner had been an "amazing influence" on the school and its students since his appointment two years ago.

It said he had "turned the school around" with renewed focus on learning and improved discipline.

"The worst outcome of this situation would be for the school to lose him as the principal and leader," Mr England wrote.

"His work has only just started to take effect and there are only good things that could come from him continuing in his role.

"We are asking that his dedicated work at the school not be in vain due to this one isolated incident."

Mr England said he had collected 200 comments from the school community speaking of their positive experiences with the principal to forward to state and federal politicians.

Mr England said he would withdraw his two children from the school if Mr Warner was not reinstated. He had heard of other parents considering the same.

It is understood the footage was captured on Snapchat by another student on January 31 and then shared on social media. The circumstances leading up to the incident are unclear and are being investigated.

Shortly after the footage emerged, Mr Merlino said it was "appalling and concerning".

The minister has been contacted for comment. A police spokesman said its investigation was ongoing.


Monday, February 11, 2019

No, campus censorship is not a myth

British student officials and others claim free speech isn’t under attack. They are wrong

In the battle over free speech on campus, students’ unions and university groups have a new line of attack: denying that the problem even exists. Campus censorship is a myth, they say, cooked up by commentators and peddled to a gullible media.

It’s an argument that might be more convincing if it didn’t come from students’ unions that are actively, and often proudly, hostile to freedom of speech, and from university groups that have an obvious interest in downplaying the censorship problem.

But let’s knock it down on its own terms, nonetheless.

This latest round of campus-censorship denial comes in the wake of the publication of new government-backed guidelines, setting out universities’ and students’ unions legal obligations regarding free speech.

For the most part, they serve as a reminder of how illiberal British law is with regard to free speech, and how much cover this gives to those on campus who want to limit it further. Though the guidelines aim to safeguard debate in universities, they are unlikely to radically change things on the ground.

One striking claim the guidelines make is that students’ unions No Platforming speakers may be illegal (up to now, the understanding was that, as charities, they could set their own rules). But under charity and equality law, students’ unions are also subject to competing legal duties, such as to foster good relations between social groups and to guard their institutional reputation.

Many SUs wildly over-interpret these obligations to the end of silencing voices they dislike, which is what these guidelines appear to try to counter. But the support given to the guidelines by the ban-happy National Union of Students (NUS) suggests SUs still feel they have enough room for maneuvre.

In any case, it would be wrong to try to strongarm students’ unions – or universities, for that matter – into changing their rules. As spiked has long argued, you can’t have a pro-free speech crackdown; that’s a contradiction in terms. Rather, we need to win the argument for freedom on campus.

But going on the quotes press-released alongside the guidelines, it is clear that we free-speech advocates have our work cut out for us. SUs and universities are still refusing to face up to the problem of campus censorship.

Amatey Doku, vice-president of the NUS, says the debate about campus censorship has been ‘characterised by both misconception and exaggeration’. Similarly, Alistair Jarvis, chief executive at Universities UK (UUK), says ‘there is little evidence of a systematic problem of free speech in universities’.

Actually, there is a great deal of evidence. spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings 2018 found that over 50 per cent of universities and students’ unions placed explicit restrictions on speech, while a further 40 per cent chilled speech through excessive regulation.

As an example, 48 per cent of the campuses we assessed had policies which warned students and speakers against insulting faith groups or offending religious sensibilities.

Doku cites the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ 2018 report into free speech on campus, which also downplayed the problem. But that report was risibly flawed. As I argued at the time, it dismissed spiked’s research on the basis of lies told by our detractors, some of which I directly rebutted when I gave evidence to the committee.

To counter our nationwide survey of 115 universities and students’ unions, the committee sent out a survey to, ahem, 33 students’ union officers, 25 of whom said that campus censorship wasn’t an issue.

But, tellingly, some of the respondents also confirmed that their unions held No Platform policies, which ban certain legal groups. (According to our research, such policies are held by 37 per cent of students’ unions.)

This gets to the heart of an important – and often wilful – misconception on the other side of the campus-censorship debate.

Critics argue that only a handful of speakers are actually invited to speak on campus and then subsequently blocked. Which is true. By our count, just over a dozen events have been banned over the past three or four years.

But the point is that many censorious SU and university policies, like No Platform, ban students from inviting particular speakers pre-emptively. They cannot be disinvited because they are never allowed to be invited in the first place.

Jarvis, of UUK, says that ‘universities host thousands of events each year… and the vast majority of these pass without incident’. But this is a nonsense argument. No one is saying that universities are clamping down on advanced-mathematics conferences or visiting geography lecturers.

What we are saying is that the small section of student events that might feature controversial, and sometimes outright detestable, speakers are increasingly difficult to pull off.

And all this leaves aside the policies that seek to limit the free speech of students themselves and what course content they engage with: St Andrews, Sussex and Cardiff, for example, are all committed to cleansing the curriculum of ‘transphobic material’.

So, ignore the deniers. Campus censorship is very real. Those SU officials and university leaders insisting it is a myth are just doing what they always do: trying to shut down debate.


UK: The silencing of academics

A toxic culture of sniping and censorship has swamped academic life

The Equality and Human Rights Commission of England and Wales, along with other higher-education organisations, has published new guidelines designed to enshrine freedom of expression as the default position on campus. There’s surely no better illustration of the low regard for free speech on some campuses: the state is having to enforce free speech on students and academics who are desperately defending their right not to be offended. Tragically, this is where we are right now in UK universities. Radical students do not demand freedom of speech in order to criticise the establishment, but instead demand protection from speech.

Since the new guidelines were released we’ve had students insisting on their right to No Platform feminists like Germaine Greer and Linda Bellos, while their overgrown veneraters in academia and the media blithely insist that free speech is alive and well. Politically motivated head-burying is unhelpful; as Tom Slater has discussed on spiked this week, campus censorship is not a myth.

There’s one thing that the critics of the latest guidance do get right: students and academics, rather than official commissions and associations, should be the arbiters of who gets to speak on campus. Hard-won rights to academic freedom should be the only legislation needed to ensure all topics are up for debate in a university.

The guidance states that, ‘Freedom of expression is relevant to, but should not be confused with, the important principle of academic freedom’. But free speech and academic freedom are intrinsically connected. There is no clear boundary between the two. What’s more, it is academics who often set the tone on campus and lead by example in showing students how to deal with controversial ideas. Ideally, academics would show students how to dismantle ideas they find objectionable through rigorous critique.

So how safe is free speech if it is left to academics and universities? As we have shown time and again on spiked, all too often it is academics and university administrators who are intolerant of different viewpoints and seek to shut down others within their own institution.

A report in this week’s Times Higher Education suggests that a growing number of academics are facing disciplinary proceedings because of comments they have made on social media. The 2018 lecturers’ strike triggered a wave of warnings to academics not to make public criticisms of their institution. At some universities, this fear of criticism seems to extend to government policies: one senior member of staff reports that ‘his institution recently considered asking him to resign from his administrative duties after he published a negative tweet about UK government policies’. Staff at the University of Exeter have been warned that ‘derogatory, threatening or offensive communication has no place in our university in any form’. When almost any remark can be interpreted as offensive by someone, this warning places a very large restriction on speech.

Fortunately, many academics recognise the heavy-handed nature of such management threats, particularly when it comes to their right to criticise the university or government policy. However, when it comes to statements that academics themselves find politically offensive, their defence of academic freedom quickly disappears.

Often it is academics themselves who will call out their colleagues for expressing objectionable views. That this leads to disciplinary action, even people losing their jobs, appears to some to be a price worth paying.

Andrew Dunn, formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln and author of Rethinking Unemployment and the Work Ethic, was criticised on Twitter by his own colleagues. Dunn, a member of UKIP, argues that ‘while unemployed benefit claimants generally want and seek employment, large numbers remain on benefits because they are too choosy in the jobs they are willing to do’. Of course, his colleagues have every right to challenge Dunn’s research, on Twitter and elsewhere. However, as so often happens, intellectual challenge rapidly turned into inflammatory, rude and disrespectful comments from colleagues in a public forum.

The university launched an inquiry which found that all involved had breached the institution’s ‘respect’ policies. Disputes spilled over from social media into the university and, following disciplinary action, Dunn was dismissed in 2017. At a recent employment tribunal brought for unfair dismissal, the judge ruled that Dunn ‘has no legal right to defy political correctness’ under the Equality Act. Political beliefs may not be protected characteristics in law. But whether Dunn’s colleagues like it or not, the ability to question, challenge and even defy ‘political correctness’ is a vital component of academic freedom.

Last year, Justin Murphy, a politics lecturer at the University of Southampton, was suspended from his post for 30 days following accusations from colleagues that he had made ‘hateful’ comments on Twitter. He now faces a hearing for gross misconduct. Murphy tweeted: ‘If you’re pro-choice in the abortion debate, I find it very difficult to see how you could possibly have ethical objections to necrophilia.’ Again, Murphy’s colleagues have the right to challenge this view. But they didn’t. They reported him to institutional managers, and those same managers employed ‘respect’ policies to determine that his comments were ‘incompatible’ with the university’s values. This is not intellectual challenge — it is a blatant attempt to rid the university of views certain people find distasteful.

It is when some academics demonstrate contempt for free speech that we have the bizarre situation of state institutions stepping in to enforce it. Unfortunately, official guidance, even legislation, cannot alone shift the culture of the university. Worse, state intervention risks further undermining institutional autonomy and academic freedom by removing decisions about who gets to speak from members of the university community and deferring them to an external authority.


Australia needs an overhaul of early childhood education

"Overhaul" = more money. They all want more money.  No idea where it might come from, though

As kids return to school, the media is awash with parenting news and advice, shaming parents to do more to give their child any sort of advantage.

As The Economist’s headline says, “It’s a never-ending task.”

But what works in this race to get ahead, the article asks?

The answer: focus on the infants. What happens in the early childhood years matters most, say scientists. This is when the human brain is most “plastic”, when it is building capacity for the years ahead.

Yet Australian studies show, consistently, that, while Australian parents are working as long and hard at parenting as anywhere else in the world, Australian governments lack commitment to the provision of education services in the early childhood years. Embarrassingly, Australia is fifth from the bottom of the 36 OECD nations – the richest nations in the world – in its spending on early childhood education.

Unfortunately, NSW is typical of the poor state of preschool education across the nation. Experts say children should have 600 hours of preschooling in their backpacks prior to entry to formal schooling, the equivalent of 15 hours per week over a year. Yet, the proportion of three-year-olds in Australia with preschooling is below the OECD average, at a meagre 70 per cent.

We do better for four-year-olds, with 85 per cent attendance, but this is still below the OECD average.

Australia has never fully developed an early childhood education sector. A Productivity Commission report finds that, for NSW, government takes direct responsibility for barely 10 per cent of all preschools. Sure, private and community preschool providers receive direct government funding, as do parents via the childcare rebate. But this handover to non-government providers ducks responsibility for many things in this most-important of education sectors.

The answer: focus on the infants. What happens in the early childhood years matters most.

One neglect concerns qualifications and employment conditions. The Productivity Commission says for NSW, only 15 per cent of contact staff in childcare centres and preschools have bachelor degrees. Would this low ratio be tolerated in schools or universities? A consequence of poor qualifications is that pay rates in the early childhood sector are dismal. Often, graduates can’t get appointments as graduates and don’t stay long in the lowly-paid jobs on offer. These are filled readily by women eager to get a job locally, such is the location pattern of childcare centres and preschools. A consequence is more than 90 per cent of the sector’s workers are women. Once again, when working conditions are driven down by inadequate regulation and poor government support, women pick up the jobs.

Then there is the problem of access to preschooling by the kids who need early childhood education the most. The Productivity Commission tells us that three out of every 10 kids classified as ‘vulnerable or disadvantaged’ in NSW arrive at school without any preschool experience. The problem is acute in the poorer suburbs of our cities and in the regions, including many parts of the Hunter.

Yet if we were serious about giving people a fair go in Australia, we would be providing more than the average level of early childhood services to disadvantaged and vulnerable kids, not less.

If it is the early childhood years that make the difference, why is it those who need preschooling the most are the ones who are missing out?

Years ago, I asked a retiring music teacher what sort of education disadvantaged children should be given? The same as what is served up to rich kids, she said. I’m sure she’d give the same answer today.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

New Jersey Becomes Second State Mandating Middle Schoolers Learn About LGBTQ Achievements

New Jersey will be the second state to mandate that middle and high school students learn about LGBTQ contributions.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 1569, which requires schools to adopt curriculums that “accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

“The Governor believes that ensuring students learn about diverse histories will help build more tolerant communities and strengthen educational outcomes,” Murphy’s spokeswoman Christine Lee said in a statement, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.

The policies go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year.

One of Murphy’s plans when running for governor was expanding “LGBTQ equality,” according to his campaign website.

“In the era of Donald Trump, Phil will not give an inch on the equal treatment of our LGBTQ neighbors,” Murphy’s campaign website said.

Murphy passed a law in July 2018 so people could have their sex designation changed on birth and death certificates, The Huffington Post reported.

California was the first state to require addressing LGBTQ issues in school curriculums through the FAIR Education Act, which was signed in July 2011 and enacted in 2012.


Cambridge University receives £100m gift from former student

Donation by financier David Harding will primarily be used to assist PhD students

The University of Cambridge is celebrating the largest single donation from a British donor in recent history, after announcing a gift of £100m from the financier David Harding to support students.

Harding, a physics graduate from Cambridge who became a billionaire and successful hedge fund manager, has pledged that some of the funds will go to promote access for students from disadvantaged and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The donations from the David and Claudia Harding Foundation will include £79m in scholarships and aid to postgraduate PhD students, with a further £20m as financial support for undergraduates. The final £1m will help fund Cambridge’s access programmes aimed at attracting disadvantaged students.

“This extraordinarily generous gift from David and Claudia Harding will be invaluable in sustaining Cambridge’s place among the world’s leading universities and will help to transform our offer to students,” said Stephen Toope, Cambridge’s vice-chancellor.

The fund to support postgraduate students, to be known as the Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme, will begin this year. Cambridge said that the programme will fully fund, in perpetuity, more than 100 doctoral students in residence at any one time.

“Scholarships will be available to the most talented students for research in any discipline and the successful candidates will be offered places at applicable Cambridge colleges,” the university said in a statement.

Harding – whose hedge fund Winton Capital is said to invest more than £20bn – said: “Claudia and I are very happy to make this gift to Cambridge to help to attract future generations of the world’s outstanding students to research and study there.

“Cambridge and other British centres of learning have down the ages contributed greatly to improvements in the human condition and can continue in future to address humanity’s great challenges.”

A recent investigation by the Guardian found that Cambridge is the wealthiest university in the UK, with a combined £11.8bn in identifiable assets, including £4.9bn held by the central university alone, and £6.9bn held by individual colleges.

Harding, 57, studied at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, graduating with a first-class degree in 1982, before working in the City of London as a stockbroker. In 1997 he founded the Winton Group, and he remains its chief executive.

The financier’s most recent high-profile donation was an estimated £3.5m to help fund the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign before the 2016 referendum.

The Hardings have previously pledged £20m to the Winton programme for physics at Cambridge university’s prestigious Cavendish laboratory, as well as donations to other leading institutions such as London’s Science Museum, the Crick Institute, and funding for the Harding Centre for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

In historical terms the Harding donation, despite its nominal size, pales in comparison to the $10m donated to Scotland’s universities by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, or the legacies given to Oxford by Cecil Rhodes in 1903, with £4m to establish the famous scholarship that bears his name worth closer to £500m today.

In 2000 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a £130m gift to Cambridge to establish a scholarship fund, the largest single gift of the modern era.

In 2012, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman donated £75m to Oxford to found the Moritz-Heyman scholarships for disadvantaged undergraduates, with the pair also donating £25m to Christ Church college in 2008.

The Canadian investor John McCall MacBain is also likely to have matched Harding’s donation, having made a £75m donation to the Rhodes scholarship trust in 2013 with matching additions that have probably taken it to about £100m.


Australian university introduces 'all gender' bathrooms in a bid to make trans and intersex students feel 'safe and welcome on campus'

At the expense of making a lot of women feel unsafe.  Isn't feminism great?

Sydney's University of Technology has introduced 'all gender' bathrooms in a bid to make 'students feel safe and welcome on campus'.

The toilets at UTS had previously been designated as 'unisex accessible', but members of the UTS Queer Collective urged the university to go further.

Their calls were heard, with UTS last week announcing the move and acknowledging many of its students 'don't identify with traditional binary genders'.   

'Others don't feel comfortable using a bathroom designated by gender, sometimes because they've had a negative experience using a single-gender bathroom due to their appearance or gender identity,' the university posted on its website.

'We have taken a step to improve the on-campus experience for people who prefer not to use single-gender bathrooms, with the establishment of all gender bathrooms in 10 of our buildings.'

Queer Collective members hailed the move on Monday, praising it as a 'big win' for  LGBTQI students. 'This is an important step for trans and gender diverse individuals to feel safe and validated on campus,' they posted on Facebook.

A former queer officer for the University Of New South Wales' Queer Collective called for other univeristies to follow suit. 

'It's a huge step towards acknowledging and including trans, intersex and gender non-conforming students and staff,' Alex Linker told Nine News. 'I am disappointed, however, that it was not my university that was the one who initiated this change. 'I hope that UNSW introduces gender-neutral bathrooms soon.'