Friday, May 17, 2019

Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill letting more teachers carry guns in school

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Wednesday that'll let more Florida teachers carry guns in school, the latest response to last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis signed the bill in private and issued no statement. The Republican-led Florida House of Representatives voted to send the bill to the governor last week, while the GOP-controlled state Senate passed the measure the week before.

The new law expands an existing school "guardian" program and allows any teacher to volunteer to carry a weapon if his or her school district approves. Would-be volunteers must undergo at least 144 hours of police-style training, psychiatric evaluation and drug screening. Under a previous law, passed immediately after the February 2018 Parkland shooting, only teachers who had another role at school, such as sports coach, were eligible to carry weapons on campus.

Teachers in Florida will be allowed to carry guns in schools if Gov. DeSantis signs a bill the state’s Republican-led legislature passed to expand the state’s guardian program.

The new law expands the program to make all teachers eligible regardless of whether they have a non-classroom role.

The bill was opposed by most Democrats and teachers' unions, which argued that the introduction of more weapons in schools would place children at risk, increase the dangers of mistaken shootings and lead to more violence against African-American students because of inherent biases. Supporters of the bill said arming teachers is the best way to protect children from future school shooters. Republicans emphasized that the program is voluntary, and that law enforcement in some rural districts could be 15 minutes or more from a school if a shooter attacks.

It's unclear how many Florida school districts in the state will approve of expanding the "guardian" program. Currently, 25 of the state's 67 school districts take part in the program, but boards in some of Florida's most populous counties have already opted out, preferring to use trained police officers for school security.

"Can you imagine somebody you taught potentially coming on the campus and you ... protecting other children and shooting a child you once taught?" Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins of the Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association told Fox News this week. "We're not thinking about all the mental issues that go into that."

"We also have kids that come from places where school is the only safe space that they have," Baxter-Jenkins said, "so turning that into a different scenario -- we don't think is healthy for kids mentally."

The new law also contains a number of other school safety measures, such as wider disclosure of certain student mental health records and mental screening of troubled students. It also mandates greater reporting of school safety and student discipline incidents and a requirement that law enforcement officials be consulted about any threats.


The Collegiate War Against Academic Excellence and Its Consequences

Historically, success in America has been gained mainly by individual achievement. Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at our nation’s high income and geographic mobility, noting how bright and hard-working people could overcome poverty and rapidly rise up the economic ladder; Americans lacked titles of nobility, aristocratic pretensions, etc. For the most part, colleges were part of this tradition: higher education was and is a screening device that helps identify the smartest, hardest working, most ambitious young Americans with a talent for leadership in business, politics, the arts, etc. To be sure, even from the beginning, colleges were disproportionately attended by relatively affluent persons, and brightness and prior academic achievement were not always the basis for admitting and graduating college students. Still, collegiate success at the level of the individual student, faculty or even at the institutional level was largely measured by achievement—knowledge gained, research published, vocational accomplishments of alumni, etc.

While aging has many disadvantages, that is partially offset by gaining a heightened sense of historical perspective. Speaking personally of my over 60 years of involvement with universities, I can say that academic achievement is increasingly being de-emphasized, although college remains a necessary but not sufficient requirement for vocational success.

The downplaying of academics has become apparent in two admissions legal contretemps of the past year. The Harvard admissions lawsuit has revealed that on purely academic achievement grounds, it appears Harvard has been significantly discriminating against Asian-American students. Amorphous non-academic qualities as determined through some “holistic” process appear to often trump academic achievement in determining who gets into Harvard. The Ivy League is dominated today by rich kids and seems perhaps more like an academic gated community than a promoter of the American Dream. And the Varsity Blues scandal shows ball handling skills are often more important for admission than brains and good grades at some top or wannabe top schools like the University of Southern California.

The downplaying of academics, of course, varies widely in magnitude across colleges and universities. But several trends are fairly clear:

1. A decreasing portion of institutional resources is going to fund academics—teachers and researchers. Spending on disseminating and creating knowledge is being crowded out by massive increases in administrative staff overseeing student affairs, new sustainability and diversity bureaucracies, intercollegiate athletics, etc.

2. Students on average are spending far less time on academics than they did a generation or two ago, and almost certainly are learning less from their schooling.

3. America’s clear global lead in research is rapidly ending as other nations, especially China, are vastly increasing research spending relative to that in the United States, where political leaders increasingly forfeit future investment and national greatness for immediate political job security.

4. The hallmark of a vibrant collegiate intellectual environment is campus debate—the non-violent but vigorous discussion of alternative perspectives. That is declining on many campuses where speakers are suppressed by protesters and faculty profess near uniform left-wing perspectives.

5. While students are learning less as academics are downplayed, the cost of creating and disseminating knowledge is actually rising even faster than standard cost measures (e.g. tuition fees) indicate. Students are learning less for more.

6. The notion that “college is for all,” along with federal government financial aid programs, simultaneously raised enrollments and college costs, leading to a glut of college graduates and stagnation in the earnings advantages of a college degree, as more graduates are now “underemployed.”

7. This is now leading to enrollment declines and falling public support. As a consequence, more colleges are failing. The creative destruction that Joseph Schumpeter said made capitalism so successful is finally coming to higher education.

In the competitive market sector, there is a well defined “bottom line”: profits, and business net worth as often manifested in stock prices. Market forces discipline firms to be efficient, lowering costs, and producing desirable products, increasing revenues. By contrast, a lack of market incentives along with a lack of well-defined goals and information needed to measure them, along with insufficient innovation, help explain higher education’s drifting away from its core missions.


Australia: School suspensions not always bad

Schools should have high expectations for student behaviour. And the harsh reality is that this sometimes requires student detentions, suspensions, and expulsions.

Queensland government schools last year were reported to have had a 12% increase in students being suspended or expelled. In response, the Queensland education minister Grace Grace said this shows the government’s aim to foster a more positive school environment is working.

The minister’s approach should be commended — especially since behaviour management (and clear consequences for misbehaviour) went out of fashion in many education circles decades ago.

It is true that students who are suspended from school tend to have worse outcomes later on, but how much of this is just correlation rather than causation?

There is a tendency to criticise schools when they suspend or expel students for serious incidents of misbehaviour. The instinctive response is to blame teachers for not sufficiently ‘engaging’ the students, and teachers are told they should focus on understanding the reasons for student disruption.

But this ignores the fact that children often make irrational decisions, and take many years to acquire an adequate moral framework and impulse control. This happens regardless of how well they’re taught or how ‘engaging’ the lessons are.

If a school culture is too permissive, misbehaving students will not learn to improve their conduct and will undermine the academic outcomes of other students. Discipline is a key ingredient of success for all schools, including those with disadvantaged students.

And according to the international datasets, Australia’s school system is among the worst in the OECD for student behaviour. So focussing on discipline is potentially a way of improving school productivity in Australia.

Maybe the major parties should think about that before spending billions more taxpayer dollars on schooling.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Black students reluctant to apply to Cambridge University 'due to lack of Afro-Caribbean hairdressers'

What a joke! Most blacks rightly know that they will have difficulty competing so wisely opt out. Hair is just an excuse that only gullible do-gooders would believe

Black students are failing to apply to Cambridge because there is a lack of Afro-Caribbean hairdressers in the city, the university’s pro-vice-Chancellor has said.

The “unexpected” finding arose during research into what deters black students from considering the institution, according to Professor Graham Virgo.

Speaking at an event held at King’s College, Cambridge, he said this was one of the barriers that black students face in applying to the university.

“We have been doing some quite detailed research, particularly with black students, particularly in London, looking at obstacles to applying to Cambridge and thinking about Cambridge. And number three on the list was hairdressers,” he said.

Prof Virgo, who is a QC and expert in criminal law as well as Cambridge’s senior pro-vice-Chancellor for education, said this revelation sent a “really important” message to the university.

The research, which involved surveying some Cambridge undergraduates and sixth form students, was carried out in preparation for a new campaign aimed at encouraging more black students to apply to the university.

“[We asked] what is the obstacle, what is stopping you from thinking about Cambridge? The real message was about hairdressers,” Prof Virgo said.

“It’s unexpected but we need to look at applying to Cambridge from their eyes. For those students this is their concern. Really being able to engage with these perceptions enables us to say ‘how are we going to respond to that?’”

Students also had anxieties around whether they would have enough money and whether they would fit in, he added.

Prof Virgo made the comments at a panel discussion on Wednesday evening, convened by the investment bank J. Stern & Co as part of a series of seminars on education.

Universities are under pressure from the higher education regulator to admit more students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Last year it emerged that six of Cambridge’s colleges admitted fewer than ten black British students in five years. The university said at the time that  it cannot change diversity “on its own” and called for parents and schools to encourage ethnic minorities to apply.

Naomi Kellman, founder of Target Oxbridge, a programme to assist black students with Oxford and Cambridge applications, said the question about hairdressers "comes up really frequently".

“If you are from a majority group you assume you will be catered for, anywhere in the country can manage your hair," she said. "But if you have afro hair, the expertise is needed. Things that are really basic and simple become quite a big challenge.”

As well as asking about the academic demands of courses at Oxbridge, black students are also concerned about what kind of food and night life will be on offer, Ms Kellman said.

Cambridge has a number of hairdressers including the Afro European Beauty Centre, which says on its website it specialises in "Afro and European hair care for both men and women".

However, Dr Tony Sewell, CEO of Generating Genius, a charity that encourages youngsters from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue STEM subjects, said a lack of hairdressers is not the reason why black students are put off from applying.

"It may be another lame excuse - kids need to get more resilient and get with it," he said. "As a minority,  you will have to be confronting a situation where you are the only one. You have to face that and learn how to adapt to that. That’s the key issue."

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, said “cultural differences” mean that some ethnic minority students are more likely to apply for a university in their home town rather than move away.

"This difference is holding some young people back in terms of going to their local university when they have the potential to go to a much higher ranked university," he said.

“Part of this is about cultural differences with many students worrying that they won’t fit in."


Amazing destruction of an elite French educational institution

Fifteen years ago students at France’s elite postgraduate civil-service college were preparing to celebrate their graduation.

Behind them lay the Alsatian city of Strasbourg, its beer halls, and two years of intense study at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration. Ahead stood fast-track jobs in the parquet-floored corridors of power in Paris and the guarantee of brilliant careers. As the top-ranked graduating student stepped towards the front of the amphitheatre, however, she handed the astonished director a 20-page report, written by pupils and entitled, ENA: The Urgency of Reform. Among its signatories was a fellow graduating student with a shock of unkempt hair, Emmanuel Macron.

The student rebel, it seems, has turned into the presidential revolutionary. On April 25, in response to the gilets jaunes (yellow jackets) protesters and their rage against the out-of-touch elite, Mr Macron announced the abolition of ENA. “Makeshift repairs”, the French President declared, would not do: “If you keep the same structures, habits are just too strong.”

It was the most controversial and spectacular of all the announcements made to mark the end of his months-long “great national debate”. At a stroke, Mr Macron gave in to a populist demand, and sent his own alma mater and a symbol of modern France to the guillotine.

All countries select a governing elite but France takes the principle to extremes. Though its annual intake is only 80 postgraduate students (compared with about 2000 undergraduates for Harvard and about 3000 for Oxford), ENA has supplied the country with four of its eight Fifth Republic presidents, including Mr Macron, and eight of its 22 prime ministers, including the incumbent, Edouard Philippe.

Today enarques, as its graduates are known, run the French central bank, the finance ministry, the presidential office, the Republican party, the external intelligence service, the constitutional council, the state railways and a raft of top French private-sector companies.

When Charles de Gaulle founded ENA in 1945, from the ashes of Nazi occupation and World War II, the Resistance leader explicitly sought a meritocratic antidote to the chronic cronyism of the pre-war era. In his memoirs, le general wrote that his ambition then was “to make rational and homogeneous the recruitment and training of the main servants of the state”.

ENA was to turn out an impartial, unified army of administrators, motivated by the “noble” calling of public service, to rebuild a powerful, stable France. It supplied the overseers of the trente glorieuses, or 30 postwar years of prosperity and planned industrial growth.

Amid today’s angry, ruthless populism, however, the concept of an elite is denounced on the streets and roundabouts of France. Far from admired as a dedicated public servant, the enarque has come to embody the perceived arrogance and disconnection of the governing class, skilled at devising technocratic policies and blind to their effect on ordinary people.

It was in car-dependent France profonde, after all, far from the bike-sharing quarters of Paris, that the government’s planned raising of the carbon tax first provoked the gilets jaunes.

The solution, one of them said, was to “get rid of the enarques” and put some “real people” in government instead. With their calculators and spreadsheets, graduates of ENA have replaced the silk-stockinged nobility of pre-revolutionary France as the public enemy of choice.

The reality is more complex, and more nuanced, than Mr Macron is letting on. The President knows full well that France will still want a top administration college, even if he closes the one with the now-damaged acronym.

He also knows that the problem is not the concept of a high-flying school itself but recruitment to and from it.

Through the years, partly because applicants from bookish families better survive the marathon years of preparation required to get in, ENA has admitted fewer, not more, pupils from poorer backgrounds.

In the quarter-century after 1985, the share of pupils at the school whose fathers were blue-collar workers fell from 10 per cent to 6 per cent.

Broadening access cannot be ENA’s problem alone. It also means ensuring that more school pupils from modest backgrounds apply to classes preparatoires, which train applicants to France’s grandes ecoles. This is the baffling parallel world of elite higher education that leads (among other things) to ENA, confuses the uninitiated, and crowns the univer­sity system.

This privileged perch also gives ENA a monopoly on jobs in France’s elite “grand corps”, a sort of top civil-service officer class, the most prestigious of which is the inspection des finances (which Mr Macron joined). Graduating pupils are guaranteed a spot in one or other, according to their exit ranking, rather as in imperial China. Indeed, this turns time spent there into a race for position rather than a chance for reflection or creativity. And the school’s tiny intake forges an exceptionally tight network of alumni, which fuels suspicions of caste-like behaviour by its members.

With his own satchel of diplomas, Mr Macron knows all these arguments by heart. But he is treading a perilous path. That ENA has flaws, few contest. Yet it has done its bit to help create in France a deep culture of public service. And the country itself, with its much less entrenched private-school system, is in many ways better placed than Britain or the US to achieve merit-based education.

Mr Macron’s real challenge is to give a meaningful nod to the ambient distrust of elite institutions while making sure that any reincarnation preserves what ENA gets right and fixes what it gets wrong.


A Labor Party win in the upcoming Australian Federal election will have come from the classrooms

If the Coalition government is defeate­d on Saturday and Bill Shorten becomes prime minister next week, there’s no doubt Australia’s ­education system will be a major reason.

While policies, campaign management and strategies targeting marginal seats are vital, more importa­nt is how voters think and react to the issues and what they see as paramount.

Even though politicians may believe they are in control and can act independently, voters decide who wins an election and forms government.

The expression that politics is downstream of culture reinforces the point that it is the broader cultur­e and way of life that determines what happens in the polit­ical sphere. And if politics is downstream of culture, then it is equally true that culture is downstream of education.

As argued by American educa­tionalist Christopher J. Lucas: “Culture is learned … the culture of a society must be internalised by each generation. Education, forma­l and informal, unconscious and conscious, is a means for the preservation of culture.”

Best summed up by the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln, “the philo­sophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government by the next”. One only has to look at the ALP and Coalition government campaign launches to see how prescient Lincoln was.

Scott Morrison’s speech was very much in the conservative Liberal­ Party tradition espoused by Rober­t Menzies.

The narrative is one of “Aust­ralians going quietly about their lives”, where home ownership, the traditional family and serving other­s underpin our way of life.

The slogan “Building Our Economy. Securing Your Future” reinforces the belief that the most effective way to gain voters’ suppor­t is to convince them that a Coalition government, compared with the ALP, is better at economic management and safeguarding the nation’s future.

In addition to having much in common with Menzies’ Forgotten People speech, the Prime Minister’s description of Australians serving others and being committed to simple, honest aspirations reflects a bygone era and an educatio­n system that has long since ceased to exist.

Older generations will remember a time when teachers were authority figures to be respected, classes were ordered and discip­lined, and students were expected to master the basics. History dealt with the narrative associated with the evolution of Western civil­isation, geography dealt with topograp­hy and the rain cycle, and English with grammar, syntax, clear thinking and the literary canon.

Education rewarded those willing to apply themselves and work hard, and the majority of students left school and went on to further education or into the workforce with the belief that their futures were positive, and confident they could achieve home ownership and material success.

Labor’s campaign launch and Bill Shorten’s speech presents the opposite narrative to that of the government.

The Opposition Leader’s­ ­open­ing exhortation, “You have the power to change our country for the better”, empowers those ­voting for the ALP and reinforces a sense of social justice and ­egalitarianism.

The statement that the election provides an opportunity “to take Australia into a new decade with new vision, new purpose”, instead of relying on the past and ­continuity, signals that a Shorten-led government would be prog­ressive and forward-looking.

The ALP’s focus on addressing climate change, refugees, increasing the minimum wage, funding government schools and taxing multinationals also reinforces the impression that it is the ALP and not the government that is more in tune with the times and better able to address the future.

Given the type of education experience­d by the millennials (born between 1983 and 1994) and Generation Z (born between 1995 and 1999), it’s clear why the ALP’s campaign and policies resonate so well with the younger generations.

As a result of the cultural Left’s dominance of the education ­system since the 1970s and 80s, ­students have been taught that societ­y is riven with injustice and inequality, that unless urgent actio­n is taken the environment is doomed, and that Western civilisation is oppressive and guilty of white supremacism.

Schools have long since replaced meritocracy and a commitment to academic study with the belief that all deserve success and that knowledge has no inherent value as subjects such as mathematics, science and English are social constructs reinforcing the power of the elites.

Instead of pursing truth and a commitment to being impartial and objective, the dominant ortho­­doxy, given the rise of postmodernism and deconstructionism, is one where subjectivity pre­vails and being emotional is more important than being rational.

As noted by a report commissioned by the Centre for Independent Studies, it should not surprise that 58 per cent of millennials survey­ed viewed socialism favourably and 59 per cent thought capitalis­m had failed and that govern­ment must take a greater role in regulating the economy.

Given that the school curriculum has long since prioritised deep-green ideology in areas such as clim­ate change with mining companies such as chief enemy BHP, it’s understandable why so many young people have a negative view of business and making a profit.

Last year’s Deloitte Millennial Survey mirrors the judgment reached by the CIS publication when concluding that millennials “feel pessimistic about the prospects for political and social progress, along with concerns about safety, social equality and environmental sustainability”.

The Deloitte survey also conclude­s that young people want “business leaders to take the lead in solving the world’s problems” and to shift the focus from making a profit to “balancing social concern­s and being more diverse, flexible, nurturing of and generous with employees”.

The challenge for the centre-right side of politics if Shorten becomes prime minister is how to address the fact Australia’s education system has long since promoted an ideology that is the antithesis to its more conservative political philosophy.

A good place to start is to acknowled­ge that, while the econom­y and issues around productivity and border protection are important, even more importa­nt is to engage in the ­culture wars and to win the battle of ideas.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Federal Student Loans: From 'Profitable' to Indebted

Instead of $114 billion in revenue, the CBO now expects $31 billion in losses over 10 years.

The Congressional Budget Office recently revealed some startling new figures regarding student loans. But first, let’s rewind. In 2017, the CBO — clearly looking through rose-colored glasses — stated that the government-managed student-loan program would garner a respectable $114 billion in revenue over the ensuing 10 years. Then, in 2018, that revenue estimate nosedived to just $8.7 billion. In other words, the $11.4 billion in estimated annual profits cratered to less than $1 billion.

But even that estimate proved ridiculously sugarcoated.

Now, the CBO is calculating a $31 billion deficit over the next 10 years. A Bloomberg Government report parsed this development as “a shift from past CBO forecasts that the government would profit from the program.” That’s not merely a shift. That’s a deviation of epic proportions.

Bloomberg Government provides some key explanations for the seismic shift:

While some of the increase can be attributed to interest rates, the bulk of the change has come from the cost of the almost $1.5 trillion in federal loans students already have outstanding. More loans are in default, and less is being collected on outstanding loans, according to the the department’s budget request. In addition, more borrowers than anticipated are enrolling in income-driven repayment plans. These allow borrowers to pay a percentage of their income for a set number of years, after which the remainder of the loan is forgiven.

Of course, anybody who understands the inescapable realities that come with federal spending already knew that student loans would not be profitable. As we explained back in 2016, “Originally, the loan forgiveness program was meant to be available only for those students who applied for loans in 2014 and after, but then Barack Obama retroactively extended the benefit.” Predictably, that made a bad situation all the worse. As Bloomberg Government further notes, “About 30 percent of borrowers with direct federal loans, the most common type, were in income-driven repayment programs in fiscal 2018, a 29 percent increase from two years before, according to the Education Department.”

Now here’s the real kicker. Presidential candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren claim that universal “free” college is the way to ameliorate the problem. The cost of Warren’s proposal? At least $1.25 trillion. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. In this case, the definition of insanity is letting politicians who created this mess throw taxpayers even further under the bus.


Students walk out of Colorado school shooting vigil, saying their trauma was being politicized

Gun rights advocates posted support on social media Thursday for students who walked out of a gun-control rally in anger and tears over concerns the event inappropriately politicized their grief.

The event Wednesday was primarily billed as a vigil to honor Kendrick Castillo, who was fatally shot in a rampage by two students at the STEM school here. Speakers at the school's packed gymnasium, however, were mostly politicians and advocates pressing Congress for more restrictive gun laws.

After about 30 minutes, hundreds of students from the STEM School stormed out yelling "this is not for us," "political stunt" and "we are people, not a statement."

Candace Craig, who has three kids attending STEM, said it was just too early for to push for action. She said the trauma is still fresh for the thousands of parents and their kids who suffered through the shooting and the anxious hours that followed.

"We need quiet. We need familiar faces. We need to hold our babies. We will heal and we will rise stronger and ready to say 'enough,'" she said Thursday. "But right now, we are shaken. We are broken. We hurt for the families whose worlds were turned upside down with grief and loss. That’s what we want the world to hear from us."

Wednesday night, the traumatized shooting survivors who exited the rally thrust lighted cellphones into the air and chanted "mental health, mental health," as their hands and voices shook in the cold rain. Angry students pushed and screamed at journalists, demanding to see photos they had taken.

Interview requests made by a USA TODAY reporter were rebuffed; multiple students said they had agreed not to talk to journalists.

Many students appeared unaware the event was organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow, both Democrats, both spoke at length about the need for federal action. The Brady Campaign invited reporters to cover the event.


Australia: Veteran principal who tackled a student to the ground to break up a schoolyard brawl is accused of assault and stood down

This is a great way to encourage chaotic schools.  The man deserves a  medal, not being stood down.  The police have cleared him, which makes the bureaucratic intervention even more obnoxious

A deputy school principal who tackled a student to the ground before being circled by other pupils with their fists up has been stood down over allegations of assault.

Associate principal Grant Walton was stood down from Perth's Eaton Community College following the incident in March, and an investigation by the Education Department was underway.

It's understood Mr Walton was trying to break up a brawl between current and former students on the school's oval.

Dramatic footage showed Mr Walton kneeing a student in the back to bring him to the ground, keeping his body weight on the boy's back as other students surrounded him.

'Get off him! Get off him!' students shouted at Mr Walton, before he stood up and released the boy.

The student then started swinging his arms at the principal while getting off the ground.

The video cut out briefly before showing the boy square up with his fists raised to Mr Walton, who shouted at him to 'get lost' and 'go away'.

Mr Walton had worked at the school, near Bunbury, for 15 years. 

Last week, the Department of Education confirmed Mr Walton was under  investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a student. 

The schoolyard brawl was reported to police by a parent, but Bunbury Detectives cleared Mr Walton of any charges after investigating the incident.

Kylie, the mother of the boy who was brought to the ground in the confronting footage, claimed her son was wrongly targeted. '(He was) grabbed from behind... for basically no reason,' she told The West. 'He did turn around and tell the teacher involved to 'F... off' and walked away, that's when it happened,' she claimed.  [Mothers always believe their children]

'As my son was walking off, the teacher involved came up behind him and kicked him, kicked his leg out from under him and threw him to the ground pretty much, and jumped on top of him.'

She said she had written a complaint to police after they cleared Mr Walton of any wrongdoing in the altercation. 

State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne told the South Western Times that staff were encouraged to avoid any physical contact with brawling students. 'What they are required to do is do what they can to get help and issue verbal instructions to stop the fight,' she said.

Ms Byrne said the sequence of events that led up to the video footage being filmed needed to be established before a judgement could be made.

More than 300 locals and parents of students had taken to Facebook to defend Mr Walton's actions, saying he's the 'heart and soul' of Eaton Community College.

'Mr Walton has given everything to that school and the community. Behind him all the way as an ex student,' one comment read.

'This man is outstanding as an educator and principal!!! If he had to intervene it would be to save a child's life and for the safety of the other students. This is a huge mistake and mis justice (sic),' another read.

'Nothing but praise for Grant Walton he always has the kids best interest in mind. Hopefully he can return to his position as soon as possible.'

'As a parent of a child in ECC I stand behind Mr Walton. His actions are just protecting children. So with this rule does that mean if a student is bashing another student they will just let it play out?' another woman said.      


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

School playtime is becoming a thing of the past for a generation of British children

Just one per cent of secondary schools now have afternoon breaks compared to 41 per cent almost three decades ago, according to study by University College London’s Institute of Education.

Researchers examined how school breaks and children’s social lives have changed over time by comparing data from over 1,000 primary and secondary schools in 2017, 2006 and 1995.

There has been a “marked reduction” in the total amount of break time children are allowed, with 11 to 16-year-olds now having 65 minutes per week less than they did a quarter of a century ago.

It comes amid rising concern about childhood obesity levels, with more than 22,000 out of 556,000 of children in Year 6 classed as severely obese.

Anti-obesity campaigners have described the report’s findings as “woeful”, saying that ministers must intervene and set guidelines for schools on break times.

The length of the school day has remained more or less the same over the past 25 years but break times are being “squeezed” out, according to Dr Ed Baines, one of the report’s authors, with potentially “serious implications” for children’s well-being and development.

“Whereas at one time afternoon breaks were a daily experience for nearly all primary school children, now they are increasingly a thing of the past,” he said. 

“Not only are break times an opportunity for children to get physical exercise - an issue of particular concern given the rise in obesity - but they provide valuable time to make friends and to develop important social skills, experiences that are not necessarily learned or taught in formal lessons.”

Dr Baines said that the decline in lunch breaks is of “particular concern”, adding that children now “barely have enough time to queue up and to eat their lunch” let alone have time for anything else. 

In 1995, just a third of secondary schools (30 per cent) reported lunch breaks of less than 55 minutes, but now this has risen to 82 per cent. Meanwhile, a quarter of secondary schools reported lunchtimes of 35 minutes or less.

The average secondary school pupil had 76 minutes of break time a day in 1995. That fell to 69 minutes in 2006 and just 63 minutes in 2017.

The trend is mirrored in primary schools, where pupils aged five to seven had 94 minutes of break time a day in 1995, which dropped to 91 in 2006 and to 85 in 2017. For youngsters aged seven to 11, break time dropped from an average of 83 minutes a day in 1995 to 77 in 2006 and 75 in 2017.

The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, also found that there has been a “marked increase” in the average numbers of adults supervising at breaktimes in primary and secondary schools since 1995.

Tam Fry, chair of the national obesity forum, said he is “horrified” by the report’s findings.

“We believe that primary and secondary schools should be making sure that school children have one hour every day,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“It is totally meaningless to say we will do nothing, children can do it in their own time. It is just woeful that we have taken this very uninspiring attitude towards physical activity.”

“It is up to the Government to set the rules and the guidelines which all school should be following. If you leave it to the schools they are so stretched and overworked it will fall by the wayside.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government has given all schools the autonomy to make decisions about the structure and duration of their school day. 

“However, we are clear that pupils should be given an appropriate break and we expect school leaders to make sure this happens. 

“We recognise the importance of physical activity in schools to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.” 

The Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines state that primary age children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, the spokesman said.


BOOK: Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America

Richard K. Vedder (Author)

Higher education in America is in crisis. Costs are too high, learning is too little, and the payoff to students and society is increasingly problematic. In Restoring the Promise, Richard Vedder shows how the precarious position of colleges and universities results from a mostly unsuccessful expansion of governmental involvement in the academy, especially at the federal level.

The book examines today’s most serious issues in higher education, including free speech and academic freedom; tuition and other costs; culture and curricula; governance; gender, race and diversity; due process; admissions; student loans; and much more. It diagnoses problems and identifies solutions.

For example, the total cost of college per student in the United States is now higher than in any other country. When combining the monetary costs of college with the opportunity costs of losing years of labor to the economy, the true cost of higher education to American society well exceeds one trillion dollars annually. Yet, despite American higher education’s immense price tag, students are learning less than ever before and continue to be underemployed.

The book discusses the three “I’s” of university reform: information, incentives, and innovation. Without information, it is impossible for taxpayers and governing authorities to ensure that public education spending truly furthers the broader interests of society rather than the narrow interests of faculty and administrators.

Shaping incentives for management would help to reduce costs and improve quality. Business practices such as Responsibility Centered Management (RCM), for example, allow profit to motivate efficiency and encourage learning outcomes.

And expanding the use of innovation in technology and open online courses, along with relinquishing old rules such as tenure and three-month summer vacations, offer new hope for institutions of higher education.

The book discusses such additional reforms as the following:

Ending or revising the federal student financial aid program

Giving departments or even professors a share of overall revenue based on student enrollments in their classes. Departments or professors would then be required to pay their share of travel, building rental, maintenance, utilities, and other such costs from the revenues they receive

Providing earnings data on former students by college five, ten or fifteen years after matriculation. Prospective students (and parents) as well as lawmakers and oversight officials would be assisted regarding school successes and failures

Increasing faculty teaching loads

Instituting three-year degrees and year-round instruction

Ending discrimination against for-profit schools

Ending grade inflation

Ending speech codes and other barriers to academic freedom

Ending affirmative action and related diversity programs

And more...


A Solution to College Debt
Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in 2007 in an attempt to attract people into professions like teaching, nursing and public-interest law. College graduates would be forgiven their student loans if they pursued a career in such professions. The Wall Street Journal reports the program is now in “disarray.” Although 73,000 people have applied for debt forgiveness as of March 31, reports the Journal, citing Education Department figures, just 864 have had their loans erased.

While models are constantly changing — from cars, to clothes — only the education model remains the same, except for rising costs. That model says a college education is mandatory in order to obtain a good job and become self-sufficient. What if it isn’t? What if massive college debt might be unnecessary?

A new study by Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce has found that by next year, “65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school.” That means 35 percent of available jobs will not require a college degree.

The findings are significant because they offer a guide into the type of specialized education and acquired skills students will need to qualify for these jobs. In the past, a general liberal arts education was enough to find employment in many fields. As new industries emerge and existing ones expand, the jobs of the near future will require an education and training to fit employer requirements.

The implications are obvious. For many jobs and careers it will no longer be necessary to attend a four-year college, pay high tuition, along with room and board, and graduate with crushing debt that will take years, perhaps decades, to pay off.

Some other findings from Georgetown’s research that will be helpful as young people seek an education tailored to job requirements include: “Job openings in health care, community services and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) will grow the fastest among occupational clusters. Judgment/decision-making, communications, analysis and administration will be the four most in-demand competencies in the labor market.

The demand for physical skills has continued to decline over time, "except for ‘near vision,’ which is necessary to read computer screens and other types of documentation.”

Even those who choose to pursue college degrees will benefit from knowing the types of jobs they can expect to get and design their education to fit those necessities.

The flip side, says the study, is that at the current rate of college graduates, the U.S. will lack 5 million workers with post-secondary education by next year. A combination of jobs opening up because of baby boomer retirements and the creation of new positions in existing and new industries means a total of 55 million job openings by next year. This is nothing short of phenomenal and is a contributing factor to the influx of immigration, both legal and otherwise. How many of those entering our country illegally have high skill levels?

Skills that are most valued, says the study, include “leadership, communications and analysis.” Taking into consideration all occupations, “96 percent require critical thinking and active listening to be either very important or extremely important to success.”

Parents and students should keep these findings in mind to spare themselves frustration and debt when deciding the right path to a meaningful and well-paying job in the new and ever-expanding economy. Otherwise, the jobs one is hoping to get after graduation may not be there and the parental basement could be the only alternative.


Monday, May 13, 2019

'F**king Terrible Person!' Angry Student Who Punched Pro-Life Protester Charged With Assault

On Tuesday, the pro-life organization Created Equal posted a video showing a young female college student physically assaulting a pro-life protester. Police confirmed that the student who punched the pro-life protester in the face will indeed be charged with assault.

On April 2, a pro-life protester with Created Equal set up a poster depicting the gruesome reality of abortion — an unborn baby violently killed — at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. While these posters are controversial among the pro-life movement, displaying them does not justify violent attacks against the protesters.

"Did y'all put these up?" a woman asks in the video. As soon as the man confirms that he did, she rushes in, punching him in the face multiple times and hitting him in the stomach. She concludes by yelling, "F**king terrible person!"

"You’re a terrible person. You — this is not okay! This is not okay! This is not okay! Shut the f**k up right now!" she kept yelling. "This is wrong! This is triggering! You’re not an innocent human being. You’re a terrible person."

The protesters called the cops and told her to stay on site. The police confirmed she will be charged with misdemeanor assault.

Created Equal has documented incidents of violence against members of the team: a liberal student stole and vandalized pro-life signs in Indiana last October; a masked man attacked a pro-life sign with a club in Ohio in September 2016; an angry man assaulted a pro-life activist at an Ohio high school in May 2016; and an angry woman yelled at a young boy and kicked a pro-life sign in Columbus in July 2014.

Most of these cases involved graphic pro-life posters showing aborted babies. These posters do display the truth about abortion, but many pro-life activists oppose displaying them in this way because it incites anger and many say these posters are unlikely to convince people. Created Equal argues that these posters do convince people, and they have videos that seem to support that contention.

"The police did charge the student with non-aggravated assault," Mark Harrington, president of Created Equal, confirmed to PJ Media on Tuesday. "The video was never released until now. We have a call into the prosecutor to see if there is any action on the case."

He also promised that Created Equal will release another video on Thursday, "showing another UNC student getting arrested for stealing our signs."


Taxpayers on hook for student loans

Student loans, already a hardship for many young borrowers, now are projected to be a burden for another class of people: U.S. taxpayers.

The federal student loan program will cost the federal government $31 billion over the next decade, according to recent estimatesfrom the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That’s a shift from past CBO forecasts that the government would profit from the program.

“The notion that the student loan portfolio generates huge profits for the federal government is false,” said Kenneth Megan, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “If anything, they’re small and declining.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and President Donald Trump, have criticized the prospect that the government would make money from student loans.

Income-Driven Repayments

The latest data shows how the Education Department’s student loan program has slowly grown more expensive for taxpayers. While some of the increase can be attributed to interest rates, the bulk of the change has come from the cost of the almost $1.5 trillion in federal loans students already have outstanding.

More loans are in default, and less is being collected on outstanding loans, according to the the department’s budget request. In addition, more borrowers than anticipated are enrolling in income-driven repayment plans. These allow borrowers to pay a percentage of their income for a set number of years, after which the remainder of the loan is forgiven.

About 30 percent of borrowers with direct federal loans, the most common type, were in income-driven repayment programs in fiscal 2018, a 29 percent increase from two years before, according to the Education Department.

The additional cost isn’t coming from new loans but current ones, said Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy with the conservative American Action Forum.

“It’s not like since the last baseline they said ‘Oh my goodness, loans being made now are getting worse,’” Gray said. “Rather, loans that were previously made have gotten more expensive than we thought they would be.”


It’s time for Australia to introduce a national school starting age

If you’re a parent of a preschool-aged child one of the first things you’ll do when you start thinking about their schooling is start hunting for information about the best age for them to start.

Good luck.

Thanks to the wild variation in minimum school starting ages from state to state, you’re likely to come away even more bemused by the complexity of the issue than before you flipped open your laptop.

The six Australian states and two territories each have different minimum ages that a child can begin their schooling (and thanks to our decentralised education system you’ll struggle to find even that information on a single website).

In Queensland, children must be five by June 30 of the year they enrol. In NSW, they tack on an extra month — because why not? — so NSW kids have to be five before July 31 of their first year at primary.

In South Australia, the cut-off is the seemingly arbitrary May 5. And Tasmanian kids have to be five years old by January 1 of the year they begin school.

And yet there’s little to no appetite for a simple standardisation of a school starting age across the country, a move that would lessen confusion and anxiety for parents, make it easier for teachers to prepare for the age of the children they’re teaching and improve learning outcomes overall.

“It’s as though we think it’s too hard so we don’t do it,” says Australian Childcare Alliance president Paul Mondo.

“Maybe it was less of a problem when there was less research about the impact of school starting age. But now we have that research and we know that it’s absolutely important and absolutely in the best interests of our children.”

More data is coming to light every day that shows that children who are on the older end of their class age spectrum have better social and learning outcomes.

The most recent and compelling study comes from the University of NSW which looked at 100,000 children and found that those who were “held back” in order to start school at an older age fared better than their younger peers.

“When we compared their developmental data there was a clear trend: outcomes improved with each additional month of age,” said researcher Dr Mark Hanley.

But when the different states and territories can’t agree on when that age is, parents start taking matters into their own hands.

Facebook pages and online forums are filled with anxious mums and dads tying themselves up in knots over the best time to send their children to school — and consulting phalanxes of educators, psychologists and paediatricians to make sure they get it “right”.

It’s understandable — the wrong decision can affect a kid all the way through to Year 12.

The decision they often make is to err on the side of sending their kids to school older rather than younger, despite the fact that this causes some classrooms to have huge gaps between the youngest and eldest children.

According to the same NSW University study, one quarter of NSW children are being “held back” a year to start school when they’re six or close to six because of concerns that they’ll be significantly younger than their cohorts if they start on time or early.

This means that teachers are trying to formulate a daily classroom routine and curriculum that has to cater to both four-and-a-half year olds and six year olds — a gaping developmental gap at that young age.

It also creates another have and have not divide — as holding a child back may not be something a lower-income family stuck with crippling daycare fees is able to afford.

So why don’t we simply iron out the bumps, level the playing field and agree on an age and stick to it nationwide? For the same reason that anything to do with standardising education gets thrown into the too-hard basket.

It’s something that every state and territory education department would rather buck pass than coalesce to address, and as always the federal education department defers to the states.

Meanwhile, Australia slips further and further down the global rankings of reading, mathematics and scientific literacy.

It’s just another way that Australia struggles to think much beyond “she’ll be right, mate” when it comes to education policy.

And seeing as we can’t even agree on what to call the first year of “big school” around the country — depending on where you live it could be “kindergarten”, “prep” or “reception” — is it any wonder we seem to be so flaccid about addressing anything else?


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Cambridge College removes historic bell from view, amid fears it was used on a slave plantation

Mindless virtue signalling.  They are desperate for something to protest about

A Cambridge College has reacted to the university wide inquiry by removing a historic bell from view, amid fears it was used on a slave plantation.

St Catharine’s College believe that the Demerara Bell, which was donated by alumni Edward Goodland in the 1960, “most likely” came from a slave plantation.

The bell remains in place but has been “shuttered” off from view while the College investigate its origins.

Founded in 1473, St Catharine’s counts the broadcaster Jeremy Paxman and the actor Sir Ian McKellen among its alumni.

Last month, Cambridge University announced that it will launch an inquiry into how the 800-year-old institution benefited from the slave trade.

Researchers have been commissioned to pore over the university’s archives to how much it gained from the “Atlantic slave trade and other forms of coerced labour during the colonial era”. 

The two-year inquiry will examine whether financial bequests made to departments, libraries and museums were made possible from the profits of slavery.

The inquiry only covers university-owned buildings and faculties, but it is understood that Colleges are following suit and investigating their own links to the slave trade.

Gill Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history at Cambridge University, said that College will “all want to jump on the bandwagon”.

She told the Daily Telegraph: “It has now become a reputational damage issue. This is clearly the next line of worry. No College will want to be the last ones to do it.”

Mr Goodland studied at St Catharine’s from 1930-33 and went on to become a successful industrialist, running a factory that made sulphuric acid and cement.

He was appointed as the technical director at Bookers Sugar Estates in the then British colony of British Guiana, which is now Guyana, according to the archived issues of the College’s magazine, St Catharine’s College Society.

Mr Goodland donated the eighteenth century mission bell with the inscription "De Catherina 1772” to the College a few years after his arrival in British Guiana in 1958.

It was initially hung in a belfry outside the Porter’s lodge where it was used to “summon College residents to food and to prayer”, the magazine says but in 1994 it was moved to a less prominent position in one of the accommodation blocks.

The Booker Group, which was the UK's largest food wholesale operator and founded the Booker Prize for literature, controlled most of the sugar industry in British Guiana at its peak and was so powerful that the country was referred to as "Booker's Guiana".

  A spokesperson for the College said: “As part of the ongoing reflection taking place about the links between universities and slavery, we are aware that a bell currently located at the College most likely came from a slave plantation.

“A more detailed investigation is under way into the bell’s provenance as part of a wider project researching the College’s historical links to the slave trade.”

Dr Miranda Griffin, the College’s senior tutor, said it is important for St Catharine’s to “acknowledge historical links to slavery and the slave trade”. 

She added: “As an academic community, we will continue to conduct rigorous research into all aspects of our past and to reflect on our commitment to diversity, inclusion and asking challenging questions.”


I’m a College Student. Here’s Why I Oppose Socialism

In the 2016 presidential primaries, 2.1 million people under age 30 voted for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. But do young Americans really know what it means to live under socialism?

Cambodia, like other countries in the past and present, offers clear evidence of the outcomes of socialist policies such as the Green New Deal championed today by many liberals in the U.S.

Bopha Sayavong, a family friend of this reporter, lived in Cambodia in the 1970s when it was under both socialist and communist control. She survived the government’s work camps and was able to come to America in 1981.

“People that refer to themselves as the millennial [generation], they have no clue what socialism is,” Sayavong, now a pharmacist in Illinois, told me. “I lived in both socialism and communism, and then I lived in the world of the U.S. One thing I can tell you is there is no place like the U.S.”

However, the enthusiasm with which millennials advocate socialist policies suggests an ignorance about history, markets, and government. This is in part due to the failures of the education system.

Liberal arts courses in the United States are ripe with the opportunity to teach the proper context needed to understand the consequences of socialism and communism.

However, the education system’s failure to connect the dots leaves students with the impression that socialism is a venture yet to be tested.

“People think it’s so wonderful, it’s so fantastic, but that’s not true,” Sayavong said. “It’s just like a painting—it looks fantastic. But when you live in it, then you know it. It brings me pain to even think that our children go that far [consider socialism].”

American college students have the luxury of viewing the world from an ivory tower, combating injustice through thought experiments.

Students approach the world’s problems as if this were a game in which there are no consequences, and every variable is easily known and controlled. They say: “If we could remove markets, there would be no poverty, and if the government made the decisions, there would be no oppression.”

This critique of higher education has been made many times over many years by conservative academics. William F. Buckley Jr. shocked the academic world with his 1951 book “God and Man at Yale” and its scathing critique of the liberal bias at Yale University.

Still, to this day, higher education doesn’t provide a more rounded view of the world.

History classes fail to teach that notions such as socialism already have failed the test of time, and the outcomes have birthed nothing but pain and suffering.

For example, 2 million people died between 1975 and 1979 at the hands of  the communist Khmer Rouge regime. Headed by Pol Pot, that regime put Cambodians, including Sayavong’s family, in work camps.

That’s almost as many dead as the number of young Americans who voted in 2016 for Sanders.

Other such experiments include the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cuba, and now Venezuela, all of which produced some of the most severe human rights violations known to man.

Economics classes in college fail to teach students that capitalism provided ubiquitous products such as the iPhone that almost every student takes for granted. These classes also fail to teach that competition and innovation provide affordable goods and services, as opposed to oppressing the poor.

Lauren Chen, a conservative YouTube blogger based in Canada, stated the issue clearly April 14 on “The Ben Shapiro Sunday Special” when she said: “Millennials don’t know who people like Pol Pot, or Stalin, or Mao are, which is kind of to me what being a millennial is all about—all of the enthusiasm with none of the knowledge.”

Just as college campuses don’t solve the world’s problems, Capitol Hill doesn’t solve the country’s problems. A few congressmen can’t pull a few levers and push a few buttons to secure equality.

The swipe of a pen at the bottom of a nonbinding resolution “creating” the Green New Deal doesn’t eradicate poverty.

“I do believe in equality,” Sayavong told me. “I want … no rich, no poor, all even; but as a human being, think about it: If the government tells you what to do, how to eat, how to breathe, how could that be equal? They are above you.”

Firsthand experience with socialism and communism has been around to offset academia’s utopian visions for a long time.

Perhaps because unlike baby boomers and Generation X they don’t have wars to fight, millennials and Generation Z have the privilege to disengage from history.


This STEM-focused, prank-loving school in remote northern Maine is No. 2 in the nation

A selective school

LIMESTONE, Maine — This town 2 miles from the Canadian border is home to five churches, a post office, an ATM but no bank, Mike’s family market, a hairdresser, and a nonprofit coffee shop that runs on donations. There is no stoplight.

It is also home to the second-best public high school in the entire country, according to new rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

Even the administrators at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics are a bit baffled as to how the tiny magnet school beat out 17,000 other high schools across the nation.

“I really didn’t believe it,” Alan Whittemore, the dean of enrollment, said about seeing the rankings posted online. Initially, he thought perhaps one of the computer geniuses at the high school had hacked into the U.S News rating system.

M.S.S.M., as the students call it, is not a typical public school. It’s a boarding school, but tuition is free for all students from Maine; room and board, though, is $9,300 a year. A rigorous application process requires prospective students to submit SAT or ACT scores, recommendations, and essays. The school has about a 75 percent acceptance rate, according to Whittemore. There are no set grade levels: Freshmen learn alongside juniors and seniors, taking whatever class fits their interests and skills.

The students are very bright and the isolated setting, in a part of the world where winter stretches on endlessly, nurtures an offbeat and intensely close community, as if a girl who could recite 70 digits of pi and a boy who spoke exclusively in iambic pentameter got together and designed a school for kids just like them.

“They’re intensely clever, all the time. They’re very curious, all the time,” said Mark Rhodes, the wiry and energetic head of the math department, who is greeted in every classroom he enters with shouts of “Dr. Rhodes!”

Like about half the faculty, Rhodes lives on campus in housing provided by the school.

Rhodes used to teach at Colby College, but got bored. Now he teaches upper-level math classes at the high school and is not bored at all. The students keep him entertained intellectually, both in terms of academics — one freshman recently took multivariable calculus — and through a series of elaborate, cryptic pranks in his classroom.

For example, Rhodes arrived one day to find a map of California (blue, ordinary) sitting on the floor. He picked up the map, contemplated it briefly, and discarded it on his desk. The next day there were two identical maps of California sitting on the floor.

“Uh oh,” he said. And so it continued, one more map each day. He gestured around the room: Six cardboard boxes filled with maps of California under his desk. Neat bundles of maps of California were stacked on nearly every surface. He now has thousands of maps of California. The students are able to keep a running total using the sum of the first n natural numbers.

“What’s this place like in the winter?” he joked. “They find things to do.”

Classes are rigorous, almost like college, and infused with a kind of humming nerd excitement and sense of purpose. A free period is spent testing a handmade robot’s journey through an underwater obstacle course. When the stars come out, students set up their telescopes for astronomy class. About half the school’s 130 kids are on the competitive math team.

During a two-hour biology lab, students crunched through the woods behind the school, avoiding pockets of snow, and gathered around a tree. George Johnson, an affable 18-year-old who was nominated to be prom king this year and is a self-described libertarian, volunteered to walk deeper into the prickly brush to help with the identifying. Spruce or fir?

“Yeah, there’s resin blisters,” Johnson said from behind the trunk.

“It’s a fir!” shouted Haileigh Luce, a junior.

“If you grab it and it doesn’t poke you, it’s a fir,” Debbie Eustis-Grandy confirmed.

The students learned about everything they saw: They discussed grouse droppings (“pelletized cellulose,” Eustis-Grandy explained), how an alder tree prevents self-fertilizing, and why dogtooth violets bloom so early. One student pointed out a rainbow; Eustis-Grandy explained it was actually a halo caused by the refraction of sunlight on ice in the atmosphere.

In a classroom outfitted with a couch and a poster detailing Kurt Vonnegut’s theory of the shape of stories, Sawyer Lachance, 18, Skyped with his literature teacher, who is on the verge of retiring and is currently teaching from Cape Cod.

“We’ve been talking off and on about what the role of the novel is,” Lachance said.

M.S.S.M. was founded in 1995, a year after the Limestone area was decimated by the closure of the Loring Air Force Base and the resulting loss of more than a thousand jobs. Families moved; the former elementary and high school buildings emptied out. Then-governor John McKernan proposed a math-science magnet school, and the state Legislature approved. Classes take place in the town’s old high school, and the dorms are in the converted elementary school.

Students from all over the state attend, as well as international students — 13 currently, hailing from South Korea, Russia, Ukraine, China, and Italy. Otherwise, the school is mostly white, with Asian students making up 9 percent of the student body and black and Hispanic students together making up just 2 percent.

Maine pays the tuition of state residents, but international students pay full fare — $34,300, plus room and board and a nonresident fee for staying with host families during breaks.
Racheal Jeon, 19, is from South Korea; she heard about the school through an agency in Seoul.

“I didn’t know where Maine was. I didn’t know where Limestone was,” she said, while eating from a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream and examining her calculus homework. “It shocked everybody in my family that it was farther north than Toronto.”

Whittemore calls the school a “working person’s boarding school,” noting that 40 percent of families are on financial aid to cover room and board. Still, it’s tricky to compare M.S.S.M. to traditional public schools, which have no fees, and, typically, no criteria for admission.

“If you’re trying to rank them, it’s probably not a particularly useful or fair rank, in the sense that they’re so different,” said Casey Cobb, a professor of education policy at University of Connecticut who has written extensively about magnet schools and school choice. Even in admissions processes where anyone can apply, like at M.S.S.M., the ones who do are typically more privileged, Cobb noted; they know how to find out about such programs and negotiate the application process.

“That system, even though it seems really fair, it’s advantaging those already in advantage,” Cobb said. “It ends up, I think, being a little bit like a semi-private school.”

The school was first ranked nationally in 2007, last year it didn’t make the cut at all, and in 2017 it ranked No. 19. The dining hall made a sheet cake to celebrate that year.

The kids weren’t too invested in the No. 2 ranking this year, but they remain hopeful that there will be cake before finals begin, when they will need to really hunker down and get to work.