Friday, June 14, 2019

The Real High Cost of Education in America: Indoctrination

Allen West

One of my previous commentaries was on the progressive, socialist left’s three branches of rule. Our constitutional republic’s three coequal branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial – mean little to them in their quest for ideological domination. What the leftists in America rely on to implement their agenda are their branches of the media, the courts, and yes, academia. What the left has always known throughout history is that they must control the message, mandate their ideological agenda by court mandate, and indoctrinate future generations … the real high cost of education.

There is a clear reason why the left has free college education as one of its “policy” platforms. They realize that their ideological domination in our culture is dependent on the indoctrination of our children. This is what we see happening on our college and university campuses across America. Now, we can even see this reach going not just into high schools but down into our elementary schools. Who could have ever imagined that little boys and girls of elementary school age would “identify” as a different gender?

Last week, something happened to which we should all pay attention. It occurred on the campus of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Just as a full disclaimer, I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Bama is one of our biggest rivals in the SEC. We all know what the third Saturday in October means. Well, I must say, last week, I was a Bama fan and publicly said two words you will not hear a Tennessee Volunteer often utter: “Roll Tide.”

A major donor to the University of Alabama’s law school, Hugh Culverhouse, called for a student boycott against the recently passed pro-life legislation passed in the State of Alabama. Culverhouse had donated $26.5 million to the University of Alabama’s law school. The trustees of the university voted to return Culverhouse’s donation and removed his name from the law school. The trustees cited that Culverhouse did not represent a system of values consistent with the university.

I have one word in response, Hallelujah!

Finally, a stand has been made against these rich, progressive socialists who believe their wealth can dictate our values, beliefs, and principles. Of course, Culverhouse’s response was typical of the left. He responded that he and his father had donated to the university over the years to rid Alabama of a certain type of stereotype: “We are the land of the backward, we are hicks, we lack the sophistication to see two sides to an argument.”

How very offensive, condescending, and elitist of Culverhouse and his ilk to believe that we need them to save us backward Southerners from ourselves. Culverhouse even alluded that the action taken by Alabama was akin to putting “a 12-gauge in your mouth and pull[ing] the trigger.”

I must ask, how did Hugh Culverhouse feel about the infanticide legislation signed into law by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo? Is it proper to deduce that the actions of Governor Cuomo and the state of New York somehow represents forward thinking and a high level of sophistication? Is infanticide some intellectually accepted principle, value, that if you do not submit to it, you are relegated to being considered a troglodyte? You know, if you do not bow down to the progressive, socialist left’s god of climate change, you are a member of the “flat earth society.”

This is the real high cost of education, the loss of any discourse, debate, exchange of ideas. The left in the circles of academia demand that we surrender to their ideals – or else. They make demands that our campuses be part of their scheme. Thank God we have those trustees at the University of Alabama who said no.

What must constitutional conservatives do going forward? We must cease supporting the left’s goal of using academia as a branch of their rule. When I consider conservative and free market institutions, like Hillsdale College and Northwood University, both places where I have been invited to speak, why are there not more of them across America? Why do we not have philanthropists on the conservative side ensuring that we have these types of institutions in every state in America? We need to have more courageous university trustees, boards who do not bow down to the large amounts of money coming their way with certain demands. They need to stick to their fundamental principles and values of offering a strong education and preparation for our future generations to be engaged, prepared, and productive citizens in our country.

That means ending the senseless “safe spaces” and coddling of young people to open the avenues of trending them towards a leftist agenda.

Education in America is not a federal government jurisdiction, not an enumerated right, but thanks to Jimmy Carter, he created the Department of Education. And guess what, where do you find the ideal, concept of state (government) controlled education? Yes, it is one of the tenets, planks, of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Heck, even our system of taxation, the progressive tax system, is based upon a tenet of Karl Marx.

The left is doing a great job of focusing the issue of education in America on the word “free” – or relief of college student debt. That is not the issue. It is not about the dollars and cents cost of education. The high cost of education in America is that we are not educating our future generations. We are allowing them to be indoctrinated, manipulated, and controlled by a progressive socialist ideological agenda.

The cost of that happening in our country is simple – we lose our America. Vladimir Lenin expressed this, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” It was Lenin who also said, “the goal of socialism is communism.”

And that is why one of the three branches of rule for the progressive, socialist left in America is academia.


Conservatives: Higher Education Reauthorization Must Treat All Schools & Students Equally

As Congress and the White House negotiate the details of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the principled, limited government constitutional conservatives of the Conservative Action Project have released a memo urging congressional Republicans to oppose progressive extremism in higher education and to protect free speech in higher education.

In addition to egregiously expensive and unworkable policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, progressives within Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are also proposing free public-school tuition at the community college and university level.

However, “free” is never really free, and this cost would merely be transferred to taxpayers. Moreover, their proposals, while sounding laudable, are costly administrative burdens that target for-profit colleges, while making them less competitive with public institutions.

The HEA reauthorization should also prioritize freedom of speech on campus. In the last two years, there have been nearly 50 attempts to disinvite speakers from college campuses. More than 120 colleges and universities have speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech. Intellectual freedom and the search for truth are paramount on college campuses, and the HEA should contain measures aimed at making sure all speech is treated equally.

This is especially true as an aggressive socialism is finding root in college campuses who receive millions in taxpayer subsidies every year. According to Gallup, close to 51 percent of Americans aged 18-29 have a positive view of socialism, an ideology that has resulted in death and destruction around the globe. They are egged on by ideologues posing as professors, who, in many cases, have been the source of many of the supposedly student-led protests against campus speakers.

With college campuses becoming increasingly intolerant to ideas and debate, it is more important than ever that federal policy allow diversity of views to flourish. As the HEA moves forward, we urge congressional Republicans to stand firm on principles of equal treatment and fairness for all students, and all schools.


Judge Orders Antifa Activist Yvette Felarca to Pay Judicial Watch Legal Fees for Her ‘Entirely Frivolous’ Lawsuit

Judicial Watch announced that a U.S. District Judge in California awarded Judicial Watch $22,000 in legal fees in a case filed by an Antifa organizer in an effort to block Judicial Watch from obtaining information about her activities.

Yvette Felarca, a middle school teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and two co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay Judicial Watch $22,000 in attorney’s fees and $4,000 in litigation costs. Felarca had sued the BUSD in federal court to keep the school district from fulfilling its legal obligation to provide Judicial Watch with records of their communications mentioning: Felarca, Antifa, and/or BAMN. Judicial Watch also asked for Felarca’s personnel file.

Felarca is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that protests conservative speaking engagements. In 2016, Felarca and two of her allies were arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Earlier this year, Felarca was ordered to stand trial for assault.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, Northern District of California, who had previously ruled that Felarca’s lawsuit was “entirely frivolous,” wrote in his ruling awarding legal fees to Judicial Watch that Felarca and her co-plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims were “premised on the obviously baseless assumption” that the First Amendment condemns the speech of some while condoning the ideological missions of others.

Judge Chhabria added that “The plaintiffs also mischaracterized the documents under review” and that the plaintiffs “failed to grapple with the role Ms. Felarca played in making herself a topic of public discourse through her physical conduct at public rallies and her voluntary appearance on Fox News.”

Judge Chhabria’s order also states that “a significant portion of the documents the plaintiffs initially sued to protect from disclosure had been publicly disclosed months earlier in another suit brought by Ms. Felarca against BUSD, where she was represented by the same counsel. (See generally Felarca v. Berkeley Unified School District, No. 3:16-cv-06184-RS). The plaintiffs, therefore, had no reasonable argument to protect those documents from disclosure.”

Along with Felarca’s $20,000 payment, co-plaintiffs Lori Nixon and Larry Stefl were ordered by Judge Chhabria to pay Judicial Watch $1,000 each (Yvette Felarca, et al., v. Berekely Unified School District, et al. (No. 3:17-cv-06282-VC)).

“Judicial Watch is entitled to attorney’s fees because the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was frivolous, and their litigation conduct was unreasonable,” Judge Chhabria wrote in his order.

Additionally, Judge Chhabria’s order holds the plaintiffs “jointly and severally liable” to pay Judicial Watch $4,000 in litigation expenses.

In 2017, Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request seeking public records information about Felarca’s Antifa activism and its effect within the Berkeley Unified School District. In her lawsuit aimed at keeping the Berkeley school district from furnishing the records, Felarca alleged that Judicial Watch was misusing the law for political means and the district should refuse to provide the information.

In January 2018, a separate judge ordered Felarca to pay more than $11,000 in attorney and court fees for her frivolous attempt to get a restraining order against Troy Worden, the former head of the University of California (UC) Berkeley College Republicans.

“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against Antifa and the violent left,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Ms. Felarca attacked Judicial Watch without basis and the court was right to reject her ploy to deny our ‘right to know’ because we don’t share her violent left views.”


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Four Low Tech Ways to Lower Tuition Fees by 10 to 30 Percent

Universities are in for a very tough decade ahead—they are increasingly perceived as a risky and overpriced value proposition, and the pool of potential new students is going to decline as a consequence of falling fertility. To make themselves more attractive, colleges need to become leaner, cheaper, and more relevant. There are several relatively simple things that could be done that would significantly lower costs and improve collegiate attractiveness and future viability.

In many cases, however, schools will go to their deaths not biting the bullet and making the big changes necessary, often because administrators won’t push necessary reforms, and/or governing boards fail to take the initiative to make that happen. Below I list four ways costs could be lowered materially, sometimes taking a few years before fully realizing savings.

Cut Administrative Staffs and Costs By At Least 20%

The business of universities is to teach and do research. That requires professors and some support personnel. It does not require umpteen associate provosts for international affairs, diversity, sustainability, student support, and so forth. A typical four year school today has more professional staff not teaching than those who do. Often at least one out of five of them are doing things that have nothing to do with creating or disseminating knowledge, and also are not self-financing positions (as many in, say university affiliated clinical facilities often are).

Ridding the campus of these individuals generally would not impact the quality or quantity of teaching or research. We don’t need sustainability gurus to tell us how to save the planet, or armies of inclusion specialists to tell us to respect fellow students and faculty and tolerate human differences. We don’t need umpteen PR individuals to brag about the school’s accomplishments—a few will do. College deans who used to have one or two assistants now usually have five or ten—they can go at least halfway back to the past, to maybe four assistants. The last time I checked, the University of Michigan had over 90 diversity administrators—couldn’t it get by with 10—or, arguably, zero?

Make Faculty Teach More and End Expensive Graduate Programs With Few Students

While the precise dimensions are unknown, teaching loads for American faculty have fallen significantly over time, ostensibly to promote research. While in some cases this may be justified, many faculty publish rather modestly in obscure journals that few read, and does little to enhance our cultural capital. Suppose a school needs 3,000 courses taught each semester, 2,000 by 1,000 faculty members with an average two course teaching load, and 1,000 by 500 adjacent (mostly part-time) faculty also averaging two classes taught each.

If average full-time faculty teaching loads rose to three courses, the school could get by with 333 fewer faculty (saving tens of millions of dollars annually), or it could eliminate all adjacent faculty teaching, or a combination of both—saving lots of money.

To make that happen, graduate programs with modest enrollments and reputations whose graduates seldom get good jobs would probably be eliminated—a plus for society.

Abandon Big-Time Athletic Aspirations

Many colleges and universities subsidize intercollegiate athletic competitions to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually. Commercially, it is unlikely the nation can support at a near break-even level more than a few dozen schools. Look at how college sports were done around 1950 and replicate it—fewer coaches, players and games, much lower salaries, etc. Require universities receiving huge incomes from television and related sources to “tax” their athletic operations heavily to help fund general academic operations. The Iron Law of Sports rules—every time someone wins a game, someone else loses.

Reduce Tuition Discounting

If sticker tuition prices are reduced materially (by over 10 %) because of the above actions, the amount of discounting fees from the listed price can fall a bit as well. Colleges can reduce their so-called scholarship aid without increasing student financial burdens, helping fund reductions in published fees.

University presidents like to be popular on campus, as that usually increases their income and job security. But the wishes of the campus community usually are inconsistent with the new market realities of higher education. Presidents, supported by trustees who previously were often toothless rubber stamps, should enact reforms such as those outlined above to promote institutional survival.


Britain's University entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply AFTER they have their A-level grades

Britain has the weird system that students are admitted to university BEFORE their final High School marks are known.  Teachers give each student a "predicted" mark to go on with. The problems with that are obvious.  But change is at last in the air

The university entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply after they have their A-level grades. The higher education watchdog, The Office for Students (OfS), is to launch a major review later this year into the university admissions system.

It follows concern from ministers that universities have been engaging in “unethical” practises such as “pressure selling” unconditional offers to students.

While the OfS cannot dictate how individual universities make their offers, they are able to change the structures that govern the admissions system.

A review is likely to consider whether a post-qualifications admission system should be set up, where students only apply to university after receiving their A-levels.

This would remove the problem of institutions handing out unconditional offers which can lead to students slacking with their school work since they have a university place guaranteed.

It would also solve the solve the issue of unreliable predicted grades, where universities complain that teachers make unrealistic forecasts about what students are capable of achieving.

Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, previously attempted to instigate a move to a post-qualification system but dropped the idea in 2012.

At the time, university leaders claimed that the move would put too much pressure on admissions tutors by forcing them to consider hundreds of thousands of applications in just a few weeks over the summer.

But there is now growing concern about the misuse of unconditional offers, with the number rising sharply. Students are now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said on Monday that he welcomes the review, adding that the rise in unconditional offers “may be symptomatic of wider issues within university admissions processes”.

In a letter to Sir Michael Barber, the chair of the OFS, he said: “There is a need to establish whether current admissions processes serve the best interests of students”.

The lifting of student number controls in England in 2015 gave universities free rein to recruit as many undergraduates as they see fit - but the move has led to accusations that they now act like businesses, seeking to maximise their revenue by recruiting as many students as possible.

Fierce competition has emerged between universities to attract students, with sixth form pupils now offered places regardless of their exam results.

Some institutions hand out “incentivised” offers, where they tell students that their offer will be unconditional but only if they accept it as their first choice university.

The universities watchdog has previously warned that applying “psychological pressure” or “creating an impression of urgency” in decision making could be a potential breach of consumer protection law.

The OfS published a report in January that examined the impact of unconditional offers on students’ decision making. It found that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades by two or more grades.

Headteachers have been increasingly concerned about the impact that unconditional offers have on student motivation and achievement.

They have complained that students who are awarded unconditional offers “take their foot off the gas” because they are no longer concerned about their grades.

The regulator’s admissions review will be launched this autumn, and is due to be completed in 2020.

Universities UK has said it is working with Ucas to review guidance on unconditional offers.  “It is essential that admissions processes and policies are fair and transparent, underpinned by clear criteria and in the best interest of students,” they said.


International Enrollments Could Surpass Domestic Enrollments at The University of Melbourne by 2020

This is very good news.  Education is now one of Australia's biggest exports.  Australia has many universities so capacity is  virtually unlimited.  The money we send to China to pay for electrical goods and much else is coming back to us to pay for the education of young people from rich Chinese families.  It's a win/win

International students come as they please in Australia. With no cap in place, the number of full-fee paying international students studying in Australia continues to grow in spite of the rapidly-rising tuition costs they face.

Many believe 2019 will be the year Australia overtakes the UK as the second-largest destination country for international students and sit behind the United States.

Last year, AU$32 billion was pumped into the Australian economy from foreign students alone.

On average, international students are Australia’s second-leading revenue source after government grants in the higher education sector.

In this report, we use the University of Melbourne as a case study for international tuition and student enrollment trends as they relate to domestic student trends and inflation.

Case Study - University of Melbourne International Student Trends
The University of Melbourne places 32nd in Times Higher Education World University Rankings and ranks fourth as one of the leading recipients of international students in Australia.

In 2014, international students represented 31 per cent of the University of Melbourne student population. In a matter of four years, that percentage rose to 46 per cent.

International vs domestic student enrollments at UniMelb from 2014 to 2018.

In the University of Melbourne's annual report for 2018, it was reported to be 42.1% in 2018, yet their international load to their total student load, when calculated, indicates its 45.81%.

In other words, the percentage of foreign students comprising of the overall amount of students enrolled grew despite the school having increased their overall enrollments every year from 2014 to 2018.

What this suggests is that international students are enrolling at the University of Melbourne at a far greater pace than domestic students.

In reality, domestic enrollments has not only slowed, but declined since 2014. In 2014 there were 29,437 domestic enrollments. In 2018 there were 28,579.

If the present course remains unchanged, there could be more international students enrolled than domestic students by 2020.
Total enrollment of international students has gone from 13,200 to 24,166 in the period from 2014 to 2018. That is, the percentage of international students enrolled at the University of Melbourne has increased by 83.07 per cent in a matter of four years.

With no cap in place for international student enrollment at the University of Melbourne, international students will continue to eat away at the student population proportion.

In 2018, 4178 new international students enrolled in 2018. That makes last year the largest intake of international students ever by the University of Melbourne.

As more foreign students come to study at the University of Melbourne every year, their tuition continues to increase along with it.

International tuition fee increases year over year at the University of Melbourne from 2015 to 2019.

On average, international tuition fees have increased by 4.5 per cent every year from 2015 to 2019.

For students in the Bachelor of Commerce program, international tuition fees were $33,760 (lower bounds) in 2015. To study in the Bachelor of Commerce program in 2019, it costs international students $40,216 - a 19.12 per cent increase in four years.

The bachelor of commerce program is the primary field of study for international students at the University of Melbourne. In 2017, more than one-third of foreign students chose this program.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A big stir over trivia

Yearbooks are meant to preserve. To flash-freeze memories from yesteryear, providing a snapshot in time, decades down the line.

For better or worse.

In recent weeks, several area high schools have pulled or reprinted the coveted keepsakes due to controversial photos and quotes within their pages, forcing schools to foot the bill and tread carefully into new territory.

Among the major concerns: The “OK” hand gesture. The once-harmless symbol took on new meaning after a 2017 social media hoax by a right-wing group who spread word that it symbolized white supremacy. Alternatively, kids and teens use an upside-down version of the gesture in a made-you-look type game.

Despite sending letters to parents that made clear the OK gesture is used by students from a variety of racial backgrounds and religions, Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park and Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago both announced they would reprint their 2018-19 yearbooks after finding photos of the symbol — moves which cost $50,000 and $22,000, respectively.

While some people have criticized the action, defending the hand symbol as ambiguous or a silly game, school yearbook advisers are making moves to thwart any potential misconception.

As a yearbook adviser at Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, Sam Dudek is proactive against potentially offensive content by choosing who he believes is the most honest and hardworking student as the yearbook’s editor — that student alerts Dudek if anything looks questionable. Dudek then personally proofreads each of the yearbook’s 300 pages before it goes to the printer, including all images, captions and senior quotes.

“It makes for a long, painful week, but it’s my name in the back of the book, too, and my reputation on the line,” said the English and journalism teacher who’s been at the school since 2008. “And it’s important that I represent our school in the most positive way possible.” Dudek said last year his student editor spotted someone flashing what they believed was a gang sign in a group picture.

“Usually we delete a picture like that, but it was an important senior class group photo, so we used some creative Photoshopping to remove the offensive gesture,” she said.

And it’s not just hand symbols that cause alarm. Highland Park High School in Highland Park halted distribution of its yearbook last month over two senior quotes that were deemed inappropriate. One of them, attributed by the student as “anonymous,” is commonly linked to Nazi propaganda.

Sheila Quirke, a West Ridge mom of two boys, serves as her elementary school’s yearbook parent adviser and photographer. Monitoring a staff of 13 students across sixth, seventh and eighth grades, she started the school year with a conversation about the significance of yearbooks as historical documents.

Quirke said that when she’s taking photos, if kids start flashing the OK sign, she refuses to take the shots.

“I kind of put my foot down and did bring it to the attention of the principal,” she said. “As we got on through the year, there were three instances where I was taking photos of seventh- or eighth-graders who were flashing that gesture, and every time I saw it, I said, ‘No, I’m not going to photograph you while you’re making that gesture.’ I had a sense from the older boys at the school that it wasn’t just a harmless game — something felt off to me.”

The former social worker took to social media to discuss the change in meaning of the OK sign but got pushback from other parents who defended it as a game.

“There seems to be an unwillingness to sort of acknowledge that this gesture’s significance has evolved,” Quirke said. “It started out as an intentional hoax, then it kind of morphed into a kind of trolling tactic. But when somebody has slaughtered 50 Muslims in their place of worship makes that gesture, I’m sorry, that is a gesture that has been fully co-opted and it has no place in the world of children anymore.” (She referred to the New Zealand mosque shooter, a self-described racist who killed 51 worshippers in March.)

Quirke believes people cannot ignore things and move through the world so blithely.

“It is our responsibility to start to pay attention,” she said. “None of us exist in a vacuum, and we need to dig in further and be more conscious, more vocal, more aware and teach our children as well.”


Esther McVey is right about the Birmingham schools row

It is not the role of schools to teach children about relationships

Five-year-olds are on the frontline of the culture war in Birmingham. At school, they are taught about lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships and about gender and transgender issues. Meanwhile, mainly Muslim protesters argue that these lessons are inappropriate for such young children and run counter to the religious beliefs of their parents. They have taken to demonstrating outside local schools. ‘You say we are homophobic, we say you are Islamophobic’, said one, neatly summing up the state of identity politics today. There is now a High Court injunction banning protests in nearby streets.

No child should have to run a gauntlet of placard-waving just to get to school or have lessons curtailed because of demonstrations. But it is not parents or even protesters from outside of the school community who have politicised education: it is activist teachers backed by successive governments. Sex education has been taught in schools for decades, but lessons in relationships, soon to be compulsory for all children, are a much more recent and far more political project. One of the Birmingham protesters criticised the ‘No Outsiders’ programme, the books and lessons used across several schools to teach about relationships: ‘It is changing our children’s moral position on family values and on sexuality and we are a traditional community.’ Parents are right to be wary of this state overreach into what should be the domain of the family.

Schools have always done more than just teach facts: alongside how to read and write, children are taught to sit still and be quiet. Sometimes the values underpinning education are made explicit. Catholicism determined everything that happened in my primary school, from the prayers we copied for handwriting practice to the hymns we sang in assembly. However, in most schools today, it is politics and not religion that shapes the values at the heart of the curriculum. Promoting Fairtrade, recycling, respectful relationships, healthy eating, gender equality and awareness of Britain’s colonial past now make up the content of lessons. As we see in Birmingham, the problem with putting every social problem on the curriculum is that it allows activists to bypass difficult arguments with adults and go straight to the easier task of convincing children. This is social engineering, not socialisation.

As education has become more political, the distance between some parents and schools has grown. The parents of my classmates were happy for us to make weekly school trips to the cathedral next door: it is why they had chosen to send us to Catholic school. But what is happening in Birmingham shows us that adults are not in agreement about the values schools should inculcate. Yet despite this, schools encroach ever further into the terrain of parents. Whether it is checking the content of lunchboxes to remove crisps or chocolate biscuits, getting children to keep food diaries or monitor household recycling, or even suggesting bedtimes, the boundaries between the role of parents and teachers have become blurred.

Too many who work in education, at all levels, are ready to suspect the worst of parents. Some seem to think that classes in relationships are necessary because, without them, children are bound to grow up to be abusive towards one another. This is a tragic lesson to teach children of any age. This view of parents means the current dispute in Birmingham is about far more than picture books featuring penguins with two dads. It is a battle between parents and the state in determining not just which values should be imparted to children but, far more importantly, who gets to decide. Tory leadership hopeful Esther McVey recognises this. ‘Parents know what’s best for their children’, she told Sky News.

In the past, saying parents know what is best for their children would have been unremarkable. Today, it is just about as controversial as you can get. Labour MP Jess Phillips led the charge against McVey on Twitter. First, she ridiculed those who would support the wife-beating dad from preventing his child from learning about domestic violence. The idea that lessons in domestic violence are all that is standing in the way of the UK descending into a nation of victims and abusers speaks volumes about Phillips’ view of ordinary people. Not content, she poked fun at the idea that parents might also decide to pull their kids out of lessons on phonics or oxbow lakes. But there is a huge difference between knowledge about oxbow lakes and knowledge about relationships.

There are right and wrong answers when it comes to geography. Academics can study rivers for years and come up with verifiable explanations for how oxbow lakes are formed. In other subjects, like literature, knowledge and understanding emerges from interpretation. But there still tends to be a consensus among scholars about methods and the parameters of interpretation. The ongoing dispute between trans activists and gender-critical feminists show that any such consensus in thinking about gender is a very long way off. There are no right and wrong answers when it comes to relationships. They are more complicated than rivers; more complicated, even, than a Shakespearean tragedy. Each relationship has its own dynamic, determined exclusively by the participants involved. The idea that teachers can be experts in relationships in the same way they can be experts in maths or science is ridiculous.

Loath though many are to admit it, parents have a bond with their child that is forged within the love, intimacy and history of their own family. Even the most dedicated and sensitive teacher cannot hope to replicate this for the 30 children they come into contact with for a few hours each week. Parents know far more about their child’s emotional maturity, their life experiences and the context of their relationships with others than a teacher ever can.

The Birmingham parents are right to be angry that the state, via schools and teachers, should try to dictate how people should behave in the most intimate sphere of their lives. Demonstrating outside primary schools is ugly and shows children the divisions between the adults in their lives. But the last thing Birmingham families need right now is High Court interference. They need schools to stop teaching children about relationships once and for all.


No, school choice does not cause ‘segregation’ -- in Australia

Australia has very extensive school choice.  40% of teenagers go to non-government schools

The mental gymnastics displayed by some people in order to blame school choice for Australia’s education woes never cease to amaze.

A recent OECD report on school choice and equity indicated Australia has one of the most ‘segregated’ school systems in the OECD. This just means schools tend to have less diversity of student socioeconomic background — not that they are practising apartheid.

And if we look at education equity in terms of what actually matters — the effect student socioeconomic background has on achievement — then Australia’s equity is actually slightly better than the OECD average. So finger-wagging at selective and non-government schools for harming disadvantaged students is baseless.

Besides, even if all selective and independent and Catholic schools closed down, it would just mean more high income families would move to areas with the best government schools (raising local house prices) — so social stratification between schools probably wouldn’t reduce, unless we’re going to build a wall between school catchment areas to stop anyone from ever moving anywhere.

School choice can potentially reduce community residualisation because parents don’t have to leave neighbourhoods if they aren’t satisfied with the local government school.

It’s also a furphy that the non-government sector takes funding away from the government system.

According to the Productivity Commission, between 2007-08 and 2016-17, government schools received an 11% real per-student funding increase.

It’s been argued this was only a minor increase, because if teacher wages growth is taken into account then schools on average don’t actually have much more discretionary spending. But this notion — that extra school funding spent on higher teacher salaries doesn’t count as extra school funding — fails the common sense test.

The reality is funding has increased for the government system. While some state governments have chosen to spend the additional money on higher teacher salaries, the fact remains much more is being spent on government schools.

In any case, the government funding received by non-government schools means they can keep their fees affordable for many middle and low income families, so taxpayers don’t have to fund the full cost of education. For example, new financial modelling by Ernst & Young estimates Catholic schools in NSW save taxpayers $480 million per year in recurrent funding.

No one is helped by pitting government against non-government schools


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Self-censorship on Campus Is Bad for Science

Amid heightened tensions on college campuses, well-established scientific ideas are suddenly meeting with stiff political resistance.

Luana Maroja, Professor of biology at Williams College

I have taught evolution and genetics at Williams College for about a decade. For most of that time, the only complaints I got from students were about grades. But that all changed after Donald Trump’s election as president. At that moment, political tensions were running high on our campus. And well-established scientific ideas that I’d been teaching for years suddenly met with stiff ideological resistance.

The trouble began when we discussed the notion of heritability as it applies to human intelligence. (Heritability is the degree to which offspring genetically resemble their parents; the concept can apply not only to physical traits, but also to behavioral ones.) In a classroom discussion, I noted that researchers have measured a large average difference in IQ between the inhabitants of the United States and those of my home country, Brazil. I challenged the supposed intelligence differential between Americans and Brazilians. I asked students to think about the limitations of the data, which do not control for environmental differences, and explained that the raw numbers say nothing about whether observed differences are indeed “inborn”—that is, genetic.

There is, of course, a long history of charlatans who have cited dubious “science” as proof that certain racial and ethnic groups are genetically superior to others. My approach has been to teach students how to see through those efforts, by explaining how scientists understand heritability today, and by discussing how to interpret intelligence data—and how not to.

In class, though, some students argued instead that it is impossible to measure IQ in the first place, that IQ tests were invented to ostracize minority groups, or that IQ is not heritable at all. None of these arguments is true. In fact, IQ can certainly be measured, and it has some predictive value. While the score may not reflect satisfaction in life, it does correlate with academic success. And while IQ is very highly influenced by environmental differences, it also has a substantial heritable component; about 50 percent of the variation in measured intelligence among individuals in a population is based on variation in their genes. Even so, some students, without any evidence, started to deny the existence of heritability as a biological phenomenon.

Similar biological denialism exists about nearly any observed difference between human groups, including those between males and females. Unfortunately, students push back against these phenomena not by using scientific arguments, but by employing an a priori moral commitment to equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism. They resort to denialism to protect themselves from having to confront a worldview they reject—that certain differences between groups may be based partly on biology. This denialism manifests itself at times in classroom discussions and in emails in which students explain at length why I should not be teaching the topic.

To my surprise, some students even objected to other well-established biological concepts, such as “kin selection,” the idea that, when individuals take actions for the benefit of their offspring and siblings, they are indirectly perpetuating their own genes. Startled students, falling into what we call the “naturalistic fallacy”—the notion that what occurs in nature is good—thought I was actually endorsing Trump’s hiring of his family! Things have gone so far that, in my classes, I now feel compelled to issue a caveat: Just because a trait has evolved by natural selection does not mean that it is also morally desirable.

The duty of scientists is to study the world—including the human body and mind—as it is. Some of our students, however, are seeing only what they want to see and denying real-world phenomena that conflict with their ideology. Take, for example, the obvious biological differences between the sexes, not only in physical traits (men, on average, are clearly stronger and faster than women are), but also in aptitudes and preferences (boys generally prefer wheeled toys, and girls prefer plush toys, a preference that is also observed in baby monkeys!).

People expect an equal sex ratio across academic professions and sometimes ascribe the lack of such equality to bias. In the so-called STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the relative paucity of women is frequently taken to reflect endemic sexism. While this is undoubtedly a factor, the effect of bias as opposed to other factors, such as differences in what male and female students prefer, requires detailed empirical study.

One set of data challenges the idea that bias is the only cause of sex-ratio differences in the STEM fields. The so-called gender-equality paradox involves the observation that, while women and men around the world perform equally well on standardized science tests, countries with the highest proportion of women in STEM are not the ones with the least discrimination or sexual harassment, but those with the greatest gender inequality. Where women are free to choose their own path and do not have to worry about pay, they gravitate toward the humanities. Countries such as Norway and Finland have relatively few women in STEM fields, while countries such as Algeria and Indonesia have an ample supply.

However, when one assumes that everyone is a blank slate, differences between what males and females do can be explained only by bias and harassment. The conclusion is obvious: All STEM fields are cesspools of sex discrimination. This is what happens when ideology replaces biology. It’s become taboo to even mention the possibility that men and women might have different preferences.

Sadly, students do not seem to realize that their good intentions may lead them to resist learning scientific facts, and can even harm their own goal of helping women and ethnic minorities. The existence of any genetic differences between males and females, or between different ethnic groups, does not imply that we should treat members of those groups differently. Denying reality and pretending that differences do not exist—as if this were the only possible path toward equality—is dangerous. If you believe that moral equality relies on biological equality, this makes your moral views susceptible to future research that might reveal biological inequalities. Instead, equality and equal opportunity for all should be the default position, regardless of potential biological differences.

When students at Williams or anywhere else try to protect their worldview by denying scientific evidence, it is bound to affect what professors teach and how they teach it. Campus norms proscribe any discourse that might offend women, minorities, or anyone perceived as a victim of patriarchal white societies. However, this rule, no matter how well intentioned, is harming the very people it aims to protect. The argument favoring a certain amount of self-censorship is that it is necessary to protect minority students from feeling unsafe when they hear what they see as “hate speech.” However, by not talking about science that some find unsettling, we deny students opportunities for learning and for intellectual empowerment. How well can they argue their positions effectively unless they are seeing the world as it really is?


Campus Crusade Against Christianity

A new survey of college students by the liberal-leaning Knight Foundation shows the future of the First Amendment doesn't look so bright in America. It found 41 percent said "hate speech" should not be protected by the Constitution. Only 58 percent thought it should.

In fact, a 2017 survey out of UCLA found that out of 1,500 college students who were asked whether "hate speech" is protected by the First Amendment, only 39 percent correctly said yes. On campus today, it can be defined as "unsafe" to hear an opinion you don't like. Unwelcome speech is compared to a physical attack.

Make no mistake. The Thought Police are gaining ground, dangerously.

The central question is what qualifies as "hate speech"? The standards can shift quickly. The Knight Foundation poll found that 68 percent of students believe the campus climate prevents students from expressing their opinions because of fears they might offend other classmates.

The irony is inescapable. So many of them support the censorship they claim to abhor.

We've all heard story after story about students protesting those horrible right-wing speakers like Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice for daring to set foot on campus. These same radicals regularly try to end the careers of professors found to be extremists for things such as seeing no problem in little white girls dressing as a Disney character "of color," like Mulan or Tiana, for Halloween.

Yale University seems to be the new True North for political intolerance, and here comes yet another episode in an endless list of grievances from the $72,000-a-year-tuition oppressed. An LGBTQ advocacy group called the Outlaws is furious that Yale's Federalist Society invited a lawyer from a so-called "hate group," the Alliance Defending Freedom, to discuss the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips's refusal to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. For the record, ADF is one of the most respected organizations in the conservative movement today, which is why it qualifies as a hate group. In a sympathetic response, Yale Law School is creating a policy to stop providing stipends or loan forgiveness to students who work for organizations that defend traditional Christian views on sexual ethics.

So if you work for the ACLU or Planned Parenthood after college, you can receive some loan forgiveness. You can defend abortionists or terrorist suspects and Yale will love you. But support traditional marriage? The right to life? That's beyond the pale.

Sen. Ted Cruz called the policy "transparently discriminatory" and is now investigating, noting that Yale receives lots of federal funding, and the Trump administration has made it clear it's willing to deny federal funding to universities that curb freedom of speech. It's about time.

"I think Yale law school is the canary in the coal mine," Sen. Cruz says. "If they get away with this, we'll see law school after law school after law school following the same pattern. And I'll tell you, what the LGBT group demanded of Yale not just that they discriminate against Christians and financial aid. They demanded that they discriminate against anyone who believes in traditional marriage in admissions, that they not even admit anyone who believes in a biblical definition of marriage. That is profoundly dangerous, and we've got to stand up and prevent it."

Yale officials told Sen. Cruz that its policy isn't based on excluding a religion or ideology, which is false on its face. The LGBTQ ideology will not abide the expression of a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. It wants the view punished as "hate speech," and it wants to begin blacklisting Christians for advocating their beliefs in public. To the libertine left, opposing "discrimination" means building an imposing border wall with barbed wire around the First Amendment. "Tolerance" demands no less.


The war on wrongthink academics

The news that law lecturer Gunnar Beck is standing in the German Bundestag elections for the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party must have shocked many of his colleagues and students at his university, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Understandably so. The AfD is an extreme right-wing party with prominent members who have openly expressed racist views. Some AfD politicians have even flirted with blatantly racist groups such as Pegida. They have made substantial gains in their short existence, currently holding 91 out of 709 seats in the Bundestag.

But this shock has too readily crossed the line into a demand that Beck should be sacked. SOAS students and even the lecturers’ union, the University College Union (UCU), say Beck must go. Twenty-three out of 31 law-school staff signed a public condemnation of their colleague. Last week students organised a protest to demand ‘an immediate review of his employment’. ‘Beck and those who support his views should not be given a platform’, they said.

I view the AfD’s politics as despicable, but I won’t join the demands for Beck to be sacked. If we value freedom of speech and workers’ rights, we should oppose such demands. These freedoms and rights mean we should be able to express unpopular and even offensive opinions without our employment status being threatened.

These rights ought to be indivisible. Beck’s right to freedom of speech would apply equally to a much-cited Islamist mathematician, a literary critic accused of anti-Semitic activism, or a noted pedagogue who stands for UKIP. It would also apply to academics criticising their institution’s governance or educational orthodoxy.

Defending Beck’s freedom to express his opinions is a defence of the rights of all of us. The statement signed by some in his department states: ‘We are speaking out because we recognise the importance of not being complicit in the normalisation of reactionary, right-wing populism.’ But many things are (wrongly) referred to as right-wing reactionary populism these days, including support for Brexit or even the views of gender-critical feminists. Will academics who hold these views be next to face demands for their sacking?

Protesters have argued that Beck’s views pose a threat to student and staff welfare. Jo McNeil, currently candidate to be general secretary of UCU, said the ‘welfare of our students and our staff’ was the paramount reason that Beck should be fired. This is the same argument that is used to try to No Platform ex-Muslim campaigners, gender-critical feminists, critics of #MeToo, and others – the idea that their opinions pose a threat to others. This is an insulting and censorious position.

Demanding the sacking of a person for their political views is not progressive. Beck’s employment status should be defended; it’s his views that should be challenged.


Monday, June 10, 2019

The Weaponization of Feeling ‘Unsafe’

“I don’t feel safe,” says a Harvard student in a video.

What threatens her? The dean of her Harvard dormitory, law professor Ronald Sullivan, agreed to be part of accused sexual harasser Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team.

Sullivan and his wife were deans of the dormitory for years, but no matter. Now the professor is apparently an evil threat.

A group calling itself “Our Harvard Can Do Better” demanded Sullivan be removed from his dean job.

Sullivan is black, but black activists joined the protest, too. On the videotape, one says, “Dean Sullivan told me to my face that I should view his representation of Harvey Weinstein as a good thing because that representation will trickle down to black men like me who constantly face an unjust justice system.”

Seems reasonable to me. But the privileged Harvard students laugh and clap when the protester goes on to say, “F— that!”

Colleges don’t show much courage when pushed by student activists. Harvard administrators removed Sullivan and his wife from the residence hall.

Do the students really “feel unsafe”?

“They’re lying,” says Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz in my newest video. “Anybody who says they feel unsafe in the presence of a lawyer and his wife are looking you in the eye and committing the equivalent of perjury. They don’t feel unsafe. They’ve learned the language of the new McCarthyism.”

In other words, people call themselves “victims,” knowing they can get results they want by saying they are traumatized by the presence of their enemies. Schools and other businesses, wanting to avoid protracted fights and accusations of sexism, racism or “insensitivity,” rush to comply with activists’ wishes.

Dershowitz is mad about what’s happened at his school: “The mantra of the day is ‘We feel unsafe.’ Well, that’s just too bad! Learn to deal with it. You’re going to have to live in the real world in which your neighbors, friends, relatives are going to disagree with you. If you start using the criteria of ‘unsafe’ in your life, you’re going to be a failure.”

Worse, he adds, “You’re going to impose restrictions on the rest of us.”

I told Dershowitz that the students protesting Sullivan were mostly young women. Some had been sexually assaulted. Isn’t it reasonable that they not be reminded of that?

“No, it’s not reasonable not to want to face the reality that due process requires that everybody be represented,” replied Dershowitz.

Harvard didn’t fire Sullivan from his professor job, only his dean job.

So I said to Dershowitz: “Don’t students have a right to say, ‘Look, we’re living with this guy. He creeps us out because of what he does. Get somebody else’?”

“If they could say that,” replied Dershowitz, “they could say it about somebody who supports Donald Trump for president, somebody who is a Muslim, who’s gay, who’s Jewish, you name it.”

Sullivan, who like Dershowitz has defended clients considered monsters by the general public, has long argued, “For the rights of all of us… to be protected, we have to live in a system where we vigorously, vigorously defend the guilty.”

“You get the right to counsel no matter how despicable you are thought to be,” explains Dershowitz. “These students would have fired John Adams. They would have not allowed him to come to the Constitutional Convention or write the Declaration of Independence because he defended the people who were accused of the Boston Massacre.”

The new McCarthyism requires that everyone bow to demands of “victims.” That’s a lot of people.

On the videotape, one student says she worries not just about her own safety, but the well-being of “survivors, transgender and gender nonconforming people, BGLTQ people, undocumented, DACAmented and TPS people, indigenous people, first generation low-income people…”

I don’t even know what some of those words mean.

Most of us want to protect genuine victims. But it makes little sense that America, a country where even poor people live longer and better lives than almost anyone in history, has become a place where spoiled children paying $60,000 tuition consider themselves “victims.”


Edinburgh University’s LGBT network resign en masse amid row over Julie Bindel talk

Edinburgh University’s LGBT network has resigned en masse after they were told they could not block a talk by the veteran feminist Julie Bindel.

The event, titled “Women’s Sex-Based Rights: what does and should the future hold?”, took place on Wednesday evening despite calls for its to be stopped on the basis that it was “transphobic”. 

The university’s LGBT staff network and students launched a petition calling for the event to be cancelled immediately on the basis that it would put transgender people “at risk of physical and psychological harm”.

The event gives a platform to speakers with a “transphobic agenda”, the petition said.

“We disagree with the notion of transphobia as a legitimate academic debate," it went on. “We ask that the University of Edinburgh reconsiders hosting an event that will be so damaging to trans and non-binary people, as well as damaging to our wider academic community.”

The event, which was run by the university’s education, teaching and leadership institute, featured a panel discussion with feminist academics and Bindel as the keynote speaker.

Jonathan MacBride, who was the chair of the university’s LGBT staff network until the entire committee’s resignation this week, said the university had not consulted with them before approving the event and  "instead of supporting us, supporting our position, they chose to censor us".

He said another reason for the committee's resignation was that the university failed to “give out any statement of support of its trans staff and students”. 

An Edinburgh University spokesman said: “The University places great importance in the Staff Pride Network and its valuable job in representing the University’s LGBT+ community.   

“We regret, therefore, that its committee members have felt the need to step down.  Senior managers from the University have offered a meeting with them to discuss their concerns.”

Following the event, Bindel said she was “attacked” by one of the activists who “lunged” at her and had to be restrained by security guards.

She wrote on Twitter: “I took part in a really brilliant event tonight at Edinburgh University, speaking about women’s sex-based rights. I was physically attacked as I left the event at the airport” adding: “This kind of intimidation has to stop.”

An Edinburgh University spokesman said that following an “incident”, security staff acted “swiftly and professionally” to ensure no one was harmed.

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This Is How Colleges Become Nannies

Students are not coping with university life. The situation is reaching crisis proportions, causing college administrators to have a coping problem of their own.

Most of the problems involve anxiety and stress at levels unknown to past generations. Many of the nation’s 21 million college students also lack social skills finding it difficult to interact with others.

Consider these facts. A recent survey showed that over the past year, some three out of five students suffered from overwhelming anxiety. Two out of five students reported depression to the point of being unable to function. In addition, substance abuse is rampant, which inhibits their ability to interact and learn. 

The problem is made worse by the fact that most affected students do not seek help. As a result, many university counseling centers are readjusting their strategies to look for ways to reach out to these students and address their needs, reduce suicide risks and diminish drug use. Many schools are adopting radical approaches that go beyond the normal safeguards needed to deal with unruly youth.

These new problems challenge the whole system. Dysfunctional students impact the entire university community and weigh down the learning process. However, all too often, the well-intentioned administrators deal with symptoms, not causes.

The Nanny State University

Indeed, the university is reduced to a nanny institution caring for grown-up children. It cannot take the place of parents. It will not exercise discipline or affirm moral principles.  Instead, the university will introduce childish programs or implement rigid stopgap measures to help the students, now adults, learn what they should have learned as children.

University administrators are now teaching the bare bones basics to help students cope with the stress that comes with independent college life. They are asked to help students manage friendships and emotions. To create certainty, schools offer problem-solving and decision-making programs. Existential problems must also be resolved as students need to find life purpose, meaning and even identity.

This crisis forces many schools to go beyond the much-ridiculed safe spaces and coloring books, although they still may be offered.

Some Services Offered

The new programs and services vary from shallow to invasive.  Illinois’ Northwestern University, for example, offers a simple app called “Breathe” as a stress management tool. Students access guided meditations and breathing exercises to de-stress and instill confidence and well-being.

Some campuses focus on breaking through the loneliness and isolation by creating feel-good opportunities for students to interact with others, and thus reduce mental health and suicide risks.

Thus, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) holds a Random Acts of Kindness week, which encourages self-centered students to connect with kind acts like pinning happy messages on backpacks and giving out flowers to people. MIT Libraries encourage old-fashioned letters by providing stationary, postage and envelopes to students to write to people anywhere in the world. One MIT course gave out five dollar credits in campus cash accounts under the condition that students spend the money on things for someone else.

Involving Others to Monitor Students at Risk

The programs are not limited to services extended to students. They also involve the training of others to identify and act upon students at risk of anti-social or suicidal behavior. University officials are enlisting the help of residence hall staff, faculty, advisors and even fellow students to identify and intervene in cases of crisis.

The University of Pennsylvania developed its I CARE program as a means of building an interactive network of students, faculty and staff trained to intervene.

Other campuses are resorting to 24/7 crisis phones or chat lines that deal with mental health issues and suicide attempts. In keeping with the times, the University of California, Davis is using, not a hotline, but a Crisis Text Line (CTL) that provides instant mental health assistance via texting. The CTL features a digital toolkit and website that publicizes university services.

The “Means Restriction” Option

There are even more radical measures being implemented. It is not enough to monitor students or make treatment accessible.

There is what is called “means restriction.” This consists of limiting or removing access to places, things and other means that might lead others to self-harm. Dangerous things include access to arms, chemicals, rooftops, windows and high places. Campuses are encouraged to do an “environmental scan” to identify any place that might have a remote chance of proving lethal or dangerous to unstable students.

New York’s Cornell University has restricted access to problem areas near campus, even to the point of installing safety nets under city-owned bridges.

Addressing Causes

No system can ever be completely safe. Unbalanced minds will find ways of circumventing any programs that are put in place to guarantee their safety. Real solutions must address the causes of unbalance. 

Something is seriously wrong with the formation of these students in their earlier years.  They lack those life skills that are normally taught in the home. Small children gradually learn to deal with the proportional problems that prepare them later to tackle bigger problems.

There is also a lack of social skills because so many children are self-centered and are not taught to think in terms of helping others. Indeed, they are immersed in the frenetic intemperance of a culture that seeks gratification. Such conditions are the natural breeding ground for mental health and substance abuse problems.

Worst of all, young people are not taught to embrace sacrifice and suffering that they all must eventually face. Many do not recognize an objective moral law that defines right and wrong and guides their actions with meaning and purpose. They are not accustomed to having recourse to a loving God Who can aid them in their afflictions.

Thus, when they leave home, they find themselves alone and unable to cope. Given that most universities will exclude a moral solution, the problem will only get worse. 


Sunday, June 09, 2019

Texas Governor Signs Bill Allowing More Armed Teachers

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law Thursday allowing more teachers to carry firearms and expands mental health services for students in the wake of the mass shooting last year at a high school near Houston.

The bill removed the previous on the number of armed teachers allowed on school campuses of one per every 200 students or one per school. The measure also encourages schools to train teachers to recognize mental health issues among students, increase the number of mental health counselors at schools, and install “threat assessment teams” to track potential threats from students.

Ten people were fatally shot and 13 more wounded at at Santa Fe High School near Houston in May of last year, the sixth most deadly school shooting in U.S. history.

Abbott, a Republican, has made school safety a priority since then, but the legislature has focused on campus security and mental health rather than gun control, passing measures approving metal detectors, and shooter alarm systems among other means to secure schools.

Teachers who wish to participate in Texas’s school armed marshal program, which was implemented after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 must undergo active shooter drills as well as 80 hours of training. School marshals must keep their weapons locked up and away from students unless their main job does not involve “regular, direct contact with students,” in which case they are allowed to carry a concealed firearm.

Florida passed a controversial measure last month allowing classroom teachers to carry firearms in school, although many districts opted out, including Broward County, where the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School occurred last year.


This Teacher Came Out to His Students as Transgender, and Expects Them to Go Along With It

Transgender activists are continuing to force their lifestyle and language preferences onto children and college students, with little interference from administrative officials. All of this encourages young people to deny biology and accept these new “norms” as fact.

Case in point: Mark Vincent Busenbark, a male science teacher at Allis Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin.

In May, Busenbark showed a video of himself “coming out” as transgender to all-aged elementary students who were present, from kindergarten through fifth grade.

In the video, he read a book to the children called, “They Call Me Mix,” which includes dialogue like: “‘BOY or GIRL?’ Are you a boy or a girl? How can you be both? Some days I am both. Some days I am neither. Most days I am everything in between.”

At the video’s conclusion, Busenbark said, “And now, let me introduce myself, anew. I am going to take my wife, Stella Steel’s last name, and I am going to use, not mister, not miss, but ‘mix.’ So you can call me, ‘Mix Steel.’ And for my pronouns, you can call me ‘they,’ ‘them,’ and ‘their.’”

He suggested that people who disagree with his transgenderism are motivated by “fear” and “hate” and depicted said folks as ghostlike, scary people. On Busenbark’s Facebook page, he said the purpose of showing every student the video was so that “all [the children] can know who I am and who I am becoming.”

Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty advocacy group, is investigating the matter. In a statement, founder and Chairman Mat Staver said:

It is outrageous that school administrators would allow a male science teacher to expose children to propaganda that promotes confusion about basic biology, and to instruct students to address him by a false name, title, and pronouns. These impressionable students do not exist to validate Busenbark’s sexual identity. Parents send their children to school trusting that they will be taught academic curriculum, not become participants in a teacher’s play acting.

This is not the first time this has happened—nor will it likely be the last. This is, however, one of the first reports I have seen of this happening in elementary school.

This occurred at a university in 2018. Nicholas Meriwether, a Shawnee State University professor, became the subject of an official complaint when he refused to refer to a male student, who decided to be transgender, with feminine pronouns.

In an attempt to compromise, Meriwether offered to refer to the student by his last name. That didn’t stop the student from filing a formal complaint to the university, which launched an investigation, prompting Meriwether to seek legal counsel. Administrative officials then gave him a written warning threatening “further corrective actions” if he did not comply.

In fact, a very similar situation is the reason Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson initially became so well-known: not because of his book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” but rather his insistence that the Canadian government should not mandate that people refer to transgender-identified people by their “preferred” pronouns—particularly ones that seem entirely contrived, like “ze.”

A similar controversy in Virginia resulted in public school teacher Peter Vlaming losing his job. This is the kind of thing we could expect to see nationwide if the Equality Act were to pass.

Unfortunately, transgender “rights” and forced conformity for everyone else are two sides of the same coin. Throughout our education system, the rights of students and teachers alike are trampled when they are forced to go along with a fiction, under the guise of tolerance and acceptance. Students are compelled to watch “coming out” videos. Professors are compelled to call a male student “Jessica” or be labeled intolerant or bigots.

Yet the real bigotry here is a lack of concern for the rights of people who are being forced to use labels that don’t make sense.

Compelling the speech of children 10 years old and younger is particularly egregious because children this age are so malleable. This elementary school teacher is not only informing students about his chosen identity that blatantly denies biology, and is therefore false, but he’s forcing students to refer to him as such.

Compelled speech in a system that’s supposed to champion free speech, ideas, education, and curiosity is a travesty to our children. It is one that administrations, teachers, and parents must combat.


A college degree doesn't equal success — it takes a lot more than that

The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago raised some eyebrows when he said during a recent speech that the skyrocketing costs associated with earning a college degree may be too risky for some young people.

“With over $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt,” said Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, “knowing how to help young adults better recognize and manage their risks related to higher education is an important input into my assessment of our economy.”

“My interpretation of the research is that disadvantaged students in particular experience significant risks associated with their choice of institution, likelihood of graduating, earnings potential after college, and ability to repay student loans. So, for these students, it is not always obvious that college is an investment that pays off,” Evans added.

As Evans noted in his speech, Americans face $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Some Democratic presidential hopefuls want to forgive student loan debt or offer free college as a response to the high costs of going to college. Of course, this is the wrong approach. As is the case in healthcare, and virtually anything else, when the government subsidizes something, the associated costs necessarily rise.

America needs to re-think its approach to post-secondary education. Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, has warned that we’re devaluing education by pushing more people to pursue traditional collegiate post-secondary education.

“Civilized societies revolve around education now, but there is a better—indeed, more civilized—way. If everyone had a college degree, the result would be not great jobs for all, but runaway credential inflation,” Caplan explains. “Trying to spread success with education spreads education but not success.”

My take on this is a little different. A college degree is not always necessary for a successful career, but a person choosing that route must be prepared to work incredibly hard and expect to not achieve success until well into adulthood. Even then, success may be elusive, but a college degree does not guarantee a successful career, either.

I come from a lower-middle class background. My father passed away when I was 12 years old. My mother largely raised me while working a full-time job, and occasionally a second job to help make ends meet. I attended an inexpensive private school for part of middle school and early high school. By the end of my freshman year, I was helping pay my part of my tuition.

In 1999, I graduated from Eagle’s Landing High School in McDonough, Ga., a small city in metro Atlanta. I didn’t apply myself, so I didn’t have the best grades. I took the year after high school to work. I pulled the morning shift at a Chick-fil-A in nearby Stockbridge and played in a band with some high school friends. I enrolled in a local college for two semesters before weighing some personal circumstances that I faced. I dropped out and never went back. I continued playing music while jumping from job to job, such as waiting tables, selling cell phones, and doing customer service.

In my downtime, I would listen to a nationally syndicated talk radio show hosted by Neal Boortz, who had a mostly libertarian perspective on politics, and I would read books on philosophy, economics, and religion. I volunteered on local political campaigns, dabbled in the Republican and Libertarian parties, and started a blog focused on local and state politics. I met a guy by the name of Erick Erickson, who invited me to join a Georgia political blog, Peach Pundit, to offer a philosophically libertarian perspective on what was happening around the state.

Over time, I began getting paid to write as a part-time job. At one point, I had a full-time job completely unrelated to politics and two part-time jobs that allowed me to write about politics and policy. I would wake up at 4 a.m. and work for a few hours for a part-time job before I began my day job. I would go home and work for three more hours on another part-time job.

The way I look at it is, 40 hours is the bare minimum. If you want to pursue something, one has to have the drive to do it. I was nearly 32 years old before I began working full-time in politics. I was 33 when I started working for FreedomWorks. Since then, I’ve managed the organization’s criminal justice reform program and run the communications department.

Today, I run FreedomWorks’ legislative affairs shop. In this role, I’ve worked on a number of legislative issues from tax policy to regulatory issues to criminal justice reform. In December, I was invited to attend the ceremony at which President Trump signed the First Step Act into law. This was a long-overdue legislative initiative that reformed some federal prison sentences, and, as long as it’s implemented properly, will bring evidence-based recidivism reduction programming to federal prisons.

The avenues that I took to get where I am today were unorthodox, and I don’t want to be perceived as telling young people to skip college. In fact, I’ve encouraged constitutional conservative and libertarian interns who have come through our doors to stay in school, learn as much as possible, and get their degrees. That's because the lack of a college degree was an obstacle in my path.

Every young person’s path looks different. For most of these interns, their paths would be aided by having a college degree. For many others, their passions don’t reflect the same reality. As the free market dictates in any other space, any type of post-secondary education should be pursued if it is advantageous for an individual. By imposing one-size-fits-all regulations on education, and especially by forgiving student debt and offering “free” college, the federal government worsens the problem. Instead, it should stay out of the issue and allow the market to work its will.