Friday, June 21, 2019

SAT’s Adversity Index: Academic Excellence or Socioeconomic Diversity?

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) of the College Board became popular after World War II mainly to provide a reasonably objective means of increasing emphasis on academic merit in admissions to elite colleges. As Jerome Karabel (author of The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) vividly pointed out more than a decade ago, introducing the SAT as a major admission determinant helped reduce blatant discrimination against Jews and other relatively disadvantaged groups. It lowered the power of admissions officers to use their discretion and discriminate against those who did not fit the Ivy League’s seeming preference for rich mostly Protestant kids from private secondary schools.

I fear we are somewhat returning to the bad old days, as we enter an era of “test-optional” admissions, meaning increased admission officer discretion (“holistic” admission procedures) to admit the kind of class currently considered politically correct—the “right” portion of persons classified by gender, race, income, religion, sexual preferences and other attributes. The emphasis on academic potential seems to be downplayed, perhaps not surprisingly in an age where college students spent little time actually studying, and grade inflation is rampant.

SAT, losing the business of prestigious schools (e.g., the University of Chicago) to either the rival ACT or to no testing whatsoever, wants to offer new information (an “Adversity Index”) to admissions officers so they can achieve a perceived optimal socioeconomic mix of students. If a person lives in a high crime area with low incomes but much poverty, that information will be passed on to schools as part of the index. Schools, wanting to demonstrate that they are “inclusive” will start bragging about the high adversity index of their students. Want to get your kid into a top school but not go to jail trying? First, improve the SAT score by claiming your child has a disability requiring them extra time on the test. Second, move, at least on paper, during your child’s senior year to some slum with lots of crime. Other people’s crime may help get Johnny or Joanna into college. Admissions officers might start computing “adjusted” SAT scores—correcting for disadvantages measured by the adversity index.

Rival ACT is not going along. Its president Marten Roorda points out that the SAT adversity index has not been validated by researchers. There are literally thousands of different ways such an index can be constructed. Roorda makes an even better point, however: “If I were a student, I would become concerned or angry if the testing company would provide a diversity score to colleges, without me knowing it, without me approving it.” The student is paying for information he or she is forbidden to have. Is that legal or ethical?

Here’s the dilemma. Currently, top schools are populated mainly by affluent kids. Raj Chetty and associates suggest the average family income of Ivy League students approximates $500,000, and the median is around $200,000. These schools are getting a PR beating for favoring affluent white students. Admitting rich kids is financially rewarding—they more likely pay the full published tuition fee and probably later in life will make greater donations. Moreover, on average, high-income kids have higher test scores and grades, went to better high schools, come from intact families with strong work ethics, etc. So using strict academic criteria to admit students leads to entering classes dominated by affluent kids.

The American Dream, however, revolves around income mobility—people overcoming adversity and moving from poverty to prosperity, which, in today’s world, means becoming relatively highly educated. The reality, however, is that most poor people today lack good college degrees needed to ascend the economic ladder, so income mobility in America, once extremely high, is now declining and below that of many other countries.

The elite schools are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Heavily increasing the representation of people facing more adversity will be viewed favorably politically, but likely lead to less good students who likely will fare typically less well in life, taking fewer leadership positions. Job One for colleges is to promote the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Additionally, however, colleges are screening devices separating the ordinary from the extraordinary, the leaders from the followers. Colleges face a challenge: Do they try to maximize learning or income mobility? Stay tuned.


Black Education Decline

Walter E. Williams

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says that the city's specialized high schools have a diversity problem. He's joined by New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, educators, students and community leaders who want to fix the diversity problem.

I bet you can easily guess what they will do to "improve" the racial mix of students (aka diversity).

If you guessed they would propose eliminating the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test as the sole criterion for admissions, go to the head of the class. The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test is an examination that is administered to New York City's eighth- and ninth-grade students. By state law, it is used to determine admission to all but one of the city's nine specialized high schools.

It's taken as axiomatic that the relatively few blacks admitted to these high-powered schools is somehow tied to racial discrimination. In a June 2, 2018 "Chalkbeat" article (, de Blasio writes: "The problem is clear. Eight of our most renowned high schools — including Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School — rely on a single, high-stakes exam. The Specialized High School Admissions Test isn't just flawed — it's a roadblock to justice, progress and academic excellence."

Let's look at a bit of history to raise some questions about the mayor's diversity hypothesis.

Dr. Thomas Sowell provides some interesting statistics about Stuyvesant High School in his book "Wealth, Poverty and Politics." He reports that, "In 1938, the proportion of blacks attending Stuyvesant High School, a specialized school, was almost as high as the proportion of blacks in the population of New York City." Since then, it has spiraled downward. In 1979, blacks were 12.9% of students at Stuyvesant, falling to 4.8% in 1995. By 2012, The New York Times reported that blacks were 1.2% of the student body.

What explains the decline?

None of the usual explanations for racial disparities make sense. In other words, would one want to argue that there was less racial discrimination in 1938? Or, argue that in 1938 the "legacy of slavery" had not taken effect whereby now it is in full bloom?

Genetic or environmental arguments cannot explain why blacks of an earlier generation were able to meet the demanding mental test standards to get into an elite high school. Socioeconomic conditions for blacks have improved dramatically since 1938. The only other plausible reason for the decline in academic achievement is that there has been a change in black culture. It doesn't take much to reach this conclusion. Simply look at school behavior today versus yesteryear.

An Education Week article reported that in the 2015-16 school year, "5.8% of the nation's 3.8 million teachers were physically attacked by a student." The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that in the 2011-12 academic year, there were a record 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers who reported being physically attacked by a student. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked, including being knocked out, each day of that school year.

In the city of Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. A National Center for Education Statistics study found that 18% of the nation's schools accounted for 75% of the reported incidents of violence, and 6.6% accounted for half of all reported incidents. These are schools with predominantly black student populations.

It's not only assaults on teachers but cursing and disorderly conduct that are the standard fare in so many predominantly black schools.

Here are questions that might be asked of de Blasio and others who want to "fix the diversity problem" at New York's specialized schools: What has the triumph of egalitarian and diversity principles done for the rest of New York's school system? Are their academic achievement scores better than students at New York's specialized schools?

The most important question for black parents: What has been allowed to happen to cripple black academic excellence?


Australian Preschool teachers demand $100K salaries and claim they are underpaid because 95 per cent are female

And who do they think is going to pay those salaries?  They would wipe out the sector if they got what they wanted.  Requiring university degrees for childcare is insane

Preschool teachers with university degrees are demanding $101,767 salaries, saying they're underpaid because they work in a female-dominated industry.

The Independent Education Union is pushing for pay rises of up to 49 per cent for their most experienced members.

The Union believes experienced preschool teachers should paid the same as primary school educators, who have the same university degrees.

But the Australian Childcare Alliance argues that if the case is successful, preschool teachers will be making the same as doctors and childcare costs will skyrocket.

'If we're successful it will be a very significant case legally, and it will also have a major impact on our early childhood teacher members,' IEU Assistant Secretary Carol Matthews told The Age.

The IEU argues that early childhood teachers have similar jobs to primary school teachers, but don't get paid as well because more than 95 per cent of daycare workers are women.

If the Independent Union wins its case for pay rises, other 'feminised' industries such as childcare and disability services are also expected to call for similar changes.

The case is being overseen by the United Voice union, which represents more than 100,000 workers in the childcare sector.

Labor's loss in last month's federal election meant childcare workers didn't get $10 billion in 20 per cent pay rises that then-Opposition leader Bill Shorten had pledged.

The Coalition's new industrial relations minister Christian Porter said he is keeping a close eye on the pay increase demand.

Childcare workers on the Educational Services (Teachers) Award are on salaries of between $50,017 and $69,208 a year.

Mr Shorten had promised to make it easier for unions to be successful in pay equity cases, saying workers in those industries were paid less because they're female-dominated.

The Independent Union advocate for gender-based pay fairness, and argue that preschool teachers aren't properly compensated for what they do.

United Voice, who represent childcare workers with diplomas, lost a fair pay case in 2018, but if the IEU wins their current case, United Voice would likely try again.

But the Australian Childcare Alliance, who represents privately owned childhood care and education services, is going up against the IEU.

The ACA wrote to the Fair Work Commission, arguing that if the union wins, the most experienced preschool teachers would be earning the same as doctors, academics and nursing directors.

'In any case, there are powerful discretionary reasons to refuse the claim, including that the grant of the claim would jeopardise the viability of many services and would substantially increase childcare costs,' the ACA submission said.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Public School Spending: More Isn’t Necessarily Better

Public school per-pupil spending has increased for the fifth consecutive year, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The county’s top-five spenders for 2017 are New York ($23,091), the District of Columbia ($21,974), Connecticut ($19,322), New Jersey ($18,920) and Vermont ($18,290). California comes in at number 21, spending $12,143 per pupil (see Summary Table 11, available here).

Total nationwide spending for public K-12 education in 2017 was $694 billion, up from $671 billion in 2016. This change represents a 3.4 percent increase. In comparison, inflation increased by 2.1 percent, and student enrollment increased by just one-tenth of 1 percent (based on Summary Table 19, available here).

When it comes to providing quality education, money matters. But simply spending more doesn’t necessarily mean better quality education—particularly if local school boards don’t prioritize instructional spending.

Despite increased education spending that outpaces both inflation and student-enrollment increases, only about half (53 percent) of all education spending is for instruction, which includes teacher salaries and benefits (based on Summary Tables 1 and 6, available here).

Putting parents in charge of their children’s education dollars would be a more fiscally responsible way to fund American education. Parents know that great teachers matter most to their children’s education, and given the choice, they would choose educational providers that prioritize investing in top-quality teachers. To attract students and their associated funding, education providers would need to attract and retain great teachers, or risk losing students to other providers.

Programs such as education savings accounts, or ESAs, put parents in charge by giving them a type of dedicated-used debit card to purchase approved education services and supplies, such as private-school tuition, online courses, special-education therapies, tutoring, and school supplies. Parents can also use leftover funds for future education expenses, including college tuition.

Done right, ESAs would also be a boon for teachers.

At current spending levels, even excluding spending for capital outlays and debt payments, there is enough funding to provide every public-school student an ESA worth $12,550. Imagine what it would be like if, under an ESA-financing system, parent-chosen education providers directed 80 percent of funding to instruction, instead of just over 50 percent as public school districts do now. The average base salary for America’s 3.6 million teachers would be more than $134,000—nearly two-and-a-half times greater than their current average salary of just over $51,000.

This scenario is a win-win for students and their teachers.

As the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said, “Education spending will be most effective, if it relies on parental choice and private initiative—the building blocks of success throughout our society.”


The Treasury Department issued a notice that will save tax credit scholarship programs from what could have been a crippling blow

Lawmakers intended with the 2017 tax cuts not only to promote economic growth and job creation and to allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money, but also to make the federal tax code more neutral toward state tax policy.

But state-based tax credit scholarship programs got unintentionally caught up in the broader reform.

Now available to more than 270,000 students in 18 states, tax credit scholarship programs allow state taxpayers to receive a full or partial credit against their state tax obligations if they contribute to nonprofit organizations that grant scholarships to eligible children so they can attend a private school of their choice.

These scholarships are an important and growing tool for expanding school choice. The Treasury Department just saved them from what could have been a crippling blow.

The new tax law placed a cap of $10,000 on the amount taxpayers could deduct from their federal taxes for state and local taxes, which advanced the bipartisan goal of treating similar taxpayers similarly, by diminishing the previously unlimited subsidy for high taxes in states like California and Connecticut.

To implement the cap as intended by Congress, the Treasury Department released proposed regulations that disallowed use of new state schemes set up to game the charitable deduction and circumvent the cap.

But legitimate state-based tax credit scholarship programs were included in the rule, which means the ability to donate was limited for the 10% of taxpayers who itemize but don’t max out their deductions for state and local taxes.

In some cases, the cost of donating would increase from zero to as much as 37% of the donation amount.

In the final regulation and accompanying notice, the Treasury fixed the problem and re-established the federal tax system’s neutrality toward state tax credit programs, as recommended by The Heritage Foundation in a public comment.

The notice allows donors to scholarship programs to still take the deduction for state and local taxes up to the cap of $10,000. A new rule codifying this will be proposed in a few months.

The new regulations and guidance mean there is no new tax cost for taxpayers who donate to a state tax credit scholarship program. This preserves every state taxpayer’s ability to earmark their tax payments for increased education choice.

The Treasury notice fixes the tax problems of the original proposal but could open the door to the question of whether donations to tax credit organizations are charitable donations or redirected government money.

The precedent established in Arizona v. Winn makes clear that these are still donations. The tax was never collected by the state, so it remains a donation that is distinct from a voucher program.

Although the regulation could be improved by continuing to allow these deductions as charitable contributions, the Treasury’s proposal is more straightforward and easier to administer.

The new rules should come as a relief to scholarship organizations around the country. These opportunities, which benefit thousands of children, can now continue unencumbered by the federal tax code.


Universities shine in the contest of ideas (?)

Below is some complete and utter bullshit from Deborah Terry, chairwoman of Universities Australia.  She describes what universities should do as if they actually did it.  Far from shining in the contest of ideas, Australian universities avoid any contest of ideas.

If she really believes all that dribble, let her explain why the riot squad had to be called in order to disperse the student demonstrators who were blocking people who wanted to hear Bettina Arndt at the University of Sydney.  Let her explain the Australia-wide difficulties Bettina has had even getting to book rooms for her talks

And what about the difficulty the Ramsay centre has had in being allowed to sponsor courses in Western civilization?  There has been huge resistence to letting students hear anything about the history and ideas of Western civilization.  What went wrong with the "contest of ideas" there?  Censorship of ideas would be the accurate description.

I note that she gives no evidence that our Universities shine in the contest of ideas.  Offering assertions without evidence is the nadir of scholarship.  If she is the representative of Australian  universities she discredits them.  There is of course plenty of evidence that Australian Universities do NOT shine in the contest of ideas. I have just mentioned some. The woman has her head in a dark place.  She is suffering from a severe case of loss of reality contact 

Australia’s universities have been on the public record through the decades affirming our commitment to informed evidence-based discussion and vigorous debate.

As institutions, we nurture the skills of our students to debate ideas, develop their critical thinking skills and engage with a wide array of views — including those with which they agree and those with which they disagree.

The exercise of free speech applies to both proponents and opponents of controversial ideas.

You need only to look to democracy-defending protests around the world to see this in action. Surely the ideal is for a vigorous engagement and contest of ideas, passionately and peacefully expressed.

Under wider Australian law, freedom of speech is not without limitation or caveat. There are, for example, prohibitions on hate speech and discrimination, as well as laws on defamation.

University students and staff are, of course, subject to these wider laws, like the rest of the Australian population.

The skill of being able to engage in vigorous debate without suspending courtesy is one that our students will need if they are to succeed in the workplace and the world.

The French review reminds us that the mission of universities includes responsibility for the maintenance of scholarly standards in teaching, learning and research.

Hence universities teach students to seek out and weigh evidence, test and verify, and to form cogent arguments drawing on that evidence. At the same time, our university researchers keenly examine and respectfully debate ideas, new paradigms, evidence and conclusions.

Universities play a fundamental role in the health of open, democratic societies worldwide. Australia’s universities are ever vigilant in defence of our democratic freedoms.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Harvard pulls offer to Parkland survivor

He was the only shooting survivor who refused to blame the gun so they would have got him for something

A survivor of the 2018 Parkland school shooting has had his offer of admission to Harvard University withdrawn over racist comments he made two years ago.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Kyle Kashuv shared several letters he received from Harvard, first notifying him his admission offer was being reconsidered in light of the comments and, later that it was being revoked.

The decision stems from comments that were shared among friends when he was 16, months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Screenshots circulated on social media appear to show the teenager using racial slurs on Google Docs, an online word processor, and in text messages.

The comments include anti-Semitic barbs and repeated use of a slur referring to black people.

The now 18 year old , told Harvard that he "unequivocally" apologises and that the remarks don't represent the person he is today. "I take responsibility for the idiotic and hurtful things I wrote two years ago," he wrote in a letter.

In response, Harvard 's admissions dean William Fitzsimons said the institution was "sorry about the circumstances that have led us to withdraw your admission".

"The committee takes seriously the qualities of maturity and moral character," he added.

Harvard sparked debate in 2017 when it pulled offers from 10 incoming freshmen after they reportedly made racist and sexually offensive comments on Facebook.

Mr.Kashuv said he had been planning to take a year off before starting at Harvard, so he could continue his work promoting school safety.

Now he's "exploring all options," he said, but has missed the deadline for many colleges and already turned down other offers.


UK: Teachers are 'too scared' to discuss Empire, director says

Children are no longer taught about Empire because well-meaning educationalists are "frightened" of discussing the subject, Gurinder Chadha has suggested.

The British-Indian director of Bend It Like Beckham was talking in the run-up to the launch of her new ITV series.

Beecham House is set in 18th century India and follows the exploits of a former East India Company officer.

Chadha's last project, Viceroy's House, explored Partition and the end of Empire through the eyes of Lord and Lady Mountbatten. But she worries that the history is unknown to schoolchildren today.

"Most children in British schools aren't even told now that there was an Empire, that the British ruled India," she told Radio Times. "Of course, it's wrong." Asked if that was because educationalists wanted to avoid giving offence in multicultural classrooms, Chadha replied: "Yes, they're frightened of telling the truth."

Beecham House provides a benevolent view of the men of the East India Company, with the French portrayed as the villains of the era as they vied for control of the country's trade.

Chadha, who wrote and directed the drama, said: "History is how you interpret it. I'm sure there will be historians who will take issue, because what I've made is a drama, not a documentary. If I wanted to be 100 per cent accurate, I'd make a factual series for the History channel."

She added: "It's an adventure and a love story. But - hopefully - if you're open to it, a story about today. Because John is an immigrant, looking for a better life. And it's about nationhood, so it has obvious connections with now.

"The most exciting thing is simply having Indians in period costumes on prime time British TV - where their lives and loves are as important as their white counterparts. That's a flipping radical thing. That's something I'd never have imagined seeing when I was watching The Jewel in the Crown."

In an effort to turn her leading actors into screen heart-throbs, Chadha encouraged Tom Bateman and Leo Suter (who play brothers John and Daniel Beecham) to go shirtless. "So we're competing with Poldark!" she said, adding that she had reframed one shot after "realising, when looking down the lens, how ripped one of the actors' bodies was when he took his shirt off".

The series, much of it shot in Rajasthan, has been dubbed "the Delhi Downton" because it looks at the lives of characters above and below stairs.

Chadha has previously said that Britain's involvement in India was more complex than some critics of the Empire would have us believe.

Speaking at the series launch, she said: "As a director, I always want you to like my characters. Even if they're really mean and horrible. I always have to find something about them that I understand and respect.

"Every single person in that East India Company was doing the right thing as far as they were concerned."


Top bosses of Australian universities endorse free speech

The chancellors agree to adopt the model proposed by former High Court chief justice Robert French, thus shafting their wishy-washy Vice-chancellors.  But it will be up to the Vice-chancellors to administer the model

Today we report that Peter Shergold, John Brumby, Angus Houston and other heavy-hitters who serve as university chancellors are taking seriously the activist challenge to open inquiry and free speech on campus.

This is good news, because Universities Australia, the lobby for the vice-chancellors in charge of campus life, reckons there isn’t a problem. This is an issue that goes to the heart of higher education and its interplay with values and institutions in the wider culture. The task of universities is to pursue knowledge and truth, encouraging young minds to range widely, reason honestly and test their opinions against other views. None of this amounts to “hate speech”, the lazy smear now aimed at opinions that depart from progressive orthodoxy. If society is to solve complex problems, we need graduate-citizens who won’t tailor their thinking to audience sensitivities.

But the trojan horse of “social justice” has brought unhinged activism into higher education. Politics and academic integrity do not go together, especially when emotionally brittle activists demand “safety” from competing viewpoints — opinions, not hate speech. The future of universities in their present form is not assured. They undermine their true interests if they appease noisy minorities. Online courses have yet to shatter the face-to-face campus business model but entrepreneurs, companies and technologists are all actively investigating cheaper, better and more flexible options. Meanwhile, the cost of professional qualifications is rising (two degrees are often needed now for entry-level jobs) and discontent with value for money is likely to intensify.

Universities are less dependent on public money these days but they cannot afford to alienate the federal government, which has noticed the change in campus climate. Last year, psychologist Bettina Arndt, a sceptic of the claimed “rape crisis” at university, faced ugly attempts to shut down her speaking tour. A visiting US paediatrician, deemed “transphobic” for opposing sex change treatment of children, was “deplatformed” at the University of Western Australia. Also last year, physics professor Peter Ridd, a climate science critic, was unlawfully dismissed by James Cook University, partly for breaching a (difficult to satirise) order that he not satirise the disciplinary process against him.

All this, and the passivity of UA, helps explain the intervention by Education Minister Dan Tehan last November. He appointed former High Court chief justice Robert French to look into campus freedom. Mr Tehan’s action presented no threat to university autonomy. He has highlighted a missed opportunity for the sector to self-regulate. In the US, the Heterodox Academy has emerged to champion “viewpoint diversity”. Key figures in this movement — including psychologists Steven Pinker and Jonathan Haidt — are classical liberals, hardly anti-intellectual right-wing enemies of the academy. It’s heartening that Heterdox has a foothold here in Australia.

UA’s shabby reception of Mr French’s report in April shows the need for leadership on this fundamental question of principle. The lobby seized upon Mr French’s legalistic finding of “no crisis” in campus speech, ignoring his pointed remarks about the vulnerability of free expression under the endless rules and codes that entangle university life. UA has to judge for itself how best to protect the lucrative education industry it represents, its reputation, recruitment prospects and revenue streams.

But there are dissident vice-chancellors behind the collective indifference of the lobby. Dawn Freshwater, vice-chancellor at UWA, has certainly stolen a march with a new, beefed up statement telling students (and staff) that they have to be open to viewpoints at odds with their own, a sometimes uncomfortable experience that any thoughtful person has to get used to. And now university chancellors have agreed in principle to Mr French’s suggestion that universities adopt a voluntary model code making freedom of expression a paramount concern. (Mr French is also chancellor of UWA.)

It’s important to keep a sense of proportion. Even in the humanities and social sciences, where progressive groupthink is strongest, there are many scholars quietly faithful to evidence. It seems big city elite institutions are more likely to suffer from a dysfunctional campus culture. That is the case in the US, where the problem is worst. But all the Anglosphere countries have some level of this corruption and the US experience shows it can spread very quickly. The task is to prevent a crisis and resist a dysfunctional culture already present in higher education, as well as the corporate world.

In business the same ideology of selective “diversity” put paid to the career of footballer Israel Folau and generated the Orwellian newspeak of “behavioural awareness officers” for the AFL. Like the May 18 election result, the good sense of the mainstream will impose a correction; there are already hopeful signs. But why can’t more vice-chancellors see the advantage of rising to the occasion and becoming authors of their own reform?


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Senate President Larry Obhof Introduces Senate Budget Bill to Provide More Educational Options to Ohio Families

The State Senate introduced their substitute budget bill today, and parents and Christian schools are among the big winners.

The bill significantly expands the state’s “EdChoice” scholarship program, which empowers parents to send their child to the school that best meets their needs.

“Senate President Larry Obhof is leading the way to provide Ohio students more opportunities to succeed,” said Aaron Baer, President of Citizens for Community Values. “The proposed budget the Senate introduced today ensures Ohio’s public schools can thrive, while opening up doors of opportunities for families to find the best school that meets their needs.”

The proposed Senate budget will:

Grow the EdChoice Expansion Scholarship to include K-12 students.
Increase the Cleveland Scholarship.

Year round application window and language that would fundamentally remove waitlists from EdChoice.

Citizens for Community Values leads the Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN), a network of 27 Christian schools across Ohio providing high quality education to Ohio families. The Senate budget bill will help these schools provide children from across the state with a high-quality education, regardless of the child’s zip code or family income.

“No child should be stuck in a school that’s not meeting their needs. Senate President Larry Obhof, Majority Leader Matt Huffman, Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan, and Senator Lou Terhar are helping families succeed and access a broad array of educational options by putting this budget bill forward,” said Baer.


The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs: What Happens When Everyone Gets a ‘Free Lunch’?

A yogurt company, Chobani, has picked up the tab for unpaid school lunches in a Rhode Island school district.

That’s a relief to the school district, but not one likely to be replicated elsewhere. A new report finds that it would take a whole lot of dairy to fix the waste and misspent money in federal school meal programs nationwide.

In May, Chobani said it would cover nearly $50,000 that schools in Warwick, Rhode Island, had accumulated in unpaid lunch debt. The district’s problems are due to school officials’ inability to resolve school lunch accounts with parents and families, and Chobani’s generous gesture should bring relief to school accountants around Warwick.

But this price tag pales in comparison to the cash lost due to improper payments and misspending that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has found in National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program services across the U.S.

To make matters worse, the Department of Agriculture has changed the way it measures waste, making it more difficult to account for taxpayer money that’s supposed to provide meals for low-income students.

In 2018, U.S. taxpayers spent $17 billion on these two federal school lunch programs combined. Yet for decades, these programs have been plagued by misspending and improper payments (services provided to ineligible children), as the Government Accountability Office’s report explains.

Over the last four years, these programs have had improper payment rates of 16 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the National School Lunch Program lost nearly $800 million owing to improper payments in fiscal year 2018, while the School Breakfast Program lost $300 million. The Office of Management and Budget calls these programs “high-priority” programs because of the misspending.

According to the latest Government Accountability Office report, the estimated error rates for 2018 were lower than in prior years because the Department of Agriculture has “changed what it considers to be an improper payment.” As a result, it is impossible to compare the most recent error rates with prior years. 

That’s one way to clean your books.

Here’s another. In 2010, Congress and the Obama administration expanded school meal programs through a provision in the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act called the “Community Eligibility Provision.”

As Heritage Foundation research explains, this provision allows schools, districts, and even groups of schools located in the same area where 40 percent of student enrollment is eligible for federal assistance (such as food stamps) to offer free meals to all students.

Poof—no more improper payments.

Except, the purpose of federal meal programs is to help children in need, and no private company has the reserves to cover Washington when spending spirals out of control.

Earlier this year, our research found that more middle- and upper-income students have taken advantage of free meals since lawmakers enacted the Community Eligibility Provision. Lawmakers made more students from upper-income households eligible for an error-prone federal program, defying both the program’s original purpose and any claim to fiscal responsibility.

Congress and the White House should eliminate this provision and focus resources on helping children in need, as recommended in Heritage’s “Blueprint for Balance.”

Doing so would have no impact on children from low-income families because these children would still be eligible for free- and reduced-priced meals. The move would simply help to control school meal programs that are ballooning into a federal food entitlement for every child, regardless of need.

Meanwhile, policymakers should ask the Department of Agriculture how its new accounting methods are making better use of taxpayer money.

The Government Accountability Office says the Department of Agriculture “has not established a process to plan and conduct regular fraud risk assessments for the school meals programs” and “high improper payment error rates may suggest that the school meals programs may also be inherently vulnerable to fraud.” Ignoring improper payments may lead to other problems.

Federal officials should improve risk management practices for school meals and focus on fraud prevention. Lawmakers can help do that by returning school meal programs to their original purpose of assisting children in need—and not add more students to waste-prone programs.


Australia: Censoring universities ‘will lose best students’ researcher warns

Universities will lose reputation and talented students if they fail to defend free speech against an activist campus culture bent on shutting down debate, warns research­er Matthew Lesh.

“I’ve been phoned by parents and students asking which is the best university to go to for intellectual freedom,” said Mr Lesh, who audits campus freedom for the Institute of Public Affairs.

On Saturday, Education Minister Dan Tehan complained that universities were failing to take up the challenge of protecting free speech and had “their heads in the sand”.

Mr Tehan pointed to several attempts at censorship last year but agreed with former High Court chief justice Robert French, who reported on the issue in April and said Australia did not have the “crisis” seen in the US.

But Mr French said university rules and policies that could be turned against freedom of expressio­n were “rife” in Aust­ralia’s higher education sector.

And Mr Tehan said if the secto­r was on its way to a campus speech crisis, “we will end up a more divided and less harmonious Australia — and we should do everything we can to avoid that”.

Peak lobby group Universities Australia yesterday said the sector­ had put out a joint statement last year “reaffirming an endurin­g commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression on our campuses”.

UA chief executive Catriona Jackson said the French report was getting “careful consideration”. When that report was released­, UA warned against imposition­ of sector-wide rules aimed at “a problem that has not been demonstrated to exist”.

Mr Lesh welcomed the University of Western Australia going it alone with a new manifesto on free expression that tells students they must be open to a robust exchange of ideas that may clash with their beliefs and make them feel uncomfortable.

The new statement, announced by UWA vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater, represents the first serious response since the French report to incidents last year where campus activists tried to harass and silence controversial visiting speakers.

Also last year, James Cook University dismissed­ physics professor Peter Ridd, a critic of climate science methodology. This was unlawful, a court held in April.

Mr Lesh said UWA’s competitors for the best students were far away but serious commitment to open inquiry and free speech could become a factor in Sydney and Melbourne, where each city had elite rival institutions.

“If one of the major east coast universities decided to stake itself out as being for intellectual freedom, they could almost certainly attract more students,” he said.

The new UWA document stresses learning through “openness to considering ideas that challenge existing belief struct­ures”, resisting “inappropriate constraints on the freedom to ­express (ideas)”, while noting that “vilification of marginalised groups” remains taboo.

“Beyond (such) constraints, freedom of expression is unfettered within our university, and so a multitude of ideas will be encountere­d here,” it says.

“This freedom to express ideas is constrained neither by their perceived capacity to elicit discomfort, nor by presuppositions concerning their veracity.”

Professor Freshwater, who left school at 15 and stepped up from a diploma in nursing to a degree and then a doctorate, told ABC radio last year about the value of “being stretched (and) put in an uncomfortable position” as you learn. She likened this to free speech exposing young students to difficult ideas and feedback they might not want to hear.

The British-born educator now chairs the elite Group of Eight universities, and has just been headhunted by Auckland University to become its first female vice-chancellor next March.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Snowflakes in Britain too

An exam board has said that students can complain if they felt “triggered” by a calorie-counting question.

Pupils protested that a maths GCSE question about how many calories a woman had consumed for breakfast was distressing for anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder.

One student, a recovering anorexic, told how she was so upset by the question that she had to leave the exam hall in a panic.

The question said: “There are 84 calories in 100g of banana. There are 87 calories in 100g of yogurt. Priti has 60g of banana and 150g of yogurt for breakfast. Work out the total number of calories in this breakfast”.

Following the concerns, Pearson, which owns the exam board EdExcel, carried out a review of the question and found it to be valid.

A spokesman for Pearson said that any student “who thinks that this question may have impacted their performance” should make contact via their school.

Poppy-Willow Kent, a student from Colchester, wrote on Twitter: “I am sorry, but can I ask what on earth you were thinking by having a question around counting calories?

"Your exams are primarily taken by 15-20 year olds, who are also the age group most likely to suffer from eating disorder.”

A 16-year-old student from Hampshire added: “The weighing food and calorie question on the paper today triggered me so much. Hopefully it didn’t upset anyone else who suffers.

"It just bought back so many bad memories for me that I was about to cry. Do they know about the crisis or I’m being over sensitive?”

Meanwhile, Isobel Colclough, 16, from Stoke-on-Trent, explained how the question left her in a "panic" and she had to leave the exam hall.

"I read the question and it bought back so many memories of counting calories, it put me into a panic where I had to leave the room for about five minutes and a teaching assistant calmed me down," she said. 

"Then the teaching assistant persuaded me to go back into the room and I did manage to finish the exam but it stayed on my mind for quite a while after. For someone who has in the past been obsessed with counting calories, it definitely triggered memories of counting everything."

Miss Colclough, who used to be anorexic, said she is considering making a formal complaint about the question.  It is the latest exam question to have sparked debate this summer.

The exam board AQA came under fire from students for a GCSE English exam which used a passage from a book in which a character was later raped.

Pupils complained that the unseen text in their exam paper was taken from a story that later goes on to detail how a young woman becomes pregnant after being sexually exploited by her employer.

The description of the rape was not part of the excerpt in the exam paper, but students nonetheless protested that the excerpt should have come with a “trigger warning”.   AQA denied that the choice of extract was inappropriate.

Tom Quinn, a director at the eating disorder charity Beat, said that references to counting calories “can be triggering” for anyone with or recovering from an eating disorder. 

He said it can “cause significant distress”, adding that since young people are "most at risk of these serious mental illnesses", exam boards should avoid such material in their questions.  

A spokesman for Pearson said: “In a maths exam taken last week, candidates were asked to solve a practical problem calculating the number of calories in a banana and a yogurt. We have reviewed the question and find it to be valid.

“We encourage any student who thinks that this question may have impacted their performance to get in contact with us via their school.

“We understand the summer exam series is a stressful time for students and we wish all students every success with their remaining exams.”


UK: Father glues himself to school gates in bizarre protest after his daughter, 14, is sent home from class for wearing an earring that 'stops her getting migraines'

The dad of a teenage girl 'excluded' from school for wearing an earring mounted a bizarre protest today - after he glued both his hands to its front gates.

Irate Geoff Smith, 49, says his daughter Bobbiemay, 14, was sent home after getting a piercing that he claims stops her getting agonising migraines.

In protest against the decision Geoff today (Fri) covered his hands with glue and a type of expansion foam then stuck them to two metal bars outside the school.

He staged his protest for around an hour at lunchtime today before he pulled both his hands free from the gates when ordered to by police who were called.

During the protest, which was streamed on Facebook, He said: 'I have superglued myself to the gate. 'My daughter has got a legal right to an education. 'The superglue is burning my hands at the minute... but I would put myself through any pain so my daughter can live life without pain.'

After less than a minute a worker from the school, Cockburn John Charles Academy in Leeds, West Yorkshire, comes over and asks, 'what are you doing?'.

Mr Smith, who works as a roofer, then instructs the man to call the fire brigade.

Police and fire service personnel attended the scene.

Luckily Mr Smith was able to pull his hands away on his own, although a layer of skin did remain attached to the bars.

Police opted not to arrest him and Mr Smith then entered the school to have a meeting with senior staff.

Bobbiemay got the piercing in her tragus - the middle part of the outer ear - five weeks ago.

Alternative medicine proponents argue some ear piercings stimulate nerves under the skin and muscle tissues, thereby producing pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins.

Mr Smith said the piece of jewellery is not a fashion statement and that he bought the smallest, most inconspicuous stud he could to avoid it being an issue at school.

Speaking yesterday (he said: 'It's awful for a school to deprive a child of their education for something so minor.

'We tried everything to stop Bobbiemay's migraines - she can be in agonising pain for a week at a time with them. 'But she hasn't had one since getting the piercing five weeks ago. The piercing is working, it's not coming out.'

He added: 'Bobbiemay was doing really well at that school so that's where I want her go go back to. 'She's missed a lot of school now and it's not fair. She's an intelligent child and they have had no other issues with her until now.'

In a statement released yesterday, a school spokesman said: 'We would like to make it clear Bobbiemay Smith has not been excluded from the academy. 'She is welcome back at any time, as long as the earring is removed. Students and parents are aware of our clear uniform policy which is applied consistently.

'In this particular case, medical evidence or a doctor's note has not been provided to suggest exceptional circumstances.

'At all times, our focus is on Bobbiemay's welfare and best interests and we hope to see her return to the academy as soon as possible.'


Australia: Childcare is costing parents more than fees for exclusive private schools - with some spending $50,000 a year. It's costing $50,000 a year for full time care, and $30,000 for part time care

We see the fruit of all encompassing regulation.  When I was a kid, parents would send their kids to be minded to the old lady over the road who had already brought up her own family.  She charged pennies so those who only earned pennies could afford it.  And because she was known in the area there were no fears about it. 

That should still be allowed but these days she would be a deep-dyed criminal, in breach of dozens of regulations.  Why not revive the old system by allowing a regulated and an unregulated sector?  We would soon see how much parents valued the regulations which are allegedly "for your own good"

Parents are forking out more for childcare than the cost of the some of the country's most exclusive private schools, with some centres now charging over $200 a day.

In the most extreme cases, daycare costs are setting Sydney families back $50,000 a year for care five days a week, and $30,000 for part time care.

Parents would be paying less to send their children to Cranbrook in Sydney's eastern suburbs, an elite boys' kindergarten to year 12 college, which costs $37,230 per year.

Australian Childcare Alliance NSW chief Chiang Lim told the Saturday Telegraph that Sydney is the hardest hit city in the country when it comes to extreme childcare costs.

'It is absurd that it can be more expensive than some of the elite private schools in Sydney,' he said.

A recent OECD cost of living report found that Australia has some of the highest childcare costs in the world.

On average, Aussie parents are spending 26 per cent of their joint incomes on childcare.

Sending one child to daycare in Mosman, on the north shore, costs an average of $159.56 a day, with one centre charging $210.

Meanwhile, fees in Coogee are slightly less at an average of $150 per day, while Canterbury in Sydney's inner west costs $115 for a day of care. 

'We really need a review of the entire system,' Mr Lim said.

Wealthier families in Sydney's affluent suburbs put their kids on the waiting lists of community pre schools with cost just $40 a day.

Childcare subsidies are paid directly to the centres, but are capped at an hourly rate of $11.77, which doesn't offer big savings for struggling families.

Couples with a combined income of $351,248 per year don't qualify for subsidies, and parents who take in between $186,958 and $351,247 have a capped subsidy of $10,190 per child.

This has lead to parents working less or finding other ways to get their children looked after. 


Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Hub of Political Correctness Gets Hit With a Big Judgment

In what is hard to characterize as anything other than poetic justice, Oberlin College and its former vice president and dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, has been hit by an Ohio jury with a multimillion-dollar judgment for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress against a local family business, Gibson’s Bakery and Candy, which led to a boycott of the bakery over false charges of racism.

What began as a simple shoplifting incident took on a life of its own because of the bakery’s proximity to one of the country’s preeminent institutions of political correctness and progressive thought.

It demonstrates the dangers of jumping to conclusions before the facts are in and the damage done by false charges of racism.

Gibson’s Bakery is a century-old business owned and operated by three generations of the Gibson family.

On Nov. 9, 2016, the day after President Donald Trump’s electoral victory, a black Oberlin student shoplifted two bottles of wine from Gibson’s after he first tried to buy them with a fake ID. He was chased out of the store by the Gibson grandson.

This was the 41st shoplifting incident in five years (40 adults had been arrested previously, including six African Americans).

When the grandson tried to take a picture of the shoplifting student with his phone, he was knocked down and assaulted by the student and two of the student’s friends.

When police arrived on scene, “they [found] Gibson on his back, with [the three undergraduates] punching and kicking him. All three were charged, [the thief] with robbery and his friends with assault.”

Ordinarily, stealing from a private establishment would not merit a national news story or a libel lawsuit, but because the Gibson family is white, and the student black, Oberlin’s ceaselessly “woke” campus erupted with cries that the bakery was engaged in racial profiling of the student and was a “racist” establishment.

We know this is not true because the shoplifting student and his pals eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, including attempted theft, aggravated trespassing, and underage purchase of alcohol.

As part of their plea bargains, they admitted committing the crimes and that the actions of the baker had not been racially motivated, i.e., no discrimination had occurred.

But the students and administrators at Oberlin College weren’t interested in the facts. Instead, they immediately acted against Gibson’s.

For example, a flyer was distributed making the false claim that the bakery was a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION” and urging an economic boycott.

The president of Oberlin, along with its vice president and dean of students, sent out an email trying to excuse the students’ behavior by blaming it on the outcome of the presidential election.

They were “deeply troubled because we have heard from students that there is more to the story than what has been generally reported.”

Oberlin ignored the findings of the police investigation that found no evidence of racism.

Instead, Oberlin suspended its long-time business relationship with Gibson’s.

Oberlin’s faculty and administration helped students copy and distribute flyers against the bakery, orchestrated and attended protests against the bakers, and actually gave students academic credit for skipping class and participating in the boycott campaign.

An Oberlin trustee paid the legal retainer for a criminal defense attorney for the shoplifting student, and the university provided the student with a limo to transport him to meet the lawyer.

In a private meeting with the Gibsons, the college demanded that the bakery institute a policy of not filing criminal charges against first-time student shoplifters or call the police.

According to the complaint, a Facebook rant was posted by Oberlin’s Department of Africana Studies claiming that the bakery had been “bad for decades, their dislike of Black people is palpable. Their food is rotten and they profile Black students. NO MORE!”

The Washington Post writes that court documents also “revealed how Raimondo and another administrator shared a sense of outrage after a professor spoke against the [school’s] boycott. ‘[Expletive] him … I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”

Expletive-laced comments from the vice president and dean of students at what U.S. News and World Report ranks as the country’s 30th-best liberal arts school.

All of these actions “‘devastated’ the bakery’s revenue, which forced staffing cuts.” At least six members of the Gibson family were forced to work without pay for months, just to keep the business afloat.

Social justice fervor is nothing new on Oberlin’s campus. In the past five years, students have protested against the cultural inauthenticity of dining hall cuisine, requested trigger warnings for storied works of Western civilization, and submitted a 14-page letter to the school’s board and president with 50 nonnegotiable demands that are the essence of political correctness.

That letter claimed that Oberlin “functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.” And it demanded that the college offer “guaranteed tenure” to an African American professor who claims that the U.S. and Israel planned the 9/11 attacks.

Student complaints about the cultural appropriation of food centered around using incorrect ingredients, such as substitutions for a traditional Vietnamese bánh mì of ciabatta bread, pulled pork, and coleslaw instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Even today, the facts apparently don’t matter. In late April, The Oberlin Review wrote that “a black student attempted to make a purchase at Gibson’s Bakery and was accused of shoplifting. The student ran outside the store … and [the son of the owner and the student] got into a physical altercation.”

That phrasing makes the shoplifting seem like an innocuous misunderstanding between a student and rash shopkeeper, rather than a century-old, family-owned bakery being looted in an undergraduate’s attempt to subvert state drinking laws.

And, according to the lawsuit, guides giving campus tours sponsored by Oberlin have continued to tell prospective students to boycott the bakers because it is a “racist establishment” that “assaults students.”

Just as the student body still views the case as a sign of racism, presumably in an effort to divert attention away from their fellow undergraduates’ culpability, so too the school refuses to take responsibility, even after the recent verdict.

In an email to the school’s alumni association, Oberlin claimed it was not responsible for the actions of its students, denying the reality of the college’s participation in, and instigation of, the unfair actions taken against the bakery.

The jury awarded $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages. The college certainly has the ability to pay the judgment. Oberlin’s endowment is just under $890 million, and tuition is $52,762 per year as of 2018.           

This case shows how much damage false claims of racism can cause. And it shows just how infected school administrators and many students are with the absurd victimization culture that predominates in academic culture, and how ridiculous claims of “imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy” are poisoning their minds.


How Anti-Semitism Became a Staple of ‘Woke’ Activism on Campus

Recent events in higher education have led many to conclude that college campuses are hubs of anti-Semitism.

Stanford University student and resident assistant Hamzeh Daoud declared in July 2018 his intent to “physically fight Zionists on campus.” Oberlin College professor Joy Karega asserted in November 2016 that U.S. intelligence agencies conspired with Israel to commit the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In April 2018, professor Kwame Zulu Shabazz of Knox College tweeted that Jews are “pulling the strings for profit.”

Stories like these make Victor Davis Hanson’s observation that “colleges are becoming the incubators of progressive hatred of Jews” ring true. Higher education is helping to make anti-Semitism respectable again.

Most coverage of anti-Semitism on campus has focused on leftist and pro-Palestinian student groups such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Yet, as National Association of Scholars President Peter W. Wood and I discovered while researching “neo-Segregation” in higher education, campus anti-Semitism also stems from “woke” black activism.

“Woke” politics is a radical ideology with roots in a strain of black nationalism that rejected the civil rights movement’s goal to promote racial integration throughout American society.

To be woke means to become “radically aware and justifiably paranoid,” convinced that insidious actors and institutions contrive to keep black America down.

It means believing that whites participate in “structural racism,” which is both seen and unseen, and which bears the blame for blacks’ falling test scores, scant presence in elite colleges, and overrepresentation in America’s inmate population.

Wokeness’ paranoia of whites is epistemically structured similarly to Jew hatred, priming black nationalists to articulate anti-Semitism as they would anti-whiteness.

Malcolm X’s autobiography, which described his conversion to the Nation of Islam, was especially effective in spreading anti-Semitism.

“Look at practically everything the black is trying to integrate,” Malcolm X wrote, “if Jews are not the actual owners, or are not in controlling positions, then they have major stockholdings [sic] or they are otherwise in powerful leverage positions.” Asked Malcolm X, do Jews “sincerely exert these influences?”

Malcolm X believed in “Yacub’s History,” the foundational myth of the Nation of Islam, which teaches that whites and Jews were created 6,000 years ago by Yacub, an evil scientist.

Malcolm X said that the whites created by Yacub dwelled in caves until “Allah raised up Moses to civilize them.” He added that “the first of these devils to accept [Moses’] teachings … were those we call today the Jews.”

Yale University invited Malcolm X to address students in 1962. It soon became fashionable for other colleges to host black nationalists that espoused similar ideas, reinforcing just how out of touch higher education was and is from mainstream America.

In 1979, the Africana Studies Department at the State University of New York, Stony Brook hired poet Amiri Baraka as a lecturer. It didn’t mind that he had once written that he desired to murder Jews en masse.

In his book, “Black Magic: Poetry, Sabotage, Target Study, Black Art, 1961-1967” (1969), Baraka wrote:

Smile, Jew. Dance, Jew. Tell me you love me, Jew. I got something for you now though. I got something for you, like you dig, I got. I got this thing, goes pulsating through black everything universal meaning. I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the Hitler syndrome figured.

The school promoted Baraka to a full professor in 1985.

Black students at Yale University took up the mantle of anti-Semitism in the 1980s, a decade when Jew hatred emerged as a strident theme in mainstream black politics.

Speaking at Calhoun College in 1985, Millard Owens ’87 of the Black Student Alliance at Yale declared that Jews and blacks had been set at odds.

He vowed that tensions would persist, citing that blacks often encountered four kinds of whites: policemen, landlords, store owners, and social workers.

“Aside from the policeman,” he said, “the remaining three were usually Jews who sparked tension when prices rose.”

The Black Student Alliance at Yale neither condemned nor distanced itself from Owen’s remarks.

Yale indulged anti-Semitism again in February 1990 when students from the Journal of Law and Liberation invited Abdul Alim Muhammad, a Nation of Islam deputy, to speak on campus.

Muhammad was scheduled to discuss the war on drugs, but he instead used the event to allege that “Jewish doctors [injected] blacks with the AIDS virus.”

Muhammad’s speech inspired the Black Student Alliance to invite Louis Farrakhan to speak that March. Farrakhan’s speakership never materialized, but his invitation showed the Black Student Alliance’s readiness to “platform” a speaker that promoted hate.

In February 2003, the alliance invited Hitler-Syndrome poet Baraka to speak at Yale’s African American Cultural Center. Assistant Dean and Director of the African American Cultural Center Pamela George defended his appearance, insisting that it highlighted the importance of “free speech as a fundamental tenet of the university.”

Baraka had also participated in several Yale events, including an academic conference. Said George, Baraka was “not new to Yale.”

Campus black nationalists’ affinity for anti-Semitic tropes emerged again in April 2019 when a black “student leader” at the University of California, Berkeley said at a student meeting that “the [Israel Defense Forces] trains the police departments in America to kill black people.”

The liberation of blacks and Palestinians, she claimed, were “intertwined” because Zionists support the “prison industrial complex,” “prison militarization,” and “modern-day slavery.”

These stories testify to the toxicity of anti-Semitism, reminding us that even among American blacks, a group once allied with Jews in the struggle for civil rights, it can manifest behind a veil of “woke politics” and “diversity.”

Each story shares a common thread: Race-nationalist demagogues poured contempt on Jews and depicted them as a hidden force guiding human events to the misfortune of others.

Each occurred at colleges that have a duty to nourish in students dispassionate reasoning, intellectual seriousness, and a desire to pursue truth.

Higher education is increasingly showing its inability to live up to that task.


The straight-talking Australian senator teaching universities a thing or two

Every time a conservative woman of promise emerges from the blancmange of politics, some hope for the next Margaret Thatcher. Amanda Stoker doesn’t ride on the coat-tails of history or gender, so can we please look at her free from comparisons?

The 37-year-old senator is going places on her own terms. For starters, Stoker is Queensland through and through. By choice, not by birth. Stoker was born and raised in Sydney’s west; her father was a plumber and her mother did the books. Stoker moved to Brisbane as a young lawyer 12 years ago and hasn’t left.

She is no-nonsense, straight talking, her positions firmly premised on commonsense principles. Stoker is making her mark fast, after entering parliament in March last year. To understand her story, her spunk and her political convictions, you need to understand why she is a natural fit in Queensland and how the Sunshine State has played a pivotal role in federal politics.

John Howard has recalled election night, December 1949. He had been at the cinema with his parents and they returned home to find his eldest brother, Wal, sitting on the floor in the dining room listening to the large radio. “Menzies is in,” Wal told his family. “The biggest swing has been in Queensland.”

In fact, Menzies had won 83 per cent of the Queensland seats. Last month, Scott Morrison won 76 per cent of seats in the Sunshine State, 23 seats to Labor’s six.

In the 1961 election, which Menzies nearly lost, the Coalition won seven to Labor’s 11 seats in Queensland. When Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007 by pretending to be an economic conservative, Labor won 15 Queensland seats, to the Coalition’s 13. In other words, those who understand Queensland have a shot at government.

Stoker understands the concerns of quiet Australians. This week, the mother of three girls under five hit a nerve at Sydney’s sandstone university. In comments to The Sydney Morning Herald, University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence said this of Stoker’s line of questioning at a Senate estimates hearing in October last year: “Have you ever heard a more shocking waste of public funds than that?”

Spence was reportedly “galled” that the senator had prised from federal education bureaucrats a new-found focus on holding Australian universities accountable for obligations they have to be places of free intellectual inquiry.

Stoker was questioning Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency chief commissioner Nick Saunders about specific provisions under federal laws that require universities to embrace academic freedom.

Academic freedom ought to be in their DNA, not our laws. Nonetheless, this is where we are today. Understanding what is at stake, Stoker raised a number of concerns with Saunders, including many university policies that prohibit “offensive” comments.

Saunders said he was uncomfortable with Stoker’s examples. “They certainly do not fit with the concept of a university being a place where ideas are contested and debated,” he said, agreeing to examine policies that undermine the legal obligations of universities to uphold academic freedom.

What seems to have gotten up Spence’s nose is that Stoker also mentioned an address last September at the University of Sydney by Bettina Arndt, who challenges claims of a “rape crisis” on campuses. Feel free to agree or disagree with Arndt. But not at Sydney University. Security had to call in a riot squad when protesters became violent and abusive towards students who wanted to listen to Arndt’s views.

Saunders agreed the behaviour of protesters breached the university’s code of conduct, and appropriate action was needed. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Spence told the SMH there is no problem with free speech on campus. He has accused those on the left and right as being as bad as each other.

This is a most disingenuous assertion. The world is a polarised place, to be sure. But where is the evidence of right-wing protesters trying to shut down events of political opponents on campus? Spence’s claim of both sides being as bad as each other was rendered comic when, in the same SMH article, feminist Eva Cox suggested we might need “short-term bans”, including at universities, to stop discussion of particular issues.

Way to shut down free speech. Way to make a martyr, too. Drive lunatics underground into dark places where dopey ideas are not open to challenge.

Stoker wrote to Spence on Monday: “I hope you intend to provide evidence of your assertion that ‘the conservatives are as bad as the progressives’ when it comes to campus misbehaviour. My research has found only evidence of the ‘left’ shutting down the ‘right’s’ right to speak.”

The Queensland LNP senator also challenged Spence’s claims her Senate estimates questions were a “shocking waste of public funds”. “The idea those government departments and agencies that oversee the spending of public money — such as the $17.5 billion provided to universities last year — should not be subject to public scrutiny runs contrary to our system of democracy and accountability.”

She assured Spence she would continue to hold Sydney University, and the country’s other universities, to their academic freedom obligations.

“He’s a sook,” she says of Spence, who has not responded to her letter.

Earlier this year, our grandest universities sidelined a report into academic freedom by former High Court chief justice Robert French, who drew up a model code of academic freedom. University leaders and sections of the media picked out one line, where French says there is no free speech crisis, as reason to do nothing.

“The idea of a free speech crisis was never the basis of the referral (to French),” says Stoker. “It was more than nuanced than that. We received an intelligent, nuanced answer from French that gives us a prescription for the way forward.

“If universities are not serious about this, then we should get serious about setting some KPIs, ­defining very clearly what intellectual freedom looks like, and if they’re not met we should be prepared to pull funding.”

Last week’s exchange goes to the core of Stoker’s values and the reason she left the Bar to enter politics. She tells Inquirer she was a child during “the recession we had to have” and saw how normal, not especially privileged, families suffer when governments don’t get policy right. “That led me to read and try to educate myself about politics and policy, and why it matters, and what works and what doesn’t,” she says.

Stoker joined the Liberal Party at university. By the time she sought preselection last year, she had grown frustrated that not enough people in politics understood and valued freedoms and understood the corrosive role of big government.

“I looked around for someone who would do something and I didn’t see them. So, when you have children to provide for and protect, when something has to be done, you just do it,” she says.

In February, Stoker gave an address at the Centre for Independent Studies exploring the reasons for our declining trust in institutions, especially parliament. “There is a failure to fully appreciate the role between the individual and the government and the relationship between freedom and responsibility,” she tells Inquirer.

She marks down identity politics and its focus on victimhood, which infantilises people as well as breeding resentment. She mentions the decline of mutual responsibility, the idea our many rights come with responsibilities.

Stoker lists academic scorn towards teaching the full story of Western civilisation and attacks on the traditional family as other corrosive influences on society. “If you undermine all of those things … society becomes so broken that we cannot flourish, not in a personal sense, not in a private experience, not in an economic way either,” Stoker says. “Our side cannot permanently shy away from dealing with these things on the basis that intellectual freedom never got someone a job when actually it did, it really, really did.”

This is perhaps a gentle swipe at Scott Morrison who, as treasurer in 2017, said that defending free speech “doesn’t create one job, doesn’t open one business”.

“It might be a few steps removed but it does make a difference to people’s prospects of getting a job, their prospects of having a good economic future,” says Stoker, who wants the Liberal Party to refocus on its principles to settle on policies. “That way we can serve the people for the long time. That’s what principled leadership will do for us.”

Stoker’s words will be felt in Canberra. Her common sense is very Queensland.

Asked about life as a politician and a family woman, Stoker says there have been many more families who have done a lot more with a lot less. “I am not going to bleat or complain,” she says.

A couple of months ago, Stoker returned to her home in Bardon, in Brisbane’s western suburbs, after a long sitting week in Canberra. Her husband pointed to the corner of the room where their three daughters, Mary, Jane and Emma, were playing. They had arranged a bunch of chairs into a semicircle, two stools at the head, and they were taking turns giving speeches about the things they thought were important. It was a game they invented called Senate.

“How cool is that,” says Stoker. “My kids are just fine.”

Stoker’s daughters have every reason to want to mimic their mum’s work. The Queensland senator is fast becoming the voice for Morrison’s quiet Australians.