Friday, July 26, 2019

Oberlin College is determined to avoid paying the judgment in favor of Gibson’s Bakery

Risking an extra liability in interest of 4 million.  They're so full of it that they think SCOTUS will be on their side.  Fat chance.  SCOTUS would be unlikely even to take the case

With interest running at over $4k per day, Oberlin College seeks stay of execution of Gibson’s Bakery $32 million judgment, but doesn’t want to post a bond.

The $25 million damages judgment plus the over $6.5 million attorney’s fees and expenses award, puts Oberlin College almost $32 million in debt to Gibson’s Bakery and its owners.

Post-judgment interest in Ohio is 5%, which if my math is correct, on $32 million equals $1.6 million a year just in interest, or $4,384 per day. So that $32 million is going to keep growing as the inevitable appeal winds its way through the courts.

Interest aside, Oberlin College doesn’t want Gibson’s Bakery to start collecting the judgment by seizing bank accounts, college equipment, and anything else they can get their hands on.

Not surprisingly, Oberlin College has filed a Motion for a Stay of Execution of Judgment. The motion also requests that Oberlin College not be required to post a bond to secure the judgment while the trial court rules on post-trial motions Oberlin College says it will be filing.

Here is Oberlin College’s key argument:

"Defendants intend to file motions under Civ.R. 50, 59, and/or 60. And per the express provisions of Civ.R. 62(A), a stay of execution may be issued at any time after a judgment is issued and before the time for filing motions pursuant to Civ.R. 50, 59, and 60 and while such motions are pending.

Defendants further respectfully request that they not be required to post a bond in the amount of the Judgment at this time. In the event that Defendants’ post-trial motions are not successful and require Defendants to appeal, Defendants will then file a supersedeas bond as required by Civ.R. 62(B) at the time Defendants file their notice of appeal. This supersedeas bond, if necessary, will be in the amount of the Judgment, plus any additional amount that may potentially be awarded by the Court in attorneys’ fees."

Gibson’s Bakery has filed an Opposition to the Motion which opposes the stay and also argued that if a stay of execution is granted, that a bond be required.

After noting that post-judgment interest at 5% is pretty much automatic, Gibson’s Bakery pointed out the math: The judgment interest rate in 2019 is 5%. Therefore, if appeals of this case last just three years, the total amount of post-judgment interest that Defendants will have to pay is $4,742,179.77 –which is $1,580,726.59 per year or $4,330.76 per day. Three years appears likely for the appeals process, according to Gibson’s Bakery:

Since the jury’s verdict, Oberlin College has given every indication that they are digging in for a long battle. For instance, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar has broadcasted plans for an upcoming “lengthy and complex legal process” in her public statements…

Defendants have already expressed that they will not accept the verdict of the Lorain County jury. They have also suggested that they will not accept any adverse decision by the Ninth District Court of Appeals and, instead, will ultimately proceed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Ohio’s 2018 Statistical Summary shows that the time from filing a jurisdictional appeal to the Supreme Court until a full merit review by that Court averages 496 days.5 As such, a three-year period of appeals (through the Ninth District and Ohio Supreme Court) is a conservative timeframe for purposes of setting the appropriate post-judgment interest amount to be included in the bond requirement.

Perhaps expecting that a stay will be granted, Gibson’s Bakery devotes much of its opposition to arguing for a bond:

"A stay of judgment execution is not automatic under Ohio law for private litigants. Defendants do not have some absolute right to a stay of execution. Should the Court decide, in its discretion under Civ. R. 62(A), that Defendants are entitled to bond off the execution of the judgment, then Plaintiffs request that the bond be set at $36,356,711.56…."

The need for such bond is made clear by the College’s own statements about its dire fmancial straits. If the College is to be believed, there is serious concern about its ability to pay this sizeable judgment three years from now. At trial, and in its recent filing, the College represented that there was only $59.1 million of unrestricted endowment funds available to pay any dollar judgment and that $10 million of those funds had already been committed to pay down the College’s existing debt. [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 at 95:13-21] There remains $190 million of existing debt on the College’s books. [Id.] The College has also testified that it has a significant operating deficit and that its deficit situation is not sustainable…. [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 atpp. 86:1-6, 88:1-9]

The College also testified at trial that they have experienced a “significant” and “steady” decline of enrollment from 2014 to 2018. [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 at 79:4-17] In describing their economic position, the College offered Exhibit N-33 at trial, which is its May 10, 2019 report entitled “One Oberlin: The Academic & Administrative Program Review Final Report.” [Trial Tr., June 12, 2019 at pp. 99-100] In that Report, the College describes its alleged financial hardships and warns about how many other private colleges have had to close due to financial difficulties …[Ex. N-33, pp. 4-5].

Thus, we know that Oberlin College could attempt to continue using its available funds to pay down its other debts between now and the filing of a notice of appeal, thereby leaving less available to pay the judgment in this case.

Will Oberlin College be able to secure a bond? Probably, but it might not be as easy as you would think. At a minimum Oberlin College would have to pledge substantial liquid collateral, perhaps even 100% of the total judgments plus enough to cover interest. The insurance companies writing these appeal bonds want to take zero risk. It’s possible that Oberlin College could get another financial institution to guarantee payment to the insurance company, but Oberlin College’s credit rating already is under pressure.


Elizabeth Warren proposes student debt cancellation, free tuition plan

First unveiled in April, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act (which Warren introduced alongside Rep. James Clayburn, D-S.C.) would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for every household with a gross income less than $100,000, roughly 42 million Americans, or about three out of four borrowers.

Outstanding student loan debt has doubled over the past decade, nearing a staggering $1.6 trillion in June. It’s the largest amount of non-mortgage debt in the U.S. and has been cited as a major hindrance in people’s “economic life” by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. In fact, according to a study from the NeighborWorks America at Home, 59 percent of millennials knew someone who delayed buying a home because of student loan debt.

“Enough is enough,” the Massachusetts senator said. “I have a plan to cancel student debt for millions of Americans and finally end this crisis.”

Private student loan borrowers would also be eligible for debt forgiveness under her plan by converting their private debt into federal student loans. It would also suspend the collection of student loan payments for a year while the Department of Education carries out the loan forgiveness plans.

Warren’s plan comes on the heels of a similar -- but perhaps more far-reaching -- plan proposed by 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, who, at the end of June, rolled out, alongside Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.,  legislation that would cancel all $1.6 trillion of student loan debt in the U.S.

Conversely, Warren’s plan would cancel debt entirely for about 75 percent of borrowers, and offer relief to 95 percent.

As previously reported, Warren's campaign estimated the plan would cost about $640 billion. However, she said that would be paid for the "ultra-millionaire tax" -- anyone with more than $50 million in assets would pay a 2 percent tax. For those who have assets valued at $1 billion or higher, it would be a 3 percent tax. It’s projected to generate about $2.75 billion in revenue over the next decade, according to Warren.


From protests to trigger warnings: the creeping threats to free speech at Australian universities

Leading American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says academic freedom at Australian universities is in a healthier state than in the United States but there are danger signs that warrant nationwide action.

Professor Haidt, a social psychologist based at New York University, has held meetings with Education Minister Dan Tehan and academics during a visit to Australia and found indications that free expression is in retreat on campuses, consistent with a global decline in the state of debate.

American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says Australian universities need to act to protect freedoms on campus.
American intellectual Jonathan Haidt says Australian universities need to act to protect freedoms on campus.CREDIT:ANDREW KELLY

American universities have been convulsed by arguments about free expression, with controversies surrounding the free speech of speakers on campus and the ability of academics and students to explore sensitive topics.

Professor Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind, said his experiences in Australia led him to conclude "things are not as bad here but it's starting, so it's vital that your professors and administrators respond consistently to them" by putting safeguards in place.

There were some cases of politically "radical" students shutting down academics and pressure from other lecturers and university administrators.

"If everyone buckles and changes their language, then you will have what we have," he said.

He said protests against controversial speakers, including author Bettina Arndt, pointed to a problem.

"Everyone agrees that students have a right to protest but there is a clear, sharp line. The point at which any student interferes with the ability of another student to listen to another talk is a violation of core academic values," he said.

The violation should be treated as equal to plagiarism and punished accordingly, according to Professor Haidt.

He said rules and norms needed to be enshrined to protect pursuit of truth as a university's ultimate goal that must not be restricted.

Australia's universities are considering a model code to protect free speech and inquiry, proposed by High Court chief justice Robert French in a review commissioned by the Coalition government.

Professor Haidt backed the idea of a code but said the French model, while reasonable, contained "very large loopholes" that could still be deployed against controversial content. This included wording on a university's "duty to foster the wellbeing of staff and students".

Mr Tehan said his meeting with Professor Haidt was "thought-provoking" and the pair agreed it was important to promote a diversity of opinions in academia.

"One message I took away, is that Australia should look at what has happened at universities in the US and the UK and act now to prevent it happening here," Mr Tehan said.

As Australian institutions examine the strengthened protections, Professor Haidt said it was important for academic leaders to be "much more vocal from the moment students arrive on campus through to graduation, they must enforce those norms and punish people who violate those norms in a serious way".

He questioned the growing popularity of trigger warnings and safe spaces in academic environments.

He said there was no evidence that trigger warnings helped students with difficult content and a handful of studies suggested they had no positive effect.

"The way to get over a fear or phobia or PTSD is through repeated exposure to a stimulus in a physically safe environment and that's exactly what a classroom is," he said. "So I think there is no space on a university campus for content warnings."

He also said no classroom should ever be treated as a "safe space" because of the risk it would shut down candid discussion.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Are Universities Increasingly Liars and Con Artists?
The civic institutions that are at the core of our society are weakening, with negative consequences for both our comity and economy. Church attendance is down, the Ten Commandments are viewed by some as archaic, and membership in service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis is stagnating. The set of moral imperatives that provide the glue that allows our nation to work so well, for elections to be honest, business contracts effective, and political disagreements civil, is weakening. Moral relativism is in the ascendancy, moral absolutes are declining. Our political leaders seem increasingly and excessively partisan, harsh, uncharitable and uncivil. I think one consequence of the moral decline is that universities increasingly lie and cheat, both their customers (students) and the general public. It is arguable too that universities are a partial cause of the moral decay, but I will leave that question for another day.

We have learned that the University of Oklahoma lied for about 20 years regarding the proportion of its alumni contributing to the university, used in determining the U.S. News college rankings. The motive was clearly to overstate the school’s reputation—to mislead the public. Lying to enhance rankings is not confined to Oklahoma: Temple University systematically lied for years to enhance its business school’s ranking, and I recall that when I ran the Top Colleges rankings for Forbes, a very distinguished liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna, lied in data provided to the U.S. Department of Education, trying to improve its already excellent rankings.

The consequences of lying are relatively trivial in these cases. What can U.S. News or Forbes do? Nothing really, except to exclude the schools from future rankings for some time period (which both have done). Does the broader higher education community care? No, judging from its actions. Like the NCAA with regards to the University of North Carolina phantom course scandal, absolutely nothing has been done to further hurt and embarrass the transgressors. Have the accrediting agencies put schools on probation for “lying and deception?” Has the American Council of Education condemned this inappropriate behavior? No. Lying and cheating, at least in moderation, is seemingly accepted and arguably even tacitly encouraged. University boards of trustees are usually clueless, since they are shielded from unpleasant facts, and totally ineffective in stemming moral transgressions, even sometimes, such as in the case of the University of Texas a few years ago, even possibly shielding top officials known to be behaving unethically.

But the lying and deceptive practices are far more pervasive than merely cheating to enhance magazine rankings. Jason Brennan and Phillip Magness have a new book, Cracks in the Ivory Tower: The Moral Mess of Higher Education, that argues universities engage in a variety of highly deceptive marketing and other practices that are, to put it conservatively, morally untenable. Colleges entice students to attend implying that it is a relatively risk-free path to a prosperous life, which it is not. Do the colleges tell you up front what their dropout rate is, or point out a large percent of freshmen don’t make it into the sophomore year? Do they point out that a significant portion of their graduates is underemployed? Do they tell us about the risks as well as the rewards? Besides Brennan and Magness, see my own new book, Restoring the Promise, just out from the Independent Institute.

Let us take at random a very typical American public school, Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Does that school warn students that nearly half (46%) those entering full time do not graduate in six years? Do they tell them that a large majority of students take out loans, averaging $26,000, but that nearly half of the borrowers have not paid a penny back on that debt within three years of graduation? Do they tell them that the median annual earnings 10 years after leaving Bowling Green of those getting federal assistance is barely $40,000, only slightly more than the median earnings of male workers over 25 years old with high school diplomas? (All data are from the College Scorecard of the U.S. Department of Education or the Census Bureau) Colleges need to be brutally honest, serving society rather than their narrow parochial interests. Perhaps penalties for collegiate moral transgressions need to rise.


Warwick’s non-rape rape scandal

Students have had their lives turned upside down over sick private jokes.

The Warwick University rape-chat scandal first came to light a year ago. Since then, students have been tried, suspended and reinstated; there have been campus protests, a social-media campaign, an independent review, public apologies, a lawsuit issued against the university, ongoing national news coverage, angry Guardian columns, and a BBC documentary.

It is easy to forget, among all the heat generated, that this is a campus rape scandal that does not involve accusations of either rape or sexual assault. There is no dispute about whether or not sex was consensual: no sexual encounter of any description ever took place. The year-long saga that has engulfed Warwick has been entirely about words.

To start at the beginning: a group of male undergraduates created a private Facebook group chat and used it to trade increasingly vile comments about what they would like to do to their female flatmates and fellow students. The group chat is also said to have included ‘racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ableist language, as well as claims of paedophilic activity’. It was inevitable that, before long, the private exchange would be made public.

The conversation reads like a competition between overgrown adolescents to see who can be the most provocative and disgusting. Statements such as, ‘sometimes it’s fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls’, are intended to be offensive and, probably, humorous. Indeed, when the group chat was first covered in the media, it was portrayed as ‘rape jokes’. Whether or not we find the line funny, it is clearly not meant to be taken seriously. There is no credible suggestion that the author has ever raped, or planned to rape, one girl, let alone 100.

The comments referring to specific women are equally outrageous. ‘Rape her in the street while everybody watches’, urges one contributor. His friend adds: ‘Rape the whole flat to teach them all a lesson.’ This is an obnoxious, horrible exchange. No one wants to be discussed in such a way. However, although entirely void of humour, it’s still hard to take these comments seriously. Yet they have been, and continue to be, taken very seriously indeed.

The targeted women, angry and aggrieved, described themselves as being the victims of ‘violent’ sexual taunts and claimed the chat had left them feeling unsafe. This is, perhaps, an understandable initial response. But no one at the university challenged this interpretation. No one took the group to one side to reprimand the men and reassure the women. As a result, this view of the women as traumatised and vulnerable was allowed to set the tone for subsequent events.

An internal investigation followed, described as ‘horrendous’ and ‘traumatic’ by one of the women involved. It was led by Warwick’s head of press and media relations, lending weight to claims that the university was most concerned about its image. However traumatic the investigation was for the women, the upshot was that 11 male students were temporarily suspended, with six being banned from campus for periods ranging from one year to life. Once tuition fees and living expenses already paid – as well as the time and cost of starting a degree elsewhere – are taken into account, this is a very severe punishment for an idiotic private exchange.

Two of the male students subject to a 10-year ban appealed and had their punishment reduced to one year. The women argued this left them fearful of seeing the men on campus. Again, rather than the women being reassured that even if they did meet the men concerned they were in no physical danger and would survive the encounter, the off-campus chorus backed the view that the women would be traumatised. In response to student protests, public outrage and a social-media campaign called #ShameOnYouWarwick, the university announced that the two male students would not be returning.

Last week, an independent review criticised Warwick’s handling of the scandal and recommended reforms to improve its handling of sexual violence and misconduct. In turn, the university’s vice-chancellor issued an apology to the women concerned, two of whom are currently suing the university for discrimination and negligence. One woman has spoken out after an administrative mix-up meant she ended up sitting next to a man involved in the case in her final exam. So, this non-rape rape scandal looks set to run and run.

Two assumptions, reinforced by universities, have driven this case forward. The first is that words are violence, meaning there is little difference between having been subject to a sexual assault and having been spoken of in a sexually graphic way. The sexual taunts the women read about themselves were clearly interpreted as ‘violent’ in a way that would inevitably induce trauma from which they would never recover. This blurring of words and actions trivialises the experiences of women who have been raped.

The second assumption is that the university has a duty of care to look after students and keep them not just physically safe, but also protected from words, even words intended only for a private audience. One of the women involved in the case and now suing the university has said: ‘I think that if you are a girl or if you’re a minority, if you’ve been through past traumas, knowing that your university is going to care for you is really important. I think right now Warwick haven’t proven their ability to do that.’ But students are young adults and universities are not in loco parentis. Universities cannot protect people from hearing – or reading – things they may find offensive.

It’s hard not to agree with the conclusion drawn by the independent review into the Warwick scandal: that there had been ‘a profoundly unsatisfactory outcome for almost every single person involved’. The incident, such as it was, should have been dealt with in a couple of hours. Instead, the punishment for the men involved far exceeds the idiocy of engaging in vile online oneupmanship. The university is still making headlines for all the wrong reasons. And the women targeted have come to believe they were victims of some heinous crime that will define not just their time as students, but also the rest of their lives.


'Bad science': Australian studies found to be unreliable, compromised

Hundreds of scientific research papers published by Australian scientists have been found to be unreliable or compromised, fuelling calls for a national science watchdog.

For the first time, a team of science writers behind Retraction Watch has put together a database of compromised scientific research in Australia.

Over the past two decades, 247 scientific research papers - some associated with the country's most reputable universities - have been found to be compromised.

The database reveals the scale of scientific misconduct in Australia, although senior scientists claim it is just the tip of the iceberg.

"The public should be concerned. Almost 250 [papers], that’s a number that many people would find unconscionably high," said Professor Simon Gandevia, deputy director of Neuroscience Research Australia. "The public should be aware the bulk of medical research in Australia is paid for by the taxpayer. You are paying for this."

Among the cases is a researcher at the University of New South Wales, who designed a drug to treat skin cancer that was trialled on humans. Although an investigation by the university made no findings of error, a research paper about the drug was retracted due to concerns about the accuracy of some of the scientific data behind it.

Five other papers, which the same scientist was involved in, have also been retracted, the last being voluntary.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Melbourne had to retract a study on a possible treatment for motor neurone disease after it was discovered the work made false claims based on inadvertently duplicated images. The research was severely compromised and the paper was withdrawn.

In May this year, research on wind turbines by scientists at the University of Tasmania was retracted from the Energy Science and Engineering journal due to issues with the peer review process - the independent scientific assessment of the study's accuracy.  "The retraction has been agreed ... due to evidence indicating the peer review of the paper was compromised," the journal said.

In 2016, a former University of Queensland professor pleaded guilty to 17 fraud-related charges relating to Parkinson's disease research.

The scale of the problem strengthens the case for the government to establish a "bad science" watchdog, Professor Gandevia said.

Countries, including the USA, have a government agency charged with investigating scientists.

Professor David Vaux, deputy director of the Melbourne-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said he has seen dozens of cases of possible scientific misconduct.

"Researchers are under tremendous pressure, and falsifying data is the easy way out," he said. "In Australia, universities and institutes self regulate, so they’re able to cover it up, and they rarely resist this temptation. "When I raise this, I worry people will say you cannot trust scientists and that would be a disaster. There is a lot of good science.

"The problem is the Australian model of self regulation, which is a problem because of conflicts of interest. Australian researchers are no better or worse than those from other countries, but unlike other countries, Australia does not have a national office to handle these concerns."

Professor Vaux said it was extremely difficult to get a journal to retract a paper, and many more problematic papers go unretracted, meaning the 247 retractions were "just the tip of the iceberg".

Professor Gandevia and Professor Vaux have been campaigning to establish an Australian Office of Research Integrity – essentially a bad science watchdog, empowered to investigate academics. They took the proposal to Health Minister Greg Hunt 18 months ago, and believed he was supportive.

But the proposal has stalled, which the professors attribute to strong opposition from Universities Australia.

Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, strongly denied suggestions the institutions did not invite scrutiny, and pointed to a new Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research which has been put in place.

"We are not opposed to an office of research integrity, but note that a number of other mechanisms for monitoring research integrity and quality are in place," she said in a statement.

"Researchers must comply with [the] new code or face strong sanctions including repercussions for their employment at an institution, loss of public funding, and even the potential for criminal procedures in cases of very serious breaches."

The response to retractions from universities varies widely.

After being contacted by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald about scientific research papers which had been retracted, the University of New England and Griffith University both launched investigations.

The University of Tasmania said it "does not disclose details of matters concerning individual students or staff members".

The University of NSW said no findings of misconduct had been made against the professor with six retracted papers. "In each case and when considered together, where errors were identified by the panels, they were found to be unintentional and not affecting scientific conclusions in published papers," a spokeswoman said.

The University of Melbourne said it received a formal complaint about the paper that was later retracted, and conducted its own investigation. Disciplinary action was taken against the academics involved, a spokesman said.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two bills introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley aim to break up the education "monopoly."  

In what would amount to a societal shift of epic proportions were it to succeed, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has filed two bills in an effort to break up what he labels a “higher education monopoly” that has saddled thousands of students with massive levels of debt.

The first piece of legislation Hawley proposed aims to “amend the Federal Pell Grant Program to support career training opportunities for young Americans,” as the bill states. Toward that end, Hawley wants the Department of Education to develop “an alternative certification program” in order to allow the federal financial-aid program to be used for things like apprenticeships, digital boot camps, and other job-training programs.

“There’s no reason we should only be privileging those students who want to go to traditional four year institutions,” Hawley explained to Hill.TV in a phone interview. “We need to allow these opportunities in the form of these tax dollars to follow these students into other opportunities, other outlets that will help them get the skills they need to get the career path that’s right for them.”

Hawley insists the bills were motivated by input from his constituents. “The factor is talking to families all across our state over and over again,” he stated. “Students and workers who say they need more opportunities for jobs. They need job training. They need to get skills training. They need to get the kind of vocational training that they want and need for the workforce.”

More important, those he spoke with told him they wanted to get that training without having to take on the “burden” of financing four-year degrees whose costs have been skyrocketing. “You shouldn’t have to take on a mountain of debt and get a four-year degree that you don’t want in order to get a good job in our state or our country,” Hawley said.

Indeed. And while Hawley likens the current status quo to a “monopoly,” the term is not quite accurate — unless one is referring to a monopoly-like mentality American students and their families have inflicted on themselves for decades. While there are number of good jobs that don’t require four-year college degrees — or no degree at all — most Americans remain afflicted with the mindset best described by Mike Rowe: “There are millions of parents in the country right now, millions, who genuinely feel that if they don’t do everything they can to get their kid into a good school they will fail the kid.”

To be fair, a 1971 Supreme Court ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. that maintained employers could only require educational credentials that were reasonably job-related, and that any company’s educational or testing qualifications engendering “disparate impact” violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, precipitated a change best described by a 2008 paper, “Griggs v. Duke Power: Implications for College Credentialing.” Authors Bryan O'Keefe and Richard Vedder explained that many employers, knowing that aptitude testing and high-school diplomas had become legally hazardous, began using college degrees to screen out applicants they didn’t want to hire. “Griggs turned the college degree into a ‘credential,’” the authors noted. “The content of the education did not change, but the degree — the sheepskin — became a necessary first step for a decent job.”

Hawley sees an alternative. “American students and workers need more pathways into the middle class, more opportunities to get good work and build bright futures,” he said in a statement. “And they shouldn’t have to further enrich colleges by taking on a mountain of debt or mortgage their lives in order to get a good-paying job.”

No doubt, but it will be fascinating to see if Democrats, who bemoan income inequality, while embracing the vote-buying scheme of “free” college that does nothing to mitigate higher education’s escalating costs, would opt for a very viable — and far cheaper — alternative.

Hawley’s second bill, aptly titled the “Skin in the Game Act,” directly addresses the odious dynamic whereby taxpayers are on the hook for all student-loan defaults, giving colleges no incentive whatsoever to control costs. This bill would make colleges themselves liable for 50% of student-loan defaults “used towards the cost of attendance at the institution.” Furthermore, it contains a “no offset” provision that would prohibit those same colleges from raising tuition, student fees, or any other costs associated with attendance to offset the costs of those defaults.

As Hawley explains, this bill is “meant to address the concentration of power that has accumulated in the higher education space.” He further explains that many colleges “have built massive endowments that [have] been enabled by federal tax dollars” while “they have gobbled those up and raised tuition so students have not benefited at all.”

A 2018 NPR article’s title succinctly explains why this is an idea whose time has come: “High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University.”

That’s only part of the problem. Nothing speaks to the growing level of tribalism in America better than the mentality — nurtured at countless universities around the nation — that Americans without college degrees are somehow less “worthy” than their more elitist counterparts. As Boston University professor emeritus Angelo Codevilla explains, “Our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in.”

College is an essential part of that commitment, and perhaps nothing says it plainer than the media’s shameless effort to convince Americans that only less educated or poorly educated voters carried Trump to victory in 2016.

Really? Could anything be more intellectually vapid than believing, as millions of highly credentialed Democrats and their “enlightened” followers apparently do, that there is a such a thing as “free” college or health care? Does anyone remember that our “best and brightest” brought the financial system to the brink of disaster in 2008, accumulated $22 trillion of national debt and counting, and precipitated polarization unseen since the Civil War? How many millions of Americans have been completely dismissed as “irredeemable/deplorable/bitter clingers” by those who view half the nation as “flyover country?”

And how many elitist Americans would abet millions of unskilled, uneducated illegals invading this nation in lieu of teaching their children the notion there are “jobs Americans refuse to do” is a morally bankrupt proposition driven by that same elitist arrogance?

Hawley’s bills would go a long way toward addressing a long-nurtured schism tearing this nation apart. And it behooves Congress to take on the vested interests who would oppose this attempt to level the playing field.

It’s what equality of opportunity is really all about.


Ron Sullivan on defending Harvey Weinstein and the campus culture that cost him his job

“I certainly did not anticipate the reaction to the representation.”

Harvard College did not renew Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., and his wife’s contracts as faculty deans of Winthrop House, one of the school’s 12 residential communities—the culmination of a series of campus protests. The turmoil was unleashed after the New York Post reported in January that Sullivan—a clinical professor at Harvard Law School, the head of its Criminal Justice Institute and a nationally prominent criminal defense attorney—would be joining film producer Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team against a five-count indictment in New York State Supreme Court alleging rape and predatory sexual abuse.

Some students protested that his role on Weinstein’s team was inconsistent with Sullivan’s duties as faculty dean, and even that they felt unsafe with a dean who was aiding such a person.

In a Newsweek exclusive, Sullivan gave his first interview since his ouster to contributor Roger Parloff; he defended taking the case and accused Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College, of “cower[ing]” and “capitulating” to the “loudest voices in the room.”

Sullivan, 52, grew up in Gary, Indiana, where he attended public schools that were “100 percent” African American, he says. He graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1989 and Harvard Law School in 1994. Sullivan met his wife, Stephanie Robinson, when they were both students at Harvard Law School. She is also now an instructor there. She was formerly chief counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy; CEO of the Jamestown Project, a democracy-related think tank; and a national radio show host.

While serving as Winthrop House’s faculty dean, Ron Sullivan handled many high-profile cases, though most were the kind that were apt to be seen as popular causes on a college campus. He represented the family of Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. (The family won a $1.5 million wrongful death settlement in 2017.) In 2014, Sullivan designed and implemented the conviction review unit at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, which has since won release for more than 20 wrongfully convicted inmates, some of whom had served decades in prison.

In 2009, Sullivan and Robinson were named House Masters at Winthrop House. (Harvard changed the “House Master” title to “Faculty Dean” in 2016, after complaints about the term’s associations with slavery.)

On May 13, a few days after Sullivan was told that his faculty dean contract would not be renewed, Sullivan withdrew from the Weinstein representation. He cited a judge’s decision to postpone the start of the Weinstein trial from June until September, when it would conflict with Sullivan’s teaching schedule.

This has been edited for space; the full text is available on

NEWSWEEK: How did you come to join the criminal defense team representing Harvey Weinstein?

SULLIVAN: A colleague at the law school emailed me and asked whether I’d have any moral objection to representing Harvey Weinstein. When I got the email, I actually thought this was an ethics question—something she was posing to her class. I wrote back: Of course not. Every citizen has a right to a defense no matter how heinous the crime is or how unpopular the client. Then a few minutes later she wrote back and said, “He’d like to talk to you.”

So quickly I figured out this was not a law professor hypothetical. This was an on-the-ground reality. So I told my colleague that it was fine, and to give him my cellphone number, and we talked, and here we are.

What was your thought process as far as your position at Winthrop House and the potential reaction of the students?

I must say that I certainly did not anticipate the reaction to the representation. And I should say “the reaction at the college to the representation.” The law school was fine. [Fifty-two current and former members of the Harvard Law School faculty signed a petition supporting Sullivan.]

But I did not anticipate the reaction of the college, largely because of my history of these types of representations. Just the semester before, I was the lead prosecutor in the case against Eric Greitens, the then-governor of Missouri. And that case was all about an alleged sexual assault in the context of an invasion of privacy. So it’s not as though I hadn’t done a high-profile sexual assault case. But this one [the Weinstein case], appears to have been on the “wrong side” of the issue.

STANDING HIS GROUND “The job of an educator is to help students determine whether their feelings are rational.”STANDING HIS GROUND “The job of an educator is to help students determine whether their feelings are rational.”
You had also done some potentially unpopular cases while at Winthrop House?

Oh, absolutely. I represented [former New England Patriot] Aaron Hernandez in a double murder case. In which I won an acquittal. He was an extraordinarily unpopular figure in Boston at that time. He had already been convicted of one murder when I represented him in the double murder… There was no backlash or pushback for that representation at all. Indeed, students came to court to watch it. And, an interesting aside—later on, after I started representing Weinstein, a group of students asked if Winthrop House could rent a bus and take them to watch the Weinstein trial. Just making the point that there were still wide swaths of the student population that reacted the same way they had with the Hernandez case—or the terrorism case I tried. They wanted to see how the court system worked in action.

More HERE  (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

Federal Judge Bans Graduation Prayers, Religious Songs
Jesus just got banned from a South Carolina school district.

Federal Judge Bruce Hendricks issued an order against the Greenville County School District banning school-sponsored prayers, religious songs, and the use of religious venues at public-school graduations.

“The district shall not include a prayer — whether referred to as a prayer, blessing, invocation, benediction, inspirational reading, or otherwise — as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony,” Judge Hendricks wrote. “The district also shall not include an obviously religious piece of music as part of the official program for a graduation ceremony.”

The order is the culmination of a six-year legal battle between the American Humanist Association and the school district.

“The school district subjected countless students to school-sponsored prayers on what should otherwise be a celebratory and inclusive occasion for all students, religious or not,” American Humanist Association executive director Roy Speckhardt said in a prepared statement.

I spent the past year researching the stealth attacks to eradicate Christianity from the public marketplace. My findings are published in my new book, Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing a Nation.

The court ruling in South Carolina is just the tip of the iceberg, folks.

Judge Hendricks also ordered school leaders to remove any references to prayer should they review a student’s prepared remarks.

If school officials do not review the student’s remarks, the judge said the student would be allowed to pray “provided that no other persons may be asked to participate or join in the prayer, for example, by being asked to stand or bow one’s head.”

“Moreover, in the event that a student’s remarks contain prayer, no school officials shall join in or otherwise participate in the prayer,” the judge ruled.

“We are thrilled that the court is finally putting an end to flagrant school-sponsored prayers and Christian hymns at public school graduation ceremonies,” said American Humanist Association attorney Monica Miller in a prepared statement. “This was a long fight for justice for students who do not wish to encounter government-sponsored religion at their own graduation ceremonies.”

The American Humanist Association and Judge Hendricks are culture jihadists — waging an unrelenting war to turn our cherished American traditions into a pile of rubble.

The idea that a school choir cannot perform “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” or that a child cannot invite people to pray is flat-out Christ-shaming.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Trigger warnings do more harm than good

A growing body of evidence says they are damaging to education and mental health.

The rise of trigger warnings was one of the first signs that things were going awry on university campuses in recent years. These warnings – placed on texts or materials deemed to be potentially upsetting to students, particularly those who have suffered some kind of trauma – were introduced with the best of intentions. But a growing body of evidence suggests they are counterproductive and bad for intellectual life.

In their Atlantic cover story in September 2015, constitutional lawyer Greg Lukianoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explained that trigger warnings are part of the growing tendency of students to demand censorship of words, ideas and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offence.

Lukianoff and Haidt warned that trigger warnings could ‘foster unhealthy mental habits’ in students by creating the impression that the discussion of certain topics is dangerous. They also explained that according to evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy, trauma sufferers should be carefully exposed to things that discomfort them, rather than discouraged from engaging with them.

Supporters of trigger warnings argue that they help students struggling with mental-health problems, such as PTSD, and prepare them to engage with, or choose to disengage from, challenging content. The University of Michigan, for example, claims trigger warnings provide the ‘forewarning necessary’ for students to make use of strategies to cope with challenging content.

In practice, many of the uses of trigger warnings have been laughable. At Rutgers University, students called for trigger warnings on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, to warn about the book’s ‘examination of suicidal tendencies’. At Columbia University, students called for Ovid’s Metamorphoses to have a trigger warning for ‘sexual assault’. At Cambridge University, trigger warnings have been used for Shakespeare. At La Trobe University in Australia, a students’ union policy motion decreed that trigger warnings should be used for body-image issues, eye contact, food and insects.

Several years have passed since these original debates first raged and, in the finest of academic tradition, trigger warnings have been put to rigorous testing. The findings are damning. Trigger warnings are not just useless — they are actively harmful.

Last year, Harvard University’s Benjamin Bellet, Payton Jones and Richard McNally published the findings of their first experiment on trigger warnings. From a randomly selected sample, they presented 133 participants with a trigger warning and 137 participants with no trigger warning prior to reading literary passages with potentially disturbing content. They found from a follow-up survey that those who received trigger warnings had an increased perception of ‘emotional vulnerability to trauma’.

A follow-up study released in preprint this month by the same researchers sought to test how people with mental-health issues react to trigger warnings. They used the same method as the previous study, but in this case for 451 trauma survivors. To begin with, they found no evidence that trigger warnings helped PTSD survivors, ‘even when survivors’ trauma matched the passages’ content’. They did find, however, that ‘trigger warnings counter-therapeutically reinforce survivors’ view of their trauma as central to their identity’. They conclude that ‘because trigger warnings are consistently unhelpful, there is no evidence-based reason to use them’.

In another study, academics Mevagh Sanson, Deryn Strange and Maryanne Garry undertook six experiments online and with college students and internet users in which participants were exposed to negative materials with and without warnings. They found, both among those who do and those who do not have a history of trauma that ‘trigger warnings had trivial effects’. Another study has similarly found that trigger warnings neither encourage negative reactions nor mitigate negative reactions.

In response to this new evidence, trigger-warning proponent and Slate writer Shannon Palus has now come out against trigger warnings. Sadly, however, trigger warnings became ingrained in many contexts long ago.

Putting aside the negative impact on mental health, trigger warnings have other pernicious consequences, particularly for intellectual freedom. Trigger warnings tell students how they are supposed to respond to certain material in advance, and they encourage disengagement from challenging material – which is the entire purpose of higher education. They fit into the broader ‘safety culture’ on campus, in which demands for censorship are framed around the emotional impact of hearing a disagreeable idea.

Proponents of trigger warnings typically claim that they in fact encourage engagement with difficult material, albeit in a more careful fashion. But not only can trigger warnings make students wary of engaging with certain subjects, they can also make academics wary of teaching certain subjects. Many academics have responded to calls for trigger warnings by simply avoiding teaching challenging content altogether. This undermines the whole purpose of universities.

Universities that continue to encourage the use of trigger warnings in the face of growing evidence about the damage they do are putting superstition before fact – and hurting their students and reputations in the process. Trigger warnings should be thrown into the dustbin of history.


Today’s Students Have Turned Their Backs on Civil Discourse

More than a half-century ago, Coretta Scott King addressed Harvard University students in the wake of the assassination of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr.

She said:

“Today’s student is a serious-minded, independent-thinking individual who seeks to analyze and understand the problems of our society, and find solutions to these problems, which are in keeping with the highest traditions and values of our democratic system.”

Students, according to King, were the future of a more thoughtful and equal society, and one of the most important tools at their disposal was the freedom of speech.

Yet, today it seems students have changed.

Finding solutions to the problems of society remains a dominant feature of modern universities, but many students have rejected the former spirit that valued solutions, as King noted, “in keeping with the highest traditions and values of our democratic system.”

In fact, instead of engaging in civil dialogue, students now express outrage at controversial speakers and demand the resignation of faculty members who refuse to conform to progressive creeds or do not immediately condone students’ threatening or pernicious actions.

Worse, often they do this with campus administrators in tow.

For instance, a left-leaning professor, Bret Weinstein, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, who objected to reverse segregation on campus (specifically, a day when white students and faculty were to remain off campus), was hunted by students in 2017 because of his objection.

Campus security, aware of the situation, recommended that he remain off campus, since they could not protect him as the college president had ordered security to “stand down.”

In 2017, Stanley Kurtz, writing at National Review, documented dozens of campus shout-downs across the nation. The presidents of Virginia Tech and the University of Oregon were among those shouted down.

After police removed protesters interrupting Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain’s speech at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, the university president immediately ended the event. He claimed that scheduling procedures weren’t followed, even though the dean of the law school had approved the event.

Some argue that such extreme situations result from a very small, but vocal, group of college students. Most students, instead, choose to remain silent, rather than risk their friendships and social capital—afraid they might appear “unwoke.”

The trend of student silence is especially evident from the guarded support Sahil Handa received after publicly critiquing the political tribalization among his fellow Harvard students.

Handa wrote that he “received well over a hundred notes from students thanking [him] for writing the article.”

But, he added, “not a single one was shared in public.”

The poignancy of the political atmosphere on college campuses is emphasized by a 2019 Knight Foundation study. It found that “[m]ore than two-thirds (68%) of college students say their campus climate precludes students from expressing their true opinions because their classmates might find it offensive.”

At the same time, the study found that more than half of students thought that “shouting down speakers or trying to prevent them from talking” was either “always” or “sometimes” appropriate.

Although most students condemned violence as a means to stop a speech or rally, 16% of respondents thought violent actions were acceptable either “always” or “sometimes.”

This general opposition to the free exchange of ideas is fundamentally opposed to an environment of open inquiry. Yale University’s Woodward Report outlines the university’s purpose as “[t]o discover and disseminate knowledge by means of research and teaching. To fulfill this function, a free interchange of ideas is necessary … .”

Accordingly, “the university must do everything possible to ensure within it the fullest degree of intellectual freedom,” it said.

Intimidation and fear impede intellectual freedom. Growing tribalism means that many students are reticent to engage their peers in real conversations.

This silent passivity allowed overzealous administrators and raucous students to limit the free exchange of ideas on campuses.

Some state policymakers, however, have refused to stand by idly as public universities began to confine free speech activity to narrow, often remote, strips of campus.

Jonathan Butcher from The Heritage Foundation noted that Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have already taken corrective measures by eliminating free speech zones in their public universities.

Arizona’s free speech protections, in particular, preserve the hallmarks of campus free speech since the “public areas of campus—such as sidewalks and campus lawns—are public forums and are open on the same terms to any speaker.”

Moreover, students who repeatedly infringe on others’ expression of free speech can face expulsion.

It’s unfortunate that policymakers must go to such great lengths to protect a basic tenet of a free society in public universities. But the most distressing element of the conflict is the pervasive silence among students who are unwilling to speak their minds.

Universities were places where students challenged each other, sometimes fiercely, and engaged in civil discourse.

Coretta Scott King envisioned the modern student as “a significant political actor with amazing power to influence the course of societies all over the world.” However, past students only earned her admiration because they were willing to engage their peers in civil discourse—exercising free speech.

To be worthy of her plaudits, today’s students must break their silence.


Attendance matters when it comes to student achievement

A new report from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) reinforces the strong correlation between school attendance and student achievement, and highlights the importance of forming good attendance habits early.

The release of the Attendance Matters Spotlight report is also a reminder of how crucial it is to ensure students feel welcome, safe and supported at school, and encouraged to attend.

The evidence summary indicates that the overall school attendance picture in Australia is good, with year 1-10 students attending, on average, 92% of available school days in Australia – a rate comparable to other countries with high performing education systems.

Nevertheless, there remain areas of concern including that 25% of Australian school students attend less than 90% of school days, and that school attendance decreases as remoteness increases. 

The report also identifies that there remains a notable difference in attendance rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and non-Indigenous students. In 2018, the overall national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander attendance rate was 82.3% compared to 92.5% for non-Indigenous students. This shows that there is still much more work to do to lift attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Highlighting that ‘every day counts’ when it comes to attendance, the report reinforces the negative correlation between absence from school and achievement, which is cumulative and can affect academic outcomes in future years of schooling.

Given the importance of early learning experiences on academic and social achievement, the report identifies school attendance should be prioritised in the formative years, and that strategies for addressing chronic absenteeism must take a holistic approach.

The report also highlights the important role families, schools, policy makers and the community have to play in the complex task of addressing student absenteeism and enabling students to reach their potential in the classroom.

AITSL CEO Mark Grant said while the issues contributing to absenteeism are complex and challenging, it is important that systems, sectors and jurisdictions across Australia continue working together to ensure schools are welcoming places that students want to attend.

“I’m proud to release this report to provide a summary of evidence the teaching profession and decision makers across the education sector can use to reflect on their approach to the critical issue of ensuring Australian school students attend and truly engage with their learning,” Mr Grant said.

“The findings reinforce that there remain particular challenges to address when it comes to attendance and that understanding the relationship between attendance and achievement can help teachers, school leaders, parents, and school communities promote positive attendance habits and tailor early and individualised interventions, to address problematic absenteeism and lift outcomes for students.

“Policies and responses at the school level will be most effective if they simultaneously target factors both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the school gates, showing that we all have a part to play when it comes to school attendance.

“While there are many complex issues at play when it comes to school attendance, we shouldn’t shy away from the challenges. Clearly it is crucially important to involve families and communities in purposeful, authentic and ethical ways to provide students with every opportunity to reach their potential.”

Medianet Press Release:

Monday, July 22, 2019

Students Shocked Over President Obama's 'White Nationalist' Statements About Illegal Immigration

While watching the Democrat media complex's coverage of the ongoing crisis at the southern border with Mexico, one is likely get the perception that the problem started under President Trump and the way he's handling it is unprecedented, racist and fueled by xenophobia.

But the truth is, this crisis started in 2014 when President Barack Obama ran the White House. At Townhall, we've been reporting on it for years. In 2014 we reported:

"It's just chain-link cells so we have aliens sleeping all over the floor and they told us to probably expect another thousand over the next week, week and a half," another Border Patrol agent tells Townhall. "We have these huge chain link cages, 20-feet tall with razor wire around them, this is inside a warehouse. They are probably 50 by 100 [feet] and there's probably 10 or 11 of these big cages like that and so there's probably 100-200 aliens in each cell, or cage and there's just park benches right down the middle, two rows of park benches and then they give them these little rubber mats, a little foam pad to lay on. We don't have enough blankets so they're issuing out those foil blankets, it's like a piece of tin foil and that's all they get. There are so many people crammed. The smell is just horrendous, horrendous."

Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips caught up with students to ask about President Obama's statements on the issue.

In 2014, Obama touted his administration's deportation policy in an immigration address from the White House.

"We are a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing on threats to our security," Obama said.

Phillips recently traveled to Georgetown University, where he read the quote to students, who quickly criticized it and assumed it came from Trump.

“I think that policy comes from a place of white American nationalism,” one student responded.

Another student blasted Trump for "embracing this rhetoric of racism and xenophobia that’s not beneficial to our country at all.”

When told the quote was actually from Obama, the students were surprised. One woman insisted that the way Trump is deporting criminal aliens is a practice of "white nationalism."

See here and here

The High Cost of ‘Free’ College Tuition

In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, we’ve heard several proposals offering free college tuition for all, and loan forgiveness for those still carrying debt.

While proponents call these proposals “investments in our future,” the reality is they would be a suffocating financial burden on every taxpayer, but especially on middle- and lower-income citizens.

There’s an inherent unfairness to forcing many working-class Americans who couldn’t afford to go to college themselves to pay off the loans of those who could.

Requiring a family making $50,000 a year to pay off the college debts of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and even some members of Congress who make $174,000 a year is unconscionable.

Moreover, how fair is it for those who did go to college and worked hard to pay off their loans to then be forced to pay off everyone else’s?

What would the American people be paying for with all this “investment”? As a former university dean, someone who has been involved in education policy for decades, and as a parent and grandparent, I’ve seen firsthand everything from the decline in educational quality to the toll of massive college debt on students and their families.

American colleges and universities are failing in one of their most basic missions: to equip students with the tools they need for a career. Many students graduate ill-prepared to earn a living and pay off the enormous debt they accumulated getting their degrees.

Forty percent of those who start college don’t even finish within six years.

Despite these systemic issues, colleges continue to raise tuition. Because federal loan money is handed out with little scrutiny as to the student’s ability to pay it back, colleges have had free rein to raise prices at rates often double the inflation rate.

Flush with all that money, their first spending priority often isn’t the classroom but the bureaucracy. From 1987 to 2012, America’s higher education system added more than half a million administrators, doubling the number of administrators relative to the number of faculty.

With federal loans accounting for much of the $1.6 trillion in outstanding student loan debt and more than a million people defaulting on their loans each year, taxpayers are already picking up much of the tab for this broken system.

“Free” college tuition would only make things worse, creating an inflationary spiral: As more taxpayer dollars were funneled to schools with even less discretion than exists today, schools would keep raising costs.

So, what’s a real solution to student debt?

Rather than throw more money at the problem, the surest way to stop the sharp rise in both college tuition and student debt would be to get the federal government out of the student loan business. That would cut off the open spigot of money that has allowed colleges to increase costs virtually without limit.

Restoring private lending would require both the lenders and the borrowers to be more responsible with loan amounts and would cause colleges to rein in costs to create more affordable choices for students.

Private lending would also limit taxpayers’ exposure to billions of dollars in loan defaults.

One emerging lending solution is income share agreements, where students obtain financing through the schools themselves and pay it back based on a fixed percentage of their income after graduation. That means when their income is lower, their monthly loan payments are, too. As their income grows, their payments go up proportionally.

Income share agreements aren’t a blanket solution for every student, but they are one new innovation. They allow students to see—before they take on debt or choose a major—what types of careers will allow them to pay off their loans quicker and what kind of future they are investing in for themselves.

They also incentivize colleges to ensure their students graduate and enter careers that enable them to pay off their debt.

Cost-saving and more transparent solutions like these can be a win for both students and taxpayers. Moreover, getting the government out of the student loan business, rather than deeper into it, would also eliminate much of the politics in higher education.

Wouldn’t that be a good thing for everyone?


Australia: Evidence will provide education solutions

It is the duty of the State to educate, and the right of the people to demand education (Edmund Barton, Prime Minister of Australia 1901-1903)

Australia’s first Prime Minister, the Honourable Edmund Barton, was an outstanding scholar, dux of Sydney Grammar School and a prize-winning graduate in classics at the University of Sydney. A passionate advocate of Federation, he told audiences that ‘For the first time in history, we have a nation for a continent and a continent for a nation.’ Barton supported the provision of free, compulsory education and believed that schooling should be ‘unsectarian’.

How might he view the state of education in the 21st century?

On the basis of official reports and public commentary, Barton might well observe that Australia’s youngest citizens could be better served. Surely he would marvel at the very low level of public confidence in education, relative to the extraordinarily high levels of taxpayer funding.

Today’s educational deficits are due to the absence of genuine national commitment and collaboration as well as the ongoing adoption of fads and trends in the hope of quick fixes.

A clever Australia — to channel the late former Prime Minister Bob Hawke — needs powerful nation-building philosophies and strategies. This is particularly true of education, a public good that transforms lives and societies like no other and whose success depends on the intellectual credibility and humanitarian aspirations of its champions.

Evidence of a national loss of confidence in education comes from those who defend Australia’s annual program of standardised tests for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. However flawed NAPLAN may be, they argue, it must be retained because it constitutes the only objective mechanism for measuring student performance, monitoring teacher effectiveness and providing data to parents and schools.

Given the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on school education every year, it should be easy to point to steady improvements resulting from careful investment. While there are wonderful examples of achievement and innovation around Australia, the findings are largely negative, with descriptions such as ‘stagnant’, ‘declining’, ‘lacking in rigour’ and ‘inequitable’ appearing all too often.

Not only are Australian students underperforming in the national tests of literacy and numeracy, international assessments such as PISA reveal that our secondary school students are increasingly less academically competitive with their international counterparts. Employers and tertiary institutions are concerned about the poor knowledge and skills of school leavers, too many of whom need remedial support. Teacher morale is low, reflected in part by the continued high attrition rate of early-career educators.

Many factors contribute to a respected, high-performing system of education. Some, such as student motivation, parental involvement and socio-cultural understanding and support, are more external and can be hard to gauge and grow. Others are the business of school leaders and teachers, education authorities and professional bodies, such as setting consistently high academic standards and expectations of classroom behaviour and school culture, delivering high-quality instruction, designing useful, robust assessment tasks and reporting honestly and effectively on student performance.

Under Australia’s federal model of government, the states and territories carry constitutional responsibility for the education of all children. However, in recent decades, concerns about the direction and quality of schooling have brought changes in the national education infrastructure.
National collaboration was identified as one of the key strategies for achieving the educational goals articulated in the Melbourne Declaration; the ‘roadmap’ signed by all federal and state education ministers in 2008.

In addition to a national school funding model, Australia now has a national curriculum (the Australian Curriculum, completed in 2016), a national program of standardised testing (dominated by NAPLAN) and a national reporting instrument (My School), the last three managed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Another national body, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), is responsible for the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and Principals.

The limitations of federation are clear, however. For example, only five of the eight states and territories have adopted the Australian Curriculum in its original form, and even that applies only to students in Kindergarten to Year 10. The policies and practices applicable to students in Years 11 and 12 vary significantly across the country; there are no agreed national academic standards for school leavers and there is minimal alignment of approaches across primary and secondary levels, including teaching, assessment and reporting. It can be very difficult for students, parents, teachers and other stakeholders to grasp what success looks like at the various stages of Australian schooling.

Duplication of effort is a waste of time and money. A useful first step would be to undertake an independent, comprehensive national information audit – likely the first of its kind –to ascertain the nature, extent and effectiveness of expenditure, collaboration and innovation in Australian school education. This would provide a unique platform on which to identify successes as well as overlap, blockages and deficits. Most importantly, it would demonstrate cross-sectoral commitment to national goals.

This great country, with its small, dispersed population and limited taxpayer base, has its work cut out to design and deliver the best possible education for all young Australians. A common sense, evidence-based approach will provide the solutions to most challenges — and this should not cost the earth.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Cambridge University in spotlight as rape and sexual assault reports by students rise tenfold

They encourage reporting and wonder why they get more reports.  The obvious question is how many of these complaints are reality based.  As only a tiny minority were formal, it seems highly likely that the real incidence of sexual harassment was very low.  England is notorious for false rape alegations

Rape and sexual assault reports from university students have risen tenfold with Cambridge University seeing some of the highest number of complaints in the country, an investigation has revealed.

The “black-out drinking” culture is partly to blame, victims have warned as they reveal that they have been let down by a lack of systems in place to investigate and suspend alleged attackers.

The number of allegations made to universities per year rose from 65 in 2014 to 626 in 2018, Freedom of Information requests by Channel 4 News show.

It is feared that this could be the “tip of the iceberg” as campaigners warn that universities are not equipped to with the flood of complaints and risk leaving a “generation betrayed”.

Among those who says they have been let down by the system is a Cambridge student who says that her college tipped off her alleged attacker when she grew frustrated at their response and called the police.

The Crown Prosecution service and the police actively encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, despite the fact that prosecution rates are falling.

Allegations involving alcohol, which is often the case in reports of attacks on campus, are notoriously difficult to prove and are among the more difficult cases being dropped by prosecutors, charities have warned.

The figures show that the University of East Anglia had the highest number of reports – at 281 since 2014 – whilst Cambridge, which only  provided figures for the last three years, received 165 and the University of Birmingham recorded 87.

Each university stressed that the number of reports included historic allegations, many of which may have occurred off campus and did not reflect the number of incidents at the universities themselves.

The universities with the highest number of reports said that this was a “positive indicator” and reflected the fact they had improved awareness, reporting techniques and support for students.

Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for Rape Crisis, said that the figures mirror increases in reports to police and the charity’s crisis centres, though the number of victims who come forward remains low at around 17 per cent.

She said that many universities are taking positive steps in dealing with sexual misconduct but they need to “take responsibility and adopt zero tolerance approach to any kind of sexist or abusive behaviour”.

Dr Emma Chapman, member of the 1752 Group which campaigns against sexual misconduct in higher education, added that encouraging reports is not enough and universities are not putting the required resources into supporting alleged victims after they have made a complaint.

“I have seen nothing which has increased my faith in universities to deal with the people coming forward,” Dr Chapman said.

“I am really pleased that more people feel able to report but I hope that trust is not misplaced or we could leave a whole generation feeling betrayed - and what would that mean for the next generation watching?”

A Birmingham University student who alleges she was drugged and raped on a night out is among those who believe that free alcohol and the culture of getting “black-out drunk” in fresher’s week is contributing to the issues.

A woman who made rape allegations to Cambridge said that she was “shocked” when she was referred to numbers in the fresher’s book.

When she did call the police the college warned the accused, she claims. He was detained but the case was dropped before trial.

Cambridge, which has previously admitted that it has a “significant problem” with sexual misconduct, said that cases such as this were “exactly” why they had pushed for change. 

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Graham Virgo said that they have made a number of big changes since the woman made her allegations, including an anonymous reporting tool and a campaign to raise awareness.

He said: “I know from listening to students that no matter how well an investigation is handled it can be an extremely difficult experience. We are doing everything we can to make sure students feel supported.

“Sexual harassment is an issue for all universities, and for society – 1 in 4 UK women between the ages of 16 and 24 are subjected to some form of sexual violence.  It is one of the most underreported crimes as a result of stigma and victim blaming attached to it. We have to continue to address this and we will.”

Not all complaints were formal and many were recorded anonymously. Birmingham, for example, said that they had only received 14 formal reports in the last five years whilst Cambridge said that of their reports only 12 were formal.


Inflated Egos Require Inflated Grades

Studies show that the average grade has gone from a C to an A, not because of merit.  

“When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.” —English dramatist Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, half of the Gilbert and Sullivan team that produced 14 comic operas

If Mr. Gilbert were alive today, he’d realize how prescient he truly was. In Britain, a new analysis published by the Office for Students (OfS) reveals that the number of students receiving top grades in their major courses of study is soaring. Between school years 2010-11 and 2017-18, the proportion of first-class honor degrees has increased from 16% to 29%. “In total, 94 per cent of the 148 universities and other higher education providers included in the analysis demonstrated a statistically significant unexplained increase in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded in 2017-18 compared to 2010-11,” the report states.

It’s no different here in America. A 2016 study, representing the first major update of a grade-inflation database in seven years, revealed that a staggering 42% of four-year college grades are A’s, and 77% are either A’s or B’s. This hyperinflation is the result of awarded A grades increasing at a rate of five to six percentage points per decade. As a result, A grades are now three times more common than they were in 1960.

“Back then, a C was the grade college students received most frequently,” explained college lecturer Vikram Mansharamani. “Later in the decade, the B took its place. Professors boosted students’ grades in part because if the students did too poorly, they could be shipped off to the war in Vietnam. The B reigned supreme until the 1990s, when the A claimed the crown. It’s been strengthening its lead ever since.”

British Education Secretary Damian Hinds stated the obvious with regard to the increases in his country. “It cannot be right that some students are awarded higher grades for the same level of achievement than those from previous years,” he declared. “We owe it to the hardworking students and institutions who play by the rules to stamp out this unfair practice.”

Who’s kidding whom? On both sides of the Atlantic, college tuition has skyrocketed, and students and their parents seemingly view higher grades as a better “bang for the buck,” regardless of whether or not such grades are truly merited. Moreover, when Princeton University tried to limit A’s to 35% of course grades, they ultimately abandoned the 10-year effort — because, according to Quartz, it created “a negative campus atmosphere” impacting applications to the school, and precipitated “unnecessary stress for students.”

When did a stress-free existence become the norm rather than the exception? When concern about a child’s self-esteem became a full-blown obsession among educators, therapists, and “helicopter” parents. Educators, therapists, and parents who nonetheless managed to flip the entire relationship between self-worth and accomplishment on its head, asserting countless times that one built self-esteem in order to educate, rather than educating to build self-esteem.

In short, everyone began getting a trophy just for showing up.

Unfortunately, this wholesale insulation from the vicissitudes of life is reaching metastatic proportions. On Monday, columnist Stephen Green revealed that a Millennial writer going over edits to her piece with her editor had a meltdown because the editor insisted that she spell the word “hamster” correctly — as in without a “p.” Not only did this triggered Millennial insist she could spell the word as she pleased, she texted her mother, who immediately called her back. When the mother was put on speakerphone, she not only defended her daughter’s misspelling, she suggested her daughter should file a complaint against the editor for not allowing her to be “creative.”

With regard to college, Mansharamani notes the seemingly irreversible trend apparent here. “Whether we want it or not, we’re effectively barreling towards a world without grades,” he asserts.

Not just without grades. Without anything resembling objective standards and meritocracy. A world where “hampster” will be accepted, lest someone’s feelings get hurt — or worse, because someone can actually file a successful grievance in the workplace for the same reason.

Too fantastic? Not when the “ego preservation at all costs” mindset is nurtured long before college becomes part of the equation. As the New York Post reports, 94% of students in grades 6-8 passed their math classes in the 2017-18 school year at the Bronx’s Science School for Exploration and Discovery, and 100% of the students at Harbor Heights middle school in Washington Heights passed their state English Language Arts classes. Yet when those same students took state tests, only 2% of the Mott Haven students passed the state math exams, and only 7% of the Washington Heights kids passed the ELA exams.

NYC’s Department of Education was unconcerned. “It’s apples and oranges to compare students’ classroom grades over the course of a full school year with their performance on a two-day state exam,” said DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson.

No, what’s “apples and oranges” is the divergence of interests between students and their parents, and the Democrat/Education Union Complex. “It doesn’t serve students and parents well to think that the kids are performing at grade level if they’re not,” insists David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center education professor.

No doubt. But it certainly serves the interests of unions, whose sole reason for existence is to promote and protect the rights of its members. Such machinations also serve feckless politicians who can point to blatantly fraudulent graduation rate increases as evidence of their “success.”

“When you meet a dog who flinches from being petted, you can be pretty sure they’re abused at home,” Green states in reference to the snowflake scribe. “When you run across an adult-aged human who can’t take constructive criticism, you can be pretty sure they never got any from their parents, or maybe even not from their teachers. But the saddest part of this tale is that no one ever loved this young woman enough to provide her the guidance and discipline everyone needs to cope in the real world.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps, much like the elimination of shame, guidance and discipline will also be extinguished in an orgy of intersectionalist-inspired, self-serving emotionalism, where the only job “qualification” that matters will bear a striking resemblance to the “adversity score” included on the SAT test used for college admissions. Perhaps it’s the real world that will be making the adjustments to a Millennial Generation that considers itself the most stressed generation that ever lived. Perhaps there is no going back to a time and place where fortitude was more revered than self-pity.

And perhaps if Mr. Gilbert were alive today he’d issue the only warning that really matters to millions of Americans who can’t see where such “wokeness” ultimately leads:

When everyone’s a victim, then no one is.


Half of Australian schoolkids can't name where bananas, bread and cheese come from - as Scott Morrison blames militant vegans for making students believe farming is wrong

And Australia is a major primary producing nation

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is baffled as to why almost half of Australian primary schoolkids can't name where bananas, bread and cheese come from - and think cotton comes from animals.

The father of two young daughters expressed his concern about Australia's potential future leaders to farmers at Dubbo, in the New South Wales central west.

Quoting an Australian Council for Educational Research study, he was perplexed as to why '75 per cent of grade six students believed cotton socks came from an animal and 45 per cent believed bananas, bread and cheese didn't come from farming'.

Mr Morrison suggested militant vegan activists were possibly to blame for 40 per cent of year 10 students believing farming was bad for the environment.

'Any wonder that we've now got activists storming farms,' he told the Daily Telegraph Bush Summit on Thursday.

'We have to bridge this divide and connect Australians once again with what's happening in our rural and regional communities and ensure there is an appropriate balance in what our kids are being taught in our schools and in our communities.'

Following a spate of farm invasions by animal rights activists, the Prime Minister has promised to tackle agricultural trespassing during the next sitting of Parliament.

'That legislation we'll deal with in the next fortnight,' Mr Morrison told Sydney radio 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones on Friday.

Mr Morrison also declared this week that 'our farmers are Australia's best environmentalists'.

Taxpayers from next year will be stumping up $10 million to fund city kid visits to farms.

'So that kids can understand what happens on farms, how things grow, and how that changes and supports their livelihoods and their daily lives,' Mr Morrison said.