Friday, August 02, 2019

NZ 6yo killed by truck shouldn’t have been walking alone, coroner says

Comment below this excerpt

A six-year-old girl killed by a truck outside her Gisborne home shouldn’t have been walking to school without an adult, a coroner has ruled.

Carla Neems was killed by a recycling truck outside her family’s Russell St home, as she arrived home from school on her scooter about 3pm on May 2, 2017.

Coroner Tim Scott ruled that Carla should have been accompanied by an adult on her journey home, inquest findings released today say.

Instead, Carla had two older sisters — aged 8 and 10 — and regularly travelled to and from school with them, the New Zealand Heraldreported.

However, on the day of her death she walked home with two other young children, and part of the way on her own, the report stated.

“Carla was not accompanied home from school by a responsible older person, preferably an adult and she should have been,” Coroner Scott said.


When I was a kid, about the time of Noah's ark, all kids seemed to walk to school barefoot and unaccompanied.  I certainly did from Grade 1 on.  It was probably about a mile and I did cross a main road.  I reproduce below a story from a correspondent which closely echoes my experience:

"When six years old and from my second day at school in grade prep, I walked a mile to school and a mile home, and crossed several roads along the way.

I remember my mother and father walking me to the school before I started, pointing out the route and the noticeable landmarks along the way, like particular coloured letter boxes, fences, trees and a phone box, telling me which side of the road to walk on, to refuse any lift and run away if approached, and drilling me in properly crossing the roads only when no car was in sight, until I had it right.

I was a latch-key kid. Mum and Dad went off to work early in the morning and on the way took my two years younger sister Sarah to a local lady who looked after the neighbourhood kids.

From day two in school, in the morning I waited until the clock hands were in a certain shape (8.30am) then left home, locking the door and setting off for school, step by step as it had been drilled into me, and noticing all the landmarks along the way. I arrived home at 4pm and waited until the clock hands were straight up and down (6pm) when mum and dad would arrive home when the big hand had moved a little past the top.

When my sister Sarah started school I was only in grade two and we walked side by side to school, and held hands as we crossed the road, exactly as I was instructed to.

As I recall, the other children walked or rode their bikes or scooters to school too. I remember a stream of children walking out from school and along the streets towards their homes.

So I don't entirely agree with the Coroner. I think the little girl and her older sisters should have been drilled on exactly how to walk to school. As horrible as they are, though, accidents do occur, despite parents training their children well. Children do thoughtless things, and motorists may not see them. Parents at best can only reduce the chances of that happening."

There is an extensive coverage of the issues involved here

The Growth in Tuition Insurance
People buy insurance seeking protection from unanticipated events posing significant financial hardships. Most homeowners insure against their house being destroyed by fire or other natural calamities, and also against unanticipated illnesses or accidents requiring expensive medical treatment. An owner of a car worth, say, $15,000 or $20,000 usually has auto insurance providing protection from theft or destruction from an accident. Yet until fairly recently, most persons going to college did not even consider purchasing tuition insurance, even though a semester of fees (including room and board) at some schools costs far more than the value of a typical car. As college expenses become bigger, the case for purchasing insurance has grown.

With that in mind, a few days ago I chatted with Paul Richardson, an executive at a major national insurance company, Liberty Mutual, which entered into the tuition insurance business just a couple of years ago, motivated by increasing numbers of holders of other policies (e.g, auto or homeowners) inquiring about its availability. Mr. Richardson tells me a small number of companies sell their product directly to consumers, while others make arrangements with colleges to offer protection through the school.

What does tuition insurance protect the policyholder against? Mainly, dropping out of school in mid-semester owing to some totally unexpected circumstance, most prominently a health issue involving the student, or, in some cases, a parent providing substantial financial support. Most schools themselves provide modest protection; a student dropping out after only a few days at the beginning of the semester, for example, usually can get nearly a full tuition refund. While policies vary considerably from school to school, at most of them a student dropping out in the middle of the term, say, after seven or eight weeks, will get relatively little, maybe nothing, in refunds from the institution.

The risk to a typical healthy young person of unanticipated health issues is pretty small, and for affluent students who are not very risk averse, the cost of the insurance (perhaps around one percent of the tuition and fees) may not be worth it. But insurance is a way of providing some piece of mind as a significant amount of money is at risk.

I suppose disputes could arise. A student might get tired of school and want to run off with a friend on some adventure, for example, and claim that he/she is suffering from anxiety or depression or some mental health-related issue, requiring the insurance company to have the student examined medically. Or, the student is floundering academically and wants to cut his/her losses, so feigns an illness. But disputes of this sort are routine any time big amounts of money are involved, and insurance companies deal with them routinely, such as with damages to a home.

When tuition insurance was brought to my attention, I immediately thought of the multitude of unintended consequences the federal student financial assistance programs have had. The government makes low-interest loans available on terms no private lender would consider, enhancing the demand for colleges, which respond by vigorously raising their tuition fees. College financing becomes a much bigger issue in the lives of Americans, and that, in turn, spawns secondary impacts, such as the rise of tuition insurance.

There are other risks associated with attending college, most notably the possibility of dropping out—about 40% of students fail to graduate in six years. The financial consequences of this are potentially nearly devastating—no degree and perhaps $50,000 in college loan debts. In recognition of this, new forms of financing college are evolving, notably income share agreements, which shift most of the financial risk of college attendance from the student borrower to a professional investor who hopes to profit from the student’s postgraduate earnings. This is an idea whose time has come, and its use is growing.

Will the tuition insurance business grow and become a standard expenditure made with respect to college? Possibly. It appeals to the risk-averse and those attending more expensive schools—probably fewer insure over lost tuition fees at low-cost community colleges. Insurance companies, however, must face one reality: college enrollments are actually in decline and the pool of 18- to 22-year-olds will probably be smaller in 15 years than it is today.


3 Improvements to Career and Technical Education Funding

Just this month, the Department of Education updated a key funding program for career and technical education (CTE)—Perkins V. But while Perkins offers new opportunities for innovation and student success, educators should also consider the value of launching CTE without Perkins’ support.

Thirteen-year-old Layla is one of 11 million students studying science, technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and more through CTE programs.

“If all goes as planned,” Layla’s father Gregory Seaton wrote, “Layla will graduate from high school with a certification as a laboratory technician and some college credit from dual-enrollment courses as well as her high school diploma. When she graduates, Layla will immediately be able to earn about $40,000 a year as a lab technician.”

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, or Perkins V, provides $1.3 billion to support CTE programs like Layla’s. The program also takes three key steps to fuel CTE innovation and position CTE to fill jobs:

1. Expands Flexibility in CTE Spending

For years, CTE innovation took a back seat to Department of Education spending priorities. Under Perkins IV for example, grant recipients had to fund nine federally-approved projects. And remaining funds had to go to one or more of 17 federally-approved CTE projects, leaving little room for alternative thinking.

Perkins V offers CTE innovators more flexibility. The program requires that grantees fund only 5 federally-approved projects and allows grantees to invest remaining funds in one or more of 25 possible CTE options, including an option for “other activities that improve career and technical education programs”— a near catch-all that applicants can use to direct funding to a greater breadth of CTE projects.

By cutting back on spending requirements and expanding funding opportunities, Perkins V gives grantees greater freedom to shape innovative programs that provide the most opportunity for students.

2. Calls for Industry Involvement

One challenge CTE programs face is a severe misalignment with industry needs. A 2019 study from the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Burning Glass Technologies, for example, found that half of the states it studied are not collecting the information they need to know regarding whether or not their CTE programs are aligned with market demands. Worse yet, no state was highly aligned in terms of high school credentials earned and the demand for those credentials in the job market.

Perkins V addresses these challenges by requiring that applicants assess whether CTE programs meet labor market demands, consult with business and industry representatives, and spend grant funds to meet the needs identified in the assessment.

3. Reduces Government Oversight

Previous Perkins laws have also required significant federal oversight of in-state CTE development. Perkins IV, for example, mandates that states negotiate with the Department of Education to set CTE performance standards.

According to a study by RTI International, a significant minority (15-23 states depending on the year and education level), reported having somewhat to very difficult negotiation experiences.

“It’s not really clear what methodology the Department of Education is [using to select] a target,” one CTE administrator shared,  “If it was more transparent [and] . . . we knew what their goal was, we. . . could figure out what to do....”

Other administrators said the negotiation process left them little room to include the measures of success that were important to them.

“There are only two colleges in the state that negotiated. . .” one negotiator said, “we got the pretty clear message that there wasn’t much room [for negotiation].”

Perkins V takes first steps toward reducing these frustrations by limiting federal involvement. Although Perkins V still requires that the Department of Education approve CTE performance standards, it allows states to develop those standards themselves, thus empowering an entity closer to the students and programs to establish measures of success that make sense for them.

While grantees benefit from these updates to the Perkins program, they need not depend on Perkins support to make CTE possible. Despite its improvements, Perkins still limits CTE design and function and funnels resources to federal priorities over what may be best for local families.

Meanwhile, study after study suggests that CTE improves high school graduation rates, and better equips students, and especially minority students, to earn post-secondary credentials, jobs, and high wages.

“As an African American, first-generation college graduate,” Seaton wrote, “I have slowly come to recognize the competitive advantage that a lab tech CTE program will provide my daughter. I had my reservations, based on the history of African Americans and vocational education, but could not argue with the outcomes or options.”

If schools are serious about investing in the future of their students, they should consider Seaton’s example and CTE’s return on investment and consider budgeting for CTE themselves.


Thursday, August 01, 2019

Civil Rights Panel Wants to Bring Back Obama’s Race-Based School Discipline Policies. Bad Idea.

Washington late last year reversed a policy that was micromanaging the way teachers and principals kept order in classrooms. Now, a federal commission wants to limit local educators’ control again.

In December, the U.S. Department of Education and the Justice Department rescinded federal directives that said Washington would investigate schools based on the number of times teachers and principals suspended or expelled minority students—even if the offending students had committed violence. A school could have lost federal funding as a result.

The rules came from a 2014 Obama administration letter sent to districts around the country instructing educators to limit such punishments, even if a student was a danger to his or her peers.

This 2014 letter mirrored the ideas from Broward County, Florida, where the school district limited suspensions and expulsions—and created a bureaucratic mess.

The accused February 2018 shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School slipped through the school district’s discipline program. In middle school, educators referred the accused shooter to Broward County’s program, a set of interventions designed to “reduce student arrests.” But the district admitted last May that administrators have no record of what, if anything, was completed.

Following the tragic deaths of 17 students, faculty, and staff and the wounding of 17 others at the Parkland, Florida, school, Broward school officials have faced scrutiny for their handling of the shooting. Then-Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and several deputies were fired in connection with the disaster.

Over the years, as other district administrators followed federal guidance and limited student discipline, teachers reported feeling less safe in school and increased levels of harmful student behavior, as reported by the Manhattan Institute.

Studies from Florida and Philadelphia have found that leaving disruptive students in the classroom is related to negative academic outcomes for the peers of the offending students.

But in 2018, after the Broward County tragedy, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos led the Federal Commission on School Safety, which conducted hearings around the country seeking input from educators. The commission released a report containing best practices from local schools on safety, mental health, and student discipline.

The final report also called for the rescission of the 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter, and the departments of Education and Justice followed the recommendation.

The Federal Commission on School Safety explained its recommendation in the final report:

The [2014 Obama administration] Guidance sent the unfortunate message that the federal government, rather than teachers and local administrators, best handles school discipline.

As a result, fearful of potential investigations, some school districts may have driven their discipline policies and practices more by numbers than by teacher input.

In a report released Tuesday, however, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced it had voted in favor of federal monitoring of school suspensions and expulsions, and criticized the use of exclusionary discipline.

The commission praised the 2014 guidance, saying the “Dear Colleague” letter “provided schools with important information about what the law is and how to address school discipline problems in a nondiscriminatory way.”

The Civil Rights Commission claims the guidance was just “detailed information about what the law is,” but the 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter sounded like Washington was looking for reasons to investigate.

The letter said schools should use “exclusionary discipline as a last resort” and contained an appendix with specific methods of data collection related to student discipline, restorative justice practices, and collaboration with law enforcement.

The commission’s recommendations would take a school’s focus off of school safety and student success in exchange for counting how many students of a particular race are disciplined, even if the students did something to warrant suspension.

The civil rights panel’s recommendations also suggest that federal agents should be more involved in local decision-making, taking authority away from parents, teachers, and school principals.

Parents and teachers know that all children are different and that situations involving punishment must be handled differently, specific to the circumstances.

In her dissent from the Civil Rights Commission’s recommendations, commission member Gail Heriot said that in schools with majority-minority student enrollment, “if teachers fail to keep order in those classrooms out of fear that they will be accused of racism, it is these minority students who will suffer the most.”

No children should be disciplined just because of the color of their skin. But the commission’s deference to the Obama administration’s heavy-handed letter favors bureaucrats over you and your child’s teachers.

DeVos and federal officials made the right decision last December in rescinding the Obama-era guidance. Parents and teachers, not federal bureaucrats, should make decisions about student safety.


Is a College Degree Necessary? A Tale of Three Students

Richard Vedder 
Permit me some reflection based on a 54 year lifetime of teaching maybe 12,000 students, mostly at Ohio University. The question du jour: does a college degree really prepare students to achieve lifetime vocational success and happiness? Let’s look at three former students to perhaps gain some insight into that question.

Sam Chamberlain is at the pinnacle of success in his career as chief operating officer at Five Guys, burger specialists supreme. Graduating with an economics degree in the early 1990s, Sam was a good but not spectacular student, but one showing leadership outside the classroom through his fraternity and in track and cross country. His work in economic history with me arguably made near zero practical contribution to his later success.

College, however, helped Sam learn leadership and communication skills, and his economics training gave him some valuable understanding of the business milieu, but he very likely could have developed most of those skills making his vocational life successful without a college degree. College was a screening device helping get him to get the critical first job and that, along with networking, propelled him forward. When we reconnected years later we bonded instantly, reflecting Sam’s magnetic nice guy personality more than the recognition of skills derived while in school.

Matthew Denhart is in his early thirties and similarly majored in economics. Matt was a superb student also with leadership qualities; he spoke at his college commencement. He is kind, thoughtful, friendly, fun, hardworking and exudes integrity. I hired him to work for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity after graduation, and later helped him land a job with a friend, journalist and writer Amity Shlaes, which, in turn, led ultimately to his becoming the president of the Calvin Coolidge Foundation and being named by Forbes to its 30 under 30 list of outstanding young Americans.

Yet very little of what Matt learned in his courses in college had any direct application to his career. He learned the really critical keys to success from his parents—the importance of hard work, discipline, faith (regular church attendance), honesty, kindness and friendship. Hopefully, working for me he learned a few things (e.g., using time wisely, dealing with difficult people, writing clear sentences, etc.), but Matt’s college teachers truly were ancillary to his vocational success. One thing college did: he found his wife Andrea there, and she has given him a daughter as well. There’s more to life than work.

Jacob Salter graduated in May with a degree in civil engineering and has just started his first real job, which he loves, in the Detroit area. In Jacob’s case, college training was critical to his success. He learned many technical concepts allowing him, for example, to build bridges or assess the efficacy of different building materials used in constructing buildings or roads. Jacob, like probably a minority of students, can say that his college training was critical to achieving a satisfactory vocational outcome. But like many students, Jacob owes much of his early success to his family, who imbued in him the need for discipline and faith in life (I met Jacob at church, not class).

In many cases, the residential nature of college is key to most of the collegiate contribution to student success—interactions with other students and faculty, partying, sports, etc. Away from home, students are forced to grow up a bit faster. They get good lessons in social interaction and communication -the key to vocational success. Students getting online degrees miss that as do, to some extent, students living at home and commuting to campus.

Bryan Caplan and others are right: college is largely a signaling/screening device; college degrees help employers narrow their search for productive workers dramatically. Sam and Matt are examples of that, while Jacob did learn useful job skills.

There are other ways, such as having a National College Equivalence Test, that could help evaluate the smarts and human capital of young people and do much-needed screening—at a vastly lower cost. However, and here Harvard and other elite schools may have a point with their “holistic” admissions procedures, the not strictly academic dimensions of colleges help prepare students for meaningful adult lives—albeit at a huge cost.


Lack of Funding Is Not What Ails American Schools

Money matters, but not if it’s simply tossed into a dysfunctional district.

Last month, researchers from Johns Hopkins University published a heartbreaking study describing the conditions of public schools in Providence, R.I. The report contained a laundry list of problems that plague America’s public schools, such as the inability to fire bad teachers and discipline unruly students, and the need for massive reams of bureaucratic paperwork to get anything done at all.

Here’s what wasn’t a problem: lack of funding. Providence spends $17,192 per pupil every year.

But to hear progressive politicians and advocates tell of it, insufficient spending is the only problem with public education. For example, in his “Thurgood Marshall Plan,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders declared that schools have seen “savage” budget cuts, teachers are paid “starvation wages,” and schoolhouses are “crumbling.”

This could not be further from the truth. The fact is that America spends more on education than any other major developed nation. In 2015, the latest year for which Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data is available, the United States spent a combined $12,800 on primary and secondary education, significantly higher than Germany ($11,100), France ($10,000), Italy ($9,100), and Spain ($8,300).

American education spending has risen steadily and dramatically for decades, nearly tripling from 1966 to 2016 after adjusting for inflation. Although education spending took a hit during the Great Recession, it has been climbing steadily over the past five years and is at an all-time high in most states.

Despite the substantial increase in spending, there are still some schools – like those described in the Providence report – that are in rough physical shape. But they are the exception, not the rule. Even among schools serving a high share of students in poverty, only 4 percent are rated to be in poor shape. What’s more, contrary to stories of overcrowded classrooms, schools have been getting ever more spacious. Between 1995 and 2014, space increased by 30 square feet per high-school student (a 20 percent increase), 45 square feet per middle-school student (35 percent), and 80 square feet per elementary-school student (74 percent).

And although teachers in some states have ample cause to be unhappy about their paychecks, teachers are not – by and large – underpaid. Democratic presidential candidates such as Kamala Harris have touted a report from the Economic Policy Institute claiming that teachers are “underpaid” by 21 percent. But Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine have noted that by the same methodology, which considers educational attainment but ignores supply and demand, aerospace engineers are “overpaid” by 38 percent and telemarketers are “underpaid” by 25 percent.

A better way to assess the question of teacher pay, they suggest, would be to look at how individual compensation changes when professionals switch between teaching and the private sector; they find that transferring from the private sector into teaching is associated with an 8 percent salary increase, while leaving teaching for the private sector is associated with a 3 percent salary decrease.

However, teachers have a legitimate gripe that ever-expanding taxpayer largesse has not made its way proportionally into their paychecks. Professor Ben Scafidi has noted the rise in non-teaching staff, and calculated that if the share of non-teachers to students had stayed constant from 1992 to 2014, the money saved could have provided every American teacher with an additional $11,128 in compensation.

School-spending advocates also peddle the narrative that public-school financing is regressive. For example, former vice president Joe Biden has pointed to a report by EdBuild claiming that there is a $23 billion gap between school districts that serve predominantly white students and districts that serve predominantly minority students. But that study excludes the nearly $60 billion spent on American schools by the federal government, much of which goes to districts serving high concentrations of low-income students (which are disproportionately minority).

According to a 2008 Tax Policy Center study, per-pupil spending has effectively been equalized by race within states. And according to a 2017 Urban Institute study, states spend approximately the same on poor and non-poor students. There is substantial variation in spending across states, but these differences are not correlated with differences in student achievement.

That’s not to say that money doesn’t matter at all in education. Indeed, recent, rigorous studies have overturned the conventional wisdom that increasing spending makes no difference. But as the Providence report shows us, a great deal of money can amount to very little if it’s simply tossed into a dysfunctional district.

Politicians are taking the easy way out by speaking only of spending. For the sake of America’s students, it’s time to turn our attention to devising policy solutions, not further cash infusions, to address the problems plaguing public education.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

UNC-Chapel Hill: A Sanctuary Campus for Antifa on the Taxpayer’s Dime

The continued employment of an unhinged, violent anarchist as a lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says a whole lot about the university system’s standards when deciding who should influence the next generation. That is, such standards are non-existent—at best.

Dwayne Dixon, who this fall will be teaching ASIA 150, a large-lecture introductory course, is a member of an organization known as the Redneck Revolt that promotes violence as a political means. Dixon has twice been arrested at local events: Once in Durham for bringing a gun to a protest and once in Chapel Hill for assaulting a conservative reporter. Dixon bragged on Facebook about confronting James Fields with an AR-15 rifle, moments before Fields drove his car into a crowd of protesters at the Charlottesville, Virginia protests (and in doing so, perhaps pushing Fields’s emotions past the point of reason). During Fields’s trial, though, Dixon changed his story, claiming it was not Fields’s car he approached with his weapon, but another one.

And, especially important for his employment at UNC, there is email evidence that he uses his teaching position as a means to promote his particular brand of political activism—a clear violation of academic norms.

Taking each of these claims and the likely objections in order, Dixon is a member, or rather, a leader of the Silver Valley Redneck Revolt chapter in central North Carolina. Redneck Revolt has roughly 30 chapters around the country. It is aligned with another radical organization known as the John Brown Gun Club; some groups seem to use both names interchangeably.

One member of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club in Washington recently made national headlines for being killed while attacking an occupied government building, the Tacoma Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, with a rifle and Molotov cocktails.

One may be tempted to argue that the Tacoma event had nothing to do with Dixon’s North Carolina chapter, or that it was merely the action of a single disturbed individual. Yet, neither one of those things is true.

For one, the Washington John Brown chapter embraced the actions of Willem van Spronsen, the attempted terrorist; the group’s Facebook page lauds him for “his kindness, gentleness, and warm heart.” He is even praised for his attempted attack on the detention center:

Will cared deeply about making the world a better place and he felt injustice towards others as personal as a wound. He took direct action to protect traditionally marginalized and threatened communities. The rounding up of our neighbors into for-profit detention centers was not a semantics debate for Will, it was an abomination.

Additionally, although Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club left the Redneck Revolt network earlier this year, the split was amicable, and the founding principles of the Redneck Revolt are in line with those of the Puget Sound club and van Spronsen. They include:

We are an aboveground militant formation.

We stand against the nation-state and the forces which protect the bosses and the rich.

We believe in the right of militant resistance.

We are not pacifists. Redneck Revolt believes in using any and all means at our disposal to gain our freedom and true liberty.

We believe in the need for revolution.

Redneck Revolt believes that there will have to be a complete restructuring of society to provide for the survival and liberty of all people: “We will fight for the end of predatory exploitation of our communities, and the creation of a world where no one is without food, shelter, water, or any other means of survival.”

Exactly what “freedom” do Redneck Revolt members lack? And what do they mean by “true liberty?” In context, given the group’s purpose and activities, and focusing on the phrases “we are not pacifists” and “by any means at our disposal” (they are a heavily armed militia group), it would appear they wish for the freedom to assault those with opposing views and use terror to gain power.

And if they are against the nation-state, it would appear they would use whatever means at their disposal to bring it down. Also, a “complete restructuring of society” most likely indicates that they wish to create a fully collectivist society, likely through the redistribution of wealth by force.

Using the name of the 19th-century abolitionist John Brown as a source of inspiration, along with an emphasis on militancy, is also troubling. Brown attempted to stoke a civil war between the states by raiding a U.S. military installation, killing several soldiers in the attempt (and he may have successfully escalated tensions, by causing the Southern slave states to adopt a harder line instead of one of peaceful compromise and reconciliation).

If Brown is the model for an organization, and its members have conducted violent actions against the government without condemnation by the general membership, and they have deliberately instigated violence at protests, what possibly can be deduced other than that the organization rejects civil discourse and the rule of law?

Defenders of Dixon may point out that his criminal charges have been dropped for both North Carolina incidents. However, those decisions may be more reflective of the personal inclinations of members of the Orange and Durham Counties judiciaries rather than of his innocence. After all, Dixon was caught on camera holding a rifle and addressing the crowd in Durham, in defiance of a law on the books that criminalizes bringing a gun to “any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration.” He was obviously guilty, despite the dismissal of his charges. Additionally, the Chapel Hill charge was not proven false because of the facts but was instead thrown out for a technicality on the charging document by a liberal judge in a notoriously left-wing jurisdiction.

Also, the central question is not whether Dixon has been convicted of a crime, but of his “fitness” to teach. Even the American Association of University Professors has long agreed that there is a level of fitness beyond which somebody should not be teaching at a university. If Dixon, with his membership in a violent anarchist militia that supports Willem van Spronsen and his predilection for instigating actual violence does not reach that limit, who does?

Consider that, if his Facebook boast that he intimidated James Fields with a firearm is true, he should be considered morally, if not legally, complicit in Fields’ further violence. For Dixon’s gun-wielding would have naturally intensified a sense of impending violence to a person who was already distressed. Is one who is proud of such a thing “fit” for a university classroom? Rather, his bragging in this case suggests a disturbed individual who believes that the ends justify the means, even when people die. For the Charlottesville incident has served the political left well: For two years, it has used Fields’ vehicular assault as an example to broadly condemn the entire political right.

Next, the following excerpt from an email Dixon sent on November 14, 2018 shows that he openly regards his faculty position as a means to encourage political activism:

From Dwayne Dixon (dedixon) –

Good morning: We will start class at 2pm at Silent Sam where a protest is being held against the use of undercover police infiltrating among student groups.

The protest starts at 1:30 so if you can go earlier, then join!

Dixon’s classroom politicizing is a crucial factor. If he refrained from doing so, he could have at least made a claim for academic freedom. But by encouraging his students to join him in protest, he eliminates any pretension that he is conducting an impartial search for truth, the ideal upon which academic freedom is based.

One illustrative case is that of Arthur Butz, a professor of electrical engineering at Northwestern University, who publicly denies the Jewish Holocaust. Butz is allowed to continue teaching because he does not discuss his political beliefs in the classroom—a reasonable solution to the conflict between a teacher’s First Amendment rights and the right of the university to control knowledge taught under its auspices. (Numerous court decisions have affirmed that right).

Northwestern President Henry Bienen made perhaps the definitive statement on the topic, in describing his reasoning about Butz’ continued employment:

Like all faculty members, he is entitled to express his personal views, including on his personal web pages, as long as he does not represent such opinions as the views of the University. Butz has made clear that his opinions are his own and at no time has he discussed those views in class or made them part of his class curriculum. Therefore, we cannot take action based on the content of what Butz says regarding the Holocaust—however odious it may be—without undermining the vital principle of intellectual freedom that all academic institutions serve to protect.

But if Butz qualifies for academic freedom because he keeps his personal political beliefs out of the classroom, as Bienen suggests, then the converse is also true: If one uses the classroom to expound on his or her political beliefs, then the academic freedom ordinarily granted for extramural (out of classroom) comments is not in force. Dixon clearly runs afoul of this constraint on academic free speech.

Furthermore, there is another huge difference between the academic freedom statuses of Butz and Dixon. Butz merely expresses a false or troubling belief about a historical fact, and he does not act upon it other than in writing. But Dixon not only incites violent opposition against the government in the present tense, he acts upon his beliefs in unlawful ways, including menacing people with firearms. If he had confined his activities to his inflammatory speech only, that speech would likely qualify for First Amendment protection. But because his actions—waving a gun around at protests—very much imply a real and imminent threat, he has no such defense.

So who among the state university system’s leaders feel Dixon should be influencing young minds? Who knows when his irrational self-righteous indignation will spin out of control—as it did for Willem van Spronsen—or his inflammatory rhetoric mixed with combat training will encourage somebody else to act out violently?

Dixon’s behavior has no academic freedom protection, nor, as a lecturer, does he even have the protections afforded tenure. His dismissal should be an easy matter.
Do they actually believe they are serving the public good by providing Dixon with, not just a livelihood, but a soapbox from which to forward his radical agenda?

Private colleges may hire whomever they want, but why should the people of North Carolina be forced to subsidize and provide platforms for those who would do them harm? Surely there are teachers of Asian Studies who do not promote violent anarchy—and act upon their beliefs.

Employing Dixon is analogous to hiring a member of the Ku Klux Klan. How would that work at UNC? A Klan member on the faculty, once discovered, would be gone in a heartbeat; trustees, administrators, and political office-holders would all be terrified about any potential backlash. Dixon’s behavior has no academic freedom protection, nor, as a lecturer, does he even have the protections afforded tenure. His dismissal should be an easy matter.

So why does he get a pass when other equivalent actors would be given the bum’s rush? After all, teaching at a public university is not a right; it is a privilege contingent upon one’s qualifications and good character. And one of the first duties of an educator should be to prevent violent madmen from using the university system as a means of support and gaining converts.

But academia has long been a sanctuary for political radicals on the left. For instance, UNC-Chapel Hill kept Howard Machtinger, an unrepentant indicted member of the Weather Underground, on the payroll for many years in a variety of administrative positions. Machtinger affirmed the violent intentions of the Weathermen in an interview, calling policemen “fair game.”

This practice of providing terroristic radicals on the political left with sinecures and launching pads for their political aims must end; doing so is not the same thing as maintaining the campus as a place of open inquiry, with academic freedom given to those with dissenting opinions. As Russell Kirk wrote, “we are not compelled to extend freedom to those who would subvert freedom.” And we are most definitely not compelled to give them jobs in the state-supported university system.

Of course, any official with the moral courage to question Dixon’s presence on the UNC campus will draw extensive fire in the public arena. Yes, the loudest voices in the faculty will take great offense, for any number of reasons; yes, many throughout academia or the media will accuse the responsible official of overstepping his or her authority or of violating Dixon’s academic freedom. But such naysayers will be wrong.

Real leadership means doing what’s right in the face of opposition. It is not just getting tickets to the big game, rubberstamping everything put in front of you, and avoiding the hard decisions.  And it is not just collecting a big salary for appeasing the most aggressive campus factions. Dixon’s continued presence indeed raises the very serious question of whether UNC has any standards for faculty members. If not, why should we, the state’s taxpayers, continue to fund UNC schools? If so, then somebody needs to do the job he or she was appointed to do and enforce them.


Anarchist group at UT Austin threatens to dox incoming freshmen if they join conservative campus clubs

Earlier this month an anarchist group that consists of UT Austin students called the Autonomous Student Network shared a tweet threatening to dox students who considered joining the Young Conservatives of Texas and Turning Point USA during freshman orientation.

“Hey #UT23! Do you wanna be famous? If you join YCT or Turning Point USA, you just might be. Your name and more could end up on an article like one of these,” the tweet said, linking to previous doxxing posts of conservative students at the school. “So be sure to make smart choices at #UTOrientation.”

Last year the network released extensive personal information of pro-Brett Kavanaugh demonstrators at UT Austin, including their names, photos and contact information. It went so far as to post some of the phone numbers of the employers of students and encouraged its adherents to call them to get them fired.

Composed mostly of students at UT Austin, the group also actively encourages the harassment of conservative students, having praised the destruction of signs and tactics of physical intimidation during the pro-Kavanaugh demonstrations.

Based on its most recent tweet, it appears the Autonomous Student Network may be gearing up for another doxxing during orientation and beyond.

Asked if UT Austin will take any measures in response to the doxxing threats of conservative students by the ASN, the Communications Strategist of UT Austin Shilpa Bakre told The College Fix: “Students should never be targeted or face harassment for their affiliations, political beliefs or any other reason. The anonymous group behind this doxxing is not affiliated with the university, is not a registered student group, and should not present itself in that way. As they did last fall, University Police are continuing to work to ensure the safety of any targeted students and monitor for any potential criminal actions.”

According to a UT Austin spokesman in January 2019, the Autonomous Student Network is “not any kind of registered student organization.” But it claims to have partnerships with other Austin-based student groups and continues to call itself the “Autonomous Student Network-UT Austin” on its Facebook page.

In the past, campus officials have reportedly taken some actions to investigate threats against conservative students. University Police reviewed the incident in October 2018 of harassment against conservative students, which helped shut down the network’s original Twitter account and appeared to have reduced its use of university facilities, according to its Facebook page’s events calendar.

Despite the network listing a variety of campus events in years past on its Facebook page, UT-Austin spokesman J.B. Bird said officials are unaware of them.

“We have no knowledge of them ever having an event in a UT Austin facility,” he said in a telephone interview in The College Fix.

Despite this response by UT Austin, UT Austin Law School alumnus and contributing editor to Law & Liberty, Mark Pulliam, remains skeptical. He tells The College Fix, “UT has taken strong action in the past to prevent non-registered groups from posting notices on campus, but the Autonomous Students’ flyers are ubiquitous on campus. There is clearly a double standard.”

In reference to the doxxing threats from two weeks ago, he adds, “Unfortunately, I do not expect the UT administration to take any action. Under President Greg Fenves, UT has done little to protect the rights of conservative students on campus. When the YCT chapter’s rally in support of Brett Kavanaugh was disrupted by leftist protesters, Fenves was silent and the university’s belated response, by the Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, sympathized with the [leftist] protesters.”

In response to this, Bird said: “The flyers are not ubiquitous on campus. If they are ever put up, they are taken down immediately and I am on campus everyday.”

But some students also remain unconvinced.

The Chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at UT Austin, Lillian Bonin, said “I definitely don’t expect the administration to do anything at all; the line of ‘well we can’t verify any affiliation with UT’ has become too easy and effective at making the problem ‘go away’ at least from their perspective.”

Although she does not expect any physical harm from the ASN, she tells The College Fix, “Speaking for myself as someone who has received an out-sized amount of doxing and backlash repeatedly, even knowing academically that the actual threat of anything happening is minimal (despite them actively making death threats and threats of violence towards us) the general feeling of discomfort and constant threat is very real and never really goes away.”

Other students at UT Austin said they believe that UT Austin should speak out against this incident.

A current student at UT Austin who wishes to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns told The College Fix that “I think the administration should say something about this, and historically I believe the administration has. I doubt much action will follow through though.”


Law School Teaching Going Off on Ideological Tangents

Back in 2010, I wrote a piece for the Martin Center entitled Bad Sociology, Not Law bemoaning the marginalization of common law doctrine in the American law school curriculum. My point then was that, increasingly, law students were just learning about legal doctrine in their classes rather than being called upon to master the prevailing legal doctrine itself in all its complexities.

Put differently, law teachers are devoting more classroom time to policy (what should be) and less to the prevailing law’s basic anatomy (what is). At Harvard Law School, for example, Agency, Trusts, Evidence, Business Associations, and Family Law are no longer required classes and have not been for some time.

Competently addressing the nuts-and-bolts needs of the middle class when it comes to the rendering of legal services has not been a serious pedagogical goal for quite some time now in most of the prestige law schools.

On the other hand, students in the first year at Harvard are required to participate in “ungraded reading groups” that “allow students to explore an intellectual interest outside the scope of the foundational first-year curriculum.” The course catalog informs us that “topics” are as “diverse” as “legal responses to terrorism, regulation of climate change, Biblical law, detective fiction, conservative jurisprudence, artificial intelligence, and bioethics.”

Over the last nine years, as one can see, the problem I lamented has gotten worse.

This drift from “the law” to “about the law” has an unfortunate political component to it that Northwestern University law professor John O. McGinnis exposed in his article The Embedded Left-Liberal Assumptions of the Legal Academy. His concerns are big picture and fully justified: “Universities should have as their objective the production of knowledge, not activism…And activism interferes with the university’s production of knowledge, because it leads directly to ideological discrimination and the erection of roadblocks of orthodoxy that impede truth seeking.”

In the legal academy, McGinnis continues, “[p]rofessors are overwhelmingly left liberal and there is substantial evidence that conservatives and libertarians suffer discrimination.”

That’s important, but my focus is less philosophical, more practical: This drift means that newly minted lawyers are less prepared than were their predecessors to represent the interests of their middle-class clients. This is true particularly in the non-criminal context, whether it be conveying a parcel of real estate, drafting a trust, or negotiating an employment contract.

Casebooks are being assigned in the required Property course, for example, that are different from the casebooks of a generation ago; some are very different in not a good way.

Since time immemorial, law schools had required a course in our law’s prevailing property doctrine. That doctrine, the product of centuries of evolution, is multi-faceted, complex, and hyper-technical.

There are shared property interests. Future property interests. Equitable property interests. The dreaded rule against perpetuities applicable to both legal and equitable property interests. Limitations on the right to exclude and limitations on the right to transfer. One can go on and on. A course in prevailing property doctrine posed many challenges for professor and student alike, and still does.

When it came to teaching prevailing property doctrine, there was little time for extensive musings on what the law ought to look like. Discussing the problem of “wealth inequality,” for example, was fine in the dorm room, but not in a traditional Property class.

Moreover, how can a student intelligently discuss what property law ought to look like if he or she hasn’t a clue what the law currently is, and how it came to be?

Or, how can a student grasp what a trust is, a trust being a fiduciary relationship with respect to property, if the student hasn’t a clue what a property interest is? No longer can I assume that the students who enroll in my Trusts courses have internalized basic property doctrine, a sine qua non to understanding the fundamentals of the trust relationship. The “modern” Property text shares some of the blame.

What did Property casebooks used to look like? Consider Casner and Leach, Cases and Text on Property. When one thinks of a “traditional” Property casebook, one thinks “Casner and Leach.”

Let’s let the authors, World War II veterans both of them, speak for themselves:

This case-and-text book has the following objective: (1) to give the first-year law student basic training [my emphasis] in property law, (2) to provide him with material that will enable him to make a judgment as to the adequacy of property law to cope with significant modern social problems, (3) to start the student along the road to becoming a lawyer and then to move onward with some celerity.

The reference to “coping with significant modern social problems” should not be construed as debating inequality, the merits of socialism, or what have you. Take gifting doctrine. The authors’ pedagogical philosophy is that

the first-year course in property should give the student a basic understanding of the transmission of wealth by donative transactions so that he can make an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of what has emerged.

Doctrine, not indoctrination. True, 60 pages are devoted to the “indigent tenant,” but the focus is on the nuts and bolts of how the law has been coping with the societal problem.

At all times, the authors’ focus is on the client as an individual. In their introduction, they assert that “social consciousness” is not a sine qua non of being a good lawyer. True, a good lawyer should make his or her client aware of any “consequences to the community” of, say, placing a particular type of restriction on a parcel of land. “On the other hand, if he draws a will for a Rockefeller, or cross-examines a lying witness in a tort case while reflecting on the inequalities of the distribution of wealth, he is not likely to do the best job of which he is capable.”

So now let’s have a look at a Property text that is the antithesis of Casner and Leach, namely Singer’s Property Law: Rule, Policies, and Practices. The book’s introductory quotation, from Chief Justice Joseph Weintraub of the New Jersey Supreme Court, sets the stage: “Property rights serve human values. They are recognized to that end, and are limited by it.” Note that the focus is on “human values,” not on the individual and his rights under the law.

How can a student intelligently discuss what property law ought to look like if he or she hasn’t a clue what the law currently is, and how it came to be?
Singer comes right out and says that he and his co-authors “seek to present a contemporary introduction to the law of property, focusing on various pressing issues of current concern as well as the basic rules governing the property system.” The current concerns of whom one might ask. Suffice it to say they are not the current concerns of the conservative or libertarian.

Singer declares that “distributive justice” is a recurring theme in the book. Pages are devoted to his concerns as to how well property is “dispersed” in the United States. It is no wonder that few students nowadays who enroll in my Trusts course have mastered the critical details of prevailing property doctrine.

The practical problems with the Singer casebook relate to coverage and emphasis.

First, coverage. Take the law of gifts. Gifting is a common activity of the middle class. Moreover, equitable property interests in irrevocable trusts in the non-commercial context are generally created via donative transfer. Casner and Leach devoted almost 60 pages to gifts of personal property. Singer devotes essentially two pages to the subject.

Or take the law of bailment. A bailment arises when one person is temporarily in possession of another’s property. Tossing the car keys to the parking attendant can raise bailment issues. Bailment was threaded throughout Casner and Leach, but appears nowhere in the Singer index. Few newly minted lawyers nowadays could provide a coherent explanation of why a bailment is not a trust.

Now to emphasis. The fee simple, the life estate, the tenancy in common, the joint tenancy—these are core categories of property ownership that lawyers servicing middle-class clients need to know a lot about. Casner and Leach get right to those arrangements. In Singer, a student has to slog through pages of politically correct clutter before he or she gets to the fee simple, which is around page 748.

Up to page 748, the student has been expending critical time and energy and laptop capacity considering “discrimination and access to ‘place of public accommodation,’” “the right to be somewhere and the problem of homelessness,” “competing justifications of property rights,” and what have you.

Too many law students are not receiving basic training in prevailing property doctrine that would set them on the road to being in a position to competently service the legal needs of the middle class. Precious time and energy is being squandered on ideological tangents. That your son’s Property text may well not be your father’s Property text is not helping the situation.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Financial Calamity That Is the American Teaching Profession

Teachers are suing the government over debt relief that never came—but their financial problems go much deeper than student loans.

America needs teachers: A majority of the country’s most experienced K–12 educators are expected to retire in the next few years, while research suggests that thousands of others will likely leave the profession prematurely, citing job dissatisfaction. How to get more people to join the profession? A little more than a decade ago, policy makers came up with one idea they thought would help: Give teachers some extra support in paying off their student loans. So, in 2007, Congress tasked the U.S. Department of Education, which administers federal financial aid, with offering student-debt relief to recent graduates in public-service careers: Essentially, make your minimum monthly payments for 10 years and your loans will be erased.

Thousands of public-service workers—including teachers, nurses, and firefighters—have applied for forgiveness since 2017, when the relief went into effect, to no avail. Just 1 percent of applicants who say they meet the program’s ostensibly basic criteria have actually been approved, according to federal data, with the rest blaming misleading bureaucratic requirements that enable the Education Department’s contracted loan servicers to deny them the benefits. Now, teachers across the United States are suing the Education Department, alleging that its failure to make good on the loan forgiveness violates both their constitutional right to due process and administrative-procedure laws. (Liz Hill, the Education Department’s press secretary, declined to comment on the suit because it’s pending litigation, but noted in an email that the agency “is faithfully administering the complex program Congress passed.”)

The complaint—which was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., late last week by the American Federation of Teachers and a handful of individual public-school educators—is a capstone to the financial exasperation that, some advocates argue, has plagued K–12 teachers for more than a decade. They had counted on that loan forgiveness, they say, and planned their lives around it; its failure to materialize, the complaint’s supports allege, falls on households whose finances are already strained. Teaching, the complaint implies, is a financially calamitous path, and without loan forgiveness, teachers’ families face a lifetime of hardship.

Teachers have never been particularly well paid, but in recent decades their financial situation has gotten remarkably worse, mostly for two major reasons. The first is that pay has not grown, concludes a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, which finds that relative teacher wages “have been eroding for over half a century.” When adjusted for inflation, teachers’ average weekly pay has decreased by $21 from 1996 to 2018, according to the report, while that for other college graduates rose by $323. Data from the 2016-17 school year, the most recent for which federal statistics are available, show that K–12 teachers on average earned about $58,000 a year. In states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia—whose teaching forces each staged massive, high-profile strikes last year—the average pay is less than $46,000. In many places, educators are earning less in real terms than they did in 2009.

And the second pressure is the costs: In those same years that teacher pay has stagnated, common costs for a teacher’s household—housing, child care, higher education—have gotten much more expensive. That’s especially true in certain metro areas—San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle—where housing costs have exploded. Though these places see their real-estate markets driven by entrepreneurs, tech workers, bankers, and so on, they still need teachers, of course. In some of these places, officials have considered establishing affordable-housing communities that would be earmarked for teachers. On top of this, it’s become more common in the years since the recession for teachers to spend their own money on school supplies: Almost all public-school educators these days report shelling out personal cash for classroom products, allocating close to $500 a year on average, according to federal data.

Obviously, this financial picture becomes all the tighter when someone is also paying down student loans. Most bachelor’s-degree graduates—65 percent—have student debt, the average amount surpassing $28,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit that seeks to make higher education more affordable and available for Americans. But as of the 2015-16 school year, a little more than half of all K–12 educators also had postbaccalaureate qualifications like master’s degrees, which means they carry even more debt. A 2014 study found that people who’d earned a master’s in education had an average debt amount of roughly $51,000. (Those with an MBA, on the other hand, graduated with $42,000 in debt, on average.) For K–12 educators with a master’s degree, the average student-debt amount more than doubled between 2000 and 2012, according to one Education Next analysis.

The fiscal burden of debt, moreover, is compounded by what the Education Next analysis describes as “a patchwork of overlapping programs, contradictory regulations, and expensive subsidies” pertaining to the loan programs and policies—in other words, the stress and time of just dealing with the debt.

Given these financial pressures, many teachers struggle to save for retirement, a situation made all the more difficult by the retirement options teachers are offered, says Andrew Katz-Moses, a financial coach in Washington, D.C., who previously taught eighth-grade math in the city’s school district. Having gone into teaching immediately upon graduating from college, Katz-Moses says that he himself struggled to navigate the confusing hodgepodge of retirement-plan options offered via third-party vendors contracted by the D.C. school district, and ended up selecting a vendor that charged him a sizable percentage of his income in “hidden fees”; those charges, he discovered, amounted to 20 or even 30 times those offered by the lower-cost alternatives.

Absent clarity from the district on the pros and cons of each vendor’s plan, minus brief informational sessions during open-enrollment season, Katz-Moses started hosting informal get-togethers where he and his colleagues could exchange advice not only on retirement plans but also on financial planning in general. Before long, hordes of his district colleagues were participating in his ad hoc sessions, most of them teachers he hadn’t even met. “That’s when I was like, Okay, there’s a real need for this,” Katz-Moses told me—this being better financial support for teachers’ future, present, and past. “I started seeing how much of a burden student loans are for teachers, and how much confusion and worry there is among instructors when it comes to public-service loan forgiveness, because these are not small differences in how people are approaching their decisions.”

Among teachers, these burdens fall more heavily on those who carry more debt, and whose families, including their spouses, are less wealthy. Black teachers, for example, tend to shoulder significantly greater student debt than do their white counterparts—a disparity that a recent Center for American Progress report suggests could in part explain why eight in 10 classroom teachers are white.

The unpredictability “is totally discouraging,” Katz-Moses says. “I see so many teachers completely overwhelmed by all the pressures.” Against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that so many public-school teachers—close to one in five of them, according to 2016 data—take up part-time jobs, often moonlighting as, say, Uber drivers or Airbnb hosts: A K–12 educator is, Vox has reported, about five times more likely than the average full-time worker to also have a part-time job.

The lawsuit may help teachers get the loan relief they were counting on, but the big financial picture for teachers will remain a rough one. Following the wave of teachers’ strikes around the country that hit last year, some policy makers have sought to rectify the hardship. The Democratic senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, for example, wants to raise the average teacher’s salary by $13,500, while Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, also Democrats running for president, have advocated for giving teachers’ unions more negotiating power and matching state-level salary increases with federal dollars, respectively. Barring those bigger changes, the financial difficulties will continue.


Chinese overseas students now looking beyond the USA

Rival education powerhouses such as Britain, Australia and Canada are the biggest beneficiaries

Caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war, Chinese students are looking for alternative study destinations -- threatening to turn off an important source of revenue for American universities.

China accounts for nearly a third of foreign students on US campuses who pour billions of dollars into the economy, but in March their numbers dropped for the first time in a decade.

Visa delays, concerns over being shut out of research projects and safety fears have turned off Chinese students, according to several admissions consultancies and nearly a dozen parents and students interviewed by AFP.

Rival education powerhouses such as Britain, Australia and Canada are the biggest beneficiaries, a survey by New Oriental China's biggest private education provider said.

Japan and South Korea -- traditional study abroad destinations for the Chinese elite -- and parts of Europe, especially Germany and Scandinavian countries with strong engineering programmes, have also seen an uptick in applications, the survey found.

The chilling effect started mid-last year, after President Donald Trump's administration slashed the visa duration of students in science and technology fields from five years to one in some cases.

"Now there's a lot of uncertainty on whether they can even finish their studies," said Gu Huini, founder of boutique college consultancy Zoom In. Over one third of the roughly 360,000 Chinese students in the US study in "STEM fields" -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- according to the Institute of International Education in New York.

But the number of Chinese students in the US dipped by two percent in March compared to the previous year, the first drop since 2009, data from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows.

Melissa Zhang, a high school senior in Beijing, said she has abandoned plans to go to the US and was instead taking German lessons, in the hope of getting into a robotics programme in Dresden.

"I've already wasted a year preparing for my SATs," the 17-year-old said, referring to the standardised test needed to enter a US university.

"But what's the point in going to the US if I might be shut out of a research lab, just because I am Chinese." Her mother, Mingyue, said "the American dream is losing its shine" to many Chinese students.

"If America makes them feel unwelcome, they'll go elsewhere... this generation feels the whole world is open to them."

Chinese students contributed $13 billion to the US economy last year, a figure that includes tuition fees and living expenses, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

Top US universities including Yale and Stanford have complained that the trade war has affected campus recruitment.

Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in an open letter on June 25 that students and faculty felt "unfairly scrutinised, stigmatised and on edge -- because of their Chinese ethnicity alone".

The State Department has said the increased scrutiny was prompted by a rising number of students who were co-opted by foreign intelligence while in the United States.

Eric Wang, 25, a doctoral student at Purdue university in Indiana, said he was nervous about having to renew his visa every year.

"It's difficult to plan long-term research projects or even think about going steady with your girlfriend," said Wang.

Trump attempted to allay Chinese students' fears after reaching a trade war truce with President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit last week, saying they would be treated "just like anybody else".

He also proposed a "smart person's waiver" that would make it easier for the brightest minds to get a Green Card allowing permanent residency.

A Chinese government travel warning last month citing "gun violence and robberies" in the US has also given Chinese high school students and parents cold feet.

"State media have been pumping up reports about crime in the US and families, especially from smaller Chinese cities, feel America isn't safe," said Li Shaowen, who organises foreign college tours.

"We have over 250 families visiting universities in Europe and the UK during this summer break, while only 75 families are going to the US," he said. "The numbers were reverse last year." Chinese students and parents start hunting for prospective colleges two to three years before application deadlines.

"The pipeline is drying up," said Dorothy Mae, an independent college consultant in Beijing. "US universities will see fewer students from China for several years."


Once they got a degree, disadvantaged and advantaged Australian students did roughy equally as well -- after a slow start

The report below uses what must be the latest euphemism for "disadvantaged"  -- "Equity".  So if you start out unequal, you are an "equity" person! The logic quite escapes me despite my many years of dealing with political correctness.  But you need to know that to understand the report below.

They find that most people from an unpromising background (Aborigines and the disabled excepted) do roughly as well in jobs and income after they have graduated.  But that is only true if you look at the groups around seven years after graduation.  The "equity" students do catch up to the others but not initially.

The authors appear to think that the roughly equal long term outcomes for advantaged and disadvantaged students show that a university education is effective in overcoming inital disadvantages that people suffer. 

But it doesn't.  It simply shows that the selection criteria used to govern entry to university do a good job. You get into university on ability, regardless of your "equity" status.  Putting it another way, the "equity" students who get into university are a specially selected subset of the "equity" population, so how well they do does not reflect the prospects  "equity" people in general

Beyond graduation: long-term socioeconomic outcomes amongst equity students

Wojtek Tomaszewski et al.

Executive Summary

This report aimed to address significant gaps in scientific knowledge about the trajectories of post-graduation outcomes of students from equity groups by examining the following research questions:

Do equity graduates reap the benefits of university education to the same extent as non-equity graduates over the short and long run?

What are the differences in outcomes between graduates from different equity groups?

What are the specific outcome domains (e.g. labour market, social capital, wellbeing) where equity group graduates perform particularly well or particularly poorly?

To answer these research questions, the study utilised robust statistical methodologies to analyse high-quality, nationally representative longitudinal data from the ABS Census of Population and Housing (the Census) and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Both sets of analyses covered five population-based equity groups:

* low socioeconomic status (low SES)
* non-English-speaking background (NESB)
* residents in regional/remote areas
* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Indigenous)
* students with disability.

Analysis of the Census data focused on the labour market outcomes and provided robust evidence over a short to medium time period. The Census analyses were complemented by innovative analysis of the HILDA Survey, which enabled us to document long-term trajectories across a broader set of socioeconomic outcomes (for example, health, subjective wellbeing and social capital) that go beyond the standard labour market indicators investigated by previous studies in this area.

The analysis of the longitudinal Census data suggested that there exist relatively small but significant differences between graduates from some of the equity groups and their non-equity counterparts in relation to certain labour market outcomes.

Key findings from these analyses included:

a lower likelihood of low SES and NESB graduates to be in employment, to be employed in a managerial or professional occupation, and to have a high personal income if in full-time employment

a lower likelihood of graduates with disability to be employed.
These findings are consistent with the previous evidence from the limited body of other Australian studies in this area, while arguably offering more robust evidence being based on a high-quality and authoritative data source. Furthermore, while the Census analyses have a relatively short time horizon, covering up to five years post-graduation, this analysis went considerably beyond the four- to six-month after graduation horizon of the Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS), which has been typically used to report employment outcomes for university graduates in Australia.

The HILDA analyses further extended the time horizon covered, capturing outcomes up to 15 years post-graduation. They also focused on a different set of outcomes, covering health and wellbeing indicators, as well as a set of subjective measures related to employment and financial circumstances. This makes it the first study in Australia to investigate such outcomes in relation to post-university outcomes of equity graduates.

Overall, the HILDA analyses suggested that for most of the outcomes investigated in this report, the trajectories of equity and non-equity graduates moved in similar directions, and at a comparable pace, after the attainment of undergraduate university qualifications. This resulted in lack of differences or a convergence in outcomes over a longer time horizon. However, while rarely statistically significant, there appeared to be some evidence that equity graduates generally reported inferior outcomes compared with non-equity graduates, at least in the first few years after graduation. This pattern appeared to be most pronounced for indicators related to subjective assessment of financial prosperity and job security but also social support.

Although the differences between equity and non-equity graduates were often not statistically significant, or converged over time, there were two notable exceptions to this pattern: students of an Indigenous background, and students with disability, both of which reported significantly inferior outcomes compared with their non-equity counterparts, particularly in terms of physical and mental health, and subjective wellbeing as captured by life satisfaction. While based on small samples, and arguably reflecting a broader underlying disadvantage for these two equity groups, these findings highlight that this kind of disadvantage is not easily alleviated through the completion of a university degree alone, but also requires a concerted policy effort within and beyond the higher education sector. For the other equity groups, the trajectories of equity and non-equity graduates appeared to converge over a longer-run so that any initial differences disappear after seven to eight years post-graduation. However, arguably more could be done to prevent this seven- or eight-year-long catch up and give an equal start to all university graduates, regardless of their background.


Monday, July 29, 2019

The education of Boris Johnson, the UK’s new Prime Minister

Our early education is one of the biggest influences that helps form our adult self. Here, we take a look at Johnson’s education journey to see who Britain’s new Prime Minister really is and the potential wider implications for the country:

1. European School, Brussels I

Born in New York City to British parents, Johnson’s childhood was global in nature, following his parents’ education (his father at Columbia University and later post-doctoral research at the London School of Economics; his mother at Oxford University) and career, the family shuffled between the UK and US, starting from Columbia University to Oxford University, then the World Bank in Washington DC before moving on to the US state of Connecticut and later, back to London.

At age 10, Boris relocated to Brussels where his father, Stanley Johnson, was made Head of the European Commission’s newly-established Prevention of Pollution Division.

Founded in 1953, European Schools refers to a network of private schools set up in EU member states, providing children with a multilingual and multicultural education at nursery, primary and secondary levels. It offers the European Baccalaureate diploma, a higher education qualifiying certificate awarded to those who complete coursework and exams for a minimum of 10 subjects and have full proficiency in two languages.

The book, Just Boris: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity, authored by Sonia Purcell, describes “the clever young blond” and his time here:

“Meanwhile, Boris spent two years in Brussels, learning to be a ‘good European’ and rapidly becoming fluent in accent-less French. Although as an adult he has frequently played down his gift for foreign languages – adopting when it suits the classic ‘Brit abroad’ assault on French vowels and syntax – he is virtually bi-lingual and proficient in three more languages.”

2. Ashdown House

Ashdown House, a co-educational prep school in Forest Row, East Sussex, is one of the country’s oldest. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After his mother was hospitalised for a nervous breakdown, Johnson and his siblings were sent to Ashdown House. The preparatory boarding school in East Sussex is credited as the place that “played a large part in creating the Boris we know today”. His recollection of his time there evokes an “unusually emotional” reaction in him.

Corporal punishment could explain why. Hearing “small boys being terrorised and battered” outraged and distressed him, according to media baron Conrad Black, who later employed him at the right-wing newspaper, The Spectator.

It was here that the dishevelled persona was created. As a survival tactic (he was teased for his Turkish roots and being a foreigner from across the Channel) he soon adopted a startling change in character, one possibly inspired by PG Wodehouse’s stories of a 1930s English eccentric who is bumbling but “fantastically well-read”.

He excelled in Greek and Latin, “outclassing” those who have studied the subjects longer than he did. Later, he won a scholarship to Eton College.

3. Eton College

Educating 20 former Prime Ministers, this iconic institution is described as “the nursery of England’s gentlemen” and “the chief nurse of England’s statesmen”. With its list of alumni including Princes William and Harry, Britain’s most famous public boys’ school is also its most notable symbol of elitisim and the British ruling classes. The ‘Curriculum’ page of the school’s website states:

“When a boy leaves Eton, he will have five years’ experience of academic, sporting, dramatic, artistic, musical and, perhaps most importantly, personal growth to look back on, the greater part of the latter having been centred on his house and the friendships he has made there. He will almost certainly go on to university.”

With current fees at £14,167 per half term – and three terms in a year – entry is inevitably reserved for a select few. Boris joined Eton as a King’s Scholar and went on to become an “all-rounder”, not exactly the smartest among other Scholars, but ahead of non-Scholars.

While Eton is attributed to be the grounds where Johnson’s flamboyant persona truly came to be, he attained several academic achievements, too. He became a “formidable debater”, won prizes in English and Classics and became editor of the school newspaper, The Chronicle.

But his many co-curricular activities soon got school administrators complaining about him being late, not turning in work, being disorganised and his doubtful “commitment to the real business of scholarship”.

Despite this, he won a scholarship to read Literae Humaniores, a four-year course in Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek), at Balliol College, Oxford.

4. University of Oxford

After a gap year teaching English and Latin at the exclusive Geelong Grammar School – Australia’s version of Eton – Johnson entered Oxford in autumn 1983. This was the year when former Oxford graduate Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, and Johnson, the undergraduate, joined a “gilded” cohort who would later go on to dominate media and politics.

His contemporaries included former Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (a Magdalen College alum, who studied PPE), BBC political editor Nick Robinson, Clinton press secretary George Stephanopoulos, US pollster Frank Luntz and newly-minted Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove. May, who he succeeded, was also an Oxonian.

He is the fourth Balliol College-educated Prime Minister, following Herbert Asquith, Harold Macmillan and Edward Heath. Balliol also produced literary giants such as Matthew Arnold, Graham Greene and Robert Browning. It is notable that Johnson chose to study Balliol, which, while known for its strong reputation for Classics, is also known as a “haven for bright young Lefties instead of dim hoorays”, an odd pairing given Johnson’s current right-wing tendencies.

Here, Johnson co-edited the university’s satirical magazine, Tributary. He ran and was elected secretary of the Oxford Union in 1984 and President of the Oxford Union in 1986.

His tutors remembered him as “a good egg”, destined for a first. However, he graduated with a 2:1 and a deep-held disappointment for not achieving one.


The Disappearance of Civic Education at Elite Colleges

Modern universities are ignoring their civic duty to teach their students how to become engaged citizens. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a report in 2018 that showed only 18 percent of universities required students to take a history course before graduation. This number is indicative of a growing historical ignorance among students. More and more, colleges don’t provide students with a civic education.

Without an education rooted in governmental proceedings and American history, students have wavered on foundational liberal principles such as free speech. The Knight Foundation, for example, reported that 10 percent of college students believe violence is sometimes acceptable to stop someone from speaking and 37 percent believe that shouting down speakers is sometimes acceptable.

Among the top 25 schools in the country (according to U.S. News & World Report), Columbia University is the only university to make history a graduation requirement. Slightly more concerning is that most schools in the top 25 only have two or three core graduation requirements—and most of them tend to be math, science, and writing. History, economics, and literature are left behind. Instead of giving students a full liberal arts education, universities focus more on STEM subjects, which means that fewer students learn about American history or economics.


Australian author John Marsden criticised over bullying comments

Author John Marsden is facing criticism for comments he’s made about bullying in the schools.

Marsden, best know as the author of the ‘Tomorrow’ book series, has been a teacher for several decades and runs two schools north of Melbourne.

The author has defended comments he made saying that bullying was just “feedback” from other children. Marsden said some “pure unadulterated bullying” does occur, most is prompted by what he called the “unlikeable behaviours” of the child who is being bullied.

Marsden says those experiencing bulling should first look at their own behaviours and see if they themselves are to blame. The educators advice to children is to “look at your own likeable and unlikeable behaviours and try to reduce the list of unlikeable behaviours and unlikeable values and unlikeable attitudes and over time that will probably have a significant effect”.

The author made the comments as he was promoting a new book he has written he Art of Growing Up which argues that the education system is trying to cover too many issues.

His comments have been condemned by bullying experts. Naomi Priest, an Australian National University Associate Professor, who researches the impact of racism and bullying on young people told the Sydney Morning Herald that Marsden’s take on bullying was “flawed”. “It is a very limited and flawed understanding of bullying to characterise it as just about an individual’s character traits that are unappealing,” Priest said.

Marsden dismissed research suggesting that children from non-anglo backgrounds were more likely to experience racism saying in his experience conflict occurred because children from some subcultures were not ‘westernised’ enough. The author drew upon his time teaching at Geelong Grammar in the 1980s.

“At Geelong Grammar they had quite a high percentage of students enrolling from Asian countries and their acceptance depended very much upon how Westernised they were,” Marsden said of his time at the school. “If they were able to speak English fluently and wear the clothes that Anglo kids wore and listened to the same kind of music, then they were fully accepted.

“There was absolutely no racism involved,” Marsden added. “But if they weren’t yet at that stage then there was a gulf between them… It didn’t necessarily result in bullying, although sometimes it did, but more often it was sort of a gap between the two subcultures.” Marsden denied his views were racist.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

UK: Two-thirds of Boris Johnson's cabinet went to private schools

Because that is where the talent is

Nearly two-thirds of prime minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet were privately educated, according to research.

The proportion of ministers who went to independent schools is twice as high as Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet, at 64% compared to 30% according to the social mobility charity Sutton Trust. In David Cameron’s 2015 cabinet, the rate was 50%.

The figures mean that ministers in the prime minister’s cabinet are nine times more likely to have attended a fee-paying school for all or part of their secondary education than the general population, of which only 7% went to private schools.

The chancellor, Sajid Javid, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, are among the ministers who went to state schools.

Among those who attended fee-paying schools are the Brexit minister, Stephen Barclay, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, who went to Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Of the 33 ministers who make up Johnson’s new cabinet, 45% went to either Oxford or Cambridge university, while a further 24% attended Russell Group universities. Of all MPs in the House of Commons, 24% attended Oxford or Cambridge.

Johnson went to Eton college, and like every prime minister since 1937 who had attended university, except Gordon Brown, studied at Oxford.

Past cabinets have been more privately educated than Johnson’s though – the proportion in John Major’s 1992 cabinet was 71%, while 91% of Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 cabinet had been to a fee-paying school.

Last month, a report from the charity found that 29% of current MPs came from private schools. Just under half (45%) of the Conservative party MPs were privately educated, compared with 15% of the Labour party.

On Wednesday, Johnson conducted a brutal cull of Theresa May’s cabinet hours after officially becoming prime minister, sacking more than half of May’s ministers and packing the team with Vote Leave veterans and rightwing free marketers.

Though Johnson’s ethnically-diverse cabinet has been described as “a cabinet to represent modern Britain”, questions have been raised over whether it is truly representative of the nation.


Another Bogus Study on 'Racist' School Discipline

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights falsely denies a different rate of misbehavior among races.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recently presented a report alleging that black public-school students are disciplined at a higher frequency and receive more severe punishments than do white public-school students. The report then makes the dubious claim that the rate of misbehavior by black students is no different than that of white students. In other words, the commission report implies that schools and, by extension, teachers and administrators, are discriminating against black students. But are they?

This is a prime example of the “disparate impact” theory at work, which is what the Obama administration applied when ordering that schools discipline black students at the exact same rate as white students. Rather than evaluating behavioral standards, which all students are expected to comply with — an actual equitable system wherein the same exact rules apply to all students irrespective of their race — those complaining about disparate impact advocate that different standards be applied to different racial groups so as to artificially produce equality of outcome, rather than focusing on producing equality of opportunity.

The fact of the matter is that rate of misbehavior among black students is higher than among white students. But note that the rate of misbehavior among white students is higher than that of Asian American students. It would be wrong to conclude from this one statistical analysis, as the commission does, that the reason for the disparity must be a system that is inherently racist against black students.

As Gail L. Heriot, law professor at the University of San Diego Law School, observes, “In 2015, 12.6% of African American students reported being in a fight on school property, as contrasted with 5.6% of white students. Put differently, the African American rate was 125% higher than the white rate.” Heriot further notes that, sadly and ironically, the ultimate victims of the policies meant to “correct” disparate impact are the very minority groups they are supposedly seeking to help. The pretense “certainly does not benefit minority children,” she writes. “To the contrary, they are its greatest victims. African American students disproportionately go to school with other African American students. … If teachers fail to keep order in those classrooms out of fear that they will be accused of racism, it is these minority students who will suffer most.


America is exceptional; education and training, is key to economy, jobs

This week, we focus on how education and training can make or break America’s ability to remain an exceptional country. Education and training, now more than ever, will be keys to our country’s economy and jobs.

Earlier in our nation’s history, more Americans could get by without as much education or training. Today we have fewer high-paying jobs for people who have less education or less training because many low education and low training jobs went to other countries where people earn less money. In addition, machines have replaced many jobs which used to provide a decent living.

What can we do about it? How can we win?

We will continue to be a prosperous country, but much of that prosperity will be with more sophisticated jobs. As President John F. Kennedy said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” We need educated, skilled citizens to attract more high-level jobs and opportunities to America.

How are we doing with education in America?

Don’t listen to those who claim that most people can’t get a good education in America. Unlike many other countries, every student in the United States can attend at least twelve years of school for free. It’s okay to debate the quality of our schools and to want them to be better, but much of our academic achievement is what we decide to make of it as students. About 9 out of 10 adults have at least a high school diploma or GED, and well over half of America’s high school graduates go to college.

Don’t buy into people’s statements that they can’t go to college or get advanced training. Every American who does well in high school has an opportunity to attend college or trade schools. People from all over the world want to study at America’s great universities. Yes, it’s easier financially for some people to go to college or get advanced training, but scholarships, assistance, or student loans are available.

The big question is whether Americans understand what will be needed to succeed in the future.

Some reports have ranked our grade schools in the middle among industrialized nations. Only about 30 percent of Americans attain a college degree. Many high school students fall short of college readiness. As Americans, we shouldn’t settle for being in the middle range.

We can turn it around. Amazing things can happen when people know how much better the country’s future can be with advanced learning. If we become better educated and trained, every good business around the globe will want to have operations in America, employing more and more Americans at higher and higher wages. American companies that need smart employees will want to grow here, rather than sending their jobs to other countries.

It doesn’t begin and end with jobs.

With more educated, smart, well-trained people, we can solve government problems, become better family members, and be better citizens. President Harry S. Truman said “Without a strong educational system, democracy is crippled. Knowledge is not only a key to power. It is the citadel of human freedom.” President Truman understood we can’t remain free and exceptional without the smarts to make good choices.

Imagine an America where nearly every young person is dedicated to learning and achieving. This kind of cultural focus on the common ground of education would move us along a path of improved quality of life, business, and government.

It can be done