Friday, August 09, 2019

Would You Buy a Used Car from a College President?

Richard Vedder 
Once upon a time, college presidents were venerated as sage, benevolent folks who not only wisely and responsibly nurtured the best and brightest amongst our youth but also presided over welfare-enhancing expansions of human knowledge. Legendary mid-twentieth century college presidents like Clark Kerr at the University of California and Robert Maynard Hutchins at the University of Chicago have iconic status in American intellectual and cultural history. But, alas, the golden age of higher education is long past. Even among college faculty, how many today know who is the president at, say, Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford?

Moreover, rather than be considered Solomon-like in wisdom and Mother Teresa-like in virtue, college presidents these days are increasingly considered to be somewhat shifty individuals, the kind from whom you would be suspicious of buying a used car. Two former long-serving Big Ten university presidents, Graham Spanier at Penn State and Lou Ann Simon at Michigan State, faced possible jail time for allegedly maladroit actions while president (Simon still does). The University of Oklahoma is trying to deal with the embarrassing claim that long-term recent president (and former U.S. Senator) David Boren was sexually molesting male members of his staff. Baylor forced out famous attorney and former federal judge Kenneth Starr because he did not deal aggressively with inappropriate sexual adventures of prized university assets, namely its football players.

The job tenure of college presidents is becoming more precarious. In a single week recently, four college heads prematurely left their jobs in somewhat mysterious circumstances, at Bennett, Marist and Muhlenberg colleges and Auburn University. The average tenure of a university president was about seven years for a long time; now it is about five years. On top of everything else, the number of presidents losing their jobs because of college closures is mounting as well.

Given the greater risks and falling prestige of the job, it takes more dollars to get good university presidents, and their pay has soared. Probably the dean of American university presidents, Gordon Gee, who has served for well over 35 years as president of five schools, made news for becoming a million-dollar president at Ohio State about a decade ago; now there are dozens of college presidents earning in the seven digits, probably in part given the higher risks/lower job security and the need for the academic equivalent of combat pay. Presidents of major universities in the mid-1990s made perhaps $300,000 or $350,000 annually in today’s dollars; they routinely earn double that today.

The job of being a college president has always been tough and is getting tougher. Ideally, a president has good academic credentials, is respected by the scholarly community, is a tremendous fundraiser, is an articulate public spokesperson, is an excellent manager, has inexhaustible energy and political acumen, can bring together persons of wildly diverse perspectives, and mixes a tolerably good sense of humor with much scholarly gravitas. The subset of the American population possessing all of these qualities is somewhere between zero and a very small positive number. Moreover, higher education is no longer a growth industry getting bigger and better every year. Enrollments have been falling nationally for about eight years and public support for colleges has declined by most measures. Given all that, and the fact that the position increasingly has minimal job security, the need to pay higher salaries is understandable.

As the environment for universities worsens financially and in other ways, college presidents become increasingly desperate to put on a good public face, arguing their schools are adroitly fulfilling their academic mission, but needing more funding. This increasingly leads them to make Pollyanna-like statements, trying to hide the truth about, say, falling applications or a precarious financial condition. Hence, they appear akin to sellers of used cars that do not reveal that their vehicle has been in two big accidents, or the home seller failing to disclose that during heavy rainstorms the basement routinely floods. Probably, under the circumstances, we are somewhat too harsh on university presidents for their seemingly unprincipled obfuscation, but given their increasingly very comfortable compensation, perhaps they should expect and even deserve it.


3 Challenges Resulting from Oregon’s Student Mental Health Law

More time to prepare for a tough presentation? Escape from an early morning alarm? While most of us only dream of those opportunities, Oregon is making them a reality for all K-12 students. This month, the state passed a law allowing students to take excused school absences for mental health. Students can take a total of 5 excused absences per three-month period—or about 10-15 days per year.

“I took on this cause for a personal reason first off because so many of my close friends in high school struggled with depression, and there were times when I saw them at school when they really shouldn’t have been there, would have been much better for them to take a day off,” Hailey Hardcastle, a recent high school graduate who lobbied for the new law, told Today.

But while the law aims to address student health, it also poses potential challenges:

1. Less Learning Time.

Oregon’s new law doesn’t change the number of days students can take away from school, but it expands the reasons for which they can take days off. Previously, students could only take excused absences for parent-approved sick days, doctor’s appointments, emergencies, or by prior principal or teacher approval. With the new law, students can be excused for anything mental health related, including escaping a stressful exam or recovering from a late night. While more opportunities to take time off may sound appealing, its long-term effects could be troubling.

A University of Chicago study, for example, found that high school freshmen who miss more than two weeks of school flunk, on average, at least two classes. In addition, the study found that 37 percent of students who took 5-9 days off from school failed to graduate in four years. That number grew to 59 percent when students took 10-15 days off school.

Studies also show that students have a greater likelihood of dropping out of high school and lower chances of succeeding in college when they are chronically absent (miss 10 percent or more of their school year). Although Oregon’s excused absence law doesn’t amount to chronic absenteeism, it comes close. The state’s school year is only 165 days long on average, which means students who take 16.5 days off—only 1.5 days more than current policy allows—are chronically absent.

2. “Rest” Isn’t Always Best.

Advocates like Hailey Hardcastle suggest that Oregon’s new law will give stressed students much-needed rest. But some research suggests that these students may be better off in school.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, for example, found that student mental health is closely related to social media consumption. She noted that eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent and teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.

But what do teens do in their days off from school? If their weekends are any indication, they’ll probably spend much of the day on media. The American Time Use Survey indicates that students spend much of their weekends watching TV, playing video and computer games, surfing the internet, texting friends, and on social media—the very screen-time related activities Twenge links to mental unhealth to begin with. In school, these activities would be kept to a minimum, with class-time and social interaction replacing lengthy media sessions.

3. Encourages Escape over Healthy Habit Building.

While an occasional day off from school offers students the chance to recover and prepare for the challenges they face, too much time off can become unhealthy.

“It’s important for kids to power through some discomfort (like going to school even when they’re afraid of giving a presentation or when they don’t have their math homework done),” writes psychotherapist and bestselling author Amy Morin, “There’s a lot of value in showing them they’re stronger than they think.”

Overcoming academic challenges also develops skills students don’t have the opportunity to build otherwise.

“More so than in past generations, many teens today have their basic needs met, and they haven’t had much practice making mistakes,” writes Leah Shafer for Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Therefore, Shafer writes, it’s especially important that students develop strategies to face their fears and thereby develop prioritization, focus, and mental flexibility skills students will use for the rest of their lives.

Before following Oregon’s example, other states should take a second look at the policy’s impact on student academic success, mental wellbeing, and skill development. And parents and schools should consider helping students to develop healthy habits to manage stress and anxiety in the long term. These could include limiting social media where possible, and encouraging exercise and sleep.


Trump Moves Forward on Apprenticeships—But More Needs to Be Done

A quick scan of the news confirms that college students spend more on higher education than ever before, but they lack the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace. Apprenticeship programs could offer a promising college alternative, but establishing them can be difficult. That could change, however, as the Department of Labor (DOL) is making it easier for young people to become apprentices.

The Department wants to streamline the process for registering apprenticeships, but to make them an option for more students, the Trump administration needs to allow even more radical apprenticeship expansion.

In June, the DOL proposed its first steps toward reducing the regulatory burden limiting apprenticeship growth. The proposed changes would allow employers to establish their own apprenticeship curriculum for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) and set their own apprenticeship standards, a process that used to be more heavily controlled by state and federal governments.

But the proposal also introduces new challenges. Employers who want to establish IRAPs, for example, would have to prove to a DOL panel that they have the industry expertise to build a curriculum, show that they have support and input from industry leaders, and demonstrate that they have a plan to maintain their programs.

As if that wasn’t enough, apprenticeship creators (who can be private employers, community colleges, and other organizations) must also apply for re-approval every five years. Effectively, those rules slow down the creation of apprenticeships even as employers need the flexibility to create them easily and quickly.

Young people are clamoring for already-existing apprenticeships. In Charlotte, North Carolina, for example, Siemens USA receives more than 100 applications for its apprenticeship program each fall. The company reviews standardized test scores, school transcripts, and letters of recommendation, then invites select candidates to take an entrance exam and mechanical aptitude test. In the end, the international manufacturer only invites four to eight students to complete the program with 8,000 hours of training and a full-time job starting at $55,000.

Apprentices benefit, as do their companies.

“The folks [in Charlotte] are thriving,” Siemens USA Chief Barbara Humpton told Politico earlier this year. “We’ve expanded this now to other states…What we’re finding is that these students are really highly engaged and highly motivated to really drive success for themselves and, boy, a byproduct is real high productivity for us.”

The DOL should tear down barriers to creating more apprenticeships, not add more review and oversight requirements.
More apprentices also mean cost savings for state budgets—and taxpayers. The Department’s recent $183 million grant to create more than 85,000 apprenticeships translates to $2,100 per apprentice. That’s much less than the $7,642 that the average state spends per student in college. In North Carolina, the state spends $9,959 per student. Encouraging high school graduates to become apprentices instead of chasing a bachelor’s degree could make state spending more efficient, and leave students better off.

In 2016, the Department of Labor counted about 21,000 registered apprenticeship programs like Siemens’ that train 500,000 apprentices across the country. Moreover, the Department reported that the average wage for an apprentice-trained worker is $50,000 per year—nearly $4,500 more than the U.S. median individual income and $300,000 more than non-apprenticed workers earn over the course of their careers.

The construction, military, public administration, and manufacturing industries have the most apprentices, according to the Department of Labor. But overall apprenticeship availability and participation are growing rapidly, including in industries that generally lack apprentices, such as health care and information technology. The Department reports that U.S. apprenticeship programs have grown by 56 percent since 2013. In 2018, apprenticeship creators registered 3,227 new apprenticeship programs and 238,549 new apprentices—more on both fronts than any other year on record since the Department began keeping track in 2008.

While apprenticeship opportunities are growing, there aren’t enough opportunities to meet demand. The DOL should consider cutting more regulatory barriers to allow more companies to expand these programs.

Siemens, for example, turns away around 94 percent of applicants each year. In New York, the five-year apprenticeship program at Plumbers Local 1 faces similar challenges: The program offers 500 apprenticeships per year but routinely receives 2,000 applicants. Some candidates camp outside for days just to submit an application.

Deborah Kobes, associate director of the labor policy nonprofit Jobs for the Future, notes that these stories are the norm, not the exception. She finds that registered apprenticeships can be incredibly competitive, some with multi-year waitlists.

Creating more apprenticeships could ease waitlists and give more students a path to a lucrative career. But establishing new apprenticeship programs with industry-recognized credentials requires registering the program with state or federal governments, a complex process that means adopting government-approved industry standards for curriculum, classwork, pay, work scheduling, and more. So much bureaucratic red tape can discourage companies from trying to start a new program.

“While there are multiple paths into the industry,” wrote Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, “the fact is that it remains too difficult for many firms and their partners to establish apprenticeship programs for construction workers. Barriers for apprenticeship programs often include the excessive costs incurred during the rigid and inflexible registration process.”

The DOL should tear down barriers to creating more apprenticeships, not add more review and oversight requirements.

Its proposal also fails to address other key factors that limit the growth of apprenticeships and push students toward college. Some factors are social: The Aspen Institute and Skills for America’s Future found that most Americans believe students should pursue a degree over an apprenticeship if they can. Others are economic: Researchers at Harvard Business School found that employers demand degrees even for positions that don’t need them.

While those trends are changing—more young people view an apprenticeship as a path to a good job and employers are dropping degree requirements—for now, they will likely continue to discourage students from pursuing apprenticeships and employers from launching them.

Nonetheless, the DOL proposal is still a step forward. Even if it fails to foster new apprenticeship programs, at the very least it suggests that the administration sees the value apprenticeship programs offer. As the Trump administration puts more effort into apprenticeship programs, it should think big and empower industry leaders to make these opportunities a reality for more Americans.


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Girls and boys are taught science differently, new study finds

The predictable assumption below is that males and females have equal aptitude in science-related abilities such as methematics.

But all the tests reveal that they do not. There are some good female mathematicians but they are rare. Only one woman, an Iranian, has ever won the Fields medal. So people who assumed that science would be more difficult for girls were simply being realistic.

That was a common (stereotypical) belief but Gordon Allport pointed out back in the '30 that stereotypes tend to have a "kernel of truth".  See also here and here on that

Educators may treat girls differently in science and subconsciously rate them less academically capable than boys in physics, a newly published paper by Macquarie researcher Dr Carol Newall and colleagues suggests.

Unconscious bias: Eight-year-old Ava, Dr Newall's daughter, likes science but faces challenges pursuing a career in this field.

Her work underscores how societal stereotypes hamper more girls from studying science and perhaps partially explains why the Nobel Prize for Physics – awarded in October 2018 to Donna Strickland, Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada – has been won by only three women in its 117-year history.

Dr Newall’s research published in Contemporary Educational Psychology investigated what happened when the gender of a fictitious eight-year-old child was manipulated experimentally, and how this affected adults’ perceptions of the child's ability and enjoyment of science.

“We discovered that adults are already biased against girls by the time children are eight years old,” Newall says. “Even at that age, adults already have low expectations of girls’ potential in physics.”

In the experiment, Dr Newall and her colleagues asked 80 trainee teachers and psychology undergraduates to rate children’s academic capability based on common but fictional profiles of eight-year olds – girls who played with dolls; boys who played cricket and non-gender stereotyped children who liked swimming.

When a child was labelled a girl, most participants said she was less likely to be good at physics - and less likely to be interested in it. If she was stereotypically feminine, they also thought she would be less likely to be interested in any science.

Participants were also required to teach the fictional child a science lesson over Skype, but researchers manipulated the experiment so that the video connection was lost just as the trainees believed they were about to teach the child.

“They were asked to continue teaching the child and we just recorded them - and got some really interesting results,” says Dr Newall, lead author of the study. “When they knew they were teaching a girl, they used less scientific talk.”

She says it is likely the participants were unaware of their bias, and had they known they had taught girls and boys differently, they would be surprised.

“Actually we are all affected by societal subconscious biases. The only way we can change this is by a cultural gender shift.”

The numbers of girls who study HSC physics illustrates this. In the final year of high school, seven percent of girls and 23.5 percent of boys study physics, according to Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) figures.

In university, female enrolment in physics undergraduate degrees has dropped to 21 percent today from 27.6 percent in 2002. The figures are similar in American and British universities.

Women are also underrepresented as physics teachers in schools and universities, and researchers in public and private laboratories. Women physicists usually have lower seniority and earn less, the AIP says.

Dr Newall’s research may also explain why companies are struggling to hire more women for roles requiring Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills.


Coding Academies and the Future of Higher Education
I recently had an extraordinarily interesting conversation with Darrell Silver, the cofounder and CEO of Thinkful, a coding academy that currently has about 1,600 students. It is doing lots of innovative things, explaining why much of traditional higher education is struggling. It and other coding academies provide hope that our nation’s future human capital needs can be fulfilled more efficiently and effectively than currently. The coding academy model reeks with incentives and innovation, keys to educational reform.

Thinkful is an online institution, so it avoids enormous capital costs (expensive buildings empty for much of the year); it uses as its faculty part-time professionals who do this in addition to a regular job; it offers students a zero tuition option using an Income Share Agreement model that motivates both student and Thinkful to perform well. It is for-profit, adding incentives to deliver students services cheaply while providing them very marketable skills. It has only one job: train individuals to be more productive in the work force in a relatively short period of time. There are no sustainability coordinators or diversity and inclusion specialists—it is all about learning.

In short, it may be the future of higher learning in America. You can’t currently use a Pell Grant or get a federally subsidized student loan to go there, but Mr. Silver and his team have innovated their way around that problem and the restrictions involved with it, like a small handful of traditional schools (e.g., Hillsdale College) have also very successfully done. Thinkful is not alone: the coding academy business is booming, while traditional higher education likely will enter its ninth year of enrollment decline this fall.

Thinkful trains mostly young adults (the average student is about 30) in computer programming and related skills needed by American business. If you want to pay cash for their typical six month training program, you can write a check for somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000. But if you are struggling financially and if Thinkful believes you have the desire and the ability to succeed (and only 10 to 20% of interested students do), they will make you a deal: pay nothing, but sign a contract giving them somewhere between 10 and 14% of your post-training income for two or three years. It is the ultimate “skin in the game” model—both the student and Thinkful have enormous incentives for the student to successfully complete the program and get a job utilizing newly acquired skills. Unlike in traditional higher education, the student’s interests are very closely aligned with that of the school. Mr. Silver tells me about 85% of participants get a full-time job within six months of completing the academy’s program. He thinks a five to ten fold growth in scale over the next few years is highly reasonable and, indeed, expected.

Having high level computer skills is not for everyone, and, as an economist I am confident if there were, say, a 100 fold growth in similar coding academies over the next few years, we would be hearing about unemployed computer geniuses—supply would grow faster than demand, lowering the remunerative value of such training. But the coding academy model undoubtedly works in other occupations as well, for example learning skills like welding or becoming experts in hospital patient information system management. Some Thinkful students have bachelor’s degrees, although many have some college training (say two years) but quit college thinking they are not on a vocationally fruitful path and don’t want to run up more student loan debt.

Will traditional universities learn from this model? You would think so, but incentives are not well aligned for that to happen. As long as taxpayers are willing to continue to subsidize the currently horrendously inefficient and costly system, university personnel will fight to keep it, with its not over demanding work ethic, relatively high level of job security, etc. But public support is waning, enrollments are falling, and a birth dearth is confronting the academy (partly aided and abetted by academic indifference or even hostility for traditional family arrangements stressing child-raising). The traditional university is not dead, nor should it be in my opinion. But it needs to respond to this new efficient form of higher learning.


Australia: University funding boost brings hope for new era

A plan to link a small proportion of funding to the performance of universities has been hailed as a breakthrough after a funding freeze.

University chiefs have hailed a promised modest funding boost, based on new performance criteria, as a "starting point" for a new era of growth.

Education Minister Dan Tehan met with university vice-chancellors in Wollongong on Wednesday to discuss a report on performance-based funding.

The report was commissioned in the wake of a $2.2 billion funding freeze initiated by the coalition government in 2017 to help balance the federal budget.

Performance-based funding will begin from 2020 and grow in line with population growth of 18 to 64-year-olds, providing an increase of around $80 million next year.

University performance will be determined by such factors as graduate job outcomes, student success, student experience and participation of indigenous, low socioeconomic status, and regional and remote students.

Review panel chair and University of Wollongong vice-chancellor Paul Wellings said linking a small proportion of funding to the performance of universities was a world-first. "It's a starting point - how do we start to grow the sector again," he told reporters.

"There was a cap put in to try and control the overall spend ... and now we are starting to see a green shoot emerge and a new opportunity for funding."

Mr Tehan hoped to finalise the details of the plan by the end of the month, after a further meeting with university bosses.

Universities were key to improving Australia's productivity and fulfilling the government's promise to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years, he said. "We are providing over $17 billion to the sector," he said.

"What the model does is universities give up a tiny bit of autonomy where they are not performing and enables government to work with you to lift that performance."

National Union of Students president Desiree Cai said the promised funding was inadequate in light of chronic underfunding of universities.

"At the very least, Minister Tehan needs to restore funding to what it was before the $2.2 billion funding cut introduced in the funding freeze," she said.

The government also needed to step up support for students, including boosting the Youth Allowance and student income support, and tackling job insecurity and underemployment in the workforce.

National Tertiary Education Union president Dr Alison Barnes said there could be many unintended consequences from the performance-based criteria.

"If the 'job outcome' is not linked to the learning, we may see the perverse outcome of many more lawyers being qualified, but working in fast food outlets," she said.

As well, staff could come under pressure to improve student pass rates in a bid to reduce the number of dropouts.


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

3 ways Grandparents Can Help Pay For College

It’s crucial that grandparents, parents and students understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option

There are several ways grandparents can help pay for a grandchild’s education without giving money directly to the student. It’s crucial that grandparents, parents and students understand each of the options before deciding which one may be appropriate for them.

For instance, they need to know whether the method they’re using jeopardizes a student’s prospects for need-based financial aid, or if it meshes well with the grandparents’ overall estate plan. Here is a look at three ways grandparents can help fund a grandchild’s education, and the pros and cons of each:

1. Invest in a ‘529’ plan

Financial advisers often recommend the state-sponsored education-savings plans known as 529s to grandparents who want to help with college costs because of the many advantages this type of plan offers.

These plans, which invest mainly in mutual funds, offer tax-deferred growth on every dollar invested, and distributions are tax-free when used for qualified educational purposes. Grandparents can pick any state’s 529 plan, and some states even offer residents a tax deduction on contributions. These plans also are flexible in that any unused funds can be transferred to another grandchild or blood relative.

Grandparents can put as much as $15,000 a year ($30,000 if they are married) per grandchild in a 529 plan without triggering gift-tax consequences. Even better, they can “bunch” five years of annual $15,000 gifts into a 529 in one year without triggering a taxable event, a potentially attractive benefit for those seeking to reduce the size of their estates.

“To me, the 529 is the turnkey solution for college planning,” says Jeff Motske, certified financial planner and president of Trilogy Financial, a financial-planning firm in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Grandparents have the option of owning the 529 themselves or con- tributing to a 529 plan owned by the parent for the benefit of the child. One advantage of owning the account is that you “can control where the money goes right up until the time it’s used,” says Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors’ Falcon Financial Group in Morristown, N.J. Grandparents can even use the funds for themselves, albeit with tax consequences, should a financial need arise, she says.

There is, however, a downside to grandparent-owned 529 plans for families seeking need-based financial aid: Distributions count as student income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, and student income is weighed much more heavily than parental income in the aid formula.

There are some potential workarounds, however. One option is to switch ownership of the 529 to the parent around the time the grandchild expects to start college. Not every state’s 529 allows for a change in ownership, however, so this is something to explore before choosing a plan, Ms. D’Agostini says.

Another option is to wait until after Jan. 1 of the beneficiary’s sophomore year in college to take a distribution, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at

Since the Fafsa now asks for income and tax information from two years back, there would be no Fafsa on which to report the distribution if the student plans to graduate in four years. (If the student expects to graduate in five years, the family should wait until Jan. 1 of his or her junior year to take a distribution, Mr. Kantrowitz says.)

The grandparent also could roll over up to a year’s worth of college expenses to a parent’s 529 plan after the Fafsa has been filed. Provided all of the funds are spent on qualified educational expenses, it won’t have to be reported on the next year’s Fafsa, Mr. Kantrowitz says.

Some grandparents may not want the responsibility of owning the account, preferring instead to contribute a certain amount each year to a 529 plan owned by the parent for the child’s benefit. This may be appealing to those who want to give small amounts of money each year— around $1,000 or less.

In this scenario, “your grandchild gets all the benefits without you having to worry about maintaining the account,” says Joseph Conroy, a certified financial planner and financial consultant with Synergy Financial Group, a wealth-management firm in Towson, Md.

The downside, of course, is the grandparent cedes control of the money to the parent.

Grandparentowned 529s have a downside related to Fafsa, but there are workarounds.

$2,562 What grandparents spend a year on average on their grandchildren, AARP says, or about $179 billion total

2. Direct payment to an educational institution

Grandparents can write a tuition check for any amount directly to a qualifying college or graduate school without triggering gift-tax implications, says Eric Brotman, chief executive of BFG Financial Advisors, a financial planning and wealthmanagement firm in Timonium, Md. Some grandparents like this option because they can pay the university directly and still give the grandchild an additional $15,000 tax-free. Grandparents, however, can’t claim a charitable distribution for tuition they pay on a grandchild’s behalf. Also, this exemption to the IRS’s gift-tax rules applies only to tuition expenses and not to other college-related expenses such as books and supplies. Another consideration is that the money isn’t refundable if the student decides to switch schools, so it isn’t advisable for grandparents to prepay tuition for all four years.

Also, grandparents should be aware that this type of payment could have an impact on the student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid.

3. Fixed-indexed universal-life insurance policy

Another, less-talkedabout option for paying for college—albeit a controversial one— is using cash-value permanent life insurance.

One type that some advisers like is fixedindexed universal-life insurance. Mike Windle, a partner and financial adviser at C. Curtis Financial Group, a financialplanning firm in Plymouth, Mich., recommends this option because of the flexible premiums and upside potential without the downside risk. To make this strategy work, the policy should be owned by the grandparent, with the grandchild as the insured, making the cost of insurance inexpensive, says Mr. Windle, who owns these types of policies and offers them to clients.

Having such a policy allows grandparents to contribute after-tax money in a lump sum—monthly, quarterly or annually. When the funds are used, they are considered a loan against the cash value of the policy. They are tax-free at distribution, and they don’t count as income or assets on the student’s Fafsa, Mr. Windle says.

He generally recommends fixed-indexed universal-life insurance policies to clients whose grandchildren are 8 years old or younger. The policies he recommends have no cost to the grandparent to withdraw funds (and withdrawals aren’t counted against the grandparent’s yearly gifttax limit) if the loans from the policy occur in the 10th year of the policy or later, Mr. Windle says. If grandparents take a withdrawal before the 10th anniversary, it could cost them about 2% of the loan, depending on the insurance company, he says. Though premium rates aren’t guaranteed, Mr. Windle says the additional cost for a child would be minimal and is likely to be offset in part by growth in the policy’s cash value.

Another benefit is that the money can be used for multiple purposes—it isn’t limited to education. And the policies have a death benefit if something happens to the child.

There are downsides to using life insurance as a vehicle for college savings, however, and not everyone thinks it is a good idea. An insurance policy can be pricier and the investment selections more limited than with some other options grandparents have for funding college, financial experts say.

Before purchasing a life-insurance policy for college-savings purposes, grandparents should consider the type of insurance and return on investment, as well as applicable costs, to ensure it’s the best option for their situation.


Facial Recognition Tech Comes to Schools and Summer Camps

FACIAL RECOGNITION is no longer just being used to unlock iPhones, tag Facebook friends and scan crowds for security threats. It’s moving into summer camps, youth sports tournaments and schools.

At summer camps across the country, parents can opt into facialrecognition services to receive photos of their camper without having to sift through hundreds of group shots for proof that little Susie is having a good time climbing ropes. One facialrecognition software manufacturer has proposals in front of several K-12 public school districts to install the technology to help identify and track potential shooters on campus.

While commercial applications of facial-recognition software abound—and bear their own fair share of controversy—the fact that this latest wave is geared toward children has privacy experts and politicians urging parents and school districts to think twice.

Concerns over this precious data—children’s faces—range from accuracy to abuse. Could it one day be used for purposes other than that for which it’s currently intended?

In the movie “Minority Report,” biometric systems created for marketing are commandeered to hunt down citizens suspected of wrongdoing. There’s no evidence of this happening yet, but as science fiction goes, it’s not too far-fetched.

“We’re in the very early stages of commercial, nongovernmental use of facial recognition and we shouldn’t be waiting until harms occur to do something, we should be acting now to mitigate the harms,” said Nathan Sheard, a grass-roots advocacy organizer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Threat Detection

Last year, the Lockport City School District in upstate New York became one of the first school systems in the nation to purchase facial- recognition software, which it began testing in June.

Here’s how it works, according to SN Technologies Corp., the Canadian firm that developed the software: School districts create a database containing photos of students and adults who aren’t permitted to be on school grounds.

The software is integrated into school cameras, and scans for a match. If one is detected, school administrators receive an alert. SN Technologies’ software can also detect a gun—if it’s in a person’s hand, not if it’s concealed—which results in a notification being sent to first responders. The company says that having information on who and where a shooter is could enable police to locate and stop a shooter more quickly.

The interest in the software drew concern from Monica Wallace, a member of the New York State Assembly. “The more I thought about it the more I realized how concerning it is that we don’t have any policies in place and that no one has given it any detailed thought before rushing forward,” the Democratic lawmaker told me.

She said one school district already has indicated it wants to use facial recognition for disciplinary purposes as well as threat assessments. “Is this going to be a surveillance state for our kids?” she said.

She introduced legislation to halt the implementation of facial recognition in New York schools until the state’s education department can conduct a review and establish guidelines for its possible use.

The use of children’s biometric data is coming under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission, which earlier this month launched a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that requires children’s websites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing a child’s personal information. The FTC is now seeking comment on whether the definition of “personal information” should be expanded to include biometric data.

The makers of facial-recognition software argue that concerns about the technology are overblown because people don’t really understand it. For these companies, facial data isn’t captured and stored as a usable image, but rather as lengthy chains of numbers and letters that can only be deciphered by proprietary software. Developers argue the data would be meaningless to anyone who doesn’t have their model.

More HERE 

Australia: Schools going backward with no plan for change

If more evidence were needed to demonstrate why our school education system is substandard, despite additional billions and so many government-mandated initiatives, look no further than the depressing sub­missions to the review of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration.

For 11 years it has been used as the key strategic road map to guide policy development at the state and commonwealth levels.

The declaration also has been employed by educational bureaucrats, education ministers and professional associations to inform the work of schools.

Given our retreating standards of literacy and numeracy, you’d expect the submissions would call for radical change.

Not so. The Australian Education Union argues that the document is still relevant; there’s no need for a review.

Predictably the union argues that to improve “equity and excellence”, additional billions must be invested, especially for “disadvantaged” schools, and that the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests must be abolished.

Ironically, NAPLAN is the only transparent and objective measure that can be used to evaluate and track school and system effectiveness.

The Melbourne Graduate School of Education is also hostile to NAPLAN. It argues that governments should “move away from a narrow focus of point-in-time high-stakes assessment” by adopting “best practice diagnostic and assessment tools and learning progressions”, otherwise known as formative assessment.

The stronger performing systems in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Finland stress summative assessment, in which students are marked against year level standards, there are consequences for success and failure, and students are ranked one against the other at key stages.

One of the many destructive ideas associated with outcomes-based education, an unproven curriculum model forced on Australian schools in the 1990s, is championing generic competencies and skills rather than established subjects and disciplines.

Instead of learning from our failures, submissions to the review of the Melbourne Declaration also stress competencies and skills associated with 21st century, lifelong learning. A time, supposedly, when the workplace will be “unpredictable, dynamic, ambiguous and complex”. Given the ever-increasing rate of “changes, particularly global and technological”, the Melbourne Graduate School of Education argues that learning should focus on students becoming “lifelong learners, critical, creative and enterprising individuals”.

Learning and assessment should focus on “social and emotional wellbeing with general capabilities and multiple forms of excellence celebrated”.

Apparently, to “prepare students for the future” the Australian Association for the Teaching of English believes it is no longer necessary to give students an appreciation of the Western literary canon.

Given the cultural-left’s long march through the education system, it comes as no surprise that several submissions recycle the usual cliches and pretentious phrases associated with politically correctness and groupthink.

The Melbourne Graduate School, after citing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, suggests education should “recognise our common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet and the need to continue working with others towards a better and more peaceful world as we create an innovative future”.

Cultural relativism is also promoted. Any future road map should recognise “Australia’s diverse cultural heritage” and ensure students demonstrate “ethical and respectful behaviour towards other cultures”.

But not all cultures are equal as there are some practices that are immoral, uncivilised and indefensible. The Australian Curriculum Studies Association also champions the belief that Australia is “diverse” and “multi-faith”.

Submissions to the review emphasise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture on the basis that indigenous history and culture are “a foundation of Australia’s culture, heritage and future”.

But Australia primarily is a Western, liberal democracy where our institutions and way of life are underpinned by Judeo-Christianity and epochal events such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and modernity.

Of greater concern is that while most submissions focus on equity and disadvantage, there is no acknowledgment that students’ performance is so dismal — especially among gifted students.

Even worse, the deluded argument is put that the Melbourne Declaration has been so successful that any new road map should be extended to include universities. As suggested by the Australian Catholic University’s sub­mission, this would extend the dead hand of self-serving educrats and further undermine Australia’s tertiary system.


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Calif. teachers union has spent more than $4 million this year to cripple charter schools

As much as it spent on everything in prior two-year legislative session

The California Teachers Association is so intent on destroying educational opportunities for the state’s children that it blew through millions – even more than the region’s Big Oil – just since this spring.

Citing just-filed financial disclosure forms, The Sacramento Bee reports that the state’s largest teachers union spent $3.6 million lobbying against charter schools April-June, more than a million per month.

That brings its 2019 total to $4.3 million, about as much as it spent during the entire 2017-2018 legislative session lobbying on everything. It outpaced even the six-state Western States Petroleum Association ($4.1 million) and Chevron ($3.7 million), making the CTA the highest spender on state lobbying of the year.

The education monopolists are pushing bills that would “hand greater charter authorization and oversight to local districts and county offices” and “limit a charter school to operating within the boundaries of its authorizing body,” according to the Bee.

Fortunately for parents who want affordable options beyond failing public schools, two other anti-charter bills have already failed to leave their chambers: an Assembly bill to cap charters and a Senate bill to ban creation of new charters until 2022.

A spokesperson for the education monopolist said it wants to hold charters accountable. California teachers are not allowed to hold the unions accountable, however: In May a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit to recoup “agency fees” that teachers were required to pay in lieu of union dues.


A Rational Look at the EMS College Degree Issue

Nothing, of late, has stirred more debate than the issue of mandatory college degrees for Emergency Medical Services  personnel. The arguments have been passionate—but they have not always been informed. Let’s look at this issue from a rational perspective. Before we can answer questions about mandatory degrees, we must first reach some conclusions about EMS in general. EMS has been said to consist of three domains: public safety, health care, and public health. Granted, public health is a minor EMS domain leaving public safety and health care as the principal EMS domains.

Generally speaking, public safety can be defined as the protection of the general public. In the United States, public safety almost always consists of at least police protection and fire protection and animal control. These are generally seen as governmental responsibilities. Although some may be volunteer, most fixed-costs are funded or provided by governmental entities. It is uncommon to encounter private or for-profit police and fire departments in the United States, although they may exist. EMS and ambulance services came to the public safety system late in the game (e.g., 1960s to 1970s). Before that, they were operated by funeral homes, hospitals, first aid squads, and, in some instances, by police and fire departments. They were never, for the most part, funded by the governments.

With the development of the modern EMS system, planners opted to integrate EMS into the public safety system instead of the health care system. Oversight of EMS at the federal level was assigned to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is an arm of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). Many pushed for EMS to be under what was then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (USHEW). However, it was assigned to the USDOT, where it remains today. Thus, in the United States, EMS seems to have aligned itself with public safety instead of health care. It is forced to receive funding in competition with the two major public safety entities—police and fire. But, since the majority of what EMS does is health care, there is really no significant funding of the system. Thus, the proliferation of volunteer agencies, hospital-based operations (that operate EMS as loss leaders) and for-profit companies has occurred.

So, is EMS health care or public safety? Certainly, there will always be a component of both. But what is the major role? This has a direct bearing on the degree issue. If you look at public safety (police, fire), college degrees are rarely required except when one moves into management or very specialized areas. Certification of firefighters and police officers is typically overseen by state agencies and a college degree, although recommended, is usually not required. Firefighters and police officers become certified by the respective oversight agencies. When a degree is required, the minimum standard is often an Associate’s degree. So, if EMS is public safety, the prevailing standard is certification and not a degree (although a few states require an Associate’s degree for paramedics).

In healthcare, college degrees are a standard for most personnel who come into contact with patients. Some of the Allied Health professions only hold Associate’s degree (e.g., respiratory therapy, x-ray technicians). Most healthcare providers who contact patients hold Bachelor’s degrees or higher (e.g., nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy). Physicians are required to hold doctoral degrees and have post-medical school training (residency), and specialty board certification.

Thus, if EMS is deemed to be primarily healthcare (which it appears to be), then college degrees will be required to have a seat at the table in the House of Medicine. If you look at many of the Commonwealth countries (e.g., Australia, United Kingdom), EMS is a part of their healthcare system and funded in that fashion. Degrees are expected, although in some countries a Bachelor’s degree may take three years instead of the four years we have in the United States, and you see that most of the EMS providers hold some type of degree.

When I got into EMS (quite by accident) in 1974, I was attracted to the medical side of EMS. I liked the patient care and loved learning the science behind it. I knew that I wanted a career in healthcare but I did not see a good future for me and my family in EMS of the 1970s. I stayed in college throughout my EMS career because I knew that only a college degree would allow me a respectable career in healthcare. I ultimately attended a state medical school. Thus, a college education gave me a great career and my family a good life. But, that’s not for everybody and that’s OK.

So, back to the original question: Is EMS primarily healthcare or is it primarily public safety? Whether we want to admit or not, most of what EMS does is to provide medical treatment to individuals and transport them to a healthcare facility. Certainly, we help in disasters, traffic control, rescue, and similar endeavors that are in the domain of public safety. But the bread and butter of EMS is healthcare. Until we embrace healthcare as the principal EMS role or domain, the idea of requiring a college degree is putting the cart before the horse. Current EMS salaries, for the most part (based on the public safety model), are inadequate to justify the requirement of a college degree. What does a college degree bring to EMS in its current form (pseudo public safety/pseudo healthcare)? It has to be more than lip service.

Many years ago, my home state of Texas decided to recognize paramedics who had a college degree. It was done with good intent. They decided to create a second paramedic level referred to as a “Licensed Paramedic” as opposed to a regular or registered paramedic. Now, it didn’t matter what the degree was in (music, Greek literature, Spanish, biochemistry, etc.). If you had a degree you could become a “Licensed Paramedic” although that level of certification had the identical scope of practice to the garden-variety Texas paramedic. We can’t let the current discussion of degrees in EMS become a mental masturbation exercise like occurred in Texas.

So, do I support a college degree requirement for EMS providers? I do. But only when the time is right, and now the time is not right. If EMS is destined to remain a third public safety service funded by a bastardized system of ad valorem taxes, user fees, and donations, then the salaries will never justify the costs and time required for a college degree. I know many paramedics who stayed in school and received their degree. Few stayed in EMS because their degree made them more desirable to occupations that appreciated the benefit of the education. But, if we embrace EMS as a healthcare profession with EMS providers paid well akin to other equally -qualified healthcare providers, then I’m all for college degrees. Your mileage may differ. I guess time will tell.


Another failed and poisonous Leftist dream

"College for all" has destroyed many lives

With the rising number of student loan defaults, the federal government has reaped what it has sown. A government policy to give virtually any student a loan has pushed tens of thousands of them into a financial hole from which they will struggle to escape for years.

A new report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) examines the “Casualties of College Debt” and finds that 24 percent of all Direct Loan borrowers—students who borrowed from the federal government—“were either delinquent or in default at the end of 2018” and “in the last 12 months alone, over a million Direct Loan borrowers entered default.”

Delinquency starts when students miss a payment; default doesn’t happen until students don’t pay for nine months.

The problem might also be worse than the TICAS report makes clear. According to a paper from the Federal Reserve of New York, the delinquency rate “is somewhat misleading” because avoiding delinquency and default doesn’t mean borrowers are paying down their debt. “Forty-four percent of borrowers were neither delinquent nor paying down their loans,” the Fed noted. Forbearance, deferment, and income-based repayment plans help borrowers avoid default, but it doesn’t always help them repay the borrowed money.

When almost half of the borrowers aren’t repaying their loans, the benefits of college are hard to see. The “college for all” movement has promised students and parents socioeconomic mobility and a better future, but the ugly reality has left many students worse off than if they had skipped college altogether.

Unsurprising, those former students are in difficult economic circumstances. The TICAS report noted that defaulted borrowers are more likely to live in poverty, be a college dropout, have a dependent child, be a first-generation student, and be black. These students weren’t taking out large amounts of debt, either: 52 percent of those who defaulted borrowed less than $10,000.

What the struggle to repay student debt shows is that the promise of college as a way out of poverty, for many, is myth more than reality.

To be clear, the students struggling the most are not the average student, but they are a significant group. The students with the most student debt are generally fine; they can pay it off, even if it takes decades. But the students who suffer the most are students from low-income families who thought that college was the key to their economic mobility.

Though some coverage of the TICAS report has focused on racial disparities, the scandal of student loan defaults goes beyond race: The consequence of the “college for all” movement has condemned poor students to years, if not decades, of struggle on an over-optimistic promise of success.

The loan default problem, however, is a crisis of completion and of income, not debt. Failing to get a degree means the student wasted time and money when he could have been working; and without a degree, students don’t improve their chances of getting a job. It’s tough enough making ends meet with a low-paying job. When former students have to do so with some college debt on their shoulders, many can’t do it.

Access is a hallmark of American higher education, but given the struggles brought by easy-to-get loans, politicians may need to consider more qualifications before granting loans to potential students. Until completion rates improve or college costs fall, the result of the federal government’s student loan policy will be hundreds of thousands in delinquency and default every year.

What the struggle to repay student debt shows is that the promise of college as a way out of poverty, for many, is myth more than reality.

As the TICAS report makes clear, high default rates do not simply come from a lack of gumption from dropouts and struggling graduates. Loan delinquency and default is a systemic problem for thousands of colleges, and colleges have the power to lower default rates.

A stronger commitment to student retention and graduation would go a long way. Improving the quality of advising sessions, tutoring and extra help when students struggle, and non-traditional forms of support like childcare for student-parents could help. Colleges pour more and more funding into administrative staff and “diversity initiatives;” diverting some of that to student support could go a long way. Less than half of four-year colleges and 44 percent of community colleges offer campus childcare, according to Inside Higher Ed, and both figures have declined compared to a decade ago. Student-parents are increasing and some studies have shown campus childcare services improve retention rates, but colleges have been reluctant to fund this aspect of student services.

Simplifying the FAFSA process may also help students avoid loans in the first place. Making the FAFSA easier to complete—and understand—could show students the true cost of college and student loans by clarifying what aid is a grant and what aid is a loan that demands repayment. It might push them to attend a more-affordable school, a community college, or look into apprenticeships. If the FAFSA were easier to understand, more low-income students might complete it and receive more grant aid to lower their loan totals, too.

If colleges don’t want to take the initiative, then changing federal policy could encourage them to do so. Most colleges face no punishment when students default. They keep the loan money and students keep the debt. But pushing “skin in the game” and making colleges financially liable for high levels of student loan defaults could have a major effect. The devil is in the details, though: Making policy to hold colleges accountable is tricky. Past regulations only targeted for-profit colleges, even though it’s easy to find community colleges or public four-year colleges that have worse outcomes. Senator Josh Hawley’s recent proposal to require colleges to pay 50 percent of student loans that enter default, though, shows that an appetite for accountability exists.

America’s experiment in access-at-any-cost college has failed. If one of every 10 borrowers default on their loans, and almost half of borrowers aren’t paying down their debts, this shows the rot within higher ed. Ever-increasing costs, carried more and more by students, to finance ever-expanding universities, cannot continue without a future crisis. It may be time to embrace a definition of education that isn’t monopolized by colleges and universities. Trade schools, apprenticeships, and direct work experience could benefit many students now pursuing a traditional bachelor’s degree. As Noah Smith argued in Bloomberg, “The four-year university program has become the standard among the educated classes who make education policy. But just because the system worked for them doesn’t mean it works for everyone.” Education policy needs to consider those who didn’t succeed in the system as much as it currently considers those who did succeed.

Reformers argue that the government should get out of the student loan business in order to rein in college costs. But the better argument might be that the federal government has become a bureaucratic loan shark, preying on low-income students.


Monday, August 05, 2019

Now it’s getting ridiculous: Four debates, no questions about K-12 education

Now it’s getting ridiculous: Four debates among Democratic presidential candidates, and no questions — or serious discussion — about K-12 education.

A nod goes to Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, a former superintendent of the Denver school system, who answered a non-education question with a call to improve the public education system. His passionate plea to “fix our school system” and focus on segregated schools came in response to a question by CNN moderator Don Lemon about why he would be the best candidate to heal the racial divide in the United States.

Some candidates made passing references to universal preschool, and moderators did raise college affordability and student debt. But when it comes to K-12 public education, which many believe is the most important civic institution in the country, nada.

There have been four debates: two in June on NBC and MSNBC with 10 candidates each night; and two this week on CNN, also with 10 candidates on each night. So, what were the moderators thinking, exactly?

That education isn’t as important as health care and immigration and foreign affairs and how Democrats can win Michigan in 2020?

That prekindergarten and higher education is more important than the grades in between?

That Americans aren’t very interested in the present and future of public education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plans to change the way U.S. children attend school?

Do the moderators think the candidates all agree so they can’t spark a fight with the issue? (They don’t.)

Is it too difficult to compose questions that get at the heart of major matters confronting public schools?

How about: “America funds its public education system largely through property taxes, and federal efforts to close the gap between high-income and low-income neighborhoods have not bridged the gap. Should there be a fundamental change in the way public schools are funded?"

Or: “If the Supreme Court rules, as it may do, that it is constitutional for states to use public funds for religious education, would you take any action as president to override that decision? Do you believe it is constitutional for public funds to be used for religious education?"

Or: “Do you agree with any education move that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made?” Or: “What is the most damaging step Betsy DeVos has taken, and how would you change it?” Or: “Do you agree with Betsy DeVos on expanding charter schools, and if not, where is the disagreement?”

Or: “Can you name the three biggest problems facing K-12 education today, and how you would fix them?”

Or: “What is the role of the federal government in education policy?”

Well, there’s always hope that some K-12 education question will come up in the next Democratic debate. But don’t hold your breath.


Chinese students are welcome in America, US education official Marie Royce says, calling China’s negative reports propaganda

A US education official on Tuesday accused China’s state-controlled media of painting an “inaccurate picture” of the hardships Chinese students are said to face living and studying in the US, stressing that Chinese students are welcome in America.

“The United States continues to admit qualified Chinese students for study at US colleges and universities,” Marie Royce, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, told the annual EducationUSA Forum in Washington.
“Contrary to what you might have heard from the government of China, the number of Chinese student visa applications refused has declined in each of the last four years,” Royce told an audience of 500 international education professionals from US universities and colleges. “This demonstrates that US higher education is increasingly accessible to Chinese students.”

Her remarks suggested that the US government is striving to play down fears of growing hostility towards Chinese academics and students working and studying in the US after some scholars complained about scrutiny from the US government over their ties to Beijing.

In May, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said it had removed two Chinese-American professors with the department of human genetics, Li Xiaojiang and his wife, Li Shihua, for failing to disclosing their ties to institutions in China, an accusation the couple denied.

Some scholars in China also said that their 10-year multiple-entry visas to the US had been revoked by US authorities without explanation.

And in June, China’s Ministry of Education issued a warning about the risks of studying in the US, citing a soaring number of visa rejections.

US President Donald Trump, mindful of these developments, said on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June that he wanted more Chinese students to go to the United States as concern grows about Chinese scholars in American academia. “We want to have Chinese students [go] to our great schools and great universities,” Trump said. “They are great students and tremendous assets.”

Royce said the Chinese government should be held responsible for giving Chinese citizens “an inaccurate picture” of the United States. “The state-controlled Chinese media inundates Chinese students with Communist Party-curated content that exaggerates the dangers of living and studying in the United States,” the official said. “Through Chinese social media, Chinese students continue to view the United States through this distorted lens.”

Such misinformation not only discourages Chinese students in the US from fully engaging with their American and international peers, it also saps the power of American higher education institutions to draw Chinese students, several international student recruiters said on the sidelines of the forum.

Moto Tomita, a regional director for international recruitment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said American universities have become the latest casualties of the trade tension between the world’s top two economies. China’s warning about the risks of studying in the US will have a “big impact on student enrolment,” said Tomita, who projects a 20 per cent decline in Chinese student enrolment at his university for the 2019-2020 school year.

That would be the biggest decline of its kind at the school in 25 years.

Chinese students contributed more than US$15 billion to the US economy in 2018. More than 360,000 Chinese students studied in the US in the 2017-18 school year, making up one-third of the overall international student body in the country.

The number of Chinese students in the US is greater than the combined total of the next seven countries where Chinese students are studying abroad the most, Royce said.

“From a foreign relations standpoint, the friendships that are formed, the values shared, and the networks created, are even more important than the economic contributions of these Chinese students,” the official said.

She urged American universities to double down on their efforts not only to welcome Chinese students to their classrooms, but to ensure they are given opportunities to fully experience America’s culture and communities.

Universities should go beyond typical “welcome orientation” events by encouraging Chinese students to live alongside Americans and join student clubs and organisations, she said.
“Open our classrooms and homes, expose Chinese students to our welcoming culture, eat and live alongside them, foster lifelong connections, and allow them to form their own conclusions about the United States.”


The history of public education in America

With school starting in just a few days, I thought it would be interesting to research the history of education in the United States and some current statistics.

New England colonists valued education and established the first public school in 1635. It was called the Boston Latin School and is still in operation today.

The first free taxpayer-supported school was opened in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1639. These early schools did not emphasize reading and math, but the traditional English curriculum of family, church, community, and trades skills.

It was assumed that parents would teach their children reading and math as most of the original colonists were literate as they were involved in the Protestant Church so learned to read the scriptures.

However, this was not the case in the South as a large part of the population was single indentured servants who were not literate. The “planter class” did not support public education as they could afford private tutors for their children. In the South, only children from wealthy families were educated.

In both the North and South, early schools were for white boys only. There were few facilities for girls. It was felt that girls did not need an education to become wives and mothers.

Later, girls were taught to reading but not writing or math. The philosophy was they did not need those skills to run a household as all money decisions were made by their fathers or husbands.

The first school for girls was opened in 1727 in New Orleans by the Catholic Church. It was also the first school teach “girls of color” and Native Americans. By 1767, there were some tax-supported schools for girls in New England but once again, reading was the emphasis so they could read the scriptures, but writing was not taught.

This why colonial women could read but could not sign their names and used an X for a signature.

It was not until after the Civil War that large numbers of African-Americans had the opportunity to go to school. In the early days of the Reconstruction Era, the Freedman’s Bureau opened over a thousand schools for black children.

By 1865, more than 90,000 freedmen were enrolled as students in these schools. Public schools were not integrated at this time and school integration would not be implemented until the 1954 Supreme Court Case of Brown vs The Board of Education ruled that public schools must be integrated.

Change did not come easily.

In 1957 it took Federal troops to enforce integration in Little Rock, Arkansas as the “Little Rock 9” enrolled in Central High School.

Today, education is controlled by each state. All states have tax-supported public education for all children. The national average states spend per student for public education is $12,756.

California spends $10,281 per pupil. New York is the highest spending state, paying $19,697 per pupil.

This fall it is estimated that there will be 50.8 million students enrolled in public schools nationwide.

Three million of these will be enrolled in public charter schools
An additional 5.6 million children will be enrolled in private schools that charge tuition — most located in cities and have some religious affiliation

Approximately 1.7 million children (3.3%) will be homeschooled
Nationwide, 85% of students graduate from high school, an increase of 6% since 2011, mostly because a larger number of Hispanic students are graduating. California’s over-all graduation rate is 83%.

In summary, we are fortunate to live in a country that values education for all. We have come a long way from our county’s beginning when few had the opportunity to get an education. A democracy can only be successful with an educated population.

An educated population allows us to compete on the world stage and have a high standard of living. While there are still huge differences between the quality of education nationwide and by school district, thanks to enlightened national and local leaders these differences are becoming fewer.

However, the people who make the greatest difference are local citizens. We all must take an interest in the quality of education in our communities.


Sunday, August 04, 2019

The Purely Imaginary ‘Rightward Transformation’ in Higher Education

One of the most peculiar claims to gain currency in higher education holds that academia has become captive to nefarious monied interests on the political right. Writings in this genre almost always hail from scholars on the left, and attribute a variety of problems in the academy—both real and imagined—to the ulterior-motived influence of conservative and libertarian donors.

Claims of this sort range from abstract allegations of a sweeping but ill-defined “neoliberal” takeover of the university system to elaborate conspiracy theorizing about specific disliked scholars and donors a la Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.

Common to each telling, an external force of “right wing” ideas are surreptitiously implanted into an academy that previously operated without the taint of these corrupting influences and money. The solution to higher ed’s woes may thus be found in identifying and purging the philanthropic intrusion—in “UnKoching” the campus, in discrediting “neoliberal economics,” and in attributing the achievements of associated academics not to the quality of their scholarly insights but to the purported advantages that clandestine rightwing funding provided them.

This provides a convenient way of attacking and dismissing free market thought, conservatism, libertarianism, or any other disliked ideology without engaging their arguments.

The latest example of this genre comes in the form of a bizarre report by historian David A. Walsh for the Urban Institute, purporting to trace a rightward “transformation” in American intellectual life due to the influence of conservative and libertarian donors.

Using a series of case studies about conservative foundations and donors, Walsh alleges that funding from the right effected a sweeping shift toward free-market, deregulatory, and anti-government ideology within the university system. Conservative donors, he contends, “normalized right-wing politics in the academy to an extent conservatives could have barely imagined in the 1960s.”

While Walsh’s study provides basic historical synopses of several major funders and groups on the right—the Olin Foundation, the Walgreen Foundation, the Koch brothers, and the Federalist Society among them—he conflates their very existence on campus in any form for evidence of the alleged rightward shift in university life. Nowhere does he attempt to measure or substantiate the claimed influence of conservative philanthropic giving, let alone compare it to a suitable control such as the much larger network of donors and foundations on the left.

Mere allegations, tied to a short list of disliked donors and foundations, suffices to sustain Walsh’s causal claim about the rightward “transformation” of academia.

There’s a good reason for Walsh’s lack of measurable evidence for the alleged transformation: Academia did in fact undergo a measurable ideological shift in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, but it played out exactly opposite the assertions found in Walsh’s report, the broader “neoliberal takeover” literature, and similar contributions to this genre. All empirical measures show an academy that is moving sharply and rapidly to the political left.

The clearest measure of this leftward shift may be seen in faculty political identification over time. If conservative philanthropy actually exerted transformative power over the academy, we could reasonably expect to see a measurable increase in the number of faculty who self-identify on the political right. Instead, the opposite has happened.

University faculty have always leaned to the left of the general public, although from the 1960s until the late 1990s self-identified left-liberals consistently made up a stable plurality of about 40 to 45 percent. A sharp leftward shift began around 2000, and left-liberals currently make up an astounding 60 percent of all university faculty.

Faculty growth on the political left comes at the direct expense of conservatives, who dropped from 22 percent of the academy as recently as 1995 to only 12 percent today. Furthermore, faculty who identify as “far left”—a category that usually includes Marxists, socialists, and derivative ideologies in Critical Theory—provided the main impetus of this shift. Far leftists more than doubled in number during this same period, going from a small minority of only 4 percent to 12 percent today—or parity with the total number of conservatives of any stripe.

If any rightward “transformation” of academia happened in this period, as Walsh’s analysis contends, it was so thoroughly subsumed by a larger and simultaneous leftward faculty shift that it does not even register in the data.

A more careful proponent of the rightward transformation thesis might respond at this point that faculty ideology alone does not fully capture the effects of conservative influence on campus. Rather, market ideology or “neoliberalism” has taken root in university administration, due to right-wing philanthropy filling in the gaps from public budgetary cuts, or so the theory goes.

Jason Brennan and I investigated this thesis in our book Cracks in the Ivory Tower by asking a simple question: If neoliberalism has taken over university administration, or the university system at large, who and where are the neoliberals? When did they first appear, and can we track their purported acquisition of power or influence over time? These questions may seem obvious from a social scientific perspective, yet in the world of argument-by-declamation that characterizes much of the higher education literature, nobody appears to have ever tested the claim.

Turning to administrative ranks, we quickly find several indicators of a leftward shift that has paralleled the faculty. Although polling data on administrator ideology only recently became available, a 2018 survey of student-facing administrators—typically the lower-level ranks of student affairs and university life personnel—found that 71 percent identified on the political left. Conservatives comprised only 6 percent, indicating that this segment of university administration sits even further to the left than the faculty at large.

When we try to measure the purported rightward transformation, the speculated academic embrace of free-market ideology is nowhere to be found.
While proponents of the conservative transformation thesis might point out that this survey did not extend to executive-level administrators such as presidents and provosts, the bulk of university “administrative bloat” in the past four decades has actually occurred in the same lower-level ranks of student-facing administration. Between 1976 and 2011, executive level university administrators added about 150,000 new personnel to their ranks. Non-executive administrators swelled by over 630,000 in the same period, with the largest categories coming from student affairs and services. In total, these lower-level university administrators currently outnumber full-time faculty and, by every available indicator, they sit to the political left of even the ideologically skewed professoriate.

When we try to measure the purported rightward transformation, the speculated academic embrace of free-market ideology, the troublesome “neoliberals,” and the accompanying influence of conservative donors are nowhere to be found.

Instead, scholars such as Walsh and others who write in the same genre display a habit of focusing upon the exceptions that prove the rule. They cherry-pick foundations such as Olin, Walgreen, and Koch, or organizations such as the Federalist Society, and elevate them to the center of higher education philanthropy, when in fact these funders and their perspectives constitute tiny and shrinking intellectual minorities in an overwhelmingly left-leaning higher education system.

Even among academic disciplines that the right has supposedly targeted—economics and law—conservative and libertarian perspectives still remain distinct minorities.

Economics textbooks place a much heavier emphasis on pro-intervention “market failure theory” than on deregulation or critiques of political shortcomings. Faculty hiring patterns at top law schools display clear evidence of favoritism to progressive applicants, whereas comparably credentialed conservatives and libertarians tend to place at much lower ranked institutions.

In noting this empirical reality, I make no claims about the “proper” level of ideological balance in higher ed. Intellectual diversity does appear to carry value onto itself by breaking up ideological echo chambers and subjecting research to scrutiny from outside perspectives. Cross-examination of this type may be more important than ever, given the observed decline in scholarly rigor afflicting several of the most left-leaning academic disciplines.

Regardless of what one believes about ideological bias or skew, the claims made by the Urban Institute report, and others before it, are still subject to measurement. By eschewing any and all appropriate measures and focusing instead upon advancing a story of conservative ascendance through simple unproven assertion, the literature in this genre paints a deeply inaccurate picture of long-term ideological trends on campus.

When we turn to measurement instead of anecdote and unfounded assertion, and when we subject basic claims about academia’s ideological transformation to scrutiny, the evidence is overwhelming. The American university system has shifted, and continues to shift, sharply toward the political left.


Indoctrinating Children With 'LGBTQ' Entertainment

Young minds are more frequently being subject to emotional manipulation in cartoons.

There was a time in America when children’s entertainment was a safe bet. Sure, we saw the slow creep of movie violence, more promiscuous characters, and more subject matter made for mature viewers, but we could certainly let our kids watch a Disney flick without worrying about our values being undermined.

Not anymore.

In recent years, we’ve seen homosexual and transgender characters popping up not only in kids’ movies and television programs but in animated children’s series as well. Nickelodeon’s “The Loud House” featured a homosexual male couple. Amazon’s “Danger and Eggs” promoted a transgender character. Disney’s “Star vs. The Forces of Evil” included a same-sex kiss. Last year, The Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe” included a same-sex marriage proposal. More recently, Disney’s popular “Andi Mack” series featured a homosexual teenage couple.

This list only represents a fraction of programs now pushing the Left’s agenda to indoctrinate our children.

Clearly, there’s a bandwagon effect taking place, with one producer trying to outdo the others to ensure that children’s entertainment not only appeases the Rainbow Mafia but also serves as a conduit for their “LGBTQ” agenda.

One of the issues with the widespread portrayal of alternative lifestyles in movies and on television is that they’re not being presented as an unusual alternative. The entertainment industry doesn’t want kids to know the vast majority of Americans don’t live this way. And they want them growing up to embrace same-sex marriage or gender selection.

But it goes even further. One of the long-term goals is, frankly, to undermine the very foundation of Western civilization, which is embodied by the Christian faith and the prehistoric and pan-cultural family structure of a man, a woman, and their children.

Teaching young people to have compassion for others is one thing. Brainwashing them to think that abnormal is normal, and vice versa, is a threat to our very way of life.

To accomplish this objective, its proponents ensure that nothing is really spelled out for kids. After all, children are innocent and impressionable. Frame the most unnatural lifestyle choice as merely a form of love, and they’ll never question it (especially if their own parents were inculcated with the same beliefs when they were kids).

Leanne Itali writes for the Associated Press, “Wilson Cruz, a co-star in the new Hulu animated children’s series ‘The Bravest Knight,’ describes the show’s dad couple this way: ‘We’re not explaining homosexuality, or same-gender sexuality. We’re talking about the love of a family.” And that’s the heart of the problem. Children watching these shows don’t have anything explained to them. It’s all pure emotion. And producers hope that parents aren’t around to teach their children otherwise.

Worse, those who dare to speak out are now branded as villains. Take Mario Lopez, for example, the former teen-show star (“Saved By the Bell”) and current TV host who recently suggested that perhaps parents shouldn’t raise three-year-olds as transgender. The result? You guessed it: Lopez was roundly condemned by the Human Rights Campaign for endangering the “safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth.” Of course, he caved and apologized.

As for the argument that children’s shows promoting alternative lifestyles are merely preparing kids for living in the real world, Declan Leary writes at National Review, “There is a fine line between depicting the world as it is for realism’s sake and normalizing the current state of affairs.”

But let’s be honest. This isn’t about helping kids understand the world around them. It’s about indoctrinating them to embrace perverse lifestyles and the notion that the traditional American family is somehow abnormal. This isn’t just about transgenders reading a children’s book in a library. It’s about using entertainment as a pathway into the hearts and minds of impressionable boys and girls.

More than just a concern when it comes to children’s entertainment, our kids are faced with Social Emotional Learning standards being adopted by public schools across the country. These standards are complete with vague descriptions that seem harmless on the surface but teach kids to make decisions based on emotion.

“The problem is not that children have emotions,” writes Teresa Mull at The Heartland Institute, “but that government schools can’t acknowledge that absolute truth and right and wrong exist, let alone what truth, right, and wrong are. So, we have a bunch of kids trained to embrace their feelings — and since feelings can’t be right or wrong, society devolves into chaos.”

And chaos is where we’re headed if parents continue to turn a blind eye to the Left’s radical and dangerous social conditioning of our children.


Australia: Overcoming the odds in high school

Parents often focus more on the choice of a secondary school, but it turns out primary school is probably more important for a child’s academic success. Many parents send their child to the local primary school but then invest significantly more time and money in choosing a secondary school.

And Years 11 and 12 are often the time where parents are most hands-on in their child’s education, helping with subject selections, constantly updating ATAR calculations, and appealing assessment results to gain the moral victory of a few extra marks.

But ultimately, student achievement at this late stage depends largely on having mastered literacy and numeracy skills in primary school.

The well-established education phenomenon, the Matthew Effect — the tendency for differences in student achievement in early primary school to grow into more significant differences towards the end of secondary school, unless rectified — means that waiting for improvement in secondary school is often simply waiting to fail.

That’s why effective early literacy and numeracy teaching is so important to ensure students don’t fall behind. And it should be a priority for secondary schools to identify underachieving students when they enrol.

This is especially the case for students from disadvantaged social backgrounds. Our new research has found it is more challenging for secondary schools to help disadvantaged students succeed, compared to primary schools.

Using NAPLAN data and the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage, we identified only 3 Australian secondary schools that are both disadvantaged and high-achieving (no, before you ask, these schools do not receive more funding than other similarly disadvantaged schools). In contrast, 21 Australian primary schools are both disadvantaged and high-achieving.

There are evidence-based policies for improving outcomes for disadvantaged students in high school. For example, international education datasets indicate school discipline issues are especially prevalent among disadvantaged secondary schools in Australia. And direct instruction — an evidence-based teaching practice, where new content is explicitly taught in sequenced and structured lessons — is less common at disadvantaged secondary schools.

A policy focus on building positive school cultures and ensuring teachers are well-equipped to use effective direct instruction could significantly improve academic outcomes for disadvantaged students. And this wouldn’t necessarily require more taxpayer funding.

We all want to ensure that no student finishes school without essential knowledge and skills. But the solution isn’t to spend more money.