Friday, August 16, 2019

California's proposed ethnic studies curriculum decried as anti-Semitic, left-wing 'propaganda'

A proposed ethnic-studies curriculum developed for California public high schools has ignited outrage over its shabby treatment of Jewish Americans and Israel, leading to fears that students could soon receive a crash course in anti-Semitism.

The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum contains sample course outlines on a broad array of minority groups, including Arab Americans — but not Jewish Americans — while promoting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its supporters, including Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.

The California Board of Education is accepting comments on the draft curriculum until Aug. 15, and already the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has condemned the proposal’s “anti-Jewish bias,” saying it would “institutionalize the teaching of antisemitic stereotypes in our public schools.”

“There is something about every bigotry under the sun, like racism and sexism and ableism and Islamophobia, but nary a word about anti-Semitism,” said Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the Amcha Initiative. “And this at a time when anti-Semitism makes up more than half of the hate crimes in America directed against religious groups.”

Her organization, which fights anti-Semitism, spearheaded an Aug. 7 letter from 83 groups to the board denouncing the “shocking omission of information about American Jews and anti-Semitism, its use of classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, and its blatant anti-Israel bias.”

The objections to the curriculum don’t end there. The 300-page “sample course models” feature jabs at President Trump, capitalism, “US imperialism,” police, “cis-heteropatriarchy,” and suggest studying such “significant figures” as convicted cop killers Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

“Teaching high school students that capitalism is oppression, without examining the outcomes of some of history’s other paths, is not education. It is leftist propaganda,” said the Orange County Register in an Aug. 8 editorial urging the board to scrap the draft. “The entire curriculum is seething with propaganda.”

Assignments include writing a song about how “you have experienced hegemony in your own life,” which “allows students to explore how Hip-hop can be used to resist oppression and counter hegemonic beliefs perpetuated through the media.”

Said one commenter on CalMatters: “After reading this latest school curriculum twist to the left, it makes the decision much easier to go with charter schools and private education.”

The proposed curriculum was designed as a model for schools that opt to offer courses in ethnic studies, but such classes may soon become mandatory.

In the process of clearing the final legislative hurdles is Assembly Bill 331, introduced by Assemblymember Jose Medina, which would require students to take at least one course in ethnic studies before graduation.

“AB 331 is extremely dangerous at this point because it says not only is this the curriculum that should be used, but that every high school student would be required to take a course in ethnic studies based on this model curriculum,” said Ms. Rossman-Benjamin. “This is not voluntary.”

Ironically, Mr. Medina, a Democrat, is one of the 16 members of the Jewish Caucus who signed the June 29 letter condemning the model curriculum, leading to speculation that lawmakers were unaware of its political slant until recently.

“This is not some big push from California,” Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel told the Jewish News Syndicate. “This is about a small group of people who drafted this curriculum, and we’re going to get it fixed.”

A former ethnic-studies teacher, Mr. Medina also co-sponsored a 2018 bill to require the subject for high schoolers as part of a pilot program, but the measure was vetoed in October by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he worried about imposing another requirement for graduation.

“Ethnic Studies provide students an opportunity to learn about histories outside of the Euro-centric teachings most prominent in our schools,” said Mr. Medina in a Jan. 31 statement. “At a time when the national climate drives divisiveness and fear of otherness, Ethnic Studies can play a critical role in increasing awareness and understanding.”

As far as Jewish advocates are concerned, however, this isn’t the way to do it.

The “Arab American Studies Course Outline” includes sample topics such as the BDS movement and “significant figures” who support BDS, including Ms. Sarsour and Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The curriculum includes rap lyrics from Shadia Mansour that include, “Get out Yankees from Latin America/French, English and Dutch/I love you Free Palestine,” and, “For every free political prisoner, an Israeli colony is expanded/For each greeting, a thousand houses were demolished/They use the press so they can manufacture.”

The Legislative Jewish Caucus described the last lyric as “a classic antisemitic trope about Jewish control of the media.”

The curriculum was written by an 18-member panel appointed by the state board of college and secondary educators, about 25% of whom have “publicly expressed animus towards Israel and its supporters,” said the AMCHA letter.

The Washington Times has reached out to several members of the Model Curriculum Advisory Committee.

Foes have called for the draft to be shredded and re-written, but Jewish groups also said the board needs to implement safeguards to ensure that such state-sponsored drafts are never again used “as tools of political indoctrination that promote hatred.”

“Their approach is to divide the world between oppressed and oppressor, and to talk about the virtue of fighting the oppressor and all the ways we need to fight the oppressor,” Ms. Rossman-Benjamin said. “But who is the oppressor? It’s whoever the drafters decide that it is, right? And they’ve decided the oppressor is the Jew and Israel.”


Look South for Diversity on College Campuses

As our nation’s colleges and universities prepare to re-open and welcome their new students to campus in a few short weeks, it is important to remember that the first “educational” experience many of these new students will have as they set foot on their campuses will not be with their professors but with school administrators.

From settling in to their residence halls to visiting various student life and affinity centers to new student orientation programs, students will have to engage with student-facing administrators who are not only omnipresent on campus but also set the tone of discussions, frame debates, and condition the very way in which students engage with each other and the world. Thus, understanding the ideological background and nature of the programming organized by this powerful class on campus is critical.

Regrettably, the ideological position of these administrators is imbalanced; they are overwhelmingly liberal and progressive, and pushing social justice programming to the exclusion of other views is the dominant paradigm today.

While students, their families, and the American public should be concerned by the fact that there is intense progressive homogeneity among administrators, there are a few areas of the nation where there is more balance.

The South is one such region where students can find a reasonably sized population of conservative and moderate administrators and schools with administrators who are far less concerned with promoting a progressive, social justice-infused agenda.

Using the 11 states which comprise the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (of which North Carolina is part) and a new national survey of over 900 student-facing college administrators, what immediately becomes clear is that the ratio of liberals to conservatives is less extreme in the South. In the South, the ratio of liberal-to-conservative administrators is 7 to 1 while in the rest of the country, the figure jumps to 17 to 1—a nontrivial gap. Put differently, 41 percent of administrators in the South identify as moderate or conservative compared to just 27 percent of those in other parts of the country.

It is also valuable to note that college administrators in the South have social networks that are far more mixed and politically diverse than those elsewhere. My survey asks administrators, “Do most of the people you know have political beliefs that are similar, different, or mixed,” and the responses are telling: Two-thirds of Southern administrators respond that their networks are mixed compared to just half of those administrators in the rest of the country.

These findings regarding the networks and ideological breakdown of administrators should give stakeholders in higher education pause, as the implications are significant.

It is appreciably easier for students to find centrist or conservative administrators in the South and this imbalance matters for students in an era where identity politics are so crucial; for if students do not see intellectual and ideological diversity, they may end up being silenced and afraid to question or challenge the prevailing currents on campus.

Moreover, these network and political differences are critical because liberal administrators can quickly find themselves in political bubbles and echo chambers where their ideas are strongly reinforced, rarely challenged, and their ideas about programming and discourse on campus can be narrowly progressive, quite exclusionary, and disconcerting for those who hold alternative political views.

The survey data make this point about exclusionary echo chambers quite clear: When asked if one’s school is more tolerant of liberal or conservative ideas and beliefs, a third of administrators at Southern schools believe that their institutions are equally tolerant of both liberal and conservative ideas, compared to just over 20 percent of administrators in the rest of the country.

Additionally, two-thirds of those outside the South state that their institutions are more tolerant of liberal ideas and beliefs compared to just 40 percent of those in the South. So, despite it being possible to represent multiple views if one is liberal or conservative, it remains essential to have others present on college campuses with divergent views who can advance and defend them. Otherwise, conformity-inducing groupthink can quickly emerge, as this data suggests.

Finally, the data reveal the troubling fact that administrators outside the South have a particular social justice-infused ideological agenda to promote and this reinforces the need for real ideological diversity among this powerful group on campus.

Specifically, I asked about administrators’ interest and willingness to take on certain tasks or challenges as professionals. As an example, I inquired as to whether or not administrators would like to tackle projects that promote equal treatment of students by gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In the responses, there are no regional differences here whatsoever and large majorities—over 80 percent in both cases—are very willing and interested in engaging in action to promote equal treatment of various groups across the board.

Similar and uniform support emerges for the idea of equal access to a high-quality college experience by race, ethnicity, and nationality as well. Those are non-controversial goals regionally or politically—education is a good that all should be able to experience fairly and equally as it is a key facet of both upward mobility and social progress.

Turning to the question of issues of diversity and inclusion that are currently at the center of so much campus rancor, there is regional parity in the belief that there should be the inclusion of culturally diverse texts and literature in various curricula. There is even agreement around the statement that there should be “Open and honest discussion about social justice and diversity”—three-quarters of all administrators support this idea though their starting positions may be a bit different.

College and university administrators are notably more ideologically diverse in the South and they are less likely to support the growth of social justice principles.
Where opinion diverges is over the statement that schools should work to promote the “Integration of principles of social justice throughout classes and campus activities.”

Such work on the part of administrators is not neutral behavior intended to promote inclusion—social justice messaging has become overtly political, is often explicitly progressive in nature, and impedes viewpoint diversity and alternative worldviews by shutting down discourse in the name of “harm” and “offense.”

Furthermore, in my view, such advocacy in the classroom is simply not appropriate given that it steps on the academic freedom of faculty as well.

In the survey, 72 percent of administrators outside the South are very willing to support such an idea compared to a notably lower 54 percent in the South. While there remains a slight majority of administrators in the South who support social justice integration, it is far less extreme than elsewhere in the country.

In short, the narratives from the data are clear: College and university administrators are notably more ideologically diverse in the South and they are less likely to support the growth of social justice principles which are progressive and not neutral in today’s climate. These administrators have an incredible amount of influence on campus discourse and free speech and expression has been curtailed in the name of social justice concerns.

The South is in better shape compared to other regions around the country. Many schools are well aware of these concerns and have initiatives to promote real discourse and debate, from the University of Chicago to UC Berkeley to Claremont McKenna, but change and progress will take time.

Students and their families should look to the South and its world-class schools if they want balance now for while the Southern colleges and universities may not be perfect, one can find far more ideological pluralism and openness among its powerful administrative class.


Yes, Ministers – collaboration is the answer

Public confidence in Australian school education may be low, but no one could complain about a shortage of official reviews and reports.

High-powered panels and prominent figures continue to produce lengthy publications recommending various strategies to achieve one mighty goal: improve the academic performance of students.

The long list includes the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (Gonski 2.0), the Independent Review into Rural, Regional and Remote Education and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy 2015.

From the start of this year, all states and territories have signed up to a National School Reform Agreement that has the overarching objective of ensuring that Australian schooling provides a high quality and equitable education for all students. That Agreement will expire on 31 December 2023.

Success will depend on what the Agreement refers to as ‘the long-standing practice of collaboration between all governments to deliver school education reform’.

But wait, there’s more! One of the most important — albeit most abstract — documents guiding Australian school education since 2008 is also being reviewed.

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, signed by all education ministers serving at the time, has steered the development of the Australian Curriculum and other reforms. It followed the Hobart Declaration (1989) and the Adelaide Declaration (1999).

All these national frameworks have stressed the importance of collaboration. As the Hobart Declaration put it, working together “to enhance Australian schooling” would be the key to success.

But collaboration isn’t easy in a federal system where each jurisdiction has separate responsibility for schools, teachers, curriculum, assessment, student credentials … and so on. There are still far more differences than areas of common practice. Notwithstanding the flexibility states and territories need to do their best work for their own schools and students, this is not leading to the best results.

As ministers consider the review documents landing on their desks, collaboration should be at the very top of the subsequent list of action items. They should insist on an honest assessment of the cost and benefits of education between 1989 and 2019 — particularly as seen through the lens of national agreement and the goals of the three documents.

If nothing else, better collaboration would set a great example to young Australians. After all, isn’t this one of the exciting new 21st century skills they are supposed to be learning?

Ministers would be wise to tread cautiously with regard to all proposals for solutions. Australian education has been all too vulnerable in the past to a range of fads and trends, much of which explains the challenges we face now.

It would be good to think that 30 years of talking about teamwork won’t be wasted.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ten Questions Parents Should Ask Before School Starts

Parents routinely walk out of back-to-school meetings overwhelmed by a flood of impressive-sounding buzzwords. Even simple queries—like, “How are you teaching my kid to read?”—can elicit incomprehensible talk of “decoding,” “social and emotional well-being,” “data-driven instruction,” “personalization,” “spiraled curricula,” “formative assessment,” and much else. The result: It’s easy to walk away unsure if your child is in good hands.

Trying to get helpful answers can be so tough because professionals like their jargon; it makes them sound authoritative, and they know it. Plus, if teachers or principals are good at their job, there really is a wealth of nuance and expertise that’s tough to translate. And, if they’re not, obfuscation is a proven recipe for making inconvenient parents go away.

Put simply, when educators start talking about the ins and outs of instruction, it can be tough to know what to make of the answers. What can you do about that? Instead of asking about instruction, try posing these ten questions. They demand straightforward answers. And it turns out to be pretty easy to tell whether someone has given much thought to these queries—which, frequently, will tell you all you need to know.

* What’s the best thing my child is going to read this year?
* What one value is at the heart of our school’s culture, and how does that show up on a daily basis?
* On a typical day, how much time will be spent on morning announcements, attendance-taking, and standing in lines?
* How will you know if my child is bored to tears and, if that happens, what’s your usual response?
* What’s the one paper, project, or unit that I should really expect my student to come home excited about?
* In the typical month, how many hours will be devoted to tests and test preparation?
* What was the most serious disciplinary issue at school last year, and how was it addressed?
* How frequently should I expect to hear updates about how my child is doing?
* If I email with a question or concern, how quickly should I expect to hear back?
* What’s the most important thing I can do to help my child be academically successful this year?

These questions shed light on school routines, how teachers and principals think about engaging young minds, and whether the school is serious about partnering with parents. They offer some sense as to whether school staff will talk candidly about thorny challenges—and if they’ve got practical thoughts on dealing with them.

If you get sensible, direct answers, it’s a promising sign that you’re in capable hands. If you get blank looks, hollow assurances, or gauzy generalities, that’s a useful caution. Whatever the answers, you’ll have a better sense of what’s ahead.

Good luck, and best wishes on a wonderful year.


Common Sense in Free Fall on College Campuses

Evidence is mounting that political ideology is corrupting the liberal arts.

According to Campus Reform, in late July, Portland State University accused one of its professors, Peter Boghossian, of “‘questionable ethical behavior’ and banned him from conducting academic research.”

What was the professor’s offense? He successfully convinced several prestigious, peer-reviewed journals to publish articles that were anything but scholarly. In one, he analyzed “dog rape culture,” in another, he republished portions of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” spruced up with academic buzzwords.

This may sound like an off-color prank, but it was a serious effort to expose a grave problem on college campuses. Boghossian’s hypothesis was simple: the leftist fixation on intersectionality and what he termed “grievance studies” have led to a sharp decline in the quality and rigor of scholarship within the discipline.

Boghossian and his two colleagues, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, made headlines in 2018 for completing an investigation into how lax some humanities journals had become.

The trio wrote and submitted 20 “hoax” articles to several prominent academic journals in various academic fields, including gender and queer studies, that the researchers felt were most influenced by progressive ideology rather than objective research.

When seven of their “fake” studies were published after undergoing the purportedly-scrupulous “peer review” process, Boghossian and his team released a report demonstrating how ideologically-driven academia has become.

It brings to mind the “Sokal hoax” of the mid-90s, when a New York University physicist submitted a similarly “fake” study that also ended up being published.

PSU’s Internal Review Board then sanctioned Boghossian for “fabricating data and studying human subjects, specifically the various journal editors, without their consent.”

The Internal Review Board seems to have missed the purpose of the professor’s study.

The censure led directly to the ban Boghossian now faces. The academy seems more interested in making an example of him than acknowledging the concern about a lack of quality control in the field of “grievance studies,” which his efforts unveiled.

It is not as if citizens are unaware of the issues plaguing higher education.

From the oft-referenced replication crisis in the social sciences (wherein academic studies cannot be reproduced by unaffiliated researchers), the insane cost of college, and the liberal bent of a staggering percentage of university professors, many students would do well to reconsider the value of attending college over trade schools or other similar, skill-developing opportunities.

Boghossian’s study revealed the dangerous road that academia is sprinting down. He cited “constructivism”—the idea that truth is temporally and culturally situated—as the main culprit infecting academic research, especially within the humanities.

The research team noted that “radical constructivists tend to believe science and reason must be dismantled to let ‘other ways of knowing’ have equal validation as knowledge-producing enterprises.” This idea could be what is driving many academic journals down the ideological rabbit hole.

As Boghossian and his team stated in their study, “As we progressed, we started to realize that just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of existing literature.”

Scholars across the world agreed with the authors’ motives and conclusions, and wrote to PSU’s vice president for research administration in support of Boghossian. Even Alan Sokal, the NYU scientist who got into hot water for his similar effort in 1996, defended the beleaguered Portland professor, writing:

It seems to me that it would be a grave injustice to punish Professor Boghossian for a violation of the letter of the [Research Misconduct Policy] that did not constitute in any way a violation of that policy’s purpose and which moreover was undertaken with the goal of serving, and which did, in fact, serve the public interest …

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, given the university administration’s reaction, many of Boghossian’s fellow professors at PSU were not as supportive. In an anonymous letter to the editor in the university’s newspaper, the anti-Boghossian group wrote:

[T]he ‘hoaxes’ are simply lies peddled to journals, masquerading as articles. … Chronic and pathological, unscholarly behavior inside an institution of higher education brings negative publicity to the institution as well as the honest scholars who work there. Worse yet, it jeopardizes the students’ reputations, as their degrees in the process may become devalued.

Boghossian’s aggrieved colleagues seem to have missed the entire point of his study, and may prefer for their students to learn from such indoctrination. 

Christina Hoff Sommers, noted scholar and critic of modern feminism, described Boghossian’s hoax project as an “eye-opening experiment,” the results of which “raise serious questions about the methods of several seemingly legitimate academic journals.”

She went on, according to Campus Reform, to “address the accusation of improperly studying human subjects, saying ‘This charge is hard to take seriously. By its very nature, the parody rules out the possibility of consent: It is the view of the [Internal Review Board] that academic journals should be shielded from critical or irreverent scrutiny?”

PSU stated in its disciplinary letter that it is willing to give Boghossian another chance to conduct research, if he completes a required “protection of human subjects training” course and otherwise satisfies the university’s administration.

However, for a nontenured professor who himself acknowledges he does not “fit the mold” of the “ideological community” on campus, the odds of him being permitted to resume his research may be slim.

Boghossian’s experiment highlights the problems of groupthink in any environment, especially academia.

If humanities professors are going to be more interested in placating popular opinion rather than exposing shoddy academic practices bordering on charlatanry, then we should stop describing our humanities’ departments as bastions of truth.

Truth is objective, not subject to the prevailing winds of academia and the left at large.

Stifling academic debate, exercising a heckler’s veto over messages that do not fit within an ideology prescribed by liberal academics, and promoting shoddy “research” that supports that ideology, will not advance the search for truth, which should be the ultimate goal of any serious academic institution.

All it will do is perpetuate irrationality and ignorance.


Universities’ research focus is leaving students unprepared

It’s nearly a year since US online recruiter Glassdoor shocked the global university and tertiary college world by revealing that major US employers no longer require a degree for top new employees.

Google, Apple, IBM, Penguin Random House, Bank of America, Starbucks, Cisco, and Hilton were among the groups that had changed their recruiting policies, partly because too many graduates did not have the skills they required.

Subsequently, at least in Australia, nothing much has happened in the university sector.

But the US-China trade war is suddenly raising alarm bells in our third-largest export industry. Australia’s education sector is in a dangerous position and that danger puts our entire tertiary education sector in jeopardy.

Universities live in an academic world and are rarely looked at from a business point of view. To date, that academic approach has worked. But the post trade war world is likely to be very different.

Basically, in the words of education analyst Kee Wong, universities offer their students the choice of a series of “hampers” covering areas like law, engineering, commerce and arts.

We have all received Christmas hampers and on most occasions we find things in them that we want but many things that are of no use. And so it is with most university degrees. But too many university hampers have not fundamentally changed in 30 years.

I know my university friends will dispute that statement, and I recognise that some universities have become much more flexible and have modernised their subjects. But too many have not and that means too many students are coming out of a tertiary courses totally unprepared for the workplaces of today, let alone the future.

Many students understand this and they scramble to join large organisations (both private and government) that have training courses that will make them “work ready”. Those organisations take the best students available, so the rest go into the workforce unprepared. Many fail and I run into countless medium sized business people who shake their heads when they describe how unprepared most graduates are for the modern world.

So the universities have a product problem. But it gets worse.

Universities are funded by taking in foreign students who pay full fees. Many of these students come from China. Chinese universities have adapted their courses to fit the modern world, with a particular emphasis on databases and artificial intelligence: the area where China seeks superiority over the US.

In other words, in business terms, we face a rival which has updated its product. In the past, Chinese universities have not had the capacity to meet the demand, but they are catching up.

And just to make matters even more dangerous for Australia, relations with China are poor, so returning to China with an Australian degree might not carry the same advantage that existed in previous decades, particularly given the rise in the standard of Chinese universities.

On this front, Australia is helped by the fact that the largest education state, Victoria, was smart enough to join China’s belt and road initiative.

Of course the student market covers many other countries. We must also recognise that a proportion of the total student market has come to Australia seeking long-term residency. If Canberra tightens the visa requirements, it will be a disaster for the education sector because without visa seeking students, the tertiary education sector could not be funded.

In normal businesses, the chief executives know they must adapt their products to meet the market. But in the tertiary sector attracting both local and overseas students currently requires a good ranking.

An important part of securing such a ranking is producing research papers that often have very limited relevance to today’s challenges. So large sums are spent to produce such papers to gain ranking, and therefore more overseas students. In an ideal world that money should be spent improving courses and flexibility to match our rivals in China and elsewhere.

I do not claim to have the answers but Australia’s third largest export industry has not recognised that the game has changed. Nor have the federal and state governments, who blame each other. We have to change the debate or we will lose this industry because if overseas students fall then it will go into a downward spiral. Now is the time to recognise that the new situation and to act. It’s not too late.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Downside Of Diversity

On American campuses, the dogmatic embrace of identity politics has damaged not just the pursuit of truth but the independence ofmind necessary for democracy to flourish.

“Diversity” is the most powerful word in higher education today. No other has so much authority. Older words, like “excellence” and “originality,” remain in circulation, but even they have been redefined in terms of diversity.

At Yale, where I have taught for 40 years, a large bureaucracy exists to ensure that the university’s commitment to diversity is rigorously enforced—in student admissions, faculty hiring and curricular design. Yale has an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a Dean of Diversity and Faculty Development, an Office of Gender and Campus Culture and a dizzying array of similar positions and programs. At present, more than 150 full-time staff and student representatives serve in some pro-diversity role.

Yale’s situation is far from exceptional. “Diversity and inclusion” is a dogma repeated with uniform piety in the official pronouncements of nearly every college and university. At Dartmouth, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership “engages students in identity, community and leadership development, advancing Dartmouth’s commitment to academic success, diversity, inclusion and wellness.” The University of Michigan proclaims that “diversity is key to individual flourishing, educational excellence and the advancement of knowledge.” At the University of Oklahoma, students are required to complete a mandatory “Freshman Diversity Experience” by the end of their first semester.

That diversity should be a value seems beyond dispute. The existence on campus of a range of beliefs, values and experiences is essential to the spirit of inquiry and debate that lies at the heart of academic life. Who wants to go to a school where everyone thinks alike?

But diversity, as it is understood today, means something different. It means diversity of race, \ ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Diversity in this sense is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political. The demand for evergreater diversity in higher education is a political campaign masquerading as an educational ideal. The demand for greater academic diversity began its strange career as a pro-democratic idea. Blacks and other minorities have long been underrepresented in higher education. A half-century ago, a number of schools sought to address the problem by giving minority applicants a special boost through what came to be called “affirmative action.” This was a straightforward and responsible strategy.

Diversity is not an academic value. Its origin and aspiration are political.

But in 1978, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court told American colleges and universities that they couldn’t pursue this strategy directly, by using explicit racial categories. It allowed them to achieve the same goal indirectly, however, by arguing that diversity is essential to teaching and learning and requires some attention to race and ethnicity. Schools were able to continue to honor their commitment to social justice but only by converting it into an educational ideal.

The commitment was honorable, but the conversion has been ruinous. The effects of racial prejudice have always been the greatest slur on our commitment to democratic equality. But the transformation of diversity into a pedagogical theory has weakened our democracy by undermining the common ground of reason on which citizens must strive to meet. The crucial confusion is the equation of a diversity of ideas with diversity of race, ethnicity and sexual preference. This has several pernicious effects.

One is that it encourages minority students, and eventually all students, to think that a departure from the beliefs and sentiments associated with their group is a violation of the terms on which they were admitted to the university. If students contribute to the good of diversity by expressing the racially, ethnically or sexually defined views that members of their group are expected to share, then a repudiation or even critical scrutiny of these views threatens to upset the school’s entire educational program. It takes special nerve for an African-American student to defend inner-city policing or a gay student to support the baker who refuses to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

For this program to work, it is essential that students remain in the corners to which they have been assigned. Indeed, it is not enough merely to recognize that the members of each group contribute some distinctive dimension to their school’s diversity.

To reassure those whose groups have been the victims of social prejudice and discrimination, extra deference must be given to their life experience. The members of more privileged groups must be taught to “check their privilege,” and the identity of minority students must be treated as a possession that no one else may “appropriate,” in however well-meaning a way. The upshot is that students are lauded for the beliefs and feelings they bring to their school on account of their separate identities, rather than being reminded of what they all stand to gain by being there—the inestimable privilege of joining in a rational inquiry that subjects every one of their sentiments and beliefs to the same rigorous demand for explanation and justification.

In politics, group solidarity is a condition of success. But in college, it is an obstacle to the pursuit of what Walt Whitman colorfully called the “idiocracy” of individual temperament and expression that sets each of us apart from every other. The politically motivated and group-based form of diversity that dominates campus life today discourages students from breaking away, in thought or action, from the groups to which they belong. It invites them to think of themselves as representatives first and free agents second. And it makes heroes of those who put their individual interests aside for the sake of a larger cause. That is admirable in politics. It is antithetical to one of the signal goods of higher education.

This is one of the things people mean when they say that campus life has become “politicized.” It also helps to explain the culture of grievance that is so prominent there. Examples are legion. At Yale, where the heads of the undergraduate residences used to be called “masters,” students successfully campaigned to have the title changed because it reminded them of an antebellum plantation. Last year, a yoga club at American University was disbanded after complaints that it invited a non-Indian group to perform a dance based on the Ramayana, a classical Hindu epic. At Oberlin, all classes were canceled and a communitywide gathering called when someone dressed in what appeared to be a KKK costume was spied on campus.

It proved to be a woman in a blanket. Grievance is the stuff of political life. In politics, it is normal for one group to highlight its suffering and to demand reparations from another group or a greater share of its power. This is especially true where questions of racial justice are concerned. Here, the tempera- ture is sometimes high enough to melt decorum and goodwill.

“Whatever else it may be, the truth is not democratic. We don’t decide what is true by a show of hands.

Academic disagreements are different. Important ones are often inflamed by passion too. But the goal of those involved is to persuade their adversaries with better facts and arguments—not to bludgeon them into submission with complaints of abuse, injustice and disrespect to increase their share of power. Today, the spirit of grievance has been imported into the academy, where it undermines the common search for truth by permeating it with a sense of hurt and wrong on the part of minority students, and guilt on the part of those who are blamed for their suffering.

The life of the classroom is transformed as a result. It is common to hear complaints that an assigned text is disrespectful of women, blacks, the gender-fluid or some other oppressed or marginalized group. White, male, heterosexual students are often attacked on the grounds that their comments reflect a smug and privileged view of the world. Such complaints are hardly new. I have heard versions of them at Yale for the past 40 years.

What is new and discouraging about today’s academic culture is the unprecedented weight that these grievances are given by teachers, students and administrators alike. Even to raise them puts one on a high moral ground that requires all other considerations to be put aside until the grievance has been assuaged by an appropriate act of apology or reform. Raising it amounts to a demand. It brings the conversation to a halt. It converts the classroom from an open space for the free exchange of ideas into a political battleground.

In today’s academic culture, grievances are given unprecedented weight by teachers and students alike.

Yet even this does not fully capture the harm that the contemporary understanding of diversity has done to our colleges and universities. The greatest casualty is the idea of truth itself, on which the whole of academic life depends. Whatever else it may be, the truth is not democratic. We don’t decide what is true in mathematics or history or philosophy by a show of hands. The idea of truth assumes a distinction between what people believe it is and the truth itself. Socrates drove this point home in every conversation he had. It might be called the Socratic premise of all intellectual inquiry.

A corollary is that I am not entitled to call something true merely because I believe or feel it to be true. My beliefs and feelings are not trumps that I can play in a debate about the truth of any claim. It wrecks the Socratic adventure to say that as a (female, black, Jewish, Muslim, gay or trans person—fill in the blank) I see things from a point of view to which others have no access and that my perspective is authoritative because I have been the victim of hatred and mistreatment. In a genuine search for the truth, my feelings and beliefs must be subjected to the same review as everything else. They may be a source of information and an indication of how strongly I hold the view I do. But they can never, by themselves, validate my position.

For college students, the search for truth is important not because reaching it is guaranteed—there are no such guarantees—but as a discipline of character. It instills habits of self-criticism, modesty and objectivity. It strengthens their ability to subject their own opinions and feelings to higher and more durable measures of worth. It increases their self-reliance and their respect for the values and ideas of those far removed in time and circumstance. In all these ways, the search for truth promotes the habit of independent-mindedness that is a vital antidote to what Tocqueville called the “tyranny of majority opinion.”

The relentless campaign for diversity and inclusion on campus pulls in the opposite direction. Motivated by politics but forced to disguise itself as an academic value, the demand for diversity has steadily weakened the norms of objectivity and truth and substituted for them a culture of grievance and group loyalty. Rather than bringing faculty and students together on the common ground of reason, it has pushed them farther apart into separate silos of guilt and complaint.

The damage to the academy is obvious. But even greater is the damage to our democratic way of life, which needs all the independent- mindedness its citizens and leaders can summon—especially at a moment when our basic norms of truthfulness and honesty are mocked every day by a president who respects neither. Tocqueville was an enthusiastic admirer of America’s democracy. He thought it the most just system of government the world had ever known. But he was also sensitive to its pathologies. Among these he identified the instinct to believe what others do in order to avoid the labor and risk of thinking for oneself. He worried that such conformism would itself become a breeding ground for despots.

As a partial antidote, Tocqueville stressed the importance of preserving, within the larger democratic order, islands of culture devoted to the undemocratic values of excellence and truth. These could be, he thought, enclaves for protecting the independence of mind that a democracy like ours especially needs.

Today our colleges and universities are doing a poor job of meeting this need, and the idea of diversity is at least partly to blame. It has become the basis of an illiberal and antirational academic cult—one that undermines the spirit of self-reliance and the commitment to truth on which not only higher education, but the whole of our democracy, depends.


British final High School exams: Science scores low

Encouraging more pupils to take science A levels has been called into question by research that suggested it is harder to secure a respectable pass in these subjects than in most other options.

An analysis of last year’s A level results found that chemistry, biology and physics had among the lowest proportions of students securing a C grade or above. The C grade is considered the lowest respectable pass. While a D or E grade is technically a pass, it signals a weak grasp of the subject and makes it hard to get into a good university.

After years of campaigning, this year’s results, out on Thursday, will show thousands more pupils are taking physics, chemistry and biology. The subjects all attracted more entries this year than the year before, despite a demographic dip that led to falls in most subjects. However, the researchers say that those of weaker ability may be better off doing other subjects.

In 2018, 11 per cent of pupils got an A* in physics, 9 per cent in chemistry and 8 per cent in biology. In history, only 6 per cent got A*s. However, 27 per cent of pupils taking physics and biology got a D, E or U and 22 per cent in chemistry. This compares with 12 per cent in geography and history.

“In the sciences we thus have a pattern of the high-flyers hoovering up top grades but the general performance being below average,” Professor Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, said. “Take-up has been rising in recent years in response to the drive to increase the numbers studying STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths]. But the relatively poor average performance raises the question of whether too many are being drawn in when their abilities do not lie in this direction.”

Examiners have more scope to give pupils the benefit of the doubt in the humanities, social sciences and the arts.


Australia: Young people who skip university and pick up a trade will make MORE money in their lifetime than their friends saddled with student debt

Young people who skip university for vocational courses could find themselves better off with higher wages and no HECS debt, according to a new report.

Research taken out by the Grattan Institute, in Victoria, found that students are being told inaccurate information about employment.

Grattan's program director Andrew Norton said well-paying trade jobs are facing a skills shortage while those students undertaking degrees in science and humanities are struggling to get jobs.

Those enrolling in university courses has increased by a third in the past decade with more students with lower ATAR scores attending than ever before.

Meanwhile students taking trades-based courses has plummeted 43 per cent in the past five years.

It is estimated that Australia will need up to a million workers with vocational qualifications by 2023 if it is keep up with demand.

Grattan's researchers found that young men with low ATAR scores were at a significant disadvantage if they didn't pick up a trade.

'I think there is a lot of cultural pressure to go to university, kids often need a good reason for why they are not going to go to uni rather than why they should go,' Mr Norton said. 

'What often happens in these (professional) careers is that people struggle to secure the higher position jobs and end up falling down to lower level positions that earn less.'

Mr Norton said that engineering-related industries, such as maintaining equipment in the field, construction and working in telecommunications offered some of the best career opportunities.  'A lot of people can earn a couple of thousand (dollars) a week in these jobs.' he said.

However women often struggle in trade industries with few pursuing the male dominated careers and those that do, struggle to maintain a career long term.

'It really seems like there are big barriers to these fields, employers aren't sympathetic to part time work or maternity leave so women often go elsewhere,' he said.

Instead women with low ATAR scores are better off pursuing options such as teaching and nursing that offer far more career stability.

'Even though you are never going to be rich you are going to have a reliable career and that makes it very attractive to some people.'

Mr Norton said there is misconception often held by teachers and parents that students will perform better in university regardless of their skill set or ability.

'Career advice in schools is often patchy at best,' Mr Norton said. 'Schools need to give students better career advice alerting them to these possibilities – and governments should end funding biases against vocational education.'

The report said universities often take in students regardless of their ATAR score which is often to the student's detriment. 

'They are more likely to fail subjects and get low marks, and when they finish their courses are less likely to find professional jobs or earn high salaries,' the report reads.  


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Australia: Drag queens teach preschool children about 'inclusion and diversity' at local libraries - as critics slam the 'storytelling' sessions as 'inappropriate'

I find drag queens disgusting.  They are just men mocking women and I like real women very much. Drag queens  are offensive.  Are conservatives allowed to be offended?  It seems not

Drag queens are reading story books to pre-school children in public libraries to promote 'diversity and inclusion' among the new generation.

The controversial storytelling events - which have previously been met with strong opposition in Melbourne - have been scheduled across Sydney in the past year.

While supporters claim the public readings promote open-mindedness, critics such as New South Wales Upper House MP Mark Latham have hit out at their 'inappropriate' nature.

One event due to be held earlier this year in Kogarah, southern Sydney, billed itself as a chance for children 'to experience positive and inclusive role models in a fun environment'.

Another in Erskineville last year fronted by high-profile drag queen Hannah Conda encouraged attendees to bring their own dresses and wigs along.

Fellow entertainer Charisma Belle, another well-known proponent of the scheme, told The Daily Telegraph the events were there for children 'unable to express themselves properly'.

'Drag story time is about opening a dialogue between parents and their children,' she said.

'Part of my job as a drag performer is to educate and challenge the misinformation that is spread about my community.'

Georges River Council said the event at Kogarah Library had kept its place in their calendar due to its high popularity.

But Mr Latham, One Nation's NSW state leader, has expressed his concern the events serve as a 'backdoor' for the Safe Schools campaign - which pushes for greater inclusion for LGBTI students.

'Given the way the drag queen program is pushed in municipal libraries, it's highly appropriate for the Education Minister to issue a general directive through NSW schools they must not be part of school libraries,' he said.

Last year, the Drag Storytime with Miss Roxee drag queen reading in Wollongong attracted the anger of social media commenters.

Negative feedback ranged from those who accused the central library where it was held of spreading 'propaganda' and 'sexualising children'.


UK: It’s time to stop obsessing about Oxbridge

At this time of year I have a feeling of remembered dread. For more than a decade, late summer meant exam results, which never brought joy, only relief or disappointment. Either the child had performed as well as expected, in which case the train remained on the track towards some respectable university and occupation, or it hadn’t, in which case the locomotive threatened to come off the rails, and the household was plunged into gloom.

My worst August was the one when my son, who had neglected to work for his A levels, lost a conditional place at Oxford. I was devastated: he had had within his grasp the most prestigious of educational prizes, the name that opens all doors, the key to a prosperous future, the source of innumerable metaphors gesturing towards a life full of opportunity, money, satisfaction and status — and, through his teenage fecklessness, had thrown it away.

I am now faintly embarrassed by my hysteria but I think it was par for the course. Middle-class Brits obsess about Oxbridge. The effort of getting our children into those two universities consumes startling amounts of money, time and emotion in leafy suburbs and Georgian terraces. It has something to do with their age: in a country hung up on its heritage, we love the idea of our children tripping through medieval cloisters in the footsteps of saints and scholars. But it’s mostly about power and prestige which, by a single measure, those institutions monopolise to an extraordinary extent. Of 57 prime ministers, 43 went to Oxbridge, 11 didn’t go to university at all (Winston Churchill and John Major among them) and three (Earl Russell, Neville Chamberlain and Gordon Brown) went to other universities.

In our globalised age, while all other British brands have sunk into oblivion, Oxbridge has retained its status. British companies? Forgotten: the big brands are all American. Bands? Haven’t had a big one in a long while. The BBC? Overshadowed by Amazon and Netflix. But Oxford and Cambridge still, regularly, ace the global university league tables. Times Higher Education, one of the three that count, currently has Oxford in first place and Cambridge second. Why wouldn’t British parents obsess about getting their children, for no more money than it costs to go to a rubbish institution, into the best university in the world? Who would criticise me for being devastated when my son messed up?

I would, now. The more I’ve pondered our obsession with Oxford and Cambridge on our country, the worse I think it is for us. The intense competition to get into those two universities shapes the whole of our education system. It encourages us to impoverish ourselves by sending our children to expensive private secondary schools, to coach our children to exhaustion and to drill them for exams. It fuels our snobbish tendency swiftly to judge people on irrelevant criteria and raise them up or write them off in seconds. And, because our population is growing and Oxbridge is taking fewer British students, the competition is getting more intense.

Now, even if it were bad for our society, it might still make sense for us all, as individuals, to do our utmost to get our children into Oxbridge. But I don’t think it does.

First, those international league tables measure the quality not of the education undergraduates get, but of universities’ research. That’s because you can easily measure research strength — you look at how often the papers produced by their researchers are cited by other researchers — but you can’t properly measure how good they are at teaching. Good researchers aren’t necessarily good teachers, and universities that promote people because of their research are likely to discourage academics from focusing on teaching. Ask students or alumni about the teaching at Oxbridge and you get conflicting reports. For those lucky enough to get a good tutor, the tutorial system, which gives undergraduates two-on-one sessions with top academics, is fantastic; for those whose tutor sits there with an expression of petrified boredom as they read out their essay — as one of mine did — then it’s worse than sitting in a big seminar.

Even if you can’t measure whether students are getting a decent education, you can look at how they get on in life. And by the age of 29, graduates of the London School of Economics do best: hardly surprising, since they all thunder into ridiculously lucrative jobs in the City straight after university. Oxford, Imperial and Cambridge come next. But since most of their students are clever, well off and would probably do well anywhere, those figures don’t tell you whether an institution improved a student’s prospects. More interesting is some research we did at The Economist looking at, among other factors, graduates’ previous exam results, household income and whether they went to private or state school, to try to estimate how universities had done in terms of giving students a leg up. Oxford came 10th and Cambridge 38th. Portsmouth came top, and St Andrews bottom.

But perhaps the most interesting paper on the impact of elite universities on students’ prospects was done in America, by Stacy Dale and the late, great Alan Krueger. They looked at the earnings of 14,000 graduates with similar intellectual abilities, some of whom did and some of whom didn’t go to top universities, to determine what impact the status of their college had on earnings. The answer, for most students, was none. The only group for whom going to Harvard or Yale made a significant difference was ethnic minority students. Why? Probably because the big advantage that a top university gives you is access to a network of successful people. The rich white kids had that anyway.

That’s just money, you may say; and getting a well-paid job is only one of the things which students have in mind when they choose a university. They are looking for lots of other stuff too. I agree. But you can’t measure the other stuff. I have no reason to believe that it is going to be any worse at Portsmouth than at Oxford; and money is pretty important. So in the absence of any other measure, it seems worth looking at. But sure, if you want to be prime minister, Oxbridge is probably a good idea.

Krueger, a brilliant economist dedicated to using the discipline to make the world a better place, and who died this year, pointed to two lessons from his paper. To students, he said: “Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is one that would not admit you . . . Recognise that your own motivation, ambition and talents will determine your success more than the college name on your diploma.” Hysterical mothers would do well to remember that. To universities, he said: “Recognise that the most disadvantaged students benefit most from your instruction. Set financial aid and admission policies accordingly.” Oxbridge would do well to remember that.


Harvard Study Shows the Dangers of Early School Enrollment
Harvard Study Shows the Dangers of Early School Enrollment
Every parent knows the difference a year makes in the development and maturity of a young child. A one-year-old is barely walking while a two-year-old gleefully sprints away from you. A four-year-old is always moving, always imagining, always asking why, while a five-year-old may start to sit and listen for longer stretches.

Growing Expectations Vs. Human Behavior

Children haven’t changed, but our expectations of their behavior have. In just one generation, children are going to school at younger and younger ages, and are spending more time in school than ever before. They are increasingly required to learn academic content at an early age that may be well above their developmental capability.

In 1998, 31 percent of teachers expected children to learn to read in kindergarten. In 2010, 80 percent of teachers expected this. Now, children are expected to read in kindergarten and to become proficient readers soon after, despite research showing that pushing early literacy can do more harm than good.

In their report Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose education professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige and her colleagues warn about the hazards of early reading instruction. They write,

When children have educational experiences that are not geared to their developmental level or in tune with their learning needs and cultures, it can cause them great harm, including feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and confusion.

Hate The Player, Love The Game

Instead of recognizing that schooling is the problem, we blame the kids. Today, children who are not reading by a contrived endpoint are regularly labeled with a reading delay and prescribed various interventions to help them catch up to the pack. In school, all must be the same. If they are not listening to the teacher, and are spending too much time daydreaming or squirming in their seats, young children often earn an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) label and, with striking frequency, are administered potent psychotropic medications.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 11 percent of children ages four to seventeen have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that number increased 42 percent from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012, with a majority of those diagnosed placed on medication. Perhaps more troubling, one-third of these diagnoses occur in children under age six.

It should be no surprise that as we place young children in artificial learning environments, separated from their family for long lengths of time, and expect them to comply with a standardized, test-driven curriculum, it will be too much for many of them.

New findings by Harvard Medical School researchers confirm that it’s not the children who are failing, it’s the schools we place them in too early. These researchers discovered that children who start school as among the youngest in their grade have a much greater likelihood of getting an ADHD diagnosis than older children in their grade. In fact, for the U.S. states studied with a September 1st enrollment cut-off date, children born in August were 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older peers.

The study’s lead researcher at Harvard, Timothy Layton, concludes: “Our findings suggest the possibility that large numbers of kids are being overdiagnosed and overtreated for ADHD because they happen to be relatively immature compared to their older classmates in the early years of elementary school.”

This Should Come As No Surprise

Parents don’t need Harvard researchers to tell them that a child who just turned five is quite different developmentally from a child who is about to turn six. Instead, parents need to be empowered to challenge government schooling motives and mandates, and to opt-out.

As universal government preschool programs gain traction, delaying schooling or opting out entirely can be increasingly difficult for parents. Iowa, for example, recently lowered its compulsory schooling age to four-year-olds enrolled in a government preschool program.

As New York City expands its universal pre-K program to all of the city’s three-year-olds, will compulsory schooling laws for preschoolers follow? On Monday, the New York City Department of Education issued a white paper detailing a “birth-to-five system of early care and education,” granting more power to government officials to direct early childhood learning and development.

As schooling becomes more rigid and consumes more of childhood, it is causing increasing harm to children. Many of them are unable to meet unrealistic academic and behavioral expectations at such a young age, and they are being labeled with and medicated for delays and disorders that often only exist within a schooled context. Parents should push back against this alarming trend by holding onto their kids longer or opting out of forced schooling altogether.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Stand on Marriage Costs Christian School Its Place in Voucher Program

When the state of Maryland found out that Bethel Christian Academy affirms the biblical view of marriage in its student handbook, officials last fall cut the Baltimore-area school from a state-sponsored school voucher program, arguing it practiced sexual discrimination.

Now the principal says at least six students no longer can afford to attend Bethel, a K-12 school in Savage, Maryland.

And in an effort to live up to its own standard, Bethel is taking its case to court, claiming religious discrimination by the state.

Bethel Principal Claire Dant told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that in addition to the six students who were unable to attend Bethel this past school year, others likely were interested in enrolling but didn’t after finding out they couldn’t use a voucher to cover tuition costs.

Bethel sent a copy of the “discriminatory” handbook passage to The Daily Signal. It reads:

Bethel Christian Academy admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship, and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

It should be noted, however, that Bethel Christian Academy supports the biblical view of marriage defined as a covenant between one man and one woman, and that God immutably bestows gender upon each person at birth as male or female to reflect His image.  (Gen. 1:27, Gen. 2:23-24) Therefore, faculty, staff, and student conduct is expected to align with this view. Faculty, staff, and students are required to identify with, dress in accordance with, and use the facilities associated with their biological gender.

Maryland is one of 14 states that provide a school choice program for K-12 students in which funds go to eligible students in the form of a voucher that can be put toward the family’s school of choice. Maryland students can receive up to $4,400 each school year to use toward tuition.

Bethel has been a part of the voucher program known as Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, for two school years, Dant said, and has received approximately $102,000 in total aid from the state.

Bethel complied with all the requirements of the voucher program, she said.

Since the state disagrees, in addition to removing Bethel from the voucher program, Maryland also is demanding that the school repay $100,000 of the funding.

Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based legal nonprofit that specializes in religious liberty cases, took up Bethel’s case in late June and is suing Maryland for targeting the school’s religious values.

“What Maryland has done in picking out Bethel from the [school voucher] program with no reason is truly hostile to Bethel’s position on sexuality,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel representing the school, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

State law says Maryland cannot require a religious entity to change its policy or change its beliefs. But, Holcomb said, that is essentially what the state is insisting Bethel do in order to participate in the voucher program.

“It’s sad that a government is so hostile to traditional marriage that it is willing to harm students in the process,” Holcomb said.

No School Choice Without Religious Choice

Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that “if private schools cannot operate according to their beliefs, we don’t have school choice any more.”

The state of Maryland does not require students to attend any particular school through the voucher program.

No student is forced to attend Bethel and accept its particular religious views, which Burke noted is the purpose of school choice.

“No child is assigned to a private school that holds beliefs with which they disagree,” Burke said. “Private schools are simply providing their services in exchange for tuition. Families can then choose to pay for the services they offer.”

Tip of the Iceberg

When Maryland cut Bethel from the program, it affected more than just tuition costs, Dant said.

The principal said the program is also tied to the non-public school textbook and technology program, which helps lower-income students afford the books and tools they need for school, and the Aging Schools grant program, which provides funding to older facilities for maintenance and upkeep.

“Our building is a historic building which requires upkeep,” Dant said. “That grant program was extremely valuable to us in upgrading windows and those sorts of things. The state tied both of those programs to the [Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today] program.“

“So we have also been denied that funding, and that was another tens of thousands of dollars,” she said.

Dant was careful to note, however, that the state’s actions will not sink the school financially.


How the Student Loan Forgiveness Program Fell Short

An amazing mess

When Bernie Sanders recently announced a $1.6 trillion plan to forgive all student loans, he had a particular kind of borrower in mind. “You are not truly free when you cannot pursue your dream of becoming a teacher, environmentalist, journalist or nurse,” he said, “because you cannot make enough money to cover your monthly student loan payments.”

Elizabeth Warren used similar language in announcing her more modest $640 billion loan forgiveness plan, noting that “student loan debt hits America’s teachers particularly hard.” Beto O’Rourke called for canceling all schoolteacher loans.

What’s strange about the new crop of proposals is that the Department of Education already has a public service loan forgiveness program, called P.S.L.F., which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007.

The program, though, appears to be a spectacular failure. In the 18 months after borrowers with a decade of service in government or nonprofit jobs first became eligible in 2017, 73,554 people applied to have their student loans wiped out. And 73,036 were turned down — a rejection rate of 99.3 percent.

This has prompted widespread condemnation, with pundits on the left describing the forgiveness program as “the defrauding of tens of thousands of borrowers” and an “incredible, rage-inducing story.” Last week, the American Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit accusing the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, of “gross mismanagement” of the program.

Yet the forgiveness program has also been criticized by analysts and politicians on the right as a drain on the public treasury.

The conservative American Enterprise Institute called the forgiveness program “the latest runaway entitlement program.” Citing costs, the Trump administration has twice proposed eliminating the program altogether.

What’s going on here? How can a program that Democrats hate because it rejects nearly everyone also be a program that Republicans hate because it’s too generous?

The answer lies in the convoluted story of the federal government’s efforts to help people who are struggling to repay their student loans, even as it continues to make nearly all of the loans in the first place.

The end of that story suggests that Democrats may be about to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fix a problem that is already on the way to being solved.

From Simple to Complicated

The first thing to know about the forgiveness program is that Congress did not, initially, want all public servants to receive it. Instead, lawmakers limited eligibility to people with a particular kind of loan, called a Direct Loan. Direct Loans were created in the 1990s as an alternative to the Federal Family Education Loan program (F.F.E.L.), under which the federal government paid private banks to lend students money and then reimbursed banks for 98 percent of any loans that went bad. Direct Loans are made directly by the Department of Education.

Technically, students could choose either one. In practice, they almost always chose from a college-provided “preferred lender list.” How did a lender get on the list? The all-expenses-paid Caribbean vacations might have had something to do with it.

Which is why, when the forgiveness program was created, only 24 percent of federal student loans were Direct Loans. And only Direct Loans could be forgiven. There was, in theory, a workaround. Someone who had, say, graduated in 2006 with a Federal Family Education Loan and become a low-paid schoolteacher could “consolidate” by taking out a new Direct Loan and using it to pay off an F.F.E.L. loan.

In practice, President Bush signed the forgiveness program into law on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007, as part of a larger package of overhauls that received relatively little news media attention. The measure, which became effective the following Monday, Oct. 1, forgives loans for anyone with 10 years of public service — but only service conducted after the law went into effect.

That meant that people with Federal Family Education Loans who wanted to maximize their loan forgiveness benefits 10 years later had five days, including a weekend, to consolidate their loans, based on an obscure subprovision of a little-known law.

Even if they did, or filed the paperwork relatively quickly, there was another problem. Congress didn’t just limit forgiveness to a certain kind of loan. It also decided that loans had to be repaid in a certain way.

When students leave college with a garden-variety loan, they’re put into the “standard repayment plan” — principal and interest divided into equal monthly payments over 10 years.

Those payments can be hard for people who struggle financially, particularly if they graduate during an economic downturn. So starting in the 1970s and 1980s, Congress created a series of alternatives.

Loans can be put into “deferment,” which means temporary permission to skip payments without accruing penalties or damaging your credit rating. Or “forbearance,” which is the same as deferment, except your loans accrue interest in the meantime. Although this helped with immediate crises, some students had longer-term needs. So Congress created the “graduated” plan, in which, instead of equalsize installments, payments start small and grow over time. There’s also the “extended” plan; the payment period lasts longer than 10 years. An extended plan can also be graduated.

That still left people who were flat broke or unemployed or who needed to spend their money on other things, like children or food or rent. So Congress created the “income-contingent repayment” plan. Monthly payments were set at 20 percent of borrowers’ “discretionary income,” which means their income minus basic living expenses, which are defined as the federal poverty line.

The good thing about incomecontingent plans is that your payments can’t overwhelm you. If you earn nothing, you owe nothing.

The bad thing is that interest continues to accumulate. Recognizing this, and that some people would probably never catch up, Congress decided that anyone in this kind of plan for 25 years could have the remainder of his or her loan forgiven.

Income-contingent repayment loans weren’t very popular. If you don’t have much money, 20 percent of discretionary income is still a lot, and 25 years is a long time. So when Congress passed the forgiveness program in 2007, it also created income-based repayment. It worked the same way as income-contingent repayment, except now people had to pay only 15 percent of discretionary income, and leftover debt was forgiven after 20 years.

Public servants got a much better deal: forgiveness after 10 years. But the definition of service was stringent: 120 monthly payments (10 years’ worth) made while employed full time in a public service job. That meant that if you put your loan into deferment or forbearance for a few months, those months wouldn’t count toward the 120. Nor would payments made under graduated or extended plans, because they were available to anyone regardless of income, and Congress didn’t want doctors or lawyers artificially knocking down their payments and then having most of their loans canceled.

To be eligible for the forgiveness program, people had to make payments based on their income. But the income-contingent repayment plan was little used, and, practically speaking, people couldn’t use income-based repayment until early 2009.

Imagine the circumstances those applying for loan forgiveness in 2018 and 2019 might have been in a decade earlier. They probably had a Federal Family Education Loan. With the global economy crashing, there’s a good chance they were about to experience some kind of financial difficulty that would prevent them from making payments on the standard 10-year repayment plan. Otherwise they wouldn’t have a balance left to forgive 10 years later.

That difficulty would trigger a series of choices among myriad options, most of which — forbearance, deferment, graduated plan, extended plan, graduated extended plan, or just missing some payments — would not qualify as one of the necessary 120 payments. In short, there’s a very good chance that they would at some point in the next decade make ineligible payments, or no payments, or that the eligible payments they did make would be on an ineligible loan.

Those people needed some good advice. Whom would they call? Not the Department of Education, which subcontracts the work of helping borrowers to “loan servicing companies.” Unfortunately, the servicers didn’t prove up to the task.

Many Ways to Mess Up

Loan servicers are paid a flat rate per borrower for processing loan payments and helping people navigate the repayment process. That means that the more time and effort a borrower requires, the less money the servicer makes. Someone who sets up an automatic debit from a checking account and never picks up the phone is a source of profits. Borrowers who need a lot of time-consuming assistance to ensure that their job, their loan and their repayment plan are all eligible for the forgiveness program are a financial liability.

The results were predictable. In June 2017, a few months before the first public servants were (theoretically) eligible for loan forgiveness, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a report describing the many ways loan servicers were messing things up.

The complaints (echoed in the recent American Federation of Teachers lawsuit) included, but were not limited to: telling people that ineligible plans were eligible; telling people that payments that were ineligible were eligible; taking too long to consolidate loans into Direct Loans; failing to tell people who were interested in the forgiveness program how to enroll; and failing to tell people that if they consolidated several existing Direct Loans into a single new one, the 120-payment clock would reset to zero.

There were other problems. You can get the forgiveness program only if you make incomebased payments. For those payments to be accurate, you must file a new set of forms every year detailing your income and family size. Servicers would botch this, sometimes, and while they were working it out, the payments wouldn’t count toward 120. When the time comes for forgiveness, you have to submit another set of forms proving that you were employed full time in a public service job during each of the 120 months. Servicers botched this sometimes, too.

Which meant that when the loan forgiveness window finally opened in October 2017, the only people who were legally eligible were a kind of rare, immaculate borrower: someone who had not only made all of the loan payments, in full and on time, for 120 consecutive months, but had also (unusually) taken out exactly the right kind of loan, and (improbably) gotten immediately into exactly the right kind of repayment plan, and (very luckily) never once experienced a debilitating servicer error of any kind.

And this perfect borrower had to have been employed in a public service job the entire time. This also turned out to be a source of confusion. While plenty of blame can be directed at Congress for designing a confusing program and at loan servicers for carrying out the program poorly, the truth is that many of the applicants hadn’t been public servants for all of the previous decade.

Why, then, does the Congressional Budget Office keep raising its estimated cost of the forgiveness program? The numbers are startling. In 2016, the C.B.O. estimated the annual cost of providing graduate school loans to be $4 billion. The next year it revised it to $6 billion. Last year the number jumped to $8 billion. This year, it’s up to $12 billion — all because the C.B.O. keeps increasing its estimate of how many public service loans the government will eventually write off.

In part, it’s simply a matter of time. If you thought you made 120 qualifying payments, but really made only 110, you can make 10 more and apply again. Some of the people initially rejected will have their loans forgiven this year or next. Future applicants will need to be less immaculate as time goes on. Servicers may get better at their job.

But the other big reason for the rising price is that lawmakers weren’t done tinkering with student loans back in 2007. Far from it. They continued to add and adjust, each time making the program more complicated and expensive.

A Rising Tide of Forgiven Loans

The first big change came in 2010, when Congress got rid of the subsidized private bank loan program.

All new loans would be Direct Loans — and thus eligible for the forgiveness program. At the same time, Congress made the forgiveness program much more generous, by reducing monthly loan payments under incomebased repayment to 10 percent of discretionary income, from 15 percent.

Congress never gets rid of old ways to repay student loans. It just creates new ones. The 2007 law created what we’ll call Old I.B.R (Income-Based Repayment), in which you pay 15 percent of income. The 2010 law created New I.B.R., in which you pay 10 percent. New I.B.R. wasn’t supposed to be available until 2014.

But some clever Obama administration lawyers figured out how to create another repayment option out of whole regulatory cloth that mirrored New I.B.R but was available sooner.

They called it Pay as You Earn, or PAYE. It became available in 2013, for any loans made since 2007. That still left out people who had borrowed before 2007. In 2015, the administration created Revised Pay as You Earn, or Repaye, to include those borrowers, too.

The loan servicers proceeded to add these three options to the long and growing list of complicated repayment systems that they frequently did a bad job of explaining to their customers.

With so many plans and options, you need a college degree to make sense of it all. But you know who has college degrees? Graduate students. And even as federal loan policy evolved into evermore exotic permutations, a weak economy and creeping credentialism were pushing more students back into the welcoming arms of higher education, which had all manner of expensive master’s programs for sale.

Universities also benefited greatly from a 2005 law that allows graduate and professional school students to borrow whatever tuition universities decide to charge, plus living expenses. This can easily add up to six figures.

The Department of Education recently published a list of 1,126 graduate programs in which the average borrower leaves college owing $100,000 or more.

With that much money at stake, graduate students started to get wise about the loan forgiveness program. So did graduate school financial advisers making the case for why it’s O.K. to borrow luxury-automobile quantities of money for another college degree.

There’s no way to know how many people will apply for the forgiveness program. But in 2012, the Department of Education began allowing people to pre-certify their public service as they work toward 10 years.

By the end of 2013, 84,000 borrowers were certified. Two years later, that number had grown to 335,000. As of March 2019, it was over one million and still rising.

The average outstanding loan balance is almost $90,000. Since undergraduates legally can’t borrow that much federal money, the forgiveness program is surely dominated by graduate students. A sizable number are most likely public schoolteachers, half of whom have graduate degrees.

At the same time, nearly half of the $870 billion in outstanding Direct Loans — the kind that are eligible for loan forgiveness — is being repaid through income-driven plans, the kind that are eligible for loan forgiveness. And one in four American workers is in a job eligible for the forgiveness program.

The amount of money the federal government will wave off under the forgiveness program is like a rising ocean building up behind a wall of initial program complexity, borrower confusion and loan servicer incompetence.

Eventually, it will spill over. The 99 percent rejection rate can’t last. Many of the teachers and other public servants who Democratic presidential candidates say deserve to have their loans forgiven are already well on their way to exactly that.


Australian universities highly ranked

The University of Sydney has improved its place in the latest THE World Reputation Rankings, jumping from band 71-80 to 61-70. This moves the University into second place, up from third, for reputation in Australia.

The annual ranking lists the top 100 universities for teaching and research reputation, based on the results of an invitation-only academic opinion survey.

“This outcome is a great tribute to our academic and professional staff who are doing so much to lift the performance of the University in education and research.

“In the past few years, we’ve undertaken some of the biggest reforms in a century to both our curriculum and our research approach; and it’s starting to pay off,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison said.

“More importantly, this result also demonstrates the extraordinary contribution our staff and students are making to society more generally. We are working with more partners than ever before, collaborating to tackle some of the biggest challenges the world faces – whether it’s climate change, chronic disease, inequality or artificial intelligence.”

The questionnaire was completed by more than 10,000 senior academics from 135 countries.  The respondents, who are experienced, published scholars, are asked to identify the top 15 universities for research and the top 15 for teaching.

The survey data will also be used alongside 11 other indicators to determine the THE World University Rankings, which will be released in September this year.

This result follows the University of Sydney’s strong performance in rankings announced last month, placing 42nd in the world and first in the state in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and with 12 subjects ranked in the top 50 in the 2019 ARWU Global Ranking of Academic Subjects.

There are now six Australian universities in the top 100, up from three last year, a significant achievement for the domestic higher-education sector.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Department of Education to Probe Athletic Program Allowing Transgender Females to Compete With Girls

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is opening an investigation into whether female high school athletes were discriminated against when the state of Connecticut allowed males who identify as females to compete with them.

The three high school girls pursuing the complaint include Selina Soule, who earlier this year missed qualifying for the 55-meter dash in the New England regionals.

Two biological boys who identify as female were allowed to compete in Connecticut’s girls indoor track championship. These transgender females took first and second place in the event.

Had the transgender athletes not been allowed to compete with the girls, Soule would have qualified for the regionals, as The Daily Signal’s Kelsey Bolar documented in a May video report.

According to the letter sent by the Office for Civil Rights about its decision to take up the case, it is examining the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s “Transgender Participation Policy” for possible Title IX violations in discriminating against girls.

The state policy allows athletes to participate in boys or girls sports according to their gender identity, no matter their biological sex.

Title IX is a federal law created to protect equal education opportunities for women and girls, including in athletics. Schools may lose federal funds if they don’t comply.

Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Soule, said in a press release Thursday that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy “regularly results in boys out-performing and displacing girls in competitive high-school track events across Connecticut.”

The three girls’ complaint alleges that the Glastonbury Board of Education “denied equal athletic benefits and opportunities” to girls because of the transgender policy and its failure to request that the state conference change the policy.

Additionally, federal officials are investigating the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the Glastonbury school district for alleged retaliation against particular parents and their daughters for complaining about the transgender policy.

With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit Christian legal aid organization, the parents of Soule and the two other unnamed girls filed a federal complaint June 18 on behalf of their daughters with the Department of Education.

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel with the nonprofit, told The Daily Signal in June that it hopes “to restore a level playing field for Selina.”

“Girls like Selina should never be forced to be spectators in their own sports, but, unfortunately, that is exactly what is taking place when you allow biological males to compete in sports that have been set aside and specifically designed for women like Selina,” Holcomb said.

“Title IX was designed to ensure that girls have a fair shake at athletics, and are not denied the opportunity to participate at the highest levels of competition.”


When My College Art Class Became a Political Ambush

One afternoon during my sophomore year at the University of Virginia, I had to attend a presentation from the college’s residential artist for an art class that I was taking.

As I sat down in the auditorium, I listened intently to the artist, hoping to gain some insight into his creativity.

Instead, the situation quickly became political. The artist asked any “secret conservatives” in the room to raise their hands. Not simply “conservatives,” mind you. He simply assumed that any conservative sitting there would be ashamed of their beliefs, hence the word “secret.”

I had nothing to hide about my conservative views, so I put up my hand and claimed my beliefs. I thought I would then learn something relevant to the class about art. Instead, I got an earful about the failures of conservatives, ranging from immigration to our “homophobic” president and why traditional values were wrong.

When I left the room, I was angry. All I could think about was the impossible situation he had just put me in.

I wasn’t “secretly” conservative, but in raising my hand, I was allowing him to suggest otherwise. The way he framed the question suggested that to be a conservative, I had to be secretive about it, as if it were shameful. On the other hand, not raising my hand at all would have communicated that I was a liberal. I would have been tacitly condoning beliefs that went against my conscience. The binary choice the artist gave me was a false and unfair one.

As a conservative on campus, every day served as a reminder that not everyone agrees with my beliefs. That’s to be expected in a free country.

But we ought to assume the best about each other rather than the worst. We ought to treat each other’s views with the same fairness we would want for ourselves.

Unfortunately, this incident forced me and other conservatives into a box, one that was defined by the artist’s preconceived narrative. There was no way I could win. I was expected to be ashamed of my beliefs and pressured to hide them.

If we want to have a productive political dialogue, we need to let other people speak their opinions on their own terms, without forcing them into our own preconceived narratives.

There is real value in recognizing the worth of conflicting viewpoints. But the left has lost sight of that. Progressives talk about openness and acceptance of others—the artist I mentioned did that—yet he couldn’t see that I was being excluded in his forum. I was being “otherized.”

This is a blatant double standard, and it shouldn’t exist—least of all on a college campus where students are meant to engage with competing views.

If the left wants to be the champion of “acceptance,” it must be willing to hear from the conservative viewpoint. Conservatives want an open and productive discourse that is not biased from the outset.

The best way to achieve that is to recognize that all people have intrinsic value, and therefore, their opinions deserve to be heard.

This was impressed upon me a few weeks ago while listening to Princeton University professor Robert George speak to the interns at The Heritage Foundation.

He explained that simply by virtue of being human, we have dignity. This dignity begets individual rights—rights to life and liberty. No one lives freely whose views are treated as infantile or shameful.

He also said, “The right to religious freedom is the right to express your views in public.”

While he was directly referencing freedom of religion, the same concept applies to beliefs in general. As long as I am not endangering the life, liberty, or property of another person, I should be free to proclaim my beliefs without fear of retaliation.

I fully expect to face opposition due to my views, and I never want to fall into the trap of thinking I have the corner on truth. But I do not want the left to control my narrative, either.

I have never been ashamed of my conservative views. If anything, my time at Heritage has helped me to realize the impact that one individual can have—even by doing something as simple as listening to someone whose opinion usually gets squashed by those with louder voices.

Our country flourishes because we enjoy the freedom to express and debate ideas. But if we lose that freedom to a false kind of discourse governed by one worldview, then there is no hope for a productive conversation.

As I head into my third year at the University of Virginia, I plan to take this ideal with me. I’m determined to stand firm when faced with the scorn of those who oppose my views, but also leave room for others to speak freely.

I have been given such a gift and a wealth of knowledge in this internship that to be either complacent or cavalier about my beliefs would be a poor service to those who spent this summer giving me the lessons of their lives.


Australia: Universities need to listen to what students want from their degrees

University students have become "customers" and if universities are uncomfortable with that idea they are out of touch.

The chief executive of study support service, Studiosity, Michael Larsen, said a  survey of student experience showed the demand-driven system has shifted what students expect to get from higher education and many universities are running hard to catch up.

The survey asked 1100 students to rate their satisfaction with university education. Nearly 49 per cent said the did not believe the course they were studying was worth the money it cost. More than 55 per cent said it would "take years to pay off my student loan".

That was despite the fact only 16 per cent thought what they learnt at university could have been learnt in a job. And only 10 per cent felt the quality of what they learnt at university was not of a high standard.

"Value is a big part of the student experience," Mr Larsen said. "Everyone in society has become a consumer. Services like Netflix and Menulog have changed expectations. The availability and immediacy of those services has raised the bar for what students experience."

He said the demand-driven system meant everyone who wanted to go to university could get there. But combined with the high cost of a degree there were far more people in the system who felt they weren't getting value for money.

"Not all universities see students as customers and are quite confronted by that idea. That's a shame. Universities need to improve the student experience," Mr Larsen said.

Student responses to the survey question "Was your degree worth the money?" included, "I feel many people still go out from uni unprepared because they haven't actually experienced the world" , "It's very theoretical, not very practical based learning like you deal with in the workplace" and "what I am learning seems more theory based and not very practical".

The chief academic officer at Studiosity and former pro vice chancellor, learning and teaching, at Sydney University, Judyth Sachs said the survey showed the quality of university education was not in question but the high cost showed there was a disconnect as far as students were concerned.

Professor Judyth Sachs says universities are out of touch.

"Universities have to do more on employability, on soft skills and being able to work in a team."

She said nearly 19 per cent of students in the survey said they didn't feel they had learnt enough to be job ready.

"In some professional areas like engineering and psychology this has been going on for a long time. But for arts degree or generalist science degrees there has to be an employability focus.

"It's government policy that universities respond to performance indicators," Professor Sachs said.

The most important of these was the governments' Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey of attrition, retention and employability which will feed into the new performance-driven funding from 2020 under a Coalition government.

Labor has also said it will look at performance funding if it wins power in May.

"It's about making the universities more accountable. Given government is spending more money than ever on higher education, it has to get more accountability and responsibility from unis."

She said universities also needed to pay more attention to engagement in the first months of an undergraduate degree which was where there were high levels of drop-out.

"There's a broad disconnect. Students come to uni without any peer group.  Lots of them don't know how to navigate their way. Especially if they're first in family and alone at university; it's large, informal and chaotic but they're expected to perform.

"I was provost at Macquarie University for 12 years. Retention rates were high. But we found lots of the first in family didn't have the cultural capital to be self supporting."

She said a drawback of the QILT survey was it pushed universities to focus on "technocratic"  solutions when what they needed to think about was how to ensure students were successful.

"We're not just talking about academic terms. It's the value-add of soft skills, it's about producing productive and successful citizens.

Among international students, 42 per cent thought the degree was not worth the cost and of these 37 per cent said they didn't feel they'd learnt enough to be "job ready".

Mr Larsen said, "With the cost of higher education on the rise, proving consistent value-add will be a challenge for universities."

Only 16 per cent of students in the survey said their experience of university was better than they expected. One of them added, "I thought it would feel more like a community."