Friday, November 01, 2019

Parents Outraged at Austin's New Sex-Ed Curriculum That Trains Children to Become LGBT Activists

On Tuesday morning, the Austin Independent School District (ISD) school board approved a radical new sex-education curriculum for grades 3-8 that encourages all kinds of sex at young ages, urges kids to join LGBT "pride" parades, and aims to redefine biological sex and erase the words "mom" and "dad" from children's vocabulary.

More than 100 people testified against the new curriculum on Monday night, and testimony lasted until after midnight. Yet the school board unanimously approved the new curriculum.

"This vote by the Austin ISD Board sends a clear message: people of faith and traditional moral values are not welcome in Austin ISD," David Walls, vice president of Texas Values and a parent in Austin ISD, said in a statement. "By passing this curriculum, Austin ISD has broken the sacred trust that parents put in their children’s schools. Austin ISD parents have no reason to entrust their children to a school district that weaponizes education to indoctrinate children into the LGBT political movement."

In a document revealing the radical nature of the curriculum, Texas Values drew attention to materials for the Grades 3-5 curriculum that encourage children to abandon the terms "mother" and "father" or "mom" and "dad."

"Use Gender Inclusive Language," the curriculum advises teachers. "It is important to avoid terms which refer only to 'male' and 'female' identities when speaking with young children as this can limit their understanding of gender into binaries and can exclude children who may not identify within these identities. For example, when discussing family members or adults they may have in their life, try not to only use terms like 'mom' or 'dad'. Try integrating words like, 'parents' or, 'guardians' to include children whose parents might not fit into 'traditional' concepts of family structures."

While the curriculum gives this advice to teachers, it would likely have the effect of teachers telling kids to stop using words like "mom" and "dad" but instead to employ gender-neutral language.

Another exercise encourages teachers to avoid the phrase "your mother gave birth to you," and instead to ask, "Are you close with your birth parents?"

This erasure of biological sex runs throughout the curriculum. In the draft document for Grade 6, the curriculum defines "biological sex" as something arbitrary — assigned and "decided" by the doctor, rather than rooted in DNA and merely recognized at birth.

The Grade 6 materials define "biological sex" as "sex assigned at birth according to genitalia," and encourage teachers to "explain that when someone is born, a doctor looks at them and decides what sex they are. Usually if a doctor sees a pen*s they will say the baby is male, if they see a vag*na they will say the baby is female, and if they see that the baby’s genitalia don’t quite look like either, they’ll say the baby is intersex. Explain that although people usually assume that people with a pen*s are boys and people with a vag*na are girls, sex does NOT always match with gender identity (i.e. someone with a penis might identify as a girl)."

Contrary to this pro-transgender definition, biological sex is not "assigned" and it is not "decided" at the whim of a doctor. People with two X chromosomes are female, and people with one X and one Y are male, from the moment of conception. Even before birth, males and females develop differently. Biological sex is not arbitrary, but this propagandistic lie is politically convenient for transgender activists who wish to emphasize gender identity over biological reality.

The curriculum does not just use political propaganda to turn kids into LGBT activists, however. The Grade 6 materials also encourage students to attend a "pride rally" or to become "an ally to someone who identifies as LGBT by showing support and acceptance." The curriculum suggests these activities as tools to teach students to "challenge homophobia."

Across the grade levels, teachers are encouraged to normalize LGBT identities and relationships. Materials include a "sexuality match game" and videos promoting homosexuality. One story attempts to normalize homosexual activity by narrating the relationship between 14-year-old Peyton and 17-year-old Jordan — a relationship in which Jordan pressures Peyton to have sex. Peyton hides his relationship with Jordan from his "parent."

More than 7,000 people have signed Texas Values' petition against the sex-ed curriculum.

Human beings are male and female, and the natural way of reproduction involves one male and one female, also known as a father and a mother. It is truly Orwellian to push teachers to reject these terms and the more affectionate "Mom" and "Dad." These activists would undermine reality — inserting their ideology into the sacred bond between parent and child.

Americans need to speak out against the transgender revolution and the sexualization of children.


Bristol University hires slavery history professor to see whether it needs to apologise for colonial past

Bristol University has hired a professor of slavery history in an attempt to discover whether it needs to apologise for its colonial past.

The institution has commissioned Prof Olivette Otele, an expert in the history of colonialism in Britain and France, to carry out a two year research project into the involvement of the University of Bristol and the wider city in the transatlantic slave trade.

The university said it will decide at the end of the two years how to appropriately acknowledge its past links with colonialism, which could include making a public apology or statement.

It comes after a campaign by Bristol students to rename the Wills Memorial Building, which was named after the university's founding chancellor Henry Overton Wills III. The Wills family derived their wealth from shipping tobacco from the New World into Bristol.

The university announced in 2017 that it would not rename the building, saying: "We cannot alter the past but we can enable reflection upon it and add to knowledge about slavery past and present."

Bristol is the latest institution to investigate its past links with colonialism. Earlier this year, Glasgow University became the first in Britain to announce a package of reparations for its benefit from the slave trade.   

It pledged to raise £20 million over the next 20 years to fund a new research centre which will be a joint venture with the University of the West Indies.

Cambridge University has also launched an inquiry into how the 800-year-old institution benefited from the slave trade.

Researchers have been commissioned to pour over the university’s archives to how much it gained from the “Atlantic slave trade and other forms of coerced labour during the colonial era”. 

The two-year inquiry will examine whether financial bequests made to departments, libraries and museums were made possible from the profits of slavery.

It will also probe how far Cambridge academics “reinforced and validated race-based thinking between the 18th and early 20th Century”.

Bristol's official participation in the transatlantic slave trade started in 1698, though experts say Bristolian ships illegally traded in slaves well before then.

Bristol merchants financed more than 2,000 slaving voyages between 1698 and 1807, with ships carrying more than 500,000 people from Africa to slave labour in the Americas.

Professor Judith Squires, Bristol University’s provost and deputy vice-Chancellor said: “As an institution founded in 1909, we are not a direct beneficiary of the slave trade, but we fully acknowledge that we financially benefited indirectly via philanthropic support from families who had made money from businesses involved in the transatlantic slave trade.

 “This new role provides us with a unique and important opportunity to interrogate our history, working with staff, students and local communities to explore the University’s historical links to slavery and to debate how we should best respond to our past in order to shape our future as an inclusive University community.” 


‘Unconscionable conduct’: Australian private college fined $4.2m

A private education college that deliberately targeted disadvantaged and illiterate prospective students by offering them free laptops has been fined $4.2 million by the Federal Court.

Unique International College, which operated out of a single room in Granville in Sydney’s west, sold online diploma courses worth up to $25,000 often targeting vulnerable communities in former Aboriginal missions in regional NSW.

In six separate cases, Unique International College was found to have failed to inform students of the cost of the course they were signing up to, did not tell them they would incur a debt and did not give them copies of the contract they signed.

One judgment, relating to a 19-year-old with learning conditions who was signed up by Unique in Wagga Wagga, stated it was “exploitation of an obviously very vulnerable person for financial gain”.

“(Unique’s conduct) involved the exploitation of an uneducated indigenous person with no understanding of what he was agreeing to in return for a laptop which was worth substantially less than the debt which was being incurred,” Justice Nye Perram found in his Federal Court judgment on Thursday.

“It is difficult to imagine unconscionable conduct which could be worse.”

Each of the six people were left with a VET FEE-HELP debt of $26,400, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“These students enrolled by Unique were unlikely to be able to complete the courses, but would have been left with significant lifetime student debt,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Some of these consumers enrolled in courses by Unique had poor literacy skills, and others could not use computer or did not have an internet connection.

“The ACCC will always prioritise taking action against businesses which engage in egregious conduct impacting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers,” Mr Sims said.

Using the new VET FEE-HELP student redress measures, the government in the process of cancelling the debts of eligible consumers enrolled by Unique.

In 2017 the Federal Court found the college made false or misleading representations and engaged in behaviour amounting to unconscionable conduct, following evidence that more than 3100 students never completed a single unit of any of the college’s management or marketing courses, costing taxpayers more than $47 million in student loans.

During the trial the court heard evidence that the owner of the college, Amarjit Singh, transferred $22 million from his business account to his family’s account on one day in 2015, in addition to transferring a $5.7 million Kenthurst property owned by the college to another family member in the same year.

But in 2018 the company successfully appealed, with the Federal Court finding there was insufficient evidence that its conduct amounted to a system of unconscionable conduct beyond the six consumers still currently involved in the matter.

Justice Perram found Unique acted deliberately in remote communities on a number of occasions, including Walgett in October 2014, Wagga Wagga in March 2015 and Bourke in June 2015 but “was ignorant” to the fact it was contravening consumer law.

“One of Unique’s employee witnesses stated in cross-examination that he had not in fact heard of (Australian Consumer Law),” Justice Perram wrote.

The college has been found to have acted unconscionably in connection with goods or services, made false or misleading representations, failed to inform of a termination period, did not give a required document to a consumer and contravened requirements for all unsolicited consumer agreements.

It has previously had its registration cancelled and is no longer operating. The college operators have 28 days to pay the fine.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Why Are There So Many Marginally Employed PhDs in English?

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran two articles recently on growing unhappiness about a problem Ph.D. students in English at Columbia University face: most of them are not getting jobs, at least not the type they expected to get when starting graduate school. Not a single student finishing the degree in the 2018-19 year received a prompt offer for a tenure track collegiate teaching position. The school asserts that later one of the students got a tenure track position, and a few others got halfway decent opportunities (non tenure track jobs or post-doctoral fellowships), but the “underemployment” rate among these Ph.D. students was extremely high. And this is at an Ivy League school. What about the PhDs at lesser reputation schools say, Indiana University?

Let’s compare the academic world to the Real World—job markets outside of academia in the competitive free enterprise economy. In the Real World, if the price of oil falls from $75 to $35 a barrel because of the fracking revolution, the demand for petroleum engineers will dry up, and kids previously getting $100,000 a year with a bachelor’s degree will suddenly be fighting for a job. Enrollments in petroleum engineering will, perhaps after a couple years lag, fall precipitously. In a few more years, assuming oil prices are still pretty low, the starting salary of new petroleum engineers will have fallen significantly, perhaps to $65,000 a year, and what us economists call a “new equilibrium” will be reached. Markets adjust to handle changing needs for petroleum engineers—and most other occupations.

But the supply of new PhDs in English and other humanities has dramatically exceeded demand at prevailing academic market prices for many years. The market adjustment normally occurring does not seem to be happening. Why? First of all, it typically takes six or more years to get a Ph.D. in English, far more than the typical length period in most disciplines a couple generations ago (it took me less than three years, not extraordinarily unusual in the 1960’s). Students receive support as teaching assistants or fellows and are able to live modestly but comfortably well into their late 20’s. Some borrow tons of money from the federal government, which tends to prolong their stay in graduate school, as professors ask them to stay around an extra year or two to make trivially important revisions to a dissertation that nearly no one is going to read anyway. The typical finishing Ph.D. has literally been in academia for over 20 years and knows no other life—he or she has truly been sheltered, usually with considerable public subsidy, from the real world.

The biggest problem is that schools like Columbia keep taking big new Ph.D. classes—Columbia admitted 19 new Ph.D. candidates right after the relatively disastrous hiring year described above. Why? The faculty want lots of graduates students to keep those annoying undergraduates from bothering them, and also need them to help do research on obscure authors to allow publication of articles in even more obscure journals that no one reads. Federal loan subsidies help fund keeping the students around—and some politician of the Elizabeth Warren genre may successfully get all those loans forgiven soon anyhow.

Things will get worse before they get better, and hit other disciplines equally hard, as enrollments tumble and outside support from governments and private donors shrink as the public grows increasingly fed up with higher education—its inefficiencies, its increasing capitulation to the interests of radical left students who are more ideologically than academically oriented. Ph.D. enrollments in the humanities, social sciences and related disciplines (e.g., music, communications) SHOULD decline, sharply, and probably some marginal Ph.D. programs should close, a move bitterly resisted by faculty wanting the prestige of teaching in graduate programs and the perks associated with having glorified serfs doing their dirty work (teaching beginning survey courses, for example). State governments should review their funding of many graduate programs not receiving strong external research funding (those in the hard sciences or engineering.)

What will happen? As the Bard once said, “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” English departments seem determined to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”


High Schoolers Raise Money to Give Janitor a New Truck

Travis Kennedy worked at the school for over 22 years and didn't realize his impact.

“The work of a custodian may not appear glamorous, but Travis Kennedy has become a staple at Jasper High School for his dedication to the work and the students. Kennedy really made an impact on JHS sophomores Sam Hice and Preston Reed.”

“‘I never knew I was living like that. You know, you didn’t know you were impacting them. I didn’t know I was impacting them. But, you know, you got to live truthful. You’ve got to be honest. You have to try to do things right. And I was made to do that,’ says Kennedy.”

“Kennedy makes a 20-mile commute to and from work every day, but he does it with a servant’s heart. The two students noticed that their school’s janitor was getting to and from work in a truck in poor condition. At the same time, they wanted to make their appreciation to Kennedy known.”

The students decided they had to do something. So they started a GoFundMe page in order to help “Travis the Janitor” get a new ride.

“‘Travis the Janitor’ is an honest, hardworking man who deserves much more than just a new truck, but this is a start,” the page stated.

“It’s just so great when they give back to you and show you how much they appreciate you,” says Kennedy.

The students are attempting to raise $20,000 and have already raised nearly $8,000 in just a week!

Hice and Reed say they did not expect the effort to grow as quickly as it did.

“We were hoping it would,” says Hice. “We did not expect it to make nearly $1,000 a day like it has,” says Reed.

Kennedy says he is overwhelmed with gratitude by the gesture. He’s worked at JHS for 22 years, and says he didn’t realize what an impact he was making on the students.

Hice and Reed first encountered the custodian during their 8th grade year. Since then, Kennedy says they always make an effort to greet him.

“He’s a great example of the ‘Viking Way’ here at Jasper- which is summed up with humility, and he is always working with a smile, just hard-working and when you come up to him and say ‘Hey!’, he will always tell you something about the gospel, a great quality to have, and that’s what stood out to me,” says Reed.

“They run through the halls and ask how I’m doing, and I just say ‘I’m blessed’ and ‘I love y’all’.”

The students told Kennedy what they were doing and why in this heartfelt video taken by JHS principle Jonathan Allen. The video brought Kennedy to tears.

A local car dealership has even gotten on board. Carl Cannon Chevrolet Buick GMC in Jasper offered to match GoFundMe donations up to $10,000.

The students started the fundraiser on National Custodial Workers’ Recognition Day.


The West Australian Government will ban students from using mobile phones in all public schools in a major push to reduce distraction and focus on learning

The ban, announced today by Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery, will come into effect from 2020.

The prohibition on phones will take effect during school hours, beginning from the time students arrive until the end of the school day, including before school and during break times.

"We want to create the best possible learning environment for WA kids and our policy will allow students to focus on their school work without the distraction of a mobile phone," Mr McGowan said.

With no phones, life returns to the schoolyard

The "off and away all day" policy comes after consultation with schools such as Ocean Reef High School that already had successful guidelines in place for controlling access to mobile phones.

Principal Karon Brookes said despite initial resistance from some students, the ban immediately reduced disruptions in the classroom and increased interaction in the schoolyard.

"Teachers felt that at every change of lesson, they weren't dealing with students and reminding them, prompting them to put away their phones," she said.

"But we also noticed this growing noise in the yard … students were actually talking, laughing and engaging with each other."
Ms Brookes said the school set up extra activities at recess and lunch breaks to help students get used to the new policy.

One Year 11 student at Ocean Reef Senior High School, ZJ Tan, said the ban had paid dividends. "We are not distracted by notifications, so we are more focused in class and we are aware of what homeworks are given out [and] when assignments are due. So grades have improved," she said.

The ban restricts the use of mobile phones, smart watches, earbuds, tablets and headphones unless students are under the instruction of a staff member.

Students from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession during the school day.

Students from Years 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off during school hours and kept off and out of sight until the end of the school day.

Additionally, under the new policy, smart watches must be set to airplane mode.

Mr McGowan said exemptions to the policy would be made for students with special circumstances, including those who needed to monitor a health condition, were under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes or had teacher permission for a specified purpose.

Education Minister Sue Ellery told ABC Radio Perth the ban, which had been trialled at six secondary schools, had been relatively well received. "Most of [the students] said they found it useful to have a break," she said. "Some of them whinged a little bit, but nobody said that it was completely unreasonable."

Ms Ellery said teachers would also be allowed to give students permission to use their phone — for example, to take photos of work on whiteboards or to confirm shifts with employers.

She said while other states pointed to the rise of cyberbullying as motivation for similar bans, that was not the case in WA.

"I don't know that it will do that of itself, because most of that happens actually outside of school hours," she said.

"But if this policy helps kids form the habit of having a break and knowing that the world isn't going to end, the sky isn't going to fall down, if you're not on social media 24/7.
"That will probably help with cyberbullying as well."

Ms Ellery said the response at Ocean Reef Senior High School, one of the schools to have trialled the ban, gave her confidence the change would be a success.

"When they introduced the policy at the start of last school year, they were amazed," she said. "They hadn't anticipated the level of noise in the playground at lunchtime because kids were actually talking to each other."


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Catholic schools under pressure from secular ideas

I served on a consultative diocesan school board in Southern California from 1999 to 2019. We moved to Virginia when our youngest was enrolled in a college in Michigan. I’ve stayed reasonably active in civic affairs.

While our kids were still in public schools, first in Long Beach and then Newport Beach, California, the singular thing that separated the two K-6 schools in each community was the preponderance of “whole families” in Long Beach and mostly white, single-parent families in Newport Beach.

The small Long Beach school allowed inner-city kids to commute to the school if they came from a home with two parents. It was some sort of deal that had been arranged with the school district, and the imported students made the attendance numbers work and the little neighborhood school viable. It was a wonderful school.

In contrast was the K-6 school on the sand in Newport. Totally out of control, poorly administered. We stuck there for over a year and then bolted to a Catholic parish school on the advice of some new friends. I eventually caught the attention of the LaSallian brother who served as superintendent, and was invited on his board.

The traditional model for Catholic parish schools is 35 pupils in a class. That number floats the boat economically, and in schools throughout the country has been part of what filled the freshman classes at places such as University of Notre Dame and Gonzaga University.

With all the babble in California about reduced class sizes in public schools, it didn’t take long for parents in the parish school to start voicing concern that 35 was just too many kids. There was an effect, and it wasn’t positive.

The other matter was “credentialed” teachers. I know of at least three persons at the parish school where our kids attended who did not have a teaching credential. They were the most effective teaching professionals I’ve ever met.

But once that news spread to the families at the parish school, the die was cast. The teachers were released.

There is another matter of “formation” that goes missing in many Catholic schools these days. The teachers are mostly formed in the public university education programs. Need I go on?

Where we live now in Virginia is the belly of the beast, so to speak. (Do you recognize the name Gavin Grimm?) Although the county is small (population 37,000), there are five K-6 schools, two middle schools, and one high school. The district enrollment is declining, but nonteaching staff is increasing.

Anyone thinking about homeschooling needs to attend a school board or board of supervisors meeting in my little corner of the world. Listen carefully to the bilge that angry teachers spew in favor of pay increases divorced from the product of their efforts: a learned pupil, honest and prepared to meet the challenges of a competitive society.

Parents need to get their kids out of there.


Australia: Senator Amanda Stoker exposes our unjust universities

Bettina Arndt

Finally, I am seeing some real action from my campus campaign. I’m just back from meetings with parliamentarians in Canberra, including the outstanding Queensland Senator, Amanda Stoker.

Yesterday Amanda put on a brilliant display, grilling TEQSA, the university regulator, in Senate Estimates committee about the higher education sector’s abysmal failure to protect the rights of the accused in new rape regulations now in operation in universities across Australia.

Watch the bureaucrats squirm when she rightly points out that the regulations contain barely one word about ensuring proper legal rights for accused young men. It is a disgrace that TEQSA has been shown to have cow towed to feminist lobby groups and bullied universities into adjudicating rape on campus, shelving the legal rights of the accused and using lower standards of proof to ensure more convictions.

Remember it was Senator Stoker who put pressure on TEQSA over my Sydney University protest last year, which ultimately led to the French Inquiry and universities now reluctantly introducing voluntary free speech codes.

Now Amanda is promising to help the regulator ensure they address the appalling bias in their own instructions to universities regarding this issue.

I have a team of serious players on board. We have a number of plans of attack to persuade universities to leave the serious crime of sexual assault to be dealt with by our criminal law system, which is designed to offer proper justice to both sides in these cases. I’ll be writing about some of the other fascinating developments in the weeks to come but couldn’t resist sending you the Stoker video today. I’m really keen that we circulate this as widely as possible.

This is a shot across the bows of the feminists who have been had the running on this issue for so long.  And the more people who know about it the better.

Here are the links you can use to view the video and circulate it on social media.

Facebook video:


Email from Bettina Arndt:

Liberty University: A Cautionary Tale

A recent cascade of investigative reporting on the shady business dealings of Jerry Falwell Jr. has raised some troubling questions about the controversial evangelical figure and his vision for Liberty University, the conservative Christian institution he has led for more than a decade.

Reports from Politico and Reuters, with university staff and administrators as sources, allege that Falwell has repeatedly used university assets to enrich family and friends—and created a campus culture of fear where he holds unbridled authority.

While Liberty has long been presented as an alternative to mainstream liberal academia, the university offers a useful case study in how higher education institutions that pursue unique missions can also be susceptible to unique governance pitfalls.

When the late Jerry Falwell Sr. founded Liberty University in 1971, he laid out a vision that was markedly different from those of other Bible colleges and private schools. The university website features this quote from Falwell:

From the beginning, the goal was not to create another Bible college. The vision was to create academic excellence, world-class facilities, NCAA Division I Athletics, and student activities, and to provide it all with a distinctively Christian environment.

Falwell’s central role in forming the Moral Majority—which mobilized large groups of conservative religious voters for decades—has always featured Liberty as an essential piece of that mission. He wanted to build an institution that could compete with the programs of other large university systems while also producing future generations of reliably pro-life, traditional values evangelicals who would influence communities across the nation.

As the university grew steadily throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Falwell was pushing to expand the scale of Liberty rather than maintaining a small Christian liberal arts college. Additionally, Falwell’s public profile as a close confidant of U.S. presidents and a leading evangelical figure put Liberty in the sights of many young Christians who hoped to get into places of local and national influence.

Though supporters and detractors differ on Liberty’s benefits, it is indisputable that the university has succeeded in building its national influence.

After his death in 2007, Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr, assumed power at Liberty and ushered in a new era for the university.

During his tenure, Falwell has dramatically grown university assets—from $259 million in 2007 to more than $3 billion by 2018. But as this financial growth occurred, Politico reports that Falwell also significantly consolidated power over university administration in a way that has led many who work closely with him to question his leadership.

Critics argue that Falwell has created a culture of fear where people are unable to speak out. They point to examples such as how faculty outside of the law school cannot obtain tenure and the routine use of non-disclosure agreements that stop current and former staff and board members from discussing sensitive matters around Falwell’s leadership.

Documented incidents of retaliatory firings when staff criticize university leadership make this fear a legitimate reality.

Students live under scrutiny and fear along with the staff. Other stories from students and alumni detail his micro-management of the campus newspaper—claiming that he reserves the right to edit or reject any columns of which he disapproves. The school newspaper isn’t even student-run anymore. Other accounts note incidents like the university’s past “derecognition” of Campus Democrats, Falwell’s forced removal of an anti-Trump pastor, and when campus shut down a student booth where libertarian students tried to discuss legalizing marijuana.

Other highlights of malfeasance include making loans to friends contrary to the school’s financial interests, signing massive construction contracts with personal associates, and investing in real estate that’s owned by friends and family. The reports from Politico and Reuters also question Liberty-sponsored political activity—like selling merchandise that features both the Liberty and Trump brand—as potential violations of IRS rules governing nonprofits.

In fact, many of the shady financial practices documented in those reports are legally questionable actions for nonprofits, according to University of Pittsburgh law professor Phillip Hackney, who specializes in tax law.

Since faculty have little job security and students are limited in their ability to voice their dissent, it’s unlikely anyone on campus will stand up to Falwell.

What makes all these accounts more concerning is that Liberty receives a majority of its revenues—more than $770 million annually—from government sources. In contrast to other schools like Hillsdale College or Grove City College, which don’t accept federal funds, students pay for Liberty with federal aid and federal loans. While the university shouldn’t have to compromise on its mission in order to receive these dollars, it is deeply troubling when taxpayer money goes toward supporting business ventures that have no academic mission.

While it’s hard to verify the true extent to which all these problematic practices are a divergence from those used under the leadership of Jerry Falwell Sr., the recent reports suggest that Falwell Jr. has significantly changed Liberty’s trajectory since his father’s death.

Falwell’s response has been to boast of Liberty’s tremendous financial success and growing public influence under his leadership. But whether those successes are truly in keeping with the original mission of the university is the key question. While it’s true that the goal for Liberty was always to become a large university with far-reaching influence, it’s hard to see how things like personal profiteering at the expense of taxpayers and students—and stifling the independence of staff, faculty, and students—advance this goal.

To be clear, the problem with Liberty’s governance isn’t endemic to the mission itself. It’s easy to imagine an alternative timeline where Jerry Falwell Sr.’s successor avoids all these pitfalls. In fact, under this alternative trajectory, the university mission would have been better served.

But there are far too few checks on Falwell’s power. His own board of trustees can face serious consequences when they don’t fall in line. Longtime trustee Mark DeMoss was ousted from his role on the board when he disagreed with Falwell’s endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016. Since Politico released its report, Falwell has responded by calling for an FBI investigation into former board members for criminally conspiring against him.

Since faculty have little job security and students are limited in their ability to voice their dissent, it’s unlikely anyone on campus will stand up to Falwell. He simply isn’t being held accountable by a governance model that placed too much power in the hands of one person.

Schools struggling with their own governance problems should keep Liberty in mind when they manage their leadership. Liberty’s leaders are in a difficult situation because they’ve prioritized growth and the school’s national reputation over checks on the power accumulated by its president. The campus community has placed too much faith in a single leader, to the point where they’ve been unwilling or unable to speak out when the balance of power becomes too lopsided.

Reforming Liberty doesn’t mean compromising its mission. Nobody is demanding that Liberty become a Christian liberal arts school in the mold of Wheaton College or Hillsdale, or a carbon copy of a secular state school. In fact, Liberty is uniquely positioned as a popular university that could be a bona fide alternative to the overwhelmingly progressive status quo in academia.

There are many factors coming together to make Liberty’s governance problems unique. The distinct religious and political vision, the influence over the community in which it resides and the leadership style of the man at the helm all combine to form a distinct challenge. If the university is going to change course and live up to its own standards, the campus dissenters need to make a bold move and speak truth to power.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trump Admin Calls Out Pro-Islam Bias, Corruption in Middle East Studies Programs

Where analysts and “experts” are created

Raymond Ibrahim

The Trump administration recently called out and threatened to cut federal funding for the Consortium for Middle East Studies (CMES), a program run by Duke University and the University of North Carolina. It was accused by the U.S. Education Department of misusing a federal grant to advance “ideological priorities” and unfairly promote “the positive aspects of Islam,” particularly in comparison to Judaism and Christianity.

The Education Department summarized its position in an August 29 letter that opens with a reminder: institutions of higher education may receive federal funding via Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965—though “only for the purposes of establishing, strengthening, and operating comprehensive foreign language and area or international studies centers and programs.”  The logic is simple: “cultural studies providing historical information about customs and practices in the Middle East and assisting students to understand and navigate the culture of another country, in concert with rigorous foreign language training, could help develop a pool of experts needed to protect U.S. national security and economic stability.”

After reviewing the Consortium for Middle East Studies’ curricula, the Department letter warned that it had “little or no relevance” to federal funding:

For example, although Iranian art and film may be of subjects of deep intellectual interest … the sheer volume of such offerings highlights a fundamental misalignment between your choices and Title VI's mandates. Although a conference focused on “Love and Desire in Modem [sic] Iran” and one focused on Middle East film criticism may be relevant in academia, we do not see how these activities support the development of foreign language and international expertise for the benefit of U.S. national security and economic stability. Similarly, the link between the statutory goals and the academic papers referenced in your grant proposal, Amihri Hatun: Performance, Gender-Bending and Subversion in the Early Modern Ottoman Intellectual History, or Radical Love: Teachings from Islamic Mystical Tradition, is patently unclear.

The Department letter further accused the program of projecting and “advance[ing] narrow, particularized views of American social issues” onto the Middle East.  It cites a CMES teacher training seminar that described itself as focusing on “issues of multicultural education and equity to build a culture and climate of respect,” and “serving LGBTIQ youth in schools, culture and the media, diverse books for the classroom and more.”

Just as the CMES proliferates in topics popular on U.S. campuses—but that have no bearing on the realities of the Middle East—so too is there “a startling lack of focus on geography, geopolitical issues, history, and language of the area, as Congress required in Title VI,” the Department letter continues.  As for those two fields that the grant was primarily designed for, “foreign language instruction and area studies advancing the security and economic stability of the United States have taken ‘a back seat’ to other priorities at the Duke-UNC CMES.”

In short, “the Duke-UNC CMES offers very little serious instruction preparing individuals to understand the geopolitical challenges to U.S. national security and economic needs but quite a considerable emphasis on advancing ideological priorities.”

Significantly but not surprising, the letter further accused CMES of “lack[ing] balance as it offers very few, if any, programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by, and current circumstances of, religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews, Baha'is, Yadizis, Kurds, Druze, and others.”  Instead,

there is a considerable emphasis placed on understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East. This lack of balance of perspectives is troubling and strongly suggests that Duke-UNC CMES is not meeting legal requirement that National Resource Centers “provide a full understanding of the areas, regions, or countries’ in which the modern foreign language taught is commonly used.”

The letter concluded by warning CMES to respond by September 22 or risk losing funding.  CMES did; it send a 16-page letter of explanation, adding that it “will re-examine its procedures to ensure that its Title VI-funded activities continue to match the purposes and requirements of the Title VI program,” and was granted another year of funding.

Whatever lasting impact the Education Department letter has on CMES, it is a welcome development for several reasons.  First, it suggests that the government is paying attention.  This is important considering that over a dozen other Middle East Studies departments—including at Columbia, Georgetown, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale universities—are also Title VI recipients.  Moreover, all of them can be accused of most if not all of the failures cited in the Education Department letter to Duke and North Carolina (perhaps suggesting that the latter two, in the guise of CMES, were meant to be an example and warning to the rest).

Another benefit of the Department letter is that, although it only concerns Title VI recipients, it made national headlines—it made waves—that may lead to more questions and/or create more public awareness on the greater issue: that most Middle East Studies departments on campuses across America can to varying degrees be accused of focusing on irrelevant topics, sidelining language skills, whitewashing Islam—in short, indoctrinating students in the Left’s views.

As the letter is about funding, it may also prompt questions about its flipside—foreign funding.  For example, a 2018 report found that “elite U.S. universities took more than half a billion dollars” from  Saudi Arabia in gifts and donations “between 2011 and 2017”; as far back as 2005, Georgetown and Harvard each received $20 million “to support Islamic studies on their respective campuses.”

Why would a nation that treats women like chattel, teaches Muslims to hate all non-Muslims, arrests and tortures Christians “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—a nation that has crack units dedicated to apprehending witches and warlocks—become a leading financial supporter of America’s liberal arts?  The answer would seem to be obvious: so that recipients can show their gratitude by indoctrinating students in a fictitious Middle East and Islam—both of which are supposed victims of America.

In all spheres of life, education is intimately connected with success—as its opposite, ignorance, is connected with failure.  The reason U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has tended towards disaster is because policymakers depend on advisors and analysts who are products of the aforementioned Middle East and Islamic studies programs.  Until such time that Middle East Studies teach their topics with objectivity, balance, and above all, honestly—all criteria indispensable to success—failure will continue to dominate American policy.


Is math racist? Yes, according to Seattle Public Schools

The Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee (ESAC) has determined that math is subjective and racist.

In a draft for its Math Ethnic Studies framework, the ESAC writes that Western mathematics is “used to disenfranchise people and communities of color.”

Using the ESAC’s framework, Seattle’s public school students will be able to “construct & decode mathematical knowledge, truth, and beauty” so that they can contribute to their communities.

Students will also analyze the ways in which “ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture,” and “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.”

The framework is broken into four different themes: “Origins, Identity, and Agency,” “Power and Oppression,” “History of Resistance and Liberation,” and “Reflection and Action.”

In one section, the ESAC says “Who gets to say if an answer is right,” and under another it says, “how is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?”

Jason Rantz of KTTH in Seattle noted that, “ESAC is made up of a number of educators and was created due to a legislature mandate to ‘advise, assist, and make recommendations to the office of the superintendent of public instruction regarding the identification of ethnic studies materials.' ”

The deadline for the final draft of the curriculum is September 1, 2020.

Tracy Castro-Gill, Seattle’s ethnic studies director, told King 5 in Seattle, “The goal is to disrupt the status quo and do something different.”

The Daily Caller noted that the “idea of math being problematic has been promoted among academics with a Vanderbilt professor saying that math education is sexist and a high school in Canada last year moved to ‘Africentric Math’ to try and promote more black students.”

In 2017, a University of Illinois math professor Rochelle Gutierrez argued in a newly published math education book for teachers that they must be aware of the identity politics surrounding the subject of mathematics.

“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness,” she argues with complete sincerity, according to Campus Reform. “Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White.”

Gutierrez also wrote that the importance of math skills in the real world places what she calls an “unearned privilege” for those who are good at it. Because most math teachers in the United States are white, white people stand to benefit from their grasp of the subject disproportionate to members of other races.

“Are we really that smart just because we do mathematics?” she asks, raising the question as to why math professors get more grants than “social studies or English” professors.

“If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, claiming that minorities “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

Gutierrez concluded her argument with the claim that all knowledge is “relational,” or is, in other words, relative. “Things cannot be known objectively; they must be known subjectively.”


Outcomes-based school funding easier said than done

There’s good reason to support government rhetoric about becoming more ‘outcomes-driven’. Who doesn’t want “an ongoing focus on value for money” as proposed by the NSW Government’s approach?

Momentum has been gathering to correct the misplaced perspective that sees education issues exclusively in terms of inputs (namely, how much money is being pumped in), to one based on outcomes.

This flips the conventional wisdom that funding should be decided simply according to the students coming into a school, to one based on what schools are actually doing for their students.

The evidence of today’s unwise and ineffective spending is seen in the ongoing decline in student achievement.

However, introducing new outcomes-based school funding reform is proving to be easier said than done.

Buoyed by the NSW Education Minister’s promise to “ensure that we match education funding to outcomes”, an ambitious parliamentary inquiry was established earlier this year to investigate “measurement and outcomes-based funding for schools.”

This is a natural extension to the NSW Treasurer’s bold plans for “shifting to a focus on outcomes” when it comes to public finances more broadly. At the same time, the NSW Productivity Commission has prioritised lifting school performance and education outcomes in its quest to lift the state’s productivity.

Teachers and school leaders want what’s best for their students, but current funding arrangements don’t support these aims.

For instance, a school receives additional funding for enrolling more students, particularly those suffering from disadvantage, but there are no implications — such as financial incentives —  nor accompanying checks on, how well, or poorly, these students are served.

An outcomes-based funding approach would benefit all students because schools and educators would have clear incentives to improve teaching and learning practices.

Yet, before the committee had the opportunity to hold hearings into reform, the policy approach became muddled, with the Education Department suggesting that any change would merely be “a different financial practice” and that “there will be no change to the way schools are funded and operated.”

A reasonable observer might then ask: if there is no change to the funding and operation of schools, what, and how, are educational outcomes expected to improve?

For genuine outcomes-based funding, the OECD suggests applying financial consequences for over- or under-achievement of performance objectives, which should be supported by performance management. Yet, recent evidence has highlighted that performance management is all but non-existent in NSW schools — which goes some way to explain the poor educational outcomes being experienced.

It’s true that there are pre-existing commitments to so-called ‘needs-based’ school funding — that is, funding is supposed to be redistributed for equity purposes. But ensuring that schools deliver outcomes for students, and deliver better value for money, cannot be considered mutually exclusive to needs-based principles.

It is hard to see that a change in the accounting treatment of corporate departmental line items could have any impact on educational outcomes. It would seem that what’s on the table could be more of an accounting change rather than accountability one.

But a change in accounting treatment is no substitute for educational reform. The NSW government should not permit another opportunity to go by to introduce genuine school funding reform that cares about how money is spent, not just how much.


Monday, October 28, 2019

The Intimidation Game: Bullying and Retaliation at the University of Tulsa

Jacob Howland

Since April, I’ve witnessed the ongoing destruction of the University of Tulsa (TU) by a cadre of wealthy and powerful people affiliated with the billionaire George Kaiser.

Kaiser is the controlling shareholder of the Bank of Oklahoma Financial (BOKF), which handles much of TU’s business and is the corporate trustee of its $1.2 billion endowment. Frederic Dorwart, the chairman of TU’s board of trustees, is BOKF’s general counsel and president of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). TU President Gerard Clancy sits on BOKF’s board; Steven Bradshaw, BOKF’s CEO, sits on TU’s board of trustees. TU trustee Chester Cadieux III sits on the boards of both BOKF and GKFF. TU provost Janet Levit is the wife of Ken Levit, the CEO of GKFF, which will eventually be the primary shareholder of BOKF. (I tried to make sense of these ethically bewildering entanglements in an article I wrote for The Nation.)

After Dorwart and Levit took office in the spring of 2018, the administration pushed through True Commitment, a restructuring plan that eliminated 40 percent of the university’s academic programs, dissolved all academic departments, and raised teaching loads. They did so in secret, using seriously flawed data fed to a handpicked committee whose members were required to sign blanket non-disclosure agreements. (I reported on these matters in City Journal.) Since then, the administration has engaged in a pattern of bullying and intimidation that has recently reached a crisis point.

Scott Holmstrom, the president of the faculty senate, and Jennifer Airey, the vice president, have spoken on multiple occasions to Concerned Faculty of TU (CFTU) about having to endure ill-tempered rants by Clancy and members of the board. The two met with the board of trustees on September 16 and 17, during which they were treated in a manner that Airey described as “brutal” and Holmstrom as “unprofessional.”

In those meetings, the board proposed that faculty be given access to the university’s instructional budget and have 30 days to suggest alternative cuts to academic programs, amounting to the same millions in savings as True Commitment was projected to produce.

Many faculty regarded the board’s offer as a transparent attempt to delay a planned vote of no confidence in the administration. Almost all acknowledged that the time limit of 30 days is impossibly restrictive.

According to Airey, Levit told her and Holmstrom that the faculty needed either to accept True Commitment or come up with their own proposals for academic cuts; otherwise, the trustees were prepared to fire 10 percent of the faculty outright.

They could only do that, however, by declaring a fiscal emergency, and there’s been no indication that such an emergency is imminent. Indeed, Clancy stated on April 12 that the university is “on solid financial ground,” and as recently as August 28 he publicly referred to our endowment as evidence that TU is “a strong university.”

Levit announced the board’s offer at a faculty senate meeting on September 19. Clancy then tried to win support for the offer by asserting that he and Levit overcame a 2 percent chance of success—that was the spuriously exact figure he cited—when they managed to convince the Higher Learning Commission, TU’s accreditors, not to place us on probation in 2018. He has maintained that True Commitment will “allow us to remain in good standing with the Higher Learning Commission,” but he’s refused to release the HLC site visit report on which this claim rests.

Clancy couldn’t resist blaming faculty for making trouble. He said that administrators have suffered because they’ve had to spend precious time dealing with faculty opposition and because the uproar generated by True Commitment has affected their health.

He justified withholding essential financial data (including administrative expenses) on the ground that “a few faculty have a track record of spreading sensitive data and misinformation to the media.” He’s said this more than once, most recently denouncing “inflammatory rumors” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but has never offered any evidence to back up his claims.

Clancy and Levit also ignored senators who insisted that they stop retaliating against faculty who oppose True Commitment. I am one of those faculty members.

On August 30, I was notified by my college dean that I had violated the TU Code of Ethical Conduct by “sending unsolicited electronic communications through Blackboard to promote a third-party website.” I’d used Blackboard, an online platform hosted by the university, to direct alumni to, a website that offers an overview of the academic disaster.

Then on September 4, I was informed of another alleged ethics violation, concerning a post I’d made on April 16 to a Facebook group established as a focal point of resistance to True Commitment. My post was in response to the university’s offer of non-confidential counseling to students upset by the elimination of academic programs. I’d written: “Non-confidential counseling? DO NOT TRUST THEM!” (Non-confidential counseling, of course, is just that; one proceeds at one’s own risk.) The complainant asserted that my post “resulted in harm to students” because it “negatively impacted students’ perceptions of the counseling center as a resource.”

The university then hired Karen Glickstein, a lawyer at Jackson Lewis, a 900-attorney firm specializing in “workplace law representation to management,” to drive down from Kansas City to interview me about the complaint. Glickstein wanted to meet immediately; I suspect the university was hoping I would not be accompanied by counsel. Luckily, I had retained my own lawyer after I was temporarily unable to send or receive emails on my TU account in April and a computer unaccountably disappeared from my office in May.

While Glickstein claimed that she would merely be trying to ascertain the facts pertaining to the complaint, that was not my impression of the interview. She produced no evidence that any student failed to get counseling or suffered any harm whatsoever because of my statement. Nor did she explain what part of the Code of Ethics I might have violated.

Instead, she grilled me for over an hour, repeatedly attempting to get me to incriminate myself. For example, she asked me whether it ever occurred to me that my statement might cause harm to students. My lawyer ultimately stated for the record her concern that the real motivation of the investigation was retaliatory.

The university’s general counsel told me to notify her “if you feel that you have been subject to any retaliatory acts for participating in this [investigatory] process.” Although I believed that the process itself was retaliatory, I saw no point in lodging a complaint. That’s because the Code of Ethical Conduct concludes: “The authority to grant exception to one or more of these policies and procedures is vested with the President of The University of Tulsa or his/her delegated representative(s).”

The administration’s punching down against opponents goes beyond faculty. It extends to the very students they are ostensibly so eager to protect that they will spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyer’s fees to do so, even in the face of alleged financial exigency.

On September 9, two undergraduate journalists published a detailed and compelling article about the administration’s attempt to avoid a vote on their violation of the faculty senate constitution. They later received an email from Mona Chamberlin, TU’s executive director of marketing and communications. Chamberlin wrote:

It’s also been brought to my attention that Professor Jacob Howland recently referred to you and [name withheld] as being on his “team” following an article in last week’s Collegian. Futhermore [sic], it seems that [name withheld] agreed with that assessment. This activity raises [a] concern for me. We would like to work with Collegian reporters and editors the same way we work with other reputable media outlets, but we need reassurance that the paper and its staff practice sincere, objective journalism.

The Collegian article, it turns out, had been posted to Facebook. Seeing the post, I’d congratulated the reporters on a “superb article that any newspaper would be proud to publish,” and I’d added that “we are proud to have you on our team.” Pleased with the compliment, one of them had “liked” my comment. That’s all it took for Chamberlin to impugn the integrity of two of the university’s best young journalists.

The administration’s record of intimidating faculty, bullying students, and retaliating against whistleblowers raises serious concerns.

Dorwart, Clancy, and Levit treat faculty like employees to be managed, monitored, and wherever possible replaced by younger, cheaper, more vulnerable and compliant ones. Yet there can be no doubt that they are inept at their jobs. Clancy, in particular, is cynically sowing chaos. His latest email blast angrily maligns CFTU as a “faceless” group that “has attacked…our university.”

What is so disturbing about all of this is the way supposedly liberal academics can turn into intimidating bullies once they’ve adopted transformational plans like True Commitment. No commitment should be higher than to decency and respect.

I suspect that there is only one person who can stop Clancy and his allies from further damaging the university. That man is George Kaiser, who may one day decide that he’s simply had enough of their incompetence.


Protesters Successfully Silence Former ICE Chief at University Event on Immigration

Tom Homan, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was shouted off stage at an immigration policy event by students opposed to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda Wednesday.

Homan was scheduled to speak at the University of Pennsylvania as one of several speakers to discuss immigration enforcement under the Obama and Trump administrations. However, the former ICE chief was never able to participate because numerous protesters shouted him out, forcing him to leave the event.

“The ones who want to shout down meaningful discussion will remain ignorant,” Homan said Thursday, discussing the incident during an appearance on “Fox & Friends First.” “They stood outside the building with their signs and didn’t allow anybody to speak.”

Homan said that he had “enforced the laws of this country” for over 30 years under six different presidents, but hadn’t seen this level of protest until now. The former ICE chief also noted that the Obama administration deported illegal aliens at a higher rate than the Trump administration, but “we never heard of that” back then, he said.

“The sad part is, half the audience—I was watching the reaction on their faces—they were as disgusted I was. They were there to ask pointed questions. This is a serious issue,” Homan continued, noting the number of women who are raped and children who die trying to reach the border. “This is a big issue for this country, and it deserves conversation and debate.”

The incident didn’t appear to be that serious for the longtime immigration agent. At the sight of one protester’s misspelled sign, he said he couldn’t help but laugh.

“At one point I did chuckle because I looked over to the window and there were people out there holding signs. One young man, really upset, yelling and screaming, had a sign: ‘Abolish ICE’ and he misspelled ‘Abolish.’ So I’m thinking, he should probably spend more time in the classroom and less time protesting. I’m sure his family is paying a lot of money for his education,” Homan said.

The protest against Homan was expected. Before he was slated to speak, over 400 University of Pennsylvania students and alumni signed a petition demanding the school cancel the event.

“Under Homan, ICE continued to be a violent organization responsible for terrorizing immigrant communities, for the separation of immigrant families, and for the persistent violation of the human rights of immigrants and their loved ones,” one segment of the petition read. “Consequently, inviting Homan as a guest speaker contradicts Penn’s claim of being a sanctuary campus that is committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of all of its students.”

Students not only demanded the event be canceled, but also called on the university to no longer allow former or current ICE or Custom and Border Protection personnel to speak on campus, and to form an “immigrant support fund” for illegal alien students.

This is not the first time university students have refused to allow immigration officials speak on campus. Kevin McAleenan, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled off stage earlier this month when trying to give a speech at Georgetown University.


Sydney university abolishing its chair in Australian literature

Literature has an important role in enriching people's lives. I greatly enjoyed my own literary studies of long ago. And formal literary studies have an undoubted role in introducing people to works they might not otherwise come to know. So this decision seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. I personally think that taxpayer-funded education should primarily be vocationally focused but it would be a bleak system that did not also have some role for personal development.

So what's behind this decision? It's pretty clearly a part of the Leftist attack on patriotism. The Left want us all to become undifferentiated internationalists. It's only a slight revision of the old aim to create a "New Soviet Man". The corrupt United Nations is the great multicolored hope of the Left. Mr Trump strikes at their very heart

There is a lot of distinctively Australian literature and I think a lot of it is pretty good -- Patrick White and Kath Walker excepted. It introduces us to times and places in Australia that we would not usually come to know about otherwise.

Publisher Michael Heyward has launched an attack on the University of Sydney, describing the sandstone institution's decision to cut off funding for its Australian literature chair as a "shocking betrayal of readers and writers" that "reveals a contempt for books"

The university recently said it had withdrawn internal funding for the chair; the oldest and most prestigious of its type in AUstralia, while it searched for external funding for the role.

The move, which follows the retirement of the university's fourth professor of Australian literature, Robert Dixon, shocked many as the chair was the nation's first dedicated professorship of Australian literature when it was set up 57 years ago.

Heyward, managing director of Melbourne publishing house Text Publishing, said withdrawal of university funds from the historically important role was a case of Sydney joining the "philistine ranks" of other universities, whose Australian literature offerings had traditionally been "paltry".

"In the sorry history of the teaching of Australian literature in our universities, Sydney has been the outlier since 1962 when its chair was founded by public subscription," he said "Now it has joined the philistine ranks of its fellow institutions.

"Not even the Australian National University has a chair in Australian literature. What kind of country can't bear to teach its own literature? What kind of university has no curiosity about the writers who have shaped our imaginations, and have informed how we think?"

Heyward, whose company publishes local and international authors as well Australian classics, said "our universities are increasingly cut off from Australia's dynamic literary life, from our festivals and from our bookstores and from the readers who keep them alive".

Elizabeth Webby, a former professor of Australian literature at Sydney University, called the defunding of the role "very disappointing", warning that if external funding wasn't found and the chair was abandoned, it would leave just one Ozlit chair for academics nationwide, at the University of Western Australia.

"The only (full-time) chair that actually involves an academic doing courses in Australian literature is at UWA, which is government-funded," she said, The UWA chair was established after The Australian exposed how, in 2006, there was just one full-time Australian literature chair still operating -- the Sydney role now under threat

The University of Melbourne has had an externally funded professorship of Australian literature since 2015, reserved for authors rather than academics.

Paul Giles, Sydney University's Challis Professor of English, said the withdrawal of university funds from the chair was caused, in part, by falling student enrolments in Ozlit subjects and fewer research grants going to the humanities. He said the university still employed three fUll-time Ozlit specialists and two part-time lecturers, but admitted that the university had yet to begin its search for external funds

From "The Weekend Australian" of 26/10/2019

Sunday, October 27, 2019

UK: Value of degrees halves in 20 years,  research shows as critics rally against degrees as ‘disqualifications’

The "graduate premium" is a term often used to refer to how much more graduates are likely to earn on average, compared to their peers who do not hold a degree.

The new study analysed how the financial return to a degree has changed over a 20-year period during which increasing numbers of people have been choosing to study at degree level.

Researchers found that graduates born in 1990 earned 11% more than non-graduates at age 26. However those born in 1970 earned 19% more than their peers who did not go to university. This suggests the "graduate premium" fell by eight percentage points during this period.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said that the research shows that “some degrees these days are ‘disqualifications’ rather than ‘qualifications’ for employment”.

He said: “A degree in heavy metal music from Nottingham Trent University, for example, is likely to put off potential employers and close doors even in the rock music industry.

“The declining earning potential of graduates reflects the fact that many young people are being seduced on to useless degree courses that launches them on a pathway leading to debt, disappointment and, not infrequently despair.

“Some unscrupulous universities are ‘on the make’ via Pied Piper student recruitment tunes.

“Nottingham Trent University may recently have re-named the Heavy Metal course but heavy metal is heavy metal by any other name and the certificate-carrying graduates are still down at the job centre.”

The HESA figures take into account factors such as time spent in the workplace and non-cognitive skills.

The study used data from the Labour Force Survey, the British Cohort Study or the 1970 cohort and the Next Steps dataset for those born in 1989/90.

The findings are tentative, the study says, and further research will look at graduates born after 1990 to see if the fall in the graduate premium is a short-term dip, or the start of a longer decline.

Graduates tend to have steeper growth in their earnings over time than non-graduates, and further research will look at this.

Tej Nathwani, an HESA econometrician, said: "Whilst the benefits of a degree are not solely financial, higher education remains a significant investment decision for young people.

"Changes in fees and funding have resulted in increased reliance on student loans, which are now treated differently in public sector finances.

"Consequently, graduate earnings continue to be an important area of research in higher education.

"This study adds to the available information about the financial benefits that individual students can expect from a degree. We hope to explore this area further in forthcoming years, as new data is released into the public domain."

Dr Greg Walker, chief executive of universities' group MillionPlus, added: "HESA's study shows yet again there is a significant positive financial return to higher education study even very early in a graduate's career, at age 26, in addition to the wider benefits higher education brings to former students and society.

"That there has been a dip in returns for the generation who joined the workforce in the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2008-09 is not surprising, given that this downturn was the deepest since the 1930's.

"A strengthening economy should mean a further upswing in the number of graduate-level roles and entrepreneurial opportunities."


Negotiations With Striking Chicago Teachers Union 'Take a Turn for the Worse'

Striking Chicago teachers have been off the job for 5 days now and talks with the school board have virtually broken down. The union keeps demanding a librarian, a nurse, and psychologist for all 550 public schools in the district which would add almost $3 billion to the district's budget in a city that is desperately trying to find a way to plug an $800 million budget hole.

Borrow the money? Surely you jest. Chicago's municipal bonds are rated at "junk" or lower. Bailout from the state? Illinois is still trying to recover from the year and a half it operated without a budget.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot can say "There is no money" until the cows come home and the union isn't listening.

Associated Press:

Earlier Monday, Lightfoot sent a letter to union leaders asking for teachers to return to work without a deal as contract talks continued and reiterated her concern that teachers' demands are unaffordable for the district.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey described Monday's talks as "taking a turn for the worst," and said city and district negotiators were following the mayor's lead. "She wants us to simply give up on some of the most basic things that we're asking for, and that's not the way that labor negotiations work," he said on Tuesday morning.

The "way that labor negotiations work" is that both sides recognize the realities of the situation and each gives a little. But this isn't a labor negotiation at all. This is a "social justice" campaign.

One of the teachers' demands is that the city is supply affordable housing for its 16,000 homeless students and their families, as well as for teachers.

The Chicago union hasn’t released details of its housing proposal — and it’s unclear what changes, if any, such language would require of the city. But it does include a demand that the district put in writing that it supports any potential city and state policies aimed at making housing more affordable.

Union officials have noted city programs that help members of the police and fire department purchase a home. They’ve also referenced approaches to help teachers used elsewhere, including a California school district that’s building affordable housing for teachers and a Colorado program that covers a portion of teachers’ down payment for a home.

Teachers also want more staff dedicated to helping students who are homeless and working with families who are close to losing their housing.

Where can the city find $3 billion? It might start with the school district bureaucracy. The schools were funded at $78 million over last year's budget -- out of a budget of more than $2.5 billion. But school administration received a whopping 14% increase over last year.

The district’s proposed central office budget will increase by 14% to $279 million, and increase from about 900 people at the end of last school year to 1,060 people.  Experts say the relative size of Chicago’s education bureaucracy, about 5% of the district’s operating budget, is bigger than other large urban school districts, even as the city has moved toward a more decentralized approach to governing and funding schools.
And the salaries are obscene.

Over 9,000 school administrators earned more than $100,000 per year, and they’ll each receive $3 million or more in pension benefits during their retirements, according to a Illinois Policy Institute analysis. While school districts pay administrators’ salaries and benefits through local property taxes, state taxpayers are on the hook for those pension costs.

The city offered a 16 percent pay raise over 3 years, which was rejected by the union. They offered to fund 250 new positions, including counselors, nurses, and teachers' aides. It was also rejected.

The teachers are banking on angry parents rising up and demanding the city do something to end the strike. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to happen.


The university degrees you SHOULDN'T be studying if you want to land a job after graduating - and the ones that are almost certain to get you hired

Thousands of graduates are facing an uphill battle to get a job after university, a new report has revealed.

The study by the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work found it was those with medicine and teaching degrees who have the best prospects after graduation.

By contrast, low levels of private and public research in Australia have restricted demand for graduates specialising in science, technology, engineering and maths.


The percentage of graduates who find work in the first four months:

Medicine 94.9 per cent

Teacher education 83.3 per cent

Engineering 83.1 per cent

Nursing 78.7 per cent

Business and management 77.9 per cent

Law and paralegal studies 77.2 per cent

Computing and information systems 73.2 per cent

Science and mathematics 64.6 per cent

Humanities and social sciences 64.3 per cent

Communications 60.5 per cent

Creative arts 52.2 per cent

Source: Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching 2018, four months post-graduation for undergraduate degrees

Survey data from 2018 showed 94.9 per cent of those with degrees in medicine were in full-time work within four months of graduation.

The median salary for medicine graduates when they first enter the workforce is about $70,000 a year. 

Teacher education degrees, where graduates start on an average of $63,500, had a 83.3 per cent success rate of finding work quickly. 

The report said jobs with a human connection would continue to be ready in supply.

'This is especially true in human, caring and public services - which have been strong sources of new job-creation in recent years,' researchers said.

Other industries which have experienced high demand for skilled graduates are nursing, business and management and law.

Science and mathematics came in at eighth on the list at 64.6 per cent.

The data showed a clear split in success rate between those holding vocational and generalist degrees.

Humanities communications and creative arts students, considered to be studying a generalist qualification, had as little as a 52.2 per cent chance of landing a full-time job in the four-month window. 

Data presented in the study also showed health care's share of the job market has grown the most - by five per cent since 1986.

Lead researchers Alison Pennington and Jim Stanford argued rather than taking away jobs, the rise of technology was actually 'freeing up' jobs for humans.

They said the rise of social media and digital technology industries has led to the creation of new roles not previously possible.

'The future of work will be marked by an increased role for jobs where technology complements human labour, and "frees up" humans to undertake more abstract, cognitive and emotional labour,' the report said.

Researchers said problem-solving, leadership and people management skills will all be important qualities in the future of the Australian working world.