Friday, November 08, 2019

What's Really Wrong With American Public Schools?

Poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence all trace back to fatherlessness.

There is no good way to measure the success of a public school unless you measure what dictates the success of any public school. For example, if I worked on the line for a car manufacturer and every fifth car that came off the line had a dent in it, I would be compelled to find out what’s going on. I would not check the cars; I would check the system that is producing dents in the cars. In other words, I would stop the line and measure where and when the malfunction occurred. The malfunction in the public school does not begin with the “dent” on the students’ report card or state-mandated tests. It begins with the “dent” in the students’ home.

If you listen to the experts bellow about the reasons high-school students drop out they say it’s due to three things: poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence. On surface, these three things are the perfect scapegoats for poor performance. However, those are only the “dents” that have occurred. Poverty has a name. Low attendance has a name. Negative peer influence even has a name. Poverty’s name is laziness. Low attendance’s name is indifference. Negative peer influence’s name is anger. The umbrella that all three of these names fall under is called fatherlessness.

While walking the halls of a local public high school, I spoke with an athlete dragging his feet to class. I exclaimed, “Move like you have somewhere to be!” He looked back grinning and said, “I’m quick! Check my stats on the football field.” I said, “Ok, so what’s your GPA?” He responded, “I don’t know that.” I told him, “Those are the stats I’m talking about! If you don’t know those stats, what you do on the field don’t mean nothin’! He turned and looked at me and I asked him the silver bullet question. "Where’s your daddy?” He looked me in my eyes with resentment and said, “I ain’t got no Pops.” I told him, “I can tell by the way you conduct yourself. You are wandering the hallway aimlessly not realizing you must be two-dimensional (great on and off the field). If you are so quick, then you should have been in class five minutes ago ready to learn.”

He looked at me again and grinned as if to say, “Yeah, you’re right.” He seemed like a good kid, but he needs some fatherly leadership. I walked him to class and told him I would be back to eat lunch with him and to provide him more guidance. This youngster has a real chance to go pro. He is a huge defensive end, but his lack of discipline off the field may cut him short in the long run.

Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” The young athlete roaming the halls was angry that his father left him alone. He was also discouraged as his sluggish walk with sagging pants suggested. A father provokes his son or daughter to wrath by simply walking away in an endless disappearing act. A father’s absence creates poverty, apathetic attitudes for school attendance, and children who disrupt the school behavior codes of conduct. The Bible is right and somebody’s wrong.

Brookings Institute scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill propose a concrete agenda for increasing opportunity that is cost-effective, consistent with American values, and focuses on improving the lives of the young and the disadvantaged. They emphasize individual responsibility as an indispensable basis for successful policies and programs. In their book Creating an Opportunity Society, they examine economic opportunity in the United States and explores how to create more of it, particularly for those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

The authors recommend a three-pronged approach to create more opportunity in America:

Increase education for children and youth at the preschool, K–12, and postsecondary levels

Encourage and support work among adults

Reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births while increasing the share of children reared by their married parents

In other words, graduate from high school; get a full-time job; don’t have a child before age 21 and get married before childbearing. Among the people who do these things, according to the research of Haskins and Sawhill, about 75% attain the middle class, broadly defined. However, out-of-wedlock births have a lot to do with out-of-wedlock sex, and this pattern often leads to experiencing out-of-wedlock poverty.

Poverty means you have more mouths to feed than income. It does not mean you are prone to violence or that you can’t learn. Poverty is a great motivator — just ask Frederick Douglass. Low attendance means you don’t find value in education. It does not mean you can’t get a ride to school since the school bus runs all morning. No excuses. Negative peer influence is the lack of love shown at home. It does not mean you go with the peer pressure since you can choose your own friends instead of them choosing you.

Poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence are all “dents” in a child’s life. They do not define the student. Unfortunately, education experts have labeled entire school districts and zip codes based on the “dents” of poverty, low attendance, and negative peer influence. Worse yet, these same “experts” in education bypass the system (at home) that created the “dents” while attempting to fix the dents that are continuously coming off the conveyor belt ad nauseam.

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results that it yields. Maybe one day the education “experts” will address this giant, pink elephant lethargically sitting in the hallways of our public schools.


Want Better Schools? Parents, It's Up to You

The "Nation's Report Card" continues revealing bad signs about public education.

“To promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” —U.S. Department of Education Mission Statement

Umm… Achievement and preparation via education excellence with equal access sounds terrific, but it’s not what’s happening after federal spending has been increased six fold since the U.S. Department of Education’s first budget in 1980.

Last week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 2019 — a.k.a. the “Nation’s Report Card” — was published. If you believe parents have a responsibility to be the First Teachers, the data will support your thoughts that too many are sending their children to America’s public schools for teachers to raise, not just educate. If you subscribe to the narrative that public schools are racist establishments that deny minorities access and are institutionally prejudiced, you’ll use data to support your thesis despite the trillions of dollars that have been spent on America’s urban core. In other words, the data might support any sort of dissection of the results, but let’s just boil it down in this sense: The proficiencies of children in public schools are embarrassingly low and will continue to be a true barrier to the success of generations to come.

Since 1980, Congress has appropriated spending for public education in excess of $1.5 trillion. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, the funding formula is 8% from the federal government and the rest from state and local sources. So, clearly, the funding of public schools is vast.

Exactly how embarrassing are the 2019 scores of America’s students? Looking at reading, children testing for proficiency taught in public schools were 34% at the fourth-grade level, 32% at the eighth-grade level and, at graduation, 36% in the twelfth-grade year. Yeah, that means around 65% of kids at all grade levels are below taught and expected capability in reading — a foundational skill needed throughout life.

In math, the respective numbers were 40%, 33%, and 23% at the same ascending grade levels, while science numbers were 37%, 33%, and 21% at the same times of assessment.

How do these numbers compare over the years? Since the mandate of Common Core — the federal required standards with money attached from the U.S. Government — a decline has been measured by consistent data. Scores for the lowest performers in the bottom 10% have fallen and the only improvements have been scored at the top 10% of students. Put simply, the gap is growing between those who achieve and those who struggle.

Despite almost 76% of teachers surveyed noting that they have changed “at least half of their classroom instruction” and another 19% responding that they’ve changed almost all of their teaching to fit the new mandates, it appears that attempts to create a one-size-fits-all curriculum has failed. The test scores have fallen for a third consecutive time since the 2015 implementation of Common Core. On the same day that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared, “This country is in a student achievement crisis” based on the relatively small number of students proficient in academics, a second barometer of achievement validated the dismal results.

The Condition of College & Career Readiness report cited by Secretary DeVos that substantiated her concern looked at the performance of 1.78 million high-school graduates who took the National ACT test. “Readiness levels in English, reading, math, and science have all decreased since 2015, with English and math seeing the largest decline” across all races according to DeVos, with the only improvements among Asian-Americans.

So, for the Department of Education to meet its stated mission, real change must occur. Now, we’ll also stipulate that there is no provision for education in the Constitution. But in any case, leftists have a weaponized agenda to divide and pit one group against another rather than work toward a true solution.

A massive amount of money has been spent. While some argue that the funding has been inequitable, the data continues to support that targeted funded has been directed to problem classrooms, schools, and districts above and beyond that of regular appropriations for “average” schools. Put simply, the inequity in spending, one could argue, has been in favor of underperforming schools, not to reward those or to reinforce the behavior of those that excel. So, money doesn’t fix the problem.

Federally mandated standards have been attempted with significant strings attached to access this targeted funded. Again, the promised improvements just didn’t happen. Instead, as the recent NAEP demonstrates, kids already performing well continued to do so. The ACT report states, “This year’s ACT score data — as well as five-year trends — confirm that students with higher levels of academic preparation are maintaining or slightly improving their readiness, while students with lower levels of academic preparation are falling further behind.” Well, those sure-fired-standards helped those who would likely have performed with proficiency without them.

OK. So, what’s missing?

Rather than offer any editorial, let’s just look at another published report that was based on an extensive survey of almost 650,000 students commissioned by Congress — The Equality of Educational Opportunity. This data included both measurements of the quality and quantity of educational resources available as well as the achievement of those students — a measurement of performance and equitable access.

The conclusions of this report were deemed controversial because the narrative was shattered that a bureaucracy could guarantee a positive educational outcome. Among key findings of the publication that was renamed The Coleman Report, as required by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, variations in school quality as measured by classroom size, per pupil expenditure, the size of features such as a library, showed “little association with levels of educational attainment.” The 737-page report noted, according to a Johns Hopkins Magazine analysis, “The physical amenities of a school weren’t the most important factor in a child’s educational success, and neither was funding, which, it turned out, was relatively equal within regions.”

Get ready for haters and head explosions in 3-2-1… “All factors considered, the most important variable — in or out of school — in a child’s performance remains his family’s education background,” surmised the data in the original 1966 study. In 2016, a national gathering that included then-Secretary of Education John King reviewed the landmark research and presented The Coleman Report at 50: Its Legacy and Enduring Value noting, “The conclusion that family background is far more important than people realized has remained a solid empirical finding for 50 years, and Coleman and his colleagues were the first to show the power of that relationship. But that insight has not done enough to shape policy. Too many proposals for innovative educational reforms fail to recognize how important family is. Policymakers have dropped the ball on that insight.”

It’s not popular to hear, but if Americans want proficiency in their students, parents must be the First Teachers and commit to a lifetime of learning.


The Miseducation of America's Youth
Dr. Bill Bennett’s resume is full of incredible experiences — but it’s not everyone who gets confirmed to a department your boss has openly tried to abolish. That was the unique situation Bill found himself in when Ronald Reagan picked him as America’s secretary of education. The 40th president believed control over schools should be returned to our states and local communities. Reagan never got his wish, but what he did get was an agency transformed by a man who believed in unlocking students’ potential. Thirty-five years later, it’s a cause the beloved author — one of the most important cultural voices of our time — is still championing.

After a lifetime in education, it’s hard not to take the latest news on test scores personally. And Dr. Bennett, like so many people who’ve devoted their careers to learning, is no different. The headlines about America’s reading and math levels are, as current Secretary Betsy DeVos agreed, devastating. “Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth grade reading declined in 31. The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it.”

What’s happening in America? Thursday, Dr. Bennett joined me on “Washington Watch” to give his take on where the country has gone wrong — and what parents and communities can do to fix it. There are a lot of problems facing this country, Bill agreed, but “in the long run, the failure of our students to be able to think, to read, to count is potentially catastrophic.” “We’re going backwards 10 years, even 20 years,” he said soberly. And that matters especially to kids where education is their only lifeline. In homes where the family doesn’t value education or parents don’t read to their kids or do homework with them, he explained, “school can be the difference.” But unfortunately, Bill pointed out, those are also the schools that are failing America the most.“

And it’s not just reading and math scores that are taking the hit. "We do worse in American history than we do in even those two. It’s our worst subject. Our students do not know who they are as Americans.” If there is history being taught, he explained, “it’s left-wing, tendentious, and politically correct. It’s a terrible situation,” he lamented. And it’s one of the reasons he keeps writing books. His latest, an updated version of America: The Last Best Hope, is what he calls “the real history of the United States.” “This country is the greatest political story ever told,” Bill said. “We are uniquely blessed and we have taken unique advantage of those blessings. And although it’s the greatest political story ever told, our children have not been told that story.”

And the evidence of that is everywhere — from polls showing an uptick in pro-socialist millennials to the lack of patriotism plaguing our culture. “If they do not know what they came from, what their legacy is, what their inheritance is, how will they support or defend it? Well, of course, they’re going to follow the temptations of socialism and big government… We did it right,” Bill points out. “We avoided the siren calls of communism — although this generation is buying into it [out of ignorance]. And, you know, if this is not an emergency — an intellectual, moral, and political emergency — I don’t know what is.”

That emergency, Dr. Bennett says, is one of the reasons he’s spent 40 years pounding the podium for school choice in education. “[You must have] the ability to educate your child the way you want.” Without it, entire generations are at risk of never learning anything but far-Left propaganda. While America is wasting its time on gender-neutral pronouns and sex ed and revisionist history, “What do we think China’s doing?” Bill asked. “While we’re fooling around with this stuff? They’re teaching the [important] things.”

Obviously, that’s part of the underlying problem here. American schools are spending so much time and energy on this parallel universe of make-believe that they’re not teaching the fundamentals that will help children. And the tragedy of that is it not only affects us as a nation, but also these disadvantaged children whose futures depend on having the building blocks of an education. They’re being denied that because our focus is elsewhere.

“We’re hurting them,” Bill agreed, which is another irony of liberalism. The same Left who says it has “so much sympathy and empathy for the poor are putting them in schools [that do them a disservice].” If you want kids to be lifted up, Dr. Bennett insisted, education is a great equalizer. “And we know how to do it, but we refuse to, because we bow down before political correctness, instead of doing what we know should be done and what will be successful.”

Make sure the kids in your life understand the incredible blessing it is to be Americans. Pick up a copy of Bill’s updated version of America: The Last Best Hope and teach them the lessons so many schools are not.


Thursday, November 07, 2019

UK: 'This country is breeding a lot of ignorant buffoons!' Apprentice viewers vent their disbelief that Lord Sugar's business wannabes don't know what a mortar board is or dates of the Second World War

Candidates on The Apprentice were slammed by BBC viewers last night after the losing team failed to understand the dates of the Second World War.

Events manager Riyonn Farsad was fired having been part of the losing team five times and Lord Alan Sugar's patience ran out after a disappointing display.

His team were stumped by the starting date of the war before they even began the task, which involved finding a pre-war copy of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

Their hunt for items in Oxford and Cambridge did not fare well, paying over the odds in the discount buying task, and not securing all desired objects on the list.

The team also failed to know what a mortar board was, with Riyonn believing it was something a plasterer would use in his work.

One viewer tweeted: 'It says a lot about the British education system, when The Apprentice candidates don't know when World War Two started and how long it lasted. This country is breeding a lot of ignorant buffoons.'

Another added: 'Should have sacked the whole team for not knowing what a Mortar Board is or when World War Two started.'

And a third said today: 'Just remembered an entire team of contestants on The Apprentice didn't know what year World War Two began.'

It was Farsad who was sent home after beginning the latest episode by saying 'this isn't a good start' when his team did not know the dates of the Second World War. He suggested it lasted four years.

Teammate Pamela Laird said: 'Does anybody know just so we can be really clear, what date the Second World War started. How long did it go on for?'

The contestants struggled over whether 1945 was the start or end date of the war, and tried to work out the timeline based on their parents' ages.

An opposing team led by Marianne Rawlins did not face the same struggles, and managed to spend less in the task.

Lion, who is from Taunton, Somerset, said before the show aired: 'On this week's show I am the only one who knows when the Second World War was.'

The librarian added: 'It's very insulting to British people that they don't know such an important part of our history.

'I am disappointed in all of the candidates because no one else knew the dates. It shows how ignorant they all are to our history and respect for our country. It is very basic knowledge.

'We are often branded as idiots for going on The Apprentice but we do not help ourselves and have ourselves to blame. It's idiotic. It's as simple as that.'

Lion also wrote a tweet ahead of the show asking viewers to look out for the 'important reminder' about teaching children national heritage.

Fellow contestant Lewis Ellis replied to her comments, admitting to 'struggling' to know the wartime dates.

His tweet, which has since been deleted, said: 'We did struggle to recall the exact dates but I do recall World War Two involved aggressive foreign policy by the Nazi party and an unprovoked attack. Why does that sound familiar?'

Lion's father is Belgian and once fought for German armed forces, she said.


Results Are In: Common Core Is Making American Kids Dumber

The never-ending quest of modern educators to find new ways of learning that will never hurt any child's feelings has not been a resounding success thus far. The ambitious attempt to standardize learning across the country known as Common Core can now be measured and the news isn't good.

The Common Core website explains the initiative:

[A] set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.

The aforementioned bad news is that the first group of Common Core high school grads aren't as well prepared as their predecessors.

The Federalist:

For the  third time in a row since Common Core was fully phased in nationwide, U.S. student test scores on the nation’s broadest and most respected test have dropped, a reversal of an upward trend between 1990 and 2015. Further, the class of 2019, the first to experience all four high school years under Common Core, is the worst-prepared for college in 15 years, according to a new report.

Paraphrasing a popular commercial from recent years: "That's not how this is supposed to work. That's not how any of this is supposed to work."

However noble its intentions, Common Core is a failure of one-size-fits-all standardization.

The Federalist post notes various slippages in proficiency in different subjects and different grades, but the most damning assessment comes from the college admissions testing organization ACT:

On the same day the NAEP results were released, the college testing organization ACT released  a report showing that the high school class of 2019’s college preparedness in English and math is at seniors’ lowest levels in 15 years. These students are the first to have completed all four high school years under Common Core.

“Readiness levels in English, reading, math, and science have all decreased since 2015, with English and math seeing the largest decline,” the report noted. Student achievement declined on ACT’s measures among U.S. students of all races except for Asian-Americans, whose achievement increased.

The kids can't read, write, or count as well as they used to. Other than that, this is all going swimmingly.

I spent half of my elementary and high school years in Catholic schools, where the learning was a bit more tailored to a student's abilities. Not surprisingly, I learned more in those schools.

The avalanche of evidence about Common Core's failure will no doubt be used by liberals as evidence that schools and teachers need more money. While not a federal program per se, there were a lot of federal grant dollars spent to get states to adopt Common Core. The program began as a "more money" initiative. Of course, with the Left, there never is enough money to throw at a problem.

What is left out of the reports cited in the Federalist's article is the fact that -- despite all protestations to the contrary -- most public schools are more interested in liberal indoctrination than education. It's more important to terrorize children with apocalyptic climate-change messages than to teach them to read.

Common Core is an extremely detailed and fleshed-out approach. If it's failing at achieving its basic goals, the flaw is in the curriculum, not the funding.


Do University Stores Rip Off Students?


I had a couple of my economics students, Tom Witschey and Ryan Dufinetz, help me conduct a little study recently. We were interested in whether an Ohio University owned convenience store attached to a large dormitory charged more for sundry goods (toothpaste, Ramen noodles, Pepsi, ketchup, condoms, sugar, water bottles, peanut butter, Pop-Tarts, gum and nine other items) that students commonly buy than the town’s two largest grocery store retailers, Wal-Mart and Kroger, as well as a small local grocery, Seaman’s, all located too far from campus for students to walk, as well as a large CVS drugstore outlet conveniently near the campus.

What was the result of this little shopping expedition? We found that on average, the price of the surveyed goods was 40-60% higher at the university store (called Jefferson Market) than at Wal-Mart, and 25-30% higher than at Kroger. Even Seaman’s prices were 20-30% lower than at Jefferson Market. However, the prices at CVS were fairly comparable to those at the university store. Our reading of the evidence: when students are without auto transportation, they are trapped into paying high prices, because the campus area stores have a near monopoly so exploit students.

Interestingly, only one item—condoms—was cheaper at the Jefferson Market than at the competitors, consistent with a frequent refrain on the part of the university’s Division of Student Affairs, urging students to practice safe sex (as opposed to the message generations earlier which was to practice no premarital sex; how times change). The school rips kids off a bit on Pop-Tarts to subsidize condom purchases—for the greater good.

To be sure, Ohio University is primarily in the education business, not a grocery store, and large scale volume does give Wal-Mart and Kroger an advantage. This, however, is at least partially offset by cost advantages Ohio University has, namely the fact that other stores pay substantial property and income taxes, whereas the university does not—in fact it receives subsidies from the state and federal governments financed in large part with tax revenues.

A more comprehensive survey involving perhaps a dozen or more universities would be worthwhile, and I suggest young researchers seek government or private foundation grants. That said, I have traveled to literally scores of colleges and universities in recent years, and often inquire of students about the prices they pay for goods bought in college run convenience stores, sometimes in the student union building, and generally get similar reactions—school prices are higher than those of private commercial providers. Is this exploitation or not?

There is both an economic and moral issue here. The economic issue is that universities have enormous amount of monopoly-like power. Once students enroll at a school, it has a monopoly over the provision of educational services, and often non-educational services as well, such as housing and providing food. Universities often compel students to live in their dorms and eat their food, and even sometimes force them to pay fees to help finance such non-academic activities as ball throwing and kicking contests like football and basketball.

Why doesn’t the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission investigate this issue, threatening action against schools and perhaps others abusing this monopoly power, akin to the company stores in early 20th century mining towns? They have on rare occasion done so in the past in the area of admissions, but why not more aggressively? I generally do not believe anti-trust laws are effective, but collegiate monopolies are highly entrenched, often even reinforced by such collegiate controlled support organizations as regional accreditation agencies or, in the case of college athletes, the National Collegiate Athletics Association.

The moral question is why do adults responsible for the intellectual advancement of older children transitioning to adulthood exploit them for financial gain? Colleges have expenses and bills to pay, but they are given special privileges by society (government subsidies, exemption from taxes) because they are performing the important social task of helping young persons become adults and prepare for the world of work. Ripping off students, where it happens, sends a bad message—you can exploit the weak and vulnerable if it is profitable to do so.


Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Blinding Themselves: The Cost of Groupthink in Social Psychology

It is mentioned below that the Leftist bias in academe can damage social psychological research.  I saw a vivid example of that during my research career in social psychology.  I noted that when my colleagues designed a scale to measure conservatism, it normally showed little if any correlation with vote.  So, apparently, lots of Leftists voted for conservative political candidates!

Basically, the scale designers never talked to conservatives so had only stereotyped and incorrect ideas of what conservatives actually thought. Insofar as one can summarize it, the Leftist researchers saw conservatives as brutes whereas in reality conservatives are basically cheerful, relaxed people.  They rarely hit back the way Mr Trump does -- which is one reason why Mr Trump so shocks the Left.  Gentlemen like Ronald Reagan and George Bush II are much more representative of the conservative mainstream.  So scales by Leftists measured something that existed only in their own heads.

By contrast my scales of conservatism predicted vote very solidly, with correlations as high as .50.  How come?  I am a conservative so was intimately familiar with what consrvatives actually think.  My scales were valid. The Leftists' scales were not.

So did Leftists start using my scales?  No way!  They preferred to continue using their own invalid scales, thus making their findings of unknown meaning

The social sciences have a problem: If their scholars think too much alike, they will be blinded to the flaws and gaps in their research. Rather than explaining how individuals in society act and think, academics can sometimes slip blinders on themselves and the public.

Polling shows broad agreement within some disciplines. For instance, recent data from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s Diversity and Climate Survey revealed that almost 90 percent of their members who took the survey self-identify as liberals—but fewer than 5 percent identify as conservatives. This imbalance seems to affect how welcome conservative academics feel in scientific environments: They report feeling excluded more, they feel less free to express their ideas at SPSP events, and they do not believe that SPSP lives up to its diversity values.

And a study by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands showed that more than a third of the American scholars surveyed would be willing to discriminate against hiring a conservative job candidate, all else being equal.

In theory, the lack of political diversity shouldn’t affect research quality. Western civilization developed scientific methodologies to make sure that knowledge is universal and shareable. If the methods and analyses are adequate, the data openly available, and the conclusions justified, then any qualified investigator could evaluate the merits of a study. Ideally, scientific validity does not depend on the political or moral values of the scientist, but on the reasonability of the research process.

However, personal values and biases can affect researchers in multiple ways. They can affect how scientific ideas are conceived, developed, and tested. One of the biggest effects is in how values determine research questions.

How does a social scientist decide what to study? Undoubtedly, personal preferences push academics toward some topics over others. Similarly, scholars are embedded in a research hierarchy (laboratories, advisors, mentors, colleagues, assistants) that might make decisions for them—especially early in their careers. But those communities are usually committed to specific goals. Members of a laboratory studying the effects of smoking on the academic performance of college students probably are not indifferent to policies regarding smoking on campus. Those who study economic development want to find ways to ameliorate poverty. And those who study depression want to treat it better.

Funding agencies bring their own values to research, too: Grants are given to advance scientific knowledge in specific areas chosen by the values of the funding agency. Grant recipients, in turn, need to adjust their research interests to the funder’s vision.

Thus, the personal views of researchers shape research programs by investigating what they decide are most important. For example, the last three issues of the Journal of Social Issues (the flagship journal of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues) were special issues dedicated to “neoliberalism,” “ableism,” and “immigration and identity multiplicity.” These topics and the language used are clearly aligned with specific left-leaning views, which express what those scientists believe needs to be studied. It’s unlikely that special issues investigating entrepreneurship, the benefits of patriotism, or gender complementarity will follow.

It’s important to note, however, that choosing some topics over others is not a sign of low-quality science per se. Scientific studies on ableism might be as rigorous as any. The problem is that the ideological imbalance among researchers means equally valid research questions that enrich the understanding of society are left uninvestigated.

For example, for decades it was taken as common psychological knowledge that conservatives were more intolerant and prejudiced than liberals. However, psychologist Jarrett Crawford showed, in a series of studies, that those results depended on which groups were the target of prejudice. While right-wingers showed more prejudice and intolerance toward blacks, LGBT individuals, and welfare recipients, left-wingers show similar levels of intolerance for those with right-wing political values.

In other words, what is being researched depends on personal, social, and institutional values—considerations that are not necessarily rational nor objective. Liberal scholars studying prejudice might focus their research on victimized groups rather than more-secure ones, which is a noble objective and a valid scientific decision. Yet, their research can lead to activists or other academics claiming more than is scientifically valid.

In psychological terms, it is not that conservative ideologies are necessarily linked to prejudice, as had been suggested since the 1950s. Crawford showed—and the psychological establishment has come to accept—that prejudice can be found across the political spectrum, but targeted at different groups. That is the way science makes progress—testing the accepted consensus and foundational knowledge.

In another domain, a 2014 study showed that women with unplanned pregnancies did not change their decision about having an abortion after looking at an ultrasound. Those findings can be—and have been—used as scientific evidence for specific policy views and partisan agendas. However, the study was conducted in Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, where about 9 in 10 of the incoming patients were reported to be “highly certain” about their decision to terminate the pregnancy. This study is valuable in and of itself, but it should not be stretched to imply that all women with unplanned pregnancies will be unaffected by looking at an ultrasound.

And in a unique instance, one professor discovered his own research was biased because he didn’t have anyone around to challenge his assumptions. In the late 1990s Keith Stanovich, a prominent cognitive psychologist at the University of Toronto, and his colleagues published a scale to measure “actively open-minded thinking”—i.e. the disposition to rely on reasoning rather than impulses, to revise one’s beliefs or to tolerate ambiguity. Recently, studies showed that this trait was strongly negatively correlated with religious beliefs: the more religious someone is, the less open-minded they are. Those findings were consistent with previous literature about the relationship between religious beliefs and analytical thinking.

However, in a highly unusual publication, Stanovich himself revised his own scales and realized that they might be intrinsically skewed against religious individuals. Evidence showed that once the bias in the open-minded scale is corrected, the correlation decreases noticeably. Reflecting on this, Stanovich wrote: “It never occurred to us that these items would disadvantage any demographic group, let alone the religious minded. No doubt it never occurred to us because not a single member of our lab had any religious inclinations at all.”

The above examples show how the ideological imbalance in the social sciences has a cost. Some questions don’t get asked. Then, established “knowledge” does not get challenged for inaccuracy because academics do not have another way to frame the issue. Since the demographics of academia are not likely to change in the short-term, how can this issue be addressed by researchers?

The key is dialogue: In the early stages of a research project, social scientists could reach out to scholars in departments that traditionally do not hold dominant liberal views (such as business schools, health sciences, or engineering departments). Even a non-technical discussion of research questions could yield valuable insights about potential blind spots. Academic institutions could promote these dialogues to improve scientific research—which is the very reason they exist in the first place.


Miss Virginia and the Political Realities of Public-School Reform

The political roots of the modern school-choice movement are still poorly understood nearly thirty years after the first publicly funded private-school voucher program was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1990. Miss Virginia, a narrative film in select theaters and Amazon Prime, helps fill this void, offering a rare look at the political realities underlying public school reform.

Directly inspired by real-life education reform activist Virginia Walden Ford, Miss Virginia tells the story of Virginia Walden (Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black), an African-American single parent turned education-reformer in Washington, D.C. As her teenage son, James (Niles Fitch), feels the lure of drug gangs and street life in their neighborhood, Walden tries to get him out of the failed public school and into a private-school alternative. At first, she tries to enroll him in a nearby religious school. The new school environment turns her son into an enthusiastic learner. But, even working two jobs, she can’t scrape up enough money to pay for the tuition.

When Walden is forced to re-enroll James in his old public school, her son continues to feel the pull of the streets. Naive to the public school system and its politics, Walden becomes increasingly desperate. She begins educating herself on the school system and lobby for a publicly funded school voucher to allow her and other parents to give their children the same opportunities as wealthier families.

She starts first at the school board, which refuses to listen to her, claiming she doesn’t have standing because she has not pre-registered to speak. (Yes, this happens in real life, too.)

Undaunted and energized by the dismissive attitude of public school officials, Walden moves to their congressional representative, Lorraine Townsend (Aunjanue Ellis, The Help, When They See Us). Unfortunately, despite her rhetoric supporting quality education, Townsend stonewalls Walden’s efforts with the support of the public school establishment. When Walden attends a public forum on education reform, the public school administrators and Townsend tell her that the problem is a lack of funding for the schools, and that vouchers are a short-term solution that doesn’t fix the problem.

Unwilling to give up, Walden confronts conservative Congressman Clifford Williams (Matthew Modine, Full Metal Jacket, Stranger Things), who presumably helped get the Milwaukee program off the ground. At first, he refuses to invest in Walden’s movement, claiming that Washington, D.C., parents simply don’t support the program. Walden sets out to prove him wrong by collecting signatures despite opposition from public school advocates and drug gang leaders who want to maintain their power of kids in the neighborhood.

The film takes liberties with historical details, but the themes and main plot points are on target. Most of these choices serve the narrative of the story. As in the movie, Virginia Walden Ford, the person on which the film character Virginia Walden is based, is not a natural public speaker. We see her evolve into a powerful voice for reform as she becomes more educated and more experienced with the entrenched special interests supporting the public school status quo. Ford’s son in real life, unlike the movie, received a privately funded scholarship to attend a private school. The school voucher, however, did actually get him out of a dysfunctional public school (where he later excelled).

Similar real-world experiences motivated Ford to mobilize parents in Washington, D.C., working against very real opposition from the public school establishment, so that other parents could reap the same benefits she did through publicly funded vouchers. In this sense, in a rare cinematic turn, Virginia Walden Ford is more heroic than the figure in the film. The highly structured storytelling framework for narrative film, however, would not have allowed this complicated story difficult if not impossible. (Hence, Miss Virginia is a narrative film, not a documentary.)

Nevertheless, the motivational effects of the benefits from private school vouchers on Ford were largely the same in real life as they are on Walden in the movie, maintaining the spirit and internal consistency of the story.

More importantly, Miss Virginia gets the most important elements of the struggle for private school vouchers right. Although the concept has been around for decades, modern support for private school vouchers started in America’s inner cities, not the suburbs or wealthy enclave neighborhoods. In an unlikely alliance which is under appreciated today, low-income, mostly minority parents and a few elected officials (e.g., Polly Williams in Wisconsin and Cleveland City Councilwoman Fannie Lewis), worked with conservative elected officials such as Governors Tommy Thompson (Wisconsin) and George Voinovich (Ohio) to pass state legislation enabling publicly funded private school vouchers.

Miss Virginia is a remarkably accurate map of the politics surrounding these fights, often in the inner-city neighborhoods, including the unusual but critical alliances it forged. This difference in Washington, D.C., was that the parents did not have a publicly elected representative of their district who was also a champion of their needs.

Virginia Walden Ford’s efforts were critical to Congress passing the District of Columbia’s school voucher program in 2003, which started up in 2005. The initial program registered 2,692 applicants, of which 1,848 were considered eligible based on income and residency criteria. Students for scholarships scholarships of up to $7,500 (about half the per pupil spending in the DC public schools at the time). About 1,000 students received scholarships in the first year out of 1,366 awardees.

Since the program’s inception, the program has received 8,480 applications and 5,547 students met eligibility requirements. The program has awarded 3,738 scholarships which are typically funded for the entire period the children are in school until graduation. As of January 2019, 1,650 students are still in the program.

Does the program work? Generally speaking, yes, but the evidence is somewhat mixed. Students in the program are significantly more likely to graduate high school—one of the best predictors of future success—and report fewer instances of bullying and intimidation. The authors of an independent program evaluation, “Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program:

Experimental Impacts After at Least Four Years” conducted by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in the U.S. Department of Education, offer this conclusion:

Based on analysis of the final spring 2009 data we find that the Program significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school. The offer of an OSP scholarship raised students’ probability of completing high school by 12 percentage points overall. On average, after at least four years students who were offered (or used) scholarships had reading scores that were statistically higher than those who were not offered scholarships, while math scores were statistically similar to those who were not offered scholarships.

Additionally, the OSP raised parents’, but not students’ ratings of school safety and satisfaction. Parents were more satisfied and felt school was safer if their child was offered or used an OSP scholarship. The Program had no effect on students’ reports on school conditions.


Did You Know? Grievance Studies in the UNC System

As academia becomes increasingly political and some professors call for an activist academy, some critics have questioned the impact of “cultural studies” and critical theory on the quality of research in the humanities.

Academics Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian have led the reaction against scholarship-as-activism with their famous “grievance studies” hoax.

The three academics submitted ridiculous papers—such as a feminist version of Mein Kampf—to respected peer-reviewed journals associated with identity and cultural studies to showcase the low standards within these fields.

By grievance studies, Pluckrose et al. mean “gender studies, masculinities studies, queer studies, sexuality studies, psychoanalysis, critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, fat studies, sociology, and educational philosophy.”

To Pluckrose et al., grievance studies struggle because “scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview.”

The hoaxers view such an approach to scholarship as a rejection of science and the liberal tradition of scholarship in favor of a relativistic understanding of truth rooted in an individual’s collective identity.

At schools in the University of North Carolina system, grievance studies are alive and well. Students can find a major in grievance at every UNC school:


Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Totalitarian Impulse in the Title IX Racket

Until 2015, I believed that the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter, which called for universities to significantly broaden their interpretation of Title IX protections, was merely a way to address the so-called “rape crisis” on American campuses.

I doubted the narrative that colleges had rates of sexual assaults that were comparable with warzones, but this didn’t seem to have any impact on my teaching and research as an English professor. Because of the biased media coverage of Title IX, most Americans still believe that its expansion is about protecting women and minorities.

But very few citizens understand that Title IX, in its new interpretation, is also about policing and disciplining speech on campus—especially speech that deviates from the orthodoxy of progressive politics. In 2015, I learned about the punitive dimensions of Title IX when I had a complaint filed against me.

One night, I was teaching my graduate seminar. On this particular evening, we were reading an essay about expanding protections for LGBT people in the workplace. The paper insisted that being LGBT is a detriment in every field and every corner of the working world. As we discussed the merits of the argument, I posited that there are, in fact, positions and places where being LGBT might be an advantage. There was a brief exchange about whether that is accurate. Then, class went on, and I thought nothing of it.

I am an “out” conservative at my university. That is to say that on campus, I am a minority of a minority. Not only am I a conservative, I don’t hide it (as many do). In English departments like mine, some estimates suggest liberals outnumber conservatives by as much as 48 to 1. Despite higher education’s enduring commitment to diversity by race, gender, religion, class, and sexual orientation, it has less interest in political diversity.

At my school, my colleagues are generally courteous and I like them. In faculty meetings the occasional political barb will come my way, but I can tolerate that. I know that some of the other professors are scandalized by my young son’s Weekly Reader from inauguration week that is tacked to my office bulletin board which reads “The President is Our Leader” with an accompanying photo of Trump. It explains at a 5-year-old level what the president’s duties are, which I humorously thought might be of use in helping some of my co-workers come to grips with reality in the aftermath of the 2016 election. The bumper sticker over my desk, which reads “Republican is the New Punk,” also raises some eyebrows. In short, though there are political tensions in my department, in the day-to-day, we are friendly with one another.

A few weeks after the fall semester’s end in 2015, I was informed that one of my students was appealing the grades he received in two of the courses he had taken. In my graduate class, he had earned an 88.7 (a B+), but insisted he deserved an A. His grade was above the class average in my course. Both grade appeals were rejected by the dean. And then things got interesting.

In short order, I was informed by the Office of Equal Opportunity Services that someone had filed a Title IX complaint against me. At that time, I thought Title IX was only used to arbitrate situations involving sexual misconduct. In the early stages of my case, the university would not disclose the substance of the complaint.

The Kafkaesque nature of this process had me worried. My anxiety was amplified by the weeks I spent wracking my brain for any kind of interaction I had that might be construed as sexual harassment or misconduct. I kept coming up empty. The “investigation” would drag on for the better part of a year.

As information about my Title IX case began to emerge in the months after the complaint was filed, I learned the aggrieved party was indeed the same student who had appealed the grades in both of his courses. Interestingly, during the earlier grade appeal phase, this student was requesting an adjustment to his score on the portfolio assignment (which would change his overall grade in the course). But in the Title IX complaint, the student requested adjustment to a different assignment. This suggested to me the arbitrary nature of the complaint.

When I received a copy of the complaint, I learned that the student’s charge was that I graded him down because I don’t like gay people. His evidence? Only that the “professor knows [his] sexual orientation,” explaining that “it doesn’t take a genius to figure out [he (the student) is] not heterosexual.” He asserts that I must have known from his “mannerisms” that he is “openly gay.” And while it is true that I supposed this student probably was gay, I didn’t know: he and I never had any conversation—verbal or written—about these matters, and he never brought it up in class. His complaint claimed that I “validate [a] heterosexual lifestyle in class.”

That charge was supported by two pieces of evidence: First, that I frequently talked about my wife and children in class. Not exactly a forceful imposition of heteronormativity. Second, the student complained that “[he] never heard [me] once say anything positive about other lifestyles.” Finally, the complaint noted that I said nothing positive “especially when one of the essays [we had to grade] was specifically about ‘Discrimination of Homosexuals.’” He didn’t provide any further detail, but at that point I had a fair idea of the origins of the complaint: My suggestion in class that LGBT workers don’t face anti-gay bias in every area of the work world.

A few things about this complaint require some commentary. First, note that the student is complaining that I consciously discriminate against LGBT students. How can this be proven? One can’t consciously discriminate against someone of a protected class unless he is aware of that status. And in these circumstances, that would be impossible to prove. Further, the complaint requires evidence that my alleged anti-LGBT bias was the actual reason for the grade.

Again, that strikes me as unprovable—how can one conclusively determine what I was thinking at a particular moment in the past? Most problematic was the odd claim that I never “say anything positive about other lifestyles.” I don’t know if that’s true. I certainly never said anything negative. But even if it is true that I never said anything positive, do professors now have this obligation? Must I go out of my way to explicitly and verbally celebrate “other lifestyles,” as the student put it?

If so, that is positively Orwellian.

It shows that I wasn’t really in trouble for anything I had done. I was in trouble for something I hadn’t done. I was in trouble for my silence.

It slowly dawned on me that the expanded purview of Title IX was much, much broader than sexual misconduct. It actually works to police speech. And in this case, even silence was inadequate. Not only must I speak, I must speak the liberal academic catechisms.

After many months, I was invited to offer a written response. I wrote a lengthy one, but weeks passed with no response. One day, I received a phone call from a senior professor at the university. In confidence, she gave me two shocking revelations.

First, she said that the student in question, frustrated with the delayed finding of discrimination, had gone to the office of the then-president—uninvited and demanding satisfaction. As a result, I was told, the president had asked a particular faculty member to pursue an independent investigation of the accusations. I was positively stupefied that the president would move this matter beyond the procedural boundaries prescribed by the Department of Education, thus pitting faculty members against one another.

But the bombshell was yet to come: My in-the-know friend told me that the written complaint I had been furnished wasn’t the original complaint. My university is part of a system of schools, which all operate in a state on the gulf coast. The disgruntled student had originally submitted a written complaint at the proper office of my home university. When the original complaint was found to lack any actionable information, university representatives told him what an actionable complaint might look like. After that, the student filed the revised complaint at another university in our system, which (of course) was deemed an actionable complaint. I was not notified of the original complaint, nor of the university’s initial rejection of it.

After digesting this information for a few days, I went to the office investigating my case and demanded a copy of the original complaint. It is important to note that my tenure protections were what emboldened me to do this: A junior faculty member would be completely at the mercy of the institution. I often hear conservatives complain that we must end tenure to break up the left’s ideological stranglehold on higher education, but I remain convinced that ending tenure would be the very best way to rid the universities of every last conservative. That process is already well-underway.

Within a day, I had obtained the original complaint. There, the student claimed that I “graded [him] unfairly based on protected Title IX rights.” His evidence? That I had changed the due date for an assignment despite his protest. After dismissing the complaint and clarifying what sort of information defined an actionable complaint, the student promptly submitted a complaint that advanced a radically revised set of assertions.

With these bureaucratic abuses exposed, I was not surprised a few days later when I was notified by the Office of Equal Opportunity Services that there was no finding of discrimination in my case. The ordeal was over.

Since then, I have remained silent about this experience because I didn’t want to smear my university—I have not used their name here for that reason. I want to stress that I don’t think my university bears any unique culpability here—this incident could have unfolded in similar ways at any public college in the United States. My accuser certainly bears some culpability for these abuses, but it is really the government and university administrators across the country that brought about this hostile climate on campuses. Students will push as far as the university administration will allow.

When an angry, unscheduled visit to the president is routinely met with a series of concessions and accommodations rather than a “Get the Hell out of my office!” is it any wonder that students across the country are emboldened in these matters?

The Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter exploded upon impact into a thousand Offices of Diversity and Inclusion, a new wing of the universities’ already-sprawling bureaucracy. This is a system designed to take the greatest frivolities with the greatest concern. If Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump think this cottage industry will be busted by issuing new Title IX guidelines, they had better think again.

In effect, a public college’s administrators coached a disgruntled student on how to make a bogus Title IX claim and how to make it look legitimate.
The universities are committed to these offices because it is American college administrators and faculty—not students—who are most motivated to impose the draconian, leftist model of interaction on campus. American university staff and administration welcome an ever-increasing complexity in the structure of the institution: The more internal bureaucratic oversight there is, the less liability there is, and the more jobs are created. This ensures that public universities reflect the “growth” necessary to maintain the support of their paymasters in the state legislatures.

Sadly, this is not the only time I have encountered institutional resistance to free speech in classroom settings. These experiences are common for conservative intellectuals. Stories like the one I describe above are occurring on campuses all over the nation.

Last year, during an open interview of a candidate for a job in the Title IX office, I asked “Suppose that a complaint is filed against a person who had received previous complaints in which no finding of wrongdoing was found. What role would those earlier complaints play in the investigation of the new complaint?” I was politely told that the earlier complaints lend credibility to the new complaint—even though the earlier complaints were found to be groundless.

Months later, the university mandated that all faculty attend an information session on Title IX. When I refused on the basis that first-hand experience had made me very well-informed regarding Title IX, I was told that my merit pay may be jeopardized. I still refused.

For those who didn’t already know, Title IX in its expanded articulation is nothing less than an attempt to advance the ideological objectives of the left on campus. It has been weaponized to silence dissenting speech and chill open debate of leftist ideology on campus. If the university is to remain a place for open inquiry and the production of new knowledge, dissenting voices (often conservative ones) need more than due process in the procedure of investigating complaints against them.

The advancement of knowledge depends on diverse perspectives and a rich atmosphere of agonistic debate. We need more people like Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, who made it clear that his school will resist the attack on free speech in academia.

Losing the rich tradition of academic inquiry in the west would be a great tragedy. The universities have always prided themselves on providing students with an intellectual skepticism, a critical mindset that resists indoctrination. Indeed, American schools still pretend to do this work. But in fact, their central objective today can only be called indoctrination—they have become a corporatized Ministry of Love, working tirelessly to produce acquiescent consumers whose entire morality revolves around the values of diversity, tolerance, and inclusivity.

Unfortunately, that tolerance and appreciation of diversity often seems to evaporate the moment it encounters different ideas—ideas that don’t conform to the mandates of institutional progressivism. The university is at a dire moment. Young intellectuals—particularly conservative ones—must decide what we want the university to be. And we should be ready to fight for it.


Outnumbered: Academia’s Tilted Ideological Landscape

The fact that conservatives are outnumbered on college campuses isn’t groundbreaking news. The amount of ink that’s been spilled recounting the left’s stronghold on the academy and the threats that such ideological imbalance poses to rigorous academic inquiry—not to mention the perverse effects it wields on the culture—has been enough to fill volumes of journals, articles, and books.

But, given that robust dialogue and competing ideas are crucial for the pursuit of truth, the need to shine a light on higher education’s ideological homogeneity is crucial until a healthier balance is established. A recent talk by North Carolina State University political science professor Andrew Taylor did just that.

On October 22, Taylor gave his remarks at an event hosted by the ICON (Issues Confronting Our Nation) lectures series. ICON is a non-profit organization based in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Taylor’s talk was entitled “Minority Report: The Status of Conservatives on the 21st Century College Campus.” Taylor likened his talk to a “state of the union” address regarding the dearth of conservatives in academia.

Taylor started his talk by describing the climate on college campuses and provided a wealth of data to illustrate the academy’s ideological imbalance. He first focused on the deficit of conservative faculty members in many departments.

The ratio of liberal to conservative political science faculty, for example, is startling— something that Taylor discovered in a study he conducted with Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico. The study, “Partisan Affiliation in Political Science: Insights from Florida and North Carolina,” was recently published by the American Political Science Association.

For their research, Atkeson and Taylor collected hard data of the political affiliations of political science faculty at public institutions in North Carolina and Florida. Among political science faculty, they found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans 6.8 to one. He noted that that ratio is mostly the same in both states. Those ratios were particularly high among female faculty and, interestingly, among senior faculty. It appears that the more senior faculty members are, the more likely they are to be Democratic.

Taylor then pointed to research from economist Mitchell Langbert. Langbert conducted a survey of professors from elite liberal arts universities and used their party registration to determine their political leanings. He found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans 5.5 to one in economics, 17.5 to one in philosophy, 44 to one in English, and 48 to one in sociology.

In terms of students, Taylor noted that student bodies are moving to the left—though not dramatically. A recent survey found that about 50 percent of millennials and generation Zers would prefer to live in a socialist country. Nevertheless, the results of a survey Taylor conducted in 2017 indicate that some students still consider themselves to be more conservative than their professors. The survey was sent to 200 NC State University students who were taking an introduction to American government class.

Of the students who responded to the survey, 52 percent said they were liberal, 28 percent said they were conservative, 39 percent said they were Democrats, and 29 percent said they were Republicans. Even though NC State’s student body clearly leans left, 49 percent believe that the faculty were to the left of them politically. Taylor emphasized that this is a significant portion of self-identified liberal students who thought themselves to be less liberal than their professors.

Taylor then turned his attention to university administrators—who might be the biggest threat to conservatives on college campuses. At NC State, the budget for administrators has steadily increased, sometimes at a greater rate than the budget for instruction, Taylor reported. He also pointed to the results of a national survey conducted by Samuel Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College. In his survey, Abrams found that in the social sciences, liberal administrators outnumbered conservatives by about 6 to one. In New England, that ratio was 28 to one.

The clear ideological imbalance of college campuses is concerning for several reasons.

First, students might unthinkingly accept left-leaning world views offered by their professors, which in turn could inform their behavior. While it is true that empirical studies, particularly in political science, show that the ideological leanings of professors do not have drastic effects on students’ fundamental political beliefs, that doesn’t mean professors don’t have any influence over their students.

Indeed, Taylor said that social science research suggests that “even small effects can have a profound impact on certain other kinds of behavior.” As an example, Taylor pointed to how campaign advertisements have been shown to have large effects on how people decide to vote. He continued:

If social science has shown these kinds of influences, a semester—15 weeks, three hours a week—talking about political, social, economic issues, with someone in a position of authority has got to have some kind of influence on students. The effect might not make them turn into a lifelong liberal, but it could have profound effects at that particular time, or how they vote in elections. At least for a small period of time.

A second concern with the lopsided faculty composition is that professors, like everyone else, are susceptible to innate bias—which in turn could affect how they grade their conservative students. “When we’re doing our grading, are we going to be biased? The social science research suggests: yes we are,” Taylor said.

Another worry is that a lack of ideological diversity hampers students’ intellectual development—especially that of liberal students. That’s because, in a climate heavily dominated by progressive ideas, liberal students have less exposure to alternative viewpoints that challenge their beliefs. Taylor referenced a 2014 article written by Duke University political science professor Michael Munger that argued conservative students have a special advantage because they are exposed to varying points of view.

In his article, Munger cited John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty where Mill argues for the need to hear all sides of an argument:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

Curricula have also suffered from the left’s dominance of the academy. Courses on important topics such as diplomatic history, war history, and influential Western philosophers aren’t required on many college campuses anymore. And the curriculum is filled with what Taylor called “vanity courses:” Courses that are “reflections of [professors’] own research interests, or, increasingly, their own political interests.” Taylor said that these kinds of curricula are typically found under “new fields of inquiry” such as cultural studies, gender studies, and racial studies.

The problem goes beyond the classroom and infects research and scholarship as well. For those pursuing a career in academia, it’s common to hear the phrase “publish or perish.” It is crucial for an aspiring academic to have his or her research published in a scholarly journal. Those who decide what does—and does not—get published have a great deal of power over faculty hires. That’s why Taylor referred to staffers of academic journals as “the gatekeepers.” “If they don’t like what you’ve written, you don’t get published,” he said.

And there is reason to believe that some academic journals prioritize the promotion of “social justice” ideology at the expense of academic rigor. Taylor pointed to the fake articles submitted by James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian that were successfully published in academic journals. The authors employed popular social justice jargon to argue for absurd conclusions such as fat bodybuilding should be a sport or white male college students shouldn’t be permitted to speak in class and should be forced to sit on the floor in chains.

Taylor also spoke about the possible indirect effects of the ideological imbalance on college campuses. For one, it could discourage young people from pursuing careers in academia. Since training for a career in academia already involves a number of opportunity costs, the prospect of being persecuted for one’s conservative beliefs—and perhaps not being able to get a job—might dissuade aspiring conservative academics.

To conclude his talk, Taylor reviewed some solutions that might help restore intellectual diversity on campuses. First, academics, students, parents, and taxpayers should demand that colleges and universities be transparent about the subject matter that is taught. One way to do this, particularly at public institutions, is to make course syllabi publicly available.

Secondly, alumni should keep their alma maters accountable. An effective way to enforce accountability is by withholding donations from institutions that fail to uphold intellectual diversity. Donors can also direct how their funds are used,  instead of writing a blank check to a university.

A final possibility is to create separate conservative institutions, centers, or departments. Taylor referenced a recent National Affairs article by Fredrick Hess and Brenden Bell entitled An Ivory Tower of Our Own which makes the case for the creation of an alternative research university that can serve as an “incubator” of conservative ideas.

In the end, Taylor’s account of the status of campus conservatives, although sobering, serves a much-needed purpose: it shines a light on academia’s entrenched bias. Unless that bias is remedied with a healthy competition of viewpoints, colleges and universities will continue to stray from their central mission of truth-seeking.


Civil rights groups threaten to sue U of California if it doesn't drop SAT, ACT

A potential move by the system to eliminate the SAT or ACT requirement would likely be significant and far-reaching. The system is one of the nation's largest and most influential public research systems, enrolling more than 222,400 undergraduate students.

California is the largest state market for college admissions exams, said Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), in a press release sent to Education Dive.

"The University of California is one of the world's most highly respected public higher education systems," Schaeffer said. "If U.C. ends its ACT/SAT testing requirements — as this action and the facts supporting it demand — many other institutions are likely to follow suit."

Lawyers for the groups threatening to sue argue that the tests violate numerous state civil liberties. The students are "well-qualified" to enter college, the lawyers wrote to the regents, but "have been subject to unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, disability, and wealth" as a result of the standardized testing requirement.

The system had no comment on Tuesday, said U of California System spokesperson​ Claire Doan.

Many four-year universities have already scaled back on the SAT and ACT as a condition for admission. More than 1,000 U.S. institutions are test-optional, according to FairTest. That number started to grow after the University of Chicago announced last year it would get rid of its requirement.

U of California's Academic Senate was already studying whether the ACT and SAT were appropriate metrics of academic performance. Its recommendations were expected in the 2019-20 academic year, however, the groups writing to the regents said the matter needed to be resolved immediately.

The lawyers ordered the system to end the requirements for potential applicants and for the board to discuss the issue at its meeting in mid-November.

"We don't need to wait for yet another study to prove that the SAT and ACT are meaningless and unjust," said Gregory Ellis, co-counsel on the case and a lawyer at the firm Scheper Kim & Harris, in the statement. "This is urgent. Right now, students are being asked to take a test that has no real value, but will determine their futures. These students have no time to lose."


Monday, November 04, 2019

Don't you dare grade on merit, state university tells professors

So what do you grade on?  Skin color? They're not saying.

The manic  desire to show that blacks and whites are equal in educational potential leads here and elsewhere to a destruction of the educational process.  If they have to go as far as they do below, does not that itself show how hard it is to demonstrate educational competence in blacks?

The poor performance of blacks in education is a byword.  Nothing dislodges it.  Nor will this.  All this will do is cover it up

Workshop warns against maintaining 'white language supremacy'

A public university that warned faculty against propping up white supremacy now is hosting workshops to persuade professors not to grade based on merit.

The College Fix reports such workshops are popping up at universities from Washington, D.C. to Idaho.

Boise State University is hosting an event next week called "Inclusive Teaching Means Inclusive Grading, Too."

It's part of the BUILD certificate program, or Boise State Uniting for Inclusion and Leadership in Diversity.

The College Fix said the faculty workshop at Boise State is shrouded in secrecy, but similar events held by different universities shed light on it.

A workshop of the exact same name at University of Tennessee-Knoxville aimed "to engage instructors in conversations and activities designed to foreground diversity and inclusion in considerations of assessment and grading practices."

The University of Michigan held a faculty workshop with a similar name. The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching stated on its website that teachers would "be asked to review their own practices" on grading.

In February at American University, College Fix said, a workshop titled "Grading ain’t just grading" aimed to teach faculty "how to assess writing without judging its quality."

It promised to help teachers rethink "writing assessment ecologies toward antiracist ends."

The workshop warned that "the practices of grading writing" maintained "White language supremacy."

Taxpayer-funded Boise State, the College Fix said, also is hosting as part of its Build Certificate Program a book circle designed to "dig deep into ourselves to explore the ways in which we all, as individuals, sometimes unknowingly, support racism and white supremacy."


Students walk out of Boston charter school over policies they see as racist

Even charter schools cannot erase black/white differences.  Blacks are always going to feel inferior in an educational setting and will tend to blame that on racism etc.

More than 100 students poured out of Boston Collegiate Charter School in Dorchester after lunch Friday to protest policies, practices, and a school culture they consider discriminatory and racist.

The walkout — three weeks in the making — was spurred by growing racial tensions at the 700-student school, organizers said, including the N-word being scrawled in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and a student who pulled a hijab off another student’s head.

In a city where black and Latino students overwhelmingly populate charter schools, Boston Collegiate stands apart: White students make up the largest portion of the enrollment — 45 percent — followed by black students at 32 percent, and Latino students at 18 percent. The school serves students in grades 5 through 12 in two campuses.

Very few white faces were among those students who gathered in the upper school’s parking lot along Boston Street as they chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

“This is not just a race issue; it’s a discrimination issue that has been going on too long,” said Arianna Constant-Patton, 17, a junior who helped organized the walkout, as she spoke before the students.

The gathering at times reflected the racial tensions at the school.

Although some students who remained inside the building held up signs supportive of the walkout, other students inside appeared to be laughing at the protesters, agitating them.

“You people laughing in the window, it’s not funny,” one of the organizers, Franchesca Peña, 17, a junior, yelled up to them. “Everyone turn around and look at them.”

Some students voiced frustration that those who supported them inside the building were not outside with them. Others thanked them for their support regardless.

Among the issues that students said they were protesting: discriminatory dress code policies, teacher diversity disparities, and the school’s inaction and lack of progress in response to racist attacks on students and the lack of inclusive culture for students of color.

The students made several demands to improve the racial climate at the school, which included revising the dress code to allow students to wear cultural head wraps, purchasing more textbooks that reflect the students’ diverse backgrounds, hiring more teachers of color, creating more courses that are culturally relevant to students, and forming a “task force that will lead the charge and keep the school accountable for their actions.”

Administrators and teachers were supportive of the walkout and, like the protesters, wore black. Several teachers accompanied the students. Among them was the school’s executive director, Shannah Varón.

“I’m proud of them,” said Varón, who is Latina. “They are on the front line of pushing for the changes they want to see in the world and we want to work with them.”

The school has been taken steps this fall to address the issues students have been raising, Varón said.

Just this week, the school held a community forum on Monday and sent a letter to families Thursday outlining seven action steps. Some of those steps include hiring an equity consultant to do a deep dive on race issues at the school, help staff have conversations with students about race, support student activism, revisit discipline policy, help families build bridges across differences, and increase communications on these issues.

Core values at the school, Varón said, are belonging and the willingness to confront bias in one’s self and others.

But many students said they often feel unwelcome. “Students have expressed multiple times they have felt uncomfortable in a room or in a certain situation,” said Tesean Toole Jr., 16, a junior, referring to such incidents as other students using discriminatory language, including the N word. “But nothing gets done.”

In many ways, the school is a microcosm of the segregation that has defined Boston for decades, some organizers said. “We may be a diverse school, but all the white kids hang out with the white kids, all the black kids hang out with the black kids, and all the Hispanic kids hang out with the Hispanic kids,” said Sarah Purvis, 17, a senior.

“And why is that a problem? It’s a problem because then you don’t learn about all the other cultures around you. There’s no point in having diversity if we don’t have conversations.”


Elizabeth Warren Pledges To Crack Down On School Choice, Despite Sending Her Own Son To Elite Private School

Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pledging to crack down on school choice if elected, despite the fact that she sent her own son to an elite private school, publicly available records show.

The 2020 presidential candidate’s public education plan would ban for-profit charter schools — a proposal first backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — and eliminate government incentives for opening new non-profit charter schools, even though Warren has praised charter schools in the past.

“To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools,” Warren stated in her plan.

Warren has pledged to reduce education options for families, but she chose to send her son Alexander to Kirby Hall, an elite private school near Austin. Tuition for Kirby Hall’s lower and middle schools — kindergarten through eighth grade — is $14,995 for the 2019-2020 school year. A year of high school costs $17,875.

Kirby Hall’s 1987 yearbook lists Alexander Warren among the school’s fifth-graders. Yearbook photos show Kirby Hall’s Alexander Warren is the same Alexander Warren seen in old family photos with his now-famous mother.

Alexander, like most fifth-graders, turned 11 in 1987, public records accessed through the research service LexisNexis show. That coincides with Warren’s final year teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, which is located a short drive from Kirby Hall.

“I do not blame Alex one bit for attending a private school in 5th grade. Good for him,” said Reason Foundation director of school choice Corey DeAngelis, who first flagged Alexander’s private schooling Monday. “This is about Warren exercising school choice for her own kids while fighting hard to prevent other families from having that option.”

It’s unclear whether 1987 was the only year Warren sent any of her children to private school. Warren’s campaign didn’t return emailed questions by press time.

Warren praised charter schools as recently as 2016, when she said charter schools “are producing extraordinary results for our students” in Massachusetts. Warren’s crackdown on elite charter schools would leave elite private schools like Kirby Hall unscathed, while greatly eliminating charter schools as a parallel option for lower-income families.

The senator’s plan to crack down on charter schools drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, including from The Washington Post’s editorial board, which described Warren’s reversal as transparent catering to teacher’s unions.

“The losers in these political calculations are the children whom charters help,” the Post’s editorial stated. “Charters at their best offer options to parents whose children would have been consigned to failing traditional schools. They spur reform in public school systems in such places as the District and Chicago. And high-quality charters lift the achievement of students of color, children from low-income families and English language learners.”


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Academic Freedom Does Not Depend on Federal Grants

The Department of Education has faced criticism for its recent investigation into Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill’s joint Consortium for Middle East Studies.

School faculty, academic associations, and the American Civil Liberties Union have called the investigation a threat to academic freedom. But their odd interpretation of academic freedom could signal danger for true academic autonomy.

In September, the Department of Education published a letter to Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill suggesting that the schools’ joint Consortium for Middle East Studies does not qualify for a federal grant. The Department indicated that federal grants go to programs that provide, among other things, a “national resource” for teaching a modern language and the instruction needed to provide a full understanding of areas, regions, or countries in which that modern language is used.

The Middle East Consortium does not meet these criteria, the Department wrote, because, among other shortcomings, it does not teach foreign language competency—only 14 percent of students (960 of 6,791) in grant-sponsored programs participate in foreign language classes, let alone achieve mastery. In addition, the consortium does not offer instruction to provide students with a full understanding of the regions studied—it offers few if any programs focused on the historic discrimination faced by religious minorities in the Middle East or the positive aspects of religions other than Islam.

In response, 62 Duke University faculty wrote:

The Department of Education investigation targeted a Middle East center, but should concern all of us. . . At stake, in the current moment, is the ability of Universities to operate freely and openly without the fear of censure, and the ability of faculty to determine what they ‘teach, how they teach it, what they choose to research or write about, or who can speak on our campus.’

But it is the Duke faculty view that is concerning

The faculty suggest that cutting government grants from an academic program because the grant-making body disapproves of it, is censorship. If they are right, then academic freedom means never withdrawing federal grants. Such a view asserts that doing so would jeopardize the freedom of that program to continue to offer its unique teaching methods and content.

In the long run though, this view fosters a troubling preference for existing programs over new ones. Since funds are limited, the Department of Education cannot fund every possible grant applicant. Yet, if they stop providing grants to any program, Duke’s faculty suggest they are violating academic freedom. To protect academic freedom therefore, the Department must continue funding today’s programs regardless of the quality and potential of future programs.

Worse still, the Duke Faculty view invites further government control of academia. By their reasoning, choosing one grant applicant over another could mean preferring one view over another—a violation of academic freedom. Assuming the Department of Education had enough resources therefore, they should provide grants to all applicants. This position would likely inspire more academic institutions to apply for and receive federal grants, but with those grants more academic institutions would be forced to abide by federal compliance requirements that are part and parcel of the grants. For example, those who receive federal funds cannot discriminate based on sex. By some interpretations, that means schools receiving federal funds must accommodate transgender locker room and restroom preferences.

These regulations can leave little autonomy for educational organizations that wish to maintain religious standards or provide as they see fit for the comfort and safety of their students.

Schools should certainly be free to engage in discussion that generates, explores, and challenges new and even controversial ideas. The Supreme Court affirmed this freedom in Healy v. James (1972) where a unanimous majority wrote:

"The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools. . . The college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the ‘market place of ideas,’ and we break no new constitutional ground in reaffirming this Nation’s dedication to safeguarding academic freedom."

But the freedom to discuss, teach, or explore controversial subjects has never depended on government financial support. Nor should it.

If Duke’s faculty truly support academic freedom, they might consider welcoming the withdrawal of federal grants. Without them, University professors would be free to teach what they see as important and how they think best, without fear of losing federal funding or needing to comply with federal policies.

Better yet, those truly interested in safeguarding academic freedom should consider turning their attention to the colleges and universities that truly threaten it by forbidding students from speaking, protesting, or gathering signatures for causes they support unless they are in “free speech zones” or by punishing students for speech crimes they may not even know they’ve committed.

There are certainly threats to academic freedom that deserve attention, but at least today, they do not come from the Department of Education’s grant-making decisions.


The New Campus Housing Bubble

Richard Vedder

My good friend, banker-scholar Alex Pollack of the R Street Institute, has shared with me some startling new data. High priced, comparatively luxury college student housing has been popular, and in this century lots of apartment complexes have been built with many amenities—granite or marble counter-tops, fancy swimming pools or saunas, etc. With unemployment rates below four percent and low overall real estate delinquency since recovering from the traumas of a decade or more ago, this sector should be booming. But according to a story published by Wolf Street (Wolf Richter), delinquencies are rising dramatically.

Mortgages for commercial apartment buildings are packaged together into commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS). While government sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae do much of this, there has been growing private sector involvement, trying to capture what has been regarded as a hot and growing market—nice housing for affluent students. Now, however, some 10.1 % of CMBS for student housing is either delinquent or in “special serving” (approaching delinquency). That compares with a low, normal 1.8% for other types of CMBS (e.g, non-student apartment housing). Moreover, deeper analysis shows the delinquency rate is even higher on student housing built recently.

College enrollments rose nicely from 1636 to 2010, with occasional short interruptions for wars, depressions, etc. Income levels were also rising, increasing the demand for higher education. The proportion of the college age population that was comparatively affluent, wanting to live in expensive private housing instead of commuting to school from home grew as well. All of that suggested “luxury campus housing is a growth industry.“

The biggest competition to private housing was the colleges themselves. Greedy universities were raising their own room charges very aggressively (far more than for ordinary rental housing), increasing student demand for non-college provided living spaces.

But then came the Big Change, recognized only very recently. Total college enrollments began falling starting early in this decade, and the earlier growth in the residential four year university population diminished. Comparatively low interest rates resulting from loose Federal Reserve monetary policy lowered financing costs, encouraging new speculative housing ventures. Large increases in student indebtedness and the problems arising from it became increasingly publicized, perhaps giving more students and their parents reason to pause about spending large sums on living accommodations.

Heightened talk about recent college graduates living in their parent’s basement while working as a Starbucks barista perhaps cooled the ardor for luxury housing. The growing largely correct perception that investing in college is somewhat risky may be leading people to either consider alternatives to college or to at least constrain college costs with cheaper housing. Excessive exuberance on the part of real estate investors is reaping its toll.

Looking beyond the collegiate scene, one could argue that there are some indications that the bad habits that led to the 2008 financial crisis are reasserting themselves. Is the luxury private college housing market a leading indicator of a new general housing bubble? Hopefully and probably not, but it is a chilling thought.

That raises a public policy issue. Why should the federal government be lending $1.5 trillion that it has to borrow itself, often to young persons from moderately affluent families, in some cases continuing the lending for six, eight or ten years (through graduate and professional school)? More broadly and provocatively, why should taxpayers be funding state universities, a significant proportion of whose students are from affluent families often living in luxury housing? Why subsidize affluent kids to live in luxury with their swimming pools and marble counter tops? The data from Raj Chetty and associates show that the top American universities are filled with students disproportionately from the top quarter of the income distribution, so funding these schools is therefore likely highly regressive—middle or lower income taxpayers are helping fund the education of relatively affluent kids.

The over-investment in college funded by a dysfunctional federal student financial assistance program clearly hurts many beside students attending school. There are investors losing money on seemingly safe CMBS securities. There are merchants and their employees in college towns suffering as enrollments at the non-elite schools fall. There are, of course, staff at the schools themselves. Educational over-exuberance has many casualties.


Australia: Mandatory maths won’t STEM decline

Even with 400 hours of secondary school mathematics under their belts, it seems that Year 10 students in New South Wales remain underprepared for the 21st century. One proposed remedy is to make mathematics compulsory from Kindergarten through to Year 12.

Prioritising mathematics was announced as part of the NSW Government’s promise to ‘take the curriculum back to the basics’ — apparently in response to the interim findings of the recent NSW Curriculum Review.

Unfortunately, with the Review’s author conceding that the main question is whether the proposed reforms are even heading in the right direction, the report epitomises the lack of clarity, vision and strategy in Australian education.

Weirdly, while chewing up a lot of taxpayer dollars, the NSW Review is being undertaken well before a planned review of the Australian Curriculum in 2020. So policy decisions will be made for students and teachers in one state that may turn out to be even less aligned to practices applying to students across the country than they are now.

Rather than starting with a post-mortem of how we got into the current mess, the NSW effort echoes other misguided reviews, showing a fixation on globalisation and technological threats and promoting yet more educational experiments.

Technology specialist and CEO of global marketing company Freelancer, Matt Barrie, recently referred to Australian education as a “basket case” that produces “avocado toast” graduates whose poor skills – especially in computer science and engineering – explain the national slump in productivity.

Any curriculum can set forward priorities. The NSW Government seems intent on bringing mathematics to the fore, but does this make STEM the holy grail?

Education systems that regularly outperform Australia do not expect their school leavers only to master STEM subjects. In Finland and Singapore, for example, there is also an intensive, sustained focus on languages and humanities subjects. Producing well-educated citizens who can contribute to the national good is a sophisticated undertaking.

Improvements do not come from the ad hoc compilation of ideas or from intermittently bolting subjects on to the curriculum.

A more constructive approach would be to identify policy mistakes that have let down many young Australians, but which have been cleverly avoided by high-performing school systems elsewhere.

This should include an honest analysis of what has worked, what has gone wrong and why, and what can be done – without fear or favour – to change things for the better for future generations.