Friday, February 21, 2020

Kentucky Poised to Advance School Choice

At his State of the Union address last week, President Trump highlighted the need for school choice across America, and rightly so. There is nobody who knows better what education is most suitable for their children than parents and the student themselves. Certainly, the government does not know best and we should do all we can to put this decision in the hands of those closest to the students in our communities.

One such state that is looking to expand school choice is the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Currently, there are two companion bills in the state legislature -- House Bill 350 and Senate Bill 110 -- that would empower parents to choose the schools that are right for their kids by creating a scholarship tax credit program. Led by Rep. Chad McCoy and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, this program would allow individuals and businesses to receive a nonrefundable tax credit when they contribute to qualified non-profit organizations that provide scholarships to lower-income students.

Despite existing unconstitutional control from the federal government on education, states are meant to have full jurisdiction over their education systems, including the funding mechanisms, and most funding runs through the state. One of the most cost-effective ways to ensure the best education for the most students is to incentivize private funding of education that goes beyond public schools. After all, it is no secret that the schools tied to certain zip codes are not always the best schools for every student living there. That would be, quite simply, impossible to ensure. The answer to this is school choice advanced primarily at the state and local level.

“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools,” President Trump said. “To rescue these students, 18 states have created school choice in the form of Opportunity Scholarships. The programs are so popular that tens of thousands of students remain on a waiting list.”

Now, it may be considered objectionable that he chose to classify government schools as “failing.” Although some public schools are underperforming, many public schools across our country do indeed excel in test scores and in preparing students for further education or for successful careers.

However, objectively high-performing public schools can and do still fail students in any number of other ways, including programming, location, and culture. This is not necessarily the fault of the school, but it is incumbent on those who control school policy to recognize this reality and work to expand school choice even in those areas where public schooling performs well.

Undoubtedly, ensuring the success of students in our country is critical to continuing the prosperity we have in America and growing the quality of life for our citizens into the future. Kentucky, thankfully, is poised to take action on Rep. McCoy’s House Bill 350 to create the very program that President Trump highlighted last week. Stakeholders across the commonwealth, and other interested parties, should take action to help this bill become law.


Trump budget proposal reins in unconstitutional, bloated Department of Education

If you love a constitutionally constrained federal government, President Trump’s latest budget request for Betsy DeVos's Department of Education will warm your heart. But there’s more to be done.

Let’s start with the best part: The budget would cut $6.1 billion in education spending overall and consolidate $19.4 billion worth of K-12 programs into simple block grants to states. That cuts federal strings off of a big chunk of education money, and doing so makes sense.

This would be much more in line with the education power the Constitution gives the federal government — that is, absolutely none — and states are much closer and more accountable to the people the money is supposed to serve than bureaucrats at the Department of Education. Even better would be to let taxpayers keep their money, either by letting states opt out of federal education or by getting rid of the federal intrusion entirely. But this is a good first step.

It is also encouraging to see the administration put forward proposals to cap federal student aid and let colleges limit the debt students can take on.

It is not clear how much substantive difference these proposals would make — there are already caps on some loan programs, and institutions have little incentive to discourage borrowing since their coffers swell when students can pay more — but recognition that aid is at the heart of the college cost problem is welcome.

Things get dicier when it comes to the Education Freedom Scholarships that the secretary of education has been promoting for a while.

The Trump administration’s heart is definitely in the right place: School choice empowers families over bureaucrats and allows diverse people in a pluralist society to select the education that meets their desires and values. And the proposal tries its hardest to avoid centralizing power by taking the form of a tax credit for scholarship donors rather than direct government funding via vouchers. Plus, it is only open to states that choose to join.

Still, the proposal, which is included in this budget, doesn’t cut it in my book.

The federal tax system only exists to raise revenue to execute the specific, enumerated powers the Constitution gives the federal government, and education is not among them. The opt-in for states is also somewhat coercive, pressuring them to adopt school choice lest their citizens not get the federal tax credit. And while research has shown that vouchers are more prone to regulation than credits, credits do carry a one-size-fits-all regulation threat to private schools. In Illinois, for instance, credits are connected to a mandate that private schools receiving scholarship students administer state standardized tests.

Finally, the proposal contains some expansions of federal funding and intervention, contradicting constitutional principles and running counter to the overall positive tenor of the education budget. For good reason, career and technical education is trendy these days — we need more alternatives to increasingly less profitable college degrees — but there is no reason to increase federal spending on it by $900 million as this budget would do.

The federal government instead should just stop encouraging four-year degrees with profligate student aid.

The budget would also increase money for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The intent is to help populations that have faced and continue to face serious obstacles to success, including discrimination in public schools. But the best of intentions does not mean the Constitution can be cast aside. And good intentions notwithstanding, this act has largely created a “lawyers playground” of litigation between districts and families.

The federal government absolutely should ensure that states and districts do not discriminate in their provision of education, but that does not require big sums of federal funding. It mainly requires a robust civil rights enforcement effort — preferably not by the Education Department, which is poorly equipped for it, but by the Department of Justice.

The Trump administration is working to decrease the deep federal footprint on American education, and it will no doubt suffer the slings and arrows of outraged opponents because of it. But the administration also seems unwilling to go all-in on shrinking the federal role in education. Still, two steps forward and one step back sure beats standing still.


Political Bias and Anti-Americanism on College Campuses

Walter E. Williams
A recent Pew Research Center survey finds that only half of American adults think colleges and universities are having a positive effect on our nation. The leftward political bias, held by faculty members affiliated with the Democratic Party, at most institutions of higher education explains a lot of that disappointment. Professors Mitchell Langbert and Sean Stevens document this bias in “Partisan Registration and Contributions of Faculty in Flagship Colleges.”

Langbert and Stevens conducted a new study of the political affiliation of 12,372 professors in the two leading private and two leading public colleges in 31 states. For party registration, they found a Democratic to Republican (D:R) ratio of 8.5:1, which varied by rank of institution and region. For donations to political candidates (using the Federal Election Commission database), they found a D:R ratio of 95:1, with only 22 Republican donors, compared with 2,081 Democratic donors.

Several consistent findings have emerged from Langbert and Stevens’ study. The ratio of faculty who identify as or are registered as Democratic versus Republican almost always favors the Democratic Party. Democratic professors outnumber their Republican counterparts most in the humanities and social sciences, compared with the natural sciences and engineering. The ratio is 42:1 in anthropology, 27:1 in sociology and 27:1 in English. In the social sciences, Democratic registered faculty outnumber their Republican counterparts the least in economics 3:1. The partisan political slant is most extreme at the most highly rated institutions.

The leftist bias at our colleges and universities has many harmful effects. Let’s look at a few. At University of California, Davis, last month, a mathematics professor faced considerable backlash over her opposition to the requirement for faculty “diversity statements.” University of California, San Diego, requires job applicants to admit to the “barriers” preventing women and minorities from full participation in campus life. At American University, a history professor recently wrote a book in which he advocates repealing the Second Amendment. A Rutgers University professor said, “Watching the Iowa Caucus is a sickening display of the over-representation of whiteness.” University of California, Berkeley, professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich chimed in to say: “Think about this: Iowa is 90.7% white. Iowa is now the only state with a lifetime voting ban for people with a felony conviction. Black people make up 4% of Iowa’s population but 26% of the prison pop!

ulation. How is this representative of our electorate?” A Williams College professor said he would advocate for social justice to be included in math textbooks. Students at Wayne State University no longer have to take a single math course to graduate; however, they may soon be required to take a diversity course.

Then there’s a question about loyalty to our nation. Charles Lieber, former chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, was arrested earlier this year on accusations that he made a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement about work he did for a program run by the Chinese government that seeks to lure American talent to China. He was paid $50,000 a month and up to $158,000 in living expenses for his work, which involved cultivating young teachers and students, according to court documents. According to the Department of Justice, Lieber helped China “cultivate high-level scientific talent in furtherance of China’s scientific development, economic prosperity and national security.”

It’s not just Harvard professors. Newly found court records reveal that Emory University neuroscientist Li Xiao-Jiang was fired in late 2019 after being charged with lying about his own ties to China. Li was part of the same Chinese program as Lieber. A jury found a University of California, Los Angeles, professor guilty of exporting stolen U.S. military technology to China. Newsweek reported that he was convicted June 26 on 18 federal charges. Meanwhile, NBC reported that federal prosecutors say that University of Texas professor Bo Mao attempted to steal U.S. technology by using his position as a professor to obtain access to protected circuitry and then handing it over to the Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei.

The true tragedy is that so many Americans are blind to the fact that today’s colleges and universities pose a threat on several fronts to the well-being of our nation.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

This Is How Scandinavia Got Great

This is a rather surprising article to come from the NYT.  It argues that Nordic education stresses patriotism and a feeling of solidarity with fellow citizens. It sounds reasonable but Leftists deplore all that

ALMOST EVERYBODY ADMIRES the Nordic model. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have high economic productivity, high social equality, high social trust and high levels of personal happiness.

Progressives say it’s because they have generous welfare states. Some libertarians point out that these countries score high on nearly every measure of free market openness. Immigration restrictionists note that until recently they were ethnically homogeneous societies.

But Nordic nations were ethnically homogeneous in 1800, when they were dirt poor. Their economic growth took off just after 1870, way before their welfare states were established. What really launched the Nordic nations was generations of phenomenal educational policy.

The 19th-century Nordic elites did something we haven’t been able to do in this country recently. They realized that if their countries were to prosper they had to create truly successful “folk schools” for the least educated among them. They realized that they were going to have to make lifelong learning a part of the natural fabric of society.

They look at education differently than we do. The German word they used to describe their approach, bildung, doesn’t even have an English equivalent.

It means the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person. It was based on the idea that if people were going to be able to handle and contribute to an emerging industrial society, they would need more complex inner lives.

Today, Americans often think of schooling as the transmission of specialized skill sets — can the student read, do math, recite the facts of biology. Bildung is devised to change the way students see the world. It is devised to help them understand complex systems and see the relations between things — between self and society, between a community of relationships in a family and a town.

As Lene Rachel Andersen and Tomas Bjorkman put it in their book “The Nordic Secret,” “Bildung is the way that the individual matures and takes upon him or herself ever bigger personal responsibility towards family, friends, fellow citizens, society, humanity, our globe, and the global heritage of our species, while enjoying ever bigger personal, moral and existential freedoms.” The Nordic educators worked hard to cultivate each student’s sense of connection to the nation. Before the 19th century, most Europeans identified themselves in local and not national terms.

But the Nordic curriculum instilled in students a pride in, say, their Danish history, folklore and heritage.

“That which a person did not burn for in his young days, he will not easily work for as a man,” Christopher Arndt Bruun wrote. The idea was to create in the mind of the student a sense of wider circles of belonging — from family to town to nation — and an eagerness to assume shared responsibility for the whole.

The Nordic educators also worked hard to develop the student’s internal awareness. That is to say, they helped students see the forces always roiling inside the self — the emotions, cravings, wounds and desires. If you could see those forces and their interplay, as if from the outside, you could be their master and not their slave.

The power of educating the whole person.

Their intuition was that as people grow, they have the ability to go through developmental phases, to see themselves and the world through ever more complex lenses. A young child may blindly obey authority — Mom, Dad, teacher. Then she internalizes and conforms to the norms of the group. Then she learns to create her own norms based on her own values. Then she learns to see herself as a node in a network of selves and thus learns mutuality and holistic thinking.

The purpose of bildung is to help people move through the uncomfortable transitions between each way of seeing.

That educational push seems to have had a lasting influence on the culture.

Whether in Stockholm or Minneapolis, Scandinavians have a tendency to joke about the way their sense of responsibility is always nagging at them. They have the lowest rates of corruption in the world.

They have a distinctive sense of the relationship between personal freedom and communal responsibility.

High social trust doesn’t just happen. It results when people are spontaneously responsible for one another in the daily interactions of life, when the institutions of society function well.

In the U.S., social trust has been on the decline for decades. If the children of privilege get to go to the best schools, there’s not going to be much social mutuality. If those schools do not instill a love of nation, there’s not going to be much shared responsibility.

If you have a thin educational system that does not help students see the webs of significance between people, does not even help students see how they see, you’re going to wind up with a society in which people can’t see through each other’s lenses.

When you look at the Nordic bildung model, you realize our problem is not only that we don’t train people with the right job skills. It’s that we don’t have the right lifelong development model to instill the mode of consciousness people need to thrive in a complex pluralistic society.


Freedom Center Plans Title VI Suit Against Claremont Colleges for Funding Jew Hatred

The Colleges violated President Trump’s executive order barring federal funding for anti-Semitic hate.

In a letter sent to the heads of Pitzer College and Pomona College in Southern California, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, acting with the Dhillon Law Group, put the Claremont Consortium of Colleges on notice that their promotion and funding of anti-Semitic speakers and events is a violation of federal law and will no longer be tolerated.

Over the past several years, Pitzer, Pomona, and the other Claremont Colleges have repeatedly funded anti-Semitic rhetoric and displays on campus—largely organized by the Hamas-funded campus hate group Students for Justice in Palestine—which contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students.

The letter cites Executive Order 13899 which was signed by President Trump on December 11, 2019. The Order directs executive agencies to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against all prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism just as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

This is not the first occasion on which the Freedom Center has challenged the Claremont Colleges over their funding and promotion of Jew hatred. Last fall, the Freedom Center named Pitzer as one of the “Top Ten Colleges that Promote Jew Hatred and Incite Terrorism.” Over a thousand printed newspapers containing the report on the prevalence of anti-Semitism at Pitzer were distributed by the Freedom Center on Pitzer’s campus.

Instant reaction to the newspapers proved that they had hit their mark. The president of Pitzer College, Melvin Oliver, released a public statement labeling the Freedom Center’s newspapers exposing Jew hatred on his campus as “attack speech or hate speech so extreme that it requires our response” and claiming that the report’s allegations were “demonstrably false and intentionally incendiary”—without citing a single example of these alleged falsehoods.

Freedom Center founder David Horowitz responded by thanking President Oliver for his “Orwellian smear against our Freedom Center” and stating that in fact “Hate speech is calling a legitimate, fact-based critique of your support for a Jew-hating terrorist support group like Students for Justice in Palestine hate speech.”

Horowitz concluded his response to Oliver with this thought: “Some of the students participating in this campaign of Jew-hatred are simply ignorant. You don't have that excuse. You are a disgrace – an all too typical disgrace among your academic colleagues which is why Jew-hatred is rife on our campuses today." The war of words was covered in the local and national press.

With the delivery of the Freedom Center’s legal missive to Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges last week, these institutions have been put on notice that their funding and support for Jew hatred will no longer be tolerated.


Australian Students of Western Civ will have to see through a mash of diversity propaganda

Let’s start with good news. Something truly remarkable will happen during the next fortnight. Students at two Australian universities will begin a bachelor of arts in Western civilisation. The aim is for students at the University of Wollongong and the University of Queensland to learn what past generations of university students in Australia have never learned on campus. Even more remarkably, the narky union for academics that launched, then withdrew, legal action last year over the Western civilisation course has settled down.

So they should. There is nothing objectionable, or threatening, about students learning about Western civilisation in a chronologically ordered fashion, undertaking a philosophical adventure through the major periods and epochs of intellectual and artistic change in the West. The list of subjects in the curriculum is impressive and brave, a grand intellectual sweeping story from ancient Greece to the Bible, taking in Western masterpieces in art and architecture, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and the philosophy of democracy.

This is what all publicly funded Australian universities should be doing. Instead, this gaping vacuum in Australia’s tertiary education sector is being filled with five-year bachelor degrees at two universities offered to 60 students and funded by a private bequest by businessman Paul Ramsay through the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

The University of Wollongong’s curriculum guide for this degree in Western civilisation says its aim is to “create articulate graduates who are critical, creative thinkers that embrace and respect open inquiry. Our students will become well-rounded, free thinkers with … the intellectual skills and social virtues needed for conducting reasoned discussion, analysis and argument … (skills) necessary for all capable future leaders and good citizens.”

Make no mistake, the intention of the Ramsay Centre is to shake up the entire university sector. When students see a tremendous new degree at a few universities, they will demand that same impressive education at more.

This could be a groundbreaking degree, a shard of intellectual light in a dismally stupid period of Western self-loathing when even Yale University is pulling its famous course, Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present. Course instructor Tim Barringer told the Yale Daily News that it is now problematic to put European art on a pedestal. Barringer’s new syllabus note says the course will now cover art in relation to “questions of gender, class and race and its involvement with Western capitalism”. “Its relationship with climate change will be a key theme,” Barringer wrote.

Now for the bad news. The fingerprints of the diversity and inclusion police, who are deeply anti-Western, wedded to identity politics and afraid of freethinking students, are all over the curriculum design document for Western civilisation degree at the University of Wollongong.

Why are they hanging their hat on this awful and confusing document? The curriculum guide reads like a narrative of a fierce battle between two forces. On one side are those promising a “bold, innovative initiative” that will offer students a “degree … unlike any other program of study currently offered at UOW”. On the frontline of the opposing side are diversity and inclusion police and other entrenched interests who seem determined to unwind, before it even starts, an exciting and new way to educate students about the story of Western civilisation.

For every short sentence in the curriculum that talks about a degree that “focuses centrally on the study of great works of Western civilisation” there are long paragraphs trying to refocus this degree on non-Western under-represented voices and perspec­tives. From a feminist retelling of the Iliad to the “golden age of Islam” there will apparently be myriad “opportunities for students to examine contemporary thinking on gender, race and class”. After another short sentence that promises “the BA WCiv’s predominant focus is on studying exemplary masterpieces of the West”, another 13 paragraphs promise to turn this innovative degree into the study about other cultures — something already on offer at just about every major Australian university.

One reference, in particular, blows the lid on how anti-Western ideologues aim to emasculate this new degree in Western civilisation. Drawing on the idea of a “great conversation” by American philosopher Robert Hutchins, the curriculum design document says it is “trying to cultivate sympathy in many ways”.

No serious high school history teacher, let alone a university professor, would talk about history in terms of trying to cultivate sympathy. At my public school in Adelaide I was lucky enough to have a brilliant history teacher in Year 10 who taught me that there is a world of difference between sympathy and empathy. History is not about feelings, he said. It is a study of people, ideas, facts and events to gain a sense of empathy about the past and its people. Empathy, not sympathy, provides a deep understanding of our history.

Maybe all this diversity and inclusion bumf was included as a superficial, and overblown, nod to placate the forces who tried to derail the course in a courtroom last year. Only time will tell.

But the very good people, the heroes, at Wollongong University who fought to bring this new degree to students should not misjudge the insidious influence of diversity activists embedded in university bureaucracies and academe. Neither should the Ramsay Centre and its board. Wollongong University’s Diversity and Inclusivity website says the school of liberal arts is fully committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in both its staff appointments and curriculum. It promises that the Ramsay-funded degree will “bring diverse voices and perspectives into the great conversation in half of the mandatory subjects … rather than relegating diverse voices to elective subjects”.

More superficial kowtowing? Once again, we will wait and watch. But it pays to remember that at universities across the country their history curriculums are saturated with teaching “diversity and inclusion” to the Orwellian point where they exclude, and denigrate, the teaching of Western civilisation in any kind of comprehensive, integrated, chrono­logically ordered program.

University of Sydney provost and deputy vice-chancellor Stephen Garton tried to make this point when negotiating with academics opposed to a Ramsay-funded degree in Western civilisation. But facts and reason were no match for the dogmatic zeal of his campus opponents.

In a statement last December, Ramsay Centre chief executive Simon Haines announced the end to negotiations after Sydney University’s revised attempt to secure $50m in funding. Haines said “the centre and its board had misgivings about the level of commitment of key stakeholders within the university in supporting the implementation of the curriculum and the associated scholarship program”.

Haines is not a man who resorts to hyperbole. His careful words are an indictment of the intellectual leadership of Sydney University vice-chancellor Mich­ael Spence.

No one should underestimate oppositional forces at UOW and UQ, or the intellectual leadership required at both universities to ensure that students embarking on this new degree are not subjected to the same tediously anti-Western dogma that drives the diversity and inclusion police. The peak union body for academics may be quiet now, but there are already signs that diversity and inclusion ideologues stand ready to sully these degrees. If they succeed, the Ramsay Centre will need to seriously rethink its noble aim to change things from within Australian universities.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

iPhones Are Not Accredited, So Why Are Colleges?

All of the iconic, popular consumer goods we buy, things like iPhones and iPods and Tesla electric cars, are not “accredited”—no governmental or other agency declares they are fit for public use, yet they are wildly popular expensive purchases by consumers, and watchdog organizations like Consumer Reports give us objective assessments of product quality and safety. Yet with university educational services, the assessments of school quality by news organizations like Forbes, U.S. News or the Wall Street Journal are not considered adequate, so accreditation organizations exist by the dozens, including several major regional accrediting groups evaluating whole institutions.

Two news stories reminded me that I needed to look again at accreditation. The first was that the Mother Superior of the accreditation mafia, Judith Eaton, is going to retire. Judith heads CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation), the umbrella group representing nearly all accreditation organizations. Judith has been an extremely effective spokesperson, and, full disclosure, good friend.

Then I read a routine story about members elected to the Executive Committee of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one of the nation’s regional accrediting agencies, serving universities in five states (including populous New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey), and some other territories (e.g, D.C., Puerto Rico). Of the seven members of the Executive Committee, six are or have been on the payrolls of schools that are accredited by Middle States (one representative works for NASA).

The college president, administrators or professors from College A serve on the board or an accreditation team this year and pass judgement on the worthiness of College B. Next year (or a few years thereafter), staff from College B will evaluate College A. Are you going to be especially tough in criticizing a school this year if representatives from that school might be evaluating you some day soon? HUGE conflicts of interest abound that would be impermissible in most human endeavors in the U.S.

Yet that is one of the lesser problems with our system of accreditation. Let me list several others. First, there are too many accrediting organizations—acceptable standards of the Middles States group operating in New York may differ somewhat from those of the Higher Education Commission operating in the industrial Midwest.

Second, the system is not very transparent: often the details in reports are not made public to avoid schools from being embarrassed. Related to that, accreditation is much like pass/fail grading, or for that matter, pregnancy—you either are accredited (passing grade) or are not (failing grade). Failing grades are exceedingly rare.

Third, this means little consumer information is disclosed, unlike with college rankings. Harvard has the same basic accreditation as nearby Bridgewater State, but no one thinks those institutions are remotely equal qualitatively.

Fourth, often accreditation has stressed inputs into the process of education rather than outcomes—for example, the number of library books or the college degrees of the faculty instead of whether the students have learned anything or have successful postgraduate careers.

Fifth, accreditation is a barrier to entry to providing higher education services and impedes innovation. For example, historically the accreditation agencies have approved schools, not courses, discouraging companies or institutions providing cheap or free courses to students.

Sixth, the system is rather costly. Beside institutional accreditation, most schools must endure additional accreditation in various academic subjects—the American Bar Association accredits law schools, for example, and the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) approves business schools. Most large schools have full-time administrative staff involved in accreditation approvals.

Seventh, accreditation is a way the federal government has used to increase its mostly unsuccessful regulation of higher education institutions. Individuals cannot receive federal student financial aid unless they attend an “accredited” institution, and, ultimately, the U.S. Department of Education itself “accredits” the accreditation agencies.

CHEA is part of the One DuPont Circle (Washington, D.C.) cabal that thinks it speaks for higher education in America but which in fact, by its constraining of competition, has robbed it of some of its vitality and diversity. It is the decentralized nature of American colleges that increases choice and competition, and accreditation as it works today detracts from it. It needs to be abolished or radically reformed.


Harsh medicine to fix America’s universities

Summary: I have written hundreds of posts about ways to reform American politics. Time has shown these are inadequate – and that more extreme measures are necessary as the Left remolds America – and the Right serves the 1%, Measures are needed beyond the imagination of Boomer reformers. Now a new generation arises with bigger imaginations. Perhaps they can put their ideas into action. Here is one example, looking at America’s broken universities.


From the birth of the modern conservative movement, dissidents concerned with civic and liberal education have tried almost everything to reshape America’s universities: from refusing to donate to their alma maters (as William F. Buckley prescribed), to funding tenure-track positions, forming independent centers on campuses to host outside speakers, organizing external supplementary seminars to make up for what students do not get in the classroom, and creating new academic departments. Despite 70 years of increasingly sophisticated efforts, conservatives are now begging on many campuses merely to be heard.

America’s universities have been progressivism’s most important asset, its crown jewel. For over half a century, they have served as the left’s R&D headquarters and the intellectual origin or dissemination point for the political and moral transformation of the nation, especially through the sexual revolution and the identity-politics revolution. Universities have trained the new elites who have taken society’s helm and now set its tone through the other institutions thoroughly dominated by the left: the mainstream press, mass entertainment, Fortune 500s, and tech companies.

Universities have also brought to rural and suburban America these moral revolutions, converting generations of young people to their cause. Universities are arguably the most important institution in modern democracy – no other institution has such power to determine the fate of democracy, for good or ill. …

Regrettably, they are no longer animated by their original purpose of serving republican self-government or the freedom of the mind. As such, they must be treated as political entities.

That the freedom of speech is under attack on many campuses should not be surprising, given that the freedom of the mind, of which speech is the expression, is rarely understood as their purpose any longer. Without that purpose, most American universities no longer serve the public good for which they were created and for which they continue to be publicly funded. Their transformation, which in turn has led to the transformation of the nation, has taken place with the unwitting assistance of American taxpayers – and amounts to defrauding the public. If citizens are compelled to pay for others to go to college, it should be to the benefit of the entire nation – forming good citizens and advancing useful sciences, rather than teaching the rising generation that the nation is irredeemably evil.

Taxpayers have funded the research, bankrolled the student loans (including generous forgiveness programs), and allowed the universities and their enormous endowments to operate without paying taxes. These funding sources are the operational life blood of universities, but they can no longer be justified. In fact, it seems likely that the nation would be better off if the vast majority of America’s more than 3,000 colleges and universities closed down.

An executive order signed by President Trump on March 21, 2019, gives administrators in 12 executive-branch agencies that issue research grants broad discretion to withhold funding from universities that suppress “free inquiry” and “undermine learning.” This is a worthwhile half-step to chastening them. But given where things stand, bolder, more aggressive action is needed. If the universities are going to be rebuilt, only external force, rather than pleading or slight policy modifications, will work. Success in this could bring generational change. …

Today, these three {functions of universities} are either corrupted or on their way to corruption in the great majority of America’s universities. In their …open rebellion against these ends, America’s universities too often create students in the opposite vein: ideologues with technical skills, despisers of tradition without insight (not to mention wisdom), or scientists without perspective. These problems are hardly new and have been the centerpiece of the conservative critique of higher education for more than half a century. What is new, however, is the thoroughness of the corruption, the impossibility at this point of changing course through conventional means, and the extent of the pernicious effects of these institutions on the nation as a whole. …

The physical sciences: the next dominoes to fall.

…Should the identity revolution fully impose itself on the sciences – among the last places in universities where the freedom of the mind still excels and is celebrated – they will wither on the branch as have the social sciences and the humanities, with untold losses to our national wealth, power, and prestige. This corrosion will be slow and hidden from the public eye, but likely irreversible once it is visible to all. …We should not assume that science will prosper forever in the absence of the right intellectual conditions. …

{There are alternatives.} The federal government could pay to transfer the laboratories and scientists – or fund the creation of new national laboratories. While this sounds radical, and although there is disagreement among conservatives, it is less radical than tolerating what is already taking place. While it is bad to interrupt scientific research in such a way, it is worse and more dangerous to maintain institutions working to sink the nation while hiding behind the prestige of science. The goal, again, is to make universities serve their fundamental purpose, which at this point can be done only by rebuilding them after they are significantly weakened.

Renewal by fire.

What suicidal nation would continue to publicly fund institutions that intentionally or even semi-consciously undermine the strength and unity of the society that protects them? …

{As} fewer and fewer graduate from colleges, the employment ecosystem and America’s moral horizon would change for the better. Most practical degree programs can return to apprenticeship models. One does not need a four-year college degree to pass a Certified Public Accounting exam. Furthermore, the shortage of working-class labor in America is used to lobby for the importation of immigrants. Few Americans want to hang sheetrock after attending college. While having learned very little in classes, they have, however, often acquired a classist snobbery (and massive debt) that looks down on such labor – even if the wages for it might be higher than for the white-collar jobs to which they aspire.

Reforms like these would be catastrophic for key elements of the existing model of higher education in America. But they could be enormously helpful to forms of higher education that actually serve the nation and fulfill the purpose of the university. …

The purpose of such proposals is not punitive. It is simple sense. Universities that spread poisonous doctrines no longer believe in the purpose of the university. While it is their right to disagree with this purpose, they should not be the beneficiaries of public funds. No society should be expected to subsidize its own corrosion.

Editor’s afterword

Much of our educational system was created to establish class hierarchies, such as the “liberal arts degree.” Students sit in lectures, a format created in the 11th century – 400 years before the printing press, when books were expensive and rare. They listen to material which most will have forgotten soon after they graduate, and which has little or no effect on their either their personal lives or careers. On this they spend two to four of the best, the most high-energy years of their lives. Their first crucial years away from home are spent in a highly regulated environment, when they could be earning money and learning independence.

Tens of billions of dollars are wasted on this system, money that could be more fruitfully used elsewhere. This is a prime example of cultural senescence, a society’s inability to reform its workings to rationally meet its needs.


Professor who sued his college for violating his religious freedom after it disciplined him for repeatedly misgendering a transgender student has his lawsuit dismissed

An appeal may follow. The ADF often goes all the way to SCOTUS -- with frequent success

A federal judge dismissed a professor's lawsuit against a small, publicly funded university in Ohio that reprimanded him for refusing to address a transgender female student using the student's preferred gender terms.

Nicholas Meriwether's lawsuit alleged that Shawnee State University officials violated his constitutionally protected rights by compelling him to speak in a way that contradicts his Christian beliefs.

Schools officials contended that such language was part of his job responsibilities, not speech protected by the First Amendment, and that the case should be dismissed.

US District Judge Susan Dlott threw out the lawsuit last week, agreeing that the manner in which Meriwether addressed the student, known in the complaint as 'Jane Doe,' wasn't protected under the First Amendment.

'The Court concludes that Meriwether failed to state a claim for violation of his rights under the United States Constitution,' Dlott wrote in her ruling, as cited by Metro Weekly. 'His speech — the manner by which he addressed a transgender student — was not protected under the First Amendment.'

Meriwether, who had taught philosophy at Shawnee State for two decades, had received a written warning for violating the school's nondiscrimination policy and unsuccessfully challenged his reprimand in a grievance process. Meriwether said he treated the student like 'other biologically male students' and continued referring to the student as 'Mr.'

Shawnee State University a small, publicly funded university in Ohio, where Meriwether had taught philosophy or 20 years    +3
Shawnee State University a small, publicly funded university in Ohio, where Meriwether had taught philosophy or 20 years

In November 2019, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative law firm based in Arizona specializing in cases involving 'religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family,' filed the federal lawsuit on Meriwether's behalf.

'In January 2018, a male student demanded that Dr. Meriwether address him as a woman because he identified as such and threatened to have Dr. Meriwether fired if he declined,' the lawsuit, the text of which was obtained by NBC News, read.

'To accede to these demands would have required Dr. Meriwether to communicate views regarding gender identity that he does not hold, that he does not wish to communicate, and that would contradict (and force him to violate) his sincerely held Christian beliefs.'

The lawsuit alleged that the university 'punished' Meriwether for 'expressing views that differ from its own orthodoxy and for declining to express its mandated ideological message.'

'Continuing in their role as the self-appointed grammar police, Defendants threaten to punish him again if he continues to express his views,' the lawsuit read.

'Under their policies, all professors must refer to each student - both in and out of class - using whatever pronouns the student claims reflect his gender identity.'

Meriwether argued in his complaint that 'the number of potential gender identities is infinite' and that there are 'over one hundred different options currently available.'

Following last week's ruling, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which interceded on behalf of the transgender student during the proceedings, released a statement addressing the lawsuit's dismissal. 

'We are pleased the Court affirmed that schools can ensure that all students are able to learn and the access educational opportunities available to all students without fear of discrimination,' it stated.  


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Race-Centered Narratives Obscure the Problems of College Sports

National discussions of college athletics routinely emphasize race. That emphasis, however, is unfortunate because it diverts attention from issues that affect all student-athletes. Also, discussions of race in college sports commonly rely on questionable statistics.

Some of those statistics come from a report by Shaun Harper, head of the Center on Race and Equity at the University of Southern California. His report makes the case that big-money college athletics exploits black male athletes—or, as Harper’s Washington Post op-ed read, “Black Men Will Play and White Men Will Profit.”

Harper’s report provides useful data on graduation rates of black male athletes at major schools, including changes in those rates (or lack thereof) over the last decade. However, while many news outlets have treated the report as scholarship, it is not peer-reviewed. Furthermore, the report’s analysis of its own data is misleading in three key ways.

First, the report claims that black males are over-represented on sports rosters at major universities compared to the student body in general. That is true, but the report under-represents black men on campus by comparing men’s sports rosters to student bodies directly. Men’s rosters exclude women, meaning that even if every male student were black, men’s sports rosters would be 100 percent black men, while the student body would be only 50 percent black men.

Furthermore, the disparity owes more to the large number of elite black athletes than to the small number of black students. As outlined elsewhere, less than a fifth of the disparity is due to low enrollment of black students compared to the overall population. The disparity is largely an illusory problem—yet it is a major focus of Harper’s report.

The report also misinterprets the academic records of black athletes. In one case, it describes the low graduation rates of black male athletes as “shocking” and implies that athletics hinders black athletes’ academic pursuits. There is a simpler, if unfortunate, explanation: Graduation rates tend to be lower when a student is black, male, or an athlete, and especially when a student is all three.

For example, the same dataset that Harper cites shows that black students graduate 12 percent less often than white students, that male students graduate 5 percent less often than female students, and that white male athletes graduate 10 percent less often than white male students. Simple addition of those effects is 27 percent, which is similar to the 25 percent difference in graduation rates between black male athletes and white women in the student bodies (55 percent vs. 80 percent). Figures like that one call into question the unique plight of the black male athlete per se.

Finally, the report does not fully investigate one of its main points: The academic costs of being an elite athlete. The report cites the NCAA’s well-publicized claim that black male athletes graduate at higher rates than other black male students at Division I schools. The report then notes that the trend reverses at schools in top-level athletics, and implies that athletes graduate less often than non-athletes because of poorer academic performance.

That implication is misleading. Black male athletes graduate at similar rates—about 55 percent—at all levels of Division I schools (major conferences, mid-major conferences, or elsewhere). Instead, the reversal reflects the black athletes’ classmates: At schools that play big-money sports, black athletes are not worse students, but their black classmates are better students. Unsurprisingly, the Universities of Michigan and Texas admit different students than Eastern Michigan University and the University of Texas-El Paso. The report ignores that important context.

To be sure, college athletics programs have their problems, ranging from astronomical coaching salaries to player compensation to genuine academic misconduct. However, those problems transcend race. For example, the over-representation of black athletes, coupled with their poor graduation rates, appears to highlight preferential admissions policies for all athletes. Also, those rates may reflect the difficulties of balancing schoolwork and big-money athletics—just not in the way Harper’s report intends. Being an athlete correlates with a bigger drop in graduation rates for white males than for black males.

To be sure, college athletics programs have their problems…however, those problems transcend race.
None of that matches a narrative centered on race. Instead, the numbers suggest that race is one of several factors that affect athletes.

The recurring focus on race in college athletics by the media reveals an unfortunate pattern: The faulty conclusion that any racial inequity necessarily signals oppression or exploitation. In other spheres of American life, perhaps that is a reasonable starting point. However, in a popular, voluntary activity such as college sports, a deeper look at the statistics reveals that inequities may have other explanations. In general, oppression may require inequity, but inequity does not require oppression.

The fact that so many college football and men’s basketball players are black is probably a byproduct of other phenomena, such as disparity in athletic talent, that are seemingly beside the point. As evidence, consider that countless young white men would gladly take black men’s roster spots at major universities if given the chance. Also, black men are often over-represented at lower levels of college athletics where nobody makes much money at all. Again, those considerations point away from a narrative of exploitation with race at its center.

Are elite college athletes exploited by (predominantly white) men earning millions of dollars? Perhaps. But if we want to defend the majority of big-money athletes—in this case, black men—then we should defend all athletes, regardless of race.

The choice to focus on race risks losing arguments about college athletics entirely: A more inclusive approach would not only lack the statistical flaws outlined here, but may also be better received by the public and catalyze more public pressure. In this way, focusing on race may be counterproductive, even from the narrow perspective of helping black athletes.

Of course, race is certainly a non-trivial part of many athletes’ college experiences and should not be ignored. But acknowledging something is different from focusing on it. When presenting broad arguments about economics and education in athletics, perhaps we should consider losing the race.


Did You Know? As Tuition Goes Up, Some Colleges Freeze or Cut Prices

Private colleges that compete with public schools are scrambling to find a way to keep attracting students. To do so, freezing or lowering tuition rates have grown in popularity to bring in cost-conscious young people. Colleges such as St John’s in Maryland and New Mexico, Wells College in New York, and Utica College in New York have made major budget cuts to lower their tuition.

Tuition freezes keep tuition at a plateau for a set number of years. Expenses for room and board, though, can still increase. When a private school instead opts for a tuition cut, such as Wells College, the one-time cuts are usually more dramatic: Tuition can fall by 20 percent to 50 percent. Students rarely paid the full advertised price (the sticker price), so by cutting tuition, students and their parents don’t experience such “sticker shock.”

Cuts don’t always make college more affordable, though: financial aid is often cut simultaneously. It can still be difficult for lower- and middle-income students to afford a private school. The initial publicity of cutting tuition rates can boost enrollment because a school looks cheaper. When the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky announced a 57 percent tuition cut for the 2019-2020 school year, it dropped the small Baptist university’s advertised tuition from $23,000 to just $9,875 per year.

The tuition cut approach is not yet dominant. Between 2006 and 2017, the average private college increased its tuition by 29 percent, according to the College Board.

When they happen, though, tuition cuts can hide other costs. Albright College in Pennsylvania announced a 45 percent tuition cut starting in 2019, dropping tuition from $44,206 to $24,500. Although they cut tuition, Albright stated that “they increased the room, board, and student services fee for all students, thus, a number of current students still see an increase in overall cost.” And when Utica lowered their tuition by $14,000 in 2016, president Laura Casamento noted that “nearly three-quarters of our families were telling us that we were too expensive.” The school then attempted to price the tuition slightly more than the price of a public school.

While tuition cuts are becoming popular within private colleges, tuition freezes are happening at public universities.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education approved a tuition freeze to keep in-state tuition at $7,716 across the system’s 14 universities. According to Inside Higher Ed, it was the second tuition freeze in the system’s past 36 years. Virginia’s public colleges also announced a tuition freeze for the 2019-2020 school year; The Washington Post noted that it was the “first such tuition freeze in nearly two decades.” UNC-Chapel Hill also announced a tuition freeze for the 2019-2020 school year to keep prices low.

Some universities increase tuition and fees before freezing it. Ohio State University raised its tuition and fees by 3.3 percent, then froze it for the next four years. The university also increased aid so that “students with high financial need are unaffected by the change,” according to a press release.

Though a tuition cut or freeze might look like a win for students, it’s not always the full story. Students, parents, and the media need to ask whether fees, student services, and financial aid are changing as well. Otherwise, the real cost may not be dropping as much as a college claims it is.


Christian Colleges Are Worth the Investment

In his recent article, “Are Christian Colleges Worth the Debt Burden?” Douglas Oliver argues that Christian colleges have a responsibility to reduce the tuition they charge their students to avoid excessive borrowing. He invokes a version of the Bennett Hypothesis, stating that “the business model for most Christian colleges is based on high levels of student debt” and that “Christian colleges need to ‘walk the walk’ by discouraging their students from taking out large life-altering levels of debt.”

Oliver states that, as a group, Christian colleges have 1) lower-than-average default rates, 2) lower graduation rates, and 3) average long-term earnings for alumni.

While I share Oliver’s concern for students who drop out of college with onerous debt levels, that is not a phenomenon unique to Christian colleges.

I believe that students fare better at Christian colleges, both the well-prepared and those with lesser preparation or ability. I also believe that, rather than being motivated to raise tuition due to the availability of student loans, market forces push Christian colleges (and all private colleges) to control the net costs incurred by students and families. That effort has led to relatively flat loan levels over the past decade.

The default-rate advantage for Christian colleges (3.5 percentage points lower than non-Christian colleges) is significant. The student loan repayment rate at Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions is 73.8 percent vs. the national average of 64.5 percent. Apart from one outlier, all 129 U.S.-based CCCU schools have default rates well under 20 percent, and 87 percent are under the national average of 10.1 percent.

Even though the national four-year private college group includes Ivy League schools such as Harvard, over half (54 percent) of CCCU schools have default rates below the national average for private, non-profit four-year colleges. I attribute that result both to the character of our students and the counsel they receive from their Christian college financial aid personnel.

A discussion of graduation rates requires nuance. Graduation rates are a function of the size and selectivity of a school as well as the academic preparation of the students. The latest data (the cohort entering in fall 2011) shows that the national average 6-year grad rate is 59 percent for CCCU schools and 64 percent for non-CCCU four-year, non-profit private schools. But that latter metric includes Harvard and 68 other schools with enrollments of over 10,000 students with a weighted average six-year grad rate of nearly 75 percent. By contrast, only two CCCU schools are so large.

A more meaningful comparison would be to compare schools with small-to-medium-sized enrollments. For schools with enrollments under 5,000 students, the weighted average six-year grad rates are similar—56.9 percent for CCCU schools and 58.6 percent for non-CCCU schools. When looking at the smallest schools (under 1,000 students), the 27 CCCU schools have a weighted average six-year grad rate of 46.5 percent, higher than 43.1 percent for non-CCCU schools.

But why should grad rates be lower at smaller schools? That has to do with the mission of the schools and the diverse populations they serve. Fifty years ago, when I enrolled at Bethel University, a small Christian college, most families sent their children to the school for a grounding in their faith before transferring to a larger school to complete a specialized major not on offer. The six-year grad rate hovered around 40 percent. Since then, the school has grown, added majors, and maintains a grad rate approaching 75 percent.

Our smallest Christian colleges are much like the school I attended a half-century ago. Mostly denominational and operating on modest budgets, they serve a higher share of low-income and first-generation students. Nonetheless, they maintain a higher grad rate than comparable secular private non-profit colleges. Many of their “dropouts” transfer elsewhere and complete their degrees.

Alumni earnings data for colleges have become more available in recent years, and it shows that Christian colleges have similar salary outcomes. For earnings outcomes, Christian colleges do well, especially considering that their comparison group includes elite schools and Christian college graduates gravitate toward lower-earning service professions (12.7 percent of CCCU grads pursue careers in human services vs. 4.2 percent from all four-year institutions).

Oliver states that “Many Christian colleges, given that they rely on tuition revenue, have an incentive to encourage more debt. To change their incentives, Christian colleges need to find a funding model that’s less reliant on tuition revenue or reduce expenses so students can avoid taking on too much debt.”

Yet, rather than encouraging debt, I have found while consulting at Christian colleges and speaking with financial officers that schools do all they can to advise students to avoid excessive debt. Good debt counseling is taught at the Ron Blue Institute for Financial Planning, which was founded at Indiana Wesleyan University and has spread to other campuses. Christian colleges are limited in stopping students from taking debt, however: In most cases, schools that participate in Title IV government aid programs may not refuse to endorse government loan applications for which the student is eligible.

Christian schools are acutely aware of the impact of debt on their students and are taking several steps to control the cost of a Christian college education. Very few have substantial endowments with which to “subsidize” tuition. For Christian donors, I encourage them to consider establishing endowment funds to help needy and deserving students. Without additional funding sources, Christian colleges are scaling back expenses, which has kept the median net cost of a CCCU college between $20,000 and $21,000.

Adjusting for inflation, the median net cost of attending a CCCU college is less today than it was 7 years ago. As a result, annual student borrowing has plateaued, as has the total debt of graduates.

I agree with Oliver that prospective college students should be wise in their college selection process, considering their career goals, academic preparedness, and financial situation. Colleges have a responsibility to provide clear information on the advantages and costs of their school. In the end, though, I maintain that a Christian college is often the best choice for a young person seeking to mature in their faith and make it their own.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Boston Public Schools graduation rates drop

They are obsessed with overcoming the gap between black and white educational achievement.  But nobody knows how to do that.  So they keep trying their old failed recipe:  Getting blacks enrolled in white schools, which just makes it harder for the black kids.  They see whites achieving what they cannot. And the whites have to take a back seat while teachers work on the blacks.  The end result is that the education of both racial groups is damaged.

Conservatives could have told them that but now their results have told him that. Not only has the gap worsened but EVERYBODY has done less well

The gap between the percentage of Black and white students graduating high school in Boston widened dramatically last year, as the city’s overall graduation rate declined for the first time in more than a decade, according to newly released state data.

Of the 4,347 students in the Class of 2019, 73.2 percent earned a diploma within four years of starting ninth grade. That rate was notably lower than for the Class of 2018, which saw 75.1 percent of students earn diplomas within four years.

The decline comes as Massachusetts officials conduct their first comprehensive review of the Boston system in a decade, with members of the state education board urging Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to take aggressive steps to address low performance in the state’s largest school system. The drop in graduation rates will probably add more urgency to those calls.

“I wish the news today was better, but I’m a firm believer that we can’t make progress if we don’t fully face the facts,” said Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius in a statement. “The fact is, we have more work to do to help more students earn their diplomas.”

Cassellius, who took over as superintendent one month after the Class of 2019 graduated, said overhauling high schools is a top priority. In the coming months, for instance, she intends to present the Boston School Committee with a proposal to have high schools adopt MassCore, a state-recommended set of courses that align with admission requirements to state universities and include such measures as four years of math and a minimum of five electives — an area where many Boston high schools fall short.

BPS officials have repeatedly stressed they are working to reduce achievement gaps among students of different backgrounds, but the new graduation rate data reveal that the racial disparity in high school graduates widened notably.

Specifically, the four-year high school graduation rates for Black students dropped from 76.4 percent in 2018 to 71.9 percent last year. By contrast, the four-year graduation rate for white students increased from 80.6 percent in 2018 to 81.9 in 2019.

Consequently, the gulf in graduation rates between Black and white students has more than doubled, resulting in a 10-percentage-point divide.

“I’m disheartened to hear these numbers,” said the Rev. Willie Bodrick II of the Boston Network of Black Student Achievement, who also serves on a School Committee task force on opportunity and achievement gaps. “This is not acceptable and needs to change. … Why does there continue to be an exacerbation of the gaps?”

Latino students continued to record the lowest graduation rates among the system’s racial groups. The portion of Latinos earning diplomas dropped more than a half percentage point in 2019, to 67 percent. Their rate lags white students by 15 percentage points and Asian students by nearly 25 percentage points.

Moreover, graduation rates for Black and Latino students in Boston significantly trailed statewide averages for the demographic groups. Statewide, 79.9 percent of Black students earned a diploma within four years, while 74.4 percent of Latino students did.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said the declining rates and the widening gulfs among racial groups is alarming.

“The numbers speak for themselves: BPS is not meaningfully supporting students of color so they can graduate from high school, let alone college,” he said. “BPS must dedicate more resources to close achievement and graduation gaps across diverse student populations. The failure to do so traps students of color in a cycle of poverty and hardship.”

City Councilor Michelle Wu said the school system has reached “a breaking point for acknowledging how systemic the issues are and how urgently they need to be fixed.”

“The time for little patches here and there or experimenting with a new program at a small set of schools… has long passed,” she said in an interview. “We need to accept the reality that the system itself so deeply needs equity and reform across the board. We need to have the will to make changes for all our high school students, not just for some of them.”

In visiting high schools across the city last year, Wu said she was struck by the glaring disparities, from the physical condition of the buildings, to the level of resources the schools had, to the opportunities students were given.

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who released a plan last year calling for overhauling the city’s high schools, called the growing disparity in graduation rates disturbing.

“Our BPS students deserve better and we need a real plan to fix this,” she said in an e-mail.

Riley, the state education commissioner, declined to comment.

The last time Boston experienced a decline in its high school graduation rate was in 2007, when the rate dropped more than 1 percentage point from the previous year to 57.9 percent, according to state data. Since then the portion of high school students earning diplomas climbed steadily, except for 2013 when the district recorded the same rate as the previous year.

Boston School Committee Chairman Michael Loconto said the system has already begun to take steps to overhaul high schools,stressing high school reform is a top priority. “I am confident that the release of this data will only strengthen the district’s resolve to increase rigor across our schools, support additional improvements in our dropout rate, and improve educational outcomes for all of our students,” Loconto said in a statement.

Across the state, 88 percent of the 75,000 students who should have graduated last spring earned diplomas, nearly identical to the rate in 2018 of 87.9 percent. Results were more mixed among the state’s smaller cities.

Brockton, Lowell, and Springfield, for instance, declined overall; Worcester was relatively stagnant; and New Bedford climbed dramatically from 58.6 percent in 2018 to 71.9 percent last year.

Springfield officials focused on the positives in announcing their results Friday. In a press release, they noted that their high school drop-out rate hit an all-time low at 4.4 percent, representing a more than 50 percent reduction over seven years. Officials also singled out individual high schools for praise in raising graduation rates over that seven-year period.

“We want every single student to stay in school so we will keep working hard towards that goal,” said Springfield Superintendent Daniel Warwick in a statement.

Cassellius also highlighted bright spots in the data for Boston, noting the school system’s five-year graduation rate continued to climb, an encouraging indication that students are not giving up on a diploma even after their classmates have graduated and moved onto college. For the Class of 2018, that means 80 percent of students who started high school in fall 2014 earned a diploma within five years, five percentage points higher than the four-year rate.

“We’re becoming more effective at helping students who need a little more time and support to cross the finish line,” Cassellius said.


UK: Selina Todd and the rise of academic mobs. Academia used to be about open debate. No longer

A female professor is invited to a university to speak about social class. This is bound to go down well with left-leaning academics who measure gender equality down to the nearest penny, right? Apparently not. Next month, Selina Todd is due to speak at the University of Kent as part of a series of public lectures organised by the School of English. In response, an open letter is now circulating, signed by academics and students from Kent and around the world, demanding Todd’s invitation be withdrawn.

Todd is a historian who specialises in the lives of women and the working class. She has dared to suggest that ‘women who posed as men in the past were often lesbians seeking to protect themselves, or because they wanted to do jobs that were only available to men’. Unless we are to assume that every woman who donned a pair of trousers back in the Victorian era was actually a transgender man, over a century before the notion of being transgender had even been invented, this is hardly a controversial view.

Todd’s crime is aligning with gender-critical feminists who believe that a person with a penis is a man and that, while all people should be treated with respect, a man can call himself a transgender woman all he likes, but can never become an actual, biological female just by saying so. Gender-critical feminists are particularly concerned that self-identification might mean an end to female-only spaces or undermine women’s rights. For simply wanting to discuss this, they are labelled transphobes. Todd, having received death threats, now has bodyguards accompany her to lectures.

The open letter to Kent’s School of English is a word-soup of woke cliches, pomposity and tortured academese. It kicks off by stating:

‘We believe that the message that our hosting of Selina Todd sends to trans and non-binary students and staff in the university, our students who are trans and non-binary allies, and our trans and non-binary future applicants is that the school, and more broadly the university, believes that trans identity is “up for discussion”.’

Note the sneering quote marks: how outrageous that anything could be ‘up for discussion’ in a university of all places! But Todd was not even invited to speak about transgender people; the signatories just don’t want her appearing on campus at all. Her very presence is a heresy to the orthodoxy promoted by the transgender movement. Rather than discussing or questioning their ideas we are simply to get in line and repeat their every edict. Black is white. Two plus two equals five. A man who utters the magic words ‘I am a woman’ is a woman.

The letter continues: ‘The English Keynote Lecture series is designed to represent and reflect the attitude, politics and image of the School of English and, by extension, the university.’ But universities, as institutions, are not supposed to have a political position on any issue. Doing so would be antithetical to education; it would suggest that research and teaching must lead to certain pre-determined and incontestable conclusions. It is not the University of Kent, nor the School of English, but the letter-writers themselves who have a closed-minded hostility to difference of opinion.

They go on: ‘The power dynamics of providing a platform to Selina Todd in the name of “academic free speech” means putting trans and non-binary members of our community into the position of having to defend their right to exist.’ This time the scare quotes imply academic freedom is just an excuse for bigotry and suggest that ‘providing a platform’ means far more than simply facilitating a discussion. To substantiate the melodrama of people being forced to defend their existence, they turn to the High Priestess of Academic Wokeness, Sara Ahmed, and her claim that ‘there cannot be a dialogue when some at the table are, in effect or intent, arguing for the elimination of others at the table’. This is truly bonkers. Do the signatories really think that Todd is arguing for the ‘elimination’ of people who describe themselves as transgender? Do they assume that those listening to a lecture on social class will rise up, grab pitchforks and go on a violent rampage against transgender people?

But they continue: ‘The idea that trans people are a threat to women… is a false and harmful narrative.’ All false and harmful? What about Karen White, the male rapist who identified as a woman and sexually assaulted women in prison? What about the male-bodied transgender women who have physically attacked women trying to discuss the Gender Recognition Act? Or women who spend years training to compete in elite sporting contests only to be pushed into second place by men who identify as women? Or the 13-year-old girl currently seeking a judicial review against Oxfordshire County Council because she has to share school toilets and changing rooms with members of the opposite sex. Seriously? The harms inflicted upon these women count for nothing?

The letter-writers soon get to the crux of their problem with Todd: ‘Her views refuse to acknowledge that trans women ARE women, that trans women’s rights ARE women’s rights.’ Todd’s crime is a thoughtcrime. She refuses to chant along with the new orthodoxy spelt out in capital letters for those of us too stupid to read lower case. Perhaps the signatories to the open letter would like to make a bonfire out of biology textbooks. And then perhaps they can burn the witch, too. Because that’s what this open letter really is: a demand for people to pile on and cancel the latest heretic found on campus.

Things could be worse. Given the apparent global reach of the letter, it hasn’t yet garnered thousands of signatures. Many of those who have signed are not academics. Some are students tragically learning censorship at the feet of their professors. Some are professionals employed in quasi-academic roles, paid to manage diversity. The job titles of others (reader in law and social justice; co-director of the Centre for Sexuality, Race and Gender Justice; lecturer in feminist philosophy) reveal the extent to which the boundary between scholarship and political advocacy has been eroded.

It is tempting to call on government ministers to intervene and enforce academic freedom. But with some lecturers intent on deriding free speech in order to enforce political orthodoxies, this would be a futile gesture. Worse, it would further erode academic freedom as decisions about who gets to speak on campus are taken out of the hands of professors and students. What’s really needed is for academics to stand up for free speech – and to understand that this means allowing a platform for speakers they might vehemently disagree with. So good on the University of Kent for standing firm and keeping Selina Todd’s invitation open. Let’s hope they don’t buckle under the weight of a few signatures.


Australia: 'What a pathetic joke... absolutely disgusting': Parents' fury as a Perth school bans CUPCAKES at birthday celebrations for 'cultural reasons'

Parents have lashed out at a primary school after its principal said students weren't able to bring cupcakes and lolly bags to class to celebrate their birthday. 

Arbor Grove Primary School in Ellenbrook, Perth issued a letter to parents saying the food would no longer be allowed due to health and cultural reasons.

Principal Glen Purdy said students who brought in unhealthy food items would have their stash confiscated by their teacher and returned at the end of the day.

In the lengthy letter warning parents of the new rule, Mr Purdy said the ban was due to an increasing amount of students with allergies as well as the 'cultural diversity' of its students.

'Whilst teachers at Arbor Grove are happy to celebrate the birthdays of students in the classroom, we must do so in the most inclusive, practical and appropriate way,' he said.

'During our deliberations we have been mindful of the increasing number of students with food allergies and intolerances, the cultural diversity of the school and the beliefs and traditions of these cultures.

'As of Monday 17 February we would ask that parents no longer send students with cupcakes, lolly bags or other unhealthy options for students to share with their classmates for their birthdays.'

The principal said that while it wasn't a 'universally popular decision' it would help avoid the risk of a child suffering a 'life threatening health issue' if they had any allergies.

Mr Purdy also said the rules were 'respectful to the cultural diversity within the school', which has students from 14 different nationalities.

The letter was flooded with criticism from parents, with some saying they should have been able to vote before the ban was put in place.

'Why didn’t they ask the parents to vote? Out of a school over 500 students, let’s say 125 are of cultural difference. What ever happened to majority rules. Man I’m p****d,' one mother said in a parents Facebook page for the school.

'Absolutely disgusting. There are a lot more important issues this school should be concerned about & trying to fix NOT STOPPING OUR KIDS FROM BEING KIDS,' another parent wrote.

'What a pathetic joke of a school. Bowing to the minorities once again!!! This school should be ashamed of itself!' someone commented.

Many were outraged that they had to change Australian traditions to meet those of other cultures.

'So we can send the kids to school with healthy/toy loot bags and that would still be deemed as breaching cultural diversities? I’m calling racism and unfairness on our Aussie traditions here and I am extremely offended by this action,' a father said.

'I don’t put my children through our Australian school to be told that we have to abide by other beliefs, traditions and cultures against and over our very own. It is bloody Australia and we have traditions of our own.'

'Don’t even get me started... so it’s okay to sell soft drinks at a school disco for fundraising but not ok to bring a cupcake to school for a birthday,' a mother wrote.

One parent suggested children be allowed to bring in non-food items like balls or coloured pencils. 'It would be a very sad day when a child is not allowed to celebrate their birthday at school,' they said.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Response From A Campus Conservative

by Philippe Lemoine

Leslie Green, professor of philosophy at Oxford, recently published a post on his blog called “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative”. I said elsewhere that I have rarely come across anything that was both condescending and stupid to the extent this post is, but that’s not exactly true, because I have already heard the kind of things Green says in this post countless times in conversation.

The only difference is that he lacked the good sense not to write it down. I could also have added that his post was incredibly tone-deaf, something that should be obvious to anyone who is familiar with the reasons conservatives have to complain about how they are being treated on campus, which Green evidently isn’t. It was also featured as a guest post on Daily Nous, where it drew a lot of criticism in the comments. (On Daily Nous, the post’s title was changed to “Because they are universities”, which somehow manages to make it even more condescending than it already was.) Given how much criticism this post has already received, if I were a better man, I may have just left it at that. But I’m not, so I won’t. Moreover, this will be the occasion to make a few points about the left-wing bias in academia, which I think are important.

Green claims that, when conservatives complain that universities have been taken over by “liberals” and that faculty/students of “conservative” opinion are afraid to speak up (I’ll come back to the significance of the fact that he put scare quotes around both “liberal” and “conservative”), what they mean is that universities are full of people who believe things like:

*Species arose through natural selection.

*No author of any gospel ever met Jesus.

*Homosexuality is a normal variant in human behaviour.

*The United States lost a war against Vietnam.

*Human activity is a significant cause of climate change.

*The United States has worse public health than do countries with nationalized health care.

Even more threatening to conservatives, according to Green, is that people at universities insist that belief should be proportionate to evidence and formed in a rational way. (Note that, at this point, there are no more scare quotes around the word “conservative”.) This is a pretty common explanation of both why conservatives are underrepresented in academia and why they complain about the way they are being treated. It’s also remarkably ignorant and stupid.

First, although several of the examples Green mentions, such as the belief that species arose through natural selection, are indeed clearly true, not all of them are. Not only is the claim that the US has worse public health than countries with nationalized health care not a “banal truth”, as Green calls it on his blog, but it’s not a truth at all. For instance, healthcare in Russia is largely provided by the state and the Constitution states that every citizen has a right to free healthcare, but public health in Russia is definitely not better than in the US. Perhaps Green was just talking about countries that not only have nationalized healthcare, but are comparable to the US in terms of economic development. Although this may be true, it’s a rather uninteresting claim unless they have better public health than the US because they have nationalized health care, so I’m guessing that it’s what Green meant and it’s indeed a widely shared belief on American campuses. The problem is that it’s hardly obvious, because there are large differences in lifestyle between Americans and people in other developed countries where healthcare is nationalized, which could explain the difference in health outcomes.

I’m not even saying it’s not true that a nationalized healthcare system would improve public health in the US. (I’m personally agnostic on that question. Not because I’m not familiar with the evidence, but precisely because I am, which I’m afraid is more than I can say about Green. Moreover, as I explained a few months ago, public health is not the only consideration in this debate.) I’m just saying that, if you think reasonable people can’t disagree about that, it’s either because you’re a fool or because you’re not familiar with the evidence and the methodological difficulties that are involved in settling this question. I’ll let you decide which is the most likely explanation in Green’s case, but while you’re pondering this, keep in mind they are not mutually exclusive. Anyway, it’s bad enough that some of the things Green think are “banal truths” may not be true at all, but this is hardly the most important problem with his post.

Perhaps the most problematic aspect of Green’s post is that, despite what he believes, most conservatives do not complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of people who believe that evolution is true or that the US lost a war against Vietnam. They complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of people who think conservatives are just cretins who are incapable of forming their beliefs in a rational way and have no problem saying so on a regular basis. In short, they complain about liberal bias on American campuses because they are full of ignorant fools like Green, who know next to nothing about what conservatives actually believe. Green’s lazy rant is a perfect illustration of why it’s hard to be a conservative on campus. Of course, he didn’t do it on purpose, but that doesn’t make his post any less valuable.

Conservatives also complain because right-wing intellectuals are regularly prevented from speaking on American campuses by unhinged, illiberal left-wing thugs, who sometimes don’t hesitate to resort to violence. They point out that large segments of academia have become hotbeds of activism posing as scholarly enterprises. In other words, far from complaining because universities are places where people are devoted to the rational search for the truth, they complain because universities increasingly are not. I should add that conservatives are right about that and that one doesn’t need to be a conservative to worry about that. I know plenty of liberals who find the politicization of universities extremely concerning. You have to live in a parallel universe to deny that it’s a problem.

If Green actually listened to what conservatives say when they complain about liberal bias on campuses, he would know that, but it’s clear that he has no idea what conservatives really think and that he is only familiar with a caricature. When I say that, people often retort that it’s because I’m a European conservative, who isn’t even religious and isn’t really familiar with American conservatism. So if that’s what you’re inclined to say, I’m going to stop you right there. I’m far more familiar with American conservatism than any American liberal I know. I read American conservative publications every day, know many American conservatives personally and have read countless books about American conservatism. (I also listen to Democracy Now and read plenty of left-wing sources.) I even watch Fox News on a regular basis, so I’m quite familiar with the kind of things American conservatives say when they complain about liberal bias on campuses, which is clearly more than I can say about Green and people who take his post seriously.

This bias is a real problem that should concern everyone and deserves better than Green’s idiotic post. I’m one of a handful of openly right-wing people in academia, so I’m in a particularly good position to talk about it. In my experience, people who aren’t conservative have no idea what kind of shit those who are have to deal with in academia on a daily basis, which is part of the problem. Universities worry a lot about micro-aggressions, implicit bias, etc. against women and minorities. But there is nothing “micro” or “implicit” about the hostility conservatives have to face on campus. Nobody goes around campuses saying that women and black people are stupid, but not a day goes by on campus without people saying that about conservatives. In my field, conservatives are so afraid to speak up that some of them have created secret groups, where they can say what they think without fear of reprisal. Just think for a second about how toxic the environment must be in order for things to have come to that.

And don’t tell me that conservatives just need to grow a pair and speak up more often. I actually agree that conservatives in academia should speak up more often, but most people who say that have no idea how difficult it is, because they never had to face the kind of hostility that conservatives in academia have to deal with. Everyone is a war hero until they actually go to war. Moreover, conservatives aren’t the only ones who are afraid to say what they think in academia, the problem is far more widespread than that. One of the advantages of being so outspoken is that everyone tells me what they really think, because they know I don’t give a shit and don’t have to worry that I’m going to repeat it. You have no idea how many people have reached out to me privately to thank me for saying things nobody else will. Most of them are conservatives, but many are liberals, who have views that are at odds with the zeitgeist and don’t feel comfortable expressing them. Often, they don’t even agree with what I’m saying, but they’re just glad that someone is saying it so they can have another viewpoint. Which brings me to why the liberal bias on campuses is bad even for people who aren’t conservative.

The problem with political bias, no matter who it’s directed against, is that it makes people who share the dominant view stupid and uninformed. Most of the things liberal academics think are obvious really aren’t obvious at all, but they don’t know that, because they rarely get to hear the other side. And they rarely get to hear the other side not because conservatives have nothing to say against their arguments, but more often than not because they are just afraid to say what they think. As a result, intelligent conservatives in academia are typically in a much better epistemic position than similarly intelligent liberals, because they are familiar with the best arguments for the views they disagree with, whereas liberals are robbed of this opportunity by the fact that conservatives don’t feel comfortable speaking freely.

As people who read this blog know, I’m strongly in favor of restrictionism about immigration, a view that most academics think is not only misguided but obviously false and morally repugnant. The problem is that I have read and thought a lot about immigration. Moreover, because almost everyone around me thinks restrictionism is wrong, I’m very familiar with their arguments. But they’re not familiar with mine, because they have almost never met anyone who disagreed with them on that issue and wasn’t afraid to say it. So when I have a debate about someone about that, it usually becomes really embarrassing very quickly, but not for me. In almost every case, I know exactly what they’re going to say. I know what studies they’re going to cite and, since I have actually read them (which is rarely the case of my interlocutors), I can explain why they don’t show what they think they show.

To be clear, although I think I’m right about immigration, I’m not saying that I’m obviously right. Precisely because I have read and thought a lot about it, I know this debate involves many complicated issues, both empirical and philosophical. My point is that, because of the liberal bias on campuses, most academics don’t know that. They think it’s obviously true that restrictionism about immigration is both intellectually and morally bankrupt, which is why they typically look like fools when they have a debate about this with someone who actually has a grasp of how complex the issue really is. Of course, I’m not saying that nobody on the pro-immigration side of that debate knows what they’re talking about, I know some who do. But I don’t know many of them and that’s really not surprising given the abuse people who defend a restrictionist position are subjected to.

Nobody benefits from this state of affairs. This isn’t just bad because it makes academics politically uninformed. There is plenty of evidence that it actually affects their scholarship and make it worse than it would otherwise be. There has been a healthy conversation about this in social psychology, a field that heavily leans left, where some researchers have demonstrated that the lack of diversity harmed the field. This was the impetus for the creation of Heterodox Academy, which seeks to remedy this problem in academia. Unless you have a completely unrealistic view of human cognition, you have to realize that any environment that leans so heavily toward one side of the political spectrum, far from being a place where belief is proportionate to evidence, will be epistemically suboptimal. Echo chambers aren’t exactly ideal environments to discover the truth about anything. If you don’t want to take seriously the liberal bias on campuses, that’s fine with me, but then don’t complain when people elect a vulgarian like Trump or when Republicans defund universities.

Finally, I want to reply to one point some people have made in defense of Green’s post, because it adds insult to injury. Both he and other people have claimed that his critics were misguided because he wasn’t talking about conservatives in general but only about a specific type of conservative. It’s true that, in his post, he occasionally qualifies his claims with vague expressions such as “a certain kind of conservative”. But he doesn’t always do that and, in any case, this is largely beside the point. You don’t write a post called “Why it is hard to be a campus conservative” if all you want to do is point out that people who form their beliefs in a totally irrational way, which is the case of only a small proportion of the people who complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus (at least it’s not larger than the proportion of people who deny it’s a problem and form their beliefs in the same irrational way), are bound to be uncomfortable in places such as universities, which are supposed to be dedicated to the rational search for the truth.

Are there conservatives who complain that it’s hard to be conservative on campus for bad reasons? Well of course there are, plenty of them even. But that their reasons are bad is obvious, so when you write a post which you claim is about why it’s hard to be conservative on campus and only address those reasons, you are in effect suggesting that conservatives don’t also have plenty of good reasons to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus. If that’s not what you think, then why not address the interesting reasons people have to complain that it’s hard to be a conservative on campus, instead of writing a post on reasons nobody intelligent cares about? Even if it were true that most conservatives complain about the liberal bias on campuses for the reasons Green seems to think, which it isn’t, it would still not be why most conservative academics, who aren’t typical of conservatives in general anymore than liberal academics are typical of liberals in general, complain about it. This defense of Green’s post is a classic case of gaslighting. It will only work against imbeciles, but despite what Green seems to think, most conservatives aren’t imbeciles.



Harvard and Yale accused of failing to report millions in foreign gifts

The US Department of Education has opened an investigation into whether the universities of Harvard and Yale failed to report hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts, as required by law.

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, may not have reported at least $375m in foreign money over the last four years, the department said in a statement.

“This is about transparency,” education secretary Betsy DeVos said in the statement. “If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom.”

Federal law requires most colleges and universities to report gifts from and contracts with foreign sources that are more than $250,000 twice a year.

Education department records over the last three decades show US universities and colleges have reported more than $6.6bn in donations from Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “This sum may be significantly underestimated,” the education department said.

Yale received a request from the department on Tuesday for records of certain gifts and contracts from foreign sources under section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, said university spokeswoman Karen Peart. “We are reviewing the request and preparing to respond to it,” she said.

The education department said that it is also concerned that Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, lacked the proper controls over foreign money and may have not fully reported all donations and contracts coming from outside the United States.

The education department did not put a dollar amount of what Harvard potentially did not report.

Two weeks ago, Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and two Chinese nationals who were researchers at Boston University and a Boston hospital were charged by the US justice department with lying about their purported links to the Chinese government. Lieber said that Harvard lacked adequate institutional controls for effective oversight and tracking of very large donations, according to the education department.

In a report about China’s impact on US education, a Senate committee on investigations described foreign spending on US higher education institutions as “a black hole”.

The cases underscore justice department concerns about Chinese programs that recruit scientists with access to cutting-edge technology in the US and encourage them to conduct research for Beijing’s gain and even to steal the work of American academics.

In recent years, according to a Senate subcommittee report issued last year, the programs have been exploited by scientists who have downloaded sensitive research files before returning to China, filed patents based on US research, lied on grant applications and failed to disclose money they had received from Chinese institutions.

Critics, however, argue that federal restrictions to these programs can lead to racial profiling, drawing parallels to McCarthyism.

“In my experience almost all Chinese students are deeply patriotic,” Simon Marginson, a professor of education at Oxford University, told the South China Morning Post. “It does not make them ‘spies’ or ‘agents of influence’. These are ordinary human beings, not alien monsters.”

Marginson added that concerns about China’s conduct are “legitimate criticisms” but “reek of prejudice”.

In an interview with the Stanford Daily, Larry Diamond, a political scientist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, insisted a balance can be reached.

“I think [TTP participation] should be a matter of public record,” he said. “Beyond that, [professors] might do a lot of good things for China in bringing back medical and scientific knowledge, improving human welfare and raising standards of living.”


More education dollars don’t make sense

Australia’s four million school students may now be back in class, but it seems policymakers remain unschooled on education policy directions.

The new school year comes on the back of December’s disappointing results from the OECD-run Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) — which showed Australian students’ performance has dropped not only in relative terms to other countries, but also in absolute terms.

At the same time, new Productivity Commission figures released last week show taxpayer funding is higher than it’s ever been — and it’s even increasing faster than ever.

Still, the silence on education policy from federal parliament’s first sitting weeks of the year is deafening.

It appears policymakers see business as usual as the apparent fix to the ailing school system. However, spending more over again, and expecting a different outcome, must surely be the definition of policy insanity.

To achieve an improvement in student outcomes demands a change in performance culture throughout the system, root and branch. That’s because everywhere in education policy, performance has lamentably become a dirty word.

In the way of improvements are vested interests that’ve been crippling policymaking for years, particularly in terms of assessment, competition and performance management — much to the disservice of students, parents, taxpayers, and even teachers.

For students, performance can be revived with a high-expectations environment that welcomes, rather than fears, testing — much like exists in the cleverest countries in the world. Straightforward as it sounds, research shows that simply setting high expectations actually leads to higher achievement.

When it comes to schools, genuine competitive pressure about performance makes them accountable and provides assurance to parents and taxpayers. The jury is in that parents do value the transparency that comes with tools like the MySchool website. And OECD research is clear that school systems with more accountability do better.

Teachers suffer, too, from the anti-performance crusade. That’s because their performance is never consistently, independently or objectively assessed once they’re at the chalkface. This denies them the benefits of further development from the basic performance management practices enjoyed in just about any other Australian workplace. Principals have their hands are tied, meaning they can’t reward top performing teachers, and also can’t do much about those who don’t meet the bar.

If teachers aren’t working in an environment requiring, encouraging and helping them to meet high standards, is it any wonder that students don’t perform?

Before another $60 billion of public investment in schooling is made this year, policymakers would do well to shake up the approach to funding.

Yes, money matters when it comes to student outcomes — but only when it’s used to incentivise performance for teachers and schools. That requires a wholesale shift in funding from inputs to outcomes.

When it comes to spending the education dollar, it makes policy sense to reward rather than shirk performance.