Saturday, April 11, 2020

A Scholar’s Lament

Professor John Ellis has served on college faculties since 1963 and is now an emeritus professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz. He has witnessed enormous changes in higher education over his years and he finds those changes to be deplorable.

In his new book The Breakdown of Higher Education, Ellis explains how our system was subverted, why it matters, and what it will take to put it back on the proper track.

Americans, Ellis observes, used to have almost unlimited confidence in our colleges and universities. They were expected to provide advanced learning for serious students and a forum for the discussion of important national issues, which they did. Higher education simply wasn’t controversial; few books were written about it and hardly anyone offered harsh criticism.

Today, however, many people are deeply distressed at the state of higher education, mainly because it has become terribly politicized. Ellis writes that “advocacy has now replaced analysis as the central concern of the campuses” and says that “this rot has been growing for decades and appears to have reached a point of no repair.” He provides plenty of evidence to back up his charge that radical politics has become the dominant force at many schools.

One case Ellis highlights is that of Professor Bruce Gilley of Portland State. Gilley, a political scientist, wrote an article that was published in an academic journal, in which he argued that colonialism had some beneficial consequences for native peoples. That is certainly a debatable proposition and any scholar who read his paper would have been perfectly free to respond with counter-arguments. In an earlier day, that is all that would have happened.

But rather than arguing against Gilley, an outraged academic mob immediately demanded that his paper be suppressed.

More than 10,000 professors signed a petition demanding that the paper be withdrawn, and the journal’s editor even received death threats. Under severe pressure, the journal did retract the article (but in the spirit of academic freedom, the National Association of Scholars has republished it).

About the Gilley affair, Ellis writes,

What was truly astonishing about this episode was that here were literally thousands of people with professorial appointments who completely rejected the idea of academic thought and analysis.

Yes, it is astonishing that so many professors would resort to intimidation rather than reasoning when faced with something they disapproved of. But in the American academic world today, colonialism is one of the many issues about which there is only one acceptable view, namely that it was an unmitigated evil inflicted by whites on natives. Many faculty members who had neither read Gilley’s paper nor studied the questions it raised nevertheless felt free to demand that his work be expunged.

It is indeed chilling to realize that such behavior is now perfectly normal among the professoriate.

Another instance showing how an unscholarly, adversarial mindset has permeated our higher education system is the furor over an op-ed piece written by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego. In their piece, they defended bourgeois norms and argued that the abandonment of such norms helps explain why “disadvantaged groups” are making little economic progress.

Again, rather than seeking to debate the argument Wax and Alexander advanced, the academic community reacted with sheer vehemence.

More than half of Wax’s law school colleagues signed a letter to the dean “condemning” the piece and stating that if it weren’t for tenure, Wax should be fired. Those professors did not deign to argue against Wax but simply declared her views to be intolerable. In their worldview, the only permissible explanation for the socio-economic troubles of minority groups is racism. Any “deviationism” (as Maoists used to put it) must be punished. Fortunately, Penn couldn’t fire Professor Wax but did punish her by taking away the first-year civil procedure course she had taught expertly for years. Too bad for students, but the mob had to be appeased.

American professors didn’t always act in this unseemly manner. Well into the 1960s, it had a liberal majority, but without the vast imbalance we see now nor today’s radical politics and intolerance. To be sure, there were many dedicated leftists, but they fought for their beliefs with arguments, not force. By example, our activist faculty now teaches students to act on emotion, not reason.

Ellis traces the transformation of the faculty to the 1962 manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which called for bringing socialism to the U.S. Its writers saw that their path required a takeover of American education, especially colleges, to control how young people were schooled. While we don’t yet have the fully socialist country the SDS envisioned, its project of dominating education with a faculty hostile to capitalism and our traditions of limited government has been exceedingly successful. Ellis points out that it took three strokes of good luck (from the SDS perspective, anyway) for that to occur.

First, the 1960s ushered in a period of enormous growth in higher education. That expansion required the hiring of great numbers of new faculty. As Ellis writes, “The number of new faculty appointments that were needed was greater than the total number of existing professors in the nation.” Many of the newly hired faculty were already invested in radical leftist politics.

Second, the Vietnam War led to campus protests that emboldened the faculty to embrace activism both in and out of the classroom.

Third, the mania for diversity that began sweeping through colleges and universities in the 1970s led to the creation of many new academic departments where the old rules of objectively searching for truth were tossed aside in favor of pushing an ideology. While the incessant focus on diversity is supposedly beneficial for black and other minority students, Ellis demurs: “Black students on the way to getting an excellent college education are being waylaid by political radicals intent on diverting them from that goal to use them for their own purposes.”

What, if anything, can be done to restore our higher education system? Ellis isn’t terribly sanguine.

In some states, there has been legislation to protect freedom of speech on campus. Unfortunately, such laws don’t get at the root of the problem and won’t accomplish much. Ellis explains,

Neither new nor old rules will ever be enforced while radicals control all the enforcement mechanisms. Students will know that they can rely on leniency if they break the rules because they know that campus authorities are essentially on their side.

How about imploring colleges to hire for intellectual diversity, adding some conservative or libertarian faculty members to offset the leftist dominance? While having some non-leftist faculty would be good for students, it won’t do anything to change the fact that the left has control of our colleges and will keep on using them to promote their views.

The one and only approach that will work, Ellis argues, is to stop feeding the beast the money it needs.

State legislatures have the power of the purse over their higher education systems and need to start exerting it. As a prelude, legislators who want to stop subsidizing leftist politics should establish fact-finding committees to enlighten the public as to the severity of the problem.

Ellis and his colleagues at the California Association of Scholars did exactly that with a 2012 study of the blatant politicization within the University of California system, but top administrators chose to ignore it and the big Democratic majority in state government likes things the way they are. But in conservative states, such an effort could open eyes about the problem of politicization and catalyze change.

At the individual level, parents and alumni also have roles to play. The former can choose not to send their sons and daughters to colleges that have largely become camps for political indoctrination, and the latter can stop sending them donations.

Professor Ellis has brilliantly exposed the fact of and reasons for the breakdown of American higher education. This book deserves a wide audience.


Pandemic Moves University of California to Lower Admission Requirements

The coronavirus crisis is prompting the University of California to relax undergraduate admission requirements for 2020 “and future years as applicable,” the office of the UC President announced this week. As UC Board of Regents chairman John Pérez explained, “By removing artificial barriers and decreasing stressors—including suspending the use of the SAT—for this unprecedented moment in time, we hope there will be less worry for our future students.”

Students, parents and UC grads might be surprised at the description of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, a proven objective measure, as an “artificial barrier.” That might have something to do with a lawsuit against the SAT by Chinese for Affirmative Action, Little Manila Rising, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which contends that the SAT discriminates against “people of color.” Chairman John Pérez is giving the plaintiffs what they want, based on the pandemic. Students, parents and UC grads might wonder why John Pérez is in a position to make that call.

Official biographies, Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, Gov. Gray Davis, and many newspaper articles all hailed Pérez as a graduate of UC Berkeley, prize campus of the UC system. After election to the Assembly in 2008, and ascension to Speaker the next year, a different profile emerged. As Lance Williams of California Watch noted in 2011, Pérez was admitted to Berkeley 1987 and pursued a major in the non-discipline of Chicano Studies. In 1990, Pérez left UC Berkeley without graduating and never returned to complete his degree.

Even so, in 2014 Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Pérez to the UC Board of Regents and last May the University of California made him chairman of the board. Quite the privileged post for a college dropout who was never an academic or educator in any meaningful sense. As it happens, neither was UC president Janet Napolitano, a lawyer, former Arizona governor, and a Department of Homeland Security boss in the Obama administration. Napolitano supports the relaxation of admissions standards during the current “disaster of historic proportions” and “future years as applicable.”

Like politicians, UC bureaucrats never let a crisis go to waste.


Australia: Year 12 exams must go ahead

Keep calm and carry on. That should be the clear, consistent message we give Year 12 students at the moment.

And yet education Ministers met earlier this week to discuss the plight of Year 12s amid calls to cancel the ATAR and end-of-year exams, apparently in order to reduce student stress caused by coronavirus developments — as though radically overhauling how students are admitted into universities within one year wouldn’t lead to even more anxiety for Year 12s.

And it is incredibly naïve to think the practical problems of an entirely new university admissions system could magically be resolved between now and the end of 2020.

One proposal is to replace the ATAR with a ‘learner portfolio’ based on extra-curricular activities and subjective assessments.

But the ‘innovative’ thought-bubble alternatives to the ATAR are especially unfair for high-achieving disadvantaged students. Advantaged students tend to have more extra-curricular opportunities and professional networks, so would gain an unfair benefit in competing for places in high-demand university courses. Just imagine the differences in CVs and ‘learner portfolios’ between students from wealthy inner-city suburbs areas and those in low-socioeconomic areas.

Exams may not be enjoyable for students, but they are the great equaliser in education. They assess and rank each student’s academic ability in each subject in the same way at the same time, with transparent and detailed methodology.

In any case, it would be unfair to change the rules for Year 12s at this late stage. After all their hard work in Year 11 and up until now, students deserve to receive a meaningful Year 12 certificate — based on rigorous exams rather than vague superficial indicators — at the end of this year.

Sure, the current situation with many students not attending school makes it harder to prepare, particularly for disadvantaged students who don’t have access to effective learning support online or at home. A simple solution to this is to encourage secondary schools to remain open with normal classes for just their Year 12 students, if they don’t have adequate online classes in place.

Teachers are still working hard to ensure their students are prepared anyway. It’s been inspiring to see teachers so quickly get their heads around less-than-ideal education technology to ensure they can continue teaching and answering student questions.

Thankfully, education Ministers remain adamant that students will receive ATAR scores this year and it appears Year 12 exams will go ahead (but might just be delayed by a month or two). They shouldn’t backdown. Whatever other harm the coronavirus will do to Australia, we should insist it won’t stop Year 12 students from getting the rigorous qualification they need for future life.


Friday, April 10, 2020

Credentials, But Not Community, for Conservatives in the Academy

People like to tell a few stories about academic conservatives. Within the progressive left, one story is about the influence of corporate interests and “neoliberalism” on the university. In their view, academia is consumed by market forces.

That view, in my opinion, is vastly mistaken. Universities rely on a combination of tuition, state funding, and grants to keep the doors open. Rather than operating as for-profit firms, university activity, such as teaching and research, are determined by workers—the faculty—not by shareholders. The “neoliberal” framing of the universities also ignores that most professors and administrators lean left far more than the general population. For progressive critics of the university, conservative faculty members are a symptom of a more general degeneration of the university.

The counter-narrative, pushed by some conservative media outlets, is that conservatives are a beleaguered minority. According to critics, armies of leftist professors punish upstanding conservative students for their views. They give low grades to essays written by conservative students who disagree with Marxist instructors, and rampaging hordes of leftist professors hound anyone who dares to disagree with a politically correct orthodoxy.

Those conservative outlets point to genuine examples of leftist extremism as evidence that the entire system is rigged against them. That view is also in error. Much of academia doesn’t care about a student’s political views; their chemistry TA doesn’t. Research on academic conservatives, such as Passing on the Right: Conservative Professors in the Progressive University by Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn, Sr., finds that academic conservatives tend to find their department friendly. And of course, if academia really hates conservative students, why do millions and millions of people manage to graduate from college and go on to great careers?

Even though this narrative is misleading, it contains kernels of truth that we can use to understand the academy’s politics better. The issue is that higher ed’s critics, on the left and right, conflate two things: the university as a credentialing system and the university as a community.

In other words, the university, like any other social institution, has many arms and they can move in different directions. My argument is that the higher education system does well for conservatives as a credentialing system, but not as a form of community.

On one level, higher education is a credentialing machine. Its main job is to identify people who can be fruitfully employed in work that requires strong analytical skills and scientific training, such as medicine, public health, engineering, and the law. The humanities serve this purpose, too. The ability to understand literature or philosophy and complete extended course work acts as a de facto signal of employability. When the left complains about “neoliberalism,” they are often complaining about this sort of job training. They resent the fact that higher ed is connected with, and serves, the wider economy. Still, they are correct in that a vocational ethos is very much a part of the university.

The need to reliably certify people for highly desirable and important jobs works to the advantage of everyone in the university, including conservatives, libertarians, and other academic minorities. A university that takes on the role of gatekeeper must evaluate their students primarily on demonstrated skill and hard work. In this way, the university makes it possible for many people to obtain a credential in a fair and just manner.

In the 20th century, Jews, Asians, and immigrants stood out in the professions because they were judged on grades and test scores, not their backgrounds. Women are now extremely common in the legal profession and medicine. Media scandal-mongering aside, conservatives benefit greatly from this system. Note that Republican appointees to the courts usually have Ivy League credentials, as do notable conservatives in other fields. Higher education is more than happy to award credentials to students, regardless of political opinion.

On another level, higher education is a community. It’s about shared thoughts, feelings, and friendships. It’s about spending years in the same department as others. It’s also about tacit assumptions about missions and priorities. In this respect, there is indeed a misalignment between campus conservatives and the rest of the academy. In the academy, there is a gross imbalance between the affirmation of progressive values and everything else.

In the academy, there is a gross imbalance between the affirmation of progressive values and everything else.
That affirmation can be seen in many ways. For example, most social science instructors will readily discuss the challenges of living in a market economy, but it is much less common to find instructors who talk about how market economies have raised billions of people out of poverty. Another telling example comes in the form of prestigious awards, which often represent what a community valorizes. For example, the most esteemed academic award in the United States is likely the MacArthur award. It is notable that the MacArthur award, to the best of my knowledge, has never been awarded to any academic or activist who is known for promoting conservative or libertarian policy ideas. Similarly, leading book prizes, such as the Pulitzer or National Book Award almost always go to books that have progressive points of view.

The issue is not that progressive, or leftist, writers win prizes—they certainly should. Rather, the nearly complete absence of other perspectives among prize winners belies a limitation of vision.

The ultimate test of whether one is truly a member of the community is if the community comes to your defense in a time of need. For me, the ultimate example happened a few years ago when critics attacked the Freedom Center at Wellesley College. Housed at one of America’s most elite liberal arts colleges, the Freedom Center was founded by sociologist Thomas Cushman to foster a conversation about liberty, broadly understood. I was invited (and compensated) as a speaker there and attended two workshops where speakers defended and attacked freedom. At one point, the Freedom Center even invited a speaker critical of the Koch Foundation, one of the center’s main donors. Political scientist Alexander Hertel-Fernandez spoke on how the Koch’s funding translated into Congressional influence.

However, when the Boston Globe wrote a highly critical article on the Center and its funders, the academic community, for the most part, did not defend Cushman or the Freedom Center.

The main issue was that New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer was offended when the Center’s director said he would not invite someone like her to speak. As the Freedom Center’s assistant director wrote in National Review, it was not because he wished to suppress her views, but because her work is highly polemical and adversarial, rather than scholarly. If the administration truly valued the Freedom Center as part of its community, it would have quickly brushed aside the media coverage and simply said, “Wellesley professors can invite who they see fit speak on campus. That policy applies to the Freedom Center as it does to any other unit.”

Normally, a university would not allow a newspaper to guide its academic decisions. Instead, the university administration decided to conduct a review to “overhaul” the Center. Thankfully, the Freedom Center continues with different staff, but being the subject of a spurious review and “overhaul” is a highly stressful and painful experience for everyone involved.

Incidents like the Freedom Center controversy are infrequent, but they send a message to the broader society about higher education: Higher education may take your tuition dollars, and give you degrees, but the community is more exclusive than you might think.


Pandemic Offers Chance to Revolutionize Education

Millions of families are now homeschooling, which provides an opportunity.

If there is one potential silver lining in the long, dark cloud that is the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that many parents are finally taking a closer look at their children’s education. As one state after another canceled on-site teaching at public schools and went to digital/online learning, it has given parents, quarantined at home with their children, an opportunity to see not only how, but what, their children are being taught.

And in a growing number of cases, parents are turning to homeschooling, realizing that they are far more invested in the outcome of their children’s education than are education bureaucrats. Homeschooling could revolutionize education in America.

Today’s public school system is an anachronism of a bygone era. It was created in a time when industrial barons sought to lure uneducated children and adults from their farms, giving them just enough instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic to work effectively in a factory. In 1902, industrialist John D. Rockefeller created the General Education Board, which provided major funding for an effort to create a system of nationwide, government-run, mandatory schooling.

Revealing the prevailing paternalistic view, Board Chairman Frederick T. Gates declared, “In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters.”

Prior to the creation of the public school system, Americans were generally educated at home or in religious schools. In Massachusetts, the first state to pass compulsory-schooling laws, the literacy rate was 98% in 1850. Yet in 1980, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office released a report showing that the literacy rate had dropped to 91%.

Last year, two-thirds of America’s school children did not meet the reading proficiency standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and eighth-grade reading proficiency had actually declined from the previous year in more than half the states. In Baltimore, fully one-third of all public schools had not one single student proficient in math, and six more schools had only 1% proficiency. This is a crisis.

In 1999, roughly 850,000 American schoolchildren were homeschooled, but by 2016 that number doubled to 1.7 million. Today, this global pandemic has forced us to find alternatives to the traditional brick-and-mortar, public-school format. Children there are like products in a factory assembling line, grouped in batches by age, force-fed the same information in the same way at the same time, and the monotony is broken only by the ringing of a bell, at which time instruction in one subject stops and the obedient children dutifully arise and move to their next station.

Even the most dedicated and innovative teachers (and there are many) find themselves fighting a losing battle against a system that discourages independent critical thinking and innovative teaching methods (remember the disaster of Common Core?). It mandates a one-size-fits-all approach, forgetting that children come in a glorious variety of backgrounds, capacities, and interests. Public “education” is meant to suppress those differences and enforce conformity.

Even worse for many parents is the realization that their children are being taught socialist and “social justice” dogma that is hostile to their own values and beliefs.

One parent writes of the shock they experienced when their child asked for help with an assignment. She discovered that her child was being taught that gender is a “social construct” rather than a biological reality. This was followed by “leading questions asking students to regurgitate gender theory.” The next day her child was immersed in “critical race theory” that “assumes institutional racism and oppression pervade every corner of society and necessitate the redistribution of resources based on ‘oppressed’ status.”

This type of “learning” is destructive to a child’s spirit and potential, teaching some that racism and sexism will keep them from succeeding no matter how hard they work, and teaching others that they are hateful oppressors by birth.

The bright side is that this global pandemic has presented a wonderful opportunity for parents to take control of their children’s education. Parents can seek out and take advantage of resources and schooling options that provide creative, innovative ways of helping our children learn in the ways that they learn best, and in the subjects that most interest them.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.


Australia: Independent schools told to reopen or lose funding as National Cabinet discusses coronavirus impacts on education

The Federal Government has threatened to withdraw funding from independent schools if they do not open on a limited basis for the second school term.

The demand makes it clear that schools' funding is contingent upon them opening their doors to students who need to attend.

"We want all schools to be offering that learning environment for those parents who have to work, and for those children where it's safer to be in the classroom," Mr Tehan said. "As part of the funding requirement you have to be offering this to parents whose children you're educating."

Mr Tehan said his concerns were related to a small number of schools he believed were not offering the face-to-face teaching options that public schools were.  "What we want is a nationally consistent approach," he said.

"What we want to do is ensure that when it comes to independent schools, and Catholic schools as well, that they're also providing that learning environment.

"There were some independent schools that weren't offering — for parents who had to work at all year levels — that opportunity for those students to get that safe learning environment."

The Government's health advice has remained that it is safe to send children to school, however that message has been implemented differently across the states and territories.

In-person attendance remains an option in public schools across the country, particularly for parents who cannot keep their children at home.


Thursday, April 09, 2020

School closures do not have a significant effect on the spread of coronavirus, study finds

The paper found that “the evidence to support national closure of schools to combat COVID-19 is very weak”

Shutting schools across the country could in fact have “relatively small effect” on slowing the transmission of coronavirus, according to researchers at University College London (UCL), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Cambridge University and Sydney University.

Academics carried out a review of 16 previous studies on the impact of school closures during the Covid-19 so far, as well as during previous flu outbreaks including the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak which began in 2012.

The paper, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, found that:

“the evidence to support national closure of schools to combat COVID-19 is very weak and data from influenza outbreaks suggest that school closures could have relatively small effects on a virus with COVID-19's high transmissibility and apparent low clinical effect on school children. At the same time, these data also show that school closures can have profound economic and social consequences"


The academic paper:

School closure and management practices during coronavirus outbreaks including COVID-19: a rapid systematic review

Russell M Viner et al.


In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, 107 countries had implemented national school closures by March 18, 2020. It is unknown whether school measures are effective in coronavirus outbreaks (eg, due to severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS], Middle East respiratory syndrome, or COVID-19). We undertook a systematic review by searching three electronic databases to identify what is known about the effectiveness of school closures and other school social distancing practices during coronavirus outbreaks. We included 16 of 616 identified articles. School closures were deployed rapidly across mainland China and Hong Kong for COVID-19. However, there are no data on the relative contribution of school closures to transmission control. Data from the SARS outbreak in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore suggest that school closures did not contribute to the control of the epidemic. Modelling studies of SARS produced conflicting results. Recent modelling studies of COVID-19 predict that school closures alone would prevent only 2–4% of deaths, much less than other social distancing interventions. Policy makers need to be aware of the equivocal evidence when considering school closures for COVID-19, and that combinations of social distancing measures should be considered. Other less disruptive social distancing interventions in schools require further consideration if restrictive social distancing policies are implemented for long periods.


A New Great Depression for Higher Education?

Moody’s Investor Services and Fitch have proclaimed that the financial outlook for American higher education looks bad. Moody’s has given the sector negative ratings for most recent years, predicting low albeit positive tuition revenue growth. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is the undoing of colleges, as it reeks havoc on many other businesses, families, and institutions as well.

I am not an expert on university cash reserve positions, but I know that for many schools it is very modest. Unanticipated sharp declines in revenue will force many universities into substantial deficit spending this year, in some cases completely wiping out cash balances. For universities with an already mediocre revenue trajectory (e.g, enrollment declines over the past decade), this could perhaps force them into bankruptcy or possibly a merger with somewhat stronger neighboring institutions. COVID-19 will accelerate much needed creative destruction of some American universities, reducing collegiate over-investment.

Why? Here are six reasons. First, enrollments have fallen for almost a decade already, and no one was predicting a month ago that they would rise next fall. Will they fall moderately or drastically? Huge numbers of students were sent home suddenly from college recently. Will they all come back? Unlikely.

Second, university cash reserves are plummeting rapidly, as many schools face refunding students at least some room and board charges as they are denied access to their dorm rooms and college cafeterias.

Third, state governments are rapidly moving from running budget surpluses and carrying large cash reserves to serious deficit spending, not permissible in the long run because of balanced budget constitutional restraints. State tax revenues will fall anywhere from moderately to disastrously, depending on the severity of the downturn induced by COVID-19 health containment measures. State government bailouts of the colleges will rank far lower on priority lists of politicians than, say, providing income to those suddenly unemployed. Maybe the Feds will give the colleges the $50 billion bailout they are asking for, but don’t count on it.

Fourth, even wealthy private universities are being clobbered by huge declines in their endowment assets. I would be shocked if Harvard, for example, has not already suffered paper losses of minimally $5 billion since the stock market downturn began, and who knows what has happened to the worth of trendy but risky “alternative investments” that rich schools love so much. Even at Harvard, $5 billion is real money (about $250,000 per student). Moreover, private donations and bequests are likely to shrink significantly for a while simply because of the reduced financial condition of alumni, friends, foundations, etc.

Fifth, in past crises institutions of higher education could count on tremendous support from the general public, people paying taxes which subsidize universities and making private donations and paying tuition charges. Colleges are going to pay a heavy price for the contempt they have shown in recent years towards American values—the First Amendment, a strict adherence to the rule of law, etc. Riots and rude treatment of visitors at places as geographically, economically and culturally diverse as Yale University, the University of Missouri and Evergreen State College have contributed to a sharp decline in positive public opinion towards higher education. Soaring tuition fees and examples of scandals, waste and corruption in athletics and elsewhere at schools like Penn State, Michigan State, and University of North Carolina, reduce prospects for a taxpayer bailout.

Sixth, a major modern day source of revenue for many universities has been international students, and some colleges have made a profit from study abroad programs (having kids pay tuition locally but getting educated at a lower cost overseas). That has taken at least a short run hit.

Americans are amazingly adaptable and good at facing and conquering crises. I hope this is no exception. We took huge sudden hits to college enrollments during World War II and colleges and the nation survived and even shortly thereafter flourished. While our past history can be informative and even comforting, its future replication is far from assured. We may even gain from experiences learned from COVID-19—the underrated utility of online instruction may be recognized, for example. Another: cash-desperate colleges may sell dorms and cafeterias, getting out of businesses irrelevant to Job One: creating and disseminating knowledge, wisdom and beauty.


Don't worry about kids missing school, says Australian university boss

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence has urged parents not to worry about children missing school, saying the education system is adaptable and teachers would get children back on track when the COVID-19 crisis is over.

Dr Spence, who has eight children ranging in age from babies to adults, said families could have faith that Australian educators would be able to identify and fill gaps in children's learning when classroom teaching resumed.
Dr Michael Spence with his sons Theodore and Hugo

Dr Michael Spence with his sons Theodore and HugoCredit:Louise Kennerley

His comments come as parents - particularly those with children in primary school - say they have been overwhelmed with the stress of working from home, and fighting to hold onto vulnerable jobs, while supervising their children's lessons.

"I'm not saying education is not important, but I think we can act sometimes as if the education of a young person is a process of jumping through hoops, where every hoop has to be jumped through in the right order at the right height," Dr Spence told the Herald and The Age.

"The school system is really adaptable, and teachers are terrific professionals. When this all picks up again, part of what they are going to be doing is making sure people are back on the curve, in one way or another."

Dr Spence said schools had proven their adaptability by responding so quickly to the crisis.

"In a matter of weeks, the whole model for teaching in many schools was turned on its head, and teachers responded to that challenge," he said.

"I don't think the schools are expecting parents to become teachers. They are setting formal work, saying, 'Get through as much as you can, and trust us that, when it's all over, we will be able to sort things out.' "

Dr Spence said his children had attended many different types of schools, ranging from a British school that was threatened with closure by the government to tiny Christian schools, NSW state schools and expensive private schools.

As long as you talk to children about ideas, read to them and discuss what's going on in the world, "they find their own way", he said. Some children did not have access to those things at home, but "they are not the kids whose parents are anxious".

"The education system doesn't do a bad job of identifying those kids' educational needs, too."

Dr Spence said he was not worried about students entering first year university next year without the same level of teaching as their predecessors because of the disruption to learning, saying universities always had students with different levels of preparation.

"A big part of what we do in first year is identify where people have learning needs and learning strengths, and try to make sure that everybody is able to be brought on to a point where they are ready for the second year," he said.

"That's what educators do for a living."


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Online Learning Finds Its Moment

On March 10, Harvard University president Lawrence S. Bacow (who later tested positive for coronavirus) announced that instruction in residence would be suspended and that the university would be transitioning to virtual instruction until further notice. He directed students not to return to campus after spring recess. Many other colleges and universities quickly followed suit, and virtually overnight, a huge share of the nation’s roughly 15 million college students found themselves taking their spring classes online from home, using platforms such as Zoom.

At some point, the Covid-19 pandemic will come to an end, and most aspects of daily life will return to normal. Yet higher education may never be the same—our colleges and universities are now engaged in the largest, most radical, and most disruptive technology-enabled pedagogical experiment since Harvard’s founding in 1636.

With the exception of junior or community colleges, as well as some urban schools, the traditional paradigm of American higher education has been a four-year residential college experience featuring life on campus, with lectures, seminars, labs, dorms, social and cultural activities, institutionalized sports, and—of course—lengthy recesses. This traditional campus experience can be personally, socially, and intellectually transformative.

Yet it all comes at an increasingly unsustainable price: the average cost this academic year of tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies at four-year public and private institutions was $21,950 and $49,879, respectively. Elite universities can cost much more—Harvard, despite its $40 billion endowment, charges $69,607. Costs continue to escalate. Over the past three decades, the average price tag to attend a public four-year institution has more than tripled; it has more than doubled at private four-year schools. Outstanding student loan debt reached an all-time high of $1.41 trillion in 2019.

Broad access to quality higher education is critical to American global economic competitiveness and is a linchpin of our democratic society. Maintaining or enhancing that access means controlling costs, enhancing productivity, or increasing public and private subsidies. Moving instruction online offers a unique opportunity to reinvent the traditional residential campus model.

Online education has been around for at least a quarter-century. It is effective, flexible, and inexpensive, a proven tool for adult education and professional continuing education. Up to now, though, the elite educational establishment has kept it at arms-length. Administrative matters, academic scheduling, curricula, assignments, and even some assessments have moved online, but most students are still expected to attend lectures, labs, and seminars. This is one reason that, despite the proliferation of personal computing devices, the higher-education sector in general has not seen major technology-enabled productivity increases.

The coronavirus may change that. When the dust settles, millions of students will realize that they received some valuable education this spring, even though they were not on campus. Online education is not a perfect or easy substitute for the on-campus experience—but why not explore ways to combine the two delivery models?

Schools can leverage the impact and reach of the best (and most expensive) faculty by recording their popular large-class lectures and making them and related syllabi available online to students at any institution that pays an appropriate license fee, which would surely be less than full salary for celebrity faculty. There is no fundamental difference between this approach and using textbooks written by the same professors.

The ongoing experiment in distance learning will also challenge the traditional one-tuition-fits-all paradigm, which makes little or no distinction between the cost of teaching subjects that require expensive physical facilities—such as science labs or arts studios—and those that do not. Because online platforms are better suited to deliver a political-science survey course than a science lab or a studio in the performing or visual arts, large-scale online learning will inevitably accentuate the cost differential and thus the degree of de facto cross subsidization between academic disciplines.

There is no reason why a college education has to be paced along the traditional four years. For economic or other reasons, only 41 percent of first-time full-time college students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, anyway. Others choose an accelerated schedule by taking classes during the summer. Why not collaborate with employers to offer a lighter load of online courses designed to support and enhance summer internships? Alternatively, students could spend two or three years on campus and then have the option to earn their final credits online, while working. Or they could complete their basic distribution requirements online and arrive at campus ready to focus on higher-level or specialized learning.

Whether one believes that the purpose of higher education today is to develop a capable workforce or to inculcate youth with a particular set of cultural values, there is no question that the traditional campus model has become too expensive and inefficient. That reality, and the unplanned, large-scale experiment in off-campus instruction necessitated by the coronavirus, make it all but certain that online learning is poised for explosive future growth.


Private schools in UK struggling as coronavirus costs bite

Private schools in the UK are facing a battle for survival in the face of the coronavirus crisis as parents who have lost their income cancel direct debits and overseas pupils who have gone home decide whether to return.

As the economic fallout from the pandemic begins to bite, there are fears that a number of smaller independent schools, which are already struggling, will be driven out of business.

Many are offering fee discounts of anything from 10% right up to 50% for the summer term to take into account the fact that schools have closed and are only able to offer an online education.

Others are offering rebates for meals, transport and extra curricular activities.

Looking ahead to the autumn, schools are promising a fee freeze for the next academic year, with increased bursaries and hardship funds for families hit by the economic downturn, in order to try to keep places full and parents on board.

Neil Roskilly, the chief executive of the Independent Schools Association which represents 540 private schools in the UK, warned that not all schools would survive. “Five or six close every year or amalgamate, and that’s just in normal times. We could be looking at maybe double that. We simply don’t know,” he said.

“A lot of it will depend on where the world’s economy is going, and whether people have got the jobs they once had.”

There is also uncertainty about overseas pupils, most of whom have now gone home though a number remain stranded in the UK, being cared for by their schools. According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), there are around 55,000 overseas pupils in ISC schools, of which almost 10,000 are Chinese, 5,000 are from Hong Kong and 2,500 from Russia.

“We don’t know how many of the children want to come back, and even if they do want to come back, whether they will be able to leave their country, or whether their country is still going to be in lockdown,” saids Roskilly.

“The vast majority are saying they want to come back if they can. They just don’t know what the situation’s going to be. What schools are doing is hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”

Eton College, which educated the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has reduced its fees by a third for the summer term. “We have invited parents to contribute the balance to support our various community initiatives if they are able to and would like to, and (very) many have,” a spokesperson said. “We have also increased our financial aid fund, and many parents have donated to this.”

Matthew Adshead is headmaster of the Old Vicarage School, an independent nursery, pre-prep and preparatory school for around 160 girls and boys aged three to 13 in Darley Abbey, Derby.

“We are going to need to be able to adapt and look after our parent body. They are going through the same pressures we are,” said Adshead, who is offering a 15% fee discount for those parents who need it, plus a freeze on fees for September.”

He said he had already lost about five pupils as a result of the crisis. “I think we will see some schools closing, I’m sad to say – some are teetering already. In a small independent school, the large majority of parents have got their own businesses.

“What we are going to see is significant strain and pressure on cash flow. The first thing that’s going to have to go is fees, because they are going to need that money to live on.”

Francis Green, professor of work and education economics at UCL Institute of Education, said private schools were facing “a triple whammy” – the direct effects of the virus, the economic effects as their parents run into financial problems and the increased costs of teachers’ pensions, which has been causing the sector difficulties for some time.

“The last time fee increases were held at or below inflation was in the immediate aftermath of the 2008-9 financial crisis; this being much more severe I would expect to see fee reductions, and retrenchment in the schools. Maybe even redundancies.”

Green continued: “Private schools have quite a few foreign students, who pay slightly higher fees and in some cases are very important for the schools’ financial survival.

“Assuming business is able to be resumed at some level in the autumn, one can’t help thinking that global demand for British education will have taken a knock if Britain is seen to be way behind the curve in dealing with the virus – particularly in comparison with China.”

In the event of schools being threatened with closure, Green said the Department for Education should allow them to convert to academy status, and become part of the state school system, as a small number have already done.


Australia: Exam shake-up to ensure year 12s not disadvantaged

Year 12 students could have their subject scores artificially boosted to reflect the disruption from coronavirus with the Victorian Government backing a plan that no student should repeat their final year.

State and territory ministers could rubberstamp the year 12 plan as early as Tuesday when they meet for the National Education Council amid concerns large numbers of students repeating their final year would clog up the system.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino is expected to back any federal push for year 12s not to repeat the year.

With travel restrictions hurting the tertiary sector, universities have pleaded with the government to ensure a new cohort of domestic students enrol in courses next year.

Parents and principals have raised concerns about the impact coronavirus will have on the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) results, which determine which courses students are accepted into.

Late last month, federal Education Minister Dan Tehan met state and territory counterparts to discuss the possibility of adjusting university admission processes to reflect the impact of the virus.

The Sunday Herald Sun understands the proposal has widespread support from the states and territories.

Under the plan, all students’ subject scores would be lifted by the same amount so top- performing students would still get top marks, even if they performed worse than students in previous years.

A similar system is now in place for students whose study is interrupted by ill health, allowing teachers to give an estimate based on year 11 results.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said he didn’t want year 12 students to miss out on starting university, vocational education or work next year.

“We want year 12 to go ahead and to get as many year 12s through, in whatever shape or form,” Mr Tehan said.


Monday, April 06, 2020

Education and the Coronavirus: Trying to Look on the Bright Side

Sean Gabb

Whether the Coronavirus is the Spanish Flu come again I cannot say, and will not try. We shall have some grounds for knowing by Easter, and may have confirmation next year, when the annual mortality figures are published. Something I can say, however, is that the response to the Virus will have large and continuing effects. Many things will return to normal after the lockdown. Much else will not. As ever with those things that change, there will be a new set of winners and losers. And, where education is concerned, I can hope that I shall stand in the queue of the winners – not, I suppose, anywhere near the front, but somewhere in it, modestly and gratefully picking up such additional crumbs as may fall to me in the market where I earn much of my regular income.

As a private tutor, I have been teaching on-line since 2008. I discovered, when I was made redundant from my university, that Deal was a nice place for living and for spending money, but that almost no one in East Kent wanted to learn Greek or Latin. I therefore went on-line. At first, I saw this as an inferior substitute for the “real thing.” Then, as I made the necessary adjustments, and as the technology steadily improved, I realised that it was a liberation from the chore of travelling from home to do what I could do just as easily from home – and that I could often do better from home.

But allow me to set out in a more formal manner some of the benefits of on-line tuition:

First, as said, it abolishes the need for travelling. This applies to both teachers and students. I am a two-hour commute from London, which is the biggest market in Europe for my services. It is over an hour from Tonbridge, where I am involved in holiday revision courses. Even now, when I qualify for a third off, the price of railway travel is an unwelcome cost. My students in Tonbridge, and in the London institution where I have been persuaded back to mainstream work, often travel long distances. One of my London students comes from Nottingham to learn Greek. There are many potential students who, for reasons of age or poor health, or the cost of travel, are put off learning. On-line teaching is the obvious solution.

Second, it abolishes the need of a physical location for teaching. Some years ago, I was advised to rent an office in Ashford to meet students. I thought about this, but held back because of the increase in my on-line teaching. I saved on rent, on insurance, and again on travel. My London institution is bursting at the seams. Finding classrooms for all the courses run taxes the administration to its limit. There are daily hard looks when a class runs over its allotted time.

Third, it allows teachers and students to share material directly within a lesson. I have been doing something like this in my mainstream teaching since 2004. I hate PowerPoint. Instead, I connect my own computer to the ceiling projector, and make notes as I teach in Word for Windows. At the end of the class, I copy and paste these into an e-mail and send them off to all the students. On-line teaching takes this one step further. I can make notes on a shared whiteboard, and the students can copy and paste for themselves. They can also add their own material. This is useful for teaching a language, when a teacher can write sentences, and students take turns to translate them back and forth. Sometimes, we can pause for a quick search of the Internet. For example, I recently got into a debate with one of my private students about the relationship between the Greek ὁτι and the Latin ut. A few days ago,we discussed the etymology of κροκόδειλος, a word and spelling we had found in Herodotus. In each case, we could both agree within thirty seconds.

Until Tuesday the 24th March 2020 – just over a fortnight ago – there was a rigid division between my private tuition and my mainstream teaching. The former was branching off in all manner of unexpected and creative directions. The latter was just as it had always been, but with nicer photocopiers and electronic registers. On that Tuesday, however, I suspected my London classes would go down because of the spreading panic over the Coronavirus. I added my webcam to the bag on wheels I nowadays take when I go out to teach, and I sent an e-mail to all my students. Sure enough, my first Greek class of the day had only a half attendance, but was nearly full when I fired up Google hangouts. We read our section of Protagoras, and agreed that it went very well. It was the same with all the other classes. Before the last class, I had a text message to say that the building would shut at 10pm that evening until further notice, and that all teaching would now be on-line.

The past few weeks have not gone entirely as I might have wished. One class I had to teach with some students on a Hangouts meeting, one student on Skype via my tablet, and another student via my landline on speakerphone. Some students have been wholly defeated by the technology. There have been failings on my side. I know how to manage an on-line class with just one student. Managing a class of twelve is still a work in progress. But the system works. All my mainstream teaching is now finished until after Easter, and every lesson was somehow delivered. During the holiday, I will give training to those students who need it. We will reopen later this month, until further notice, as an on-line institution. Falling out of bed at 9am, I will shamble down to the basement and, revived by coffee, I will begin earning my daily crust –reading classes in Herodotus, Xenophon, Euripides, Cicero, Vergil, Lucan, and variously less-advanced classes in the Greek and Latin languages.

It is ridiculous that, in 2020, I should report this as progress. With the exception of my Greek and Roman inscription classes, which have been put off until the British Museum reopens, everything I teach needs just a talking head and some means of answering back. The technology that enables this has been mature for at least a decade. Yet it is the present emergency – whether based on a real or an inflated fear – that has produced a chaotic emigration on-line.

But this is how large institutions make radical shifts to embrace new technology. Entrepreneurs hunt for new markets, or for new ways of serving established markets. Large institutions will keep with what worked in the past, so long as it just continues to work in the present. New technologies are adopted after others have discovered the more obvious mistakes, but they are seldom adopted in ways that remake an institution and what it delivers. They are instead added as a supplement, and, after so many promises and so much investment, the managers will ask why the benefits are so marginal. Radical change happens only in an emergency. Facing the prospect of total failure, large institutions will hurry to catch up. The managers will tell each other that this is for the duration, that there will be a return to normality. Sometimes, there is a return to normality, sometimes not. Sometimes, there is an unstable compromise, where elements of the new are allowed to continue beside parts of the restored old.

For British higher education, this third is the most likely result when the classroom doors finally swing open. I expect – assuming I still have any of my jobs – to find a webcam among the permanent furniture of my classroom. Students will be marked present if they are there in person, or if they choose to log in from somewhere else. Since fear of infection will remain long after the Coronavirus has gone away, many will not come back in person. Others who do not fear infection will finally have realised that learning and personal attendance are not necessarily connected. Students will be recruited from further away, and will be given discounts for choosing to learn on-line. When all the students in a class choose to learn on-line, teachers will be shut into little booths, rather than given classrooms.

This will, though, be an unstable compromise. The possibilities of education have been fundamentally transformed in the past twenty years. But these have so far been transformed outside the mainstream. Whether enabled by state funding, or by students unaware of the possibilities, the mainstream providers have not changed in response. British universities, in particular – and I will not speak of universities elsewhere, because I have no personal experience of them – are in poor shape. They have top-heavy and expensive managements. They are heavily in deficit, and they keep up cash flow by welcoming armies of students who should be doing something else to follow courses that are worthless in themselves, or that have been aimed at the lowest common denominator. They have just two remaining marketable assets. They have their brand names, and they have the privilege of certification.

Sooner or later, a British university will understand the lesson of the present emergency. It may not do so all at once, but gradually, covering every stage with managerial euphemism and short term promises to the entrenched interests. But it will downsize. It will turn every department that does not absolutely require personal attendance into a virtual provider. Certified courses will then be offered on-line at heavy discounts. Courses that cannot be presently offered for reasons of cost will then become viable.

For example, I teach a Latin module at one of the universities close to where I live. We need at least a dozen students for the course to run. Every year, half the students say they would like to learn Greek as well. My department is unable to justify the opportunity cost of classroom space and the other costs for a course that might have no more than six students. Take out the opportunity costs, and Greek might find its way into the curriculum. Let it be offered on-line, and dozens or hundreds of students might subscribe from abroad.

The first university to go even partly on-line will make the sort of profits Direct Line Insurance made in the 1980s, when it opened with a call centre rather than a network of local offices. Other universities will follow. They will have to follow. Costs and prices will drop further. Competition and the influence of independent review websites will do something to drive up quality – for the usual suspects, any market scrutiny would cause an improvement. Given present and likely technology, the final equilibrium may see universities as market places and guarantors of quality, and as awarders of certificates. Within these markets, self-employed teachers will offer services to students throughout the world.

Now, I am not describing some fantasy, in which Gaze Theory will be dropped in favour of Greek. So far as there are students with funding who want it, Gaze Theory will continue to be taught. At the same time, a wider diversity of subjects and methods of delivery will have been enabled. This may or may not bring on a secondary recivilisation of the universities. But it will make one possible. It will be an improvement on what we have at the moment.

A further point: I have said nothing of the schools. These face similar general difficulties, and a similar present emergency. Millions of children and their parents have discovered in the past few weeks that learning and schooling are not the same thing, and that one can often compromise the other. This being said, there are large differences between the schools and the universities, and a separate treatment

Here, then, is my potential benefit from the response to the Coronavirus. My women and I are under house arrest. My present employments tremble in the balance. My Easter revision courses have vanished like the steam from an e-cigarette. Ditto my examination marking. For the moment, these actual losses are partly offset by an early trickle of A-Level Latin students who would normally come to me after September. In the longer term, I can hope to offset the potential losses of employment by a more flexible education market, where the division between private and mainstream tuition will have passed away.


‘Some College, No Degree’ Jobs and the Trouble with the Credential Treadmill

The types of jobs available before and after the Great Recession starkly differ. With the after-effects of the economic slowdown thanks to the coronavirus, the pattern could be repeated.

Many of the jobs usually held by less-educated Americans before the recession have disappeared, while workers with at least some college education disproportionately occupy growing industries, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce (CEW). In their popular 2013 report “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020,” CEW concluded that around two-thirds of all jobs in 2020 would require some college education. CEW’s 2013 report is their most recent one and aggregates all the relevant education and economic data in one place.

But the extent to which employers are actually requiring more college education than in the past to fill good jobs isn’t so clear-cut. CEW’s methods for defining how much college education is “required” are hotly disputed. Moreover, employers often complain that college graduates are ill-prepared and don’t have the skills needed in the workforce. Graduates aren’t happy about how costly degrees have become, either.

Contrary to what advocates for requiring 16 years of education may say, there’s strong evidence that young people don’t always need a four-year degree. For many good careers, a shorter college program or even no college can set them on a good path.

Looking Outside of Four-Year Degrees for Middle-Skill Jobs

Taking CEW’s methods at face-value, more clarity is needed for their claim that two-thirds of today’s workers need some college education. The CEW report isn’t saying that 65 percent of the workforce needs a bachelor’s degree—a “college education” means a vocational or professional certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree. Almost half (30 percent) of the jobs included in their 65 percent figure need only an associate degree or a vocational or professional certification. The other 35 percent require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Still, this is remarkable growth from 1973, when only 28 percent of jobs were held by those with some college. Some of that increase is due to growth in high-skill sectors like STEM, health care, and community services (largely social workers and counselors). But some of this alleged increase in educational demand is also due to an increasingly educated workforce competing for jobs that have historically required less education.

Using CEW figures, let’s focus on those jobs that can be safely categorized as mostly not requiring a formal degree. In total, 54 percent of today’s jobs, according to CEW, require “some college, no degree” or less. This category mainly covers professional or vocational certifications, and most of them are concentrated in sales & office support, blue-collar jobs, and food & personal services. However, what’s tricky about CEW’s report is that it never says any one job requires one specified amount of education. For example, for a job like “parking enforcement workers,” the report estimates required education level based on the education levels of those currently in those types of jobs—finding that 60 percent of parking enforcement openings require less than a bachelor’s degree.

Essentially, CEW assumes that whatever education a worker has was necessary for the job they hold.

How do those jobs pay? Other CEW data indicates that 44 percent of all “good jobs” (defined as jobs paying at least $35,000 annually for younger workers and at least $45,000 annually to older workers) are currently held by workers without bachelor’s degrees, and most of them have only “some college, no degree” or less.

Consider some examples. In blue-collar occupations, which comprise more than 30 million jobs, a first-line supervisor of production and operating workers makes an average salary of $62,660. Of those 553,000 supervisor jobs, about 71 percent of workers have “some college, no degree” or less. Electricians are another strong example, accounting for 582,000 jobs, making $55,190 on average, and 75 percent of them don’t hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

In sales and office support, which account for over 42 million jobs, 66 percent of them are held by those with “some college, no degree” or less. For example, there are around 408,000 jobs for manufacturing and sales representatives. They make a median salary of $61,660, and 48 percent of them have “some college, no degree” or less. Another example is legal secretaries, for which there are over 231,000 jobs, paying an average wage of $48,600, and 61 percent of legal secretaries have “some college, no degree” or less.

Those are only a few examples of the many well-paying jobs that often don’t require a degree and that are growing at average or above-average rates. Their wage growth is impressive, too. Blue-collar jobs, for instance, have recently seen faster wage growth than white-collar jobs. Moreover, other research shows that less-educated workers can achieve upward mobility when they transfer similar skills to higher-paying sectors—such as from food services to professional office services.

Still, a growing share of good jobs—even in middle-skill sectors—are going to those with more education. Why is that the case?

Nicole Smith, chief economist at CEW, contends that many middle-skill jobs now require some college because of upskilling—workers today needing more skills to fill the same job than a generation ago. “Take the example of an auto mechanic,” she said. “In the past, the job mainly required labor-intensive tasks that usually didn’t require any more than a high school education and on-the-job training. Today, auto mechanics are often working with software and technology, which requires more specialized training.”

But, according to Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University and author of The Case Against Education, it’s precisely that increasing reliance on technology that makes many of today’s jobs easier than they once were. The implication, then, is that formal education is less important today. “Are these jobs getting more cognitively demanding? Much of the evidence suggests they’re getting less cognitively demanding,” he said.

Credential Inflation and Overeducation

Another explanation for the growth in education level for middle-skill workers is credential inflation. To be clear, that a college degree or some college education has substantial benefits for workers is indisputable. As mentioned earlier, the share of all good jobs going to those with some college education or more has substantially grown.

But much of this trend is a consequence of an increasingly educated workforce, not necessarily evidence that more degrees and certifications are needed to fill today’s jobs.

Contrary to CEW’s estimate of a shortage in degrees, other economists think there’s an over-supply of degrees. The Economist estimates that 26.5 million Americans—two-thirds of all bachelor’s holders—are doing work that was mostly done by workers without bachelor’s degrees in the 1970s. They also conclude that a substantial amount of this change can’t be explained by upskilling within jobs, since wages in many of them have remained flat or even declined. That reality causes a dynamic where those with less education are being crowded out of jobs they should be qualified for by others who are over-qualified, thus forcing them to credential up to compete.

“Essentially, CEW regards credential inflation as logically impossible,” Caplan said. “If you go into the data thinking that, of course you’re going to find degree shortages. Many others find high levels of credential inflation.”

Similarly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2016 that only 36 percent of workers were in jobs that typically needed more than a high school diploma for entry, nearly half of CEW’s 65 percent figure. Meanwhile, some 61 percent of working-age Americans have at least some college education. This large difference is because, rather than using CEW’s method and assuming each worker needed their level of education to get their job, BLS uses census data to assign typical requirements for entry into each occupation.

BLS further found that substantial shares of workers—around 50 percent for those with “some college, no degree”—held jobs where they weren’t seeing any wage premium compared to their equivalent peers with only a high school diploma. In other words, their college degrees/certifications weren’t getting them anything.

“Countries have skill shortages, not degree shortages,” Andreas Schleicher told The Economist. Schleicher is the head of education research with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. While a degree may offer economically valuable skills, it does not guarantee those skills and isn’t a perfect substitute for on-the-job training, particularly in middle-skill positions. There are many jobs employing workers with various types of bachelor’s degrees—communications, arts, biology, physical and social sciences—where more-experienced high school graduates make higher or comparable salaries.

Challenging the Popular Narrative

It turns out that measuring the average earnings benefits of college education is not the same thing as measuring true demand for college education in the labor force. While the former lends itself to a simplistic narrative that “more college is better,” the latter complicates the picture by factoring in things like degree inflation. Nonetheless, workers with no formal degree occupy nearly half of America’s good jobs and can still make a great living. Despite the credential treadmill, the “college or bust” narrative is a myth.


Australia: Labor party warns some universities face collapse as international enrolments plummet

Tanya Plibersek has called on the Morrison government to provide low-cost loans and guarantee universities’ funding, warning some are at risk of collapse due to falls in international enrolments during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ahead of the education minister, Dan Tehan, taking a support package to cabinet to be announced as early as next week, Plibersek told Guardian Australia that there are “now serious concerns that without federal government action some leading institutions could collapse”.

Universities, many of which rely on international students for more than a third of their revenue, are currently engaged in cost-cutting including asking staff to use up leave and instituting hiring freezes.

But representatives of the sector have played down the risk, with Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson, insisting they are “not asking for a bailout” from government, only “support to help us weather the period ahead”.

Labor wants the government to provide universities with certainty by guaranteeing “proper funding for Australian students”, including paying at least the commonwealth grant scheme funding for the next three years based on projected student numbers before the 2019 budget.

Plibersek also proposes “low or no-cost loans to provide stability in coming months”.

“Australian universities are under immense pressure,” she said. “For years, universities have used income from international education to help fund their world-leading research.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, and global travel restrictions, have led to a crisis in this funding model, with income from international students plummeting over recent months.

“Australia cannot afford to let our universities fall off a cliff. The federal government must act now to shore up our universities.”

In addition to employing almost 260,000 people, Plibersek cited universities’ role in developing new treatments, cures and equipment and educating doctors, nurses and health experts, as reasons to support them.

“They are absolutely critical to dealing with this urgent health crisis – and will be just as critical to our recovery in the years to come,” she said.

“If the federal government fails to act now, some universities could collapse, which would see vital research cut, thousands of jobs lost, and leave students hanging in the middle of degrees.”

Group of Eight universities tend to derive the most revenue from international students, although are considered very unlikely to fail due to their large asset bases. The greater concern is smaller regional universities that also derive a large proportion of revenue from international sources, such as Federation and Central Queensland universities.

Jackson said that Universities Australia has “been talking with government since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic about ways to best support university students and staff, research and teaching, and have greatly appreciated the collaborative approach”.

“Universities are not asking for a bailout,” she told Guardian Australia. “Rather we are seeking government support to help us weather the period ahead, and come out the other side able to play our part in economic and community recovery.”

Luke Sheehy, executive director of the Australian Technology Network group of universities, said he “anticipates the government will consider additional funding for [the sector], and that would be welcome”.

“We hope that it will allow us to look after students and staff, and continue to conduct vital research including to combat Covid-19.”

Sheehy noted universities would feel the greatest impact in the second semester, when international students from the northern hemisphere begin studies in Australia.

Guardian Australia contacted the Group of Eight universities, Regional Universities Network, Federation and Central Queensland universities for comment.


UK: Leading educationalist ANTHONY SELDON has a stark warning about the uncharted waters of home-schooling

This is a rather strange article. Homeschooling in Britain is far from uncharted.  It goes back to the 19th century.  So what is the problem Seldon sees with it?  Let me mention what he is really on about.

It is black children.  They get some discipline while in school but out of school they tend to run riot.  And an extended riot of black criminal behavior is what Seldon reasonably fears

I met Seldon in 1977 and had some interesting chats with him.  So I know him as a realistic man.  So I am confident that I am not getting it wrong in saying what he cannot say

There are many drastic changes being made to our lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But what few people appreciate is that Britain has embarked on one of the greatest educational and social experiments in our history.

In any normal year, schools would reconvene in two weeks' time after the Easter holidays for the summer term. Not this year.

Millions of children of school age, with the exception of those who are considered vulnerable or whose parents are in key jobs, will have to adjust to working from home for as long as six months.

It is an eventuality for which we have had next to no time to prepare, the risks are beyond the imagination, and of all the toxic legacies bequeathed by this coronavirus crisis this one may prove to be the most devastating.

It is true that some 50,000 young people are already home-schooled, but their parents long ago worked out how to do it. In educational terms, the vast majority of young people have been abandoned in unknown territory.

Let me make this very clear. When it comes to home-schooling en masse, we have no collective memory of best practice, no historical evidence of the most effective techniques, and no bank of psychological research.

In short, we are embarking on a road without maps.

I write not as a psychologist nor a scientist, but as someone who was a school teacher for 30 years, 20 years of them as a head.

And for the past five years I have been running a university, which makes me the only person in Britain to have run both schools and a university — and I am worried.

In the worst-case scenario, too many of the most vulnerable children who are no longer in school under the watchful eye of teachers will, I fear, fall through the cracks. They are at risk of becoming victims and perpetrators of crime.

They will be easy prey for the equivalent of the spivs and criminals who were spawned by the upheaval of British life during World War II — only their contemporary successors are far more sinister.

Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner, has already voiced her fear that criminal gangs will exploit school closures to recruit children as drug mules and street fighters.

She describes the drug-selling networks known as county lines as 'sophisticated enterprises that have well-established hierarchies and use intense violence as part of their business model'.

We know already that these gangs are practised at targeting susceptible children and woo them initially by offering friendship, then money, then drugs. Many such children — and there is an estimated one million of them — live in households affected by violence and addiction.

'For those kids, school is the place where they get their safety, stability and structure in their lives,' says Longfield. Without this support, the Children's Society believes that more and more young people 'will put their lives at risk, rob rival gangs for [drug] supplies'.

Let's face it, schools find it hard enough to keep the disengaged in school and to secure their attention under normal conditions.

Imagine how much more difficult it will be to keep young people studying — and safe — without a structure that combines registration, routine and the threat of sanctions. The fear is that many of them will run amok.

After all, what is to stop young people leaving their homes, congregating out of sight, out of mind, and falling into all kinds of danger?

We have only a limited number of police, they are already overstretched and their new powers to exercise control during this crisis are even now being questioned by judges.

Mental health problems will also proliferate. The past ten years have seen a steady rise in depression among the young, as well as an increase in suicide attempts.

And, only this week, the mental health charity MIND reported seeing a rise in concerns from those with existing conditions.

Even children lucky enough to live in secure and loving families often find that schools are unique in adding meaning and structure to their often anxious lives, as they negotiate the transition from childhood to adolescence.

The reassuring rhythm of the school year, the challenges it provides, and the aspiration it breeds all go towards engendering a sense of community and belonging. All that will be stripped away.

As for those who have worked for years to prepare for GCSE and A-level exams, suddenly hearing that those exams are to be scrapped has proved deeply traumatic.

And children are not the only vulnerable groups. Parents and guardians will be increasingly at risk of mental health problems, too, as they struggle to deliver home-schooling and to keep their children occupied and safe.

Tensions at home will become unbearable for some, leading to sky-rocketing rates of separation and divorce, and the pressures of living in lockdown could even spark an epidemic of domestic violence.

Meanwhile, social inequality will only be enhanced because not all children have parents equally willing and capable of overseeing lessons at home.

The tools they have at their disposal will vary, too, depending upon the resources they have at their disposal.

While many middle-class households will be able to draw upon a wide range of tech devices to enable access to digital technology at home, others on low incomes will find it hard to give their children the equipment they need.

In the same way, children whose families live in cramped high-rise flats may struggle to find quiet spaces in which to study.

Thanks to factors such as these, it may take years to make up the social disadvantages embedded by the loss of the long summer term's study at school.


Wisconsin Prof Blames U.S. for Coronavirus, Says 'This Is Exactly Like What Happened With Hitler'

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside has blamed the U.S. for the coronavirus, insisted there is no "patient zero" in China, compared the situation to Adolf Hitler, and insisted that more people die around the world from U.S. economic policies than from the virus.

Regarding the coronavirus, Palestinian-American Sociology professor Seif Da'na insisted that "more people die every year not just from diseases that you can get vaccinated for, like malaria – from which half a million people [die] in Africa – but also from the West's economic policies, at least in the 20th century and the two decades of the 21st century. More people die every year from the consequences of these economic issues than from what is happening now."

According to video translated and published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Da'na compared the coronavirus situation to that of Adolf Hitler in a March 29 interview with Al-Manar TV, a Hezbollah-affiliated station in Lebanon.

"This is exactly like what happened with Hitler. Hitler did not do anything out of the ordinary," the professor said. "He did not do anything that had not been done by the Europeans before. In the colonial days, in the countries of the [global] south, they would kill hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. Hitler came to be viewed as Satan just because he did what he did in Europe."

How does the coronavirus connect to Hitler, Europeans, and the West? Da'na suggested the virus originated in the U.S. — when it is known to have originated in China — and compared the U.S.'s alleged "leaking" of the virus to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"The question about how this virus appeared has not been settled yet. As of now, there is no 'patient zero' in China, and therefore, we do not talk here about a conspiracy as much as we talk about the leaking of the viruses from a laboratory at Fort Detrick in the United States," the professor said. "Perhaps this leaking was not deliberate. We are not talking here about a conspiracy, even though the U.S. annihilated two whole cities in Japan during WWII, despite this being unnecessary. They were already winning the war, but they still used the nuclear bombs."

Da'na is the associate dean of the College of Social Studies and Professional Sciences at UW-Parkside and the department chair of the school's Institute of Professional Educator Development. According to the school's website, he teaches a broad range of classes, including ETHN 206 — race/ethnic relations in the U.S., MAPS 710 — the global city, SOCA 301 — introduction to sociological theory, and more.

UW-Parkside did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PJ Media.

Contrary to Da'na's suggestion, a "patient zero" has tentatively been identified by the South China Morning Post — a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province. The Chinese Communist Party has released propaganda claiming that the U.S. is responsible for the virus, but this is clearly a lie. Scientists have tentatively concluded that the virus has a natural origin in animals, and it appears to have transmitted to humans through the wet markets of Hubei province near Wuhan.

The idea that Hitler "did not do anything out of the ordinary" is grotesque. His genocide directed against European Jews and others (including ethnic minorities and homosexuals) was horrific and is rightly condemned by all right-thinking people. While other genocides have indeed been carried out in the past (such as the Armenian Genocide), and oppressive Communist regimes have murdered tremendous portions of their own people, Hitler's Holocaust stands out as a true pinnacle of evil. Tragically, Holocaust denial is widespread in the Middle East, and that may explain why Da'na thought he could minimize it for Hezbollah-linked Lebanese television.

Finally, the West's economic policies have fostered free markets and previously unimaginable prosperity across the world. In the past two hundred years, the standard of living has increased dramatically in and outside the West. Innovations like air conditioning, refrigeration, microwaves, cheap books, the internet, air travel, and more were barely conceivable in the early 1800s. The world is incomparably richer thanks to the West's economic progress — the very thing Da'na suggested has killed more than the coronavirus will.

This bare fact reveals an astounding ignorance that may only be possible in the far-left thought bubble of American academia.


Coronavirus and homeschooling: How the tables have turned

I have four at home underfoot, ranging from a uni student, one in Year 12 attempting final year studies, one diving into the huge adventure that’s Year 7 and one in Year 3 trying to learn his tables.

Eight and eight went to the store, to buy Nintendo 64. 56 = 7 x 8 because it’s 5, 6, 7 and 8. Stop! Stop right there! Because we’re no longer meant to learn these natty little short cuts to times tables, we’re not meant to teach our children this way. The current mode of thinking is that kids need to understand the concepts behind the sums, rather than just reeling off the answers by rhyme or rote.

But these ditties are extremely handy in unprecedented times. I have four at home underfoot, ranging from a uni student, one in Year 12 attempting final year studies, one diving into the huge adventure that’s Year 7 and one in Year 3 trying to learn his tables. Let’s just say I begin this whole exercise every morning feeling like Snow White, crisp and clean and contained, trilling away with imaginary bluebirds flying around my head, but end up every afternoon feeling like a combination of Tom (as in Jerry), Oscar (from The Odd Couple) and Cinderella (pre-ball). God I admire teachers, always have, but now … they are my superheroes. This is hard.

So, times tables. The current mode of thinking is that kids need to understand the concepts behind the sums, rather than just reeling off the answers by rote; and through the example of my three older kids I know that schools no longer teach them the old way. I know mine – they were drilled into us every morning, stopwatch hovering, to get us into the correct state of mental alertness for the day. But do our eight-year-old children know theirs? I have primary school memories of the times table grid fresh on the blackboard first thing, to limber us up. Numbers across the top and down the left hand side aaaaaand … go! It was mental arithmetic, it was a race, and it embedded the sums that would be used in some form for the rest of my life.

Through four kids in various schools across two western countries I’ve wondered again and again who’s actually teaching these dear little sums anymore. Is this situation, gulp, actually up to us, the parents? How does it work in all those Asian countries with their amazing PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores? Discipline, structure and sheer grit, I suspect. In 2018, Australian 15-year-olds lagged 3.5 years behind their Chinese counterparts in maths, and we’re now in long-term decline.

So how to raise mathematical standards in Australian kids? Parents, dive in, because I suspect it’s the only way for the time being, and of course some of us have so much free time on our hands now to do this. I asked the school of my Year 3 son what age kids are meant to know their times tables by. End of Year 4, I’m cheerily told, and it’s not necessarily up to teachers alone. The more tigerish parents around me talk of charts on bedroom walls and times tables CDs playing in cars. I panic. I was that mother once. Long ago. God help Child Number Four.

But Aussie maths guru Eddie Woo says it’s essential that all students lock down times tables, because they’re a key form of mathematical fluency. “They’re the bedrock for students to become confident in dealing with fractions: the former is about multiplication and the latter is about division, making them natural partners. Children who struggle with times tables will often find fractions, decimals and percentages very difficult to comprehend … you can see how a child’s difficulties with mathematics may have been sown many years in the past.”

Righto. A few years back the British schools minister declared all pupils should have instant recall of times tables by age nine. And our Aussie kids? I don’t think so. “Six times 6 is 36, now go outside to pick up sticks.” Literally, so Oscar from The Odd Couple can transform into Snow White again.


Sunday, April 05, 2020

Public choice economics and online schools in Oregon

Public choice economics simply says that those who govern us, politicians, bureaucrats, all those who inhabit the governing structure, are subject to the same enlightened self interest as the rest of us. They respond to incentives concerning their personal benefit just as the people they are.

Those in favour of ever yet more government action tend to dislike this theory. As if the receipt of a government paycheck negates basic humanity. Yes, easy to joke that clipboard wielders aren’t entirely human but that is a joke.

Worth noting that the idea doesn’t in fact militate against government action per se. It only says that we have to consider those incentives faced by those taking the action and perhaps rejig them so as to reflect the general, rather than specific, benefit.

Given all of that it’s useful to spot people reacting to said economic incentives in managing public policy. Oregon has decided to close the public schools in response to coronavirus. We’re not sure about that action but OK. Then they decided to close the online schools as well. Why would this be?

 “Enrollment of new students to virtual public charter schools during the closure would impact school funding for districts across Oregon and therefore may impact the distribution of state school funds and delivery of services as directed under the executive order,” the department said in its guidance to districts.

People might actually like the online schools which are outside the standard public school bureaucracy and this would have funding implications for that standard public school bureaucracy in the future. Note that, observing the incentives faced and not considering the overall sensibleness of the policy, this does make perfect sense. The interest of the bureaucracy is not to have children escaping its tender ministrations therefore it acts to stop children doing so. An entirely rational response considering only that self interest.

There are reports of similar events in other states, Pennsylvania being mentioned more than once.

We thus have an example, out there in the wild, of public choice economics. The people within government take decisions based upon the incentives they face. Again, this does not mean that government should never do anything, it just means that we should be precise in our crafting of those incentives so as to end up with sensible decisions.

Oh, and, of course we also need to be distinctly suspicious of any decisions made until we’ve examined the incentives which lead to them.


What's the Real Story About Liberty University 'Reopening' Amid Coronavirus?

According to The New York Times's Paul Krugman, Liberty University is Exhibit A of life-threatening "science denial." As students returned from Spring Break, Jerry Falwell Jr. announced the school would remain open, welcome students and faculty back to campus, and hold some classes in person. Yet news outlets reported that Liberty University would "reopen," making the school notorious across the country for risking infection.

"What lies behind Republican science denial?" Krugman asked. "The answer seems to be a combination of fealty to special interests and fealty to evangelical Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., who dismissed the coronavirus as a plot against Trump, then reopened his university despite health officials’ warnings, and seems to have created his own personal viral hot spot."

Yet Liberty did not "reopen." It merely "remained open," as the statement the school sent to government authorities made clear. Falwell transitioned the vast majority of classes online. He did welcome students and faculty back after Spring Break, however, and some students have reportedly showed symptoms of COVID-19.

The New York Times quoted Liberty University lead physician Thomas W. Eppes Jr. saying that nearly a dozen students showed COVID-19 symptoms. Three students were tested: one tested positive, another tested negative, and results are pending for the third. According to Liberty, Eppes disputes ever having said nearly 12 students showed symptoms.

After Liberty University partially welcomed students back last week, the Central Virginia Health District dispatched health specialists to survey the campus amid community concerns. According to a statement from the district, two specialists performed a check on open areas and food establishments on campus, and they found no violations of Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.)'s Executive Order 53.

Employees served food, even keeping the usual self-serve products behind countertops. Staff sanitized equipment like soda machines and utensil dispensers every fifteen minutes.

Falwell published an article in Newsweek explaining his university's position.

"As a Christian university, we also consider it our duty to continue to act with compassion in the midst of this crisis—and we're proving that we can be in total compliance with the law under this current emergency while also fulfilling our Christian mission. We're living up to our duty—not shirking it—by allowing a small percentage of our residential students to stay safe on our campus," he wrote.

He listed Liberty University's efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus:

Our entire course selection moved to our online platform.

Students were given the option to learn from home.

No classes are conducted in person, except for a few labs limited to 10 or fewer students.

Faculty have the option of working from home and conducting their office hours remotely.

All food services are takeout only. All other non-essential facilities, such as fitness and social centers, are closed.

Every touchpoint is wiped down and disinfected by our dutiful staff throughout the day.

Our computer centers only have every third computer operational for social distancing.

Our police force has a campus-wide presence ensuring that people follow our strict rules.

We have designated a former hotel, currently vacant, as a quarantine site if it is needed.

When students were allowed to return to campus, about 1,100 of the 15,500 students returned, Falwell said. This number included "hundreds of international students who truly have nowhere else to go. They are now living a nomadic life, keeping a strict distance from others in their dorms and in public spaces, and they're continuing their coursework through Liberty University Online Programs."

In his Newsweek article, Falwell noted that Virginia Tech is allowing roughly 950 foreign students to remain on campus, and the University of Virginia is allowing about 300 remain. A Virginia Tech student has also tested positive for the coronavirus.

Liberty students and faculty have long complained about Falwell's control over the campus, claiming he censors their voices and abuses his position. He arguably embarrassed himself in his gushing praise of Donald Trump during the 2016 primary, and his Trumpian swagger may detract from his evangelical leadership.

Falwell had downplayed the threats of the virus before announcing that Liberty would remain open, and his announcement drew attention precisely because it seemed defiant of national trends. Falwell insisted that "ninety-nine percent of [students] are not at the age to be at risk and they don’t have conditions that put them at risk." While the elderly are at greatest risk of death from COVID-19, young people have gotten the disease and died from it, and Falwell should not have made these remarks.

Despite Falwell's unfortunate remarks, Liberty is not a "viral hot spot."


Part of our core mission? — Exposing the Left's blatant hypocrisy

Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is the largest conservative group on America’s college campuses, which have closed and moved their courses online due to the coronavirus. TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk views this as an opportunity to expose the political bias that exists at many of these institutions. On Sunday, March 22, he issued a tweet addressing the issue: “To all college students who have their professors switching to online classes: Please share any and ALL videos of blatant indoctrination with [TPUSA]. Now is the time to document & expose the radicalism that has been infecting our schools. Transparency!”

Judging by the blowback, transparency is the last thing many of America’s professors want.

In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education insisted transparency was akin to weaponization. “The coronavirus-prompted shift to remote teaching was stressful enough for faculty members before Charlie Kirk weaponized online learning,” it complained. And though the Chronicle admitted that research reveals “faculty members skew left politically, and conservative students can feel marginalized, there’s no evidence of a siege on conservative thought in the classroom.” Moreover, it asserts that accusations of indoctrination are a “common right-wing talking point.”

Asserting that professors skew left politically understates reality. A study published by the National Association of Scholars of 8,688 tenure-track professors at 51 of the 66 top-ranked colleges in the nation revealed the ratio of Democrat-registered faculty members versus Republican-registered faculty members was 10.4 to 1. If one removes two military colleges, West Point and Annapolis, technically described as “liberal arts colleges,” from the calculations, the ratio is 12.7 to 1. Mitchell Langbert, an Associate Professor of Business at Brooklyn College who conducted the research, also discovered that 39% of the colleges in his sample had zero faculty members who were registered Republicans.

Dylan Bugden, an assistant professor of sociology at Washington State University, is worried about that transparency. He has decided not to record his lectures and instead post presentation slides, short quizzes, activities, and an exam, while remaining available for office hours. “I find it difficult to teach without referring to important events and issues in the world,” Bugden explained in an email. “Doing so is a powerful way to help students see that what we learn in class is not just abstract or a mere intellectual exercise, but matters for the things they and their peers care about.”

He further asserted that such an approach leaves faculty members — especially women and people of color — vulnerable to attacks, even as he admits some students have given him course evaluation asking him to keep his personal politics out of his teaching material. Ultimately he decided that even if the risk of an online campaign against him is low, it is still “so severe that it’s simply not worth it.”

Rachel Michelle Gunter, a professor at a community college in North Texas who teaches American history, is equally concerned. Thus she will send her students to her video lectures on YouTube, where those videos will be “unlisted,” meaning they can’t be found by conducting a YouTube search or going to her faculty page. After two weeks, the videos will be made private.

Yale University professor Jason Stanley offered advice to professors on how they should prepare for ostensibly being outed by conservatives. “If one of your colleagues gets hit, support them,” he tweeted. “It is not a time to lecture them about [what] you think they did wrong. They need your support, not your moralizing and sanctimoniousness. We’re all in this together. This is an attack on academic freedom, not a time for Schadenfreude.”

Transparency is an attack on academic freedom? Shouldn’t one not only be proud of what one what teaches but willing to see it disseminated as widely as possible?

That professors would be fearful of being “exposed,” coupled with the fallback excuse of being “taken out of context,” is telling. Jeffrey A. Sachs, a lecturer in history and politics at Acadia University in Canada, insists there is a “vast and highly successful” right-wing apparatus ready to destroy a professor who says the wrong thing, assigns the wrong reading, or submits the wrong grade. “Simply put,” he huffed, “faculty are alarmed because they are paying attention.”

To emphasize the point, the Chronicle notes Mr. Sachs has compiled a database of professors “who have been fired for political speech.”

Not exactly. Some professors were fired, but some resigned, some were suspended or demoted, and some were denied promotion or had their course canceled. Moreover, the notion that any type of free speech insulates one from the consequences of that speech is absurd. Many of these educators said outrageous things for which they should have been held accountable.

That it was all the doing of a vast right-wing conspiracy? One of those professors, Erika Christakis, taught at Yale before she resigned in 2015 for what Sachs described as her criticism of “safe spaces” at the Ivy League School.

Hardly. As Christakis herself revealed in a Washington Post op-ed, an email she sent urging students to think critically about an official set of Yale guidelines on costumes to avoid at Halloween — one in which she wondered if there was “no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious” — precipitated a firestorm whereby nearly “a thousand students, faculty and deans called for my and my husband’s immediate removal from our jobs and campus home.”

Precipitated by right-wing students? “I am a registered Democrat, and I applaud Yale’s mission to better support underrepresented students,” she added. “But I also recognize the dizzying irrationality of some supposedly liberal discourse in academia these days.”

Perhaps the widespread exposure of “dizzying irrationality” is what the current controversy is really all about, especially when one considers the skyrocketing costs of college that has left America’s students mired in a collective $1.6 trillion in student debt. Perhaps if future consumers got firsthand information on what some professors are saying, they might think twice about enrolling.

“For those that are using the classroom to intimidate conservatives or otherwise lie to, bully, or indoctrinate students to hate America, we will highlight those cases so parents, students, administrations and donors can make better, more informed decisions moving forward,” a TPUSA spokesperson explained. “Knowing the truth shouldn’t be controversial.”

That it is speaks volumes.