Friday, August 07, 2020

At Last, A Victory for Education: Maryland Governor Comes Through for Private Schools

The war over school reopenings has been raging for weeks as public school teachers and their unions refuse to go back to their jobs this fall. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both recommended that children return to the classroom for the new school year as long as social distancing requirements are met.

Progressive teachers' unions, however, have discovered that they may have leverage in achieving some political goals if they stay away, putting parents in a bind and leaving their pupils in isolation, strapped to feeble distance learning. Parents who have long sent their kids to public schools are seeking other options like private and charter schools, as well as smaller homeschooling pods. After all, freedom from the public school system would mean freedom from the political leveraging of the teachers' unions and the bureaucratic red tape wrapped public schools.

But the teachers and the school officials see the actual loss of their students as the opposite of their desired outcome by affecting a walk-out of their duties. One major union, backed by the ultra-progressive Justice Democrats PAC, even demanded an end of charter schools as one condition in which they would consider returning to work, a far cry from the chorus of safety and isolation they had been signing. Another, unsurprisingly, was defunding the police.

Taking a cue from the teachers, unions, protesters, and schools, officials from Montgomery County, a wealthy Washington, D.C., suburb, ignited a firestorm last week when they mandated the closure of private schools, overruling their independent educational systems that operate separately from county public schools.

Critics immediately noted that the rejection of official guidelines and overreach by county officials was tantamount to tyranny, and put children and families in jeopardy for no reason backed by science.

But the state governor, Republican Larry Hogan, stepped in at the last minute to say enough was enough.

"The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer," Hogan said. The governor's decree surprised many who considered him to be one of the strictest proponents of harmful lockdowns among all fifty states throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for parents fed up with their children's education being manipulated in the hands of political operatives, Hogan's order drew a firm line in the sand about the embedded power given to county officials. At least in Montgomery County, schools will be allowed to safely educate children this fall.


Antifa Is the Natural Product of Our Educational System

Antifa or antifa—lower case a, if you prefer—may have gotten its start in Germany, but it’s flourishing here in the United States as never before.

This growth occurred even though truly achieving the movement’s stated goal—anarchy—would create chaos, leading to civilizational destruction of a likely unparalleled extent in human history in our industrialized and high-tech nation of almost 330 million.

The deepest causes of their violent and more than slightly deranged behavior are undoubtedly personal and psychoanalytic in nature. The story of the Seattle grandmother who identified her bomb-throwing grandson from video of a protective vest she bought him—he said he was “peaceful”—is a novel crying out to be written.

But whatever the psychological profiles of the individual Antifa members, almost all of them share one thing in common:

They went to American schools.

And those schools, with only a few notable exceptions, talked down and continue to talk down the United States of America to one degree or another from kindergarten through doctorate.

It is, to my knowledge, unique in history that the public and private educational systems of a country so thoroughly and consistently criticize the country itself. (The Chinese Cultural Revolution did it briefly, but Mao’s immediate central government was always supported.)

For decades, our schools have been self-replicating machines, preaching to college students, directly or indirectly, the left-wing gospel according to Howard Zinn (and the Frankfurt School and so forth) and sending them out in turn to preach this junior varsity, critical theory Marxism themselves as teachers at whatever level at all manner of institutions throughout the country.

The youngest of those levels is perhaps the most dangerous because it’s the most impressionable.

Antifa members are therefore only doing what they have been taught all along, getting rid of a cancer called the United States.

This connection between Antifa and the teaching profession is so profound that some insist the majority of those hidden behind the black masks are indeed teachers. Others, needless to say including the liberal media, have denied this.

It’s impossible to know for certain. Antifa, like some Islamic terror groups, doesn’t have a formal leadership structure; why would they need it? They also don’t keep records.

This, however, is probably a case where the cliché about smoke and fire applies. Whether Antifa is 50 percent teachers or 20 percent teachers, it’s a lot of teachers.

Any reader of websites such as The College Fix or Campus Reform can see the extent to which almost all our schools have their tentacles buried deeply into the supposed social justice causes espoused more militantly in the streets by Antifa.

The governors and mayors of the localities where the riots are taking place are themselves the products of the same educational institutions. This may account in part for their reluctance to crack down. Some part of them is identifying with the rioters.

They want to burn it down, no matter if the violent protests lead to the renaming of this country as New Venezuela, figuratively and literally.

Antifa is an excruciating public manifestation of a very deep infection that has metastasized throughout our society from the schools.

It will only get worse if we don’t change our educational system—pronto.

Ironically, the beginnings of this change are one of the few, perhaps the only, good things to emanate from the pandemic.

With schools shut or online, many are evaluating whether the system serves our young people, practically (in terms of careers) or ideologically.

What kind of education is it when 95 percent of college professors vote Democratic, and mostly left Democratic at that?

Viewpoint diversity, anyone? Shall I homeschool my child? Shall I send him or her to college, so they can come back at Thanksgiving in an Antifa T-shirt and accuse me of being a capitalist pig when I just spent 50 grand for their tuition?

Something is wrong with this picture.

Change is undoubtedly coming. As a wise man once said, “Faster, please.” I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of mush-brains throwing firebombs at police stations.


Illinois Lawmaker Pushes for Schools to Abolish History Curriculum in the State

An Illinois lawmaker is seeking to remove school history classes in his state until a reformed curriculum is created that doesn't promote racism.

Rep. LaShawn K. Ford, a Democrat from Chicago, said in a Sunday press conference that current history lessons are miseducating children about the past, NBC 5 in Chicago reported.

According to a press release unveiled just before Sunday's event, Ford said the current history lessons in Illinois "unfairly communicate our history," and they should be replaced with civics until there is a proper representation of subject matter within the curriculum.

"It costs so much to print books and it costs so much of taxpayers to continue to pay for their kids and their children to be miseducated," said Ford at the press conference. "And not only does it cost when you pay your taxes, but costs us as a society in the long run forever."

He also said current history classes lead to "white privilege and a racist society," according to ABC 7 in Chicago.

Other speakers at the press conference noted that the current history instruction also fails to include Jewish and LGBTQ figures.

Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, also a Democrat, didn't comment on Ford's proclamation about the abolishment of history classes, but he did say he supports House Bill 4954.

The bill would change the school code to include commemorative holidays like Humanitarian Day (January 15), Violence Wholly Day (April 4), and Dream Day (August 28). It also would require elementary school lessons about the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s.

"Personally, I support House Bill 4954 because I am interested in learning more and believe the history of Black people should be taught to all children and include all groups, Women, LatinX, and Native Indians who helped to build America," Hagerty said in a statement. 

In February, Ford added an amendment to the bill to call for not only more teachings on civil rights, but also on the history of the African slave trade, slavery in America, and the vestiges of slavery in this country. There is no mention in the bill of the replacement of civics instead of history before the curriculum goals can be met.

As of late June, the bill was referred to the Illinois House Rules Committee.


How we lost trust in our universities

Australian National University vice-chancellor and astronomer Brian Schmidt, who is the only university leader in the world to win a Nobel prize (for physics), made a telling point in his annual Foundation Day address this week. Australia needs universities more than ever amid the COVID-19 crisis, he said. But they have possibly never been more distrusted.

In an interview with Tim Dodd earlier this year, Professor Schmidt identified what families want universities to be. That is, a place where “Australian students can get an education as good as any place in the world but distinctively Australian”. That aspiration should serve as a model for our universities, which, since the days of the Colombo Plan in the 1950s, have attracted students from around the world for their quality and for the experience most students enjoy.

For decades the sector built on that reputation to the point where last year education had grown into the nation’s fourth-largest export, worth $40bn to the economy. For now, at least, the coronavirus has smashed the business model centred on international students. But that is only one of a range of problems facing the sector, as serious revelations reported in recent weeks have shown.

Most of these come down to the issue of standards, which university leaders must improve and defend if their institutions are to serve the nation and retain (or recover) their international reputations. Contentious cultural issues of academic freedom and censorship also loom large.

Suspicions that some institutions have “gone soft” in marking the work of foreign students have been rife for years. Alarm bells should be ringing among university leaders after confirmation that lecturers are being cowed into lowering academic standards by organised networks of overseas students. Academics admit they have “dumbed down” courses to ensure foreign students can complete degrees. Lecturers who refuse risk being targeted by official complaints signed by up to 100 students, as reported on Wednesday. It is even more alarming that such complaints are taken seriously by university executives and have the potential to derail academic careers. Language barriers are a major part of the problem, as local students know from experience. In defending standards, universities must insist on proficiency in English.

Recent scandals also show how far universities have strayed from what should be central to their raison d’etre — free speech and academic freedom. As Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven wrote recently, universities have two types of problems with freedom of academic expression. One is corporate, “where an academic writes something that could rile a major stakeholder: a sponsoring corporation, a government partner or — frankly — China”. Vice-chancellors understandably, but not heroically, Professor Craven noted, “feel for their institutional wallet”. The second assault on academic freedom is more insidious because it is internal. “An academic strikes trouble because he or she writes something counter to the accepted wisdom of their faculty or university as a whole.”

Despite an admirable policy on free speech, the University of NSW resorted to censorship when it withdrew a tweet quoting adjunct law lecturer and Australian director of Human Rights Watch Elaine Pearson criticising China’s miserable human rights record in Hong Kong. UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs, to his credit, has apologised for the decision to delete the tweet.

The suspension of pro-Hong Kong democracy student activist Drew Pavlou by the University of Queensland also smacked of repressive censorship. Both universities’ approaches were anathema to Western ideals of free speech. But Chinese Communist Party propagandist media, unsurprisingly, were deeply critical of both Ms Pearson and Mr Pavlou. Such erosion of intellectual integrity has compromised universities’ credibility.

The treatment of James Cook University physicist Peter Ridd by his employers also was indicative of an increasing hostility to debate on campus. The cardinal sin that brought about Dr Ridd’s demise was his questioning of the rigour of university-linked research on the health of the Great Barrier Reef under climate change.

Last year’s campus free speech report by former High Court chief justice Robert French made the point that university codes of conduct could be hostile to the freedoms they purported to uphold. That is particularly the case in relation to opinions that challenge progressive norms among academics. But when it suits them, some faculties prefer to turn a blind eye to empirical evidence. For instance, too many education faculties fail to prepare trainee teachers to use phonics in teaching children to read, despite impressive evidence about the method’s effectiveness compared with trendier “whole-word recognition” systems. Nor should promoting “cancel culture” be academics’ focus.

Regardless of such problems, universities remain our prime drivers of ideas and scientific breakthroughs. As Professor Schmidt said, few people realise how large and direct a part the ANU and other universities are playing in the fight against coronavirus. During the enforced interruption in their operations because of the pandemic, vice-chancellors and other leaders have a chance to raise academic standards, reinforce the value of free speech and improve accountability to taxpayers and to the Australian students who primarily fund universities. Doing so would rebuild trust and enhance their international standing.


Thursday, August 06, 2020

The Great College Depression Begins: Three Ohio Tales

Major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post are writing stories about how Covid-19 is devastating universities and towns surrounding them, particularly in Flyover Country, that part of America located away from the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts where media, business and political elites too often think most of the great minds and wisdom of our nation are found. The Times, for example, recently focused on the University of Akron, and Ohio University, where I reside. Let me speak briefly about three universities in the Buckeye State, including those two.

These schools are getting clobbered financially. Enrollments have been falling for years, so the schools were already in tenuous financial shape before Covid-19. The University of Akron in 1989 had 28,967 students; 30 years later, in fall 2019, it had 17,743, 38.7% fewer. What this fall: maybe 15,000? Moreover, early in this century, Akron went on a huge building splurge including a large fancy stadium, unsuccessfully hoping to attract students, but instead incurring a huge debt burden. Complicating things, another large state school, Kent State, is but 13 miles (16 minutes) away.

As Inside Higher Ed put it, Akron recently had a “bloodbath.” It fired 97 full-time professors, some tenured, after another 21 had already resigned or retired. This continued a major program retrenchment begun in 2018. Whole disciplines are being decimated, no doubt ending several majors. Meanwhile, of course, the school still subsidizes intercollegiate sports with more than $20 million annually, justly infuriating the faculty.

Conference rival Ohio University (OU) is the oldest Midwest university, with a gorgeous campus including 200-year-old buildings. Reeking in tradition, it inspired David McCullough’s recent best seller, The Pioneers, and is the school where Lyndon Johnson proclaimed his Great Society. A selective admission school with a decent-sized (by state school standards) endowment, OU over the past decade ignored the basics (maintaining high academic standards), lowering entrance requirements to maximize enrollments, while emphasizing political correctness regarding things like sustainability and diversity. A flight to quality in higher ed hurt schools like Ohio University that lowered high academic standards. Huge budget woes have forced it to let roughly 400 staff go, including a good number of faculty, vast numbers of supporting workers, but absolutely no, to my knowledge, high priced administrators, nor have any sizable cuts come to the $20 million plus athletics subsidy required so OU can compete annually in the Last Resort Bowl or its equivalent.

Wright State University in Dayton has had the most perilous decade of all. A new university, founded only in 1967, it grew substantially and by 2011 had 18,275 students; in fall 2019, the number had declined by 32% to 12,423, Wracked by internal dissent, in February 2019 the faculty went on a 20-day strike severely hurting the institution. Its finances have been extremely precarious. Founded originally as a branch of both Ohio State and Miami Universities, both schools are within about an hour’s drive of the Wright campus, as is the University of Cincinnati. Do you need four major public universities within an hour of Dayton, a city with fewer residents than 100 years ago, which also has a fine private school (University of Dayton) as well as a large community college (Sinclair)?

My guess is something important will happen regarding minimally one of these colleges. Ohio University, academically the highest quality, better endowed, and more geographically isolated from competing institutions, will likely survive, possibly even flourish if it renews its previous emphasis on excellence. Wright State is extremely vulnerable to merger into one or more surrounding institutions. Some sort of merger or increased cooperation between Akron and Kent State also seems likely. Some observers go further, predicting remote learning and alternatives to traditional degrees (like coding academies) may doom most vulnerable American universities.

Ohio is probably fairly typical. The short term prognosis is: Highly unpredictable, but with falling enrollments, rising expenses (money for masks, testing, etc.), loss of athletic revenue, declining state subsidies, falling endowment income and donor grants, half-filled dorm rooms, declining international enrollments, etc.—very bad financial outlooks, even for elite schools suffering smaller enrollment loss. Some low-cost community colleges, however, may actually gain enrollments. But Covid-19 will kill off some schools.


Teachers' Unions Take to the Streets With the Radical Left, Even While Insisting It's Not Safe to Return to School

Teachers’ unions in many major metros, and other places that might surprise you, have thrown in completely with the radical left. They have partnered with the Democratic Socialists of America and other extremist groups to make some astounding demands in order to allow your children to return to school.

These groups are coming together today for a “Day of Action” to make demands of school districts that have nothing to do with the pandemic. They are explicitly taking advantage of misinformation in the media, liability concerns for school districts, and parental fears to leverage political outcomes that are far to the left of mainstream views.

So while they say your children can’t go back to school safely, they are taking to the streets today. because, as we all know, COVID-19 can’t be transmitted if you are protesting something the left agrees with. The increase in cases in every major metro where protests and riots occurred tells a different story, but our Heath Experts™ have told us racial justice is more important than flattening the curve.

So what are their Common Good demands? They range from free housing to a wealth tax. The demands also eliminate programs that allow parents a choice in how and where their children are educated. An elimination of standardized testing, one of the ways we can measure educational effectiveness, is also called for. This demand could be because it is one way for charter and voucher programs to demonstrate how they improve outcomes for students.

The entire agenda can be discarded based on the first demand. Every bit of scientific evidence collected from other nations demonstrates children are not a significant factor in the transmission of COVID-19. According to a rapid review of research published by The National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools in Canada on July 24:

Key Points

Based on the published reports to date, children are not a major source of transmission of COVID-19. The quality of evidence is moderate, and findings are consistent.

Analyses of infection clusters revealed that for children who were infected, transmission was traced back to community and home settings or adults, rather than amongst children within daycares or schools. Within household clusters, adults were much more
likely to be the index case than children. The quality of evidence is moderate, and findings are consistent.

In fact, there is not a single documented case of a child infecting an adult in an educational or daycare setting globally. This fact was clearly demonstrated by genetic testing in Iceland months ago. Using a much more specific method than contact tracing by genetically mapping the virus, they could not find a single case of transmission from a child to an adult.

This weekend the CDC reiterated guidance initially published on July 23. There are significant risks, beyond those related to the virus, that demand the vast majority of our children return to in-person instruction:

Scientific studies suggest that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools may be low.  International studies that have assessed how readily COVID-19 spreads in schools also reveal low rates of transmission when community transmission is low.  Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed.  There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members.[6],[7],[8]  This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.[9],[10],[11]  No studies are conclusive, but the available evidence provides reason to believe that in-person schooling is in the best interest of students, particularly in the context of appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at essential workplaces.

The mitigation methods should likely be focused on the teachers, not the students. Several other industrialized nations, including the Public Health Agency of Canada, have decided to advise against enforced social distancing or masks for children, especially the very young:

Masks in general are not recommended for those without symptoms to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Students/children and staff who are experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness should stay home from the school/childcare setting. Surgical masks in school/childcare settings is not recommended, as these are not settings where people are typically trained on their use, and there is a potential risk of infection with improper mask use and disposal. In young children in particular, masks can be irritating and may lead to increased touching of the face and eyes.

Parents should be asking why there are over 20 other industrialized nations that have returned children to school, many with minimal restrictions. Then they need to ask what eliminating rent and mortgage payments have to do with public school teachers fulfilling the social contract to provide an education to children in their communities.

Los Angeles Teachers Unions Demand Money and Political Action to Reopen Schools
If the teachers’ unions are trying to demonstrate how non-essential they are, they are doing an excellent job. Marching in the streets for leftist political goals while asserting that they can not safely return to the classroom is the height of absurdity.


Study Shows The Harsh Reality of Effectively, Affordably Testing College Students For COVID-19

College campuses can't safely reopen this fall unless they test students every two-three days, according to a study released on Friday.

The findings from Yale and Harvard researchers, published in the JAMA Network Open journal, claim that unless students are tested every few days to help manage the spread of the virus, along with other strict social distancing guidelines.

Researchers said that even lower-quality testing that may only detect 70 percent of positive COVID-19 cases at a two-day rate is a more cost-effective system than higher-quality testing once a week.

To conduct their study, the authors used a modeling scenario that incorporated a residential campus with 5,000 students, including 4,990 students uninfected with the COVID-19 and 10 who were asymptomatic but had tested positive for the virus. The time frame stretched from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, an 80-day time frame.

In the modeling, the reachers failed to find a realistic circumstance in which waiting to test until symptoms emerge would be a sufficient way to prevent an outbreak.

They estimated the per-student cost for the semester implementing the preferred testing strategy would be between $120 and $910. They also revealed "no circumstance in this modeling study under which symptom-based screening alone would be sufficient to contain an outbreak.”

The study also found that testing too many students could generate false-positive cases that may weaken student assurance in their university's testing system and overwhelm quarantine spaces.

David Paltiel, a Yale public health professor and the study's lead author, believes these findings aren't meant to discourage colleges from reopening but to inform the public of the method that involves the least risk of spread.

“It is possible to reopen U.S. residential colleges safely in the fall,” Paltiel said in a statement, “but it will require high-cadence screening in addition to strict adherence to masking, social distancing, and other preventive practices.”

The results from the study come after several colleges said that they would not be returning in the fall, even though many had said earlier in the summer they would likely bring students back to campus. These schools include elite schools with high tuition costs such as Georgetown, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Some colleges announced a delayed start like the College of William and Mary, Ohio University, and College of Charleston.

However, a majority of colleges have still not clarified exactly they plan to keep students safe this fall and prevent a massive spread in the surrounding community. 

Only a small fraction of U.S colleges have announced that they have the testing capabilities to adhere to proper testing guidelines. Such schools include Yale, Boston University, Colby College. Harvard also plans on aggressive testing for the 40 percent of undergraduates it plans to have back on campus this fall.

Other colleges like Cornell are only testing their students once a week. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill officials argue that testing every student could “create a false sense of security," and only plan to test students who show symptoms.

Colleges are largely divided on how to effectively monitor the spread and control student behavior. There is no uniform plan across the board, and it varies from school to school, even those in the same city.

The researchers behind the study even admit the task is nearly impossible for most schools, as it "sets a very high bar—logistically, financially, and behaviorally."

"Any school that cannot meet these minimum screening standards or maintains uncompromising control over good prevention practices has to ask itself if it has any business reopening,” said Paltiel.

More colleges are expected to make a final decision in the coming weeks about their official return plans for the fall.


Teachers protest reopening of US schools while coronavirus lurks

Chicago: Teachers and support staff at more than 35 school districts across the United States on Monday staged protests over plans to resume in-class instruction while COVID-19 is surging in many parts of the country.

The protesters, who formed car caravans and attached signs and painted messages on their vehicles, demand schools hold off until scientific data supports such a move.

Rachel Bardes holds a sign in front of the Orange County Public Schools headquarters as teachers protest with a car parade around the administration centre in Orlando, Florida.
Rachel Bardes holds a sign in front of the Orange County Public Schools headquarters as teachers protest with a car parade around the administration centre in Orlando, Florida.CREDIT:AP

They want districts to wait until safety protocols such as lower class sizes and virus testing are established, and schools are staffed with an adequate number of counsellors and nurses, according to a website set up for the demonstrations.

On Twitter, the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association showed protesters making fake gravestones that said, "Here lies a third grade student from Green Bay who caught COVID at school" and "RIP Grandma caught COVID helping grand kids with homework."

Coronavirus deaths are rising in 31 states, up from 27 states a week ago, according to a Reuters analysis of the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. More than 155,000 people have died of COVID-19 related illness in the United States, the most in the world.

Teachers also are demanding financial help for parents in need, including rent and mortgage assistance, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and cash assistance.

Many of these issues are at the centre of a political tussle in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and Trump administration officials resumed talks on Monday to hammer out a coronavirus economic relief bill after missing a deadline to extend benefits to tens of millions of jobless Americans.

Education employees in Chicago, Milwaukee and Philadelphia honked their horns in socially distanced car protests. Protesters rallied outside the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce building and in the Hartford, Connecticut, area, about 400 formed a car march that went by Governor Ned Lamont's home.

"I do not want to put my students or myself in harm's way. I do not want to be an experiment," Andrea Parker, an elementary school teacher in Chicago, told reporters before a car protest.

In a Lincoln, Nebraska, protest, a handful of people blocked the SUV of Governor Pete Ricketts as he left a briefing, a video on Twitter showed. "We are asking him to not try to kill children," one of the protesters said to an officer who asked them to clear the way for the governor's vehicle.

Trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden in opinion polls, President Donald Trump has made school reopenings for classroom instruction in August and September part of his November re-election campaign.

"Cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well. Open the Schools!" the Republican Trump tweeted on Monday.

While reported case numbers, rising in 28 states according to the Reuters analysis, may be linked to more testing, the rise in hospitalisations and deaths have no connection to an increase in testing.

The United States is in a new phase of the outbreak with infections in rural areas as well as cities, Deborah Birx, the coordinator of Trump's coronavirus task force, said on Sunday.

Pelosi likens Trump to 'man who refuses to ask for directions'
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised President Donald Trump and compared his response to the COVID-19 pandemic to that of a 'man who refuses to ask for directions.'

Previously hard-hit, densely populated parts of New York and New Jersey reduced the spread of the virus with stiff restrictions on movement and gatherings and healthcare measures. On Monday, however, faced with more new cases linked to indoor events, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy reduced indoor limits to 25 people per room from 100.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would determine later this week based on the infection rate whether to reopen schools. Cuomo said of states including Florida and Texas now suffering casualties: "It was a mistake to deny the reality that happened in New York."

On Monday, Trump accused Birx of capitulating to criticism from Democrats that his administration's response to the pandemic has been ineffective.

"So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combating the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!" Trump tweeted.

House of Representatives Speaker Pelosi said on CNN that Birx "enabled" Trump, who played down the seriousness of the virus in the early stages and pushed for a quick reopening of the economy following weeks of lockdowns.

"I don't have confidence in anyone who stands there while the President says swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus," Pelosi said, referring to Trump asking at a briefing in April whether injecting disinfectant into the body could be a treatment, leading manufacturers to warn against doing so.


Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Education Pods Threaten School Union Hegemony

No group of Americans is more dedicated to the equal sharing of misery than the progressive Left. And no subset of the progressive Left has demonstrated more effectiveness in achieving it than the Democrat/Education Union Cartel. Thus, despite the science that supports sending children back to school, school unions have made it clear that prospect is a nonstarter. In fact, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is authorizing its members to strike if schools open without what they define as proper safety measures.

Unfortunately for the unions, American parents are responding by doing what Americans in general have done since this country began: Embracing innovation. Faced with the prospect of long-term online learning and extended time off from work to care for their children, they are forming entities known as “education pods” and “micro-schools.” In a Facebook posting that has gone viral, one mom described the phenomenon. “These are clusters of 3-6 families with similar aged (and sometimes same-school) children co-quarantined with each other, who hire one tutor for in-person support for their kids,” she explained. “Sometimes the tutor in question is full time and sometimes part time / outdoor classes, depending on the age of kids and individual circumstances.”

In other words, parents are filling a Cartel-created vacuum — and no one is more upset about it than the Cartel and its useful idiot, media handmaidens. And as one might suspect, race and class are being used as hammers to vilify such efforts. “When parents with privilege open their checkbooks and create private one-room schoolhouses for their children, they follow a long pattern of weakening the public education system they leave behind, especially in districts with predominantly black, Latinx, indigenous and low-income students,” asserts Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss. She also likens the current effort to the “previous patterns of privileged flight” that may engender “potentially disastrous results for communities currently — and perpetually — in the crosshairs of this country’s oppression.”

Clara Totenberg Green, a “social emotional learning specialist” for Atlanta Public Schools, echoes those sentiments. “Based on what I’ve seen online, the learning pod movement appears to be led by families with means, a large portion of whom are white,” she writes. “Paradoxically, at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted a national reckoning with white supremacy, white parents are again ignoring racial and class inequality when it comes to educating their children. As a result, they are actively replicating the systems that many of them say they want to dismantle.”

Who’s kidding whom? No one has been more responsible for keeping minority children “perpetually” under-educated than the nation’s two largest school unions, the aforementioned AFT and the National Education Association (NEA), and a Democrat Party that consistently receives more than 90% of their campaign donations. In Democrat-controlled inner city after inner city, their track record of failure is indisputable: After 50 years the achievement gap between white and black students has barely narrowed, something a 2016 report on the subject labeled a “national embarrassment.”

Moreover, it’s beginning to dawn on a lot of American parents that the rank indoctrination of their children with the leftist ideology that spawns assertions about a “national reckoning with white supremacy” is precisely the kind of politically motivated drivel they don’t want force-fed to their children on a daily basis.

Green gives the game away. “Whatever parents ultimately decide, they must understand that every choice they make in their child’s education, even the seemingly benign, has the potential to perpetuate racial inequities rooted in white supremacy,” she adds. “The history of public schooling in this country is one in which white parents have repeatedly abandoned public schools, or resisted integration efforts at every turn. As a result, schools are more segregated today than during the late 1960s.”

Remarkably, no one talks about the blatant racism demonstrated by such assertions, as in the idea that schools lacking a sufficient percentage of Caucasian students are doomed to failure. In New York City, charter schools known as Success Academies, run by Cartel anti-heroine Eva Moskowitz, utterly belie that noxious assertion, as thousands of mostly low-income black and Latino students routinely outperform kids in wealthy, “privileged” suburbs.

Moreover, the notion that any parent wanting what’s best for their child should be deemed racist for refusing to keep that child in a substandard school — to serve the union-defined “greater good,” no less — is utterly preposterous.

So what’s the handwringing about education pods and micro-schools really all about? Money and competition. “As we know from the fight over charter schools and vouchers, a district loses local, state and federal funding for each child who disenrolls from the public system,” Strauss declares. “Combined with budget cuts and teacher hiring freezes, pandemic pods might exacerbate the defunding of traditional public schools.”

Jessica Calarco, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, Bloomington, agrees: “I would urge parents who are considering forming private learning pods to redirect those efforts toward lobbying public officials for more public school funding, instead.”

Both women miss the point. Millions of parents are more than willing to defund “traditional public schools” because the dynamics of them are despicable. First, the primary job of any union is to promote and protect the interest of its members, meaning parents and students are — at best — a secondary consideration. Second, the monopolistic power demonstrated by unions in conjunction with their Democrat Party allies is indisputable in that a child’s future — or complete lack thereof — can literally be determined by that child’s zip code.

Moreover, educational alternatives have sprung up precisely because the Cartel is determined to keep schools closed. Either indefinitely, or as the United Teachers Los reveals, until a wholly non-educational political agenda — as in defunding police, placing a moratorium on charter schools, and enacting Medicare-for-All at the federal level — is realized.

The great irony here? The longer the Cartel keeps schools closed, the more opportunity parents and their children will have to find viable alternatives.

Nonetheless, the Cartel has their champion. “You’ll have an NEA member in the White House,” promised Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has received millions of dollar in donations from that union since 2018.

What about minority parents and others who want an alternative to the status quo? “No privately funded, charter school would receive or private choice receive a penny of Federal money. None,” Biden added.

President Trump? “If schools do not reopen, the funding should go to parents to send their child to public, private, charter, religious, or home school of their choice,” he asserted. “The keyword being choice. If the school is closed, the money should follow the student.”

Thus, the 2020 election itself comes down to a choice between educational freedom or the continuing and equal sharing of misery.

Haven’t Americans been miserable long enough?


UCLA’s Discrimination Office Targeting Professor Threatens Academic Freedom

When a political science lecturer at UCLA read to his class Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and showed clips from a documentary on racism, he found himself in hot water.

The reason: Both the letter and the documentary included the N-word.

Many students complained, which in turn pitted UCLA against the Department of Education. The latter said that targeting the instructor was a direct violation of UCLA’s own policies protecting academic freedom. But, instead of backing the instructor, UCLA’s Discrimination Prevention Office has launched a review, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This is a rare moment when the Department of Education is right.

Regardless of the final outcome, one would be naïve to believe that academic freedom exists in higher education in this country today. That is particularly the case in California, where the state’s constitution spells out unequivocally that the University of California “shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom.”

If diversity of thought is indeed a goal, then why is William Peris, the political science lecturer (who is white), not being supported? His own department responded that he was wrong because he did not “simply pause and reassess” his teaching pedagogy to meet his students’ needs during this “sensitive time,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

But how can students be expected to develop critical thinking if the material they are exposed to has been bowdlerized? Recognizing this, several states have passed laws requiring public universities to guarantee free speech and intellectual diversity, which they define as a “learning environment that exposes students to and encourages exploration of a variety of ideological and political perspectives,” according to a South Dakota bill signed into law in March.

Let’s not forget that students in colleges and universities are adults. Whatever argument is made to protect them from ideas that make them feel uncomfortable when they were in K-12 fails in higher education. That bodes ill for the future of the country because today’s graduates will likely be tomorrow’s leaders. If they persist in being closed to views at odds with their pre-existing opinions, what hope is there for a productive debate?

If anything, conservative students are the ones who feel most censored. According to a 2017 poll by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, 69 percent of students say that conservatives can “freely and openly express their views” on campus—compared with 92 percent who say that liberals have the same freedom. The free exchange of ideas is heavily tilted in favor of liberal students and their liberal professors. The problem isn’t limited to lecturers at the mercy of their department. The academic environment on many campuses discourages students from stating opinions out of step with the majority (or a loud minority).

It’s little wonder, then, that so many students “are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains in general skills” like critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. Some 45 percent of students showed no significant improvement on the Collegiate Learning Assessment after two years of college, and 36 percent didn’t improve after four years, according to Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in their 2011 book Academically Adrift, based on 2,300 undergraduates surveyed at 24 universities.

Whatever they found nine years ago has gotten only worse when race is the subject. It’s the third rail of instruction. Students enter with attitudes and values at odds with academic commitment and leave little changed. How could things be any different if professors feel intimidated by their students and by administrators?

But how can students be expected to develop critical thinking if the material they are exposed to has been bowdlerized?
Mistakes cannot be corrected if they are afraid to speak out. No one is suggesting that slurs, epithets, and the like deserve a forum. But censuring an instructor who quotes directly from original sources—sources opposing racism, no less—just because the words he recites offend some students makes a mockery of real education and academic freedom.

Democracy thrives on debate. Unavoidably, it involves the use of material that for one reason or another offends some students. That’s the price we have to pay.

Academic freedom is supposed to allow substantive arguments about divisive issues. It’s why tenure exists in the first place. The UCLA political science instructor obviously lacks tenure. If he had it, the school’s Discrimination Prevention Office would likely be reluctant to mount a case. But because he is a lecturer, he is on thin ice. Moreover, would students have complained if he were black? And would UCLA have even intervened?

These are the questions that need to be answered frankly. But they won’t in today’s incendiary climate. Racism is too controversial to be examined fairly. Airing inconvenient facts can be a career breaker, particularly when student evaluations are considered in awarding tenure. So we continue to pervert academic values and rationalize doing so as atonement for past injustices.

Seventy-one years ago, the University of California required a loyalty oath that employees were “not a member of the Communist Party.” After 31 faculty were fired for refusing to sign, the requirement was changed to the Standing Order of the Regents 101.1 (d): “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee.” But on eight UC campuses and at many other colleges, this principle is slowly but surely being abandoned. “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” statements that applicants have to sign are the new version of loyalty oaths. Rubrics are now used in place of the judgment of faculty hiring committees at some campuses.

Rather than administrators caving to student demands after offense is taken, they should defend professors who want to educate students and prepare them for life. Considering the debt students amass, they deserve an education that encourages them to think and prepare them for life after campus. Doing so would benefit broader society, as graduates would not expect the world to cater to what offends them. Public universities are charged with developing citizens; those young citizens need better ways to discuss race while respecting academic freedom.


Fall Uncertainty: College Leaders Have Left Students, Professors in the Dark

Colleges across the country are preparing for potential spikes in coronavirus cases in the fall. As some students return to campus, schools are making plans to protect the health of students, faculty, and campus workers.

Universities want to shorten face-to-face exposure on campus during the fall and winter. By starting the semester early, as many colleges plan to do, they can send students home for an extended winter break by Thanksgiving. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Notre Dame, the University of South Carolina, University of California-San Diego, and the University of Texas-Austin, as well as North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will end their fall semesters early.

Certainty for the fall is not high, however. The New York Times argued that most people haven’t “met minimal criteria” for state lockdowns to end. If colleges aren’t careful, they could set up outbreaks on campus instead of providing a safe zone. If outbreaks happen, the end result may be another hasty switch to online classes, catching universities flat on their feet again.

Professors, just like students, are staring down uncertainty. The first day of fall semester is less than a month away, and many details about class instruction remain unknown. Students don’t know what to expect, and professors can’t plan how they’ll teach or research.

To stop outbreaks, many schools will enforce a mandatory mask rule for anyone on campus. NC State announced its policy that all students, faculty, staff, and visitors must cover their faces at all times when in “NC State buildings and in all university programs held in non-university buildings,” according to a university email. Even when alone, everyone is expected to carry a mask. The university has masks available and will provide them for anyone in need.

This means that even when freshmen students are in dorms with roommates, they will be mandated to wear a mask. The plans for a safe campus reopening, then, depends on how strict students are about wearing masks with their friends and not socializing with other students they haven’t seen for months.

NC State has announced it will convert some double rooms to single rooms, but only for students with pre-existing health conditions. The university stated that it will “reduce occupancy in all residence halls except apartments,” but did not give specifics. Some freshmen will also have the option to live at home—if their parents live within 25 miles of campus.

Other North Carolina schools requiring face masks on campus include UNC-Greensboro, East Carolina University, and UNC-Chapel Hill; students there will have similar guidelines to follow.

When he presented it on 60 Minutes in June, UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz described Chapel Hill’s plan to downsize classes and limit COVID-19’s spread through student socialization. Guskiewiczs revealed that “two dormitories will be set aside to quarantine students in the event of an outbreak.”  However, while classrooms and on-campus areas will be persistently disinfected, it is still not guaranteed that the virus won’t spread. Guisiewicz went on to say that UNC-Chapel Hill “would’ve been challenged financially to not reopen” and they “know that many students would’ve perhaps taken a gap year or to defer their enrollment.”

Reopening campus was an economic choice as much as a health choice.

Students, however, still aren’t clear on what reopening for the fall will look like. NC State chancellor Randy Woodson announced the school would be back in session in the fall, but an official plan for students’ schedules has not been announced. Currently, most classes appear to be online and are marked as “online delivery” with an “internet interactive” instruction mode, meaning students will have to be online for a course at a scheduled time.

Reluctance by college leaders to embrace online classes may mean another subpar online semester for students.
However, Anthony Solari, a political scientist at NC State, advised students not to take NC State’s website too seriously. “The university is still trying to figure out what will be online and what in person,” he noted. “The university is going back and forth on the number of in-person and online classes and which ones will be which.”

If NC State does have in-person lectures, professors will stand behind a “plexiglass barrier.” Classes will also be recorded so that students can watch if they can’t come to class. Some classes will be hybrid classes, meaning some students will come in-person some days and others will interact online. That may encourage students to skip class, though.

NC State sent out an email in early July to “clarify” things for the upcoming semester, but its vagueness wasn’t very helpful. The email stated that the class schedule available currently “may not be final” and the university “is still working to evaluate individual class needs and make decisions daily.” While the vague responses from universities across the country are understandable, they don’t help students who live far from campus and need to make housing arrangements. Many students have assumed that classes will be online and the university is just pushing off announcing it, so they made plans to live at home to save money. Regardless of in-person or online classes, students will pay the same tuition.

Students won’t be happy about paying in-person tuition for online-class quality, but if a coronavirus outbreak takes off on their campus, it may be less of a concern than their health.

The bigger concern for many students is how college leaders have failed to prepare a plan for online learning. COVID-19 has shut down the American economy since March, but most colleges have been reluctant to embrace an online semester after being forced to transition in the spring. While the California State University system announced in May that their fall semester would be online, most colleges talked of reopening campus in the fall or doing a “hybrid” semester. Reluctance by college leaders to embrace online classes may mean another subpar online semester for students.

Colleges have the resources to make sustainable versions of online classes that can actually benefit students. They only need to look on campus. For example, a summer project for film students could have been to create eye-catching videos for professors to use in online classes. Students would engage with it more than a monotonous 50-minute lecture posted by their professor.

That style of teaching would be mutually beneficial for students and professors alike. Instead, the situation today is one of colleges scrambling in uncertainty before the semester starts.


Is coaching for exams beneficial?

The Australian writer below is broadly right. There is no substitute for inborn IQ.  The results one gets from IQ can however be influenced to some extent by the child's environment. Families who send their kids to coaching probably already provide a good opportinity for intellectual development, however

The revamping of the selective high school entry examination will inevitably be viewed as an attempt to make the test less coachable. But why do we have such a problem with coaching?

When it comes to academic performance, Australian culture places a premium on natural ability. Yet in other endeavours, such as sport, we have no problem with systematic training. Few look at a star football player and remark bitterly: “Well, his mother was taking him to training since he was four.” Likewise, the ballerina who practises diligently 12 hours a week is a source of admiration for her dedication.

Even children feel the stigma, with many gifted students underplaying their amount of study in the belief that you are not really smart if you have to put in effort. Academic success that appears to come easily is more highly valued than that which is the result of hard work.

There is a perception among many that undeserving children who have been coached from an early age are stealing places at selective high schools from naturally bright students. Often coupled with racist undertones, this argument in part stems from a certain streak in mainstream Anglo-Australian culture which hates a “try hard”.

Coaching, many feel, confers an unfair advantage. This is certainly true from an economic perspective. Students whose parents can afford years of tutoring may gain an edge over an equally bright child whose parents lack the means for extracurricular support. Yet this applies to most fields of endeavour. Our footy star and ballerina also need parents who are able to pay for coaching.

So there’s a certain hypocrisy at play when parents are criticised for providing academic coaching but admired for supporting their child’s dream with other forms of coaching.

But before you rush out and enrol your child in the closest coaching college to get that “academic advantage”, consider the following. What can coaching focused exclusively on test preparation really do for your child?

Research tells us it can reduce test anxiety. If you have never sat a test before, then you are probably going to be nervous, especially if your parents and peers have whipped you into a frenzied belief that this is the most important exam of your life.

Most Year 4 students sitting the Opportunity Class exams have only had one experience of a formal assessment, NAPLAN, so the experience of going to a large hall at a different school can itself be overwhelming.

If you have sat tests before, then you know what to do and what to expect. You know how to manage your time and not spend too long on one question. You know that tests start with easy questions and that the harder questions are at the end. You know that you should read the whole question before answering. You know that with one minute to go, you should fill in “C” for any multiple choice you have not answered.

These are techniques that coaching colleges are adept at drilling and as the government's selective high school review confirmed in 2018, they could make the few marks’ difference between getting a place or not. However, they are also techniques you can learn by practising with a $15 book from your local newsagent.

I am yet to see any research that shows that coaching of any description can turn a child of average ability into a gifted child. Nor is there any evidence that children who have been coached wouldn’t have got into selective high schools on their own merits – and saved their parents a great deal of money in the process.


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Restoring Our Troubled Academy

The state of our universities is disturbing. Problems abound: high costs, crippling student debt, poor educational outcomes, and, most alarming of all, the radicalism that underlies many of the recent riots and the continuing push for socialism.

All of these problems share a fundamental cause—lack of leadership by those who are legal owners of universities or their representatives, the boards of trustees. No matter what other solutions are employed, one action essential for academic reform is to return board governance to its former place atop a hierarchical chain of command.

Currently, academia operates under a system known as shared governance. Shared governance gives each of the three main stakeholder groups—boards of trustees, administrations, and faculty—control over their own sphere of activities and influence over other spheres. Its complexity can clog the gears of decision-making; it is responsible for higher educational institutions’ inability to address serious problems through inaction and places authority in the wrong hands.

Legally, boards already have the ultimate authority over most matters—major court decisions have consistently affirmed this—but they long ago gave up their control. Before the massive explosion of learning in the nineteenth century, lay board members often had the necessary intellectual proficiency to make detailed judgments about the curriculum. But the growing specialization of knowledge put them at a disadvantage, so they retreated before the faculty.

That retreat has turned out to be a grave error. The curriculum should be decided at the societal level, not by experts. This is especially true at the public institutions that educate roughly 75 percent of all college graduates, since the ultimate purpose of public support for higher education is to benefit society. Boards exist on a plane between the institution and society; they are the proper decision-makers at that level.

Instead, faculty have control over the curriculum, and in many cases, encourage students to adopt the worst ideas. Faculty are not incentivized to be impartial, and they exhibit a strong tendency toward the phenomenon called “groupthink,” a process that gradually eliminates dissent and favors unanimity over objectivity. Academic groupthink has progressed too far to expect that reform will come from inside the academy; one study of humanities and social science faculty voter registrations in 1972 showed four Democrats for every Republican. A 2016 study showed the imbalance had increased dramatically to 11.5 to one.

While boards usually have legal oversight powers, they almost never exercise their authority even to prevent severely egregious faculty hires or new programs and courses. One of the rare examples of a board exercising due diligence that illustrates the need for such oversight was the Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois. The American Indian Studies department offered Salaita a tenured position; soon after, tweets he made came to light that included, among other antisocial sentiments, praise for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers. The board of trustees voted against making his appointment final, saving Illinois from hiring an unhinged radical professor whose academic freedom protections would have made him difficult to fire.

But faculty are just part of the shared governance problem. Administrators have been able to relegate the board to little more than a rubber-stamp committee due to an asymmetry-of-information problem. The administration is intimately involved with everything that occurs on campus, and can therefore manipulate the board, which is composed of largely part-time non-educators who remain at a distance from day-to-day operations, by limiting the information given to board members.

Some may argue that a system of governance that grants power to multiple stakeholders is equitable. But higher education is not a democracy; nor does it thrive without firm leadership. The sad truth is that the current system is failing on many levels and the greatest need is finding the best means for good governance. Shared governance has produced an educational and political crisis. As long as the faculty and top administrators are in charge, the academy will continue to be wasteful, self-serving, and inappropriately political. Change must come from above, where the board is supposed to be.


‘Going to the Mat’ Over Diversity Training

An associate professor of politics at Converse College in South Carolina says he’s facing possible termination for publicly refusing to complete newly mandated diversity and antibias training.

“My department chairman has informed me that the administration intends to dismiss me for insubordination and other reasons,” the professor, Jeffrey Poelvoorde, said via email. “I’m going to the mat on this one.”

Poelvoorde, who denied an interview request, citing his attorney’s guidance, said that Converse recently told employees to complete mandatory diversity and bias training, in response to the murder of George Floyd by police and other events.

Instead of watching the two training modules, Poelvoorde wrote an open letter to the college explaining his intention to defy the new requirement. He also expressed outrage that the college’s previous public statements condemning Floyd’s murder did not also condemn protests that turned violent. In particular, Poelvoorde mentioned David Dorn, the late Black retired police officer who was killed while providing security to a store in St. Louis in June.

“Our leaders profess that ‘Black Lives Matter,’” Poelvoorde wrote in his letter. “But is it ALL Black Lives or only SOME Black Lives that matter to them? Perhaps they are only concerned about the loss of the Black Lives that confirms their political narrative and supports their progressive ideology.”

Coercive Imposition

Of the training mandate, Poelvoorde said this: “Am I and are my colleagues at Converse in need of additional training in order to overcome unconscious bias and prejudice? Perhaps.” The “quarrel,” he said, “is not so much with the content of the materials the administration would impose upon us but rather the coercive imposition itself.”

Explaining that he has long been Converse’s only Orthodox Jewish faculty member, Poelvoorde also said he’d faced criticism for canceling classes on religious holidays or observing the Sabbath. Comparing his experience of being a minority group member to some Black protesters’, Poelvoorde said, “I did not react with threats of hurling bricks through the college’s windows or torching its buildings or even employing legal action against it -- a recourse available to me as an American that was not available to my Jewish predecessors.”

Instead, he said, “under my department chair’s ministrations, and because of the respect, even affection, I bore towards the parties involved, I let go of my anger and maintained my silence.”

Whatever happens going forward, he said, “I believe that I have done the proper and correct thing by refusing to comply with this coercive mandate and by sharing with you the reasons for my decision. I have tried to follow the example of my Jewish predecessors by meeting coercion with dignity and firmness.”

Poelvoorde has posted a reading of his letter and some additional commentary on YouTube. In it, he explains that Converse is currently a women's college that will soon become coed and change its name to Converse University, with the introduction of some new graduate programs. And so the college's nature is already in flux, he says. Poelvoorde also says he is a scholar of American ideas and a patriot who was once stopped for speeding because he was overtaken by the power of his own solo rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Converse president Krista Newkirk sent her own response to students about Poelvoorde’s letter. The memo says that the required training modules take “a very broad definition of diversity (gender, gender identity, religion, disability, ethnicity, etc.) and remind us that we need to be considerate and respectful of those in our community.”

While “I understand that no one likes receiving a mandate,” she said, “they are very seldom issued here at Converse.”

Newkirk further explained that Converse sent the modules to employees in March, as recommended training. Thirty-eight percent of employees watched them at the time but, given recent events, she said, “I thought it was important that we all complete this training that reinforces Converse's core values. That mandate stands, and each and every employee and faculty member is expected to complete this training by August 3rd.”

As for freedom of speech, Newkirk said it’s not a violation of employees’ First Amendment rights to require training.

“All institutions require employees to go through professional development training, including public higher education institutions,” Newkirk said. Converse, meanwhile, “is a private, liberal arts institution where we value the opportunity to participate in the free and responsible exchange of ideas with the belief that through vigorous and civil debate, the best and most logical ideas will rise to the top.”

The right to freedom of speech is “balanced by our policy on discrimination,” Newkirk continued. “Converse does not tolerate discrimination based upon ‘race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, national or ethnic origin, veteran status, genetic information, or any other status protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.’”

Seemingly addressing Poelvoorde’s anecdotes about not reporting his own experiences with possible discrimination, Newkirk also said that “any students who have been advised that they should not talk about incidents of discrimination or harassment, but instead should simply be patient and wait for these issues to resolve themselves, let me set the record straight. That is not right, that contradicts our goal of teaching you to use your voice, and that is not what our policies say.”

Newkirk said that tenured faculty members -- presumably including Poelvoorde -- are “afforded certain rights, and actions involving personnel are confidential. Please know that this matter is being addressed within the confines of Converse's policy and the law.”

In the meantime, she said, students concerned about being enrolled in a course in which they worry they may face discrimination should contact administrators.

Newkirk in her memo that she’d been contacted by students aggrieved by Poelvoorde’s letter. But Poelvoorde blames Newkirk for students who have subsequently called him a racist.

In further campus communications with colleagues, Poelvoorde shared part of an email he sent to an anonymous student who accused him of bias.

“You do not tell me what you think ‘racist’ means or how you detect that quality in my letter,” he wrote to the student. “One distressing aspect of our current political and academic discourse to me is how quickly we all resort to hurling epithets rather than seriously listening to each other. I'll confess, my least favorite examples of this are ‘racist,’ ‘fascist’ and ‘insensitive.’ Such terms are not intended to refute an opponent but rather to silence him or her; they are the verbal equivalent of a brick tossed or a baseball bat swung.”

He added, “Were my arguments ‘racist’ because I am White and Jewish?”

Diversity Training, Academic Freedom and the First Amendment

Poelvoorde said in an email that the issues at play in his case “transcend my career and my position at the college” and are “vital to all of us as Americans and academics.”

Converse said in a statement that it has been “working diligently over the last few years to improve as a community that welcomes and values all people” and “recent cases of injustice that we have witnessed as a nation caused us to intensify these efforts.”

While Converse has offered a variety of training opportunities on diversity and unconscious bias for some time, it said, the college has noted “that typically the same people attended those sessions.”

In an “unusual decision,” Newkirk therefore this spring required all faculty and staff members to complete two online training courses on these topics, which together take 90 minutes.

The college declined any comment on Poelvoorde, saying that it “remains optimistic that all faculty and staff will complete this very reasonable and legitimate obligation by the applicable deadline for doing so.” Any situations “involving non-compliance are confidential personnel matters on which Converse will not issue any statements.”

The American Association of University Professors doesn’t have any standing policy regarding diversity training and whether it should be mandated. Hans-Joerg Tiede, a senior program officer at the association, said AAUP doesn’t distinguish between diversity training or any other kind of training, such as sexual harassment or lab safety, and generally holds that faculty bodies should be involved in saying what trainings are mandatory or not.

“The main question is how such a mandate is enforced,” Tiede said. “Our main concern would be that any major sanction be preceded by a hearing before a faculty body and that any minor sanction can be appealed to a grievance committee.”

Zach Greenberg, a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said colleges and universities should be mindful of their professors’ academic freedom and free speech rights in making such requirements. Yet mandatory diversity training in itself isn’t a violation of free speech rights.

“Educational institutions generally may not force faculty to conform to a political orthodoxy, or compel them to express political viewpoints, under the guise of diversity training,” Greenberg said. “Such programs must be conducted to ensure that professors remain free to research, teach and debate ideas without censorship or institutional or outside interference.”

Still, he said, “generally applicable diversity trainings that merely involve the passing of knowledge” onto all professors would be “unobjectionable” from a First Amendment perspective.


Get Ready to Homeschool This Fall. Here's a Checklist

As schools and districts across the country finalize back-to-school plans amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some parents are instead choosing independent homeschooling. My inbox has been filling lately with messages from parents who may never before have considered homeschooling but are worried about their children’s potential exposure to the virus at school. Others are turned off by social distancing requirements being implemented by many schools, such as wearing masks all day and limiting interactions with peers.

Fortunately, research shows low infection rates for children, who seem to avoid the virus’s worst outcomes. New findings out of Germany, where schools have been reopened for several weeks, also suggest low infection rates for young people. Despite these encouraging signs, more parents are looking for schooling alternatives. As The New York Times reported recently, “a growing number of families are thinking about home schooling this fall.”

Here are six tips for parents considering homeschooling for this academic year:

1. Investigate Local Homeschooling Requirements
Many school districts recognize what a challenging time this is for families and are offering flexible back-to-school options, such as continuing with distance learning or allowing for part-time, in-person attendance. Some parents might find that these options work for them, and they can continue with remote learning tied to the child’s school. Other parents, however, may choose to go off on their own, separating from their school or district. In this case, parents will need to comply with local homeschooling regulations, which in most states involves registering as an independent homeschooler with local or state officials.

Connect with homeschoolers near you. Grassroots homeschooling groups and networks have reported surging interest during the pandemic, and these resources will provide the most relevant, up-to-date support and information. Search for Facebook groups in your area (by state, city or region), or Google homeschooling resources in your location. Nearby homeschoolers will be able to share the nitty-gritty on how to register and report as a homeschooling family, as well as offer guidance on curriculum, approach, learning tools and nearby classes and activities.

2. Consider Your Educational Goals and Approach
Some parents may see homeschooling this fall as a temporary measure and plan to re-enroll their children in school once the pandemic ends. These parents may feel most comfortable following a standard curriculum that reflects typical grade level expectations. Other parents may opt for an eclectic approach, blending some formal curriculum with a variety of informal resources and learning tools. Still others may want to use this time to “deschool,” or move away from a schooled mindset of education toward an unschooled approach where a child’s interests and curiosity drive much of the learning.

Independent homeschooling allows for maximum freedom and flexibility, so you can decide how structured or unstructured you want your homeschooling experience to be.

3. Discover Curriculum and Learning Tools
There are so many curriculum offerings and educational tools to choose from that it can feel daunting. The pandemic itself has led to many more free online learning resources. Here is some curriculum guidance by grade cohort:

For preschoolers and kindergarteners, play should be the foundation of your homeschooling environment. Allow your child’s incessant questioning to guide learning, and read lots of books together. Here is a good list of books as your children are just beginning to identify sight words, sound out words and read simple stories. And here are some great books for early independent readers. The But Why? Podcast from Vermont Public Radio is an excellent resource and an enjoyable listen for both parents and kids. Sparkle Stories also offers a wonderful collection of original audio stories for young children.

For elementary ages (PreK-6), the Brain Quest workbooks by grade level offer abundant activities that are aligned with state curriculum standards so your child can stay on track with daily learning. Free, online tools, such as Prodigy Math for math learning, Duolingo for foreign language learning and MIT’s Scratch and Scratch Jr. for introductory computer programming, are playful and interactive educational platforms. Outschool offers thousands of low-cost, online classes for children of all ages. Classes are taught live by educators over Zoom and you can search by subject, age and day/time.   

Many of the above-mentioned resources will also work well for middle school age children (typically grades 5-8), but there are some other resources for this group. Khan Academy is the leader in free, online learning videos in a variety of subjects, and is especially known for its math programming that is used in many schools throughout the U.S. Parents and kids can track progress and identify strengths and weaknesses. Khan Academy has also added new features and functionality as a result of the pandemic, including daily learning schedules for children ages 2 to 18. NoRedInk, is a free, online writing curriculum with a paid premium option that provides writing and grammar lessons for middle schoolers and above. Additionally, here is a good list of middle-grade fiction books to encourage your kids to read.

For high school age learners, Khan Academy continues to be a good resource for free, advanced math instruction and practice, and here are some suggested books for high schoolers to read. While some high school age students may want to take classes through a local community college, others may want to enroll in a full-time, diploma-issuing, accredited online high school, such as Arizona State University Prep Digital.

Some high school homeschoolers may benefit from year-long, online courses in a variety of subjects. Thinkwell offers classes for homeschoolers taught by acclaimed professors in subjects ranging from high school and Advanced Placement mathematics and science to American Government, Economics and even public speaking. Blue Tent Online also offers year-long, online high school and Advanced Placement math and science courses for homeschoolers, as well as high school and Advanced Placement English classes.

Teenagers may want to use this time to build skills in an area of interest or develop knowledge related to a career goal. Classes and certifications offered by prestigious colleges and universities through EdX and Coursera (many of which are free), are worth exploring. Teenagers may also consider becoming entrepreneurs, developing a business around a personal passion or unmet need in their neighborhood.

4. Explore Neighborhood Resources
Most homeschoolers will tell you that the pandemic has caused just as much disruption in their lives and learning as it has for everyone else. Being disconnected from the people, places and things of our communities has been tough on all of us. Typically, homeschoolers spend much of their time outside of their homes gathering with friends, learning from teachers and mentors in the community, engaging in classes and extracurricular activities, visiting libraries and museums and so on. According to recent research by Daniel Hamlin at the University of Oklahoma: “Relative to public school students, homeschooled students are between two and three times more likely to visit an art gallery, museum, or historical site; visit a library; or attend an event sponsored by a community, religious, or ethnic group. Homeschooled students are also approximately 1.5 times more likely to visit a zoo, aquarium, or bookstore during the course of a month.”

This fall will likely be a very different homeschooling experience, as classes are more limited or non-existent, and libraries, museums and similar organizations operate with social distancing restrictions. Still, it’s worth seeing what in-person daytime programming and resources will be available near you. Again, connecting with local homeschooling networks through Facebook and elsewhere can help.

5. Collaborate With Others
Many parents are working from home during the pandemic, and may continue to do so indefinitely, which can make learning at home this fall more practical but also challenging. While many parents work and homeschool too, it can take some flexibility and planning. Viewing your role as a facilitator rather than a curriculum-enforcer, collaborating with other local parents and neighbors, relying on babysitters and being creative with your fall learning plan will make homeschooling in 2020 more feasible and fulfilling.

Some parents are connecting with others in their neighborhood to form small homeschool microschools this fall. As Good Morning America recently reported, the microschool movement is growing during the pandemic. Microschools are usually home-based, multi-age learning communities with no more than a dozen children that are facilitated by one or more instructors and/or parent guides. Parents may take turns teaching and supervising a small group of children in their homes, or they may band together to hire a teacher or college student to help. A modern take on homeschool co-ops, microschools can make homeschooling this fall a reality for more families who are eager for this option.

6. Enjoy This Moment!
This is an unprecedented time and a historic moment for our children. They will tell stories to their children and grandchildren about what it was like to live and learn through the 2020 pandemic. Experimenting with homeschooling this fall can offer some certainty and continuity in what is otherwise a tumultuous time. This doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. Enjoy this time at home with your children, watch their curiosity and creativity grow and don’t feel pressure to replicate school-at-home. Learning and schooling are very different things.


Kindergarten History Lessons in Virginia to Focus on Slavery

Most adults who attended public school remember early history lessons about American leaders and symbols—George Washington crossing the Delaware, Betsy Ross sewing the American flag. But starting this fall, kindergarteners in Loudon County—a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C.—will be taught a new radicalized history curriculum focusing on slavery and social justice.

Loudon County has elected to partner with the disgraced far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to develop the new curriculum which deliberately paints America in a highly negative light.

"Sugarcoating or ignoring slavery until later grades makes students more upset by or even resistant to true stories about American history. Long before we teach algebra, we teach its component parts," the curriculum reads. "We should structure history instruction the same way."

The new curriculum also highlights "activism and action civics" opportunities for young students in kindergarten through second grade.

"Students should study examples of role models from the past and present, and ask themselves, ‘how can I make a difference?'" the guidelines explain. "These conversations [about slavery] should lead into discussions about current injustices — particularly those that continue to disenfranchise and oppress the descendants of enslaved people — and possibilities for activism and reform."

In short, public school teachers must prepare their students to take up the mantle of Black Lives Matter.

While the decision to teach five-year-olds about one of the most disturbing chapters in American history may seem extreme, it is being mirrored in school districts across the nation. The New York Times’ much-vaunted but counterfactual “1619 Project” claims to prove that “nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.” Despite the objections of numerous historians who dispute the narrative provided by the Times, curricula based on the Project are now proliferating at public schools across America.

The political tenor of the new lessons was confirmed by a longtime Loudon County elementary teacher who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon on the condition of anonymity because she feared for her job if her real views about the new curriculum were made known.

"I teach lower grades in elementary school.… [Never before] did I have to teach about slavery," the teacher said. "Our standards were always [to] teach about famous Americans, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., people like that. But, it was all very general and the bigger picture, we highlighted their accomplishments." She noted that the slavery is usually taught beginning in the fourth grade when students have greater maturity to understand it in its historical context.

"What they're really trying to do is divide people as early as they can, starting now with kindergarteners. They're really going to be inciting hate," the teacher added. "They're pointing out that there's ‘whiteness' and ‘blackness' and that's crazy. We never taught about that in school…. We learn about how to get along with one another and be kind and respect others. But now, with this new curriculum that they're adding, it's going to do the total opposite."

Max Eden, an education policy expert at the libertarian-minded Manhattan Institute, concurred that the curriculum was not suitable for young children. "Students aren't prepared when they're five years old to develop a nuanced sense of history and political processes, and pros and cons of different side effects, and unintended consequences," Eden said. "What the real goal of this is, by introducing [slavery] this young, is to try to get the left-wing, Nikole Hannah-Jones [creator of the 1619 Project], meta-political narrative into kids' heads as soon as possible, which is basically trying to compel them to believe that because slavery happened, therefore, America is evil and you must follow the leftist idea of … how we need to overturn power in society."

Parents in the district also expressed their anger at the politicized curriculum. "SPLC is pushing Marxist ideology more or less. They're really pushing those concepts of ‘revolution' and ‘dismantling the system' that we have," one father stated. "So rather than everyone coming together and building something great together, it's about destroying what's been built."


Monday, August 03, 2020


Oh, So a School District's Stance on Re-Opening in the Fall Is Grounded in County-Level Support of Trump

The panic porn over coronavirus has spilled into the school debate. Districts are neck-deep in debate as to whether they should re-open, despite the fact that young children aren’t really impacted by this virus. The reaction has been overblown. In fact, there’s more data that suggests the lockdowns we were subjected to did more harm than good. And now, we have the doomsday peddlers saying our kids shouldn’t learn for another year.

Okay—they’re not really saying that, but this online instruction model isn’t going to work. Some places have zero accountability measures, teachers are complaining about how many hours they have to teach, and they also don’t want to go back. We have concerned parents, lazy teachers’ unions, and Trump derangement syndrome overloading the scene here. The data is quite clear. It’s safe for kids to return to school (via WSJ):

The evidence—scientific, health and economic—argues overwhelmingly for schools to open in the fall. Start with the relative immunity of young children to the disease, which should reassure parents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 children under age 15 have died from Covid-19. In a typical year 190 children die of the flu, 436 from suicide, 625 from homicide, and 4,114 from unintentional deaths such as drowning.

Only two children under age 18 have died in Chicago—fewer than were killed in shootings in a recent weekend. In New York City, 0.03% of children under age 18 have been hospitalized for Covid and 7.5 in one million have died. The death rate for those over 75 is more than 2,200-times higher than for those under 18.

Children so far have been shielded from the virus compared to working adults. But even pediatric cancer patients at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering were about a third less likely to test positive than their adult care-givers, and only one of 20 who tested positive required noncritical hospital care. In Sweden, which kept schools open, only 20 children under age 19—0.6% of confirmed cases—have been admitted to the ICU and only one has died.

Parents and teachers understandably worry that children might spread the virus. But a recent retrospective study of schools in Northern France, from February before lockdowns, found that “despite three introductions of the virus into three primary schools, there appears to have been no further transmission of the virus to other pupils or teaching and non-teaching staff of the schools.”

Teens appear to be more infectious. Yet schools that have reopened in most countries, including Germany, Singapore, Norway, Denmark and Finland, haven’t experienced outbreaks. Some schools in Israel had outbreaks last month after class sizes were increased, but most infections in both teachers and students were mild.

There was a study from South Korea that The New York Times peddled in an attempt to derail the ‘reopen the schools’ narrative. Don’t bother reading it. It was trash, described as “fairly murky and confused” by Professor Francois Balloux. What do pediatricians say? Send the kids back to the classroom.

But in this case, the medical experts are being ignored because Democrats really want to drive this COVID panic home by spreading it to parents and their school districts. They want chaos. They want the suburbs to be in play and what better way to do that than frame Trump as someone who wants to get their kids killed. Kids don’t really get it, and the jury is still out as to whether they spread it. What is clear is that the county-level support of Trump is what’s really driving the decisions of the local school boards. Jon Valant of Brookings crunched the numbers (via Brookings):

Since school district boundaries are not coterminous with county boundaries in some states, I used data from the U.S. Department of Education to identify the districts’ primary county location. I then merged data from the MIT Election Data + Science Lab with county-level results from the 2016 presidential election and data from USAFacts showing the number of new COVID-19 cases by county from July 1 to July 25. The idea is to see what is more related to these district decisions (albeit not necessarily causally)—local health conditions or politics.


In reality, there is no relationship—visually or statistically—between school districts’ reopening decisions and their county’s new COVID-19 cases per capita. In contrast, there is a strong relationship—visually and statistically—between districts’ reopening decisions and the county-level support for Trump in the 2016 election. Districts located in counties that supported Trump are much more likely to have announced plans to open in person. On average, districts that have announced plans to reopen in person are located in counties in which 55% voted for Trump in 2016, compared to 35% in districts that have announced plans for remote learning only. Unsurprisingly, the one remaining group in EdWeek’s data—“Hybrid/Partial”—falls right in the middle, at 44%.

These data aren’t perfect. For example, EdWeek’s database of district reopening plans is, by its own acknowledgement, incomplete, and school districts don’t map perfectly to counties. However, the patterns are so clear, and the regression results so consistent (e.g., controlling for different variables and restricting the timeframe of district announcements), that it seems implausible that politics aren’t a major factor in district decision-making.

It’s no shocker, I know. But spare me the public health aspect people are making about schools reopening. Trump wants kids back in school, so liberals oppose it. If he said kids should hang back this fall, liberals would demand schools reopen. It’s so predictable. And the fact that the Left now ignores the experts regarding coronavirus, safety, and schools shows what this whole fiasco was really about: power.

I’m not saying that COVID is fake or not contagious. It’s all of those things, but I’m pretty sure that we all overreacted and the impact of kids not learning for a year will do more damage than coronavirus could ever inflict.

And let the word go forth now: kids are now acceptable chips to put into play for political games. The Left has once again set a truly remarkable precedent.


Keep masks out of the classroom

Keeping children out of school for months on end did, in the end, teach us all at least one thing. It showed us that the leaders of Britain’s teaching unions really despise children. Early on in the lockdown, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, expressed her contempt for children ‘who are mucky, who spread germs, who touch everything, who cry, who wipe their snot on your trousers or your dress.’ She went on to argue that children should be ‘sprayed front and back with disinfectant’ at the school gates. I don’t know if Mary has pets but I wouldn’t even talk about my cats in this way.

Now, just when it seems as if a return to the classroom might be on the cards, the fear and loathing some teachers and union leaders have for children is showing again. This week, teaching unions have written to government ministers to demand that wearing face masks should be mandatory for children in all secondary schools. They are backed by a new report from the Data Evaluation and Learning for Viral Epidemics (DELVE) group, which advises government scientists. These adults want children returning to school in September, after months in isolation, to be muzzled.

Several schools, including Fallibroome Academy in Macclesfield and Brighton College, have already indicated that mask-wearing will be compulsory. At Holmes Chapel school in Cheshire, masks can be purchased at the same time as new school uniforms. That way, each child can sport an identical navy blue mask. Each face will be uniformly covered, all voices equally muffled.

Children attend school for at least six hours a day. Add to this time spent on public transport and many could be wearing masks for up to eight hours a day. That’s eight hours gagged with an uncomfortable rag around their mouths and eight hours without seeing the smiles of their friends. How could anyone, let alone teachers, think this is anything other than cruel and inhumane?

Wearing a mask deprives us of the visual cues that are so fundamental to social interaction. It’s virtually impossible to read someone’s facial expression from their eyes alone. Schools – as progressive teachers have been reminding us for decades – are about far more than formal instruction. They are places where children learn what it means to be part of society, not through reading about it at their desks, but in practice. At school, pupils learn how to behave around children and adults who are not part of their family through sitting, working, eating and playing alongside others. Masks alienate people from each other; they place a literal barrier over each individual’s face. Making friends and forging relationships becomes far less spontaneous and more difficult when delighted grins, knowing smirks and conspiratorial smiles cannot be exchanged.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, wants schools to ‘be brought into line’ with other workplaces. But schools are not like other workplaces. Teachers do not simply input data or fix parts on a production line. Schools are concerned with education and this occurs through a relationship between a teacher, pupils and knowledge. Good teachers adapt their lessons depending upon the subject, the time of the day and the mood of their class. To do this, they need to be able to read the room and spot the child who is stifling a yawn, the child who looks baffled and the children who have understood. They use their own facial expressions to convey interest and enthusiasm but also, importantly, discipline. For all these reasons, even the best online learning can never fully replace the experience of being in a classroom.

Proponents of mask-wearing point to the continued exam success of pupils in south-east Asian countries to argue that masks are not a barrier to learning. But this ignores the vastly different cultural contexts within which schooling takes place around the world. For decades now, children in the UK have been taught not in silent rows but in noisy classrooms where they often work in small groups. In many subjects, teachers encourage children to engage in discussion and to weigh up a range of alternative ideas before reaching their own conclusions. Expressing your own ideas and listening to the views of others are both made far more difficult when speech is muffled by a mask. It’s ironic that the very same teaching unions that have railed against strict behaviour policies are happy to promote mask-wearing.

Although the union-backed campaign to get children wearing masks in schools has taken off this week, there is no new evidence to suggest that children are at risk of catching coronavirus or that they play a significant role in spreading the virus. The facts are worth repeating. Just five children in the UK are reported to have died from Covid-19. School-age children are more likely to be hit by lightning than to die from coronavirus. All the scientific evidence suggests that children play a minimal role in transmitting the virus. There have been no reported cases of a teacher catching coronavirus from children anywhere in the world. Making children wear masks is unlikely to protect children or prevent the spread of coronavirus. But it will be detrimental to their education and socialisation. That teaching-union leaders want children to be forced to wear masks is utterly shameful.

At present, there is no directive mandating mask-wearing in schools. The government has warned headteachers against making face masks compulsory. But there have been so many changes of directions in response to the pandemic that there is no room for complacency while union leaders are still championing masks. Parents and teachers who oppose this need to make their voices heard. The campaign group Us for Them has launched a petition against the wearing of masks in schools to make sure there is no backtracking from the government. I would urge everyone to sign it.


Australia: Victorian coronavirus schooling rules for year 11 and 12 VCE students 'inflexible', unions say

Whining teachers again

The Victorian Government's requirement for all year 11 and 12 students to attend school in person is causing anxiety for school principals and making staff concerned for their safety, unions representing the education sector say.

Prep to year 10 students in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire have been learning from home since July 20.

Currently Victoria's VCE and VCAL students, as well as special school students, are required to attend school in person.

But the Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Independent Education Union (IEU) say the policy is inflexible and "failing our school communities".

There are 72 schools across Victoria which are currently closed due to coronavirus: 61 government schools, nine Catholic schools and two independent schools.

Nineteen early childhood services are closed.

The unions want the State Government to give school principals more flexibility and the power to implement home learning programs for their students when required.

AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said many union members were concerned about their safety and the safety of their students.

"It is leaving our principals with the responsibility to manage incredibly difficult circumstances for their schools, without having the capacity to make important decisions," she said.

The Victorian Government's rationale for keeping year 11 and 12 students on campus was to avoid VCE students falling out of step with their counterparts outside of the locked-down areas.

But Ms Peace said many parents were keeping their children home because of health concerns anyway, particularly in special schools.

"So we already have significant inequity, because those students who are at home are not receiving a formal learning program — our kids with disabilities, in special schools, are receiving no learning program," she said.

Departmental guidelines were getting in the way of principals doing "the right thing", the general secretary of IEU Vic-Tas Debra James said.

"Too many people are required to be on campus when they could easily be working from home, and principals who are trying to minimise the number of staff or students in the senior secondary area are getting pushback," she said.

Ms Peace said some secondary schools had tried to implement flexible arrangements for their VCE students, such as keeping year 11s at home for part of the week.

But she said the Department of Education and Training told those schools to reverse those decisions, and other proposals put forward by the union had been rejected.

"We cannot have a circumstance where principals are trying to manage the growing anxiety and stress among their staff and students and parents, and yet they are not trusted to make very sensible decisions about how to manage their staff on site."

Ms James pointed to a senior secondary school in Melbourne's western suburbs which had recorded positive cases among students and staff and where a partner of a staff member was in ICU.

"This is serious stuff … we believe there is a different way, a better way, and this should be seriously looked at," she said.

The union leaders also said delays in contact tracing were causing a high level of "stress and anxiety" for schools.

"We've heard stories about people sweating over email all weekend, wondering if they should be preparing remote learning classes for their kids or whether they should be preparing to be on site, face to face," Ms Peace said.

"We can't sustain those kinds of workloads, we can't sustain that stress for our school communities."

Education Minister James Merlino said the settings in place at schools in Victoria were based on the Chief Health Officer's advice.

"Schools already have the flexibility at the local level for staff to work remotely and to provide learning support for students on extended absences," he said.

"Having VCE and VCAL students and those with a disability onsite ensures that those most impacted by remote learning still have access to face-to-face learning."