Friday, August 14, 2020

On School Openings


Back in April, I “predicted” we’d see 150 to 200 thousand deaths from COVID-19 in the US.  As we are now in that range, I’m hoping I was right and we don’t go past the 200,000, but of course this is so far outside my expertise that my guess means little.  But here we are and school openings approach.  Some seem deadly afraid of school openings and some seem deadly afraid of schools not opening. (I’m primarily thinking here about K-12, but much of what I say applies to colleges as well—and of course, high school juniors and seniors are more like college freshman than kindergarteners in terms of COVID-19 transmission and symptoms.)

Those conflicting views often accompany two others: that people favoring school openings foolishly think young children are immune to the effects of COVID-19 (or otherwise don’t understand the risks of reopening) and that people opposing school openings don’t care about education (or otherwise overestimate the risks of reopening). 

Meanwhile, I don’t believe any thinking person really thinks any children are immune to COVID-19, despite claims coming from the White House.  Of course, young children do seem to get badly sick from the virus much less than anyone expected back in March.  And there is no reason to believe that those worried about sending kids into closed buildings with hundreds of others don’t care about education.

My biggest issue with discussions about this—and many things—is that people seem unable or unwilling to keep the pros and cons in mind at the same time.  But schools are, by and large, run by groups of people that have to be able to do just that in order to make rational decisions about whether to open, close, reopen, re-close schools—sometimes despite political pressures by governing bodies, unions, parental organizations, and more.

This has to be a hugely difficult question and cannot be made without considering both the costs and the benefits.  At a minimum that includes the following assumptions (yes, I think both of these are true):

-if schools are open, kids and teachers are going to get sick (plexiglass around the kids, masks all day, etc, is not going to stop it). They will also bring the disease to their families, friends, and neighbors.  We’re likely to pass 200k deaths more quickly (and with more children) than we would if schools stay closed.

-if schools are closed, children of working class parents will suffer long term consequences.  Their parents can’t stay home with them and help them with their schoolwork.  Middle class and wealthier parents will hire tutors or join “educational pods” where parents pool resources to monitor children doing school work, but not those from poorer backgrounds.  (And as others have noted, there will be more cases of suicide and spousal and child abuse.)

There are further economic issues that would follow either decision as well, but I’ll not delve into those here.  What I want to urge now is simply (a) not demonizing those you disagree with about this and (b) bearing in mind both the pros and cons if you have decision making capacity here. 

I keep myself limited to those two points as I really don’t know what the best route is for any school (and, of course, different schools in different locales with different population densities and with different student bodies, will be different).  I suspect a lot of thought will be going into it, and not just from current school administrators and school boards.  (And parents—the topic of a future post.)

Hopefully, new ideas will emerge that actually bring new approaches and new institutions that do better for children than schools now do.  Smaller schools with more parental decision making, more variety of teaching techniques, and yes, better use of technology to not merely monitor children and allow for physically distanced communication, but also to spark curiosity.  I can’t predict the innovations; I remain optimistic that they will come and that innovators will consider the many concerns as they seek to appeal to a wide customer base.

This pandemic is going to have long term effects.  We are likely to see more work at home across the board and less use of commercial office space and that may bring new opportunities for housing, lower rents in some areas, and reductions of city populations.  Better systems of education responding to these changes and the above challenges would be a wonderful outcome of a bad situation.


Biden stands in schoolhouse door on educational choice

A Joe Biden administration would be bad news for parents who savor or crave school-choice options for their children. The bunker-dwelling presumptive Democratic presidential nominee knows that the teachers unions butter his bread. And Uncle Joe won’t let a bunch of pesky kids wreck that arrangement.

From charter schools to educational savings accounts to the Washington, D.C., school voucher program, the former vice president can’t wait to stand in the schoolhouse door and block boys and girls — especially Black and Brown ones — who dream of escaping crowded, dangerous government classrooms where learning happens by accident, if at all.

“I am not a charter school fan because it [sic] takes away the options available and money for public schools,” Biden told Georgetown, S.C., voters Feb. 26.

A similarly ungrammatical Biden told Pittsburgh voters Dec. 14: “And so if I’m president, [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos’ whole notion from charter schools to this are gone.”

A participant at a May 28, 2019 American Federation of Teachers gathering in Houston complained to Biden that “charter schools continue to pull money out of our public schools for staffing and services for students. What is [sic] your plans to slow — stop the growth of unregulated for-profit charter schools?”

“I’ll stop them,” Biden warned. “I do not support any federal money — private money — for for-profit charter schools, period.”

Regarding charter schools in general, Biden added: “So, the bottom line is it [sic] siphons off money from our public schools which are already in enough trouble as well as it [sic] siphons off other assets as well.”

These teachers-union bosses must have been pleased with Biden. As data confirms, the AFT’s $96,664,756 in political investments since 1990, 99.1 percent to Democrats, continue to pay obscene dividends.

Biden’s “Unity Task Force Recommendations” — crafted with and, in some passages, plagiarized from democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — mince no words here.

“Charter does not mean better,” the manifesto declares. “The goal was never to undermine the many extraordinary public schools in this country,” it continues, forgetting that charter schools are public schools. Biden-Sanders also would “Ban for-profit charter schools,” from all federal funds — potentially bad news for such charter operators as Academica Corporation, Basis Educational Ventures, and K12.

Biden-Sanders also would “Require charter schools, charter school authorizers, and charter school management companies to abide by the laws and regulations applicable to traditional public schools.”

As a July 21 EdChoice survey explains: “Charter schools are public schools that have more control over their own budget, staff, and curriculum, and are exempt from many existing public school regulations.”

So, by definition, Biden-Sanders would convert charters into standard government schools, just as sawing the wings off a Boeing 777 would transform it from a jet airplane into a metal tube.

The regulations that keep too many government schools from soaring often make it tough to sack inept instructors.

Biden’s War on School Choice saddens education scholars.

A 2018 New York State School Boards Association survey found that booting a bad teacher typically required six months and $141,722 in related salaries, benefits, and legal fees. Such cash could hire two brand-new New York City teachers, fresh out of college, at $57,845. The $26,032 balance could cover repairs, school supplies, or — what a concept! — be returned to taxpayers.

Some parents bank money to educate their kids. Moms and dads open and endow children’s bank accounts soon after birth. Others employ academic tax-credits.

Uncle Joe is not amused.

Biden-Sanders’ communique pledges to “Oppose any and all voucher and neo-voucher programs such as Education Savings Accounts and Tax-credit Scholarship programs.”

Cruelest of all, Biden is a sworn enemy of the Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, also known as the DC Voucher Program. Since the 2004-2005 school year, this program has granted some 8,400 vouchers to 21,057 applicants, the Congressional Research Service reports.

In 2017-2018, 1,650 students used these “Pell Grants for kids” at 44 private schools. In 2018-2019, elementary- and middle-schoolers received up to $8,857 each; for high schoolers: $13,287, tops. These are bargains compared to the $21,974 that the District of Columbia public schools spent per pupil in the 2017 fiscal year, by the Census Bureau’s calculation.

These lower outlays buy higher results. Last year, 68 percent of Washington, D.C.’s government-school students graduated high school in four years. Among voucher students: 98 percent. Those who advanced to college in 2017 were, respectively, 56 percent and 86 percent.

A higher percentage of students in the DC Voucher Program are Black and Brown than their government-school counterparts. Voucher students are 74% Black and 17% Hispanic; government-school students: 67% Black and 16% Hispanic.

None of this has impressed Biden.

As a senator, he voted against DC Opportunity Scholarships on September 30, 1997 and January 22, 2004. The Obama-Biden administration then tried non-stop to defund DC Opportunity Scholarships. Congressional Republicans battled Obama and Biden and kept the scholarships alive.

But this program remains in Biden’s crosshairs. Biden-Sanders would: “discontinue funding” for Washington, D.C.’s voucher experiment.

Even beyond school choice, Biden-Sanders’ education plans involve head-spinning, left-wing social jargon. They aspire to “fund the development and implementation of assessment frameworks that … provide for holistic, deeper learning encompassing social, emotional and academic learning and are responsive to cultural and linguistic diversity.”

Whatever happened to reading, writing, and ’rithmetic?

Biden’s War on School Choice saddens education scholars.

“We used to have an influential group of school reform Democrats, some of whom served in the Obama administration,” said Williamson M. Evers, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Educational Excellence at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. “But now the Democrats and the Biden campaign are a wholly owned subsidiary of the teachers’ unions. These unions view non-union charter schools as a threat to them, but they are a lifesaver for minority kids and parents.”

“I suspect Biden has been more strident in his opposition to choice, including charters, lately to secure support of the more radical left-wing of the party, and of course teacher unions,” said Neal P. McCluskey, Ph.D., Director of the Washington, D.C-based Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. “He may not be the relative centrist he was once thought to be.”

Along with law and order and entrepreneurship, school choice offers minority communities the most promising path to hope and opportunity. Joe Biden claims to believe that Black lives matter. Tragically, however, Black minds don’t matter to him at all.


A plan to empower parents, increase education options as an uncertain school year looms

While I’m a big supporter of home schools, many single parents who work aren’t able to teach their kids at home. Even some parents with advanced educational degrees simply don’t want to teach their kids at home or believe their kids will listen more consistently to someone outside of the family. Some families are dysfunctional because of poverty or mental illness or lack of education and are not prepared to teach their kids at home. For some children, their best chance of witnessing a functional, civilized situation is at school.

In short, hundreds of thousands of children will receive a substandard education if we abandon in-person schools for another term.

If the government schools decide not to meet in person in the fall, I think every parent should have the right to take their tax dollars to the school of their choice.

Currently, federal education dollars are divided up between school districts. This week, I introduced legislation (the Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning [SCHOOL] Act), which I will also propose as an amendment to the next COVID bailout bill, to let the dollars follow the student to whatever school their parents choose.

The choices would include homeschool, the local public school or another public school that has in-person classes, or a private or parochial school.

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would oppose letting parents decide the school of their choice.

Imagine if the government ran grocery stores the way they run our schools. You don’t pay for your groceries; you pay a tax, and the government sends it to the store closest to your home. You don’t get to decide which store or what you want. You show up, and they give you a bag of groceries — doesn’t matter what you need or want. There would be a grocery board to decide what they stocked, and a grocery superintendent would hire and fire everyone there, regardless of what the customers thought.

What do you think the quality of your food and store would be? Seems pretty obvious to most people, yet that is how we run elementary and secondary education in this country and have for many years. It’s produced some pretty bad results, but what it’s also producing now is an unworkable situation for too many people.

The COVID situation cries out for a better solution.

My legislation would allow certain federal education dollars to follow the student, with the parents deciding which school their children attend, not the school system.

School choice also allows low-income and disadvantaged students who live in crime-ridden neighborhoods to escape their decaying schools and go to high-performing schools capable of meeting their needs and changing their futures.

My legislation takes certain funds appropriated for students under current law through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and allows them to follow the child to the school of their choice, whether the school is learning in person or remotely. It allows the parents and students to choose between public school, charter school, private school, and home school.

It would allow these funds to be used for direct tuition payments, curriculum materials, technological materials, tutoring, or education classes outside the home. It would also pay for support for special education needs.

Finally, my legislation ensures that students choosing any of the above options for schooling could still benefit from a federally funded school food program.

Parents and students are having a hard time right now. There is much uncertainty and confusion. While we might normally be school shopping right now, instead we are waiting for the latest update as to when — or IF — our schools might reopen, what they might look like if they did, and how much turmoil this next school year may bring to our children’s lives.

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There is a better way, and I’m proposing we take a giant step in that direction. Empower parents. Help students. Support their choices and needs.

As we seek relief from the dangers and troubles of COVID, let’s not forget our kids, and let’s not abandon parents to a one-size-fits-all government monopoly.


School Teacher: We Don't Want You to Know the Radical Stuff We've Been Teaching Your Kids

Despite Democrats’ push for remote learning this fall, some public school teachers have concerns. Not because they’re worried about the quality of education children will receive, but because they don’t want parents to find out about the radical progressive agenda they’ve been pushing for years.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, a Philadelphia teacher, author, and columnist named Matthew R. Kay expressed anxiety about teachers’ ability to effectively accomplish their “equality/inclusion work” over Zoom calls when they can’t be sure who is overhearing them. The thread has since been hidden but was captured by Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation.

“How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability?” Kay asks. “How many of us have installed some version of ‘what happens here stay here’ to help this?”

Kay continues to outline his concerns about the “damage” that parents can do in “honest conversations about gender/sexuality.” While Kay says he is mainly concerned about conservative parents, he adds that those on the left can be harmful as well.

“If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia - how much do we want their classmates' parents piling on?” he wonders.

One teacher replying to Kay concurred, calling parents "dangerous."

But many more took to Twitter to express outrage over the comments.

Conservatives have been sounding the alarm about public school indoctrination for years. Kay’s unwitting admission not only shows that these concerns are warranted but demonstrates just how entitled many teachers have become to indoctrinating other people’s children.

Ironically, Kay’s sentiments come even as teachers across the country protest a return to in-person instruction, citing COVID-19 concerns. In Arizona, a teachers’ union has planned a "death march" complete with gravestone-shaped signs bearing epitaphs blaming the governor for sacrificing them to the pandemic. After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools would reopen in the fall, teachers pushed back, calling for remote classes and asking the governor how many teachers was planning to “kill.” And in Washington, D.C., public school teachers piled "body bags" outside administrative offices to protest returning to work.

But in light of Kay’s Twitter thread, closed public schools might not be such a loss after all. As DeAngelis points out, the rant highlights the need for school choice more than ever. Parents — not government employees — have the right and duty to educate their children in accordance with their values, whether that's through private school, parochial school, charter school, or homeschool.

Kay said the quiet part out loud. That should be all parents need to know to break the left’s education monopoly once and for all.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Math education prof: 2+2 = 4 'trope' 'reeks of white supremacy patriarchy'

Math professors and academics at top universities, including Harvard and the University of Illinois, discussed the “Eurocentric” roots of American mathematics on Twitter. They asserted that the statement “2 plus 2 equals 4” is rooted in Western definitions of mathematics.

Math professors and educators at leading American universities have taken to Twitter in order to debate whether math is racist.

Some asserted that objective mathematics is rooted in “white supremacist patriarchy” and white social constructs.

The debate itself was rooted in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, in which citizens of a fictional totalitarian state believe that 2 plus 2 equals 5 as a result of government propaganda.

Laurie Rubel, who teaches math education at Brooklyn College, says that the idea of math being cultural neutral is a "myth," and that asking whether 2 plus 2 equals 4 "reeks of white supremacist patriarchy."

“Y’all must know that the idea that math is objective or neutral IS A MYTH,” she tweeted.

Rochelle Gutierrez, who teaches “Sociopolitical Perspectives on Mathematics and Science Education” at the University of Illinois, responded to a tweet from a former educator claiming that the U.S. "colonizes" math.

"By now it is well known, for example, that other cultures were using the theorem we call Pythagorean, yet we still refer to it with this name. This is colonization and erasure," the tweet from the former educator read.

Gutierrez responded with, "YES! This attends to the Cultures/Histories dimension of RM (addressing Western/Eurocentric maths). And, we also want to attend to the Living Practice dimension (which is more about imagining a version that builds upon ancestral knowings, but does not yet exist)."

Kareem Carr, a Ph.D. student at Harvard University, weighed in with, "People say it's subjectivism to ask if math is Western. I don't get that. It's an objective fact that some groups were more involved in the creation of modern math than others. They may have been *trying* to make it objective but it's not stupid to ask if they actually succeeded!"


Pick your OWN results: British Government rips up exam system to give pupils 'triple lock' on grades in extraordinary new plan unveiled just ONE day before A-levels are announced

Students were given a 'triple lock' on their A-level and GCSE grades last night as ministers ripped up the system in the wake of the Scottish exams fiasco.

Just 36 hours before A-level results are released, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students could now opt for the grades they got in their mock exams.

It means A-level students can choose between the marks they get awarded tomorrow – which are based on teacher assessments and a computer-generated 'standardisation' model – or their mock results.

If they are not happy with either of those, they can sit the exam in the autumn, with the Government covering the cost for schools.

Mr Williamson was forced to offer the unprecedented 'triple lock', which will also apply to GCSE pupils, after Nicola Sturgeon performed a U-turn on Scotland's exam results.

Last week, Scottish pupils sitting the equivalent of A-levels received their computer-moderated grades under a similar system to that being used in the rest of the UK.

However, 125,000 results – about one in four – were downgraded from what teachers had predicted, leading to an outcry and complaints that disadvantaged pupils had been hardest hit.

Yesterday, the Scottish government opted for a humiliating U-turn and said that despite concerns over grade inflation, all results would now revert to those that teachers had predicted.

Government ministers are thought to be nervous about a similar row erupting in England when A-level results are released tomorrow.

Home-school pupils are left in limbo

Home-schooled children face having their lives put on hold because they were 'forgotten' during lockdown, a senior Tory MP warned yesterday.

Students studying for A-levels and GCSEs privately will miss out on grades this week after exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

They may be able to sit papers in the autumn but this will be too late for university and sixth-form college applications.

Unlike students in schools and colleges, they didn't have teachers who could submit 'assessed grades' to exam boards.

Tory MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, said: 'It's looking pretty bleak for these children. It just seems these kids have been forgotten about during lockdown.'

Hannah Titley, of the Home Schooling Association, said private candidates had been 'unfairly disadvantaged'.

The number of home-schooled children soared by 15 per cent last year – from 52,770 to 60,544 in a 12-month period.

Mr Williamson said England would not allow teachers' predicted grades to stand, because it would lead to unacceptable grade inflation from the previous year.

He insisted his new system would ensure pupils received the 'fairest results possible' after the summer exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.

The last-minute change will lead to further accusations that the Government has not got a grip of yet another aspect of the crisis, following failures over care homes, schools, testing, travel and the provision of PPE to NHS staff.

Mr Williamson said: 'Every young person waiting for their results wants to know that they have been treated fairly.

'By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple-lock process to ensure they can have the confidence to take the next steps forward in work or education.'

Schools will need to demonstrate to exams regulator Ofqual that mocks were taken in exam-like conditions, but the process is expected to be significantly streamlined.

The Government said it would set aside £30 million to fund autumn exams for all schools, easing the burden on budgets already stretched to deal with coronavirus measures.

'The SNP failed the test, but we have done more revision,' one government source said.

'This decision in Scotland was a bad decision. It means that in Scotland there are now students walking round with inflated grades that no one will take seriously.

'It's not fair for students this year and it's not fair for students last year. Our system is fundamentally fairer.'

In Scotland, outrage was prompted by the system resulting in deprived students being treated more than twice as harshly as the best-off.

Health bosses are looking to cash in on the record numbers of students expected to go through clearing by offering more places on nursing degrees.

They will send direct emails to 50,000 people and post ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, appealing to those entering the clearing system to apply for nursing courses.

Officials hope the stability of NHS careers will appeal to the 'Covid Generation' – those who are likely to suffer long-term consequences from the pandemic.

Nursing course applications have already surged by 16 per cent this year to more than 47,000 by the end of June. Much of the increase is attributed to the leading role nurses have played in the country's response to coronavirus.

England's top nurse, Ruth May, said the We Are The NHS campaign wanted to harness the institution's rising popularity by appealing to the next generation of healthcare staff.

Fighting for his political career yesterday, SNP education secretary John Swinney said the standardisation would be unwound.

'We set out to ensure that the system was fair. We set out to ensure it was credible. But we did not get it right for all young people,' he said.

Only days earlier, Mr Swinney had justified the exams procedure by revealing that without it, top grades would have surged by up to an unprecedented 14 per cent.

Yesterday's decision means this inflation will come to pass – and raises questions as to how next year's students will be treated, and whether last year's pupils will protest.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: 'They have gone for the most generous option they could have gone for.

'But the decision results in a whole load of questions about whether other exams were fair – for the people that took exams last year and the ones who will take exams next year.

Anyone who thinks this announcement removes any unfairness is plain wrong. In fact, it introduced new unfairnesses for other people.'

Despite the concerns, government critics lined up to demand a similar about-turn in England.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government risked 'robbing a generation of young people of their future' unless the grading system in England was also abandoned.

National Union of Students president Larissa Kennedy agreed 'the UK Government should follow the lead of Scotland by scrapping moderated grades'.

Geoff Barton, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Scotland was now 'out of kilter with the rest of the UK where standardisation is being used'.


Colleges: ‘The Public Be Damned’

In the 1880s, railroad magnate William Vanderbilt, when asked about possible negative public reaction to his company’s policy regarding express trains, purportedly said: “the public be damned.” If a recent survey of more than 2,700 respondents by a Massachusetts-based think tank (Populace) accurately reflects current public opinion, that is how the American people think colleges and universities regard the general public—people to fleece for resources but otherwise ignore.

More specifically, with findings similar to some other polling, more than half (52%) of those surveyed think higher education “is headed in the wrong direction.” Only a small minority (20%) think it “is headed in the right direction” (the remainder had no definite opinion.) More telling, when asked, “Whose interests do you think American colleges and universities are putting first today?” some two-thirds (67%) responded “their own institutional interests,” while a paltry 9% thought colleges put student interests first and even fewer, 4%, thought colleges attempted to serve “the greater good.” Is this why college enrollments have been falling for nine years?

If the survey is accurate, most people believe colleges are in the business of maximizing their personal welfare rather than the public good, thereby moving “in the wrong direction.” More troubling to me is that I think the public perception is pretty accurate. An old adage attributable to Abraham Lincoln comes to mind: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Universities might nominally be owned by some governmental or privately appointed governing board, but they are in fact controlled increasingly by bureaucracies with little accountability to anyone. University president and senior administrative pay has soared in the last generation, and the senior faculty have job security and light teaching loads so they can often write articles of trivial importance and near zero readership for the Journal of Last Resort. To be a successful president with a long tenure and high pay, previously you merely needed to give the alumni good athletic teams, the faculty job security and good parking, and the students low study obligations with lots of drinking and sex. Now, however, to keep the peace and demonstrate that they are sufficiently attuned to the dominant progressive ideas of the academy, presidents feel they must appease militant campus protesters, spending fortunes to meet their demands and turning a blind eye to such transgressions as harassing those with differing views, or damaging university property.

In short, university leaders have been obsessed with keeping their major internal constituencies reasonably happy at all costs, even though the interests of these constituencies are often radically at odds with the views of the people financing higher education: taxpayers, major donors, even to some extent the parents of students. Presidents have engaged in increasingly unbelievable obfuscatory rhetoric trying to placate four P’s: politicians, parents, philanthropists and the public. It is no longer working. Many persons would probably hesitate before buying a used car from a university president.

Now universities are in trouble. To win renewed public favor (and hence financial support), they need to pay far more attention to the external constituencies that provide their daily bread, and accept the fact that, borrowing from John Donne, they are not “an island entire of itself.” Changing one word in something Donne wrote nearly 400 years ago: “every university is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Specifically, what should universities start to do? They need to drastically cut costs and fees. Key to this is firing many expensive bureaucrats and consultants who neither teach nor do research: colleges should aim to nearly restore the ratio of teachers to “support staff” we had in 1975. They need to show strong support for intellectual diversity and free expression (instead of relentlessly promoting progressive thoughts that many writing checks to colleges do not like). They need to meet national economic needs instead of excessively promoting ideologically oriented dogma. They need to return to the basics: instructing students rigorously and seriously, preparing them for both a vocational future and responsible citizenship, while continuing to expand the frontiers of knowledge through high quality research.


These Florida Counties Are Feeling the Heat From DeSantis to Reopen Schools

On Tuesday morning, school board members in Hendry County, Florida, logged onto their computers for a virtual “emergency” session about the upcoming school year. For some teachers watching, the meeting amounted to a disturbing surprise.

The week prior, the county school board had approved a plan that would require students learn virtually until the county’s coronavirus case positivity rate dropped below 10 percent for at least 10 consecutive days. Hendry County, an area 65 miles east of Fort Myers with a population of 42,000, currently has one of the highest infection rates (4.2 percent) in all of southwestern Florida. Multiple teachers in the county told The Daily Beast they’d viewed the decision to hold off on sending kids back to the classroom as a safe choice.

But on Tuesday, Superintendent Paul Puletti delivered a major announcement: The county had, over the weekend and within the course of just a few days, decided to reverse course. As of Tuesday morning, Hendry County planned to reopen schools on August 31 for those students who choose to return to the classroom. The county is also offering students the chance to continue learning virtually with county public school teachers or through an outside educational service.

The change in policy came as Gov. Ron Desantis (R-FL)—along with senior officials in the state’s Department of Education—continue to press counties to reopen schools fully for the fall semester, including those experiencing significant upticks in coronavirus cases. DeSantis, a close ally of President Donald Trump, has been viewed inside the top echelons of the administration, including within the president’s coronavirus task force, as leading the way on the school reopening issue. On several private phone calls with the nation’s governors, Vice President Mike Pence has praised DeSantis for his work in containing the virus and flattening the curve, even as cases and deaths have piled up in the state. Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, too, has highlighted DeSantis’ efforts in recent weeks to stop the spread.

But on Monday, Florida recorded a record number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations—as well as record COVID-19-related deaths on Tuesday. And the total number of cases in children under the age of 17 has increased by 137 percent in the last four weeks.

Against such a disturbing epidemiological backdrop, state mandates to reopen schools have been viewed by some officials in counties such as Hendry and Hillsborough County as too restrictive—and have forced administrators such as Puletti to roll the dice.

“I made the choice because I didn’t want to risk losing funding for this district,” Puletti, who is set to retire in November, told The Daily Beast. “It’s all very stressful.”

The decision to reopen schools in Hendry County, announced during the board meeting Tuesday morning by Puletti, came after the superintendent spoke with senior officials in the state Department of Education over the weekend. Puletti told The Daily Beast that following a school board meeting August 4, in which members voted to extend virtual learning until further notice, he called the department “immediately” to inform the state about the decision. The state was not willing to allow the county to delay in-person learning, Puletti said, even with the increasing case numbers in the county.

“I told them we needed to amend our working plan to do this,” Puletti said, referring to the plan to implement virtual learning. “I explained it and I was sort of walking around the brick-and mortar-mandate. I was hoping that I could walk around it. They basically said the bottom line is the commissioner of education had made the decision to have brick-and-mortar schools open by the end of August and we needed to follow that order.” (Brick-and-mortar schools are schools that offer in-person learning as opposed to virtual learning.)

In the beginning of July, Florida’s Department of Education issued an executive order requiring brick-and-mortar schools to open classrooms by August 31. Since the issuing of that order, the state has shown some flexibility, allowing schools to reopen first online before switching to in-person learning by the end of the month. Hendry County will offer students virtual learning starting August 24 and brick-and-mortar by August 31.

A senior official at the state Department of Education who spoke with The Daily Beast would not comment on deliberations between Puletti and the department, but said Hendry County had not submitted an “official plan” until Monday. That plan included the proposal to reopen schools on August 31, the official said. The governor’s office and the state’s Department of Health did not return requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Hendry County Department of Health Department said the office worked with Hendry County Emergency Management to provide masks for schools.

Puletti repeatedly mentioned during the school board meeting Tuesday morning the possibility that the county will have to shut down schools completely if students begin to test positive for the coronavirus. Puletti said a handful of teachers in the county over the last two weeks have reported coming into contact with an individual with COVID-19 or have asked for leave because they are experiencing symptoms.

“The problem with all this back and forth is that it really doesn’t give teachers the time to plan properly,” said one Hendry School elementary school teacher who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely about the matter. “Now we have to completely change how we teach. But there’s also a ton of risk to going back to school right now. Our county numbers are extremely high and those don’t go away overnight or in two weeks.”

Hendry County was not the only region in Florida to tussle with state leaders over virtual learning. In Hillsborough County, in Central Florida, the school board voted to change the district’s reopening plan that had been approved by the state so that only online learning would be available for the first four weeks of the school year.

Since then, the state has inquired with the county about its decision to go virtual, sending the school board a letter requesting more information. And on Monday, Governor DeSantis and Richard Corcoron, his education commissioner, traveled to Hillsborough County to press the county to reopen classrooms.

“Some of this stuff is just not debatable anymore,” DeSantis said at a roundtable at Winthrop College Prep Academy in Riverview, according to Politico. “We’re going in a good direction in this area and that’s just the reality.”

Cocoran informed Davis the move was in violation of the state’s order to reopen campuses and that the Hillsborough public schools district was risking possible loss of state funding; as much as $23 million, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Cocoran’s office did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

Hillsborough school district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said Addis was not available for interviews, but late Monday, she issued a press statement addressing Cocoran’s comments. It read: “Our district explicitly followed the state’s executive order. The order provides school districts the option of not opening brick and mortar “subject to advise or orders of the Florida Department of Health, (or) local departments of health”. Last Thursday, our School Board made an informed decision after hearing from the local public health authority and local infectious disease experts. The panel was asked if we should open our doors and not one medical professional could recommend opening today. The state’s order goes on to say the day-to-day decision to open or close a school always rests locally.”

David Pogorilich, a 60-year-old father of a student at Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa, was among those parents who wanted the Hillsborough school board to follow Cocoran’s executive order.

In a phone interview with The Daily Beast, Pogorilich said switching to virtual classes for the first four weeks so close to the start of the school year was probably the wrong approach. “It ignored the state and it ignored the parents,” Pogorilich said. “The biggest mistake they made was to fly in the face of the governor and ignore their constituency. They did a poll and a good percentage wanted kids to go back to class.”

Pogorilich, who is a former city council member representing Temple Terrace in Hillsborough, said parents and their children should be allowed to decide the best option for them. His daughter, a 17-year-old starting her senior year, definitely wants to go back to class, he said.

“She has been part of the conversation and we agreed that the school is taking proper precautions that kids will stay safe. The best way to learn is in the classroom. They need the interaction, the face-to-face time with teachers and being able to ask questions, especially her senior year. We don’t want her education to be short-changed.”

His teen also doesn’t want to miss out on the experience of enjoying her final year in high school, Pogorilich said. “If she was five-years-old, obviously it would be a different conversation,” he said. “But my niece graduated last year. She was short-changed. They didn’t have a prom. They didn’t have a graduation and she got her diploma in the mail.”

Damaris Allen, a 42-year-old mom whose two teens attend H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, said she also prefers her kids go back into brick-and-mortar learning, but doesn’t believe the district should reopen schools this month. “Neither of my kids want to go back to school,” she said. “They just want to do e-learning. They are pretty aware of what is going on in the world. They understand that increased exposure means increased risks.”

Allen, who works as a public education advocate, said her fear was rushing back to reopen schools would lead to closing them down again quickly if an outbreak occurs. “My kids are really fortunate they attend a school with a ton of resources,” she said. “But even on a good day, our school can’t keep enough soap in the bathrooms. The state has asked us to send kids back to school without giving us the funding to send them back safely.”

She also claimed Hillsborough County Public Schools did not have the necessary funding to provide soap, hand sanitizers, wipes and masks to more than 200,000 students on a daily basis.

“I definitely think the school board made a wise decision,” Allen said. “Given our positivity rate, it isn’t safe to reopen schools. It’s in the best interest of our students, our educators and our whole community to start with e-learning and evaluate as time goes on to see if our numbers do fall.”


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Masks, no assembly and no choir: the science behind reopening schools safely

Whatever you do, don't do what we did: that is the message for the world from Israel on reopening schools. 

It started well. At the end of May, a newly formed government emboldened by low, and falling, coronavirus numbers jumped in headfirst, welcoming back the entire student body.

Within days, infections were reported at a high school in Jerusalem. The outbreak spread. Hundreds of teachers, students and family members were infected, and thousands more quarantined in outbreaks across the country. Hundreds of schools were forced to shut, and a nursery school teacher died. The move has been in part blamed for the country's now rampant second wave of the virus. 

So what can the rest of the world learn?

"They definitely should not do what we have done," Professor Eli Waxman, chair of the team advising Israel's national security council on its response to the virus, told the New York Times this week. "It was a major failure."

In fact, it was a whole sequence of failures, scientists said, from closing all the windows at school during a heatwave and putting on the air conditioning - giving the virus a chance to thrive - to failing to trace contacts, even down to which bus students came to school on.

But while Israel has become a cautionary tale, it is far from the whole story. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests it is something of an outlier.

A number of other countries have also begun reopening their schools, and none - so far - have experienced a significant rise in cases as a result, according to a research paper put together by the Royal Society's Delve initiative, a group of scientists compiling data on Covid-19.

Even in England, so far, there has not been a spike associated with the partial re-openings which began on June 1, which saw pupils in nurseries, reception, year one, year six, and then later, years 10 and 12 in small groups, return slowly to the classroom.

The UK government is running a study to test teachers and students across up to 100 schools to provide a more accurate picture, with the results available later this summer, just before all schools go back at the start of September. 

These early figures are significant, because they address one of the key concerns over schools - that children, who do not seem to be badly affected by the virus themselves, could be major transmitters to their wider community.

As parents and teachers know, that is how flu and colds have always behaved, and without evidence to the contrary at the beginning of the pandemic, that's how it was assumed the novel coronavirus would also spread.

But actually, this does not seem to be the case.

As well as being less likely to suffer seriously with the virus, children are also marginally less likely to be infected, and - emerging evidence suggests - significantly less likely to spread it.

In schools specifically, the largest study so far from Australia found that 18 people with the virus (nine children and nine teachers) only infected two more people. The results from the research, a large-scale contact tracing study across 15 schools in New South Wales in March, seems to have been echoed in other early work, although the data is scarce as many schools are only just reopening.

Professor Devi Sridhar, who assessed the evidence for Delve, said it appeared likely that schools only have a limited role to play in transmission, particularly in countries where case numbers were already falling.

"The takeaway message is that if you have low prevalence, then schools don't seem to impact onwards transmission," she told the Telegraph. 

As such, she said the key element in re-opening schools was actually nothing to do with schools at all.

"The safest way to open schools is to have no community transmission or extremely low," she said. "Schools operate within communities, and that's my headline: the safest way to protect schools is to make sure it never gets to school in the first place."

That aim is still some distance away in England, where 892 new coronavirus cases were reported on Wednesday. But in Scotland, where Professor Sridhar advises the government and where schools open next week, there were just 64.

But pressure has increased on governments to prioritise schools. This week in the UK, the Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said the government must put schools before pubs.

"There needs to be a discussion about getting cases as low as possible for schools to re-open, and the trade-off that involves, and increasingly countries are going to struggle with this," said Professor Sridhar.

Another issue on opening up other parts of society at the same time as schools means it blurs the data if outbreaks do occur, making them harder to trace. Professor Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, suggests this was another issue in Israel, where shopping malls, restaurants and gyms all opened alongside schools, with the president urging people to "go and have a good time". 

"Children have to be prioritised," said Professor Sridhar. 

The Delve paper stresses this particularly, emphasising the now well-documented risks of keeping children out of school for long periods of time, including the loss of learning, rising inequality, and deteriorating mental health. There is also the pressure on parents taking on childcare while trying to work.

This week the UN called school closures for more than a billion children globally a "generational catastrophe".

The Delve paper concludes: "Our assessment of the evidence suggests that keeping schools open should be the default position given the substantial risks from closures."

However, scientists said it was wrong to use this as a stick to beat teachers with, who had reasonable concerns about their own safety.

"You can't force teachers back into the classroom because you are guilting them about the damage they are causing children," said Professor Sridhar. "Teachers mostly went into education because they deeply care about children, but they want to feel safe. So this [damage] cannot be used as an excuse for not making schools as safe as possible for teachers."

Delve and other scientific groups, including the World Health Organization, have drawn up guidelines on reopening schools, which include distancing, improved hygiene, and other elements like staggered break times, as well as having a robust plan in place for when cases are discovered, as well as strong contact tracing.

In fact, a paper in The Lancet this week warned that reopening schools could see a second wave of coronavirus in the UK if the country's so-far inadequate contact tracing system is not improved (with one caveat: it also assumed reopening schools would see parents return to work and socialising).

The UK, as well as most other countries, has its own variation on these rules, including staggered break times and keeping a lid on riskier activities, like singing or mass gatherings - so no choir or assembly for now.

However, scientists said that one simple measure that would help teachers in particular feel safer was being ignored domestically: face masks.

In countries which have reopened successfully, like Germany, masks have been part of the strategy, particularly for teachers and older children, who seem to transmit the virus more than younger kids. There are other elements of their strategies, like huge outdoor lessons and very regular testing, that could also be incorporated. But masks could make a huge difference, particularly with some adjustments made to ensure that deaf students, for example, were not excluded by the policy, such as by using transparent masks.

Dr Sanjay Patel,  a paediatric infectious diseases consultant at University Hospital Southampton, said he didn't know why Public Health England was still advising teachers not to wear masks.

"Through this whole pandemic, the world has done something, like face masks, and we won't do it until the evidence shows it is 100 per cent right. Then two months later, we do it," he said. "I think face masks would make teachers feel a lot more confident, and I think for me I would feel more confident for them too."

He said getting teachers to feel safe about reopening was a major part of succeeding, and stressed that he did not blame them for feeling concerned. 

"If we don't win over teachers, we don't win over unions, and we don't win over headteachers, and we fail," he said. "And we cannot afford to fail - it's too important to fail. We cannot continue to mess up our children's education."


The closing of the academic mind

A new report explodes the idea that campus censorship is a right-wing myth.

Campus censorship, according to some, is just a right-wing myth; claims of petitions, protests and No Platforming are simply a moral panic. In this fantasy, free speech is alive and kicking at a university near you. It might be the case, these academics and commentators concede, that Oxford’s Selina Todd needs to be accompanied to lectures by a security guard. It may be true, they begrudgingly acknowledge, that Reading’s Rosa Freedman had her office door covered in urine. But these examples are blown out of all proportion, they argue, and, what’s more, they’ve been misunderstood – issuing death threats and pissing on doors are actually expressions of free speech not attempts to shut down debate. Phew!

This week, a new report from Policy Exchange pushes back against the censorship deniers. Academic Freedom in the UK goes beyond a straightforward count of petitions and rescinded invitations. Instead, it explores a campus culture shaped by ‘widespread support for discrimination on political grounds in publication, hiring and promotion’. A survey commissioned by the report’s authors shows that ‘only 54 per cent of academics said that they would feel comfortable sitting next to a known Leave supporter at lunch. Just 37 per cent would feel comfortable sitting next to someone who, in relation to transgender rights, advocates gender-critical feminist views.’ This matters, they tell us, because a climate of political intolerance ‘threatens academic freedom, and likely results in self-censorship’.

Too often, those who argue there is no campus free speech crisis see threats to academic freedom in a narrowly formal way. According to this view, unless university managers – or, even better, government ministers – specifically prevent lectures from going ahead or papers from being published, then all is well. The latest Policy Exchange report is useful because it shows that threats to free speech do not come neatly sign-posted. More often they emanate from within the broader cultural context of the campus and involve individuals self-censoring rather than risking becoming the target of petitions.

Unfortunately, crisis deniers see nothing wrong with campus culture as it currently stands. To them, believing that sex is assigned at birth, that Britain is better in the EU, that global warming is the biggest threat facing the planet, and that structural racism is endemic, is simply common sense. These are not topics for political debate but the values that all decent people subscribe to. Sometimes these values are formally articulated in equality and diversity statements or made clear through mandatory inclusivity workshops. But more often the assumption of a shared moral outlook is made clear through jokes, coffee-break comments, posters pinned to doors and petitions that circulate among staff. Question this commonsense decency and – as the Policy Exchange report indicates – it’s not just lunch invites that dry up but promotions, publications and funding opportunities too.

Campus censorship is not a right-wing myth but, by the same token, ideological conformity is not a left-wing plot. Over a period of many decades, professors with a particular understanding of what it meant to be a scholar – a dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and a commitment to intellectual rigour and objectivity – have been replaced by a younger generation who see scholarship as more explicitly bound up with a commitment to social justice. They are more likely to see nods to objectivity as, at best, disingenuous, and at worst a dangerous pretence. Social justice demands recruiting historically under-represented groups when picking new staff and students resulting in campuses that look diverse but are increasingly ideologically homogenous. Students who fit in tend to be those who share the political and intellectual preoccupations of their lecturers. They then go on to become the next generation of academics. At the same time, those who don’t fit in often choose to opt out of academia altogether.

The domination of a clique of the likeminded is not restricted to universities. The same liberal view of the world is now shared by those who run the BBC, branches of the civil service, many NGOs and charities, the senior ranks of the police, advertising agencies and social-media companies. This, in turn, lends weight to the perception that elite values are not political but simply morally correct. For this reason, those who have never had a view that in any way challenges the consensus see no problem with free speech in universities. Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), was quick to dismiss the findings of the Policy Exchange report: ‘The idea that academic freedom is under threat is a myth.’

Policy Exchange should be commended for raising the problem of today’s threats to free speech that are often experienced individually and subjectively. Far more difficult a question is how we change the culture on campus. Policy Exchange proposes that a national director for academic freedom should be appointed by the secretary of state for education and established within the Office for Students.

Enforcing academic freedom is tempting, but it risks lending moral justification to those who already claim persecution. It does little to challenge the climate on campus; enforced team lunches won’t make colleagues like one another or even give opposing views a fair hearing. Jokes, petitions and posters could all be outlawed but this would curtail, not enhance, free speech. Crucially, universities are part of and not separate from society. We need to make the case for free speech everywhere and challenge the stranglehold an out-of-touch elite has on all our institutions. More than new political appointments this requires individual acts of courage. Rather than self-censoring, or lamenting self-censorship, the onus has to be on us all to say what we think.


Why we shouldn’t ‘decolonise’ libraries

Universities’ embrace of woke ideas threatens to undermine their very mission.

Goldsmiths Library, which is part of the University of London, has proudly announced that it plans to ‘decolonise and diversify’ its collections. This will apparently allow it ‘to de-centre Whiteness, [and] to challenge non-inclusive structures in knowledge management and their impact on library collections, users and services’.

Goldsmiths Library is far from alone. From the University of Sussex to Royal Holloway, other university libraries have also pledged to diversify their collections in order to combat Eurocentrism and de-centre Whiteness.

Of course, decolonising libraries is only one element of the broader project to decolonise the university, which also includes demands to decolonise curricula. But it is still a significant move.

At first glance, diversifying libraries sounds like a harmless idea. There is little to object to in the idea of sourcing more books from nations outside Europe. Students can benefit from being able to access books written by brilliant African authors just as they benefit from their existing access to books by European authors. After all, what matters is the quality of books, rather than their country of origin.

But even if these were well-intentioned plans, it is the unintended consequences we should be worried about. For a start, diversifying library collections is an expensive business. Many universities are already in a parlous financial position thanks to the pandemic, with student deferral rates up by 17 per cent, and the number of fee-paying international students set to plummet by nearly 50 per cent. In such challenging conditions, channeling dwindling finances into various decolonisation initiatives is only likely to result in other, arguably more important, university services being deprived of support and investment.

Moreover, libraries in universities and beyond often provide a vital service for many of the least advantaged groups in society. For those without wifi access or computers at home, they offer internet access. And for those living in crowded or noisy living conditions, they provide the space and quiet to read and concentrate. And, above all, they allow many simply to find and read books that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. That, after all, is the whole point of a library: to allow people access to books. Yet too much focus on fashionable diversity and decolonisation projects could easily see all these vital services suffer.

And what of the effect on domestic book suppliers and sellers? If a decolonised and diversified book provision is presented as virtuous, does that mean those who fail to diversify and decolonise will be condemned or, worse, cancelled? Think not just of other university libraries or local libraries, but also of small independent bookstores unable to import books from far away. Are they going to be singled out and cancelled if they cannot afford to decolonise? Something similar has already happened to The Tattered Cover, a small bookstore in Denver, US, which failed to toe the woke line on the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this summer.

There is no doubting the social and economic challenges that too many in the UK face today. Such challenges are only likely to grow in the devastating aftermath of the pandemic and lockdown. But is directing resources towards the decolonisation and diversification of library book shelves likely to help people overcome these challenges? It seems unlikely.

In order to tackle real problems, rather than make woke activists feel good about themselves, we need strong and bright young people. People, that is, who would benefit from the vital service libraries already on offer; namely, access to the best that has been thought and said. The decolonisation of libraries is likely to prove a costly and damaging distraction.


Australia: Year 12 students claim ‘huge win’ after Victorian Government announces changes to ATAR system

Year 12s battling through remote learning have scored a “huge win” after a petition called on the State Government to cancel exams.

Victoria's secondary students will be tested against new standards as part of a major overhaul of the VCE. The state government is changing literacy and numeracy expectations ...
Victorian year 12s who will now be “individually assessed” for their VCE scores and ATAR rankings say the new changes are a “huge win” for the class of 2020.

Eltham High School student Tom McGinty said the compassionate approach gave him confidence he could secure a spot at university next year.

“I’m really stoked on the changes that have been implemented, As someone who has struggled with online learning this change brings me hope that I can actually obtain my desired ATAR score and get into my preferred course for next year,” he said.

Year 12 student Nathan Gunn petitioned to cancel VCE exams, saying he and his classmates had been burdened with the effects of COVID-19 and remote learning.

He launched the petition – which generated more than 4300 signatures – just days before Deputy Premier James Merlino announced every single VCE student would be individually assessed, with adverse impacts from COVID-19 reflected in their ATAR ranking.

“It’s a relief to know the Government has devised a new system of special consideration with the mental health of young people as a top priority,” the 18-year-old said.

“This new system is the first of its kind, which was crucial for all Victorian year 12s who are living and studying during a pandemic like none of us have ever seen.”

“We need physical interaction, we need to be there in the classroom asking questions,” he said.

Under the “extraordinary changes”, the Government will consider school closures and long absences as contributing factors to VCE students’ difficult year.

“We’ll look at things, for example, such as significant increase in family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, and we’ll of course consider the mental health and wellbeing of students during this period,” Mr Merlino said.

“This year is like no other, it is an unprecedented year, and we need to support our students in an unprecedented way.”

Mr Merlino said the changes would help students go into their VCE exams, which start in early November, with confidence “knowing they will not be disadvantaged as a result of COVID-19”.

“This is a way that we can give every student and every parent of a VCE student the comfort and the confidence that their student will receive their final scores that take into account their individual circumstances. It puts them on a level playing field with every student across the state,” he said.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Across Colleges of All Types, Student Anxiety Is a Growing Issue

College admissions is a different field than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. High school guidance counselors still help hundreds of students make a plan for after graduation. Students still try to get into the best college they can.

But they are now more cost-conscious, their families hire private college counselors, and they are much more anxious and stressed. Private high school counselors and college counselors both confront student anxiety more. Their jobs have expanded to deal with students anxious about the future.

Counselors disagree about the extent of the change and why students are more anxious. The type and causes of anxiety also differ depending on what type of college students attend. But higher education is devoting more time and money to student anxiety than in the recent past.

Private counselors have become much more notable since the Varsity Blues scandal, where wealthy parents turned to consultant Rick Singer to bribe colleges and get their children admitted.

When speaking with private counselors, though, they talk less about conquering the SAT and more about getting students to think about what they want in life.

Test prep, for instance, isn’t such a big emphasis anymore. As more universities go test-optional, what matters more is getting students to set goals and figure out which colleges fit them. Allen Koh, the CEO of Cardinal Education in California’s Silicon Valley, generally sees two clusters of students: Those who aim for elite schools and those who want to have a great college experience. But they don’t always know what they want.

“I think students are more rudderless than ever before because they have more freedom than ever before,” Koh said in a Martin Center interview. Students have so many options for college, with some applying to more than a dozen schools. Without a steady hand, they can’t clarify their thoughts and then get overwhelmed by the college search. They need to calm down and dwell on what they want their future to look like.

“Value formation is the centerpiece of college advising…helping kids architect their own values,” Koh said. “If you have values, then you can actually set some goals or values for yourself.”

If students don’t already have a solid foundation of their values, they can develop anxiety. It may be one of the reasons why college counseling is a growing industry.

College counseling has grown rapidly, with its revenue hitting $1.88 billion in 2018, a 58 percent increase from a decade ago, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. About 17,000 college consultants were in business in 2019, compared to 2,000 in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal.

While many college counselors offer some scholarships or free counseling for poor families, the typical student is wealthy, though more middle-class students are hiring help, too.

That expanded clientele means that student anxiety isn’t a problem for only highly selective schools like the Ivy League. It’s a problem at less-selective public colleges and community colleges, too.

“That’s the biggest change I’ve seen in my career,” John Saparilas, associate vice president of enrollment services at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, said in a Martin Center interview. He has spent more than two decades in admissions and counseling, primarily in community colleges.

The pressure to have a high school experience that looks attractive to college admissions officers is an issue as well.

“There’s too much pressure on 9th graders and 10th graders to really be navigating school with an eye to college admissions,” said Jake Rosen, founder and lead coach at Launchpad Coaching in Philadelphia, in a Martin Center interview. “It’s just too much too soon.”

“Living on social media has not necessarily been good for mental health,” Rosen said. The pressure and competition students feel to get into the best school weighs them down. Even when students are out of school, social pressure follows them home.

“There’s a lot more anxiety and depression and pressure and school avoidance or concerns about bullying and the effects of social media, and it’s changed a lot, even since I was a high school student,” Rosen said. “The kids who are in school now are in a different world. They do seem, in a broader sense, to be struggling with it and dealing with more mental health issues than students were, you know, when I was in high school.”

Anxious students don’t lose their anxiety after they get accepted, either.

In a study that looked at why students have become more anxious, Chris C. Martin, a sociologist at Georgia Tech, found that college counselors pointed to social change, helicopter parenting, competitiveness, and “thwarted distinctiveness” (being able to stand out from the crowd) as driving anxiety. Counselors disagreed about whether the changes were dramatic or whether some students simply felt anxiety more acutely.

“Counselors noted that the purpose of college had changed: education was now linked with the pursuit of economic success,” Martin wrote.

More involvement from parents has left students less prepared for an independent life.
Counselors told Martin that students have gotten more competitive with each other. Their parents, too, have gotten more intense about pushing students to get into better schools and accomplish more. More involvement from parents has left students less prepared for an independent life.

One counselor told Martin that students are “more vulnerable, they’re more frail, they’re more susceptible to anxiety experiences and I think this is not just happening to students but to the general population.”

Many students are inculcated with what Martin calls “an undercurrent of perfectionism.” They’re trying to get their lives “meticulously plotted,” Martin wrote. But students, no matter how smart, cannot avoid all failures and get the predictability they want.

As anxiety becomes more common, colleges have adapted. They’ve become better about catering to students, before and after admission.

One way is to make sure students understand a college and what students it educates before they apply. “We do a lot of work with high school counselors and that has actually increased over the last few years,” said Stephanie Whaley, assistant vice chancellor and director for admissions at East Carolina University.

ECU hosts high school counselor workshops in five locations across North Carolina so counselors know what ECU expects of students and can better steer the students they advise. The school also has recruiters in Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and other cities that reliably send large numbers of high school graduates to Greenville.

Wake Tech offers counseling services to figure out what students want and whether they would be a good fit at the school. They’ve also provided more resources to students after they’re admitted. Wake Tech provides “wraparound services for students,” Saparilas noted, with a food bank, wellness counselors, a rally fund for emergency grants, and, with remote classes since COVID-19 shut down colleges, lending out laptops.

“A lot of our students are like a house of cards, and you pull out one card, and the whole house falls down,” Saparilas said. With family and work obligations outside of class, the stress and anxiety at community colleges can be very different from a 20-year-old student at a selective university.

“There’s a lot more resources now than there were when I started in 1994, let me put it that way. There’s an awareness of the need to help these students when they come in, and not just admit them and let them just flounder,” Saparilas said.

Not all students struggle to cope with anxiety. However, it is common; a 2018 report from the American College Health Association found that 63 percent of college students felt “overwhelming anxiety” in the last year and 23 percent of students were diagnosed or treated for anxiety. It’s not an easy fix, either. Parents, colleges, and students themselves all have a role to play in alleviating anxiety and teaching students how to cope with the stress of life.

Whether during admissions or while students earn their degree, anxiety will be a long-term, not a short-term, issue for colleges.


Institutional Wokeness Is Destroying American Higher Education

The English department at Rutgers University, the eighth-oldest university in America, recently went woke. In an email obtained by The College Fix, Rebecca Walkowitz, English department chair, announced to faculty, staff and students that the department would implement a set of "anti-racist" initiatives. Lest the gullible be led astray by such anodyne phraseology, these initiatives include "limit(ing) emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard 'academic' English backgrounds at a disadvantage."

A pedagogical insistence on proper English grammar and syntax, you see, is now racist.

Once upon a time, in those halcyon days before America's Great Awokening, education was heralded as the best ticket to success. Generations of hardworking immigrants arrived on these shores from the farthest-flung reaches of the globe, toiling away in menial, minimum-wage jobs to provide their children a greater chance at success. They strived to assimilate into our culture and integrate into our politics. Learning the English language was -- and still is -- a necessary steppingstone.

Alas, the leading lights of Rutgers University would now hold that steppingstone to be a hallmark of insensitivity. What was and still ought to be universally lauded is now condemned as an outmoded bigotry.

The Walkowitz missive represents yet another pawn in our roiling society-wide chess match between the Americanists, preservers of the American regime who rightly prize assimilation as necessary for a functioning body politic, and the civilizational arsonists, who espouse an anti-American, multiculturalist vision of intersectionality. The Rutgers English department rejects "e pluribus unum," America's traditional motto of unity, preferring instead to stoke the flames of divisiveness. Worse yet, those Rutgers feigns to help are the very ones who will be most hurt; their odds of assimilating, and therefore building distinctly American lives, will be most hindered.

Shortly before the Rutgers kerfuffle, it was Princeton University -- a leading Ivy League light less than 20 miles to Rutgers' southwest -- that offered its own sacrifice at the pagan altar of wokeness. On Independence Day, hundreds of Princeton faculty members co-signed a disgraceful letter to Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber. That letter, echoing the worst of The New York Times' mendacious "1619 Project," baldly asserted that "anti-Blackness is foundational to America." The letter includes its own overtly racist elements, such as rewarding certain faculty members with extra privileges and perks based on nothing more than their melanin levels.

Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz dissented, penning a public "declaration of independence" four days later on Quillette. For his thoughtful, nuanced rejection of our harrowing new dogma, Katz was denounced in the public square, excoriated by Eisgruber, smeared as "abhorrent" on his own department's website, publicly threatened with an investigation by a Princeton administration spokesperson and very nearly "canceled."

Welcome to the world of American higher education in the year 2020, where up is down, left is right, good is bad, and right is wrong. William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1951 book, "God and Man at Yale," famously painted a portrait of an elitist, parochial academe at war with America itself. Buckley could not have possibly imagined just how bad the situation would be a full seven decades later. U.S. taxpayers are on the hook -- via subsidized student loans, over $1 trillion in student loan debt, calamitously spiked tuition, exacerbated administrator-to-faculty ratios, the hiring of ever-more diversitycrats and the intellectual poisoning of each new generation -- for the very rope to hang ourselves.

Let's be clear about this: We the people, one subsidized student loan and one gender-studies major at a time, are actively complicit in destroying the United States of America. The propagation of a noxious myth about college as an indispensable rite of passage has now come full circle to bite us in the derriere. Each generation that emerges from the smoldering ashes of the once-noble academy is further indoctrinated in insufferable anti-American, anti-Western, self-renouncing claptrap. There is nothing noble about bamboozling, on the taxpayer dime, impressionable teenagers into indebting themselves to major in unemployable "academic disciplines" nonetheless feted by the woke as cutting-edge scholarship.

How long a society can perdure while its educational apparatus is oriented toward churning out heavily indebted pompous ignoramuses is anyone's guess. But we should not wait to find out. With the possible exception of narrowly targeted investments in science and technology, it is long past time to defund American higher education of every single taxpayer dollar.


Law Professor at Senate Hearing: Antifa Is Winning on College Campuses

Jonathan Turley, the constitutional law professor who served as the sole Republican witness during the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, has now warned about an anti-free speech movement on college campuses.

Turley, who teaches at George Washington University, testified on Tuesday before a Senate subcommittee during a hearing that aimed to examine the protection of free speech and prevention of violent demonstrations.

According to Turley, far-left anarcho-communist group Antifa, unlike other extremist groups that also commit violence during protests, is particularly dangerous because it’s part of a nationwide anti-free speech movement that uses intimidation tactics to prevent ideological opponents from expressing their views.

“If you go through the Antifa handbook and look at their literature, it’s quite express, as stated in the handbook, they reject the premise of what they call a classical liberal view of free speech,” Turley said. “Specifically they object to statements like, ‘I may disagree with what you have to say, but I would give my life to defend it.’ They reject that. They believe that free speech itself is a tool of oppression.”

“Many of us on campuses have been dealing with Antifa for years, and Antifa is winning,” Turley said, adding that he had never seen the same level of fear and intimidation on campuses today throughout his 30 years of higher education career.

“Faculty are afraid to speak out about issues,” he continued. “We can’t have a dialogue about the important issues occurring today because there’s a fear that you might be accused of being reactionary or racist. We’ve had law professors who have been physically attacked, have required police protection. That’s the environment that we’re developing.”

Turley moved on to warn those who see these self-proclaimed anti-fascists as allies that they “don’t know Antifa.”

“Those of us who have been teaching on campuses can tell you about these groups,” he said. “And the alarm that I have is because I’m watching my profession, the teaching profession, die, with free speech.”

When asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) if he thought it was harmful for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to post a picture of himself holding an “Anti-Fascist Handbook” on Twitter, Turley said he noted that some Democratic politicians have not only failed to denounce Antifa, but endorsed it.

“Mr. Ellison said that they would put the fear in the heart of Donald Trump, but what he doesn’t see is that Antifa is putting the fear in the hearts of many people, other than Donald Trump,” Turley said. “If you go to campuses today, you will find more advocates for limiting speech than protecting it. They’re winning.”

“And when you see pictures like Mr. Ellison’s picture with Antifa, it’s very disturbing because Antifa’s not coming after him,” he continued. “They’re not even coming after Democrats. They’re coming after Republicans, conservatives, and those of us in the free speech community.

“They’re coming after us. But don’t think we’ll be the last ones. That’s not how this works.”


Chapman University Students Seek To Remove Statues of Prominent Conservative Figures

Hundreds of students at Chapman University are seeking to "remove and replace" busts of prominent conservative figures including Ronald Reagan.

An online petition, created by Chapman student Markos Buhler, says these figures were problematic due to their treatment of people of color and the LGBTQ community.

The figures who these students claim "hurt marginalized students" include Ronald Reagan, Albert Schweitzer, Margaret Thatcher, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand.

"We as Panthers believe in order for Chapman to better serve its students of color (especially Black students), LGBTQ+ students and female students, it is necessary to take a critical look at the busts displayed around campus," read the petition. "We feel it is hypocritical as an institution to express support to your marginalized students yet allow for the continued presence of busts that invoke feelings of exclusion and oppression each day as they walk through campus."

While the other figures were criticized in the petition, none were more vilified than Ronald Reagan, the former President of the United States.

The petition claimed Reagan "fueled many aspects of systematic racism" and his "War on Drugs" campaign was actually a war against "Brown and Black people."

They also said his actions "will continue to detrimentally affect the lives of Black and Brown people for generations, including students, faculty, and staff in the Chapman community."

The students also feel Margaret Thatcher should be removed because she "made LGBTQ+ people feel like second class citizen" and she "despised immigrants from other cultures."

They even stated Milton Friedman should go because he suggested free-market conservatism would solve racism ignoring "how entrenched racism is within our country and economy."

Other complaints lodged against these figures echoed similar sentiments, and repeated a similar theme that these historical icons all "abused power." There is no acknowledgment of the accomplishments of these people, many of whom changed not only America, but the whole world.

To replace the existing conservative statues, the students would like to see figures like Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Harvey Milk, Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, John Lewis, Cesar Chavez, James Baldwin, and Dolores Huerta.

The California school also recently made headlines, after a piece of the Berlin Wall that's on display at the campus was vandalized with brown paint.

"I am outraged by this senseless attempt to destroy a priceless piece of history and heartbroken that this can happen on our own campus,” university President Daniele Struppa said in a statement.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Not a single confirmed case of a school pupil passing on coronavirus to their teacher exists anywhere in the world, says a leading expert

No confirmed cases exist anywhere in the world of school pupils passing on Covid to their teachers, an expert has said.

All the available evidence points to children being poor spreaders of the virus, said Professor Mark Woolhouse, who cast doubt on the theory that reopening schools will trigger a deadly second wave.

Last week, a modelling forecast published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health warned that opening schools across the UK in September could lead to a tsunami of new cases, more than twice the size of the first wave.

But Prof Woolhouse said a second study published in the medical journal the same day, which found infected children in Australian schools had passed the virus on to hardly anyone, had been largely ignored.

During the first wave, 15 schools and ten nurseries in the state of New South Wales reported 27 cases where children or staff had attended while infectious with Covid-19.

Fifteen of these ‘index’ cases were staff and 12 were children.

These 12 children were in close contact with 103 staff, found contact tracers.

Only one of them was discovered to have passed the virus on to a member of staff in a single instance, although this is understood to have occurred in a nursery.

Nor did infected children pass the virus on to their classmates to any great degree, with that happening in only two of 649 close contacts – a virus ‘attack rate’ of just 0.3 per cent.

By contrast, the 15 infected staff members passed it on to 4.4 per cent of colleagues who were close contacts (to seven out of 160).

Prof Woolhouse, head of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said: ‘Science progresses by people publishing research. So what we do as carefully as we possibly can is scan what’s been published in the literature to see if there are any reported cases, in this case of a child transmitting to a teacher in the classroom.

‘The fact that there aren’t any that we can find, and there still aren’t, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible in principle and doesn’t mean that it won’t happen on occasion.

'But it does suggest that out of all the ways that we see and have found this virus to transmit – and remember, there are thousands and thousands of transmission events that have been inferred [from contact tracing] – out of all those thousands, still we can’t find a single one involving a child transmitting to a teacher in a classroom.’

He added: ‘Even if this virus doesn’t spread easily among the children, it certainly will spread among staff if it gets the opportunity.

'The evidence so far is that the most dangerous room in the school is not the classroom, it’s the staff room. So schools need to pay attention to that, and not take their eye off the right ball.’

Prof Woolhouse advises the Government on coronavirus as a member of the Scientific Pandemic Group on Modelling (SPI-M), although he stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity.

His comments come amid renewed calls for caution by teaching unions, with the National Education Union urging schools to ignore ‘threatening noises’ from the Government and to refuse to reopen if they feel it is unsafe.

The unions will have felt emboldened to speak out by last week’s modelling study, by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University College London (UCL).

Academics concluded reopening schools without improving contact tracing could trigger a second wave up to 2.3 times the size of the first, leading to 250,000 more deaths.

Prof Woolhouse said that apocalyptic outcome was ‘highly unlikely given the current evidence’.

He added: ‘I’m slightly worried that, just through an accident of timing, schools will get blamed for pushing the R number over 1. But all activity can contribute to R rising, not just schools.’


Credential Inflation: What’s Causing It and What Can We Do About It?

Credential inflation refers to an increase in the education credentials required for a job—for example, a job that used to be done by high school graduates but now requires new hires to have a college degree.

Credential inflation has been going on for decades. One of the earliest mentions of it is in professor Randall Collins’ book The Credential Society, published in 1979 and republished last year; two recent studies give a sense of how widespread it has become.

The first, a study by Burning Glass, looked at the education level of current workers compared to the education level listed in job postings and found substantial credential inflation for many occupations. For example, around 19 percent of executive secretaries and executive assistants hold a bachelor’s degree, but 65 percent of job postings require a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, 26 percent of credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks have a bachelor’s degree, but 66 percent of job postings require one. And 39 percent of computer network support specialists have a bachelor’s degree, but 70 percent of job postings state that a degree is required.

Another study by a team including Joseph Fuller analyzed 26 million job postings and found that many “employers were increasingly inflating the educational requirements for jobs usually held by high school grads.” They also found that “automated hiring tools excluded applicants with relevant experience simply because they lacked a college degree.” Across the U.S. economy, they estimate that 6.2 million workers could be losing out on job opportunities due to credential inflation.

There are two main drivers of credential inflation.

The first driver is upskilling, which is when the nature of a job changes to require more education. For example, drafting did not traditionally require a college degree, but as computers and complex architectural software have become more prevalent, the skills needed by drafters have expanded, so it is not surprising or objectionable that these jobs increasingly require college degrees.

But the other driver of credential inflation is a mismatch in the supply of and the demand for educated workers. The New York Federal Reserve Bank estimates that 34 percent of all college graduates are underemployed, meaning they are overqualified (in terms of educational credentials) for their current job. With so many graduates floating around, employers use a degree as a screening device even if the job in question doesn’t require knowledge that one might learn in college.

Credential inflation is a problem for several reasons.

First, it (unnecessarily) reduces opportunities for many qualified workers. If a job doesn’t truly need a college education, yet a college education is a job requirement, then many otherwise qualified workers will be passed over, thus impeding their upward economic mobility.

Second, credential inflation devalues other forms of learning. Colleges are not the only place where people can learn, but requiring a college degree ignores this fact. Experience is probably responsible for more learning than formal schooling, yet even highly experienced workers are ignored when they don’t have inflated education credentials.  Third, formal education is expensive. Requiring a college degree for a job that doesn’t really need one encourages people to get unnecessary degrees, which is very costly for both the student and taxpayers. As a country, we spend around $600 billion on around 20 million college students, or around $30,000 per student per year. Part of that is in pursuit of credentials of doubtful value.

Requiring a bachelor’s degree for a job that doesn’t truly need one is asking students and taxpayers to spend $120,000 over four years for no good reason. And there are non-monetary costs as well, such as the student’s opportunity cost of time, namely, the four years (or more) of their life they spend in college.   Given the minimal benefits and high costs of credential inflation, what can be done to halt and reverse this damaging trend?

First, employers should stop requiring unnecessary education. As Peter Blair and Shad Ahmed wrote in their June 28 Wall Street Journal article, employers “should change their hiring and management practices to focus on job skills, rather than continuing to privilege college degrees.”

Governments should do the same. As Preston Cooper notes, President Trump’s recent executive order mandating that federal hiring focus on skills and capabilities rather than credentials is a step in the right direction. State and local governments and private businesses should follow Trump’s lead and adopt this practice too.

Second, we need to develop new ways to certify skills.

While credential inflation is common, there are some jobs that have resisted the trend. As the Burning Glass report notes, some “jobs resist credential inflation when there are good alternatives for identifying skill proficiency.” Thus, many health care and engineering positions have not experienced credential inflation, probably because licensing and certification requirements allow employers to be confident that potential hires can perform the job without resorting to inflated credentials.

Third, we should eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing requirements.

Occupational licensing requirements often go too far, driven by the ability of incumbent providers to erect barriers to entry against new competitors. When this happens, licensing can contribute to credential inflation rather than serve as a potential remedy.

For example, CNN’s Holly Yan discovered that barbers in North Carolina, cosmetologists in California, interior designers in Florida, refrigeration technicians in Massachusetts, and manicurists in Louisiana all require more hours of training than police officers. Professions that now require a college degree to be licensed in some states include athletic trainers, building inspectors, dental hygienists, dietitians, funeral service directors, landscape architects, and many others. As with business, the focus should be on competency, not on paper credentials.

Fourth, allow employers to test job applicants.

My former colleagues Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder document that the Supreme Court’s Griggs v. Duke Power in 1971 essentially forbade employers from most testing of job applicants. For example, an employer can no longer give applicants a test of general intelligence. But they can require a college degree—and many do. Congress should override Griggs v. Duke Power with new legislation that allows employers to test applicants however they wish without fear of lawsuits.

Finally, create a tight job market.

While the previous four recommendations may halt (and perhaps partially reverse) credential inflation, there is really only one way to start a widespread trend of credential rightsizing, and that is to create a tight job market.

Requiring a bachelor’s degree for a job that doesn’t truly need one is asking students and taxpayers to spend $120,000 over four years for no good reason.
As long as employers can hire college-level workers without paying college-level wages, they will do so. But in a tight job market, employers will face the choice of either a) keeping their credential requirements and paying college-level wages, or b) dropping any unnecessary credential requirements.

We’ve seen this play out very recently. While it may not feel like it, as we emerge from our pandemic-induced job coma, less than a year ago, the job market was the tightest in my lifetime. Everyone has an easier time finding a job under these conditions—even those with a criminal record. And the difficulty employers have in filling positions also provides an incentive to reverse credential inflation for jobs where it is not really necessary. For example, a 2019 survey of employers of temporary workers found that 50 percent were reducing education requirements.

There are several ways to help create a tight job market. The most obvious is to increase the number of employers seeking employees, such as by removing barriers to entry for entrepreneurs seeking to start a new business. Deregulating labor markets would also clear the way for more hiring.

But because recessions are one of the most damaging events for labor markets, reducing the frequency and severity of recessions would be of immense value. The best way to accomplish that would be for the Federal Reserve system to adopt a price level or nominal GDP level target. This would help ensure that macroeconomic policy is countercyclical, as well as ensuring that real shocks to the economy (such as the recent coronavirus) are not magnified by nominal shocks (e.g., a decline in inflation increasing the real burden of debt).

For those of us with plenty of educational credentials, credential inflation may not seem like a pressing issue because it is not our opportunities that are inappropriately restricted. But for those who don’t have the right pieces of paper, credential inflation is a big problem because it prevents them from getting jobs they are qualified for.


Universities Appease China, Ignore Human Rights Abuses

Long the vanguard of liberal change, the American university now leads the appeasement of a hardened authoritarian China. The interest in promoting a broader community of scholars has given way to a toxic combination of business interests, the inability of college leaders to recognize their failure in influencing Chinese education, and their unwillingness to see the reality of a new China.

Both China and the United States need universities to engage in solutions based upon the values of universities rather than catering to authoritarianism.

American universities and professors jealously guard their independence, seeing themselves as defenders of liberal values and social change. A tenure system built upon the defense of free speech and controversy promotes the exploration of radical ideas and critical thinking skills seen as vital for everything from an informed electorate to higher-order job skills.

Historically, the academy writ large has been at the forefront of human rights and social change. Universities provide a fertile environment to push for social change, from racial integration to campaigns for human rights. With a reasonable record of pushing change, universities like to consider themselves defenders of liberal values.

Early after the opening of China, American universities worked to build bridges between a Cold War-focused country and a reforming communist stalwart. Major elite universities trained early reformers that helped China join the World Trade Organization—yet, now, they have educated the daughter of authoritarian Party chairman Xi Jinping. Universities began with the noblest of intentions but, as China changed, evolved into institutions that defend educating the children of elite rulers who direct concentration camps.

The shift of universities from defenders of human rights to protectors of authoritarian Party elites stems from a noxious cocktail of self-righteousness, hubris, and money.

Universities—believing in their mission to spread liberalism—fail to grasp the fundamental problems they face when dealing with China. Defensive at any critique of their many degrees, university leaders and professors lack the same interest in holding the powerful to account. To professors and universities, activism is a virtue in America, but a vice in China.

Attempts to hold China accountable are met with immediate charges of racism rather than any careful consideration of how to meet the challenges of academic freedom and activity in the face of an emboldened authoritarian China.

At the peak of hubris, professors refuse to acknowledge the historical failure of their principled ideals to cause change in China or the need to adopt policies of engagement. Ezra Vogel, the longtime China studies professor at Harvard, illustrated the willful blindness of academia when he decried the shift in tone of US-China relations and called for engagement to improve relations. He failed to even mention Hong Kong or Xinjiang, his Harvard colleague arrested for illegal dealings with China, or the failure of previous engagement with China.

The refusal throughout higher education to acknowledge the evolution of China into a racial, oppressive authoritarian state shows that it is divorced from reality. China monitors students in the classroom (in China and abroad). The preferred policies of high-ranking professors and college presidents have not worked.

Complicating the picture of hubris and self-righteousness, money from China dominates any discussion of university policies and behavior. Chinese students in the United States comprise roughly 30 percent of all foreign students—370,000 in 2019, up from 98,000 in 2009. Notably, Chinese students pay full tuition, making them much more attractive compared to domestic students who get financial aid or in-state tuition for public universities.

American universities bent over backward to serve this growing lucrative market. Universities adopted mass student admission from China—helped by education consultants who housed students in Chinese-speaking dorms, fed them Chinese food with a Chinese cook, and delivered the China Daily to their room. In the process, however, they willfully ignored the risks of dealing with an expansionist authoritarian state and the tradeoffs it required.

United States professors accepted unreported positions at Chinese universities and shared advanced federally funded data with an adversarial government. Universities also accepted constraints on academic freedom, allowing the Chinese Ministry of Education to appoint Chinese Communist Party-approved employees at language programs to ensure sensitive topics were not discussed. Even policies to block graduate students connected to the People’s Liberation Army became a point of contention for universities despite posing a clear, undeniable security risk.

Universities rescinded invitations to speakers that might anger the Chinese government or student body to keep high-margin customers happy.

College leaders and professors engaged in significant behavior to challenge the U.S. government on policies like international student visas and other policies that favored China. Conversely, they also chose to remain silent when China cracked down on speech in their universities, the Hong Kong National Security Law, and ethnic genocide in Xinjiang.

Universities engage in a self-righteous lack of reflection, believing that the surge in donations and contract work from China and Hong Kong—which grew from $140 million in 2014 to $495 million in 2019—plays no role in their decision to remain silent.

The willingness to plead ignorance is staggering. A recent report highlights when the University of Pennsylvania reported a $3 million donation from a Hong Kong shell company with no visible business that was owned by a Chinese national linked to high-level corruption scandals. When asked about the donation, Penn at first claimed it was linked to another donor even though no link could be found. When asked for documentation or evidence of this claim, they refused to answer additional questions from reporters.

If Penn were a financial firm accepting a significant new client while knowingly accepting potential corrupt proceeds or using a front company as the official client, it would result in significant legal penalties. This behavior by elite universities, tasked with educating the business and political leaders of tomorrow, is highly disturbing.

Other top universities like Duke and New York University understand they are trading their silence for a growing market. The supposedly principled nature of the work on critical inquiry and free thinking makes this an untenable tradeoff for universities.

One cannot stand on virtue as the foundation of your business while trading it for market access and remain virtuous. Universities reduce liberal education to a valueless transaction when they collaborate with the Chinese Communist Party.

China has changed. Chairman Xi Jinping has led the harshest crackdown on speech in China and universities since Chairman Mao. Student monitors report on professors and China arrests foreign academics after inviting them for lectures. American universities cannot remain silent in the face of this assault—yet, to date, only Cornell University has modified exchange and university relationships with Chinese universities.

Universities are entirely right to stand on principle against racial profiling or injustice. They are entirely wrong to remain silent on China with its accompanying risks and threats.

Unfortunately, staunch opposition to any restrictive policy removes their voice and input from reasoned debate and policy formation. I have been a staunch advocate of engagement with China and other emerging market communist countries, but that does not mean ignoring the risks and challenges. By denying valid threats like Chinese military infiltration in science labs, universities seem out of touch and welcome more extreme voices to design important policies.

China in 2020 presents a variety of challenges. We cannot turn our back on Chinese students, many of whom seek freedom, but neither should universities be blind to the risks. Universities should not pursue engagement at all costs. Instead, they should pursue principled engagement that predicates any cooperation with China on values like the discussion of democracy, Chinese history, and the ability to criticize the Great Leader.

Engagement without principles is not worthy of the great mission before American universities.

Again, China has changed. Universities have a mission and must change the rules of engagement. The current strategy of appeasement will only make college leaders complicit in providing cover for an authoritarian state. For extra revenue, they’ll offer prestige and a valueless education.


The Sudden 'Shift in Narrative' on the Reopening of Schools

It seems as though as soon as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he's authorized the reopening of all school districts in New York State, Democrats on Capitol Hill are suddenly fine with it. Having looked at the infection rate in the state, Cuomo announced on a phone conference with reporters on Friday that it would be safe to resume in-person learning. But he wants individual plans from schools by the end of next week on how they plan to safely reopen.

Suddenly, the likes of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are also urging schools to safely reopen.

"If we don't open up the schools, you're going to hurt the economy significantly, because lots of people can't go to work," Schumer said at his Friday presser.

He may be late to reach this conclusion, but he's right. As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin noted a few months ago, children's education isn't the only thing that would be negatively affected if they are forced to continue distance learning. Parents will struggle economically if they're not able to find temporary guardians for their kids as they try to return to work.

But teachers' unions made a show of their disapproval. Some placed body bags in front of schools, while others wrote mock wills, predicting their demise if they were forced to return to the classroom with the threat of the coronavirus. And until now, I don't recall Democrats trying to calm their fears and siding with President Trump that we need to put kids back in class. Or, "SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL," as POTUS tweeted.

Viewers suggested that this about-face from leading Democrats has something to do with the upcoming election.

The minority leader also touched on the state of negotiations on the next coronavirus relief package. In sum, it's not going well. "They don't want to spend the necessary dollars to get America out of this mess," Schumer asserted.

Yet, Republicans say it's the Democrats who are holding up a compromise because they want to extend the $600 a week unemployment benefits until January. The GOP called that a "disincentive" for Americans to return to work.