Friday, September 04, 2020

University Lesson: ‘If a Few of the Worst Republican Politicians Were Assassinated, it Wouldn’t Be the End of the World’

Todd Starnes

I received a disturbing note from one of my radio show listeners the other day about a political science lesson that was presented to students at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

“The Moral Foundations” questionnaire probed student opinion on some highly charged political statements. Students were asked to either strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree or disagree.

“If a few of the worst Republican politicians were assassinated, it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” read one of the statements. “Conservatives are morally inferior to liberals.”

“I am in favor of allowing the government to shut down right-wing internet sites and blogs that promote nutty, hateful positions,” read another. “Political violence can be constructive when it serves the cause of social justice.”

I reached out to the university’s media relations department as well as the chairman of the government and justice studies program. I gave them 48 hours to respond and provide some context for the lesson. So far, they have not replied to my inquiries.

However, a university leader did reply to a parent – explaining that the assignment is to “show students how we need to respect and better understand individuals on both sides of the political aisle.”

Students were asked to either agree or disagree with statements like:

· All political conservatives are fools.

· I can’t imagine myself becoming friends with a political conservative.

· Deep down, just about all conservatives are racist, sexist and homophobic.

· Conservatives are morally inferior to liberals

· Political violence can be constructive when it serves the cause of social justice.

As I wrote in my new book, “Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing a Nation,” many of our taxpayer-funded universities have been turned into radical indoctrination centers. Professors are using their classrooms to foster great unrest and social anarchy in our nation.

And get a load of the statements targeting capitalism:

· The rich should be stripped of their belongings and status.

· Capitalism’s hyper-competitiveness has made it increasingly difficult to build community and trust with our neighbors.

· The head of most large corporations are as immoral as the Ku Klux Klan.

· It’s virtually impossible to be both upper-class and a good person.

· It is important that we destroy the West’s nationalist, imperialist values.

· Demanding true social and economic equality requires restricting certain personal and civil rights.

· Most rich Wall Street executives deserve to be thrown in prison.

· I can imagine myself committing an act of political violence to help a left-wing revolution succeed.

· I would prefer a far-left leader with absolute authority over a far-right leader with limited power.

· If I could remake society, I would put members of historically and presently marginalized groups at the top.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Appalachian State University is laying the foundation for an overthrow of the United States of America. Now you understand what’s happening in the streets of so many of our American cities.

The survey was especially focused on shutting down free speech:

· Hateful speech must always have serious real-world consequences (firing, internet humiliation, blacklisting from jobs).

· Political correctness does not hinder free speech – it expands it.

· I oppose allowing people who advocate nutty right-wing views (say on abortion, capital punishment, gun rights, and gay marriage) to speak in public.

· Fox News, right-wing talk radio and other conservative media outlets should be prohibited from broadcasting their hateful views.

· I am in favor of allowing the government to shut down right-wing internet sites and blogs that promote nutty, hateful positions.

· Colleges and universities that permit speakers with intolerant views should be publicly condemned.

To be fair there were a handful of statements that were skewed towards students who might be conservative:

· I would never want to burn the American flag.

· I try to expose myself to conservative news sources

· There is nothing wrong with Bible camps.

· Conservatives can be good people.

· Forced-labor camps for right-wing extremists are a terrible idea.

“The survey and reading highlights how both Liberals and Conservatives develop policy preferences based on their morals,” the professor went on to say. “The difference is Liberals and Conservatives approach issues from different moral perspectives.”

But that’s not what the online lesson was really about. The lesson clearly states there are no right or wrong answers – just honest responses.

Now some folks might say, what’s the big deal? It was just a survey.

Tell that to Congressman Steve Scalise. He was nearly killed by a left-wing activist who opened fire on Republican lawmakers on a baseball field. Three other individuals were also wounded.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing – that a leftist college student would be willing to assassinate a Republican lawmaker or that a university would suggest that such an act is neither right nor wrong.


Some Useful Information to Help Students Choose a College

Many students come to regret their choice of college. They expect that getting a degree will mean a significant boost in their labor market prospects, but often their college “investment” fails to pay off.

That might be due to a lack of effort on the student’s part.  Quite a few enroll in college mainly for the partying—the Beer and Circus, as professor Murray Sperber entitled his 2000 book. Others, however, do their best but still find that their college choice didn’t pay off. The school’s curriculum might have been ill-suited to the student’s abilities and goals, or perhaps the cost of attending was just too high for whatever advantages were gained.

The good news is that two recent reports issued by the American Enterprise Institute can help students avoid college decisions they’ll later regret.

The first of the two is entitled “Does Attending a More Selective College Equal a Bigger Paycheck?” Co-authored by Joseph Fuller and Frederick Hess, the report says that going to a more selective college will not necessarily result in a payoff after graduation.

Students are often advised to go to the most prestigious college they can, but that can be bad advice. The authors put it this way:

[M]edian salaries for undergraduates, four years after degree completion, appear surprisingly similar across the selectivity spectrum. Even more telling, it appears that the premium for graduating from a selective institution may have actually decreased materially over time.

Could it really be that someone who chose a non-selective college, even with open admissions, might fare as well after graduation as someone who spent far more to get a degree from a prestigious school?  Fuller and Hess answer yes. Their data show that four years after graduation, students who attended a very selective school earned, on average, just 10 percent more than graduates from both minimally selective and moderately selective colleges.

That finding is perfectly consistent with the argument made by advocates of the “screening” theory of higher education: What a college degree does is mainly to signal that the person might be worth hiring, not that he or she has left college with important knowledge that will be compensated for. (That argument was recently made by professor Bryan Caplan in his book The Case Against Education.) Most of what a worker needs to know is learned on the job, not in the classroom, and employers won’t pay much of any premium just for an impressive educational pedigree.

The Fuller/Hess report dovetails perfectly with a 2015 book by New York Times writer Frank Bruni, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, which I reviewed here.

Bruni argued that students can do very well in life, whether they graduate from an elite institution or one that’s far down the prestige ladder. “The nature of a student’s college experience,” he wrote, “the work he or she puts into it, the skills he or she picks up, the self-examination undertaken, the resourcefulness honed—matters more than the name on the institution attended.” He proceeded to give plenty of examples, among them former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, who graduated not from an Ivy League school, but the University of Denver.

Therefore, there is no reason for students to go to the added expense just to get into a highly selective school. It’s unlikely to make much difference over the span of their careers because how well someone does depends on job performance, not the diploma hanging on the wall at home.

The other AEI study is entitled “Winners and Losers,” authored by Jorge Klor de Alva and Cody Christensen. Their interest is in how well higher education helps students achieve upward mobility. Nearly all schools claim that they transform their students in ways that will make them better off financially, but does that really happen? And if so, which institutions seem to be the most helpful?

Here’s what they conclude:

Over half of low-income students who enrolled in public and nonprofit universities in the early 2000s moved up to one of the highest two income quintiles by the time they reached their late 20s or early 30s. But not all postsecondary institutions deliver an education that puts students on an upward path. Consequently, it is a matter of great importance for students, families, and policymakers to understand the variation among colleges in the rates at which their students climb the income ladder.

That is quite encouraging. Many students from low-income families do very well after college. This fact is a strong refutation of the often-heard claims that America has little income mobility—that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The report’s finding also undermines the so-called “Chivas Regal” effect, namely the belief that colleges that cost a lot must be better.

Klor de Alva and Christensen write, “It is increasingly evident that there is no single recipe to generating strong mobility outcomes; indeed, some less-competitive institutions outperform highly competitive universities in the rate at which they move students from the bottom two income quintiles to the top two income quintiles.” In other words, higher college spending does not guarantee better student outcomes.

Even more striking is the data showing that some students who come from fairly well-to-do families actually decline. The authors report that 18 percent of students from the top income quintile had slid into the lowest two quintiles by the time they were in their late 20s to early 30s. So, much as they may believe it, the wealthy can’t guarantee that their children will remain wealthy by putting them through prestigious colleges.

In other words, higher college spending does not guarantee better student outcomes.

That finding supports the anecdotal evidence in Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s 2014 book Aspiring Adults Adrift (a follow up to their 2011 book Academically Adrift, which showed that many college students learn little during their years of study): Some students who had earned degrees from prestigious schools were nevertheless unemployed or underemployed several years after graduation.

A key part of the Klor de Alva and Christensen report is its school-specific information regarding income mobility of students. Some of the colleges with income mobility outcomes below expected levels are competitive to highly competitive, including Evergreen State University, Ohio University, Miami University, and SUNY-Purchase.

On the other hand, some schools that have student mobility outcomes above expectations are low on the competitiveness ladder, such as Dickinson State University, University of Texas at Arlington, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

This study doesn’t prove that certain schools ensure success and others don’t.  It’s not that simple. What it can do, however, is to keep students and their families from selecting a college for the wrong reasons—because it’s “selective” or that it has high tuition. It is still up to the student to figure out how to make the most of the educational opportunities at whatever school he or she decides on.

Klor de Alva and Christensen’s work should also be of interest to college officials, especially those where many students appear not to be making much economic progress after graduation. They should be thinking, “Why are other schools, often those with smaller budgets, apparently doing more good for their students than we are?”

These two AEI studies provide students, parents, college leaders, and policymakers with a lot to think about.


Trump Wants to Restore ‘Patriotic Education’ in Schools

President Donald Trump says he wants to restore patriotic education in U.S. schools in order to heal the division across the nation that has, in recent months, led to violence and rioting.

“The left’s war on police, faith, history, and American values is tearing our country apart, which is what they want,” Trump told reporters on Aug. 31 at the White House. “The only path to unity is to rebuild a shared national identity focused on common American values and virtues, of which we have plenty. This includes restoring patriotic education in our nation’s schools, where they’re trying to change everything that we’ve learned.”

The president made the remarks as part of extensive comments about the recent violence and deaths seen in riots and protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon. The agitators fomenting violence in these and other cities are aligned with the extremist Antifa group, which seeks to bring about a communist revolution in the United States.

“To defeat them, we must jail lawbreakers, and we must defeat their hateful ideology about this country, about America. We must teach our children that America is an exceptional, free, and just nation worth defending, preserving, and protecting. And that’s what we want to do,” Trump said.

“What we’re witnessing today is a result of left-wing indoctrination in our nation’s schools and universities. Many young Americans have been fed lies about America being a wicked nation plagued by racism.”

The Department of Education didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Groups under the broad umbrella of Antifa and Black Lives Matter have in recent months toppled dozens of historical monuments across the nation. Trump criticized his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for failing to mention Antifa by name during a recent Biden speech.

“He didn’t mention the far left, or, from what I saw, I don’t believe he mentioned the word ‘Antifa.’ Antifa is a criminal organization, and he didn’t mention Antifa thugs, but mostly seemed to blame the police and law enforcement,” the president said.

Biden responded by criticizing Trump for not condemning Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with shooting three people, two of them fatally, during a riot in Kenosha. Trump defended Rittenhouse on Aug. 31, saying that the teen acted in self-defense.

“Tonight, the President declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it,” Biden said.

Videos posted on social media show a man attacking the shooter with a skateboard prior to being shot. One video also shows another man lunging at the shooter with a handgun before he was shot in the arm.


Australia's universities would fail any basic ethics test

Leading up to and during the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, some high-profile university academics weighed into the debate.

Appalled by what they regarded as egregious conduct by a number of financial institutions, the argument was put that a royal commission was needed and stiff punitive and regulatory action required to deal with the misconduct.

Last week, Professor Ian Harper delivered a lecture in which he queried his views on financial deregulation. (He had been a panel member of the Wallis inquiry that recommended deregulation subject to light-handed rules and compliance.)

“Having championed disclosure as a strong deterrent of unethical behaviour in financial markets, I was dismayed to witness the litany of shameful behaviour uncovered by the Hayne royal commission. Had I thought more about the need for strong ethical foundations, I might have been more circumspect about the need for ongoing regulation.”

But, given that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, it is a bit rich for academics to be picking on financial services when it is very clear that universities operate in a larger amoral space.

The concepts of values and culture – terms that Commissioner Hayne emphasised as being crucial for financial services – are largely absent in the way universities operate.

In the long list of royal commissions, is there a case for one into the conduct of universities in order to expose instances of misconduct?

On Sunday the Morrison government announced it would launch an inquiry into foreign interference in Australian universities, but it needs to be broader than that. Obvious issues include the recruitment and treatment of international students, the dilution of educational standards, the casualisation and underpayment of staff, the feeble commitment to free speech and the selective take-up of tied funding.

International students have been the cash cow for universities and in the decade from 2009, international student fee revenue rose more than 250 per cent. On a per capita basis, we have had the highest number of international students of any country. The principal source countries have been China, India, Nepal, Brazil and Vietnam.

Most are recruited by overseas-based, essentially unregulated agents. We know little about the inducements used to secure enrolments, and little about the accuracy of the information provided to potential students about prospects for employment while studying and after graduation, or about the chances of students eventually obtaining permanent residence.

In exchange for a percentage of the fees paid by these students, these agents have strong incentives to make possibly unrealistically positive cases to them.

Some recent material related to Indian students studying in New Zealand has been revealing. It’s clear that some agents use coercive tactics and add large dollops of misinformation to secure enrolments – promises of well-paid employment and an easy pathway to permanent residence.

The reality is Indian students in New Zealand disproportionately exploited in the labour market, often by employers who arrived from India some time ago. The path to permanent residency is often uncertain and tortuous.

And there is clear evidence that pass marks have been adjusted to ensure international students do not fail. Cheating is common, with students buying assignments undertaken by third parties, as is the practice of contrived group assignments in which international students are placed in groups with able domestic students.

The dip in standards is not confined to international students. When universities admit students with low scores – it has been common for students to be admitted to teaching degrees with ATARs well below 50 – you know something is wrong. Being unsuited to university study, these students fail and drop out at higher rates. Money triumphs over principle.

Then there is the growing casualisation of teaching staff. The extent of this is unclear as senior management has an incentive to keep the figures under wraps.

In recent months, it has become clear that there has been significant underpayment of casual staff members, in part due to inappropriate classifications but also to insufficient pay for preparation and marking. Sydney University, for instance, has agreed to pay almost $10m in back pay to casual staff.

The fact that many vice-chancellors have been slow to implement the model free speech code recommended by Robert French in his review commissioned by the federal government is also telling. The commitment to free speech within many universities is very dependent on who is talking and what is being said.

Tied funding is a vexed issue particularly for some academic staff. But compare the operation of a number of Confucius Institutes at Australian universities with the debate over the Ramsay Centres for Western Civilisation.

A mixture of language teaching and propaganda, the Confucius Institutes appoint their own staff members and are essentially unsupervised. The fact that some universities have baulked at the conditions that these centres demand is telling.

Recall also the controversy surrounding the proposal for an Australian Consensus Centre by Bjorn Lomborg, the respected Danish climate change researcher. In the end, the enterprise died because no university vice-chancellor was prepared to stand up to the opposition of a small clique of staff members.

The bottom line is that much of the conduct of Australian universities does not meet the ethical standards our community rightly expects. Rather than serving the core mission of universities to provide excellent teaching and research, too many practices lack any moral basis and are undertaken to raise money.

Of course, the federal government has contributed by providing international students with easy entry and pathways to permanent residence. And international student fee revenue has also relieved the taxpayer of some spending. But the regulation of higher education is an ineffective, box-ticking exercise.

The result is extraordinarily well-paid senior university managers, growth of non-academic staff numbers at the expense of academics, and excessive investment in campuses and glittering new buildings, many of which will not be needed in the digital age.

The fact that many ordinary folk neither trust nor care about universities should come as no surprise.

A royal commission into higher education would be very revealing.


Thursday, September 03, 2020

Want Income Equality? More for Vocational Ed, Less for Colleges

The major American political developments of recent years have been the ascendancy of far left socialist thinking characterized by the Sanders-Warren-AOC-”The Squad” wing of the Democratic Party, along with Black Lives Matter and a push to end inequalities that are perceived as racial and capitalist-based. Much of the political rhetoric has focused on reducing social and economic inequalities; promoting economic growth and expansion is “out” politically, while militantly pursuing the goal of income and racial equality is “in.”

Increased income inequality has occurred fairly continuously for decades, simultaneously with growing college educational attainment. Despite their liberal political orientation, the elite private universities are perceived as bastions of white elites, playgrounds for an academic aristocracy centered around white privilege. Getting a college degree is expensive, largely an unintended consequence of federal student loan programs that have scared many low income Americans, disproportionately ethnic minorities, away from college. Stealing partly from the late Milton Friedman, the two most anti-Black federal statutes are the ones setting minimum wages and the one providing for federal student loan assistance.

On top of that, as Bryan Caplan, myself, and others have said: college is mainly a very expensive screening device separating the best and brightest in terms of vocational potential from others, while at the same time providing relatively few specific practical vocational skills. College educated highly productive Americans got most of their labor market edge through innate intelligence and drive, network connections from college, even on the job training not directly related to their collegiate learning.

Enter my friend George Leef of the James Martin Center, who told me about some new research by one of America’s foremost labor economists, Edward Lazear of Stanford. Prof. Lazear is a former Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, serving admirably during the 2008 financial crisis.

Lazear notes that there has been a growing gap worldwide in recent years between high and low wage earners, in countries with widely different approaches towards relieving poverty (e.g, the U.S. and Sweden). The reason, Prof. Lazear notes and I heartily concur, is that the productivity of the high wage earners has risen faster over time than that of those receiving lower compensation. If you want to reduce employment-induced income inequality, you try to increase the productivity of the lower wage workers relative to higher wage ones.

Lazear suggests that Americans invest relatively little in true “vocational education,” educating students either in high school or those with high school diplomas needing some training to gain an employable skill, lasting anywhere from a few months to perhaps two years. I have interviewed heads of some private, often for-profit institutions, training students for highly specialized nicely paying jobs, such as serving as court reporters or computer coders. Some community colleges also do this sort of training well and relatively cheaply. The evidence is that some of these schools have a pretty good record of providing employable, relatively high paid skills to trainees at a cost far less than that associated with earning a bachelor’s degree.

Americans have often stigmatized kids going to vocational high schools, or those skipping college and going to some form of trade school, unlike the Germans who consider learning a “blue collar” skill to be honorable and respectable, often leading to jobs paying almost the same as what college graduates earn after graduation. Why don’t we stop promoting “college for all” when it is clearly inappropriate? Why don’t we provide subsidies for kids wanting to go into court reporter or welding training, or become computer programmers via coding academies? Why don’t we give vouchers directly to students (unlike Pell Grants), usable in paying fees for non-degree work training programs?

A cautionary note. As bad and inefficient as higher education can sometimes be, K-12 schools, with far less competition, monopoly providers and large monopoly suppliers of labor services (teachers unions) and no discipline imposed through market prices, is even worse. It would be critical that expanded vocational education initiatives be opened to all providers, including proprietary ones. I ask: Why should we subsidize upper middle class kids getting sociology degrees from the University of Last Resort when some lower income kids hungry to learn usable skills go without funding?


Google’s Plan to Disrupt the College Degree

My wife and I recently hired a financial advisor who is helping us map out our financial future. He seemed stunned that we didn’t want to take advantage of the US tax code’s 529 provision, which helps parents save for their children’s education.

“You have three kids,” he said. “Odds are at least one will go to college. It’s a no-brainer.”

We nonetheless demurred. I like shaving my tax liability as much as the next guy, but the truth is both my wife and I have serious doubts about higher education. Though we both attended college ourselves, options today look less promising than they once did.

College might have been a “no-brainer” at one time for parents and students who could afford it, but that is no longer the case. Soaring costs, grade inflation, diminishing degree value, the politicization of campuses, and a host of other issues have made the once-clear benefits of college less clear.

Despite all this, a large part of me still wants my kids to go to college because it feels like so few other options are available. That could be changing, however.

Google’s Effort to Disrupt the College Diploma

In July Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President for Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, announced on Twitter that the company was expanding its education options.

It was a direct salvo at America’s higher education industry.

“College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn’t need a college diploma to have economic security,” Walker wrote on Google’s blog. “We need new, accessible job-training solutions—from enhanced vocational programs to online education—to help America recover and rebuild.”

To be sure, it’s hard to imagine anyone taking on America’s $600 billion higher education industry. Nevertheless, a quick look at Google’s model shows why colleges should be worried.

Google is launching various professional courses that offer training for specific high-paying jobs that are in high demand. Program graduates can earn a “Google Career Certificate” in one of the following positions: Project manager ($93,000); Data analyst ($66,000); UX designer ($75,000).

While Google didn’t say how much it would cost to earn a certificate, if it’s anything close to Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate, the cost is quite low, especially compared to college.

That Google IT support program costs enrollees $49 per month. That means a six-month program would cost about $300—about what many college students cough up on textbooks alone in a semester, Inc points out.

Compare that price tag to that of college, where students on average pay about $30,000 per year when tuition, housing, room and board, fees, and other expenses are factored in.

Unlike college, Google won’t just hand you a diploma and send you away, however. The company has promised to assist graduates in their job searches, connecting them with employers such as Intel, Bank of America, Hulu, Walmart, and Best Buy.

Graduates will also be eligible for one of the hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities the company is offering.

Is College ‘Worth It’?
In economics we use a simple term to talk about something’s worth: value. We know that value is subjective. But if consumers freely purchase something, it suggests consumers place a value on that good higher than the price.

Judging the value of a degree is tricky, however. It’s not like buying steak at a grocery store. Buyers are mostly shielded from the costs in the short term, and the benefits of the purchase are extended out over many years.

We know that for many students, college is a wonderful investment that increases their earnings, while for others it will turn out to be a poor investment because they don’t graduate or they acquire job skills that do not translate into increased earnings. (For example: I was a bartender after I received my undergraduate degree; I didn’t make more money because I had a degree.)

We also know that the prices and value change over time. In the case of higher education, prices have increased sharply in the last 30 years while the value has diminished.

As Arthur C. Brooks pointed out in The Atlantic in July, from 1989-2016 university costs in tuition and fees increased by 98 percent in real dollars (inflation-adjusted), about 11 times that of the median household income.

At the same time, there is compelling evidence that while the price of college is increasing sharply, the value of degrees is diminishing because of a surplus of college diplomas.

For parents like myself, the idea of spending $350,000 to send my three children to university is, to be frank, slightly nauseating. All things being equal, I don’t see the value there. (As I tell my wife, however, this doesn’t mean I won’t send my child to Princeton if he or she is admitted and I believe college is the right fit for that particular child.) Over the last couple of years, whenever I’d think about my children’s futures, I’d find myself growing more and more nervous.

If not college, then what? Why are there not better options? There’s a huge need.

The beautiful thing about free markets is that needs do not go unmet for very long. In a free system, innovation has a way of filling the gaps to fulfill what consumers want.

Google’s expansion of its accreditation system offers two things young people (and their parents) highly value: 1) job training skills; and 2) prestige.

Do not underestimate the power of the latter. Prestige mattes a lot. In fact, when you look at actual education many college students receive today, prestige is what they’re purchasing, not education.

The value of degrees might have been diminishing for years, but parents and kids could still rationalize the excessive costs because there was a certain amount of status and recognition conferred simply for being in college and then graduating.

Major corporations like Google have more to offer than they realize. In today’s marketplace, having Google on a resume can offer the same prestige as a university—and arguably far more in terms of job skills.

Once corporations figure out their brand can offer commodities consumers want—job-training and validation—it could disrupt the current education model. It’s possible corporations could also bring on a resurgence of the once-popular apprenticeship-style learning that can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi in Ancient Babylon through to business-training programs of today like Praxis and Google.

At the very least, programs like Google Career Certificates will offer much-needed competition to the university system and additional options to young people looking to take their next step in the world.

Parents of the world, rejoice!


Not a single healthy child has died from Covid

This is the key finding of a new study, which has confirmed what we already knew: the risk posed to children by Covid-19 is miniscule.

Of the children the British Medical Journal (BMJ) report considered, six tragically died in hospital with Covid. Importantly, all of those had underlying health problems. This is equivalent to one per cent of child hospital admissions for coronavirus – a ‘strikingly low’ figure when compared to the 27 per cent figure for other age groups.

Researchers added that the likelihood of children needing hospital care for Covid is ‘tiny’ – and ‘even tinier’ for critical care. Indeed, 82 per cent of those admitted to hospital as virus cases did not require intensive care.

These findings add to those of a previous study which reported most children who catch the virus suffer either only mild symptoms or none at all.

With the evidence mounting that kids are largely safe from Covid, it is clearer than ever that schools are safe. Those who want to hold up the return to education are massively over-stating the risks. In fact, they are causing harm to children by restricting their lives in the name of protecting them from a negligible threat.

Let’s stop scaremongering and get schools back to normal.


Australian PM's plans to double the cost of humanities  degrees to $14,500 a year while slashing the price of maths and engineering qualifications face a huge setback

The future of the Morrison government's university fee changes is uncertain after a vote in the Senate showed a lack of majority support for the idea.

The draft legislation, which also reduces the price of 'job-relevant' courses, was introduced to federal parliament last week and is being debated in the lower house.

While a Greens bid to have the bill referred to a committee for an inquiry failed in the Senate because of an even vote, if senators vote the same way for the draft laws they would fail.

The future of the Morrison government's university fee changes is uncertain after a vote in the Senate showed a lack of majority support for the idea    +2
The future of the Morrison government's university fee changes is uncertain after a vote in the Senate showed a lack of majority support for the idea

Cross bench senators Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff sided with the Greens and Labor, leaving the committee vote tied.

Labor's education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says the government is hiding from scrutiny by voting against an inquiry into the bill.

'Whenever there are tough questions to answer, the Liberals run from scrutiny,' she told AAP. 'If Scott Morrison thinks his plan to cut unis and jack up fees is so great, why is he trying to stop an inquiry? What has the prime minister got to hide?'

The proposed laws would more than double the cost of some humanities courses in a bid to encourage people to enrol in courses it argues lead to higher employability    +2
The proposed laws would more than double the cost of some humanities courses in a bid to encourage people to enrol in courses it argues lead to higher employability

The proposed laws would more than double the cost of some humanities courses in a bid to encourage people to enrol in courses it argues lead to higher employability.

Science and maths would be among the degrees made cheaper, along with psychology, agriculture, environmental sciences and health.

Under the plans, nursing qualifications will cost just $3,700 per year while IT, science and engineering degrees will drop by $2,000 per year.

Meanwhile humanities degrees are expected to jump from $6,804 per year to $14,500. Teaching and nursing degrees are expected to drop by 45 per cent, while a law degree will cost 28 per cent more.


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Whither Race-Neutrality in California?

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209 by an impressive 56-to-44 percent majority. Prop 209 amended the state’s constitution to prohibit the granting of preferences based on race or gender. It inaugurated a series of campaigns, led by businessman and University of California Regent Ward Connerly, that by 2006 had established similar prohibitions in 10 states.

A few weeks ago, in a move perfectly in sync with the racial politics of 2020, the California legislature put a referendum on the November ballot that invites voters to repeal Prop 209. The new Proposition 16 would allow the state government, and state officials, to take racial and gender “diversity” into account in their decisionmaking. In other words, it would allow officials in state government and state universities to freely discriminate on the basis of race or gender.

Listen closely, and you will hear that race-conscious preferences to achieve “equal” racial representation is the principal substantive idea that advocates for change are advancing to combat America’s fundamentally “racist” nature. Increasingly, there is no pretense that this is about eliminating discrimination.

On the contrary, it is about institutionalizing discrimination to achieve racial proportionality.

The spirit is well-captured by a recent, full-page headline in the New York Times’ Arts & Leisure section that read, “Fix Classical Music. Now.” Inside, the Times’ classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini called for abolishing blind auditions—a reform that was instituted by most top orchestras in the 1970s and 1980s to overcome a history of discrimination against women. Tommasini conceded that blind auditions might have been useful in increasing the number of women in orchestras, but now, they have become an impediment to achieving racial diversity. This sort of logic can only end in the assignment of orchestral seats on the basis of race.

This is the same thinking driving Proposition 16—just substitute “Berkeley and UCLA” for “top orchestras.” The proponents of Prop 16 believe merit-based admissions amount to some sort of institutionalized racism because, at California’s most elite public schools, they produce too many Asian Americans and not enough Blacks and Latinos.

This year’s first big assault came in April, when the University of California’s Board of Regents voted unanimously to eliminate the SAT and ACT as factors in admissions decisions. UC’s Academic Senate—the voice of the UC faculty—had, a month before, issued a unanimous report urging that the SAT and ACT be retained. But to the Regents, standardized testing had become the academic equivalent of a blind audition—an outdated obeisance to the idea of “merit” in a world where full racial representation is the dominating goal.

To those of us who study affirmative action objectively, rather than ideologically, the pervasive obsession with diversity is only half of why the unfolding story in California is so depressing. The other half is the determination of university officials, legislators, and journalists to ignore the basic facts underlying racial preferences and race neutrality in the UC system. To see this, we need to briefly revisit what brought about Prop 209 and what happened when it passed.

In the mid-1990s, when the UC Regents were considering SP-1, a forerunner to Prop 209 that would eliminate race and gender as admissions factors, the university had been using preferences on an increasing scale—particularly at its most elite campuses—for over 20 years.

The practice was steeped in cynicism; administrators at my own law school were well aware that students granted the largest preferences were likely to have mediocre grades and fail the bar exam, but keeping the racial composition of the class “in sync” with the racial composition of the applicant pool was thought essential to keep the peace.

At the undergraduate campuses of Berkeley and UCLA, preferences for Blacks and Latinos were equivalent to two hundred points on the 1600-point SAT and half-a-point on a 4-point GPA scale. Administrators ignored the reality that these preferences placed minority students at a huge academic disadvantage. The results were scandalous. Blacks at UCLA and Berkeley had four-year graduation rate averaging only 15 percent; fewer than half of these students ever received a UC degree. Black and Latino GPAs lay mostly in the bottom fifth of their classes. And although hundreds of these minority students wanted a degree in STEM fields, they had only a one in three chance of obtaining one, compared to a 70 percent chance for Asian Americans and a 65 percent chance for whites.

Moreover, UC was doing nothing to “grow” the pool of high school students qualified for UC admissions. The number of black students applying to UC was 2,159 in 1989, and 2,149 eight years later, the last year of racial preferences.

The passage and implementation of SP-1 and Prop 209, which both took effect in fall 1998, had almost miraculous effects upon this picture. There was an immediate jump in the rate at which highly qualified African American and Latino students admitted to the UCs—particularly at Berkeley and UCLA—accepted offers of admission. The obvious implication, consistent with careful research, is that minority students were very attracted by the idea of attending a school where there would be no taint of preferences on their presence and, eventually, on their degrees.

Meanwhile, the university itself made a fundamental change in its approach to diversity. Since it could no longer merely use preferences of whatever size was needed to create the desired racial mix in the freshman class, UC began to develop outreach programs to build stronger applicant pools in low- and moderate-income communities. In other words, UC began to practice true “affirmative action” as it was originally conceived in the early 1960s. UC campuses built learning partnerships with poor-performing schools. Students were helped to understand in 9th grade the set of courses they would need to take to qualify for UC admission. The state invested more in high schools, and high school dropout rates for Blacks and Latinos fell nearly in half.

The UC system continued to use preferences, but these preferences were based on socioeconomic status, not race, and they were much smaller than the old racial preferences, thereby usually avoiding the mismatch problem.

The results were stunning. Black applications within California to UC, which as noted earlier stagnated from 2,191 in 1989 to 2,141 in 1997, rose to 3,108 in 2003, 4,153 in 2008, and 5,728 in 2012. Latino applications rose even faster—by a factor of five over the 15 years after Prop 209.

Four-year graduation rates for both groups more than doubled, GPAs rose, and successful persistence in science fields rose as well. The number of Blacks receiving UC bachelor degrees rose by over 60 percent from pre-209 cohorts to those admitted 10 years later, with STEM degrees by Blacks nearly doubling. Latino bachelor degrees rose nearly 100 percent, with STEM degrees up by over 125 percent.

These were the changes for the groups that, according to the opponents of Prop 209, would be decimated by Prop 209. For whites and Asian Americans, the improvements were much less dramatic, though improvements there were. For them, the biggest and best change was to be free of invidious discrimination.

There was only one problem in this picture: UC administrators could not bring themselves to admit—much less promote—the remarkable successes of a policy they had publicly opposed. Therefore, they could not push back against protesters who demonstrated against the declines in black enrollment at Berkeley and UCLA. Instead, they aligned themselves with the protest, instituted procedures that quietly (and illegally) reinstated preferences, and, this year, have supported the abolition of the SAT requirement and the repeal of Prop 209.

We are thus faced with a fall election that will test, more severely than ever, whether the common sense of voters, and their fundamental aversion to racial discrimination, will beat back the collective efforts of California elites to make a mindless “diversity” mantra drown out the clear story told by the facts.


States have an obligation to offer parents school choice during pandemic closures

Across America, as public schools are choosing to not reopen or to only provide a partial in-person experience this fall, families are struggling to figure out how to ensure their kids get a good education and don't fall further behind.

The good news is, there has never been another time in America so ripe for school choice. Wouldn't it make sense if parents could take a portion of the money that state and local governments spend to educate their children and use it to seek alternatives—like private or parochial school, online education, home schooling, co-ops or other options?

The fact of the matter is, taxpayer dollars spent on public education are meant for the education of students. As such, those dollars should actually fund students, not empty school buildings.

If schools don't reopen this fall, states have an obligation to ensure children have access to other educational opportunities. On average, taxpayers pay $14,000 a year per child for K-12 public education. Allowing parents the option of taking a portion of that money and using it elsewhere is one significant step toward fulfilling that obligation.

School choice seems like an especially critical option as teachers' unions across the country protest school reopenings. Unions want schools to remain closed until their lists of demands are met, yet many of their conditions have absolutely nothing to do with ensuring the safety of children and teachers during the pandemic. Demands include such things as forcing landlords and banks to cancel rent and mortgage payments for individuals, keeping private schools closed and blocking vouchers for school choice.

One egregious example is in Los Angeles, where the LA teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles, wants schools to remain closed until the federal government passes "Medicare for All," police are defunded, charter schools that "compete" with the public schools are shut down and more taxpayer funding is allocated to housing for California's homeless, among other demands. The stipulations are part of what the union calls its "groundbreaking research paper" that outlines necessary conditions for safely reopening schools."

Speaking about its list of demands, UTLA's president claimed, "We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority."

Sure it does.

If safety is truly the priority, how does defunding the police ensure the safety of our kids? That just doesn't pass the straight-face test.

Of course, defunding the police is not a necessary condition for safely reopening schools. Neither are many of the other demands. Instead, some teachers' unions are shamelessly using schoolchildren and the reopening of schools as bargaining chips to push their unrelated social policy agenda. True school choice would mean that parents and students wouldn't have to be held hostage by political demands.

In addition, any plan to reopen schools needs to be centered on teacher and student safety and providing children a quality education. Decisions must be made based on the science and a school district's ability to consistently follow health and safety protocols, not on the political agendas of special-interest groups.

As a mom, former local school board member, board member of a state board of education and someone who has worked in education policy for much of my career, I am intimately familiar with issues of school safety as well as the conditions necessary to provide a quality educational experience. If schools aren't going to open this fall or plan on offering only an online or partial-classroom experience, the school choice model just makes good sense.

School choice addresses many of the issues we're facing during the coronavirus and provides better educational opportunities for every student—not just during the pandemic, but for generations of students to come. As fall quickly approaches, states must work toward making school choice a reality so students don't fall even further behind. Parents and students need options, and they need them now.


‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’ Come Back to Bite a Minnesota University

In yet another of the seemingly endless string of jihad attacks and plots in the United States that the media almost universally ignores, Tnuza Jamal Hassan pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal terrorism charges. Back in January 2018, the winsome Ms. Hassan set a series of fires on the campus of St. Catherine University in Minnesota, after exhorting Muslim students to “join the jihad in fighting” and join jihad terror groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or al-Shabaab. Students at St. Catherine University were shocked: but their school is “diverse!” How could this possibly have happened to them?

Hassan herself gave numerous indications that she was a hardened, convinced jihad terrorist. She said that she had set the fires in revenge for supposed American atrocities on “Muslim land.” She wrote a letter to her roommates that police said contained “radical ideas about supporting Muslims and bringing back the caliphate.” She told investigators that “she wanted the school to burn to the ground and her intent was to hurt people.” There was a daycare center in one of the buildings where Hassan set fires; eight adults and 33 children were there at the time.

One student said: “I never expected it. She was a first-year student, too, and that is especially scary.” Why would a first-year student setting a series of fires around campus be scarier than a third-year student setting them? The student did not explain, but if St. Catherine University is as much of a far-left indoctrination center as other universities and colleges are today, maybe the explanation is self-evident: by the third year, students are fully indoctrinated in hatred and violence.

Another student added: “I definitely never thought that would happen. St. Kate’s is one of the most inclusive, diverse welcoming schools you can think of.” And a third: “We take pride in the safety of our school, so this was very surprising and we have a very diverse school that welcomes everyone. And to have this happen is not really expected.”

These students seem to assume that jihad terror attacks happen because Muslims find themselves in environments that are not “welcoming” and “diverse.” St. Kate’s was welcoming, inclusive, and diverse, so Tnuza Jamal Hassan should have been happy as a clam, and never thought of turning to jihad, right?

This is probably an idea that these students learned from their professors at St. Kate’s. The prevailing view among leftist professors (as well as the foreign policy establishment in Washington) is that jihad violence is the result of the evil deeds of non-Muslim countries, particularly the United States, and non-Muslim individuals who display “racism” and “Islamophobia” toward Muslims. It is a staple of jihadist discourse to retail the supposed atrocities of the U.S. military overseas, as if they were the cause of all the trouble – even Tnuza Hassan did that in her explanations for her fires.

This kind of thing leads American leftists and establishment conservatives to think that if we just adopted a more jihad-compliant foreign policy (such as Obama’s scheme of backing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Arab Spring”), all will be well. And after every supposedly “lone wolf” jihad attack or foiled plot in the U.S., the establishment media publishes weepy stories about how unkind non-Muslims were to the poor jihadi.

Thus the onus is all on the infidels, and it is their responsibility, not the Muslim community’s or anyone else’s, to stop jihad terror attacks from occurring. If jihad attacks happen anyway, it is because they were not “welcoming” and “diverse” enough. Thus the puzzlement of the St. Kate students: their campus is so diverse, it should have been jihad-proof!

The idea that Muslims might stage jihad massacres for reasons of their own, stemming from Islamic texts and teachings — why, even to entertain that as a possibility would be “Islamophobic.” On campuses today, that possibility cannot even be considered, and you’re a racist, bigoted hatemonger even for thinking it. Don’t you realize, at this late date, that everything, everything, is the fault of the United States and the world’s worst people, white Americans? Look what they made that poor lamb, Tnuza Jamal Hassan, do!


Notre Dame Disavows Lou Holtz's RNC Speech Calling Biden 'Catholic in Name Only'

Lou Holtz, former football coach at Notre Dame University, spoke at the Republican National Convention, slamming Democratic nominee Joe Biden as “Catholic in name only” for his radical pro-abortion policies. Notre Dame, a supposedly Roman Catholic university run by catholic clergy, issued a statement disavowing his comments.

Over the years, Notre Dame has shown a decidedly radical liberal bent in its teachings and actions. It has taken an agnostic view toward abortion, despite the Vatican’s strong condemnation of the practice. And when it comes to political candidates who profess their catholicism, who run on their religious affiliation and support unfettered abortions in the U.S., Notre Dame leaders look the other way.

Lou Holtz never made any apologies for being Catholic, either during his career or afterward. He has gained notoriety as a sought-after speaker at Catholic and Christian functions for his advocacy and promotion of Christian beliefs. His remarks at the GOP convention about Joe Biden’s hypocrisy of portraying himself as a devout Catholic while supporting late-term abortion were entirely reasonable given the strong anti-abortion position of the church and Biden’s strong defense of abortion rights.

Just the News:

“When a leader tells you something, you’ve got to be able to count on it. That’s President Trump. He says what he means, he means what he says, and he’s done what he said he would do at every single turn. One of the important reasons he has my trust is because nobody has been a stronger advocate for the unborn than President Trump,” he said Wednesday at the convention.

“The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history. They and other politicians are ‘Catholics in Name Only’ and abandon innocent lives. President Trump protects those lives. I trust President Trump,” Holtz continued.

The criticism is valid and fair. Biden seeks the powerful Catholic vote by looking to identify with those of the Catholic faith. And yet, when it comes to a fundamental tenet of that faith, Biden comes up short.

But the Notre Dame Administration doesn’t see it that way.

Fox News:

In response to Holtz’s remarks, University President Fr. John Jenkins issued a statement saying that the former Fighting Irish coach’s “use of the University’s name at the Republican National Convention must not be taken to imply that the University endorses his views, any candidate or any political party.”

Jenkins added that “we Catholics should remind ourselves that while we may judge the objective moral quality of another’s actions, we must never question the sincerity of another’s faith, which is due to the mysterious working of grace in that person’s heart. In this fractious time, let us remember that our highest calling is to love.”

That’s rhetorical mush. What else can you do but question the faith of someone who professes belief in Catholic doctrine while openly defying it?

Another Catholic priest said on MSNBC that Holtz “has no clue” what Biden really believes.

The Indianapolis Star:

“(He) cannot look into the soul of Joe Biden,” James Martin, a Jesuit priest said on MSNBC. “I think it’s a really terrible thing to say about someone. He has no clue what’s going on inside of Joe Biden’s heart.”

That’s strange. Liberals claim they can peer into the hearts of people and discern whether they are racist, or sexist, or homophobic. But Holtz can’t point out the obvious hypocrisy of the Democratic nominee for president?

The world is becoming ever more secular and amoral. Many people find comfort and shelter in an unbending faith — the Roman Catholic faith. When someone professes belief in that faith and then denies it when politically convenient, he should be called out for it. Lou Holtz did that knowing the backlash was coming, knowing the hate that would be spewed his way.

How does that courage compare to Biden’s hypocrisy?


Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Chaos coast to coast as a school year like no other launches

It’s going to be screen time all the time for kindergartners and graduate students alike. Teachers are threatening strikes. And students are already coming home infected with the coronavirus, which has upended American education.

The 2020-21 school year has dawned, and it's more chaotic than any before it.

Plans are changing so fast that students and parents can hardly keep up. Districts that spent all summer planning hybrid systems, in which children would be in school part of the week, ditched them as coronavirus cases surged. Universities changed their teaching models, their start dates and their rules for housing, all with scant notice.

And many districts and colleges have yet to make final decisions, even now, with the fall term already underway in some of the country.

"Plans are changing right up till the moment that schools open," said Michael Casserly, executive director of Great City Schools, a lobbying group for large districts.

Chicago Public Schools announced last week that, after planning a hybrid system, its classes would begin the year online. Districts across the country have pushed back their opening dates. Last week, the first week of school in Georgia's Cherokee County School District, administrators sent 14 letters to parents, each disclosing new cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19. They included 13 students ranging from first to 12th grades, and a few teachers. More than 300 students who had been in contact with them were directed to quarantine for 14 days.

"Our parents wanted a choice for their children, and we delivered - it is not perfect, and we all know that, but perfection is not possible in a pandemic," Superintendent Brian Hightower said Friday in a message to the community.

Another Georgia high school, in Paulding County, drew national attention after students posted pictures and video of their peers walking without masks in tightly packed hallways. Now, six students and three staff members there have tested positive for the virus, according to a letter sent to parents over the weekend.

Last week, Johns Hopkins University changed its mind and said classes would be fully online, discouraging even those who had signed leases from returning to Baltimore. Students at Washington University in St. Louis faced the opposite problem when the school said on July 31 that all dorm rooms would be converted to singles, leaving juniors and seniors scrambling to find housing at the last minute.

In Congress, talks over a pandemic relief package collapsed last week, leaving no clear path to providing schools with funding lawmakers in both major political parties agree is urgently needed.

"We knew how to close schools," said Annette Anderson, an assistant professor of education and deputy director of the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools at Johns Hopkins University. "But we have no idea how to properly reopen schools."

The result of this chaos is uncertainty for students and their parents, with profound ramifications for health, learning, emotional development and economics in schools that open and those that do not.

Of the 20 largest K-12 districts, 17 now plan to begin the year fully remote. The big outlier is New York City, by far the nation's largest district, which plans a hybrid system and so far has withstood intense pressure from teachers and others to reverse course.

On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, gave the state's 732 school districts the go ahead and open in person if they like, as long as the state's coronavirus infection rates stay low.

Across the country, districts have wildly different plans based on their geography, infection rates and partisanship.

About 4% of rural districts and 21% of suburban districts have announced fully remote plans, compared with 55% of urban systems, according to a study of 477 districts chosen as a representative national sample by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington at Bothell.

Robin Lake, the center's director, also reviewed parent surveys from districts across the country and was struck by how divergent views are.

"Some are saying they are terrified," she said. "Others are saying, 'I think this whole covid thing is a farce.' "

Like so much in America, decisions appear to be falling along partisan lines, with schools in Republicans areas far more likely to open than those in Democratic communities.

Polling shows Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say going back into school buildings is safe. And an examination of district plans compiled by Education Week suggests that campuses are more likely to be open in conservative communities than in liberal ones.

Ed Week's database includes 153 districts in states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of them, 67% plan fully remote learning this fall.

Of the 307 districts in states won by Donald Trump in 2016, 58% plan to hold fully or partly in-person classes.

Some of the divide may trace to fact that rural areas are more Republican and in some cases have fewer covid-19 cases. But the overall trend worries Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, which represents school superintendents.

"It's a very dangerous and explosive situation, and unfortunately people are more inclined to follow their political bent than to do what is safe for their own families and their own children," he said.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly pushed districts to open, noting the importance of in-person education for students' academic and social emotional growth, as well as for parents' ability to work. Some administrators, and the parents they serve, seem to be listening.

In Washington County, Utah, for instance, schools were accommodating the desires of a very conservative community when they opted to open for full-time, in-person school. Classes begin there this week.

"As restrictions lifted, we felt - and the community felt - that would be in the best interest of students to get them back on as normal a schedule as possible," said Steven Dunham, director of communications for the district.

"We are trying to put into place every safety precaution we can," Dunham said. "We are also trying to fulfill the requests of the parents in this community."

The district is requiring students and staff members to wear masks, as ordered by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican. But Dunham said "a significant number of parents" have asked the school board to defy the order, something the board has declined to do.

The pressures in more liberal communities often cut the other way, with teachers unions saying it is not safe to reopen campuses.

The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution endorsing actions including strikes to protest any orders to return to classrooms, and teachers in New York City have threatened to walk out over the issue. The newly installed president of the National Education Association said she, too, supports strikes if needed to get the attention of decision makers.

"Our members are looking at every option that they have in their toolbox to get those in charge to listen to them when they say their schools are not safe," NEA President Becky Pringle said in an interview. In her inaugural speech, she promised financial help to any affiliate that concludes its reopening plan is not safe for teachers.

Pressure to keep schools open has been intense in Texas and Florida, two states where Republican governors ordered them open and then backed off, as infections continued to climb.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in July that all schools must reopen. Then he said districts could operate remotely for the first three weeks. Then he extended that for several more weeks. Local health departments stepped in to bar some districts from opening. A few days ago, Abbott said the decision was up to local school officials.

John Kuhn, superintendent of the 3,300-student Mineral Wells Independent School District, said he's trying to follow the state's orders.

"But it's not easy," he said. "It keeps changing."

Kuhn said he's decided to open schools for students who want to come, but he is encouraging parents to keep their children home so there will be fewer in the classroom and social distancing will be easier. School starts there next week.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also ordered all districts to open, then retreated, saying remote learning would be all right where coronavirus rates are highest. On Friday, he made clear that not all districts would receive that dispensation, telling Orlando's News 6 that he was concerned that Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, plans to use remote education.

"The law requires you to offer certain amount of in-person instruction," DeSantis said, referring to his executive order. "I'm concerned about it."

Angela Skilling, a teacher in Arizona's tiny Hayden Winkelman Unified School District, is terrified of going back. Over the summer, she and two other teachers taught a remote class from the same classroom. One of the teachers died. Seven staff members, out of 60 in the district, contracted covid-19.

"We are not ready to lose another staff member," she told a congressional committee at a hearing on schools last week. "We can recover a child's lost education, but we cannot recover a life."

For colleges and universities, the tumult of campus closures in March gave way to the chaos of planning for reopening under volatile and unprecedented conditions. Some are bringing most of their students back. Others are bringing only certain groups - freshmen, for instance. Still others are telling students it's best to stay away for the fall. Many international students cannot get visas to travel to the United States, and others who are here are dependent on colleges for emergency housing.

No matter where they are living, students are resigned to a course catalog with a heavy dose of online learning. Classes might be fully online or "hybrid," using limited face-to-face contact with faculty members.

Dorm rooms, by default, will become classrooms. Harvard University is inviting freshmen and select others to live on campus, but all of its undergraduate teaching will be conducted online.

Like their K-12 counterparts, many colleges face pressure from their faculties to shift to remote learning. More than 350 faculty members at the University of Iowa signed a petition demanding that all classes be held online. There was similar resistance from faculty members at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

As of last week, nearly 30% of 3,000 institutions planned to teach fully or primarily online, and about 24% were fully or mostly in person, according to an examination by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College.

The review found that 16% planned a mix of approaches and that 26% had not yet decided.

Much remains in flux. The University of Virginia had announced in June that students would be invited to campus for classes starting Aug. 25. They would live in residence halls under a strict public health regimen that includes assigned sinks and showers. Now U-Va. says that the undergraduate arrival will be delayed due to the surging virus, and that face-to-face teaching will not start until after Labor Day.

Some plans fell apart weeks after they were announced. The University of Southern California in July reversed course on an aggressive reopening, and then last week ratcheted plans back again to almost entirely remote instruction. Georgetown, George Washington and American universities, all in the nation's capital, took similar zigzag paths toward remote openings.

At American, a private university with about 14,000 students, officials had painstakingly pieced together a plan to house about 2,300 students on campus in single dorm rooms and teach through a blend of in-person and online methods. The school calculated the socially distant capacity of classrooms, depending on whether seats were fixed or mobile. It tracked how many faculty members had health concerns and who could teach in person and when. Assembling the course schedule, said AU President Sylvia Burwell, was like solving a Rubik's Cube.

By the end of July, that plan went out the window.

"I'm disappointed," Burwell said. "We're all disappointed."

Burwell, who was health and human services secretary during the Obama administration, said the trajectory of the pandemic now dictates caution. She said she spent weeks gathering facts and enduring many sleepless nights before deciding to shift course. Now she's pledging to make it work.

In California, the leader of the largest public university system in the country saw this moment coming months ago. Timothy White, chancellor of the 482,000-student California State University system, had announced on May 12 that most instruction on its 23 campuses would be remote this fall. It was at the time a shocking statement of higher education's vulnerability to the virus.

Now White says he is glad he staked out a radical position. It gave his faculty ample time to prepare and freedom to innovate. “It allowed a different mind-set,” he said. The attitude: “Now, let’s get to work and figure out how to do it great.”


Conforming to a Race Lie

Our colleges are all in against systemic racism — but what if that's not the problem?

In September 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and called in the 101st Airborne Division to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School in accordance with the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The rest is history.

One wonders, though, what Eisenhower would make of our schools today — especially our colleges and universities, whose race-obsessed Red Guards have weaponized terms such as “white privilege” and “systemic racism” and who’ve made a mockery of our nation’s steady and monumental progress on civil rights.

When he left office in January 1961, Ike warned us about “the military-industrial complex,” saying that the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Had he a crystal ball, however, he might’ve warned us instead about the rise of the racial-industrial complex. Because no issue has been more viciously wielded nor more shamelessly monetized than race — and nowhere is this more apparent than in higher education.

For example: Bureaucrats at Cornell University are encouraging the entire Big Red community to read racism scholar Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist.

And what, exactly, is antiracism? As author and columnist Christopher Caldwell explains, “It is the political doctrine behind the street demonstrations, ‘cancelings,’ Twitter attacks, boycotts, statue topplings, and self-denunciations that have come together in a national movement. Anti-racists assume that the American system of politics, economics, and policing has been corrupted by racial prejudice, that such prejudice explains the entire difference in socioeconomic status between blacks and others, that the status quo must be fought and beaten, and that anyone not actively engaged in this system-changing work is a collaborator with racism, and therefore himself a legitimate target for attack.”

Kendi, it should be noted, recently proposed a constitutional amendment holding that any racial inequality is, by definition, the result of racism. And, by golly, after securing a two-thirds supermajority vote in both the House and Senate, and then securing passage by three-fourths of the 50 state legislatures, he’d create a Department of Antiracism to enforce our 28th Amendment.

Good luck with that.

Cornell’s case isn’t an outlier, though. As author and researcher Heather Mac Donald lays out in a recent essay, academia’s all-in embrace of systemic racism threatens not only our institutions but also our foundational principles. And this obsession with race has only increased since the wrongful May 25 death of career criminal George Floyd while in police custody.

“Colleges and universities,” she writes, “also promised increased diversity spending, though in amounts dwarfed by those corporate outpourings. Nevertheless, the academic response to Floyd’s death and the ensuing violence will have the greatest impact on the nation’s future. Academia was the ideological seedbed for that violence and for its elite justifications; it will prove just as critical in the accelerated transformation of the country.”

“The American Mathematical Society,” Mac Donald continues, “declared that ‘equity, diversity, and inclusion’ are fundamental to its mission. Mathematicians had an ‘obligation’ to ‘help create fundamental change,’ according to the AMS. The American Astronomical Society held color-coded Zoom meetings, one for white astronomers to ‘discuss direct actions to support Black astronomers,’ one for black astronomers to ‘talk, vent, connect, and hold space for each other,’ and one for ‘non-Black people of color to discuss direct actions to support Black astronomers.’”

“Harrumph,” they all harrumphed.

Then there’s the chairman of the earth and planetary sciences department at Cal-Davis, who announced an “anti-racist reading group” for faculty and students to help confront the “structural racism that pervades” the field of geology.

Mac Donald cites numerous examples like this from institutions large and small, and she finishes by asking the question few dare pose: “What if the racism explanation for ongoing disparities is wrong? What if racial economic and incarceration gaps cannot close without addressing personal responsibility and family culture — without a sea change in the attitudes that many inner-city black children bring with them to school regarding studying, paying attention in class, and respecting teachers, for example? What if the breakdown of the family is producing children with too little capacity to control their impulses and defer gratification?”

Answer: “The graduates of these ideologically monolithic universities will proceed further to dismantle our civilization in conformity to a lie.”


The Roots of America's Education Decline

The stage for today’s low-achievement, politically radicalized education system was set decades ago. It will take a long time to reverse the damage.

As somebody who is right in the middle of the “boomer” generation, I often hear or read my peers lamenting the good old days in education, before the radicalization of the late 1960s and 1970s ushered in disastrous changes.

What they fail to realize is that the K-12 education we received in the post-World War II era was not only already severely degraded, but it paved the way for the radicalization they decry. Here’s how it happened.

The founders of our country recognized that, for an electoral-based government to work, the voters had to be knowledgeable and capable of ethical reasoning. At first, voting was restricted to those citizens most likely to be educated: prosperous farmers, skilled craftsmen, professionals, and merchants.[1]

As the voting franchise spread to the lower classes, so did education. By the late 1800s, roughly 95 percent of American children either attended school or were privately tutored for at least a few months a year.[2]

The education they received was surprisingly standardized, given the huge geographic area and relatively slow communications in those days. This was because textbook publishers reprinted what had been previously successful.[3]. Plus, the goals of education were the same throughout the country: to prepare children for participation in democracy and the free-market economy as rapidly as possible.

This education emphasized basic numeracy and literacy and rote skills such as reciting and performing mental calculations. Instilling discipline and character were important. As one U.S. Commissioner of Education said, education was to elevate, not just train for employment. [4]

Reading textbooks were the main vehicles for this “elevation.” McGuffey’s Reader series was the best-known of these texts. Students using the texts read quality material from the start: Greek and Roman myths, Anderson’s and Grimm’s fairy tales, Bible passages, original source materials from the nation’s founding, and even Shakespeare. Not only did such texts encourage reading—after all, the material was interesting—but they helped to solidify a diverse and disparate people into a common nation with a common culture.

The system, though far from perfect, worked remarkably well. Though many students had only a few years of formal schooling, literacy spread, culture advanced, and the nation became a world leader in technical innovation.

But then the education schools appeared. In 1890, the first school of education at a major university was established at New York University. [5] Others soon followed, the most important being Columbia Teachers College. Previously, K-12 teachers had been given a couple of years of college at the so-called “normal schools” to make sure they knew the material they were going to teach and were then thrown into a classroom to learn how to teach on the fly. [6]

Teaching the “how” was the focus of these new education schools, and they developed theories that would supposedly make education more scientific and pragmatic. [7] Instead, during the first decades of the twentieth century, they initiated three waves of change that transformed the nation’s educational practices—and American education suffered.

Natural learning. The first was “natural learning” of the sort first proposed by French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau in his 1762 book Emile, or On Education.[8] Man was considered naturally good; society’s constraints inhibited a child’s natural curiosity and creativity; therefore it was considered best that the child be allowed to learn naturally according to his or her own interests. Education theorists tinkered with the concept throughout the nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, education theorists such as John Dewey promoted “child-centered learning,” in which children directed their own educational paths. In addition, theorists advocated “constructivism,” which focused on complex internal mental processes instead of rote learning and results. Both of those theories can work, experts say, but they require an impractical amount of adult attention to be fostered on each child.[9] Without a very low (and very expensive) teacher-pupil ratio, the result is often pedagogical chaos.

Social Efficiency. The next wave came after World War I and was directed toward “social efficiency.”[10] It was intended to help students blend seamlessly into the new, industrialized America. Greater emphasis was placed on vocational training and “life skills.”

Educators assumed that only a small number of students could advance very far academically, so students were divided into tracks based on aptitude or socioeconomic backgrounds. Students were incorrectly assumed to be interested only in their own lives and neighborhoods, rather than in far-away places and previous eras. Elementary education was dumbed down; instead of the inspiring McGuffey’s Readers, reading was taught using simplistic texts such as the Elson Readers (“See Dick run. Run, Dick, run”). [11]

Collectivism. The third wave was collectivist; it arose during the Great Depression. Many of the leading educators of the time, such as Dewey, Harold Rugg, and George Counts (all of Columbia Teachers College), were openly socialists; many took tours of educational facilities in the Soviet Union and came away impressed with what they saw.[12]

These influential educators sought not to improve education but to effect a complete transformation of society. They envisioned a “Great Technology” in which social engineers would design a new society, with educators producing the mass understanding needed to make the endeavor successful.[13] During the 1930s, educators sought ways to shift the American mindset from one of individual responsibility to one of collectivism and to insert them into the curriculum.

The excesses of the educational theorists and social engineers—and the patriotism stoked by World War II and concerns over communism—brought on a backlash. One of the leading opponents to the collectivists was the Progressive Education Association, which wanted to return to the first wave of Progressive reforms, the child-centered education championed by Dewey. [14]

By the end of the Second World War, the extreme innovation of the first half of the 20th century ended, and American education reached a relatively stable consensus.

The consensus, however, had made elementary education less interesting and more confined. Conformity, rather than individualism, was emphasized. It was instrumentalist rather than educational in the fuller sense: it dismissed cultural knowledge while focusing on the acquisition of skills.

Traditional moral education gradually disappeared: teaching from the Bible in public schools was phased out. The curriculum placed the United States at the center of the universe, rather than as part of the continuum of Western civilization. The Greeks, Romans, and Middle Ages were largely gone from the elementary curriculum, replaced by a new emphasis on colonial America, Native Americans, and the founding of the nation.

That was the education that many Boomers recall fondly. Perhaps its major legacy is that its moral and cultural emptiness created a vacuum into which new mischief hatched by the schools of education would rush. Today, many of our public schools mix skill-building with political indoctrination and “safe spaces” patronizing, resulting in technically proficient but “woke” generations that favor socialism over capitalism, narcissism over decorum, and nihilism over reasoned discussion.


A Back-to-School Guide for Conservatives

Parents, legislators, taxpayers, and others footing the bill for college education might be interested in just what is in store for the upcoming academic year.

Since many college classes will be online, there is a chance to witness professors indoctrinating their students in real time. So, there’s a chance that some college faculty might change their behavior. To see recent examples of campus nonsense and indoctrination, visit the Campus Reform and College Fix websites.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, warned congressional lawmakers “that Antifa is ‘winning’ and that much of academia, whether wittingly or unwittingly, is complicit in its success,” reported Campus Reform.

In his testimony before Congress Turley said:

To Antifa, people like me are the personification of the classical liberal view of free speech that perpetuates a system of oppression and abuse. I wish I could say that my view remains strongly implanted in our higher educational institutions. However, you are more likely to find public supporters for restricting free speech than you are to find defenders of free speech principles on many campuses.

The leftist bias at our colleges and universities has many harmful effects. A mathematics professor at University of California, Davis, faced considerable backlash over her opposition to the requirement for “diversity statements” from potential faculty.

Those seeking employment at the University of California, San Diego, are required to admit that “barriers” prevent women and minorities from full participation in campus life.

At American University, a history professor wrote a book calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. A Rutgers University professor said: “Watching the Iowa Caucus is a sickening display of the overrepresentation of whiteness.”

A Williams College professor has advocated the inclusion of social justice in math textbooks. Students at Wayne State University are no longer required to take a single math course to graduate; however, they may soon be required to take a diversity course.

Maybe some students will be forced into sharing the vision of Laurie Rubel, a math education professor at Brooklyn College. She says the idea of cultural neutrality in math is a “myth,” and that asking whether 2 plus 2 equals 4 “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.”

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

Math professors and academics at other universities, including Harvard and the University of Illinois, discussed the “Eurocentric” roots of American mathematics. As for me, I would like to see the proof, in any culture, that 2 plus 2 is something other than 4.

Rutgers University’s English department chairwoman, Rebecca Walkowitz, announced changes to the department’s graduate writing program emphasizing “social justice” and “critical grammar.”

Leonydus Johnson, a speech-language pathologist and libertarian activist, says Walkowitz’s changes make the assumption that minorities cannot understand traditional and grammatically correct English speech and writing, which is “insulting, patronizing, and in itself, extremely racist.”

Then there is the nonsense taught on college campuses about white privilege. The idea of white privilege doesn’t explain why several historically marginalized groups outperform whites today.

For example, Japanese Americans suffered under the Alien Land Law of 1913 and other racist, exclusionary laws legally preventing them from owning land and property in more than a dozen American states until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

During World War II, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned. However, by 1959, the income disparity between Japanese Americans and white Americans had almost disappeared.

Today, Japanese Americans outperform white Americans by large margins in income statistics, education outcomes, and test scores, and have much lower incarceration rates.

According to Rav Arora, writing for the New York Post, several black immigrant groups such as Nigerians, Trinidadians, Tobagonians, Barbadians, and Ghanaians all “have a median household income well above the American average.”

We are left with the question whether the people handing out “white privilege” made a mistake. The other alternative is that Japanese Americans, Nigerians, Barbadians, Ghanaians, Trinidadians, and Tobagonians are really white Americans.

The bottom line is that more Americans need to pay attention to the miseducation of our youth and that miseducation is not limited to higher education.


Monday, August 31, 2020

Massachusetts to allow remote learning pods, kids’ programs outside schools

State education officials announced Friday that families can form small remote-learning co-ops, after-school programs can operate during typical school hours, and churches and community centers can host students who might otherwise be unsupervised when out of school this fall.

The move was made in recognition of the challenges that working parents will face in many districts where schools are expected to hold virtual classes at least part of the week.

The Baker administration had encouraged schools in areas with low rates of COVID-19 to start the school year normally. But since many districts opted for some form of remote learning, Education Secretary James Peyser said in a statement Friday, “it’s critical that we enable parents, after-school providers, and community organizations to offer additional child-care options and learning supports when students are unable to attend school in person.”

Licensed child-care providers will automatically be allowed to serve older children during the school day, in addition to before, after, and out-of-school time.

The state is also expediting licensing so that child-care providers can tap additional space to expand capacity to serve older children. Some day-care centers, for instance, aim to open kindergarten rooms to accommodate the siblings of younger children already in their care.

A larger change will be making spots available for students to be supervised during their remote learning time. “Remote learning enrichment programs” will accept children on a regular or drop-in basis to supervise children from kindergarten to 14 years old, or up to 16 with special needs.

Organizations that want to provide such a space must apply to the local city or town for approval, beginning Monday. The municipality will be responsible for overseeing safety, conducting background checks of staff, and maintaining COVID-appropriate group sizes and health protocols. Group sizes will be limited to the state’s limits on crowds: 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors.

Learning pods, or groups convened by up to five families, will be able to operate without licenses, as long as a parent is on-site at all times. Payments are not allowed, and exchanges of funds are limited to compensation for food and materials.

Governor Charlie Baker on Friday made the changes by executive order.

The Department of Early Education and Care will also support providers in creative solutions to partner with communities to meet the needs of families, officials said.

Some parents and providers had pushed for more flexibility to be able to care for children who will not all be permitted to attend school at the same time, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.


The New York Times’s podcast “Nice White Parents” makes the false argument that parents removed their children from failing public school because of racism

Why does the public education system continue to fail America’s children? Policy experts have pondered this question for decades. Most say the answer is complicated, requiring a nuanced, collaborative approach.

But not The New York Times. It found the problem, and it’s simple: white parents.

The solution? “Try, whenever possible, to suppress the power of white parents.”

That quote comes from the Times’ podcast “Nice White Parents,” which chronicles the history of a single public school in New York. Specifically, the host, Chana Joffe-Walt, decides to look into the racial history of this school.

Her first finding: Many parents who advocated for the integration of public schools, specifically this public school, did not end up enrolling their children. Instead, they chose to send their children to established schools with a history of success. This choice—made predominantly by white families—is why the school has struggled, Joffe-Walt says.

She contacts several of these parents to scold them for not sending their children to a worse school to serve the larger cause of public education. Some parents note that although they believed in advancing school integration, they perceived this particular school to struggle academically, noting that many students could not read at grade level.

Joffe-Walt chalks up these criticisms to racism, rather than a genuine observation that the school would be a step backward academically for a student functioning at grade level.

Does she offer concrete policy solutions to fix the underlying academic issues plaguing the school? Of course not. Instead, she perpetuates the myth that parents choosing to exit the public school system leads to underfunded schools.

In reality, schools are not underfunded. Not even close. In fact, since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979, education spending has gone only in one direction: up. Test scores, by contrast, have remained entirely stagnant.

New York spends almost $23,000 per student per year in the public school system—a close second to Washington, D.C., for the highest per-pupil expenditure in the country. That figure also is significantly higher than most private school tuitions. So why are so many schools still failing?

One reason: The public school system is drowning in bureaucracy. And bureaucrats get paid before teachers—and before students get new textbooks.

Ben Scafidi at Kennesaw State University has studied the concept of administrative bloat in the K-12 public education system extensively. He found that between 1950 and 2015, the student population at public schools had grown roughly 100%. During that same time period, teaching staff had grown 243%.

Although that disproportionate growth in the number of teachers compared to the growth in student population is shocking enough, that is hardly his biggest finding. During that same time period, “administrators and other staff” in the public school system grew 709%.

An increase in administrative staff exceeding 700% compared to just a 100% increase in students seems to be a far more likely answer to why heavily funded public schools appear to lack resources than the choices of some parents to seek out the best education options available for their children.

Throughout “Nice White Parents,” Joffe-Walt details examples of parents’ getting involved in the day-to-day operation of the school, and paints this involvement as affront to public schooling.

In Episode 1, for example, she describes how when “white parents” came into the school, many wanted their children to learn French, yet no French classes were offered. The parents formed a committee, held fundraisers, collaborated with administrators, and got their French program.

This is problematic, according to “Nice White Parents,” because a French program strays from the cultural needs of the majority-minority population of the school.

This scenario is exactly why every family needs school choice. There never will be a one-size-fits-all public school system that will offer the foreign language needs and wants of every family, nor other such demands.

The New York Times and the makers of “Nice White Parents” argue that the solution to the different wants and needs of families is to ignore the wishes of parents altogether and let education bureaucrats decide what is best for their children.

School choice proponents, by contrast, believe that every family in America should be empowered to choose an education option that is custom fit for their child’s needs. Through programs such as vouchers or education savings accounts, every family would be financially empowered to make that decision. Students do better when their parents are actively engaged in their education.

A podcast attacking parental autonomy is bad enough. But the fact that The New York Times attacks parents of a particular race for executing their autonomy is worse. “Nice White Parents” isn’t just troubling, it’s wrong, and an affront to American ideals.

Ultimately, this hurts all children because “Nice White Parents” racializes the failure of the public schools, hurting the students who are trapped there and don’t have the resources to flee the public system.

There has got to be some accountability for the failure of the public system. The New York Times’ use of a racist canard to avoid systemic culpability for failing these kids isn’t going to cut it.


School Choice Shines This Week

School choice was a policy star this week at the Republican National Convention. President Donald Trump capped off the week by stating his desire to “expand charter schools and provide school choice for every family in America” during his speech Thursday night, the final night of the convention.

A slate of speakers throughout the week made impassioned cases for school choice, including Rebecca Friedrichs, famous for bringing a legal challenge to the forced collection of union dues. Her effort resulted in the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of teacher freedom in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., also made powerful arguments for education freedom. Scott called a good education “the closest thing we have to magic in America… When a parent has a choice, a kid has a better chance.”

On Wednesday, Tera Myers, an Ohio mother who helped launch that state’s school choice program for children with special needs, spoke about how life-changing school choice had been for her son, who has Down’s syndrome.

The teachers’ unions were none too pleased. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tweeted in part, “Tonight we heard over and over about ‘school choice.’ This is their way [of] pushing to defund public ed.”

Her tweet begs the question: Why would giving parents a choice defund public education?Implicit in her tweet is the recognition that given an option, many parents would chose something other than their child’s assigned district school.

There are numerous policy changes Congress could make to advance school choice immediately, recognizing the particular urgency of the moment (most public schools across the country are still closed to in-person instruction). That includes:

1. Repurposing Existing Federal Programs

There are dozens of federal programs that are ineffective and inappropriate for Washington to manage. Instead of those dollars flowing to district public schools that are largely closed, Congress should redirect funding for those programs to families to use at an education option of choice.

There are many to choose from, including:

Supporting Effective Instruction (Title II, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act)—which would yield $2.13 billion per year for education choice.

Teacher and School Leader Incentives Fund (Title II, Part B)—$200 million per year.

Literacy for All (Title II, Part B)—$192 million per year.
Student Support and Academic Enrichment (Title IV, Part A)—$1.2 billion per year.

21st Century Community Learning Centers (Title IV, Part B)—$1.2 billion per year.

Education Innovation and Research Grants (Title IV, Part F)—$190 million per year.

2. Allowing Portability of Title I and Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Dollars

To help students with special needs and children from low-income families, Congress should allow Title I dollars and funding from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to follow students to learning options of choice.

For example, public schools receive $13.5 billion annually in federal the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding for students with special needs, ages three to 21. Federal policymakers could do a better job of serving these students by allowing them and their parents to access micro-education savings accounts worth approximately $2,000 per year, carved out of those existing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funds.

Similarly, the design of the federal Title I program for low-income students has become cumbersome and obsolete, with distributions today having little connection to district-level poverty. Congress should allow states to make their Title I dollars portable, following a child from a low-income family to a private school or education option of choice.

3. Creating School Choice for Populations That Congress Is Directly Responsible for Educating

Finally, for education purposes, specific populations of students fall under the jurisdiction of Congress. That include children from active duty military families, Native American students living on tribal lands, and children residing within the District of Columbia—a federal city. Congress should provide education options for these populations.

That includes providing education savings accounts to military-connected children, education savings accounts to Native American children living on tribal lands, and transforming the Washington, D.C., into an all-choice district through expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

States Should Lead Charge to Expand Education Choice
Most importantly, states should heed the call to advance education choice. COVID-19 has demonstrated how ill-prepared districts were to meet the needs of students when the pandemic hit. Six months later, most remain closed to in-person instruction, leaving children without access to their schools and friends.

It doesn’t have to be this way. American taxpayers spend more than $700 billion per year on K-12 education. If that money funded children directly instead of defaulting to a district school system, families could have maintained education continuity by directing dollars to learning options that were open, or to private tutors, learning pods, online education, micro-schools, and homeschooling co-ops. But the inflexible nature of the existing system precludes that.

States should be doing everything they can right now to provide emergency education savings accounts to families.


Australia: Independent review aims to replace existing university entrance test with new Australian Standardised Assessment “ANSA”

The latest independent review into the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was today presented to the Education Council which comprises commonwealth, state and territory Education ministers.

The review’s key recommendations included that NAPLAN be replaced with the new test “ANSA”, and testing students in Year 10 instead of testing students in Year 9 to better inform senior subject choices.

Sweeping changes to the writing assessment and more focus on critical thinking and science, were also among the recommendations.

If adopted, ANSA would be held earlier in the year as opposed to when NAPLAN is held in May in a bid to prevent schools “teaching to the test”.

It would aim for results to be returned within one week, to inform teaching and learning for the rest of the year.

However, replacing or amending NAPLAN would require consensus of the Education Council.

The review found that the lag between testing and results makes data ineffective for teachers, the writing test was flawed, the timing of the test contributes to teacher stress and student anxiety, and the test lacks contemporary content and delivery.

Education Minister Grace Grace said the review acknowledged that standardised testing should remain but needed to be improved.

“It is clear that the current NAPLAN testing is not world’s best practice,” Ms Grace said.

“By modernising these tests, we will be able to find a model that best suits parents, teachers and most importantly students.

NAPLAN performance has been calculated by finding each school’s yearly average total over five years. Five year change has been calculated by finding the percentage change between a school’s NAPLAN scores over five years.

Queensland schools cover the 2015 to 2019 period. Schools in all other states and territories cover the 2014 to 2018 period.

The Palaszczuk Government recently promised the Queensland Teachers’ Union, who have relentlessly opposed NAPLAN, to advocate for its replacement as a bid to appease the union over its anger and lobbying against the pay-rise deferral.

Ms Grace said the report proposes changes that would address issues that have been heard “loud and clear” that the “testing is onerous for teachers and too high-stakes for students”.

“This review aims to make changes to NAPLAN that alleviate these concerns, all while providing valuable information to schools, parents and the wider community alike.”

Since the testing began in 2008 NAPLAN has been subject to several reviews and controversy, and was this year cancelled because of COVID-19.

The latest review was commissioned by the Queensland Victorian, New South Wales and ACT governments and conducted by education experts Emeritus Professor Barry McGaw AO, Emeritus Professor William Louden AM and Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith.