Friday, September 18, 2020

What High School Players Suspended Over Support for Police, Firefighters Can Teach the NFL

The story is at first aggravating to hear but the more we learn about it the better the outlook for this country becomes. A pair of high school football players in Morrow, Ohio, ran out on the field before a game holding a Blue Lives Matter and Red Lives Matter flag. They were later suspended over the display, for introducing a political message to the game. It was a sign of pregame social signaling, and as we have come to learn there is a glaring set of double standards on such issues.

For years we have been lectured that Colin Kaepernick and numerous other players who express themselves by protesting the national anthem deserve respect, but if fans express themselves saying they will protest by no longer watching the NFL they are called intolerant or racist. We should applaud a player like Kaepernick for his political views but if former player Herschel Walker lends support to Donald Trump he is called an “Uncle Tom” and told to pipe down. Kneeling for the anthem is praised, but Tim Tebow kneeling to pray in the end zone after a touchdown was bothersome.

The issue at the Little Miami High School gets more complex with the details, and it is more encouraging as well. Part of the suspension the two received was due to their having asked permission ahead of the game to carry the flags, but they had been told they could not do so. So yes, a violation can be pointed at as a cause. They were told that carrying the flags could lead to accountability. When asked about the suspensions the school superintendent Gregory Power explained the decision.

“We can’t have students who decide to do something anyway after they’ve been told that they shouldn’t be doing it,” said Power, noting that he saw the flags as symbols of a political point of view and didn’t want to set a precedent. “We did not want to place ourselves in a circumstance where another family might want a different flag to come out of the tunnel, one that may be [one that] many other families may not agree with from a political perspective,” Power explained.

The details make this more of a milquetoast response. The two players were not randomly choosing to bring the flags out — they did so on September 11, in remembrance of the many lives lost on that fateful date. This calls back to the year when the NFL schedule fell on a September 11 Sunday. While there was praise and support from commissioner Roger Goodell for players kneeling in protest on that day there had been another display that drew a rebuke from the league.

The commissioner, when asked about the anthem protests on the 9/11 anniversary, had declared that he did not think there was a problem with players kneeling. However, he did see a problem when a number of players announced they were going to lace up footwear commemorating the anniversary. It was announced they would be fined over a nebulous violation of the uniform policy. (Bear in mind, weeks later every team violated this policy by donning pink cleats and other clothing for breast cancer awareness month.) The players elected to wear the cleats anyway, willing to pay any fine which the league eventually relented from imposing after the rightful bad publicity it delivered.

This jolt of strong character was reflected in Little Miami, as the on-field flag gesture becomes more significant for each player. Brady Williams is the son of a police officer, and Jared Bently’s father is a firefighter. When both were asked about the politicized accusation they stated they saw this as honoring Americans who had lost lives.

This is how twisted the priorities in some areas of this country have become. Had Brady and Jared been seen taking a knee to express a political point of view there is little doubt this would have been acceptable, if not even drawing praise and support. But showing respect and remembrance of the thousands who had lost lives is somehow unacceptably “political.”

To their credit, both players understood the ramifications of their gesture and chose to go ahead and display their flags. “Listen,” Williams said. “I don’t care what my consequences are. As long as my message gets across, I’ll be happy.”

When high schoolers show more strength of conviction and character than a school district or professional sports league we need to start questioning where things are headed as a nation.


Washington, D.C., Public Schools Spend $30K Per Student; 23% of 8th Graders Proficient in Reading

The public elementary and secondary schools in the District of Columbia spent $30,115 per pupil during the 2016-2017 school year, according to Table 236.75 in the Department of Education’s “Digest of Education Statistics.”

But only 23% of the eighth graders in the district’s public schools were proficient or better in reading in 2019, according to the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, tests.

Similarly, only 23% of eighth graders in the district’s public schools were proficient or better in mathematics.

Clearly, the government-run schools in our nation’s capital did not give taxpayers their money’s worth.

Yet, the District of Columbia was not the only jurisdiction where public schools cost taxpayers significant money and gave little in return.

The eight states that followed the District of Columbia with the nation’s worst eighth-grade reading scores in 2019 were Alaska, New Mexico, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

The public schools in Alaska spent $19,396 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 23% of the eighth graders in Alaska’s public schools were proficient or better in reading in 2019, and only 29% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in New Mexico spent $11,596 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 23% of the eighth graders in New Mexico’s public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 21% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in Alabama spent $10,615 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 24% of the eighth graders in Alabama’s public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 21% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in Texas spent $11,985 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 25% of the eighth graders in Texas public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 30% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in Mississippi spent $9,661 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 25% of eighth graders in Mississippi public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 24% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in West Virginia spent $12,566 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 25% of eighth graders in West Virginia public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 24% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in Oklahoma spent $8,935 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 26% of eighth graders in Oklahoma public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 26% were proficient or better in math.

The public schools in Louisiana spent $12,502 per pupil in 2016-2017. But only 27% of eighth graders in Louisiana public schools were proficient or better in reading, and only 23% were proficient or better in math.

Students taking the NAEP reading and math tests can reach three different grade-specific “achievement levels.” The first is “NAEP Basic,” which is described as “denoting partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade level assessed.” The second is “NAEP Proficient,” which is described as demonstrating “competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.” The third is “NAEP Advanced,” which is described as “denoting superior performance at each grade assessed.”

In the District of Columbia public schools in 2019, 42% of the eighth graders did not reach any of these achievement levels in reading. They scored below NAEP Basic. That means they did not have even a “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work” at that grade level.

Another 35% of the district’s eighth graders managed to reach only NAEP Basic in reading.

Similarly, 45% of the district’s eighth graders scored below NAEP Basic in math, and 32% scored at NAEP Basic.

Nationwide in 2019, only 32% of eighth graders in public schools scored at or above proficient in reading, and only 33% scored at or above proficient in math.

Does that make you want to send your child to a public school?

Does it give you confidence this nation’s government-run schools are teaching young Americans to be thoughtful and well-informed citizens?

American Catholic schools, according to the NAEP results, do far better than government-run schools in teaching students reading and math.

In 2019, while only 32% of public school eighth graders were proficient or better in reading, 48% of Catholic school eighth graders were proficient or better in reading.

While only 33% of public school eighth graders were proficient or better in math, 44% of Catholic school eighth graders were proficient or better in math.

There is an obvious solution to the widespread inferiority of American public schools: Give every parent a voucher worth the amount of money the local public school district spends per pupil, and let that parent use that voucher to send their child to the school of their choice.

If that means many public schools will shrivel and die, so be it.


The Left’s Vicious Attacks on Nick Sandmann Follow Him to College

Nicholas Sandmann, the Catholic high school student who recently settled defamation lawsuits against CNN and the Washington Post, is again in the crosshairs of the Left as he prepares to enter college.

In a vivid display of the degree to which the Left — this time those embedded in academia — will mercilessly hound anyone they do not like (particularly someone who has successfully challenged them), members and alumni of Kentucky’s Transylvania University, a school which has admitted Sandmann, publicly are talking about him as if he were a Manchurian Candidate on a mission to destroy the university. He is being called a dangerous “provocateur in training” and a troublemaker because he likely will disrupt classes by daring to question their teachings.

Avery Tompkins, a professor at Transylvania and one of its “diversity scholars,” criticized Sandmann for belonging to groups that hold “anti-intellectualist views.” Media reports quoting the professor did not clarify which groups she considers to be “anti-intellectualist” or what she believes the term means. Her dislike for Sandmann was echoed by Samuel Crankshaw who is an alumnus of the University and a communications official with the ACLU. Crankshaw labeled Transylvania’s decision to admit the young “provocateur” a “stain” on the institution.

Compare the manner by which the media and academia are treating Sandmann with the fawning praise they lavished on another high school student who found himself in the media spotlight — David Hogg, one of the students who survived the 2018 mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Florida.

Unlike Sandmann, who comports himself publicly with quiet reserve, Hogg became the Left’s foul-mouthed poster child for gun control immediately following his ordeal. He has relished his role as a belligerent gun control activist — a committed “provocateur” if you will — and was accepted at Harvard University.

The contrasting way these two young men have been treated by academia illustrates with disturbing clarity the distance by which America’s higher education system has strayed from how it was considered by our Founders.

When founding the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson highlighted the institution’s purpose as one “based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind” because its students would be “not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.” Jefferson’s vision reflects the fundamental purpose of classical, higher education as a free and unfettered exploration of knowledge, ideas, and human interaction. Yet, as any conservative student like Sandmann can attest today, this ideal is no longer to be found on many, if not most college campuses from New England to the Pacific Northwest. Such institutions now are but a hollow shell of Jefferson’s ideal.

As the so-called educators at Transylvania demonstrate, higher education today is less about intellectual exploration bound only by the “illimitable freedom of the human mind,” than it is forcing students into an environment rigidly confined by speech codes, social behavior standards, and reeducation programs. Fear of truth, not the courage to search for it, has become the guiding principle in America’s once prestigious collegiate institutions.

The institutional bias against students like Sandmann represents the heightened challenges conservative students face today, both in applying to and attending many universities and colleges. By contrast, students either devoid of clear philosophical or political leanings, or whose views are in accord with leftwing campus orthodoxy, have nothing to fear by voicing their opinions, no matter how absurd or extreme.

Conservative students and faculty, however, often find themselves needing help from organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in order to fight back against punitive and even illegal viewpoint discrimination by left-wing tenured professors and university administrators. These so-called “educators” genuinely fear incoming students like Sandmann, because such “provocateurs” might actually challenge their leftist philosophy and force them to articulate a meaningful defense.

For decades, the Left has been working to transform college campuses from places where actual ideas are openly debated and truth genuinely sought, into reeducation camps where debate is hollow (if allowed at all) and the search for truth assiduously avoided. For the sake of Thomas Jefferson’s noble ideals, and for Nick Sandmann’s personal and intellectual survival, this drive to intellectual idiocy must be resisted.


Eliminate or Radically Restructure Federal Student Loans

A recent defense of student loans by Jason Delisle of the American Enterprise Institute is, uncharacteristically for him, off-base. He defends the federal student loan program, which he correctly notes is criticized by those on the left (“college should be free”) as well as on the right (“student loan programs have raised the price of education”).

Delisle cites research showing that students borrowing aggressively tend to get better grades, graduate more successfully from college, and get better jobs, promoting not only their own well-being, but that of society.

While in a longer essay I probably would disagree somewhat as to the reliability of the research that Delisle cites, my much more important point is that Delisle does not see the forest for the trees.

Specifically, he ignores a fundamental problem that student loans have helped create: Too many people are getting overly expensive college degrees, while many others drop out before degree completion or end up underemployed, doing jobs historically done quite competently by high school graduates.

Do you really need a college degree to drive a taxi or be a bartender? Many doing those things today have degrees. Are taxi rides faster and safer, or drinks tastier because they are mixed by college graduates? I think not.

A student taking a solid course in the principles of economics by the third or fourth week, if not earlier, should be able to manipulate demand curves to discover that federal student loan programs serve to increase college attendance, one of their goals.

When federal student loans are readily available, the number of students wanting to go to college rises (demand for higher education increases), pushing up both price (college tuition fees) and attendance. If the demand increase induces a supply response, that would increase enrollments even more. The proportion of adult Americans with bachelor’s degrees has more than tripled since 1970, when federal student loan programs were in their infancy.

The Impact of Federal Student Loan Expansion

Six facts seem relevant to the half-century of rapid student loan expansion:

First, as just stated, a much larger proportion of adults have degrees in 2020 than in 1970, although the cost of them has soared dramatically.

Second, the proportion of recent graduates from the bottom quartile of the income distribution (“the poor”) has declined somewhat over time.

Third, despite having a much larger proportion of college graduates, the rate of American economic growth has fallen substantially. Having more college graduates has not enhanced human enrichment.

Fourth, income inequality in the U.S. has risen, perhaps enhancing the popularity of the Sanders/Warren brand of politician that arguably is a threat to the capitalistic foundations of the nation that has provided so much prosperity.

Fifth, partly financed by higher tuition fees made possible because of student loans, American universities have become profoundly more ideologically uniform, disdainful of intellectual diversity, and dismissive of free expression.

Sixth, loan-induced enrollment expansion has led to more genuinely unqualified students attending college, leading to declining academic standards and grade inflation that has led to reduced student work effort and performance.

The simultaneous occurrence of a number of things does not necessarily mean they are causally related, but my reading of statistical evidence suggests they are.

To cite one example, in modern times the American states spending the largest portion of personal income to finance public higher education have had, other factors held constant, relatively lower rates of economic growth. Similarly, I think it is no coincidence that states like California that support public higher education generously often have relatively high levels of income inequality, while ones like New Hampshire with lesser support tend to have lower levels (some empirical evidence is consistent with this observation).

Indeed, American taxpayers arguably have created an anti-egalitarian academic aristocracy concentrated in elite private schools dependent on the federal government’s student loan program and other largess, including special tax benefits and outsized federal research grants.

And while Delisle seems eager to cite in some detail a few studies showing how student loans benefited recipients academically, he basically ignores discussing an impressive literature published by respected organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

That literature suggests that a majority of per-student federal loan assistance (probably about 60-65 percent) does not result in net additional financial support of college students. Instead, it increases the resources of colleges through higher tuition fees. Those fees have materially funded academic perversities such as vast administrative bureaucracies and, occasionally, large subsidies for ball-throwing competitions. The student gets a dollar more in student loans, but ends up paying 65 cents of that back to the university in higher fees.

Why Does the Student Loan Program Endure Despite Its Many Faults?

In spite of all the dysfunctional dimensions of federal student financial aid and attacks on the system from both the left and the right, why does the system persist with only minor modifications? Why is a system with so many deficiencies so popular politically?

Several concepts from public choice economics are relevant here—I will touch on four of them.

Concentrated Benefits and Disbursed Costs

Currently, perhaps 12 million Americans are either receiving student loan assistance or are college employees benefiting from the high tuition fees the programs permitted. However, another 320 million Americans are not direct beneficiaries and, indeed, shoulder some of the costs. But it is worse: The government usually claims the student loan program finances itself (and maybe even makes a profit). Recently, however, fiscal watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office have revealed that these programs impose real financial costs. A relatively small community of beneficiaries have powerful lobbies like the American Council of Education to pressure Congress to continue and expand these loan programs.

Rational Ignorance

Most Americans are simply ignorant of the costs of the student loan programs, but for good, rational reasons: the per-capita costs are not overwhelmingly large. Moreover, because of dishonesty in federal accounting (if it occurred in the private sector, it would lead to jail sentences for the perpetrators), those costs, such as those for loan “forbearance” and “forgiveness” programs, are largely hidden from the public.

The Short-Sightedness Effect

The policymakers creating student loan policies are politicians whose job security depends on getting re-elected—typically months or a few years in the future. They tend to favor policies that have short-run visible payoffs even if they impose greater long-run costs. Moreover, these costs are largely disguised.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Sometimes, actions have quite different effects than intended, and that is particularly true of student loans. The student loan programs were created in the 1960s and 1970s to expand access to higher education, especially for lower-income students. In reality, however, these programs led to much higher tuition fees. Since lower-income persons are more sensitive to the price of college, higher fees made college relatively less attractive to lower-income applicants, leading to the decline in their degree completion.

I think a strong case can made that the federal student loan program has led to unproductive overinvestment in higher education, lower academic standards, an explosion in costs, and a decline in low-income Americans on college campuses. Changing the system to make it work better will be extremely difficult.

In general, alternative modes of financing, such as privately funded income-share agreements, need to replace federal programs. Yet, given the important lobbying groups supporting the status quo, such change will be difficult to make. A gradual reduction in student loan eligibility, tightening lending standards, and raising academic standards could lead to improvements. But the chances of that happening appear relatively slim at the present.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Should We Quit Teaching Cursive in a Digital Age?

Forget Marx vs. Mises. You want to get a spirited debate going, ask pretty much anyone over the age of 8: Should kids still be taught cursive writing?

I posted this question to Facebook, and for the next hour or two, every time I checked in someone was busy typing a response. Which, I think, proves my side of the argument: These folks weren't penning flowing notes on scented paper. They were using the most dominant method of written communication today: keyboarding. When most of your life will be spent tapping keys, why bother to learn two different ways of writing with a pen or pencil?

Because it is super-important historically, physically, psychologically, therapeutically, and cognitively—that's why, said the pro-cursive folks. And as I talked to teachers, therapists, and education gurus, it started to seem to this cursive-challenged gal that perhaps they have a point.

One of script's biggest benefits, they said, is that because the letters are strung together, it makes reading and comprehending easier (yes, even though books are rendered in print).

"First graders who learned to write in cursive received higher scores in reading words and in spelling than a comparable group who learned to write in manuscript," reported researchers in Academic Therapy in 1976. This could be because when a kid isn't lifting his pencil all the time, the linked letters provide "kinesthetic feedback about the shape of the words as a whole, which is absent in manuscript writing."

The gains can go beyond mere reading and spelling to processing whole thoughts. "Kids that write in cursive don't just form words more easily, they also write better sentences," claim the folks at Scholastic.

Is it possible we've been so focused on print that—like a toddler's lowercase bs and ds—we got it all backward? At many Montessori schools, that is the belief. There, kids learn cursive as early as age 3—before they learn print, says Jesse McCarthy, host of The Montessori Education Podcast. Then, using a "movable alphabet" of script letters, "you'll have a 4-year-old on the ground and they're basically writing sentences."

Barbie Levin, an occupational therapist in public and private schools, told me she has seen cursive work almost as therapy for some kids with coordination problems, learning disorders, or cognitive limitations that make it hard for them to learn how to print. "When a fourth grader is referred to me with poor handwriting," says Levin, "I can't unravel the handwriting habits of five years. But if it's within their capabilities…I teach them cursive. It's a fresh start, instead of harping on something they've given up on, and they are learning rather than unlearning. Also, they feel motivated because even 'the smart kids' (who they've been unfavorably comparing themselves to for years) don't know how." Once her kids get the hang of script, she says, they often do better not just at classwork but even at things like tying shoes and buttoning buttons. It's a win all around.

Beyond that, says retired elementary school teacher Michele Yokell, who was teaching an after-school class in cursive right up until COVID-19 hit, script "is part of our history—our heritage." You don't want kids squinting at the Constitution as if it's in cuneiform.

Yet despite all these boons, cursive seems to be going the way of the IBM Selectric—and for the same reason. While script may wire the brain, connect to history, and come more naturally to many kids, digital print is winning.

Cursive is not required by the Common Core curriculum, though a few states have mandated it. And a survey of handwriting teachers by Zaner-Bloser, a cursive textbook publisher, found that only 37 percent of them write exclusively in script. Another 8 percent write only in print, while most—55 percent—use a print/script mashup.

As do I. But 99 percent of my writing time involves a keyboard. So, sure, give kids a chance to learn script if print is tough for them, or if they want to research anything older than Betty Crocker recipes. Or maybe teach script and skip print. But teaching two ways to write the same letters when a third way—tap tap tap—is the real skill everyone needs? That seems as wacky as writing a capital Q that looks like a 2.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Reopen America’s Schools

In late July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall,” which makes a clear and convincing argument that America’s students should return for in-person learning.

The report notes, “The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults. At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”

As of September 9, CDC data show that 377 Americans under the age of 24 have died from COVID-19. Although one death of a young person is tragic, we need to put this number into context. For instance, during the same period, far more American children have died from other causes, such as vehicle accidents.

In fact, as the CDC data show, a total of 35,642 Americans under the age of 24 have died from other causes during this period. The odds of an American under the age of 24 dying from COVID-19 is nearly zero.

Although many teachers unions argue that reopening schools will put teachers in jeopardy, the data, once again, tell a very different story.

According to the CDC report, “Based on current data, the rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially if proper precautions are followed. There have also been few reports of children being the primary source of COVID-19 transmission among family members. This is consistent with data from both virus and antibody testing, suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community.”

So, students are practically invulnerable to COVID-19. And they are not likely to spread it to adults. Yet schools remain closed throughout America.

As if that is not enough to warrant schools to reopen, perhaps we should consider the wide-ranging impacts of keeping schools closed, as the CDC report details.

“Educational Instruction”

“Extended school closure is harmful to children. It can lead to severe learning loss, and the need for in-person instruction is particularly important for students with heightened behavioral needs.”

“We also know that, for many students, long breaks from in-person education are harmful to student learning.”

“Disparities in educational outcomes caused by school closures are a particular concern for low-income and minority students and students with disabilities.”

“Social and Emotional Skill Development”

“Extended school closures are harmful to children’s development of social and emotional skills. Important social interactions that facilitate the development of critical social and emotional skills are greatly curtailed or limited when students are not physically in school.”

“Additionally, extended closures can be harmful to children’s mental health and can increase the likelihood that children engage in unhealthy behaviors.”

“In-person schooling provides children with access to a variety of mental health and social services, including speech language therapy, and physical or occupational therapy to help the physical, psychological, and academic well-being of the child.”

“Extended school closures deprive children who live in unsafe homes and neighborhoods of an important layer of protection from neglect as well as physical, sexual, and emotional maltreatment and abuse.”


“Extended school closures can be harmful to the nutritional health of children. Schools are essential to meeting the nutritional needs of children with many consuming up to half their daily calories at school.”

“Physical Activity”

“When schools are closed, children lose access to important opportunities for physical activity.”

“The loss of opportunities for physical activity from school closures, especially when coupled with potentially diminished nutrition, can be particularly harmful to children.”

As a former public school teacher, I can attest to the fact that children are much better off attending in-person classes than remote learning. During my teaching career, I had a few students who had to rely on remote-learning because of extenuating circumstances that prevented them from being present in the classroom. In almost every case, it was a monumental struggle for the remote learner to keep up with the pace of the class. In several cases, the student took an “incomplete” because he or she fell so far behind, simply could not keep up, and failed to pass tests and quizzes.

It is difficult to imagine the problems that remote learning would place on students, teachers, and parents, when implemented on a mass scale. I can credibly say, based on experience, that remote learning pales in comparison to in-person learning.

It would be a travesty to prevent millions of American students from attending in-person classes this fall. In fact, these students have already suffered enough, considering they were out of school for much of the spring term.

As the CDC report documents, there is little to gain by keeping America’s children at home for months more, however, there is a whole lot to lose. The saddest part is that the children will pay the ultimate price for this anti-science, anti-data decision to keep schools shuttered. I, for one, hope commonsense will prevail and schools will reopen ASAP.


Wisconsin Supreme Court Blocks Order Barring Schools From Opening

MADISON — In a stunning defeat to Dane County’s overreaching health director, the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear three lawsuits against Public Health Madison & Dane County and issued a preliminary injunction against the agency’s order barring in-person education.

The decision is a huge victory for Dane County’s private schools, forced to switch to an all-virtual learning model last month after the health department issued the 11th-hour order under the guise of COVID-19 concerns.

“It’s light in the darkness,” said attorney Joe Voiland. “I have been fighting these orders since May, and we finally have light in the darkness.”

Voiland, of Cedarburg-based Veterans Liberty Law, represents Sara Lindsey James, a single mother of two elementary students.

The order consolidates three petitions asking the court to take original jurisdiction, meaning the plaintiffs won’t have to seek rulings in lower courts first. And the Supreme Court’s briefing schedule keeps the preliminary injunction in place for the next couple of months before justices hear oral arguments.

There are strong signs that the health department will ultimately lose in its defense of the health order, which requires pre-K-12 students in 3rd grade and up to learn remotely for at least the first quarter of the school year. The decision by the conservative-led majority states the petitioners are “likely to succeed on the merits of their claim.”

“While reserving the remaining claims for later disposition, we conclude that local health officers do not appear to have statutory authority to do what the Order commands,” the court ruled.

“We are pleased the Court took swift action and agreed to review Dane County’s school closure order,” Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), said in a statement. “We are heartened that the Court concluded that our argument is likely to succeed on the merits and, for now, barred the closing of private schools. Our clients will be able to do what they do – educating children in Dane County.”

WILL filed an original action on August 26, on behalf of eight Dane County families, five private schools, School Choice Wisconsin Action, and the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools (WCRIS).

“All of WILL’s private school clients were planning on providing in-person instruction this fall and had invested significant resources into creating a safe environment for their students to return,” the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm stated.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi issued a statement warning of dire consequences.

“Public Health’s order prioritized the safety and well-being of kids, parents, teachers, and the communities they call home,” Parisi said. “Tonight’s order will jeopardize those goals and may lead to more illness and needless human suffering.”

St. Ambrose Academy in Madison also is suing Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich and the agency. The grades 6-12 Catholic school raised more than $100,000 to fight the order, and has enlisted the help of a top constitutional attorney, Misha Tseytin, former solicitor general for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, to lead the legal challenge.

The Supreme Court’s order notes that state law gives specific powers to the state Department of Health Services, including the authority to “close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics.” The powers entrusted to local health officers, however, are different.

“…(T)he legislature conspicuously omits the power to ‘close schools’ in its grant of authority to local health officers,” the majority wrote. The explicit power to “close schools” is statutorily absent.

Heinrich argues she is not closing schools, just preventing in-person instruction. But, as the court notes, this statute was drafted in 1923, so the most reasonable reading of what it means to “close schools” would seem to be to preventing in-person instruction, not just preventing learning generally.

Not surprisingly, the court’s three liberal justices dissented, standing with big government. Justice Rebecca Dallet argues the interference “with a local health officer’s ability to make difficult, health-based decisions pursuant to her statutory authority.” She decried the majority’s decision to take the cases and not allow a local circuit court judge to resolve a local dispute.”

Justice Rebecca G. Bradley begged to differ, writing that the “court removed nothing from any circuit court but instead exercises its constitutional authority to decide a case presenting significant issues of statewide importance.”

“This is exactly the type of case the people of Wisconsin elected us to decide,” Bradley wrote. “Declining to hear the case would amount to an abdication of the court’s institutional responsibilities constitutionally conferred on the state’s highest court.”

Voiland agreed the case has broader implications beyond the boundaries of Dane County.

“This is not simply about reopening schools in Madison. The case will be about what authority, if any, these health officers have,” the attorney said. “This is about making sure government power is in check.”


Professionalism to lift teaching status

Lifting teaching’s status can be achieved through embracing — rather than obstructing — market-based reform.

Australia’s education unions falsely blame alleged underfunding for the declining status of teaching, rather than failure to adopt the professionalism commonplace in other highly valued professions.

Any pretence that the source of teaching’s decline is low average rates of pay is debunked by evidence — as definitively shown in OECD data.

Instead, the fundamental problems are the flat pay structure — which has virtually no nexus with performance — and that this has made teaching unattractive to a generation of high-ability graduates.

Ultimately, the greatest threat to the status of the profession is its failure to embrace performance management — which undermines the efforts of hard-working teachers across the country.

Scathing government reports have repeatedly identified a lack of performance evaluation, few financial incentives for performance, and limited opportunities for career advancement.

But consistent, independent, and objective assessment of staff performance in the classroom will help teachers improve their craft, and ultimately deliver improvements in student achievement.

It’s also clear there’s a need to better attract, recruit, and retain high-ability teachers. But policy efforts have mistakenly imposed supply restrictions as the sole policy lever of choice.

These have included the blunt instruments of: tightening the eligibility to become a teacher (such as ATAR cut-offs and aptitude tests); increasing the hurdles needed to jump for accreditation (through compliance with additional professional standards); and requiring additional years of study and professional development to qualify for positions.

Rather than cutting the supply of teachers, policymakers should be expanding it. A wider pool of teaching applicants means schools — and the universities who admit prospective teachers — can be more selective in who they accept.

Reducing the barriers to entry for teaching — which currently prevent mid-career transitions and alternative on-the-job training pathways — will better target existing workforce challenges. More flexible pay structures can follow from more flexible teaching recruitment approaches.

All Australians will benefit from the education dollar being spent more wisely than persistent calls for more funding without accountability to match.

To genuinely address the declining status of teaching demands divorcing the profession from the anti-professionalism that holds back our educators.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Virtual learning fails children with disabilities

Schools across America have begun the 2020-2021 academic year, but approximately 67 percent of students in a snapshot of 19.6 million students in the 100 largest school districts in the U.S. are utilizing remote learning only to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Education Week.

Those children have not been to school in a physical setting since March in many cases, and the 7.1 million of children with disabilities who receive individualized, special education students may be the ones suffering the most.

If the Education Week snapshot is representative of the nation, that could mean as many as 4.8 million special education students have not been in a physical learning setting for about six months.

Now, Judith Sandalow, the executive director of Children’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. told American University Radio in an interview that these students are regressing: “Many children with special education needs are getting no education remotely.”

Sandalow explained, “One student we worked with had begun learning to speak, and since the pandemic has literally stopped speaking. And we’re seeing this over and over, where students are actually going backwards without the sustained support of teachers and therapists.”

Sandalow is absolutely right. And across the country, in school districts that are presently depending on distance learning, these kids are simply not getting what they need.

This matter strikes a personal note with my family, as my wife and I have a daughter who suffers from autism spectrum disorder. Last year, at just the age of two, she was enrolled in a northern Virginia public school for hands-on, special education for pre-K. It was just a few hours every day, but from September until March, the difference that was being made was incredible.

We would supplement her school curricula with visits to a local applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapist who specializes in assisting children with autism with the social, communication and other learning skills she needs so that by the time she is ready for kindergarten, she can at least function. She was just learning to talk. Finally.

And then the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. Now, she is most certainly regressing, and we fear it could take years to recover her development.

Quite simply, putting a three-year-old child with autism in front of a laptop to listen to her teacher who she desperately needs only talk to her on Zoom is completely inadequate. She needs more attention that only a physical setting can provide. As a stopgap, we’re using the ABA therapy and are looking for more hours now to fill in the gaps.

We know we’re not alone. We have spoken with our daughter’s teacher who says the school is ready to receive the students safely with precautions. Schools in northern Virginia and in states across the country are preparing the classrooms to protect staff with shields, distancing and personal protective equipment, and are weighing options to allow at least the special education students to return, even if the rest of the school remains closed for the time being in response to the pandemic.

In addition, the Trump administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education have all issued guidelines, resources and testimony for states to follow on how to safely reopen.

The sooner the better. Anecdotally, the schools at least in the northern Virginia region sound like they are ready to partially open, but the decision to reopen remains with the school systems at the county level and ultimately with the state, as in other states.

And I would say the same thing applies to all of the non-special education students. They’re not getting what they need either as the system suffers from connectivity issues, attendance problems and the burdens that homeschooling is placing on working families, with women disproportionately being knocked out of the workforce.

How long children are away from the classroom will have years-long impacts on their lives, development and future prosperity. Time is an essential factor here. A Brookings Institution study found that “the cost to the United States in future earnings of four months of lost education is $2.5 trillion—12.7 percent of annual GDP.” Now we are beyond four months of lost education.

Especially when one considers that there has never been an effective coronavirus vaccine produced, the schools may be closed in vain. Not for SARS. Not for MERS. Not for the common cold. And not for COVID-19 — yet.

While there are several candidate vaccines in development, it remains to be seen if any of them will be effective, calling into question what plan schools have in place to reopen should the vaccine fail. One hopes that millions of parents a few months from now when confronted with that potential reality are not left asking what we were waiting for.


A professor at Suffolk County Community College, New York, has been reassigned after she allegedly urged her students to vote against President Donald Trump

The 45-second selfie-video was posted on Facebook by Anthony Salvatore, who identifies himself as the father of a student at Suffolk County Community College. By the time of this publication, the video has generated some 1,400 comments and 3,400 shares.

“…for four years, cause that’s what people say, ‘Give him a chance, give him a chance.’ Well he’s had four freaking years of a chance and he’s done a crap job,” the professor can be heard saying in the video, which was allegedly taken by Salvatore’s daughter during an online humanities class. “He’s really ruining our country.”

She moves on to say Trump is taking away people’s rights and turning the country into a “dictatorship.”

“Many of you this may be the first time that you’re voting. I’m sorry it’s such a contentious situation that you’re being thrusted into,” she continues. “If any of you do still think Trump is a good person, I beg you to not only go into your heart’s center and think about this a little more, pull up all the stuff that he’s been doing to our country, taking away so many of our rights, he’s trying to turn this into more a dictatorship type of situation.”

“This is complete [explicit] and not what we are paying to send our kids to school for,” Salvatore wrote, adding that the professor has “no business telling these kids who to vote for.”

The professor’s remarks also came into attention of Rep. Lee Zeldin, whose congressional district includes the eastern Suffolk County.

“College instructor trying her best DURING CLASS to indoctrinate students to turn against POTUS & remove him from office,” the Republican congressman wrote on Twitter. “This is wrong on many levels & gives our teachers a very bad name. Our classrooms should be a place for free thinking not indoctrination!”

“Suffolk County Community College is aware of a video posted to Facebook allegedly containing 45 seconds of audio from a 1 hour and 15 minute online class,” reads a statement from a college spokesperson. “Pending an investigation of the content and context of that video, we have reassigned the faculty member involved in the video. Suffolk County Community College encourages any open and diverse discussion and exchange of ideas. The College does not, however, condone electioneering by faculty in the classroom.”


Another Public School Distributed BLM Handout Comparing Law Enforcement to Slave Owners, the KKK

The left's not very original. Anything they don't like is either Hitler or the KKK: ICE, Republicans, cops, the founding fathers -- you name it. So it's no surprise that a public school teacher in Westlake, New York kicked off the first day of class by distributing a handout on the Black Lives Matter movement that compares cops and sheriff's deputies to klansmen and slave owners.

The disgusting propaganda featured a five-frame cartoon panel that began with a depiction of a slave owner placing his knees on the back of a shackled slave, The New York Post reported. As the frames progress, the slave owner is replaced by a member of the KKK and then, finally, a sheriff's deputy and a police officer.

(Via The Post)

“My daughter showed me the paper. I said, `What is this?! You’ve got to be kidding me!’ ” said Westlake mom Ania Paternostro. “This cartoon compares the police to the KKK. It’s an attack on the police.”

The mother said she immediately fired off letters of protest to Mount Pleasant School District Superintendent Kurt Kotes and Westlake Principal Keith Schenker, whose school is in the district.

“Enough is enough,” Paternostro told The Post. “This cartoon is disturbing. We have to respect the men in blue who protect us,” added the mom of two, a native of Poland. “We don’t need a teacher brainwashing my kids. I’ll teach my kids about what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Her daughter Nicole said she was troubled by Moreno’s lesson plan because she considered it one-sided and anti-police, too.

“The cartoon was disgusting,’’ the teen said. “It compared the police with all the terrible people in history. It was not fair. It wasn’t right.’’

Nicole said she has been bullied on social media over the past few days and called a racist for blowing the whistle on the controversial lesson plan.

Mount Pleasant School District Superintendent Kurt Kotes has promised a "thorough investigation" of the incident.

Local law enforcement is understandably not very happy about the lesson plan, and Republican Rob Astorino, a candidate for state senate in the district, told The Post, "Our schools should be a place for the open exchange of ideas, not political indoctrination. The false narratives and brainwashing has to stop."

The same cartoon was reportedly distributed to eight graders in Texas weeks earlier.

The first step in condoning violence against one's enemies is to dehumanize and demonize your opponents, thus the constant comparisons to the KKK and Hitler.

Maybe closing the public schools over the coronavirus wasn't the worst idea.


Australia: Students struggle as review finds writing skills neglected in NSW government high schools

A sweeping review of the teaching of writing in NSW schools found it has been widely neglected in the secondary years, leaving thousands of students struggling with crucial skills such as writing clear sentences or expressing complex ideas.

The review, commissioned by the NSW Education Standards Authority, found educators lacked knowledge, skills and confidence in teaching writing, as well as training and resources that could help them. Over recent decades, writing had been "forgotten" amid a strong public policy focus on reading, the report said.

Almost a decade's worth of NAPLAN data shows high school students struggle with writing more than with reading or numeracy. But without those skills, they "struggle to show what they know, and their learning remains untapped or unseen", the report said.

The report found year 9 students in NSW in 2019 were the equivalent of five months behind the level of year 9 students in 2011. On average, one in six of those students was below the minimum standard required to succeed in their final years of school. That compared with one in 20 below the standard in reading and in numeracy.

"The minimum standard isn't high to begin with," said education consultant Peter Goss.

NAPLAN writing assesses how students develop and structure a piece of writing, as well as how they structure a sentence and use punctuation, paragraphing and spelling.

The decline in writing has been more pronounced for advantaged students, whose parents are educated, than their disadvantaged peers, Dr Goss's analysis showed. Boys are twice as likely to be at or below minimum standard by year 9 than girls.

The Thematic Review of Writing, handed to NESA in mid-2018 and obtained by the Herald, found a focus on writing at primary level was followed by "a significant decrease in teaching writing in the early years of high school" across all three sectors.

In primary school, the class teacher teaches writing, but in high school it is shared across disciplines so no single teacher is responsible.

"It is core business in [kindergarten] to years three or four, but then you look at what the teachers self-report to us … the attention shifts away from the explicit teaching of writing," said lead author Claire Wyatt-Smith from the Australian Catholic University.

Research has shown that writing ability in year 9 is a strong indicator of success in year 12.

While there has been controversy over the quality of the NAPLAN writing test — including a recent high-level review that called for it to be redesigned — the report said it was a "reliable indicator for some key elements of student writing ability".

"Strident claims that NAPLAN assesses all the wrong things about writing have been unhelpful, and have likely done a disservice to teachers looking to improve their writing instruction," the report said.

Jenny Donovan, director of the newly established National Evidence Institute for education, said writing skills not only enabled students to demonstrate their knowledge but also involved a cognitive process that enhanced their learning.

"Like reading, writing is not a naturally acquired skill," she said. "It must be formally taught, not caught, and practised. As students progress through schooling, their writing needs to become more complex, so their instruction in how to write needs to be correspondingly more complex."

NESA chief executive Paul Martin said the review was commissioned in response to data showing NSW writing performance had been static since 2011, "with a marked decline consistently evident as students move through the junior secondary years".

NESA endorsed all six of the report's recommendations, including that it declare writing a priority area, improve the quality of teacher training in writing, develop requirements for teaching degrees, strengthen writing content in syllabuses and create resources that give teachers clear guidance.

Changes will be incorporated into the new curriculum. The first step is "a K-2 curriculum that makes explicit oral language development, early reading and writing skills and early mathematics skills, particularly for children who are less advanced in these areas," said Mr Martin.

Peter Knapp, an education consultant whose doctorate is in the teaching of writing, said it was a complex process that required extensive knowledge and experience, which teachers were not being given at university or during their years in the classroom.

Unclear policy and confusing standards also made it more difficult, he said. "Our national and state curriculum documents lack any real precision on how writing should be taught," he said.

"They constantly seem to be under review to change, re-orient and re-direct so that teachers, in all honesty, will have difficulty knowing what needs to be done, and there is a view that the changes will make no substantive difference."


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

We must take appropriate measures that allow kids to get back to school

Rand Paul

Labor Day has passed, and in most years, the entire country would now be back to school. Kids would be learning, catching up with old friends, and swapping stories from the summer. Teachers would have decorated and readied themselves for a year of struggles and smiles, learning and community.

Traffic is always heaviest this time of year, because of school buses full of kids, and parents going to work, returning from summer vacations.

But in far too many places, including much of Kentucky, this is not the reality. There are no buses, no kids in classrooms, and few smiles.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve been admonished for months by nags in the media to “follow the science.” What they mean, of course, is the science that fits their preconceived notions.

What if the science tells us that school-age children get COVID less often, transmit it less, and have fewer severe cases? What if the science tells us the mortality rate for those under 18 is 1 in a million, or far less than the seasonal flu?

What if the science — from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to the schools that have already re-opened and can provide data — tells us that it is better, safer, and smarter to have our kids at school?

Thales Academy in Raleigh, N.C., is a charter school system with multiple campuses and nearly 6,000 students, teachers, and staff. They reopened on schedule in July and are in their 8th week of in-person instruction. They have three cases of COVID among the 6,000 people. None were contracted in school, and no one who got sick spread it within the school.

Fairfax Christian School is an oasis among closed schools in the D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia. Every single surrounding school fearfully closed to in-person learning. FCS and their 400 students and staff have been back on campus five days per week in person for three weeks, with no COVID cases.

Both of these schools share some ideas — they socially distance as much as possible, including not changing classrooms as often and having lunch in their classroom instead of a cafeteria. They temperature check and health quiz every child, every day. They have remote learning enabled to make it easier for sick kids to stay home and still learn.

These are all things that could be replicated, if the government were able to run things properly and make good decisions based on data.

In my home state of Kentucky, Christian Academy of Louisville has reopened for its 2,000-plus students, with remarkably similar results — only one current, school-based case and quarantine.

We are also seeing that while there are many positive cases as colleges return, even that age group is remaining resilient against the disease itself — out of nearly 15,000 positive cases for returning college students, there have been exactly zero hospitalizations.

Let me state clearly: I am not denying this disease is bad. I had it. I have friends and family who had it. I went to my local hospital to volunteer to treat very sick patients who had it, some of whom died. Many Americans have lost their battles with this and lost their lives. We should take it seriously.

But we should take the rest of our society seriously, too, and take appropriate measures that allow us to get back to school, to work, and to resurrecting our economy.

Every closed school puts at-risk kids more at risk.

Every closed school that is closed out of fear and not reality is a tragedy we should avoid.


More Than 10,000 Academics and Scholars Sign 'The Philadelphia Statement' Against Cancel Culture

There is an organized and growing effort to push back against the cancel culture on college campuses. Thousands of conservative and libertarian scholars and academics are standing up and issuing a ringing endorsement of academic freedom.

It’s called “The Philadelphia Statement on Civil Discourse and the Strengthening of Liberal Democracy” and has been signed by such luminaries as Robert George, Christina Hoff Sommers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and more.

The statement embodies concepts that all can embrace — at least, those whose minds haven’t been poisoned by the radical left.

Tragically, we are losing these defining features of our democracy. Common decency and free speech are being dismantled through the stigmatizing practice of blacklisting ideological opponents, which has taken on the conspicuous form of “hate” labeling. Responsible organizations are castigated as “hate groups.” Honest people of good faith are branded “hate agents.” Even mainstream ideas are marginalized as “hate speech.” This threatens our ability to listen, discuss, debate, and grow.

Blacklisting is spreading. Corporations are enacting “hate-speech” policies to protect people from “wrong” and “harmful” content. Similarly, colleges and universities are imposing speech regulations to make students “safe,” not from physical harm, but from challenges to campus orthodoxy. These policies and regulations assume that we as citizens are unable to think for ourselves and to make independent judgments. Instead of teaching us to engage, they foster conformism (“groupthink”) and train us to respond to intellectual challenges with one or another form of censorship.

This is the country we are well on our way to becoming. But is that really the way it should be?

We must ask ourselves: Is this the country we want? Surely not. We want—and to be true to ourselves we need—to be a nation in which we and our fellow citizens of many different faiths, philosophies, and persuasions can speak their minds and honor their deepest convictions without fear of punishment and retaliation.

Indeed, that fear has driven people to practice self-censorship rather than run afoul of the mob.

A society that lacks comity and allows people to be shamed or intimidated into self-censorship of their ideas and considered judgments will not survive for long. As Americans, we desire a flourishing, open marketplace of ideas, knowing that it is the fairest and most effective way to separate falsehood from truth. Accordingly, dissenting and unpopular voices—be they of the left or the right—must be afforded the opportunity to be heard. They have often guided our society toward more just positions, which is why Frederick Douglass said freedom of speech is the “great moral renovator of society and government.”

These are all noble sentiments and it’s gratifying to see so many stand up for free expression. But the statement falls short in offering a way forward. Right now, it’s an all-out war between the right and left. There is a bright, red line between the two ideologies with no room for nuance or any kind of negotiations. It’s kill or be killed and no quarter is asked or given.

In truth, society has lacked “comity” for decades. Professional agitators on both sides know what buttons to push to start a Twitter scrum or a social media meltdown by framing an issue so provocatively as to provoke anger, fear, or even hate. How can reasonableness and logic break through and begin to turn around the death spiral that American democracy is experiencing now?

It will take leadership at all levels of society, especially in the schools where children are being taught to hate those who disagree with them as being “evil.” Given how entrenched liberal academia is in the educational system, it will be a long slow process to change it.


Trigger Warning: The American Flag is 'Sensitive Content' at Baylor University In Texas

Every September 11, the Young Conservatives of Texas place a flag memorial in a prominent place on campus as a way to remember the victims of 9/11.

But this year, the YCT ran afoul of the mob who forced school authorities to place a warning sign in front of the display.  The sign cautioned the easily triggered of “sensitive” content.

Daily Caller:

“The Young Conservatives of Texas at Baylor are highly disappointed in Baylor’s conduct in this matter. We have consistently proven that we are dedicated to conducting a respectful and apolitical 9/11 memorial and have never even asked to put our name with this event,” Baylor YCT Chair Jake Neidert told the DCNF.

“At the end of the day, Young Conservatives of Texas stands for Principles over Party, and today Baylor made a 9/11 memorial out to be a sensitive partisan and political event. Memorializing 9/11 isn’t political or sensitive, it’s distinctly American,” Neidert added.

Ah, my precious children. The fact that it’s “American” is the reason it’s “sensitive.”

I’ve never been able to understand the mindset that simply seeing the American flag or anything “American” should trigger anyone. It’s simple-minded to be triggered in the first place and we should expect more from people attending an institution of higher learning.

Of course, no one is “triggered” in the sense that they become emotionally crippled. But it’s trendy and hip to say you’re triggered. And if mommy and daddy are paying more than $60,000 a year at the top end to send you to be “educated,” school officials will facilitate your trendiness and hipsterness and give you what you want.

Meanwhile, the university pled ignorance.

“Baylor University fully supports the 9/11 display of American flags depicting the thousands of lives lost as a result of the attacks that took place 19 years ago,” Baylor told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Out of reverence for the exhibit of flags and in knowing that its moving symbolism could evoke a wide range of emotions, signage was placed near the display notifying those who passed by of its potential impact.”

“We regret that the signage we used has taken away from the intent of the display and apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused,” the statement continued.

Are they scared they’ll get sued by some snowflake because they got emotional seeing the display and thinking about 9/11? Earth to Baylor: The whole point of the display was to evoke an emotional response. And yet, any such response is ruined by the jarring “warning label” that the officials unnecessarily erected.

If someone is so sensitive that they could be emotionally injured by a display of American flags, they need to be institutionalized.


Students at Expensive, Private Skidmore College Demand Art Professor Be Fired For Watching Pro-Cop Demonstration

An art professor at Skidmore College in upstate New York wanted to see how the unrest in America is affecting his community. So he attended a “Back the Blue” rally to see what was happening. He didn’t go to the rally as a participant. He went as an observer. He was there for about 20 minutes.

“Given the painful events that continue to unfold across this nation, I guess we just felt compelled to see first-hand how all of this was playing out in our own community,” the professor said.

But do you think that mattered to the mob now calling for his head?

The art professor, David Peterson, was apparently observed at the rally, which immediately triggered the triggerable snowflakes. They demanded he be fired for “engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students.”

“The Petersons weren’t wearing pro-police T-shirts,” notes Churchill. “They weren’t carrying a banner, holding a sign or waving a black-and-blue flag. They appear to just be listening. But merely listening to an opinion that some Skidmore students find objectionable is apparently enough to get a professor in hot water.”

See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil, right?

Students have circulated their demands on social media, and even taped a note to the door of Peterson’s classroom advising his students that they are “crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson.” Peterson has attempted to make it clear that his presence at the rally did not constitute an endorsement of it; this matters very little to the students. An opinion piece in the student newspaper included his explanation, but still accused him of failing to “reconcile with his behavior.” That piece also claimed that “there have been many claims of Mr. Peterson making students of color and queer students feel uncomfortable and unheard in his art classes prior to this,” but did not elaborate.

“I still have no indication of how [David and Andrea Peterson] plan to take accountability for their actions and make their classrooms a safe space for our communities of color,” wrote the student.

Peterson’s wife Andrea is not employed by the university. But in the game of “guilt by association,” she immediately becomes suspected of harboring racist views. And being suspected of wrong-think is as bad as actually thinking “wrong.”

Will no one stand up for Professor Peterson? Will no one defend his right to hold any views he wishes? Certainly not the president of the college, Marc C. Connor.

We are in conversation with Saratoga Springs city leadership to learn more about the events and how we can support our entire community. Skidmore College is steadfast in our support for peaceful gathering, peaceful protest, the right to hold and express different views, and the safety of all members of our community. In these challenging times, we all need to work in partnership to preserve these fundamental principles while pursuing fair and just treatment of all members of our community.

Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is firm and we will continue to articulate and uphold those values. In addition, I have been very clear about my and the College’s commitment to the principle that Black Lives Matter. This is consistent with our core values as a higher education institution, and we will continue to assert that commitment in all our actions.

Connor is all for “the right to hold and express different views” as long as those views don’t run afoul of the mob. Otherwise…not so much.

The cost to attend Skidmore College was more than $53,000 per year in the 2018/19 academic year for its 2600 students.

I fear that sometime in the very near future, being perceived as insufficiently enthusiastic about racial justice or fighting “fascism” will lead to being canceled. To be accused of making his classroom “unsafe” for people of color because he observed a rally in support of anything tells us we’re getting close to peak stupidity on campus.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Chitchatting in the age of Zoom

I value, and miss, nondirected conversations. A lot of good ideas can come from them. But how do you replicate them in a videoconference?

It was 9:27 a.m., three minutes until the Monitor-wide, daily Zoom meeting. I’d been trying to log in early to these, hoping to promote the kind of nondirected conversation (read: “chitchat”) that can be so valuable and yet is so lacking in this work-from-home era.

The first few people to come online for a teleconference feel free to greet and talk with one another. As more people join, the conversation slows. By the time the 12th or 13th person arrives, talk ceases. Instead we stare into one another’s eyes from our bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms until the meeting host arrives.

I value, and miss, nondirected conversations. A lot of good ideas can come from them. They strengthen friendships and build teams. As editor of the Monitor Weekly, I chose to hand-deliver copies of the magazine to my colleagues in the newsroom when the box of issues arrived. Sometimes I’d be placing a magazine on an empty desk. But sometimes it was an occasion to compliment writers on their stories, talk with people with whom I didn’t usually interact, or even stop and – if it seemed OK to interrupt – ask how it was going, what they were up to. Sometimes I’d float an idea: “What if we used the inside front and back covers of the Weekly to create a poster?” “What do you think about maybe bringing back the  Op-Ed section?” “What if we did an entire issue as a comic book?” (Don’t worry: I realized the folly of that one as soon as I heard myself say it out loud.) Communication is so deliberate now.

My eldest son works in business development for a global entrepreneur. He has a remote team – made even more so now, with no one in his office. I asked him how he handles chitchat.

My son noted that he has more excuses to tack casual conversations onto regular one-on-one check-in calls. But when I pressed him he had a suggestion: You might try this team-building exercise I used when I led those long bike-camping trips, he said.

I logged into the Monitor’s daily Zoom meeting and waited. Three others joined me: an intern, a photographer, and a graphic designer. We started chatting. It was taking a while for others to show up. That’s because, one of us discovered, the meeting had been canceled. I suddenly had an idea. Before we go, I said, may I try something? “Rose, thorn, bud” is my son’s bike-trip exercise: Tell something you’re happy about (rose), something that bothers you (thorn), and something you’re looking forward to (bud).

After some cajoling on my part, we began. To all our surprise, three of us had the same thorn and rose: The thorn was the burden of living with the pandemic and all its uncertainty, restrictions, and frustration. And the rose? Being at home with spouses, children, parents. Two sides of the COVID-19 crisis loomed equally large in our minds. It was unexpected, reassuring, unifying.

And it’s why I’ve strengthened my resolve to show up at Zoom meetings just a little early. Even if it turns out there isn’t one.


Professors Speak Out About College Reopenings Amid Coronavirus

Universities and colleges are beginning to reopen for some in-person classes around the U.S., despite fears and concerns from students, professors, and staff about the risks of doing so.

The University of Florida in Gainesville, one of the largest single-site college campuses in the U.S. with around 54,000 enrolled students, is set to begin in-person classes August 31.

“There’s no requirement to be tested for students. They take their temperature, and fill out a questionnaire which asks if they’ve been exposed, which is purely voluntary,” said Steve Kirn, a retired business professor and current acting chair of the United Faculty of Florida-UF, which has called on colleges and universities in Florida to transition to remote learning for the fall.

Kirn also noted that the school’s coronavirus tracking system doesn’t date reported cases, but only the totals since the pandemic began.

“We’re very concerned with the high infection rates, limited classroom capacity, and making sure everyone is as safe as possible. This is why we’ve advocated for 100 percent remote learning. We realize we’re not likely to get that, but we’re going to push as hard as we can because we feel people’s lives are at stake,” said Paul Ortiz, UFF-UF president and professor of history at the University of Florida. “We have over 50,000 students in a town just over 100,000 people. I get calls and emails every day from people in surrounding neighborhoods worried about the reopening and the impact it will have on the community.”

More from Michael Sainato

A UF spokesperson said in an email that the school has instituted police party patrols to prevent large gatherings, issued a mask mandate for students and faculty, and is conducting contact tracing and testing on campus. Students may face sanctions or disciplinary measures for noncompliance.

In July 2020, the Trump administration pressured universities and colleges to reopen in the fall. Since reopenings began this month, several schools have already shut down or changed their plans in response to outbreaks.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shut down campus in response to outbreaks after its first week of reopening. Notre Dame suspended in-person classes for two weeks after initially reopening. Michigan State reversed course to full online learning after reports of outbreaks at other universities. After a rise in cases on campus, Butler University ordered students to shelter in place and conduct classes online for two weeks.

Other outbreaks have been reported at Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama, University of Dayton, University of Miami, Radford University, North Carolina State University, and several other campuses. Critics have charged that some campuses pushed to reopen to ensure they would get student tuition for the fall semester. Students have subsequently demanded tuition cuts after classes went online.

As other universities and colleges begin to reopen campuses in the coming weeks, professors have been protesting their schools’ reopening plans, frustrated with the lack of safety protections and support for online teaching.

“Onondaga County has a 0.6 percent infection rate. We’ve been very lucky and the question is what’s this moving petri dish of students going to do. That’s a real concern to us,” said Deborah Pellow, an anthropology professor at Syracuse University. “If only they bothered to ask us what we thought and if only, frankly, more energy had been put into organizing virtual classes for the faculty.


AZ: Student group slammed for raising money for Kenosha shooter

A Republican student group at Arizona State University is receiving backlash for donating money to the 17-year-old gunman who fatally shot two protesters in Wisconsin.

College Republicans United announced this week that half of any funds they raise during the semester will go toward paying for the legal defense of Kyle Rittenhouse.

“He does not deserve to have his entire life destroyed because of the actions of violent anarchists during a lawless riot,” the group said in a tweet.

In a statement Saturday night, the ASU College Republicans denounced College Republicans United “radical, far-right extremist group.”

Authorities in Kenosha, Wisconsin, say Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and severely wounded a third with an AR-15 rifle Tuesday. The victims were part of anti-racism demonstrations occurring in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, who is Black, by a white police officer.

Blake, who was shot seven times, remains hospitalized.

Rittenhouse told police he was trying to protect businesses and people and acted in self-defense. At a hearing Friday, a judge postponed a decision on whether Rittenhouse, who is in custody in Illinois, should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges, including first-degree intentional homicide.

ASU officials said in a statement the school cannot prohibit a group from fundraising. But the school does not endorse the fundraiser.

The group is not the only one raising money for Rittenhouse. A self-described Christian fundraising site, GiveSendGo, says it is too


LA County Public Health Director Said the Quiet Part Out Loud About Reopening Schools

We know Democrats have weaponized the coronavirus against President Trump, but sacrificing the education and development of school children to hurt the president's re-election chances -- that's just sick. If Democrats were resorting to such depravity to oust their political foe, surely the Democrats know they could never admit to stooping so low. Well, it looks like Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer didn't get the memo to keep her mouth shut.

KFI News reporter Steve Gregory obtained a recording of Dr. Ferrer on a conference call with local health officials and school administrators. During the call, Dr. Ferrer says K-12 schools will not be allowed to reopen until after the election takes place. Sure, childhood development is important and all but, you know, orange man bad.

"So we don't realistically anticipate we will be moving to tier 2 or to reopening K-12 schools at least until after the election, after, you know, in early November," Dr. Ferrer said. "When we just look at the timing of everything it seems to us the more realistic approach to this would be to think that we're going to be where we are now until we get, until after we are done with the election."

Every time California schools appeared on the path of reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom overhauled the rulebook. Most recently, the governor has announced a coloring system by which each county is assigned a color representing various rules and restrictions placed on schools, businesses, and people's freedoms. According to Gavin's new system, schools are eligible for reopening fully for in-person instruction once the county has been in the color red, or tier 2, for 14 days.

But instead of reassuring parents that schools will reopen as quickly as they safely can, the goalpost for Dr. Ferrer is to use her position to disrupt everyone's life as much as possible until everyone is done voting. Not before the election will Dr. Ferrer even consider allowing things to return to normal.

It's not like we needed a confession from the Democrats to know what they've been up to. It's apparent to everyone with eyes. The Democrats want "life under Trump" to be as miserable as possible until election day is over. This is why Joe Biden, in early August, called for universal mask-wearing for three months. September, October, November -- oh, right up to the election!

When it comes to the lockdowns, even Biden knows not to say the quiet part out loud.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

State Department to require Chinese Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents

The U.S. State Department could move as early as Thursday to announce that Chinese “Confucius institutes” will be required to register as foreign agents, Bloomberg reported.

Confucius institutes are Chinese government-funded centers on college campuses in the U.S. and throughout the world, whose stated aim is to promote knowledge of Chinese language and culture. However, U.S. agencies and elected officials have warned that the institutes serve as propaganda centers used by China to project soft power abroad.

The State Department’s reported decision would label the institutes as “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign entity. Earlier this year, the State Department applied the same designation to various Chinese state media outlets, including the People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and China Global Television Network.

There are roughly 100 Confucius institutes currently operating in the U.S., some of which have closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The national leadership of U.S. college Republicans and Democrats have called for all such institutes to be closed, citing the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

The institutes are one aspect of what U.S. officials see as a Chinese campaign of influence at American universities. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee in May launched a probe of foreign funding at American universities, with ranking member Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) saying “We cannot allow a dangerous communist regime to buy access to our institutions of higher education, plain and simple.” A separate probe by the Department of Education has uncovered at least $6 billion in unreported donations to various universities from foreign governments.


University of Pittsburgh students required to take "Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance"

First-year Pitt students will be required to take an anti-racism course starting this fall.

The one-credit online course — Anti-Black Racism: History, Ideology, and Resistance — was created in the wake of the police killings and Black Lives Matter protests.

In a letter, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher says Pitt offers “tangible benefits to the places we call home,” but “not all of our neighbors have benefited equally from our success.”

“In Pittsburgh, large racial and ethnic disparities persist in terms of family wealth, health and education. These divides are particularly daunting in the city’s historically Black neighborhoods. As an anchor institution, we have a commitment to connecting all of our neighbors—including those within our university’s shadow—to these opportunities,” he writes.

He says the university is taking steps towards creating a more inclusive campus environment, and creating the anti-racism course is one of those actions.

It will be mandatory for full-time first-year students. You can learn more about the course on Pitt’s website.


Homeschooling rate doubles as school satisfaction plummets (Foundation for Economic Education)


Restorative Justice Is Unfair to Students Who Want to Learn

Andrew Pollack, a parent whose daughter was shot in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School attack in Florida, spoke to the Republican National Convention on August 24 about the role that restorative justice played in causing local school leaders to ignore the frequent threats from the gunman. Pollack pointed to the fact that the Biden-Harris team promises in its pact with the Sanders group in the Democratic party to bring back restorative justice as a federally promoted practice.

This practice began in the criminal justice sector during the 1970s and emphasized reconciliation between victims and nonviolent offenders instead of punishment. The Obama administration started pushing for restorative justice practices in schools a decade ago in response to statistics showing that African-American and Hispanic students were suspended and expelled at higher rates than other students.

Rather than investigate specific school districts, the U.S. Department of Education concluded in 2011 that “statistically disparate results create a presumption of discrimination.” In a subsequent “Dear Colleague Letter,” the department discouraged school districts from “relying on suspensions and expulsions” to maintain safe school environments and urged them to develop “alternative disciplinary approaches such as restorative justice.”

This policy effectively institutionalized the notion that schools must sacrifice security to achieve equity, endangering students and teachers alike. St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is a case in point.

SPPS began limiting suspensions and expulsions and focused instead on what it considered teachers’ “inherent bias” in 2011. In collaboration with the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT), the district began using restorative justice practices in 2016 and expanded them two years later. One integral practice is the use of restorative “circles,” which are teacher-led meetings where students discuss how a student’s misbehavior has affected them and how to rectify it.

Over the next several years, violent incidents at SPPS made headlines, including brutal attacks on teachers, who feared retribution if they criticized the new discipline policies.

Despite such results, the union demanded continued expansion of restorative justice practices, including the hiring of a “a full-time circle keeper.” Yet it dropped the requirement that schools “identify an evidence-informed and/or research-based restorative practice model”—perhaps because such models are almost nonexistent.

Not only does none of SPPS’s annual restorative justice reports provide objective quantitative data to evaluate its programs’ effects on school safety, but such evaluations are rare for any school-district program. U.S. civil rights commissioner Michael Yaki admitted as much during the Obama administration. While he noted that “culture-specific interventions” such as restorative justice might very well help reduce racially disparate discipline rates, Yaki cautioned that “there is little evidence-based research today on how” to do so and that “the research is still too thin.”

There is still little evidence that restorative justice has mitigated racially disparate discipline rates, and the preponderance of credible research finds negative effects. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden has summarized the data from several large districts throughout the country showing that student achievement declines, teachers are discontented, and students feel unsafe at school.

Lenient interventions such as restorative justice circles may help improve behavior for some first-time, nonviolent students, but leniency toward repeated violent behavior puts everyone at risk. Just ask Pollack, who spoke at the Republican convention and is the co-author with Eden of Why Meadow Died. Pollack in the book blames not only the shooter, but also the Broward County school district’s restorative justice program and what he calls a “culture of pathological unaccountability.” Behavior “doesn’t magically get better,” Pollack points out, when you decide to “not punish mischief.” What happens is that matters “get worse for students and teachers” but “look better on paper for bureaucrats and activists.” This, in turn, leads to “a thousand tragedies a day” that we never learn of. And it means that troubled children just “slip through the cracks.”

In a perverse irony, many of the minority students whom restorative justice practices were supposed to help are actually at greater risk. Classrooms are more chaotic, and schools are more dangerous because students realize that teachers are virtually powerless to impose discipline. When students feel unsafe, they may shut down or act out—making a bad situation even worse.

Scary schools devoid of serious penalties for violent behavior are neither what students need nor what parents want for their children—no matter how many “healing circles” schools hold.


The university degrees that almost guarantee you a job, and the ones where you're wasting your fees

It may not be among the most prominent of our tertiary institutions - but Australian Catholic University has come out top in a new survey measuring how readily graduates find jobs.

The 2020 Graduate Outcomes Survey assessed students who finished their studies in 2017 from 79 different institutions.

The survey, which this year had the highest participation rate since it started in 2016, measures not only which institutions did best, but which degrees.

'Three years after graduation, there has been substantial improvement in full-time employment rates across universities so that all universities have full-time employment rates for undergraduates above 81 per cent,' the study said.

Twelve of the universities full-time employment rates increased by 20 per cent over the three-year period.

The courses with the highest employment rates mid-term are:

Medicine - 97.3 per cent
Engineering - 95.4 per cent
Computing and information systems - 92.9 per cent

The courses with the lowest employment rates short-term are:

Science and mathematics -  61.6 per cent
Agriculture and environment studies - 69.2 per cent
Health services and support - 73 per cent

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has the best employment rate for undergraduates three years after they finish university with 95.5 per cent of students now in full-time jobs.

Next came Australian National University and the nearby University of Canberra.

As well as graduates, ACU also took out the top spot for those who completed their postgraduate studies in 2017.

On the postgraduate score, ACU was top, followed by Federation University Australia and The University of Notre Dame Australia.

In terms of fields of study, medicine graduates performed best, with 97.3 of those with a medical degree being employed three years after completing their course.

Engineering fared almost as well at 96.3 per cent, while mathematics was the third best degree in terms of medium-term employability.

But it was not all good news for STEM graduates, with short-term employability - classed as those in work a year after graduation - being lowest for biology, science technology and general science and mathematics.

The survey found average pay for graduates had risen only marginally when accounting for inflation, from $67,000 in 2016 to $75,000 in 2020.