Friday, October 02, 2020

Forgiving Federal Student Loans Is a Horrible Idea

This is not the first time, nor probably the last, that I have given my views about forgiving federal student loans. It was a horrible idea when first proposed, and remains so today—perhaps more so than ever.

Before, discussing loan forgiveness, I repeat my longstanding opposition to the entire federal student loan program. It has dramatically raised the cost of college. My educated guess is that without that program for the last 50 years or so, tuition fees today would be about one-half of what they actually are. Federal student loans have contributed to the underemployment of college graduates accompanying the over-investment by the federal government in higher education programs. It has led to lower academic standards as manifested in grade inflation and other things reducing academic effort. It has enhanced the highly undesirable over-centralization of higher education decision-making in Washington, D.C. It has substantially funded a massive collegiate administrative bureaucracy that is anti-intellectual, anti-innovative, but profoundly rent-seeking and power and wealth maximizing.

But let’s turn to student loan forgiveness. Petitions are circulating with many signatures arguing that student loan forgiveness is great way to stimulate an economy suffering the ravages of Covid-19. Some $1.6 trillion in private household wealth will be created overnight, stimulating consumer spending, leading to lower unemployment. Politically, it is the kind of stimulus that might gain bipartisan support in an era of acute political paralysis characterized by a Congress that most Americans hold in contempt.

Why, then, do I object? First of all, forgiveness is simultaneously hideously unfair and promotes highly unproductive economic behavior. It is unfair to millions of law-abiding Americans who take their contractual obligations seriously, and who have paid back their student loans. They sacrificed to meet their legal obligations, while, with loan forgiveness, many others will be free of those obligations, some of whom were individuals living good lives and spending a lot rather than being frugal in order to meet their legal financial responsibilities.

In effect, loan forgiveness undermines the rule of law and core principles of free market capitalism. It says “contractual arrangements may be abrogated by the government.” It introduces uncertainty into governmental dealings with private individuals—will the government change the rules of the game? If so, when, how much, and to whose advantage?

Moreover, America has gone on an unprecedented debt binge, with the net national debt expected to pass 100% of annual output very shortly. Three major nations—Japan, Italy, and Greece—all have national debt to GDP ratios above 100 %, and all have undergone severe economic stagnation. Debt forgiveness reduces payments to the Treasury, increasing future budget deficits. The nation needs to go on a fiscal diet, not a binge.

Moreover, forgiveness would probably effectively emasculate future federal college lending. Who would ever repay a loan if the prospects are high for loan forgiveness? The notion of “free college” is madness, encouraging the greater use of resources for an inefficient area, higher education, where college graduates already are underemployed and where incremental students entering college would typically have poor prospects for success, unless we reduce already low standards of expected academic achievement still further.

Short of eliminating it, are there potential reforms that could improve the lending program? Sure. A case can be made to allow student loans to be dischargeable in bankruptcy. There should be a crackdown on persons who are serial loan borrowers for multiple graduate degrees, with an absolute maximum limit on total borrowing. Better yet: cut off student loans for students doing poorly academically—that is what universities themselves do with students on scholarships. Why not encourage private lending instead of government lending? Why not offer alternative ways of financing schooling, such as Income Share Agreements? Why not promote cheaper non-degree learning programs, perhaps offering financial assistance for them?

I must say I am not sanguine about the future. The Washingtonian perspective is “throw more money at the problem,” in this case by loan forgiveness or tuition subsidies that reward and promote inefficiency. The Democrats, if they take control, feel they owe favors to their allies in higher education, while the Republicans have lost much of their traditional concern about financial soundness and promotion of fiscal conservatism.


To Go to School in L.A.

“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier 2 or to reopening K-12 schools at least until after the election, in early November. When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now until we are done with the election.”

That was Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer, in a recent conference call to educators and school nurses. Director Ferrer did not outline the science behind keeping schools closed before November 3 and opening them after November 3. Parents and students might note that the key date is a political event, a national election, and has nothing to do with science. Unlike her predecessor, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Barbara Ferrer is not a medical doctor. Even so, the non-doctor might have cited the experience of Sweden, which did not shut down schools for students under the age of 16.

As Dave Lawler notes at Axios, Sweden’s school policy was based on the belief that “students faced little risk from coronavirus and far more from missing months of school,” and the risk to teachers was also “lower than many feared.” Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Demark shunned Sweden’s no-lockdown approach, but “health officials in Denmark and Norway came around to Sweden’s stance on schools.” The decision had nothing to do with any election or other political considerations, which seem to take priority in the United States.

In July, for example, Washington, DC, mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed that schools would be closed until at least November 6, three days after the presidential election. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci all warned of dire secondhand consequences if children are not brought back to school. Teacher unions, on the other hand, have threatened to strike if schools reopen, and that was a factor in Bowser’s decision. In the style of Barbara Ferrer, the mayor cited no scientific data that might justify the action.

As this confirms, politicians and health officials alike are playing politics with the pandemic, and it goes far beyond the schools.


Teachers Find Options in Pods

Krissy Rand has more than a decade of experience teaching special education to elementary school students, most recently in the Salem, Mass., public school district. She was disheartened to learn about her school’s Covid-19 fall guidelines. With no library or gym time, “you’re basically a prisoner in your classroom,” she says.

The 39-year-old Ms. Rand put out her résumé. Eight groups of families contacted her within three days. She now makes more money teaching six first-graders from six families in Wellesley, Mass. They are following their public school’s curriculum, and she’s added cooking, yoga and earth sciences, with lots of hands-on experiments. She loves that there is no administrative red tape, and no sitting through long meetings.

“It’s a teacher’s dream,” she says. “The day flies by.”

Long underpaid and underappreciated, teachers are finding more career options as demand for instructors for micro-schools, “parent-organized discovery sites” (pods) and charter schools continues to grow.

Companies that help teachers find unconventional jobs are springing up across the country, while those already in the business are seeing explosive growth. The families making these hires often keep their children in school, but use the teachers to supplement remote learning.

“The idea is that the teacher is at the center of the education,” says Joseph Connor, co-founder of SchoolHouse, which has seen teacher clients increase to over 300 around the country from about 20 since it started forming micro-schools in New York City in January.

The salaries can be higher: Depending on qualifications and experience, pod size and region, teachers can earn hourly rates starting at $40 in learning pods, ranging from a few hours a day to a full-time, five-day a week position, says Waine Tam, CEO of Selected, which has placed teachers in pods in 42 states.

The national average public school teacher salary for 2018-19 was $62,304, according to the National Education Association.

Pods are a divisive trend. NEA president Becky Pringle agrees that these new arrangements help teachers earn money. But she worries pods will damage a public-education system already reeling from budget cuts and struggling to fund Covid-19 safety measures. This could open the door for more inequity, segregation and unsafe workplaces, since pods are expensive and unregulated, she says.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, says while learning pods highlight the need for more smallgroup teaching in schools, they’re a “pandemic Band-Aid” instead of a long-term, viable career option.

What pods do offer is an option for teachers who are looking for a way out now, says Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators. His organization has had four times as many inquiries since Covid-19 from member teachers who want to resign or retire, mainly due to safety concerns and understaffing. He thinks these numbers will worsen as budget cuts steepen, experienced colleagues leave and more schools start requiring a return to in-person classes.

This all comes as many families have struggled to find satisfying educational alternatives. According to a national survey in July of 500 people by Echelon Insights, an Alexandria, Va., based research firm, 21% of parents said they planned to send their child to a different school or home-school this coming year and 19% were undecided.

Mick Miller, 25, has also gone in a new direction as a teacher since the pandemic. He was working as an outdoor educator in Portland, Ore. But he worried about the safety of leading large groups. Then one of his former colleagues, a former private-school teacher and outdoor-school director named Lesley Marshall, contacted him about an organization she started called PDX Education Collab, which has paired teachers with eight learning pods since the pandemic.

Mr. Miller now supervises remote learning for four third-graders in Portland and has created extra curricula in archaeology and history, his major in college.

“I’ve always wanted to do this sort of teaching,” he says. He’s assigned them projects like navigating imaginary worlds with a compass.

“I think this experience will make me a better teacher,” says Izzy Boone, 22, who couldn’t find a job teaching after she graduated from college last spring and is now working for a pod, crafting curricula for four different grades-pre-K, kindergarten, second and third-for eight students for $1,000 a week in Geneva, N.Y. It’s a lot of work, but she says she feels like she is making a difference. “I love seeing how eager they are to learn,” she says.

Newly certified in social studies, Becca Levy was in the final round of interviews for her dream job teaching high-needs students at a public school last March, when the New York City Department of Education instituted a hiring freeze.

Ms. Levy waited until late August, but with the freeze still in place, she submitted her résumé to Selected. Almost immediately, a family contacted her about supervising a learning pod. She now teaches six students, in grades 3, 4 and 7, core classes along with extras like Latin and sculpture, in one of the parents’ offices in Greenwich Village.

“I’m just really happy I have a job,” says Ms. Levy, 22, who is making about the same as she would have with a starting salary at a public school. Still, next year she hopes to get that dream job teaching high-needs students because it’s important to her to play a role in addressing inequities in education. “My goal is to get back there as soon as possible,” she says.


A Book with a Kernel of Truth—and a Grain Silo of Nonsense

Every so often, a leftist thinker breaks free from the orthodoxy to point out that policies favored by “progressives” can have adverse consequences. When that happens, it’s worth paying attention.

We have such an instance with the publication of The Cult of Smart by Fredrik deBoer, a writer and one-time academic whose work has appeared in leftist publications such as The New Republic and Jacobin.

He proudly proclaims his Marxism, saying that what all good Marxists want is a better, more equitable world. While he sees a lot to complain about—America still allows capitalism, after all—his particular target in the book is the way our education system overemphasizes academic credentials. We excessively reward those who are good at getting them at the expense of people who lack academic ability.

DeBoer calls his book “a prayer for the untalented” and it strikes a sympathetic chord as he discusses his efforts at teaching students who just aren’t smart. It isn’t their fault that they aren’t academically inclined, the author argues. Some kids are blessed with smartness and some aren’t. Moreover, it is folly to pretend that the answer for those who aren’t is to find better schooling that will turn them into smarties. That is a break with most of deBoer’s fellow leftists who have boundless faith in our education system to solve any problem, provided that we give it enough money.

We push students who are lacking in academic ability to stay in school, taking classes that make them miserable, and then we tell them that they need to go to college unless they want to be regarded as failures. But the process of getting into and then through college is also a hardship for those students.

America has developed “the cult of smart” and for kids who aren’t smart, “It is pernicious, it is cruel, and it must change,” deBoer writes.

It doesn’t matter to him that his fellow progressives are the architects of our education system and often its greatest beneficiaries. In fact, he has harsh words for the well-heeled leftists who play the smartness game for their own children, such as those who were caught cheating and bribing in the Varsity Blues scandal. Nor does it matter to deBoer that it was President Obama who declared that the United States must set a goal of leading the world in the percentage of people we put through college.

Let’s give deBoer credit for his willingness to dissent from the leftist party line on the imperative of maximizing “educational attainment.” He even seems to at least dimly grasp a point that Thomas Sowell has been making for many years, namely that our education system is not designed for the benefit of the students, but rather for the benefit of the teachers and administrators who get paid whether their students succeed or not.

I agree wholeheartedly that we should stop forcing young people to stay in school when they hate being there. DeBoer suggests that we should consider allowing them to leave formal schooling at age 12 and that’s a good idea, since the “unsmart” might very well learn things they find interesting and useful outside of classrooms. (Thomas Edison, after all, was a terrible student and left school after only a few months.) We should also do all we can to stop the college degree mania that compels so many young Americans to spend huge amounts of time and money in pursuit of credentials that they don’t really want and which often do no more than open the doors for work they could have done while still in high school.

Another weakness in the book is that deBoer greatly overstates his case that America is inhospitable toward the “unsmart.”
Had deBoer bothered to look at writings by people he regards as his philosophical opponents, such as Thomas Sowell, Charles Murray, Richard Vedder, and other conservative/libertarian education critics, he’d have discovered that his case against our wasteful and unfair education system has already been made. His book would have been stronger if he had melded his own insights with the criticism of those writers.

Unfortunately, he cites none of them and offers only vague, impressionistic statements about what he thinks people on the right believe about our schools. That’s why it is hard to take The Cult of Smart seriously as a work on education policy.

Another weakness in the book is that deBoer greatly overstates his case that America is inhospitable toward the “unsmart.”

In fact, there are many possibilities for them to lead successful lives even though we put them through a lot of needless schooling. You don’t have to be smart to make it big in sports or entertainment. You don’t have to be smart to make a comfortable living in many trades where educational credentials aren’t (yet) essential. DeBoer writes as if those who are not “smart” are consigned to miserable, Hobbesian lives, but if he talked with some carpenters, tile layers, or auto mechanics, he’d find that they live quite happily, even though bragging about their education isn’t in the mix.

At the same time, deBoer acknowledges that plenty of smart people struggle. That is especially true of the many Americans who get advanced degrees but can’t find anything better to do than low-paying adjunct professorships. Being smart is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for success.

All in all, deBoer’s case against “the cult of smartness” is not very convincing. It’s not much ado about nothing, but much ado about a small problem.

In our markets for talent, people who aren’t smart can do well, but we should stop putting obstacles in their way. We should change our education system so that young people aren’t pushed onto paths that are bad for them. We should also open up more avenues for success by eliminating governmental policies that often get in their way, particularly minimum wage laws and occupational licensure regulations.

But deBoer is not interested in such tinkering.

His solution to the “cult of smart” is to adopt communism. You read that right. Our author is a dedicated lifelong Marxist who wants an America (and world) where markets are gone—educational markets, labor markets, housing markets, and so on. He advocates universal basic income so everyone can live with dignity, universal government-supplied health care, guaranteed government jobs for those who want them, good housing for all, and the rest of the full socialist agenda. All of that would be paid for with high taxes on the rich and by printing money, which advocates of “Modern Monetary Theory” claim is nothing to worry about.

And there’s the real reason for deBoer’s book. Like so many “progressives,” every real or imagined problem with our society becomes an excuse for expanding the scope and power of the government. He wants to fasten us into the yoke of Marxism—from each according to his ability, to each according to his need—because our governmental education system is flawed.

Part of deBoer’s “solution” to that flaw is to adopt “free college” as favored by Bernie Sanders. Evidently, he doesn’t see that one reason why the unsmart have such trouble is that credential inflation blocks them off from many good job prospects. If we make college “free,” credential inflation will just ratchet up more and make their lives harder still. Scholars on the right and the left have been arguing since the 1970s that subsidizing college has that bad side effect. Too bad that ratcheting down government interference holds no interest for our author.

It also seems not to occur to deBoer that our “cult of smartness” produces a great deal of value for everyone, including the unsmart. Take away the incentives and efficiency of capitalism and we will have fewer job opportunities and less innovation. Almost everyone would find that a very high price to pay so that a Marxist intellectual can indulge his fantasies.

Fredrik deBoer believes that we “suffer” due to what he calls the cult of smart but has no idea how much more we’d suffer under his utopian vision.

We should focus on the problem he identifies—bad educational policy that works against those who aren’t academically talented—and forget about his ruinous solution for it.


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Is It Time for a “490 B.C. Project”?

High Schoolers Need to Know Our Classical Heritage

When Americans knew classical history, they could reach beyond partisan differences by drawing on the shared roots of our civilization. American students once learned, for example, about the Greek victory at Marathon in 490 B.C. This kept Greece from being swallowed up by the Persian Empire and ushered in the Golden Age of Athenian democracy which, for all its shortcomings, was a pathbreaking achievement. Democratic Athens, counterbalanced by Sparta’s tripartite system, led to broad-based polities and ultimately the Roman Republic. From there we trace a clear line to Magna Carta and the Renaissance republics, to the Enlightenment, and ultimately to the American Founding in the years around 1776.

Without classical knowledge, Americans are likely to misconstrue the achievements of 1776—not to mention other significant historical moments (as evidenced in recent inconclusive contentions over the events of 1619). Unfortunately, contemporary school curricula leave students with major gaps in their knowledge of classical history and the humanities more broadly.


Why ‘micro’ courses are catching on

When Michael Elwan’s commute disappeared when Covid-19 prompted him to work-from-home in March, he decided to invest his freed-up time in a 10-week “micro-masters” in leadership at the University of Queensland (UQ). The contracts manager at the not-for-profit Uniting WA was already completing a Masters in Social Work but wanted to focus on leadership for more immediate career progression plans.

Despite the entire course being online, he was “amazed” by the networking opportunities he had with fellow students from all over the world.

“The course taught me how to lead teams from different backgrounds in turbulent times, which was especially relevant,” he says.

Elwan isn’t alone.

UQ’s leadership course saw a jump of almost 300 per cent in enrolments this year compared to the first half of last year. A total of 40,000 people have enrolled in the university’s top three micro-masters courses in 2020.

It comes as hundreds of thousands of Australians stare into one of the grimmest consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic: higher unemployment and underemployment, and greater anxiety about job security.

Like in previous recessions, demand for higher education and skills training is tipped to rise – in part because there aren’t many well-paying alternatives, but also due to necessity in a more competitive and changing jobs market.

However, not everyone has the financial means or appetite to tackle an entire degree. And with many industries undergoing profound upheavals, it’s difficult to know whether the skills learnt will be relevant by the time they are acquired.

Micro-credentials, by contrast, offer a short, sharp and cost-effective opportunity for learning. Course length varies from a couple of hours to several months and anything from email etiquette to data analytics can be learned.

“Micro-credentials offer a way to rapidly refresh your professional profile. It could help you scale some kind of career hurdle, get a pay rise, change jobs or move into an adjacent area,” says Dr Robert Kay, Executive Director of Incept Labs.

In April, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced that the government would subsidise six-month micro-credentials in nursing, teaching, health, information technology, with fifty-four universities responded by creating micro-credential courses. The government is now creating a nationally consistent digital platform to compare micro-credential course outcomes and credit point value, among other things.

This is important, because a current lack of standardisation means that outcomes and even quality can vary, says Kay.

“Ultimately, the value of a micro-credential is determined by who recognises it and for what. The risks relate to their currency at present, because micro-credentials aren’t mapped to the Australian Qualifications Framework. It’s therefore difficult to find an equivalence with other forms of qualifications,” Kay says.

Nonetheless, many employers already recognise the value of micro-credentials as a form of professional development. For example, Westpac in 2018 rolled out The Business Institute, an internal “school” for business bankers developed in consultation with leading business schools that delivers educational content, access to world-class teachers and credits towards external qualifications.

Laura Tien, digital content and partnerships associate at co-working hub Workit, says micro-credentials can help differentiate businesses from competitors, “especially during tough times like now”. She recently completed a six-hour micro-credentials course in Google Analytics, using her newfound skills to help Workit leverage data to make better decisions on ad spending. She also has a digital badge to add to her Linkedin profile.

“It was really interactive – I had to click through the actual application before being able to move onto the next part, which helped me retain the information,” she says. “My university degree taught me theories of marketing, but it wasn’t useful in terms of technical skills, which are so important these days,” she says.

UQ Associate Professor Tim Kastelle, who runs the corporate innovation micro-masters course, believes that micro-credentials will be a disruptive force in Australia’s education system and much needed add-ons for professionals.

“The idea that an undergraduate degree gives you the skills you need for the rest of your career is obsolete – if it was ever really true. The nature of work is changing and there is an almost constant need to be learning new things: and shorter forms of learning can accommodate that,” he says.

“Someone might say to themselves, ‘I’ve just been promoted to team leader, so I’ll do a course on leading high performing teams.’ It’s about figuring out how to do a specific thing, rather than wanting to develop an integrated body of knowledge as you get from a degree.”


Online Classes Raise Stakes In New Ransomware Attacks

A hacker published documents containing Social Security numbers, student grades and other private information stolen from a large publicschool district in Las Vegas after officials refused a ransom demanded in return for unlocking computer servers.

The illegal release late last week of sensitive information from the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, with about 320,000 students, demonstrates an escalation in tactics for hackers who have taken advantage of schools heavily reliant on online learning and technology to run op- erations during the coronavirus pandemic. The Wall Street Journal first reported that sensitive information had been released.

Hackers have attacked school districts and other institutions with sensitive information before the pandemic, typically blocking users’ access to their own computer systems unless a ransom is paid. In those instances, the so-called ransomware crippled the district’s operations but hackers didn’t usually expose damaging information about students or employees.

“A big difference between this school year and last school year is they didn’t steal data, and this year they do,” said Brett Callow, a threat analyst for cybersecurity company Emsisoft, who said he was able to easily access the Clark County data on a hacker website. “If there’s no payment, they publish that stolen data online, and that has happened to multiple districts.” Some districts have paid ransoms, with the Journal finding examples ranging from $25,000 to over $200,000, deciding that rebuilding servers is more costly and could delay learning for weeks. Consultants often advise districts that hackers generally have a good record of releasing control of the servers upon payment to entice others to pay in the future.

Many school districts are using online learning to educate students during the pandemic, with some not even offering in-person learning as an option. Some cyber experts say hackers sensing the desperation of districts to stay online have become more demanding in their tactics. “The value of doing this has gone up,” said Evan Kohlmann, chief innovation officer at cybersecurity firm Flashpoint.

“You have all remote employees, all remote students. How do you educate people entirely remotely if your whole system is down? The impact of these attacks has significantly increased.” Administrators at Clark County, the largest school district known to be hit with ransomware since the pandemic began, provided a statement to the Journal on Monday, saying they will be individually notifying affected individuals as the district’s investigations continues. The district “values openness and transparency and will keep parents, employees and the public informed as new, verified information becomes available,” the statement said.

The district previously referred the Journal to a notice the district posted on Sept. 9. The notice says that on Aug. 27, three days after school began online, certain files couldn’t be opened due to a virus later identified as ransomware.

Some private information may have been accessed, the notice says, and advises individuals to review account statements and monitor credit reports for suspicious activity. District officials on Aug. 27 noted no problems to online learning platforms, in a Facebook post confirming there had been a data security incident.

The notice said the district “notified law enforcement and began an investigation, which included working with thirdparty forensic investigators, to determine the full nature and scope of the incident and to secure the CCSD network.” The district said it was working to restore all systems to secure, full functionality.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t support paying a ransom, but says it understands that organizations faced with an inability to function will evaluate all options to protect employees and customers. The agency says paying a ransom emboldens hackers to target others.

On Sept. 14, the hacker sent Clark County a warning by releasing on its website a file of stolen district information that looked to be nonsensitive, said Mr. Callow. However, late last week, Mr. Callow said, the hacker loaded files of a more sensitive nature, including employee Social Security numbers, addresses and retirement paperwork.

Mr. Callow said he didn’t need a password to access the information. He said he found links to the stolen information on an area of the hacker’s site for “new clients,” as it calls the organizations it holds hostage.

Clark County didn’t respond to questions about the amount of ransom sought by the hacker. It couldn’t be determined whether the district has regained access to its systems.

Rebecca Garcia, Nevada Parent-Teacher Association president who has three children in Clark County schools, said Monday after the Journal reported the data breach that some of her members are concerned they have yet to hear from the school district on the release of information.

“At this point moving forward, we need transparency, and we need to know what’s going to be done to address it, from a data security standpoint,” she said.

School districts don’t always disclose ransomware attacks or payments, usually done in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, and the disclosure requirements vary by state. Some administrators say they just want to move on after being thrust into an unfamiliar world of shadowy criminals.

Some experts say hackers have become more demanding in their tactics.

Ransom amounts are often negotiated. In Texas, the 10,000-student Sheldon Independent School District in Houston paid $206,931 in bitcoin from its reserve fund after being hacked in March, from an initial ransom amount of about $350,000, district officials said. The district said the attack rendered it inoperable and even threatened a paycheck distribution. Cyber insurance coverage paid for other costs related to the attack, such as a forensic review of the servers, according to the district.

“Oftentimes people wonder why we paid it,” said Sheldon Superintendent King R. Davis. “It was very important to us to keep moving forward.” Coveware, a ransom negotiating firm, reported an increase in average ransom payments for all industries, up 60% to $178,254, in its second quarter ended in June. The firm says hackers had about a 99% rate of delivering a decryption tool to the hostage companies or organizations once the ransom was paid.


Pandemic Steals Another Tradition: Remote Learning Means No More Snow Days

For generations, snow days meant sleeping in, loafing in front of the TV with hot cocoa, and hours of sledding and snowball fights.

Now, they are likely to mean logging into a laptop for a Zoom lesson on long division.

As the weather cools and winter looms, many school leaders in snow-prone states are preparing teachers, parents and students to say goodbye to snow days. This month, New York City, the nation’s largest school system, canceled them for the year, citing the pandemic, which has forced districts everywhere to look for ways to make up lost days.

New York’s decision followed moves that other administrators have been making since March, when schools were forced to transition to online learning and officials realized they could do the same during hazardous weather.

“We said, ‘Wow, this could really be a solution for us for snow days in the future,’” said Robb Malay, a school superintendent who oversees seven districts in southern New Hampshire, where a new policy will replace snow days with virtual learning.

For many teachers, the end of the snow day looks inevitable, said Denis Anglim, 31, who teaches high school English and history in Philadelphia.

“For the sake of continuity of the curriculum, it’s a good thing,” he said. “But not in terms of hanging on to the nostalgia of waking up at 5 a.m. and looking at the ticker at the bottom of the television to see if your school will be closed.”

And the nostalgia remains strong for some. Snow days growing up were like a “pause on real life and a chance to let kids be kids,” said Lauren Higgins, the mother of a 5-year-old boy and 3- year-old girl in Hingham, Mass.

“I can imagine a situation where kids no longer cross their fingers watching the weather late at night,” she said. “And it’s a bummer.”

Trading Snow for Summer

The question of whether to shut down school has always been a thorny one for community leaders, who are often criticized for either canceling class too rashly or for not taking a forecast seriously enough. So well before the virus forced schools to shut down, many administrators had been looking for alternatives to snow days.

In 2018, Mike Redmond, the superintendent of Shakopee Public Schools in Minnesota, said his district started “connected learning days” that allowed for virtual instruction when the weather forced closures.

The decision to do away with snow days followed particularly grueling winters when the district had to cancel classes eight to 10 times a year, he said.

Taking away snow days seemed like a better solution than tacking on days at the end of the school year, which meant forcing students into hot classrooms and disrupting summer plans, Mr. Redmond said.

For rural districts, cutting out snow days also had an economic incentive, he said. In Minnesota, parents often count on their children helping out on family farms when school lets out for the summer, he said.

‘Every Day Is a Snow Day’

Jen Kalember, 48, a sales executive, recalled the frustration she felt every time her daughter’s classes in Bethlehem, Pa., were canceled. School closures created stressful conversations with her former boss, who believed everyone should be in the office, even on snow days.

“He was like, ‘You don’t live far from the office. You can make it in,’” she said. “Well, what am I supposed to do with my daughter? Leave her at home?” Ms. Kalember, who now lives in Ellicott City,

Md., said the pandemic had forced many employers to embrace working from home, perhaps permanently. It stands to reason that schools should follow suit, she said.

“A working parent’s worst nightmare is a snow day, and now every day is a snow day,” Ms. Kalember said. “I think tradition made people forget what they could do with technology. Now we’ve changed from what we do in a work environment and a school environment irreparably.”

Jessica Tang, the president of the Boston Teachers Union in Massachusetts, said that any changes to teachers’ working conditions would have to be negotiated. But she agreed that the pandemic had shown that virtual learning could be a practical solution to a variety of problems.

“It would be a huge mistake if we tried to just go back to what we were doing before,” she said.

Still, Ms. Tang said, there are unintended consequences to canceling snow days that administrators must consider, like the continuing challenge of making sure every student has access to a computer and internet.

And online teaching could be extremely stressful for faculty members with older parents whose home health aide could not come to work because of a storm, Ms. Tang said.

Mourning a ‘Birthright’

Ms. Kalember’s daughter, Ava Kalember, a high school senior, said she felt like the last of a generation to experience the unexpected treat of snow days.

“I do understand the other perspective of parents: ‘If they have assignments, they will be kept busy and won’t bother me,’” she said. “But you have to consider whether that will outweigh the fun memories that kids have of snow days.”

Those days were also a respite from the stress of schoolwork, Ms. Kalember, 17, said.

Mr. Redmond, the superintendent in Minnesota, said that after he did away with snow days, it was parents, not teachers, who mourned the loss.

“My kid might never have a snow day” was a common refrain, he said.

The district responded by scheduling one designated snow day. Teachers would have the time to readjust the curriculum and children would have a break, even if it was not as spontaneous as the kind their parents enjoyed.

Mr. Redmond said: “In Minnesota, it’s like a birthright you should have a snow day.”


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

How ‘Systemic Liberalism’ Failed Public Education in America

Liberalism and its big government underpinnings have become systemic in American culture and institutions, with a profound impact on the nation.

In large part, an increasingly biased media, Hollywood, Big Tech, and academia have driven the left’s rise in prominence.

Freedom of thought, tolerance, and inclusion, once foundational principles of liberalism, have been replaced by social conditioning and disdain for, and suppression of, opposing views.

Public education is a prime example.

Impact of Unionization

In 1916, the American Federation of Teachers was established as an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor, widely known now as the AFL-CIO. The organization was founded to improve teachers’ wages, pensions, and “academic freedom.”

Similarly, the National Education Association was founded in 1857 as the National Teachers Association. Established primarily to protect teachers’ rights and ensure that members were treated fairly, it changed its name in 1870 after absorbing three smaller organizations.

The NEA also pushes to increase education funding and to discourage merit pay. From a legislative standpoint, the organization is active in reforming laws designed to limit the growth of charter schools and discourage school voucher programs.

The NEA’s stated mission is “to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.” But critics fault the teachers union for putting the interests of teachers in front of the needs of the students they teach.

In recent years, the National Education Association came under criticism for what some perceive as protecting “bad” teachers and trying to change public perception and beliefs about homosexuality and about “white privilege” and “white fragility” in our communities.

This can be illustrated best by the NEA’s recent support for both The New York Times Magazine’s version of history, called the 1619 Project, and for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Coalitions to Maximize Impact

Over the past several years, systemic liberalism has metastasized throughout the public education system.

By partnering with The New York Times and radical advocacy groups such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, the NEA and its liberal positions are indoctrinating our youth.

NEA-endorsed curriculum developed to “inform” and to “challenge students to reframe U.S. history” will condition students to accept and normalize liberal social constructs such as white privilege and institutional racism, as well as slanted and distorted views of American history.

The NEA says it teamed with the Times to distribute copies of the 1619 Project to educators and activists around the country, saying it would “help give us a deeper understanding of ‘systemic racism’ and its impact.”

The 1619 Project—which contends that American history began with the introduction of slavery—was rolled out early this year in school districts in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Buffalo, New York.

Local school administrators decided to update K-12 history curricula to include the material, which argues, Reason reported, that “the institution of slavery was so embedded in America’s DNA that the country’s true founding could be said to have occurred in 1619, rather than in 1776.”

However, many historians and other critics question the 1619 Project’s accuracy and the closed process behind it. Others have taken issue with its ideological slant and argued that the content would be better suited for sociology classes than American history.

In recent days, following months of criticism, the Times has deleted some parts of the 1619 Project, including the statement that America’s “true founding” occurred in 1619.

In any case, reinterpreting history to fit a new political and social mantra is destructive to understanding the roots and progress of America, its successes and failures, and the reasoning during the respective time periods that led to specific actions and results.

Otherwise, as we all know, history has a way of repeating itself.

Black Lives Matter Movement

Further illustrating the influence of systemic liberalism in the classroom is integration of the “Black Lives Matter at School” curriculum, including the 1619 Project, into school districts across the United States.

Encouraging young minds to identify and condemn racism, social injustice, and oppression is a noble and righteous pursuit. However, that’s not what’s happening.

At least two of the three Black Lives Matter co-founders are self-proclaimed trained Marxists. Patrisse Cullors, arguably the most visible co-founder, is a vocal anti-Israel and LBGT activist.

Alicia Garza, another BLM co-founder, has praised convicted cop-killer and wanted domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur. Both Cullors and Garza have spoken unabashedly about how Shakur was a major inspiration for their work.

When one examines Black Lives Matter as an organization, one discovers that it advocates principles that go far beyond simply raising awareness of racism, social injustice, and oppression.

As published on the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s website–until it and related groups made deletions in recent days—the organization’s core beliefs and principles include “disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” “ending State-sanctioned violence” against blacks, “liberating” blacks from “systematic targeting,” and “eradicating ‘white supremacy’ forever.”

The BLM organization’s founding ideology and beliefs, particularly its position on disrupting the nuclear family, run contrary to traditional societal norms in America and represent a distorted and slanted view of what’s happening in our country.

By integrating Black Lives Matter’s lesson plans, educational resources, and political activism projects into their curricula, liberal educators lend credibility to one of the most radically divisive movements in our country’s history.

Worse, this approach convinces the easily influenced minds of our children that America is inherently “racist and evil,” with a sordid history of inhumanity. It inspires our youth to rebel against the very ideals that made America an exceptional republic and the most successful and compassionate country in the history of humanity.

Liberal Advocacy, Poor Test Results

Major financial supporters of black-led organizations, such as the Ford Foundation and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, have invested hundreds of millions to influence public perception and policy related to social and racial inequality in America today and throughout our country’s history.

Through their participation in liberal, ideologically-based movements, teachers in some public school systems indoctrinate our children with Marxist beliefs and distorted views of American history and culture.

While liberal coalitions wage their indoctrination and social-conditioning campaigns on our children, the academic performance of U.S. students continues to decline.

For example, the global test results of the 2019 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA—which evaluates 15-year-olds’ academic performance in reading, math, and science—showed American students lag behind their peers in Europe and East Asia.

The exam results, comparing 600,000 students across 79 countries, placed the U.S. about average in reading (eighth overall) and science (11th), but below average (30th) in math.

The nations that outperformed the United States included China, Singapore, Macao, Hong Kong, Estonia, Canada, Finland, and Ireland. The U.S. performed about the same as the U.K., Japan, and Australia.

It may be a stretch to say these results represent the culmination of over a half-century of systemic liberalism in our public education system. However, liberal indoctrination certainly isn’t helping to improve reading and math scores, and maybe schools should focus on the facts before trying to reframe history.

Although trillions of taxpayer dollars have been invested in improving the quality of K-12 education in America dating back to the early 1960s, it appears politics has trumped the academic needs of our children. Money is not the solution.

From teachers unions and school administrators to the liberal media, Big Tech, political advocacy groups, and the billionaires who support them, is it possible that indoctrination of our children with radical leftist views of racism in America has taken precedence over their academic needs?

U.S. educators would do better to provide our children with math, science, and reading skills necessary to compete in a global economy, and stick to the facts when it comes to teaching American history, civics, and culture.

Recent protests of police brutality, which attracted America’s youth, have led to anarchy, violence, arson, and death.

Putting the academic needs of students ahead of the ideological and political interests of those we pay to teach them seems likely to reverse what has become a disturbing, destructive trend.


Teaching Racism in Schools

Critical Race Theory is being taught in schools, beginning at the elementary level.

What could be worse than teaching American students to hate their own country? Teaching them to hate each other.

At the 1:36 mark of this 1991 video, Harvard student Barack Obama is shown speaking at a university protest on behalf of Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell. “Open up your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell,” Obama urged.

Bell, who died in 2011, is credited with pioneering the concept known as Critical Race Theory (CRT). It maintains that the legal system of the United States is inherently biased against blacks and other minorities because it was built on an ingrained white point of view. Bell believed this “institutional racism” conferred upon oppressed minorities both the right and the duty to decide for themselves what laws are valid and worth observing.

Today, institutional racism has become “systemic” racism — and CRT is being taught in American schools, beginning at the elementary level.

Exhibit A is the indoctrination disseminated in Buffalo Public Schools (BPS), using the Black Lives Matter movement as CRT’s vehicle. “The first lesson plan for BPS’s ‘First Days of School’ sequence for second-, third-, and fourth-graders asks the ‘essential question’: ‘What is the Black Lives Matter Movement and what is our role in it?’” reveals Max Eden, education policy fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “The second lesson, titled ‘Do Black Lives Matter in America?’ states as its objective that ‘students will be able to understand the need for the Black Lives Matter Movement.’”

Understanding the BLM movement has just become more difficult because the Marxist organization has scrubbed one of the more “problematic” parts of its agenda from its website. Under the heading “What We Believe,” BLM had stated, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”

One might think a black American community already ravaged by an out-of-wedlock birthrate pegged at 69% — a reality that precipitates increased levels of poverty, substance abuse, suicides, and juvenile detention rates — might be appalled. One might also think school officials pushing the BLM agenda would be aware that children who grow up in fatherless households represent 71% of all high school dropouts.

One would be wrong. Buffalo Public Schools referred to the elimination of the nuclear family as a “guiding principle” of the movement.

Eden explained the genesis of the effort in Buffalo, noting that it came directly from the school’s “department of culturally responsive education.” He added that New York State education officials have embraced a similar agenda, “the architect of which was an education professor who has literally said that it is white supremacism to expect black students to read and speak American standard English.”

New York is not alone. The American Association of School Administrators (AASA) announced its intent to imbue students with a curriculum “that is diverse and culturally sensitive,” aimed at “dismantling system racism and discrimination.”

In Chicago, such efforts consist of a “Say Their Names” toolkit. It contains a quote by Angela Davis, the former communist and criminal fugitive whose guns were used in the armed takeover of the Marin Courthouse in 1970, where four people were killed. “In a racist society, it is not enough to not be non-racist,” said Davis. “We must be anti-racist.”

Education Week’s “Classroom Q&A” blog takes it one step further, asserting, “Educators must realize that there is no neutral position on issues of racial justice. … There is only racist and anti-racist. Your silence favors the status quo and the violently oppressive harm it does to black and brown folk everywhere.”

In other words, as the BLM crowd warns, “silence is violence,” and you’re either with them or you’re the equivalent of a KKK member. And if that sounds like a demand for total submission, that’s because it is.

It gets worse. The National Committee on Social Studies’s Early Childhood/Elementary Community insists that stopping “the systemic pattern of dehumanization” requires “flood[ing] our children with counter messages … until there is no racial inequality in economic opportunity, no racial inequality in education, no racial inequality in incarceration rates, and no brutality from police and others.”

The Virginia Association of Independent Schools provides a resource guide for teachers composed of 40 approved books with an attached warning that reads, “White Fragiles Beware!” The guide further states that it is “time to talk about dismantling white supremacy culture and bringing folks of color (the global majority) to the center.”

In Wake County, North Carolina, a website has been launched to provide public school teachers with BLM lesson plans.

In California, State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond declared educators in that state are “going to build a training module to allow school districts to engage in training on implicit bias.” He also announced a partnership with the National Equity Project (NEP). Its executive director, LaShawn Routé Chatmon, insists that because of “evidence of racial terror being waged against Black bodies, followed by maligned indifference to demands for justice,” we are faced with a choice whereby we “take conscious action to learn about and dismantle injustice and the winding tentacles of white supremacy in our lives, families, workplaces and communities; or stay asleep, seek comfort, look away and in doing so — perpetuate racism and the racist systems that produce the inequity and injustices we face.”

What America really faces is the further debasement of public education — in service to the ultimate dissolution of our constitutional republic. And like much of the current rioting, it is also based on a series of demonstrable falsehoods that include a glaringly slanted 1619 Project presented as history, despite author Nikole Hannah-Jones’s own assertion that it is rather a “work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative.”

For progressives, history itself is a narrative, and parents who countenance its orchestrated distortion in service to a race-baiting agenda do so at their extreme peril. Already the first 50-state survey on the Holocaust knowledge of American Millennials and Gen Z reveals that nearly one in five believe the Jews caused the Holocaust. Another 34% believe the number of Jewish deaths was “greatly exaggerated.” Moreover, among those same two generations, more than 63% of Millennials, and more than 50% of Gen Z, believe America is a racist nation.

Current students? The National Council of Teachers of English asserts there is “no apolitical classroom.” Thus, they intend to indoctrinate America’s children with racist, America-hating propaganda — parents be damned.

It’s time for pushback. A class-action lawsuit stating that Critical Race Theory violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act would be a great place to start. Moreover, Trump should present schools with a “Dear Colleague Letter,” warning them that teaching CRT will cost them federal funding.

Everything is downstream from education. The debasement of politics, popular culture, and society itself can all be traced back to America’s classrooms. Those classrooms were taken over by progressives.

It’s time to take them back.


UQ physics student works out ‘paradox-free’ time travel

A young University of Queensland student says he has found a way to “square the numbers” and prove that “paradox-free” time travel is theoretically possible in our universe.

From Back To The Future to Terminator to 12 Monkeys, stories dealing with time travel invariably have had to grapple with an age-old head-scratcher.

The so-called “grandfather paradox” – that a time traveller could kill their grandparent, preventing their own birth – broadly describes the logical inconsistency that arises from any action that would change the past.

But Germain Tobar, a fourth-year Bachelor of Advanced Science student, believes he has solved the riddle.

“Classical dynamics says if you know the state of a system at a particular time, this can tell us the entire history of the system,” he said in a statement.

“This has a wide range of applications, from allowing us to send rockets to other planets and modelling how fluids flow. For example, if I know the current position and velocity of an object falling under the force of gravity, I can calculate where it will be at any time.”

Einstein’s theory of general relativity, however, predicts the existence of time loops or time travel, “where an event can be both in the past and future of itself – theoretically turning the study of dynamics on its head”.

Mr Tobar said a unified theory that could reconcile both traditional dynamics and Einstein’s theory of relativity was the holy grail of physics. “But the current science says both theories cannot both be true,” he said.

“As physicists, we want to understand the universe’s most basic, underlying laws and for years I’ve puzzled on how the science of dynamics can square with Einstein’s predictions. I wondered, ‘Is time travel mathematically possible?’”

Mr Tobar and his supervisor, UQ physicist Dr Fabio Costa, say they have found a way to “square the numbers” – and that the findings have fascinating consequences for science. “The maths checks out – and the results are the stuff of science fiction,” Dr Costa said.

Dr Costa gives the example of travelling in time in an attempt to stop COVID-19’s “patient zero” being exposed to the virus.

As the grandfather paradox shows, if you stopped that individual getting infected, “that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place”.

“This is a paradox – an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our universe,” he said.

“Some physicists say it is possible, but logically it’s hard to accept because that would affect our freedom to make any arbitrary action. It would mean you can time travel, but you cannot do anything that would cause a paradox to occur.”

But the researchers, whose findings appear in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, say their mathematical modelling shows that neither of these conditions have to be the case.

Instead, they show it is possible for events to adjust themselves to be logically consistent with any action that the time traveller makes.

“In the coronavirus patient zero example, you might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would,” Mr Tobar said.

“No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you. This would mean that – no matter your actions – the pandemic would occur, giving your younger self the motivation to go back and stop it.”

He added, “Try as you might to create a paradox, the events will always adjust themselves, to avoid any inconsistency. The range of mathematical processes we discovered show that time travel with free will is logically possible in our universe without any paradox.”


Australia: “One Nation” party gets academic freedom change in return for vote

A legal definition of academic freedom that some universities say will make it harder for them to discipline racist or sexist academics will be included in the Morrison government’s proposed university funding laws in exchange for One Nation’s support for the bill.

The measure is one of several commitments One Nation say they have extracted from the government, which will need three crossbench votes to get its reforms through the Senate as early as next week.

Senator Pauline Hanson said One Nation’s two Senate votes were also contingent upon the government reinstating a 10 per cent discount for students who pay their fees upfront, and reinstating a seven-year limit for full-time students to receive HECS-HELP before they have to pay full fees.

One Nation has fostered a close relationship with academic Peter Ridd, who was sacked by James Cook University in 2018 following his public criticism of colleagues’ research on the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef.

“[Education] Minister [Dan] Tehan has shown a strong willingness to listen to the recommendations of [Senator] Malcolm Roberts and myself, and he’s proving to have the courage to take a tough stand with the inclusion of our amendments,” Senator Hanson said.

One Nation wants the definition of academic freedom inserted into the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to be in line with the wording recommended by former High Court Chief Justice Robert French in his government-commissioned review of free speech at Australian universities.

There has been an ongoing debate about free speech at universities, and the review was ordered following concerns among coalition MPs about the influence of left wing activists on campus after protesters targeted author Bettina Arndt at Sydney University.

In his 2019 report, Mr French proposed inserting a lengthy definition into the Act that included “the freedom of academic staff to teach, discuss, and research and to disseminate and publish the results of their research” and to “make lawful public comment on any issue in their personal capacities”.

Mr Tehan declined to comment on the specifics of his negotiations with One Nation, but said he would continue to work with the crossbench to secure passage of the legislation.

“The Job-Ready Graduates legislation will provide more university places for Australian students, make it cheaper to study in areas of expected job growth and provide more funding and support to regional students and universities,” Mr Tehan said.

The government was already examining whether it should proceed with legislating the French definition of academic freedom, and called for public submissions in January, but ultimately did not include the measure as part of its current reforms.

In its submission to the government, the Innovative Research Universities, a grouping of seven institutions including La Trobe University, Western Sydney University and James Cook University, opposed the move. It said legislating the freedom for academics to provide public commentary in a personal capacity had the “potential to create highly undesirable employment disputes.”

“As the wording stands, for example, it would seem that a university academic would be within her or his rights to publicly declare they hold a racial, sexuality or gender prejudice against one or more of the students they are teaching,” the submission said.

“If challenged about holding such a view, they would seem to be able to defend themselves by claiming to have spoken in a personal capacity, not an academic one.”

Senator Hanson said her motivation was to address concerns among university lecturers who were worried about “pressures they faced over ‘how’ and ‘what’ they could teach.

“My interest is in putting a stop to this Marxist, left-leaning approach to teaching in our universities and instead, protect educators who teach using methods based on science and facts rather than ideology,” Senator Hanson said.

In his review, Mr French, chancellor of the University of Western Australia, concluded that “claims of a freedom of speech crisis on Australian campuses are not substantiated”, but outlined a model code for protecting free speech and academic freedom, which all universities agreed to adopt by the end of 2020.

In September, Dr Ridd accompanied Senator Roberts on week-long tour along the Queensland coast, holding press conferences to question the scientific consensus on the poor health of Great Barrier Reef’s and threat posed by farmers. Dr Ridd said he was meeting with National Senator Matt Canavan and local LNP candidate Ron Harding to discuss the same issues on Tuesday.

Dr Ridd is now seeking leave to appeal his wrongful dismissal claim in the High Court, after his initial victory was overturned by the Federal Court in July. The university has maintained that he was not dismissed for his views, but for “serious misconduct” and breaches of the university’s code in how he expressed them.

The government’s bill proposes a major restructuring of university funding by hiking fees for some courses, including by 113 per cent for humanities, in order to pay for cuts to STEM, nursing and teaching courses.

The government says the reforms will fund an extra 100,000 university places for domestic students by 2030, but universities have complained that total funding per student will decrease by six per cent on average.

In addition to securing One Nation’s two votes, the government will need to secure the support of either Tasmania Senator Jacqui Lambie or Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff, who are yet to public reveal how they intend to vote.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Public schools across the country promote Black Lives Matter, organize protests

Public schools across the country have endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged teachers, students and parents to do the same, with some schools organizing their own BLM protests, a Daily Caller News Foundation review found.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been linked to 91% of riots across the United States between May 24 and Sept. 12, according to the US Crisis Monitor, a joint project of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University.

Despite the close links between the Black Lives Matter movement and riots across the country, public schools have been a consistent source of support for the movement.

Buffalo Public Schools integrated Black Lives Matter’s “guiding principles,” which include disrupting the nuclear family, into its curriculum for elementary school students, according to lesson plans obtained and published by Fox News on Friday.

One such principle included in the lesson, “Black Villages,” calls for “the disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics and a return to the ‘collective village’ that takes care of each other.”

Milwaukee Public Schools held a Black Lives Matter Week of Action in February. The listed demands for the week’s events included: “Fund counselors not cops.”

“Please join Ms. Seidel and other Buckman families for a Kid’s March to show support for the memory of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. Families are encouraged to make signs and meet in front of Buckman at 3pm on Sunday, June 7th,” the principal of Buckman Elementary, a Portland public school, told students in a newsletter.

Sabin Elementary School in Portland held a Black Lives Matter protest as well. A picture on the school’s website shows a crowd of more than 100 people, mostly children, standing with their fists in the air. The students and adults in the crowd, many of whom are holding Black Lives Matter signs, do not appear to be following social distancing guidelines in the photo.

The school’s principal also promoted a “week of action” organized by the Movement for Black Lives, a left-wing coalition that openly seeks to abolish police and prisons. (RELATED: Public School Teachers Behind Violent Antifa Group)

Teachers at Lincoln Park Elementary in Oregon also organized a Black Lives Matter protest that was promoted on the school’s website.

“The Black Lives Matter movement must include all of us as we support our Black and brown students, teachers, staff and families. It is not a Black problem, but a global problem,” Muncie Community Schools, an Indiana school district, states on its website.

The president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), a union representing 30,000 teachers, announced in June that the union board had voted to support disbanding the Los Angeles School Police Department in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

“We should be actively promoting Black Lives Matter,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz told EdSource in an interview the same month.

“We need to have a set of demands that dovetail with Black Lives Matter. We have to have massive political education,” Myart-Cruz said later in the interview when asked what her plans were for the union.

“People will say, ‘Not all police are bad,’ but we’re not talking about that,” she continued. “We’re talking about racism as a social construct, systemic and institutional racism, and wrapped on top is white supremacist culture, which is the dominant culture.”

Neither Myart-Cruz nor any of the schools or school districts mentioned in this story returned the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.


Glasgow University feels like a prison

Police patrol our halls of residence. We’ve been banned from pubs. Even Christmas could be cancelled.

I’ll confess, I think I almost enjoyed lockdown at first: I could cycle to work without the roar of cars all around me, and I enjoyed the novelty of being able to walk down a near-empty high street. The hard reality of our government’s decision to shut down society hit home soon enough, though. I lost a planned seasonal job that was due to start at the beginning of May, and so was forced to spend an additional three months in a job I disliked, working even longer hours due to greater demand. As much as I love my family, you can grow sick of the same faces after a while. Not being able to see friends certainly had an effect on my mental health – and the incessant screeching of the fear-mongering media could leave anyone in a nervous fit. In an unfathomable irony, during the ‘peak pandemic’, university was my glimmer of hope on the horizon.

I’m at Glasgow University, which has been the subject of considerable controversy this week. I’ll spare myself a lawsuit by not revealing every detail, but if you take a group of young people, most of whom won’t have been away from home before for longer than a school trip, it takes only a few brain cells to realise that they’re going to find creative ways of having fun – restrictions or not.

We enjoyed smatterings of the usual activities, yet everything was tinged by the times we live in. Drinking, meeting new people and poor attempts at cooking – all hallmarks of many students’ first steps into adulthood – were juxtaposed with regular police patrols through halls. Police would even harass people for the heinous sin of congregating in the street. The university’s own security staff swaggered around like trumped-up soldiers, replete with hi-viz vests and body cameras. Even in the early days, whispers of positive cases and self-isolating flats permeated conversation.

Of course, nobody signs their life away for three or four years solely for the purpose of becoming a drunken mulch. But our education itself has also been one of the major victims of the government’s ineptitude. I do enjoy watching my pre-recorded lectures, in as much as I enjoy my subject. But without wishing to denigrate the lecturers – many of whom would rather be teaching face to face and have worked hard – the experience doesn’t strike me as being all that different from watching YouTube (which would not come with a nine-grand price tag). The dynamic pedagogy of being in a lecture theatre simply cannot be replicated virtually.

My first few online seminars have not exactly endeared me to the genre. They have been plagued by connection problems and are full of awkward, frustrating interactions with strangers. It’s far removed from the experience of university education I had looked forward to while studying for my A-Levels. The first few two-hour seminars were never going to be easy for someone with an attention span befitting of the worst Gen-Z stereotypes, but being in front of a laptop in my room, surrounded by temptation, was worlds worse.

In the past few days, my halls of residence have become the centre of a media whirlwind. Every day you hear about new cases, new flats locking down and new restrictions on our nascent freedom. Absent from this, however, are new hospitalisations. In fact, not a single one of the hundred-plus Covid-positive students at the University of Glasgow has had to go to hospital. This fact is rarely alluded to by the media, though it reveals the central absurdity of our situation: the UK and Scottish governments have consistently neglected those who needed protecting, such as the elderly in care homes, while hyper-regulating those at least risk – younger people. What’s more, we need young people to be getting out there if we want to have any hope of restoring growth (and sanity) to a country racked by the worst recession in living memory.

The media are also obsessed with young people. Glasgow students have been namechecked on Sky News and the BBC and seemingly in every paper. We’ve had TV crews shoving cameras up people’s noses. And for one day, a mobile testing clinic was placed slap bang in the middle of the halls, replete with roadblocks and security. I often wonder, is this a student hall or the set of a prison documentary?

Even while writing this, the restrictions grow like an unwanted rash. The Scottish CMO (Chief Misery Officer) Jason Leitch has declared that seeing your own parents is no exception to the draconian ban on household visits. Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, has announced a ban on students going down the pub. In a move unseen since Cromwell, UK health secretary Matt Hancock has openly mooted the idea of literally banning Christmas. And despite all we have been put through, the media portray us students as drunken louts, vessels of disease and squalor, best to be glared at from a distance – a selfish morass content to enjoy themselves at the expense of the elderly and vulnerable.

We are not a selfish generation. As a matter of fact, we take far fewer liberties than any generation preceding us by decades. We smoke less, drink little and commit few crimes. We have had our education stultified, social lives stifled and we are already bearing the brunt of the economic impact of the restrictions. Most of us still take the precautions we deem sensible, despite being almost entirely invulnerable to this illness. So next time you see one of us students, try to have just a little sympathy. And please, Mr Hancock, will you let us celebrate Christmas?


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Agreed With Amy Coney Barrett That Campus Kangaroo Courts Were a Problem

In 2018, following the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, President Trump tipped his hand about who he’d be inclined to choose if given the opportunity to fill another vacancy on the high court.

That person, the New York Times observed, was Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative law professor whom Trump tapped for a federal appeals court in 2017.

A week ago, it appeared the chances of Trump filling another Court vacancy in his first term were slim. However, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died September 18 during her 27th year on the high court just six weeks before the presidential election, means Trump will get the opportunity to send another nomination to the Republican-controlled Senate.

As the Brett Kavanaugh nomination and previous hearings have shown, Supreme Court battles can be nasty, even nastier than typical political battles. There’s little reason to expect the filling of Ginsburg’s seat to be any different—even if it wasn’t coming just weeks before a presidential election—so it’s no surprise to see that news media are already dissecting Barrett’s court opinions.

Just 48 hours after Ginsburg’s death, the Washington Post ran an article on Barrett’s opinion in Doe v. Purdue University, a Title IX—the rule prohibiting sex-discrimination in public education —case involving a Purdue student (John Doe) who was suspended by the university after being accused of sexual assault by a former girlfriend (Jane Doe).

According to John Doe, as described by a court summary of the case, the couple met in Purdue’s Navy ROTC program and started dating in the fall of 2015. They soon began a sexual relationship. In December, Jane attempted to take her own life in front of John. He reported the attempt to the school, and the couple ceased dating.

“A few months later, Jane alleged that in November 2015, while they were sleeping together in his room, she awoke to John groping her over her clothes without consent,” the Washington Post reports. “Jane said she objected and that John told her he had penetrated her with his finger while they were sleeping together earlier that month. John denied the allegations and produced friendly texts from Jane after the alleged November incident.”

These are serious charges that demand a serious appraisal of the facts and due process. But like plaintiffs in Title IX cases—some 600 lawsuits have been filed against universities since Barack Obama’s Education Department issued its “Dear Colleague” letter to schools warning them they’d lose federal funding if they didn’t prioritize complaints of sexual assault—John Doe encountered something else.

Court documents show the hearing resembled a show trial, including a false confession, that resulted in a year-long suspension of John Doe that cost him a spot in the ROTC program.

“Among the university’s alleged missteps cited by the court: John Doe received a redacted copy of investigators’ report on his case only moments before his disciplinary hearing. He discovered that the document did not mention that he had reported Jane’s suicide attempt and falsely asserted that he had confessed to Jane’s allegations,” the Post reports. “Jane Doe did not appear before the university panel that reviewed the investigation; instead, a written summary of her allegations was submitted by a campus group that advocates for victims of sexual violence.”

All of this fits the pattern of the kangaroo courts universities established after the Dear Colleague letter. As Reason has spent the last several years documenting, these cases tend to presume individuals guilty until proven innocent, while depriving them of the due process necessary to prove their innocence.

Barrett is hardly alone in her jurisprudence regarding the importance of due process. As the Post concedes, campus kangaroo courts were widely criticized by civil libertarians across the political divide.

“Judges of all stripes around the country have been concerned with fairness in these proceedings,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor and retired federal judge appointed by President Clinton.

It was these concerns that prompted US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to issue new rules to Title IX hearings in April that strengthened the rights of those accused of sexual misconduct, including the right to cross-examine accusers and preventing investigators from also serving as case judges. (Former Vice President Joe Biden has said he’d reverse Devos’s ruling if elected president, which prompted some to point out that Biden, who like the current president stands accused of sexual assault, would be guilty under the current standard.)

Few would argue that protecting the rights of sexual assault victims is important, but it’s worth noting that among the critics of the previous standard was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Post admits the “feminist icon, surprised some victim’s advocates in a 2018 interview with the Atlantic magazine” when she said many of the criticisms of college codes were legitimate.

“The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that,” Ginsburg said. “There’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know, everyone deserves a fair hearing.”

Ginsburg is correct that due process and a fair hearing for the accused are fundamental principles of the American system. Yet hundreds of individuals who believe they were denied fair hearings and are seeking redress from universities have found the path difficult due to legal technicalities.

Plaintiffs tend to claim their rights were violated in two ways: 1) the university violated the plaintiff’s right to due process; 2) the school discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of sex, violating Title IX.

Prior to Purdue vs. Doe, the Post reports, courts often upheld accused student claims of due process violations “but rejected their Title IX arguments on the grounds that the students had failed a complicated series of legal tests first established in 1994.” Essentially, plaintiffs had to prove not just that their due process rights were violated, but that they were violated on the basis of their sex.

Barrett’s ruling, however, was instrumental in lowering the burden of proof plaintiffs had to show.

“It is plausible that [university officials] chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man,” Barrett wrote in her opinion, citing the political pressure the Obama administration had put on schools to address sexual assault.

Barrett’s opinion was adopted by other courts, and it was this reasoning that caused women’s rights groups to criticize the appellate judge.

Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center bristled at the idea of “replacing [Ginsburg] with a judge who is eager to use the language of sex discrimination in order to defend the status quo, and to use the statutes that were created to forward gender equality as swords against that very purpose.”

We’ll never know if Ginsburg would have believed it was plausible to assume that sex played a role in the university show trials that allowed hundreds of people accused of sex crimes to be found guilty without due process or a fair hearing.

What we do know is that on the broader issue of campus kangaroo courts, Ginsburg and Barrett found common ground.

“We have a system of justice where people who are accused get due process, so it’s just applying to this field what we have applied generally,” Ginsburg told The Atlantic in 2018.

Indeed. It was for this reason that America’s founders carved out specific protections for the principle, declaring in the Fifth Amendment that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law… .”

Universities have long been able to deny due process to students accused of sexual crimes, because the allegations against them are not criminal charges. This is a grave injustice.

Accusing individuals of heinous sexual misconduct is a serious matter. A verdict of guilt will be carried with students for the rest of their lives and has the potential to impact their career and future earnings, not to mention their reputation. Such matters are far too serious to withhold from the accused fundamental tenets of our system designed to ensure justice and fairness.

Justice Ginsburg and Judge Barrett might have had starkly different constitutional views, but on this basic idea of justice they found common ground.


We need a “youthquake” against these Covid measures

From police patrols at university to a collapse in bar jobs, the young are suffering badly in this hysteria.

Has there ever been a worse time to go to university? Not content with forcing students into arbitrary social bubbles, banning all social events, and fining anyone who dares to go on a pub crawl, British universities are now reportedly paying local police forces to patrol student neighbourhoods and break up anything even resembling a party.

Given the much-celebrated role of universities in fostering independence and building ‘life skills’, this Covidisation of campus life is a clear betrayal of everything higher education should stand for. And one that should leave students under no illusion as to how their vice-chancellors see them: as feral super-spreaders whose basic liberties need curbing for their own good.

But as depressing as campus patrols and ‘voluntary lockdowns’ might be, they’re hardly out of line with what many young people will have inevitably come to expect – at least from a government that seemingly thinks nothing of curbing their freedoms in order to pursue its fanciful strategy of eliminating the coronavirus altogether.

Of course, the problem doesn’t stop at universities. Who doesn’t feel sorry for the hundreds of thousands of couples – most in their 20s and 30s – who have been forced to cancel their dream weddings, perhaps even more than once, as Britain’s lockdown was extended for months at end? Even now, weddings remain strictly capped at 15 attendees – a limit reimposed, with just six days’ warning, by Boris Johnson this week – with venues expected to act as uncompromising overseers for Whitehall’s social-distancing diktats.

What about those graduates and younger workers having to rethink their hard-fought career plans – maybe after job offers were cancelled altogether? The Musicians’ Union says that one third of its members are thinking about packing in their jobs entirely. Better that, they figure, than deal with a future where any slight uptick in cases can mean concert halls being shut down overnight. Who can blame them?

But where else to go? Younger people have traditionally relied on hospitality – which employs one-third of all workers under 25 – to keep a roof above their head. But that hasn’t stopped the government repeatedly hammering the industry at every opportunity – even as the British Beer and Pubs Association warns that nonsensical curfews could put thousands of jobs at risk. Given how seriously the government used to take youth unemployment, it’s a baffling strategy.

Yes, I know: it isn’t just younger people who suffer under this neverending ‘lockdown lite’ (who could forget the cruel restrictions around visits to care homes?). But I’d still challenge anyone to argue that under-30s aren’t getting a seriously raw deal here: having to put their lives – and livelihoods – on hold, potentially indefinitely, for a virus that hardly affects them.

But who will speak up for the right to enjoy a normal – and police-free – university experience? Certainly not the institutions themselves, which seem content to go along with the government’s incessant micro-management. After all, challenging the restrictions would mean addressing the organising principle at the heart of government that abstract notions of public health must trump fundamental civil liberties.

That’s the sacred cow here. And despite what Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings might think, it’s an argument that has shifted drastically since March. Back then, the proponents of criminalising basic freedoms had uncertainty on their side: we must take drastic action, they argued, until we know exactly what we’re dealing with. But that doesn’t apply now. And the more we understand about the virus, the harder it becomes to justify the harsh restrictions placed on the young and healthy.

Pressed to justify the criminalisation of freshers’ week, my guess is that the lockdown fanatics would fall back on what has always been their weakest card: the idea that people are too irresponsible not to be locked down. As if they seriously believe that harsh sanctions are all that will stop students from throwing their own Covid mega-party with giant spin-the-bottle and ‘laughing gas’ ventilators.

The fact that university is meant to be the point at which many teenagers learn to make life decisions holds no water with these misanthropic pessimists. In fact, rather than a case for restoring freedom, it would probably be seen as the opposite. Rather than let young adults learn to be responsible, we must force them to be responsible. How terribly progressive of them.

If nothing else, the horrors of freshers’ week will at least prepare beleaguered students for the so-called ‘New Normal’: a world where even the most basic liberties must be pitted against tenuous coronavirus indicators, and where the heavy hand of government hovers constantly above the dial to wind freedom back a notch.

When you put yourself in the shoes of a 21-year-old, you can see just how bleak the picture is. Let’s not forget that casual sex is actually illegal in Britain. As are music festivals and house parties. And nor is it just decadent options that are off the table. Good luck to graduates with finding a decent internship when the whole of London is working from home. The deck is increasingly stacked against them.

In weighing up the whole depressing situation, I’m reminded of the great Corbynite hope of the ‘Youthquake’ – the long-awaited tide of angry first-time voters that would supposedly propel Labour to victory. If there was ever time for a Youthquake, surely it’s now. And I hope for their sake we get one.

It’s six months since the UK lockdown began and how many people you have round your house is still a police matter. New restrictions continue to be introduced without proper parliamentary scrutiny. Meanwhile, protests are banned and Covid Marshals are being hired to patrol a high street near you. spiked exists to fight for freedom and we will continue to challenge the illiberal New Normal. But to do so we need your help. Unlike so many things these days, spiked is completely free. We rely on the generosity of our readers to keep us going. So if you already donate to us, thank you! And if you don’t, please do consider making a donation today. One-off donations – or better yet, monthly donations – are hugely appreciated. You can find out more here. Thank you!


Monday, September 28, 2020

Joe Biden’s Claim of Having Attended Historically Black College Refuted by School

He’s another Leftist psychopath

Vice President Joe Biden has a history of lying about his personal story.

He falsely claimed for years that his wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver, when in fact, police actually believed Biden’s late first wife was at fault. He also falsely claimed to have been the first in his family to go to college—a lie rooted in his plagiarizing a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.

Last year, Biden claimed on the campaign trail to have attended Delaware State University, one of the country’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“I got started out of an HBCU, Delaware State — now, I don’t want to hear anything negative about Delaware State,” Mr. Biden told the audience of a town hall event in South Carolina before the state’s Democratic primary. “They’re my folks.”

On Friday, the school confirmed that Biden’s claim isn’t true. Biden was never a student there.

“Vice President Biden did not attend DSU,” Carlos Holmes, director of news service for Delaware State, told the Washington Times. “However he was the Commencement keynote speaker in 2003 and [2016], and during the former he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree.”

The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment by the Washington Times.

What kind of excuse is there for Biden’s repeated, dare I say ‘pathological’, lying about his personal story?


Students Are Clueless About History

Although students at many colleges are “technically” required to take a history course to fulfill their general education requirements, many institutions are extremely lenient about what counts as a foundational history class.

For example, instead of taking a survey course in American history, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill can easily fulfill their general education history requirement by taking a course entitled “Love and Politics in Early India” or “Samurai, Monks, and Pirates: History and Historiography of Japan’s Long 16th Century.”

Even history majors at UNC-Chapel Hill don’t need to study American history for their degree. They are, however, required to take a class in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern history, or Latin American history. History majors at other top schools such as the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University can also skip American history.

A 2016 report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) called the lack of knowledge of American history “a crisis in civic education.”

Every year for the past 11 years, ACTA grades colleges and universities based on whether they require key subjects such as history, math, and economics in their general education curricula. ACTA gives schools “credit” for the history/U.S. Government requirement if they require students to take “a survey course in either U.S. government or history with enough chronological and/or topical breadth to expose students to the sweep of American history and institutions.”

Many top schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UNC-Chapel Hill, UCLA, Berkeley, and Stanford don’t meet ACTA’s history standard.

All in all, ACTA has found that only 18 percent of four-year colleges require a foundational course in US history or government. Even worse, 70 percent of the nation’s top colleges do not require history majors to take a course in U.S. history.

But the bleak numbers don’t stop there. Countless surveys reveal just how ignorant Americans are of their own history. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, only 1 in 3 Americans would be able to pass the U.S. citizenship test. A 2011 Newsweek survey found that 70 percent of Americans didn’t know that the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.” And according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 22 percent of Americans cannot name any of the three branches of government. In 2017, only 26 percent could name all three branches.

The First Amendment Center of the Freedom Forum Institute conducted a survey in 2019 and 16 percent of respondents said that the right to bear arms was guaranteed by the First Amendment. Twenty-nine percent of respondents agreed that the freedoms of the First Amendment “went too far.”

The National Association of Scholars found that 16 of the top 50 colleges “had mandatory or preferred survey courses in American history in 1964.” Nearly 30 years later in 1993, that number was zero.

A 2017 C-SPAN survey found that 90 percent of likely voters agreed with the following statement: “Decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court have an impact on my everyday life as a citizen.” But 57 percent couldn’t name a single Supreme Court justice.

Universities, however, don’t only fail to teach American history—they actively promote material that depicts America as racist, sexist, xenophobic, and fundamentally immoral. Pseudo-historians like Howard Zinn and error-ridden publications such as the 1619 Project have gained special prominence in both the K-12 and higher education systems.


Of Academic Freedom and False Alarms

Three weeks ago I opened my email to find an unsolicited email from a lawyer, asking if I needed help. Odd, I thought, since I couldn’t remember getting any traffic citations recently. When I opened it, I discovered it was from lawyers at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), asking if they could help with the controversy at Appalachian State, where I teach.

What controversy? And why me? As much as I respect the work that FIRE does, in my experience, letters from lawyers are never a good thing.

A few frantic emails later, I managed to piece together what had happened.

Over the weekend, a student in my team-taught course had objected—actually, his friend’s mother had objected—to a survey he had taken for class that seemingly advocated killing Republicans, and she reported it to a writer.

He produced this story about a survey conducted at Appalachian State, which briefly went viral. Several days after it was posted, a friend even forwarded it to me with an angry call to defund the UNC system, totally unaware that it had happened in my class. The controversy reached the UNC Board of Governors and our chancellor.

The problem was, the story was wrong in just about every way imaginable.

So what did happen? The story starts with an opportunity provided by the current online teaching environment. Without physical classrooms, we can explore new ways of team-teaching and be in multiple places at the same time. A co-teacher and I designed a Current Political Issues course where we would each teach our own sections, but base them on shared content.

The idea was that she (a progressive Democrat) and I (a conservative Republican) would engage each other in conversations about political issues and present them online to both sections. This, we thought, would both model civil discourse for our students and let them hear sincere arguments from each side.

We began the semester by asking students to take a survey from Jon Haidt, whose book The Righteous Mind: Why We Argue about Politics and Religion argues that there are different moral “tastes” and different people are hardwired to care about values like authority, fairness, taboos, etc. differently. He argues that this occurs for evolutionary reasons—the “tribe” needs variety to adapt and survive.

In my past courses I found it helps students understand that to be useful, political debates shouldn’t about who is moral and who isn’t, but about trade-offs between different moral perspectives. That’s the context we wanted to establish for our class, and we also wanted them to become self-aware about where they themselves stand.

One student in my co-teacher’s section, however, took a different survey at the same website where Haidt’s is posted, one that she did not assign. It has since been taken down, but it sounded innocuous, a “Political and Social Values” survey. It begins harmlessly enough as well, saying that the authors just want to hear your opinion and there is no right answer.

But then it takes a dark turn, asking whether the survey takers agree with the statements like the following:

Conservatives are morally inferior to liberals,

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

If a few of the worst Republican politicians were assassinated, it wouldn’t be the end of the world

Just to reiterate, we did not assign this survey, and it wasn’t a student who complained. He showed it to a friend, who showed it to his mother, who complained.

Nevertheless, even if we had assigned it, the outrage was still misplaced. In reality, the survey is designed to measure “Left-Wing Authoritarianism.” It asks extreme questions to elicit from respondents just how far they will go to suppress alternative thought.

Essentially, its authors are trying to get valid survey data to support anecdotes like those in Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism or Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies. But…they didn’t reveal that until after the survey was finished due to worries that respondents would likely give false answers if they knew its actual purpose.

Intolerance is a real concern, especially for us conservatives who still persevere in higher education. Surveys like the one taken by the student are valuable because the more evidence we can gather, the stronger the case we can make for free speech protections on campus.

Besides that, though, what can we learn from this about reporting on higher education?

It is ironic, to say the least, that in a course where I may be criticized for the conservative things I intend to say, the first actual attack turned out to be a right-wing conspiracy theory. It was a useful lesson for readers not to believe everything they see, and for writers to take the time to learn the full story before they start hyperventilating.

Secondly, it strikes me as an example of how opaque academia can be to those outside its walls. In their defense, neither the author who produced the outrage clickbait nor the friend’s mother understood our pedagogical choices for the class nor the survey researchers’ intentions. Indeed, the survey—and their reaction—reminds us why research ethics committees frown on deceptive research.

While there are certainly many things those of us on the Right can and should critique about contemporary higher education, we need to keep our powder dry for those things which are really worth critiquing.

At a practical level, this opaqueness suggests that both sides—those demanding reform and those on the defensive—be more patient with each other.

Along with that, the misunderstanding exposes the dangers of an increasingly adjunctified faculty workforce.

The class design and the survey were both my idea, and as a professor with tenure, I’m confident taking controversial stances. I first publicly supported Trump in 2016 and haven’t been burned at the stake yet, at least. My co-teacher—the one who actually got into trouble—is an adjunct on contract that could easily be non-renewed. Can she be expected to pursue the university’s traditional goal of seeking truth on potentially controversial topics if some student’s friend’s mom’s media contact can potentially get her fired for something she didn’t even do?

Finally, I should say thank you to the good folks at FIRE for their offer—an offer to defend us against criticism from the Right, I would add for any readers skeptical of their intentions—but it doesn’t look like it will be necessary.

The various administrators at Appalachian State circled the wagons around us, perhaps a little too zealously, but that’s not a bad thing. The green light rating FIRE has given the university for protecting free speech was put to the test and found to be well deserved.


Many Australians say private education is too expensive, experts warn the extra cost brings little benefit

This is transparent nonsense. It included ALL Queenslanders when it is only middle class parents who can afford it. What people think who cannot afford it is irrelevant. Around 40% of Queensland teenagers go to a private school so there are plenty who think it is worthwhile, almost the whole of the middle class, one surmises.

I sent my son to a private school and thought nothing of the fees. I got value for money in several ways — including orderly classrooms and some male teachers

I am also sponsoring a very bright lad in Scotland to the tune of $33,00 a year. With my help he is going to a top private school so that his opportunities in later life will be commensurate with his abilities. What school you went to is immensely important in Britain

Queenslanders have sounded the alarm over exorbitant school fees, with 60 per cent of Sunshine State residents saying the price of private education is too high, The Courier-Mail’s Your Say sentiment survey has found.

The survey, which garnered responses from 8000 Sunshine State residents, revealed 60 per cent of Queensland parents thought private schools were too expensive.

The Courier-Mail this year revealed that All Hallows’ School increased fees by 5.5 per cent to $11,450 for Year 7 in 2020.

Elite Brisbane Grammar School secondary fees are $27,540 per year, while sister school Brisbane Girls Grammar’s fees for Years 7-12 are $25,782 per year.

Southwest Queenslanders felt private education would cause the most hip pocket pain, with 64.72 per cent saying private education is too costly, followed by those who live in other southeast areas at 63.61 per cent.

Queenslanders in northern Greater Brisbane areas were the third most likely to think private school is too expensive with 60.85 per cent of residents in the area sounding the alarm over fees.

Sunshine Coast residents followed closely behind with 59.93 per cent objecting to private education costs, only slightly ahead of 59.08 per cent Central Queenslanders, and 59.03 per cent Far North Queenslanders.

Of those living in south Greater Brisbane, 58.8 per cent objected to private school costs, followed by 57.64 per cent of Gold Coast respondents.

The Sunshine State residents least likely to object to fees were North Queenslanders with just 54.14 per cent objecting to the costs of private education.

Southern Cross University associate professor David Zyngier said the average cost of educating a high school student was around $15,000 per annum.

“That’s the set costs for the average student so any private or non government school that charges more than $15,000, one has to ask the question what are they doing with that,” he said.

“If they’re charging $25,000 or $30,000, then parents should be asking themselves what they get for that additional money,” he said.

He explained that while parents pay more fees at independent schools, both public and private education outcomes balance out.

“Parents have been sold a story that private is better and unfortunately it is not,” Prof Zyngier said. “When you compare private schools (and public schools) with the same socio-economic status … the public school does better.”

UQ senior lecturer in education Dr Anna Hogan said there had been a trend of increasing public school enrolments.

“There seems to be an understanding in the public school sector, that middle-class parents who have the choice to pay for school fees are actually starting to more closely consider what they’re paying for education,” she said.

Parents were questioning why they would pay $30,000 in elite school costs when their children could have a good education at a select public school, she said.

He said private education meant smaller class sizes, more extra-curricular and sporting activities and more opportunities for their three children.

“There’s a strong sense of community and connections for later in life,” he said.

“I didn’t go to a private school but I personally feel the opportunities of private schools are better than what I had.”