Friday, October 09, 2020

Tracking the growing challenges surrounding campus discussions of China

In response to China, universities around the world are making adjustments to classes and programming. As the pandemic continues to force much learning online, and as China maintains its tight control over even mild criticism, it’s important to track whether universities are balancing competing interests, or succumbing to censorship. Today, FIRE released a resource tracking the adjustments made at universities in the United States, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, in response to concerns about faculty members’ and students’ ability to freely discuss China.

Two major developments this year have posed challenges to the way campus communities around the world discuss issues sensitive to China, like the Tiananmen Square massacre, the plight of Uighurs, or Hong Kong protests: 1) the difficulties of online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it requires students in China to take courses at non-Chinese institutions amid severe internet restrictions and repressive censorship laws, and 2) the imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong, which puts forth vague bans on “separatism and subversion.” The law applies even to non-residents, threatening anyone who violates the law and later enters Hong Kong or mainland China. As Oxford professor Patricia Thornton told The Guardian, “How does one protect academic freedom when China claims the right to intervene everywhere?”

FIRE’s resource will be updated regularly to reflect the changes made at universities in response to these developments. These changes have primarily come in two forms: faculty-led course adjustments intended to protect international students from legal repercussions, and administrative-side changes to online programs.

Faculty at institutions including Princeton University, Yale University, and Amherst College have made the decision to offer anonymity in class discussions or use their syllabi to warn students that class material could be considered problematic in other countries. These measures are preferable to alternatives like removing material or limiting class discussion to abide by foreign censorship laws. Reports of these troubling measures are beginning to emerge. For example, a TA at the University of Toronto recently alleged that “he was advised to steer discussions away from controversial topics,” for example.

University administrations have offered a range of responses, some of them troubling. George Washington University, for example, temporarily posted a troubling data privacy notice warning Chinese students that the university may hand over their classroom data to China’s authorities. And a number of universities in Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand are using Chinese internet firm Alibaba Cloud to allow students in China to access specific approved resources offered by their universities, raising questions about whether these institutions will give China final say over class material.

It is vitally important to understand the way that repression overseas can make its way to countries like the United States and, in this case, campuses, and how it can impact free expression and academic freedom. In a comment to the Chronicle of Higher Education last week, I explained that “[t]he worst thing we could do is to make Chinese laws applicable around the world.” This would be the worst case scenario: allowing China’s censorship to set the standard not just for its own citizens, but in global academic institutions.

As a Dartmouth College student from Hong Kong told student newspaper The Dartmouth, “The fact that college faculties are worried that they might put students in trouble, it’s akin to the Chinese government holding overseas students hostage … They’re using those overseas students for putting pressure on U.S. campuses to silence them or to tone them down.”


Working-class educational practices are changing

Like many children around the age of two, Madison has decided not to do what her mother wants. She will not speak above a whisper. She does not want to read “Big Red Barn”. She will not identify her colours or her shapes, even though she knows them. So, for half an hour, her mother patiently cajoles, persuades, distracts and redirects. “You want me to read to you? What kind of sound does the cow make? Are you going to sing? What’s this?”

It would be a familiar scene in a pushy, upper-middle-class home. But this is a working-class black family in a poor district of Long Island, east of New York City. The careful cultivation of Madison reflects a change in her household. Her mother, Joy, says that she did little to prepare her two older children for school, assuming that they would be taught everything they needed to know. She is determined not to make the same mistake again.

Across the rich world, working-class parents have reached the same conclusion. They expect more of their children than in the past, and treat them differently. Gradually, they have adopted child-raising habits normally associated with middle-class parents. That largely unheralded change has probably mitigated the harm done to poorer children by covid-19 and the school closures it prompted. Unfortunately, some damage has been done anyway.

In 2003 Annette Lareau, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, published an astonishing book about child-raising. “Unequal Childhoods” showed that work-ing-class parents—whether they were white or black, poor and welfare-dependent or with steady jobs—thought and behaved differently from middle-class ones. Most assumed that their children would develop naturally, and that their job was to keep them happy and safe. Middle-class parents, by contrast, engaged in what Ms Lareau called “concerted cultivation”, stimulating, stretching and scheduling their progeny to within an inch of their lives.

Middle-class child-raising habits such as endlessly pointing out new things and answering children’s questions with other questions are easily mocked. They are also highly effective. Jill Gilkerson is the chief researcher at LENA, an organisation that measures children’s and adult’s speech using small digital recorders. By controlling for social class, she finds that 14% of the variance in adolescents’ IQ scores can be explained by the frequency of “conversational turns” in their speech at 18-24 months—a measure of their interactions with adults. The effect of toddler talk on adolescents’ verbal comprehension was stronger: it explained 27% of the variance.

Fortunately, the ideal of concerted cultivation seems to have spread. In 2018 Patrick Ishizuka of Cornell University presented American parents with domestic vignettes and asked what they thought of them. In one vignette, a girl who complains about being bored after school is told to go outside and play with her friends; in another, the bored girl is pushed into music lessons and sport. Mr Ishizuka found that highly educated and thinly educated parents differed hardly at all in their responses to these scenarios. Almost all thought the pushy parent was better.

Poorer parents are putting in more time, too. Sociologists Giulia Maria Dotti Sani and Judith Treas have data for 11 Western countries. In all but one (France) mothers without university educations are spending more time caring for their children than in the past. The Centre for Time Use Research has found a concertina pattern in Britain. In the mid-1970s highly educated and thinly educated mothers alike spent little time interacting with their children. Over the following decade the highly educated changed their behaviour, opening a large lead over everyone else. The less-educated then closed the gap (see chart).

Tomás Cano, a sociologist at the University of Frankfurt, suggests that child-raising norms are trickling down the social scale, much as liberal attitudes to divorce did in the second half of the 20th century. He has found that working-class Spanish parents are putting in more time on “developmental” child-care activities (such as reading and playing). Fathers in particular began to do more following the financial crisis, which hit Spain especially hard. They may have had more time for playing because so many had lost their jobs.

All this attention may be helping children at school. Two scholars, Sean Reardon and Ximena Portilla, have shown that in America the gap between the test scores of the most privileged and least privileged children upon entry to nursery closed slightly between 1998 and 2010. In Britain all children in year one of school—aged five or six—are doing better in phonics tests than they were a decade ago. Those who are entitled to free school meals because of their parents’ poverty have advanced more.

All they wanna do is go the distance

Working-class parents might have changed their behaviour in response to market forces. In America the wage premium for completing a college degree has risen from 29% to 45% since 1979. Not surprisingly, poorer parents have become more ambitious for their children. The proportion of parents in the poorest quintile of America’s population who expect their children to get no further than high school fell from 24% in 1998-99 to just 11% in 2010-11.

Another possibility is that training has changed attitudes and behaviour. Joy is being assisted by an organisation called Parentchild+, which has been sending books and toys to poor families, and guiding parents to play in more stimulating ways, since the 1960s. It now caters to 8,500 households in America each year and is expanding elsewhere. Evaluations of Parent- Child+ and similar programmes have mostly shown that they work. They are too small to have much of an impact nationally. But they may have helped change norms by spreading the idea that reading and playing with children are important.

Day care, which usually happens outside children’s homes, is common enough to make a difference. It is becoming more so as governments promote it. In the OECD the proportion of three-year-olds enrolled in pre-primary education rose from 62% in 2005 to 70% in 2014. As well as affecting children directly, these programmes could be changing their parents’ behaviour. A large evaluation of Head Start, America’s programme for poor children, found that enrolling three-year-olds raised the proportion who were read to at home.

Another possible explanation for the change is that the working class is different. Sarah Walzer, the chief executive of Parentchild+, says that her outfit encounters many more immigrant families than it used to. Immigrant parents are often ambitious for their offspring, enduring hardship and loneliness to give them better lives. Dina, the mother of a three-year-old boy, moved to America from El Salvador. She does not have a job, and her husband works in a pizza parlour, making the family squarely working class. But Dina, who went to college in El Salvador, has the aspirations of a middle-class parent.

Just as working-class children were catching up, covid-19 hit. School-age children were sent home to households where parents were already juggling pre-school children and their own work. This has been hardest on the poor. Academics at Harvard University discovered that American children did less work on a popular maths website in March and April, with the biggest decline in poor areas. The National Foundation for Educational Research surveyed British teachers in May, two months after the lockdown began. More than half reported that poor children were less engaged with their homework than others.

But if the teachers were right about poorer children doing less work during lockdown (and they might not have been— few kept close tabs on their charges), it was probably not because parents lacked dedication or ambition. A British survey of almost 3,700 people, known as Understanding Society, found that 30% of parents with no more than GCSE qualifications spent at least two hours a day helping with home schooling during the lockdown. That proportion is a little higher than the 28% of parents with degrees who said the same. The parents might be exaggerating. But another survey, of children, found the same pattern. As in Spain after the financial crisis, they may have had more time because so many were furloughed or laid off.


We Need to Talk About Bruce

Nowhere is “cancel culture” more deeply entrenched than in academia; it was commonplace there long before the actual phrase was coined to describe the current social media phenomenon. The gears of academia keep grinding away dissenting opinions, despite occasional paeans offered in the name of academic freedom. Those who propose uniquely original ideas can face all manner of retribution, from subtle digs from colleagues and administrators to the loss of employment.

One such situation is occurring at Portland State University in Oregon. The political science department has rewritten its by-laws to distance itself from professor Bruce Gilley. Among the changes is the creation of a process for making statements of condemnation against department members whose work offends a consensus of the department.

Gilley, who is tenured, is no stranger to controversial research. In 2017, he published an article titled “The Case for Colonialism,” in which he suggested that European colonies in the Third World were both beneficial and legitimate, as they generally increased the local standard of living and were often supported by a significant portion of the local population.

Obviously, such a hypothesis goes against the academic zeitgeist; it was considered deeply offensive and decried throughout academia and elsewhere. The editor of the journal that published it, Third World Quarterly, even resigned his position out of fear for his physical safety.

However, Gilley was neither cowed nor chastened by the criticism and threats directed at him. He has continued to write articles questioning the accepted orthodoxy in his field—and has added activities such as defending free expression on campus, calling for the reform of university governance, and speaking out on matters of public policy. As can be expected, these pursuits are not ingratiating him on campus and off any more than his 2017 article did.

But the question of whether an author is deserving of academic freedom does not rest on whether people like the idea expressed; unpopular opinions are an important reason why free speech and academic freedom protections exist in the first place. Rather, academic freedom is afforded to scholars because their work meets standards of rationality and method. Or, in some cases, it may be denied because their claims are unnecessarily venal.

Gilley’s scholarship and policy critiques meet all of these criteria. His work on colonialism is empirical, rational, and serious; it presents a point of view that many have pondered without conducting the research to back it. He also writes without the sort of unhinged hostility seen from former Drexel University professor George Ciccarello-Maher, who tweeted “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” or former Virginia Tech professor Steven Salaita, who praised the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers. Gilley damns no one, but merely presents evidence and draws logical conclusions from it.

The PSU political science department correspondence acknowledges Gilley’s professionalism; it alleges neither academic misconduct nor personal misconduct on his part but affirms the opposite. In a report on him prepared by two faculty members at the request of the department chair and in other intradepartmental communications, there is some consideration to the possibility that taking action may violate the sense of fairness underlying academic freedom protections. For instance, the report states that no one “questioned the notion that Professor Gilley’s research agenda and extramural activities stemming from it are protected by academic freedom.”

Indeed, there is a certain passive-aggressiveness to the political science department’s discussion about Gilley. The report raises the possibility that “university administrators may be tempted to interpret” Gilley’s critique of university policy as unprotected speech subject to Garcetti v. Ceballos strictures. That 2006 Supreme Court decision narrowed the longstanding legal standard of Connick v. Myers, which said that public employees speaking out about workplace issues depended on whether their speech was a matter of public concern. Garcetti made Connick only binding if the speech was made with the employee acting as a private citizen and not acting as an employee. But the PSU political science department’s report on Gilley does not press for the use of Garcetti; instead, it declares that Gilley’s policy criticism is “surely a commentary on a matter of ‘public concern’ and therefore protected by the First Amendment” and that “we would encourage the faculty to oppose any such action by administrators.”

Other measures were discussed—including the implementation of “shadow classes” for students who were so offended by Gilley’s research that attending his class was unthinkable. Legal precedent and American Association of University Professors disapproval, however, block the use of shadow classes, and the idea was dropped.

Yet, the departmental communications still recommend some manner of action to deal with Gilley—just because? The unspoken reasons can only be ideology and fear of opinion—and the possibility that he may be an effective voice against the progressive monopoly of intellectual life in Oregon.

What is really at issue is that Gilley’s scholarship is controversial and outside the narrow ideological lines permissible in much of academia and in the general Portland community. The same goes for his criticism of the academy and public policy analysis. A “confidential” email by department chair Melody Valdini to other department members (but not Gilley) called for urgency in taking department action against him due to his March 2020 article asking whether the hidden costs of shutting down the Oregon economy could be worse than the costs of the disease. (That is a question that should have been asked by everybody from the state governor to the “man on the street.”) “We need to talk about steps regarding Bruce,” she implored her colleagues. “It is time to make some decisions.”

In the end, three resolutions were added to the political science department’s governing by-laws:

Faculty whose scholarship or community engagement generates controversy should make a good faith effort to explicitly state that their views are not those of the Department or PSU when they write or speak in extramural settings.
When faculty are aware that particular extramural speeches or writing are likely to generate negative reactions, they should inform the Department Chair.
If a faculty member feels that the PS Department should produce and publicize an official department statement in response to another faculty member’s work, the following procedure should be followed…
The first two are relatively benign and reasonable. The first was already expected of faculty members for all their scholarship; the new resolution merely emphasizes that faculty members are independent scholars and speak only for themselves. The second is a courtesy to the department chair, who may be faced with additional work communicating with people outside the department when a department member’s writing or speech garners public attention.

It is the third of the three resolutions that is disturbing. It offers a path for politicized faculty members to “police” colleagues whose research or speech does not pass ideological tests. The actual process approved by the political science department is chilling: a single faculty member with an axe to grind against another can propose a statement of condemnation against the other’s extramural statements. The statement is secretly sent to, first, the department head, and then to all other faculty except the one who is under attack. The decision to proceed is made according to a consensus of the department, without the controversial member’s knowledge.

What is really at issue is that Gilley’s scholarship is controversial and outside the narrow ideological lines permissible in much of academia and in the general Portland community.
Next, the controversial faculty member is informed and has a chance to respond. After revisions, 2/3 of the department must approve the statement for it to become official. That is no high hurdle in today’s monolithic academy; the political imbalance in the social sciences and humanities is roughly 12 Democrats for every Republican nationwide. Furthermore, the middle ground is disappearing; in many departments, there are more open communists than there are Republicans. Given this political climate, the new process is a blueprint for condemnation of legitimate scholarship based on ideological reasons.

And although the statement is not an official “censure,” it can be used to isolate the dissident professor. Isolation is no small matter, more than an aggravation. The secretive process and subsequent statement suggest that Gilley is no longer a member of the department with unique perspectives, but that he is no longer one of “us.” If one is excluded from the group, it can be deduced that the group no longer needs to respect his or her possession of the special right accorded to the group: academic freedom.


Australia: Humanities degrees set to double in price as federal Parliament passes higher education bill

Parliament has passed contentious laws that will dramatically increase the cost of some university degrees, while cutting the cost of others.

Under the changes, the cost of a social sciences degree will more than double, while nursing, mathematics and teaching degrees will become cheaper.

The laws also remove government support for students who fail too many courses.

The cost of degrees will change due to a major shake-up of how much the Commonwealth will pay for students’ degrees.

Education Minister Dan Tehan says the changes will give students cost incentives to study subjects that will prepare them for fields where jobs are needed.

“The … 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,” he said earlier in the week.

The changes were passed in the Senate with the support of One Nation and Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, whose crucial vote the Government secured earlier this week.

In securing his support, the Government made concessions to give South Australia more Commonwealth-supported places, and offer some protections to students who failed courses.

Opponents of the laws say the changes saddle university students with substantially higher debt if they pursue their preferred study paths.


Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Other College Admissions Scandals

Four University of California campuses–UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara–“unfairly admitted 64 applicants based on their personal or family connections to donors and university staff,” according to a September report by state auditor Elaine Howle. UC staffers “falsely designated 22 of these applicants as student‐athlete recruits because of donations from or as favors to well‐connected families.” The family of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein was involved in the scandal.

“Richard Blum, a wealthy investment banker and Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband,” the Mercury-News reported, “was revealed Thursday as the mystery University of California regent in a state audit earlier this week who inappropriately penned a letter that likely helped a borderline student gain admission to UC Berkeley.” Blum said it was “a bunch of nonsense” and “much ado about nothing.” That would surprise the state auditor, who noted that undermining the integrity of the admissions process “deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission.”

In similar style, show-business types offered bribes to get their academically unqualified children into prestigious universities. That too worked against the qualified students, and the special treatment continues. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, allowed actress Lori Loughlin to choose the prison where she will serve her two-month sentence for wire and mail fraud. As this plays out, an even bigger admissions scandal is in the works.

Proposition 16 on California’s November ballot seeks to allow “diversity” as a factor in public employment, education, and contracting decisions. In reality, the measure turns back the clock to the days of state-sponsored discrimination. Proposition 16 will repeal the 1996 Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, which bars racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. As with the recent admissions scandals, those preferences deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission. If Proposition 16 passes, qualified students will again be deprived, on a scale much wider that the two other scandals. Voters should know that this has nothing to do with affirmative action.

Before and after Proposition 209, no group was prohibited from admission to California’s public colleges and universities. They can cast the widest possible net and help needy students on an economic basis. What they can’t do is give preference to students on the basis of race or ethnicity. On November 3, voters will decide whether California returns to a regime of government-sponsored discrimination.


Necessity Is the Mother of Invention: Collegiate Entrepreneurs

To the seven digit number of viewers of my screeds in this space over the past two years, I often seem highly critical of American universities: they are costly, often teach minimal amounts, lack sufficient viewpoint diversity, are over-administered, and, especially, slow to change. Yet, with thousands of schools, there have always been exceptions, and one of the few blessings of Covid-19 is it is compelling colleges to do things differently—”forced innovation” dominates. Let me briefly highlight three academic entrepreneurs doing positive things.

Vance Fried

A recently retired professor of entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University, Fried has had a varied career as a lawyer, CPA, and businessman, and has long argued that quality higher education can be provided at a dramatically lower cost. In 2008 he did a study for my Center for College Affordability and Productivity called “The $7,376 ‘Ivies’” that argued a high quality (albeit no nonsense) education could be offered at a low cost—if we abandoned numerous campus conventions like massive elective course offerings for students, huge bureaucracies, etc. Costs per student at undergraduate schools are currently typically at least double what they need to be (about $9,000 in today’s dollars).

Professor Fried now is going further, branching into promoting low cost on-line education, applying the premise that we do not necessarily have to teach today the same way Socrates did 2,400 years ago. In his latest venture, he is offering what sounds like reasonably high quality instruction that would enable a person to earn the first two years of college for $4,000 (about $200 a course). For students in Oklahoma, he has even got the cost lower—almost free college (with some private foundation support). Through his Micro-Collegiate Academy, he has focused attention on motivated high school students wanting to dramatically lower college costs. Fried is merely one example of a whole new breed of academic entrepreneurs.

Mitch Daniels

Daniels, President of Purdue University is a jack of all trades (businessman, politician, budget director, etc.) who I write about often. He was early in proclaiming Purdue would have students residing on campus this fall. Younger Americans very rarely die of the coronavirus, and if we don’t stop school when seasonal flu numbers spike, we need not do so for covid-19, albeit we need some special precautions. He gambled (which is what entrepreneurs do) that by buying the Kaplan on-line higher education service business, Purdue could rapidly expand into on-line education, something for which it had little prior expertise. Renamed Purdue Global, the operation has grown rapidly, although apparently losing tens of millions annually in promoting a large expansion. President Daniels other innovations are too many to detail, although his pioneering of Income Share Agreements as a mode of financing school deserves special recognition.

Panayiotis Kanelos

You cannot get more traditional in higher education that Saint John’s at Annapolis and also Santa Fe. It is the ultimate classical liberal arts school, with learning centered around learning great books, works of literature, philosophy, government, etc. that led to the flowering of Western civilization. It emphatically does not subscribe to the current fashionable but incredibly ignorant view that most of the great knowledge and insight that we possess today came recently from the fertile minds of contemporary woke intellectuals.

When President Kanelos was hired president of the original Annapolis campus three years ago, he told the governing board he would like to cut tuition in half. The board allowed him to cut it by about one-third, but tied that to a gigantic fund raising program to provide extremely low cost education for lower income students. Both moves seem quite successful. Applications have grown, and the average net tuition revenue per student has actually grown: a sharply lower “sticker price,” but higher discounted net revenue per student.

Kanelos understood that the old model of increasing published tuition fees and then discounting them ever more aggressively was not working. His board supported him, and outside fund raising grew as well.

This little tale of three university presidents is far from exhaustive, but all that I can discuss in more than twice the number of words it took a country bumpkin from Flyover Country, Abraham Lincoln, to deliver the Gettysburg Address 157 years ago.


Virginia Public School District Wants Teachers to Enforce ‘Woke’ Revolution, or Else

What has gotten into the water in Virginia?

The commonwealth has quickly gone from a purple-state battleground to embracing a kind of left-wing extremism that makes California seem almost normal by comparison.

The latest insanity comes from Loudoun County, where the school board is set to vote on a radical new code of conduct policy that is akin to something you may see in the defunct Soviet Union or in Communist China.

It should be noted that it was reported in late September that Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools paid Ibram X. Kendi, a leading purveyor of critical race theory, $23,000 to give a one-hour lecture to its staff.

Kendi is the author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” whose ideas, ironically, sound a lot like racism and encourage ruthless tyranny to boot.

Loudoun is keeping up with neighboring Fairfax County by not only wasting tens of thousands of dollars to have Kendi deliver brief lectures to staff, but is actually paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to have “diversity consultants” implement some of his ideas.

Loudoun’s proposed new policy, which will be put up to a vote in the school board on Oct. 12, will essentially enforce critical race theory in the public and private lives of teachers and school staff through a code of conduct.

According to a draft of a policy, “Any comments that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices” will be subject to punishment.

“The proposed change would cover all communication by Loudoun County Schools’ employees, on campus or off, by telephone, in person, or on social media,” according to a report from West Nova News.

In addition, any kind of speech perceived as “undermining the views, positions, goals, policies or public statements” of Superintendent Eric Williams or the school board will not be tolerated.

Employees will be directed to report anyone who does not follow the guidelines.

Remarkably, the document says the new policy shouldn’t be “interpreted as abridging an employee’s First Amendment right to engage in protected speech.”

What a relief.

Oh wait, there’s more: “ … however, based upon an individualized inquiry, speech, including but not limited to via social media, on matters of public concern may be outweighed by the school division’s interest in the following.”

The following includes: “Achieving consistent application of the board’s and superintendent’s stated mission, goals, policies and directives, including protected class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism.”

Again, this does not just apply when staff are working in an official capacity at school, but whenever they say or do anything on campus or off.

Oh, but don’t worry, your right to free speech is perfectly safe as long as you follow the party line at all times.

This reminds me of that old joke about a Russian commissar saying there is freedom of speech in the USSR, just like in the United States. In America, you could go to the White House and yell “Down with Ronald Reagan!” without being arrested. And in Moscow, you too could walk down to the Red Square and yell “Down with Reagan!” and not be arrested.

As Rod Dreher, a columnist and author, wrote for The American Conservative, Loudoun’s proposed standards leave out the phrase “critical race theory.” However, they adopt it in practice.

If you read through the school district’s “equity plan,” Dreher noted, it “involves manipulating passing grades and school suspension rates to achieve ‘equity’—that is, to reward or punish people based not on their conduct and accomplishments, but on their race and ethnicity.”

“Equality means giving everyone an equal chance; equity means guaranteeing an equal outcome, or at least a demographically proportional outcome,” Dreher wrote.

Critical race theory is not, as some may believe, simply an element of “sensitivity training.” It is a theory, rooted in Marxism, that reduces all issues down to race, where there are only oppressors and the oppressed. Its promotion of “equity” is at odds with the concept of equality under the law as well as the basic tenets of a free society.

Critical race theory will not only be foisted on teachers and students of Loudoun County Public Schools, it will be accepted without question if the new code of conduct policy is adopted.

These tyrannical and intellectually bankrupt ideas are no longer consigned to radical corners of American college campuses, they are coming to a school near year.

This is why parents need options to pressure their schools to abandon this madness, or at the very least ensure that their children will not be subjected to nonstop and enforced indoctrination.


Australian Universities welcome $1 billion research bailout package

Universities say their pleas have been answered after the federal budget contained a $1 billion research bailout package to help plug the hole caused by the collapse of the international student market.

The funding lifeline comes amid a horror year for the sector as many universities were forced to slash hundreds of jobs in response to a sudden decline in international student enrolments due to border closures.

The Group of Eight – which represents the eight institutions that account for 70 per cent of Australia’s university research – said the funding would “reverberate positively” through industry an security sectors which rely heavily on research advancements in technology and science.

“We have been quite desperate in past months as researchers were being stood down and research programs faltered or halted all because we were missing the International student fees which previously paid for Australia’s research” chief executive Vicki Thomson said.

“With no idea when or even if that market will ever recover, the silver lining is that Australia can once again claim it is funding its own research. That will be welcomed much further afield than our university campuses.”

The coronavirus pandemic has underlined the over-reliance of Australia’s universities on the high fees paid by international students which are used to cross-subsidies research programs.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education have estimated the shortfall in research funding could hit $7.6 billion over the next four years due to the loss of international student revenue.

The Rapid Research Information Forum, chaired by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, found universities job losses could hit 21,000 full time positions by the end of the year, of which up to 7,000 could be research-related academic staff.

In his budget speech on Tuesday evening, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the $1 billion injection for research over the next year was about “backing our best and brightest minds whose ideas will help drive our recovery.”

Peak body Universities Australia said the government had “heard the alarm bells” and the funding would stabilise research programs and jobs.

“This will ensure world-class research and discovery can continue on Australia’s universitycampuses,” Universities Australia chair Professor Deborah Terry said.

Higher education expert Andrew Norton, from the Australian National University, said lifeline was bigger than the sector had been expecting and would save some jobs in the firing line.

“This will give universities breathing space meaning they will have sack fewer people in the next few months,” Professor Norton said.

“It would’ve been much much better if they had announced it a few months ago because the universities have already set in motion some of these job cuts.”

National Tertiary Education Union president Alison Barnes criticised the announcement as insufficient, saying the funding represented only “a fraction” of the research shortfall universities were facing.

“The budget also fails to seriously address the funding and jobs crisis that universities are experiencing. Livelihoods and careers have been demolished in the past six months with 12,000 jobs lost and $3 billion in revenue disappearing,” Dr Barnes said.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

DeSantis: Closing schools in spring might have been one of nation’s “biggest public health mistakes”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that closing down school campuses in the spring as the coronavirus pandemic began to surge across the country might have been one of the nation’s biggest “public health mistakes.”

“In March we may not have had all the information, but in hindsight, knowing what we know now, the closure of schools was one of the biggest public health mistakes in modern American history,” DeSantis said during an appearance on the Drew Steele radio show. “And I think even Europe has said we shouldn’t have closed up.”

DeSantis, who has been pushing hard for students’ return to classrooms in the state, called critics of the effort the “flat earthers of our day.”

“So, now we’re at the point where the people who advocate school closures are really the flat earthers of our day,” DeSantis said. “They’re not doing it based on data. They’re not doing it based on evidence. They’re doing it based on either politics or emotion. And so, the harm of school closures, I think, is really considerable.”

Despite coronavirus cases spiking in the state in July, DeSantis said he has pushed back against keeping schools closed because he expected the outbreak to die down and because children “are not vectors” for spreading the virus.

The Florida Department of Education issued an emergency order in July that would force public schools to reopen or risk losing state funding.

However, Leon County Judge Charles Dodson halted the order, ruling that it violates the state’s constitution. Dodson argued DeSantis and top education officials’ move “arbitrarily disregards safety” and takes away control from school districts deciding for themselves whether it was safe to return.

The judge’s temporary injunction was immediately put on hold when the state appealed the ruling.

The governor noted that more than 1 million students have returned to classrooms across the state as schools have begun to stagger their reopenings, which will begin as early as this week.

“I’m a big supporter of homeschooling for those who want to do it. But you know, we’ve got a lot of blue-collar families and working mothers who have to go to work,” DeSantis added. “They just don’t have the luxury of being able to do that. Taking away face-to-face instruction means their kids fall behind tremendously.”


NYC: de Blasio seeks to reinstate virus restrictions in some spots

New York City’s mayor said Sunday that he has asked the state for permission to close schools and reinstate restrictions on nonessential businesses in several neighborhoods because of a resurgence of the coronavirus.

The action, if approved, would mark a disheartening retreat for a city that enjoyed a summer with less spread of the virus than most other parts of the country, and had only recently celebrated the return of students citywide to in-person learning in classrooms.

Shutdowns would happen starting Wednesday in nine ZIP codes in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

About 100 public schools and 200 private schools would have to close. Indoor dining, which just resumed a few days ago, would be suspended. Outdoor restaurant dining would shut down in the affected neighborhoods as well, and gyms would close.

Houses of worship would be allowed to remain open with existing restrictions in place, de Blasio said.

The mayor, a Democrat, said he was taking the action in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading deeper into the city and becoming a “second wave,” like the one that killed more than 24,000 New Yorkers in the spring.

“We’ve learned over and over from this disease that it is important to act aggressively, and when the data tells us it’s time for even the toughest and most rigorous actions we follow the data, we follow the science,” de Blasio said.

Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases of the virus has been rising in pockets of the city, predominantly in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens that are home to the city’s large Orthodox Jewish population.

Nearly 1,100 people have tested positive in Brooklyn in just the last four days, according to state figures.

De Blasio made the announcement shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo complained that local governments with coronavirus hot spots had “not done an effective job” of enforcing social distancing rules.

“If a local jurisdiction cannot or will not perform effective enforcement of violating entities, notify the state and we will close all business activity in the hot spots where the local governments cannot do compliance,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo did not immediately comment on de Blasio’s proposed shutdown in the areas where the virus is spiking.

As many as 500,000 people live in the neighborhoods affected by the proposed shutdown, de Blasio said. He said the lockdown could be lifted in 14 days or 28 days if the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 declines.

De Blasio had said in the past that public schools were largely unaffected by the rise in virus infections in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, but he said Sunday that public schools in the hot spot neighborhoods would be closed “out of an abundance of caution.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew praised the decision. “This is the right decision, one that helps protect our schools, our neighborhoods, and ultimately our city,” Mulgrew said Sunday.

The staff at Public School 164 in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, one of the affected neighborhoods, sent a letter to de Blasio on Thursday demanding that the school be closed.

Teacher Frances Hidalgo said it was unrealistic to think the school would be immune from infection when students and staff interact with people in the neighborhood daily.

Hidalgo, a fourth grade teacher, pointed to the high positivity rate in Borough Park. “We don’t live in a bubble. We’re part of the neighborhood,” she said in a phone interview Saturday.


Australia: University funding reforms set to pass Senate after Centre Alliance confirms support

The new funding will prioritize STEM courses

An overhaul of university funding that will see fees for humanities courses more than double will soon become law, after minor party Centre Alliance threw its support behind the changes.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie confirmed on Tuesday morning the party would support the reforms, handing the federal government the crucial vote it needs to pass its Job-Ready Graduates bill through the Senate.

Ms Sharkie, the party’s education spokeswoman, said Centre Alliance had negotiated a deal with the Morrison government that would secure more places for South Australian students and more protections for students who failed first-year subjects in exchange for its support.

“These legislative reforms are by no means perfect but overall Centre Alliance recognises what the government is trying to achieve and what the university sector is calling for, which is funding certainty following the 2017 indexation cuts,” Ms Sharkie said in a statement. “Without change, many universities were at risk of significant job losses and campus closures going into next year.”

The government needed one extra vote to pass its reforms, which will be debated in the Senate on Tuesday, after striking a deal last week to secure One Nation’s two votes.

Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff emerged as the make-or-break vote last week, after Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie ruled out her support, saying the reforms would “makes university life harder for poor kids and poor parents”.

Labor, the Greens and Independent senator Rex Patrick also oppose the bill.

With Centre Alliance’s support, the Job-Ready Graduates bill could pass the Senate as early as this week. The changes will cement a major restructuring of university funding by hiking fees for some courses, including by 113 per cent for humanities, to pay for fee cuts for STEM, nursing and teaching courses.

The government says the reforms will create 30,000 new places next year, while cheaper fees in certain fields will deliver more graduates in areas of expected job growth.

Under the amendments negotiated by Centre Alliance, South Australia’s three public universities – Adelaide University, the University of South Australia and Flinders University – will be given up to 3.5 per cent extra funding to grow the number of student places at their institutions.

The minor party said it had also secured more protections for students who, under the reforms, would be cut off from accessing HELP loans if they failed 50 per cent of their first-year subjects, through an amendment that would legislate the criteria for exemptions for “special circumstances”.

Senator Griff said the deal was “an excellent outcome for South Australia”.

“This means substantial extra funding for our three universities over four years, over [and] above current funding allocations, and an additional 12,000 students will have access to a university education over a four-year period,” Senator Griff said.

Greens education spokeswoman Senator Mehreen Faruqi slammed the deal, saying Centre Alliance had “chosen to sell out students, young people and our universities”.

“They’ve bought the government spin hook, line and sinker. They should be ashamed of condemning generations of young people to decades of debt,” Senator Faruqi said.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Parents Outraged After Ohio High School Football Game Turns into a BLM Rally

In case you haven’t noticed, racially charged political movements are invading every area of American life. High school football games are no exception. Parents attending a football game at Lakewood High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, were outraged when someone took to the public address system before the game to declare that the school would henceforth be an “agent of change” in combatting “systemic” racism in “society as a whole.”

“All of the visiting parents were completely caught off guard,” popular Cleveland radio host Bob Frantz, whose son was playing in the game, told PJ Media. “We were standing respectfully for the playing of the Lakewood alma mater, and when it ended they began a new song,” which turned out to be “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Also known as the “black national anthem,” the song is featured before NFL stadiums as a part of the BLM movement.

“Then, when [the announcer] began telling everyone how horribly racist American society is, we were livid,” said Frantz, who hosts “Frantz Authority” on Salem affiliate 1420 The ANSWER. “Most of us sat down immediately, and the three dads near me, all of whom were police officers, were visibly angry. One said he would have walked out if it wasn’t his son’s senior season.”

As the marching band played the black national anthem, the announcement continued over the public address system: “Let us pause and reflect on the inequality that our nation has faced since its beginning.”

“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice among others remind us of the systemic racism that persists across so many of our nation’s institutions and society as a whole,” the speech continued. “By acknowledging, discussing, and taking action to address these inequalities, Lakewood City Schools aims to be an agent of change, not only in our community but in the world. We must all take a stand against racism. Let this be the moment when our children someday look back and say, ‘This is when we stood together for change.’”

Lakewood City Schools did not return a request for comment, but sources have confirmed that both the school principal and the band director knew in advance about the planned speech. The principal, Mark Walter, reportedly attended an anti-racism rally in Lakewood in June.

A source close to the situation told PJ Media that Lakewood police are furious about the political stunt and are threatening to pull security from the football games until they receive an apology. Despite receiving a slew of complaints from parents and law enforcement, the school reportedly still plans to repeat the BLM-themed stunt at future football games but will remove the names of those killed in encounters with police. They also plan to read a tribute to first responders at halftime as part of a compromise with law enforcement.

The text of the new speech, which was provided to PJ Media, gives the history of the black national anthem and explains, “‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ sets an atmosphere of reverence for the journey of people of color, gratitude for the selfless sacrifices of their ancestors and for the inheritance of indomitability and resilience. The song recognizes these moments as important to moving forward toward hope and faith for a better future and a better America. The song is universally uplifting and speaks to every group that struggles.”

The speech continues, echoing last Friday’s speech, “We must take a stand against racial, economic and social injustice. Let this be the moment that our children some day look back to and say, ‘this is when we fully saw and recognized the need to stand together for change with respect and civility for all.’”

At halftime someone will read the following script: “As we prepare for the second half of tonight’s contest lets please take a moment to acknowledge and thank Lakewood’s first responders. The work of our police, firefighters, and EMTs is challenging and oftentimes dangerous. These brave men and women put their lives on the line each day to protect us and keep our community safe. We are grateful for their service and their dedication to the City of Lakewood.”

Some police officers are saying the “compromise” does not go far enough. They want a full-throated apology from the school for disrespecting them by pandering to the BLM movement—which is calling on cities across the U.S. to defund their police departments and tarring all police as racist oppressors.

Bob Frantz said parents were angry about two things. “The first was the not-so-subtle suggestion that the three people they mentioned, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice, were killed because they were black—implying that the police were racially motivated in each case—which is wholly untrue,” he said. “The second was just the idea that they would bring national politics and this racially divisive message into a high school football stadium and deliver it to a captive audience. It was inappropriate at best, and unconscionable at worst.”

The compromise, such as it is, demonstrates how citizens can have a say in policies (and political stunts) that are not in line with the community’s values. Leftist activists have been allowed to steamroll their way through schools with little resistance or consequence. Parents are often cowed into silence fearing they’ll be called racists or bigots. The fact that Lakewood High School was willing to work with parents and law enforcement to come up with a compromise will hopefully embolden other parents to jump into the fray to protect their children and their schools from the cultural Marxists who are threatening to destroy our institutions.


The Top Ten America-Hating Professors

“White Fragility” author Robin DiAngelo and cop-hater Joshua Clover made the list.

1: Nicholas De Genova, University of Houston

2: Joshua Clover, University of California-Davis

3. Seif Da’na, University of Wisconsin-Parkside

4: Angela Davis, University of California-Santa Cruz

5: Robin DiAngelo, University of Washington-Seattle

6. Ibram X. Kendi, Boston University

7: Christine Fair, Georgetown University

8: Cornel West, Princeton University

9. James M. Thomas, University of Mississippi

10. Russell Rickford, Cornell University

The ivory tower has long been a refuge for those who hate our country. For decades past, students have been forced to endure scholarly lectures on the evils of American hegemony, imperialist dominance, Western civilization and festering racism. But never before in our history has the very concept of our nation—founded on our inalienable rights to life, liberty and property, equality before the law, freedom of speech, press and association, and control of individual destiny—been so trampled by the institutions that exist to educate our next generation.

As America prepares for the 2020 elections in a nation already roiled by the coronavirus pandemic and the racial unrest stemming from the murder of George Floyd, magnified by calls to “defund the police” and ever-increasing anti-Semitism, university professors across America are attacking not just the conservative principles at the heart of the American experiment but America itself.

At schools across the nation ranging from the University of California-Davis to the University of Mississippi, from Georgetown University to the University of Houston, the intellectuals charged with educating our next generation of American citizens are abdicating that duty, indoctrinating impressionable students with far-left ideology, battering the principles of capitalism, the economic system that has made our nation staggeringly wealthy and provided opportunities and economic mobility to past generations. These educators attack not only law enforcement officers who are dismissed as inherently racist but the very notion of law and order, instead urging revolution, anarchy, and violence. As we head into this election year, these America-hating professors dismiss all supporters of President Trump as evil white supremacists or “Hitler youth,” effectively barring true intellectual discourse in their classrooms or even the pretense of political neutrality.

It should perhaps be unsurprising that a significant number of these America-hating professors also persist in demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state of Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and in employing derogatory and racist stereotypes of the Jewish people.

In this election year, it is more important than ever to know and follow what our educators are saying about this fraught moment in American history. The following report names the Top Ten America-Hating Professors teaching at American colleges and universities. Please visit our website at for more information and to report an America-hating professor on your campus!


UK: The great student lockdown

Why are students being singled out for punishment?

Lockdown is an infantilising experience for all of us. That Boris Johnson’s occasional Covid press conferences increasingly feel like fatherly rebukes for our misbehaviour lays testament to this. But no part of the adult population is being more treated like children at the moment than students.

At present around 4,000 students in England and Scotland are in enforced isolation following coronavirus outbreaks at at least 32 universities, including Glasgow, Exeter, Manchester Metropolitan and Edinburgh Napier. Entire halls of residence have been locked down in an attempt to slow the spread.

That students gathering from all over the country would lead to outbreaks of the virus was predicted by basically everybody. Still, universities and the government urged them to take up their places in person, presumably to stave off deferrals and ensure universities could fill as many dorms and collect as much rent as possible.

Given those in their late teens and early twenties are incredibly unlikely to fall seriously ill with the virus, special dispensations could easily have been made. Many of them will be living and socialising almost exclusively with one another, with little contact with the older and more vulnerable.

Instead, many of them have been subject to insane collective restrictions that it would be unthinkable to impose on other sections of the population. The authorities and university administrators have come together to enforce lockdowns on thousands of students following outbreaks on campus.

At the University of Glasgow, where around 600 students are self-isolating following 172 positive Covid tests, students were told that breaking the rules could mean disciplinary action being taken, including termination of their accommodation contracts and even suspension from the university.

The same is happening at Manchester Metropolitan, where around 1,500 students have been locked down. A spokesperson told the BBC: ‘Our security teams will increase patrols to support the lockdown and we will take disciplinary action against any students found to have breached requirements.’

Students at Glasgow and MMU have also reported seeing local police getting involved. And if this all wasn’t Stalinist enough for you, MMU even sent around an email telling students to take down messages they spelled out in post-its in their kitchen windows, including ‘Let us out’, ‘Fuck Boris’ and ‘HMP MMU’.

The handling of it has been roundly shambolic. An MMU student told LBC that his flat of 10 has been asked to leave their full bin bags in a cupboard for three days before they can be ‘safely’ collected. While that smell gathered, he said they also struggled to use the washing machines, as they needed cash to do so.

While we have all been told to isolate if we or someone in our household test positive or get symptoms, these halls-wide lockdowns, including dozens of separate flats, are apparently indiscriminate. One MMU student told the BBC that he and all of his flatmates had tested negative, but were still prohibited from leaving.

For first years, looking to make new friends and enjoy themselves, the existing restrictions were trying enough – particularly in Scotland, where households are banned from mixing entirely. But since term began the authorities have been imposing strictures on students beyond that experienced by everyone else.

Guidance rushed out last week by Universities Scotland and the Scottish government told all students not to visit pubs or restaurants at the weekend, even with their households. It also said staff must be ‘vigilant against any breaches of the guidance’ and that downloading the Protect Scotland tracing app was mandatory.

While there’s been a lot of talk about it this week, the potential Christmas ban also seemed to come early for students. Last week Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch made clear on Twitter that students should not visit their parents’ homes, and Matt Hancock refused to rule out students staying put at Christmas time.

Young people are often wont to feel hard done by. But it’s hard not to see their treatment in recent weeks as uniquely harsh. They have been quarantined at a stroke and threatened with eviction if they do not comply, all the while paying thousands for the pleasure of online freshers’ events and lectures via Zoom.

They are being treated even more like children than the rest of us, everything from their movements to their window displays policed by the authorities. That they are adults capable of making their own decisions seems to have gone out the window in favour of harsh, blanket measures unlike anything else we’ve seen.

That universities and the authorities feel emboldened to treat them in this way is telling. For years there has been a move towards infantilising students, treating them as in need of more support, direction and coddling in order to get them through university life. It’s hard not to see HMP MMU as an extreme expression of that.

In 2018, then universities minister Sam Gyimah said ‘universities need to act in loco parentis’ in relation to students’ mental wellbeing. Here he essentially called for a partial return to the system, abolished in 1970, that saw undergraduates as essentially children in need of paternalistic guidance.

Where prior to 1970 in loco parentis meant the policing of students’ social and sexual interactions, complete with curfews and gender-segregated halls, today universities talk up their obligations to students’ mental health. But what underpins both views is the idea that students are essentially still children in need of support.

It is telling that in all the sympathetic commentary about the great student lockdown, much of it focuses on the toll it is supposedly taking on students’ ‘wellbeing’. Rather than seeing these students as young adults deprived of their freedom and formative experiences, the temptation is to frame this in terms of mental health.

Here we glimpse why the authorities are daring to treat students in this way. We don’t really think of students as adults any more. Which is at least part of the reason why officials, when it came to the crunch, felt so comfortable railroading their rights. Here’s hoping the locked-down students fight back against this madness.


Colleges Where Free Speech Is Endangered

Leftists are no longer liberals because they hate the First Amendment.

There’s a sad irony in the fact that an institution originally conceived to encourage discourse and the free exchange of ideas is now rife with conformity and political correctness.

But a survey done this spring by campus free-speech advocates revealed that students at certain campuses are more into groupthink than others. This poll, which was conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and RealClearEducation and covered more than 20,000 students at 55 institutions across the nation, found that the University of Chicago was considered the best college for speech freedom, while students at DePauw University in Indiana believed their campus was the worst. Keeping DePauw company in the bottom 10 were Ivy League institutions Dartmouth and Harvard, along with other well-known schools like Louisiana State University and the University of Texas at Austin.

There’s one University of Chicago student, however, who begs to differ. Evita Duffy became the subject of derision when, as part of a “get out the vote” promotion, she wrote as her reason for casting a ballot, “I vote because the coronavirus won’t destroy America, but socialism will.” As Duffy explains, the reaction was fierce: “Fellow students attacked my character, my intellect, my family, my appearance, and even threatened me with physical violence, using foul and offensive language. I was called a racist and a xenophobe. Some compared me to animals. Others declared that they would personally stop me from voting, and many defended the personal attacks, saying I deserved to be bullied and that I don’t belong at the University of Chicago on account of my beliefs.”

Indeed, if that’s how they treat free speech at the first-place institution, one shudders to think of the reaction at the bottom-tier schools.

While the subject seems to be intended as encouragement, there’s a serious underlying problem illustrated by the survey. “Most students don’t want guest speakers with controversial views on campus,” writes analyst Jennifer Kabbany. “Seventy-one percent replied that they would oppose allowing a speaker on campus who would argue ‘transgender people have a mental disorder,’ 64 percent oppose a speaker who’d argue ‘abortion should be completely illegal,’ and 75 percent oppose a speaker who’d say ‘Black Lives Matter is a hate group.’” These ideas may not be mainstream, but they’re not particularly radical in nature, either. And they belong within the discourse on a college campus.

We often hear about conservative speakers getting shouted down on college campuses by left-leaning student groups. On the other hand, academics like Ibram X. Kendi, who recently coined the term “white colonizers” for white parents — such as Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett — who adopt black children, only create a ripple of criticism. Kendi dismissed these complaints, saying, “We should take it as a compliment when people attack us personally or when people misrepresent our work. Because that means they can’t challenge what we are actually saying or writing or meaning or doing. Take the compliments with grace and move on.” Of course, Kendi can say that since he has a secure position within the ivory tower, and since his cohorts secretly agree. And why shouldn’t they? Those on the Left are never subjected to “heckler’s veto” like conservative and libertarian speakers.

We should’ve seen trouble coming 40 years ago, when “free speech zones” began cropping up on college campuses. Even the ACLU objects to this censorship: “A university’s job is to teach students how to be contributing members of society, not to stifle expression.”

We’d argue that a university’s job is to broaden students’ educational horizons by teaching them about the benefits of Liberty and a free society, but at least they seem to get the point.


Monday, October 05, 2020

In Other News, We Haven’t Had COVID Outbreaks from Schools Re-Opening

It’s not like this was a controversial position when you looked at the data. It’s not like there weren’t medical experts saying what The Washington Post has reported recently about schools in the COVID era. Instead, we got endless drama from teachers who didn’t want to work. We had to deal with their nonsense about dying on the job, how they’re signing wills in case they die, and the media did well in peddling the panic porn to make these people hysterical. Parents want their kids in school.

And sorry, teachers, you need to get back to work. If you don’t want to, that’s fine—you get no paycheck. No work, no pay. That should be the rule because guess what—schools haven’t had any outbreaks from COVID since re-opening. None. It’s not happening.

Why? Well, as the data showed from the outset of this unsubstantiated freakout, kids really don’t get it. They account for just two percent of all COVID cases in the US. Pediatricians gave their stamp of approval too. This really wasn’t a scientific debate. The science was clear: re-open the schools. Can we please kill this idiocy (via WaPo):

Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities.

This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.

“Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.


… researchers at Brown University, working with school administrators, released their first set of data from a new National COVID-19 School Response Data Dashboard, created to track coronavirus cases. It found low levels of infection among students and teachers.


Teacher’s unions in Texas that keep track of infections say they have been surprised by how low it was. In many parts of the country, teacher’s unions have resisted school systems’ efforts to return to classes, saying sufficient safeguards were not in place.

Yep. It’s time to get back to work. Daniel Horowitz of The Blaze added:

Well, knock me over with a feather. Studies from countries including theU.K., Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Taiwan, and Iceland have all failed to find meaningful spread from school-age children. Sweden kept the younger grades open throughout the entire pandemic and didn’t experience a single death. The Public Health Agency of Sweden found no measurable difference in outcomes for children between Sweden and Finland, even though Finland closed its schools.

The Washington Post also observes that data from 37 school districts in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania that opened schools shows “there have been 23 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across 20 schools and no indication that the virus was spread in schools.”

In other words, what we are consistently seeing in grade school is that, unlike in college dorms, there are just a smattering of cases here and there with no evidence of children driving the transmission. A comprehensive review of COVID-19 cases in German schools conducted by the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin found that “most school outbreaks had few cases per outbreak, with more cases among older age groups who could have been staff or other persons epidemiologically linked to school outbreaks.” Additionally, they observe, “considering class sizes of usually 20 to 25 students per class the low number of cases in each age year suggests rather limited onward transmission within classes.”

The bottom line is that a mere discovery of some cases in schools does not mean these kids were infected from the school setting or would have avoided getting it by being out of school.

This debate is over. Teachers unions shut up and get the hell back to work, and re-open the schools. Now.


No, the government has not banned anti-capitalism from schools

‘Is it fascism yet?’, US commentators ask whenever Trump opens his mouth. In the overactive imaginations of those panicking over the prospect of a second Trump term, fascism is on the rise. Unsurprisingly, then, the launch of Trump’s ‘1776 Commission’, a White House investigation into the teaching of history, and a direct response to the 1619 Project set up by the New York Times, is taken as conclusive proof that ‘America is spiraling toward fascism’.

The f-word is increasingly used to describe developments in the UK, too. Boris Johnson is a ‘proto-fascist’, according to former shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Meanwhile, a handful of thugs harassing asylum seekers is taken as evidence of imperial British fascism. So when the Department for Education (DfE) last week warned schools against using ‘resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters’, and defined ‘anti-capitalism’ as one example of an extreme political stance, the ‘fascism’ klaxon sounded loudly.

McDonnell was again quick off the mark. ‘This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace’, he said. Labour’s Beth Winter described the new guidance as ‘sinister and alarming’. But McDonnell then went beyond hinting at fascism to offer his own interpretation of the guidance: ‘On this basis it will be illegal to refer to large tracts of British history and politics including the history of British socialism, the Labour Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism.’

McDonnell’s word was soon taken as law. A writer at the Canary tweeted: ‘Under new guidelines the Johnson government is banning from schools in England works by William Godwin, William Morris, JB Priestley, Noam Chomsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, George Orwell and many others who critiqued the economic model of the established order.’ Author and broadcaster Stuart Maconie joined in: ‘So ironic that this would mean no teaching George Orwell.’ Teachers everywhere bemoaned a ban on teaching poets like Wordsworth, Shelley and Coleridge and topics like the Peasants’ Revolt, the trade-union movement and Marxism in history. The parallels between Trump and Johnson wrote themselves: two demagogues implementing fascism through the school curriculum.

Banning Animal Farm from English lessons and the Russian Revolution from history classes would indeed be truly alarming. But this is not what is happening. John McDonnell is simply wrong and the fearmongers on Twitter are spreading fake news. The new curriculum guidance says nothing about English or history – it refers specifically to ‘relationships, sex and health education’.

It is in this context that the DfE warns against the use of resources produced by organisations that: desire to abolish or overthrow democracy or capitalism, or to end free and fair elections; that are opposed to free speech; that use racist language; and that endorse illegal activity. More specifically, the guidance warns that children should not be led to believe that their preference for particular clothes or toys means they may have a different gender identity. It all comes with a reminder that teachers should note their duty to impartiality and the need for a balanced treatment of political issues in the classroom.

The DfE’s new guidance fires a warning shot to schools that uncritically endorse groups like transgender children’s charity Mermaids or Black Lives Matter. And, sadly, this is needed. For too long the DfE itself has forged links with certain organisations and allowed them to influence directly what children are taught in relationships and sex education classes. In turn, too many school leaders see inviting LGBTQ activists to speak to pupils as a quick and easy way of ticking a diversity box. Lessons in gender, relationships and, most recently, race and racism, are rarely prompts for debate but an opportunity to inculcate particular values.

English teachers can still teach Orwell and Shelley. Indeed, I wish they would: Priestley’s An Inspector Calls seems to be 2020’s ubiquitous choice. And history teachers can still cover the Russian Revolution and the Chartists. Good teachers will encourage children to engage with literature and other resources before thinking critically about the text and about their own society. This bears no resemblance to treating children as a captive audience for your own views.

There should be no need for government ministers to spell out which organisations or resources can and cannot be used in schools. Teachers should be trusted to decide what’s appropriate for their pupils. But this depends on there being a clear distinction between education and indoctrination, between teaching and activism. The blurring of the boundaries between these activities is not the fault of teachers alone. The very existence of relationships and sex education – a made-up subject that is entirely about influencing children’s behaviour and deliberately altering their views – lends itself to imposing values and political perspectives. Worse, when traditional subjects like English and history are no longer seen as worthwhile for their own sake, they too become hollowed out receptacles for political objectives.

The government should not be dictating acceptable resources for teaching. But rather than crying fascism over made-up edicts and bad-faith interpretations of guidance, let’s campaign to scrap the whole notion of relationships and sex education. Then children would have more time to learn and think critically about all kinds of topics – even anti-capitalism.


Is it racist to watch college football?

A professor has penned a grovelling and obsequious apology for an article suggesting that college football could reunite a divided America. Why? Because, apparently, his remarks were racist.

Matthew J Mayhew of Ohio State University originally co-wrote an article for Inside Higher Ed suggesting that a shared love of American football could reunite a nation torn apart by political division and the Covid pandemic.

But just five days later, an apology has been published. In it, Mayhew asked for forgiveness for any hurt his comments had caused minority communities. His extended apology reads like an admission of guilt from a tortured prisoner at a Soviet showtrial:

‘I learned that black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and… positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the black community.’

Mayhew goes on to vow to create ‘a plan for change, for turning the “I am sorry” to “I will change” – for moving Black Lives Matter from a motto to a pathway from ignorance and toward authentic advocacy’.

But it is hard to find anything remotely offensive in Mayhew’s original article. He did not even mention race, except when praising sport’s ability to provide athletes with ‘a platform to make statements about issues they care about’, including ‘racial equality’ and ‘police brutality’. Which, if anything, was an attempt to make an anti-racist point.

It seems as if literally any activity, hobby or point of view – no matter how innocent – can now be denounced as racist. And as identity politics colonises more and more areas of life, we are expected to bow, scrape and grovel before its dogmas. We need to take an unapologetic stand against this absurdity.


Australia: University of Queensland barred from holding hearing over medical student rape allegations

A small blow against a university kangaroo court — but via some very complex and questionable jurisdictional reasoning — with the costs award not reflecting the verdict

University of Queensland cannot hold a disciplinary hearing into allegations that a medical student sexually assaulted a fellow student two years ago, after losing an appeal.

The university disciplinary board’s appeal against a judge’s decision barring the hearing was dismissed, because the accused male medical student graduated at the end of last year.

The Court of Appeal found the former student, only identified as Y, who has never been charged with a criminal offence, is no longer subject to the university’s disciplinary process.

However, it found the male student’s Supreme Court bid to block the disciplinary hearing should have been dismissed last year, under the facts and circumstances that then existed.

It was alleged the female student was digitally raped by the male student while both were staying in student accommodation, while doing a clinical placement in a regional town in 2018.

After being told the allegations involved a number of acts of “unsolicited physical intimacy’’, the male student applied to the Supreme Court for an order to prevent the disciplinary hearing.

The student’s lawyers claimed the proposed inquiry was unlawful, because it was into an allegation of a criminal offence of rape and the board did not have jurisdiction.

The university disagreed, claiming it was a hearing to determine whether student integrity and sexual misconduct policies had been contravened.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Ann Lyons said the particulars of the alleged sexual assault could be categorised as including at least three counts of rape and a number of counts of sexual assault.

Justice Lyons said the university only had jurisdiction in relation to criminal acts of a sexual nature where the alleged offence was proved.

However, in the Court of Appeal, Justice Philip McMurdo disagreed with that interpretation of the university’s sexual misconduct policy.

The policy said the university did not have jurisdiction over criminal acts, but could take action in respect of breaches of its rules, policies and procedures.

Justice Lyons said the policy removed the university’s jurisdiction to determine whether acts occurred, if commission of those acts constituted a criminal sexual offence.

But Justice McMurdo said the policy did not remove the university’s jurisdiction to decide whether there had been any breaches.

Justice McMurdo said Justice Lyons should not have concluded that the disciplinary proceeding was beyond the university’s power.

As a result of that finding, the Court of Appeal unanimously set aside a previous costs order against the university.


Sunday, October 04, 2020

WA: Sex ed mandate sparks bitter state ballot fight

Democrats in the Washington state Legislature thought they had passed a routine sex education requirement for public schools earlier this year. But a coalition of Republicans and religious conservatives launched a swift, historic backlash that’s led to a bitter partisan fight and an effort to overturn the measure on the November ballot.

Democrats in the famously liberal state say they want to protect young people from sexual abuse, diseases and infections. But the increasingly outnumbered and aggrieved Republicans have taken issue with the content of the standards as they rally for local control.

The resulting referendum on the November ballot marks the first time in the country that such a decision on sex ed will be decided by voters.

Under the wide-ranging bill, kindergarteners would be taught how to manage feelings and make friends, while older kids will learn about consent and how to respond to violence. The curriculum must also address issues faced by LGBTQ students.

At least 29 states plus Washington, D.C., require public schools to teach sex education, but the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Education Commission of the States — two organizations that track policy trends — said it has never appeared on a statewide ballot. Instead, the curriculum has been debated at school boards and statehouses.

A Washington state group funded by Republican leaders called Parents for Safe Schools forced the issue onto the ballot by submitting over 264,000 signatures, the most gathered for a referendum to overturn an existing bill or law in the past four decades, according to the secretary of state. It was double the minimum number needed to make the ballot, with two-thirds coming from church sites.

The group helmed by Mindie Wirth, a tech company manager who lives in the Seattle suburb of Bothell, was aided by Catholic church parishes that served as signature-gathering locations while the pandemic limited traditional petitioning activities.

“It feels like we’re just not being listened to and I think this is a very large part of what this represents,” said Wirth, a one-time Republican candidate who lost a bid for state Senate in 2016.

Courtney Normand, director of a Planned Parenthood-affiliated political group in the state, is leading the campaign in support of the sex ed bill. She said her coalition didn’t mobilize during the referendum petition because of the pandemic and was dismayed that the opposition’s in-person signature-gathering took place despite Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

“It seems to be a political, partisan turn-out goal rather than really an intention about student safety,” Normand said of the Republican-led efforts.

As of Sept. 24, almost half of the $1.1 million raised for Safe & Healthy Youth Washington, the campaign in support of sex ed, has come from Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Parents for Safe Schools — the campaign against the sex ed bill — has amassed $245,000 in contributions. Most came from the Reagan Fund, the political action committee of the Washington State House Republican Leadership.

Republicans have slammed the mandate as an affront to local and parental control of education. Though school boards have the authority to create or adopt their own curriculum, opponents said the bill would still dictate what must be covered in classes. Opposition leaders say they aren’t necessarily opposed to sex education but see the statewide mandate as heavy-handed.

The Washington State Catholic Conference, the policy arm of church leadership in the state, is especially opposed to the affirmative consent aspect of the curriculum because the church opposes premarital sex.

“When you get into the issues of how do you say ‘yes’ or how do you say ‘no,’ that can easily open the door to that ‘It’s OK. It’s OK to say yes and no,’ and that steps on our teaching that sexual activity is to be reserved for the sacrament of marriage,” said Mario Villanueva, executive director of the conference.

The fiercely partisan fight has carried over into the non-partisan race for state schools chief.

Maia Espinoza, who was a single mother after having her first child at 19 years old, said she decided to run against incumbent Superintendent Chris Reykdal because she is horrified by the sex ed mandate that his administration requested. Two years ago, Espinoza ran as a Republican in a losing bid for a seat in the state House.

Those in support of comprehensive sex ed say it’s a health and safety measure needed to protect children, and that there is a wide disparity among the nearly 300 public school districts in the state, a small number of which do not teach any sex education.

Reykdal, who previously served three terms as a Democrat in the state House, said the state education department routinely reviews content standards. He said the Legislature was mindful of the sensitivity of the sex ed topic, issuing age-appropriate concepts by grade level and allowing families to opt out of the lessons. Families also have a say when their local school district adopts curriculum.

State Sen. Claire Wilson, a Democrat from the Seattle suburbs, said she was moved to sponsor the bill based on her experience as an educator working with pre-teen mothers and also by hearing from men and women who said they didn’t even know the words needed to describe sexual abuse they endured as children.

“This is not about teaching sex. It never has been and it never will be,” Wilson said.


Feds to ship millions of tests in push to reopen K-12 schools
President Donald Trump announced Monday that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states this week and urged governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The move to vastly expand U.S. testing comes as confirmed new COVID-19 cases remain elevated at more than 40,000 per day and experts warn of a likely surge in infections during the colder months ahead. It also comes just five weeks before the November election, with Trump facing continued criticism for his handling of the crisis.

The tests will go out to states based on their population and can be used as governors see fit, but the Trump administration is encouraging states to place a priority on schools. White House officials said at a Rose Garden event that 6.5 million tests will go out this week and that a total of 100 million tests will be distributed to governors over the next several weeks.

Officials said the administration is emphasizing testing in schools because it’s important to the physical, social and emotional development of students to be back in classrooms to the degree that’s possible. The Abbott Laboratories tests would allow parents to know whether their symptomatic child has COVID-19. In some cases, states could undertake some baseline surveillance, like testing a proportion of students per week or per month to make sure that the incidence of COVID-19 is low.

“You have too many states that are locked down right now,” Trump said. “The governors are … nobody knows what the governors are doing actually.”

The tests will come from a previously announced supply of 150 million ordered from Abbott. The company’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require specialty computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.

Rapid, convenient testing is considered essential to reopening the U.S. economy. But the effort has been plagued by problems since the earliest days of the outbreak.

First, the government lost pivotal weeks distributing, then correcting a flawed test developed by U.S. scientists. Then, for months private labs and hospitals struggled to ramp up testing capacity due to shortages of key supplies, including testing chemicals.

The issue is politically sensitive for Trump as he grapples with the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. For months, Trump has prodded state and local leaders to open schools this fall.

Only in the last two months has U.S. testing capacity generally exceeded demand. The government’s top testing official, Adm. Brett Giroir, told Congress last week that the nation will soon have the capacity to run 3 million tests per day, on average. The U.S. has been averaging about 900,000 tests per day, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Giroir demonstrated the ease with which the test is given, self-administering the nasal swab then placing it on a piece of paper that contained six drops of liquid.

“This is a very sophisticated little piece of cardboard with lots of antibodies and incredible technology,” he said.

Abbott’s test is an important advance because of its low cost and easy-to-use format. Until now, the vast majority of coronavirus tests had to be sent to high-grade medical laboratories for processing that typically took several days. Backlogs led to repeated delays in reporting results, especially during a summer spike in cases.

But rapid, point-of-care tests like Abbott’s have their own downsides. They are less accurate, and positive results often need to be confirmed with higher-grade lab tests. Additionally, because the tests are often performed outside the health care system, state officials have warned that many tests are going unreported. That could lead to undercounts of new cases, skewing government data needed to track the virus.

“What we’re hearing from the states is that they don’t know where these tests are being done,” said Dr. Jeffrey Engel of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, in a recent interview. He warned that schools generally do not have the capacity or expertise to report mass testing results, which could artificially lower infection counts sent to state and federal officials.

Trump warned that with an increase in testing, there would “automatically” be an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“It’s important to remember that as younger and healthier people return to work and as we massively increase testing capacity, we will identify more cases in asymptomatic individuals in low-risk populations,” Trump said. “This should not cause undue alarm.”

The tests from Abbott are being made in two factories, one in Illinois and one in Maine. The company is in a ramping-up phase. The federal government bought the first 150 million, and it will take the rest of the year to completely fill that order. After that, the administration will decide whether the government should purchase more or whether the free market can determine adequate distribution.

The nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation says the U.S. will need roughly 200 million tests per month to safely reopen schools as part of a broader phased approach to easing restrictions, according to a paper issued earlier this month. The report authors noted that the U.S. is currently averaging fewer than 30 million tests per month.

Despite the gap, Rockefeller’s director, Dr. Jonathan Quick, called Monday’s announcement “an exciting and very significant step.” He added that states will need sustained funding and testing supplies “for the foreseeable future.”

The Trump administration announced earlier this month that the Abbott tests would also go to assisted-living facilities, moving to fill a testing gap for older adults who do not need the constant attention of a nursing home. Senior day care centers and home health agencies are getting the tests too.

Long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living, account for a sliver of the U.S. population but more than 40% of deaths from COVID-19.


It’s the Elites vs. the Underdogs in the Battle for Education Choice

If there is one unifying strand that runs through the character of our nation, it is that America loves an underdog. From the Revolution, to Roosevelt, to Rocky, our country has always embraced the fighting spirit of those who triumph against difficult odds to achieve a worthy cause.

Conversely we hold far less affection for those in authority who wield power with abandon, entrenched elites who write the rules to keep everyone in their place. The story of our nation is an ongoing tale of these opposing forces; the elites who thrive on power and demand allegiance to their dictates, and individual Americans struggling for the right to be free from control. And nowhere today do we see this battle in such stark contrast as in the fight for education choice.

As the digital age is opening up endless possibilities and empowering people with opportunities like never before, it is a stone-age anomaly that education today remains largely a government monopoly for all but the wealthy and privileged. Democrats have firmly planted their flag on the monopoly hill, fiercely opposed to even the smallest empowering gestures such as charter schools or vouchers for public education.

This battle is no less pronounced in higher education, where Democrats have spent the last decade firing torpedoes at a whole industry of innovative career-oriented colleges and universities that are not part of the public university system or the elitist ivory tower establishment. For Democrat lawmakers in Washington and their deep-pocketed allies in the non-profit education racket, nothing would please them more than to regulate or legislate these schools out of business.

Special-interest money flows to fund the left’s assault on career-oriented education even beyond the halls of Capitol Hill. Ivy League “consultants” like Bob Shireman and David Halperin, former advisors to Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively, make a good living doing the dirty work of the education establishment, setting up foundations filled with left-wing journalists, politicians, and former administration officials to tear down for-profit and non-profit private colleges.

It is no surprise these activists are silent concerning the many problems at public universities or elite private institutions; admissions scandals, alarming graduation rates, student debt scandals, issues of tenure, or the festering environment of political intolerance. Nor do they scrutinize the multi-billion dollar endowments or outrageous compensation packages of professors and administrators of their alma maters. Their sole purpose is to hurt the working class by targeting the schools attended by the academic underdogs who lack their own elitist credentials.

The people they aim to hurt include students at Monroe College in the Bronx, a family-run for-profit institution with a track record of placing its almost all minority nursing graduates into jobs that would be the envy of any school in the country. Under Shireman and Halperin’s master plan, this school likely closes and its contribution to our nation, our economy, and the disadvantaged students it serves disappears.

Democrat activists threaten the mostly working-adult student body of ECPI University, one of the top technical schools in the country that is playing a significant role in helping America fill our economy’s rapacious need for skilled workers in the computing and IT field. If the entrenched education establishment gets its way, tens of thousands of other adult, minority and military students would be affected at schools such as University of Phoenix, Full Sail University, Grand Canyon University, and hundreds of others.

The elitist left’s tactics are despicable and dishonest, and have included lobbying the IRS to deny schools’ non-profit status, pressuring the Department of Veterans Affairs to disqualify universities for GI Bill funding, and launching a broadside against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who refused to enforce punishing Obama-era regulations.

Every day that the elites work to eliminate these valued universities, enlisted men and women in active duty military are pursuing degrees to accelerate their graduation dates. Every day that these schools face the threat of closure from an elitist educational CABAL, single mothers and financially disadvantaged women are signing-up for classes that will launch them into new careers for a better future.

The truth is that career-oriented schools fill a critical need for non-traditional adult learners, students with jobs and families, military personnel, and minority students. We know this because thousands are making the choice every day to pursue their dreams by enrolling at career-oriented schools whose innovative programs fast-track them to a better life. Education choice should be every person’s right, not just the wealthy and connected. In this battle against the elites it should be our duty to fight for the underdog.


Religion on Campus: A Marketable Skill, or a Diversity & Inclusion Fight?

Across higher education, campuses have changed how they deal with religion. It used to be seen as something at odds with academic freedom and science. Now, however, some campus administrators and advocates want students to learn more about religion, and to see policy changes on the institutional level.

One argument is for colleges to teach religious literacy because it’s a vital career skill. Another sees religion as an equity issue like race and gender, and colleges need to make religious accommodations for students to create an inclusive campus. The influence of both arguments isn’t likely to go away soon, either.

One camp has an eye toward student earnings. Religious literacy pays off in the marketplace, advocates argue, because students will work with all sorts of people. Graduates will be better coworkers and managers when they know something about different Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. And employers will pay better wages.

Whether students develop those career skills through religious literacy activities, though, isn’t so clear.

The other camp is interested in religion at the institutional level, as part of diversity and inclusion on campus. Colleges, they say, have a duty to welcome religion on campus and make students comfortable. On one level, it means accommodations such as prayer spaces, excused class absences, and meal options that respect religious restrictions. Another level is social change to fight what they call Christian supremacy and systemic oppression.

The economic argument is pushed by the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a nonprofit organization that works with religious and secular colleges, doing research, offering program grants, and running events and training for students and campus staff. It boasts on its website that it’s “building a network of over 100,000 aspiring interfaith leaders on more than 600 U.S. college and university campuses.”

In its Interfaith Diversity Experiences & Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS), IFYC explained why religious literacy matters:

The changing demographics of our nation require nearly every American adult to possess skills to bridge religious divides. Research from the Public Religion Research Institute specifically underscores the relevance of religious diversity in the workplace, indicating that most Americans encounter religious diversity at work far more frequently than in other facets of their lives. Employers are therefore emphasizing the need for a workforce that possesses strong civic knowledge and intercultural skills, and whose members are equipped to solve problems with people whose views differ from their own.

Advocates such as IFYC and interfaith workers want more institutional investment in their efforts, citing a lack of knowledge among students, even compared to a generation ago. In IFYC’s IDEALS report, the group suggests colleges:

Hire staff responsible for supporting diverse religious groups and dedicate space on campus for religious groups

Create formal accommodations and add religion to campus diversity statements

Require students to participate in interfaith activities
Inroads are being made with the argument that religious literacy is a job skill.

“This is the argument that is so essential,” said Ellie Thompson, the Reflection Center coordinator at Utah Valley University, an area where students can pray, meditate, and gather for interfaith events. Tying educational gains to economic gains matters to boosters and campus staff alike.

If college leaders aren’t persuaded by the job skills argument, they might come around to keep international students happy. “How do you get administrative buy-in?” Thompson said. “There’s lots of different tactics to take, but administration always pays attention to the money.” It’s essential to make international students feel like they belong on campus if colleges want them to stay. “We want every single person who walks on our campus to feel like there is a place they feel like they belong,” she said.

More and more colleges are taking action, either by required courses or extracurricular activities.

The University of Michigan, for example, is developing virtual training modules on interfaith cooperation. Utah Valley University offers interreligious, interfaith, and worldview workshops to faculty and staff. More than 120 campuses included interfaith themes as a part of a required course, according to an IFYC survey, 21 of which were public universities.

In a classroom setting, these courses can be more meaningful than a one-off session. “It’s a lot more robust when it’s part of the required curriculum,” said Michelle Lelwica, a professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. “Students are going to be required to gain some knowledge about religions other than Christianity, but they’re going to have to engage with each other.”

“This would be something that public colleges would do well to do something about—to have some kind of required engagement with religious diversity,” Lelwica said.

Outside the classroom experiences can still benefit students, Lelwica noted, but it’s easier to avoid issues of real difference and fall into platitudes like “all religions believe the same thing.”

The economic argument for religious literacy may not be that strong, though. Employer surveys do show that they want students who can work in teams and communicate well. Listening skills, attention to detail, and effective communication topped one survey, and a ZipRecruiter analysis of entry-level job listings emphasized customer service, sales and marketing, and consulting experience as well. Employers want to hire college graduates who communicate well, solve problems, and work well with others. However, they aren’t yet demanding graduates have interfaith experiences. Knowing how to avoid offending someone in the workplace is a good skill to have, but it might not get workers a hiring bonus.

Religious literacy classes and interfaith activities aren’t necessarily how students develop those skills, either. The official, structured events may do less than informal socializing that gets students to learn about what their friends believe. Left alone, students already show high regard for religious differences.

Interfaith Youth Core’s IDEALS report noted that 90 percent of students said they “feel a sense of goodwill toward people of other religious or nonreligious perspectives.” Another 70 percent said they were “highly committed to bridging religious divides” by their senior year. Students may not understand precisely what their Shia or Baptist coworkers believe in, but they try to treat them well.

A better knowledge of religion in America is a laudable goal, but students lag in their religious knowledge just as they lag in their knowledge of history. It’s an open question whether more religion classes would develop job-friendly communication skills better than more history, English, or public speaking classes.

When religion on campus is an equity issue instead of an economic one, the focus shifts from student learning to identities and minority groups. Students deserve the chance to keep their grades up without violating their religious beliefs, but the advocacy can be polarizing and move beyond academic concerns.

“To foster a well-rounded and global student, you can’t just ignore these identities,” said J. Cody Nielsen. Nielsen is the executive director of Convergence on Campus, a nonprofit organization that supports religious, secular, and spiritual diversity on campus.

“Administrators in higher education have been seemingly let off the hook and not held responsible for fostering campus climates that are equitable, inclusive, and are structurally designed and built” for all students regardless of belief, Nielsen said.

Convergence on Campus was designed as a social change organization, Nielsen said, to look at institutional practices and create an equitable environment.

“We have said from the beginning that marginalization of religious minorities and non-religious identities in higher education is always and always has been systemically racist and colonialist,” Nielsen said.

When Convergence on Campus works with diversity and inclusion staff on campus, Nielsen noted that they explain that diversity and inclusion work is intersectional, and the culture of higher education has shied away from talking about religion.

“It [comes] back to sort of religious literacy and understanding that secularization and claims around separation of church and state are inherently optical illusions of white Christian supremacy and white Christian privilege that exists,” Nielsen said. “And then, once we cross those barriers, working with diversity and inclusion officers, if they can grasp at that…then we start working on institutional policy changes.”

Some of those policy changes are relatively simple, such as

Make accommodations for religious holidays,

Educate faculty about student rights to those accommodations,
Offer kosher, halal, vegetarian, and other dietary options in food halls, and

Designate one staff person as responsible for handling these issues.

Students have Constitutional rights to practice their religion without interference or penalties from their college. Those rights apply to Catholics as much as Hindus, agnostics, and all other spiritual identities.

“We’re not talking about religious practice. We’re talking about religious oversight in the same way that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on Greek life,” Nielsen said.

“Claims around separation of church and state are inherently optical illusions of white Christian supremacy and white Christian privilege that exists,” Nielsen said.

Convergence on Campus has made notable progress. Nielsen pointed to a 2019 law in Washington state that mandated a religious accommodation policy be added to all syllabi at colleges and universities. They are tracking similar bills and, were it not for COVID-19, a few more states would have passed similar laws, he estimated.

Their work goes beyond ensuring religious accommodations.

“We’re about promoting equity,” Nielsen said. “We want to foster an area of what we see as very transformational, or at least aspirationally transformational possibilities in society. We want to turn that field of higher education into a vessel that on every corner of the campus any student…knows that their identity is valued and seen on campus.”

People who are not politically progressive may be less excited to use higher ed as a vessel to fight all social ills, however. Making religion a part of diversity and inclusion would mean expanding the power of campus administrators, who are overwhelmingly on the political left. If religion becomes another diversity checkbox on campus, it may be something a progressive Lutheran would enjoy more than a conservative Evangelical, though both would appreciate religious accommodations for all.

The model followed by Convergence on Campus and, to an extent, by Interfaith Youth Core sees colleges and universities as places for social change. It’s a place to create leaders for the future and to power “transformative social movements.” But students are generally more interested in getting a good job or learning something about the world, rather than serving as the activist vanguard for campus administrators.