Friday, October 23, 2020

Biden's Radical 'Education' Agenda

As the 2020 election hits the home stretch, one of the most glaring aspects of this campaign is the lack of public exposure the mainstream media has given to Joe Biden’s policy platform — or really anything about Biden. Indeed, Biden’s campaign strategy can be boiled down to “vote for me, I’m not Donald Trump.” And if the polls are to be believed (though caveat emptor), it appears to be working. Yet if he wins, there are likely a sizable number of Americans who will end up regretting their vote as his extreme leftist agenda is foisted upon them and their school-age children.

One example of the dire implications of a Biden presidency is the profoundly negative impact his Title IX agenda will have on schooling. Recall that during the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, his Education Department explicitly redefined Title IX prohibitions against discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include “gender identity.” What soon resulted was the infamous transgender bathroom policy wherein a student could use either bathroom and locker-room facility based entirely on their own declared “gender identity,” irrespective of the settled science of their biology.

During last Thursday’s town hall event, Biden answered a question about how he would protect against “transgender” discrimination. Biden made it clear that he would “flat out just change the law” and eliminate President Trump’s executive order reversing Obama’s diktat, and then reimplement Obama’s extreme Title IX agenda. Thus, a Biden presidency would quickly end Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s corrective reforms by reinstating Obama’s disastrous Title IX policy, and by so doing Biden would impose the “transgender” ethic in America’s public schools.

But that’s not all. Biden would eliminate hard re-won due process rights for college students who are accused of sexual misconduct. That’s awfully hypocritical for a man who himself has been credibly accused of sexual assault. And his intent is to violate the constitutional rights of young men on American college campuses so he can generate votes among the young women on those campuses.

Biden also opposes any system for school vouchers or school choice really of any kind, thereby locking the children of poor parents into failing public schools. That especially hurts the black families who are increasingly realizing Trump is the far better choice.

In short, a Biden-Harris administration would turn back the clock on some key reforms in education, while ensuring that public schools remain mired in mediocrity. “Progress” indeed.

UK: Teaching white privilege as uncontested fact is illegal, minister says

Schools which teach pupils that “white privilege” is an uncontested fact are breaking the law, the women and equalities minister has said.

Addressing MPs during a Commons debate on Black History Month, Kemi Badenoch said the government does not want children being taught about “white privilege and their inherited racial guilt”.

“Any school which teaches these elements of political race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law,” she said.

She added that schools have a statutory duty to remain politically impartial and should not openly support “the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group”.

Badenoch was speaking in response to Labour MP Dawn Butler, who had told the Commons that black children are made to feel inferior by what they are taught in school and history “needs to be decolonised”.

“At the moment history is taught to make one group of people feel inferior and another group of people feel superior, and this has to stop,” Butler said.

“History needs to be decolonised. You can go through [the] whole of the GCSE and not have reference to any black authors at all. You could go through history and not understand the richness of Africa and the Caribbean, you can go through history and not understand all the leaders in the black community.”

Support for moves to decolonise teaching in the UK have garnered substantial support in recent years, particularly at universities – although a Guardian investigation found only a fifth have committed to reforming their curriculum to confront the harmful legacy of colonialism.

The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed the calls for decolonisation, while Labour frontbencher Abena Oppong-Asare pressed for a taskforce to look at diversifying the content taught in school.

“We want all our kids, all our children, black and white, every single corner of this country, to better understand our history so our children have a true sense of belonging within British culture,” she said.

Badenoch rejected the claims, insisting that history in schools “is not colonised”.

“We should not apologise for the fact that British children primarily study the history of these islands, and it goes without saying that the recent fad to decolonise maths, decolonise engineering, decolonise the sciences that we’ve seen across our universities to make race the defining principle of what is studied is not just misguided but actively opposed to the fundamental purpose of education,” she said.

Butler responded: “Sometimes, especially during Black History Month, it would be progress if [people] could acknowledge the systemic racism that not only existed then, but has a lasting legacy now in our structures, which doesn’t for any other group.”

Texas Longhorn Band Won't Play Saturday Because of 'Racist' School Song

Members of the University of Texas marching band, also known as the "Showband of the Southwest," can't come to a mutual agreement about playing "The Eyes of Texas."

Many believe the school song has racial undertones, and that prompted several UT athletes this summer to demand a discontinuance of the song. The athletic and PR departments have played damage control from within, but it has since leaked into other parts of the school, campus and the state.

Before getting into the background of the song and its ties, here's what's currently happening with the school's band:

The band conducted an internal survey about the song, and band director Scott Hanna told the school newspaper, The Daily Texan, that "based on (survey responses), we do not have the necessary instrumentation, so we will not participate in Saturday's game" against Baylor.

Hanna told The Texan that the band was "evenly divided" in opinions about the school song.

"Moving toward resolution takes time and sustained effort," Hanna said. "The conversations that have started are an important step toward that goal."

School officials confirmed on Wednesday that the band will not play at this week's Texas home game against Baylor, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The song "The Eyes of Texas" was written in the early 20th century, and it's set to the famed "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The first-known performance of "The Eyes of Texas" was in the early 1900s by white singers wearing blackface at the Varsity minstrel show.

This summer, after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, there were nationwide protests against police brutality against Blacks. In June, about 40 athletes from the University of Texas asked the school to nix the school song. They posted a letter on social media.

"On behalf of the UT student athletes, we ask to have the following issues addressed through the implementation or a plan for implementation at the start of the fall semester," the letter stated. "The recent events across the country regarding racial injustice have brought to light the systemic racism that has always been prevalent in our country as well as the racism that has historically plagued our campus."

The school song is played during the game, but mostly at the end of every game, and players typically stand on hold the "Horns Up" sign with their hands. Many players felt like they were pressured to sing the tune.




Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ingraham: Biden alliance with teachers' unions should alarm women wary of Trump

President Trump could make gains among women by pointing out Joe Biden's support of teachers' unions who have pushed to keep schools closed to in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic, Laura Ingraham suggested Tuesday.

"The Ingraham Angle" host cited a recent New York Times poll that showed Trump leading Biden among likely male voters by six percentage points, but trailing by 23 percentage points among women.

"If that poll is anywhere near accurate, the president would have a hard time closing that gap with women but he could narrow it," said Ingraham, who added that many media members and public health authorities have "frightened and misled" women across the country about the nature of COVID-19.

"They are afraid the kids will go to school and they will get sick or they will bring sickness back to their own communities and back to their own homes," she said, "when any honest adult knows virtual learning is a train wreck for almost every kid out there, especially for those who are poor.

"But Biden and his handlers don’t care about the kids," she continued. "They keep concerning themselves with what their political allies think: The teachers' union. They need to keep them happy."

Ingraham pointed out that in Fairfax County, Va., one of the richest school districts in America, the local union has pushed to keep classrooms closed until August of 2021.

"This is child abuse," she alleged. "My hope is school officials see how damaging it will be to children but my expectations are low."

"The left," Ingraham went on, "doesn’t care about the science it invokes if it conflicts with their goals ... Teachers' unions are ignoring the science to make absurd demands."

The host later warned that "with Biden in the White House, what we are seeing in Fairfax County will be happening nationwide. You won’t be able to just move across county or state lines to escape. Your child won’t see the inside of a classroom for a very long time.

"What he or she learns online about America will be left-wing propaganda courtesy of the 1619 Project," Ingraham continued. "Under President Biden this scenario might be great for Black Lives Matter and the NEA but horrendous in every other way. How can any parent, especially any mom, support this?

"I think women are naturally protective of our children. That’s just the way we are," she concluded. "For this reason alone, female voters should drop their old hang-ups about Trump. He is not the heartless or mean force in this race. He is the opposite. He wants your sons and daughters in school and learning. He wants you to be free to work for your family."

Why Even the Childless Should Want School Choice

At a rally this week, President Donald J. Trump repeated his promise to extend school choice to every child if re-elected.

I don’t have or want kids. No, I’m not going to change my mind – even as a little girl I barely liked being around other children. But while I don’t intend to raise children of my own, I think it’s imperative that families with kids receive access to educational freedom. For that reason, Trump’s promise made me excited.

In fact, I think school choice is the civil rights battle of our time and that everyone should rank it high on their list of important reforms.

I grew up with school choice, as do most middle-class to wealthy families, but it came at a price. My father, the first in his family to go to college, was working full-time as a pastor and putting himself through a PhD program throughout my early childhood. My mother, who had obtained her teaching degree in Alabama, decided to homeschool us after observing the sheer incompetence of many of her teaching peers. Both of my parents recognized the importance of a good education and its essential role in shaping future prosperity, and so they sacrificed for us.

At the time (1990), homeschooling was not even legal in all 50 states, nor was it cheap. I often think about the financial burden this choice placed on my family (we essentially paid for school twice – first in taxes and then in homeschooling costs). Because my mother had to choose between our education and outside employment, my parents lost out on years of retirement income, savings towards our college tuitions, and access to things they wanted.

Homeschooling is incredible. I got to spend my days with my parents and siblings. I was never bullied or forced to grow up too soon. I only did school for a few hours a day, and my curriculum was customized to meet my interests. I learned how to think, instead of what to think. All of this provided me with a fantastic education, a healthy sense of self, and a lifelong love of learning.

Research shows I’m not alone in this experience. Studies are finding that homeschoolers are more tolerant than their peers, enjoy closer relationships with their families, and academically outperform public school graduates.

In the book Unschooled by Kerry McDonald, another former homeschooler describes her experiences like this:

“I felt very free and independent as an unschooled teen, and had the time and pleasure to read as many books as I could access, write novels and short stories, travel, and pursue passions such as theater, music, dancing, and gymnastics. I also engaged in assorted self-created internships throughout my teenage years."

Another account from the same book, this time by Sophie Biddle says this:

“Trusting young people is one of the most radical notions in our society, but childhood and human development are not linear paths. Really, it’s a journey.”

For many years, homeschooling was maligned by many and those of us who participated were painted as socially awkward, religious bigots, or hillbillies. Thankfully, that is changing rapidly and the practice is booming. That’s more children free to pursue their passions, learn at their own pace, and receive an education in the safety of their own home - free from the bullying and social pressures.

Now, compare that to the educational environment experienced by most kids in this country.

Nearly 90 percent of American children attend district schools, many of which are failing. It is estimated that 1 in 5 American adults are functionally illiterate. On international math tests, we rank near the bottom of industrialized countries and our high school graduation rates continue to plummet. For those who may struggle with spelling due to our failing public education system, that spells trouble.

On top of that are the added woes of COVID-19 and the impact the lockdowns are having on our school children. If their district even re-opened, and that’s a big if, kids are being forced to wear masks for hours upon hours or spend their days in front of a computer screen. This isn’t normal. It’s bad for the children, and it’s bad for their parents – many of whom are now struggling to work and teach from home with no added resources.

How long can a country remain great with an uneducated populace? It can’t. “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” stated Thomas Jefferson (sort of). Not only does the lack of a good education lead to poverty, increased chances of criminality, and a lower life expectancy for the individual, but in a democratic republic, it also harms society at large.

When my neighbor’s vote matters as much as my own, I find it to be of the utmost importance that they are capable of thinking through important policy positions and casting a competent vote. When my taxes pay the price for those who fall into poverty or criminality, I find it essential that we provide pathways out of these systems. When our society as a whole becomes less educated, we will all suffer the consequences.

Currently, our public schools have no impetus to improve because they have no competition. In Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman explained why this is a problem:

"The difference is not between schooling and other activities but between arrangements under which the consumer is free to choose and arrangements under which the producer is in the saddle so the consumer has little to say. If the consumer is free to choose, an enterprise can grow in size only if it produces an item that the consumer prefers because of either its quality or its price."

"The situation is very different when power is in the hands of a central government. The individual citizen feels that he has, and indeed does have, little control over the distant and impersonal political authorities. The possibility of moving to another community, though it may still be present, is far more limited."

These institutions are a government monopoly that most people cannot afford to break out of. On average, public schools receive $15,000 per year, per pupil. That’s way more than most private schools charge. But very little of this makes it to the classroom or student. Instead this money largely goes to a bloated administration.

Once you understand that, you’ll understand why government-school employees and teachers’ unions work so hard to block school choice. It’s about their bottom line, not the child’s. Ironically, the average school teacher would likely also benefit from school choice and be able to command a higher salary. But they’re being lied to about this by their unions.

Imagine if instead each American family received that $15,000 in an Education Savings Account (ESA) that could be used towards private schools, homeschooling, online course, or their local public school (should they earn it). All families would have the ability to pick the schooling situation that’s best for their unique child, schools would have to compete for resources and offer better services to survive, teachers could command better pay, and families could even roll over unused funds towards higher education.

A child’s future should not be determined by their zip code—especially when this system traps people in cycles of poverty, disproportionately people of color—neither should it be determined by the value of their family’s home. School choice is about equal opportunity for all children and creating a better future for our country. You don’t need to have kids to want what’s best for our nation’s children. Demand school choice now.

White working class boys are the most deprived – and ignored – ethnic group in Britain... Telling them they enjoy white privilege is laughable

Last week I gave evidence at the Education Committee's inquiry into why poor white children do so badly at school. It's an inquiry that was long overdue.

The fact that I was there at all was something of a miracle because I am white and come from a single-parent, working-class family where money was always a problem.

Against the odds, I went to university – not Oxbridge or even a traditional Russell Group establishment, but a 'low-tariff' university, at Salford in Manchester.

So, yes, it's a problem with which I'm very familiar. The statistics would speak for themselves, were anyone to pay attention.

Because white, working-class boys from low-income homes are by far the most underprivileged children in Britain in comparison with any other major ethnic group.

According to the Department for Education, just 13 per cent of white boys entitled to free school meals (because their families are on benefits) go on to higher education.

Yet 27 per cent of similar black Caribbean boys go to university, 42 per cent of Pakistani, 51 per cent of black African and 66 per cent of Chinese boys.

It is a staggering fact that only two per cent of white, working-class children get into the most prestigious universities, yet we fall over ourselves to help other groups make it.

The only groups with worse educational outcomes than white, working-class boys are their peers from gypsy, Roma and Irish traveller backgrounds. So will we see a campaign on behalf of Britain's poor white children? I'm confident the answer is no.

These boys and girls are treated as if they are invisible by politicians and by universities, as I know all too well.

Today I am a professor, lecturing in politics at the University of Kent, yet my own upbringing still marks me out as an outsider, particularly if I dare to show support or understanding for working-class views.

Brexit is a particular case in point. There are times when I've been made to feel a pariah thanks to my support for the outcome of the referendum (although I was by no means a Brexiteer myself).

It is my opinion that the British working class had every right to stick up two fingers to the Establishment and I've not been afraid to say so.

But that's not a popular view in the rarefied world of universities, where children, especially boys, from poor backgrounds have been shoved to the margins. It is simply not fashionable to talk about white, working-class kids.

There is now a strong push among academics to promote diversity and inclusion, to unleash what some refer to as the 'untapped potential' of children from minority ethnic backgrounds.

It is understandable and laudable. As part of this, staff at universities are frequently asked to take tests to establish whether they are unconsciously biased or racist. Yet the conversation is all about multi-culturalism and almost never includes the role of class. Why?

Nobody wonders aloud why there are so few white, working-class students in higher education.

My own roots are in the terrace house on the outskirts of St Albans, Hertfordshire, where I grew up. My younger brother and I were raised by our mum after my dad left when I was about five.

My abiding childhood memory is of standing outside the school gates waiting for Mum to come tearing round the corner to collect us after she finished work in the human resources department of the local NHS trust.

Much of the job of bringing us up fell to Mum's parents. They belonged to the old-fashioned working class, solid members of the greatest generation. They looked after their neighbours, went to church and gave to charity.

Their lives were shaped by the lingering values of the Victorian period. I worshipped my grandfather, who was born into complete poverty in Brixton.

As a young man he fought in Burma with the Chindits and met my grandmother at a wartime Army concert in India.

A girl from South Wales with a prize-winning soprano voice, she was singing for the troops with Vera Lynn.

My grandfather always said that once he caught sight of her, he couldn't stop staring.

He was so besotted that, as soon as he was demobbed and returned to Britain, he jumped on a motorbike and rode to Llanelli, where he proposed at once… even before he'd gone home to see his own family.

They settled in Castle Bromwich, in the suburbs of Birmingham, where my grandfather worked in a stationery business and tended his garden.

He helped to support my mum financially but, by the time I reached the sixth form at my all-boys secondary school, I was having to work at two jobs to help pay the bills.

One of these was at a fast-food restaurant, where the manager was keen to take me on full-time.

This was the late 1990s and there was pressure on me to do a management training course – which would have meant abandoning my A-levels – so that I could start to earn proper money.

At the time, it was a tempting option, not least because it felt as though this was what was expected of me, not by my family but by society in general. I just wasn't the type that was meant to go to university, much less become an academic.

But one of my teachers, Mr Brands, who taught history and Latin, saw that I had an aptitude for study and an interest in politics – even if it was the politics of Disraeli and Gladstone, which was on the curriculum at the time.

Mr Brands inspired me, not just because of his lessons and the fact he encouraged me to complete my A-levels. I had another job at the time – as school cleaner. After the other boys went home, I stayed behind with a mop and bucket, to earn an extra few quid.

It was an unconventional arrangement but I was glad of it. And as I did my rounds of the classrooms, I started to notice that Mr Brands stayed behind, too.

He would walk around, picking up litter, and was sometimes still there at 7pm. There was an indefinable quality to the man, an old-school decency and moral fibre I admired very much.

And if he thought I should continue my studies, I felt I should listen to him.

I didn't apply to university until I had my A-level results and I picked Salford because I knew my father was living in Manchester. I thought I might get the chance to know him a little better.

My grandfather was deeply proud of my decision. His parents had nothing and now his grandson was going to university.

I will always be grateful that he lived long enough to see me get my first lectureship, at Nottingham. In his eyes, I was an 'intellectual'. The idea makes me smile but it's also touching. He did what he could to help with my living expenses but like most of the students on my course I had to work part-time to support myself throughout my degree and beyond.

I took all sorts of jobs but the most reliable was delivering pizzas. I wouldn't change that experience for the world, yet I'm constantly aware few of my colleagues went through anything similar.

Many are themselves the children of academics, or even the grandchildren of academics.

Their lives in education were written from the start: prep school, private school, ten years at Oxbridge to do a masters and PhD, then a career in elite universities.

They cannot begin to fathom what the people of Blackpool and Clacton, Hartlepool, Rotherham and Dover are thinking.

Our universities seem oblivious to the problem of raising educational standards for the white working class, despite the fact this is the biggest single social group in Britain – in fact, precisely because they are the biggest group.

These boys who underachieve so badly do not come from a minority, let alone a fashionable one. They are too unfashionable to have a hashtag.

This does not explain the shocking failure of politicians to recognise and support them. In particular, the Labour Party, which was set up to speak for the working class, seems to have turned its back.

Its narrative is now dominated by race and gender discrimination. It speaks volumes that it was a Labour MP at the Education Select Committee who linked the underachievement of these kids to their so-called 'white privilege'.

But as I explained in reply, telling working-class boys they are suffering from white privilege is nonsensical. What do we even mean by that?

If we're going to start teaching them in school that, not only must they overcome the existing economic and social barriers but that they must now start apologising for being white, that's only going to compound their problems.

They are falling through the cracks as it is.

The suggestion that these and other groups of boys are infected with 'toxic masculinity' is another modish criticism which is likely to make things worse, not better.

It is another way of suggesting they are to blame for their own plight, that they should somehow make amends simply for being who they are.

This is a very dangerous state of affairs, the more so as few in authority show any understanding.

Just 1.5 per cent of MPs have ever worked in blue-collar jobs. In fact, Labour MPs are even more likely than Tories to have gone to university. The party that was supposed to fight hardest for the workers has been taken over by middle-class professionals and careerists.

How can they relate to these children? They're from a different galaxy. Grasp that, and you begin to understand why we are not talking more about these problems.

This has been exacerbated by divisions over Brexit. Ten years ago, concerned that I met so few people like myself in higher education, I turned my research to communities in regions that had suffered a continual lack of investment for decades.

Britain's economy was increasingly centred on London and the South East and many people were either withdrawing from political engagement altogether – because they felt that, however they voted, nothing would change – or they were shifting to the marginal parties such as Ukip.

When the Brexit vote happened, I wasn't surprised. Nor was I surprised when Boris Johnson's pro-Brexit Tories won the biggest Conservative majority since 1987 at the last General Election.

The middle-classes from the big cities and university towns were comfortable talking about the rights of trans-sexuals and ethnic minorities but preferred to ignore the white working class.

So it is no surprise that academics have largely dismissed the Brexit vote as xenophobic and racist.

Today, attempting to do anything on behalf of white boys from lower income backgrounds is seen as tantamount to fostering racism.

When Professor Bryan Thwaites, the 96-year-old mathematician and philanthropist, tried last year to set up a £1million bequest to benefit poor working-class boys at his old school, Dulwich College, he was turned down. Winchester College also rejected the gift.

The very idea was treated as toxic. Yet when the grime artist Stormzy set up scholarships for poor black children, he was widely praised.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is crackers. We seem to be talking about how every other group in society is victimised and left behind, yet when the figures show how badly young white males are being let down, we shut our eyes and ears.

We ignore them, deride them, look down on them and treat them as failures – and then we wonder why so many people in these communities are rebelling against the status quo.

After winning the Election, Boris Johnson promised he was going to 'level up' the country.

The obvious place to start is by levelling up the life prospects for these boys.




Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Introduction To Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is an essential human skill, but it is little-taught. Once upon a time critical thinking courses were held to be essential, but they have since vanished from schoolrooms, either rolled into optional Logic courses (which are deathly boring to most students) or pushed aside simply because teachers and administrators resented students tearing through their arguments.

But for whatever reasons, critical thinking has all but disappeared from modern education. Nonetheless it remains essential, and especially for young students who need reasons to trust themselves and their opinions.

Because of this, and because the parents of young children have asked me for it, I’ll be devoting a series of posts to the fallacies of logic. An understanding of the primary fallacies, and especially how to apply them, is central to critical thinking. This material will end up as a book, but I’d very much like for you to read these installments and send them to the young people in your life. Children should be mentally and emotionally prepared to face a difficult and confusing world, and this is precisely the kind of material that will prepare them.

And so this, our first installment, will cover just a few primary points. Next week we’ll jump right into our first fallacy of logic, the either-or fallacy.

Wrong And Right

Strangely enough, it’s nearly always easier for us to prove what’s wrong than to prove what’s right. That’s what modern science does, for example; it goes about to prove ideas wrong, and if it can, the idea may be discarded. If the idea cannot be proven wrong, even after multiple, sincere efforts, we accept it as likely correct. But even so, we have no final proof of rightness, only the knowledge that we couldn’t prove it wrong.

“Probably right” is the best science can do, but it has been quite enough.

So, when we engage in critical thinking, we’re looking for reasons why an argument is wrong. If we can do that, we can disregard the argument, or at least that part of it. The danger of breaking arguments is that we take the practice too far and become critical only; enjoying the power of chopping people down and developing some very unlovely traits.

In order to avoid the dark fate of the unbalanced critic, we must remember that we’re dealing with actual people, who deserve to have their feelings considered. Damaging someone with our critiques doesn’t make us, them, or the world better. We must allow people to make mistakes and to express themselves imperfectly. The larger picture should be considered before we leap into proving things wrong.

The critical thinker, then, should also be a benevolent thinker. A knife can skillfully wielded by either a chef or by a killer, so let’s all be chefs.

The Emotional Base of Critical Thinking

A great deal of manipulation, and especially public manipulation, uses emotional vulnerabilities. For example, humans are particularly vulnerable to conformity pressures: Everyone else doing something – or believing something – leads us to feel powerful pressure to conform.

A psychologist named Solomon Asch did controlled studies of conformity pressure back in the 1950s, learning that in well-structured situations (actors all saying the same false thing), 75% of normal people would agree with an obvious lie, at least some of the time. So, you can see the power of the conformity bias, and you’ve probably felt it yourself.

Conformity pressures obviously subvert our critical thinking skills and they’re not the only emotional pressures that do so. That means that using our critical thinking abilities in real life will also require us to face and work through our emotional soft spots. (And we all have them.)

What I’ll suggest is simply that you notice the emotional pressures you feel from fallacious arguments. Skillful manipulators do their best to setup overwhelming pressures, making them hard to stand against. When you feel such things, please take a step back, then find a quiet moment to analyze what you felt. Doing that will, over time, allow you to work through the emotional tricks.

Critical thinking, then, requires a strong soul as much as it does a strong mind. In fact the two go together. And if combined with benevolence, they will serve you well all your life.

Fast Talkers

One last difficulty for critical thinking I’ll mention is the fast talker. People presenting thin or false arguments will often talk too rapidly for you to analyze their claims. That can be a problem.

Those who are skilled at manipulation will also push you to agree with them as they go, which is another emotional trick: If you nod your head and say “yes” several times, you’ll be very slow to disagree with even an openly false argument. Why? Because to do so, you’ll have to admit that you were tricked into agreeing, not only once but several times. That is, you’ll have to call yourself stupid, or at least silly, before you can use your critical thinking skills. Most people fail that challenge unless they’re prepared for it.

What I’ll recommend is this: If someone is going too fast for you to analyze their arguments, don’t try to. Rather, get a written version of the argument and go over that. And if they try to make you agree with them, just don’t. Reserve judgment, say you haven’t heard enough to understand, or whatever; but don’t be led along by things you’re unsure of.

The wave of demands to “cancel” dissenting faculty was a long time coming

Earlier this week, I noted how in recent months many faculty faced demands they be fired from their jobs in response to speech that was demonstrably protected by either the First Amendment, their institutions’ academic freedom promises, or both. But merely chronicling the many such illiberal campaigns we saw this summer is only so useful. Why did they happen? And should we be surprised that they unfolded the way they did? To that latter question I would answer no, given FIRE’s years observing the dynamics of campus protests up close and defending the rights of those on all sides of them. Here, I’ll attempt to explain why, and how.

2015’s chickens come home to roost

Even though it was summer and in-person operations at most campuses were dramatically reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a remarkable mobilization by students to call on their institutions to improve the racial climates through various means. The last time we saw a comparable level of mobilization by students was likely in the 2015 fall semester, when students at dozens of campuses, spurred by anti-racism protests at the University of Missouri, compiled demands on their university administrations to take specific measures to combat racism and improve equity on campus. (A website that collected many of the demands is now offline, but you can scroll through this archived version of the site.)

FIRE followed the protests and paid close attention to the demands levied by students, which included several that would have violated free speech and academic freedom if they had been enacted. While the protests and demands raised issues for free expression, the period didn’t generate a long roster of faculty members faced with demands they face sanctions for their speech — at least not like we saw this summer. There were notable exceptions, though. Chief among them is the case of Nicholas and Erika Christakis at Yale University, ignited by an email Erika Christakis sent to the students of the campus residence hall where she was associate master gently critiquing the impetus behind student demands that Yale police students’ Halloween costumes. The response to Erika’s email led to a viral encounter (caught by FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff, who happened to be on campus that day), in which students berated Nicholas Christakis and demanded he apologize for his wife’s email. The Christakises resigned as house masters the next year, and Erika left teaching entirely.

The Yale episode was seen by some as a turning point in campus activism. It also happened at a time when America was far more tuned in to the issues in play than it had previously been, with Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind” cover article in The Atlantic on its way to being one of the most-read articles in the magazine’s history. As Greg wrote this summer in his rundown on “cancel culture” (see also this Twitter thread), the period around 2015 was also a time when the new norms of this culture were establishing themselves on campuses, something Greg also had also previewed in his short 2014 volume “Freedom from Speech,” the writing of which was inspired in part by the marked increase in students’ demands for speech-restrictive policies.

The years after 2015 saw an increasing number of ugly, sometimes violent confrontations targeting faculty speaking or acting entirely within their rights as professors. Professor Bret Weinstein was effectively run out of The Evergreen State College for critiquing a campus “Day of Absence.” Weinstein was all but abandoned by the institution, which couldn’t guarantee his physical safety from protesters. Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger suffered a concussion when students violently disrupted an event with social scientist Charles Murray, whose talk she was moderating. Students at Sarah Lawrence College demanded it fire political science professor Sam Abrams for publishing a column on the political leanings of college administrators, and vandalized his office.

Students increasingly demand professors be investigated, if not fired, for the uncensored use of racial slurs in relevant academic contexts.

In the classroom, discussion of certain difficult issues — and the academic discussion of racial slurs in particular — has become increasingly fraught in the last couple of years, as students increasingly demand professors be investigated, if not fired, for the uncensored use of racial slurs in relevant academic contexts. Augsburg University professor Phil Adamo and New School professor Laurie Scheck were both investigated for accurately quoting from James Baldwin. Emory University law professor Paul Zwier was removed from teaching for more than a year following complaints about his using a racial slur in the context of discussing cases of racial discrimination. This summer, UCLA instructor Ajax Peris faced investigation for quoting from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” And just in the last couple of weeks Duquesne University professor Gary Shank was fired for leading a discussion about the problems posed by the use of the N-word, in which he was willing to use the term. Meanwhile, St. John’s University removed professor Richard Taylor from teaching and sanctioned him after students distorted and denounced a class thought experimentation exercise as a requirement that they mount a defense of slavery.

The undergraduates on campus in 2015 have mostly graduated and entered professional life, and judging from the upheavals seen in other institutions, the norms of “cancel culture” have come with them. But that doesn’t mean those norms fell out of fashion on campus. The last few years would suggest they’ve only woven themselves more deeply into the fabric of the campus.

Forewarned is (not) forearmed

In June 2019, Greg authored “Five ways university presidents can prove their commitment to free speech” for FIRE. If the last few months have made anything clear, it’s how many university leaders could have stood to put Greg’s advice into action at their institutions. I especially draw readers’ attention to his third point: “Defend the free speech rights of your students and faculty loudly, clearly, and early.” As Greg wrote:

In my experience, many threats to free speech on campus effectively end when campus leadership demonstrates a principled commitment to expressive rights and academic freedom publicly, loudly, and clearly at the very beginning of the controversy. Meanwhile, many censorship incidents end in ignominy when a college president fails to take a decisive stand.

The last several months, it seems, have continuously proven Greg’s point, given the mushrooming number of speech-related controversies engulfing campuses and the relative dearth of strong statements in support of free expression from campus leaders. Over and over again, university leaders hedged on — if not outright abdicated — their free expression obligations when professors were faced with illiberal demands, muddying the waters on what should be clear matters of free expression. Take some of the cases I covered in my earlier post. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber, for instance, took nearly two weeks to make clear that Joshua Katz’s criticisms of fellow faculty and students were protected by his academic freedom rights after officials suggested they would investigate his expression. At the University of California, Los Angeles, Gordon Klein was preemptively removed from teaching and denounced by administrators for the content of an email to a student, before being quietly reinstated weeks later, long after it was clear there was no cause for investigation to begin with. And University of Central Florida President Alexander Cartwright openly solicited students to submit complaints against Charles Negy following an uproar over his protected tweets, all but ensuring a process that won’t treat him fairly.

There’s nothing to stop a university from conveying its own opposition to certain speech or viewpoints even while vigorously defending speakers’ right to voice them.

It’s important to remember, of course, that institutions have their own free expression rights, and the freedom to set and to communicate their institutional values (so long as, at least in the case of public universities, those values don’t violate the Constitution). And this moment, indeed, has presented some particularly difficult challenges for university leaders, who have been quick to convey their commitments to diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism. And, as we’ve said numerous times before, there’s nothing to stop a university from conveying its own opposition to certain speech or viewpoints even while vigorously defending speakers’ right to voice them.

That university leaders have a difficult job in these circumstances, however, doesn’t preclude us observing that too many of them are failing at it. What’s more, it’s a challenge they should have seen coming. As my colleague Adam Steinbaugh wrote of the trends accelerating FIRE’s case submissions over the summer, “where there is conflict and controversy, censorship follows.”

A leadership vacuum

The last several months have made clear another reason why it’s important for campus leaders to get out in front of speech controversies with strong statements defending the right to free expression: It may be the best tool at their disposal to confront a vexing problem. As FIRE executive director Robert Shibley wrote following the death of professor Mike Adams:

Sometimes there is no legal solution to a problem. Attempting to censor cancellation attempts on the grounds that they are harmful would be no more effective than hate speech bans have been at containing hate, and would ignore the rights of and potential damage to those who wish to freely express their vitriol. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

This is true for the bulk of the cases I’ve covered in these two posts. In most instances, those demanding professors be punished or fired for their speech weren’t doing anything their First Amendment rights didn’t protect. And no one has the right to be free from criticism or vitriol. But that doesn’t mean universities have no role to play in mitigating these conflicts. If universities are strongly on the record in favor of free expression and make clear that they won’t bow to demands for unconstitutional action, they can help cultivate a culture of free expression in which disputes can evince a better respect for the rights of others.

To look at the problem from the other direction, mob-like demands for unconstitutional action gain traction because those making the demands expect they won’t encounter meaningful resistance from those in a position to say no. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.

Universities, as places that thrive on the exchange of ideas and the debating of opposing viewpoints, are ideally situated to lead the charge against the current surge in demands for censorship. By and large, they haven’t risen to the challenge. The leadership vacuum that’s left isn’t just a missed opportunity: It ensures that we’ll see more demands for punitive action against faculty, and more universities buckling under the pressure to sacrifice fundamental rights when it owes it to the community to redouble their commitment to them.

UK: Number of white male teachers falls by 20% in just ten years, sparking fears of a lack of role models

The number of white male secondary school teachers has fallen by almost 20 per cent in a decade, sparking fears over a lack of role models for working-class boys.

Education experts warn that disadvantaged white boys could fall further behind as a result of the 'worrying' trend.

Research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the teacher workforce is becoming 'increasingly female-dominated'.

The proportion of men teaching in secondary schools has fallen every year since 2010, hitting its lowest level in 2019, when 35.5 per cent of teachers were male.

Numbers in primary schools remain low at 14.1 per cent.

The EPI analysis reveals that the number of white male teachers in secondary schools has plummeted by more than 12,800 since 2010 – a fall of 17 per cent.

The number of men from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds teaching in secondary schools has risen from 10,451 in 2010 to 13,967 last year – an increase of 34 per cent.

Joshua Fullard, senior researcher at EPI, said yesterday: 'The decline in the number of white male teachers is concerning in areas where there is a prevalence of under-performing white working-class boys.'

Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the drop in white male teachers was 'worrying'.

He added: 'In striving for equality, the white working-class, particularly boys, are a neglected group.'

Princeton agrees to pay $1 million as back pay to women professors amid pay discrimination charges

After being involved in a review enquiry for nearly a decade following allegation of pay discrimination against women professors, the Princeton University has agreed to pay nearly $1 million as back pay to the affected individuals.

Princeton had been facing an enquiry by the US Department of Labour where it stands accused of having discriminated women professors by paying them less than their male counterparts.

While Princeton agreed to pay back pay, it said its stand remains unchanged that it was working strictly in accordance with the law. The university said its decision does not mean acceptance of guilt.

In a report, CNN said the Department of Labor's had found that between 2012 and 2014, 106 women in full professor positions at Princeton University were paid less than their male counterparts.

"Though the findings were only preliminary, the university and the office reached an early resolution this month, with the school agreeing to pay $925,000 in back pay and at least $250,000 in future salary adjustments," the report said.

Besides agreeing to foot this back pay, Princeton has also reportedly agreed to "conduct statistical analyses to determine further significant disparities against female professors, as well as pay equity training for its staff".

As per the report, the review against Princeton University began almost a decade ago.

Ben Chang, a spokesman for the university, told CNN that after pausing the review in 2016, the Department of Labour reopened it in 2017 for "unexplained reasons".

"With this agreement, Princeton has not admitted liability in the investigation and continues to assert that it complied with both the letter and the spirit of the law," Chang was quoted as saying by CNN.

He added that Princeton had contested the allegation because it was "based on a flawed statistical model" that grouped all full professors together regardless of department.

Chang reportedly said that the university agreed to the resolution so as to avoid expensive and lengthy litigation.




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Trump vs. Democrats on Higher Education

The Trump budget is viewed by the denizens of the D.C. swamp as austere, but it maintains the trillion dollar deficits amidst under four percent unemployment that characterize the current era, and despite exceedingly rosy economic assumptions, does not foresee balanced budgets anytime soon. But it has a distinct austerity vibe to it when applied to education. For example, the recommended budget for the U.S. Department of Education is down $5.6 billion (7.8%) over current spending levels.

The Administration must be reading this blog. To deal with dysfunctional federal student financial assistance programs, it proposes putting more stringent limits on PLUS loans to parents, ending student loan forgiveness for those with public sector jobs, restricting somewhat the amount graduate students can borrow, ending the Stafford subsidized loan program, reducing the federal Work Study program, etc. Needed reforms in my opinion. Additionally, the Trump budget proposes reductions in research funding for agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

Contrast this with Democrats’ proposals. Rather than restricting federal student financial assistance, they wish to expand it significantly, including big increases in Pell Grants. Some Democratic leaders want to move towards “free college,” where the federal government makes college tuition free for at least community college if not four-year college students. And expand research funding. Some are advocating complete federal student loan forgiveness.

It is the equivalent of Democrats saying the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, while Republicans say that it will rise in the west. Completely opposing views. I once wrote a column called “Three Cheers for Gridlock,” suggesting that when radically different ideas are in play, failure to reach agreement keeps extreme positions from being adopted. That certainly is going to be the case in 2020—absolutely nothing radical is going to happen in higher education policy. Radical Trump budget cuts are dead on arrival, and given the complete lack of fiscal discipline in both parties (one unfortunate area of bipartisan agreement), I suspect the final budget will at least modestly increase total education spending.

Economists are lousy at economic forecasting, much less political prognostication. Nonetheless, as an aging tenured professor with little to lose, I think it is highly unlikely that one political party will control all of government next year. The presidency is clearly up for grabs and could go either way, although, as Democratic guru “Ragin’ Cajun” James Carville says, Trump will win if the Democrats nominate one of the radicals like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren (who now appears all but dead politically). Otherwise, it could go either way. The odds are 80% the Dems will control the House but also 75% that the GOP will control the Senate. The probability of 100% control of government by either party is small, meaning incremental change in higher education policy is more likely than truly substantive revisions until at least 2023.

One reason why a cost-sensitive policy closer to the GOP position may prevail ultimately is that decades of fiscally irresponsible behavior by both parties might lead to an economic crisis forcing the U.S. into fiscal austerity—a gentler version of what happened to Greece several years ago. Taxes may go up some and spending increases will cease for a time.

If that happens, higher education will be a big loser. Maintaining popular but fiscally shaky Social Security/Medical Care entitlements is politically vastly more popular than maintaining a bloated budget for the U.S. Department of Education or even costly student loan and grant subsidies. Declining public support for higher education, pronounced among Republicans but also surprisingly strong among Democrats, will prompt some fiscal brakes, slowing the fueling of bloated university bureaucracies and their enablers.

San Diego school districts overhauls grading system to combat racism

The San Diego Unified School District last week approved a major overhaul to its grading system as a part of a larger effort to combat racial discrimination.

The new changes came in response to data that showed disparities between the percentage of white and minority students who received D or F grades, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

According to the data, Black students accounted for about 20% of all D or F grades during the first semester of last year, while Native American and Hispanic students each accounted for 23%. By comparison, white students made up 7% of all D or F grades during that same period.

Under the district’s new system, non-academic factors like late work and classroom behavior will not be counted toward their overall academic grade.

SDUSD Vice President Richard Barrera said the overhaul represents the district’s “honest reckoning.”

“If we’re actually going to be an anti-racist school district, we have to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years,” Barrera said. “I think this reflects a reality that students have described to us and it’s a change that’s a long time coming.”

The new system, which affects mostly middle school and high school students, will be implemented over this year and next.

All Vermont middle and high schoolers will have access to free condoms under new bill

Every high school and middle school in Vermont will now provide free condoms to students under a new bill that was just signed into law.

"In order to prevent or reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, each school district shall make condoms available to all students in its secondary schools, free of charge," the bill reads. "At a minimum, condoms shall be placed in locations that are safe and readily accessible to students, including the school nurse’s office."

The Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health both expressed support for the legislation, which was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Oct. 5th.

A 2019 survey by the state's health department found that nearly a third of high school students are sexually active, but of those students, only 32% report regularly using condoms.

Republican Rep. Topper McFaun, who introduced the bill, told Vermont Public Radio that the aim of this legislation is to allow students to protect themselves and reduce the number of abortions that are happening.

“I’m talking about allowing people to be in the position where they don’t have to make the decision, that crucial decision, to have an abortion or not — that’s what I’m trying to prevent,” he told the local news outlet. “And the way to do that is to provide ways to allow people to protect themselves.”

A 2018 study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that making condoms freely available to students does not increase sexual behavior, but does increase condom use among sexually active students.

Not everyone is convinced that making condoms available to students will be a net positive though, particularly for middle schoolers. The Vermont Right to Life Committee cited the bill as one of the "dangerous new proposals" that has "potential to increase abortion rates in Vermont."

"There should be concern when there is evidence that a child is engaged in a sexual relationship - such as when a 12-year old seeks out condoms," Sharon Toborg, a policy analyst for the Vermont Right to Life Committee, said in opposition to the bill. "Yet instead of strengthening efforts to identify children who are potentially being abused, [the bill] weakens the mandatory reporting laws."

Nationally, 7.2% of high schools and 2.3% of middle schools provide condoms to students, according to the CDC. Vermont will be the first state to require that schools provide condoms to students though, the National Coalition of STD Directors told Vermont Public Radio.

Vermont's bill is set to go into effect on July 1st.

College biology quiz refers to Trump as 'eugenicist'

Voter outreach on college campuses is a big challenge for Democrats amid the pandemic – in part because a lot of students aren't there.

A biology professor at Gettysburg College referred to President Trump as a 'eugenicist' on a quiz administered to students, according to a screenshot obtained by Young America’s Foundation through its Campus Bias Tip Line.

YAF's Kara Zupkus said the submission came from a student in adjunct professor Betty Furster's introductory biology class during the Spring 2020 semester, who chose to remain anonymous out of "fear of retribution."

Students were given a multiple choice question which read “Trump is a ____?”.

If students clicked on “eugenicist” as their answer, they were given a point and provided an explanation that defined the term as “the ‘science’ of human improvement through better breeding."

"It was discredited in 1939 but Trump thinks he’s smart because his uncle was an MIT professor and healthy because he has good genes – we don’t know if he’s healthy, they haven’t released the results of his last check-up,” the explanation adds. "He's orange."

Zupkus noted the question about the president was the only political question on the quiz, with the remaining four questions covering biology concepts such as pleiotropy, heritability, and twins.

A spokesperson for Gettysburg College told FOX News that the school's Office of the Provost immediately looked into the matter as soon as it was made aware of it.

"Gettysburg College and the instructor both recognize that this incident is inconsistent with our commitment, detailed in our Freedom of Expression Philosophy, to sustain a community in which all members feel their ideas, opinions, and beliefs are respected and protected, even when those ideas are not shared universally," the spokesperson added. "The instructor has acknowledged it was a mistake in judgment and explained to us that, when a student expressed concern last spring, she apologized."




Monday, October 19, 2020

Group to protest proposal to eliminate test for Boston exam schools

This is a proposal to destroy the schools concerned. It's only selective admissions that make them special

A group of parents and alumni plan to rally on the front steps of Boston Latin School on Sunday to protest a proposal to eliminate in the 2021-2022 school year the test students have to pass to get into the city’s three prestigious public exam schools.

“This was a very big surprise when it was announced on Oct. 8, and now the school committee could decide on it this Wednesday,” said Bruce McKinnon, member of BLS’s class of 1974. “These schools are considered some of the finest in the nation.”

A working group will hold an information session from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday about the group’s recommendation to the school committee on the criteria and process for admission to Boston Latin School, Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

Currently, about 2,000 to 3,000 students take an exam for a total of 1,000 seats each year at the three schools, and admission is based 50% on the test results and 50% on students’ grade point average.

A district spokesman did not return a phone call or an email about the proposal to change that for the next school year.

But a report by three of the working group’s nine members this week says that its goals are to “ensure that students will be enrolled through a clear and fair process for admission in the 21-22 school year that takes into account the circumstances of the COVID-19 global pandemic that disproportionately affected families in the city of Boston” and to “work towards an admissions process that will support student enrollment at each of the exam schools such that it better reflects the socioeconomic, racial and geographic diversity of all students (K-12) in the city of Boston.”

San Francisco looks to rename 44 schools, expunging the likes of Washington, Lincoln and even FEINSTEIN for their impurities

Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are among the historical figures whose names are no longer considered honorable enough to adorn public schools in San Francisco.

The city's school board is looking to rename as many as 44 of the 125 public schools in its district after a panel of community members appointed to study the issue found their namesakes to be problematic by today's standards of woke conduct, the local ABC television affiliate reported. The committee's review criteria targeted colonizers, slave owners, perpetrators of genocide, racists, human-rights violators, environmental abusers and those who oppressed or abused women, children, gay or transgender people.

Three of the four men whose faces were sculpted on Mt. Rushmore failed to measure up, including the president who pushed through the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery in the US. The committee found all three to have connections to slavery, genocide or oppression, so Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School and Jefferson Elementary may be renamed.

Roosevelt Middle School also was put on the renaming block after Franklin Roosevelt, the only four-term US president, was deemed problematic. Even US Senator Dianne Feinstein was found to have insufficient moral purity, meaning Feinstein Elementary may get a new name. The staunch Democrat was faulted for reportedly replacing a vandalized Confederate flag back in 1986, when she was San Francisco's mayor.

One committee member also pushed – apparently unsuccessfully – for the canceling of Thomas Edison Elementary because the inventor electrocuted stray dogs and cats in demonstrations of his findings.

The school board has asked principals of the affected schools and parents of students to submit suggestions for new names by December 18. The board plans to vote on any name changes in January or February. It may decide to keep the current names of at least some of the 44 schools targeted for renaming by the committee.

The renaming push comes amid a left-wing war on history that has toppled statues ranging from Confederate generals to founding fathers, and from President Theodore Roosevelt to an iconic elk that had stood in downtown Portland for 120 years. San Francisco's school board voted last year to cover up 1930s murals at George Washington High School because they depicted slaves and a dead Native American man.

Local media reports noted opposition to changing school names, including a statement by San Francisco Mayor London Breed that devoting resources to the initiative is “offensive” given that the buildings remain closed to in-person classes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Twitter commenters were more focused on the mental state of San Francisco's decision-makers, calling the move “more sickness,” “coocoo” and “going too far.” Others suggested new names that might be more appreciated in San Francisco, including Lenin, Stalin, Marx, Mao, Pelosi and George Floyd.

San Francisco mayor hits school district for renaming schools, rather than reopening

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday hit out at the city’s school district for beginning a process of renaming schools under its control, rather than reopening them.

“Conversations around school names can be had once the critical work of educating our young people in person is underway,” Breed said in a statement. “Once that is happening, then we can talk about everything else. Until those doors are open, the School Board and the District should be focused on getting out kids back in the classroom.”

Breed was reacting to a move by the San Francisco School Names Advisory Committee, which has reportedly researched school names and identified certain ones for renaming.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some of the schools listed under the proposed name changes included Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, Roosevelt Middle School and Jefferson Elementary.

Australia: New NSW schools policy will make it harder for difficult children to be suspended

Parents, teachers and principals have joined forces to fight a proposal that would reduce the length of school suspensions, arguing it would weaken schools’ ability to deal with violent students and blur standards of acceptable behaviour.

Frank Potter, an executive director at the NSW Department of Education, was questioned about the department's draft suspension policy at the Disability Royal Commission's public hearing into inclusive education, which began on Monday.

He said an increased number of students with various degrees of disability were attending the state's schools and more funding was being allocated to them. "It's appropriate that decisions, [and] policies that might have been in place before, are reviewed to the context of the day," he said.

The commission heard the case of five-year-old Sam, who had been suspended seven times in his first 13 months of school. "I can't comment on how appropriate that would be within that context," Mr Potter said. He said Sam would not have been suspended under the new draft policy.

"There is discretion [in the draft policy] and there are opportunities for schools to put in place other strategies rather than resorting to suspension," he said.

Under the present policy, schools must suspend students who are physically violent, regardless of the student's intent.

Junior counsel assisting the commission Elizabeth Bennett asked whether accidental conduct that resulted in serious physical harm would mean a student must be suspended.

"If there was serious harm or impact, yes, I think that's what it would be. That would be my view rightly or wrongly," Mr Potter said.

"Do you see any potential for the policy to operate in a way that disproportionately impacts on students with a disability when understood that way?" Ms Bennett asked. Mr Potter replied "yes".

"Do you think it's right that a policy of the NSW department disproportionately affects children with a disability?" Ms Bennett then asked.

"No policy should have an unintended consequence and therefore it needs to be reviewed," Mr Potter said.

The proposed new strategy would cut the maximum school suspension from 20 to 10 days, and students from kindergarten to year 2 could only be sent home for serious physical violence, and for no longer than five days.

Disability advocates support plans that make it harder for schools to order young children home for bad behaviour or repeated disobedience, but principals have called the rules impractical.

At present, principals must make reasonable adjustments for a student before they are suspended.

Under questioning, Mr Potter said there was no documentation outlining what reasonable adjustments entailed. "My expectation [is] that professional people in schools would clearly understand what was required in order to be in place to support students with disabilities," he said.

"The principal has ultimate responsibility to make a decision."

Ms Bennett asked whether one school principal could take a particularly broad approach of what constitutes a reasonable adjustment, while another might take a narrow approach. "Wouldn't a student with a disability face a radically different experience at those two schools?" she asked.

"That would be possible," Mr Potter said. "I think we do our best with challenges that are before us and the ways in which schools respond to those challenges may well be different, depending on experience and understanding."

Consultation on the draft policy closed on Sunday. The NSW Teachers Federation, the P&C Federation, and primary and secondary principals groups have said schools needed more specialist staff and early intervention to stop unaddressed student needs turning into poor behaviour.

Mr Potter said recommendations from the Ombudsman and royal commission would "also help inform taking that strategy forward, in terms of its development".




Sunday, October 18, 2020

The BlackLivesMattering of Higher Ed: Some Notes from the Field

When the University of Chicago English Department announced over the summer that, in response to the protests after the death of George Floyd, they would only admit graduate students willing to work in Black Studies (a proclamation that, after media attention brought criticism, they recently removed from their webpage), observers of the increasing dominance of extremist ideas on race and race relations in higher education were not surprised.

Indeed, as things go ever crazier inside American universities with respect to racial politics, it becomes more and more difficult for those of us on the inside, watching things deteriorate on a daily basis, to give those not here on the ground a concrete sense of the full extremity of what is happening.

From my vantage point as an academic sociologist, I have seen the disturbing process of what we might call the BlackLivesMattering of American higher education from quite close up, as my discipline is one of the main sites of the creation and propagation of the absurdly fantastic ideas responsible for this development.

For example, Patricia Hill Collins, a former president of the American Sociological Association, is one of the inventors of the notion of intersectionality. This is the reverse status hierarchy by which one is able to determine, from the combination of group categories that make up an individual’s identity—class, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.—what one’s privilege/victimizer and oppression/victim score is, and thereby rank oneself against others in those same crude and collectivist terms.

A more-recent ASA president, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, was an early proponent of “color-blind racism” as a way to maintain, in light of the fact that racist behavior has decreased considerably in the past half-century, the radical effort to account for all contemporary racial disparities by reference to the evil-doing of whites.

In his view, though slavery and Jim Crow disappeared, the white supremacy that birthed them never died—it only went undercover. While blacks were once crushed by whites who paid attention to their racial identities, now they are mercilessly dominated by whites who refuse to do so, because in not thinking of blacks solely in terms of their racial identity these color-blind racists give cover to the ghostly operation of systemic racism.

This latter term is never effectively defined, of course, but in this view, it needs no argument to support it. It exists by virtue of asserting its existence. Racism is always, everywhere the only possible cause of all the difficulties blacks face.

These were founding figures in the current radicalization of academic discourse on race, whose core writings date from the ‘90s and early ‘00s. In that time, a short few decades ago, such ideas were still considered rather fringe. Today, they are mainstream—Ibram Kendi’s much-touted writing is deeply indebted to these and other predecessors—and they inform a vast amount of what happens in higher education, from the formal and institutional to the everyday and interactional.

How does the BlackLivesMattering of American higher ed look on the ground, in particular institutions? Permit me to offer a few exemplary ethnographic observations from my campus, a small eastern liberal arts university, less radical than some, likely reasonably representative of what’s happening in many other places.

Within a day or so of the breaking of the George Floyd story nationally, a petition appeared on our faculty listserv. It asserted, among other things, that our university was, like the rest of the United States, a place in which pernicious and insidious anti-Black sentiment, both conscious and unconscious, was prevalent, due to the legacy of four centuries of systemic violence. “It is, sadly, who we are,” the writers intoned, and they pledged to support efforts to ensure the physical safety of black members of the campus community, who were presumed to be under some serious threat of harm, and to combat white supremacy.

In short order, dozens of professors had signed it.

A few hours later, though, there was a response from another group of faculty who attacked the first group—not for their factually deprived virtue signaling, but for being insufficiently committed to “centering Blackness” in their critique of racism. Some of the signatories of the petition, it was pointed out, have apparently mentored white male students instead of their black female fellows, an intolerable oversight in light of the necessary work required to make our campus truly black-affirming and anti-white supremacist.

Over the next few days, an array of subsequent statements appeared. One, authored by a university administrator, declared that in America people with “melanated skins and experiences” do not have the same right to life enjoyed by others.

A succinct summary of the proceedings came from another of the presenters, who solemnly proclaimed that “America is a white supremacist state and anything that happens here is going to be about racism.”
Another collective statement appeared, and this one called on the university administration to enact a long list of changes. There were, of course, the usual demands for greatly increased minority hires and admissions and fundamental changes to the curriculum to reflect antiracism and criticism of privilege, but the university was also admonished to engage in lobbying efforts in the local community to ensure that black employees and students are not mistreated off-campus.

The writers also demanded that a study be undertaken and published on the history of the ways in which the university has benefited from slavery, land theft, and discriminatory labor practices.

Since then, the number of events related to race, racism, and antiracism here has accelerated at a pace sufficient to absorb a fair percentage of one’s working day. In one panel discussion, it was claimed that black students on campus felt “unsafe” and campus security would need to make adjustments to change that situation, though no evidence to support this feeling was presented.

In another event, a group of about ten faculty gave snap talks describing how racism infects their disciplines and how much work will need to be done to root it out. One speaker discussed the rioting and looting in some American cities in light of rioting in the 1960s. He was meticulously careful, though, never to use the term “riot” to describe the near-burning down of Detroit in July 1967, which at the time of its occurrence was the single most destructive such event in American history, and the recent destruction of Minneapolis to the tune of perhaps $500 million in damages. These were all “rebellions,” and the deaths of the rioters and snipers and other criminals responsible for all the mayhem were “murders” by police.

A succinct summary of the proceedings came from another of the presenters, who solemnly proclaimed that “America is a white supremacist state and anything that happens here is going to be about racism.”

These ideas did not appear in higher education overnight. I remember once, a few years ago, as I sat in my office waiting for a student to come discuss a paper, overhearing a group of colleagues chatting in the hall. “The Navaho believe that all white people are evil,” one noted. “Isn’t that an empirical fact?” responded another. They all laughed enthusiastically.

Such beliefs, once limited to half-jesting hallway chats, are now part of the official language of colleges and universities. The toxic ideology to which I was first exposed during my training as a graduate student in the 1990s was then confined to small sites within a few academic departments, published in academic journal articles that few read, presented at conferences to small cultish groups, but from the first, its proponents sought to find ways to infect other parts of the university system.

The political crisis in the country of the present moment has presented today’s purveyors of these and still worse ideas with an ideal opportunity for advancing the revolution. When the BlackLivesMattering of the universities is complete, a vast array of facts, reasoned intellectual perspectives, and legitimate areas of debate will become officially enforced taboo. This is not hyperbole. The people who hold the toxic ideas driving this revolution say as much in frank and unblinking terms.

Professor Kendi, the high priest of the movement, at least for the moment, who just received $10 million from the CEO of Twitter for his Boston University “Antiracist Center,” is unapologetic about the crude binary nature of this worldview: you are either with him, or you are a racist. There are no other options.

In 20 years, I have never been more worried about the future of American higher education.

Conservative Student’s Lawyer Calls On Biased Head of School to Resign

I broke the story on October 13 that Episcopal High School in Northern Virginia initiated disciplinary proceedings against a 17-year-old high school student, Mackenzie, for sharing her conservative viewpoints on social media. The next day, her lawyer Jesse Binnall appeared on Tucker Carlson to discuss the expensive private school’s mistreatment of his client.

Alumni of the prestigious boarding school were shocked to learn of the discriminatory disciplinary proceedings against a conservative student, and that the school permitted leftist teachers and students to bully and harass Mackenzie without repercussions. Alumni have since reached out to Binnall and told him that they contacted Episcopal and voiced their outrage.

Charles Stillwell, Head of School, appears to be aware of the impending publicity nightmare. Without providing details, he sent out a statement to students in response to Binnall’s public comments, alleging that “the situation is far more complex, and different than what is being presented,” and stated that "we do not discipline students for their political positions." A board chair followed suit.

Binnall and his client immediately disputed the insinuation that there is more to the story.

“In reality, the school is hiding behind the horror of its administrators’ actions, trying to use it as a cover by hoping that the school’s community and the public will believe that there must be more to this. There is not,” Mackenzie said in a statement. She fortified her position by providing an email dated October 10, 2020, which clearly states: “The School’s decision is for Mackenzie to appear before the Discipline Committee for her recent posts.” The school emailed her screenshots of five Instagram posts for which she is being disciplined: four are reposts of PragerU and one is a repost of a conservative discussing the lack of value in student loans (and public forgiveness of those loans) for majors like “gender studies.”

According to Mackenzie’s lawyer, Episcopal High School officials put out “wrong, deceptive and misleading statements” against his client and are “downplaying the severity of their political viewpoint discrimination.” Jesse Binnall was outraged at their response and immediately called for Charles Stillwell to resign as Head of School for his uncontrolled bias.

Binnall is also demanding that Episcopal High School issue a public apology to Mackenzie for their discriminatory, absurd and insulting treatment of a young woman who simply holds mainstream conservative viewpoints. “Episcopal High School owes Mackenzie a public apology; it owes all of its students, faculty, and alumni a promise that this will never happen again. Most importantly, it should immediately exonerate Mackenzie and cease any further discipline.”

Binnall was unable to offer any details about the expected date or manner of the disciplinary proceeding. “We still don’t know the time, place, or procedures for how they will consider Mackenzie’s case. They have kept the entire process shrouded in mystery,” he explained.

The 1619 Project: down, but far from out

Despite sustained criticism, this wretched New York Times initiative is still being promoted in schools.

Since its launch in August last year, the New York Times’ 1619 Project has been challenged over its accuracy and integrity. The latest blow comes from within the Times’ own pages. Bret Stephens, a conservative-leaning op-ed columnist, wrote that ‘for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and Pulitzer Prize – the 1619 Project has failed’.

The 1619 Project seeks to revise American history with a tendentious thesis: it claims that 1619, the year that 20 Africans arrived in the English colonies, and not 1776, marked the beginning of America, its ‘true founding’. According to the Times, the US was forged to preserve slavery, not the freedom and equality promised by the Declaration of Independence. America is a racist nation by design, and thus illegitimate, says the 1619 Project.

In his Times piece, Stephens tries to be balanced, praising the project’s ‘ambition’. But he is ultimately damning, saying that the 1619 Project is a ‘thesis in search of evidence’ and an attempt to establish a ‘capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded’. Most of all, Stephens accuses Times writers of abandoning proper journalism, and playing at being historians. ‘The larger problem’, he writes, ‘is that the Times’ editors, however much background reading they might have done, are not in a position to adjudicate historical disputes’.

Stephens’ blast caused uproar among Times staff. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer for the 1619 Project, was furious, saying the criticism was racial: ‘These efforts to discredit my work simply put me in a long tradition of BW [Black Women] who failed to know their place’, she tweeted. The New York Times Guild (employee union) also took to Twitter to slam Stephens, writing: ‘It says a lot about an organisation when it breaks it’s [sic] rules and goes after one of it’s [sic] own. The act, like the article, reeks.’

Well, it says a lot about a newspaper when its employees do not know the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ – twice in one sentence. Not only was this tweet embarrassing for America’s leading newspaper, it also showed journalists demanding that management censor and punish a fellow writer. As it happens, the union’s response was entirely in keeping with the woke sensibilities and behaviour of the Times newsroom. In June, employees exploded in a social-media hissy-fit after the Times published an op-ed by Republican senator Tom Cotton. That led to James Bennet, the opinion-page editor, losing his job. And these same employees, who are now so upset about Stephens for breaking the ‘rules’, had no hesitation in going after Bari Weiss, a Times editor who was the subject of persistent harassment and personal attacks for expressing traditional liberal views. Given the Times’s management’s record of bowing to the demands of the woke, Stephens may be the next one out the door.

It is hard to think of a high-profile journalistic initiative that has received as much incisive and sustained criticism, from academics, politicians and many others, as the 1619 Project has. While the project’s defenders try to portray these attacks as politically partisan, as just another round of the culture wars, the criticism has come from across the political spectrum, from both conservatives and traditional liberals.

Soon after publication of the 1619 Project, leading authorities on American history spoke out and exposed its multiple factual errors and unsupported assertions. Five prominent historians penned a letter to the Times in December 2019, arguing against the project’s ‘displacement of historical understanding by ideology’. One was Sean Wilentz, a liberal historian at Princeton and author of No Property in Man, which explores the issue of slavery and the founding fathers. Wilentz recently told the Washington Post about his initial reaction to Hannah-Jones’ lead essay: ‘I threw the thing across the room, I was so astounded, because I ran across a paragraph on the American Revolution, and it was just factually wrong.’ Indeed, Wilentz and others find the essay’s central claim – that the colonists’ primary motivation in fighting the American Revolution was to maintain slavery – to be patently false.

In the face of this criticism, Hannah-Jones and Jake Silverstein, the project’s editor-in-chief, refused to issue corrections and declined to engage in debate. The Times, said Silverstein, had ‘concluded no corrections are warranted’. Then in March, Leslie Harris, a professor of history at Northwestern University and a fact-checker for the Times, revealed she had identified numerous errors when reviewing the 1619 Project, but the Times ignored all of them. Harris, who is sympathetic to the project’s mission, told the Times that the statement ‘the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America’ was false. In response to Harris, the Times added a ‘clarification’ to Hannah-Jones’ essay, saying that ‘some of’ the colonists wanted to protect slavey – yet even this revised formulation is misleading and has little support among historians.

The Times has clearly been feeling the pressure, and has been trying to back off from its most controversial claims. A few months ago, Hannah-Jones claimed conservatives were distorting the 1619 Project, because she ‘does not argue that 1619 is our true founding’. In an interview on CNN, she repeated the point. But Hannah-Jones is trying to rewrite history. As Conor Friedersdorf, writer for the Atlantic, has documented, there is abundant evidence in Hannah-Jones’ public speeches and writing that she has argued for 1619 to replace 1776 as America’s founding.

A few weeks ago, historian Phillip Magness, writing in Quillette, discovered that the Times had surreptitiously edited the digital version of the project’s text to remove the phrase ‘our true founding’. The Times provided no explanation why it had amended copy so central to the project’s goal of ‘refram[ing] American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year’. It just went down the Orwellian memory hole.

Recently Hannah-Jones sought to defend herself. ‘I’ve always said the 1619 Project is not history’, she wrote: ‘It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and therefore national memory. The project has always been as much about the present as it is about the past.’ The reality is that her work is neither history nor journalism – it is narrow propaganda. As she herself admits, she is using and trashing the past to advance her particular agenda in the present.

Hannah-Jones also makes clear that the purpose of the 1619 Project is to make war on the past in order to undermine America’s national story, which is centred on the promise of freedom and equality. And it’s working. Over the summer, rioters spray-painted ‘1619’ on a toppled statue of George Washington. Then, to a New York Post headline that read ‘Call them the 1619 riots’, Hannah-Jones tweeted in response, ‘It would be an honour. Thank you.’

Last month, at a White House conference on American history, Trump lambasted ‘the New York Times’ totally discredited 1619 Project’. Unfortunately, as much as it deserves to be, it has not been ‘totally discredited’. That is because large swathes of the American cultural elite are fully on-board with the outlook of the 1619 Project.

Take the leaders of the Times, a giant and influential cultural institution. They decided to turn this initiative from a series of essays into a ‘Project’ in the first place. And while the Times may now appear to be on the defensive, the project continues to be widely promoted far beyond the Times itself. There will be an upcoming series of Oprah Winfrey-produced films and a multi-series of books based on the 1619 Project, published by Random House. And, by awarding the 1619 Project its prize, the Pulitzer Committee gave it its elite stamp of approval.

Most worrying of all is the Times’ attempt, in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center (which is unaffiliated with the prize), to bring the 1619 Project into classrooms. Schools in Buffalo, Chicago, Washington DC and elsewhere have already announced they have adopted the project’s curriculum, with the Pulitzer Center claiming that 3,500 classrooms across the country are using its materials. This includes a lesson plan that calls for ‘all grades’ to read Hannah-Jones essay ‘in full’. In other words, an essay for a project that Hannah-Jones herself insists is ‘not a work of history’, is being taught as historical truth to thousands of impressionable young people.

The Times’ latest moves to downplay the more strident aspects of the 1619 Project are really a divide and conquer strategy. On the one hand, it wants to keep liberal opinion-makers onside, so it tweaks the project to make it appear less radical. And it can then claim only Trump and conservatives are opposed to the 1619 Project. On the other hand, the 1619 Project is free to roll full-steam-ahead into schools, and indoctrinate children into thinking they should be ashamed of their country, and that all black kids are victims, all white kids are oppressors.

Despite its latest setbacks, then, the 1619 Project is unlikely to fade away. To think it might is to underestimate the extent to which the American cultural elite has abandoned the country’s founding ideals and embraced a divisive and dangerous identity politics. Its members already believe America’s past is shameful, and that its people should feel guilt and express remorse. The 1619 Project has found an all-too-receptive audience.

We should not underestimate what is at stake here. The 1619 Project wants to delegitimise the US’s founding principles, and the universalist Enlightenment tradition from which they emerged. We shouldn’t confine our opposition to such a destructive objective to the media. It must be opposed in our schools, our universities and our wider communities, too. The good news is that we have a much more inspiring, unifying and truthful story to tell than do the divisive ideologues of the 1619 project.

Is herd immunity the key to opening schools and economy?

As students close in on the first quarter of the school year, frustrated parents want to know when their students will return to school. Daily they are taking to social media to vent and seek answers. Here are two recent postings on a private Facebook group dedicated to reopening schools in Fairfax County, Virginia:

“How can high school football players practice when children cannot go to school? Are they offering other extracurricular activities like band and drama?”

“I don’t know why so many schools will not get creative with reopening. My kids in private school have been in-person since September. The school got creative to make it happen with restrictions. It’s the teacher’s unions that continue to make a fuss, and their blunt shut down solutions ignore the negative consequences to the kids. The schools can make it work and keep the kids in school—they just need to be flexible and creative.”

Into this emotionally charged environment comes a new declaration signed by more than 34,000 medical doctors and health scientists from around the world opposing lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Great Barrington Declaration states the measures are causing “irreparable damage” to the economy and to the futures of students who are falling behind.

Instead of shutting everything down until a vaccine is available, these doctors say focus should be on minimizing mortality and social harm until herd immunity is reached. Herd immunity refers to when enough of the population becomes immune to an infectious disease to beat it, which the doctors say will eventually be reached for all populations, and can be assisted by, but not dependent upon, a vaccine.

“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk,” the declaration states.

The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who later tweeted about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

But the Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins has denounced “focused protection” as “fringe” and “dangerous” without offering any productive pathways forward to getting our kids back to school.

As parents try to make sense of these vastly divergent views, New York City may provide insights. In 2020, an estimated 1 in every 4 residents of New York City have contracted Covid since the beginning of the year, or close to 2.1 million according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME) tracking estimated infections statewide combined with the confirmed number of Covid cases in the state, 53 percent of which were in the city.

IHME also projects that New York’s peak in cases this cold and flu season will be in January and will be 85 percent lower than in March when cases peaked. Why?

A recent report in the New York Times raises the possibility that New York City may be on its way to approaching herd immunity. “I’m quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Times, adding, “What happens this winter will reflect that.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio opened public schools for in-person learning earlier this month. At the end of the first week, out of nearly 2 million students and teachers there were 305 Covid cases. That is an infection rate under 1 percent. “We’re not seeing any unusual number of students or staff anywhere in the city testing positive,” de Blasio said on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.

De Blasio added, “What I think is fair is the school environment has been made extremely safe, and I thank you and all educators and everyone in the schools, because with the social distancing, the face mask wearing by everyone, the cleaning, everything has been working in the schools.”

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning said, “People are rightly concerned about their children’s health, but rather than harming all kids through school shutdowns, school districts across the nation should allow parents to choose whether their children are ready to re-enter the classroom or not. Parents know if their kids are thriving in the online learning environment and should be empowered to make this critical choice for the future of their own kids, rather than having it dictated to them. The COVID crisis has created unique challenges and it is time for school districts as well as state and local governments to engage in creative flexibility so that we can move forward while recognizing the dangers inherent for particularly vulnerable populations.”

While many on the left like to use the refrain, “follow the science,” it seems they only want to follow the science that fits with their political agenda. In this case, more than 34,000 medical experts are calling for an end to the lockdowns, but the left is choosing to ignore the science. They do so at the peril of our students and our larger economy. And if the vaccine does not work, herd immunity may be the best we can hope for.