Friday, November 27, 2020

New Data Shows Devastating Effects of Keeping Schools Closed

A number of teachers unions around the country have been fighting to keep schools closed despite scientific evidence showing children aren't a source of Wuhan coronavirus spread.

Last week New York City schools, which make up the largest school district in the country, were shut down with little notice to parents.

Now, additional data continues to show the devastating impacts of keeping schools closed and details which children are most negatively affected.

Some data worth teasing out:

* Hispanic children are suffering more than any other racial group. F's for them up by 92%. And they're underperforming in English and math by large margins: 42% in Math, 47% in English.

* 35% of all kids underperforming in math, 39% in English

Special needs students have also suffered immensely.

Anyone who thinks that special needs students can make any meaningful progress through remote instruction either doesn't know anything about special needs pupils or doesn't understand education.

Finally, the data confirms experts' worst fears/predictions about online learning: That children who were already engaged, and in stable/supportive home situations, will do just fine. BUT that kids who were already struggling will take a deep, possibly irrecoverable nosedive —

President Trump has advocated for months that schools should be open, with precautions taken to protect teachers.

American Colleges Are Throwing Hate At Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a great holiday! Along with the spiritual part of recognizing all of the things one has to be thankful for. How can one not enjoy a day spent with family even this year if it’s a smaller family segment due to COVID. But we still can watch a parade with giant character balloons, NFL football, and load one’s stomach with too much delicious food. Some do not enjoy the day. Sadly American colleges hate Thanksgiving. Many liberals who dominate college campuses across America teach our kids that Thanksgiving is a bad day, a celebration of genocide.

The Pilgrims celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow, it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims.

It was Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving a national holiday. When Lincoln declared it a national holiday celebrated on Nov. 26, the holiday superseded Evacuation Day held on November 25, which commemorated the British withdrawal from the United States after the American Revolution. It is not about hate. It’s about appreciation and celebration—except to many liberals.

As reported by College Fix:

An assistant professor of anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently talked to students about how to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving, arguing that the traditional pilgrims and Indians story is a false narrative that perpetuates harm and racism.

Ironically the name of assistant professor with no respect for the American tradition of Thanksgiving is Abigail Adams, the same name as the wife of our founding father and second president, John Adams.

She contends “unlearning some of the myths that we’ve learned about Thanksgiving” is important because “they continue to perpetuate harm and misinformation about native people and continue to keep native people of the past… [so that they’re] not seen as real, contemporary people.”

“And,” she added, “we have to acknowledge during Thanksgiving that we have inherited a land that is not rightfully ours because it was never ceded. It was essentially stolen from indigenous people.”

“This isn’t just a conversation about us getting the Thanksgiving story right,” she said. “This is a story about us acknowledging contemporary Native American people and to acknowledge that they also continue to suffer ongoing colonialism.”

So Ms. Adams believes that turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce is harmful to Native Americans? Well, sort of—she believes the Thanksgiving menu should be changed. ”

After describing the “decolonial cuisine” movement and indigenous concepts of “food justice,” she suggested several foods students could eat as part of an “indigenized menu,” such as “amaranth corn pudding,” “wild rice cakes” and “avocado casserole.”

Food Justice? Gee that doesn’t sound too crazy, liberal, does it?

New ways of trashing Thanksgiving are popping up on college campuses across the country:

Lindsey Wieck, an assistant history professor at St. Mary’s University, wrote in Medium last year that parents should teach their kids that Thanksgiving is a racist holiday:

By taking a decolonizing approach to teaching about Thanksgiving, teachers and families reject the myths of Thanksgiving and harmful stereotypes about Native peoples. Instead, teachers and families can de-romanticize this holiday, by engaging Native perspectives that recognize the diversity of Indigenous peoples and their contemporary presence in 21st-century America.

Acknowledging the contemporary presence of indigenous peoples on Thanksgiving used to involve watching the Washington Redskins play football. But the crazy liberals ruined that. They are now called the Washington Football Team.

Other examples from College Fix include:

Over at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, it played host to a “Decolonize Thanksgiving Information Table” on Nov. 14. “Stories told about the first Thanksgiving often perpetuate harmful stereotypes and racism. Decolonize your Thanksgiving to go beyond the harmful ‘pilgrims and Indians’ narrative and focus on common values: generosity, gratitude, community, and good food,” the university’s website states.

Missouri Southern State University, a panel it recently played host to, was titled “How You Can Eat Your Turkey and Decolonize Thanksgiving Too.” It was led by Tehya Deardorff, of the Quapaw Nation, and Kristen Fidler, of the Cherokee Nation. Organizers did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The panel was part of a larger event called “The Whole Story: A Decolonial Cross-Cultural Day,” reports the Joplin Globe. Other topics the event aimed to decolonize included language, fashion, and science.

Campus Reform reported:

The University of Oregon celebrated “Thanks But No Thanks-giving: Decolonizing an American Holiday,” an event urging students to skip the holiday, which the university labeled as a “celebration” of “ongoing genocide.” The organizers claim that Thanksgiving is, foundationally speaking, a celebration of the ongoing genocide against native peoples and cultures worldwide. Personally, I think that the Oregon celebration is putting down Native Americans because they created a God-ugly logo.

Look, I do not dispute the fact that Native American tribes were screwed in this country. And have no problem with making a national holiday celebrating the many Native American contributions to America and reminding people how they were treated. Two states, California and Nevada, already celebrate Native American day-petition congress to take it national. I would even support petitioning congress to make it a major holiday. But not to liberals, keep your grubby hands off Thanksgiving (and stay away from Columbus Day also)

This coming Thursday, as well as every fourth Thursday of November afterward, I will be thankful for all the blessings I’ve had in my life, and that includes living in the best damn country in the world. And to celebrate, I will be hanging out with family (not talking politics), watching football, stuffing myself with turkey and cranberry sauce. After stuffing myself, I’ll be taking a power nap thanks to the tryptophan in the turkey I ate.

'How Very Orwellian of You': Vermont Governor Makes Schools Question Kids About Thanksgiving Plans

If families in Vermont dare to go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving they can forget about sending their children back to school next week.

According to Gov. Phil Scott, schools will be adding new questions to daily health checks about how students spent their holiday. Depending on the answer, kids may have to take online classes for a two-week period or quarantine for a week and then get tested for COVID-19. If negative, they can come back.

"We understand how difficult this is, but since we know these types of gatherings have been the cause of so many outbreaks, we've got to do all we can to slow this down," Scott said.

The governor, a “Republican,” thought businesses should require the same of their employees.

“From my standpoint, this is fair warning to those of you who are planning to have gatherings from outside your household for Thanksgiving,” Scott continued. “If you don’t want your kids to have to transition to remote learning and quarantine for a seven-day period, maybe you ought to make other plans.”

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 28 new cases per day on Nov. 9 to 100.86 new cases per day on Nov. 23.

Currently, there are 22 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including five who are hospitalized in the intensive care unit. In addition, 64 people have died from the virus. (Fox News)

Twitter users couldn't believe the government was essentially asking kids to rat out their family.




Thursday, November 26, 2020

School Is a Safe Place During COVID

“The truth is, for kids K-12, one of the safest places they can be, from our perspective, is to remain in school,” stated Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield on Thursday regarding a recent wave of school closures due to the coronavirus. “It’s really important that [we’re] following the data, making sure we don’t make emotional decisions about what to close and what not to close. And I’m here to say clearly the data strongly supports that K-12 schools — as well as institutes of higher learning — really are not where we’re having our challenges.” He added, “And it would be counterproductive from my point of view, from a public health point of view, just in containing the epidemic, if there was an emotional response, to say, ‘Let’s close the schools.’”

Earlier this year, Redfield pointed to what he saw as a far greater threat to children’s health than the coronavirus. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID,” he observed. “We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID. So this is why I keep coming back for the overall social being of individuals, is let’s all work together and find out how we can find common ground to get these schools open in a way that people are comfortable and they’re safe.”

It turns out President Donald Trump has been right all along, which comes as no surprise to our readers, nor should it come as a surprise to any who have been following the actual science. It has been well documented that children and young people are neither super spreaders nor seriously threatened if they contract the novel virus. In fact, the annual flu has a higher mortality rate among children and young people when compared with COVID.

However, what may come as a bit of a surprise is that a journalist from The New York Times is finally admitting that Trump was right when he called for reopening schools to the objection of many Democrats. In a story titled “When Trump Was Right and Many Democrats Wrong,” Nicholas Kristof writes, “Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.”

Wait. We thought Trump was a racist and a bigot who cared nothing for the plight of minorities and the poor. In truth, it is Democrats who better fit that mold. Kristof writes, “So Democrats helped preside over school closures that have devastated millions of families and damaged children’s futures. Cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., have closed schools while allowing restaurants to operate.”

Thus far, out of more than one million children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, only 133 have died. That’s a fatality rate of 0.01%. So at the risk of overstating it, we’re shutting down schools and doing inestimable damage to our children’s future to prevent … what, exactly?

For Some Post-Graduate Plans, Employer Tuition Reimbursements Is the Way

Many students since the pandemic have questioned whether they should attend graduate school or change their career plans altogether. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that 17 percent of graduate students said their career plans changed since the pandemic started.

Students are now worried they cannot afford graduate school. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center Survey,

Half of the oldest Gen Zers reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak. This was significantly higher than the shares of Millennials (40%), Gen Xers (36%), and Baby Boomers (25%).

Students are also dealing with mental health and problems job hunting in a pandemic, too. But for some paths after undergrad, students could find a solution with tuition reimbursement programs.

Tuition reimbursement is an employee benefit that an employer may offer to their graduate school employees. The employer pays for a predetermined amount of education credits or college coursework. The employee may then be required to work for the employer for a certain amount of time while they take their courses or after receiving their degree.

According to Northeastern University Graduate programs, employers spend $177 billion annually on formal education and training programs for their employees, and $28 billion of this spending is for tuition benefits. Almost 60 percent of employers in the US offer either tuition assistance or reimbursement to their employees, but not many employees take advantage of the programs.

Those who do generally use it for law or medical school. Medical school is 4 years and a student can expect to pay anywhere from $150,444 (in-state, public school) to $247,664 (out-of-state, public school) or more. Law school is 3 years but still costly; from $85,000 (in-state, public school) to $150,000 (private school) or more for a degree.

Some law firms have tuition reimbursement programs so that law students may work at a law firm while getting their tuition paid off. The firm gets to train a future lawyer to focus where the need arises. Instead of hiring a lawyer fresh out of school with no experience, a firm invests in a student as they learn about the firm and the legal world.

For example, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner is a law firm that specializes in patent and trademark work and has a reimbursement program that covers 100 percent of employees’ law school tuition.

Students don’t get guaranteed reimbursement that easily, however. A full reimbursement requires an A in their courses. A letter grade of a B is eligible for 80 percent reimbursement and a C is eligible for 60 percent. They also work part-time as “student associates.”

Dawn Ibbott, director of human resources and administration at the firm told The Washington Post that the program is “an incentive for the employee to do as well as possible with their course work.”

Similarly, the high price to become a doctor or surgeon can be mitigated by scholarships and loan repayment programs.

While it may not be for everyone, “the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offers medical trainees a full-tuition scholarship in addition to a monthly stipend, in exchange for a specified term of commitment to a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.” Serving in a marginalized community can also lead to loan forgiveness through the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service.

University hospitals also tend to offer tuition repayment as an employee benefit for staying with the hospital for a decade. Other medical groups may offer full or partial tuition repayment.

Though it may be harder for would-be grad students in the social sciences to find generous tuition reimbursement plans, for some students, the opportunity is out there.

Notes From a Teacher's Desk: Virtual Survival

I’m a career educator, and for the last 21 years I have taught in an independent college preparatory school for boys. Our school has high standards: strict admission requirements and dedicated professionals who are committed to their students and their courses are the status quo. Our educational philosophy is generous in not only allowing but encouraging teachers to be creative and progressive in their classrooms. For over 100 years, we have learned from and subscribed to the practice that says boys learn best when they are actively engaged in their classes and when they are bumping into each other in a friendly, rough-and-tumble boy kind of way. Sitting still for hours all day limits their desire and potential for learning.

We intentionally have not required our students to use their own device (iPad, laptop, Chromebook, etc.) in classes because we know that actual pen-to-paper has a positive neurological impact on imprinting (better learning) in the brain. Writing and learning go hand in hand (pun intended).

Until Friday, March 13, 2020. The first “Friday the 13th” of 2020.

I refer to that date as “Schexit” — the exit from school.

Many people I know have observed that 2020 has been characterized by more sleeplessness, more suppressed anxiety, and more “wondering.” I am an adult who lives by a deep faith in God and who also respects science. As I think about everything happening around me, how much more do children — who aren’t developmentally ready to assimilate the world news and real life — struggle with making sense of all that has happened and continues to happen in 2020?

I have more questions than answers.

Our students have traditionally carried the “burden” of academic pressure, but now they’re engulfed by ubiquitous reminders that the virus is waiting at every turn. Their new 2020 daily routine now includes a morning checklist that gives them permission or prohibition to be on campus: temperature check, questions about contacts who may/may not be positive, date of last negative test, plans to be on campus. Upon arriving on campus, they immediately mask, stay at least six feet apart, sanitize their hands at every door, spray desks after each class, and grab a lunch where they eat socially distanced from their friends. There is nothing social about “socially distanced.”

It takes longer for us to know our new students. Never seeing a full face is now normal. We have to learn our students by their eyes and hair color, and we can’t be near them. Teachers who respond to body language and non-verbal cues now have to guess if a student smiles at a pun or if he winces at a corny joke, if he smirks or if he has a sad countenance through the day. We teach from a distance, which is now the socially accepted/required practice, and the distanced connection is the oxymoron we now know. Reminders of CDC guidelines and recommendations are the prelude to every weekend, holiday, or extended break. The emotional toll is taxing.

Students are more anxious, and they don’t even realize it. They are carrying a load too big for their adolescent bones and minds to carry. Before they begin to learn anything academic, they have to cut through the fog of viruses, parental employment uncertainty, unexplained irritability, sleep deprivation (I’ll touch on this soon), and normal adolescent development.

We now have to require our students to have their own device (in education, we call this 1:1, meaning one device for one student), because at any moment a call from the Health Department may require the student to become a virtual learner. A teacher may have to quarantine and teach a physical class virtually after a family member tests positive. (Note: When a teacher has to quarantine and teach virtually, we still have to find a substitute for the students in the classroom for them to have supervision or attend to technological difficulties.) Children who developmentally thrive on routine are now living with 2020 that has given the gift of daily uncertainty and an increased threat level.

What is the long-term impact of living with this threat? Time will tell.

Before the COVID pandemic hit, educators and parents struggled to teach the balance of screen time for their kids. Thanks to the pandemic, the requirement for students to have a device for academics, as well as gaming/entertainment/social networking, unrealistically expects that students use an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex to exert the self-discipline to unplug. Any device in their hands gives them access to anything and everything, and the intention of games and videos (even the educational variety) is to keep them plugged in. (If you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma,” I highly recommend it.) I set out on a search to find evidence that more screen time increases learning, but everything I have found proves the opposite. More screen time decreases learning, creativity, and restorative sleep. (Sleep is important for good health and learning.) Too much screen time is antithetical to increased learning.

We will have to be proactive as parents and professionals to listen to our children’s fears, concerns, and anxieties. We have to tune in to our children and turn off the devices. We have to engage with them and others on a personal level. Look at them. Listen to them. Our school is fortunate to have trained school counselors on campus to work with our teachers, students, and their families. Psychologists report that children of parents who are constantly distracted with their smart phones are less resilient, have lower self-esteem, and have delayed development. This research was published before a global pandemic. What will research show about the effects of an entire household that is glued to a device for work and school, and then for games, entertainment, and social media?

While I am concerned about my own school and our students, I realize how immeasurably blessed we are that we have the facilities and resources to be open for physical classes. We are blessed to have families that have access to devices and the Internet. How many thousands upon thousands of students do not have the access, resources, help, and availability of supervision? What happens long term to students who require special intervention and services to accommodate their learning differences and/or socioeconomic disadvantages? What about those who are now at their homes, who used to be able to escape the emotional and/or physical abuse that they received at home, for the routine and safety of school with adults who protect and educate them?

Surviving 2020 is only the beginning. The lasting impact of the gravitas of shutdowns, masks, and other extraordinary measures is yet to be determined. Our children will have lost months of education, growth, natural curiosity and discovery, and personal interactions. I fear we will feel the lasting effects of this gap resulting in stunted or delayed development. Will the relief of a vaccine overcome the grief over the loss of special moments, milestones, family traditions, and family members?

The pandemic interruption will require student triage for years to come, and it will take more than a “village” to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.




Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Case Against Critical Thinking

To speak against critical thinking in today’s academy is comparable to denying the divinity of Jesus in the medieval church—it’s heterodox. Not only does it rail against the values of contemporary scholarship, it may even be foolish in light of today’s students. Isn’t the lack of critical thinking the problem in modern society?

Here’s how one student textbook on critical thinking begins:

This book is about the power of disciplined thinking. It’s about learning to think for yourself and being your own person. It’s about the personal empowerment and enrichment that result from learning to use your mind to its fullest potential. In short, it’s about critical thinking.

Who doesn’t want empowerment and freedom? These are the mantras of modern individualism. Another author describes critical thinking as “self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.” The aspect emphasized here is the self: by delving deeply into the self, one can critique their own thought patterns.

However, this overwhelming focus on critical thinking as the right approach for education isn’t as strong as its supporters believe. What is lacking in education today is anchoring the search for knowledge in a charitable outlook, one that emphasizes care and respect over suspicion and critique.

René Descartes can be seen as a champion of critical thinking. Descartes arrived at his conclusions through crisis, doubt, and skepticism. He was on a quest for truth—a task that resonates with colleges today. The question he sought to answer was, “How can humans know anything with certainty?” Even a statement such as, “I am writing at my desk” was riddled with doubt because he could be dreaming or imagining. Perhaps Descartes eternally existed in self-deception.

The idea that emerged from Descartes’ wrestle with doubt was doubt itself. The only reliable aspect of reality is doubt. Hence the famous deduction of Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” Autonomous reason determined certainty. The only authority over a student is his mind and the boundless self. What surfaces from Descartes doubt is a hermeneutic of suspicion: the student should doubt all things, have a critical disposition, and only appeal to reason for truth—in short, to critically think.

A hermeneutic of suspicion is the dominant paradigm of American higher education in the 21st century, which functions by a set of rules that question, critique, and subvert whatever information is presented. I would suppose that even during this essay the dominant question is not, “Where is this article revealing the true, good, or beautiful?” (evaluative) but instead “Where is this wrong and where do I disagree?” (critical).

These questions often guide today’s scholars. This theory of interpretation separates truth from the source material and from authority. Gerald Bruns connects this disposition to Descartes as he comments, “Call this Cartesian hermeneutics, or the allegory of suspicion, in which the text comes under the control of the reader as disengaged rational subject, unresponsive to its own self-certitude…The motive of Cartesian hermeneutics is to preserve alienation as a condition of freedom from the text.” Authority then lies within the reader himself. Knowledge is not a gift; it is man’s internal state. The author is no longer a person; rather, the text is a material, abstract subject. The reader is not bound by love of the person and concern for truth but by technical methods and abstraction of meaning (i.e. critical thinking).

Critical thinking sets up students with the wrong state of mind. Instead, I want to suggest charity is a better posture for learning because, as philosopher Esther Meek posits in Loving to Know, “love, not indifference, invites the real…Love presumes that the real is lovely or loveable or worth loving…What this is arguing is that love is what enables us to see things as they are and as they are meant to be.”

Whereas the modern educational endeavor is based on distrust, Parker Palmer argues that education is about care and relationship and trust in To Know As We Are Known. He explains truth’s etymology:

“The English word ‘truth’ comes from a Germanic root that also gives rise to our word ‘troth,’ as in the ancient vow ‘I pledge thee my troth.’ With this word one person enters a covenant with another, a pledge to engage in a mutually accountable and transforming relationship, a relationship forged of trust and faith in the face of unknowable risks.”

To know is a relational engagement. It is a communal task of care; as such, charity ought to be the foundation. Since knowledge and education are more than about rational knowing, Baylor professor Alan Jacobs argues that true belonging is about “a fellowship of people who are not so much like-minded as like-hearted…For there can be more genuine fellowship among those who share the same disposition than among those who share the same beliefs, especially if that is toward kindness and generosity.”

This argument compels the student to be around generous, charitable interpreters even at the expense of agreeing with one another. Education is a social process; therefore, it is a matter of being around the proper society; namely, one oriented toward charity. By charity, I mean a moral obligation to a neighbor. This idea rails against the modern notion of critical thinking as a self-imposed and pursued activity that distrusts others.

To critically think is to conclude that you have all the information you need, and you’ve done all the thinking necessary. It assumes that you are correct, and whatever you are hearing or reading is wrong, misguided, or misleading. Charitable thinking requires a humility that considers, “I could be wrong about this”—even if the “this” is personally repulsive. It’s in this way that we can be challenged in our thinking, where minority opinions are heard and respected, and free speech is protected. You may very well still disagree at the end of charitable thinking, but at least it requires patience to listen.

In a loving relationship with truth, the whole task of education and learning is wrapped in care. Care carries the knower and seeker. As Esther Meek argues, “To care is to move toward the unknown.” This is a beautiful picture of education. One should desire to know more because they care—about the subject, about the author, about the teacher, about his future relationships. Desire is the package that carries the knower to the unknown. Meek explains, “Longing calls for the other to give; love actively gives oneself for the sake of the other.” In other words, education is pulled by longing and directed by love.

Correct Diagnostics Needed for black "gap"

You present to a physician with severe abdominal pain. He examines you and concludes that your ingrown toenails are the cause of your abdominal distress. He prescribes that you soak your feet in warm water but that does not bring relief to your abdominal pain. Then he suggests that you apply antibiotics to your feet. Still no relief. Then the physician suggests that you wear sandals instead of shoes. Still no relief. The point of this story is that your toenails can be treated until the cows come home, but if there is improper diagnosis, then you are still going to have your abdominal pain.

The former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Meria Carstarphen, last year said, "White students are nearly 4.5 grade levels ahead of their black peers within Atlanta Public Schools." In San Francisco, 70% of white students are proficient in math; for black students, it is 12% -- a gap of 58%. In Washington, D.C., 83% of white students scored proficient in reading, as did only 23% of black students -- a gap of 60%. In Philadelphia, 47% of black students scored below basic in math and 42% scored below basic in reading. In Baltimore, 59% of black students scored below basic in math and 49% in reading. In Detroit, 73% of black students scored below basic in math and 56% in reading.

"Below basic" is the score a student receives when he is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and grade level skills. How much can racism explain this? To do well in school, someone must make a kid do his homework, get a good night's rest, have breakfast and mind the teacher. If these basic family functions are not performed, it makes little difference how much money is put into education the result will be disappointing.

In 2019, the racial breakdown of high school seniors who took the ACT college entrance exam and met its readiness benchmarks was 62% of Asians, 47% of whites, 23% of Hispanics and 11% of blacks. That helps explain a 2016 study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce "African Americans: College Majors and Earnings." It found that black college students were highly concentrated in lower-paying and less academically demanding majors like administrative services and social work. They are much less likely than other students to major in science, technology, engineering and math, even though blacks in these fields earned as much as 50% more than blacks who earned a bachelor's degree in art or psychology and social work.

James D. Agresti, the president and co-founder of Just Facts has just published an article titled "Social Ills That Plague African Americans Coincide with Leftism, Not Racism." Agresti writes: "Among all of the afflictions that disproportionately impact people of color, violence may be the worst. In 2018, blacks comprised 13% of the U.S. population but roughly 53% of the 16,000 murder victims." The clearance rate for murders, where a suspect was identified and charged, declined from 92% in 1960 to 62% in 2018. For example, in Chicago, the clearance rate fell from 96% in 1964 to 45% in 2018. In Baltimore, the 2019 clearance rate was 32%. In 2015, when Baltimore experienced the highest per-capita murder rate in its history, the average homicide suspect had been previously arrested more than nine times. When crimes remain unsolved, it gives criminals free range and black people are their primary victims. By the way, most law enforcement occurs at the local level. The governments at these local levels are typically dominated by Democrats.

According to statistics about fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes; 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father figure; 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes; 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes; and 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions have no father. Furthermore, fatherless boys and girls are twice as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to end up in jail. Dr. Thomas Sowell has argued, "The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life."

The bottom line is that while every vestige of racial discrimination has not been eliminated, today's discrimination cannot go very far in explaining the problems faced by a large segment of the black community.

Common Core and the Decline of History Education

At every Olympic Games, a 26.2-mile race celebrates Pheidippides’ grueling run back to Athens to bring news of the great Athenian victory over the Persian army at the Battle of Marathon. According to last year’s California-approved ancient-history textbook from McGraw-Hill, however, the Greeks “defeated the Persian navy.” The author of this text also wrote the 2006 edition of the same book, from the same publisher. That earlier edition correctly describes the battle as a clash of armies.

So what changed between 2006 and 2019?

Answer: the Common Core.

American ideas of republican, representative government; the dangers of dictatorship; and the tensions between a republic and an empire all come directly from the experience of republican Rome. Our ideas about democracy and a natural law for all human beings come from the ideas and politics of the Greek poleis. More than 2,000 years ago, Greece and Rome wrestled with what citizenship meant, what freedom meant, what justice meant—just as we wrestle with them today. But in order for us to benefit from what they wrote, we must teach it effectively.

In recent years, debates over math and reading instruction have been intensified by the adoption in virtually all states of the federally promoted Common Core standards in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). The new standards move in exactly the wrong direction: they systematically neglect the content of history and literature in favor of reading skills. By narrowing the focus to a single state, California, and a single subject, Greco-Roman history, we can see that the Common Core has done harm.

The most compelling evidence is the decline in quality between two versions of a textbook written by Jackson Spielvogel before and after California adopted the Common Core. Both have been California-approved textbooks for the sixth grade. Spielvogel’s earlier book is much easier to read and has fewer errors.

The earlier edition was a California-specific subset of Spielvogel’s History of the World for middle schools (a different subset is used in Florida). That book is itself a simplified version of his widely used World History for high schools; it is used, for example, in Texas. This California edition follows a conventional narrative structure largely based on chronology, but with digressions on relevant subjects. The illustrations are appropriate and reasonably well-chosen. There is only one “reading skills” interruption per section. A study that I conducted with Williamson M. Evers and Victor Davis Hanson found some errors, but a clear narrative. Our main complaint was that the text was not engaging enough for younger readers.

Far from improving the teaching about the ancient world, however, the Common Core has made it more difficult—as shown in the textbook’s later edition, which dispenses with a single clear narrative in favor of a fashionable and confusing hypertext-like structure consisting of a sequence of disconnected units, each with a title and a few paragraphs of text. It appears as if a more continuous text had been broken up into “bites” by a subsequent editor who apparently believed that students cannot absorb a narrative, only short single-topic units. The new edition contains fewer illustrations but many more “reading skills” questions—often one per page.

What is the result of the Common Core changes? The newer text is harder to follow, less interesting, and less well written. More surprisingly, it also has many more errors. We found the same 16 errors in both editions, but an additional 20 errors in the 2019 edition. How do we explain this deterioration? In line with the Common Core focus on “reading skills,” as implemented in 2016 by California’s 855-page “Framework” for history/social-science instruction, textbook publishers now include “reading specialists” in the editorial process. These editors apparently do not know a book’s subject, so their work introduces errors while also seeming to drain life from the text. These changes can be directly attributed to the Common Core.

Reading classes should emphasize reading skills; history classes should focus on content—namely, history. We should make the history and literature of the classical world more memorable—more stories, less hypertext—and we should tie them directly to the American republican experiment. Before 1776, before 1619, before 1492, before AD, there was 490 BC and the Battle of Marathon, which freed Athens to found our civilization. To adapt Milton’s advice, we should “justify the ways of America to her children.” We can’t do that with the Common Core standards, which take exactly the wrong approach to reforming history education.




Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Memo to Joe Biden: There Is NO ‘Free’ College

A 2020 campaign promise of virtually all Democratic aspirants to the presidency was that at least two years of college will be provided free to all non-superrich Americans wanting it. In a reflection of the often seemingly eccentric nature of American national politics, the probability that the likely 46th president, Joe Biden, can deliver on that promise will very likely be determined by a small percentage of American voters in two special U.S. Senate elections in the state of Georgia on January 5. I predict hundreds of millions will be spent on these elections, but if the Democrats win both seats (not likely based on last week’s results, but certainly highly plausible), a Kamala Harris tie-breaking vote should give Democrats control of the Senate, allowing them to deliver on campaign promises.

However the Biden Administration faces a huge problem: money. Contrary to what some of their economic gurus implicitly assume with their economic theorizing, governments face resource limitations, and multi-trillion-dollar budget deficits cannot persist forever—ask the Greeks or Italians (or, in the New World, Argentina or Venezuela) about the consequences of overly aggressive deficit spending or printing money. Italy’s economic growth in the 21st century is essentially zero.

However, a think tank at Georgetown University, the Center for Education and the Work Force, led by veteran researcher Anthony Carnevale, now says: don’t worry, in the long run the Biden free college proposal will pay for itself. The real costs incurred for a few years will be recouped from increased education and skills of Americans. Specifically, their Dollars and Sense of Free College report finds that “the benefits of Biden’s free college plan would exceed the annual costs of the program within a decade.”

The authors argue that higher education not only raises income for participants, but also “contributes to positive outcomes such as improved health, reduced crime, and a greater sense of well-being.” Speaking of the Biden proposal specifically, first year costs are estimated at $49.6 billion (about one-third absorbed by state governments). But higher earnings of new degree holders combined with other social benefits (e.g., improved health), will yield benefits within a decade exceeding costs.

The study makes implicit but possibly unfounded assumptions about incremental students graduating from college with at least an associate level (two-year) degree. For example, a huge percentage of those entering community colleges do notgraduate. More importantly, it makes the totally unwarranted assumption that earnings differentials of degree holders are attributable mainly or solely to their postsecondary education. Some economists, perhaps most prominently recently economist Bryan Caplan (The Case Against Education), argue that a majority of the earnings differential associated with degrees is not attributable to anything learned in college.

A more fundamental problem with free college proposals never gets discussed. Someone has to pay for college, and if the federal government simply writes checks to colleges for tuition, the schools will raise fees ferociously—that is the experience with other student financial aid programs. To counteract that, the Feds might effectively put in a system of national price controls which the schools would try to evade by special fees. Perhaps the greatest strength of the American higher education system is its diversity coming from 50 state governments controlling public schools along with hundreds of competing private higher education providers. This would further diminish this system, turning more control over to a Washington, D.C. bureaucracy that cannot even deliver the mail as well as private package deliverers.

Even before the pandemic struck there seemed to be a flight to quality in higher education—to private schools and the best state universities, with two-year schools losing enrollment. The advantages of a college education increasingly have been questioned, given the high risks of not getting the credential in the expected time, and with a large percentage of degree-holders “underemployed”. Paying people money to go to college to get a job working as a grocery clerk or home health aide, jobs that could have been obtained with just a high school diploma, makes little sense. “Free college” may be mainly simply a payback to the higher education community that supported the Democratic victory, far more than it is a principled attempt to promote economic growth and greater opportunity for less educated Americans.

A student debt bailout would be unjust and unwise

by Jeff Jacoby

DURING THE presidential primary campaign last winter, as Democratic candidates were promoting various plans to cancel federal student loan debt, one Iowa father's encounter with Elizabeth Warren captured the raw unfairness of the idea.
"My daughter's getting out of school. I saved all my money [so] she doesn't have any student loans," the man said. "Am I going to get my money back?"

"Of course not," Warren answered.

"So you're going to pay for people who didn't save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed," said the father, visibly upset. "My buddy had fun, bought a car, went on vacations. I saved my money. He made more than I did, but I worked a double shift, worked extra. My daughter's worked since she was 10."

That exchange vividly illustrated the injustice of student-debt proposals that would, in effect, punish those who saved and worked more to pay for college, those who deferred higher education until they could afford it, and those who responsibly repaid their loans — by forcing them to pay for those who didn't. Even more outrageous, it would compel the two-thirds of Americans who didn't earn a college degree to help pick up the tab for many of those who did.

Of the nearly $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve, the vast majority, more than $1.5 trillion, is held by the US government. Since higher education correlates strongly with higher earnings, these college loans are concentrated among the relatively well-to-do. So an immense government program to forgive outstanding student debt would disproportionately benefit high-income people at the expense of those less fortunate. Democrats a year ago may have thought that offering a bailout to college-educated, upper-middle-class voters made political sense. But how can they still think so after an election in which the "blue wave" they expected never materialized, in part because of Republican gains among working-class Americans without college degrees?

Yet leading Democrats and progressives are doubling down. "Biden-Harris can cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt," Warren tweeted recently. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, claims that any college graduate's "first $50,000 of debt [can] be vanquished" through an executive order by the next president. On Wednesday, a coalition of 236 liberal organizations called upon Biden to issue that order upon taking office.

It is far from clear that billions of dollars of debt can be simply written off via presidential decree. But set aside the procedural question. A huge new student-loan forgiveness scheme is indefensible as a matter of policy.

As noted, it would amount to a boon for the relatively well-off. But it would also treat similarly situated people dissimilarly. Imagine three 30-year-old neighbors, each of whom earns $50,000 — a construction worker who never went to college, a legal secretary with a two-year associate's degree and $2,000 in remaining student debt, and a software engineer who attended a four-year college and graduate school and still has $50,000 in unpaid loans. A bailout that erased $50,000 of student debt would give nothing to one of the neighbors, a modest $2,000 to the second, and a $50,000 bonanza to the third.

College loan forgiveness isn't just unfair. It is unnecessary. Some borrowers have a hard time managing their student debt, but the data make clear that this is not a national crisis. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 70 percent of college loans are fully paid off within 10 years. Among borrowers with loan amounts between $5,000 and $10,000, fully 80 percent clear the debt within a decade.

For the typical American household paying down a student loan, the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances has found, payments amount to around 5 percent of income. According to Jason DeLisle, a specialist on higher-education financing at the American Enterprise Institute, a recent analysis of 4 million families' financial records by the JP Morgan Chase Institute calculated that the typical monthly student-loan payment ranged between $144 and $203. For the median family, that amounted to 5.5 percent of take-home income.

Of course there are borrowers who find themselves struggling to make their payments. But those borrowers can avail themselves of existing means to have their debt deferred, reduced, or even cancelled. By one count, there are 13 major student-loan forgiveness programs. Some are geared to people who work in public service, education, health care, or the military; others enable borrowers to have their payments capped at an affordable percentage of their discretionary income. Bottom line: The overwhelming majority of college loans are paid off, and help is available for debtors who get in over their heads.

Even amid the financial stresses triggered by the pandemic, the American people are not drowning in debt, college-related or otherwise. Bloomberg noted the other day that household debt payments are currently lower than they have been in decades. Which suggests that even if the government were to forgive all student-loan debt, it wouldn't provide much of a fiscal stimulus.

What it would provide is an unstoppable demand for the government to wipe out other kinds of personal obligations. "Cancel rent. Cancel mortgage. Cancel student debt," Representative Ayanna Pressley tweeted in July. And why stop there? From Matthew Walther, writing in The Week, comes a call for a "debt jubilee" that would wipe out $50,000 of debt owed for anything at all: "credit cards, auto loans, remaining mortgage balances, and, especially, medical debts, which should be discharged without any limit."

Children send Santa Claus lists of things they want for free, but adults know that Santa isn't real. Santa isn't the federal government, either. Washington cannot magically make people's debts disappear; it can only compel other people to pay them. That may or may not be good politics, but it is certainly terrible economics.

The Biden promise to roll back campus due process reforms

Implications for Australia

Naturally, one of the people celebrating the American election result here in Australia was End Rape on Campus activist Sharna Bremner who was one of the authors of recent advice from TEQSA, our university regulator, on managing the kangaroo courts. I've written before about how astonishing it is that our official tertiary education authority would include this activist as one of the authors of advice to the unversities about these matters.

Bremner is delighted that a Biden victory will lead to his promised roll-back in the due process reforms introduced by Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. See her tweet when it dawned on her that DeVos would be leaving:

Here she is acknowledging that in the document she helped craft for TEQSA she’d introduced some minor changes to Australian policies after the DeVos reforms to Title IX, the anti-discrimination regulations responsible for America’s college tribunal system. Clearly now she’s hoping we will follow suit and give up any pretense of protecting the rights of the accused.

It is really shameful that this feminist activist would have no hesitation in publicly revealing the key role she is having in shaping university policy. What a clear demonstration of how the entire higher education system has been captured.




Monday, November 23, 2020

What American Schools Should Teach about Race, Racism and Slavery


Regarding race and much else, America’s students are not taught history. In fact, they are not taught; they are indoctrinated. With anti-Americanism.

The purpose of all teaching about race in American schools is to engender contempt for America. They are, therefore, “taught” the lies of The New York Times’ “1619 Project” — that the United States was founded to preserve and protect slavery — and of such works as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility.

So, then, what should American schools teach about race?

They should, of course, teach students about slavery and racism.

But, if truth and moral clarity are to matter, students must also learn that slavery was universal. They would therefore learn about Muslim-Arab slavery, slavery among Africans, slavery among Native Americans and Native South Americans, and slavery in Asia and India.

They would learn that it was the West, beginning with England and America, that abolished slavery. And they would learn that the abolitionists were overwhelmingly religious Christians, animated by the Bible and Judeo-Christian values.

They would learn that, unlike the slaves under Arab-Muslim rule, most black slaves in America were allowed to have children and form families. They would read Herbert Gutman’s “The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925,” about which The New York Times wrote when it was published in 1976: “Gutman has performed an immense service in burying the idea that slavery destroyed the black family.” For the record, Gutman was a professor of the left and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

They would learn that the tens of millions of African slaves under Islamic-Arab rule were not allowed to form families (most males were castrated). They would learn that while about 340,000 African slaves were transported to America, 12 million were transported to Brazil. They would learn that far more blacks — about 3 million from Africa and the Caribbean — have come to America willingly than came as slaves. They would read a 2005 article from The New York Times called “More Africans Enter U.S. Than in Days of Slavery,” in which they would also learn how much less racist America is than any other country: “Agba Mangalabou, who arrived from Togo in 2002, recalls his surprise when he moved here from Europe. ‘In Germany, everyone knew I was African,’ he said. ‘Here, nobody knows if I’m African or American.'”

They would learn about white slavery, too, from one of the greatest economists of the last half-century, Thomas Sowell, who wrote: “More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or to the 13 colonies from which it was formed. White slaves were still being bought and sold in the Ottoman Empire, decades after blacks were freed in the United States.”

None of that would be taught to diminish the evil of the transatlantic black slave trade, let alone to justify it. America’s schoolchildren should, of course, be taught about the horrors of the slave auctions, of the separation of many families, of the rapes, the beatings and the lynchings. But nothing in history is understandable without perspective.

As regards the Arab-Muslim slave trade, students should read Ghanaian professor and minister John Azumah’s book “The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa,” in which he said:

“While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade. Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.

“While the mortality rate of the slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of the slaves dying in transit in the trans-Saharan and East African slave market was a staggering 80 to 90%.

“While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines in harems and for military service.

“While many children were born to the slaves in the Americas, the millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the United States today, very few descendants of the slaves who ended up in the Middle East survived.

“While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.”

They would read some of the left’s favorite “America-is-racist” books, such as the national bestseller “White Fragility.” But, unlike any school in America that assigns that book, they would also assign a black professor’s review of it. In The Atlantic, John McWhorter, a Columbia University professor of linguistics, wrote that “White Fragility” “is actually a racist tract. … the book diminishes Black people in the name of dignifying us. … White guilt and politesse have apparently distracted many readers from the book’s numerous obvious flaws. For one, DiAngelo’s book is replete with claims that are either plain wrong or bizarrely disconnected from reality.”

They would read and listen to a variety of black thinkers and authors, not just those who detest America.

That these brilliant thinkers are unfamiliar to most Americans is proof of the bias and superficiality that pervades American academic and intellectual life.

If they read these books and are taught the truths about race outlined in this article, it is perfectly acceptable for them to read black and white leftists on race. In fact, it would be advisable.

Harvard's Racial Doublespeak Affirmed

The title is admittedly a little misleading: “Racial doublespeak” is but one humble epithet among many arising from the discrimination case just decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Dropped from the title for brevity’s sake were “double-standards,” “race-based quotas,” “court-sanctioned institutional bias against Asians,” “leftist elitism,” “overt racism,” “throwing the 1965 Civil Rights Act under the bus,” and a host of other equally apt descriptors. But “racial doublespeak” is a good start.

Background: The Harvard Case

Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) sued Harvard in 2014, culminating most recently in the First Circuit’s decision in favor of the Ivy League school. We’ve discussed at length the ongoing struggle of SFA against Harvard’s biased admissions standards. The gist of it is that Harvard effectively says, There are just too many smart Asians applying to Harvard — we can’t let them all in — and we don’t have enough smart blacks entering, so we need to tweak the admissions knobs in the name of “diversity”!

Good luck getting any Harvard official to admit this position, of course, but a simple inspection of the facts demonstrates this to be the practical effect. In any case, we fully expect this matter to reach the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), especially given the flawed logic upon which the First Circuit’s decision rests.

Logic Gaps

The underpinnings of all federal courts’ admissions-diversity jurisprudential logic is flawed. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling partially on the basis that Harvard’s use of race “is consistent with the requirements of Supreme Court precedent.” Translation: We will continue to make these types of insane rulings, because SCOTUS itself endorses them. The Supreme Court, for its part, has done nothing to clarify its convoluted positions in a handful of cases on the matter over the past few decades, stating nothing more than some use of race in admissions is permissible. A little racism is okay, apparently.

So how much is “some”? Nobody knows. The nation’s highest court has yet to deign to put sharp edges — actually, any edges — on how much “race” in the admissions process is enough and how much is too much, let alone how such criteria could or should be implemented. Thus, lower courts are left to their own whims and mischief on the matter, all under the umbrella of aegis and legitimacy conferred, however nebulously, from SCOTUS. The result: A federal district court under the First Circuit ruled in 2019 that penalizing Asian Americans is “justified by the compelling interest in diversity and all the benefits that flow from a diverse college population.”

The First Circuit, having endorsed that decision, has now established a new standard. The Wall Street Journal accurately pegs it: “Harvard never explains precisely how it uses race in admissions, but the court says that’s fine because the school uses other subjective admissions criteria as well. The ambiguity means schools can use race in arbitrary fashion as long as they’re not too blatant.” In honor of the Journal’s keen insight, we’ll call this new benchmark for college admissions discrimination the Not-Too-Blatant Standard™.

Thus, in both word and effect, the First Circuit has given carte blanche for schools to freely discriminate based on race, as long as they “aren’t too blatant” about it. This sounds more like reasoning from the Jim Crow era than from a modern federal court, but there it is. Until the Supremes hear SFA’s inevitable appeal, the First Circuit’s standard is effectively the law of the land. But the absence of a sane juridical standard to decide admissions discrimination matters isn’t the only logic problem.

Logic Flaws

Another even more fundamental reasoning defect lurking underneath the Not-Too-Blatant Standard™ is this: Why a skin-color-based double standard in the first place? Wasn’t the basic idea behind the Civil Rights Act of 1965 to attempt to fulfill the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that people should be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin? So what happened? Is it okay to discriminate for the sake of ending discrimination? Does that make any sense? And for how long?

The Civil Rights Act is now over a half-century old. What discrimination still exists? That is, what real, concrete examples of discrimination exist that are not addressed by our current laws, either at the state or federal level? As to those who would point to “systemic institutional bias” backed up by cherry-picked statistics rather than concrete evidence, we would simply ask: What is more systemic, institutionalized, and biased than a race-quota-based admissions system at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities? That is, what discrimination actually exists that isn’t sponsored by the government?

Or how about this for twisted logic: Not just any skin color counts. Being “non-white” alone isn’t enough. No, the color must be from among an anointed class of colors, and, apparently, “Asian” isn’t on that list. So let’s see if we have this straight: Harvard is okay in discriminating against Asians and whites, but not against other races deemed too scarce to meet Harvard’s “diversity” requirements — is that it? And what exactly are those diversity requirements? And why are they there in the first place? And why do the courts view “diversity” as a “compelling” governmental interest? Do we need to have [X]% of this color and [Y]% of that color in every class? And why should diversity trump academic performance or any other merit-based criteria? No one seems to be able to address any of these questions sufficient to survive a laugh test — including, of course, the First Circuit.

For its part, the First Circuit blathers on for roughly 100 pages in what amounts to using a jackhammer to tap in a wall tack in its sadly comical attempt to justify the conclusion that Harvard’s “personal ratings” used in its admissions process are not influenced by race. Never mind that the school’s data show exactly the opposite, or that, according to the Justice Department brief, these personal ratings are why Asians are disproportionately rejected from admissions, notwithstanding their impeccable academic and other merit-based credentials. Nope: Apparently that’s not too blatant — standard met!

Here’s an illuminating thought experiment: Imagine if this Harvard-shill of a court attempted to pawn its convoluted logic off on a class of black plaintiffs under the same circumstances. “Bad press” would be the least of Harvard’s troubles; rioting and the complete loss of the school’s already mottled reputation would probably be much higher up the uh-oh list at the PR Department. But for now, it’s all good, we are told by the First Circuit: It’s okay to be a racist if the goals are “diversity” (whatever that is) and ending racism (however that is defined) — and, of course, you’re not too blatant about it. Got it?

UNICEF Study: No Consistent Link Between School Reopenings and COVID Cases

It's World Children's Day, and UNICEF is calling for "averting a lost generation" of kids. That means letting them get up and go to school. Not on their computers. In the classroom. Teachers' unions have told us that reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic would be a danger to both students and educators. A few teachers in Wisconsin even took the dramatic route of displaying tombstone signs to demonstrate against in-person learning. In New York, citing a rise in COVID cases, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered all public schools across the state to close on Thursday, and it's the same in many regions across the country.

But new data from a UNICEF study doesn't back up their claims.

"Data from 191 countries shows no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of coronavirus infection," Politico reports on the study. In fact, the study concluded that "there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them."

UNICEF doesn't ignore the fact that children can get sick from COVID, but the UN agency argues it will only get worse if schools stay closed, for "children are more likely to get the virus outside of school settings."

These pandemic shutdowns, the report adds, means the loss of some essential services.

Dropoff in services: From surveys across 140 countries, UNICEF estimates that 70 percent of mental health services for children and adolescents have been disrupted during the pandemic, with 65 percent of countries reporting a decrease in home visits by social workers in September compared to last year.

Nearly one-third of the countries saw a drop of at least 10 percent in coverage for health services. That includes routine vaccinations, outpatient care for childhood infectious diseases and maternal health services.

Across 135 countries, there has been a 40 percent decline in the coverage of nutrition services for women and children. The number of children hurt by multidimensional poverty — characterized by poor health, education and living standards, in addition to the traditional monetary standards — is estimated to have increased by 15 percent globally by mid-2020.

So what's with all the virtual learning? Well, as The Washington Post found in a study of why school districts decided on remote learning, a lot of it has to do with politics. I know, shocker.

But a new study we conducted, examining some 10,000 school districts across the country — some 75 percent of the total — remarkably finds essentially no connection between covid-19 case rates and decisions regarding schools. Rather, politics is shaping the decisions: The two main factors that determined whether a school district opened in-person were the level of support in the district for Donald Trump in 2016 and the strength of teachers’ unions. A third factor, with a much smaller impact, was the amount of competition a school district faces from private schools, in particular Catholic schools. (Washington Post)

Conservatives are now directing New York's leaders to read the report.




Sunday, November 22, 2020

Is this the end of college as we know it?

For millions of Americans, getting a four-year degree no longer makes sense. Here’s what could replace it.

Rachael Wittern earned straight As in high school, a partial scholarship to college and then a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She is now 33 years old, lives in Tampa, earns $94,000 a year as a psychologist and says her education wasn’t worth the cost. She carries $300,000 in student debt.

Dr. Wittern’s 37-year-old husband worked in a warehouse for several years before becoming an apprentice electrician. He expects to earn comparable money when he’s finished—minus the debt. When and if they have children, Dr. Wittern says her advice will be to follow her husband’s path and avoid a four-year degree.

“I just don’t see the value in a lot of what I studied,” she says. “Unless they have a really specific degree in mind we’d both prefer they take a more pragmatic, less expensive route.”

For traditional college students, the American postsecondary education system frequently means frontloading a lifetime’s worth of formal education and going into debt to do it. That is no longer working for millions of people, and the failure is clearing the way for alternatives: Faster, cheaper, specialized credentials closely aligned with the labor market and updated incrementally over a longer period, education experts say. These new credentials aren’t limited to traditional colleges and universities. Private industry has already begun to play a larger role in shaping what is taught and who is paying for it.

For more than a century, a four-year college degree was a blue-chip credential and a steppingstone to the American dream. For many millennials and now Gen Z, it has become an albatross around their necks.

Millennials are the most educated generation in the nation’s history, but they are broke compared with their predecessors. So why would they direct their children to take the same path?

“They probably won’t,” says John Thelin, a historian of higher education and professor at the University of Kentucky.

Faith in the four-year degree traces back to the 1960s, when Civil Rights activists pushed for everyone to attend college and become a professional. Instead of steering students toward a pragmatic, though often racist and classist, two-track system in which some high-school graduates headed to college and others became apprentices in a trade, the nation set a course for something more aspirational: college for all.

High schools began to direct students toward college-prep classes and away from vocational training. The federal government started lending money to many more students to pay for college. Universities grew into manicured playgrounds. The proportion of Americans with a four-year college degree climbed to 36% last year from 9% in 1965.

But those gains came at a price. For every high-school student who graduates college and finds a job that leverages her degree, four fall short: They either never enroll in college, drop out, or graduate and wind up underemployed, says Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass, a conservative think tank. About half take on debt they come to regret, according to surveys. For millennials, college or bust created winners out of about 20% of the country’s students, and bust for the rest, Mr. Cass says.

What has embittered so many millennials is that they played by the rules and still got stuck. Ben Puckett, a 30-year-old pastor in Michigan, earned a B.S. in physical therapy before a Master’s degree in divinity. He is $95,000 in debt.

“I went to college because I was told by parents, friends, teachers and counselors that it was the only way to ensure a good future,” Mr. Puckett says. “At 18 years old, how was I supposed to defy what my school, parents, society, friends were saying about going to college?”

College graduates born in the 1980s are less able to build wealth compared with earlier generations. Since 2013, student debt has grown by around $600 billion.

The flagging value proposition is now catching up to colleges.

Between 1979 and 2010, enrollment at two- and four-year colleges and universities more than doubled to 18 million. Since then it has fallen by about 2 million as the number of high-school graduates shrinks and the return on investment for graduates flattens.

To adapt, more schools are offering larger tuition discounts, forcing many of them to cut costs, edging them closer to a death spiral. The pandemic and the resulting economic anxiety have accelerated these trends. Many colleges are unable to adapt their programs and to keep up with changing demands in the labor market. Hundreds of schools will close over the next few years, analysts predict.

Americans aren’t turning their backs on education; they are reconsidering how to obtain it. Enrollment in short-term credential classes during the pandemic increased by 70% to nearly 8 million over the same period last year, according to Jonathan Finkelstein, chief executive of Credly, a digital credentialing network. That increase came as freshman college enrollment dropped by 16%.

Coding boot camps, which started only a decade ago and teach students software skills in a few months, graduated around 30,000 students in the U.S. last year. The number of apprenticeships nearly doubled to more than 700,000 between 2012 and 2019, according to the Labor Department, and they are expanding beyond trades into white-collar industries like banking and insurance. California has plans in place to increase apprenticeships in the state to 500,000 from 75,000 by 2029.

Companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are launching programs which certify vocational competence and lead to well-paying tech jobs in or outside their companies. In August, Google announced scholarships for 100,000 students for a six-month online certificate including one in data science. The company said it would treat the certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree if students apply for a related role at Google.

As a critical mass of companies and nonprofits launch their own credentials that become valuable in the labor market, traditional colleges will lose their monopoly, says Christopher Dede, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the author of “The 60-Year Curriculum.”

“The minute you have enough groups from industry, or the military or nonprofits, validate these things, you provide a way of bypassing educational institutions, and that will open the door to people not having to get a bachelor’s degree as a warrant to enter the workplace,” Mr. Dede says.

The question is whether this model can supplant the massive symbolic value of a four-year degree earned straight after high school. A 2019 Kaplan Inc. survey of 2,000 parents found that 74% favor a pathway for students to go straight from high school to a full-time job while taking college classes.

What’s missing from this rising model is the sort of coming-of-age experience that students crave. Still, the pandemic has chipped away at the belief that it must take place through a four-year stint on a college campus. Groups of students unable to return to campus this year have rented houses and hotels to live with their classmates while taking classes online.

Elite schools like Harvard and Yale University will survive and even thrive but will occupy a smaller place in the popular imagination, much like prep schools today, says Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsburg.

Less elite schools trying to stay relevant have begun offering shorter programs and creating longer partnerships with students, such as giving alumni the chance to brush up on skills through online classes. Four-year degrees will get telescoped into three and eventually two years, says Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University. Academic credit will increasingly be given for work experience, and workers will return to school more frequently as the half-life of their skills shortens because of the accelerating pace of technological change.

The shift will eventually generate Americans with more education from a broader array of institutions. That will create pressure for public funding to follow the education people want, says Mr. Cass, author of “The Once and Future Worker.” Federal and state governments subsidize colleges and universities with hundreds of billions of dollars. That money benefits just a sliver of students. What about everybody else?

Mr. Cass argues students should be able to apply to whatever type of education or training they want to pursue. “College-for-all has been a catastrophically bad system,” he says. “It has to change.”

UK: Grade inflation figures show nearly half of first-class degrees ‘unexplained’

Almost half of the first class degrees awarded by universities cannot be explained and grade inflation is still a problem, the student regulator says.

Students entering university with A-level grades below DDD were almost four times as likely to receive a first-class degree last year as their counterparts in 2011, figures show.

The Office for Students (OfS) has published analysis showing how many firsts and 2:1s have been awarded by every university.

It said 29.5 per cent of students graduated last year with a first-class degree but, of that figure, 14.3 percentage points could not be explained.

Some institutions gave firsts to more than 40 per cent of graduating students last year, including Imperial College London, University College London and several conservatoires.

New York, Shamefully, on the Verge of Shuttering Public Schools

I would have reacted sooner to the news that New York City is planning to shut down its public school system as early as Monday, but there's a small kindergarten class in my house today, and I have a bunch of parent-teacher Zoom meetings scheduled for the middle school that my eldest has attended all of seven days this year.

It is hard, as a public school parent, to keep up even with the daily juggle of emails, remote meetings, classwork verification pictures, and alarmingly vague Department of Education "situation room" alerts, let alone have enough spare time to vent outrage at the feckless, child-mangling, "science"-defacing idiocrats whimsically ruining an entire year for hundreds of thousands of families. So let me throw out some contextual bullet points to ponder—nay, marvel at—as the nation blunders toward a second lockdown.

Over the past month, the New York City school system has randomly tested more than 71,000 students and 42,000 staff, from 3,000-plus schools. Only 189 came back positive. That's a rate of 0.18 percent. As predicted by those who actually follow the science rather than use the word like a get-out-of-logic-free card, schools have not been vectors for spreading COVID-19. As New York Times education reporter Eliza Shapiro noted, "one of the city's top health officials has declared that the public schools are among the safest public places around."

Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting ready to pull the plug because the city's test positivity rate, which had been hovering around or below 1.5 percent since June, shot up over 2 percent at the beginning of November, and will soon cross 3 percent, which is de Blasio's threshold for shutting schools down. How did he arrive at that number? He pulled it out of his ass.

The World Health Organization recommends a 5 percent community positivity threshold before closing schools, as does New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Europe is keeping schools open with rates well north of that, citing the still-very-low numbers of kids testing positive. The only reason de Blasio came up with such an artificially low number is that it was the best this dolt could do in negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers. As Reason Foundation Director of School Choice Corey A. DeAngelis has documented, the single biggest factor in determining whether a school system opens its doors is not the underlying COVID-19 rate but the comparative power of the relevant teachers union. Just follow the science!

You know what'll still be open when the 3 percent trigger shuts down the in-person education option for 900,000 kids? Day care centers. And private schools. So strange that the public school system is losing whole swaths of the population! It's hard to imagine a better advertisement for education provided by non-governmental means.

Speaking of which: Through all of this comedy of errors, the political and educational establishment in New York is still cloaking its decision-making process in the exalted language of equity, inclusion, and combating privilege. There is no gentle way to say this: The people who are about to shutter New York schools should never mouth those words again. It is the comparatively disadvantaged—the poor, the broken-familied, the kids with special needs—who are hammered hardest by the disruptive, logistically caddywhompus, alienating, and educationally piss-poor system of remote learning.

My family will adapt. (Hey look, the 5-year-olds are learning French five feet away from me!) But most do not have my options. I do not want to hear one word about my "privilege" again from the people who are consciously making the anti-scientific, politically driven decision to deny basic equitable opportunity for poorer families. You people should be ashamed of yourselves, and in a just world would be driven far away from public life.