Friday, December 04, 2020

Education Officials Should Be Held Accountable, Not Adored

There never was evidence or scientific data that in-person schooling presented an elevated virus threat for students, faculty, or staff warranting schools’ prolonged closure – no evidence whatsoever. In fact, it was clear even before the traditional school year’s start that children and young adults were far less likely to be infected with COVID or to be severely impacted if they became infected.

So, was the response by teachers’ unions and bureaucratic school administrators to reopen but with common-sense health and safety measures in place, so students were not kept away from teachers, classmates, and all the other benefits in-school learning provides? Of course not. Their response was to put on blinders, ignore common sense and hard evidence, and remain...closed.

There does now seem to be a glimmer of hope that this close-mindedness is softening slightly. The New York City public school system, for example, plans to open soon for in-person classes, at least for elementary students. The timing of this about-face, and whether it actually will remain in-place, are questions still on the table, and parents should continue to demand to know why it took the teachers and school administrators so long to admit what everyone else knew months ago. Even more important, parents should demand accountability, including firing teachers and bureaucrats for the waste of money caused by their bad decisions, and for the damage inflicted on the students as a result.

Waiting for any apology by those self-serving public officials would be a waste of time. As with other fear-driven public policy decisions made in response to the pandemic, refusals to open schools for in-person teaching were nothing more than partisan footballs to be kicked around by the National Education Association and its state affiliates, hoping President Trump and Republican governors who wanted to open schools sooner rather than later would look foolish.

Students, not politicians, of course, have been the real victims in this debacle, as partisan politics overrode their interests and those of their parents, many of whom struggled to keep their jobs while overseeing children forced to stay at home “learning” in front of a computer screen.

The problems resulting from this partisan short-sightedness are not trivial. It is estimated that delayed school openings this year will cost the average student seven months of learning; even more for black students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For all the pre-COVID talk about how increased school funding is needed to close the “educational gap” between students from poor and wealthy backgrounds, the decision to keep schools closed will cause lasting, if not permanent, damage to students who already are the most disadvantaged. This problem has been well-known in academic circles, but in the current context is simply ignored by Democrat school administrators and unionized teachers because it does not fit their partisan agenda.

Now, when outrage from parents can no longer be easily ignored and scientific evidence has become so obvious it, too, cannot be ignored, some Democrats are grudgingly moving to reopen schools – a decision they should have made months ago, yet for which they expect to be lauded by parents and the public at large for finally doing something right. Of course, the mainstream media rushes to provide that adoration, as in blessing New York Gov. Cuomo with an Emmy for his objectively bad – if not criminally negligent -- handling of the pandemic when it hit the Empire State earlier this year.

Fawning praise, however, will only encourage these Johnny-come-latelies to continue making decisions based not on hard evidence, common sense, and the best interests of their constituents, but on partisan political calculations masquerading as “public policy.”  

It will be interesting to see whether these public school administrators and teachers will assent to receive a COVID vaccine when it becomes available (probably before the end of this month), or will refuse because, after all, the vaccines have been developed in record time thanks to the Trump Administration’s project “Warp Speed.” Sad it will be, however, if these public “servants,” both hired and elected, cause further harm to their fellow citizens by impeding their ability to receive the vaccine.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990.  He served as an official with the CIA during the 1970s.




Wednesday, December 02, 2020

In the Covid Era: Is American Military U. Better than Harvard?

A large portion of American college students are studying entirely remotely, a dramatic change from the norm of just one year ago. Students attending online schools like Western Governors University are learning the same way students do at elite Ivy League institutions. How do current students feel about their educational experience, and is there any correlation between conventional measures of excellence and quality and the perceptions of current students actually experiencing (enduring?) remote learning? Perhaps even more relevant, are students paying $50,000 or more in tuition fees experiencing a superior experience to those paying much less, say $15,000 or less?

TestMax, a test preparation company with a six-digit number of student names in its database, recently surveyed those students, asking them to answer five questions relating to their satisfaction about the current education experience. Students from more than 440 institutions replied, and the schools that TestMax thinks got the most positive evaluations were, in general, non-prestigious schools, many with little or no residential campus presence, while Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton ranked in the bottom half of the sampled schools.

The cheaper, less prestigious schools generally outperformed the expensive, elite and prestigious institutions, with a few exceptions such as Pomona College. A few respected public schools, such as Purdue and the universities of Arizona and Florida, also were highly rated, as was online pioneer the University of Phoenix. Mehran Ebadolahi, CEO of TestMax, himself a UCLA and Harvard graduate, perceptively noted to me that Harvard Law is usually outranked by Yale because Harvard accepts more students—the key to high rankings is denying education to potential students! Where else in life does success come from turning away paying customers?

This is purely a customer (student) satisfaction survey, with the students asked five questions, including: “How effective is your school in delivering remote education?” They were also asked, “How effective is your university at remaining socially connected (albeit remotely) during the COVID-19 pandemic?” This second question gets to a key deficiency of remote learning—the lack of a sense of community and interaction between students, faculty and others. College for many is as much of a socialization mechanism as a learning community.

Why do students attend expensive Ivy League and other prestigious private schools instead of cheaper alternatives offering, in many students’ eyes, a more satisfying educational experience? The bottom line is still the diploma, and a diploma from a prestigious private school will typically produce a large amount—sometimes a million dollars—more lifetime income to recipients. It’s not what you learn, or how much you enjoy it, but how potential users of your future labor market services perceive the value of your diploma.

The TestMax survey can be justly criticized on many grounds. It uses a non-random sample of students, and some schools are completely unrepresented while other obscure ones are not. Is the good of a school solely determined by student satisfaction, or are the views of others, including the users of the services of the schools, relevant? The survey mixes together community colleges and four-year institutions. All that said, I expect that an impeccably designed survey done by a respected purveyor of public opinion like Gallup would probably show roughly similar results.

Even long before Covid, many persons argued that top-ranked schools often were neglectful of their undergraduates, paying far more attention to prized graduate students and research. A highly distinguished scholar who taught at Stanford once told me that he sent his son to Claremont McKenna instead of Stanford despite the fact he could get full tuition remission at Stanford, simply because Claremont McKenna cares far more for its flock of undergraduates (disclosure: I once taught at Claremont McKenna).

Will the temporary shift to remote learning lead to greater acceptance of alternative ways of credentialing for vocational competence? I would bet if the current all-remote learning environment continued for years, the prestige schools like Princeton, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern would lose their luster and dominant positions on the reputational scale. While these prestige schools are not in the dire financial shape that many far less exalted schools are, their long-term reputation also is highly dependent on ending the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Memo to Universities: The Public Dislikes Collegiate Racial Preferences

Two stories in the last two weeks lead me to return to the topic of race on college campuses. On Election Day, the people of California soundly voted (56.8%) against Proposition 16, a measure that would have repealed Proposition 209 passed by California voters in 1996. Prop 209, in turn, used language taken from landmark 1960s federal civil rights legislation, essentially banning any preferences or negative assessments of individuals in college admissions, employment, or contracting based on race, sex, ethnicity or national origin.

The California vote is remarkable in many regards, as recounted at a National Association of Scholars webinar recently by Gail Heriot, professor of law at the University of San Diego, also the co-chair of both the groups opposing Prop 16 as well as that promoting the original Prop 209. She is also a longtime member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

The highly progressive California Assembly approved putting Prop 16 on the ballot by a lopsided 60 to 14 vote. The California Senate strongly assented, 30 to 10. Governor Gavin Newsom endorsed it. The Regents of the University of California urged passage, as did the huge California State University System, not to mention virtually all prominent newspapers. To assure victory, the proponents of the measure spent a stunning $22 million promoting Proposition 16, vastly more than the opponents, running scare ads claiming that opponents were white racial extremists (which I found startling since the other Prop 16 opponent co-chair, Ward Connerly, is Black).

Prop 209 was followed by similar measures in several other populous states such as Washington and Michigan. Like California, last year voters in Washington rejected legislative efforts to restore racial preferences. Have public attitudes changed? The answer from liberal California and Washington is no—interestingly the California vote in 2020 was even more lopsided than in 1996.

The universities, however, once more, seem to believe “the public be damned,” or, worse, “we are smarter, morally more upright and enlightened than the masses of Americans,” what New York socialite Leona Helmsley once called “the little people.” They persist in aggressively expanding racial consciousness on campus, promoting policies that implicitly assume that skin coloration is important, overriding race neutral policies predicated on assessments of merit. I ask: Is it any wonder that public support for higher education has waned somewhat in modern times?

On November 12, a three-judge (although one has since died) panel of the federal court of appeals for the First Circuit ruled in favor of Harvard University in a lawsuit initiated by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a group that has filed several lawsuits challenging affirmative action admission policies, including at prestigious state universities such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas. The court said that “subjective” admissions criteria are in and of themselves permissible, and that Harvard had not abused this in a manner that clearly demonstrated that Blacks were shown unacceptable preferences based solely on their racial designation.

This was Round Two in a battle that many persons assume will go to the U.S. Supreme Court. For decades, the Court has made narrow rulings that have not definitely resolved the issue of whether race can be legitimately and importantly considered in admissions decisions. With a radical change in court composition, namely three Trump-era appointees who tend to be textualists rather than judges favoring expansive interpretations of federal statutes and the Constitution, it is entirely possible that the Court will both take the appeal that SFFA leader Edward Blum has indicated is forthcoming, possibly moving to a stricter, more literal interpretation of the 1960s civil rights legislation on which modern day admissions policies must comply.

In both the California and Harvard cases, it is clearly not “white privilege” versus “oppressed minorities.” In both cases, Asian-Americans are playing offense, suggesting affirmative action policies as administered at universities have been highly discriminatory towards them. The big losers in race-conscious admissions decisions are probably not whites but Asians. They are the ones who lose the most when schools drop SAT or ACT requirements and substitute more “subjective” criteria that allow admissions officials to use whatever value system they want to arrive at who is to be admitted to America’s top schools.

Fairfax Schools Study Proves Just How Badly Virtual Learning Is Affecting Kids' Education

Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school system in Virginia, has become ground zero for what not to do during a pandemic. The school district enforced virtual learning. and the

As it turns out, at-home virtual classes have put a deep dent in these kids' education.

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which has been mostly online since March, published an internal analysis this week showing that, between the last academic year and this one, the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83 percent: from 6 percent to 11 percent. By the end of the first quarter of 2020-2021, nearly 10,000 Fairfax students had scored F’s in two or more classes — an increase of more than 4,300 students as compared with the group who received F’s by the same time last year. (Washington Post)

The shocking findings even caught the attention of former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand, who halted this fall's return to classes following an uptick in COVID cases in the Washington area, acknowledged the learning gap, but offered no concrete timeline for getting students back in the classroom.

"We are working on identifying these students by name and by need and are working on specific interventions to support them right now and as we phase back in person," he said.

We've singled out Fairfax here, but academic struggle is becoming a disturbing trend across the country. As the Washington Post points out, more than 40 percent of students are earning failing grades in at least two of their classes at the Independent School District in Houston, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Teachers' unions continue to insist on at-home learning because of safety concerns. But new research from UNICEF shows "no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of coronavirus infection."

In fact, as Politico summarized, "there is strong evidence that, with basic safety measures in place, the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them."

University Administrators’ Pandemic Power Grab

Universities’ profligate spending habits have caught up with them after substantial losses in student enrollments due to COVID-19. As undergraduate enrollment fell by 4.4 percent and students had fewer “on-campus experiences,” universities desperately began laying off employees. Some even have plans to consolidate departments and entire campuses.

Those actions spell trouble for the future of the shared governance tradition on American campuses.

Shared governance allows faculty to participate in determining university priorities pertaining to administrative hires, education policies, and the budget. Faculty participation in university governance allows academic and educational interests to have a seat at the decision-making table. While shared governance has already been steadily weakened over the past several decades due to concerning trends such as adjunctification and administrative bloat, it could face its final crisis as universities consolidate and centralize power in response to the pandemic.

Similar to the power and money grab by large corporations from small businesses during COVID-19, centralized power in higher education makes it easier for ever-growing administrations to execute their own priorities—without faculty interference. This centralization and consolidation is happening at an unprecedented rate across all levels: employee, department, and institution.

Employee Level

Early estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nearly 484,000, or a tenth of workers, left the higher education industry between February and September 2020.

A good starting assumption is that the majority of those cuts should be positions that are 1) not directly related to the institution’s mission, or 2) dependent upon on-campus operations. These cuts would reflect sensible responses to the economic pressure from COVID lockdowns.

Regarding on-campus workers, the University of Delaware, unsurprisingly, laid off 3.5 percent of its 3,570 full-time staff members, mostly on-campus staff related to facilities maintenance, construction project management, and conference services. The University of Texas at San Antonio laid off 243 staff members who worked mainly in the academic and business affairs departments. Long Island University laid off 59 staff members, which included secretaries, librarians, and financial aid counselors.

Some higher-level administrators took salary cuts or forfeited raises as well. At Ohio University, vice presidents, deans, and other leadership personnel took between a 6-20 percent cut to their base salaries. Still, base salaries for these administrators ranged from a generous $123,000 to as high as $416,000.

But cuts to base salaries do not tell the full story. The senior vice president for finance and administration at Ohio University, who can also authorize lay-offs, accepted a $100,000 bonus in July 2020. The university offered this bonus even after more than 400 employees were let go due to the university’s financial struggles.

It may be that these “chop from the top” slogans are nothing more than PR stunts like it has been suggested at the College of William and Mary. There, salary protections for salaried employees had some substantial fine print—employees of specific departments had little to no protection.

Even during these financially difficult times, however, colleges continued to hire diversity officers, who often make six-figure salaries. Northwestern University recently named a new chief diversity officer, despite laying off nearly 90 staff members. The University of Iowa College of Law hired its first diversity director while the University of Pennsylvania created a vice president for social equity and community position. Colgate University is currently searching for a diversity officer.

University executives have not taken substantial enough pay cuts to make up for revenue losses. Nor have they cut mid-level administrators in departments like student affairs or development. That reluctance has meant making the extreme decision to slash tenured faculty positions.

Adjunct and non-tenured faculty, who have little-to-no job security, are usually the first to go when times are tough. But during the pandemic, cuts to tenured faculty were not off the table. The University of Akron slashed nearly 100 unionized faculty positions, the majority of whom had tenure. Even wealthy, prestigious Yale University stopped hiring tenure-track faculty for a period of time.

When administrators are a growing proportion of employees, relative to academic faculty, university decisions will skew more toward their interests. The decisions following COVID-19 not only weaken shared governance—they also encourage universities to create a larger class of dispensable employees: adjunct professors, lecturers, part-time instructors, and so on. Each individual in this class of employees has less influence and interest in the long-term health of the university.

Departmental Level

Many universities have responded to revenue losses by consolidating or eliminating academic departments. Guilford College plans to phase out nearly half of its academic majors—19 out of 42. Most of these departments, which include philosophy and political science, enroll very few students. The University of Wyoming looks to eliminate or consolidate over 20 low-enrollment departments as well. While their plans would eliminate 57 academic employees, their entire financial response to the pandemic only terminates 23 non-academic employees. Ithaca College also plans to eliminate low-enrollment academic departments, which would affect 130 faculty members, some of whom have tenure.

Those departmental cuts will decrease the number of professors on campus and further weaken their representation in shared governance. However, consolidation is not necessarily all bad. Consolidation in some peripheral (and virulently ideological) administrative and academic departments can reduce bloat and cut down on costs. For example, had Purdue University followed through with their original plan to consolidate their School of Interdisciplinary Studies—which includes units in Comparative Literature, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Global Studies—they would have gone from 16 department directors to 6. Many of these departments propagate destructive ideas such as social justice and identity politics.

However, university budget decisions should not just consider enrollment numbers in an academic department. These numbers do not necessarily indicate a department’s academic value. Some majors, like the Classics, do not attract many students compared to trendy majors like Communications and Psychology. But that doesn’t mean the Classics deserve to die.

The actions taken by universities aren’t temporary aberrations; they foreshadow the things to come.
Universities that cut down on these under-represented majors forget that academia is a preserver of knowledge, not simply a business. When these departments are cut or merged, professors who have the ability to disseminate this specialized knowledge are left high and dry, either unemployed or cloistered off in some shrinking corner of a merged leviathan.

Institutional Level

The third way our higher education system is centralizing is through university mergers, the last resort that saves institutions at the brink of financial insolvency. Schools that considered consolidation were most often performing poorly even before COVID-19. The pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for these fading institutions.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is considering a merger of three pairs of universities within its 14-school system. This consideration follows years of student enrollment declines and poor financial decisions. Student enrollment at PASSHE schools fell by 20 percent during the 2010s as Pennsylvania produced fewer high school graduates and other colleges within and outside the state attracted the smaller pool of graduates. Yet, during this decline, PASSHE increased employee salaries and benefits by 11 percent and invested more in building upgrades. Pension liabilities nearly tripled as well.

It remains unclear whether the merger will mean faculty cuts, though more than 100 tenured and tenure-track faculty members are already set to lose their positions across five of the system’s schools. It’s possible, and likely, that there will be cuts in either redundant workers or employees in departments that do not survive the merger.


Though we don’t yet know what long-term effects of pandemic cuts will be, it seems likely that consolidation and centralization will continue as faculty fade from influence in governance decisions. The projected baby bust in the coming years means that even when students return to college, we can expect low enrollment numbers to persist. Thus, the actions taken by universities aren’t temporary aberrations; they foreshadow the things to come.

Universities, and particularly university executives, are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defenestrate full-time and tenured faculty from their positions of influence in making decisions about the future of the university. On-campus blue-collar staff will return with the students, but even if universities recover their lost revenue, they will likely turn to part-time and adjunct professors to fill instructional gaps.

This “hollowing out of the middle” inside our higher education system echoes broad economic trends in the United States for the past several decades—and what’s happening in the rest of the economy during COVID-19.

Universities no longer feel a strong connection to their educational mission as institutions; at least, if not, they see it in a far different way than they did a century ago. The pursuit of truth and the passing of the torch of civilization have given way to the efficient production of corporate- and government-funded research materials, and the maintenance and growth of a top-heavy bureaucratic machine.




Monday, November 30, 2020

UVA and the Dangerous Politicization of Our College Campuses

It is no secret that our colleges and universities have witnessed a sea change in campus culture over the past two decades. Political correctness has run rampant. High-profile incidents such as the Yale Halloween costume controversy and phenomena such as safe spaces and building re-namings have captured public attention.

College officials, however, assure us that such incidents are aberrations and that our institutions of higher learning are still places where fairness and the free exchange of ideas prevail. But those of us who have recently experienced life on a college campus, or have studied recent surveys of student experiences, or who regularly read such websites as Campus Reform or The College Fix, know that such platitudes from those officials do not remotely reflect the current reality at most colleges.

The fact is that there is an endemic rot of indoctrination, politicization, and intellectual intimidation that is eviscerating the historical purpose and nature of our institutions of higher learning.

Accordingly, if you believe that a university should be an institution for unfettered and free discourse, where students, faculty, and administrators can espouse differing viewpoints without fear of reprisal—you should be concerned, very concerned. And if you believe that universities should be institutions where all groups are treated equally and where achievement is based on merit and ability alone—you should be concerned, very concerned. Further, if you believe a college student’s experience should be a time for expanding intellectual and social horizons and enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime joie de vivre of freedom and friendships—then you should be concerned as well—very concerned.

The main culprit behind these problems has been the purposeful politicization of our college communities.

And that has mostly come in the form of the codification of a social justice agenda in the name of the “holy trinity” of so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion. I say “so-called” because, as applied on campuses, these terms take on a different meaning than advertised. Diversity comes in the form of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity—not intellectual diversity, which should be the most important type of diversity on campus. Equity comes in the form of equality of results rather than the American ideal of equality of opportunity. And inclusion becomes a misnomer, as the focus on racial and ethnic identification—rather than community identification—results in a “balkanized” student body that is more exclusive than inclusive.

The dangers implicit in this social justice agenda have been delineated brilliantly in an article by Anthony Kronman, the former dean of Yale Law School, entitled “The Downside of Diversity.” But it is not just the “downsides” of diversity that present the greatest dangers to the academic integrity of universities. It is the fact that so many college administrations have adopted such agendas as the official policy of the school—thus explicitly politicizing the institution.

I was a student leader and journalist at the University of Virginia during the turbulent anti-Vietnam War period of 1969-70. The politicized atmosphere on campuses during those days of turmoil most closely approximates current conditions more than any other time. Back then, there was a strong debate among UVA faculty as to whether the University should take a stand on the war.

One leading professor who was opposed to doing so asserted that a university is an institution of learning and should not be available for use by anybody as an ideological base or political instrument. Another leading professor specifically identified the dangers of doing this. He noted that, by taking sides, the administration had made the university an instrument of oppression against faculty or students who disagree with this position. Rarely has such a statement been more prescient—because that is exactly the state of affairs that has now afflicted most colleges for some time.

It is becoming more and more evident that our universities now face the greatest threat to their academic freedom and integrity in their history. This view is supported by both anecdotal and statistical evidence. I moved to Charlottesville six years ago to fulfill a lifelong dream to write a book about my four years as an undergraduate at UVA and to get involved in everything UVA. Since that time, I have had ongoing dialogues with numerous students, faculty, and administrators. The stories I heard of intellectual intimidation, opinion suppression, and fear of social and professional ostracization were legion.

My own anecdotal experiences have been confirmed on almost a daily basis by stories of thought suppression emanating from multitudes of college campuses. Indeed, as I am writing this article, Supreme Court Justice Alito asserted in an address to the Federalist Society that

Unfortunately, tolerance for opposing views is now in short supply in many law schools, and in the broader academic community. When I speak with recent law school graduates, what I hear over and over is that they face harassment and retaliation if they say anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.

The anecdotal evidence noted above is more than supported by statistical evidence. A recent survey of nearly 20,000 students at 55 colleges regarding free speech on campus was commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Anybody interested in this subject matter should spend some time reviewing the results. In addition to including individual stories of intellectual intimidation and indoctrination, the survey tabulates the results of a series of questions posed to the students. In my view, the most relevant question was: “Have you personally ever felt you could not express your opinion on a subject because of how students, a professor, or the administration would respond?”

In an incredible indictment of the current state of our college campuses, a full 60 percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative. Think about that—3 of 5 college students are experiencing intellectual and speech intimidation and suppression. Every college administrator should take note—is this the type of institution of learning you aspire to? It is a national tragedy that needs immediate attention and action.

A further threat to fairness on our college campuses flows from how the concept of “equity” is being transformed by social justice agendas. The essence of an equitable society has been traditionally measured by equality of opportunity with results based on merit and achievement. This concept was very well expressed by Martin Luther King Jr.’s hope that our nation would be one where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Unfortunately, current social justice agendas have turned this concept on its head by advocating for results to be based on how people are born rather than who they are. Thus, many decisions at all levels of student and faculty life are now based on race, ethnicity, and gender rather than achievement, a corruption of the American ideal. The one area of university life that this agenda has thus far not intruded is athletics. One does not often hear that college football and basketball teams are anti-Semitic or anti-Asian based on the dearth of those groups on such teams.

Finally, the politicization of our college campuses has also apparently taken a toll on the mental, emotional, and social well-being of our students.

Over the past decade, college student health facilities have been inundated with cases of depression and anxiety in numbers never before encountered. I have had numerous conversations with senior administrators dealing with student life and they have noted, in effect, that many students are too serious and just don’t know how to have a good time. Apparently, social justice agendas frown on having fun when there are so many social evils to redress. In its own way, this result may be the most damaging for the future well-being of our society.

So, how to deal with the ramifications of the increasing politicization of our campuses? These initial steps would be helpful:

Every institution of higher learning should adopt the Chicago Principles of freedom of expression or something similar—and then make sure they are vigorously adhered to.

Political and social agendas should be debated on campuses, not dictated.

College administrations should actively seek diversity of thought in their faculties and students in the same manner they seek racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.

One major question remains: do administrators have the wisdom and courage to take these steps?

New Poll Shows American Education System Has Totally Failed in One Key Area

Let’s move on from the 2020 election for a second. In four years, we’re going to have another presidential election and many more after that. In the interim years, we have the midterms. And while this cycle will continue, the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch will probably become more explicit. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wasn’t successful in clinching the Democratic nomination in 2016 or 2020. He has a following. He has a devoted base, but black Democrats in the south were the firewall against a total socialist takeover. That will not last. There will be a Democrat of the Sanders-Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez mold who will be able to do well enough with this key demographic south of the Mason-Dixon line to win the nomination. Will that be in 2024, 2028, 2032? We shall see, but a recent poll from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation does not bode well. It not only highlights a threat to the country, but also zeroes in on how our education system has either a massive blind spot or has totally failed in educating younger generations about the authoritarian, corrupt, and murderous history of far-left politics.

Socialism is on the rise and on the move. In a press release that accompanied the poll, Marion Smith, Executive Director for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said, “In a year where Bernie Sanders and lawmakers such as AOC and The Squad normalized socialism as top-tier politicians, and young Americans have taken to the street to protest inequality, it’s clear socialism, communism, and Marxism have a new appeal to Americans,” he said. On the education front, he warned, “when one-in-four Americans want to eliminate capitalism and embrace socialism, we know that we have failed to educate about the historical and moral failings of these ideologies.”

Some of the brief overviews of the survey show that 40 percent of Americans view socialism favorably, which is a four-point increase from last year. Among those in Generation Z, favorability ticked up nine-points resting at 49 percent. It was 40 percent in 2019.

Yet, most concerning is that 26 percent of Americans support the phased elimination of the free market system in the United States. They want to replace it with a more socialist model. That radical shift is supported by 31 percent of those in Gen-Z and 35 percent of Millennials.

There are other troubling signs, but the conclusions are clear. Socialism has a strong foundation among the American electorate, which is bound to grow unless confronted. That is not going to happen immediately, and it could be a long slog. The institutions of higher education are quite fond of cultural Marxist nonsense and favorable analyses of these butcher governments.

This is a long war here, educationally speaking. It will take time and patience and an all-out assault within the institutions of learning who undoubtedly gloss over the Everest-sized death tolls that came out of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Stalin’s gulags. In fact, one ironic aspect of the history of communist China is that when Mao died in 1976, Deng Xiaoping eventually took over and led to a massive period of growth in China by instituting…market reforms.

UK: Equality minister criticises ‘certain campaigners’ in school curriculum debate

Equality minister Kemi Badenoch has criticised “certain people” for demanding that a new, overly one-sided history curriculum be taught in British schools.

Ms Badenoch, a Tory MP, said that some campaigners wanted the “UK history curriculum” to be taught “in a way that [suggests] good people [are] black people” and “bad people [are] white people”.

“I think that’s wrong,” she told BBC podcast Political Thinking, explaining that children must be presented with the whole picture - and that teachers must speak in facts.

In the aftermath of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, dozens of campaigns have sprung up around the UK - particularly in relation to private schools - urging governing bodies to “decolonise” Britain’s history curriculum. But Ms Badenoch warned that some of the changes being requested would encourage an overly simplistic version of events.

Ms Badenoch said on the podcast that what her daughter is being taught now is “completely different” to what she was taught in history at school.

“I wouldn’t want her to have what I had but what she is being taught is a history that just can’t be separated from European or white history, and which has an oppression narrative around it,” she explained.

She said “there is so much more to black people than being oppressed and being victims” but that it was important children had history lessons that showed “both good and bad black people, people who did good things and people who did bad things”.

The nation’s history curriculum became a talking point amid the global resurgence of the the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement this summer. Multiple protests saw campaigners demand that universities and schools review how they were teaching students about controversial historical figures.

The history of the British Empire and the UK’s part in colonisation are what tend to be at the centre of various drives to overhaul the current curriculum.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, spoke out on the same issue last week. He told reporters at the time that schools must at least try to teach both “the good and the bad about history”, and that young people deserve to know “the rich diversity and tapestry that has made our nation so great”.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Williamson said: “I would always want schools to be celebrating our great nation’s history and the important role that we have played in the world and shaping the world for the better.”

Students began writing to past and present headteachers in summer, calling for future generations to be provided with a more robust racial history. In one letter addressed to Bruce Grindlay, the headmaster of Sutton Valence School - a private school in Kent - hundreds of students wrote to question “the lack of British colonialism / racial awareness taught in the curriculum”.

The letter said that during their time at Sutton Valence, students felt encouraged to support “the vulnerable, such as military veterans injured during combat, children and adults suffering from cancer”. For this to stand up, though, “the same energy must be applied to tackling racism by educating pupils on British Colonialism and the structures of institutionalised racism” students said.

“It is the responsibility of all teachers and educational institutions to improve the teaching of these important issues,” the note concluded.

Some schools have announced plans to modify their history lessons since receieving letters similar to - if not exactly the same as - the one sent to Mr Grindlay. Ampleforth and Winchester schools, for instance, are said to be “formulating new approaches” to instruct their students about the history of colonisation.

Back in June, a cross-party group of 30 MPs wrote to Mr Williamson, to ask for a re-evaluation of the UK history syllabus, and to address the lack of education around issues being raised by BLM activists.

“We all have a duty to make sure the next generation, at least, has a better understanding of the historical injustices contributing to institutional racism that persists in the UK and elsewhere today,” the group wrote.




Sunday, November 29, 2020

Why academics hold Thatcher and Trump in such contempt

The sheer venom in Leftist hate of influential conservatives is a wonder to behold. And academics are usually very committed Leftists so are particularly unhinged. What is going on? Why the complete lack of any balance or moderation?

One has to conclude that influential conservatives strike deeply wounding blows at the worldview of Leftist intellectuals. The threat to their worldview is so severe and their worldview is so important to them that they have to muster all their emotional resources into its defence.

The basic problem for them is that their worldview is delusory and hence fragile. Great intellectual and emotional resources are need to support a claim as patently absurd as "all men are equal". It has cost them a great deal of mental effort to make sense of such sillines so attacking such delusions robs them of something very important to them. It's like an attack on their children.

I have covered this topic in much greater detail here:

‘Has that orange baboon gone yet?’ asked a senior professor in the teacher’s room at my university yesterday.

The remark went down well, despite the unfashionable remark about someone’s skin colour and the dubious zoomorphic comparison.

As did an earlier comment from another colleague joking about how he’d like to replace Trump’s corona medication with something more potent (i.e. he wishes he were dead).

I’ve had more than four years of this sort of ‘banter’ at the university I work at, which pretty much sums up the consensus view amongst academics of the outgoing President: Trump is a disgrace to humanity, a complete aberration, and the sooner he departs the White House – and this earth for that matter – the better.

The highlight of four years of abuse towards Trump include an English professor who celebrated the Japanese festival of Setsubun (where beans are thrown at imaginary devils) by pinning a picture of Trump on the wall and having the class aim their ammunition at it instead. He boasted about this in a staff meeting.

Then there was the Canadian colleague, terrified that his accent might mean he was mistaken for an American, who took to wearing a maple leaf lapel badge every single day. And there was the American lecturer who began pre-emptively apologising on behalf of his nation to everyone he was introduced to. Another American professor told me she had severed all ties with relatives back home whom she’d discovered were ‘Trump sympathisers’.

This bottomless contempt, expressed without caveat, and in the apparent certainty that no sane person could possibly disagree, reminded me of the venom directed at Margaret Thatcher by academics during her time as Prime Minister. And the atmosphere of relief and celebration after the US election result is reminiscent of the period when Mrs Thatcher was forced from office, when I was an undergraduate at St Andrews University.

I recall that one of my history lecturers, now a prominent Guardian contributor, could barely conceal his delight. He opened our first post-Maggie class by writing the word ‘Thatcher’ on the board and then, with a gleeful, triumphant flourish, crossing it out.

The academics themselves would claim, and no doubt believe, that their animus derives from their superior humanity. But I have an alternative theory, and it’s a simple one: insecurity.

Trump, the great deal maker (in his own mind at least) measured success in terms of bottom lines and negotiating outcomes, a philosophy inimical to most academics.

His very presence in the White House was living proof of how far you can go without paper qualifications, or even reading books. Suspicious of the academy and its leftward lurch, he justified withholding funding from institutions that practised affirmative action and had diversity programmes.

Similarly, Thatcher, despite her own academic success, was at heart the grocer’s daughter who weighed the produce in her father’s shops and took fair payment in pounds, shillings and pence.

Thatcher took this thinking with her into No. 10. Building on her relatively unproductive spell as education minister she introduced measures to gauge teaching and research ‘quality’ – replacing the university grants committee with a funding council shorn of most of its academics – and removed the security of tenure for many. As with the grocers, there was to be nothing on tick.

Trump had the disturbing habit of asking uncomfortable questions about the worth of institutions with no tangible end product: ‘What’s the point of Nato?’ he has effectively asked. Thatcher might have wondered the same about the NUT.

Basically, Thatcher and Trump lacked the automatic respect many academics feel is their due. They gave the impression that they could see right through us – an uncomfortable feeling.

But if the sentiments of the majority of educators of 2020 and 1990 are similar, what has changed is the level of censoriousness, and the fear among the few dissenters of speaking out against the consensus. Pro-Thatcher academics were perhaps not too popular in the staff room, but didn’t live in fear of losing their jobs. I’m not sure that is true about Trump.

Now and again I gently take on my Trump hating colleagues. I point out that, however disagreeable his personality, being the first President in 40 years to not engage or escalate a war means an awful lot of people have avoided being killed. And an improved American economy meant better living conditions for those at the bottom of the heap. And then there was Trump’s potentially huge breakthrough in the Middle East peace process.

Is it not worth at least thinking about these things before we start declaring the Trump era an unmitigated disaster and start popping the champagne corks? ‘You can’t possibility defend Trump’, said a Canadian professor friend when I raised these points.

And what worried me was that I’m not entirely sure in what sense the word ‘can’t’ was being used.

‘Wokeness’ Infiltrates College Music Departments

Inevitably, college music departments have succumbed to pressure to promote “social justice” and fight racism. It’s hard to see much injustice or racism in music, but that doesn’t matter to activists intent on showing that they’re in the vanguard of America’s transformation.

Consider, for example, the announcement back in September by the music department at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC that it was taking steps to combat “systemic racism.”

We learn that the music department, eager to participate in the college’s new anti-racism initiative, hired a consultant, Lorna Hernandez Jarvis. She met with minority students and alumnae so that they could engage in “safe and confidential” conversation about the department. That conversation revealed a number of problems, particularly the lack of diversity in the music curriculum, insensitivity toward international students, and mistaken assumptions by faculty members about minority students.

It’s hard to imagine that the racially restricted “conversation” didn’t involve a lot of what lawyers would call “leading the witness,” but let’s say that the participants really thought that those items were problems at Meredith.

Professor Jeanie Wozencraft-Ornellas, head of the department, subsequently met with the consultant. Afterward, she stated, “Having been aware of systemic racism in housing, banking, education, etc., I have to admit that I was not truly aware of how systemic racism was built into our curriculum and music education.”

In the summer of 2020, systemic racism was being discovered everywhere. Meredith College’s music department was guilty of it and steps had to be taken.

To eliminate it, the department announced that it was redefining its mission, revising its curriculum to include a global music component and more inclusion of “marginalized musicians,” and collecting songs from different cultures to use in the teaching of music theory, which will be compared with European tonal scales and intervals. Moreover, the department would look for anti-bias, anti-racism (ABAR) texts and materials to use.

Thus, the Meredith music department entered the battle against systemic racism. The question is whether its moves will make any difference. Meredith’s students weren’t “racist” in the past and it’s hard to believe that they will think or act any differently now that they’ll be studying some different musical systems and composers from around the world. But academic virtue signaling isn’t about results—it’s about appearances.

A second incident where college music teaching collided with “wokeness” occurred at the University of North Texas (UNT), where a music professor found himself in trouble because he dared to dispute the trendy belief that racism pervades the academic world.

Here’s what happened.

A music professor at Hunter College, Philip Ewell, gave an address to the Society for Music Theory entitled “Music Theory and the White Racial Frame,” subsequently published here. In it, Ewell argued that music theory suffers from institutionalized “whiteness” that needs to change so there can be “positive racial change in music theory.”

A large portion of Ewell’s address was devoted to an attack on a German music theorist, Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935.) He accused Schenker of racism and concluded that his contributions to music theory were therefore tainted.

Ewell’s arguments touched off vigorous debate within the field, especially his attack on Schenker. As it happens, there is an academic journal, The Journal of Schenkerian Studies, devoted to his work. That journal is published by UNT and edited by professor Timothy Jackson. Jackson decided to devote much of the next volume to a symposium on Ewell’s address, publishing articles by scholars who took issue with his claims, including Jackson himself.

That sort of thing is standard among academics; someone makes an argument and then it gets debated.

Sadly for professor Jackson, dispassionate debate is no longer allowed on many topics, especially those where claims of racism by “progressives” are concerned. Once word got around that Jackson had challenged Ewell’s thesis, an angry mob descended on him.

A group of students demanded that the university discipline or even terminate all those on the music faculty who were responsible for the publication of the Journal. They also demanded that the university conduct an investigation into “past bigoted behaviors by faculty.” Rather than defending a colleague’s academic freedom, a number of UNT faculty members circulated a petition in support of the students.

As we have seen on so many campuses, the social justice warrior types don’t want to argue with their opponents. They want to see them punished.

Writing about this affair for National Review, Samantha Harris of FIRE said,

It is particularly ominous that Jackson’s critique of a fellow scholar falls wholly within the scope of academic freedom that UNT promises its faculty…. Simply put, the behavior of those who want Timothy Jackson’s life ruined over his academic critique of an article applying critical-race theory to music theory is not compatible with freedom.

At the time of this writing, professor Jackson still has his job at UNT, but the university’s “investigation” into him continues. That investigation, his attorney informed me in a phone conversation, violates university rules for the handling of faculty disputes. Moreover, Jackson has been banned from participating in committee work, which harms his prospects for advancement.

When university leaders won’t defend faculty members for engaging in precisely the sort of intellectual jousting that should be the backbone of scholarly life, then the whole educational enterprise is on very thin ice in this country.

A third instance of “wokeness” intruding into the world of music teaching comes to us from the University of Arizona. A music professor there, Molly Gebrian, who specializes in the viola, recently declared that the music world has a problem—it’s too dominated by music written by white men.

She states, “Really, what we need is a national overhaul of the music curriculum…. The status quo is not okay. That how change has to start, with individuals doing what they can to affect (sic) change.”

When leaders won’t defend faculty for engaging in intellectual jousting that should be the backbone of scholarly life, the whole educational enterprise is on very thin ice in this country.
Professor Gebrian’s contribution to “change” is her compilation of a database of compositions for the viola that excludes everything written by white men. Supposedly, it will be easier for viola instructors to teach their students if they don’t have to study works by “dead white guys.”

Undoubtedly, there are some good pieces written for viola by women and “underrepresented” composers, but how does it help students by eliminating many pieces just because they were written by white men? Gebrian’s purge takes away many famous compositions, including Hector Berlioz’s great “Harold in Italy” and Bela Bartok’s Viola Concerto.

It won’t make women and minority viola students at the University of Arizona feel any better about themselves to be shielded from those and other compositions by white men. Nor will the world change for the better if students and professional musicians stop performing pieces written by white men and only play “diverse” works. The world has many problems, but they will be exactly the same no matter what music is played.

If a math professor were to tell her students that they were not going to study any mathematical theorems devised by white men because she wants to fight white male dominance, almost everyone would regard that as educational malpractice. This is no different.

From large state universities to small private colleges, “wokeness” is taking over, with regrettable consequences for the quality of education.

Beware, Australian Parents, Your Kids Are Being ‘Scootled’

When I noticed that a top-tier federal-state education body is providing lesson materials for teachers, I decided to take a look. The body is Education Services Australia (ESA), a company set up by federal-state education ministers. ESA provides free supplementary online materials for teachers via 20,000-plus pages on its Scootle portal. No mickey-mouse operation, it’s all keyed precisely to the curricula and used in 2019 by some 60,000 teachers, who chalked up 2.8 million sessions involving 18.8 million page views. From 2000-09 this on-line exercise chewed up about $130 million of taxpayer money.[1] Today ESA self-supports on revenue of $40 million a year from projects and subscriptions.

Scootle is just one of many third-party inputs to schooling. More than 90 per cent of teachers and 8400 schools, for example, use online lessons supplied by the anti-capitalist green-left Cool Australia outfit (See here, here, here, here). I fully expected that Scootle materials would be part of the Leftist miasma pervading education, which is so all-encompassing that even the 50 per cent conservative-voting parents long ago ceased to notice what their kids are being taught.

In the immortal words of Victoria’s one-time education minister and premier Joan Kirner, education must be reshaped to be “part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system”. This was consummated in 2008 when PM Julia Gillard and her Labor premiers brought in their “Melbourne declaration”.[2] Conservative governments don’t seem to mind that schools have been converted to breeding grounds for green-minded woke warriors.

ESA is supposed to promote “improved students outcomes” and classier teachers and schools. As we know, our kids’ performance is sliding down the international league tables, despite ESA’s best efforts. So, as an amateur auditor, having logged on as a “guest user”, I had a look around.

“Paul Keating” gets 17 hits, virtually all laudatory; Gough Whitlam gets 56 hits, none hostile and most laudatory. Whitlam’s dismissal (1975) gets a dozen tracts. “John Howard” gets more than 20 cites, but sadly none are laudatory and most hostile.[3]

I got a surprise when I searched on “WWF” to check that green lobby’s input. Instead of cute pandas, I got a dozen propaganda film clips from the Communist-led Waterside Workers Federation of the 1950s, such as “Banners Held High, 1956: May Day”. Scootle tells kids this film is “honouring the achievements of workers across the world”. Actually, a few months after its May Day love-in, the WWF backed the Soviets as their tanks crushed the Hungarian revolt.[4]

Scootle’s asylum-seeker treatment is straight from The Greens’ playbook.[5] Search for “asylum seeker” and the request generates exactly 100 hits and ‘refugee’ alone 169 hits. Scootle’s intense interest in the topic includes: Discussion paper – ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia’, 1992.

This is the cover of a 55-page paper titled ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia‘. It states that the current immigration system is unfair to some groups and discusses how to guarantee fair access to Australia’s immigration system. The paper was prepared by Andrew Theophanous and published in 1992… The dimensions of the discussion paper are 29.60 cm x 21.00 cm.

I’m sure it’s a lovely paper from 28 years ago for kids to study, being 29.60cm x 21.00cm and all, about fairness and victim support. Author Andrew Theophanous was MHR (Labor) for the seats of Burke and Calwell from 1980-2000. But as Wikipedia puts it, “He was later jailed for bribery and fraud offences relating to visa applications and other immigration matters.” Specifically, “he was charged with defrauding the Commonwealth by making false representations in relation to an immigration matter, taking an unlawful inducement and soliciting an unlawful inducement.” He got six years, and served two of them. Maybe Scootle should footnote that?

Another example is:

Anthem – An Act of Sedition, 2004: MV Tampa and September 11

This clip presents an interpretation of the Howard government’s response to the arrival of refugees in Australian waters on the MV Tampa in August 2001. The narration states that John Howard had often used scare tactics for his political advantage and that the refugees were now to be used in a ‘race election’. Views defending the refugees are juxtaposed with images of troops. Scenes of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York dramatise the narration, which states that the government used fear of terrorism to override international law and civil rights.

The tone here seems similar to what East German kids used to get. Scootle’s explanatory notes say the film argues passionately that PM John Howard cynically exploited Tampa and 9/11 “to create fear, undermine the rule of law and secure a win in the November 2001 election.” The notes say, “the desperation of the passengers led the captain to attempt to land under conditions of emergency”. In fact the Afghans effectively took over the ship by threats, which led to SAS troops storming the vessel.

Scootle cites Julian Burnside QC, most recently a failed Greens candidate, who “condemns the ‘Pacific Solution’ legislation as being a clear-cut infringement of international law, and another lawyer sees it as being undemocratic.”

In a mealy-mouthed way, Scootle says,

In this case no attempt is made to present the case for the Howard government, the narration puts its views strongly and the use of dramatic footage heightens the sense of crisis, reinforcing the filmmakers’ view that these events marked a serious attack on civil liberties and democratic processes.

Impressionable kids are treated to a tear-jerking film (aka “powerful account”) about an Australian family with four kids visiting an Afghan teen in detention in Port Hedland in 2004. The visiting mother describes ‘a heavy gate being locked behind’ them, the children ‘huddled together wide-eyed and silent’ and the guard ‘unlocking the third door’, with an echoing, sombre and “slightly fearful” sound track. The film, asserts Scootle, “raises questions about the government policy that imprisoned children in the name of border protection.”

Kids also get a poem, ‘When I think of Australia’ by Amelia Walker. Extract: “I switch on the TV and see wire with children behind it. If this isn’t their country it isn’t mine.” Images include chicken wire and “refugees’ children in detention camps”. There’s also a color cartoon provided from leftist New Matilda[6] showing

a dilapidated ship crowded with asylum seekers approaching a pier where an elderly woman stands with outstretched arms, saying: ‘I know it’s extremely unAustralian of me, but I’d like to welcome you to our shores …’

So where does Scootle offer kids the conservative government’s case? A search on “people smuggler” finds one hit from a 1990 incident, and none contemporaneous. Another search fails to turn up reference to the 1,200 asylum seekers drowned after Labor’s PM Rudd overturned Howard’s policy and encouraged people smugglers to ship 50,000 people south in those infamously leaky boats.

More here: