Saturday, December 26, 2020

Leaving the Blight of Higher Education: Farewell, Students

In May of 2020, my wife and I took our retirement after more than 30 years of teaching college, the last 20 years of which we spent at what I will call Upstate Consolation University, a mid-tier state college somewhere in the Northeast. My wife taught French and I, a wide variety of courses, some 23 altogether over the years, in the English Department—concerning which, more to come.

Apart from wanting what remained of our active lives to be ours and not the institution’s, the main motive for our decision was the intolerable decline of Upstate. It had gone from a more or less serious academic organization, typically liberal but not yet politically correct or “woke,” into a copy of the ideological collective that, in the manner of Star Trek’s “Borg,” has digested and transformed virtually every center of post-secondary education in the nation.

“Resistance is futile—you will be assimilated.”

In the following paragraphs, I review my Upstate gig while highlighting the major symptoms of the aforesaid decline I observed. While my situation was specific to Upstate, Upstate is typical. My observations, therefore, have application well beyond the place where I gathered them.

Although all state colleges and universities shout “diversity” and preach “tolerance” at the top of their lungs, they in fact demonstrate monolithic bigotry and homogeneous narrow-mindedness.

A friend of mine from Upstate, “Fred,” served in the Army, where he rose to the rank of sergeant. After leaving the military, Fred found employment on campus as a manager of services. Fred and I frequently find ourselves in the same bar on weekends.

One afternoon, a gaggle of co-eds having entered the premises, Fred turned to me and asked, “Have you ever overheard them talking on campus?” I nodded, but let him continue.

“They use the f-word in every sentence,” he said, a phenomenon familiar to me. Fred, who came to Upstate from an environment where the f-word possesses a degree of functionality, nevertheless took offense in the profanity of female undergraduate banter.

Fred’s speech maintains a civilized quality and in this, he differentiates himself from students, female or male. It is not that co-eds implicate themselves exclusively in voluble profanity. Male undergraduates indulge equally in expletives. They even invoke the f-word and the s-word in class, but a stern glance can enjoin such infractions.

The problem is a continuing one, however, and its implication remains unsettling. In other classrooms—this is the only possible inference—these language-proletarians have escaped admonition. They, therefore, assume that no one could possibly object to their verbal infelicities.

When I divulged to a colleague that I would retire at the end of the semester, she divulged back that she wanted to reclaim her life, too, as soon as possible.

“I’m tired,” she said, “of writing the same comments and criticisms over and over on student assignments.” She meant not only that succeeding cohorts of freshmen bring with them ad seriatim the scribal incompetency that public secondary education appears to foster, but that the same students, either during the semester or in one course after another, reveal themselves as unable to internalize basic corrections.

Casually inserting the f-word in every spoken sentence betokens intellectual frustration that cannot articulate itself and has a relation to the a-grammaticality and impoverished vocabularies of North America’s high school graduates. It also relates to the fact that they never, if they can avoid it, read.

Instead, students stare at text messages on their cell phones. They constantly slap those cell phones up against their faces, even when descending a staircase or crossing the street. Many college teachers have given up asking students to write essays. In English courses, not to assign written work would seem a scandal, but the lack of writerly capacity, which mirrors the lack of readerly capacity, mostly subverts the possibility of engendering sensitivity to language.

Text messaging disqualifies itself as either reading or writing. It is practice in the restriction of consciousness. Most entering freshmen have no experience with books, from which they instinctively shy, or of which they are blithely unconscious.

Suspecting this, I long ago established an early-in-the-semester in-class exercise in all my courses. The classrooms at Upstate come equipped with the usual array of audio-visual devices, including a document camera whose image may be directed, via the digital projector, to the screen at the front of the room.

The exercise involves a stack of books—old scholarly ones from the first half of the last century. I set them beside the document camera. A volunteer comes to the document camera and selects a book from the pile. The instructions are, “Start turning the pages slowly and when you come to the first page that might tell you about the contents or the order of exposition—stop.” The student begins to turn the pages: Publisher’s information and copyright, title page, table of contents, and…he keeps leafing, as though there were no clue.

This happens every time. It indicates a problem that no one wants to acknowledge. Public education in the U.S.A. has not produced—not for a long time—an educated public.

College students, by and large, belong to the successive waves of post-literacy brought about by anti-intellectual curricula in K-12 and the corrosive effect of “media culture.” George Santayana, an American philosopher, wrote in his Sense of Beauty (1896) that “grammar…is akin to the deepest metaphysics, because in revealing the constitution of words, it reveals the constitution of thought, and the hierarchy of those categories by which we conceive the world.” A bookless, a-grammatical student body has no possible access to genuine higher education.

Students have adapted, in some cases eagerly, to the pernicious ethos of denunciation that prevails under “wokeness” on every college campus. Inculcated in the theories of universal racism and a malicious patriarchy, their adolescent narcissism inflated by constant baseless praise and the exuberant celebration of their non-existent moral perspicacity, students are ready to be “triggered.”

They’re eager to detect moral heresy and run to deans with accusations of faculty misdemeanors.

For years now, to meet with students in the office on a closed-door, face-to-face basis, especially with female students, has entailed a risk. Wise it is to meet with students only in public areas with other people present, so as to pre-empt damning lies and neurotic misrepresentations. In the last two or three years in particular, students have complained to my supervisors many times.

They have complained because, in my lectures and in my selection of reading material, I have challenged the premises of a vehement and humorless Left-radicalism that purports to address everything “critically” but cannot muster so much as an iota of self-inspection.

The current darlings of the university’s ideological overseers, trans students, exhibit the greatest potential for being “triggered,” and exercise alacrity in denunciation much more viciously than others. Their mission, in the pornographic phrase that they have adopted, is to “Spread Pride.” Squint at one of them and Dean Headburger or Ms. Buglove, Chief of Human Resources, will issue a summons. They will assume guilt in advance.

Female students figure prominently in the foregoing paragraphs. Women currently dominate higher education numerically at the undergraduate and graduate levels and, increasingly, as faculty members and administrators. The feminization of the academy has altered colleges and universities greatly, to the detriment of men. Colleges and universities have become minefields for men, not least because of that permeating ethos of denunciation. The “woke” mentality takes the notion of “the toxic male” as a premise. The anti-male bigotry that the notion inspires has led to the blatant persecution of parties on charges of “sexual harassment” even when the complaint is obviously vacuous and self-serving.

A few years ago, a popular Upstate professor graciously arranged for students to accompany him to a professional conference. At the event, a poster announced a special session devoted to Women in the Métier, so to put it. The professor made the casual remark, in a mood of light humor, about where he might find the complementary session devoted to Men in the Métier.

One of his students overheard him. When she returned to campus, she sprinted immediately to Headburger and Buglove with the claim that the professor had insulted and humiliated her. Headburger and Buglove dragged the man through an agony of humiliation. The young female delator, for her part, had done her honorable duty under the new Stalinist Code.

Charley Pride on Affirmative Action: Was He Right?

Charley Pride, the first Black musician to be put in the Country Music Hall of Fame, died recently, and he dispensed some refreshing wisdom besides his clear musical talent. During the height of his career, he noted: “This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and’s a disease.”

No where in American life is the obsession with race more prevalent than on college campuses. In the Midwest, for the first time, the Ohio State-Michigan annual football game did not happen last week end because of COVID-19, but the two schools seem to have another rivalry going: which can have the most administrators whose prime responsibility is related to analyzing the race and gender of people working on campus or interacting with the campus community with a presumed goal of reaching some optimum. This presumes, of course, that changes in the racial designation of students and faculty, Pride’s “colors and pigments” is something to which campuses should devote considerable resources.

Two individuals come to mind when I think of chronicling campus administrative bloat: Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg (author of The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University) and University of Michigan and American Enterprise Institute economist Mark Perry. Perry a few years ago noted that his university had nearly 100 affirmative action administrators, many of them making six digit annual salaries. He has followed that up recently by turning his attention to the Wolverines archrival in football: Ohio State (OSU).

A Harvard undergraduate student, Hunter Gallo, very nicely recently picked up on Perry’s latest work on OSU for the College Fix. The over 100 OSU diversity bureaucrats are paid over $10 million annually in salary or fringe benefits, enough to cover the tuition fees for 882 in-state students. The Engineering College particularly seemed fanatical about the topic, because the Chief Diversity Officer in the College of Engineering is paid $279,276, vastly more than most professors, with a second “diversicrat” in that college scraping by on $190,000 annually; they are helped by a “program director” making a paltry $127,276. Within the broader university, there is both an “Associate Vice-President” for Talent Diversity and Leadership, and a “Vice Provost” in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion making about $250,000 annually.

To borrow a useful term from my profession (economics), there is a lot of successful “rent-seeking” in higher education. Economic rent occurs when someone is paid more than necessary to acquire his or her services. Any university professor at any decent sized school can point out a number of staff, including some faculty, who are paid far more than they are worth, more than they could earn working somewhere else. But the affirmative action area seems especially egregious in this regards.

Thus there are two starkly different interpretations of collegiate diversity efforts. The first is they are a noble and morally needed attempt by universities to correct for past and current wrongs by working to have college campuses approximate the racial, ethnic, and gender proportions existing in the broader society, seeking to overcome biological traits such as skin color or gender identity from being a deterrence to achieving academic goals and, ultimately, vocational success. They are a means of expanding access and opportunity for the disadvantaged.

The second is this is an attempt to implement a morally dubious and anti-meritorious system of making race, gender and other group characteristics the basis for determining such vital things as college admissions or appointment to well paid academic positions with high job security. In this interpretation, clever individuals use race or other attributes to obtain lots of economic rent engaging in a contemptuous denial of Martin Luther King’s magisterial injunction that “my...children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

These issues have concerned the nation for centuries, and probably will for long times to come. If the voters in liberal California in rejecting Proposition 16 (which would have gotten rid of legislation outlawing aggressive campus affirmative action efforts) recently are any guide of American public opinion, however, a majority of the American public seem to be wary of the frenzied efforts of places like the University of Michigan and OSU to devote enormous resources to enforcing a vigorous (and expensive) affirmative action regime.

Why British Kids Went Back to School, and American Kids Did Not

The day I visited St. Thomas the Apostle School in Peckham, South London, a new shutdown was announced for Britain’s capital. But the comprehensive—a public high-school, in American parlance—was open. It was freezing: Doors were propped open for ventilation. Pupils chattered in the playground while wearing face coverings emblazoned with the school logo. For all that, the experience felt surprisingly normal. In-person attendance has been at more than 90 percent for most of the term. Out front, some boys were playing a very serious game of soccer. Others messed around with basketballs.

St. Thomas is the sort of school that, in the United States, has largely offered hybrid or remote teaching. A study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education estimated that only 8 percent of U.S. urban school districts had returned to full in-person instruction in November. Outside the inner cities, only 22 percent of U.S. suburban school districts were running in-person schooling, and only 64 percent of rural districts.

Across the U.K., by contrast, schools—having closed in March—started reopening in June. After the summer break, all children could go back. The U.K. has struggled with the pandemic: COVID-19 has killed 73,000 people so far, a greater loss relative to the country’s population than in the U.S. Ministers made repeated missteps, including subsidizing eat-in restaurant meals over the summer. But the average teenager in England has missed only about 6 days of in-person school during the fall. And in this regard, Britain is deeply European. Since September, according to the Blavatnik School of Government policy tracker, seven U.S. states have closed schools for a long spell while not forcing the closure of other workplaces. No European state has done so. School closures have remained the last resort.

Why, then, this transatlantic divide? The answer is a matter of centralization, consensus, and the role of teaching unions.

The decision to open St. Thomas and, indeed, all schools in England, was made by England’s education secretary, Gavin Williamson. Equivalent decisions were made by his counterparts in the Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish governments.

The teaching unions were unhappy about these calls. In May, Mary Bousted, one of the general secretaries of the National Education Union, the largest of the unions, said the first reopening plans were “nothing short of reckless.” The NEU’s preconditions for reopening—low caseloads and regular testing, in particular—were not met.

Bousted told me, “We have this education policy being run by hard-liners in [the prime minister’s office]. Schools are being kept open at all costs because of an economic imperative—because parents can’t work if the children aren’t in school.”

The unions were simply unable to leverage their large memberships for political effect. They are weak, and barely feature in England’s three-decade-long story of radical school reform. Opposition to reopening was also a particularly difficult stance to maintain. In August, Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, announced that “the chances of children dying from COVID-19 are incredibly small,” whereas school closure “damages children in the long run.” By the summer, this way of thinking had hardened into a consensus: The opposition Labour Party supported reopening.

No surprise, then, that teachers ultimately fell into line. In late August, TeacherTapp, a teacher pollster, found that 71 percent of teachers said they were looking forward to going back, a higher percentage than in previous summers.

Serge Cefai, the executive head teacher at St. Thomas, looked puzzled when I asked whether the unions had given him trouble. Not at all. “We told [staff] we’re going to follow guidelines and we do … We’ve spent a huge amount of money trying to make sure that staff feel safe when they come into school.”

Similar dynamics were apparent across Europe, and the strength of expert consensus dominated even in states with stronger unions and more decentralized government than the U.K. Ilka Hoffmann, a board member of the leading German education union, said: “The ministers in some states didn’t even talk with the school leaders.”

In the U.S., Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos pushed for schools to reopen. She said in July, “The rule should be that kids go back to school this fall.” But, unlike her peers in Europe, she could not make that rule. Washington contributes just 8 percent of U.S. schools’ budget. Such decisions fell to states, cities, and the country’s 13,600 school districts.

To outsiders, this fracturing has always been the American school system’s core oddity. It is why the U.S., unusually for a rich country, spends more on teaching its rich children than its poor. Success in the pandemic would have required federal leadership to set standards for safe reopening—standards that the various stakeholders found trustworthy. This did not arrive.

On the contrary, Laura Hallas, a researcher at the Blavatnik School, said that “the CDC, the White House, and governors’ offices sometimes presented divergent messaging around when and how schools should open for fall.” Some states stepped forward to take a lead. Many, however, left the districts to decide among themselves.

Against the backdrop of a fierce election, advice was politicized. Parents’ and teachers’ views on reopening became partisan. A paper published by Brown University found that school boards in areas that voted for Donald Trump were more likely to heed the education secretary’s call to keep schools open. Politics mattered more than local disease levels in determining local responses.

Another factor identified by the paper was the strength of teaching unions—a far more powerful force in the U.S. than across Europe. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teaching unions in the U.S., spent a combined $24 million in the 2020 electoral cycle. They were able to threaten local strikes against individual school boards—local decision makers whom they know and negotiate with all the time—rather than try to run full-blown national campaigns to apply pressure to national leaders, which was what the European unions faced.

Katharine Strunk, an education-policy professor at Michigan State University, said unions were willing to “support their teachers in strike authorization if teachers felt that they were being forced back into unsafe conditions. That sometimes meant proper social distancing, but it sometimes meant a universally available vaccine.”

Unions were able to influence decision making in part because, as Strunk said, “when there is no good trusted advice, it’s hard for parents or school boards to argue against [the unions], because what [the unions were] saying was: ‘Isn’t one teacher or one student death too much of a cost when they can learn fine remotely?’”

Lacking a trusted federal lead created space for the unions’ caution. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told me that “parents spoke with their feet in terms of … saying, ‘I'm not going back to schools like that.’ Educators said, ‘I can’t teach like that.’ And administrators were not able to put the resources together … Nobody trusted the CDC, unfortunately, because they kept on changing their mind … And nobody trusted DeVos or Trump when it came to kids.”

In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers used the threat of a strike to delay the return to in-person teaching. Schools partially reopened in late September under a hybrid model that emerged from a tense negotiation between government officials and the UFT. By November, schools were shut again when the citywide prevalence of the coronavirus breached an agreed-upon threshold—–more than 3 percent of COVID-19 tests were coming back positive.

Although elementary schools in the city were reopened quickly and Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed not to close them again, this reversal could not have happened without a new acceptance in the union movement that elementary schools are relatively safe to open.

Weingarten said teachers have learned since the summer that elementary schools are by and large low risk—-not least from the experience of New York City’s reopening. “We used to think that it was going to be harder for young kids” to comply with safety protocols, she said, “but young kids have taken to the safeguards and are willing to do them.”

Evidence is mounting that school closures have been bad for children. A McKinsey study of K–5 students from the U.S. found that even students who managed to get back into the classroom by mid-October had lost the equivalent of three months of math learning and one and a half months of reading.

The final figures are likely to be much higher when the hybrid- and remote-learning students are finally assessed: A similar study in the U.K. using test data from October found that a sample of 11-year-olds had lost 22 months’ worth of progress in writing ability during Britain’s relatively brief period of online learning.

This learning penalty will not be even. Higher learning loss will occur among poorer children, who are less likely to have the computers, space, quiet, and good internet connections required to make remote learning work. In the U.S., pupils of color will suffer particularly: They are more likely to be poor, and the schools they attend are less likely to offer the option of in-person instruction.

The U.S. education system would have struggled with this pandemic no matter what. Its kaleidoscopic fragmentation and the strength of its teachers’ unions would have presented a formidable challenge to smooth school reopenings in any circumstance. But the politicization of pandemic advice, for which the Trump administration must take a large share of the blame, made these structural realities into near-insurmountable impediments. Dragging pandemic policy into the culture war has been a disaster for the country, particularly its children.

The American death toll will rightly be cited as the main indictment of the U.S. government’s handling of the pandemic. But what has happened in schools is an astonishing public-policy failure of its own.




Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Federal Student Loan Program Is Losing Billions

In 2004, Barack Obama was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Speaking before a group of students at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois, he voiced an inspirational quote:

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”

He also offered a specific policy proposal to achieve that lofty goal, promising it would save money for U.S. taxpayers:

“We would save $4.5 billion annually if we made all student loans directly by the government,” Obama told students and faculty members at Lincoln Land Community College.

In 2010, President Obama followed through on his 2004 promise. Under the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, the federal government effectively took over the student loan business. Now, instead of guaranteeing loans made by private lenders, the federal government would directly loan billions of dollars to American students seeking a college education.

The Promise Becomes a Penalty

As of 2020, the U.S. government has loaned over $1.3 trillion to U.S. students. If Barack Obama had been right, after 10 years, the federal government would have saved $45 billion. Instead, the Wall Street Journal reports, the U.S. government’s direct student-loan business has cost taxpayers $435 billion.

“Penny wise but pound foolish” is the saying that best describes the outcome of President Obama’s promise.

The WSJ article is behind a paywall, but Brad Polombo of the Foundation for Economic Education excerpts some key passages from the article and explains why the government’s “investment” in students has gone so badly:

“The Education Department, with the help of two private consultants, looked at $1.37 trillion in student loans held by the government at the start of the year,” the Journal reports. “Their conclusion: Borrowers will pay back $935 billion in principal and interest. That would leave taxpayers on the hook for $435 billion.”

“After decades of no-questions-asked lending, the government is realizing that it has a pile of toxic debt on its books,” the report continues. “The government lends more than $100 billion each year to students to cover tuition at more than 6,000 colleges and universities. It ignores factors such as credit scores and field of study, and it doesn’t analyze whether students will earn enough after graduating to cover their debt.”

Think about it like this. In the free market, banks do their best to ensure they lend money to prospective borrowers likely to repay the loan, yielding a net positive return on their investment. Banks that do this successfully stay in business, while those who repeatedly misjudge their borrowers go bust.

Better still, the interests of taxpayers are better protected by that arrangement because the risk associated with losses is kept in the private sector.

A Darker Side to the Story

The WSJ article also recognizes that the U.S. government’s role in making direct student loans directly contributes to the soaring cost of college.

With the federal takeover of student lending, President Obama’s promise of savings for taxpayers almost immediately backfired as greedy university administrators realized they could crank college tuition higher. With Uncle Sam acting as a third-party payer, students have little incentive to make prudent financial decisions about their education, which provided a green light for tuition inflation to soar. Tuition costs have shot up at both for-profit and non-profit institutions whose students have access to federally funded student financial aid programs.

That sounds very familiar. The same factors of government regulation, subsidies and other interventions in health care are responsible for making health care similarly unaffordable for many Americans. And as with health care, much of the extra cash provided by the federal government has gone toward the growth of administrative bloat.

It also creates the situation in which the U.S. government has to borrow more to fund its direct student-loan program because of the rising cost of tuition. That in turn increases the size of the government’s losses when the loans go bad. It’s an ugly, toxic mess that can only get worse without reform.

What Reform Is Needed

A number of politicians are now calling for student loan relief by having the next president forgive up to $50,000 of their federal student loan debt with an executive order. Unfortunately, all that will do is guarantee the losses that U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for paying without doing anything to fix a broken system. It would also unfairly benefit higher- over lower-income earners.

Truly fixing the system will require the government to act to force bloated academic institutions to return the ill-gotten proceeds of their administrators’ greed. If a student who attended their institution becomes delinquent and defaults on their federal student loan debt, they should have to return to Uncle Sam a significant percentage of the money they collected from the student.

After all, if they’re not willing to guarantee the value of the college educations they provide, how much is that education really worth? If they’re not willing to repay, the U.S. government would be within its rights to cut them off from participation in all other federal funding programs. One way or another, the government could get back the money its owed, without sticking honest taxpayers with the bill.

At the same time, the federal government needs to get out of its money-losing student-loan business and return it to the private sector, where it belongs. Only by doing so can it protect the interests of all Americans and close the door on President Obama’s penny wise but pound foolish investment in education.

Mixed race wife of Eton teacher sacked over 'toxic masculinity' lecture slams the school's 'wokery' - saying 'we're the sort of diverse family woke-ness is supposedly defending'

It began, remembers Rachel Knowland, with a Viking raid. Her husband, the sacked Eton English master Will Knowland, had recommended the classic Norse saga 'The Long Ships' to students at the school's Huxley Book Club. He thought its buccaneering young hero Orm Tostesson might fire their teenage imaginations and they'd learn some history, geography and anthropology along the way.

But Knowland was rapped over the knuckles when a colleague complained, not about the book itself, but about the The New Statesman magazine review he'd added to pique their interest. 'A banquet of adventure by sea and land, with man-size helpings of battle and murder, robbery and rape,' it enthused.

'Weirdly the objection was not to the idea that historically Vikings raped, pillaged, and murdered,' says Rachel, 34. 'It was about the word "man-sized"'. Laura Bates from the Everyday Sexism Project [a charity which fights sexism] had just given a talk at Eton and apparently Will's action in disseminating a quote describing something as 'man-sized' was insensitive.

'Looking back, it should have been a gigantic red flag. At the time I thought well, some people might want radical change, but what boy doesn't like a book about Vikings - the open sea, adventure, treasure, dragon boats.

'Will thought he was doing his job, instilling a love of literature. It hadn't occurred to him he was committing a micro-aggression.'

'For us that was the start. Since then a strain of misandrist thinking has taken hold of the popular idea of what it is to be a man. Eton is becoming a place where it is not OK to diverge from that - it's heresy just to be a traditional boy.'

This incident occurred after regime change came to Eton in 2015 with new Head Master Simon Henderson or Trendy Hendy as he's known for his adherence to progressive ideologies. Depending on your point of view, he has either dragged Britain's most famous school into the 21st century or turned it into a cathedral of woke.

Knowland was dismissed in the fallout from a contrarian lecture in which he questioned the dogma of toxic masculinity. The 35-year-old father of five was suspended in September and lost his job on appeal earlier this month. The affair has triggered a crisis at Eton and a war of words about wokery.

It's also seen the teacher labelled a misogynist and his lecture, the Patriarchy Paradox, derided as antediluvian, horrifying his wife. She says: 'Will is stoic and loyal and kind - he embodies everything that is admirable about masculinity. He's not a thug who doesn't value all parts of being human. Maybe he is not a shiny penny on the outside but he is a brilliant, natural teacher, a supportive husband and the father of three daughters who adore him.

'He created that lecture because he sees the rising suicide rate in young men. We, as a society, are overwhelmed by the idea that men are toxic, useless and unnecessary and telling that to teenage boys on repeat is dangerous. Will was not trying to radicalise young men but he was - in the richest of Eton traditions - asking for fearless discussion.

'He could teach boys how to game exams and jump through hoops for high marks but that's not all there is to education. He has always believed that there has to be a bit of grit in the oyster to create a pearl. People may think he's been reckless by standing up for what he believes but I agree with him that if Eton falls to wokery, with its history and all its eminent Old Etonians, then most places don't have a hope.'

It's a full throated defence of her husband, given that his principles have cost the couple dear. With children aged from 14 years to 10 months, Rachel stays at home and Knowland is the family breadwinner. They have lived in the five bedroom detached grace and favour house which comes with the Eton job for eight years. Now they and Sienne, 14, Amelie, 12, Jude 10, Cecily, seven, and 10 month old Gabriel, their Canary Mastiff Ava and three cats must quit.

Rachel says they cannot stay in a community in which allies have turned up on their doorstep with Brownies and sympathy while Simon Henderson's supporters have cold shouldered them. 'Some people think we should have just gone quietly for the sake of the school's reputation,' she admits. 'But it is the school's reputation which is at stake, this is bigger than Will.'

She goes on: 'Eton is a world all of its own, a smoothly run machine. It's like the Borg.' She's referencing the cybernetic organisms from Star Trek who have a hive mind called The Collective. 'You have to assimilate. It's not for everyone but Will is no renegade. At least he wasn't until the invisible lines of acceptable thought were crossed.'

Under the previous Head Master Tony Little, himself a scholarship boy, Knowland's career flourished, according to his wife. Then Simon Henderson was appointed and constructed a kind of parallel curriculum for teaching Inclusivity and Diversity which was superimposed upon all of Eton's famous Boarding Houses and each of its academic departments.

Rachel reveals how, in her husband's own English department for example, there was an internal row over the hijack of display boards to promote the political manifesto of LGBTQ+ pressure group Stonewall rather than exploring the issue in a relevant way, through the extensive body of brilliant literature devoted to it.

Then there are the now familiar stories about boys being obliged to 'come out as straight' and stick a cushion up their jumper and imagine they have a baby in their womb, in gender identity workshops. So too, The Black Lives Matter movement was embraced at Eton with Prefects (known as Pop) obliged to wear waistcoats in BLM livery and talk of flying the BLM flag over the school's gatehouse.

It was against this hyper-sensitised ultra politically correct backdrop that Knowland uploaded his intentionally polemical online lecture. Rachel says after the initial complaint he offered four times to amend it, and asked Simon Henderson for mediation and discussion. Instead, she says, the Equalities Act was 'weaponised' against him. And it was the fear of this, not a streak of stubbornness, which made him keep the lecture available for public view on his YouTube channel Knowland Knows. 'How else,' she asks, 'could Will defend himself?'

She has had his back since they were at school together. They met at 13, started dating at 14 and had their first baby when Rachel was 19 and Knowland was 20, in their second year of university. Rachel was reading Classics and English Literature at King's in London and Will was studying English Literature at nearby UCL. They were married between child three and child four by their old history teacher in the chapel of their former school.

Rachel is a stunning mixed race woman with Anglo-Caribbean heritage and a talent for singing funk and R and B which got her as far as the semi finals of Britain's Got Talent in 2012. Knowland is from a Suffolk farming family and is a fully qualified personal trainer and a dedicated weightlifter. 'When people learn he's a teacher, they automatically assume he's a PE teacher - or they think he's a bouncer,' says his wife affectionately.

(Even this led to friction at Eton when he tried to introduce strength training for boys on the College rugby team. 'I think if he had been a rower that would have been OK. Rowing and cricket are what they want, rugby will one day go the same way as boxing.')

Asked to describe their relationship, Rachel says opposites attract, he's an optimist, she's a pessimist; she's emotional, he's phlegmatic. What they share however, is a personal sense of resilience which is these days far from universal.

Rachel's mother is from the Caribbean island of Aruba, her father from Norfolk. She grew up in a single parent household and won an assisted place at a private school in the the first year girls were admitted. Her husband arrived there on a full academic scholarship two years later, bribed to do well in his exams with a pair of roller skates.

In addition the couple are the parents of an autistic child which means Rachel could face multiple diversity and inclusion transgressions every day, if she perceived them as such. 'I would have been horrified if my own education had been hindered by a group of safe space police trying to wrap me up in cotton wool. As an adult I find it rather patronising to be told how I should feel about certain words or ideas,' she says.

'Actually, we are the kind of diverse family Eton's woke-ness is supposedly defending. We have benefitted from the social mobility offered by education, we are a mixed race couple, we have a child with autism, but the people who shout loudest about diversity are not the ones who would want to hang out with me,' she says wryly.

Then she tells a jaw-dropping story about being offered a golliwog for sale while browsing in an antique shop soon after moving to the town. (To be clear, the shop is nothing to do with Eton College.)

'I declined and the shopkeeper said "I have a great collection out of the back if you don't like that one?" I just thought silly old sod and have borne him no ill well ever since. Yet here we are wondering if, for example, when Eton decolonises its syllabus, we will have to stop boys reading Othello or To Kill a Mocking Bird, in case it makes them feel uncomfortable, instead of giving them the resilience necessary to overcome racist attitudes which, although offensive, can't really hurt you. When you start, where do you stop?

'I see a similar disconnect from reality with what's been done to Will by Eton in terms of the feminist zealotry at work. Someone has been so upset by his lecture they're willing to watch him be sacked and his whole family turned out of their house. The kicker is that whoever complained doesn't even work with girls, they've chosen to teach boys instead of teaching at a co-ed school or a girls school. If it's about lifting women up, where's the integrity?'

It's a very different and toxic climate from their early days at the school. Knowland had taught in both a state comprehensive and the private sector when he applied for the job in 2012. Rachel, initially trepidatious, says: 'Eton was so refreshing. I was blown out of the water by it, a welcoming community and personable pupils. As for Will, he respected the institution and what it stands for, its academic freedom and the fact it's a bulwark of British culture. That is very potent and Will always felt as if he were a custodian of what Eton represents.'

Now she's left wondering if they ever completely fitted in. 'Will doesn't own a pair of red corduroy trousers,' she jokes, adding that their children - who used to tease their Dad he looked like Batman in his black Eton robes - are not privately educated (other than one who recently moved to an independent school.)

Knowland plans to take Eton to an Employment Tribunal. They will survive financially through his tutoring which, given the leap to remote learning in 2020, is increasingly in demand. Rachel is looking ahead to finally forging a career of her own, something which has always taken second place to raising their children. The public judgements made about her choice have proved hard for her to hear.

'Some people think a traditional family set up is archaic and awful if it's a choice freely made, why is it seen as a prison?' she asks. 'Some of the traditional feminine choices are not the ones feminists value, in fact they denigrate them. I don't belong to a monolith of women. We are not homogenous. Equality means having the right to choose what suits your family's needs and sometimes a mother's sacrifice is worth it. That's the kind of balance Will wanted to debate in his lecture.'

She watched it out of curiosity before he sent uploaded it. She thought it was quite likely to put her husband in another jam but she did not expect it bring their life at Eton to an end. That said, from the moment she knew there'd been a complaint which made no sense to her, just like the one against his recommendation of The Long Ships to the boys of the Huxley Book Club, she had a sixth sense it was going to be serious.

Knowland was suspended shortly before Eton geography teacher Matthew Mowbray was put on trial accused of sexually abusing pupils in their beds at night. He was found guilty of eight charges of sexual activity with a child and sentenced to five years in prison earlier this week. 'The proportionality of the school's response towards a honest, moral teacher who uploaded a feisty lecture? It feels personal. Tell me what is is the real crime at Eton?'

The lecture cited the idea that men are hardwired to protect their families and provide for them. In standing up for the right to debate this, Knowland has been stripped - albeit for now - of his own ability to do either. 'The outcome of this drive for tolerance has been intolerance,' concludes Rachel, 'and how wrong is that?

Credentialed Frauds

The so-called "experts" telling us what to do have a less-than-stellar track record.

In the last couple of weeks, in the form of the controversy about whether or not presumptive First Lady Jill Biden should be addressed as “Dr.,” the utter fraudulence of credentialism has taken center stage. As Patriot Post editor Thomas Gallatin noted, the indignation arising from the notion that anyone would challenge Jill Biden’s status has precipitated rather ironic results, “exposing the absolute vacuous nature of her dissertation upon which she was granted her preferred title.”

Vacuous is too kind. Biden’s thesis is a puerile, sophomoric mess rife with math errors, typos, and breathlessly inane passages such as this: “According to the Retention Director at Cecil Community College, Cecil Community College has made a concerted effort to address retention.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson minced no words when describing her efforts. “The whole thing is just incredibly embarrassing,” he stated. “And not just to poor, illiterate Jill Biden, but to the college that considered this crap scholarship.”

Yet far more important, Carlson also addressed the bigger picture. “It’s a class thing. We have a class system in this country. … A certain type of person gets degrees … not in order to learn or to create, or to achieve anything impressive … no. Instead, to justify their power over you. They’ve got more merit badges so they rule. … It’s why they shout at you and call you names when you mention it. … If you are allowed to point out that Jill Biden isn’t really a doctor … then you are just one step away from noticing that the medals on their chests aren’t real either.”

For quite some time, our nation has been besieged by a confederacy of dunces, presented as America’s “best and brightest,” even as these so-called “experts” have brought us to the brink of chaos. Codevilla’s above-quoted column was engendered not by the pandemic but by the economic calamity of 2008, when those very same merit-badge wearers brought the entire world to the brink of economic armageddon. And when the ensuing bailout was precipitated in response to their grotesque malfeasance, the realities of our class system were exposed in no uncertain terms. “Too big to fail” institutions on Wall Street and elsewhere received billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse, while Main Street Americans were saddled with catastrophic job losses and millions of home foreclosures, even as they were lectured about the inevitably of anemic economic growth, a.k.a. the “new normal,” going forward.

In short, ordinary Americans who lived in wholly irrelevant “flyover country” were “deplorable” long before Hillary Clinton coined the term during the 2016 presidential election.

And now it’s even worse. Above all else, the pandemic — the very same one precipitated by the ruling class’s fanatic and unquestioning devotion to globalism — has revealed the inner-Napoleon that attends some of the most contemptible “do as I say, not as I do” political hacks this nation has ever endured. While ordinary Americans are suffering unconstitutional, life-altering lockdowns and mask mandates, standing in line at food banks and coping with the wholesale destruction of their livelihoods, our self-anointed “betters” dine without masks in fancy restaurants, get their hair done in salons, and travel during their own imposed travel bans — all while getting the regular paychecks millions of Americans no longer receive.

Science? Science is whatever they say it is. Masks are unnecessary, then essential. Hydroxychloroquine is useless and dangerous until it’s efficacious. The timeline necessary to realize the replacement of fossil fuel usage by technologically viable alternatives can simply be arbitrarily decreed.

Justice? A genuine attempted coup d'état takes a back seat to a phony Russia-collusion investigation. Two former spymasters who lied to Congress get media gigs, while a political consultant who does the same thing gets a SWAT team dragging him out of his house at dawn with the media “coincidentally” in attendance. A faux impeachment is precipitated against a sitting president for purportedly improper political influence vis-à-vis Ukraine, while the videotaped braggadocio of the presumptive incoming president, promising to cut off a billion dollars in aid to the same nation unless a prosecutor investigating his son is fired, remains wholly “unexplored.”

And in a seamless transition engineered by Big Tech and its media allies, unexplored becomes nonexistent or “canceled.” Thus the op-ed questioning Jill Biden’s credentials earns author Joseph Epstein the removal of his profile from the website of a Northwestern University that laughingly states its commitment to the “academic freedom and freedom of expression” it just eliminated. A story disseminated by the oldest continually published newspaper in the nation illuminating the damning ties between Hunter Biden and Chinese Communists earns that paper a two-week Twitter ban. Any dissenting or alternative viewpoints regarding the current election, the Wuhan flu, or a host of other topics where such viewpoints are inimical to the interests of the ruling class are censored, while their promulgators are often doxxed, ridiculed, and/or fired.

In a recent column, leftist Glenn Greenwald highlights the phony fact-checkers who obfuscate the truth in service to the ruling-class agenda, warning that their ongoing efforts auger a “future in which unseen tech overlords police our discourse by unilaterally arbitrating truth and falsity, decree what are permissible and impermissible ideas, and rigidly impose the boundaries of acceptable debate.”

But it’s not the future. It’s right now. And it’s going to get much worse because these self-appointed arbiters of truth are — above all else — massively insecure. So massively insecure that they would rather censor people than debate them, even when they control the levers of power in academia, tech, Hollywood, the media, and corporate boardrooms.

Unfortunately, they are abetted by most people because the scourge of political correctness has made traveling the path of least resistance — and avoiding confrontation like the plague — an endemic part of the American ethos.

If we are to remain a free nation, such self-imposed reticence cannot stand. The years of incremental surrender by decent Americans to the bastardization of language, the indoctrination infesting our education system, and the increasing debasement of our liberties must no longer go unchallenged. We must all find the courage to make it clear a debate does not end simply because one of our “enlightened” thinkers calls us “bigots” or any other derogatory term used to deliberately stifle the free exchange of ideas. At this point, silence equals appeasement — or outright surrender.

Surrender to whom? A cadre of self-aggrandizing “experts” who are anything but.

UK: University 'safe spaces'? As I found, they're a danger to us all


Last winter, I was invited to give a talk on satire by the International Politics Society at Aberystwyth University.

I spoke mostly about my satirical online persona Titania McGrath, an identity-obsessed social justice activist who is always on the lookout for new ways to be offended.

By and large, the students were polite, receptive and eager to be challenged. However, the same could not be said for the academic staff, who had bizarrely refused to let the society publicise the event on the grounds that a talk that was likely to be ‘antagonistic to woke culture’ would violate their ‘departmental ethos of promoting diversity’.

Clearly their passion for ‘diversity’ didn’t extend to diversity of opinion. Worryingly, it seems they are not alone.

For as a disturbing study published yesterday by think tank Civitas has revealed, freedom of speech in Britain’s universities is in a perilous state.

In fact, of the 137 registered universities in the UK, 93 have experienced a controversy relating to censorship of free speech.

The situation is so parlous that the report even recommends that 35 per cent should face government intervention to resolve their issues, while a further 51 per cent should be offered direction on how best to improve.


The figures make for grim reading. But are they that surprising? I don’t think so. For the depressing truth is that for a decade, a toxic new strain of identity politics has seized control of our major cultural and educational institutions.

The origins of this trend can be traced to academia, in particular the kind of post-modern ideas that have given rise to trendy disciplines such as Critical Race Theory, Gender Studies, Queer Theory, Disability Studies and Fat Studies (yes, they all exist).

With so many academics now behaving like activists, it is inevitable that standards in higher education should suffer — leaving any conviction in the value of debate swept to one side.

And so it’s hardly surprising that in recent years, a new generation of academics has decided that emotional ‘safety’ ought to be prioritised over intellectual rigour, and they have managed to persuade a substantial proportion of the student body of the same.

As a result, many undergraduates believe they should not be expected to encounter distressing ideas on campus, either in their course content or in their personal lives.

But what’s particularly striking about the Civitas study is how it’s often the most prestigious universities, such as Cambridge and Oxford, which have imbibed this snake oil.

This became apparent this month, when Cambridge’s University Council attempted to amend the university’s free speech policy to insist staff and students must be ‘respectful’ of different opinions.

Thankfully, the governing body accepted an amendment proposed by Arif Ahmed, a reader in philosophy at Gonville and Caius college, to change the wording from ‘respectful’ to ‘tolerant’.

It may seem like a small change, but without his intervention, the very concepts of debate and dissent — the lifeblood of higher education — would have been seriously compromised.

Such victories, however, are far from the norm. In October a group of students — at Cambridge again — campaigned for a porter at Clare College to be fired because, in his role as a city councillor, he refused to support a motion that ‘transgender women are women’.

The students claimed that his opinions made them feel ‘unsafe’, one of the most common tactics of today’s ‘cancel culture’, a system of boycotting and public shaming that attacks anyone who expresses an unfashionable view.

This is why former Home Secretary Amber Rudd was disinvited from speaking at Oxford in March, apparently due to her involvement in the Windrush scandal. And why, in the same week, gender historian Selina Todd was ‘No Platformed’ at Exeter College for supposed ‘anti-trans’ views.

It’s also why feminists Julie Bindel and Linda Bellos have had invitations to speak rescinded by universities, because their belief in anatomical sex differences has been interpreted as ‘transphobic’.

But surely there is something perverse about an academic institution clamping down on those who wish to challenge the orthodoxies of the time?

It may sound harsh, but it’s the simple truth that few innovations, scientific or artistic, have come about without offending someone or other.


When Galileo supported the Copernican theory of the earth’s motion around the sun, he wasn’t being ‘respectful’. He was causing offence to religious authorities, which is why he spent his final days under house arrest.

Meanwhile, the dire state of free speech on campuses is hardly helped by an atmosphere of conformity among academic staff. According to a 2017 study by the Adam Smith Institute, less than 12 per cent are Right-leaning, compared with roughly half the population.

The consequences of this were charted in a report by the Policy Exchange think tank, which found that one in three conservative scholars claims to self-censor ‘for fear of consequences to [their] career’.

It was proof that while university leaders claim to uphold free speech, academics who might once have refused to toe the line are now aware that doing so would jeopardise their career prospects.

Ultimately, the freedom of speech we enjoy today was secured at great cost by our ancestors, some of whom were willing to die for the principle.

It’s poignant that the Civitas report comes in the week 14 terrorists were found guilty of complicity in the Paris terror attacks of 2015, where gunmen stormed Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12 people after the magazine dared to satirise the Prophet Muhammad.

It also comes only two months after French schoolteacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an Islamist extremist for showing those same cartoons during a lesson on free speech.

Typically, certain sections of the Left-wing commentariat have suggested that, in part, the victims were to blame, the horrific implication being that by expressing themselves too freely, they had forfeited their freedom to exist.


But, if anything, both atrocities demonstrated that freedom of speech is something that constantly needs to be defended. It is the keystone of any liberal democracy.

Yes, there are those who claim that some may abuse their free speech to demean minority groups, but the best way to oppose such behaviour is through counter-argument, ridicule and peaceful protest.

Bad ideas are never defeated through censorship. It simply allows those who have been silenced to claim an undeserved status of martyrdom.

That is why it’s so important that we return to the values of the civil rights luminaries of the 1960s — such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks — all of whom understood that without freedom of speech, theirs was a lost cause.

This hard work must begin in our higher education institutions, because this is where the next generation of leaders will be cultivated. Universities should never be a ‘safe space’. The future wellbeing of our society depends on it.




Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The War on History Comes for Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln didn’t do enough for black lives, according to militant proponents of the woke revolution.

In October, the San Francisco Unified School District School Names Advisory Committee suggested a list of school names to be replaced in the city. On that list was a school named after Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.

In just a few years, the discussion about history and monuments has gone from whether we should keep Confederate monuments to erasing the president who orchestrated the Confederacy’s destruction.

Regarding Lincoln, it seems the woke and John Wilkes Booth are now in alignment.

This isn’t a slippery slope, it’s a freefall without a parachute.

A recent report by the San Francisco Chronicle that has been making the rounds illuminates just how bad things have become in some education circles.

“Lincoln is one of dozens of historical figures who, according to a school district naming committee, lived a life so stained with racism, oppression or human rights violations, they do not deserve to have their name on a school building,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Part of the criticism of Lincoln is about how he treated Native Americans badly, particularly the Sioux tribe. This has always been an unfair charge, but he was simply added to the renaming committee’s list without debate.

According to the committee chairman, this isn’t the only reason for abandoning Lincoln.

“Lincoln, like the presidents before him and most after, did not show through policy or rhetoric that black lives ever mattered to them outside of human capital and as casualties or wealth building,” Jeremiah Jefferies, the chairman of the renaming committee and a first-grade teacher, told the Chronicle.

Lincoln conducted a war, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and got shot in the head for black lives, but this wasn’t enough to keep him from being unceremoniously ditched by modern social justice warriors.

If Lincoln doesn’t qualify as doing enough for black lives, then who does?

I wrote about this whole San Francisco schools travesty when their list was released. The extensive criteria was clearly designed to appeal to the most fervently woke:

Anyone directly involved in the colonization of people.

Slave owners or participants in enslavement.

Perpetuators of genocide or slavery.

Those who exploit workers/people.

Those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer, or transgender people.

Those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses.

Those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs.

This led to not just Lincoln, but George Washington, John Muir, Junipero Serra, and even an abolitionist being added to the rolls of the damned.

The Daily Signal contacted the San Francisco Unified School District about whether the name changes can still be prevented, but it did not respond.

The problem with the woke revolution is that as it wages war on the past, it operates entirely outside of the human experience.

If the criteria were really taken to its logical conclusions, then it would lead to erasing pretty much every leader and people in all human history.

Every person, every leader who does not fit the agenda of the modern woke left is subjected to impossible and often absurd standards. No president could make it through the roulette wheel of social justice created by activists who need only preach to like-minded apostles rather than lead a large, complex society.

On the naughty list was also, humorously enough, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who was condemned for replacing a vandalized Confederate flag in 1968. Feinstein may be a progressive, but she’s clearly angered some on the far left.

“On a local level, Dianne Feinstein chose to fly a flag that is the iconography of domestic terrorism, racism, white avarice, and inhumanity towards black and indigenous people at the city hall,” Jefferies said. “She is one of the few living examples on our list, so she still has time to dedicate the rest of her life to the upliftment of black, First Nations, and other people of color. She hasn’t thus far, so her apology simply wasn’t convincing.”

It’s interesting that Jefferies says the agenda is about uplifting “black, First Nations, and people of color,” but are not all these groups, through the lens of history, also guilty of virtually every transgression on the committee’s list of criteria?

The cancelation list appears to have been selectively curated to avoid targeting more recent left-wing heroes, like famed labor leader Cesar Chavez, whose name adorns schools, streets, and buildings around the city. Chavez fervently opposed illegal immigration as a young man, which should have made him ripe for cancelation.

Clearly, consistency doesn’t really matter here. For the militantly woke, Fidel Castro gets a pass, Lincoln gets canceled.

The bottom line is that the war on history is ultimately about political power and iconoclasm. It’s about tearing down 1776 and replacing it with the narrative of the 1619 Project. The message has little to do with actual history, it’s simply: “Do what we say, or you will be smashed and erased.”

Symbols of opposition will be torn down. You must accept our truth, or else.

Targeting Feinstein sends a clear message that the revolution shall be subject to no law. It’s a warning to public officials not to stop or fix the damage done by mobs and vandals to statues, monuments, and public property.

This is entirely consistent with the ideology of leading “anti-racists,” like Ibram X. Kendi. The world is divided into anti-racists and racists. Every act, every decision, and every person must be put through this lens. Absolute anarchy and absolute tyranny are perfectly acceptable if one remains on what woke intellectuals and officials deem the “right side of history.”

The idea that canceling Lincoln, or any of the other people on the San Francisco Unified School District list, will lead to tolerance or a better society is a joke. If anything, it teaches students to be ruthlessly intolerant, to be utterly incapable of understanding different perspectives and the limitations of human nature.

Perhaps this is the point.

But human civilization wasn’t built by angels, and it certainly wasn’t built by revolutionary Marxists, who have been much more successful at tearing down in a tide of inhuman carnage than building up.

Unfortunately, absurd militant wokeness is not just confined to San Francisco, it’s coming to schools and institutions around the country.

No wonder Americans are increasingly worried about the rise of socialism.

San Diego teachers forced to attend trainings in which they are called racists

Hundreds of teachers in San Diego have attended a 'white privilege' training in which they were asked to commit to becoming 'antiracist' and acknowledge that they meet on stolen land taken from Indigenous peoples.

An article written by journalist Christopher F. Rufo, claimed the training is 'mandatory' for all teachers within the San Diego Unified School District.

Initially it was reported that the documents were leaked, but a spokesperson from the San Diego Unified School District told that the book the session is based on is available on Amazon.

'Following the murder of George Floyd, we provided teachers with voluntary trainings from the Racial Healing Handbook. The contents were not secret,' a spokesperson for the district said.

According to the district, 'the training was not mandatory' and 'hundreds of teachers participated voluntarily'.

As part of the training, the teachers are to discuss how they would feel if they were told: 'You are racist.'

Teachers were also asked to discuss how they'd feel if they were told: 'You are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies.'

'We are a majority minority district with a majority white teacher workforce. The ability to hold honest conversations about race with grace is important, which is why we offered the training and why so many teachers elected to enroll,' the spokesperson told

'Our students benefit from being able to talk about race and other difficult issues, regardless of their background. Most of all, we believe every open and sincere conversation about race -- no matter how it begins -- provides an opportunity to learn from one another, for hearts to open, and for minds to grow,' the statement continued.

According to the spokesperson, the district also created a tool 'to help families talk about race and to help students who have been hurt by racism'

The documents show the outline of the discussion and the talking points, including 'how to become antiracist' and defining 'white fragility'.

In addition to the aforementioned, the seminar also included a section on 'land acknowledgement'.

'We acknowledge that we meet on stolen land, taken from Indigenous peoples. I am speaking to you from Kumeyaay land. We must acknowledge the hidden history of violence against Indigenous peoples in an effort to move towards justice,' one slide reads.

The acknowledgement was referring to the Kumeyaay tribe of Indigenous peoples who were forced off their ancestral lands. They lived at the northern border of Baja California in Mexico and the southern border of California in the US.

According to Rufo's article, he believes that teaching 'white fragility' will do nothing to help students improve their academic abilities.

He says 'it will only serve activist teachers who want to shift the blame to “systemic racism".'

Such trainings stem from the reckoning that the nation faced this summer over racial injustice in policing and other spheres of American life following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who died under the knee of a white police officer.

President Donald Trump condemned such trainings in September and moved to end racial sensitivity training for federal government employees, claiming it is 'divisive, anti-American propaganda'.

The Commander-in-chief said at the time that he wanted to cancel taxpayer funded seminars on 'critical race theory', describing them as 'a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue'.

Betsy's Battle With Big Education

Billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos made a difference, despite shabby treatment from the Big Ed bureaucracy.

“Every great cause,” said philosopher Eric Hoffer, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

Hoffer wasn’t speaking about the Department of Education, but he could’ve been. How else to explain a 4,000-employee cabinet-level department, earnestly created by Jimmy Carter in 1979, which has continued to grow and gobble up taxpayer funds while cranking out an inarguably inferior product and being viciously resistant to reform?

If our Department of Ed were a car, it’d be a Trabant, but with porcupine spikes. Don’t touch!

None of this, though, is the fault of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an outsider who was vilified by the Left before her first day on the job — an outsider who, nonetheless, fought the good fight for fundamental civil rights like school choice and due process.

DeVos, whose younger brother, Erik, founded the private security firm Blackwater USA, came to Washington from a wealthy and patriotic family with high hopes for enacting educational reforms and addressing our nation’s deplorable achievement gap. She’ll leave next month unbowed, but with a realist’s view of the forces arrayed against meaningful educational reform in this country.

“DeVos, a longtime champion of school choice and critic of traditional public-school systems, was greeted by an unrelenting fusillade of criticism from the very beginning,” writes National Review’s Frederick Hess. “Most who’ve previously filled her office have been treated gently by the press and politicians. But her nomination had barely been announced before the New York Times ran a scathing critique blaming her for the state of Detroit’s schools, even though she’d never held any position with power over education in the city (or Michigan, for that matter).”

Perhaps DeVos should’ve known what she was in for from the start. Confirmed by the Senate on a 51–50 vote, hers was the first time in U.S. history that a cabinet nominee’s confirmation was decided by the vice president. Republicans should remember this, er, spirit of cooperation when they’re deciding whether to confirm Joe Biden’s cabinet picks.

Reflecting on that experience, says DeVos, “confirmed my belief that entrenched interests were going to do their best to protect the status quo, their power, and their jobs no matter what.” Indeed, she added, “It’s been truly disheartening to see just how far some people in Washington and elsewhere will go to distract from the abysmal results of ‘the system’ and protect their power.”

It’s no doubt disheartening, too, when the mainstream media takes what a cabinet secretary says and maliciously twists it into something it isn’t. Take, for example, her remarks from an all-staff meeting on Tuesday: “Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students,” she said. “In everything you do, please put students first — always.”

Please put students first — always. And yet, as The Federalist’s Jonah Gottschalk reports, “The left-wing media sphere swarmed. The articles cherry-picked the word ‘resistance’ out of her full statement and used it to falsely claim that DeVos was orchestrating some kind of insurgency against Joe Biden. The irony, of course, is that numerous U.S. Department of Education staffers have participated in the organized leftist ‘resistance’ against the policies of the duly elected President Trump.”

Secretary DeVos didn’t need this. She could’ve easily and more comfortably continued her educational activism and philanthropy from a safe distance, away from the Beltway media and The Mob. But, like a true Patriot, she answered the call. “Parents today are more aware of what their children are — or are not — learning,” she says. “And they’re more aware of who’s standing in the way. More than ever before, they are raising their voices for more options, for more choices, for freedom.”

Betsy DeVos made a difference, and she did so despite the nonstop slings and arrows. And for that, we owe her our thanks.

Australia: Restrictions on foreign students have gone too far

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s pretty clear the last COVID-related restriction that will be lifted is the international movement of people in and out of the country.

The exact timing of international borders becoming fully open is unclear. The second half of 2021 is probably the best guess at this stage, but you wouldn’t bet your house on this. The take-up and effectiveness of the vaccine will be important in determining the outcome.

When it comes to international students, the immediate effect of the restrictions on international arrivals was not as great as expected as the majority of students were in Australia at the start of March. (There had been a scramble to get Chinese students, in particular, back into the country in February by letting them transition through third countries.)

A reasonable proportion of international students who have not been able to return to the country have continued their studies online.

However, the mid-year intakes have pointed to bigger effects, with the Reserve Bank noting: “Australia’s education ­exports have fallen further in the second half of the year. The number of international student enrolments has declined.”

It is also mentioned that “the size of the fall in new enrolments has varied across different types of programs”. The largest decline has been in English-language and foundation programs that serve as pathways to higher education or vocational courses. This has implications down the track.

The universities, in particular, have reacted with angst, with a number of leaders pointing to the negative consequences for higher education and the economy.

What is less often mentioned is the fact that international student numbers had been growing at an extraordinary pace prior to the onset of COVID-19. In 2019, there were 11 per cent more international students in the country than in 2018. And in the five years ending in 2019, the number of international students had nearly doubled, with China being the biggest single source country.

That there have been negatives as well as positives associated with this rapid growth is a point too rarely conceded by senior managers in the education sector. In particular, the lack of language proficiency on the part of too many overseas students needs to recognised. The potential for domestic students to lose out due to large numbers of international students — contrived group assignments and lower standards being two examples — should also be acknowledged.

There is also the dubious figure of about $40bn of “exports” associated with international students, a figure often quoted by education lobbyists. In fine mercantilist style — exports good, imports bad — they bemoan the loss of export earnings associated with fewer international students.

Now most people understand the term export to mean the sale of domestically produced goods and services to overseas buyers — think iron ore, wheat, LNG. But because international students studying in Australia will use foreign currencies, at least in part, to pay for their education, the Australian Bureau of Statistics counts all spending by international students as export income.

The reality is quite different. About $17bn of the total figure are tuition fees, with the remaining being international students’ living expenses while living in Australia. But, given that many international students work while in Australia, particularly to cover living expenses, and are paid in Australian dollars, it is a conceptual mistake to equate the $40bn as being export income.

We know the majority of students from India and Nepal — there has been strong growth in their numbers in recent years — work while in Australia. We also know international student workers are more likely to be exploited than young Australian citizens, in part because of their strong need to work as well as the restrictions on their work patterns arising from visa conditions.

The lobbyists continue to press the case for establishing facilitated paths of entry for international students in early 2021. This push has seemingly been met with some sympathy by state governments. They also point to the increasing attractiveness of other destinations for international students, such as Canada and the UK, because of the ease of entry and the option of students becoming permanent residents in these countries. This latter point is unlikely to generate much sympathy here if international students are seen to be more interested in securing permanent residence than being educated.

It’s time federal and state governments came clean about the role international students should play in our education systems. Most people accept there are benefits of having a small proportion of language-proficient students from a range of countries at our schools, colleges and universities. But the open slather of the years prior to COVID-19 should not be repeated.




Sunday, December 20, 2020

Jill Biden: I Worked Really Hard on My Misspelled, Mathematically-Incorrect, Dissertation

In the victimhood olympics, some players start off more privileged than others, by being born a minority, or choosing to become a sexual minority. While others have nothing going for them except being the mediocre trophy wife of a creepy old man.

So they've gotta play the hand that they were dealt. Just ask Dr. Jill, who is still whining about not being called Dr for her degree in education which she uses to teach community college students.

Biden said she wouldn’t be taking Epstein’s advice, remarking: “One of the things I’m most proud of is my doctorate... I’ve worked so hard for it.”

Really, really hard.

Mrs. Biden’s only original research consists of interviews with two — that’s right, two — ex-students and a few colleagues at Delaware Technical Community College, where she used to teach, plus the results of a vacuous questionnaire

Super-super hard.

Here is how its second sentence reads: "The needs of the student population are often undeserved, resulting in a student drop-out rate of almost one third."

I think Dr. Biden meant "underserved," not "undeserved." I know.

Dr. Biden's math is as suspect as her logic and her word choice. Consider the following gem: "Three quarters of the class will be Caucasian; one quarter of the class will be African American; and the remaining seats will be filled with students of Asian descent or non-resident aliens."

More to the point, critics have correctly pointed out that Dr. Jill's dissertation strings along a bunch of cliches. It's a typical enough student paper in a lot of settings, but it's not a dissertation. And its author insisting that she worked hard on it is sad if true, and makes her insistence on being called "Dr" even more pathetic.

The Dalton Gang Shoots Itself

The Dalton School is an elite school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that has long prided itself on its “progressive” values. Progress comes at a price: tuition for its K-12 program is over $54,000 a year. Naturally Dalton has been at the forefront of declaring its progressive bona fides over race and “antiracism,” and declaring its own need for more repentance, but now the Bolsheviks within are storming the Winter Palace.

A hundred Dalton teachers are revolting over the school’s plan to reopen, and have issued a set of demands to the school. Some students are joining. What do they want? Gosh, what don’t they want? Excerpts:

Here is a link to the original text of the ransom note, which most of the Dalton faculty have signed. As Scott Johnston, who broke the news on his blog, comments:

"The demands for additional staffers alone would add millions of dollars to Dalton’s annual budget. Siphoning off 50% of donations would dry up funding. Eliminating AP classes (referred to as “leveled courses”) would destroy college admissions. It’s not an exaggeration to say these demands, if implemented, would destroy Dalton altogether. According to insiders, much damage has already been done."

But if they don’t agree to the demands, what will happen? Don’t get me wrong, the protesters cannot be allowed to succeed. Yet if they don’t, knowing how insane progressives are on these issues, will they choose to destroy the school? After all, if Dalton is as racist as they say, how can they let it continue forming racist graduates to go out into the world and spread Evil?

I wonder what it’s going to take for institutions to put a hard foot down and tell its radical faculty and students: “NO!” Identity politics destroys every institution in which it is allowed to gain a foothold.

Continuing Education During COVID-19

There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted childhood education. In many countries, kids have physically returned to school. In others, schools were never closed. Yet in the United States, many public schools have been closed since March, yielding disastrous results for millions of kids. While scientific data say it's safe to bring them back, incentives in the school systems are such that many kids continue to be locked up at home rather than receiving a proper education.

A school's main role is to educate children. They can feed low-income children and supply day care for working parents, but these benefits are secondary to providing a quality education to all enrolled children.

The fact that children and their taxpayer parents are consumers in this scenario should guide the decisions made by superintendents and school boards. But that hasn't been the case since the start of this pandemic.

For many kids, the last academic year's schooling ended in March rather than in June. Where I live in Arlington County, Virginia, some parents feel as though the students who bothered to show up online weren't really taught new material. A teacher told me in June that absenteeism was extremely high, which isn't surprising given that kids knew there would be no consequences.

Making matters worse, after the summer break, our Arlington schools were hardly more prepared for virtual learning than they were following March's school closings.

Yet for many kids, better preparation wouldn't make a real difference. How do you realistically educate kindergarteners and elementary school students virtually? In Arlington, it took months for the superintendent to allow teachers to teach from their classroom, depriving them of the educational tools we taxpayers have paid for and forcing them to improvise, often poorly. How do you provide adequate online instruction for students with disabilities? What about students whose native language isn't English? Even under the best of circumstances, the education is lacking.

When schools closed in March, there were many unknowns. But the latest research supports the fact that this instructional dysfunction is unnecessary. Experts now know that locking children at home doesn't keep people safe from COVID-19's infectiousness or mortality, and sending them to school doesn't carry much risk either. Studies that looked at the reopening of German schools found that "neither the summer closures nor the closures in the fall have had any significant containing effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among children or any spill-over effect on older generations." The investigators also didn't "find any evidence that the return to school at full capacity after the summer holidays increased infections among children or adults."

The largest study to be published on the issue so far, using data from the United Kingdom, finds no increase in severe coronavirus-related outcomes for adults living with children who go to school. It demonstrated a small increase in infections, which didn't result in any noticeable bad outcomes.

Since our school closed, many parents, including some from the 800 members of the nonpartisan Arlington Parents for Education coalition (where I'm also a member), emailed school officials to alert them to these studies. But instead, these bureaucrats decided to essentially trap students in their homes, often without adult supervision. Failing grades, collapsing math skills, increased educational gaps and mental health issues are the results. And for all the pandering in Arlington County about equity, the most affected students were precisely those lower-income and disabled children.

Some educators would like to go back, but their voices are drowned out by the voices who claim that going back is unsafe. The media shares some of the blame for these fears. A new study by Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote and two other researchers looked at news stories about COVID-19 and found that the coverage of school reopenings was "overwhelmingly negative, while the scientific literature tells a more optimistic story," about how "schools have not become the super-spreaders many feared."

But that's not the whole story. The superintendent and the school board members have little incentive to change their performance since they won't be held accountable for this fiasco -- not even when faced with a roughly 2,500 drop in projected versus actual Pre-K-12 enrollment in Arlington Public Schools since March. Unlike private employees who would fear for their jobs were they responsible for the loss of paying consumers, these bureaucrats have little to fear.

The pandemic has exposed many problems with American society. Let's use this opportunity to address some of the chronic ones we're seeing in government-supplied K-12 schooling.

Australia: Final exam results a brutal and irrelevant way to define ‘intelligence’ in a world opening its eyes to other values

A rather silly article below tries to downplay the importance of your final High School results (the ATAR).

But it does a very bad job of that. It rather boringly says the ATAR does not measure intelligence. He is right. It measures APPLIED intelligence -- what happens when you combine IQ with hard work. Business-people have long hired on the basis of that. The ATAR gives them an indication of how likely you are to make a success of a difficult task in the workplace.

The claim that your ATAR ceases to matter soon after you got it is nonsense. He actually admits that it is nonsense, saying it matters in forming relationships and will matter when you have chidren

And he seems to think he is original in saying that IQ is not the only personal quality that is important. I know no-one who would disagree. To me a kind heart trumps most other qualities

On Thursday night, the ATAR was the be-all and end-all; by Friday lunch, it was on its way to being forgotten.

One of the great joys of leaving school is the discovery that the all-important marker of so-called intelligence, which school leavers feared was going to define them, was a mirage. It wasn’t quite a con job: the HSC, as a rite of passage and an educational journey, has a lot going for it and is often unjustly criticised. But the ATAR is only a functional gateway for entry into certain university courses. Like a ticket of entry for a long-awaited show, you might have kept it under your pillow and kissed it every night for months, but once you’ve used it, you screw it up and the next day you can’t remember where you lost it.

For those who shocked themselves by how well they did, their ATAR might provide a secret treasure of self-esteem – “I am a 90 person, even if everyone took me for a 70 person” – but they will have to keep it to themselves, because from today forward, there will be not a single thing more uncool than telling someone what you got in your HSC.

For those who were disappointed, or – horrible word – who “underachieved”, the end of the HSC will come as a blessed relief. They will no longer wear that mark on their forehead.

Whether your result was good, bad or indifferent, forgetting your ATAR starts the moment you receive it. Ranking intelligence is one of the many components of our colonial inheritance that is coming under an attack that is more concerted each year. There is a broad illusion in the brutality of a number to rank a person’s intelligence. Those two years of the HSC apportion intelligence as if it were money, handed out unevenly yet treated as a symbol of virtue. For many students, knowing where they stood in this hierarchy has offered the comforts of certainty and security. Some will proceed through their lives into workplaces that replicate this hierarchy – the professions, academia, the military, some of the rank-conscious remnants of the business world. Perpetual strivers will find a sequence of substitutes for the ATAR, so they may go to their grave knowing, or thinking they know, exactly where they stand. But that way of viewing the world is shrinking with each year.

Any agreed consensus on what constitutes “intelligence” is under assault on various fronts. Science is bringing us to the humbling understanding that “intelligence” is not an objective but a social measure, conditioned by circumstance, gender, race and dis/ability, just for starters. A quantifiable scale for “braininess” is as anachronistic as an IQ test, as mustily irrelevant as Mensa membership. The drive for diversity in workplaces is not based just on the notion that anyone can be just as “smart” as the white men who invented the rules; it is based on the suspicion that “intelligence”, and the hierarchies that flow from it, was a rigged game in the first place. The diversity movement has its excesses and missteps, which are generously well reported, but at its heart is the encouragement to think about brains differently, and to figure out that the greatest contributors to our social good are those whose qualities slipped the noose of the HSC markers.

My favourite Gary Larson cartoon is the one showing the student at the “Midvale School for the Gifted”, leaning with all his weight, trying to open a door that has a big sign on it saying “PULL”. For today’s school leavers, their parents’ and grandparents’ generation saw “intelligence” as a narrowly fixed quantity, a door for the gifted. But for the class of 2020, the paths of opportunity promise to branch out in a world that is finding many different things to value: emotional intelligence, kindness, empathy, understanding, intuition, commonsense, initiative, as well as countless exercises of brainpower for which there was no measurement at school.

For all that, the HSC will still leave a heavy after-trauma. Those students might think they have been liberated from the HSC, but they can look forward to a lifetime of waking in a cold sweat from nightmares in which they still have to do their HSC exams and are even less prepared than the first time, and probably have forgotten to wear certain articles of clothing.

And then, years after putting it all behind them, they will meet their life partner and, over a bottle of wine, the old zombie will stir from its grave. “What did you get in the HSC?” And neither will want to confess to their number, because the last thing they want is for love to be polluted by memories they have succeeded for so long in burying. Their ATAR need not be tattooed onto their arm.

In time, they in turn will have children, and will love them to bits through their infancy and primary years. But then those children will enter secondary school and the nightmare of classification will become real again. As parents, today’s school leavers will make enormous sacrifices so that their children will have an opportunity to get that golden ticket. Is the ticket worth such sacrifices? You will have forgotten. Your children will ask, “What did you get in the HSC, Mum? Dad?” And back you plummet into the embarrassment of either having done better or worse than your family had you pegged for, and now you’ll get scared all over again, this time that your children will see you differently if they know your secret number.

And then those children will enter year 11, and before you know it, the HSC is the be-all and end-all again, and you’ll have forgotten the most vital lesson out of all those 13 years of schooling you did, which is that the day after your children have received their results, it will have ceased to matter. Until you become a grandparent. Onwards … and upward