Friday, January 15, 2021

Ignore the Teachers Unions and Open the Schools

Is your child's school open now?

Probably not—because teachers unions say that reopening would "put their health and safety at risk."

They keep schools closed by lobbying and protesting. "If I die from catching COVID-19 from being forced back into Pinellas County Schools, you can drop my dead body right here!" shouts one demonstrator in my new video.

But schools rarely spread COVID-19. Studies on tens of thousands of people found "no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus."

Even Anthony Fauci, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, encouraged schools to reopen, saying "close the bars and keep the schools open."

Heritage Foundation education researcher Lindsey Burke points out that studies in 191 countries find "no consistent link between reopening schools and increased rates of COVID transmission."

She says schools aren't COVID-19 hotspots.

"But it's logical that they would be," I push back. "Kids are bunched together."

"Positivity rates in schools are generally below those in the broader community," she says.

Closed schools hurt low-income students most because they have fewer learning alternatives. The privileged get around union restrictions.

Almost all of California's government-run schools are closed, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom's sends his kids to a private school that stayed open.

"Choice for me, but not for thee!" quips Burke.

Kids blocked from attending school suffer more than academic losses, she adds. "Kids are social animals. A lack of their ability to interact in person, see their friends, see their teachers, is really having an impact."

That's not a good enough reason to open schools, say the unions. In my video, one San Antonio teacher argues: "We understand that in-person learning is more effective than online teaching, but that's not the question. The question is what is safest."

"But that's really not at the heart of why unions are trying to keep schools closed," says Burke. "It's really a question of politics."

Definitely. Union demands include all sorts of things unrelated to teacher safety. The Los Angeles union demands: defunding the police, a moratorium on charter schools, higher taxes on the wealthy, and "Medicare for All."

"The Oregon Education Association…said they wanted the state to halt any transfers to virtual charter schools," says Burke. "There's clearly no health issue in a virtual setting."

It's revealing that government-run schools fight to stay closed, while most businesses—private schools, restaurants, hair salons, gyms, etc.—fight to be allowed to open.

Why is that? Burke points out that government schools "receive funding regardless of whether or not they reopen."

So, union workers get paid even when they don't work. Not working seems to be a big union goal.

At one point, LA teachers even secured a contract saying that they only are "required to provide instruction…four hours per day" and they will "not be required to teach classes using live video conferencing."

Nice non-work if you can get it.

Yet, the teachers unions keep winning. They will win more now that Democrats control the federal government. Congress' last stimulus package forbids any funds to be used to expand school choice: no "vouchers, tuition tax credit programs, education savings accounts, scholarship programs, or tuition assistance programs."

So, students lose. Parents lose. Taxpayers lose. America loses.

Unions win.

We asked 21 teachers unions to respond to the criticisms in this column. Not one would.

Their behavior reveals their true interest: power and money. Students come third.

UK: Headteachers claim live-streaming lessons from home is 'invasion of privacy'

State school heads who block teachers from hosting live online lessons due to privacy concerns have sparked confusion among critics who ask why educators can't just pick a blank background.

Headteachers claim live-streaming lessons from inside a teacher's home is a 'huge invasion of privacy' and takes away 'professional distance'.

And teachers' union NASUWT is strongly advising members to avoid live lessons unless there are measures in place to stop privacy breaches.

But many have asked why teachers don't utilise Zoom's 'virtual background' feature - or present in front of a blank wall.

Zoom offers users the option to pick from a set selection of 'sample backgrounds' or upload their own - meaning the user's face can appear in front of any image they choose.

Others have asked why teachers don't go into schools to teach their remote lessons from an empty classroom.

Chris McGovern, chairman of The Campaign for Real Education, said school heads banning Zoom is the fault of over-zealous teaching unions. He told MailOnline: 'Of course you can change a background. They are finding problems where no problems exist. 'It is teachers looking for reasons to keep schools closed as part of a political battle with the Government.

'Here we are looking after children's futures. It seems that for a very minor aspect of this problem they are prepared to sacrifice children's futures, particularly underprivileged children.'

He blames unions for creating 'an atmosphere of threat and intimidation' which puts pressure on teachers, adding: 'I don't think teachers should be seen as pawns in a political battle'.

Pauline Wood, head teacher at Grange Park Primary School in Sunderland, said she was 'at a loss' as to how live Zoom lessons could be deemed a privacy breach.

She told MailOnline: 'Teachers can set up their own devices in a position which suits them surely?

'If in school, it is no different from a regular lesson. If at home, choose a blank background.'

Militant teaching unions – which strongly urged teachers not to live-stream lessons last summer – said teachers must be able to choose whether to live-stream lessons or not and that it should only be used 'when essential'.

The National Education Union appeared to suggest that only pushy parents want live lessons, adding that the call for live teaching is 'often related to minority, but insistent, parental pressure'.

Guidance from the NASUWT teaching union even raises privacy concerns about pupils recording teachers' live lessons on their phones and uploading them to pornography websites.

The union 'strongly advises members to not participate in live video lessons to pupils' homes unless they are sure that measures are in place to prevent such inappropriate practices'.

School governor and former-teacher Calvin Robinson said he understands that some schools don't allow teachers on the premises to teach remotely.

But he said a different digital background would fix any worries about teaching at home. He said: 'It depends if they're allowed in schools, some have sent everyone home without the option to come back.

'I can relate, my mother's a lecturer and she expressed those same concerns, but she just blurs out her background.

'It can make people feel uncomfortable, but there are methods you can take. 'What I'd like to see is children back in classrooms'.

Mike Power, teacher and head of year in Manchester, said using an alternate background is 'a sensible approach'.

He said: 'There will be steps people can take to keep the intrusion to a minimum such as blurring backgrounds, even removing photos from a wall to use as a blank background if necessary.

'No teachers are sat thinking how can I avoid delivering live lessons, which at times it can feel like that's what people think.

'Teachers fundamentally want to teach as best they can in the circumstances.'

Last night, anxious parents demanded state schools ramp up live online classes as experts warned that a lack of real-time lessons threatened to widen the gulf in equality between state and private pupils.

Most independent schools and top-performing state schools have rolled out full days of live lessons via Zoom and other video platforms since the new national lockdown came into force.

But large numbers of secondaries and primaries, particularly in poorer areas, are relying on pre-recorded lessons, YouTube videos and online worksheets for their pupils.

Mark Lehain, director of the Campaign for Common Sense, said: 'Private schools had a big advantage: if parents can afford school fees, they've definitely got decent broadband and laptops galore at home.

'State schools couldn't rely on this. But the teaching unions were a disgrace, and made things a lots worse by telling staff not to plan at home, or that they didn't need to do online teaching.'

In a poll of 800 parents last week, almost a third said their children were not receiving any live lessons, suggesting that as many as three million pupils may not be having interactive video contact with their teachers during the lockdown.

A mother from Buckinghamshire told The Mail on Sunday: 'They need live lessons otherwise they are going to fall behind and may never be able to catch up.'

Leading educationalist Professor Alan Smithers warned that some children were missing out on their education completely and their life chances could suffer.

He said: 'Children want to learn in real-time and thrive by interacting and learning with their friends. Pre-recorded lessons are no way near to being in school.

'Not having children together in the classroom is increasing the unevenness of the educational experience and exacerbating inequality, and so is having this divide between schools that are offering live-streamed lessons and those that are not.'

Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, called for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and regulators Ofsted to establish more detailed national guidelines for online teaching.

He said: 'Some state schools are doing fantastic work rolling out live-streamed lessons and I can't see why this cannot be replicated across the board. We cannot leave children behind.

'Children who are struggling and suffering at home need interaction with teachers, and live lessons make a world of difference.'

After schools were closed on Tuesday, teachers flooded social media with complaints that they did not want to deliver lessons via video platforms.

Cassie Young, head of Brenzett CofE Primary School in Romney Marsh, Kent, said: 'I can't and won't agree to my staff doing live lessons. The pressure, safeguarding and workload would result in burnout.

'Pre-recorded works just as well, keeps people safe and allows pupils to work at a pace that suits them, freeing up staff to support.'

She claimed 'professional distance' was needed, adding: 'Working at home and seeing inside people's homes feels like a huge invasion of privacy.'

One primary teacher in Manchester said that she 'felt sick' with nerves over leading live lessons, adding: 'The fact it's my home does feel invasive.'

Jo Campbell, headteacher at Ore Village Primary Academy in Hastings, added: 'I won't put that pressure on my staff and I have too many safeguarding concerns. Pre-recorded sessions are enough.'

In a poll of 800 subscribers to the Parent Ping education app last week, only eight per cent of parents said their child had received more than five hours of live lessons that day. Some 13 per cent said their children were in live lessons for three to four hours and 11 per cent reported one to two hours. Nearly a third (31 per cent) said their children had no live lessons and 11 per cent had less than one hour.

Government guidance says primary school pupils should have an average of three hours work a day, and secondary school pupils should have at least four, with lessons delivered by teachers through 'curriculum resources or video'

Parents told The Mail on Sunday that their children were not being set enough work. One mother from Kent said: 'My 17-year-old daughter goes to a grammar school and has live lessons on Microsoft Teams all day. My 14-year-old son goes to a comprehensive and has no live lessons. He finishes his work in half an hour and would be on the PlayStation if I wasn't telling him to read back through previous work.'

Another mother from Buckinghamshire said: 'My children's school is doing one live lesson a day private schools locally are doing a full diet of live lessons and after-school clubs with their boys.'

Paul Woods, principal of Westminster Academy in Central London, said his school was continuing with the full timetable, with all lessons live-streamed to all 1,100 pupils.

He said: 'Every child has been given a Google Chromebook and we are sticking to our normal timetable. We like having the real-time interaction, not just for education reasons but we can monitor our students' emotions at a time when things may be difficult for them.

'Teachers are able to see in real time how a child is coping and whether they are adapting well in these challenging times. 'It's certainly not a substitute for being in the classroom but it's the next best thing.'

Betsy DeVos’s Higher Ed Legacy


I have said umpteen times that I think the net contribution of the U.S. Department of Education to American collegiate life is negative—the average productivity of employees of that Department dealing with higher education issues is less than zero. The problem, however, is far less with the employees, many of whom are good people, than with the mission. In early 2017, newly elected president Donald Trump had an awful time even getting his Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, confirmed by the Senate: the vote was 50 to 50 (two Republican Senators voted against her)—with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie to confirm her, a first time in American history a vice president actually voted on a presidential nominee in the Senate.

On taking office, DeVos was already known as a strong advocate of charter schools and other deviations from the standard public school model, earning her the undying enmity of teachers unions. But she was not known for having any substantial connections to higher education, actually fairly typical, including President-Elect Biden’s nominee for Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona. However, she had a strong higher education aide in Diane Auer Jones, Principal Deputy Under Secretary, herself no shrinking violet with a somewhat controversial history, including years working in the for-profit higher education sector, which to some education policymakers is less honorable than, say, running a strip club or illicitly selling pot, an unfair perspective on the many good folks in that sector of higher education.

Yet I think Secretary DeVos has done a pretty good job, far better than her predecessor. I have known several education secretaries personally, some (e.g. Bill Bennett and Margaret Spellings) rather well. Mrs. DeVos is worthy company to them. Secretary DeVos in higher education will appropriately be best known for rolling back regulatory excesses of the Obama era, most notably the horrible 2011 “dear colleague” letter that pressured colleges and universities to address complaints of sexual harassment extremely aggressively, including denying basic due process protections to the accused in college judicial proceedings that have long been required in standard judicial trials within the U.S.

The current DeVos approved rules are far more reasonable. Some basic safeguards for those accused of wrongdoing, including the right to question one’s accusers and have one’s own witnesses, seem assured under the current regulations. There are some areas of legitimate controversy, for example, should college jurisdiction extend to off campus sites and incidences? My view is that where felonies are alleged as in the case of rape or sexual assault, matters should be adjudicated in courts of law first—college students should be treated the same as other citizens.

Secretary DeVos has tried to put some rationality into the federal student loan program, but that disastrous program is largely legislatively determined. Accreditation is another area of weakness, and again the Education Department is constrained considerably by laws imposed by Congress and the President. Two areas where some real improvement has occurred: students can access better information on college performance levels, and Congress finally has shortened the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Assistance) form. On the whole, however, we did not see transformative reform or radical reduction in the administrative morass at the Department of Education.

Secretary DeVos, however, is leaving office with some good advice. She urges Congress to “reject misguided calls to make college ‘free’ and require the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t take on student debt or who responsibly paid off their student loans to pay for the loans of those who have not done the same.” She points out that debt forgiveness is regressive—aiding primarily the relatively affluent. She also urged Congress not to revoke her changes in Title IX (sexual assault) rules.

The Biden Administration and Congress will ignore her. It occurs to me that perhaps feisty ex-Secretaries of Education—think Bill Bennett and Betsy DeVos—should lead an education reform effort, especially regarding higher education—a Center for Collegiate Reform (CCR) or a Higher Education Reform Initiative (HERI). More “moderate” ex-secretaries—think Lamar Alexander or Margaret Spellings—might join as well, but I rather like the outspoken Bennett and DeVos leading the charge. I might even become a soldier in their reformist army.




Thursday, January 14, 2021

Rep. Stefanik Reacts After Harvard Kicks Her Off Senior Advisory Committee

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) says she is proud to join a growing list of conservatives who have been banned or shunned by college campuses. On Tuesday, the Harvard Kennedy School informed the conservative lawmaker that they have decided to boot her from the school's Senior Advisory Committee for what they referred to as her baseless claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election. Stefanik was in Harvard College's class of 2006 and has been mentoring students ever since.

In a message to the Senior Advisory Committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, Dean Doug Elmendorf explained his decision to kick Stefanik off the panel. He added that he was still "grateful for her long and committed service."

Following this consideration, I spoke with Elise and asked her to step aside from the Senior Advisory Committee. My request was not about political parties, political ideology, or her choice of candidate for president. Rather, in my assessment, Elise has made public assertions about voter fraud in November’s presidential election that have no basis in evidence, and she has made public statements about court actions related to the election that are incorrect. Moreover, these assertions and statements do not reflect policy disagreements but bear on the foundations of the electoral process through which this country’s leaders are chosen.

In their conversation, Rep. Stefanik refused to resign, and so Elmendorf told her he would remove her from the panel himself.

"The decision by Harvard's administration to cower and cave to the woke Left will continue to erode diversity of thought, public discourse, and ultimately the student experience," Stefanik writes in a blunt new statement.

"The Ivory Tower's march toward a monoculture of like-minded, intolerant liberal views demonstrates the sneering disdain for everyday Americans and will instill a culture of fear for students who will understand that a conservative viewpoint will not be tolerated and will be silenced," she said of the school.

With her expulsion, Stefanik added that congratulations are in order for the Senior Advisory Committee, which is now composed solely of "Joe Biden voters."

Stefanik was one of several Republican lawmakers who still followed through on their plans to object to last week's electoral college certification, despite the violence that occurred in the Capitol following a Trump rally. She has since fielded demands for her resignation.

"They have the right to those opinions, and they also have the constitutional right to speak out,” Stefanik told her critics. “President-Elect Biden was certified, but that debate was important for the American people to hear.”

Is the Wisdom of Homer Immune to Cancel Culture?

Amid the current hysteria of toppling statues and renaming things, we keep mindlessly expanding the cancel culture.

We are now seeing efforts to ban classics of Western and American literature. These hallowed texts are suddenly being declared racist or sexist by preening moralists.

Or, as one Massachusetts high school teacher recently boasted on social media, “Very proud to say we got the Odyssey removed from the curriculum this year!”


Over 20 years ago, John Heath and I co-authored “Who Killed Homer?” We warned that that faddish postmodernist race, class, and gender theories—coupled with narrow academic specialization—was killing the formal discipline of classics in universities.

We worried that without custodians, the appeal of the great literature of Greece and Rome might wane in high schools as well. And it apparently has.

But why should we still read classics such as Homer’s “Odyssey” in the first place?

Classics teach us about the great challenges of the human experience—growing up, learning from adversity, never giving up, and tragically accepting that we are often at the mercy of forces larger than ourselves. All of these trials are themes of “Odyssey.”

Sometimes, Odysseus needs more than brains and brawn—like luck and divine help. How does the old Odysseus, after 10 years of wandering to get home to Ithaca, differ from his younger heroic self on the battlefield at Troy? What old skills and what new ones allow him to defeat the human and inhuman forces of the universe that try to stop his return home?

Great Western literature also questions, or even undermines, the very landscape it creates. Why is Athena, the tough female god, so much more astute than male Olympians like the touchy braggart Poseidon?

How does a supposedly docile, wifely Penelope outsmart the purportedly best and brightest male suitors on Ithaca?

Why are slaves such as poor Eumaeus more generous, loyal, and savvy than the free and rich? “Odyssey” does not just present the so-called white patriarchy; it simultaneously questions it.

Homer also offers archetypes and points of lasting reference—not just for future literary creation, but for all of us as we mature and age, and as we seek examples to warn or encourage us.

The undaunted spirt of Odysseus, the threats to his return, and the skills needed to overcome those threats become models for subsequent masterpieces, from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Constantine Cavafy’s “Ithaca” to Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows,” and the Coen brothers’ film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?

When we worry about the fragility of civilization, imagine the creepy dystopia on the island of the Cyclopes. And if we act like greedy pigs, then perhaps we will be turned into them—in the manner sorceress Circe did to the crew of Odysseus.

Great artists do not just craft great stories. They also do so in great fashion. Homer’s epic poems “Iliad” and “Odyssey” were composed orally in a dactylic hexameter, a meter that offers melodic enrichment of the narrative and dialogue

The epics’ often archaic vocabulary, formulaic style, and rich metaphors and similes remind us how artistic skills are force multipliers of plot and characterization.

Homer may be the first poet of Western literature, but he offers us a masterful tutorial in the art of using flashbacks, unintended consequences, incognito characters, and mistaken identity.

Great works of literature such as “Odyssey,” Virgil’s “Aeneid,” the Bible, and Dante’s “Inferno” offer lasting cultural referents that enrich the very way we speak and think. When we do not know the names of people, places, and things from “Odyssey” like the Olympians, Trojan horse, Calypso, Hades, Scylla, and Charybdis, then we have little foundation for understanding the logic and language of much of the present world.

Finally, from classic literature we learn values, both reassuring and troubling. Remember the fate of the goatherd Melanthius and the suitor Antinous. Arrogant bullies like these two do not end up well in “Odyssey.” But the humble and kind usually do.

For Homer, loyalty, responsibility, courage, and keeping a clear head are not optional, but rather lifesaving virtues. Odysseus possesses them and thus makes it home despite losing his crew.

Yet in the pre-Christian pagan world of early Greece, morality is also defined as hurting enemies and helping friends, not turning the other cheek.

Hubris begets divine retribution, not Sermon on the Mount forgiveness of one’s sins. But to appreciate the values of the New Testament requires knowing a few of the more brutal tenets it sought to replace.

Our current cultural crisis is not from reading too much, but from not reading much of anything at all. Most of the people who deface monuments and wreck statues know almost nothing about the targets of their furor.

Canceling Homer is not virtue-signaling. It is broadcasting ignorance.

How COVID, Masks, and Disinfectant Got a Florida Teacher Slapped With Child Abuse Charges

Florida. It’s the state that keeps on giving concerning crazy people ending up in the news. It’s a real gem of a state. I mean that sincerely. I like Florida a lot. But when it comes to COVID and mask-wearing, one teacher in Pinellas County took things a bit too far. The state has pretty much re-opened. That might make some people more uneasy. Whatever the case, what this teacher did to a few students who weren’t wearing their masks properly got her arrested and slapped with child abuse charges. Someone should tell this person that in this country, spraying disinfectant on someone else’s face is dangerous, illegal, and potentially lethal. It’s an assault (via The Blaze):

According to the Largo Police Department, Reszetar became aggressive because four students refused to wear their face masks properly in the classroom. Reszetar, an Exceptional Student Education math teacher, allegedly sprayed aerosol disinfectant into the faces and bodies of the students.

Reszetar was escorted from the Largo High School, located in a suburb of Tampa, and booked into the Pinellas County jail on Wednesday. She was charged with four counts of felony child abuse with great bodily harm.


"I think I can fairly characterize this as a severely misguided attempt at discipline," the judge said in court…

The incident was reportedly captured on surveillance video, but police have not released a copy of the footage. Reszetar said in court that the video would show the allegations are not true.


Reszetar was released from Pinellas County Jail on Thursday night on her own recognizance. Since the teacher had no serious prior record, the judge released her from jail without bond. A Pinellas County School District spokeswoman said Reszetar is still employed with the school district.

The Blaze added that Reszatar told the judge she couldn’t afford a lawyer on her salary. She was released from county jail without bond due to no prior criminal record.

Everyone needs to relax. If anything over the past three years has shown us that the media is terrible at their jobs, they will highlight the rarest of COVID incidents to drive panic, and in the end—the information will be wrong. We were told not to wear masks, and then said it was mandatory to wear them.

Also, it helps stop the spread, only to have that claim blown up by a new study from Denmark. Also, California has had 1 million new COVID cases in six weeks. If it weren’t for California, national COVID cases would be decreasing. The point is the state has a mandatory mask ordinance with near-universal compliance. Masks don’t appear to be working, and this was The New York Times that reported on the story.

Surface touching doesn’t appear to be a main source of transmission either. In New York, a state hit hard by COVID, bars and restaurants contributed to just 1.4 percent of COVID spread. What about the gym, hair salons, and barbershops? They contributed to a whopping 1 percent. They’re all low-risk areas, but also the businesses being crushed by the boot of the state with the lockdown regimes.

Schools, where this Lysol incident occurred, are not sources of so-called super spread. Kids don’t get it and they don’t spread it. They’re low risk. How do we know this? They’re not in the first wave of vaccinations. For those who are still queasy about re-opening schools, push for kids to get vaccinated first. That won’t happen. Why? Because kids are a low-risk group. You’re seeing this merry-go-round of idiocy, right?

And now COVID panic slapped her with child abuse charges. I blame the media for shoveling this nonstop for a year now. I’ll also say that for a medical expert community that has oftentimes acted more like Democratic operatives; this is where the pediatricians sere right from the start: it is safe to re-open schools.

It’s the teacher’s unions who are gumming up the works. It’s almost as if these public-sector unions are extensions of the national Democratic Party. Oh right, they are—and they rather not work and prevent kids from getting an education.




Monday, January 11, 2021

Leaving the Blight of Higher Education: Farewell Faculty

The previous essay dealt with the moral decline of the student body in higher education—one of the motives behind my recent retirement after three decades of teaching college English. When I began teaching, most of the English faculty members, including the chair who hired me, had earned their doctorates in the late 1970s.

They were oleaginous liberals, naturally, but they were also ladies and gentlemen of actual education and considerable high literacy. They took it for granted that the purpose of a literature program was to bring to life in students the Intuition of Form or Imagination about which George Santayana writes in his Sense of Beauty. According to Santayana, “Imagination…generates as well as abstracts; it observes, combines, and cancels; but it also dreams.”

Imagination, Santayana writes, involves spontaneity; it strives toward “the supremely beautiful.”

As the Old Guard went into retirement, a cohort of new assistant professors filled the department’s tenure-track lines. The new phase of aggressive affirmative-action recruitment ensured that this replacement-generation of instructors, overwhelmingly female, differed starkly in character from its precursor-generation.

The new hires came to the institution from the politically radicalized graduate programs of the state universities. Whereas the Old Guard corresponded to a literary-generalist or dilettante model—terms that I use in a wholly positive way—the arrivistes brought with them only their narrow specialisms, as encrusted in their conformist political dogmas.

Mention Santayana to the Old Guard and chances were good that any given one of them would be familiar with the drift, at least, of the philosopher’s work. Mentioning Santayana to an arriviste produces a blank stare.

Richard Weaver’s notion of “presentism” makes itself relevant to the discussion. By “presentism” Weaver intends a mental restriction that has steadily eroded the modern, liberal view of reality. This mental restriction, as he puts it in his Visions of Order (1964), manifests itself primarily in a “decay of memory.”

Weaver writes, “Wherever we look in the ‘progressive’ world we find encouragements not to remember.” Today it is not an “encouragement,” but rather a demand not to remember, as the monument-defacement and statue-toppling of the times so savagely demonstrate. This anti-historical dementia has fully infiltrated graduate studies and through them has colonized the literary branches of higher education. The unending pageant of neologisms and slogans that now makes up “literary studies” illustrates this anti-developmental development.

The Young Guard of current academia bedecks its office doors with posters and bumper stickers in a perpetual spiral of moral one-upmanship. This moral certitude poisonously inveigles everything that novice college instructors undertake.

I once overheard a conversation between two Young Guards, both female, in the departmental commons. One of them was taking over a course relinquished to her by a retiring Old Guard, a senior-year seminar on Theories of Language. One of the earliest theories of language occurs in Plato’s Cratylus, which the previous instructor had listed as required reading, and likewise essays by Gottfried Herder, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Max Müller. “I had to replace them all,” the young woman sighed to her conversational partner; “they were so old.”

Yes, Plato’s Cratylus is old—a fatal flaw to young professors. So she swapped out the historically informed reading list for a jejune textbook anthology.

She had likely never read the Cratylus, or Herder, or Rousseau, or Müller. She knew Chaucer, but only through the lens of political correctness, and she touted the feminist and race-conscious deconstructions of The Canterbury Tales. In respect of her general ignorance, the newly minted instructor of Middle English resembled her bookless students, at whom academic publishers aim textbook anthologies, with their compendia of short excerpts and mini-articles, none of which appeared in print before 2015, promoting the race-class-gender interpretation of everything.

The Young Guard generally replaces traditional literature with contemporary fiction, just as it replaces thinking with sloganeering.

Where newbies cannot replace the traditional with the contemporary, they lard on “the latest theory.” This predilection varies only slightly from the tactic of hyping the latest model in automobile salesmanship. Only a Neanderthal would drive last year’s model or read the Cratylus. It is imperative to be up to date.

Mandatory up-to-date-ness, precisely as Weaver asserts, finds memory, which recalls the past, annoying. Because memory operates as a basis of consciousness its exclusion amounts to a diminution of consciousness, a type of voluntarily embraced amnesia. Weaver wonders “whether there is not some element of suicidal mood” in the presentist concentration on itself, “or at least an element of self-hatred.” He speculates that the presentist might react to the past as though it were a “reproach.” Weaver’s analysis explains a great deal.

The Young Guard brings other traits. The department once housed me in an office-suite next door to one of the new hires—a female affirmative-action selectee concerning whom a senior colleague confided, “Her promotion to tenure is a foregone conclusion.” It became evident that being the workplace neighbor to Lady Entitlement would try anyone sorely.

She trailed after her a gaggle of undergraduate groupies with whom she carried on loud conversations while leaving her office door wide open. The badinage veered into the crass and vulgar, the loud-mouth instructor and her entourage using the f-word constantly. The same badinage revealed itself as resentment-oriented and self-absorbed.

When after weeks of distraction, I sent a polite email asking that the perpetrator at least shut her door, I received an immediate reply of several thousand self-justifying words, the gist of which was, “go f—k yourself.” The then-chair acceded to my request that he should relocate me, but he never disciplined the foul-mouthed intrusion on communal ear-space.

Another female hire also constantly employed the f-word in casual conversation, but more than that she inserted it regularly into her classroom lectures. She belonged to the film studies program that the department, desperately wanting to increase its attractiveness, had imposed on itself. She screened movies in her classroom to a running commentary.

Every five minutes or so, she would pause, tilt her head, and ask rhetorically, “What the f—k?” She uttered the phrase in a studied way, prolonging the vowel in the last word as if it were the acme of rhetorical wit. The department eventually elected her as chair.

In The Culture of Narcissism (1979), Christopher Lasch links adult functional illiteracy to the persistence of infantile self-adulation beyond childhood. As Lasch and many others have observed, the narcissist suffers, not from an enlarged ego, but from an embarrassingly stunted ego, which looks for ways to conceal from itself knowledge of its limitations.

The narcissist stands “imprisoned in his pseudo-awareness of himself,” Lasch writes. The narcissist will, in his words, “gladly take refuge in an idée fixe, a neurotic compulsion, [or] a ‘magnificent obsession’—anything to get his mind off his own mind.”

Today’s university has structured itself around a narcissistic principle. Affirmative action would thus endow on the meritless the same status as the meritorious so that underachievers might see themselves as receiving the same “just deserts” as achievers.

In order to function, affirmative action must, in effect, penalize achievers, some of whom get pushed aside arbitrarily in the admissions process or, surviving that, have their grades devalued by inflation and their instruction diminished by the curricular dumbing-down. The affirmative principle invokes as its justification the feel-good motif. The affirmative principle therefore elevates sentiment over objectively measured competence.

Students would rather watch a movie than read a book, not least because reading a book taxes their ability. The instructor wants glowing student evaluations at the end of the semester. She eschews books and repeats a piece of mouthy vileness popular among students, “What the f—k?” She congratulates herself when they applaud, which they do. Everything is cool.

Except that everything is not cool. Programs like film studies and creative writing carry the same inflated price tag as physics and police science, but they offer no return on the investment.

Affirmative action entangles itself Gordian-knot-wise with the stupefaction of the curriculum and the dissolution of standards. Film studies and creative writing attract horde-like enrollments. The upshot of film studies is producing a 3-minute video clip as one’s capstone assignment; of creative writing—publishing a one-and-a-half-page story in The Consolation Review.

In both cases, actual higher education shrinks away. In both cases, the institution defrauds its clientele. Students—say rather their parents or their lenders—pay. The college, through its faculties, flatters and deceives.

That last statement should be linked to an earlier statement. Santayana believed that the study of grammar and poetry formed the person at a higher level. Higher education as classically conceived proposed the attunement of the individual to the cosmic hierarchy, or what Arthur Lovejoy, in a famous study, called The Great Chain of Being.

That sounds grandiose only because, over the last century, a strain of nihilism has relentlessly defamed any Western notion of an elevated view. Lacking that view, however, institutions once accountable now promote into supervisory stations people whose public face consists in the look-at-me exercise of 8th-grade verbal scurrility.

The contemporary university forms nothing. Like the crushing backpack (see Part I), it deforms: It stunts, connives, deprives, confuses, and misleads; it rallies neurosis, corrupts language, lifts incompetence into rank, scorns merit, and pats envy on the back, all the while enriching itself by charging extortionate fees for its systematic malpractice.

A Platonizing Neanderthaler who reads George Santayana and Arthur Lovejoy and takes them seriously, I have remarked my anomalous presence in the marshlands of the contemporary academy for quite some time. As long ago as 1996, then living and teaching in Michigan, I published my report Declining Standards at Michigan Public Universities.

The research for Declining Standards uncovered the fact that Michigan businesses, hiring wave after wave of newly minted baccalaureates from the state institutions of higher education, had to remediate their new employees in such basics as written expression and the fundamentals of arithmetic—out of their own pockets to the extent of tens of millions of dollars a year.

Nothing has changed in a quarter of a century. The state college and university system is more than ever a criminal shuffle and a savage trespass into the heart of civilization.

The Ways in Which Colleges Legally Silence Troublesome Scholars

Radicals on campus do more than just “cancel” speakers. Failure by administrators to stand firm alters the atmosphere at colleges as well as, eventually, our system of government. The most profound consequences may come less from ideological zealots than from our own cowardice to oppose them.

Some colleges now respond to ideological intimidation not by defiantly defending their principles, but by devising furtive techniques to eliminate politically incorrect faculty.

In a new Martin Center policy brief, Scholastic Gag Orders: NDAs, Mandatory Arbitration, and the Legal Threat to Academics, I explore how non-disparagement agreements (NDAs) and mandatory arbitration (MA) provide a veil of legally enforced secrecy, shielding administrations from negative publicity, professional censure, and legitimate oversight, as they cleanse their faculty of ideologically heterodox professors.

Both mechanisms hide conduct that would incur professional and public condemnation. They even shift legal liability from leaders who breach agreements and ethics to terminated scholars, including possible criminal punishments.

More than academic freedom is threatened. The public judiciary is used to enforce institutional takeovers. Not only are shared governance, faculty assemblies, and oversight by governing boards compromised, but freedom of expression and even judicial integrity.

Non-disparagement agreements exist only to curtail academic freedom and conceal other ethical culpability. Non-disclosure agreements may be legitimate but are often used to tie the hands of academics like non-disparagement agreements.

Using NDAs, universities can terminate professors without warning, cutting them off from grievance procedures and oversight bodies. Salary and benefits may then be temporarily restored only upon renouncing legal claims, waiving statutory and constitutional rights, and above all silence.

Law itself is enlisted and inverted into an instrument of extortion. Dismissed professors become legally punishable for mentioning institutions’ contractual and ethical breaches. Colleagues, students, alumni, donors—even oversight bodies—are all kept in the dark.

Like any restriction on free expression, the scope is ambiguous and broad enough to intimidate professors from defending their reputations or criticizing such practices in professional publications. So ashamed are colleges of using them, that NDAs invariably prohibit divulging their own existence.

Ironically, NDAs appear less likely to be used by liberal than conservative institutions, notably Evangelical Christian colleges, to disguise their capitulation to leftist pressure. Fearing controversy and avoiding public debate, these institutions make “routine use of non-disclosure agreements that stop current and former staff and board members from discussing sensitive matters.”

NDAs used as “hush money” have been used at Liberty University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Patrick Henry College. “I am appalled by Evangelical Christian use of non-disclosure agreements to prevent further discussion of concerns,” Robert Gagnon of Houston Baptist University writes. “I expect this of left-wing ‘liberal’ denominational structures, not Evangelical institutions.”

Citing a common pretext, an SBTS trustee comments, “[Professors] allegedly were being terminated for financial reasons, but if that’s the case, why silence them?”

Mandatory arbitration (MA) clauses (often disguised) similarly conceal wrongdoing. Here, too, professors are summarily dismissed, cut off from their salaries, courts, grievance procedures, oversight bodies, and, most importantly, collegial and public opinion. They can object only in secret proceedings run by lawyers who can suppress ethical issues because proceedings are closed and unrecorded, and public disclosure is punishable. Here again, unethical conduct is concealed from students, donors, alumni, senates, trustees, accreditors, and the public.

Even in non-academic contexts, MA is harshly criticized for enabling crushing settlements against individuals (who may not even be present to defend themselves) in secret, while depriving them of statutory and constitutional rights by eliminating virtually all due process protections. Perhaps defensible in commercial disputes among businesses, imposing this practice on individuals (originally prohibited) is questionable.

MA is especially “predatory” in academic settings because professors can be airbrushed out of an institution and gagged.

In academia, material settlements are trivial compared to the benefits provided by the procedure. The institution wins before the process ever begins because the secrecy protects its reputation, regardless of how many professional, legal, moral, or religious principles it transgresses.

When self-interest is at stake, high-minded pretenses about debating ideas and “critical thinking” give way to functionaries quietly stabbing scholars in the back.
Even professors who decline to claim damages for unjust dismissals cannot be certain that any public criticism will not trigger an arbitration procedure against them by the institution. In absentia, public comments could mean exorbitant damage awards and legal fees.

Arbitrators have both means and incentives to collude with administrations and twist the knife on recalcitrant faculty who go public with damaging information. Criticizing a college’s ethics, including the arbitration procedure itself, undermines both the college’s credibility and the arbitration firm’s principal selling point.

Faculty governance and oversight are also casualties. Administrations become absolute by suppressing dissent or criticism, rendering faculty voiceless—and governing boards and accreditors impotent. No controversy can ever again surface.

Here, too, Christian colleges have devised their own unique subterfuge, disguising arbitration with a halo of religious-therapeutic sanctimony called “Christian conciliation.”

Claiming to “conciliate” disagreements and promising less “adversarial” procedures that elevate adversaries spiritually (“change their attitudes and behavior”), the therapeutic camouflage further displaces principles of open justice. Administrations jumping onto the MA bandwagon for self-interested reasons can advertise it as moral redemption for those they plan to injure, who lose any recourse against arbitrary or punitive judgments.

The most debilitating feature of NDAs and MA is the admission of intellectual inadequacy by institutions of learning. When self-interest is at stake, high-minded pretenses about debating ideas and “critical thinking” give way to functionaries quietly stabbing scholars in the back and stopping the mouths of critics with legal threats. This behavior by university leaders confirms how our colleges have become havens for “people who don’t really belong in academia but…abuse it for their own selfish purposes.”

New global ranking system shows Australian universities are ahead of the pack

Whether it’s purchasing power parity or the Happiness Index, global comparisons require benchmarking. Sport does this well with World Cups and the Olympics, or better still the single ranking familiar to tennis and golf aficionados.

The problem with universities is there are around a dozen rankings. Each is a variable mix of research, reputation and teaching metrics, leading to quite different and confusing results.

University rankings certainly have their critics, who point to the potential to mislead students and distort research priorities. Our newly developed Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (ARTU) overcomes the flaws of singling out performance in any one ranking.

Read more: Beyond the black hole of global university rankings: rediscovering the true value of knowledge and ideas
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This aggregated ranking helps to broaden the range of assessment — from research citations (frequency referred to in the academic literature) and impact, through to reputation, and qualitative as well as quantitative measures. It also helps address the inherent imperfections of any one of the individual ranking systems, when seen on their own.

The ARTU orders universities by cumulative performance over the mainstream scoring systems. Condensing the three most influential — the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Times Higher Education (THE) and Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) — gives a single broad overview of a university’s position.

How does Australia fare?

Australia now has 13 universities in the global top 200. That’s an increase from just eight two years ago.

Australia ranks fourth in the world in 2020, after the US, UK and Germany. Indeed per head of population, Australia is well ahead of these nations, and second behind the Netherlands for nations of more than 10 million.

This is no new entrant fluke, as Australia has seven universities in the top 100. That’s 7% of the best universities for 0.3% of the world’s population (or 1.6% of global GDP). Two Australian institutions, Monash and UNSW, are among the five that jumped more than 20 places within the top 100 between 2012 and 2020.

Asia on the rise

Although rankings are compiled annually, performance is a lagging indicator assessed over several years. For instance, research citations can be judged between five to 11 years later.

On the one hand, this should help cushion our pandemic-affected universities from precipitous falls over the next few years. On the other, it conspires against rapid rises up the global ladder.

This makes the ascendancy of East Asian universities, and in particular those from China, all the more remarkable. The top two Chinese universities now come in at 18th and 27th internationally, ahead of Australia’s lead, the University of Melbourne at 29th. The next four Chinese universities have risen more than 100 spots since 2012 to crack the top 75. This is especially impressive given that research is largely judged on English-language outputs.

Australia has fared well in this battle of the old versus new order. Long-established universities benefit from major endowments, philanthropy and long-run reputation. Australia’s universities in the top 200 have an average age of 78, compared to over two centuries for overseas unis in top 200.

China has this disadvantage too. But China does have the benefit of a booming economy, which drives top-down investment in cutting-edge technologies and academic excellence through STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) research at scale.

A measure of the value of international students

It can be argued that Australian universities thrived on the back of 28 years of growth, a desirable location, political stability and relatively open borders to knowledge-based entrants. But the standout contribution has been from international students. In absolute terms universities in Australia have the second-highest number after the US.

Simply put, the margin between international and domestic student income covers the indirect costs of strategic investment in research, teaching and other areas. Australian universities need to raise around an additional dollar in support and infrastructure spending for every dollar won in grant income. And all this while fulfilling the core mission of educating local students, with 43% of 25-to-34-year-olds now having a bachelor degree, up from 34% in 2010.

But coronavirus has laid bare the Achilles heel in this business model. Closed borders and geopolitical shifts have delivered a major blow to cross-subsidisation, as well as to the international collaboration so crucial for team-based research addressing the world’s grand challenges.

Vaccines now offer some light at the end of the tunnel, but it will be many years before the world resembles its former self, if ever. Trust in science and an R&D-led economy argue for a major role for universities in the recovery from COVID-19. But the only certainty is uncertainty.

So expect considerable volatility in higher education. How well our universities stack up will depend in part on how international competitors fare, and in particular their relative economies and resourcefulness. Australia looks well positioned here, but will need to weather the threats posed by contraction, domestic constraints and a challenging business model.

Rankings are not perfect. They do not assess all aspects of the mission of Australian universities and are rightly subject to criticism, often from institutions not doing so well. But rankings are the best surrogate measure of global standing that we have and they are here to stay, whether we like them or loathe them.

As the aggregate scoreboard for top universities around the globe, ARTU is well placed to track the shake-up from COVID-19 as it plays out in our universities over the next five to ten years.




Sunday, January 10, 2021

Buckle Up for a Critical Race Curriculum

Once Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20, it’ll be time for everyone to look forward to and focus on the future. After all, it’s not only Biden but also the people he’ll bring into his administration who will call the shots over the next four years.

One of Biden’s key players is Miguel Cardona, former Connecticut commissioner of education, and Biden’s choice for education secretary. We all knew Biden would do whatever he could to undermine or roll back the progress made by President Donald Trump and now former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but Cardona is planning on a more extreme agenda.

If Cardona’s history is any indication, our kids will likely be learning a lot about critical race theory in the Biden years.

Promoted as a way to make sure the voices of people of color are included in education, CRT teaches young people to despise the foundations of our civilization. This typically includes an assault on the free market, individualism, religion, the traditional family structure, and the like.

As Connecticut’s commissioner of education, CRT is what Cardona pushed. There, the Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Collective helped develop the curriculum and provides teachers with professional development opportunities so they can become" anti-racist" advocates. Their recommendation to the State Education Resource Center also prepares students to become anti-racist leaders in their communities.

This may not seem like a big problem on the surface, but leftist political ideology has increasingly seeped into our schools in recent decades. It’s one of the reasons why so many young people are ready to throw away our institutions and traditions. The kids we teach today will be in power tomorrow.

If Biden and Cardona have their way, when today’s kids become tomorrow’s leaders, they’ll be carrying the torch for the far Left.

Before Cardona is given the green light to push CRT in our schools, the Biden administration will first rescind President Trump’s executive order banning it. Last fall, Trump signed an executive order stating that critical race theory “is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.”

As Max Eden, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writes in City Journal, “Most Americans, of any color, reject the premise of inherited guilt based on race, or the demonization of any group by virtue of immutable characteristics. Promotion of critical race theory in schools would produce a backlash and do nothing to promote the healing and national unity that Biden claims to seek.”

Eden adds, “It seems all but certain that on education, Biden will govern to the left of Barack Obama.”

Rather than teaching our children what unites all Americans, Cardona as secretary of education will make sure our children learn to hate their country. Throw in Biden’s opposition to school choice and his plan to reassert Obama’s Title IX protections to include “gender identity,” and we’ve got a tough period ahead for the most vulnerable and impressionable citizens: our children.

It’s time to buckle up and brace for an onslaught of leftist ideology in our nation’s classrooms. But knowledge is power, and parents who know what’s being taught in our schools don’t need to wait for the next election to protect their kids from the poisonous precepts of critical race theory.

Undermining Duty, Honor, and Country at West Point

In May 2020, some 73 cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point cheated on a calculus final exam. Fifty-five of those cadets were athletes and 24 of them football players. This isn’t the first time West Point has dealt with large-scale cheating on exams and not even the first time it was mostly athletes. In 1951, 90 cadets, mostly football players, were expelled for cheating. In 1976, 153 cadets resigned or were expelled for cheating on an electrical engineering exam. This is the first time, however, that West Point has tolerated cheating by softening the punishment and even removing the standard consequences for committing an honor violation. Naturally, there has been significant outrage among Academy graduates, many of whom are now instructors at the Academy.

West Point Superintendent LTG Darryl Williams sent a December 30, 2020, letter to all graduates to presumably explain the situation, but only after the seven-month-old honor incident was national news. Unfortunately, his email serves only to acknowledge concerns rather than address them and offers excuses while simultaneously claiming there is no excuse for the cadets’ behavior. Math instructors uncovered the cheating immediately in May, but honor investigations couldn’t begin until the Corps of Cadets returned in September from the pandemic-induced dispersion and remote learning. While this explains the first three-month delay, it does not excuse why graduates and the nation heard nothing about the largest scandal in almost 45 years after four months of investigation until it was a lead story on USA Today.

Part of his explanation includes a newly created Willful Admit Program implemented in the spring of 2016. Under this program, cadets that willfully admit to an honor violation can do so in the hopes of being granted discretion and enrollment in a 50-hour Special Leader Development Program for Honor as a form of rehabilitation. Previously, this type of discretion was reserved for minor infractions, especially those made under duress or in the heat of the moment. Cheating on a final exam is anything but minor and its scale shows organization and premeditation. LTG Williams claims that a part of this program is “losing rank and privileges,” but his own actions directly contradict this claim and are conveniently not mentioned in his letter to graduates. On October 23, 2020, LTG Williams lifted a ban on direct representation of West Point by cadets found (the official term for convicted) on an honor violation. Before this, any cadet found on honor was not allowed to officially represent the academy in any capacity — which includes playing on a sports team.

The purpose of West Point is to prepare cadets for war and the responsibility of making decisions with absolute and irreversible consequences. The honor code isn’t aspirational — it’s the foundational and unconditional requirement for trust. While rehabilitation and development are noble goals, willful admission can’t erase poor decisions or somehow revert their consequences. The only honorable thing for any cadet or Army officer to do is accept the full consequences of their actions, not excuse them or willfully avoid responsibility, especially when those consequences are personally detrimental. Unfortunately, LTG Williams endorsed this type of evasion explicitly when he suspended direct representation restrictions and allowed willful admission to excuse major honor violations. He prioritized “Beat Navy” in the annual football game over instilling a sense of honor in future combat leaders. Cadets attend West Point to become Army officers, not to play a sport. Playing a sport is a privilege — one that is not reserved for cadets found lacking in honor.

Army officers make decisions with permanent consequences for their soldiers’ lives and America’s national security. Respect for the totality and seriousness of this responsibility begins with the Honor Code and an understanding of the trust Americans place in their military leaders to do what is right. This is what LTG Williams is missing by removing the consequences of honor violations for athletes, making excuses for willful admits, and lowering the most basic standard for faith and trust in our future combat leaders.

What's Wrong with Public Schools? It's the Unions

To understand what's gone wrong with big-city public education -- where militant teachers union bosses dictate urban school policy and politics -- just look to Chicago and the saga of Sarah Chambers.

Her embarrassing story has gone worldwide. But it does have a message.

It tells public school parents who want their kids back in school, and property taxpayers, everything they need to know:

That they don't count. And their children don't count.

Which is why some parents are leaving shutdown cities like Chicago to find places where their children can benefit from in-classroom learning rather than be dumbed down by Zoom instruction, which fails the kids.

And it is another reason, for the sake of all kids -- but especially low-income children trapped in large, substandard public school systems -- that there must be real school choice.

CTU officials have insisted it is all about saving lives during the pandemic.

Chambers was lying on her stomach, wearing a floppy sun hat. She was beaming and said she was going to enjoy some delicious seafood. "Then we are going to old San Juan to get some yummy seafood mofongo! We have an entire private Airbnb house to ourselves."

Is mofongo tasty? I certainly hope so. I prefer lemon, olive oil and oregano. But I've learned that mofongo is actually a soup made with shrimp, rice and tomato sauce. I'd love to try it.

Chambers wore something else besides that floppy sun hat: She wore the extreme arrogance of the CTU, where she was on the executive board. She's reportedly no longer on the board, and she has issued some kind of apology and suspended her social media accounts.

I'm not writing this to pick on her. I respect teachers. I married one. But until union members wake up and challenge the militant CTU leadership that has led them and hundreds of thousands of students astray, this disaster will continue.

Chambers made a stupid move, yes. But she's a special-education teacher and wouldn't have entered the field without caring for special-ed students. Yet she should know better because children who suffer from learning disabilities have been among those most hurt by the loss of in-classroom instruction during the pandemic shutdowns of public schools.

More than half of Chicago Public Schools teachers who were expected to return to school on Monday did not show up for work.

Some teachers defied their militant union bosses and did go, knowing they should be in the classroom. They care about their kids. Teachers know that oftentimes, a public school teacher is the only adult who really cares for the kids.

But more than half not showing up? That's unacceptable.

The union leaders prattle on that they're concerned about the lack of what they say is adequate COVID-19 protection. They once insisted that they "follow the science" in urging public schools be closed.

But now science tells us a different story, that children are not major transmitters, that the best place for kids is in the classroom, that remote learning is a failure, and that many students -- especially low-income minorities -- are being lost.

Supermarket cashiers go to work every day. Store managers like my brother go to work. Cops go to work. Nurses, paramedics, firefighters, doctors, streets and sanitation workers, bus drivers.

Are all of them less human or worthy than a teachers union boss chowing down on mofongo?

One study, now a bit outdated, showed at least 39 percent of Chicago Public Schools teachers sent their own kids to private schools. I figure the number is probably higher today.

Those schools, for the most part, have been open, either fully or in some hybrid fashion.

Many Democratic politicians who kowtow to the power of the teachers unions also send their own children to private schools.

In Chicago, the teachers union leadership hones its image as political intimidators. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has caved to them before, giving teachers 16 percent pay raises over five years.

But Chicago police are still waiting for their contract.

To illustrate the reach of CTU political leverage, more than 30 Chicago aldermen signed a letter of concern supporting the teachers union against the Chicago Public Schools.

"Why the concern now?" CPS boss Janice Jackson asked on Tuesday. "Do they care more about the lives of CPS teachers than the Catholic schoolteachers that have been going to school since August?"

Unfortunately, she didn't answer her own question. So, I'll answer it for her.

Because the old Chicago political patronage system -- which supplied generations of political workers for elections -- has broken down.

The power vacuum was filled by the CTU and other public worker unions. They're organized. They have money for political contributions and provide muscle in the precincts that can break political careers.

The mayor is clearly afraid of the militant CTU leadership. The aldermen are, too, as are, I suppose, many good and committed public school teachers who'd rather not speak up against their leaders, though they know they're doing wrong by the children.

And what are the students and their parents and taxpayers to do?

They can leave.

Or they can chew on a big bowl of mofongo and think of Sarah Chambers, smiling, in that big floppy hat poolside, telling public school teachers not to go to school.