Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Campaign to Stamp Out Academic Heresy

Back in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, church officials felt it necessary to scrutinize every book or pamphlet for the slightest hint of heresy. If the work deviated from doctrine, it would be banned, burned, and the author could be punished.

The Enlightenment brought a change in attitude toward freedom of speech. In Britain, America, and a few other nations, most of the people came to accept that censorship was bad. Even though few of them had read John Stuart Mill, they absorbed his argument that the way to find the truth was to allow everyone the freedom to speak his mind. Of course, people would sometimes say things that were mistaken (even deliberate lies), but the way to combat them was for other people to use their freedom to argue against them.

Accordingly, the United States wrote a ban against government interference with freedom of speech and press into the First Amendment to the Constitution. And in the academic world, it was accepted that scholars must be allowed to publish their thoughts and research findings without hindrance.

If other scholars disagreed, they should formulate counter-arguments and present them. That’s what academic freedom boiled down to—unrestricted competition in the marketplace of ideas.

Sadly, the consensus in favor of that is rapidly eroding. There’s abundant evidence to show that and I’ll focus on one recent case.

Glenn Geher is a psychology professor at SUNY–New Paltz, where he directs the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab. During his academic career, professor Geher has published more than 100 papers. He’s familiar with the trials and tribulations of getting research published, but never ran into such trouble as he encountered with a paper the explored the underlying political beliefs and motivations of the professoriate.

As professor Geher writes here, “I truly believe this research was generally well-thought-out, well-implemented, and well-presented. And it actually has something to say about the academic world that is of potential value.”

How Geher was inspired to delve into the underlying beliefs of professors is an interesting tale. It began in 2016 when, following numerous campus disruptions (including at New Paltz), he was asked to head up a Free Speech Task Force that was meant to help the school come to grips with matters that shouldn’t have been controversial: academic freedom and tolerance.

Geher invited professor Jonathan Haidt, founder of Heterodox Academy and a firm believer in freedom of speech for all, to give a talk at the school. Haidt gave his presentation, arguing that academia cannot be devoted to the search for truth if it also has a political agenda. Geher found Haidt’s talk to be very enlightening and persuasive and was shocked to find that quite a few people in the New Paltz academic community were outraged by it.

For some reason, many people were “genuinely angry” over Haidt’s arguments for academic objectivity and tolerance.

Wanting to learn why many on campus reacted as they did, Geher and his research team came up with an idea to study the motivations of faculty members. Their concept was to survey academics, asking them how they prioritize five academic values: academic rigor, knowledge advancement, academic freedom, students’ emotional well-being, and social justice. The objective was to see if academic values were related to the individual’s field, political orientation, gender, and personality.

Geher and his team obtained responses from 177 professors. The results were not at all surprising. They showed, inter alia, that women had a stronger commitment to social justice and student emotional well-being than did men, and faculty who regarded themselves as “agreeable” placed more emphasis on student well-being and social justice than did those who didn’t see themselves as especially agreeable—those in the latter group placed greater emphasis on student learning and academic rigor.

What the research seems to show is that professors who have an underlying devotion to social justice are not particularly interested in academic rigor and the advancement of knowledge.

That fits hand-in-glove with the many observations of hostility by “progressive” professors toward arguments that the programs and policies they support to achieve social justice are actually counter-productive. Those who contend, for example, that minimum wage laws do more to harm low-skilled workers than benefit them, are apt to suffer ad hominem attacks while the substance of their arguments is ignored.

“After some point, it started to seem to us that maybe academics just found this topic and our results too threatening.”
The study’s findings hardly seem controversial. Would anyone doubt that professors who identify as politically liberal would say that they rank student emotional well-being and the pursuit of social justice as their top goals, above student learning and the advancement of knowledge? Or that faculty in fields like business and accounting would rank academic rigor and student learning as higher priorities than social justice and student emotions?

Nevertheless, when professor Geher sought to get his research published, he ran into a brick wall. It was summarily rejected at one journal after another. When he inquired why, he only received vague comments about alleged “methodological problems.” He observes, “After some point, it started to seem to us that maybe academics just found this topic and our results too threatening.”

I suspect that’s exactly it. Research showing that many faculty members care more about how their students feel than whether they have actually learned course material and that they’re more devoted to the amorphous cause of “social justice” than to the advancement of knowledge could sour supporters on funding higher education.

From their perspective, Geher’s study has no upside and considerable downside. It would be better that it never be published and discussed.

Since the paper was completely rejected, how do I know about it?

At the suggestion of professor Clay Routledge, Geher simply posted the paper on his own blog under the title, “Politics and Academic Values in Higher Education: Just How Much Does Political Orientation Drive the Values of the Ivory Tower?” He acknowledges that the work has not undergone peer review, writing, “I figure people can do whatever they want with that information.”

Geher’s study ought to be read and discussed. It raises some important questions about the value that Americans are getting for the huge amount of money we put into higher education.

We are fortunate that scholars like Glenn Geher still have the option of posting their research on the internet, bypassing the censors in the world of academic publishing. But recent events where the big-tech firms like Twitter and Facebook have moved to silence discussion of topics that “progressives” didn’t like (e.g., Hunter Biden’s foreign dealings) should give us cause for concern.

Will the internet remain a bastion of free speech, or will it eventually fall under the sway of people who are determined to control what we read? It is clear that there are powerful forces working to do exactly that.

Parents Must Fight Educational Indoctrination

There is still hope in combating the leftist agenda in our schools.

For two decades, this writer has sounded the alarm about the progressive dogma being disseminated in America’s classrooms. Dogma presented as irrefutable fact and defended with a single strategy: If you dare to challenge any aspect of that dogma, you’re racist, transphobic, or — as President Joe Biden’s inauguration speech and its laughably hollow call for “unity” made clear — a potential “domestic terrorist.”

Thus in Cupertino, California, a class of third graders was forced to “deconstruct” their racial identities, then rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.” “Based on whistleblower documents and parents familiar with the session, a third-grade teacher at R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School began the lesson on ‘social identities’ during a math class,” columnist Christopher Rufo reveals. “The teacher asked all students to create an ‘identity map,’ listing their race, class, gender, religion, family structure, and other characteristics. The teacher explained that the students live in a ‘dominant culture’ of ‘white, middle class, cisgender, educated, able-bodied, Christian, English speaker[s],’ who, according to the lesson, ‘created and maintained’ this culture in order ‘to hold power and stay in power.’”

It gets worse. A book titled This Book Is Antiracist teaches students that “a white, cisgender man, who is able-bodied, heterosexual, considered handsome and speaks English has more privilege than a Black transgender woman.” Moreover, based on the principle of intersectionality, “there are parts of us that hold some power and other parts that are oppressed,” even within a single person.

In Illinois, “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” is a blatant attempt to turn students into de facto community organizers for leftist causes. It has already been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education and awaits final approval by The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules of the Illinois General Assembly. As columnist Stanley Kurtz warns, if it gets the green light, teachers will be mandated to make self-assessments regarding their racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc., with the possibility of being required to attend white fragility training sessions the committee characterizes as an effort to get teachers to “move past their whiteness.”

To where? To an educational system poisoned by blatant racism sold as anti-racism. To a system, like so many others across the nation, wholly debauched and distorted by Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project with one overarching agenda in mind: To teach American children that their own nation is a fatally flawed construct unworthy of preservation. To teach American children that the content of their character is completely subservient to their color, their gender, and their ethnicity. To teach half of American children they are permanent victims with no ability to make a life for themselves, or permanent oppressors who should be forever ashamed of their “privilege.”

The transgender dogma — just re-approved by our “unity” president — is equally contemptible. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden asserts. Translation: Boys who self-identify as girls will be given access to women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams. Any school that refuses to kowtow will be denied federal funding. Biological women who object? “TERF is an acronym for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ and is considered a slur against people who espouse feminist beliefs and distinguish biological women from trans women,” columnist Ebony Bowden explains.

In other words, you’re the radical if you believe in biological and chromosomal reality, dislike the idea of boys having unfettered access to girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, or believe that the evisceration of women’s sports in service to a bankrupt political ideology is a bad thing.

And just in case one might be wondering whether there might be any pushback, Biden also signed an executive order rescinding the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission that focused on the “ideals of the American Founding as well as the centuries-long quest to live up to them,” as commission member and esteemed historian Victor Davis Hanson explained.

What undoubtedly pushed progressives to dismiss it? “The commission was no more sympathetic to the current popularity of identity politics or reparatory racial discrimination,” Hanson adds. “It argues that using race, ethnicity, sexual preference, and gender to define who we are — rather than seeing these traits as incidental when compared with our natural and shared humanity — will lead to a dangerous fragmentation of American society.”

For leftists and the corporate oligarchy that supports them at every turn, that’s a feature, not a bug. Millions of automatons taught what to think, not how to think, are more easily ruled by those who brook no dissent whatsoever to their despicable agenda.

Yet there is hope. “As American primary and secondary education’s dysfunction became painfully apparent, parents of all races have fled the public schools as fast as they could,” explains columnist Angelo Codevilla. At R.I. Meyerholz Elementary School, parents fought back and forced the school to suspend the program. The effort was led in part by Asian parents, one of whom likened it to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The first lawsuit of what is hopefully the beginning of an avalanche of them has been filed by a black American mother who does not want her biracial son to be forced to attend mandated classes teaching “anti-white” race theories.

In other words, parents are the key here. They must understand they can no longer simply send their children to school and assume what they’re learning is OK. There must be pushback not just against school officials but against the feckless politicians who enact state laws prohibiting parents from opting out of these progressive indoctrination sessions.

Moreover, they need to become familiar with cases such as West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette and Tinker v. Des Moines School District. In the former, the Supreme Court ruled that “no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” In the latter case, the Court made it clear that students do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, unless such speech “significantly disrupts school discipline or invades the rights of others.”

Thus, no school in the nation should be able to force a student to “confess” their support for progressive dogma that is presented as unassailable. And while there are limits to how students can respond, it is clear that polite, respectful rebuttal of such dogma is permitted.

Yet again, nothing meaningful will be accomplished without parental involvement. They must view the cancerous ideology being disseminated to their children with the same alarm as they would a drug dealer standing at the schoolyard gate. What’s going on inside those gates is far more alarming and damaging.

The ball is in your corner, parents. Don’t let your children be taught to hate America. Or themselves.

Recover and revitalise Australian education

As Australia’s 4 million school students and their educators kick off a new school year, it must be free of educational complacency for the path ahead.

It’s fitting that back to school coincides with this week’s UNESCO International Education Day —themed around ‘recovery and revitalisation of education for the covid-19 generation’.

Recovery and revitalisation are certainly worthy aims for policymakers in light of last year’s educational disruption. School closures undeniably resulted in learning losses and forced educators, policymakers, and parents to challenge existing schooling practices and priorities.

The task of recovery — in scope and scale — mustn’t be dismissed.

Last year, CIS research found that around 1.25 million students in the eastern states — over 40% of them — were likely to have fallen behind.

The plan of attack in NSW and Victoria is centred on marshalling a thousands-strong army of tutors to provide catch-up support. However, it’s expected this will assist only around one in five students — or around half those that will likely need it.

And while schools will welcome the help in remedying lost learning, to date there’s been limited quality assurance and considerable uncertainty over expectations of catch-up tutors.

The scale of learning loss is also likely to eclipse previous — relatively benign — predictions.

Late last year, the results of a pseudo-NAPLAN test found NSW students had fallen behind by months rather than weeks. This means that while schools were closed — around 7 weeks in NSW — students not only progressed more slowly, but effectively went backwards. This bodes poorly for Victoria’s status as the education state, since students were out of class for up to 18 weeks.

Among the key events of the 2021 education calendar will be May’s NAPLAN exams — results of which will paint a national picture of student progress following the pandemic.

But just as recovery will not be for the education policy faint-hearted, so too will be the challenge of revitalisation. This will largely hinge on learning key Covid lessons to better harness parental engagement and technology in schools.

In 2020, home-based learning gave many parents a closer look at, and interest in, their child’s schooling. CIS polling shows a majority now have more positive views on teachers and schools. A key task for educators this year will be to capitalise on this goodwill via more constructive engagement between school and the home.

In addition, 2020 saw educators embrace increased uptake of technology in schools — many with a view to entrenching a more permanent place for digitalising course content, collaboration, and assessment. While innovation is welcome, this will require smarter and more discerning applications than has been typical in the past.

The Covid-19 generation will need to muster all the available support this year to ensure they don’t become educational casualties of the pandemic.

If 2020 will be remembered for its educational disruption, 2021 must be equally characterised by recovery and revitalisation.




Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Lawmakers Fume After Biden Sides with 'Radical' Chicago Teachers Union

The Chicago Teachers Union continues to stage a standoff with City Hall after the union voted to reject in-person learning on Monday. The Board of Education had required K-8 teachers to return to schools so they could be prepared for a return to in-person learning on Feb. 1. But because the CTU didn't comply, the city has announced a delay to the teachers' start date to Wednesday in order "to resolve our discussions without risking disruption to student learning.”

Chicago Public Schools explained how remote learning is putting strains on students, both in terms of their education and finances. The delay, they explain, has been most detrimental to minority communities.

“Students in over 130 private and parochial schools and over 2,000 early learning centers across the city have been safely learning in their classrooms since the fall, and we must provide that same option to our families who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to make remote learning work for their children,” Chicago Public Schools said. “We’ve seen grades, attendance, and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students.”

President Biden, who initially said he wants to reopen schools soon, appeared to backtrack on Monday and said he wants to reopen schools as soon but as safely as possible.

"I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure," Biden said at his press conference. "Teachers want to work, they just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that."

"I believe that we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers, and for the help that's in those schools, maintaining the facilities," he added. "We need new ventilation systems in those schools, we need testing for people coming in and out of the classes, we need testing for teachers as well as students, and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone."

Republican lawmakers are disappointed that the president appears to be caving.

While the union argues this doesn't amount to a full strike, the CTU is no stranger to strikes, having staged one in 2019 that lasted two weeks.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board sounded off on the CTU's behavior in a new op-ed this week.

"The union," they write, "is taking kids hostage to extract more money from Congress with no guarantee that it will release them if it does."

Schools have already taken several precautions to make in-person learning as safe as possible. There's "no excuse" for teachers not to get back in the classrooms, the WSJ writes.

Parents Who Opt Out of Public Schools Don't Deserve Smears From Teachers Unions

Marta Mac Ban is not a revolutionary. Ashley Ekpo is not disgruntled. And Brooke Hunt does not consider herself better than others. All three women just want the best education possible for their children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, that has meant taking matters into their own hands. Rather than settling for public school solutions that put students in front of laptops all day, the parents have pulled their kids out of the system and tried alternatives.

The empowerment scares teachers unions, which have a long history of attacking choice. Normally when parents try homeschooling or other options, union allies brand them as weird or extreme. The newest smear is even uglier.

Parents who bring their children together in small learning groups during the pandemic not only get labeled as eccentric, but also as segregationists guilty of promoting racial division in a nation with an ugly history of "separate but equal."

The National Education Association lays out the talking point in a recent policy paper, and industry insiders have repeated the claim on dozens of platforms. Using loaded terms like "radical" and "unqualified," they have sounded the alarm about a massive parental revolt.

Popular targets include families that have organized themselves into pandemic pods and microschools—two variations of homeschool co-ops that allow in-person instruction to continue in residential settings while brick-and-mortar classrooms remain closed or restricted.

Union leaders blast the innovation not because it fails, but because it works. They argue that the proliferation of home study groups will widen opportunity gaps and worsen school segregation because well-resourced families will benefit disproportionately. New York University sociologist R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy says pod parents engage in "opportunity hoarding."

Gregory Hutchings, superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, warned about the opportunity gaps during a summer meeting with parents. Yet his concern that nobody get ahead during the pandemic applied only to others. Shortly after his lecture, he pulled one of his own children out of the district and enrolled her in a private Catholic school.

The pressure campaign is powerful, but many parents are no longer listening. Rather than worrying about the name-calling, they are reclaiming control.

Marta Mac Ban, an Arizona parent who started homeschooling her 6-year-old daughter during the pandemic, says the jolt from COVID-19 is exactly what the school system needed. "The shakeup has reminded district leaders who their customers really are," she says. "If you don't give your customers what they want, they go elsewhere."

She and her husband did that in 2019 when they moved to Cave Creek, a small community north of Phoenix. They liked the local district, so they relocated as a form of school choice. Then they enrolled their daughter in kindergarten and got involved. Mac Ban volunteered as "room mom," creating classroom decorations and participating in parties. She also stayed active in the parent-teacher organization, compiling and sending monthly newsletters.

Everything went well until March, when classes switched to Zoom. Mac Ban, who tries to limit her daughter's screen time, quickly opted out. "She's not going to sit still for hours at a time staring at a computer," Mac Ban says.

She and her husband previously had considered homeschooling but were unsure if they had sufficient resources to pull it off. "We were already on the fence," Mac Ban says. "COVID was the push." Now she teaches at home, while teaming up with neighbors one day per week in a learning pod.

Despite the switch, Mac Ban does not oppose public schools. She sees many good things in her local district and continues to serve in the parent-teacher organization. What she supports is more choice. "One size does not fit all," she says. "It's ironic that they say, 'No child left behind' because so many kids are left behind when everyone is forced to go just to the one school."

Surprised by Success

Prior to the pandemic, Ashley Ekpo and her husband also relocated to find better schools. They switched from Prince George's County to neighboring Howard County in Maryland. The move extended the work commute for both parents, but they accepted the extra drive time as a sacrifice for their children.

Things went well until the pandemic. The parents initially jumped on board with distance learning through their public school, but soon found themselves overwhelmed with three school-aged children and two younger ones at home. "They were all lined up at the dining room table, and it was basically a nightmare," Ekpo says.

After a few weeks, she noticed a drop in educational quality, so she started researching options. When she and her husband decided to try homeschooling, they initially saw it as a temporary solution until they felt comfortable sending their children back to the classroom. Now, the parents aren't sure what they will do in 2021 and beyond. "We're staying open-minded because we're having a really good experience with it," Ekpo says.

A Place for Everyone

Brooke Hunt and her husband like choice so much that they let their older children decide for themselves what they wanted to do during the pandemic. All three opted to remain in public schools, while two younger ones started homeschooling in Mesa, Arizona. "We just made the big, brave decision in August," says Hunt, who has a degree in early childhood education.

Critics complain that homeschooling can cut children off from diverse classrooms, but Hunt sees the opposite in the co-op that she runs with two other families. Unlike public schools, which segregate students by age, the homeschooling group brings children together at different stages of development. This represents a type of diversity.

Participants in Hunt's group also come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. "Lack of diversity is never an issue," she explains. Her only regret is that she cannot help more families in her little operation. "I wish I could open my home to everyone where there's a need," Hunt says.

Teachers unions could benefit from the same inclusive mindset. Parents like Mac Ban, Ekpo, and Hunt are not segregationists. They are innovators who should be celebrated, not smeared.

UK: Can Chaucer survive the woke purge?

Leicester University plans to swap The Canterbury Tales for modules on race and diversity.

Managers at Leicester University have called for classic texts, including The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf, to be dropped from English courses in favour of a ‘decolonised curriculum’.

If these proposals are implemented, all literary works written before 1500 would be ditched. All English language courses would end and ‘a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity’ would be brought in.

According to the Telegraph, university management said the move was intended to ‘provide modules which students expect of an English degree’. And president and vice-chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah said the plans were necessary for the university to ‘compete on a global level’. Meanwhile, academics teaching the soon-to-be-forbidden subjects are no doubt fearing for their jobs.

Universities are under considerable pressure to change their curriculums. In 2019, Sheffield University released a video featuring a sequence on ‘decolonising’ the syllabus. The video painted academia as a ‘white-dominated space’. And it suggested major writers like Chaucer and Shelley were only on the curriculum because they ‘simply better fit into an academic culture that’s affected by the same racial biases that we see in the rest of society’.

In June, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson, announced plans to ‘decolonise’ Oxford’s science and maths degrees. The plans mean the courses must cover issues like race and empire.

Those who demand the ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum like to pretend that they are expanding what students are taught. But deleting countless classic texts from the curriculum will do nothing but leave a gaping hole in students’ knowledge. Education is in serious trouble.




Tuesday, January 26, 2021

British campuses have an Islamism problem

But university leaders think it is Islamophobic to talk about it.

Britain has not yet woken up to the magnitude of Islamic radicalisation in our universities.

A 2019 document published by four major UK universities (Durham, Coventry, Lancaster and SOAS), titled Islam and Muslims on UK University Campuses: Perceptions and Challenges, talks for 70 pages about how Muslims are unfairly subject to Islamophobia on campus. It even suggests that discussing the problem of Islamic radicalisation on campus is a contributor to this Islamophobia.

The document states: ‘Among students, belief that radicalisation is a problem across universities… is strongly associated with negative views of Muslims.’ It continues: ‘[It] must therefore be asked whether government policy on counterterrorism is helping to maintain negative stereotypes of Muslims and to encourage Islamophobia.’ So expressing concern about the ideology promoted by groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS is a problem because it makes Muslim students feel isolated? The document doesn’t once acknowledge that radicalisation is a major issue; only that Islamophobia is.

But the scale of the problem is undeniable. Research over the years by the Henry Jackson Society has uncovered hundreds of examples of Islamic extremists being invited to speak on campuses across the UK.

There was Azzam al-Tamimi, who spoke at SOAS as a guest speaker on 9 February 2010. At the event, Al-Tamimi expressed support for terrorism in Israel, stating: ‘If fighting for your homeland is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist. The Koran tells me if I die for my homeland, I’m a martyr.’

Then there is Ismail Patel, invited to give a speech at SOAS in February 2009. Patel has praised Hamas, recognised in the UK as a terrorist organisation, referring to it as ‘one of the noblest resistance movements I’ve come across’. This is the same Hamas whose explicitly stated mission is the murder of Jews, the obliteration of Israel, and the replacement of Israel’s government with a Taliban-like theocracy. At Goldsmiths in March 2009, Shakeel Begg spoke at the annual dinner. In 2006, The Times reported that Begg encouraged students at Kingston University who ‘wanted to make jihad’ to go ‘to Palestine… take some money… and fight the Zionists’. He was invited anyway.

Media outlets rightly condemned Westminster University for failing to root out Jihadi John (a former student) after videos surfaced of him beheading hostages in 2015. But they failed to heed the warning signs.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Henry Jackson Society identified 82 different extremist speakers who were granted permission to speak at various UK universities. The speakers came from societies such as IERA (the Islamic Education and Research Academy) and MPACUK (the Muslim Public Affairs Committee).

IERA has been banned from UCL for attempting to segregate students by gender. Two members from the group’s Portsmouth sector have reportedly been killed fighting for Islamic State. The group has admitted that the aim of its Dawah training on-campus is to recruit students. According to the Henry Jackson Society, speakers from IERA have appeared at scores of events on British campuses.

Then there is the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF). Its founder, Haitham Al-Haddad, has spoken at numerous university events, and was reported to have expressed homophobic ideas, referring to ‘the scourge that is homosexuality’. He has also stated that ‘a man should not be questioned as to why he hit his wife’, and has suggested the death penalty for apostates. Alomgir Ali of MRDF has claimed that ‘for a woman, a home is a natural form of a hijab’.

We should allow radical thinkers to speak, in the name of freedom of speech. But equally, we should demand our right to criticise and to speak back, without it being seen as hate speech or prejudice against Muslims. Universities are a place for critical thinking, and if this is forgotten, the cost will be great.

Higher Education Needs to Share the Blame for National Disunity

The horrible assault on the U.S. Capitol culminated a couple of years of nasty acts of rioting and destruction fraying the fabric of the American Republic; previously, it was the senseless rioting, looting of businesses, and even the murder of individuals by police that shocked America. Where is E Pluribus Unum—Out of many, one? Why cannot Americans of different viewpoints, ethnic heritages, and the like get along with one another in a civil way?

How did it all come about? I believe that the universities are complicit, along with a broken system of “lower education,” in allowing this to happen. Universities have been sometimes enthusiastic accomplices in bringing about the fraying of the American fabric.

National unity comes from having a common identity, and that identity was created out of our past. American exceptionalism is real. The story of how a small number of migrants came to America in the 17th century and created what ultimately became the most affluent and powerful nation in the world is indeed one about which Americans should be proud. We should spend a lot of time teaching our youth about it (I am in my 55th year of teaching about the economic history of the United States). At the university level, that means requiring students to have some intimate familiarity with their past, typically by required courses in U.S. history, but also through courses in related subjects: learning about the nature of our government and its European origins, especially those leading to the values of the Enlightenment becoming inculcated into founders like Thomas Jefferson, etc.

As the National Association of Scholars (on whose board I serve), the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and other groups remind us, required college courses enhancing our understanding of our evolution as a great nation have largely disappeared. We increasingly show a disdain for the past. We implicitly assume that the current generation is the fount of most wisdom, and that our Founders were a bunch of slave-owning (and therefore morally suspect) plutocrats out to maintain and enhance their own standing rather than promote the ideals contained in such foundational documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and others.

Much recent anger culminating in the awful behavior exhibited at the U.S. Capitol arises from a feeling by many mostly modestly educated Americans that they are being looked down upon by college-educated cultural elites. While the outward face on the current dominant zeitgeist are personalities in the media, politics, and popular entertainment, they are aided and abetted by universities that arrogantly believe they are the fount of all that is wise and good—and demand high remuneration for their academic toils.

Originally, colleges were to teach virtue, including supporting religious truths found in the Ten Commandments and other religious foundational documents like the Christian Bible. Stealing, murdering, cheating on your spouse—these things were morally reprehensible, and in my youth many students attended “Chapel” at least once a week. At the time of the American Revolution, one-fourth of American college students were studying for the ministry.

Now universities celebrate hedonism, winking at rampant student sex, drug, and alcohol use. Implicitly, they tell their students “Pay our very high fees, and we will give you a piece of paper likely to land you a decent job.” The message is indeed somewhat more elaborate: for example, “additionally, we will let you drink, have sex, and give you collegiate ball-throwing contests maintaining your school spirit so you will contribute financially to us after you graduate.” The falsity of this, the sleaziness of it, contributes to the revolts of those on the “outs,” manifested in ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, the Proud Boys, and the rise of Donald Trump. The decline in the quality of higher education as it has become an affluent ward of the state has sadly contributed to tattering the American ideal. The fact that surveys of college students show that large portions do not even know such foundational facts about the American experience as which half-century the Civil War occurred shows that the very glue is dissolving that bounds us together as Americans more than as Caucasians, Blacks, Presbyterians, Jews, Muslims, Gays, Democrats, Republicans, Men, or Women.

What to do? I will leave to others to propose short-run solutions in the body politic. But what should universities do now? I do think they need to return to the basics—partly by shedding many nonessential activities which absorb too much of their time, budgets, and attention, such as hiring umpteen racial bean counters (“diversity coordinators”) and expending vast amounts on ball-throwing contests. (Ironically, COVID-19 might help here, as university budgets are under attack). But the bigger problem regards instruction. Sure, we need to have students that are mathematically and scientifically literate, and it would be nice too if they learned about other cultures and languages. But they need, beginning in elementary school but reaching an apogee in college, a knowledge and appreciation of our American past and its European origins arising out of the Enlightenment, of what makes our nation special and a force for global good. They need to know, for example, why the Gettysburg Address was written and its majesty, why competitive markets and democratic processes based on the rule of law generally allocate resources and serve human welfare better than collectivist solutions, why the Ten Commandments are relevant and virtuous, and so forth.

Colleges today are failing in this task. The public is beginning to sense the vapidity of much of the collegiate experience. Enrollments are down nine consecutive years. Now is the time for an academic Renaissance. Will the leaders of our colleges continue to be beguiled and seduced by the Political Money Changers in the Temple called Washington? Or, will they return to teaching and promoting wisdom and beauty that arose over the centuries that led to the greatest nation ever created on the planet Earth?

The Downsides to Biden’s Plan for Free College Tuition

On December 24, reports Fox Business News, Joe Biden tweeted, “ ...under the Biden-Harris plan, community colleges will be free—and public colleges and universities will be tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 a year.”

There is, however, hope in the near future. Campaigns for the 2022 election will begin in about a year. If Biden and the Democrats become too radically left, they could lose both the House and Senate and cause much of their damage to be reversed—except for two things: a packed Supreme Court and two new states with four Democratic senators.

Thousands of students, of course, will welcome free tuition, as will colleges and universities that have fallen on hard economic times in losing vast revenues to COVID-19 attendance disruptions.

But all is not sweetness and light in these government charities: downsides need to be acknowledged.

One, Biden’s proposal is anti-intellectual and will expand academic indolence. As Jackson Toby, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, observed: “Since marginal students know while they are still in high school that they will be able to be admitted and get financial aid at some college, they lack incentive to try to learn as much as they could in high school.” Free tuition will preclude incentives to study hard. With no skin in the game, why should they bother to study hard in high school?

It is well known that many, if not most, students entering college do not meet state college–readiness standards. I know this to be true, having been a community college adjunct professor for six years and a trustee for another six years. Free tuition encourages this lack of preparation and also serves as a magnet drawing more college applicants.

Two, history reveals that government control inevitably in greater or lesser degree, sooner or later accompanies government money. Expect under Biden’s program some degree of federal control with federal money—especially requirements that colleges seek and require greater political conformity of students, faculty, and curricular courses. We are now in an age of identity politics and diversity—though that diversity is from the skin out, not from the head in. Colleges are inundated with liberal, progressive professors. Try finding a professor who does not adhere to this singular conformity.

Owing to government strings attached to government money, Biden’s new Department of Education and Department of Justice could mandate to colleges who to hire, what courses to teach, and what politics to require.

Three, history also reveals that federal money to colleges enables a financial largesse that drives up college costs. Colleges will argue that Uncle Sam can pay for increases in tuition and related college costs. More money to students means that colleges will raise tuition in commensurate measure because the money’s there for the taking.

Four, free federal money for tuition has to come from somebody—taxpayers. Governments don’t make money; they collect it and redistribute it. Why should a guy who works at Walmart have to financially help another guy get free tuition? The greatest fallacy is this: It’s not “free tuition”: someone else pays for it.

And it’s a lot of so-called free money that others must pay: tuition at community colleges runs around $3,000 a year. Tuition at public state schools, which Biden’s proposal includes for families making under $125,000 year, runs around $8,000 to $12,000 a year.

Acts do not live in a vacuum; they have consequences. Free tuition is not free; it is confiscated from others.




Monday, January 25, 2021

Rhode Island Professor Denounces Science, Statistics, and Technology As “Inherently Racist”

We have previously discussed the radical declarations of University of Rhode Island and Director of Graduate Studies Erik Loomis who has defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (A view defended by other academics). Loomis is now back in the news with a declaration that “Science, statistics, and technology are all inherently racist because they are developed by racists who live in a racist society, whether they identify as racists or not.” It is a curious position from the person who heads graduate studies at the University of Rhode Island.

For many, science and statistics are fields that are inherently objective not racist. While racism can certainly impact any field in a myriad of ways, these fields are based on proven experiments and calculations. One can support scrutiny of our programs to root out racism without dismissing all fields as “inherently racist.” Yet, this view of math and science is being voiced by others, including those who denounce math as a “tool of whiteness.”

Loomis’ statement came as part of a tweet in reference to a New York Times article and added “This is why I have so much contempt for those, including many liberals, who ‘just want the data.’ The data is racist!”

I have defended the right of Loomis to make his past comments as a matter of free speech. While Loomis has shown nothing by intolerance for opposing views, he has every right to express disturbing, extremist views.

On this occasion, he is making a statement that would appear to undermine the basis for graduate studies at his school and other schools. While I still view the statements as protected, they would appear to undermine faith in the basis of much of the work of his colleagues. The tweet prompted University of Rhode Island Assistant Director of Communications Dave Lavallee to issue a statement:

“Mr. Loomis’ recent social media posts on science, statistics and technology are entirely his own opinions, and in no way represent the positions or values of the University of Rhode Island..His recent tweet runs completely counter to URI’s first Cornerstone Value, which says, ‘We pursue knowledge with honesty, integrity and courage.

In making such remarks, Mr.Loomis calls into question the work of thousands of researchers and scientists across the country and particularly the outstanding work done by our talented and diverse researchers at URI. While Mr. Loomis has a First Amendment right to make such comments as a private citizen, he does not have the right to make such unsubstantiated claims in the context of his university position or role.”

From my perspective, the most important aspect of that statement is the acknowledgment that Loomis has First Amendment protections in uttering such viewpoints. The question for the university is whether those viewpoints undermine his role in leading all graduate studies, particularly in dismissing the very basis for much of that work as racist. Loomis claims that “all” science, statistics, and technology is racist. Period. It is a patently absurd statement that is devoid of any intellectual foundation or inquiry. It will certainly appeal to many who relish extremist and rejectionist views, including some in academia. However, it is the very antithesis of our intellectual mission as scholars and it does a great disservice to the many respected academics at the University of Rhode Island.

Nevertheless, Loomis wrote a column entitled “When Fascists Attack” for the site Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Loomis is listed as as one of a handful of “members” who contribute to the site. (For the record, that is the same site that ran a column by a Colorado law professor who claimed that raising questions about the 2020 was akin to Holocaust denial. That attack occurred a few days after the election when I noted that there were irregularities in the election, including an error in reporting the results from a district using Dominion software. I noted that the error involving a few thousand votes that was quickly corrected, did not indicate any widespread fraud, and would not affect the outcome of the election. It merely raised the question of whether such systems were still vulnerable to “human error.” The site denounced that statement was akin to denying that the Holocaust ever occurred.)

In his column, Loomis blasts the university by writing: “I guess this is how my administration responds to the need for anti-racism in American life and on campus, by openly throwing professors who talk about racism and technology under the fascist bus. Great job URI.” It appears that now Rhode Island, in Professor Loomis’ view, is opposing anti-racism efforts and supporting fascists by rejecting his view of science, statistics, and technology.

Loomis insists that his rejection of all science, statistics, and technology as racist was

“utterly uncontroversial point that when facial recognition technology is throwing innocent Black people in prison, it reflects much larger problems of how racism influences our technology and science in an inherently racist society. … This is…utterly uncontroversial? Or it should be anyway. We see this over and over and over again, from how the medical profession ignores pain in Black patients no matter their social status, how Black people are wary of the vaccine because of traditionally poor treatment by the scientific community, how all sorts of forms of technology end up exacerbating discrimination, etc.”

What is striking about this response is that it is divorced from his actual statement. It is raising insular issues like facial recognition that have been discussed by others without rejecting the entirety of science or statistics. Indeed, I just published a long study that addressed that issue and its underlying causes as part of a comprehensive look at biometrics and privacy. See Jonathan Turley, Anonymity, Obscurity, and Technology: Reconsidering Privacy in the Age of Biometrics, 100 Boston University Law Review 2179 -2261 (2020).

Loomis’ reference a couple of specific areas where racism is a well-documented problem and many of us have sought to suggest ways to address racial injustice. It is not a defense of Loomis’ categorical rejection of all science, statistics, and technology. That view is not “uncontroversial,” it is unhinged and irrational.

The pandemic is speeding up the mass disappearance of men from college

When he and his male classmates talk about going to college, said Debrin Adon, it always comes down to one thing.

“We’re more focused on money,” said Adon, 17, a senior at a public high school here. “Like, getting that paycheck, you know?” Whereas, “if I go to college, I’ve got to pay this much and take on all this debt.”

That’s among the many reasons the number of men who go to college has for years been badly trailing the number of women who go. And the Covid-19 pandemic has abruptly thrown the ratio even more off balance.

While enrollment in higher education overall fell 2.5 percent in the fall, or by more than 461,000 students compared to the fall of 2019, the decline among men was more than seven times as steep as the decline among women, according to an analysis of figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“In a sense, we have lost a generation of men to Covid-19,” said Adrian Huerta, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California who studies college-going among boys and men.

“It’s a national crisis,” said Luis Ponjuan, an associate professor of higher education administration at Texas A&M University.

Adon, who attends the University Park Campus School, plans to buck the odds and go to college. He said he decided this after he realized that his parents, who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic, want a better life for him. His mother is unemployed now, and his father runs a barbershop.

“It wasn’t dramatic,” he said of the moment he made up his mind to pursue a degree in computer science; he described it while standing outside on the asphalt that surrounds the 135-year-old redbrick school, which switched to entirely virtual instruction because of the pandemic. “You know when you’re in the shower and you just think about life?”

That kind of epiphany has eluded many other young men.

Women now comprise nearly 60 percent of enrollment in universities and colleges and men just over 40 percent, the research center reports. Fifty years ago, the gender proportions were reversed.

“We were already not doing so hot,” Ponjuan said. “This pandemic exacerbates what’s happening.”

It’s also opened jobs for young men from Worcester high schools at grocery stores and at Amazon, FedEx and other delivery companies, said Lynnel Reed, head guidance counselor at University Park, nearly two-thirds of whose students are considered economically disadvantaged. The school is in a neighborhood of fast-food restaurants, liquor stores, used-car lots, dollar stores and triple-deckers — homes usually shared by three families, one on each level, that are a staple of urban New England.

“How do you go away to college and leave your family struggling when you know that if you just worked right now, you could help them right now with those everyday needs?” Reed said.

That’s a bigger pull for young men than for young women, said Derrick Brooms, a sociologist at the University of Cincinnati.

“It aligns with this perception that to be a man is to be self-sufficient,” Brooms said. “It’s a little bit different for girls. We’re teaching them about investing for even greater payoffs down the line.”

This has only been exacerbated by Covid-19.

“It makes more sense right now just to say, ‘I’m going to take a break because my family needs this money,’ ” said Huerta. And even if young men resolve to go to college later, he said, history shows that “their chances of actually coming back to higher ed are probably slim to none.”

While the number of students overall fell by more than 461,000 compared to the fall of 2019, the decline among men was more than seven times as steep as the decline among women.

Despite the allure of a paycheck versus going into debt and spending years pursuing a degree, the reality is that “a lot of these young men at 17 or 18 years old end up working 12-hour shifts, getting married, buy a truck, get a mortgage, and by the time they’re 30, their bodies are broken,” Ponjuan said. “And now they have a mortgage, three kids to feed and that truck, and no idea what to do next.”

Stopping education after high school not only limits men’s options; it threatens to further widen socioeconomic and political divides, Brooms said.

Not everyone has to go to college. Faster and less costly career and technical education can lead to in-demand, well-paying jobs in skilled trades, automation and other fields.

Graduates with bachelor’s degrees still generally make more than people with lesser credentials, however. And the pandemic has shown that people without degrees are more vulnerable to economic downturns. Unemployment for them, nationwide, rose more than twice as fast in the spring as unemployment for people with bachelor’s degrees, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found.

“We have a lot of young men who are completely disengaged from our society because quite frankly they don’t feel they’re being valued as men.”

Meanwhile, the shootings of Black civilians by police and the resulting outrage has left some young Black and Hispanic men who are still in high school “disenfranchised almost to the point where they’re feeling like they’re invisible, that the community doesn’t value who they are, at the very time that they’re developing their own identities,” Ponjuan said.

That too, has an immediate impact on their motivation to get further educations, he and others said.

“We have a lot of young men who are completely disengaged from our society because quite frankly they don’t feel they’re being valued as men. So they think, why even try when everybody sees me as a thug, as a delinquent, when everyone assumes the worst of me instead of assuming the best of me?”

Pedro Hidalgo, another senior at University Park, said he “never had that belief within myself” that he could go to college. Then “teachers in middle school actually helped me realize that I’m more than what I seem to think that I am at times. They just helped me progressively become more confident with my abilities, not even as just a student, but as a person.”

Now Hidalgo, 18, whose older brother started but never finished college, plans to pursue a degree in psychology and become a clinical therapist.

He said he made that decision after taking dual-enrollment courses offered by his high school in collaboration with neighboring Clark University.

When they take those college-level classes, “They’re like, ‘All right, you know what? Wait, I can do this,’ ” said Kellie Becker, head guidance counselor at nearby North High School. “It eases their transition to college and builds their confidence.”

It was the dual-enrollment program that clicked with Abdulkadir Abdullahi, 18, a student at North.

“I didn’t think I was going to college. I didn’t think it could be useful to me in the real world,” said Abdullahi, son of a single father who’s a postal carrier. “I would rather hang out with my friends and, like, slack.”

Then an older sister went to college and Abdullahi took a dual-enrollment course.

“I was, like, ‘Oh, I could really do this,’ ” he said. Until then, “I always thought college was going to be, like, writing 20-page essays every other week, staying up overnight.”

Now he plans to get a degree in sociology.

Some of their male classmates still have qualms, said Adon, Abdullahi and Hidalgo.

“They don’t think they’re smart enough,” Adon said. “They don’t think they can do it. They doubt themselves a little bit because of their life and what they’ve been through and what they’ve been seen as.”

In those dual-enrollment classes, Hidalgo, said, there are more girls than boys. “It’s intimidating because, you know, you don’t want to say the wrong thing.”

Young men seem to have shorter attention spans, Abdullahi said. “There’s more distractions for guys. The guy is always the class clown. I think they just lose their motivation.”

There’s research to back that up. Boys are more likely than girls as early as elementary school to be held back, a Brown University researcher found. They are almost 9 percentage points less likely to graduate from high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Boys realize that teachers and counselors aren’t invested in them in the same way that they’re invested in girls,” said Huerta. “Teachers and counselors are more concerned with ensuring the boys are doing the basics — behaving in class — versus ensuring that they’re college-ready.”

So long has this been going on that enrollment at Worcester State University, across town from the University Park Campus School, is now more than 60 percent women.

Women now comprise nearly 60 percent of enrollment at universities and colleges, and men around 40 percent. Fifty years ago, the proportions were reversed.

In addition to all the other issues caused by the mass disappearance of men from college, it’s a big problem for universities and colleges struggling to fill seats, said Ryan Forsyth, Worcester State’s vice president for enrollment management.

He, too, sees the pandemic as encouraging more young male high school seniors to jump straight into the workforce, “rather than seeing the value of going into a college for a two- or four-year degree to really invest in themselves,” Forsyth said on the cold and nearly empty campus.

That seems unlikely to change soon, Ponjuan said.

“This pandemic only highlights the unspoken truth that it is creating short-term solutions for these young men but not long-term opportunities,” he said. “Long term, they’re going to top out. They’re not going to be able to advance. It has created a false sense of security that they’ll get by just delivering packages.”

Australia: Postgraduate enrolments soar as jobseekers wait out competitive market at university

Australians are enrolling in postgraduate university courses in numbers tipped to reach record highs.

Max Kaplan hadn't had any luck landing a job after completing his engineering degree at the University of New South Wales.

Throughout 2020, he applied for several jobs a week, but to no avail.

"It was a little bit crushing at times when I was facing rejection after rejection," Mr Kaplan said. "You go through five years of uni, a year of work, and still can't find anything … it feels like you've wasted your time."

Despite graduating with honours from a university placed third in the nation for employment, he is now preparing to study a masters of mechatronic engineering at the University of Melbourne.

He believed further specialisation was the best way to spend the next two years while the job market bounces back. "I'm trying to wait out the bad job market and hopefully find myself in a bit of a better place," he said.

Postgraduate courses, on average, cost more than $20,000. "It's a risk I'm willing to take," Mr Kaplan said.

Last year, enrolments in postgraduate study rose sharply across the country.

The universities with the highest growth in enrolments for specialised courses included:

University of New South Wales — 26 per cent
James Cook University — 20 per cent
University of Queensland — 19 per cent
Charles Sturt University — 18 per cent
University of Melbourne — 13 per cent
Curtin University — 10 per cent

Professor Andrew Norton researches higher education policy at the Australian National University and said enrolments historically rose when the economy suffered. "In recessions more people look for education because it's harder to find a job," Mr Norton said.

The official unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 per cent since its 7.5 per cent peak in July 2020. More than 900,000 Australians remain out of work.

Mr Norton expected university enrolments to hit record highs in 2021. "People with postgraduate qualifications generally do better than those with bachelor degrees, regardless of their subject areas," he said.

In northern NSW, Elizabeth Rose has returned to university to upskill after taking a three-year break from working as a counsellor. The 60-year-old has enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Psychology at James Cook University in Queensland.

The university is forecasting a 24 per cent increase in both undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments this year.

"I just want to do something … I need to get my brain into gear and investigate more issues," Ms Rose said.

She saw an opportunity to boost her income and fill a gap in mental health support in the regional town of Grafton - a need she said had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

"There aren't that many psychologists in town, and people are waiting sometimes four and five months to get in," she said.

She said age was not a barrier to achieving her career goals.




Missouri diversity session tells teachers 'colorblindness,' 'all lives matter' are forms of white supremacy

'Claiming reverse-racism' and 'calling the police on Black people' also qualify

Newly released materials shed light on a training session in which Missouri middle school teachers were pressured to endorse certain ideas about race and told that "covert" white supremacy included things like "colorblindness."

Handouts leaked to Discovery Institute researcher Chris Rufo showed an "oppression matrix" with an effective hierarchy of social groups, along with a handout delineating between various forms of white supremacy. Under "covert," the handout listed "all lives matter," "white silence," "claiming reverse-racism," "calling the police on Black people," and "treating kids of color as adults." It seems to compare these things to "lynching," "hate crimes," and "burning crosses" which it classified as overt and socially unacceptable forms of white supremacy.

The event, reported by Rufo on Wednesday, was hosted by Springfield Public School employees who indicated that not speaking out about these issues was problematic. Leaked audio reviewed by Fox News includes one of the trainers, Jeremy Sullivan, saying that it wasn't okay for someone to just be against racism. When one man said he was afraid to say anything, Sullivan asked: "What might an underrepresented or underresourced student say in regards to our fear of speaking up?"

The audio featured a female voice referencing the idea that "silence is violence" and not speaking up as allies for Black Lives Matter meant you were against the movement.

"So, there's a saying -- go back with me to high school -- I was a high school debater," Sullivan responded. "We had a saying, if someone dropped one of your arguments, like you would always say, well silence is compliance, because if someone doesn't address, then they must be actually going along with it. And truth be told, right now, the stance of Springfield Public Schools is we do address it. We don't stay silent when we see underrepresented or underresourced students or staff members experiencing any of this stuff."

"And it's going to be uncomfortable, and we're going to get into a little bit more of that here in a little bit when we talk about what does it mean to be an anti-racist educator, but Springfield is taking the stance that it's no longer okay to just be against racism. We have to all actively be working to take a stand against racism within our schools and within our communities."

At one point in the audio, a man asks whether the goal of the training was to make teachers "Marxists."

"Is the district saying that we should be Marxists?" he asked. "And the reason I'm asking is that while I think there’s not a person in the room that doesn’t agree that this is an important topic and should be dealt with, the way that it is being framed comes from Herbert Marcuse who took and stripped all of the economic policies out of Marxist theory and turned it into critical race theory."

The problem with that is that it silences anybody who has any kind of disagreement or other ideas. It pushes a narrative that like, for example, you said that this country was founded on racism. That's not true," he told another trainer Myki Williamson. "It was founded on religious freedoms from the pilgrims ... and then racism was a part of it."

The man went on to claim that he "grew up the son of a black man. He raised me to believe in Dr. King’s teachings" -- an apparent reference to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Dr. King did not teach the kind of vitriol that we see out of Marxism. Marxism has a long replete history of countries being bigoted and prejudiced against others and then murdering millions as a result of it."

Williamson and Sullivan denied the district's goal was to embrace Marxism.

The event started with a "land acknowledgment," which focused on honoring "the Native and Indigenous Peoples whose land we currently gather on."

It added that "in doing social justice work, it is important we acknowledge the dark history and violence against Native and Indigenous People across the world. In this work, we are committed to promoting, supporting and affirming all communities, especially those that are marginalized."

Neither the school district, Sullivan, nor Williamson responded to Fox News' requests for comment.

News of the training came on the same day that President Biden rolled backed his predecessor's executive order opposing critical race theory. Rufo responded by announcing a legal coalition with the aim of bringing a lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

Schools and governments across the nation have reportedly seen training like these in the wake of Floyd's death last year. Fox News reported earlier this week on how one of Biden's education nominees hosted a training with a speaker who claimed schools "spirit murder" Black children.

During the Missouri training, participants viewed an 8 minute and 46-second silent video of George Floyd in memory of the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd's neck. The video closed with some of Floyd's last words calling out for his mother.

When a participant suggested parents might complain about the words being taken out of context in a video like that, Sullivan pushed back.

"I want to push back a little bit against something that you just said because you said they're only going to see the words like they did in the video as opposed to the content. George Floyd gave a cashier a $20 counterfeit bill ... there is no death penalty in the United States for using a counterfeit $20 bill. That's the context there."

Others have noted the context included Floyd resisting arrest, something that was revealed in bodycam footage released after his death.

UK: Should we stay or should we go? Boarding school parents like me are feeling conflicted

Parents of children at boarding schools in the independent sector had a week just prior to the beginning of this term when they might have wondered whether to hand in their term’s notice and avoid the summer term’s school fees altogether, especially if their children were in year 11 or 13 and leaving at the end of the year like my 18-year-old twins.

How different from six months ago when boarding schools, state and independent, were besieged by parents desperate to get their kids into a safe and working environment but has the love affair dimmed? Not only did we have to put up with losing our children for draconian periods of time last term when exeats were cancelled but then if anyone got ill, they were all sent home with super-spreading alacrity.

My sons’ school told me that when they went back to school in September I couldn’t see them again until the end of October at Half term. I don’t consider myself to be a very needy mother, and my sons are 17 and 18, but left alone at home in September I went into a decline which hit me far harder than I had ever expected.

I knew they were safe

For five months I had had all my children around me, and then suddenly they weren’t there. For the first time in my life, I questioned the value of boarding. I realised how much I had enjoyed having them around, and with a common shared threat of Covid lurking, I felt so much more reassured when I could see them sitting there, no matter how grumpy or unkempt in PJs far too late in the day. I didn’t care. I just knew they were safe.

In the same week that we were told that schools would be closed until half term - let’s be realistic, it's looking like all term - it was also announced that GCSEs and A levels were cancelled. So, I thought, what’s the point of whistling another small fortune, approximately £14,000, to the wind? It doesn’t help that half the boarding independent schools seemed to be surprisingly reluctant to recognise their savings in variable costs.

Emails from incandescent friends were pinging in; the common consensus was that about 80– 90 per cent of day school fees was fair. My daughter’s school, St Mary’s Calne, was spot on. First to announce and on the button with a promise to resend invoices for 90 per cent of day fees. But other schools did not behave so well, keeping fees already paid and pledging vague discounts on summer fees which does nothing to offset our escalating food bills and hastily rebudgetted household accounts right now. Shamefully, some schools aren’t budging at all. One leading girls' school has announced it’s hanging on to all its fees.

Fixed overheads of large, old houses still have to be met as do - most importantly - the salaries of an army of teachers who are working their butts off to drag our gloomy teenagers out of their beds and attempt to inspire the uninspired. They deserve recognition, and, having watched them do it, huge golden halos. One sainted tutor volunteered his time to help my eldest with learning difficulties; that’s another story.

But this is about the nitty, gritty and the number crunching of some hapless bursar in a social-distanced office. What about the lighting, the heating, the cleaning and food bills now footed by us? With four hungry teenagers, three of them boys, I couldn’t but recognise the iniquity of double-paying. No wonder parents are so furious.

Last term was a mess

The evil thought of pulling my children from school lasted a nano second. And then was as easily dismissed as I thought of my daughter hiding under her duvet, overwhelmed by the confusion of mixed messages and I couldn’t take away the last vestige of belonging that she has at the moment. Last term was a mess. Eight weeks into the term, 11 girls in her house tested positive with Covid and everyone was sent home. Within days, five more had tested positive including my daughter’s friend who was quarantined with us. The peals of laughter coming from their isolated rooms were a tonic.

As any parent of teenagers will know. Teens need friends, to talk and an iPhone doesn’t cut it. Together they ate off trays which I left for them outside their communal bathroom, and we only ever saw them as they slipped down the stairs and out of the door for their daily walk. Together they planned their timetables and worried about A levels. Miraculously my daughter did not catch it.

So then when it was announced a couple of weeks ago that A levels were cancelled – and then an even more confusing message – a week later that they might not be cancelled, that there might be external tests, and now we have to say what we want to an Ofqual questionnaire. Can no-one rule this country and sensibly work out a solution – work through the ramifications before they make announcements, and think about what this is doing to the collective head of 16 and 18-year-olds across the country? It's enough to send any teenager back under the duvet! Never mind their parents.

Australia: Hurrah for Mark Latham

Bettina Arndt

Now, here’s some positive news for a change. Mark Latham has achieved a real breakthrough in his role heading up an inquiry into Higher Education for the NSW Parliament. The inquiry’s final report, tabled today, includes Recommendation 36 which seeks to abolish the kangaroo courts in NSW universities.

Here’s what it actually says:

That the NSW Government ensure the rule of law and the processes of the NSW criminal justice system are respected by universities in dealing with alleged sexual offences. Universities must use the NSW Police as their first and most important point of reference in dealing with any allegation of the law being broken, in all instances, for all allegations. In particular, NSW universities must respect the presumption of innocence and not create their own ‘Kangaroo Court’ and tribunal processes that circumvent the rules and standards of natural justice established at law by the NSW Parliament. The NSW Government should establish a legal protocol for universities to follow in this regard and, if universities chose to ignore or breach it, the protocol should be legislated as mandatory for NSW universities.

This is the first time an Australian government has been asked to take action on the appalling system for adjudicating sexual assault in our universities, which usurps criminal law and denies accused students their legal rights.

That’s pretty exciting and it was good to see the submission from our Campus Justice group featuring prominently in the report. (See p80 - 81, 6.47- 6.49)

Next step is the report will be considered by Cabinet – which is where you come in. We must get a heap of letters into Cabinet Ministers to give them the backbone to follow this through. See here – a draft letter you can use to urge each Cabinet Minister to ensure action on this issue, plus email addresses of the ones we want to lobby.

Email from Bettina Arndt: