Saturday, August 28, 2021

Officials are offering new hope for the safety of U.S. schoolchildren threatened by COVID-19

The Biden administration said half of U.S. adolescents ages 12-17 had gotten at least their first COVID-19 vaccine, and the inoculation rate among teens is growing faster than any other age group.

“We have now hit a major milestone,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters at a briefing. “This is critical progress as millions of kids head back to school.”

Meanwhile, new studies from California both provided more evidence that schools can open safely if they do the right things and highlighted the danger of failing to follow proper precautions.

A study of COVID-19 cases from the winter pandemic peak in Los Angeles County found that case rates among children and adolescents were about 3½ times lower than in the general community when schools followed federal guidance on mask wearing, physical distancing, testing and other virus measures, officials said.

Another study from Marin County, north of San Francisco, found that a single unvaccinated teacher who came back to school two days after showing symptoms and read to her class without wearing a mask led to 26 other infections in May, before the highly contagious delta variant ran wild.

“Most of the places where we are seeing surges and outbreaks are in places that are not implementing our current guidance,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who discussed the studies at a briefing.

More than 3,100 active coronavirus cases have been reported in Arkansas public schools among students and employees, according to newly released numbers, and most youths are enrolled in districts that require masks. The mandates emerged after a judge temporarily blocked a state law that banned mask mandates in Arkansas, which ranks fifth nationally for new virus cases per capita, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

On the northern Gulf Coast, where Ida was forecast to become a dangerous hurricane before it hits on Sunday, workers at Singing River Gulfport in Mississippi expect to have to raise flood gates to keep rising water out of the hospital that is full of COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom aren't vaccinated, said facilities director Randall Cobb.

Complicating matters, he said, was that the hospital is short-staffed because of the pandemic and also expects to get a flood of patients suffering from ailments that typically follow any hurricane: broken bones, heart attacks, breathing problems and lacerations.

“It's going to be bad. It's going to be really bad,” Cobb said.

Located a few miles from the coast, the hospital has enough generator fuel, food and other supplies to operate on its own for at least 96 hours, he said, and it will help anyone who has a serious, life-threatening condition. But officials were trying to get the word out that people with less severe medical problems should go to special-needs storm shelters or contact emergency management.

“It’s very stressful because it’s too late if we have not thought of everything. Patients are counting on the medical care but also on the facility to be available,” Cobb said.

In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said evacuation of hospitals in threatened areas — something that would normally be considered — is impractical with COVID-19 patients.

“That isn’t possible. We don’t have any place to bring those patients. Not in state, not out of state,” Edwards said.

So, he said, state officials have worked with health systems to ensure that they are prepared.

About 1,100 people are dying daily of COVID-19 in the United States, the most since mid-March, according to Johns Hopkins University data. About 85,000 people were hospitalized with the illness nationwide early this week, CDC data shows, the highest total since the post-holiday surge in early February.

The surge is largely fueled by the highly contagious delta variant among people who are not vaccinated. In areas where vaccination rates are particularly low, doctors have pleaded with their communities to get inoculated to spare overburdened hospitals. In places including Alabama, federal teams have been brought into to assist exhausted workers and fill staffing gaps caused by COVID-19 infections and exposure.


UK: Head teacher wins standoff with travellers 'who demanded £5k to leave'

A headmistress at a prestigious public school stood firm when a group of 'blackmailing' travellers invaded their playing fields then demanded £5,000 to move on - refusing to pay them a penny.

Rhiannon Wilkinson, 59, who took charge at the £10,000 per term Ashville College in Harrogate only in April felt held to ransom by the demands of the group, who moved onto a rugby pitch on Tuesday evening in multiple vehicles and refused to leave when asked for the following two days.

They went on to demand £5,000 from the school's funds if they were to leave the site - and staff feared they might caused damage to the playing fields or even school buildings.

A source at the school in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said it was also implied that if they didn't receive the money they would stay longer and other traveller groups would be invited to arrive to set up camp and make even more problems for the school.

a woman smiling for the camera: (© Provided by Daily Mail (
But Mrs Wilkinson, first female head in the college's 144 year history, refused to be intimidated and declined to offer any inducement to them to leave.

And today, Friday, she was able to signal that her hardline approach had brought victory as she alerted parents and governors that the travellers had given up on trying to get cash to leave and moved on without receiving a penny.

A member of staff said: 'When we arrived this morning they had left overnight, which is a great relief.

'There wasn't any damage or mess left behind and there wasn't any enforcement action, it seems they just decided to move on.

'It was a great relief as it did feel like there was an element of blackmailing when they asked for money to encourage them to leave.'

Local residents were also relieved at the news. One man walking his dog past the fields said: 'There's always a concern that they could bring disorder to the area. The school played it correctly, I'm glad they didn't back down.'

Members of the group told college staff that they were en route to a wedding in Ireland after attending the annual Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria.

The college - where boarding fees are as much as £10,000-per-term - was staging a series of summer sports activities for boys and girls, which had to be suspended amid safety concerns.

The college applied for a court order but were told it could take up to ten days and interrupt the start of the new term.

Police had been notified but were 'powerless' to act, the college said today in its emailed statement.

In a message sent to concerned parents, the college said: 'We are pleased to report that after less than two days, the travellers that set up camp on our sports pitches have now vacated the grounds.

'Our groundkeeping staff have conducted a thorough inspection of the rugby fields and can confirm that there is no damage, and that they are safe for games to be resumed.'

The college had been concerned about a protracted and costly legal battle after North Yorkshire police said they were powerless to act.

The college said on Wednesday: 'Despite the travellers illegally camping on our grounds, which is private property, and their presence being a child safeguarding issue, the police state they are powerless to take action. This has already impacted on our summer sports camps and there's a possibility the start of the new term may have to be delayed.

'We are now having to engage the services of a solicitor to help us apply for a court order, and in the meantime we are powerless to do anything, which is incredibly frustrating and worrying.'

a person in a green field: (© Provided by Daily Mail (
North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Phil Allott spoke of the tricky process in removing travellers.

He said: 'I know how frustrating it can be for residents who feel helpless when travellers arrive in their community, and how frustrating it can be for the police and local authorities who want to help but face significant hurdles doing so.

'The issue is that trespass is a civil offence and not a criminal offence. So if the encampment is on private land such as Ashville College, it is the landowner's responsibility unless there are other crimes being committed.'

Ashville College - motto 'to be, rather than to seem' - is a co-educational school for both day and boarding pupils between the ages of three to 18. Founded in 1877, it is the oldest independent school in Harrogate and owns a 60 acre estate in the spa town.

Former pupils - known as Old Ashvillians - include Downton Abbey star Jim Carter, Oscar-nominated film director Jamie Donoughue and Tory MP Julian Sturdy.


‘Sledgehammer': Plan to force Australian university staff to reveal foreign political history

More China hysteria

A confidential plan to force tens of thousands of university staff to reveal a decade of foreign political and financial interests has met with such fierce backlash that the federal government is now reviewing the proposal.

New draft foreign interference guidelines for universities are proposing to demand academics disclose their membership of overseas political parties and any financial support they have received from foreign entities for their research over the past 10 years.

Multiple university sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was widespread concern about the requirements, with one university executive describing it as "a sledgehammer, blanket approach" to the issue.

The proposed guidelines, which have been drafted by the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT), represent a major ramping up of scrutiny of academics' backgrounds in response to concerns within the federal government about research theft by the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign actors.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson, who serves on the UFIT steering committee, confirmed on Friday afternoon that "UFIT members have agreed that the relevant section will be reconsidered and redrafted". The decision to review the controversial section was made on Friday after a zoom consultation with NSW universities.

The taskforce, set up to address foreign interference issues in the university sector, includes vice-chancellors, government department officials and representatives from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. It has held zoom sessions with university leaders on the new guidelines over the past fortnight.

University of Sydney professor Duncan Ivison, deputy vice-chancellor for research, said universities had made clear to the government that the requirement for staff to disclose membership of political parties was "very, very problematic".

"We don't think it is reasonable to ask our staff their political affiliation. We've made that really clear, and government have agreed to take on board our concerns and come back to us," he said.

Professor Ivison said the consultation process was working and it was important the guidelines were proportionate to the risk security agencies were attempting to address.

"We also want to make sure they are compatible with the mission of universities. We're not ASIO, we're not a security agency."

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said he would not comment on "what is or isn't in the draft guidelines" but stressed that security agencies had made clear that universities were targets for foreign interference and espionage.

The decision to refresh the UFIT guidelines, which were first implemented in 2019, comes as the federal government has grown increasingly concerned about espionage at universities involving the theft of critical research and sensitive data by foreign actors. Under laws enacted last year, the government has the power to cancel research contracts between Australian universities and overseas universities controlled by foreign governments. They were widely viewed as targeting Chinese universities.

Security agencies have also repeatedly flagged their concerns. ASIO boss Mike Burgess warned earlier this year that the scale of foreign interference in universities was higher than at any time since the Cold War.

Under the current draft, which has been seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the guidelines include a template of three "core declaration of interest questions" that universities must ask academic staff, including that they "outline any associations with foreign political, military, policing and/or security organisations". They must also declare whether they are receiving "any financial support (cash or in-kind) for research-related activities from a country outside Australia" and any "obligations that you have to any foreign institutions (including other academic bodies, research entities or private industry) or governments".

The draft stops short of imposing the same disclosure requirements on other university staff, including casuals and higher degree research students, proposing instead that the need for disclosures be "assessed based on risk level of activity."

Universities are also concerned about the potential legal complications of collecting such information from thousands of academics across every university, including whether it would breach anti-discrimination legislation or privacy laws. The guidelines contain no direction on what universities should do with the information once it has been collected.

One university executive described the measure as "McCarthyist", saying the guidelines had adopted "a sledgehammer, blanket approach" by requiring all academics to make disclosures on their overseas political links irrespective of risk.

"There's no sense of proportionality or any kind of risk profiling at all," the academic said.

"How is it possibly appropriate for this to apply across an entire university? You're requiring your lecturer in medieval poetry to declare her political affiliations and other foreign affiliations, in the same way that you would ask a researcher on missile guidance technology to disclose theirs."

The blanket disclosure approach means all foreign political links are captured, rather than those of particular interest to security agencies. For example, links to authoritarian governments, such as the Chinese Community Party must be disclosed, as must membership of British Labour or Conservative parties.

The Australian Research Council, which administers grant funding for research projects, has already adopted similar disclosure requirements. As first reported by The Australian, in its latest funding round the ARC required academics to disclose their affiliation with a "foreign government, foreign political party, foreign state-owned enterprise, foreign military or foreign policy organisation".




Friday, August 27, 2021

No jab, no placement: Australian University mandates COVID vaccinations for health students

Australia's largest regional university, Charles Sturt University (CSU), has announced from next year it will be mandatory for all health students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

CSU said students who had not received both doses of a COVID vaccine would not be allocated a placement in 2022.

The university's executive dean of health and science, Professor Megan Smith, said there were about 4,000 students studying health, and at any one time about two-thirds were doing placements in hospitals and other health services.

"We already have that requirement for vaccines like hepatitis B and the flu vax.

"Ultimately for some students if they don't really want to be vaccinated, we'll have a conversation about whether or not there will be availability of placements and positions for them. If they're not vaccinated it may become difficult," she said.

Professor Smith said health students are part of phase 1A of the federal government's COVID vaccination rollout.

"They are going into environments where they're working with people that are in hospitals where people are unwell and vulnerable, so it's really important they are vaccinated," she said.

Professor Smith said despite the pandemic, most students had been keen to continue doing their placements.

"I think they know they're part of the future health workforce and it's really important the contribution they're making.

"Not surprisingly though they have the same anxieties that others do about the risks that are associated with COVID in their environment, but generally they're positive and are wanting to contribute as much as possible."


91-Year-Old Teaches Cursive to Arizona Students to Keep Art of Handwriting Alive

The rise of the keyboard, and smart technology, has seen the tradition of handwriting fall by the wayside in most modern classrooms.

A woman in Scottsdale, Arizona, continues to keep the art of cursive writing alive, however, more than 20 years after officially retiring from teaching.

Marilyn Harrer, 91, began teaching cursive writing in 1951; after teaching for some years, she officially retired in 1997.

“When I retired from full time teaching, my teacher friends said they always liked the way the children in my class wrote and so they wanted to know if I wouldn’t come back and work in their classrooms,” said Harrer, reported.

After her retirement, she began volunteering her cursive writing instruction services at Anasazi Elementary in north Scottsdale.

Like using a computer, handwriting is a whole-body exercise.

“We talk about how to sit, how to hold your paper, how to write at a slant, how you hold your pencil,” explained Harrer.

After so many years honing her handwriting craft and passing it on to her students, she’s garnered from them the title “Cursive Queen.”

Harrer has racked up a number of accomplishments from her cursive teaching, sending forth 35 students to carry home the state handwriting title in Arizona, with two others becoming national cursive champions.

“Well I just expect the best from all children, and they respond,” she said.

Meanwhile, when volunteers were barred from institutions to curb the spread of the CCP virus, it did not stop Harrer from carrying out her usual instruction.

“We didn’t let COVID stop us,” she said. “I would go over to my daughter’s house and eat a nice dinner, and my grandson Grant would film me teaching the lessons.”

While cursive teaching has long been excluded from the curriculum in many schools, Harrer has a passion to keep the tradition alive.

To support her mission, she began a pen pal project that matches seniors with students, with some success.

“This is our third year, and we now have a surplus of people who want to be pen pals,” she said. “And they really look forward to doing it.”

Harrer has a plan to continue teaching cursive for as long as she can manage it, adding that research has proven a link between cursive handwriting and brain activity.


Australia: Young face ‘prolonged disruption’ as degrees no longer guarantee careers

The value of higher education in launching young Australians into the career of their choice is being eroded as universities churn out record numbers of graduates who are increasingly forced to take on low-paid, insecure work.

A report by Monash University’s new Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice argues young people face “the breakdown of a long-held assumption that higher education qualifications will lead to desirable and secure work”.

Instead, the report points to data that shows jobs for young people are increasingly concentrated in fields that are “seasonal, part-time, casual, low-wage and insecure”.

“The link between attainment of higher education qualifications and the movement into certain professions is not happening in a linear way any more,” centre director and report author Lucas Walsh said.

The link between post-school study and a higher income is also eroding, the report shows.

Higher education participation rates have risen by 41 per cent in the past decade, as more and more high school graduates defer full-time work. At the same time, the “earning premium” of a bachelor’s degree has shrunk, from 39 per cent in 2005 to 27 per cent by 2018.

Higher education has long involved an “opportunity bargain” in which high school graduates put off full-time work to gain qualifications that will lead to “a fulfilling career of one’s choice”, Professor Walsh said.

But that bargain has started breaking down in the past 20 years, putting young Australians in a position of “prolonged disruption” that has only got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Walsh argues in a new report titled Life, disrupted: Young people, education and employment before and after COVID-19.

The pandemic has “exacerbated existing” precariousness, Professor Walsh says.

“If you look at previous downturns, young people are the first to go and the last to come back in. We saw that profoundly during the pandemic.”

In the first six months of 2020, 157,000 teenagers lost work, and 13 per cent of women under 25 left the Australian labour force, the report states.

Even though the world of work is changing, for university students such as Meena Hana, study and qualifications are still the path to the job of their dreams.

A survey of more than 40,000 people has revealed which courses and universities landed graduates in jobs.

Ms Hana has wanted to work in healthcare ever since she did a stint of work experience inside a hospital while in high school, and says pharmacy appeals to her because it offers a stable and satisfying career, even if the pay is modest.

“Studying pharmacy is not just for the income, I’d rather do it and enjoy it than do something else and not have the same feeling about my career,” she said.

She said she was prepared to do further study beyond her bachelor’s degree to advance her career.

The Monash University report argues that schools that focus too heavily on academic performance and students’ tertiary destinations and not enough on careers counselling were doing their students a disservice.

“Schools have long been criticised as demoting careers education, of viewing it as extra-curricular activities taking time away from the curriculum that really matters and is assessable,” the authors say.

Leon Furze, the director of teaching and learning at Monivae College in Hamilton, said some schools were moving away from a focus on the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) for this reason.

He said today’s students faced a jobs market where employers want a broader skill set, not just a graduate with a degree in a particular field.

“We tell students to be open to the idea that you’re going to change courses, change qualifications part-way through and even that when you come out the other end you’re not guaranteed that you are going to cruise into the industry that you had your heart sent on when you were leaving year 12,” Mr Furze said.




Thursday, August 26, 2021

Vaccine Mandates and Bribery Are Headed for K-12 Schools

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 680 U.S. public and private colleges require students to get a coronavirus vaccine. This is a non-negotiable mandate for students to maintain enrollment status.

The vaccination edicts come even as the coronavirus has an extremely low mortality rate among college-aged students — CDC data attributes only 2.8 percent of coronavirus deaths to those under age 45. Regardless of this reality, those favoring mandated vaccines argue that schools already require students to provide proof of other vaccinations.

Those opposed to the vaccine mandate argue that the mandates impinge on individual freedom and demonstrate a disregard for the right to make personal medical decisions.

Although most state governments have jumped on the vaccine edict bandwagon, some states are banning universities from requiring the vaccine. Not surprisingly, Florida is among those states standing up to the federal government and overreaching collegiate institutions. And in a limited yet growing number of schools, students can avoid the vaccine requirement through a religious or medical exemption.

The Bribery Alternative

Some colleges that are not mandating vaccines are instead pressuring students through bribery tactics. For example, gift cards, housing, and even tuition credit are being used as bait to lure students away from their initial personal decision. Missouri State University has committed $150,000 toward prizes for vaccination, ranging from free tuition, housing, books, and dedicated parking spaces. The College of Charleston is using a host of incentives based on various percentages of the student body obtaining vaccination. This includes the college dangling the carrot reward of puppy therapy.

Other colleges are charging students for not getting vaccinated. The fee at West Virginia Wesleyan College is $750 for the fall semester alone. Rhodes College is tacking on $1,500 to tuition charges each semester in the form of a health and safety fee for unvaccinated students.

Implications for K-12 Students

Trends in higher education often trickle down to K-12 schools over time. And indeed, the coronavirus vaccine fiat is heading toward the primary and secondary academic setting in record time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pushing the vaccine for K-12 students, recognizing that it’s only available for students ages 12 and older at this point. On its website, the CDC encourages schools to host vaccination sites on campus and offer teachings on vaccinations to arm K-12 educators with tools for pushing vaccinations on minor children. The CDC believes schools should function as advocates for the vaccine and utilize their rapport with school families to build trust and confidence in the vaccine, despite the fact that school leaders are not medical experts.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated that all city employees, including public school employees, be vaccinated or complete weekly testing beginning September 13, the start of the school year. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock followed de Blasio’s edict with his city employees, but he took it one step further. Unvaccinated Denver city employees, including K-12 teachers and staff, won’t be allowed to work, and there will be no testing alternative.

As vaccines become available for children under the age of 12, it will only be a matter of time before public schools attempt to follow higher education’s footsteps and go to inappropriate lengths to incentivize, if not require, students to be vaccinated as a condition for enrollment.

On August 17, Culver City Unified School District, outside of Los Angeles, with 7,000 students, became the first district in the nation to announce mandated coronavirus vaccination requirements for student in-person enrollment. The mandate states it’s required for all eligible staff and students, indicating that as the vaccine is made available to children younger than 12, the mandate will include them as well. For those eligible, failure to get vaccinated will result in the district removing the student from in-person learning.

A few days later, on August 20, de Blasio announced that all New York City high school athletes and coaches “participating in high-risk sports” must be vaccinated.

According to a May 2021 Gallup Poll involving 3,500 U.S. adults, a high percentage of people oppose the vaccine mandate for students (44 percent oppose a vaccine mandate for high school students and 49 percent oppose it for middle school students). Had Gallup polled only parents of school-aged children, they likely would have found higher opposition numbers.

Before stepping down in June 2021, Austin Beutner, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school district in the U.S., stated that vaccines for students should be mandatory.

Some states are pushing back. The first state to preemptively block K-12 vaccine requirements for school attendance was Oklahoma, thanks to Gov. Kevin Stitt in May 2021. Since July 29, the following states have enacted laws to prevent mandated COVID vaccines in schools: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah.

Parents Speaking Up & Pulling Students Out

Over the past year, parents have become significantly more engaged in their students’ school experience. School shutdowns, poor quality remote learning, and efforts to indoctrinate students with leftist propaganda have led many parents to speak out. And they’re also pulling out. Traditional public school enrollment fell a steep three percent — a loss of one and a half million students in the past year alone.

The mandatory mask requirements have added to the number taking flight from traditional public schools. With the vaccine bribery tactics and mandates, K-12 public school enrollment will further plummet. School leaders should take heed and stick to academic instruction rather than alienating the families they purport to serve.


Pluck of the Irish: Notre Dame bites back after its leprechaun mascot is deemed one of the most 'offensive' in college sports

The Fighting Irish are fighting back after Notre Dame's famed leprechaun mascot was voted one of the most 'offensive' in modern-day college sports.

The green-clad mascot, along with the school's logo that includes a leprechaun in a fighting pose, was voted the fourth-most offensive mascot in the country, according to a survey conducted by Quality Logo Products Blog.

Officials from the university in South Bend, Indiana, which has won 13 college football championships, quickly fired back.

'Our symbols stand as celebratory representations of a genuine Irish heritage at Notre Dame,' the school said. 'A heritage that we regard with respect, loyalty and affection.'

Notre Dame finished behind Florida State's Osceola and Renegade, San Diego State's Aztec Warrior and the University of Hawaii's Vili the Warrior in the poll of 1,266 people.

'None of these institutions were founded or named by Native Americans who sought to highlight their heritage by using names and symbols associated with their people,' the school said.

The university also looked to distance itself from the recent wave of sports franchises which have folded to public pressure to change their names. In April, the Cleveland Indians announced the baseball team would be called the Guardians.

Last year, the NFL's Washington team dumped its nickname.

'It is worth noting... that there is no comparison between Notre Dame's nickname and mascot and the Indian and warrior names (and) mascots used by other institutions such as the NFL team formerly known as the Redskins.'

Notre Dame said its nickname and mascot emphasize the resilience of the Irish people.

'In both the upraised fists of the leprechaun mascot and the use of the word 'Fighting', the intent is to recognize the determination of the Irish people and, symbolically, the university's athletes,' the school said.

According to the Catholic university, the Fighting Irish nickname was initially created as a derogatory term, used by rival schools at the start of the 20th century, as most of their students were of Irish and Catholic descent.

The term was made the team's official nickname in 1927 by then-university president Father Matthew Walsh, who was of Irish descent.

The Fighting Irish are one of the most successful college programs, not just in football, winning a total of 22 national titles in all sports. It last won the college football national championships in 1988 under coach by Lou Holtz.

Also, no college has more alumni in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than Notre Dame, which had 13 former players voted to Canton, according to the Hall of Fame website.

In the NFL, the newly-named Washington Football Team changed its name from the Redskins and the Kansas City Chief's retired its longtime on-field mascot, Warpaint the horse, over concerns about the use of Native American imagery.

In August 2020, the Chiefs also banned fans from wearing Native headdresses and 'any American Indian-themed face paint.'

They have also asked fans to perform the 'Arrowhead Chop' cheer with a closed fist instead of an open hand, according to The New York Times.

Furthermore, politically correct and social activists groups are insisting the Chiefs' name be changed, despite the franchise's recent changes.

In baseball, the Cleveland Indians announced they will cease using the name 'Indians' following the 2021 baseball season, after which they will change their name to the Cleveland Guardians.

Quality Logo Products, a company that prints logos of sports team on all levels on T-shirts and water bottles, recently pushed out surveys asking people to find the best, worst, sexiest, creepiest, and most offensive mascots in college football.

The Illinois-based company managed to poll 1,266 people in total in and the surveys included 128 mascots from different Division 1 colleges and universities in the US.

Teams at both professional and collegiate level have come under intense scrutiny since the summer of 2020 regarding nicknames and mascots.


Solving the Federal Student Loan Fiasco


As I have previously said: the federal student loan programs are an unmitigated disaster, causing massive tuition price inflation, campus administrative bloat, declining academic standards, and a reduction in the proportion of recent college graduates from low income families. Some Democrats tenuously running the federal government want to make it worse: let’s forgive student loans, or allow people to simply “pause” their loans, or liberally honor requests for “forbearance” (temporarily excusing student loan obligations). According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, before the pandemic roughly three million of the 45 million with student loan debt were in forbearance; now about 20 million are—nearly half.

The more centralist Democrats like President Biden said a few months ago that they want to simply forgive $10,000 in debt. The Bernie Sanders- Elizabeth Warren progressives want to forgive $50,000. Never mind the fact that many with large debts actually have high incomes from being doctors, lawyers or management gurus. Never mind the fact that many million conscientious Americans have worked hard and sacrificed to get out of student loan debt. The federal government seems to be saying: Let’s reward the bigger borrowers slow to repay debt, often partly because of big post-college spending, and let’s punish the hapless Americans who have honored their loan commitments by paying them off. Why would future generations of borrowers of federal student loans ever bother to repay their obligations? Wait long enough, and the politicians will bail you out. Whether the executive branch even has constitutional authority to drastically alter programs approved by Congress is highly debatable, although Congress and the President could agree to new legislation.

More generally, Americans increasingly are threatened with financial pain from previous irresponsible decisions. This is the second consecutive year when the federal budget deficit will exceed 10% of GDP, while the money supply in 2020 grew by double digit percentages—we are following the pattern of nations like Argentina or Greece that have suffered from long periods of lackluster economic growth because of their massive fiscally reckless conduct.

What makes current federal student financial assistance policies so egregious is that we are implicitly telling young persons making their first large investment decision (borrowing to pay for college): “don’t take your obligations too seriously. If things get rough, we will excuse your obligations.” That is a very bad lesson to teach young persons, and policies like that could ultimately lead to the nation’s economic demise relative to ascending Asian powers.

There is lots of evidence suggesting we are overinvested in higher education—too many students don’t graduate, or get jobs that can be filled by high school graduates. We should be exploring alternative ways of financing college or non-degree alternative forms of vocational training. But the higher education lobby is powerful and skeptical of big changes in the status quo. Hyper-partisanship discourages innovation. Two ideas make a lot of sense and might get some bipartisan support. First, make colleges have some skin in the game—force them to face some financial consequences for admitting large numbers of dubiously qualified kids who run up huge amounts of loan delinquencies that taxpayers must cover. Make colleges, in effect, become cosigners on federal loans. Incentivize colleges to select students who likely will be at least marginally successful.

Second, simultaneously move to privatize financing college. Start limiting availability for federal loans—ending the parental PLUS loan program, putting time limits on loan support, eliminate vast lending for professional degrees. At the same time, encourage non-lending forms of college financing, such as income share agreements, turning the burden of college financing more over to experienced investors, while putting college lending on more of a commercial basis.

Maybe we should go back to first principles and ask: why do we publicly subsidize attending colleges? Allegedly, they promote “positive externalities”—spillover effects aiding society while potentially improving income mobility. However, I see considerable evidence instead that today they foster elitism, promote education credentialed aristocracies, and stifle economic growth. As the late great economist Milton Friedman presciently told me in an email about 18 years ago, perhaps we should tax rather than subsidize colleges and their students. The loan programs probably need to be ended or substantially revamped.




Wednesday, August 25, 2021

2 Employees Sue Missouri School District Over ‘Equity’ Training

Public school employees Brooke Henderson and Jennifer Lumley have had it with the racially discriminatory training sessions taking place in their school district in Springfield, Missouri.

The women filed suit Wednesday in federal court, arguing that Springfield Public Schools violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment by forcing them to affirm beliefs with which they disagree during mandatory race-based trainings as a condition of continued employment.

Southeastern Legal Foundation, which brought the suit on behalf of Henderson and Lumley, already had filed a civil rights suit in federal court in Illinois over a school district’s use of racially segregated trainings and affinity groups. It was the first major lawsuit in the nation to confront critical race theory head-on.

Supervisors forced the two educators in Missouri to participate in a districtwide “equity” training program focused on racial identity, white supremacy, and systemic racism.

Equity is an anodyne-sounding term that shields a pernicious reality.

The American Psychological Association describes “cultural competence,” the platform upon which equity rests, as “the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own,” and “good treatment for people of diverse cultures.” This “good treatment” expresses itself in modern classrooms through “equity training” and “equity”-based curriculum.

In practice, however, equity’s aim is entirely different than that of equality—the principle espoused in America’s founding documents. Rather than assuring that all people get equal opportunities for success, equity is focused on equality of outcome, leveling one group’s perceived advantages by, among other devices, applying federal law in an unequal manner to those of different races and identities to benefit one over the other.

This is precisely the tactic employed by the Biden administration with the president’s Jan. 20 executive order called “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

The effect of President Joe Biden’s order is the universal application of the doctrine of “disparate impact,” which posits that an entirely neutral, facially nondiscriminatory policy—one that isn’t intended to discriminate and doesn’t actually treat individuals differently based on race—nevertheless constitutes illegal racial discrimination if it has a “disproportionate” effect among different racial and ethnic groups.

The Supreme Court and various federal circuit courts—one as recently as a few weeks ago—have summarily rejected the doctrine of disparate impact as a constitutional matter, focusing instead on application of the law rather than the outcomes that law produces.

In January, a leaked “oppression matrix” used in the Springfield school district’s equity training sessions listed examples of “covert” and socially accepted forms of white supremacy as: “colorblindness,” “all lives matter,” “white silence,” “claiming reverse-racism,” “calling the police on black people,” and “treating kids of color as adults.”

The school district’s matrix compares these so-called covert oppressions to “lynching,” “hate crimes,” and “burning crosses,” all forms of white supremacy classified as “overt” in nature and considered to be socially unacceptable.

As to its use of equity-based trainings and the materials contained therein, the Springfield school district has said:

Our commitment to all students and staff, including those who are under-resourced and underrepresented, is reflected in our strategic plan, which includes a focus on equity and diversity. Staff training encourages participants to consider how their individual journey may differ from the experiences of others. … Subsequent media coverage has inaccurately represented this training by reporting incorrect and/or incomplete information, without appropriate context.

But according to the complaint filed by Southeastern Legal Foundation, the two educators were not “encouraged” to consider differences, but rather required to affirm Springfield Public Schools’ “race essentialism.” This affirmation of race essentialism—the view that race is the defining characteristic of all individuals—came at the risk of the women losing mandatory training credits, having their pay docked, and putting their jobs in jeopardy.

According to the lawsuit, the school district’s equity trainers made statements such as: “In doing social justice work, it is important we acknowledge the dark history and violence against Native and Indigenous People across the world.”

Trainers gave employees signs to express agreement or disagreement with the statements, and employees who didn’t hold up signs saying “strongly agree” (opting, for example, to hold up signs with “disagree” instead) were berated by fellow employees and reprimanded by school district leaders.

Trainers told employees to complete a “social identities” circle, requiring them to respond to inquiries about their sexual orientation, religion, and socioeconomic status by ranking them in order of personal importance.

According to the complaint, Lumley, a records secretary, and Henderson, a student disabilities coordinator, were forced to “affirm views they did not support, to disclose personal details that they wish to keep private, and to self-censor on matters of public interest.”

This mandated participation in the school district’s race-obsessed training set up an “unconstitutional condition of employment” and chilled employees’ speech, according to the lawsuit.

Southeastern Legal Foundation’s litigation director, Braden Boucek, said:

Public schools are an arm of the government. The check on that power is in the courtroom. It is well-settled law that the government cannot discriminate based on viewpoint, cause individuals to self-censor, or force individuals to accept beliefs with which they do not agree. Unfortunately, that is exactly what [Springfield Public Schools] is doing.

Both the Supreme Court and various federal circuit courts have affirmed that the right to free speech under the First Amendment includes not just the freedom to say what one wants, but the freedom to avoid speaking and protection from having to affirm a belief one doesn’t hold, especially on matters of public concern—such as gender identity or race.

Southeastern Legal Foundation has asked the court to put an end to the school district’s training to prevent further violations of employees’ First Amendment rights.

On behalf of its clients, the law firm asks the court for a ruling that the school district’s professional development programming violated the two women’s rights to free speech and was an unconstitutional condition of their continued employment. The firm also has asked the court to permanently halt this training districtwide.

Based on this second major lawsuit, the Chris Rufo-led national legal coalition fighting critical race theory, and a surge in grassroots opposition to its teaching in public schools, apologists for critical race theory soon will face a reckoning in court.


As School Year Begins, Kids Have More Educational Options

School is back in session—or will be soon—for students across America. As they head back to the classroom, many of our children will encounter a different environment this year.

With debates about mask mandates and critical race theory garnering headlines, another underreported story is reshaping American education. Corey DeAngelis, national research director for the American Federation for Children, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to share the good news for parents and students alike.

DeAngelis calls 2021 the “year of school choice,” with upward of 17 states giving parents more options to make decisions that benefit their kids. These new school choice programs fund students, giving them the educational freedom to learn in an environment best for them.


Biden and Critical Race Theory—How To Fight Back Amid Admin’s Confusing Mixed Signals


* The U.S. Department of Education said that teachers should use reading material from the New York Times’ 1619 Project to reframe the country’s history about slavery

* Critical race theory says everything in public and private life—your job, government, school—must be considered with respect to racial identities.

* While progressives decide how to explain away CRT's bigotry, parents and policymakers should call the theory what it is—discrimination—and reject it.

Judging from the flurry of headlines about racial discrimination and teaching history in schools, you could easily forget that school was out for the summer. But some students have already returned, and the rest will be back at their desks before you know it. So will the grownups settle the issue before all of them are back in class?

Not likely.

Consider what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked what President Biden thinks about educators using critical race theory—a philosophy that, ironically, pushes racially discriminatory ideas—is appropriate in K-12 lessons: "There is not just racism and slavery in our history … children should learn not just the good, but also the challenging in our history."

Psaki’s response is confusing because just weeks earlier, the U.S. Department of Education recommended that teachers use reading material from the New York Times’ 1619 Project—which, the Times says, "aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."

So after the Education Department told teachers that racism and slavery should be "at the very center of our national narrative," the White House press secretary said there is more than "racism and slavery in our history." (After the agency received some 35,000 comments to its announcement recommending the 1619 Project, the office retreated from this position. We can safely assume not all the comments were positive.)

The two largest teacher unions in the U.S. are also sending mixed signals. At the National Education Association’s annual meeting earlier this month, union members approved a business item stating that they would make sure teachers continue to use critical race theory in class. Just days later, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the theory is not used in K-12 schools at all today.

So does critical race theory have something to offer besides racial discrimination? Are teachers including the theory in instruction? And do teachers need it for history classes or not?

No, yes and no.

Critical race theory is a philosophy that law school professors developed in the 1980s. The theory says everything in public and private life—your job, government, school—must be considered with respect to racial identities. The theory is "critical" because advocates based the ideas on Marxist notions of oppressed workers, which stems from a school of thought from the 1930s called "critical theory."

Theorists are skeptical of American law and the concepts of freedom and rights that glue our government and culture together. In Orwellian fashion, critical theorists call their ideas "anti-racist." But Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen exposed the racially biased principles of critical race theory in an opinion he issued in May.

"By its own terms, antiracism excludes individuals who merely advocate for the neutral legal principles of the Constitution," he said. Knudsen adds that critical ideas leave no room for debate. "No one can be antiracist," he says, "who does not … embrace the specific public policy proposals of CRT."

Perhaps worst of all, critical race theory argues that the American Dream is not available to everyone.

Teachers around the country are using critical ideas now. Portland Public school educators formed a Critical Race Theory Coalition; Hayward Unified officials in California recently committed district educators to including critical race theory in their teaching; and Loudoun County, Virginia, school leaders contracted with a teacher professional development company that that uses the words "critical race theory" in their materials.

The challenge for parents, teachers and policymakers, and what has attracted the attention of state policymakers, is that critical race theory is racially discriminatory. Students have been divided into groups according to skin color for certain school activities. Children are told that oppressors can be determined by the color of their skin before even considering someone’s actions.

Perhaps worst of all, critical race theory argues that the American Dream is not available to everyone—America is systemically oppressive, individual effort and determination be damned.

Education is a state and local concern, but we can still applaud some federal officials for rejecting the application of CRT’s racial discrimination in schools. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., recently introduced a non-binding amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution that says federal funding cannot be used to "compel teachers or students to affirm critical race theory," and lawmakers narrowly approved it 50-49.

Though the amendment itself won’t curtail federal funding for CRT (to do that, Congress would need to pass further restrictions on funds), the provision is a good example of how to deal with critical race theory’s prejudice.

Educators should guide students as they wrestle with ideas, even ideas with which they disagree, yet no one should be compelled to affirm that they are owed something before they can hope to succeed. No one should be compelled to believe or defend racial prejudice.

While progressives decide how to explain away critical race theory’s bigotry, parents and policymakers should call the theory what it is—discrimination—and reject it. We can get that settled before kids go back to school.




Tuesday, August 24, 2021

College launches '1776' Curriculum to Counter Critical Race Theory

In response to the push toward Critical Race Theory by many schools and universities, the private, conservative Hillsdale College has released a K-12 curriculum aimed at teaching what college officials describe as "a more patriotic approach to American history."

Since its launch late last month, the college's new "1776 Curriculum," as it's named, has been downloaded more than 26,000 times, according to Dr. Kathleen O'Toole, assistant provost for K-12 education at Hillsdale.

The educational program covers American history, including the nation's founding, the Civil War era and other topics related to civics and government. Its creators, who include teachers and professors, say it's designed to depart from The New York Times' 1619 Project, which reframes the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of the national narrative.

"The inspiration for this curriculum springs from a since admiration and respect for America's founders and the principles they expressed so beautifully in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence—the recognition that all men are created equal, that our natural rights pre-exist government, and that governments are formed to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of all citizens," O'Toole told Newsweek. "This curriculum seeks to tell the entire grand narrative of the American story—the promises, the perils, the tragedies, and triumphs."

The curriculum offers nearly 2,400 pages of materials, broken down into grade-specific lessons and includes comprehensive lesson plans, homework assignments, quizzes, tests, study guides, and supplementary primary and secondary resource recommendations for teacher and student use.

O'Toole said it highlights both the moments when the United States has fallen short of its founding principles and when it's nobly met them.

"It's an unabashed, candid look at the fullness of American history, rather than cherry-picking a story to tell students," said O'Toole, noting that before the year is out, the curriculum will expand to include the entirety of American history, including units on Colonial America, the Early Republic, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the Great Depression, the World Wars, the Cold War, and Modern America. "The curriculum represents a culmination of decades of forming and honing curriculum at Hillsdale College, Hillsdale Academy, and its dozens of associated K-12 charter schools.

Founded in 1844 by abolitionists known as Free Will Baptists, Hillsdale College is a liberal arts college located in Hillsdale, Michigan. Its curriculum is based on the Western heritage as a product of both the Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The curriculum's release comes as the debate over and push by many school districts and universities to incorporate Critical Race Theory continues.

Just last week the Colorado Springs School District 49's school board in Colorado banned CRT from being taught in its schools while the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District in California's Central Coast also banned it.

That's while others embrace CRT and some educators endorse the 1619 Project, which has gained popularity at some schools as a movement toward more race-based education. While Newsweek reached out to Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her work on the 1619 Project, she did not respond by the time of publication.


Why I’m Suing Over My Employer’s Vaccine Mandate

I have natural immunity, so there’s no justification for a coercive violation of my bodily autonomy.

In a few weeks I will begin my 24th year as a law professor at George Mason University. Last year I volunteered to teach in person, even though I’m in my 50s. Teaching law is my job and I owe my students my best. I also knew I could do it safely. During the spring of 2020 I contracted and recovered from Covid-19, which I later confirmed through a positive antibody test. Multiple positive antibody tests have since confirmed that I continue to have a robust level of immune protection.

But now my employer, a state institution, is requiring Covid vaccines. In my case, vaccination is unnecessary and potentially risky. My only other options are to teach remotely or to seek a medical exemption that would require me to wear a mask, remain socially distanced from faculty or students during, say, office hours, and submit to weekly testing.

It would be impossible for me to perform my duties to the best of my ability under such conditions. The administration has threatened those who don’t submit with disciplinary action, including termination of employment. This week the public-interest lawyers at the New Civil Liberties Alliance filed suit on my behalf, challenging the university’s mandatory vaccination requirement for those with naturally acquired immunity. This coercive mandate violates my constitutional right to bodily integrity for no compelling reason.

Clinical studies from Israel, the Cleveland Clinic, England and elsewhere have demonstrated beyond a doubt that natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 provides robust and durable protection against reinfection comparable to or better than that provided by the most effective vaccines. Examining the evidence this May, the World Health Organization concluded: “Current evidence points to most individuals developing strong protective immune responses following natural infection with SARS-CoV-2.”


Marxist Minnesota Principals ‘Making Good Trouble in Education’

By Chris Talgo

There was once a time when school principals’ principal concern was the academic achievement of their students.

Sadly, in many places, that is no longer the case.

Take Minnesota for example, where 162 principals have signed onto the Marxist-minded “Making Good Trouble in Education” anti-education, social justice movement.

According to its website, “We are a loose collection of local principals bound together by a commitment to changing our nation's future by engaging in better, more equitable educational practices. We have constructed this site as a gathering place for Good (Trouble) Principals. It is a safe place to rest among like-minded leaders. It is a place where your convictions about educational justice in our country can be fortified and your view of education as a transformative social force can be reinforced.”

At this point, you may have a few questions, such as:

What are more equitable educational training practices?

What is educational justice?

And, since when has public education become a social force?

Lucky for you, the principals at Good Trouble have answers to these pressing questions.

In terms of equitable training practices, the misguided Minnesota principals plan to enact this by, “De-centering Whiteness. Understanding that traditional organized whiteness ensures domination through forms like PTAs and Unions. We purposefully call out and lift up historically non-represented voices of color in our spaces to hold weight and power.”

Sorry, but implementing discrimination to allegedly address past discrimination is flat-out wrong.

To achieve what they deem “educational justice,” the Minnesota principals support, “Dismantling practices that reinforce White academic superiority like bias in testing and the labeling, tracking and clustering that reflect an Americanized version of a caste system in our schools.”

As a former high school teacher, I can personally attest that there absolutely is no caste system in America’s public schools. To declare that a modern-day caste system exists in today’s public schools is literally ludicrous.

Regarding their quest that public schools become a social force, instead of an academic institution, the Minnesota principals plan on, “Reconstructing ‘school’ upon our full in-person returns where business-as-usual, like schedules and staffing, are open to drastic changes.”

To meet this nonacademic goal, the principals also propose, “Speaking truth to power. Where our commitment to holding ourselves and those who serve under us accountable to this work is just as importantly extended to those who serve over us.”

Yet, that is only the half of it.

Consider. “We declare that we are not leaving white children behind by lifting Black, Brown and Indigenous children up. But that we, not only have the collective capacity to hold all of our children up and into the light, but our White children have been done a great disservice by sustaining white-centered schools in America over all these years. And it is to their equal benefit to thrive in schools where they are not spoon-fed the poison that they are better because of their skin color, where they have principals and teachers who boldly lead them to both humility and pride, and where they have the beautiful privilege of thriving while their classmates of color thrive as well.”

So, according to the Minnesota Good Trouble principals, America’s public schools are havens for white supremacy propaganda. Of course, that is a total farce.

Moreover, the notion that America’s public schools cater almost exclusively to white children, and thereby do not allow minority students to thrive, is demonstrably false. How would these people explain that Asian-Americans, for example, outperform their white peers across the board in education metrics?

It is rather obvious that the Minnesota Good Trouble principals, all 162 of them, have an agenda.

Unfortunately, that agenda does not include ensuring that every student is held to the same standard, and that every student, regardless of race, is treated as an individual.

Instead, the Minnesota principals who signed onto this Marxist indoctrination program are most concerned with pitting students against one another based on nothing but their racial attributes.

Sadly, this is becoming the new normal in America’s public schools.

On the other hand, we are witnessing quite a backlash against many of these absurd programs. Throughout the country, parents and students are rising up against the critical race theory craziness and Marxist-oriented curricula that are seeping into far too many public schools.

Still, the question remains: Will the education-industrial complex, with their Marxist leanings, triumph, or will parents pushing commonsense education policies, including school choice, win the battle in the end? The future of America is at stake.


Is School Choice Racist?

The Chicago Teachers Union recently posited that school choice has racist roots, therefore implying it shouldn’t be a valid means of getting a good education for your child.

The 1964 Supreme Court case Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County is sometimes cited as an example of these so-called “racist roots.” In Prince Edward County, Virginia, school vouchers were given only to white students and used to close public schools completely and open white-only private schools. The Supreme Court overruled the county’s practices and reopened the public schools. This was indeed an example of racism, but not at all about school choice.

With school choice, parents of every race and creed are allowed to use government education funds to put their child in a school of their choosing. School choice encompasses a wide variety of options: public, charter, private, vocational, and homeschool. For parents, some of these options are more doable than others, but again, it should be about freedom of choice.

Lack of a good education is shown to be a big factor in holding children in a cycle of poverty. It also breeds a contempt for education itself. How can poorly educated students love something that is given to them so begrudgingly? Or when they are just a number in a classroom? Or when instruction is delivered to them shoddily by incapable, burnt-out teachers?

School choice would also break the stranglehold that the teachers unions have on our education system. It is a mafia-like game where the unions support the politicians who can give them the most power and protect bad teachers.

If school choice is such a racist idea, then why do minorities overwhelmingly support it? One poll states that 81% of Democrat primary voters, and 89% of black voters, would support a proposal for more school options. Another poll reported that “85% of voters are in favor of education savings accounts (ESA), which let families access money typically funneled to school districts to spend on education-related expenses for their children. 78% of African Americans and 79% of Hispanic respondents were in favor of ESA programs as well.”

This second poll was particularly interesting because the pollsters made the claim that the desires of parents didn’t align with the realities of their living situations, which is a rather insulting statement. By and large, when it comes to a good education that parents value, they tend to do all they can to give their kids the best that is available to them.

At the end of the day, what is more racist: keeping children trapped in failing schools, where they are forced to suffer the bigotry of low expectations, or giving parents and students the choice to freely pick the education they want? The answer is clear — give students and parents a choice.