Saturday, January 22, 2022

‘Progressive education’ faces a steep learning curve


As the summer holidays wind up and children return to the classroom in coming weeks, debates about education are likely to heat up – and for good reason.

Schools in Australia have been intermittently closed over the past two years, with pupils in Melbourne and Sydney spending the bulk of last year at home in front of a computer screen. The impact of school closures on educational outcomes is not yet known, but it is likely that a concerning trend will have been accelerated.

Every three years, an organisation called PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) tests a randomly selected sample of pupils from OECD countries to assess levels of education around the world. The most recent set of results, released in 2019, confirmed that standards in Australian education were in decline, with 41 per cent of our 15-year-olds failing to meet what are considered minimum standards for reading, and 20 per cent being functionally illiterate.

Why? Education researcher and primary school teacher Greg Ashman believes Australia’s educational decline is in large part due to a suite of teaching methods loosely described as “progressive education”. Progressive education is not synonymous with progressive politics; rather, it is an approach to teaching that prioritises skills-based learning over memorisation.

In The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge writes: “Up through the 19th and early 20th centuries, a classical education often included rote memorisation of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical ­attention to handwriting, which probably helped strengthen motor capacities and thus not only helped handwriting but added speed and fluency to reading and speaking. Often a great deal of attention was paid to exact elocution and to perfecting the pronunciation of words. Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum because they were too rigid, boring, and ‘not relevant’. But the loss of these drills has been costly; they may have been the only opportunity these students had to systematically exercise the brain function that gives us fluency and grace with symbols.”

The most widely valued skills in progressive education are not fluency and grace with language or mathematics, but the higher order skills of critical thinking and problem solving. An article published by the ABC on Monday, “Could our education system be more engaging and fun for our kids? These schools think so and are giving it a crack”, reflects this approach well:

“Students and educators spend parts of their days outside school grounds, exploring local parks and beaches and interacting with the community. They have reading and maths lessons on the beach … Ms Nuss (Principal of the Village School at Coolangatta) started to question why school couldn’t be more like kindergarten … Why can’t children wear tutus to school? Take their shoes off in the classroom? … Our unofficial motto is ‘Failing Forward’. We fail almost everyday at something; as long as we can learn from it, it was a good fail or lesson.”

This may all sound harmless in and of itself, but there is no evidence wearing tutus or taking shoes off helps children learn to read and write and memorise their times tables.

Another teacher profiled in the article reports that “There are fabulous teachers trying to make their classrooms more relevant and engaging, and schools adopting programs to enhance skills and more real-life experiences, but there are still many, many classrooms that have a teacher at the front of the room, kids sitting in rows being asked to regurgitate information without thinking, analysing, critically or creatively problem solving to come up with solutions”.

The problem with such an assertion is that there is no evidence critical thinking and problem solving are skills that can actually be taught. Psychologists suspect we can only think critically about a subject after we have accrued some deep knowledge in it. This makes intuitive sense. To think critically about 19th century English literature you would need to have read Dickens, the Brontes, Hardy and more. To think critically about trigonometry, you would need to have developed some deep mathematical knowledge. Critical thinking does not occur in a vacuum.

The notion that critical thinking is a skill that cuts across domains is a fallacious one. Ex­pertise in one area often corresponds with blindness and ignorance in another. Such epistemic overconfidence leads epidemiologists to pontificate on racism and medical doctors to sound off about climate change.

It is often argued today that memorising facts is redundant because knowledge is just a couple of clicks away. This may be true, but as our digital information ecosystems continue to be polluted with propaganda and disinformation, it is not an ideal scenario to have children searching the web for ­reliable sources. Ideally, children would accrue a foundation in the basic disciplines before venturing into the Wild West of the internet.

The educational mania for soft skills comes from a place of good intent. We all want our children to be able to communicate well, think creatively, critically and solve problems. We all want our children to be able to adapt to novel environments and find solutions that are not immediately obvious. Nobody wants their child to sit inside a dusty classroom rote-learning arbitrary facts they will have no use for later in life.

However, children only get one shot at school. The schooling years are some of the most important years of their lives, and time squandered during this period can never be regained.

If teachers want their pupils to think critically, the first step is helping them to build a deep foundation of knowledge that enables them to do so.


Facemasks no longer required in English classrooms

The move, announced by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, comes alongside the immediate lifting of guidance advising people to work from home if possible.

And Boris Johnson said the legal requirement for people with Covid-19 to self-isolate is set to be axed by March 24 - and earlier if possible.

He said that in future, the virus would be treated like flu.

It comes after Covid-19 infection levels fell in three of the four UK nations for the first time since early December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Mr Johnson said this data showed that while there were some places where cases were likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, “our scientists believe it is likely that the omicron wave has now peaked nationally”.

Face coverings will not be required for teachers or pupils in classrooms from Thursday, and no longer needed in communal areas from next Thursday, when the Plan B rules expire.

Union leaders reacted with anger on Wednesday, accusing the Prime Minister of flouting his “duty of care” to teachers.

The UK’s largest teacher union warned last night against lifting restrictions “too quickly” saying that this could lead to “more disruption” for schools.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Rather than announcements aimed at saving Boris Johnson’s job, [the] Government should be exercising a duty of care to the nation’s pupils and the staff who educate them.”

She acknowledged that Covid-19 cases in secondary schools had fallen but said it was “uncertain” that this trend would continue since children had only been back in the classroom a few weeks following the Christmas break.

However, recent polling by parent voice charity Parentkind found that almost two thirds of parents of secondary school children are not in favour of face masks in the classroom.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, said: “Face-to-face education for all students has consistently been my priority, and that is why I am removing face coverings from classrooms – as promised – on the earliest possible date, making sure there is as little disruption to students’ learning as possible.”

Business leaders expressed relief about the end of guidance advising people to work from home, with hopes that the change - which takes immediate effect - could spur economic recovery.

The Prime Minister said the moves over the next week, which will also see the end to mandatory Covid-19 passes, will return the country to Plan A.

Plans to bring Britain closer to normality by spring
But he signalled an intention to go further, and bring Britain closer to normality by spring.

He told the Commons: “There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don’t place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.

“The self-isolation regulations expire on March 24, at which point I very much expect not to renew them. Indeed, were the data to allow, I’d like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forward.”

The Prime Minister promised a “long-term strategy for living with Covid-19” which would “protect our liberty and avoid restrictions in future by relying instead on medical advances”.

On the use of face coverings, Mr Johnson said: “In the country at large, we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”

On Wednesday night, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said Britain had reached a moment “we can all be proud of”, adding: “I’d always said that we’d open up the country as soon as the data supports it.”


Could the art of handwriting be lost forever due to technology?

Handwriting could “go the way of Latin and Greek” and be “lost within a generation”, a leading author has warned after news that a major exams board was set to trial digital exams at dozens of schools.

Colm Toibin, famous for penning novels such as Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary, said that “it would be a huge loss if [handwriting] were to go”, and called learning to write an “an identity-forming business”.

AQA, Britain’s largest exams board and the provider of three-fifths of all GCSE and A-levels in England, announced on Monday that it was trialling online exams for GCSE maths and English at 60 to 100 schools this summer.

If successful, the programme would be rolled out across most subjects, although Colin Hughes, the chief executive of AQA, told The Times that the board would keep some written exams to protect handwriting from dying out.

“I would be very reluctant to move to a situation where students could get through the whole system without ever actually having to show that they can write something down using a pen and paper,” he said.

He also claimed that online exams would be much greener than shipping millions of exam papers around the country before collecting them all again in Milton Keynes to digitise them.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tobin suggested that opting for convenience could kill off handwriting and its esoteric charms.

“If you began to say everything would be much more efficient on a laptop, [handwriting] would go eventually, it would within a generation, almost disappear,” he said, adding: “It goes the way of Latin and Greek.”

He also lamented the loss of handwriting as a marker of identity, adding: “You would know when a letter came from someone, oh that’s from Auntie so-and-so, that’s her handwriting.”

Asked about his own writing habits, Tobin said he wrote all his own novels in longhand form. “It sort of matters to me that I’m actually making the letters, that I can touch the paper, that I’m somehow more deeply involved,” he said.

In contrast, recent research has found that much of the general public has almost no need for the scratch of pen against notepad, let alone extended longhand writing.

A survey of 2,000 people last September found that one in 10 people had not put pen to paper in over a year, while a quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds had never written a letter or kept a diary.

The ability to write clearly is not directly linked to literacy, despite popular perceptions, although a 2014 study found improved recall from people who handwrote notes during lectures.

The study’s author’s hypothesised that the slower nature of handwriting forces individuals to paraphrase and therefore mentally process spoken

For all the author’s gloom, there are some signs that the public shares his affection for the personal nature of handwriting. In 2019, when the British Museum put on an exhibition on writing, it asked visitors how they expected to send a birthday card in 2069.

The top answer: a handwritten card.




Friday, January 21, 2022

Dems Refuse to Clap When Youngkin Says Parents Have a Right to Be Involved in Child’s Education

One gets used to watching things like the annual State of the Union address where the president says something his party’s lawmakers like and they applaud and maybe stand while the opposition sits and sulks.

It’s political theater — theater that is sometimes funny, sometimes a trigger for eye-rolling and sometimes inspiring.

And sometimes the theater sends a message that is alarming.

That was the case when Virginia’s new Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, delivered his State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the state’s General Assembly on Monday in Richmond.

In his speech, Youngkin called for raises for teachers. As expected, Republicans and Democrats alike rose and applauded.

He then said parents are responsible for their children’s education and care and the state will protect that.

“We must also recognize that the people most responsible for a child’s education are parents,” the new governor said.

“My message to parents is this: You have a fundamental right enshrined in law by this General Assembly to make decisions with regard to your child’s upbringing, education and care, and we will protect and reassert that right,” he said.

On the Republican side of the assembly: a standing ovation. On the Democrat side: crickets.

Obviously, Democratic lawmakers are opposed — as are their comrades in the Justice Department who suggested parents who are deeply concerned with their children’s education might be domestic terrorists.

Yet, in their silence, look what these Democrats are protesting: the right of parents to decide their child’s “upbringing, education and care.”

That covers just about everything, including how parents make judgments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be fair, Democrats might have been sitting on their hands because their guy, Terry McAuliffe, before being defeated at the polls by Youngkin in November, had literally said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”


British parents fight back after schools vowed to force pupils to wear masks

Parents have launched a campaign to prevent ‘overzealous’ schools from imposing masks in schools after teaching unions threatened to derail Boris Johnson’s easing of Covid curbs.

Head teachers in England are set to ignore the Prime Minister’s bonfire of Plan B restrictions by compelling pupils to keep covering their faces in classrooms.

Britain’s big teaching unions have accused the embattled Tory leader of making the decision to save his own political career as he handles the fallout from ‘Partygate’, rather than basing it on ‘sound public health and scientific advice’.

The National Education Union warned against lifting Omicron measures ‘too quickly’, claiming it could lead to ‘more disruption’ for schools.

Its general secretary Dr Mary Bousted called the removal of masks ‘premature’, adding: ‘Rather than announcements aimed at saving Boris Johnson’s job, (the) Government should be exercising a duty of care to the nation’s pupils and the staff who educate them.’

Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s boss, said: ‘There is a danger that we are heading once again for a situation in which the Government gives the impression that the crisis is over when in actual fact there is huge disruption continuing to take place in education’.

Parent group UsForThem, which campaigned to get classrooms reopened during the pandemic, has now urged its supporters to bombard MPs and ministers with letters to ‘stop overzealous local public health authorities from unilaterally implementing face masks in schools’.


Leading Australian universities want to return to physical learning

University of Melbourne Provost Professor Nicola Phillips said the majority of coursework subjects would be available on campus and a number of events and activities were planned to help re-engage students in university life.

“Our approach will look forward to the future rather than back to pre-pandemic arrangements, offering on-campus and face-to-face learning enhanced by the best use of technology,” she said.

A Monash University spokesman said students would return to physical learning and campus events in semester one.

“Provision will be made for online delivery of units for those students offshore and unable to re-enter Australia before the start of the semester, and for those who choose to travel and commence on-campus education at a later date,” he said.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said teaching would return to campus at the start of semester but online learning would be available to those who needed it, including staff and students in isolation.

“We’re finalising the details for our return to campus next month and our focus is firmly on bringing classroom teaching back to campus,” he said.

“I view this as an essential part of the ANU experience – and I know our students feel the same.”

The University of Queensland aims to return as much as possible to physical classes but a spokeswoman said some online learning would remain. “As the Covid-19 situation evolves, the university expects to continue a mix of face-to-face and online learning when semester begins on 21 February, with the goal of returning to as much face-to-face learning as soon as possible,” she said.

In Western Australia, which endured the pandemic relatively unscathed until recently, about three-quarters of University of Western Australia students were able to attend face-to-face classes in 2021. A spokeswoman said UWA planned a “flexible approach” to learning in 2022 to ensure the health and safety of staff and students as well as complying with state government health advice.

“To manage this, we have established a Covid management team to co-ordinate flexible responses to teaching/learning, campus management, student support, working arrangements and ongoing public health measures, as required,” she said.

In NSW, where Covid case numbers are highest, both the University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney have yet to confirm back-to-physical learning plans.

A University of Sydney spokeswoman said plans for the delivery of semester one would be released in early February but the strong preference was for teaching to return to campus.

“Of course, we also have a responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students and so we are monitoring the evolving situation closely to determine whether that will be possible,” she said.

A UTS spokeswoman said detailed planning was under way for on-campus sporting, social and cultural activities but said lectures were always intended to be online.

“At UTS we have always planned for lectures (where they are largely a one-way delivery of information) to be online and will shortly be announcing our plans for the ways in which our other learning experiences will be organised in a reactivated campus in combination with quality online learning,” she said.




Thursday, January 20, 2022

Youngkin Says Liberals are “Obfuscating” on CRT and that Its Tenets are Still Being Taught

According to the Old Dominion’s newly-installed Governor, Glenn Youngkin, a politician that won largely because of the left’s pushing of CRT and transgenderism on Virginia’s schools, the leftists that claim CRT isn’t being taught are just “obfuscating” and, though they might be taught under different names, its tenets are still being taught.

Those comments came when Governor Youngkin appeared on Fox News Sunday and discussed Critical Race Theory and its presence in schools with host John Roberts (not the SCOTUS judge).

During the show, Roberts asked “Critics of your position, including former President Obama, say, look, Critical Race Theory is not being taught in schools and that this was merely a trumped-up, phony culture war. What do you say to that? And what does your executive order actually do in terms of Critical Race Theory?”

Youngkin quickly responded, demolishing that lie and speaking the truth about what’s really going on with CRT, saying: “Anyone who thinks that the concepts that underpin Critical Race Theory are not in our schools hasn’t been in our schools.

The curriculum has moved in a very opaque way that has hidden a lot of this from parents. And so we, in fact, are going to increase transparency so that parents can actually see what’s being taught in schools.

We’re not going to teach our children to view everything through a lens of race. Yes, we will teach all history. The good and the bad. Because we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we have come from.

But to actually teach our children that one group is advantaged and another is disadvantaged simply because of the color of their skin cuts across everything we know to be true.”

Roberts then asked, “Is it your contention that Critical Race Theory is being taught in Virginia public schools?”

Youngkin, responding in a thoughtful way that exposed both that he has studied the issue and how the left is trying to sneak CRT concepts into the schools, said:

“There’s not a course called critical race theory. All the principles of Critical Race Theory, the fundamental building blocks of actually accusing one group of being oppressors and another of being oppressed, of actually burdening children today for the sins of the past, for teaching our children to judge one another based on the color of their skin. Yes, that does exist in Virginia schools today. And that’s why I have signed the executive orders yesterday to make sure that we get it out of our schools.


Parents Sued California After It Required Aztec Prayer in Public Schools: State Now Agrees to Settlement

California education authorities have agreed to drop a policy encouraging public school students to pray to Aztec gods in response to a lawsuit filed months ago by angry parents.

Among Aztec religious practices were the cutting out of human hearts and the flaying of victims and the wearing of their skin.

Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and special counsel for the Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, said the “Aztec prayers at issue—which seek blessings from and the intercession of these demonic forces—were not being taught as poetry or history.”

Rather, the California State Board of Education’s nearly 900-page Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum (ESMC) “instructed students to chant the prayers for emotional nourishment after a ‘lesson that may be emotionally taxing or even when student engagement may appear to be low.’ The idea was to use them as prayers,” said Jonna, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The launch of the ESMC made California “the first state in the nation to offer a statewide ethnic studies model for educators,” the board boasted on March 18, 2021, when the curriculum was adopted.

“California’s students have been telling us for years that they need to see themselves and their stories represented in the classroom,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said at the time. “Today’s historic action gives schools the opportunity to uplift the histories and voices of marginalized communities in ways that help our state and nation achieve racial justice and create lasting change.”

The ESMC contained a section on “Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers.” Among these was the In Lak Ech Affirmation, which calls upon five Aztec deities—Tezkatlipoka (God of the Night Sky), Quetzalcoatl (God of the Morning and Evening Star), Huitzilopochtli (God of Sun and War), Xipe Totek (God of Spring), and Hunab Ku (God of the Universe). The pagan prayers address the deities both by name and traditional titles, recognize them as sources of power and knowledge, invoke their assistance, and offer thanks.

According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, even after the settlement, the ESMC “is still deeply rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and critical pedagogy, with a race-based lens and an oppressor-victim dichotomy.” The Aztec chant component demonstrated “the politicized championing of critical consciousness, social justice, transformative resistance, liberation and anti-colonial movements in the state-sanctioned teachings of ethnic studies.”

But Frank Xu, president of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), a nonprofit organization that is one of the plaintiffs, said the settlement gives him hope.

“We are encouraged by this important, hard-fought victory,” Xu said in a statement.

“Our state has simply gone too far in attempts to promote fringe ideologies and racial grievance policies, even those that disregard established constitutional principles. Endorsing religious chants in the state curriculum is one glaring example,” he said.

“To improve California public education, we need more people to stand up against preferential treatment programs and racial spoils. At both the state and local levels, we must work together to re-focus on true education!”

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 3 in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, by the Thomas More Society, as previously reported. The plaintiffs argued that the ESMC constituted an impermissible governmental endorsement of the Aztec religion.

According to the legal complaint, the State Board of Education appointed R. Tolteka Cuauhtin, a co-author of the 2019 book “Rethinking Ethnic Studies,” to chair a panel to develop the ESMC. In his book, Cuauhtin “demonstrates an animus towards Christianity and Catholicism—claiming that Christians committed ‘theocide’ (i.e., killing gods) against indigenous tribes.”

Sociocultural anthropologist Alan Sandstrom, an expert in the culture, religion, and rituals of Mesoamerican peoples, told the court the In Lak Ech Affirmation “is a modern creation that borrows elements of the Aztec religion. It would be of no real value in learning about the Aztec people or culture of the past or today.”

In the settlement agreement, the California authorities didn’t admit wrongdoing but agreed to remove the In Lak Ech Affirmation and the Ashe Affirmation from the Yoruba religion from the ESMC.

Yoruba is “an ancient philosophical concept that is the root of many pagan religions, including Santeria and Haitian vodou or voodoo,” according to the Thomas More Society. It reportedly has 100 million believers worldwide in West Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guyana, and in Caribbean nations.

The settlement provides that the California Department of Education and the board will pay the plaintiffs’ lawyers $100,000, “representing a payment toward Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with the Action.”

The two state entities will also issue a public notice to all California school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education about the changed policy, and they agreed not to encourage the use of the two challenged chants in California public schools.

Jonna told The Epoch Times via email that this is “a major victory in the fight to restore sanity in California’s public schools.”

“There is still much work to do—and our team will continue to monitor developments and be prepared to file new lawsuits when necessary.”


U Kentucky hands out KN95 masks

With omicron cases on the rise, the University of Kentucky is offering two free KN95 masks to members of the campus community.

As the spring semester begins, UK continues to require masking in all indoor spaces across the campus, regardless of vaccination status. In a campus-wide email on Jan. 3, university president Eli Capilouto announced that UK had purchased two KN95 masks "for everyone who comes to campus," following the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information about masking protocols.

Although the CDC's webpage outlining mask options has not been altered since September 2021, the government is considering changing recommendations to suggest people wear respirators, such as N95s or KN95s, instead of single-layer cloth masks. According to the CDC, respirators like these undergo testing to meet international standards, making them a higher quality mask.

For UK students who live on campus, KN95 masks were distributed during dorm move-in after winter break. Non-residential students are able to pick theirs up at several on-campus locations using their linkblue ID.




Wednesday, January 19, 2022

It’s up to parents to ensure their children have the normal and free childhood they deserve

It’s 2022 but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s still 2020—especially if you have children enrolled in K-12 district schooling. Some parents are grappling this week with a return to, or threat of, remote learning first introduced nearly two years ago.

Fear of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus is leading school officials across the country to once again shutter schools. In Cleveland, for example, this first week of school for the new year is entirely remote for public school students. Several districts throughout Ohio are following suit, while others are re-imposing 2020 virus-related restrictions or extending the holiday break into this week.

Newark, New Jersey public schools announced they will be fully remote for the next two weeks, as did other districts throughout the state. Public schools in Atlanta will also be closed this week, reverting back to remote learning.

While New York City public schools have vowed to remain open, with enhanced virus testing, other districts in the state announced a return to remote learning, including the Mount Vernon Public Schools north of New York City which will be closed until “at least” January 18.

Washington, D.C. public schools plan to open for in-person learning this week after a two-day delay to allow all students and staff to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and the district warned that families should prepare for a shift to remote learning “throughout the semester, especially in the coming weeks,” according to NBC.

Just as in 2020, teachers unions are instrumental in pushing for the school closures. In Chicago, the teachers union expressed concern over public schools reopening this week and is preparing for a possible strike.

In Massachusetts, the state’s largest teachers union called for a delay in returning to in-person learning this week, and requested greater “flexibility” from the state to switch to remote learning. Several public school districts in the state announced they would be extending the holiday break, with plans to open later this week. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that more than 2,000 schools across the country will be closed for at least part of this week.

Parents Have Had Enough

While some parents, anxious about Omicron, likely applaud the effort to return to remote schooling and praise districts for their heightened coronavirus testing regimes and ongoing mitigation measures, other parents have had enough.

In a viral article last month, New York Post writer Karol Markowicz announced that she and her family are leaving their beloved New York City and its public schools for Florida, where schools have remained open and mask-free and children are able to experience a normal childhood. “The response to COVID-19 in New York, in particular where children are concerned, has driven our family out,” she wrote. “Children have been an afterthought, at best, and have had their childhoods casually destroyed by our heavy-handed, and ultimately ineffective, response. I can no longer subject my own kids to it.”

Markowicz is hardly alone. New data released by the US Census Bureau on December 21 reveal that Texas and Florida, two of the states that resisted burdensome coronavirus restrictions, saw the largest increase in population in 2021, while New York and California, among the states with the most oppressive virus-related policies, lost population. This migration pattern was apparent in other states as well in 2021, with areas imposing the strictest coronavirus policies losing population while freer states gained residents.

A recent Economist article points out that these southward mobility trends existed prior to 2020, as states such as Florida and Texas offer lower taxes, warmer weather, and greater housing affordability. But the COVID-19 response has accelerated these trends.

Parents such as Markowicz want to live in a place where their children can grow up freely, while entrepreneurs and shopkeepers want to make sure the state can’t suddenly shut down their businesses or force them to impose virus-related restrictions on their customers and employees. FEE’s new Fresh Start States project helps those migrating to freer states to embrace the principles that keep those states free, including the limited role of government in personal and economic affairs.

It’s not just southern states that are offering more freedom for families. In the Cato Institute’s 2021 Freedom in the 50 States report, New Hampshire took the top spot for personal and economic freedom, while New York scored at the bottom.
Public Schools Are Feeling the Exodus

Public schools in many big cities are feeling the exodus of families. According to a recent NPR analysis, Chicago Public Schools lost 14,000 students during the 2020/2021 academic year, and another 10,000 students this school year. Public schools in Los Angeles lost 17,000 students last year and another 9,000 this year, and New York City’s public schools lost 38,000 students last year and an additional 13,000 this year.

While some parents are fleeing cities and states with coronavirus mandates for their schoolchildren, others are fleeing schools altogether. Homeschooling continues to be a popular option for families, even as schools reopened for in-person learning this fall. After doubling in 2020 to more than 11 percent of the overall school-age population, the homeschooling rate remains historically high this year.

A recent report in Kansas, for example, shows homeschooling registrations tripled last year to more than 5,500 students and grew by an additional 2,250 this year, compared to 1,400 in a typical pre-pandemic year. Vermont shows a similar trend, with this year’s new homeschooling registrations nearly 40 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, on top of last year’s record increase.

As public schools across the country entertain a return to remote schooling this year, and double-down on testing, social distancing, and masking requirements for kids, more parents undoubtedly will exit their local schools for other education options. Whether it’s moving to a freer city or state, or pulling children out of school for homeschooling or microschooling, it’s up to parents to ensure their children have the normal and free childhood they deserve.


Beyond K-12: Experts Explain How Woke Culture is Also Destroying Academia, Corporations, and the Military

Based on his 50 years of experience, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Jon Zubieta at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences believes “the most decisive defeat for common sense in our universities has been the introduction of offices for diversity, inclusiveness, and equity.”

“As an educator, I spend much of my day in contact with students,” Zubieta told The Epoch Times. “In my experience, the student population has undergone a sea change in attitude and general knowledge. Until fairly recently, these young scholars were inquisitive, ambitious and somewhat rebellious, and iconoclastic, as young people should be. These characteristics have been replaced by conformity to the woke orthodoxy, and heaven help you if you deviate. This docility is reinforced with what seems total ignorance of economics, civics, and the Western cultural heritage that provides the foundation for our society. In fact, it goes well beyond ignorance as it is manifested in antagonism toward the glories of western culture and civilization. We are a society that has become unmoored from its past; a society that has lost cultural confidence; in fact, a society that is now busily destroying its own cultural heritage.

“It was only ten years ago or so that I began to notice the encroachments of critical race theory-driven demands into the sciences,” he said, adding that the most obvious intrusion of the new wokeism was the mandatory diversity statement in proposals for NSF funding. “Back when I started my career, such a waste of proposal space would not have been tolerated. Now, an unsatisfactory diversity statement can get your proposal triaged without further review.”

Zubieta knows first-hand how “an unsatisfactory” statement can affect a career. In August 2020, Zubieta was placed on administrative leave following student complaints about his use of the terms “Wuhan Flu” and “Chinese Communist Party Virus” in his syllabus. He has since been reinstated.


COVID and schools: Australia is about to feel the full brunt of its teacher shortage

The Omicron wave is likely to exacerbate Australia's existing teacher shortages and demanding workloads.

As school starts at the end of January and beginning of February across the country, many teachers will be at risk of contracting COVID. They will need to stay away from work, while others may choose to leave the profession altogether.

To address parental concerns about teacher absences, the Prime Minister recently announced teachers will no longer be required to isolate at home for seven days if they are close contacts, and if they don't have symptoms and return a negative rapid antigen test. But unions have slammed this relaxation of rules saying it will only add to safety concerns for teachers and children.

States and territories are putting together a plan to open schools safely, which is set to be released on Thursday. But for schools to operate effectively, and avoid remote learning, Australia must also have a long-term plan for recruiting and retaining teachers. This means lifting their professional status, improving work conditions and increasing pay.




Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The importance of academic breaks

Jack Weaver is one of many who find university study a slog. If I was his advisor, I would telll him to switch to a trade

As I watched the country roads turn into interstates through my windshield and eventually saw the Lexington skyline, I realized how bittersweet it was to have a shorter winter break.

Last year’s winter break was much longer than this one, and students had far more time to recover from the stressors of yet another semester tainted by COVID-19.

However, the promise of spring break to come and memories of fall break in the past semester makes the shorter winter break worth it.

Much like the fall 2020 semester, the past semester was difficult. Though many things, like normal athletic events and in-person classes returned, the looming possibility of everything going online again created worry that was too heavy to ignore.

I did miss having fall break in 2020, and it was extremely difficult to endure the whole semester without time to catch my breath, even though the longer winter break was slightly redemptive.

While I loved being at home for longer last year, I did begin to miss my friends and my classes, and I felt more than ready to come back by the end of winter break.

This year, I felt like I still had goals I had set before winter break that I did not have the chance to complete, but I am reassured by the promise of having spring break to complete those tasks.

Fall break was enough time for a short trip to refresh my mind, and this winter break, though it was only three weeks, was long enough for me to visit with family that I don’t normally see and take some time to think about things other than classes.

It is extremely difficult for me, and many other students, to go through a whole 17 weeks without a break.

Between classes and extracurriculars, it is hard for students to find time during the semester to take care of their mental health.

Burnout is a very common issue among college students, and going an entire semester without a break only increases burnout symptoms.

Honestly, I don’t think I will remember much about my classes themselves once I graduate. I do, however, think I will remember the breaks when I stopped and was able to take time to think about my experience.

I often find myself obsessing over classwork and responsibilities related to school, so having a few extra days without assignments due is a great way for me to recharge.

To me, college is much more enjoyable when I am taking time to consider how lucky I am to be here.

Breaks throughout the semester, even if they are short ones, help students to collect their thoughts, rest and spend time with loved ones.

So, while I did long for more time with my family as I was making the hour drive from my home back to Lexington, I understand that my break was cut short because I will be given chances to rest and make memories that last this academic year.

I look forward to the time that we do have off this semester and the good times that will come with it.


Academic Journal retracts Indigenous article for plagiarism

This fake Australian Aborigine was fake about a lot of things. She was probably relying on the uncritical acceptance that tall tales about Abogiginal ancestry and customs receive

An Indigenous language scholar from Stradbroke Island has had her latest paper recalled after plagiarism complaints.

Quandamooka woman Sandra Delaney had her article ­“Reconceptualising a Quanda­mooka Storyweave of language reclamation”, published by Sage Journals in July, passed by a “double-blind” peer review process.

Shortly after it was published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, the journal was contacted by two First Nations language researchers from the US who said their work had been plagiarised.

In a review, Sage editors found five more cases of plagiarism and this month issued a retraction of the article.

Many of the plagiarised papers were unpublished PhD theses from American and Canadian universities dealing with the ­effects of colonisation on Native American languages and reclamation of those languages.

The rest were published in education and nursing journals and publications specifically relating to colonisation issues.

The paper dealt with colonial theft of land and how it led to the partial loss of local Jandai language and how it had been rediscovered through visual story­­telling. “This article outlines a complex, vibrant, interweaving of language as a decolonising practice through creative outcomes,” the original abstract said.

“I will summarise how the Quandamooka tradition of weaving served as a theoretical framework for the reclamation of Jandai language. Shaped by a paradigm of language reclamation, it describes a Quandamooka worldview which is based on the connection Quandamooka people share with our ­Ancestors and our Country.”

It details the creation of the “Quandamooka Storyweave” as a forum for elders to more comfortably share their stories.

Ms Delaney is a prominent figure among Nunagal, Goenbal and Ngugi people, whose ­traditional homeland, Quandamooka, was the mainland, islands and water around Moreton Bay, off Brisbane.




Monday, January 17, 2022

Frosty reception for British school that banned pupils from wearing ‘status symbol’ winter coats

Parents say Bishop Heber High School’s policy, under which pupils have had their jackets confiscated, is ‘nonsensical’ and ‘ludicrous’

A school has banned children from wearing their own coats outside in case they “push boundaries” with expensive “status” coats.

Pupils at Bishop Heber High School, in Malpas, Cheshire, are only allowed to wear a branded school jacket on school grounds.

The school says that if pupils were allowed to wear their own coats, it would “erode the great relationships we have with the students” because they “might push boundaries” and wear coats and hoodies than undermine standards.

The school’s "behaviour and discipline policy" states that: “Students may wear any coat to and from school. However, these must be removed once the school day starts (9am). Only ‘Heber’ school coats may be worn throughout the school day (until 3.30pm).”

It adds that students who repeatedly wear non-uniform coats will have them confiscated.

But some parents criticised the ‘nonsensical’ and ‘ludicrous’ policy and one mother told Cheshire Live: “They confiscated his [my son’s] coat yesterday - outside - which I thought was absolutely ludicrous. He has asthma, which he is on constant medication for, so getting cold does him no good whatsoever.”

She added that her son was put into isolation as punishment and the uniform policy was “nonsensical” and “common-sense” should prevail.

Other parents said their children had been left “absolutely frozen” and that school policies are “absolutely archaic”.


Woke School District Pays Tens of Thousands for a Kindergarten to “Disrupt Whiteness”

Want your 6-year-old to learn basic reading, writing, and math skills in kindergarten rather than the insane ramblings of delusional critical race theorists? Well, if you send your kids to a kindergarten Hayward Unified School District, a school district in the Bay Area, you’re out of luck; they’ll be learning ridiculous CRT concepts whether you like it or not.

News on that comes from an excellent article in The Federalist, which reports that HUSD “dedicated $123,000 for a variety of critical race theory training programs for staff and students that expressed extreme sentiments. This expenditure included an organization called “Woke Kindergarten” that received $57,000 to teach public school teachers and staff how to “disrupt whiteness.”‘ How nice.

The Federalist then provides a link to a contract in which the Board of Education hired a company called “Race-Work” to provide training and sessions for “Student Leadership Anti-racism Movement (SLAM) Program and staff professional development sessions for equity and AB/AR.”

The contract, worth $50k, provided that students and teachers were to “learn how to use Woke Kindergarten’s resources and pedagogical approaches in practice as a way to disrupt whiteness” and “white dominant/settler colonial narratives.” SLAM is a program meant to “empower and mobilize them as catalysts for change through an anti-racist leadership youth movement.”

Remember, this is for an elementary school. While it would be bad enough if college students were being taught this trash, it’s young elementary school students that are having this toxic nonsense being pushed on them relentlessly by the CRT-possessed wokies.

But that’s just the beginning. The Federalist also reports that “A separate contract with Woke Kindergarten revealed that the district paid an additional $7,000 for them to implement learning practices through an ‘abolitionist lens.”’

They did so through pushing videos on the kindergarten pupils that fawned over Stacey Abrams, presented pictures of the Jan. 6th trespassers alongside the few images of BLM “protests” that didn’t turn into riots, and pushed the “defund the police” slogan. Sounds difference from my kindergarten.

And what is “Woke Kindergarten?” Well, as the name implies, it’s a far-left organization full of insane people that want to push leftie propaganda on young children. As the Federalist reports:

The organization’s Instagram account boasts the same extremism, with one post encouraging children to support the “eradication” of America’s borders, which are allegedly “invisible man-made ideas that colonizers created.” In another post, the organization’s founder complains that critical media coverage amounts to far-right violence.

As the name implies, the organization was made to indoctrinate young children into left-wing politics. One post explains that Woke Kindergarten began when its founder led a protest in what appears to be a kindergarten classroom where children made protest signs and chanted “no Donald Trump.”

Yikes. I remember learning about reading and writing in kindergarten, along with messing around on the playground. Not participating in anti-GOP protests.

Still, that’s not all. The insanely woke school district also hired an organization called Quetzal Education Services which, The Federalist reports, “specializes in injecting CRT into math courses with its anti-racist math workshop series.” Now even math must be woke.

What all that shows is that schools, especially in blue states, are pushing ever crazier propaganda on their students. Without men like DeSantis to watch over them and crack down on the nonsense, the leftie teachers will get crazier and crazier. They must be stopped before the youth are indoctrinated beyond the point of no return.


Australian Attorney general defends religious schools’ right to sack teachers for views on sexuality

Michaelia Cash’s department has defended religious schools’ right to sack teachers for their views on sexuality and appeared to confirm safeguards for gay students will be delayed until after the religious discrimination bill.

The attorney general’s department’s submission to two inquiries states that changes to the Sex Discrimination Act will wait for a further review 12 months after the bill passes, despite a purported deal with four Liberal MPs to prevent expulsion of gay students at the same time, in exchange for their support of the religious discrimination bill.

Cash also personally walked back her reported commitment in December after a backlash from religious groups including the Australian Christian Lobby and Christian Schools Australia which threatened to scupper their support for the bill over the deal.

Liberal MPs Katie Allen, Dave Sharma, Angie Bell and Fiona Martin claimed they had won Cash’s agreement to remove section 38(3) from the Sex Discrimination Act, which allows schools to discriminate on sexuality and gender grounds.

The department’s submission reiterates that “the religious discrimination bill does not affect the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act”.

“In particular, the existing exemptions for religious educational institutions provided in section 38 of that Act are not affected.”

The department said religious exemptions will be considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry, to report back 12 months after the bill passes.

The department noted although the bill does not affect schools ability to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation it “would allow a religious school to consider a person’s religious beliefs about issues such as sexuality” where it is part of the beliefs of the school.




Sunday, January 16, 2022

Illinois School Districts Supports “After School Satan Club” Meeting In Elementary Schools

Leaders of the Satanic Temple gathered in a crimson­-walled living room of a Victorian manse in Salem-Mass renowned for its witch trials making discussing plans for an after-school program in the nation’s public elementary schools.

The group argues that Christian evangelical groups have already infiltrated the lives of America’s children through after-school religious programming in public schools, and they are determined to give children a choice: Jesus or Satan.

“It’s critical that children understand that there are multiple perspectives on all issues and that they have a choice in how they think,” said Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder.

The group is scheduled to introduce its After School Satan Club to public elementary schools Monday, including one in Prince George’s County.

One Illinois school district confirmed that it has made the decision to allow the “After School Satan Club” to take place at Jane Addams Elementary School.

A copy of a flyer promoting the club, which is aimed at first through fifth graders, has been made available to students in the lobby of elementary schools, though the district claims it does not distribute them.

According to the flyer, the club will meet on Jan. 13, Feb. 10, March 10, April 14, and May 12 at Jane Addams Elementary.

Chapter heads from New York, Boston, Utah, and Arizona along with others from Minneapolis, Detroit, San Jose, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Florida participating online, were in Salem Monday to discuss plans for promoting the club.

The Satanic Temple is bringing its fight over the constitutional separation of church and state to the nation’s schools.

According to Mesner, who goes by the professional name of Lucien Greaves, “Satan” is just a “metaphorical construct” intended to represent the rejection of all forms of tyranny over the human mind.

The curriculum for the proposed after-school clubs allegedly focuses on the development of reasoning and social skills. The group says meetings will include a healthful snack, literature lesson, creative learning activities, a science lesson, puzzle-solving, and an art project. Every child will receive a membership card and is required to have a signed parental­ permission slip to attend.

“We think it’s important for kids to be able to see multiple points of view, to reason things through, to have empathy and feelings of benevolence for their fellow human beings,” said the Satanic Temple’s Utah chapter head, who goes by the name Chalice Blythe.)


University of Kentucky Student Publications resumes in-person classes as omicron cases rise

The new year brings new challenges for UK, and the omicron COVID-19 variant has become one of the most relevant. The university has implemented further actions to prevent the spread across campus.

UK has purchased two KN95 masks for each individual coming to the main campus and is in the process of purchasing more, according to a campus-wide email from president Eli Capilouto on Jan. 7.

These masks are being handed out at wellness huts, in dorms during move-ins and in other various locations on campus.

During Jewell Hall move-in, KN95 masks were found piled up on elevator floors and miscellaneous hallways just two days into the new semester, residential advisor Aza Appelman said.

Jewell Hall residential advisors have to ask many of their residents to put on a mask when going through the lobby and hallways where many often pull them out of their pocket after being told to do so, Appelman said.

“A good majority follow the mask policy with little complaining, but many blatantly refuse to wear their masks, or they put them on when authoritative figures are around only to rip them off when they get into an elevator or onto a different floor,” Appelman said.

Alongside enforcing the mask mandate, the university is recommending students be vaccinated, receive the booster shot as well as the flu shot and to be “constantly” tested if not vaccinated, according to UK spokesperson Jay Blanton.

“Now, we're really going to push for boosters because we know those are particularly effective against this current strain omicron, which appears to be much more highly transmissible but also appears to be less severe,” Blanton said.

UK will implement a booster incentive program around Feb. 1 similar to the earlier one for COVID-19 vaccinations but with cash prizes, Blanton said.

“I think booster incentives are great,” UK sophomore Ella Zombolo said. “As a person who wasn’t going to get the booster, it does lean me into the ways of getting it for all of the great prizes that are available.”

Also wary about receiving their booster, Appelman is planning on getting theirs later into the semester due to the incentive program and overall concern for others’ health and safety.

UK sophomore Thomas Francisco received his booster upon his arrival for the spring semester due to the many people he knows who have tested positive, but he also had other ideas to minimize the spread.

“I feel like a week or two of semi-isolation and online classes could be a slightly better response on the university’s part, but I’m really pretty indifferent about it because isolation means my mental health will likely take a hit,” Francisco said.

Appelman also expresses similar opinions with the ideas of an initial delay and isolation.

“I think delaying in-person classes by two weeks would be extremely beneficial,” Appelman said. “Going ahead and starting back in-person when we don’t absolutely have to seem unjustified.”

Nonetheless, relying heavily on vaccination rates, Capilouto is pushing forward with in-person education and as much normalcy as possible.

Most recent numbers show that the UK community is 90.8% vaccinated — students at 87.8% and faculty at 96.7% — according to the email.

Capilouto’s email also said “we [university staff and faculty] are here to educate students” and acknowledged that students perform better academically and socially when on campus and in-person.

“I am definitely a little scared [and] concerned to go back to in-person classes right now with what’s going on, but I’m also a little relieved,” Francisco said. “I don’t think I can mentally handle the isolation that would come from moving all classes online.”

Blanton said mental health issues such as those from students who are feeling isolated and disconnected are trying to be prevented and helped

“I would definitely rather be at school and in-person for mental health reasons, but only if it’s safe,” Appelman said. “For me personally, even being allowed to stay on campus but have online classes sounds nicer than just being sent home.”

Zombolo also said she’s ready to be back and attend her new classes where she can see her fellow friends across campus in midst of the pandemic.

“I think UK is taking the right procedures in order to have the university be in-person,” Zombolo said. “They care about their students and their education, and it shows that they do by having us come back to campus.”


Covid-19: Australian kids are not all right

As schooling systems struggle to manage head-spinning changes to Covid-19 rules, many parents are despairing over possible delays to classrooms reopening. Already Queensland has postponed the start of term one for a fortnight, and South Australia is staggering the return to school for various year levels.

Open-air classrooms on verandas or under trees, air filters, rapid testing and hybrid models of classrooms and remote learning are the most likely scenarios as education departments rush to rewrite the school rules to deal with the wildfire Omicron outbreak.

Despite the eagerness to resume children’s education, many families are reluctant to send kids to school at the peak of a pandemic they have been conditioned to fear.

The Parenthood, an advocacy group for Australian parents, says the changing rules are confusing and distressing for families.

“Parents are unsure of what to do and children are asking lots of questions,’’ The Parenthood executive director Georgie Dent tells Inquirer.

“Many parents are really concerned about children being back in the classroom at the peak of the outbreak, while others are concerned about the mental health impact and do want their kids go back to school.

“Before Christmas hundreds of cases in a single day were of really serious concern and now we’ve ballooned to 100,000 cases a day and (politicians) are saying that’s OK – that’s a really big leap.’’

Teachers, burnt out by two years of on-off remote teaching, are threatening classroom boycotts unless governments do more to protect them in their workplace.

Scott Morrison invoked the wrath of teacher unions when he revealed on Thursday that national cabinet had exempted teachers and childcare workers from close contact isolation requirements.

Promising a more detailed back-to-school plan next week, he hinted that teachers would be given access to free rapid antigen (RAT) tests for regular surveillance testing of Covid-19.

Morrison warned that school closures would worsen the 10 per cent workforce absenteeism rate to 15 per cent, as parents would be forced to stay home to look after children.

“Schools open means shops open,’’ Morrison declared after the national cabinet meeting. “Schools open means hospitals are open. It means aged-care facilities are open. It means essential services and groceries are on the shelves.

“Childcare and schools are essential and should be the first to open and last to close where possible.’’

With 500 childcare centres closed this week due to Omicron outbreaks, the prognosis looks bleak for a seamless return to school at the end of the month. Only 6 per cent of primary school students have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines, although 75 per cent of high school students are double-jabbed.

Australian Education Union (AEU) president Correna Haythorpe is furious that teachers are being treated like “babysitters’’ so other parents can go to work.

“The vast majority of children will not be vaccinated for the return to school and that is of deep concern to our members because Omicron is highly transmissible,’’ she tells Inquirer.

“A two-week delay may not be long enough, and some states may have to shift to remote learning.’’

The union is urging teachers to stay home if they don’t feel safe working in classrooms.

“We will be saying to members that if you feel unsafe or uncertain or worried you are potentially putting other people at risk, you should not be going into a school environment,’’ she says.

“You should still be paid. If you are a close contact but not ill, you can work remotely. It’s not industrial action – members have sick leave and so on they can access.’’

The union’s advice flies in the face of national cabinet’s decision to lump teachers in with other essential workers who can continue working even if a household member is sick with Covid-19, provided they have no symptoms and a negative test.

Haythorpe says teachers should have access to free rapid tests, which are now even harder to find than masks were at the start of the pandemic.

“Teachers have worked so hard to provide education, whether remote or face-to-face, to put the students first,’’ she says.

“To be told the reason schools need to be open is for workforce considerations, rather than prioritising the education of our young people safely, is deeply offensive.

“You can’t on the one hand say teachers are essential and must go to work, and on the other hand not provide them with the essential tools that are needed to ensure their safety and the safety of students in their care.’’

National cabinet is working on the fine details of a back-to-school operational plan to cover potential school closures, infection control, mask wearing and surveillance testing for Covid-19.

Under the plan, schools and childcare centres are deemed to be essential “and should be the first to open and the last to close wherever possible in outbreak situations, with face-to-face learning prioritised’’.

State leaders have agreed that “no vulnerable child or child of an essential worker is turned away’’ from classrooms, implying that even if schools shut down, a skeleton teaching staff will be required to supervise children onsite.

As always, the states are going their own way: Victoria and NSW are adamant that schools will open on schedule but Queensland has postponed term one by two weeks, with Year 11 and 12 students starting remote learning a week before other kids head back to class.

South Australia is staggering return dates for different year levels, and is “looking closely’’ at the use of air purifiers in schools as it works to improve natural ventilation in classrooms.

A NSW Education spokesperson says that schools will be “made Covid-19 safe through a combination of physical distancing, mask wearing, strict hygiene practices and frequent cleaning of schools’.’ Rapid antigen test kits will also be used.