Friday, March 25, 2022

It's Time to Talk About All the Freaks Who Have Infested Our Schools

Matt Vespa

I never really considered myself a culture warrior at all. I like watching brutally violent movies. I don't care about the amount of sex or nudity there is out there in entertainment. I will watch whatever the hell I want and let the market do the rest. For the most part, I mostly stay away from socially conservative agenda items because a) we already have writers who do that, and b) it's just not my area of interest. I'm not pro-abortion, but I know it's a high-intensity issue for a large swath of our base. While I'm not a hardcore pro-lifer, I abhor the left's penchant for baby killing. It is an issue loaded with nuance, which is probably why the left just goes all-out in advocating for unrestricted abortion up until birth; liberals hate nuance.

I generally don't care what gay Americans do. If they want to marry and suffer like the rest of us—go for it then. I'm for the decriminalization of prostitution. I'm against the war on drugs. Socially libertarian-ish is where I land, though I don't take on a moral superiority complex like most in this area.

These are just low-grade issues for me, but then education becomes infiltrated with those who just want to turn all the kids transgender and not tell their parents, which is beyond disturbing. I guess in the end, the one thing the left will do is make you care. They will make you care.

What the hell is going on in our schools? Again, at first, it was usually a few freakishly odd teachers or faculty. I remember the stories in high school. David Horowitz wrote a book, "The ProFessors," which detailed some of the nation's far-left faculty, not that we could do anything about it. I wouldn't be shocked if all these instructors had tenure. Yet, the whole gender games thing was never a thing. It's not just conservatives. Bill Maher, an ardent left-winger, admits that five-six years ago, defunding the police was not a thing, neither were three-year-olds coming out as transgender. Little kids don't know what that is—it's the parents.

Now, apparently, there are enough parents who find this behavior acceptable since our schools have become war zones for these sorts of outlandish spectacles. I've tried to dismiss it as a one-off thing, but it's become out of control. When one of the most liberal areas in the country, Northern Virginia, has had it with the "woke" critical race theory antics—you know Democrats are barking up the wrong tree.

The Loudoun County school district was engulfed in controversy during the 2021 elections when it was discovered that the school board had tried to sweep a gender-fluid student's sexual assaults under the rug. This was also around the time when the Biden Department of Justice declared war on parents for merely being against the insane COVID protocols and other questionable curricula being peddled at the schools where their children attend.

Whatever happened to English class, math class, history, foreign language, and the sciences? It was a simple day of learning from all those fields of study. Now, we have added all this gender crap into the mix. Little kids are holding Pride parades. We have these creepy TikToks from teachers in this community saying the quiet part out loud. Libs of Tik Tok has become indispensable in tracking and exposing these creeps.

Right now, the left is all in a furor over Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill. The word "gay" is not mentioned, though that hasn't stopped these folks from going indiscriminately insane. It should be called the "STFU and teach" bill because that's what it does. Teach the normal curriculum and leave the gender/gay/transgender/whatever the hell else to the kids, their families, and keep it in the home. We have TikToks of teachers coming out as transgender to their fourth-grade class.

What is this? These students are not a base of support. They aren't your shoulder to cry on; this isn't a support group. It's a classroom.


Movement for Restoring Parental Rights in Schools Represents the Majority

The grassroots parental rights movement is picking up steam, and it’s pushing legislators to act.

On Tuesday, the Kansas Legislature passed a “parents’ bill of rights” that would allow parents to “inspect any materials, activities, curriculum, lessons, syllabi, surveys, tests, questionnaires, examinations, books, magazines, handouts, professional development and training materials and any other materials or activities that are provided to the parent’s child.”

It’s a notable step as many public schools don’t give the public access to this information. It can be extremely difficult for parents and the public to have any knowledge about what’s being taught in the public schools that their taxpayer dollars pay for.

That’s changing. The Kansas bill is just one piece of a much larger national puzzle. A growing movement of parents is fighting back against schools that have prioritized indoctrination and the interests of teachers unions over parents and children.

Some states have taken the lead on these issues.

Perhaps most notably, the Florida Legislature passed a bill in early March that removes discussions about sex and gender identity from the curriculum of classrooms with young children. It moves those discussions back to where they are most appropriate: at home with families and their children.

Left-wing and corporate media outlets clearly tried to derail the bill. They almost uniformly picked up the language of left-wing activists and labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite the fact that the legislation has nothing to do with not saying “gay.”

Big Tech social media companies are quite eager these days to dictate what counts as “misinformation.” Isn’t it interesting that they don’t do a thing about the “don’t say gay” headlines that proliferated in the lead-up to the Florida bill’s passing?

Regardless of the disinformation from the media, the Florida bill passed, and as of this article’s publication, it sits on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for signing. DeSantis has made it quite clear that he won’t be deterred by media hysteria over this issue or woke corporate bullying.

When Disney CEO Bob Chapek met with DeSantis to air the grievances of woke Disney employees over this bill, the Florida governor did not fold.

“The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students and back down from my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations, the chances of that are zero,” DeSantis said.

That kind of courage is contagious. One man with courage may not really make a majority, but it might encourage a majority to act when times are desperate and the cause is just.

A critical factor in this fight over parental rights, transparency, and curriculum is that while the institutions are seemingly all in on the woke revolution, the people aren’t.

A poll conducted on behalf of The Daily Wire on March 12-13, after the Florida bill was passed, showed that a majority of those surveyed supported the most important features of the legislation. And so, the movement spreads.

The Alaska Senate recently proposed a parental rights bill.

Arizona has also been working on a parental rights bill that was recently passed in the state Senate.

There are many other states, too. Conservative activist Christopher Rufo wrote in February that “legislators in 19 states have introduced bills to require curriculum transparency statewide.”

From the introduction of radical gender theories, to critical race theory, to ridiculous COVID-19 restrictions, it’s clear that many Americans have had enough and are becoming a potent political counterweight in an environment once dominated by teachers unions.

As Jonathan Butcher, an education policy expert at The Heritage Foundation, wrote of the Kansas bill and parental rights legislation in general:

These parental bills of rights put parents back at the center of intimate questions regarding a child’s mental and physical health. The proposals also empower parents to make decisions as they protect their children from radical, explicit sexual teaching content—along with racially discriminatory material—being used in state public schools.

Transparency in public K-12 education is both popular and necessary. It’s a good sign that at least some political leaders are stepping up to turn grassroots energy into concrete legislation and policy change.

However, it’s important not to be lulled into thinking that the passage of these bills is “mission accomplished.” Parental rights and transparency in public school curricula merely establish beachheads in the greater battle over education in America.

The left’s long march through the institutions is nearly complete, and it would be unwise to think this larger debate over what America should be is going to end after a single piece or several pieces of positive legislation. Much work still needs to be done.

If we really do intend to pull education in America back from the brink, then our attitude must be like the great sea captain John Paul Jones.

We have not yet begun to fight.


Florida Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal on Textbooks Being Used in Florida School District

On March 18, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal filed by the Collier County School Board over a lower court ruling stating the school board violated the state’s Sunshine Laws during its textbook selection process in the 2016–2017 school year.

Attorneys for the parents’ rights organization that filed the initial lawsuit assert that the same illegal process was used for the adoption of books for the 2021–2022 school year and have filed motions to have every textbook removed, or to have the court “order the school district to immediately start the textbook adoption process all over again.”

As explained on the website for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, “Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine law provides a right of access to governmental proceedings at both the state and local levels,” and “virtually all state and local collegial public bodies are covered by the open meetings requirements.”

On Sept. 15, 2021, The Epoch Times reported that the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida had ruled the “textbook committee” process used by the Collier County School Board to review and approve textbooks had violated Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

“The Sunshine Law applies to the Textbook Committees, and the failure to give reasonable notice to the public of their meetings resulted in violations of the Sunshine Law,” the court concluded. “Further, the School Board did not cure the violations.”

“This has huge ramifications for every Florida school district that uses a committee to adopt and purchase textbooks,” Keith Flaugh, managing director of Florida Citizens Alliance, told The Epoch Times. “This rules that school boards who delegate textbook selection to their superintendent, who subsequently delegates to a committee, must operate in the sunshine with proper public notice of every committee meeting. It’s a huge win.”

Moreover, Flaugh contends that “every textbook that [Collier County Public Schools] has adopted since is tainted unless they can prove they cured the original public notice requirement of the Sunshine Law. It also means that the English Language Arts (ELA) and math textbooks that [Collier County Public Schools] just adopted on March 8 are null and void because all of their committee meetings to finalize those recommendations also failed to comply with the Sunshine Law and the basis for this original case.”

Brantley Oakey, an attorney for Florida Citizens Alliance, has filed motions with the local court to amend the final judgment entered by the Second District Court of Appeal.

“In September, the Second District Court of Appeal entered a ruling that found the trial court had erred and the school board of Collier County had violated the Florida Sunshine Laws in the way they went about adopting the textbooks for the 2016–2017 cycle,” Oakey explained to The Epoch Times, “which included all of the social studies or social science textbooks for every grade in Collier County.”

While the school board sought a rehearing with the Second District Court, that appeal was denied. A move to have the Second District Court stay the effect of the ruling until they could review it with the Florida Supreme Court (FSC) was also denied. A subsequent petition with the FSC to take the case and stay the mandate from the Second District Court was also denied, as was the petition to have the FSC itself review the case.

“That means the school board has exhausted any and all remedies at trying to stay the effect of the Second District’s mandate and there’s no further possibility for appeal,” Oakey concluded.

Because the process used in 2017 was deemed to have violated Florida law, and the same process was used to adopt the current textbooks, Oakey contends that “every textbook being used in Collier County is unapproved and therefore illegal because state law requires that every textbook be approved through a specific approval process in the district.”

“We have filed motions with the local court to amend the final judgment they entered, which is erroneous, to have it reflect the order of the Second District Court of Appeal and are asking the local court to enforce the Second District’s order, which specifically asks that every textbook be removed or they order the school district to immediately start the textbook adoption process all over again so all the textbooks currently being used in the classroom will go through the legal vetting process in the Sunshine where the public can participate in the meeting and provide input.”




Thursday, March 24, 2022

Schools nationwide are quietly removing books from their libraries

The miserable Left will do anything they can to make others miserable, and leading children into unhealthy sex lives just suits them down to the ground. So it is good to hear that resistance to that is having some effect. The rate of suicide amomg sexual deviants is high so I use the word "unhealthy" advisedly

Samantha Hull was on vacation when she got the call about the missing books.

Eight titles had melted away seemingly overnight, a panicked school aide told Hull, from the shelves of an elementary school in one of the 22 districts Hull oversees as co-chair of a group representing school librarians in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster and Lebanon counties. The books included titles such as “In My Mosque,” which instructs children about Islam; “A Place Inside of Me,” which explores a Black student’s reckoning with a police shooting; and “When Aidan Became a Brother,” whose main character is a transgender boy.
[Librarians and parents: Tell us about book challenges in your school district]

Hull, 33, couldn’t understand it: None of those books had been formally challenged by parents, even though she knew that activists across the country were targeting books featuring discussions of race, gender and LGBTQ identities for removal. The growing national furor had already arrived in Hull’s corner of Pennsylvania: Parents at a high school in Lancaster County, she said, had requested the elimination of “Gender Queer,” a memoir about being nonbinary, and “Lawn Boy,” a young-adult novel that includes a description of a sexual encounter between two boys.

Slowly — over months of meetings, investigations and secret conversations with fearful librarians across her counties — she came to understand the disturbing reality. Administrators, afraid of attracting controversy, were quietly removing books from library shelves before they could be challenged.
“There’s two battles going on at once,” Hull said, referring to parallel pushes from parents who want titles stricken and from school officials who are removing books preemptively. “And it’s been really difficult to fight both of those.”

The education culture wars

in eight states and nearly a dozen districts revealed similar stories that paint what they describe as a bleak picture of their profession, as they fret about and fight against American schoolchildren’s shrinking freedom to read.

School book bans are soaring: Although the vast majority of challenges go unreported, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom counted 330 incidents of book censorship in just the three months from September to November 2021 — marking the highest rate since the association began tracking the issue in 1990. The questioned texts have mostly been “books about LGBTQ people and race and racism,” according to the National Coalition Against Censorship, and many removals sprang from challenges launched by White, conservative parents spurred on by pundits.

Meanwhile, state legislators are advancing bills that would restrict what children can access in school libraries — some of which also suggest penalizing librarians. A member of the Idaho House is advancing a bill that threatens librarians with a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison if they lend explicit materials to a student under 18.

In Tennessee, a bill proposes to prohibit school libraries from offering books defined as “harmful” to minors. “I don’t appreciate what’s going on in our libraries, what’s being put in front of our children. And shame on you for putting it there,” Republican state Rep. Jerry Sexton told a group of Tennessee librarians early this month. An Oklahoma lawmaker last week compared librarians to cockroaches.

And for some, professional consequences have already arrived: An assistant principal of a Mississippi elementary school was fired this month for reading the picture book “I Need a New Butt!,” which jokingly describes the adventures of a child who searches for a new posterior, to a class of second-graders.
Far less well understood, though, has been a backdoor campaign by wary administrators to remove books. The scope of that effort is impossible to estimate, given its secretive nature, but — in one example — a Nebraska librarian said three of the six book battles she’s been guiding this year have dealt with removals carried out by school officials working outside the bounds of book-challenge procedures.

All of this is having an effect: Librarians in many places are starting to self-censor. They are refraining from recommending or reading aloud certain titles to students, from displaying certain books on prominent shelves — and even from ordering certain kinds of reading material in the first place.
Although Hull has remained an outspoken advocate for keeping all kinds of books in schools — and has spent much of the past year fighting for books in meetings with various Lancaster and Lebanon school officials — even she is feeling the chill. In the current climate, she said, she would not be willing to order a copy of “Gender Queer” for any of her libraries.

Homes in Lancaster County, Pa., fly the American flag, the state flag and the Pine Tree flag, a Revolutionary War banner that has been adopted by some conservatives. (Kyle Grantham for The Washington Post)

Over the course of the 2021-2022 school year, according to Hull and several librarians who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, there have been formal challenges of six books across the 22 school districts in Lebanon and Lancaster counties. Meanwhile, at least 24 books have been pulled temporarily or permanently from the shelves by officials, without public announcement or explanation — including the children’s books “All Are Welcome,” “It Feels Good to Be Yourself” and “Families, Families, Families!”

A spokeswoman for Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, the educational agency that oversees and provides services to the 22 districts, said, “we are unable to offer any details about this topic” because “we are not involved in [districts’] selection of local curricular resources including local library collections.”

Hull said she has recently been having trouble sleeping, consumed by thoughts about what she views as a war on books. She worries most about the consequences for the next generation of Americans. If book banning continues, she warned, “there will be absolutely no progress for our society.”

“When these students — who weren’t exposed to other realities, to people who are different, who have different life experiences than them — when they have children,” Hull said, “we will be right back where we were, fighting the same fight.”

‘Angry, hurt and frustrated’

Stacy Langton believes parents should control when and how their children learn about sex, and she is adamant that “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” should not be on the shelves in the Fairfax County Public Schools, where two of her six children are enrolled. She has spent the past six months trying to remove the texts, which she believes threaten children’s morals because they describe sex scenes in graphic detail — including, in “Gender Queer,” an encounter between an apparent teenager and an older, bearded man.

“There’s an age-appropriateness to all things, and that includes sex education — you’re inherently going to be destroying a child’s innocence and their purity until they’re old enough to be able to understand,” said Langton, 52.
School officials decided after months of review that both books have literary value and neither depicts pedophilia.
Psychologists, academics and librarians reached by The Washington Post said they see value in introducing children to books that contain challenging material, including of the sexual kind, provided it is done with appropriate context, care and tact.

Research shows there is an association between children reading certain kinds of explicit texts — those that depict sexual violence, degrade women or do not discuss boundaries or consent — and engaging in risky sexual behaviors, as well as sex at an early age, according to Amy Egbert, a research fellow in Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

But, Egbert said, she doesn’t believe that those types of books are available in school libraries. The books being challenged, she said, are often those that deal with difficult topics, featuring a main character struggling to understand their sexuality or experiencing some kind of racial tensions or racism. Removing those books is an obstacle to children’s development, she said, pointing to research — including on abstinence-only sex education — that shows that not talking about subjects with children does not change their behavior.
“Those books help kids to start thinking about topics — topics they are probably thinking about already and a lot of times would find information on,” she said. “The information is presented in a way that is more manageable in books. … The books that are being banned, if handled right, can allow kids to explore the human condition in a safe way.”


California’s Math Curriculum Framework: Still Woke

The California State Department of Education has released a new draft of its curriculum framework for K-12 mathematics. While it is notably improved regarding opportunities for advanced work, the document is still woefully laden with dogma about politics and about how to teach math.

The framework promotes only the progressive-education approach to teaching math, calling it “student-led” instruction, “active learning,” “active inquiry,” and “collaborative” instruction. But evidence from the 1950s through recent times shows that this way of teaching math is ineffective. That evidence comes from scrutinizing carefully designed studies featuring randomized control and what are called quasi-experiments, which come close to the effect of randomized assignment. Quasi-experiments look at cases, for example, where two adjoining districts with similar populations or two adjoining similar schools adopt different policies. Both sorts of studies are much stronger evidence than the case studies that progressive educators rely on.

In the spring 2012 issue of American Educator, the magazine of the American Federation of Teachers, top educational psychologists Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller summarized “decades of research” that “clearly demonstrates” that for almost all students, “direct, explicit instruction” is “more effective” than progressive education in math.

Clark, Kirschner, and Sweller conclude that after “a half century” of progressive educators advocating inquiry-based teaching of math, “no body of sound research” can be found that supports using that approach with “anyone other than the most expert students.” Evidence from the best studies, they emphasize, “almost uniformly” supports “full and explicit” instruction rather than an inquiry-based approach. Yet when explicit, direct instruction is discussed in the proposed math curriculum (chaps. 3 and 6), it is deprecated.

Moreover, in 2016 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported on its 2012 round of tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The data clearly showed that “teacher-directed” instruction was more effective than “student-oriented” instruction.

Yet the proposed math framework promotes only progressive education’s inquiry-based approach. This is ideology, not science. It will not help those who struggle in math. It can only bring down student achievement.

If the framework writers had wanted solid evidence, they would have relied on the final report and subgroup reports of the 2008 federal National Mathematics Advisory Panel. They would have made even more use of the practice guides of the federal Institute of Education Sciences, which are designed for teachers and curriculum writers. Instead, the framework’s writers pretend this high-quality evidence doesn’t even exist.

In terms of putting students of similar preparedness together the new draft improves over its predecessor. The previous draft would have outlawed any classes that were grouped according to math achievement in K–10. The current draft still speaks of the “negative aspects” of tracking systems in middle school (chap. 9) and disparages “blunt methods” of tracking (chap. 9). But on the whole it has a salutary emphasis on accessible options and opportunities for students to “catch up with content as well as accelerate” their learning.

The previous draft was also notable for its heavily politicized content. Over 1200 figures in California’s community of scientific and math professionals (most of whom are college and university professors) denounced this importing of political content into math instruction. In some ways the new draft is an improvement. It has removed claims that math is not a neutral, objective discipline, and some highly political vignettes have been toned down.

Nonetheless, “trauma-induced pedagogy” is still highlighted (chap. 2). This is the idea that students are disabled emotionally by a racist, sexist, violent society ruled by a capitalist class and that therefore teaching should be therapeutic. Such teacher-therapists often conclude that their teaching should encourage resistance to society’s institutions. This is an ideological distraction.

So the proposed math curriculum is still highly politicized. A teacher is considered exemplary for promoting “sociopolitical consciousness” (chap. 2). Teachers are told that they should take a “justice-oriented perspective” at any grade level, K–12, in order to empower their students politically (chap. 2). For example, teachers are told to have students do practice exercises and data analysis in the context of “environmental or social justice” (chaps. 1 and 7).

Math should be neutral and nonpolitical. A math that caters to the 12 percent of Californians who are “strongly liberal”is a math that will upset the millions of parents who are not that liberal. Why should they pay their tax dollars to have their children indoctrinated?


The Very Model of a Modern University President

While American higher education often is rightly condemned for being inefficient, non-innovative, and resistant to change, there are exceptions, and there are some collegiate entrepreneurs whose success is worthy of commendation and emulation. To me, the top award for American higher education innovation must go to Mitch Daniels, who is just beginning his tenth year as the president of Purdue University.

I had a nice chat with President Daniels the other day. At the beginning, I reminded him how we first met: I visited him in his office as Governor of Indiana in late 2012, shortly before beginning his tenure as Purdue’s president.

Daniels wanted to talk about the compensation package for Purdue’s president, and rather than wanting me to provide clever arguments why his salary should far exceed that of his predecessor, he said he was willing and even eager to take a reduction in the presidential salary—as long as he could earn performance bonuses for doing a good job running the Boilermakers. I said to my sidekick with me at the interview (Anthony Hennen, formerly with the James Martin Center), “he will be an unusual college president.” For once, an economist (me) forecasted correctly!

The measurement of academic outcomes is seldom straightforward, so Daniels and I talked about the problems with using such indicators as attrition (dropout) rates (a statistic that can be superficially improved simply by lowering academic standards), magazine rankings, financial reserves, enrollments (which likewise can be temporarily increased by lowering standards, likely harmful in the long run), outside research grants received, student outcomes on standardized tests, etc.

Daniels is not only competent but kind and considerate: I once ate breakfast with Mitch at the tony Four Seasons Hotel in Washington when he suddenly got up and started helping understaffed employees bus tables!

Nine years later, Mitch Daniels lives up to his billing. At a time of stagnant national enrollments, Purdue’s are booming, at record highs. Student quality is rising. A remarkable tuition freeze has lowered the inflation-adjusted cost of Purdue by over 20 percent, making it the bargain school in the Big Ten.

He realized higher education’s (including Purdue’s) weaknesses, getting out of activities that Purdue did not do particularly well, ones outsiders could do better and cheaper. For example, Purdue used to run a transportation service, busses to get students around the spacious campus—he ditched that, turning the job over to private providers who were transportation experts. Similarly, as he told me “We did not do online education particularly well.” So he went out and bought Kaplan, a major for-profit provider (for one dollar!) letting it morph into Purdue Global, today educating nearly as many students as attend the main campus in West Lafayette.

Although somewhat constrained by laws and finances, Daniels has started to change the way students pay for college. Mitch correctly thought it strange that relatively financially unsophisticated teenagers amass large amounts of debts to pay for college, rather than sell equity (stock) in themselves, so he has started an Income Share Agreement plan at Purdue that has attracted an increasing number of students who contract to have their tuition (or part of it) at Purdue paid for while attending school in return for giving up a percentage of their postgraduate earnings.

For all the purely economic successes Purdue has mounted (running budget surpluses every year, for example), Daniels seems to agree with something I feel: when he started at Purdue in 2013 the key problem in higher education was affordability and rising costs. Today, equally important is the threat from a breakdown in intellectual diversity—robust debates on the direction society should be moving. Purdue was a very early pioneer in adopting the Chicago Principles favoring unfettered and robust debates on campus on hot button issues. No Cancel Culture or Wokeness at Purdue.

Daniels has also emphasized expansion in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas. Purdue’s historic reputation was that of a good engineering school, and the nation needs more scientists, engineers, computer gurus. Purdue is pouring new resources into those areas. Although he did not say it, I suspect that he is content on having cross-state rival Indiana University excel in, for example, music composition, vocal performance, or journalism. He appropriately seems gratified that Purdue is riding a wave of high demand for scientists.

We talked about being a university president. I observed that several other Big Ten schools had actually ousted their presidents in the last decade or so—Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State come to mind. He commented that with just nine years tenure at Purdue, he now had the greatest seniority of all Big Ten presidents.

Why don’t presidents stay around longer? Is it the pressure of the job? Without complaining, President Daniels acknowledged that the job of being a college president is not an easy one, requiring skills in a multiplicity of areas. Although he is 72, he seems to have no immediate plans to retire: the job is often challenging but always interesting and occasionally even fun.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Daniels has pushed Purdue into some new areas, including opening a new polytechnic college that caters to non-traditional post-secondary students benefiting from a more hands-on approach to learning. Mitch acknowledges the need for good quality shorter vocational certificate programs training students to, say, drive a long-distance truck, learn how to weld, or become a computer coder.

He is not a “college for all” president, and freely acknowledges that appropriate learning experiences vary considerably from individual to individual. Indeed, unlike the arch-typical president, he does not constantly badger the state government that he once headed for money, noting that inflation-adjusted appropriations from the state of Indiana have not risen during his presidency—but he is not angry about it, observing that there are many pressing needs for funds besides higher education.

Mitch Daniels, of course, is not alone in being dynamic, entrepreneurial, and generally successful in a higher education setting. For example, the granddaddy of all university presidents, Gordon Gee, has run five universities (now West Virginia University) for well over four decades with great competence and verve. Michael Crow has built Arizona State University into something of a national powerhouse, with an aggressively successful online presence.

The great master at online learning, however, may well be Paul LeBlanc, who has taken the sleepy University of Southern New Hampshire and made it a major presence in online education. And waiting in the wings to demonstrate his special qualities: Pano Kanelos, president of the new University of Austin that wishes to instill and enhance intellectual diversity at that institution, following a stint at the uber-traditional Saint John’s.

I used to believe that great University presidents had to have lots of experience doing what universities do best—teach truly “higher education” while expanding the frontiers of knowledge. Mitch Daniels shows that is not always true. Mitch went to great private schools—Princeton and Georgetown, and witnessed academic excellence, but he also honed his skills working for many years at a private company (Eli Lilly) and through government service (including being U.S. budget director as well as a governor.)

There are a lot of mediocre people and ideas contributing to American universities being excessively costly, with too little learning and vocational relevance, and a disturbing contempt for a diversity of ideas to challenge student minds. But there are also the leaders like Mitch Daniels who are striving to have America maintain and expand its higher educational exceptionalism in the decades ahead.




Wednesday, March 23, 2022

'Cult-Retreat-Like Experience': California School District Trained Staff to Use Preferred Pronouns, Names

The Los Angeles Unified School District required its staff to participate in "socioemotional learning" training that involved educators agreeing to use students' preferred names and pronouns.

According to nonprofit parents group Parents Defending Education, a district staff member said the training consisted of "critical social justice gender ideology." The staff member also said staff were led by a "restorative justice teacher" and that they were given handouts to "address" instances in which students or staff make an "unacceptable error in words or actions that are against gender ideology."

The staff member called this training a "cult-retreat-like experience."

During the training, staff members were called to "raise our hands if we could commit to using preferred pronouns and STAND UP if we commit to using trans students' preferred names."

If staff failed to stand up, the staff member explained, "it was an obvious sign that you're problematic and bigoted and in the wrong."

The handout provided to staff, titled "Identity Working Terms," defines the term "gender identity" as "our innermost feelings of who we are as a woman, man, both, and/or neither." The handout also states that people can communicate their gender identity through actions, clothing, hairstyles, makeup use, voices, body movements and "other forms of presentation."

One page of the handout is titled "Interrupting Bias: Calling Out vs. Calling In" and encourages staff to call someone out for several perceived problems, including when their "words or actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated" and when an interruption is needed to "prevent further harm."

The handout also offers examples of phrases for staff to use when calling someone out for "unacceptable" language. One example of this is, "That word/comment is really triggering and offensive. Be mindful and pick a different word."

It also claims students have the "right" to be referred to by their "chosen name/pronouns, regardless of their legal or school records," adding that a student's legal name change "is NOT required for unofficial name changes."

Parents Defending Education president Nicole Neily slammed the district's required training for staff as "appalling" and an indication that the district values social issues over learning core subjects like math and science.

"Pressuring LAUSD employees to adopt language with which they may disagree - and encouraging others to bully, intimidate, and silence dissenting views - is appalling. This took place during an all-staff mandated school hours 'training' during a shortened school day, which places a significant burden on working families," she said in a statement to Townhall. "By prioritizing topics like this over students' mastery of core subject areas, district administrators have shown that they prioritize social issues over learning."


NYC schools bracing for budget realities of 120K enrollment drop-off

Schools Chancellor David Banks addressed the City Council’s education committee Monday on the proposed education budget, which accounts for student enrollment predictions and trends. Previously during the pandemic, schools did not lose funding if enrollment dropped.

According to the department, 120,000 students and families have left city schools over the last five years.

“How many more will come back? We don’t know. So we have to hope for the best but plan for the worst,” Banks told the committee.

Much of the loss can be attributed to a decline in new enrollees, the Independent Budget Office found this month. That includes families in some of the city’s traditionally most sought-after school districts, encompassing neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Park Slope.

“For our schools to deliver on their original promise of serving as the engine of the American dream, we will need to do things very differently in ways that build trust one big step at a time,” said Banks.

To help get families back or new families enrolled, Banks said the system needs to connect students with the “real world” and “what matters to them,” and engage parents as partners.

“It is the biggest complaint that I’ve heard since I started as chancellor — parents have felt unheard and disrespected,” he said.

Banks added many schools experienced “big changes” in enrollment over the last few years that have not yet been reflected in their budgets. To soften the blow next school year and the following, the system will spend $160 million and $80 million in federal funding to partially make up those losses.

Council members pushed Banks on efforts to bolster enrollment, and how those tie into other problems the system faces, like run-down buildings and other crumbling infrastructure.

“You want to bring them back, but the environment has to also be inviting,” said Council Member Rita Joseph of District 40 in Brooklyn, a former teacher who heads the education committee. “Most of them look like jails. They said the colors are terrible, the settings are horrible.”

Banks, who had previously characterized shrinking enrollment as an “indictment” of the DOE he inherited, encouraged city leaders to foster a more positive, “new narrative” that could help reach families.

“We’re also trying to be fiscally prudent as well, as we look at what these trends are demonstrating. So it is disturbing, and so we’ve got tough choices that we have to make here,” Banks said.

“How do we get families to re-engage, and to trust, and want to come back into our schools? That will solve a lot of these other financial issues that we have.”


Mob Rule and Cancel Culture at Hastings Law School

By Ilya Shapiro

I’ve given more than 1,000 speeches in my career, and I’d never been protested—until March 1, when dozens of students shut down my event at San Francisco’s UC Hastings College of the Law. In January the school’s Federalist Society chapter invited me to talk about my recent book on the politics of judicial nominations, a subject that became timelier with Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement.

On Jan. 26 I tweeted in opposition to President Biden’s decision to limit his nominee pool by race and sex. I argued that Judge Sri Srinivasan was the best candidate, meaning that everyone else was less qualified, so if Mr. Biden kept his promise, he would pick what, given Twitter’s character limit, I characterized as a “lesser black woman.” I deleted the tweet and apologized for my inartful choice of words, but I stand by my view that Mr. Biden should have considered “all possible nominees,” as 76% of Americans agreed in an ABC News poll.

I was about to start a new job as a senior lecturer at Georgetown and executive director of its law school’s Center for the Constitution. Georgetown placed me on paid leave pending an investigation into whether I violated any university policy. I can’t comment on that investigation because eight weeks later it’s still in process.

It’s clear that a vocal minority of Hastings students wanted to hear neither my reasoning about Mr. Biden’s selection criteria nor my broader analysis now that there is a nominee. They screamed obscenities and physically confronted me, several times getting in my face or blocking my access to the lectern, and they shouted down a dean.

They also castigated their school for allowing me to speak and circulated a letter demanding “a committee of diverse student representatives” to approve speakers as well as mandatory training in critical race theory for students and faculty. Never mind that Hastings, a public institution, would be violating the First Amendment if it disapproved speakers based on their viewpoints.

And never mind that preventing a duly invited speaker from speaking is against UC Hastings’s rules. The school’s chancellor wrote in a communitywide email the next day: “Disrupting an event to prevent a speaker from being heard is a violation of our policies and norms . . . which the College will—indeed, must—enforce.”

But don’t hold your breath for anybody to be disciplined there or at Yale Law School, where an event was similarly disrupted the next week. Too few administrators follow the example of the University of Chicago’s Robert Zimmer. In response to pressure to punish Prof. Dorian Abbot for criticizing affirmative action, Mr. Zimmer reaffirmed his commitment to faculty members’ freedom to “disagree with any policy or approach of the University . . . without being subject to discipline, reprimand or other form of punishment.”

You’d think that law students should have a particular appreciation for spirited and open engagement with provocative ideas. They’ve chosen a career that centers on argument and persuasion.

But alas a heckler’s veto prevailed. I’d welcome the opportunity to return to Hastings—or anywhere—to discuss the Supreme Court. It’s even more important to have a national reckoning about our inability to discuss controversial issues without canceling our opponents.




Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Woke Harvard students force CLOSURE of on-campus police station after moaning that cops' presence was 'a violent, visual intimidation tactic' and raging at officers who ate in student dining rooms

An on-campus Harvard University police station was forced to closed after students complained that its presence was 'a violent, visual intimidation tactic.'

The police department's substation, located inside the Mather House residential hall, closed in February following years of outcry from both woke students and faculty.

They argued the outpost, which opened in 2005 and was one of four on campus, was more intimidating than helpful, according to the Harvard Crimson, and even took aim at officers for eating in the students' dining room.

Eleanor 'Ellie' Taylor, a Harvard student and resident of Mather House, claimed the substation was being used as a 'visual intimidation tactic' against students.

'The real effect that the presence of the HUPD substation has on the Mather community is simply a violent, visual intimidation tactic that students are forced to see every time they enter the house,' Taylor said.

She added there were concerns about Harvard University Police Department officers eating meals alongside students in the dining hall during the 2019-2020 academic year, which she said made many students feel uncomfortable.

Faith Woods, another resident at Mather House, told the Harvard Crimson that having the police substation attached to the hall where she lived was not helpful, but instead 'implies that we're being watched and policed, which is not a pleasant feeling.'

'I am well aware that the police are not there to keep me actively safe,' Woods said. 'Having a police car sitting outside of Mather every night — which it does — doesn't bring me any sense of safety.'

Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in an email to the newspaper that the closure was a result of concerns raised by students, as well as how much police used the substation.

'The decision to close the Mather House substation was made last week in response to concerns raised by Mather House staff and students as well as the amount of use of the substation by officers and community members,' Catalano wrote.

The police substation was located at Mather House on Cowperthwaite Street. Now, the closest station is 0.6 miles away from the residential hall, according to Harvard's campus map.

Kai DeJesus, another Mather House resident, told the Harvard Crimson that the substation's closure is a 'really good first step,' but believes that the university's police department ultimately needs to be abolished.

DeJesus pointed to a 2020 incident in which an officer was accused of using excessive force, while arresting a black man in Harvard's Smith Campus Center.

'It's really important that we keep these violent institutions outside of residences,' DeJesus said. 'Ultimately, HUPD remains the police force that disproportionately targets Black and Brown people here on campus and in Cambridge.'

'For real justice to exist on this campus, HUPD must be abolished,' DeJesus said.

HUPD will continue to operate substations at the University's Longwood Campus, the Smith Campus Center, and the Harvard Kennedy School's Wexner Building.

'The closure will not impact the Department's ability to respond to calls from the community in an effective and timely manner,' Catalano wrote.

The substations were designed to build community relationships, the Harvard Police Department maintains on its website.


SHOCKING: New York College Honors Cop Killer

Leftists describe murderer as a "loving human being."

Once again leftists prove what we’ve known all along. Criminals are the new upstanding citizens. At least in the world of leftism.

Thus, it’s no surprise that one New York college set out to honor a convicted cop-killer.

In 1971, Jalil Muntaqim, formerly known as Anthony Bottom, helped kill two NYPD officers. At the time, Bottom was active with a militant wing of the Black Panthers known as the Black Liberation Army. As such, he was partly responsible for a series of deadly attacks aimed at law enforcement. elaborates:

Authorities said Bottom and his accomplices lured Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini to an apartment building in Harlem before shooting them from behind.

Bottom was later captured and convicted of two counts of first degree murder. Like many Black revolutionaries from that era, he’s been in prison ever since, currently incarcerated at Sullivan Correctional Facility north of New York City.

Denise Piagentini, widow of one of the officers, has petitioned parole board officials over the decades since to keep Bottom behind bars.

“Anthony Bottom assassinated my husband and Waverly Jones because they wore the blue uniform,” Piagentini said at a police officer union event last year. “We need to remember that under the uniform there is a person.”

Her pleas were enough to keep Bottom behind bars until Black Lives Matter culture took over. Now, Piagentini and Jones are no longer the priority to the parole board. So, in 2020, they set Bottom free.

On Sept. 11, New York’s parole board reversed itself, granting Bottom release. State officials declined to immediately release documents explaining their decision.

The move went unnoticed until the New York City police union issued a statement on Sept. 23 blasting the parole board, which in recent years has released more formerly violent offenders from prison, including men who attacked or killed police.

“We are furious with the cowards and lunatics who claim to lead this state,” said Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch in the statement.” They have chosen to stand with the murderers, cold-blooded assassins and radicals bent on overthrowing our society.”

The statement also included a statement from Denise Piagentini who said she was “heartbroken” by the parole board’s decision.


Multiple COVID cases won’t trigger NYC health department assessment in schools

Multiple COVID-19 cases in New York City public schools will no longer trigger “epidemiological assessments” by the health department, according to an internal memo obtained by The Post.

The city Department of Education memo to principals comes as the new Omicron subvariant, BA.2 sparks fears of a possible surge.

If there’s a breakout of multiple cases in classrooms or on sports teams, the memo says, principals should distribute COVID-19 home test kits to students who have been exposed.

The superintendent’s office can help assess “what may be causing the increase in transmission” and consult the Office of School Health “to minimize further transmission.”

“I didn’t realize that epidemiology was part of my principal’s duties,” said a Brooklyn administrator, who asked not to be named without DOE permission to speak.

The Kings County principal said the new directive, which went into effect March 14, confused him and several colleagues.

“It’s the honor system at this point,” the principal said. “The kids come back to school and you don’t know if they tested or what the results were.”

“We feel they want to decrease the staff in the Situation Room,” he added, referring to the team of DOE and health officials who oversee COVID cases in schools.

“This is the way they’re doing it and putting it on us.”

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer denied any changes in Situation Room procedures.

“There is a citywide shift away from universal contact tracing, but all of the same alerts and systems are in place in our schools,” he said. “The ask of the principal remains the same as it has been since January.”

The current threshold to gauge transmission is 10 cases in a classroom or sports team, though officials said that number could be revisited as the pandemic evolves. In the Brooklyn administrator’s building, cases have not reached that count at any point in the pandemic, he said.

The policy shift comes after the Post reported that principals will earn millions in overtime pay for an avalanche of work imposed by the Situation Room, including tracing what students and staff were exposed to COVID and notifying families.




Monday, March 21, 2022

Los Angeles Unified School District announces end to indoor mask mandate

The second-largest school district in the country, with over 600,000 students and 30,000 teachers, said masks will now only be “strongly recommended” indoors.

The new policy still needs to be formally ratified by union groups, but is expected to go into effect no later than March 23, district officials said in a press release.

The district’s face-covering policy is now in line with guidelines from the state and those of LA County’s Departments of Public Health.

Most districts in California lifted their mask mandate earlier this week, but LAUSD held off while it met with the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, to come to an agreement, according to ABC 7.

“I strongly support ending the indoor mask requirement and am committed to continuing to uphold our science-based approach to COVID-19 safety and protocols,” Superintendent Alberto M.Carvalho said in a statement.

“I want to personally thank our students, employees and families for their support and patience. We know some in our school communities and offices will continue to wear masks while others may not. Please consider your situation and do what is best for you or your child. Now that this important issue is behind us,it is time to focus on each students’ full academic potential.”

According to the agreement, the district has agreed to continue weekly PCR COVID-19 testing of all students and staff through the end of the school year – a policy that will be reviewed again in April or May.

LAUSD has also agreed to provide KN95 or N95 masks to all employees who request them. The district also must provide take-home COVID-19 tests to all students and staff “for baseline testing prior to the beginning of the 2022 spring break.”


UK: Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi plans crackdown on 'Mickey Mouse' degrees - with universities required to publish drop-out rate and graduate job outcomes on every advert

Nadhim Zahawi is planning a crackdown on 'Mickey Mouse' degrees, the Mail on Sunday can reveal. Universities will be required to publish the drop-out rate and graduate job outcomes on every advert they put out for a degree, in the same way loans have to be upfront about APR, under plans being considered by the Education Secretary.

This would apply to both physical and online adverts for courses and aim to ensure students are not 'misled' when applying, insiders said.

Mr Zahawi wants to see tighter criteria for entry to university and curbs on courses that do not deliver good job prospects while saddling young people with debt.

A government source said the aim is to tackle universities cynically offering degrees as 'silly' as 'David Beckham studies' while knowing they are unlikely to lead to better career or earnings prospects for young people. They pointed out that some Management degrees have a drop out rate of more than 50 per cent.

Ministers are currently discussing proposals to introduce a 'no C at Maths GCSE, no university' rule to significantly tighten criteria for entry.

The tougher measures are designed to push pupils towards other routes including apprenticeships.

A senior government source spoke in favour of demanding a minimum C level Maths for all university applicants. However the plan is controversial and others want a softer version of pupils needing to have passed either Maths or English at GCSE or have a minimum of two Es at A-Level to be able to attend university.

This would apply to both physical and online adverts for courses and aim to ensure students are not 'misled' when applying, insiders said (stock image)

The talks are part of a Department of Education consultation on introducing minimum qualifications for student loan access.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Education Select Committee, said: 'I hope they proceed with caution on this. Some people who are very bad at maths may be able to do a history degree.

'Rather than denying someone a place in university, we should offer them a refresher course while they are at there.'

The Department of Education is concerned that 'not all students receive the same high quality of teaching' and that many end up with saddled with student loan debt for courses with poor job prospects.

An insider familiar with the talks said: 'The problem with universities is they see themselves as part of a free market, but they are not because they have got taxpayers paying.'

These plans are part of wider reforms separate from the upcoming education white paper, expected at the end of this month.

Mr Zahawi plans to use the white paper to make apprenticeship and vocational routes more appealing to young people. This will involve an overhaul of T Levels, or technical qualifications, with the aim of making them as prestigious as A Levels.

T Levels will be designed with employers on 'robust employer standards', a source said, and will offer a 45-day work placement for students.

A government source said: 'What we need to achieve is for aspirational parents and kids, following vocational routes becomes as prestigious as an academic or university one. People shouldn't feel they have to go to university' adding that vocational routes should not be seen as just 'hard hats and high vis jackets' but also highly technical professions including working on film sets.

Mr Halfon said: 'Instead of university, university, university, it should be skills, skills, skills. That's why getting T-levels right is so important.

'We should be encouraging more students to do T-Levels and apprenticeships – in contrast to most students who go to university and do not get good graduate jobs despite the great whacking loans they take out.'

Other measures expected to be announced in the white paper include new 'covid catch up' measures including targeted support for children who fell behind during the pandemic.

New targets will be set for pupils passing English and Maths GCSE for 2030, which will be more ambitious than pre-Covid ones.

The white paper will also set out a plan to make all schools run by academy trusts, which would give them more autonomy from local councils.


The isle of banned books: Tiny island off Maine - with a population of 100 - is buying controversial novels that have been prohibited by certain schools or US counties as 'push back' on censorship

The tiniest library in Maine, housed on Matinicus Island 22 miles off the state's coast, is on a mission to fill its shelves with unwanted and banned books.

From 'And Tango Makes Three,' the story of two male penguins that raised a chick together, to classics like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, 'The Handmaid´s Tale' by Margaret Atwood, 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck and 'The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison, all books are welcome including those that are being banned or canceled in other parts of the country.

Eva Murray recently returned from a trip to the mainland with a bunch of books including 'And Tango Makes Three,' which the American Library Association says is one of the most banned books in the country.

She also brought back a number of field guides, which she told the Bangor Daily News are 'popular here.'

Islanders also requested copies of 'Maus,' Art Spiegelman's graphic novel retelling his father's experiences as a Polish Jew and a Holocaust survivor, but Sherman's Maine Coast Book Shop in Rockland was out of copies.

Other than the field guides, which Murray purchased, the library's entire inventory is donated. It is organized and maintained entirely by volunteers, who tend to the 24/7 library whenever they have a spare moment.

'We are buying banned books in order to publicly push back against the impetus to ban books. To say, 'If you don´t want it in your library, we want it in ours,'' Murray told the publication.

For years, islanders just traded books among themselves, but they decided to create a grassroots library in 2016 in an eight-by-ten prefabricated storage shed that an islander sought to get rid of.

'Getting and acquiring a building out here is no small thing,' Murray, who is the founder of Matinicus' recycling program, told the publication. 'I said, 'How about we take it, move it off the property, renovate it and it can become our library,'' she said. 'That is, in fact, what happened.'

Islanders applied to give the library nonprofit status, then had an island carpenter renovate the shed's interior and Murray's electrician husband wire it.

It expanded in 2020 to add a second shed for a children's library after Kristy Rogers McKibben, who grew up on the island and had established a short-lived, ad-hoc lending library 40 years prior, applied for a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. A second insulated shed was delivered to the small island on a ferry.

'It's cute as a bunny,' Murray said of the children's library. 'It's just something that makes people smile. It's got the same nice carpentry inside, pine shelving, and I painted this neat, colorful floor.'

There's no librarian. Patrons borrow books using the honor system. Books are checked out by writing the book's name in a notebook.

As the library grew, the island started to become the bookish equivalent of the 'Island of Misfit Toys,' the place where unwanted toys reside in the Christmas classic, 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'

The library is also the island's first free wireless hotspot, which Murray said has made a difference for a lot of residents. The sheds aren't heated, but patrons make do.

'I am every day surprised how much people respect and honor and appreciate and support this,' Murray said.

The emphasis on banned books does not seem to be controversial on Matinicus, the state´s most remote and isolated community.

With only 100 year-round residents, a live-and-let-live tolerance and appreciation for differences is essential.

'We are in a privileged position to say, 'We don´t ban books,' and that we welcome people´s suggestions for books,' Murray said.




Sunday, March 20, 2022

Charter schools’ common sense ask of NY state Legislature

A pro-charter school rally in City Hall Park Wednesday served as a reminder of yet another thing Albany isn’t doing: letting more kids attend good schools.

The Legislature refuses to lift the cap that prevents more charters from opening in New York City, though enrollment in charters has jumped 9% these last two years even as Department of Education schools keep losing kids by the tens of thousands. The best chance to do it is now, as part of the budget due April 1.

With 50,000 kids stuck on the waitlist for a charter seat, “it is unconscionable in these past two years in particular that we would not do everything possible to make sure that our kids and our families have the best possible education choices,” notes Crystal McQueen Taylor from StudentsFirstNY.

The smallest fix would be to revive the dozen-plus “zombie” charters, issued in past years but no longer active, so that schools ready to open could do so. That’s “just a different way to count charters as the number of schools operated,” argues James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center.

Better still, end the special cap on charters in New York City, and let Gotham use some of the 70-plus charters still available under the main cap in the rest of the state.

Best of all would be to do away with the cap entirely: It was set up when charters were experimental; now that they’ve succeeded so thoroughly, the only reason to keep it is the lobbying of the teachers unions that dominate the regular public schools.

If the Legislature refuses to at least lift the cap, it’s a clear sign lawmakers just don’t care about the kids.


Auckland University student who admitted raping student allowed to keep studying

A student who a university proctor agreed had twice raped and physically assaulted another student was given a written reprimand and allowed to keep studying.

The victim complained to the University of Auckland about the two sexual assaults, as well as several other attacks including her rapist covering her face with a pillow so she couldn't breathe when she confronted him.

The university proctor accepted it happened, reprimanded the man and told him not to contact the woman. But eight months after her complaint he is still studying at the university.

However, the woman had to quit her studies and return to her home country after becoming severely depressed.

Only last week did the university tell the woman via letter the man would have to face a disciplinary committee over his actions - one day after the Herald on Sunday started asking questions.

In that letter the university admitted to a failure in its disciplinary procedures, saying the proctor did not have the power to resolve such a serious case and it should have been referred to the university's discipline committee.


Australia: Pandemic lockdowns have widened the wealth gap in our schools

Less intelligent students need more help to achieve so reducing that help has serious consequences. Highly intelligent students by contrast do well in any system. And intelligence is both hereditary and a major precursor to wealth. So private schools on average have smarter kids with richer parents

A learning gap between rich and poor students is widening as literacy and numeracy tests reveal schools in disadvantaged suburbs have fallen behind during the ­pandemic lockdowns.

Educators have warned of higher dropout rates and social scarring without intervention to help students from poorer families catch up on their lost learning.

Fresh NAPLAN data, to be published on Wednesday, reveals patches of poor performance in suburbs blighted by high unemployment, poverty or large numbers of students whose parents don’t speak English.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe warned that many students from disadvantaged backgrounds were being “left behind’’.

“These deep-rooted education inequities have widened in recent years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Morrison government has done nothing to address them,’’ she said.

Across Australia, the average NAPLAN score for year 9 reading fell by 4.5 points to 577, while writing scores rose by 1.8 points to 551, between 2019 and 2021. Numeracy performance dropped by an average of 4.6 points to 588.

At Chifley College’s Mt Druitt campus in western Sydney, where three out of four students live in the poorest 25 per cent of households and half speak a foreign language, the year 9 writing results fell by 18 points, while writing scores dropped 35 points.

Bucking the trend is Sydney Adventist School in Auburn, in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs, where old-school teaching methods have driven success.

Despite 80 per cent of children being from non-English speaking families, the school lifted the reading and writing scores for year 3 students in 2021. The school’s deputy principal, Jenny Hahnel, said the school expected high academic standards from students, whose migrant parents value education and respect teachers.

The school uses “explicit teaching’’, providing clear instruction until each student has mastered the content of a lesson.

Reading is based on phonics, and children learn their times ­tables, as well as hands-on learning such as measuring objects in the playground for maths. “Explicit teaching focuses on a lot of repetition,’’ Ms Hahnel said.

“Every day we start the lesson revisiting content we’ve already taught. We’re consistently checking for understanding during the lesson, and we focus on student engagement.

“You’ll never see a child sitting at a desk and not knowing what to do. Not one child went backwards during Covid.’’

The Smith Family, a charity that is helping 58,000 disadvantaged children attend school through its Learning for Life sponsorship program, warned that more children had fallen behind as a result of lockdowns.

Anton Leschen, the charity’s Victorian general manager, said he knew of a single parent home schooling seven children, using one smartphone with a cracked screen and limited data.

“Living in disadvantage is a matter of chaos and survival,’’ he said. “Access to digital resources is always a major issue.’’

Mr Leschen called for targeted learning support for children who had fallen behind at school. “Some of them are very bright and hardworking,’’ he said. “Others have arrived at school with low initial literacy and cognitive and social skills. They’re not write-offs, but targeted support and help to catch up is all the more necessary.’’

At Kurnai College in Morwell, in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, reading scores dropped by 38 points, writing by 43 points and numeracy by 17 points. On the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, half the students attending Western Port Secondary College live in the poorest 25 per cent of households.

Year 9 students’ NAPLAN results dropped 15 points for reading, 56 points for writing and 15 points for numeracy.

Punchbowl Boys’ High School in NSW enrols 72 per cent of its students from the poorest households – virtually all from a non-English speaking background. Its results in year 9 fell by 19 points for reading and 23 points for numeracy, but rose six points for writing.

At Durack, one of Brisbane’s poorest suburbs, Glenala State High School’s year 9 students performed 10 points lower in 2021 than the crop of year 9s in 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

Writing scores fell 15 points and numeracy scores 19 points.

Australian Secondary Principals’ Association president Andrew Pierpoint said many poorer families could not afford computers or tablets for home schooling and online lessons.

“They might have a phone shared between siblings,’’ he said.

“The students have to read a document and type on a phone.’’

Mr Pierpoint said the pandemic had made the gap between poor and wealthy students “wider than we’ve ever seen before’’.

He called for more funding for the most disadvantaged schools. “Some schools need more money because life keeps running over the top of them, and it’s not the kids’ fault,’’ he said. “We need to address this as a nation.’’

Australian Primary Principals’ Association president Malcolm Elliott said many students had struggled when their parents could not help with home schooling, provide technology or pay for tutoring.

“Some of the maths that children get sent home with can look very complex for parents,’’ he said.

NSW Teachers’ Federation senior vice-president Amber Flohm said 3000 students had dropped out of school in 2020 and “never returned’.

“Students with disability or who are learning English are heavily reliant on face-to-face interaction,’’ she said. “English as an additional language is not something that lends itself to remote learning and teaching.’’