Friday, October 28, 2022

Collegiate Complicity in the Erosion of American Identity


I have taught about the economic history of the United States and Europe over the last seven decades, beginning in the 1960s and extending into the 2020s. I believe all educated Americans should have a decent understanding of American economic exceptionalism, how over the course of four centuries the area known as the United States went from being lightly populated and impoverished to being the richest and otherwise most exceptional place on Earth.

Yet the teaching of our past has declined in magnitude over time; mandatory collegiate instruction in history has largely ended. But it is worse: we are now lying about our past, telling stories that simply are not true. And the universities are at the forefront of this trend.

A brilliant entrepreneur and intellectual, Vivek Ramaswamy, put it well in his newest book, Nation of Victims:

We’re a nation that’s losing its memory, rewriting and sanitizing its own history to fit preapproved victimhood narratives. We suffer from our own version of Alzheimer’s. As we lose our memory, we lose our national identity.

The story of our past, accurately portrayed, provides the glue that brings together “Americans” from different areas, backgrounds, educational attainment, races, genders, etc. It gives strangers who are thrust together a common identity, placing them all together in one big tribe, the inhabitants of the United States of America.

For that reason, schools at all levels, and especially secondary and higher education institutions, once required all students to have some acquaintance with the American story. But no longer. Few colleges require instruction, for example, in American history, or even that of other parts of the world (I consider my year-long course in Western Civilization as a college freshman to be one of the most important and valuable courses I ever took). The famous George Santayana quote comes to mind: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

But it is far worse than that. We are now pushing a narrative of our past that is plainly false, aided and abetted by the truly execrable revisionist history known as the New York Times’ 1619 Project, led by journalist and pseudo-historian Nikole Hannah-Jones. According to this account, America’s most important distinguishing characteristic arose out of the arrival of slaves in 1619, and the American Revolution of more than one and one-half centuries later was fought to preserve the “peculiar institution” of slavery. In 55 years of reading and teaching about our colonial past, I never heard such a position espoused until the 1619 Project came along to reinvent our heritage.

Now we are, as Ramaswamy says, a nation of victims, ranging from 17th– and 18th-century slaves to the oppressed minorities of today. We should be ashamed, not proud, of our heritage. We should atone for our sins rather than extol the virtues of an extraordinary past. As for the colleges? They often promote this false narrative, telling us that evil people, predominantly white males, have victimized and subjugated relatively innocent individuals of different races and genders.

Empirical evidence, of course, seems irrelevant. Why have literally tens of millions of persons from all over the planet descended upon America? Why is one of the biggest domestic issues today the annual flow of literally millions of illegal migrants to our nation—in 2022, about six thousand a day, or more than four persons every minute, day and night? If we are such a horrible, oppressive place, why do they keep coming?

Vivek Ramaswamy’s own background better describes the real, exceptional America. Several decades ago, his parents moved to America from Kerala, a poor Indian state. Vivek went to school in Cincinnati, graduating from one of Ohio’s very best high schools (St. Xavier) as valedictorian. He then went to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and then to Yale Law School. He also launched a successful career as an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist while marrying his sweetheart, another super-achiever, who graduated from the Yale School of Medicine and is now a professor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. At 37, Ramaswamy has established himself as a leading commentator on American life—while running a business as well.

As a child, and later as a parent and grandparent, I was mesmerized by the children’s book The Little Engine That Could, which tells a story of how hard work and persistence could achieve the seemingly impossible task of getting a train over a mountain. It is a quintessentially American story of overcoming adverse conditions. Late-19th-century Americans were attracted to the story of Horatio Alger, who through hard work (and some luck), managed to move from rags to riches.

By contrast, today’s universities seem to show disdain for achievement, evidenced by such things as rampant grade inflation, downplaying academic performance in college admissions, and even glorifying victimhood, often accompanied by attempts to force students and faculty alike to profess to their manifest sins in promoting the inequities that allegedly tarnish our nation.

One thing that universities respond to is money. Maybe, as Milton Friedman hinted to me almost precisely twenty years ago, the time has come for us to start taxing rather than subsidizing universities. Perhaps they are no longer serving the public good. For whom does the bell toll? Maybe a generation from now, it will elicit a mournful sound akin to “Taps” as it tolls amidst a sadly diminished university.


D.E.I. Statements: Empty Platitude, or Litmus Test?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in higher education involve a range of objectionable elements, such as giving preferential treatment to job candidates from particular race and gender groups and generating a massive administrative staff that encroaches on faculty autonomy and attempts to structure and surveil even informal campus interactions. One element of the phenomenon that has received increasing attention is the proliferation of DEI statements: requirements that candidates submit testimonials of their contributions to DEI as part of the academic hiring and promotion process, and official pronouncements of the values of a university or unit within it. A growing number of university departments now announce their support for DEI while demanding that any potential future colleagues do the same.

Others have advanced capable and instructive attacks on these statements. I write simply to point out a dilemma: such statements are necessarily either too weak or too strong.

Defenders of DEI statements often ask how such a practice can be problematic. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are positive values, the argument goes; what kind of person would not support them? The implication is that the DEI statements contain an affirmation of self-evident goods to which no good person could object, obvious truths beyond the realm of reasonable contestability. Being asked to testify to one’s support for DEI could give no pause to any sensible person’s conscience.

But if the statements are platitudinous and banal, why have they become so popular? Applicants for a position aren’t required to profess allegiance to happiness or good times or kindness or doing the right thing. Departments don’t issue statements acknowledging that the sun rises in the morning, that one should provide for one’s children, or that it is good to try the best one can. And it would be wrong to do so, for unnecessary obligations add to the endless administrative overhead afflicting professional life today and generate opportunities for decisionmakers to treat applicants arbitrarily. Mandating a “why caring about others is better than not” statement for evaluating chemists or physicists, for instance, could only introduce a confounding variable into the process and lead to the hiring of worse chemists and physicists.

Moreover, how could the ballooning administrative apparatus at universities that exists largely to oversee DEI statements be justified if they amount to nothing more than uncontentious sappiness? Indeed, if higher ed really is facing an adverse economic climate—with austerity looming even in its core pedagogical and research functions—then it is irresponsible to devote so many university resources to such a pointless enterprise.

Apologists for this burgeoning practice have been pushed toward emphasizing a level of generality and lack of clear content in DEI statements, even at the cost of making them seem pointless and wasteful. The reason is clear: as Brian Soucek, a defender of diversity statements, acknowledges, less “specific” (in other words, more substance-free) statements are less susceptible to the challenge that they constitute “thinly veiled ideological litmus tests.” The more obvious interpretation is that DEI statements have been adopted across academia with such passion and pervasiveness not because they are empty vessels, but because they do express a particular value system and political outlook. DEI statements demonstrate, and align universities with, a way of looking at the world fashionable among faculty and (especially) administrators.

But if these professions are meaningful at all, then they curtail academic freedom and abet already-rampant discrimination in academic careers. When demanded in the context of hiring and promotion, DEI statements either serve to downgrade and exclude candidates who are honest about holding views that dissent from progressive orthodoxy on race and gender, or they enjoin applicants to mislead about their views and violate their consciences. During the struggle to rescind the religious tests that limited Oxford and Cambridge to Anglicans until the second half of the nineteenth century, critics noted that constrained professions of belief have the tragic quality of being most effective at keeping out people with integrity, people unwilling to distort or lie about their beliefs to get ahead. But this is exactly the kind of person whom academia should prize.

Universities and departments render free speech a dead letter when they issue substantive DEI statements. Students and faculty will rightly worry about repercussions for running afoul of the opinion announced on behalf of the corporate body to which they belong. Permitting proponents of one side of a question to trade on the prestige of the university’s name tilts the field of debate unfairly. A DEI statement with even the slightest substantive purchase transforms the institution from a true university—a place where all are welcome who can contribute to the discovery and transmission of knowledge—into a sect with lab space.

Defenders of DEI statements cannot help but be stuck on one horn of this dilemma. The statements are too weak to justify implementing or too strong to cohere with the academic mission. Either they are so empty and trivial that building a bureaucracy around them and expending moral and financial capital inserting them into so many aspects of university life constitutes an indefensible waste; or they contain substantive positions, in which case they are instruments for the further marginalization of disfavored viewpoints under the guise of inclusivity. In practice, the latter situation is increasingly the norm in higher education.

The pretense of a happy and uncontestable generality is, for apologists of this burgeoning practice, the price to pay for keeping the DEI engine rolling. But the truth is that DEI statements subvert the ideal of impartial evaluation of scholarly achievement and skirt nondiscrimination law in order to limit academic hiring and promotion to desired perspectives and groups. And that is, sadly, precisely why they are gaining ground across higher education today.


British schools may be forced to cut teachers and expand class sizes due to ‘devastating’ funding shortages

Schools are considering cutting teacher numbers and making class sizes bigger in a bid to save money.

In a new poll by an education union, most said they were likely to take these measures or were at least thinking about them.

Headteachers have been raising the alarm over stretched school budgets for months, as soaring inflation and staff pay increases push up costs.

Nearly all now face having to make cuts, the new poll by the Association for School and College Leaders found, with 98 per cent of respondents saying they would have to find savings either this year or the next.

Over half – 58 per cent – said they were considering or likely to reduce teaching staff and increase class sizes to deal with cost pressures.

Meanwhile, 55 per cent said they were thinking about reducing the number of teaching assistants in their school, while around 40 per cent said they were considering reducing curriculum options.

One headteacher told The Independent last month that his secondary school had already cut back on subjects in a bid to save on costs.

Geoff Barton, from the ASCL union, said: “School leaders in this survey use words such as ‘catastrophic’ and ‘devastating’ to describe the financial situation they are facing and the impact on their pupils. “It is clear that the future is bleak unless the government acts urgently.”




Thursday, October 27, 2022

School Choice Milestone Calls for New Approach

Next year will mark 30 years since California’s Parental Choice in Education Initiative, Proposition 174, appeared on the ballot. The measure provided a voucher equal to roughly $2600 for use at qualifying government, independent or religious schools.

As the Christian Science Monitor noted, “not since California started the national tax revolt in 1976 by adopting Proposition 13 have voters faced an initiative with greater political and policy consequences.” Proposition 174 failed, partly due to opposition from then-governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, who called the measure “too costly.”

Since 1993, California voters have had no opportunity to vote on a parental choice measure. The pandemic amplified the problems of government schools with unnecessary shutdowns. Children are now subject to racist government propaganda, and parents may be branded domestic terrorists if they dare to protest. The problems parents face are best modeled by the “captain of the anti-choice team.”

Government schools in Washington D.C. are dysfunctional and dangerous. For low-income students, most African American, the only alternative is the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships Program, a school choice program run by Congress. Obama education secretary Arne Duncan not only limited the program but rescinded scholarships that had already been granted, sending the students back to failing schools.

Back in 1993, Prop 174 supporters said parents should have the right to choose the schools their children attend. It would be more accurate to say that parents have had this right all along. Still, it has been taken away from them, just as Arne Duncan rescinded scholarships already granted. Call it educational theft.

The strategy moving forward should be to restore the right to choose. If the legal and political obstacles seem daunting or “too costly,” ponder the prospect of another 30 years under current conditions. Teacher cartels call the shots, students are essentially captives to government propaganda, and parents are forced to pay the freight.

The right to choose must be restored, and the dollars should follow the scholars, as in the G.I. Bill. That is the path to meaningful reform, increased student achievement, and the expansion of liberty.


Jewish University Launches New Strategy Amid Religious Freedom-LGBT Conflict

An Orthodox Jewish school at the forefront of the battle for religious freedom has presented an interesting compromise: Rather than endorse the LGBT student club that is currently suing the school for recognition, it will launch its own club that it says will help LGBT students while obeying the Law of Moses.

Yeshiva University announced Monday that it has established “the Kol Yisrael Areivim club for LGBTQ students striving to live authentic Torah lives.” The announcement came just over a month after the Supreme Court rejected the university’s request to block a non-final New York trial court order forcing it to recognize YU Pride Alliance, an LGBT student group that promotes activities that conflict with Torah values, according to the university.

The New York Appellate Division later agreed to rehear the denial of Yeshiva’s request to block the order, and the Pride Alliance agreed to let Yeshiva’s rejection stand for the duration of the litigation.

“We are eager to support and facilitate the religious growth and personal life journeys of all of our students to lead authentic Torah lives, and we hope that this Torah-based initiative with a new student club tailored to Yeshiva’s undergraduate LGBTQ students will provide them with meaningful support to do so,” Rabbi Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, said in a statement.

“We love all of our students, including those who identify as LGBTQ,” the university wrote in a frequently asked questions document explaining the new club. “Through our deep personal relationships and conversations with them, we have felt their struggles to fit into an orthodox world that could appear to them as not having a place for them. We recognize the inherent challenges of our LGBTQ students who are fully committed to live uncompromising halachic lives. Their struggles are our struggles, and we remain eager to support and facilitate their religious growth and personal life journeys.” The term halachic refers to Jewish law.

The university described the Pride Alliance as “a recognized movement in colleges throughout the country that not only fights anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a cause which we fully support, but also promotes activities that conflict with Torah laws and values.” Yeshiva University did not provide further language clarifying what it means by such “activities,” but it appears the term refers to homosexual activity and expressions of transgender identity, which the Torah forbids (Lev. 18:22, Deut. 22:5).

“While an adoption of this national brand is inherently unacceptable in the context of Yeshiva, we also realize the need to find additional ways to be supportive of our students that are consistent with halacha … and inspired by our values,” the university added. “That is what we have done with the approval of this new student club. It is worth noting that this approach is in line with other devout, faith-based universities nationwide, who similarly do not host Pride Alliances, but have established clubs consistent with their own faith-based languages and traditions.”

In addition to the new club, the university also announced that it would enhance “on-campus support for its LGBTQ students.” Yeshiva University will launch new efforts, in addition to the efforts it currently has underetaken, which will include “sensitivity training for faculty and staff”; “strict anti-harassment, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies”; and “an ongoing LGBTQ support group.”

Yeshiva University, America’s oldest Jewish institution of higher education, has operated by Jewish law for 135 years, but New York County Supreme Court Judge Lynn Kotler ruled that the school did not qualify as a religious corporation under state law.

The case represents an important test for religious freedom. Does a Jewish university have the right to apply its values in its operations, or must it kowtow to the demands of LGBT activists and New York’s public accommodations laws? If religious institutions like Yeshiva wish to welcome all students, but also to follow their religious convictions against endorsing homosexual activity and transgender identities, must they forgo public funds and move to states with more favorable laws?

Conservative Christians often use the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This phrase expresses the heart of what Yeshiva University aims to prove with this new student group: The college will accept all students who struggle with homosexual orientation and gender dysphoria, without endorsing homosexual activity or transgender identity. Many Jewish students may feel same-sex attraction and may feel like they are women trapped in male bodies (or vice versa), but in keeping with Yeshiva’s Torah values, they refuse to act on those feelings.

Yeshiva will have to work hard to preserve the distinction between its new club and the activities the school refuses to endorse. It will need to be clear on the nature of those activities and on the limit of the support it is willing to give LGBTQ students. The future of religious freedom in America may depend on it.


Dearborn dads get school board to buckle — providing an example to America’s men

The most perverse in our society will always seek out the most vulnerable, and lately, literary perversion has crept its way into schools and libraries nationwide by means of progressive influence and paid for with our tax dollars.

These perverse actors have attempted to weaponize our parental instincts to protect our children from anything age-inappropriate by claiming our objections are either politically or religiously motivated.

For the last few weeks, Dearborn, Mich., has become another battleground as parents showed up in force to school-board meetings in fierce opposition to books being available that feature highly sexually explicit content and instructions.

One of the books parents particularly objected to, “This Is Gay,” was accessible to students despite giving explicit details on a variety of sexual acts and even offering suggestions on where to find sexual partners.

“I’m a 43-year-old man, embarrassed to say this stuff, and yet you say it’s OK for this to be in the hands of my children. Shame on you,” fumed a father at a recent meeting.

This stark response from the community led the school board to abruptly end one meeting early and proceed with another meeting later at a larger venue able to support the number of people from the community who wanted to have their voices heard.

The media and social media’s central focus was aimed at the religious demographics of the residents — Dearborn has the largest Muslim population in the United States per capita. But for me, their religion took a backseat as to what was vastly different at Dearborn versus every other school-board confrontation we’ve seen: The speakers were mostly men.

It wasn’t just fathers who were outraged enough to come and express their opposition to explicit books on school shelves; the community’s elders also made their presence known. Masculine righteous indignation permeated these meetings as men felt schools were encroaching on their community’s children’s innocence.

For the first time since the start of these nationwide school-board battles, I saw men rallying together to make it clear that any action to exploit their children’s vulnerability will receive an equal and opposite reaction. They weren’t cowering in fear of being “canceled” or labeled “toxically masculine” because they’re like most fathers: We would rather risk death than allow our children to remain in harm’s way.

Despite being falsely accused as anti-LGBT because of their Muslim faith, they remained steadfast in insisting that sexual perversion, regardless of orientation, is unacceptable, and they’ll without hesitation fall on the sword of slander to protect their children from it.

While both parents have a duty to protect their children, I’ve seen the lack of male representation at these school-board meetings as a troubling sign for the state of fathers today. Too many have left the burden of protection solely on the mothers.

What is happening across our nation at school-board meetings isn’t a minor squabble over lunch-food selections — it’s about stemming the tide of inappropriate sexual content before it becomes normalized and justified as being beneficial for your child’s education.

The progressive perverts pushing this content are cowards, and the only way they change course is when the public exposes their deeds. But the public can’t be just the attentive mothers.

We need our fathers to take ownership in protecting our offspring from the indoctrination and immorality perpetrated by representatives and employees of the state, and we need our mothers to advocate for their participation as well.

The men of Dearborn led the charge there — and it quickly forced their school district to create a Book Reconsideration Committee, providing a process for parents to challenge the age-appropriateness of books in their district’s libraries. Our most vulnerable need their fathers fighting for them as hard as Dearborn’s.

Our protection is love, and we need to lovingly protect.




Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Top NYC prep schools with annual fees of $60,000 force PARENTS to take woke 'anti-racism' workshops run by groups that have called property taxes, the NFL and the Nobel Prize 'racist'

Several New York City private schools are pushing diversity, equity and inclusion values, with one school saying it 'expects' both students and parents to participate in 'anti-racist training.'

The Brearley School, with a tuition of $58,800, released its 'Commitment to the Brearley Community' to students and parents, which includes its 'anti-racist statement.'

'We expect teachers, staff members, students and parents to participate in anti-racist training and to pursue meaningful change through deliberate and measurable actions,' the document reads. 'These actions include identifying and eliminating policies, practices and beliefs that uphold racial inequality in our community.'

'Parents are subsequently urged to discuss with your children Brearley's mission, diversity, equity and inclusion, and anti-racist statements in the student handbooks, and establishing your family's responsibility to uphold these values.'

Other schools, like The Spence School, with a tuition of $60,880, have invited parents to partake in DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) workshops led by a consulting firm that previously called property taxes racist.

The Pacific Educational Group, a San Francisco-based DEI consulting firm, has argued that 'systemic racism' is 'deeply embedded in the fabric of this nation.' 'To become truly anti-racist, it takes abandoning all sense of ego and comfort,' one tweet reads.

'The opportunity to participate in the DEI program offered by PEG is strictly voluntary for parents. These programs do not involve students,' a spokesperson for Spence told the New York Post.

Through a series of tweets, the firm has said it believes 'racism in the NFL is far from surprising news' and awards like the Nobel Prize 'often come with the baggage of a racist history.'

The Chapin School, located in Manhattan's Upper East Side, held another workshop to discuss the school's 'ongoing commitment to equity & inclusion, including our newest community-wide initiatives.'

It was advertised as optional, though one mother told the post that 'they take attendance, they have name tags, there is someone from the admissions office to keep track of who goes and who doesn't.' 'If you don't go, your child is not going to go very far in the admission process,' she said.

One other school, Grace Church High School, required students to sign pledge in 2020 to fight against 'racial propaganda' and 'interrupt biases'

Bronx-based Horace Mann School lauded the author of 'White Fragility,' a book that suggests all white people are racist, in a presentation by Ronald Taylor, the school's former associate director of the office for identity, culture and institutional equity.

'How can we take (Robin) DiAngelo's message and make it applicable to all communities in the (Horace Mann) community,' he asked.

'I don't want to be in necessarily white spaces, because when black children were put into those spaces their support and caregivers were taken away and they were put into racially hostile environments.'

A school spokesperson said the presentation by Taylor 'was designed to educate parents about what they were hearing not only in the news at the time but from their children.

'It was completely voluntary and if a parent rejected this instruction or the content, their children would be welcome at Horace Mann.'


UK: Christian school teacher vows to fight on despite losing High Court bid to overturn dismissal and lifetime classroom ban for refusing to use eight-year-old trans pupil’s preferred pronouns

A primary school teacher who was sacked after refusing to call an eight-year-old transgender pupil by a boy’s name has vowed to fight on against ‘injustice’ in classrooms.

She was yesterday refused permission for a judicial review over safeguarding concerns at her former school.

However, the Christian woman pledged to continue raising awareness of the ‘danger’ around damaging ‘trans affirming policies’, which she claims puts children ‘at serious risk’.

The woman, known by the pseudonym Hannah to avoid identifying the child involved, claimed the result is ‘not the end’ of her case.

Despite losing her landmark legal challenge, she is internally appealing against her school’s decision to dismiss her after she argued its transgender stance could harm youngsters.

If this is rejected, a full employment tribunal will commence.

Speaking after her application for a judicial review was refused by a High Court judge, Hannah said: ‘Injustice has not been done against me but against all the children in our schools.

‘How else am I meant to raise the danger of the trans affirming policies in our schools which are doing such damage?’

She added: ‘Teachers are being discouraged from questioning trans affirming policies when evidence shows that the actual result of the approach is to put the welfare of children at serious risk.

‘More must be done to protect vulnerable children across the country from long-term mental, emotional and irreversible physical damage inflicted upon them by this dangerous ideology.’

The teacher had attempted to gain permission to pursue a judicial review surrounding the refusal of her school’s governing body and local authority to address her transgender safeguarding concerns.

But Judge Honorable Mrs Justice Farbey, sitting at Birmingham civil and family justice centre, said the application ‘failed to take into consideration the private life of Child X’ who is ‘young and vulnerable’.

She added that the ‘public is divided on the issue of transgenderism in schools and there is no consensus on the approach’.

The teacher was told last September she had a child in her class who wanted to change gender.

Hannah, from the East Midlands, refused to call the pupil by a boy’s name, or refer to them with male pronouns, saying it ‘went against her Christian beliefs’.

She was originally suspended and later dismissed on the ground of gross misconduct after arguing that the school’s ‘transgender affirming’ policies could harm children.

She had claimed that it could damage the young student, known as Child X, to unquestioningly encourage the belief that they were ‘in the wrong body’.

Richard O’Dair, representing the teacher, told the court his client was acting in the ‘best interests’ of Child X, and had correctly raised safeguarding concerns - a responsibility for all staff.

He said schools also have a duty to secure balanced treatment of political issues, but staff went to a seminar where they were provided with resources, which were not assessed for ‘impartiality’.

Mr O’Dair added: ‘My submission is that the material which the teachers were supplied with was only an affirmation of transition. ‘In the transition session, where lots of documents were provided, there was nothing to alert staff to the risk of transitioning, for example, under the pressure of a parent. ‘And we say that was inappropriate because transgender issues are highly political.

‘When teaching the children or teaching the teachers teaching the children the material has to be balanced.’

However, the court heard the teacher was sacked after ‘obsessively’ accessing Child X’s personal information and fears she would ‘out’ the pupil.

Multiple accesses were made in the week, at weekends and late at night as she ‘trolled for information to support her case’, it was claimed.

Representing the local authority, Aileen McColgan KC, said: ‘The duty of safeguarding points goes to all staff - from the groundsmen to the dinner staff. ‘The claimant is driven ideologically and not by the best interest of the child.’

Hannah has been reported to the Teaching Regulation Agency and could be barred from teaching for life in future.

Her case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the legal branch of the evangelical group, Christian Concern. It will now look into options for appeal.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘We are disappointed by this decision but are resolved to keep standing up for the well-being of children.’


UK: University is blasted as 'woke' for changing student email address format to use random letters - instead of the user's initials - to be 'more inclusive' to those who are 'assuming a new identity'

University bosses have been slammed as 'woke cultists' after they stopped using students’ initials for their emails and usernames - because it is not 'inclusive'.

The University of York used to use the first letters of students’ first name and surname to create their official emails and the username.

But education chiefs have now scrapped the practice because they say too many people were changing gender or asking to change theirs part way through their courses for other reasons.

Toby Young, the founder and director of the Free Speech Union, blasted the move and said: 'This seems like a parody of political correctness gone mad, the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a Netflix series satirising the ideological capture of universities by woke cultists.'

But the top-flight university insisted it decision was about improving students' experience at the institution and followed a number of requests from learners.

'We feel that breaking the link between a person’s name and their username is important for making the University of York a more inclusive place to work and study,' the university added in an online explainer.

York said some students were adopting Western names or getting married or divorced and didn’t want to keep the same initials.

While others had 'difficult' family relationships and didn’t want to be associated with their surname.

The university has now said it will simply use randomly generated letters with no relation to the people involved.

Leaders at the institution argue that not using initials - which can change if students alter their gender while they are studying - can improve students’ experience.

An explainer on the University of York’s website said the decision was taken this month and added: 'Usernames are a unique identifier for users within the University.

'Unfortunately, basing them upon a person’s initials means that some people ask for their username to be changed when they believe that it no longer reflects their identity.

'This normally happens when someone has changed their name - for example, following marriage or divorce, to adopt a Western name, to distance themselves from a difficult family relationship or to match their gender identity.

'Unfortunately, we do not currently support changing a person’s username as it is used as the primary identifier in a large number of disconnected systems.

'We would like to support this in the future but enabling this will be a long-term project.

'What we can do now is improve the experience for new staff and students in such situations, and so we have changed the way we generate usernames for all users (staff, students and other affiliated users alike).

'We feel that breaking the link between a person’s name and their username is important for making the University of York a more inclusive place to work and study.'

Toby Young said the decision by the university was 'the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a Netflix series satirising the ideological capture of universities by woke cultists'

Criticising the move, social commentator Mr Young said: 'I still can't believe it is real. 'Wouldn’t it be simpler to just stick with the system they know and which everyone has got used to?

'If the university authorities want to cheer up trans students, they should just give them the money that they will inevitably have to spend dealing with the unintended consequences of introducing this crackpot idea.

'Since there are probably no more than a dozen trans students on campus, I imagine that solution would be very popular with them.'

The change came after students requested to alter their username when they felt it didn’t reflect their identity - because of marriage, divorce, adopting a Western name, distancing themselves from their family or wanting it to match their gender identity.

But the university couldn’t alter these as usernames are used to uniquely identify students across all the institution’s disconnected systems.

In the new identification style, the university will no longer be using vowels or the letter 'y' to avoid names, profanities or offensive words - and has asked students to report any combinations they think should be blacklisted.

The approach has been implemented for students and staff joining the University after October 12 - and will not affect those already studying.

Their name will still appear on the email system as the sender.

A University of York spokesperson said: 'With our existing systems, we are not able to fulfil any requests by staff or students to change their username to more accurately reflect their current initials - for example, as a result of marriage or assuming a new identity.

'The aim of our new approach, which uses randomly selected letters and numbers to create usernames, is to break the perceived link between a person’s name and username, therefore avoiding any issues individuals may have on the inclusion of their current or future initials.'

The university - which ranked 24th in the UK last year - had a total income of £414million in 2020-21.

Earlier this month it announced a £6million package to help students through the cost-of-living crisis - including a £150 energy grant for households.




Tuesday, October 25, 2022

‘I Had No Power Over My Kids’ Education,’ Maryland Mom Says After Asking to Opt Her Second Grader Out of LGBT Lessons

An elementary school just outside the nation’s capital touted Gay Pride Month and defined words such as “transgender” in a video sent to students. A middle school in the same school system displays pride flags and “LGBTQ+ stories” in class.

A local mom, who wishes to remain anonymous but whom The Daily Signal will refer to as Rebecca Martin, said her two children were in second and fifth grade at Kensington Parkwood Elementary School in suburban Maryland when the school distributed a video marking Pride Month on June 4, 2021.

“I could not believe what I was seeing. I was just in absolute shock,” Martin said.

Martin also witnessed rainbow-striped pride flags on display in her son’s classrooms at North Bethesda Middle School on back-to-school night last fall, after he was enrolled there, she told The Daily Signal.

The lone bulletin board in one classroom was given over to what decorative letters described as “LGBTQ stories,” she said.

Both schools attended by Martin’s children are part of Maryland’s highly rated Montgomery County Public Schools.

At the time it sent out a video celebrating Pride Month, Martin said, Kensington Parkwood Elementary used a hybrid learning model because of the COVID-19 pandemic: Students attended class in person some weeks and remotely during other weeks.

Her fifth grade son was taking classes from home the day the elementary school sent out a weekly video hosted by media specialist Esther Girón.

In the video, Girón tells students that “we’re celebrating Pride Month for LGBTQ+ people.”

She goes on to share some “fun facts” about Pride Month, including feeling-based definitions for a list of words such as gender, transgender, pride, gay, and lesbian.

Girón also highlights two LGBT activists: the late San Francisco elected official Harvey Milk, described as “one of the first openly gay politicians in the United States,” and Laverne Cox, the transgender actor in the adult Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.”

Girón didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s emailed request for comment.

“I was in shock, and I was also frustrated and … angered,” Martin told The Daily Signal.

The terminology used in the video for the elementary school’s students wasn’t correct, she added. “They were confusing gender and biology.”

Martin said she especially was disturbed that her second grade daughter, as well as other kids as young as kindergarten age, were exposed to this content.

Martin said her children are the third generation in the family to be enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools, which is among the most affluent school districts in the nation.

“Never, never … was anything remotely like this taught,” she recalled. “And if it was, you had to get parental permission.”

Martin said she sent an email to Kensington Parkwood’s principal and vice principal the day she saw the video on the school’s KPTV channel.

She requested to opt her children out of future attempts to push what she saw as age-inappropriate material on her kids without her consent, Martin said. But she never got a response from the school.

“I don’t feel, as a parent, this is appropriate for my child,” Martin told The Daily Signal. “I felt … I had no power over my own kids’ education.”

Kensington Parkwood Elementary didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment by The Daily Signal by publication time.

This past year, Martin said, she attended back-to-school night at North Bethesda Middle School, where her son now is enrolled.

A rainbow or transgender flag was on display in each of her son’s seven classes, she told The Daily Signal. Such “pride flags” hung on the same poles as American flags at the school.

In one classroom at Bethesda Middle School, Martin said, the single bulletin board on the walls featured what were called “LGBTQ stories.”

The principal of North Bethesda Middle School, AnneMarie Kestner Smith, described her school’s LGBTQ-related policies in an email to The Daily Signal.

“These are not topics in middle school curriculum but is [sic] something students are aware of,” Smith wrote, adding:

MPCS [Montgomery County Public Schools] takes pride in the level of support for both students and staff that identify in the LGBTQIA+ community. We have welcoming, affirming schools, classrooms, teams, and clubs. We value all of our children, youth, teachers, staff, and parents.

In June, Smith emailed students and parents to alert them to an incident during eighth grade lunch that she described as hateful toward the school’s “LGBTQ+ community.”

The principal wrote:

I was disappointed and dismayed to learn that during 8th grade lunch on the first day of PRIDE month some students displayed hateful and threatening behaviors towards members of and allies of our LGBTQ+ community. This type of behavior, along with any hateful, racist, or bullying behavior is not acceptable at North Bethesda Middle School.

The 8th grade administrator, counselor, and team leader created a safe space for students impacted by this event during lunch today and continue to be available to support.

Smith added that she and other school administrators would investigate and “address the behavior with appropriate consequences.”

It isn’t clear what the hateful behavior was, Martin told The Daily Signal. And what constitutes “hateful” for the principal isn’t necessarily what many parents would consider hateful, she said.


Father Blasts Woke School Board, Starts Speech with Verse Straight from Bible and One Question

A conservative activst, pastor and father in North Carolina is going viral after torching a woke school board’s equity initiative during a meeting earlier this month.

During his remarks before the Wake County School Board, John Amanchukwu slammed officials for worrying about a diversity office when achievement numbers for black students in core subjects were abysmal.

“We’re wasting taxpayer dollars putting money toward this diversity office that’s not benefiting those who need it the most,” he said.

However, it was the Bible verse he started his speech off with, Luke 17:2, which ought to provide parents a roadmap on how to shame liberal school boards.

The verse, which was paraphrased by Amanchukwu: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

“And so the question today to the school board is only you know whether or not your role — the policies, the curriculum and the things that you allow in this school system in Wake County — only you know whether or not a millstone is tied around your neck,” said Amanchukwu, who has campaigned against initiatives like critical race theory.

“God is going to judge every last one of you for decisions that are made on behalf of black children,” he continued.

“This past year, we spent one million dollars on a diversity office. And how did that benefit black children? How did it benefit children in general? Well, 78 percent of 3rd through 8th grade black students are not proficient in math in Wake County.”

He noted this meant that “we’re wasting taxpayer dollars putting money toward this diversity office that’s not benefiting those who need it the most.”

“If they’re not reading on grade level, they’re not performing mathematically, then they’re not going to be able to get jobs in the fields like STEM, but we’re wasting money on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office while we are failing black students in the name of diversity,” he added.

“As we talk about inclusion and making sure that the trans student feels comfortable and the queer student feels comfortable, what does that have to do with reading, writing and arithmetic?” Amanchukwu continued.

“As we are teaching cultural Marxism and grooming children to be the next pervert, we are damaging our kids in this public school system, and it needs to stop.”

He also urged for school choice for those who public education was failing: “In the Jim Crow era, Black students were locked out of the public school system, but today they are trapped in.”

Students for Trump founder Ryan Fournier brought the clip to wider attention, tweeting it on Wednesday.

“This pastor in NC nailed it while giving this speech to the woke Wake County school board,” he said. “God Bless this guy!”


Australia’s dumbed-down schools are going nowhere

Over the last month, there have been yet another two initiatives designed, supposedly, to improve the performance of Australian schools, raise standards and ensure greater equity. The first is an interim report by the Productivity Commission evaluating the 2018 National School Reform Agreement.

The NSRA is signed by Commonwealth, state, and territory governments and details strategies designed to ‘lift student outcomes across Australian schools’ by implementing a range of policies including a unique student identifier, reviewing senior secondary pathways, and strengthening the initial teacher education accreditation system.

The second initiative involves establishing a panel to review the effectiveness of teacher training established by the Commonwealth Minister for Education Jason Clare and chaired by the ex-ABC Managing Director Mark Scott.

While applauded as the panacea to achieve excellence and equity both initiatives are destined to join a long list of reviews and reports beginning in the early 1970s that have proven counterproductive and worthless in strengthening Australia’s education system.

Since the Karmel Report in 1973 and Victoria’s Blackburn Report in 1985, there have been over 20 reviews and reports at all levels of government designed to strengthen schools, improve teacher effectiveness, and raise standards.

Among the plethora commissioned are the Keating government’s National Statements and Profiles (1992), the NSW’s review of the Higher School Certificate (1995), a national inquiry into literacy teaching (2005), the Gonski Review of School funding (2011), the Review of the National Curriculum (2014), the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence (2017), and a review of the NSW curriculum (2020).

In addition to the eight state and territory education departments and curriculum bodies, in yet another attempt to improve Australia’s substandard educational performance, the Commonwealth government has also established the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2005) and the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (2008).

The dismal results of the last 50 years of reviews, reports, and government policies are obvious to all. Australia has slipped down the rankings as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) tests.

Apprentices start work with substandard literacy and numeracy skills, universities have dumbed-down first-year courses, and too many students leave after 12 years of schooling culturally illiterate and morally adrift.

If those responsible for Australia’s education system were in charge of a business they would have been sacked or gone broke. Instead, like the old industrial relations club, those responsible for the current malaise are reappointed to peak positions and given yet another chance to prove their ineptitude

What’s to be done? While the Greens Party, the Australian Education Union, and sympathetic academics argue what is needed in increased investment over the last 20 to 30 years proves spending more is simply throwing good money after bad.

It’s also useless to establish yet another committee made up of bureaucrats and education department, teacher union, and subject association representatives who have minimal, if any, experience as practising teachers.

Until there are significant structural changes schools will continue to underperform, students will continue to suffer, and the nation’s cultural capital and productivity rates will continue to decline.

The first step is to realise there is no magic bullet and one-off reviews and reports focusing on a single issue like the curriculum, teacher training, how teachers are rewarded, and classroom pedagogy will achieve nothing.

What determines school effectiveness and student achievement depends on a number of complex, interrelated factors that have to be addressed as a whole and at the same time.

Secondly, schools need to be freed from provider capture and what Michael Gove did when the British Secretary of State for Education derided as the ‘blog’. Schools need greater autonomy and flexibility and less bureaucratic red tape and interference from on high.

The curriculum is overcrowded while the superficial and criteria-based diagnostic assessment and reporting regime forces teachers to spend weeks writing voluminous descriptive reports. This is ineffective and takes energy away from teaching.

It should not surprise, proven by research by Australia’s Gary Marks and overseas academics including Ludger Woessmann and Eric Hanushek, giving schools greater autonomy and flexibility allows non-government schools to outperform government schools.

The cutting edge of reform overseas involves charter schools in America, city academies and free schools in England plus charter schools in India. Such is their popularity in disadvantaged communities, enrolments are oversubscribed.

For far too long Australia’s education system has fallen victim to progressive, new-age fads including open classrooms, process and inquiry-based learning, student agency, teachers as facilitators, and a curriculum driven by neo-Marxist inspired Woke ideology.

Schools have also been infected with the soft bigotry of low expectations where disadvantaged students are expected to always underperform. It’s time to stop experimenting with unproven fads and ensure all schools embrace rigorous standards and high expectations.




Monday, October 24, 2022

America’s teacher shortage

More than half of public- school principals reported that their school was under staffed entering this school year, especially for special- education positions, according to a September U.S. Education Department survey. That’s more than double the 20% who said they were understaffed before the pandemic. But, as with so much of education in the U.S., this problem isn’t affecting all schools equally. Several teachers told TIME they were leaving Paterson for districts that could pay them better and offered more resources. At least one survey has found that schools in lower- income areas are more likely to have vacancies.

Meanwhile, students are suffering the consequences. At Eastside High School in Paterson, nearly 600 students are currently enrolled in science classes that lack a fulltime teacher, with four substitutes filling in as the school tries to fill five vacancies for science teachers. A spokesperson for the district said the school’s supervisor of science has been uploading lessons and assignments for those students, who receive grades via a virtual learning platform. Some students don’t have a teacher for their science classes at all, and are working on assignments in the school’s auditorium “under staffsupervision.” In addition to paying existing staffextra money to cover classes with vacancies, the district says it will soon begin paying teachers a stipend to grade work for classes without permanent teachers.

A month into her senior year at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, 17-year-old Abriannie Lima has permanent gym and English teachers, but has a rotation of substitute teachers in three other classes, where she says she has still received no homework or graded assignments this year. (A spokesperson for the district says classes without permanent teachers have assignments posted online every day.) “It’s hard because it’s my last year. We actually haven’t been in school for almost two years,” Lima says. “Sometimes I just don’t feel like going because there’s no point in going if I have no teachers.”

That’s exactly what worries Brown, who fears her son will fall behind in writing and math without a certified special- education teacher.

The pandemic led to some of the biggest declines in academic achievement recorded over the past 50 years and widened the achievement gap between Black students and white students. As schools try to help students catch up, their solutions include smallgroup instruction and individual tutoring—which are nearly impossible to offer without enough educators. “You’re talking about gaps in learning. We are still suffering from COVID,” Brown says. “I feel like now with the vacancies, we’re never going to be able to catch up.”

Although surveys throughout the pandemic hinted at a looming mass exodus of teachers, that hasn’t come to pass. And some experts point out that many districts have been using federal relief funds to hire more teachers and staffthan they had before the pandemic.

Researchers found at least 36,000 vacant teaching positions across the country and at least 163,000 positions that are held by under qualified teachers, according to a working paper published by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute in August. Their analysis shows the problem varies widely by state. Mississippi, for example, had about 68 vacancies for every 10,000 students. New Jersey—a state that, alongside cities like Paterson, is also home to some of the wealthiest communities in America—had just one vacancy for every 10,000.

And certain districts are struggling more acutely. Schools serving more students of color and schools in high-poverty neighborhoods reported a larger percentage of teacher vacancies than schools serving mostly white students and schools in wealthier areas, according to an Education Department survey from January. Even before the pandemic, high- poverty schools had about twice the teacher turnover rate of low-poverty schools.

Public-school funding in the U.S. depends heavily on property taxes. As a result, districts serving wealthier white students tend to be better resourced than those serving low- income students and students of color. That’s partially why high-poverty districts, with less money for teacher raises and other resources, are more likely to have teacher shortages right now.

In Paterson, where about 60% of students are Latino and 25% are Black, two-thirds of students are considered economically disadvantaged, according to state data. In New Jersey, state money makes up much of the funding gap in poorer school districts. (Paterson is in the midst of contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, which is calling for increased starting salaries and regular raises.)

While teachers have long raised concerns about being underpaid and disrespected, the wage gap between teachers and other professions has grown worse over time. In 2021, teachers earned 23.5% less than college graduates with a comparable education level, the biggest gap since 1996, according to the Economic Policy Institute.


California Tries to Delay Release Of K–12 School Test Scores Until After Election

Last year, California K–12 school test scores showed that the math proficiency of the median eighth-grade student was at about the level of a fifth-grader. Hispanic and Black students, who represent over 60 percent of the state’s student population, performed even worse, with proficiency barely above the level of a third-grader.

“Horrible,” “awful,” and “unacceptable” are a few adjectives that describe this outcome. Many of these students will never catch up, because mathematics builds on itself. Many of these students will never succeed in technical fields such as engineering or computer science because these fields are based on mathematics. Some of these students may not even develop the mathematical knowledge to become financially literate. Many may economically struggle throughout their lives, being shut out of high-paying STEM jobs. Many may require some form of public assistance as adults, as the grossly deficient education they are receiving will leave them poorly prepared to earn a decent living in a world that will almost certainly leave them behind.

How many kids are we talking about? There are currently about 5.9 million students enrolled in California public schools, making the scale of the problem nothing short of a disaster. And while the magnitude of this educational deficiency is likely the result of remote learning during COVID, the deficiency itself has been around for decades; a study by the RAND Corporation, “California’s K–12 Public Schools: How Are They Doing?” dates California’s educational failures back to the 1970s.

The 2022 test results have been available for months, but the California Department of Education decided to withhold the results and not release them until an undetermined date later in the year. For parents and educators, this means that students are well into their next school year without the necessary data to determine what support and remediation they may need.

Why wait to release the results? According to one spokesperson for the Education Department, the delay is because they want to release the rest results at the same time they release other metrics, such as absenteeism and school suspensions, though no compelling reason was given for tying the test score release with these other data and releasing all the data at the same time was never done in the past. Another person in the Education Department said the department was still reviewing the data for validation, but if that were the case, then why let local districts release the data? Some schools released test scores early last summer.

Others note that the delay may be politically motivated, because the test scores will show continued learning outcome deficiencies, so bad that they might impact the November elections involving education leaders. This includes the election for state school superintendent, with incumbent Tony Thurmond running against Lance Christensen, as well as many local school board races.

Enter EdSource, an independent education organization whose mission is to inform the public about state education issues. EdSource asked for the test score results in August and was rebuffed by the Education Department. EdSource next sent a letter to the Education Department from its attorney. The lawyer didn’t pull any punches, stating, “EdSource considers delay tantamount to denial as it effectively robs the public of its vital role in overseeing the CDE [California Department of Education] and individual districts and in holding both accountable to its students and the public. This is especially important during what continues to be one of the most challenging and impactful times to our educational system due to the COVID pandemic.”

EdSource challenged CDE’s decision to withhold the test scores: “The CDE cannot identify any ‘public’ interest in non-disclosure that could justify its denial position, let alone an interest that ‘clearly outweighs’ the substantial public interest in access to this information.”

David Loy, legal director of the First Amendment Coalition, a San Rafael–based open government group, argued that there are no exemptions in the law that allow the government to withhold records from the public because they are inconvenient or embarrassing, saying, “The state can’t talk out of both sides of its mouth” by giving districts data that shows their test results and then refusing to release the overall data set.”

The Center for Reinventing Public Education stated in a report issued this month, “The academic, social, and mental-health needs are real, they are measurable, and they must be addressed quickly in order to avoid long-term consequences.” EdSource’s staff writers added, “Waiting until later this year to release how students scored last spring will delay needed public discussions on how districts should respond to serious setbacks in learning including shifting funding immediately and next summer to accelerate learning.”

Timely release of these data is critical for helping students get back on track. Less than 50 percent of third graders tested at grade level or above in English language arts during the 2018–19 school year, before the pandemic stalled learning. Nearly two-thirds of today’s third graders are reading below grade level.

EdSource’s legal challenge appears to have worked. The Education Department has reversed course, indicating it will release the data this month—though the release date may be after some ballots are returned—stating that “there is no reason to withhold the data.” This statement raises the question of why the department made such a quick reversal after they indicated that the data was incomplete and needed validation.

California’s public education system is failing most of our children, despite taxpayers spending nearly $20,000 per pupil per year. This failure is chronic. It continues year after year, decade after decade, and the root cause is a politically influenced education system that desperately needs a complete do-over.


The writing crisis in Australian schools

A review of 10 million NAPLAN year 3-9 writing results and more than 350 persuasive writing samples by the government-funded Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) has found students’ writing declined significantly in every key skill area but spelling over seven years to 2018.

“We do have a serious decline, and it’s worse for our older students,” said the head of AERO, Jenny Donovan, who called for the core skill of writing to be given greater emphasis in the nation’s schools. “It’s a big drop and [writing] is a really basic expectation.”

Claire Wyatt-Smith, an Australian Catholic University professor who was a key contributor to the NSW Education Standards Authority’s review of writing in schools, said an emphasis on reading had taken the focus off writing in Australian schools.

“Writing is of at least equal need and greater urgency,” she said. “The teaching of writing is perhaps the biggest equity issue we face. We can use the word illiterate. They finish school and are unable to have the proficiency in writing they need for workplace engagement.”

The national findings echo those of a major review in NSW, which also found teachers lacked confidence in teaching writing, were not given the training and resources they needed, and spent too little classroom time focusing on it, particularly in high school.

Writing is key to success at school because students who struggle to express their thoughts clearly on the page cannot demonstrate their knowledge. Research has shown that writing ability in year 9 is a strong indicator of success in year 12, when many subjects require essays.

Donovan said clear written expression was also essential to life after school. “Everybody is going to need to write a job application,” she said. “They’ll have to question a traffic fine, or make a case for why their rental bond should be returned.”

AERO’s analysis found the decline was particularly noticeable among high-performing students.

In 2011, more than 20 per cent of year 9 students achieved five or six out of possible six marks in sentence structure, which meant they could write sentences that varied in length and complexity. By 2018, that proportion had fallen to just eight per cent.

Writing standards

Forty-five percent of students in Year 7 can score a 3 out of a possible 6, meaning they can correctly write most simple and compound sentences, and some complex sentences. In year 9, more than a third of students are still only able to write at the same basic level.

Only a quarter of year 9 students used apostrophes, commas and colons correctly most of the time. Most were at the level of a competent year 3 student as defined by curriculum documents, which meant they could use capital letters at the beginning of sentences and full stops at the end.

The many students who are below the standard assumed in the curriculum are likely to find lessons and assessments too hard. This is a particular problem in year 9, although students in years 5 and 7 are also achieving at a lower level than curriculum expectations.

“Students are a long way short of where the syllabus and curriculum anticipates they should be in their learning,” said Donovan.

“When teachers are using the syllabus or curriculum to guide them, rather than the knowledge of where their students are up to, they’ll miss the mark. They’ll be teaching at a point where the students are not ready for learning. “There’s no reason why a year 9 teacher will know what’s in a year 3 syllabus document. That’s a big gap to straddle.”

Donovan has made writing a priority for AERO, which was founded to help schools use effective teaching approaches, and has developed resources that teachers can use in their classroom. “The good news part is we also understand what to do about it,” she said.

NSW has also become the first jurisdiction to make writing a key focus of its new syllabuses.




Sunday, October 23, 2022

NYU Professor Maitland Jones Jr. fired for being too hard says colleges ‘coddle students’

An NYU chemistry professor who claimed he was fired after students complained that his class was too hard said colleges “coddle” students instead of helping them succeed with “tough love.”

Maitland Jones Jr. taught at the expensive Manhattan private school for 15 years before he was canned ahead of the fall semester after a student petition alleged that his organic chemistry class was too difficult to pass.

“Organic chemistry is a difficult and important course,” he wrote in an op-ed published in the Boston Globe Thursday.

“Those of us who teach it aim to produce critical thinkers, future diagnosticians, and scientists.”

The 84-year-old said he has witnessed a decline in student capacity in recent years as well as administrators bending to the wishes of students more often than not,

“Deans must learn to not coddle students for the sake of tuition and apply a little tough love,” Jones wrote. “They must join the community in times of conflict to generate those teachable moments.”

He said professors now fear teaching demanding material and assigning low grades to students who perform poorly because they worry they’ll face punishment.

“[Young professors’] entire careers are at the peril of complaining students and deans who seem willing to turn students into nothing more than tuition-paying clients,” Jones said.

The ex-teacher said the students must learn to accept failure and grow from their mistakes. He argued doing so is a vital life skill today’s students aren’t getting.

“Students need to develop the ability to take responsibility for failure,” he wrote. “If they continue to deflect blame, they will never grow… Failure should become a classic ‘teachable moment.'”

Jones, who previously taught at Princeton University, said he watched a decline in students’ attendance and participation in his class over the past couple of years. He said the college kids were simply not studying and working hard enough.

“They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house,” he wrote in a grievance to NYU. “They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”

His students said in their petition that Jones often addressed them in a “condescending and demanding” tone and that he “failed to make students’ learning and well-being a priority.”

NYU cited students’ complaints of the professor’s “dismissiveness, unresponsiveness, condescension and opacity about grading” in its decision to fire the professor.

They did not, however, call for his firing.

A spokesperson for the university said his course evaluation was “by far the worst, not only among members of the chemistry department but among all the university’s undergraduate science courses.”

Still, Jones doubled down that universities must hold students to high standards in education.

“Without those standards, we as a nation will not produce those individuals — doctors, engineers, scientists, – citizens! — who will guide us toward a better future,” he wrote in the op-ed.


Doubt-Free, America's Schools Warm to Climate Activism

Public school districts are adopting curricula on climate change from well-funded progressive groups casting the issue as a threat to life on the planet that students should respond to through activism.

As of fall 2020, 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted standards that require science classes to teach human-caused climate change as a peril beyond dispute, according to K12 Climate Action, a group that is part of the progressive Aspen Institute.

The school districts often rely on information provided by advocacy groups including the Sierra Club and the U.S. Green Building Council. A Sierra Club teaching “toolkit” signals a wide purpose across subject areas: “The ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of moving our entire society to 100% clean energy — and for fighting climate change more broadly — can be woven into many subject areas, including: biology, chemistry, physics, and even social studies.”

Still more curricular guidelines and suggestions are distributed by well-funded progressive groups that include the United Nations’ Office for Climate Education, and the North American Association for Environmental Education.

Many scientists agree that human activity has contributed to the warming of the Earth in recent decades. But it’s still not clear how much temperatures will rise in the future and the effect that might have on society. While the Biden administration and progressive groups who help shape the school curricula argue that it is imperative to end or limit the use of fossil fuels, there is vigorous debate among scientists and policy makers about the best way to balance mitigation measures with economic and other tradeoffs that, critics say, are largely ignored in schools.

“It’s fine to teach climate if you summarize the pro and con arguments of climate change,” said John Staddon, professor emeritus of biology at Duke University and author of Science in an Age of Unreason. “But you don’t talk about it as a concluded issue. It’s a very political area and [climate change] is about scientific data, which is not a consensus.”

A RealClearInvestigations review of materials used to advance climate learning found that many contain an uncritical examination of climate change; they tend to emphasize worst-case scenarios, and to urge encouraging students to organize as activists.

“There are a lot of resources out there that are … helping students draft policies as well, and getting them involved from the beginning. And this is what we want to see, this whole-institution approach where we’re creating this culture of climate action,” Kristen Hargis, who works on research with the North American Association for Environmental Education, told attendees of an August webinar.

After the pandemic caused a delay to implementing its standards adopted in 2020, New Jersey this school year became the first state to introduce a mandatory comprehensive curriculum of environmental education in its public schools. State lawmakers in Connecticut earlier this year voted to make climate education in public schools mandatory starting next year, while a group of teachers in Oregon have drafted legislation that would create a curriculum similar to New Jersey’s.

Activists in other states are also working through legislators and state education boards to make uncontested climate change assertions part of classroom teaching.

Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, said there are limits to what high schoolers can be expected to read and understand from complicated climate science reports. “But you do want them to realize that [climate change] is a real thing and know the causes and … that it’s a serious problem that will be disruptive to nature and society for centuries to come and that there are ways to adapt.”

To question the widely disseminated doomsday view of much climate science is to invite outrage and personal attacks, as Wade Linger found in 2014. As a member of the West Virginia Board of Education, Linger sought to change the wording in a proposed lesson that would, if his amendment were adopted, allow students to consider “factors that have caused the rise and fall” of global temperatures over the past century, rather than only considering the idea that temperatures have increased. Linger also suggested students be allowed to consider the credibility of climate change data.

The lessons he challenged were developed largely by Next Generation Science Standards, developed by a series of mostly progressive science learning groups; they encourage students to “[take] action within their own spheres of influence” to combat what is presented as out-of-control global warming.

“This was a precursor on the education scene to all the indoctrination stuff like [critical race theory] and the gender conflicts,” Linger said in an interview with RCI. “This was an early trial balloon to see how they can use the system to indoctrinate kids.”

His stance drew widespread criticism, with strangers shouting him down on social media. State universities and science groups sent letters to the board, denouncing Linger’s proposal.

“Adding the words ‘“and fall’” to [the lesson] risks confusion among students between the concepts of weather and climate,” read a letter from the National Science Teaching Association.

Despite a widely mixed series of public comments on the planned curriculum, Linger’s suggestions were not implemented. He resigned in 2017.

“No one ever wanted to debate the data,” said Linger, who was appointed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin, now a moderate Democratic U.S. senator from the coal-producing state.


Racism Theory Found Widespread in Public Schools

To what extent, if at all, are critical race theory (CRT) and gender ideology being taught or promoted in America’s schools? With little data available, and no agreement about what constitutes the teaching of critical social justice (CSJ) ideas, the answer up to now has remained open to political interpretation.

Motivated by the work of Manhattan Institute senior fellow and City Journal contributing editor Christopher F. Rufo, many on the right allege that CRT-related concepts—such as systemic racism and white privilege—are infiltrating the curricula of public schools around the country. Educators following these curricula are said to be teaching students that racial disparities in socioeconomic outcomes are fundamentally the result of racism, and that white people are the privileged beneficiaries of a social system that oppresses blacks and other “people of color.” On gender, they are being taught that gender identity is a choice, regardless of biological sex. But are the cases Rufo and others point to representative of American public schools at large—or are they merely outliers amplified by right-wing media?

The response to these charges from many on the left has been to deny or downplay them. CRT, they contend, is a legal theory taught only in university law programs. Therefore, what conservatives are up in arms about is not the teaching of CRT, but the teaching of America’s uncomfortable racial history.

But strong connections exist between the cultural radicalism of CRT and the one-sided, decontextualized portrayal of American history and society that Democratic activists endorse. And these ideas have also influenced many Democratic voters. Indeed, according to a 2021 YouGov survey, large majorities of Democratic respondents support public schools’ teaching many of the morally and empirically contentious ideas to which opponents of CRT object. These include the notions that racism is systemic in America (85 percent support), that all disparities between blacks and whites are caused by discrimination (72 percent), that white people enjoy certain privileges based on their race (85 percent), and that they have a responsibility to address racial inequality (87 percent).

Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they are hardly “settled facts” on the same epistemic plane as heliocentrism, natural selection, or even climate change. To the contrary, they are a moral-ideological just-so theory of group differences, an all-encompassing worldview akin to a secular religion, whose claims can’t be measured, tested, or falsified. They treat an observed phenomenon (disparate group outcomes) as evidence of its cause (racism), while specifying causal mechanisms that are nebulous, if not magical. Their advocates have not refuted counterarguments; they’ve merely asserted empirically unverified statements about the nature of group differences.

Publicly funded schools that teach and pass off left-wing racial-ideological theories and concepts as if they are undisputed factual knowledge—or that impart tendentiously curated readings of history—are therefore engaging in indoctrination, not education. The question before us, then, is not whether or to what extent public schools are assigning the works of Richard Delgado, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and other critical race theorists. It is whether schools are uncritically promoting a left-wing racial ideology.

To answer this and other related questions, we commissioned a study on a nationally representative sample of 1,505 18- to 20-year-old Americans—a demographic that has yet to graduate from, or only recently graduated from, high school. A complete Manhattan Institute report of all the findings from this study will be published in the coming months; what follows is a preview of some of them. Our analysis here focuses mainly on the results for the sample overall rather than for various subgroups.

We began by asking our 18- to 20-year-old respondents (82.4 percent of whom reported attending public schools) whether they had ever been taught in class or heard about from an adult at school each of six concepts—four of which are central to critical race theory. The chart below, which displays the distribution of responses for each concept, shows that “been taught” is the modal response for all but one of the six concepts. For the CRT-related concepts, 62 percent reported either being taught in class or hearing from an adult in school that “America is a systemically racist country,” 69 percent reported being taught or hearing that “white people have white privilege,” 57 percent reported being taught or hearing that “white people have unconscious biases that negatively affect non-white people,” and 67 percent reported being taught or hearing that “America is built on stolen land.” The shares giving either response with respect to gender-related concepts are slightly lower, but still a majority. Fifty-three percent report they were either taught in class or heard from an adult at school that “America is a patriarchal society,” and 51 percent report being taught or hearing that “gender is an identity choice” regardless of biological sex.

We also wanted to assess whether certain concepts were more likely to be taught in some educational contexts than in others. To this end, we separately asked respondents whether, “in high school, college, or other educational settings,” they were ever taught that “discrimination is the main reason for differences in wealth or other outcomes between races or genders” or that “there are many genders, not just male and female.” Overall, excluding those who didn’t know, 62 percent were taught that discrimination is the main reason for outcome gaps and a third were taught that there are many genders. As shown in the chart below (which includes “don’t know” answers), statistically significant (if only modest) differences emerged between respondents with no versus at least some prior college instruction: 58 percent and 26 percent of those in the latter group, respectively, report having been taught these two concepts, compared with 50 percent and 25 percent of those in the former. Far from being the preserve of academic curricula, then, CSJ ideas central to contemporary left-wing racial and gender ideology are being taught to students before they arrive at college.

The summary chart underscores the pervasiveness of at least some form of exposure to these concepts. For instance, 93 percent of respondents reported either being taught (85 percent) or hearing from an adult at school about at least one of the eight listed concepts, with an average of 4.3 concepts; 90 percent reported either being taught (80 percent) or hearing about at least one of the five CRT-related concepts, with an average of 3.0 concepts; and 74 percent reported either being taught (54 percent) or hearing about at least one of the three gender-related concepts, with an average of 1.3 concepts. While these figures are for the sample overall, they do not meaningfully differ by school type. Levels of exposure were similar regardless of whether respondents reported attending public or private high schools.