Friday, December 16, 2022

Brain Training Doesn’t Work

Scott H. Young

But "knowing stuff" helps

Will mastering chess make you more strategic? Does playing Sudoku speed up your mind? Do brain teasers help you think more logically?

Sadly the answer is: probably not.

From a 2016 review by Simons et al.:

“[W]e find extensive evidence that brain-training interventions improve performance on the trained tasks, less evidence that such interventions improve performance on closely related tasks, and little evidence that training enhances performance on distantly related tasks or that training improves everyday cognitive performance.”

Another study tracked participants over two years of working memory training. They found that the training had no impact on measured intelligence. The authors concluded, “These results question the utility and validity of [working memory] training as means of improving cognitive ability.”

Likewise, Giovanni Sala and Fernand Gobet performed a meta-analysis on whether studying chess and music affects academic or cognitive skills. They found only minimal effects. Some studies supported benefits from training, but the higher quality the study, the weaker the effect. Summarizing their review, the authors remark that, “this pattern of results casts serious doubt on the effectiveness of chess, music and working memory training.”

It’s easy to see why people are attracted to the idea of brain training. Intelligence is associated with nearly every positive life outcome people experience. A procedure that increases intelligence with only a small amount of daily effort would be life-altering.

Brain training also makes sense if you hold a false (but seductive) view of the mind — the idea that the mind is like a muscle.

The earliest takedown of the mind-muscle metaphor dates to Edward Thorndike. In 1901, he began a series of studies that showed practice on quite similar tasks didn’t lead to improvement in unrelated tasks. Thorndike interpreted his results in terms of identical elements: post training, performance improves on tasks that overlap in the stimulus or response required, but not beyond this.

Summarizing his view, Thorndike wrote, “the mind is so specialized that we alter human nature in small spots.”

Psychology has progressed considerably since Thorndike’s day. Yet the idea that skills are specific is a consistent finding in psychological research. In their 1989 monograph, The Transfer of Cognitive Skill, John Anderson and Mark Singley argued for what amounts to an updated version of Thorndike’s identical elements model. Skills transfer to the extent that the knowledge and procedures used between tasks are the same. If skills rely on different methods or ideas, training in one won’t help with another.

Thorndike’s identical elements model, and modern theories such as Anderson’s ACT-R, show why brain training doesn’t work. But are there any other ways to get smarter?

Does Education Boost Intelligence?

Brain-training fails because it focuses on a very narrow kind of task. Judging a good chess position and good business decision don’t use the same procedure. Thus learning strategy in chess doesn’t make you more strategic or effective in business.

Education doesn’t necessarily suffer the same shortcoming because it aims to impart a much broader set of skills. Algebra might only be suitable for problems that use algebra, according to the identical elements model. But there are lots of problems you can solve with algebra! Similarly, learning to read may not transfer (directly) to other skills, but reading can be a gateway to acquiring knowledge in practically any field.

Stuart Ritchie reviewed studies on the impact of additional years of education. He found that an extra year of schooling was typically associated with 1–5 more IQ points. These studies often rely on a quasi-experimental design. The authors studied situations where a sudden, unexpected change in policy resulted in some people getting more education than others. Testing people just before and after the cutoff let them tease out the effect of education without a formal experiment.

The optimistic take on this research would be that education improves general thinking by equipping people with diverse cognitive tools. This breadth has power. Even if a particular task is only helped by a subset of school training, many years of schooling make an overlap between skills and tasks increasingly likely.

The pessimistic stance would be that education trains you at narrow tricks that work for passing tests — sitting still for a prolonged period, guessing well when you don’t know the answer, watching out for trick questions, etc. — and these tricks also help on IQ tests.

Applications for an Identical Elements View of Learning
My perspective is that the only way to become smarter is by learning. The basic units of learning are specific, but when added together, these specific chunks can become impressive proficiency.

A concrete analogy would be language learning. Fluency isn’t a muscle you improve. It results from knowing many words, grammar, and pronunciations and using that knowledge quickly and unhesitatingly. It can be impressive to watch someone at a mastery level converse in a language you struggle with. Still, there is nothing more to it than this — if you knew everything she did, you too would be fluent.

Similarly, intelligence in real life is about having the vocabulary of methods and knowledge to deal with a wide variety of problems. Each unit of learning may seem unimpressive on its own, but combine enough of those units, and the accumulation is wisdom.

But to achieve this possibility, we must let go of the false promise that broad-ranging skills can come from practice on narrow tasks. Brain training is a dead-end, but learning is timeless.


Teacher Sues Ohio School District After Being Fired for Refusing to Use Preferred Pronouns

Chivalry isn’t dead, apparently.

Although in 2022, chivalry means not holding a door open, but banishing women who refuse to hew to the fashionable ideology of the day from the presence of other women.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, major law firm Hogan Lovells hosted a conference call “billed as a ‘safe space’ for women at the firm,” according to then-employee Robin Keller. (One wonders if Hogan Lovells, whose reported invitation language seems to suggest a lack of awareness that we now are a culture of pregnant persons, faced ire for excluding biological females who now identify as male.)

“It might have been a safe space for some, but it wasn’t safe for me,” writes Keller in The Wall Street Journal.

For the crime of expressing out loud her pro-life views, Keller lost her job.

Sadly, the exclusion of pro-life women is apparently, even in our “enlightened” era, an acceptable form of discrimination.

Never mind that there’s always been a robust percentage of women who identify as pro-life (in fact, a third of American women say they are pro-life, according to a 2022 Gallup poll). Never mind that being the sex which experiences pregnancy is supposed to give your views on abortion more weight.

Keller’s experience highlights how insane certain settings can be for pro-life women.

After a series of speakers denounced the Dobbs decision in her law firm’s conference call, Keller writes, she chose to speak out.

“I noted that many jurists and commentators believed Roe had been wrongly decided. I said that the court was right to remand the issue to the states. I added that I thought abortion-rights advocates had brought much of the pushback against Roe on themselves by pushing for extreme policies,” she recalls in her article, published Nov. 29.

Then Keller, clearly no coward, dared to touch the third rail of woke politics: Discussing the clear racism of abortion.

“I referred to numerous reports of disproportionately high rates of abortion in the black community, which some have called a form of genocide,” she writes. “I said I thought this was tragic.”

Within hours, Hogan Lovells suspended and even attacked Keller.

In a statement to Above the Law, a law blog that covered the incident in July, Hogan Lovells wrote that an employee’s comments had been found by other employees to be “inappropriate and offensive.” Above the Law also published an internal email in which Hogan Lovells accused Keller of having made “anti-Black comments” and stated that “racist actions and statements are contrary to our culture.”

Ah, yes, the racism of wanting black babies to be born.

Keller, who headed the U.S. business restructuring and insolvency practice at Hogan Lovells, herself wrote that “The outrage was immediate” after she spoke on the call.

“The next speaker called me a racist and demanded that I leave the meeting. Other participants said they ‘lost their ability to breathe’ on hearing my comments,” Keller adds. “After more of the same, I hung up.”

Reached by email for comment and asked whether the firm wanted to confirm or deny Keller’s account in the Journal, Hogan Lovells spokesperson Ritchenya Dodd said, “We fully encourage our people to share their views on important issues that matter to them, but we expect our people to conduct themselves in accordance with firm policies. We value our differences, which make us stronger as a firm.”

Yes, clearly, the firm “value[s] our differences.”

Let’s take a moment to look at the facts about abortion and race. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, looking at 2019 abortion data, 38% of abortions were performed on black women. So nearly 4 out of 10 abortions are provided to black women, despite the fact that blacks make up about 14% of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau.

I may not have read “How to Be an Antiracist,” but I’m pretty sure that these numbers suggest that abortion disproportionately affects the black community.

“What is racist is the fact that African Americans have the highest abortion rate,” said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in 2020.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, who had two abortions, now advocates pro-life policies.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, was so racist that even that abortion giant has given up trying to defend her (after doing so as recently as 2016). Surely it’s not irrelevant that abortion’s most fervent champion in American history was a huge eugenics proponent?

But even if Keller hadn’t exposed the racism of abortion norms in America to her co-workers, it’s not clear she would have been OK.

In the era of cancel culture, as corporations continue to become woke, it’s anyone’s guess whether it’s safe to voice your views on abortion at the workplace, even if you do so politely and even if you’re in possession of a uterus.

A friend of mine, who works in a corporate setting, told me that on the day of the Dobbs decision, a female colleague said on a call that today was a dark day for all women—or something along those lines. My friend, despite being pro-life herself, didn’t feel comfortable saying anything beyond that different people had different views on the topic, and then changing the subject.

My friend is likely far from alone in self-censoring, especially at the workplace, given that few are easily able to handle being fired or facing other financial or reputational consequences.

To give an insight into the hostility some employees are facing, consider this Aug. 23 letter printed by “The Ethicist,” a column printed in The New York Times Magazine.

The ethical dilemma? Well, the letter writer is worried that her colleague and self-described friend of almost nine years is pro-life, but not public about it.

“Especially after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, though, I struggle with having a friend who supports what I think is a restriction of my rights to make my own choices about my body,” writes the advice seeker, adding:

“I struggle with the idea that she is able to protect herself from the fallout of people knowing she is anti-abortion when implementing her views would take away rights that many people see as vital to living a life with dignity.”

The horror.

Amazingly, it is The New York Times columnist, Kwame Anthony Appiah, who ends up having the more “moderate” take, advising that “Your friend’s view on the topic [abortion] shouldn’t hurt her professionally.”

But the anonymous letter writer isn’t alone in her extremism. In July, shortly after the Dobbs decision, Jennifer Stavros opined in a Telegraph column that it was fine to not have pro-life friends: “We do not owe you friendship when you don’t believe that we deserve basic human rights.”

“Theologian, Nobel Peace Prize-winner and pro-choice advocate Desmond Tutu famously said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have sided with the oppressor,’” Stavros wrote.

What’s clear is that leftists are trying to set a new standard: Either be pro-abortion or face the kind of ostracization formerly reserved for racists, Nazis, and other oppressors. Don’t think you can hold down a professional job and still be pro-life. Don’t think you can have friends and still be pro-life. Don’t think that your gender gives you any more freedom to hold pro-life views and still be an accepted member of society.

That’s chilling. Robin Keller may be one of the first persons post-Dobbs to face professional consequences for her pro-life views, but if leftists have their way, she won’t be the last.


Australia: The war against boys is having a damaging impact on the education gender gap

For more than three decades women have outnumbered men at Australian universities.

The education gender gap is widening, with boys trailing girls from primary school to university, but there appears to be little concern about correcting the imbalance.

If men were outnumbering women at university since the 1980s there would be an outcry but no one in authority seems terribly troubled by the fact that, according to University Admission Centre analysis this year, being male is “greater than any of the other recognised disadvantages we looked at”.

There are a multitude of programs to correct the gender disparity in the few areas where male students do better, such as engineering, to encourage greater female participation.

Some universities even lower entry requirements for girls to boost female representation but there are few, if any, schemes to address the education gap for male students.

For boys one of the biggest areas of concern is literacy, where by year 9 they trail girls by about 20 months, according to NAPLAN data — which also shows reading standard for this cohort fell to a record low, with 13.5 per cent of boys unable to read at the minimum standard.

Writing about the gender literacy gap, the Centre for Independent Studies’ Glenn Fahey warned that “boys in Australian schools are at a decisive educational disadvantage”.

Best-selling author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has long argued that the decline in men’s academic performance is bad not just for boys but for society.

He explains the situation in educational institutions is far worse than basic statistics indicate. “There are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men,” wrote Peterson, who says anti-male sentiment in academia is demoralising and demotivating young men.

Indeed the war against boys, and masculinity, is evident even in boys’ schools. Messages about “toxic masculinity” and “male privilege” are unrelenting, as they are in popular culture.

Can you imagine the outrage if the term “toxic femininity” was used to describe traits synonymous with womanhood?

We must stop treating young men like they’re born guilty or that their natural masculine instincts are detrimental to society.

We have a great deal more to fear from weak, inept men than strong, capable ones.




Thursday, December 15, 2022

My Day at Yale: A Great University Turns Human Trafficker


On Dec 3, 2022, very early in the morning, I took a car from my cozy hotel in Boston, to the open commons in front of Yale’s Old Campus. I alit from the car in nearly freezing weather.

I mention the discomfort of the morning because it seemed to be emblematic of the icy shoulder which my alma mater presented to me.

I—we—were there to protest the “mandate” by the university of bivalent “boosters” into the bodies of the students; this was required of them before they could - and in order that they might—return to campus after Winter break.

Astonishingly, the faculty and staff—meaning, surely, the administrators too—were not thus “mandated.” (Harvard too has a similar “mandate” affecting students but not faculty).

We who were there to protest were outcasts, reprobates. Yet all we were doing there was pleading for the safety of the young men and women in the campus just beyond us.

There were about three dozen people at the rally and then at the march; a small, committed, straggling group. Parents of the university students were absent; students themselves were glaringly absent; administrators, faculty—appeared to be entirely absent. A few dedicated health freedom activists, organized by TeamRealityCT, and the speakers ourselves—stood vulnerably in a corner of the commons, shouting terrifying facts and urgent warnings into a crackly mic, into a heedless wind, expecting to be arrested.

I was now there to try to stop a barbarous betrayal of the student body, by the very institution that claimed to speak up on behalf of civilization itself. How ironic that I was here to try to stop a crude act of foolishness, and of illogic and of sheer stupidity.

I was at the rally because I’d been informed by activist Joni McGary—not by the university’s communications with its alumni, not by CNN or by The New York Times—that Yale was, incredibly, “mandating” the “bivalent booster”—the one tested on eight mice—on its entire student population.

This demand was in spite of their having been twice mRNA vaccinated. It was in spite of their having been already “boosted.” It was in spite of any prior COVID-19 infection, or despite religious objections, physical problems, fears or resistance.

My soul revolted.

I stood in the bitter cold on a low makeshift wooden dais, speaking without notes, issuing what became a roar from the depth of a mother’s heart, my own heart, about the danger to the young adults in the institution behind me, that was being posed by—by the very institution itself.

In my speech, I explained that the 55,000 Pfizer documents, released via a lawsuit by Aaron Siri and his firm, have been reviewed by our volunteer group of 3500 medical and scientific experts; that they have written, under the leadership of DailyClout COO Amy Kelly, 48 reports. These experts have proven that 77% of the adverse events in the Pfizer documents are sustained by women, and that of those, 16% are, in Pfizer’s own words, “reproductive disorders.”

In the Pfizer documents there are, as I cried out in my speech, 20 different names for ruining the menstrual cycles of women. You can bleed all month; or have two periods a month; or hemorrhage viciously; or have agonizing cramps. How could young women compete in scholarly terms, how could they be athletes, I asked, in the face of this certain suffering? And how was this knowing infliction of menstrual damage not discriminatory against women—and not thus a violation of Title 9, which requires an equitable learning environment?

The Pfizer documents also confirm, I shouted to the crowd, as Dr Chris Flowers has abundantly proven, that both Pfizer and the FDA knew four months before there was any public announcement, that the mRNA vaccine had caused myocarditis in 35 teenagers and young adults. I warned the university that to force the students to submit to this injection would for certain cause infertility and/or horrific menstrual suffering in some of the young women, and that it would for sure cause heart damage in some of the young men.

I made the case, based on both Federal and Connecticut state law, that this situation constituted human trafficking.

I joined our sad little troop of moms and dads and activists, after my speech was done. A young reporter from the Yale Daily News interviewed me; her face looked frozen, her eyes almost glazed, as she tried with pre-set questions to push me to define the activists at the rally as being politically motivated—i.e., right wing.

I told her that I had no idea how they voted. I felt sad that her editor had evidently insisted on her trying to get this nonsensical angle, prior to her even arriving at the demonstration.

I saw on her face the tension of a very young, very smart woman, who had just heard credible statements about damage to young women like her, and yet who was trying hard to do her job; but it was a job corrupted by a corrupted “news” organization.

The article was predictably defamatory (I’m not a “vaccine skeptic”, etc etc) with an “expert,” Dr. Hugh Taylor, trotted out to flat-out lie to students and faculty with the claim that there “has been no research” tying reproductive harm to the mRNA vaccines. This, even as I’d just presented the evidence—and even as the evidence elsewhere is also terrifyingly mounting.

I tried later to contact the Yale Daily News for a retraction of the many falsehoods in their piece—but that incubator of journalism was no longer operating as the press is supposed to do in an open society. You could not call the editor. You could not even leave a message: the phone number connected weirdly to an internal phone message system that could take no messages. I felt so sad that young journalists were now being trained via a publication that was more like Pravda than like the Yale Daily News of the open-society past.

More here:


California Students Lost 5 Months Progress in Math Over Pandemic: Study

California students lost nearly half a year’s worth of math progress from 2019 to 2022, according to a recent study measuring pandemic learning loss by researchers at Stanford and Harvard universities.

The “Education Recovery Scorecard” study, published in October, compared pre-pandemic academic progress to that made over the pandemic.

The study found that California students lost an average of almost five months of progress in math, and one month in reading over the past three years.

The data also shows urban districts suffered more math loss than rural, suburban, or town districts.

California’s two largest districts—Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified—mirrored the state’s numbers in math.

However, in reading, both districts fared slightly better than the state average, though both still reported some loss.

Despite that, Los Angeles’ numbers show a smaller decline overall than its 2019 numbers, scoring slightly better than in 2018.

Meanwhile in Orange County, districts that usually make progress lost some ground in math.

Capistrano, Irvine, Placencia-Yorba Linda, Newport-Mesa, and Orange unified school districts, along with Fullerton Elementary lost between two and three months’ worth of math learning over the pandemic. All districts previously made some sort of progress in math pre-pandemic, according to the report.

Orange Unified, Santa Ana Unified, and Anaheim Elementary lost nearly five to six months of math progress.

But several Orange County school districts made small gains in reading—Fountain Valley, Capistrano, and Irvine unified school districts, and Fullerton and Cypress elementary schools.

Orange Unified and Placencia-Yorba Linda Unified maintained their reading scores from 2019, while Newport-Mesa Unified and Anaheim Elementary lost about a month’s worth of reading progress.

Thomas Kane, a Harvard professor and author of the study, said the report is intended to help districts understand where they need to improve.

“Our hope is that policymakers and educators can use these detailed data to better target education recovery efforts toward the communities, schools, and students who were most harmed by the pandemic,” Kane said in the report.


Teachers don’t always follow evidence on what works, research finds

Australian students are being held back by poor teaching practices and lack of direction in the classroom, researchers say.

A major survey of teaching practices by the government-funded Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) found that managing disruptive behaviour was also a major downfall in Australian teachers’ adoption of the best evidence on teaching practice.

Schools were overly reliant on suspension and expulsion, rather than working towards creating focused classrooms and respectful students, the survey found.

Most Australian teachers did use evidence of what works to inform their teaching practice, but many factors – including a lack of time and confidence – often prevented them from adopting the most effective practice to help students learn, AERO found.

Maximising the use of evidence-based teaching practices was critical to turning around stagnant and declining outcomes in Australian schools, as evidenced by NAPLAN and PISA results, the report argued.

More than 930 teachers and school leaders were surveyed about their teaching practice.

Head of research and evaluation at AERO, Dr Zid Mancenido, said the study provided important insights into the classroom practices of Australian teachers.

“For the first time we can see what is working well and what needs to change about how evidence is being used in Australian schools,” Mancenido said.

He said he hoped the research would drive support for more teachers to effectively use evidence and reverse Australia’s recent declines in student achievement.

“The findings show promise but need to go much further if we are to lift educational outcomes for all students.”

The survey found that 64 per cent of teachers have regular access to instructional coaching on using evidence to improve their teaching, and 73 per cent work at schools that set aside regular times to discuss evidence that could improve their teaching practice.

But it also found that 36 per cent allow unguided instruction or independent inquiry time for students to discover answers for themselves, and 71 per cent design lessons that match the different learning styles of their students.

“These practices are not supported by evidence,” the report found.

The report also surveyed teachers on their classroom management practices, and found that just 61 per cent of teachers frequently tell students to follow classroom rules.

It cited research from the OECD’s latest Teaching and Learning International Survey (2018), which showed that a quarter of Australian teachers need to wait a long time for students to quieten down so that teaching can begin, and a third lose a lot of time because of students interrupting the lesson.

Adam Voigt, chief executive of consultancy Real Schools, said many teachers felt pressured to deliver the content of a large curriculum at the expense of focusing on what students are actually gaining from the lesson.

“There is the kind of pressure that teaching has become a job where what you are trying to do is get through the curriculum so that you can tick off ‘Yes, I taught this’, but it actually isn’t something that engaged the students and got them activated,” Voigt said.

Many teachers, particularly early career teachers, are looking for robust guidance on how to manage disruptive behaviour, something they are inadequately prepared for in initial teacher education.

“We’ve still got a lot of focus in our pre-service teacher training on the what of teaching, but not the how,” Voigt said.

Dr Jordana Hunter, Grattan Institute program director for education, said keeping up-to-date with research evidence is a big challenge for time-poor teachers: “There needs to be more opportunities for expert teachers, with strong mastery of the research evidence in their subject area, to work with other teachers in their school.”

Hunter said it was disappointing that less than half of surveyed teachers said they would encourage a colleague to stop using a teaching practice that isn’t supported by good evidence.

“Every student deserves best-practice teaching,” she said.




Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mother who pulled kids from public school over woke curriculum says home-schooling produces 'amazing' results

A Texas mother of four shared her experience home-schooling three of her kids for the first time and the huge academic advancements they made in reading.

A Texas mom saw significant advancements in her children's reading levels after she switched them to home education over what she considered a woke curriculum being taught in the public school.

"They have done really well," a mother of four, Tara Carter, told Fox News. "The advances in reading have been amazing."

Average math scores saw the largest declines ever across every state, dropping five points for fourth graders and eight points for eighth graders from 2019 to 2022, according to the Nation's Report Card. Reading scores dropped to levels not seen since 1992, decreasing three points for both grades in two years and revealing significant proficiency setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Carter's children have instead shown improvement this school year.

The twins "are reading way above their grade level," she said after a few months of home-schooling. "They're actually moving through it so fast that they're going to complete it before the end of the grade year, and they'll actually move up to the next level."

Carter pulled three of her kids – a kindergartner and twin first-graders – from public to home-school this year but allowed her ninth-grade daughter to attend high school with her friends. Her decision to switch to home-schooling derived from disagreements with the curriculum focusing on topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation rather than core subjects like math and language arts, Carter previously told Fox News.

Carter told Fox News her ability to give her kid's one-on-one instruction and move at their own pace helped their academic progress.

In public school classrooms, "there's so many children that they don't really get a whole lot of individual praise," Carter said. "I'm able to give that because I'm focused one child at a time."

Texas students pulled from public schools for home-schooling increased by 40% in spring 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the Texas Education Agency. Many families shifted to home education during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Carter previously told Fox News she believes some parents kept their kids at home to avoid classroom politicization and bias.

"I do not miss the school setting at all," Carter told Fox News. She said at-home learning helped their social-well being.

"I think it's so much better for the children," Carter continued. "Schools, I think, can really mess with children's mental health, between bullying and feeling like they're falling behind."

Based on the success of their first semester, Carter said she would continue to home-school her kids and recommended other parents consider the alternative.

"I've loved it and the kids have loved it," Carter told Fox News. "You do not have to be a genius or have a teaching degree to teach your kids."


Virginia After School Satan club on hold for now

Over 60 Chesapeake, Virginia, community members gave their opinions on a proposed "Satan Club" during a school board meeting on Monday, while board members held off on voting on its approval, according to reports.

WAVY-TV reported that an application submitted to B.M. Williams Primary School last month was canceled last week after the club’s sponsor stepped down.

Lucien Greaves, is spokesman for The Satanic Temple, a group of political activists who identify themselves as a religious sect, are seeking to establish After-School Satan clubs as a counterpart to fundamentalist Christian Good News Clubs, which they see as the Religious Right to infiltrate public education, and erode the separation of church and state.

Lucien Greaves, is spokesman for The Satanic Temple, a group of political activists who identify themselves as a religious sect, are seeking to establish After-School Satan clubs as a counterpart to fundamentalist Christian Good News Clubs, which they see as the Religious Right to infiltrate public education, and erode the separation of church and state. (Photo by Josh Reynolds for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The paperwork has been resubmitted by a new sponsor, though it is not clear whether the club is expected to start on Dec. 15 as originally intended.

June Everett, an ordained minister in The Satanic Temple is the campaign director for After School Satan Club, or ASSC.

The club is intended to foster creativity and promote empathy, according to Everett, and attempts to establish a constructive and positive alternative to other religious after school clubs.

Everett told Fox News Digital that she was first led to The Satanic Temple five years ago after her first-grader "was traumatized by his classmates on the playground one day, and they were attendees of the Good News Club that was taking place at the public elementary school he was attending at the time."

After picking her crying son up from school one day, he said other students told him if he did not accept Jesus Christ into his heart and start going to church, he was going to burn in hell.

This led Everett to seek alternatives to what was being offered to students.

On Monday, school board members did not vote on whether to allow the club, WAVY reported, but wanted to hear about the safety and concerns surrounding it.

A flyer on The Satanic Temple’s Facebook Page read, "The Satanic Temple is a non-theistic religion that views Satan as a literary figure who represents a metaphorical construct of rejecting tyranny and championing the human mind and spirit.

After School Satan Club does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology. Instead, the Satanic Temple supports children to think for themselves."

Despite concerns from parents in the district who argue the club does not need to be in the elementary school where children are so young, lawyers said the school must make room for the club because of its affiliation with religion, tying it back to the First Amendment and freedom of speech.

Still, all students are required to have a parent-signed permissions slip to attend any after school program hosted by an outside organization


Australia: Time to end the arms race of early university offers

Australian universities have been major contributors to Australia’s human and social capital. The success and reach of their civic mission over the past 40 years are largely due to a highly effective response to three challenges of universal education: access, equity and excellence.

Some 1980s policy genius in the form of income-contingent loans for tuition costs (HECS) largely solved the issue of access by lowering barriers to entry. The related challenges of equity and excellence have been met with a history of university admission based on public examinations, common across all schools (the HSC) and recently coupled with school-based assessments, which are moderated to support fairness across the cohort.

This approach formed the basis for a predictable and transparent pathway to university for school leavers seeking that option. Evolved versions of HECS and the HSC are still with us, however, there is a major disruption afoot with the growing prevalence of early entry offers. Already, the signs are concerning.

This week, both the Higher School Certificate and ATAR scores (a creature of the university sector informed by HSC outcomes) will be released. They will be accompanied by an explosion in the number of early-entry offers to university for school leavers; thousands of these offers were issued months ago.

The consequences and scale of this unregulated practice are not well understood. There is no obligation on the universities to release early offer figures, indeed, many refuse such requests from the media.

Nearly 25,000 students have applied for early offers through the state’s admissions centre (UAC), and others applied directly to individual universities, meaning more than half of the school-leaver cohort could have an early offer of some form.

Post-COVID financial pressures are driving the university sector to increase enrolments and, in the competition to attract students, early offers have transformed from a “first mover” advantage into an arms race. While universities claim these schemes are “holistic” and reduce “exam stress”, the significant financial interest behind them is undeniable.

There might be some benefits to the early offer regime, but they appear to be tilted in favour of universities, they get the planning and operational certainty and income projection. The upside for the students is less clear, particularly in the case of unconditional or low-stake offers, which can come as early as April of year 12.

There are increasing reports that many students with early offers “check out” of their studies, lose motivation, or do not fully invest in final exams. This is not a helpful dynamic for either them or their peers without early offers, who need to remain fully applied. More broadly, has the question been asked: why condition students to a consequence-free examination season or assessment or desensitise them from the rigours of the learning experience?

Defenders of the open slather approach to early offers are often the harshest critics of ATAR, who cite wellbeing concerns to push back against assessments. Some early-offer programs ignore the ATAR entirely.

The early-offer university students will inevitably collide with reality and learn assessments and exams do matter and maybe their HSC-lite experience hasn’t really prepared them for the next step-up. Wait, what? I’m not getting an unconditional, early offer of graduation for my BA?

The critics of ATAR ignore the fact that it remains the most reliable available predictor of university performance. We know that the vast majority of school leavers still use ATAR in their university admissions and that ATAR remains a significant predictor of grades and completion rates.

Obviously, ATAR is an imperfect measure on its own, but there are already adjustment factors (formerly known as bonus points) as well as a host of scholarships (rural, ATSI, dux, financial hardship, etc.) designed to address its limitations.

The explosion in early offers has occurred without a clear rationale in support of students. To its credit, the NSW government has commissioned a review of early offers, with new guidelines being developed. Here are some suggestions. One, early offers should be required to be conditional; a minimum academic requirement is perfectly reasonable. Two, there should be a limit to just how early these early offers can be made (say, September). Three, early offers should be managed centrally through UAC rather than directly with individual universities, thereby allowing regulators to monitor the effects of the various schemes.

The HSC is a world-class credential designed for students pursuing university and vocational and employment pathways alike. Vice-chancellors should respect its role and, more broadly, the symbiotic relationship between schools and universities. All early offers might have a place but, in the meantime, we need to insist on more transparency and standardisation.




Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Pennsylvania school board member to resign over statement rejecting 'cis White male' for president

A Pennsylvania school board member who refused to vote for "the only cis White male" on the board to serve as president has decided to resign from her position at the start of 2023.

Upper Moreland School District board member Jennifer Solot made the comments during an open school board meeting on Dec. 6, just before a vote was held to appoint a new board president.

Solot led the motions as acting president during the board’s reorganization meeting. Two names were up for the seat of president: April Stainback and Greg D’Elia.

"I believe that Mr. D’Elia would make an excellent president," she said. "However, I feel that electing the only cis White male on this board, president of this district, sends the wrong message to our community: a message that is contrary to what we as a board have been trying to accomplish."

A cisgender person is one who identifies as the gender they were born.

On Monday, Upper Moreland School District Superintendent Dr. Susan Elliott issued a statement on Solot’s comments.

"As a result of this incident, Ms. Solot has decided to resign from the board effective January 2, 2023," Elliott said. "She wishes to apologize for her poorly chosen words and does not want to be a distraction from the great things happening in our schools on a daily basis. The district thanks Ms. Solot for her five years of service to the Upper Moreland community as a board member."

The superintendent added that Solot’s comments were "solely hers" and did not represent the opinions of the rest of the school board members or the district.

Neither Solot nor D’Elia responded to requests for comment on the matter, but the latter was included in Elliott’s statement.

"Indeed, Board Director Greg D’Elia, who was the subject of her comments, says that he ‘supports diversity, but these comments did not further diversity and reflected poorly on our community,’" Elliott said.

According to Elliott, the district focuses on nondiscrimination across the schools and inside the classrooms. It also sees value in the diversity of the community it serves and helps students and staff achieve success without discrimination based on race, color, age, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ancestry, gender identity, and more.

She also said the district hires "the most qualified person for the position" and does not discriminate.

In an 8-1 vote, D’Elia was not elected to the seat of president by the other board members on Dec. 6, but Solot was the only member to voice concerns about electing him because of his race and gender identity.


Michael Gove slams the New York Times over report on 'Trojan Horse' schools scandal

Michael Gove has accused The New York Times of helping to ‘undermine the truth’ about the Trojan Horse schools scandal.

The Cabinet minister said the Left-leaning US news organisation had taken a ‘peculiar stance’ towards Britain in recent years, portraying it ‘as an insular backwater whose inhabitants are drowning in a tide of nostalgia, racism and bad food’.

He said a podcast series from The New York Times and Serial, which examined the 2014 scandal at schools in Birmingham, fed accusations of Islamophobia and was ‘replete with errors and omissions’.

His comments come after a report, released today, examined recent coverage of the Trojan Horse affair following claims by activists and some protagonists that there was a government-driven Islamophobic ‘witch-hunt’.

In the foreword to the report by the Policy Exchange think-tank, Mr Gove and Nick Timothy, who was an adviser to then-home secretary Theresa May, allege a ‘concerted effort to muddy the waters’ and slam ‘useful idiots in publications like The New York Times’.

They said: ‘The notion that the events in Birmingham had nothing to do with extremism is as dangerous as it is false, since it conceals an ugly truth... we have a problem in Britain with Islamist ideology and its adherents, who seek to impose their intolerant values on Muslim communities, including children, through non-violent means including the capture of important institutions such as schools.

‘The fear of being branded “Islamophobic” has only made it more difficult to speak up about such extremism.’

The Trojan Horse scandal saw Islamic hardliners try to impose their agenda on state schools. It led to five schools being placed into special measures and teachers banned. It was sparked by an anonymous letter to Birmingham council outlining a conspiracy to take over schools and run them on strict Islamic lines. The letter was quickly dismissed as bogus, but some of its claims turned out to be genuine.

The New York Times series attempted to prove the subsequent furore was based in Islamophobia. Mr Gove, who was education secretary at the time, said the podcasts gave those attempting to rewrite the history ‘fresh wind’.

A New York Times spokesman said: ‘We’re proud of our coverage of the UK, including “The Trojan Horse Affair”, which... underwent extensive fact-checking.’ He added that New York Times did not believe the Policy Exchange report ‘was undertaken in good faith’.


University Leftism is now hugely influential in Australia

I was recently pleased to hear Senator Alex Antic decrying the state of education in our schools, citing in his speech several horror stories from parents. The examples are endless, but what we may resolve with total assurance is this: radical ideologies have hijacked our schools, and our children’s futures are in grave peril – or so say conservative politicians.

Every radicalised school teacher, in addition to all those involved in administrating a school or implementing a primary or secondary curriculum, holds some kind of tertiary teaching degree – so where do you think their radicalism was sown and cemented?

It is not the schools but the universities that are responsible for the destructive political and socio-cultural crisis that plagues Australia today.

Everyone is going to university. At the end of 2021, a record 50.2 per cent of Australians aged between 15 and 74 held bachelor’s degrees. That is approximately a 500 per cent increase over the last twenty years. Moreover, 62 per cent of school-leavers intended to commence at university in 2021, whereas approximately only one-tenth were committed towards TAFE or college studies.

Therefore, if it is not already the case, we may conclude that it will not be long before the majority of eligible Australian voters hold a tertiary qualification.

Of course, this would be wholly inconsequential if universities were simply striving to teach and advance knowledge. But what was once the proud objective of the 11th century Bolognese, or the 12th century Oxonians, or the 13th century Parisians, is no longer the case. The overpowering priority in Australian universities seems to be this: disseminate radical sociological ideologies underpinned by, amongst other things, pseudo-morality, irresponsibility, hedonism, and victimhood as quickly as possible.

I could cite example after example until I turned blue in the face to justify this assertion; instead, it might be more revealing if we all simply seek out a relative or a friend and ask them for their worst university horror story. Because if ‘lived experiences’ are considered to be appropriate source material by today’s academic standards, then perhaps I should introduce into my argument that I am a recent graduate of several schools within the Arts faculty.

Nowhere is today’s radicalism more pervasive than in the Arts. Regrettably, this is another point that is often overlooked. The Arts are largely ignored by the political class – Tony Burke, who I must say went to this year’s federal election promising artists Nirvana Down Under, has even now begun to disappoint – when in fact it is the Arts that hold an incalculable influence over society. This is both a beautiful and terrifying reality. It is the Arts that brought us, for instance, Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird, but also Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. More recently, whilst we might say that engineers did not conceptualise Black Lives Matter to the extent that Arts faculties did, they wasted no time in subscribing to the movement’s doctrine.

I clearly recall one of my undergraduate classes, which purported to concern English grammar. In this class, I was encouraged to submit my preferred pronouns, asked to cultivate a safe learning environment for my peers, asked whether I required any trigger warnings, permitted to allocate 10 per cent of my grade myself so long as I was honest, and assured that if my mental health were impaired one week I could consider some of the course’s assessment items as optional. When we finally did come to discussing semantics, one of the very first things the class was taught was that English grammar arose to separate the rich from the poor.

Thus, here are three summarised propositions I offer to readers:

* More than half the country, virtually, holds a university degree.

* Universities at large are teaching radical sociological ideologies.

* Tertiary graduates (particularly graduates of Arts faculties) more often than not hold the greatest influence over society, determining its popular trends.

In these propositions, I think, there lies a recipe for total political domination. And that’s why I’m worried. Because, just as Labor has institutionalised the unions, the Greens have taken for themselves the universities.

Radical ideologies and the Australian Greens go hand in hand. Here are just a few positions they took to the federal election:

Ban the construction of new coal, oil and gas infrastructure.

Ban all political donations from the mining and resources sector and ‘other dirty industries’.

Unpack ‘white privilege’ and ‘white fragility’.

$1.07 billion to build First Nations owned healing places.

Amend section 44 of the Constitution so that dual citizens can run for Federal office.

End offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru.

Reduce military spending to 1.5 per cent of GDP.

Introduce legislation that prohibits Australia exporting weapons.

Increase Australia’s humanitarian intake to 50,000 per year.

Appoint a Minister for Equality and an LGBTQ+ Human Rights Commissioner.

$15 million to facilitate transgender ‘surgical procedures’.

20 per cent of the Australian Public Service to be disabled by 2030, via quotas.

Cut $61 million for school chaplains (to ‘make schools safer’).

More importantly, though, these are, to me, the Greens’ most striking promises, and funnily enough they all have to do with education:

$19 billion for free childcare.

$49 billion for fully-free public schools.

$477 million to end rape culture in public schools.

Abolish student debt.

Lifelong free education for all.

Guarantee every student a liveable income.

10 per cent increase in university funding.

The Greens’ disproportionate prioritisation of the education sector, particularly the tertiary education sector, seems telling.

Moreover, in analysing the three Queensland seats that fell to the Greens – Brisbane, Ryan and Griffith – in accordance with 2021 Census data and themes previously discussed, we cement our argument further in fact.

Of the thirty Commonwealth divisions in Queensland, Brisbane, Ryan, and Griffith all have the highest populations of tertiary students. Brisbane leads the charge with 25,030 tertiary students. Griffith comes with 22,830 tertiary students and Ryan with 21,403 students. In comparison, the Queensland division with the smallest number of tertiary enrolees is Maranoa – but that’s still 5,302 students. Interestingly, Maranoa is the safest Liberal-National federal seat in Queensland.

Interestingly again, the five Queensland divisions with the smallest populations of tertiary students – Maranoa, Wide Bay (5,175), Kennedy (5,302), Flynn (5,456) and Hinkler (5,504), all saw first-preference swings to their respective Greens candidate between 1 per cent and 2 per cent; the exception is Wide Bay, which actually saw a first-preference swing against the Greens in the order of 0.5 per cent.

So, does correlation equal causation, or am I grasping at straws?

Of course, there is no way to be certain – but we’d be fools not to heed the warning laid bare before us. Australian politics is no longer organised within the framework of a two-party system, but rather a two-and-a-half-party system. The Greens function as a major political organisation, with the funds, media, manpower, and now universities as institutions to match. But they also masquerade as an insignificant, disorganised minor party that serves no other purpose than to facilitate protest votes or proxy votes for Labor. In the case of the latter, the Victorian state election in key seats like Glen Waverly and Ashwood demonstrates as much.

By my estimates, Labor’s short-term solution is to embrace a long-term catastrophe. Because the Victorian state election also shines a light on the former Labor seat of Richmond, a seat in which Labor’s first-preference vote decreased sharply by 11.6 per cent, and a seat that is now condemned to four years under the Green yoke.

If I could make two recommendations to my native Liberal Party, they would be this:

Look to the future of our country, and in so doing regard the Greens as the true Enemy. Labor is now the sparring partner.
Lay the groundwork to launch some sort of large-scale public inquiry, be it a Royal Commission or otherwise, into the ideological and commercial abuses of Australia’s tertiary institutions. Expose what goes on behind the closed doors of not all but so many lecture theatres..




Monday, December 12, 2022

Elite Chicago Private School’s Dean of Students Brags About Bringing in LGBTQ+ Health Center to Teach ‘Queer Sex’ to Minors

Project Veritas released a new video today exposing a high-ranking private school official, Joseph Bruno, who admitted that he teaches underage children about sex with items such as “butt-plugs” and “dildos.”

Bruno, who works as the Dean of Students at an elite school in Chicago called Francis W. Parker, said that these were the items brought into the classroom by an LGBTQ+ group.

“So, I’ve been the Dean for four years. During Pride -- we do a Pride Week every year -- I had our LGBTQ+ Health Center come in [to the classroom]. They were passing around butt-plugs and dildos to my students -- talking about queer sex, using lube versus using spit,” Bruno said.

The school administrator claimed that this educational practice is one of the reasons he enjoys his current employment.

“The kids are just playing with ‘em, looking at ‘em [butt-plugs and dildos] … They're like, ‘How does this butt-plug work? How do we do – like, how does this work?’ That's a really cool part of my job,” he said.

Bruno also said he has invited a Drag Queen to the school. “We had a Drag Queen come in -- pass out cookies and brownies and do photos.”


Pennsylvania school board member denied vote for being only cis white man on board

An Upper Moreland School Board member said she would not vote for the only white cis man on the board for the role of president because it sends the wrong message to the community.

A Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, school board member said she would not vote for "the only cis White male" on the board to serve as president, despite prefacing the comment that he would make an excellent president.

Upper Moreland School District, which is in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, held its most recent school board meeting on Dec. 6.

During the meeting, School Board Treasurer Jennifer Solot led the motions as acting president until a new president was elected.

Two names were considered for the top leadership position: April Stainback and Greg D’Elia.

Just before the vote, Solot weighed in on who she would be voting for.

"I believe that Mr. D’Elia would make an excellent president," she said. "However, I feel that electing the only cis white male on this board president of this district sends the wrong message to our community: a message that is contrary to what we as a board have been trying to accomplish."

With the influx of gender types, cisgender refers to those who identify with the gender they are given at birth.

Based on Solot’s statements, D’Elia was born a male and identifies as a male.

Solot went on to say she thinks it is important to practice what they as a school board preaches and recognize that their words have strength, whether spoken on sidewalks in the communities they serve or from behind the tables they sit at during the meetings.

"Mrs. Stainback has done an exemplary job as president these last few months, and the strength of her performance has earned her my vote tonight," Solot added.

When it came to a vote, eight members voted for Stainback while D’Elia was the lone vote for himself.


French dance teacher ousted from elite university after given ultimatum on using ‘men-women’ terminology

A ballroom dance teacher at elite French university Sciences Po Paris is out of a job after she was reprimanded for insisting on calling dance students "men" and "women," as opposed to using non-gendered language.

"I say women on one side and men on the other because in dance there is a role for the man and a role for the woman," former Sciences Po teacher Valerie, told AFP. She asked the outlet to only identify her by her first name.

"That's the reason that we separated," she said.

The university told AFP that officials had called a meeting with Valerie over her use of "discriminatory" language. Valerie subsequently quit her job over the university’s demands to use the words "leader" and "follower" instead of "men" and "women," according to the outlet.

A student who spoke to a Parisian outlet described Valerie as ""old school" who had made the class "feel uneasy."

After complaints that the school was going "woke," university officials doubled down on their support of having an inclusive environment.

"We received a complaint from a student ... backed up by several of them, according to which this teacher made remarks during her class that were discriminatory in nature in terms of the role of men in dance," a spokesperson for Sciences Po told AFP.

"We asked her to desist from doing so and she did not wish to and decided not to continue with her classes."

Sciences Po told Fox News Digital Sunday morning that the school "warned her about the requirement to stop her discriminatory comments, in accordance with the French legislation and our internal code of ethics."

"In light of this, and contrary to press allegations that she had been dismissed from Sciences Po, this teacher has informed our administration that she does not have further interest in pursuing her class at Sciences Po," the statement continued.

Valerie said she refused to "bow down to the dictatorship."

"They're censoring me. I won't bow down to the dictatorship. Forget about being politically correct. What's next? Swan Lake with a hairy swan?"

The teacher argued that" there was a notion of seduction" between a couple ballroom dancing, and added, "honestly two women dancing together, I find it ugly."

Sciences Po added in its statement to Fox News Digital that it is "committed to fighting against all forms of discrimination and hence firmly denounces the falsehoods and political manipulation engendered by the resignation of a dance teacher."

Valerie specialized in tango, waltz, salsa and other ballroom styles for the school extracurricular program, The Sunday Times reported.

Sciences Po is a public research university that opened in 1872 and has a reputation as being elite due to its difficult admission process.




Sunday, December 11, 2022

Are Liberal Education Policies Undermining Minorities They’re Intended To Help?

Howard Husock

Almost 40 years ago, I produced a public television film entitled “America’s First School,” which told the story, through alumni interviews, of the Boston Latin School, the nation’s oldest public high school.

It had evolved to become an elite entrance exam-based high school like New York’s Stuyvesant or San Francisco’s Lowell. It’s caught up today in the same controversy dogging all such schools, the “under-representation” of African-Americans.

It comes to mind on the occasion of the appointment of the former Obama administration secretary of education, John King, as chancellor of the 62-campus system of the State University of New York.

Mr. King has long focused on the so-called achievement gap for African-American students and chose to emphasize it again on the occasion of his appointment. One interviewee in my film did so, as well — but in a way that would now be considered unfashionable, to say the least, and at odds with Mr. King’s views on the underlying problem in a way that merits reflection.

It should first be said that the King choice is basically a good one. His background includes founding a successful Boston charter school and leading the charter school network Uncommon Schools.

“I have a long history of supporting good charter schools and not supporting bad charter schools,” Mr. King said. That’s as strong an endorsement of the concept by a public official one is likely to hear.

As New York State’s education commissioner, Mr. King ran afoul of teachers unions for his support of the so-called common core curriculum for public schools, the abortive Obama-backed effort to install more demanding subject matter and related student and teacher testing at the K-12 level. Whatever the merits of that controversial plan, Mr. King made the right enemies — and was willing to do so.

As SUNY chancellor he’ll be in a position to help choose new state-authorized charter school operators — and, one can hope, push the idea of lifting New York city’s current charter school cap. Many have been the very schools which have narrowed or even eliminated the learning gap between the races.

Mr. King, though, has frequently offered an analysis of the situation of Black students that merits reflection. In a speech at Georgetown University, he observed that “for students of color, disparities in educational opportunity and achievement are inextricably linked to our nation’s continued struggle to grapple with issues of race and bias.”

Mr. King added that it was America’s “legacy of slavery and the imposition of segregation that first made the education of black people a punishable offense and then established a separate, inferior system of schools for black children.”

There is no doubt about the history Mr. King cites and its lingering ill effects. Nonetheless, as experienced and sophisticated an educator as Mr. King surely knows there is more to the story, including the teachers unions with whom he’s tangled.

To those complications one hopes that he might add the legacy not just of racism but of the effort to undo it known as affirmative action. In my film, a Black Latin School alumnus, who had gone on to a successful journalism career, tells the story of a teacher who, concerned that his student was not achieving his potential, takes him aside.

“Don’t you know you have to be twice as good,” the teacher tells him. It is shocking to hear and says much about the racial atmosphere of early 1960s Boston. Nonetheless, the alum confides that he’d been both angered by the comment — and motivated by it.

The alumnus’ response suggests that there is more to the gap that so rightly concerns Mr. King than the Jim Crow past. It is the question of whether proposals such as that floated to drop the entrance exam for New York’s examination-based high schools or race-conscious college admission policies generally might be sending a message that perpetuates the achievement gap rather than helping to correct it.

Severing the connection between effort and achievement risks discouraging both. One struggles to understand the racial achievement gap otherwise in cities such as Shaker Heights, Ohio, where, the Washington Post reports, the gap persists even in an upper-middle-class community.

As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether affirmative action in elite university admissions has harmed Asians, it is time to consider whether it has undermined those it was intended to help. On this question, Mr. King, himself a Harvard College graduate, will be in a position to influence state policies and guide public opinion. ?


50 shell-shocked teachers, staff flee chaotic Florida school district

Violent and disrespectful classroom behavior has led to a staggering 50 teachers and bus drivers to quit a Florida school district in the last two years.

Brevard County School District, the state’s 10th-largest, held a heated meeting Thursday that offered an unvarnished and often disturbing glimpse into the state of its classrooms.

“On an everyday basis I am deflecting being attacked, scratched, headbutted, pushed, hit,” teacher Alicia Kelderhouse said as her voice choked with emotion. “I’ve had my hair pulled, and pulled down to the ground. I’ve had my throat gone for on multiple occasions. It’s on an everyday basis right now.”

Kelderhouse said staffers often commiserate in the morning to muster the courage to face the day — and that frightened kids are grappling with the same fears.

“I have students who are afraid every day in the classroom,” she said. “It’s just not fair to them. That’s what hurts my heart the most.”

The head of the district’s beleaguered teachers union, Anthony Collucci, recounted recent incidents reported by staffers to school administrators.

One student began masturbating inside a classroom, an act that was recorded by a classmate and posted to a group chat.

Another teacher was hit in the face with a tape dispenser, while a colleague suffered a bite mark the “size of an orange” after a student munched on her arm.

Another educator frequently had to remove all furniture from her class because kids were routinely chucking it around the room or at each other.

One district teacher said behaviors have markedly worsened since the pandemic — but the classroom behavior was already plunging before COVID-19.

“The pandemic was an accelerant to a fire that was already raging,” he said.

The same staffer asserted that sexual misconduct, drug use, theft, violence, targeted spitting and property destruction had become the demoralizing hallmarks of his profession.

Several speakers pointed to the ubiquity of cellphones as a driver of classroom disorder, casting many students as screen addicts no longer capable of sustained attention.

Asserting that a culture of “unbelievable disrespect” has taken hold, one teacher said her kids look at their devices “hundreds” of times each day and keep their earbuds in while lessons are in progress.

“Our students cannot look away from their phones,” she said. “They cannot stop texting.”

Students often tell teachers that they have to wrap up a text message before they acknowledge being called on or addressed in class.

Educators routinely ask colleagues to watch their classrooms for a few moments so they can have a “mini-breakdown” inside a school bathroom, a speaker noted.

Veteran teacher Gene Trent said his colleagues used to call a student’s parent or guardian to address problems — but those efforts have been largely abandoned due to futility.

Trent said previously, a parent would thank a teacher for reaching out and promise to address the situation at home. But in recent years, they often blame the educator for causing poor behavior.

Other parents, staffers said at the meeting, threaten lawsuits for matters as minor as detention.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey recorded a video last month vowing to crack down on unruly behavior inside schools, filming the spot in front of a jail.

Ivey said classrooms have descended into chaos because kids no longer fear consequences. “As a result, we are losing teachers en masse,” he said, calling disruptive students “clowns” who are impeding the education of their classmates.

Several speakers criticized Ivey at Thursday’s meeting, and highlighted that suspensions are meted out in disproportionately high numbers to black students.

“Our children are not clowns,” said a local NAACP member. “They are not snot-nosed.” He accused Ivey of using “scare tactics” and “bullying” in pushing for disciplinary clampdowns.

Another speaker said the district should emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in any new behavior code.

“I would feel more comfortable about the discipline policy if I knew diversity was appreciated in this area,” another district parent said. “And I don’t feel it. My fear is that the practices are inconsistent when I hear about the disparities.”

One parent argued that disruptive students — regardless of race — should be removed from classrooms.

“If you are throwing a chair in a classroom, you do not belong there,” she said. “I’m sorry. If you can’t behave, that’s not my child’s fault. My child’s education should not be hindered because that child doesn’t know how to behave. And by that child I don’t mean black, white, Hispanic or any other thing. I mean the child who wasn’t taught how to behave.”

The Brevard board is developing a new disciplinary framework, and will hold future public meetings on the issue


Educator claims advanced technology ‘causing more problems’ for students

Adding more technology to classrooms has hurt students more than helped them, a former teacher said amid speculation about the effects artificial intelligence will have on education.

“We introduce a lot of technology in the classrooms to correct problems that we see, and inevitably we end up causing more problems with the solution,” Peter Laffin, the founder of Crush the College Essay and a writing coach, told Fox News. “Often the cure is worse than the disease.”

Last week, tech company OpenAI unveiled an AI chatbot, ChatGPT, which has stunned users with its advanced functions like generating school essays for any grade level, answering open-ended analytical questions and writing jokes, poems and even computer code. The internet is swirling with predictions about the implications of this sophisticated technology, but at the forefront of Laffin’s concern is the impact it will have on education.

“I personally think that we should be restricting all sorts of technological tools, and this one I think for a very particular reason,” said Laffin, who was an English teacher of over 10 years. “We want to make sure that we’re teaching kids, not just the subject but also values.”

Laffin fears the ability of students to use AI to complete assignments will further impact an already struggling U.S. education system.

Pandemic-related remote schooling took a toll students across the U.S., with 2022 national test scores showing the largest decrease ever in math scores, while reading scores dropped to the lowest levels since 1992 for fourth and eighth graders, according to the Nation’s Report Card.

“We introduced a lot of technology to education to make our lives easier. We’ve been doing that steadily for 20 years,” Laffin said. “I think educators would do well to ask themselves, ‘how did any of this benefit us? Are our kids more educated now that there is an iPad for every student in every classroom?’”

“If we can’t say that’s been a net positive, why on earth would we encourage the use of these technologies going forward?” he added.