Friday, February 03, 2023

Ron DeSantis Sends Leftists Screeching With Latest Victory Over Woke Education

Few political leaders today are as adept at sending fragile leftists (who begrudgingly call America home) spiraling into inane screeching as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And he might be the most successful culture warrior Republicans and conservatives have had on their bench in recent memory. From taking on Disney to protecting students and promoting individual freedom, his ideological and political opponents have not shown themselves equipped to defeat or even respond well.

This week, DeSantis notched another big victory, this one against woke and biased education — but with far-reaching impacts beyond the borders of his free state of Florida.

As he's done before, DeSantis seems to have set something of a snare for his political foes, hoping to bait them into defending the indefensible simply because to do otherwise would mean agreeing with DeSantis' concerns. That is, it was a brilliant plan that would, independent of the left's reaction, promote academic freedom and actual critical thinking for Florida's students.

This latest kerfuffle came about as a result of the College Board's decision to rework its Advanced Placement curriculum for African American Studies. Like the rest of mainstream educational developments of late, the redevelopment of the course reportedly intended to include woke, unbalanced lessons to integrate things such as the debunked 1619 Project and other Critical Race Theory principles, as well as things like "Marxist approaches to race."

"Reportedly," because the true contents of the curriculum were kept secret by College Board and most of the information about the course came from public comments by those developing the outline for the reworked African American Studies program.

Guy summarized some of the writings from those who got their hands on the curriculum, and those reviews found that it "proselytizes for a socialist transformation of the United States" and attempts to "promote leftist radicalism, with virtually no readings providing even a classically liberal point of view, much less some form of conservatism."

So, when the College Board began the pilot for the new course while keeping most of its contents secret, the DeSantis administration slapped it down. "As presented, the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law," the Florida Department of Education said, alluding to Florida's Stop WOKE Act that protects students from the racist tenets of CRT. Florida left the door open to future work with the College Board if it would "come back to the table with lawful, historically accurate content."

When Guy eventually obtained the syllabus for the APAAS that included "subjects such as 'intersectionality and activism,' 'black queer studies,' 'postracial racism,' prison 'abolition,' and the 'reparations movement,'" it became even more understandable why the DeSantis administration had concerns.

But the reasonable stance from DeSantis — based on state law and concerns that College Board was not being transparent with the curriculum — didn't mean that the left tempered their out-of-control emotions. They claimed DeSantis was banning African American studies completely, said it was proof of racism, compared him to book-burners, and pointed to DeSantis' alleged anti-intellectualism. Even Biden Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took the bait in a briefing and called DeSantis' position "incomprehensible."

Well, Democrats and leftist academics may have gotten a bit ahead of themselves (again) because it turns out the College Board caved, at least in some areas of the curriculum. On Wednesday morning, College Board announced its new APAAS course would remove Critical Race Theory, queer theory, and black feminism, as Townhall reported. The course will, as an addition, include a research project idea centered on black conservatism.

The leftists who had been frothing about DeSantis' position on the initial biased curriculum, as they usually do when they realize they've lost a battle, did not take the news well. They, also as usual, immediately race-baited and attacked College Board and DeSantis for ending the study of black history on the first day of black history month.

The backlash against the College Board was swift, even though its president, David Coleman, announced the changes while denying political leaders had anything to do with them. That wasn't enough on Wednesday and won't be enough to mollify the leftists whose existence seems to depend on sustained outrage.

So the leftists will continue to screech while DeSantis picks up another success in his administration's work to protect Florida from those who wish to force their leftist principles on its rising generation.

In doing so, DeSantis not only notched an apparent victory against woke academics and secured better educational offerings for Florida students, but he also gave other state executives another playbook to follow as they seek to take control of education away from inane coastal leftists and ensure it fits what parents expect and students need.


Social-justice programming for every college student

By Nicholas Giordano

The social-justice warriors are pushing full steam ahead with their plans to turn our classrooms into indoctrination dens. The State University of New York system, in which I’m a political-science professor, just announced expanded “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice” requirements for every degree program starting in fall 2023.

That’s right — DEISJ classes are required to earn a degree, even in departments outside liberal arts such as math, science and engineering.

These initiatives do nothing more than cultivate division, distort reality, eliminate the power of the individual and insult any fair-minded person. DEISJ is a cultural movement, not an academic discipline, inhibiting academic freedom and doing little to prepare students for the workforce.

This curriculum has no place in education. Americans — parents, students, employers — need to defend our nation’s academic institutions, which are critical to forming a citizenry equipped to uphold our republic through economic productivity and civic engagement.

DEISJ drives are a cancer spreading throughout American institutions. To meet SUNY’s requirements, students must master specific criteria for spotting and responding to “dynamics of power, privilege, oppression, and opportunity” in all aspects of the past and the present.

As the largest university system in the country, with 64 institutions serving nearly 1.3 million students, SUNY is clearly doing its part to create a new generation of public virtue signalers. Unfortunately, it’s just one of many higher-education institutions that would rather students master DEISJ’s core components than prepare for a lifetime career. The University of Massachusetts, Drake University, Brandeis University, Villanova University and the University of California system are among the many schools adopting this radical framework.

SUNY says DEISJ courses “must explicitly address how institutional and societal structures lead to inequities across groups.” Such learning outcomes push the narrative that America is, and will continue to be, a systemically and institutionally racist country. The framework ignores the great strides made over the last two centuries and doesn’t allow any debate.

As a political-science professor, I can say that DEISJ desecrates the American identity and makes a mockery of our national motto, E Pluribus Unum — Out of many, one. From many different people, from different places, we create one nation united by core values such as liberty, self-government, equality and individualism.

Instead, DEISJ initiatives promote a victimhood culture and encourage tribalism by putting identity above country in the name of equity. Their objectives are intellectually shallow and ideologically driven as they mischaracterize America and our history. Even worse, they foster resentment and bitterness towards our country, which has provided so much opportunity despite our past sins.

Higher-education institutions should focus on equipping students with the ability to think critically, developing interpersonal skills and preparing them for the labor market. Given enrollment declines, a trend showing no signs of abating, parents and students should use the power of the purse and choose schools that value sound academic principles over woke ideology.

Alumni can also play a role in defeating DEISJ. Alumni giving makes up 23% of the money colleges and universities raise. Alumni should seriously reconsider their contributions if their alma maters continue to pursue an ideological agenda.

And corporations account for 13% of all college and university contributions. Employers can also withhold cash and continue to look at alternative ways to vet talent — some, like Google, Tesla, Bank of America, General Motors and IBM, have dropped degree requirements, and more are likely to follow. Colleges cannot afford to lose their support.

DEISJ is a lucrative multibillion-dollar industry peddling propaganda and division that we must root out of our education system. Over the last two decades, faculty like me have witnessed the collapse of academia and a drop in academic standards. We can and we must stand up to this madness and say enough is enough. Our country depends on it.


Diversity professor verbally attacks student after being triggered by term 'terrorist attack': complaint

A clinical psychologist and professor who teaches a mandatory diversity class at George Washington University allegedly created a hostile environment that promoted violence against civilians, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

Dr. Lara Sheehi sits on the board of the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network and practices clinically from "a trans-inclusive feminist and liberation theory model." She "works on race and white supremacy,[and] decolonial struggles."

In one instance raised in the civil rights complaint – Dr. Lara Sheehi – while teaching a course about "diversity awareness" and to "sensitize future therapists to biases" – allegedly verbally attacked a student as they spoke about terrorist attacks in Israel which have killed civilians, including American citizens.

Sheehi "took offense at the student’s use of the term ‘terrorist attack,’" the complaint, which was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, said. "The professor then claimed that the student’s comment invoked Islamophobia even though the student never mentioned Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims in her comment."

Dr. Sheehi also brought in a speaker who "advocated violence against Israelis—and by extension Jews," the complaint said.

One Jewish student said they were "crying," and feeling "deeply unsettled and unsafe" after the speaker was brought in.

According to the complaint, when a student told Sheehi they felt "unsafe in a program that would invite a speaker who endorsed violence against Israeli civilians and who, therefore, may celebrate the murder of her Israeli relatives. In response, Professor Sheehi called the student’s comment a 'damaging Islamophobic anti-Palestinian' comment and added that ‘a stone is nothing compared to an army.’"

"[T]he fact of the matter is that a speaker was brought in [by Sheehi] that advocated violence against Israelis—and by extension Jews—and that is antisemitic, yet is being explained away," the student said.

The complaint said the professor retaliated against them when they made complaints to the university.

Sheehi did not immediately respond to a request for comment and George Washington did not immediately answer whether the diversity professor was stripped of academic duties as its own internal investigation begins. However, they referred Fox News to a statement which claimed they were "committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment where all feel safe and free of harassment, hostility or marginalization."




Thursday, February 02, 2023

NYC: Don’t let parents voices, cries for charter schools fall on deaf Democratic ears

Overwhelmingly, city Democratic parents support charter schools and want the state to lift the cap that prevents entirely new ones from opening, reports The Post’s Carl Campanile — yet most of the city’s Democratic representatives in Albany won’t budge.

At least 12 highly promising charters, already cleared by the SUNY Charter School Committee, are just waiting for the Legislature to act before moving ahead. All the city’s existing charters have waiting lists running collectively to the tens of thousands.

But the teachers unions despise charters because they’re mostly not unionized, and their superior performance embarrasses the United Federation of Teachers-run competition. (Of course, “superior performance” is why parents want them.)

But the UFT and its statewide parent, New York State United Teachers, rule Albany: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), once supportive of charters, couldn’t even become speaker until he’d won the unions’ backing — and it’s obvious what he had to promise to get it.

Heck, No. 2 state Senate leader Mike Gianaris (D-Queens) has sung the praises of one charter waiting to open in his district, Urban Dove Team Charter School III, but also refuses to even ease the cap because NYSUT and the UFT won’t have it.

The poll commission by Democrats for Education Reform proves it’s not the public standing in the way: Two-thirds of city parents support lifting the cap; sentiment among Democrats is 2:1, as it is among Hispanic and black New Yorkers.

All that stands between city families and vastly greater educational opportunity is squalid backroom dealing with a single special interest — one that always claims to care about the kids.

Parents of New York, wake up: Your elected leaders are selling out your kids’ future. It’s time to revolt.


GOP Charges Ahead on Education

Proving once again that he is in touch with ordinary Americans, Donald Trump selected education for the first video message of his 2024 presidential campaign. On Saturday, Trump emphasized education in addresses in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

School performance fell sharply during the pandemic, as liberal governors shuttered schools for prolonged periods and required masks at the expense of learning. Children became pawns in the tyrannical measures taken under the guise of responding to Covid.

The last full year before Covid was 2019, and it was the last year of 50 million students enrolled in public schools. That total has since fallen, and experts predict a long-term decline in public school enrollment for decades into the future.

Massachusetts, long ranked at the top nationwide in student achievement, has dropped to a 19-year low in its performance as the Democrat-controlled state pushes Leftist ideology in schools. The biggest declines in performance were by minorities and low-income students, and children who did not learn English at home.

Throughout the rest of our country, the decline in student achievement and increase in illiteracy is shocking. In Pennsylvania, the 3rd graders reading with the expected level of proficiency dropped from 60% to 50% over the last three years.

There was a red wave in Ohio in the last election, after Trump held many rallies there. Republicans increased their supermajority in its Senate, attained a supermajority in its House, and won both the governorship and the vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Now it’s time to cash in on that political capital by targeting the Ohio education system, which ranks in the bottom half nationally in learning basic reading and arithmetic skills. The very first bill introduced in the Ohio Senate is to take power away from an independent state board, which has failed to get the job done.

This bill would allow the Republican governor to appoint a new education director to establish curriculum and strong standards for academic achievement. Rather than diffusing responsibility, this legislation would establish one person to be publicly accountable for the failure to teach youngsters how to read and add.

Trump boldly calls for empowering parents to directly elect school principals, to hold them accountable for their failure to teach basic skills. A bestselling book in 1955 was Why Johnny Can’t Read, and the simple answer was because schools are not using the superior method of teaching kids how to read, which is phonics.

Nearly 70 years later, schools are still not using phonics, and as a result perhaps 45 million Americans cannot even fill out a ballot in order to vote as they intend. So instead some of those ballots are being filled out for them by political hacks, who are just fine with more illiteracy.

Young adults have long been bashful about never learning how to read, rather than question why some of their friends can read but they cannot. But as traditional inhibitions disappear on social media, young people are themselves beginning to ask publicly why they were not taught to read.

Those harmed by inadequate schools are a voting bloc that Republicans can and must reach in order to win future elections. Georgia and Arizona are two swing states that Republicans must win in 2024 to capture the White House, and both rank among the ten states having the most illiteracy.

When people cannot read, then they cannot access and process independent political information needed to fill out ballots in an informed way. The higher the illiteracy, the more ballots that are filled out as part of ballot harvesting and massive drop-box dumps, and the more difficult it is to win on principle.

Meanwhile, even a liberal Republican governor has apparently gotten the message that the public is fed up with liberal ideology in school, rather than instruction on basic skills. Last year Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox vetoed a bill that would have prohibited male-bodied athletes from competing in girls’ sports, as did the liberal Republican governor in Indiana.

In both states the Republican legislatures promptly overrode those vetoes that pandered to the Left. Likewise, the Republican Arkansas legislature overrode the veto by its anti-Trump Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of a bill prohibiting transgender medical interventions on children.

Last week the Republican legislature in Utah passed a bill to prohibit transgender medical interventions on children, and its left-leaning Republican Governor Cox was smart enough to sign it into law the next day after it reached his desk. Lessons learned, with more political ground to gain ahead.

As illiteracy climbs in the United States, this new focus by Republicans on learning is a political necessity. Many traditionally Democrat voters have children in underperforming schools, and they are not learning to read as they should be.


Lessons in Preferred Pronouns Should Start in Pre-K, Largest Teachers Union Says

The nation’s largest teachers union recommends that educators begin teaching the concepts of preferred personal pronouns and gender identity starting in pre-kindergarten.

“When you look at elementary school students, many people think they are too young to talk about pronouns,” said panelist Matthew Powell, a member of the National Education Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, during a webinar last summer.

“However, by asking students their [preferred] pronouns at a young age,” Powell added, so-called education support professionals “can make room for students who may be exploring gender identity and show everyone [that] gender identity should not just be assumed.”

The Daily Signal reviewed the contents of the NEA-hosted panel discussion, held remotely June 23. The title of the webinar was “Using Pronouns to Create a Safe, Welcoming, and Inclusive Environment.”

According to audio and video available online, panelists exchanged pointers on how to teach students from preschool through college about using preferred personal pronouns.

Saul Ramos, a high school teaching assistant on the panel, said during the teachers union’s event that schools should be a place of support for students whose parents don’t accept their gender identity.

“Our educators have a real, big interest in using the correct names and pronouns for students, because we all know once you do start using someone’s correct pronouns, statistically it has shown that the suicide rates dramatically drop,” Ramos said.

‘Completely Baseless’

No evidence of a connection between failure to use preferred personal pronouns and youth suicide exists, Jay Greene, senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

“The completely baseless suggestion that kids will kill themselves if teachers don’t use certain pronouns is essentially a form of extortion,” said Greene, author of a recent report on youth suicide and transgender medical treatments.

“It is no more credible and should no more be catered to than when people threaten that they’ll kill themselves if they don’t get the latest iPhone,” he said.

NEA, whose website claims it is the largest labor union in the U.S., has a history of pushing radical gender ideology on teachers and students.

The teachers union’s July conference in Chicago called for preferential treatment for those with “nonconforming genders.” In October, the union released a list of possible preferred personal pronouns, including “they,” “ze,” “zem,” and “zir.”

NEA also issued a guide to LGBT rights for teachers that describes “mispronouning” as “a form of harassment.”

‘Welcoming and Safe Place’
The five panelists emphasized the importance of distinguishing biology from gender in the classroom.

“Being thoughtful about how we use our pronouns is a meaningful way we can support students whose gender might be different than what’s on their birth certificate,” Powell told webinar attendees.

Powell recommended asking students of all ages their preferred names and personal pronouns and what they would like to be called to create an inclusive environment for LGBT students.

“Even if students are not accepted at home, oftentimes schools are their only place of hope for a welcoming and safe place,” Powell said.

Heritage’s Greene said teachers should recognize the rights of parents in the education of their own children.

“When teachers decide that they are going to expose children to [preferred personal] pronouns and gender identity regardless of parental preferences, as the NEA recommends, they are breaking faith with parents and undermining the integrity of families,” Greene told The Daily Signal.

The National Education Association didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on this report.

‘Pronouns Are About Respect’
During the webinar, panelist Bobby Travers recommended introducing books that cover preferred personal pronouns and gender identity into libraries starting in pre-K.

Travers suggested using lists of recommended books from Welcoming Schools, an inclusion program offered by the Human Rights Campaign, the powerful LGBT political advocacy group .

These include books marketed for kindergartners regarding transgenderism, such as “I Am Jazz: Understanding Transgender Children,” and gender expression, such as “Love Makes a Family” and “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.” The latter book, the story of a male bunny who likes another male bunny, is a parody of a children’s book by Charlotte Pence, daughter of former Vice President Mike Pence.

The NEA panel also addressed challenges in teaching elementary schoolers about preferred personal pronouns. The panelists suggested working preferred pronouns into English class and encouraged to teachers to include them when introducing themselves to their students.

“At the elementary level, pronouns are about respect,” Powell said. “The greatest thing you can do to show respect is to correctly identify them by their proper names and their proper pronouns they like to be used.”

Powell promoted “I’m Here” badges from the NEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus, which include a “Quick Response,” or QR, code that students may scan to access resources describing abortion as the removal of “pregnancy tissue,” encouraging gender transitions without parental consent, and promoting “sex work.”

NEA members founded the LGBTQ+ Caucus in the 1980s to “provide educators, education support professionals, and students, with safe schools free of anti-LGBTQ+ bias and intolerance, and to provide sound education programs for all students,” according to the union’s website.

“Using [preferred personal] pronouns allows students to be part of the school community,” panel moderator and biology teacher Bill Farmer said. “If they’re not being supported, there’s no way that child can succeed in school.”

‘Misgendering’ Equals Disrespect

The panel talked about how to address students and colleagues who don’t take the pronouns issue seriously. Ramos emphasized that preferred pronouns are nothing to joke about.

“I don’t deal good when someone uses it as a joke because, to me, nothing about it is a joking matter,” he said.

The panel discussed ways to refer to students without using the “gender binary,” including “Hey, folks” or “Listen, everyone,” instead of “Hey, guys.”

As a biology teacher, Farmer said, he teaches the equivalent of “Gender Identity 101” in conglomeration with anatomy lessons. He warned against conflating “biological sex and gender identity.”

“Gender identity is how you see yourself within the greater context of society, separate from the biological component of your physical anatomy,” Farmer said.

Anthony Brisson, senior analyst in NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Department, concluded the panel by encouraging attendees to use everyone’s preferred personal pronouns as a sign of respect and inclusivity. “Misgendering” reflects disrespect, he said.

“Social interactions where a person is addressed by their correct name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity are widely recognized as a basic, yet critical, aspect of gender affirmation,” Brisson said. “Addressing someone by the wrong name or misgendering through the use of incorrect pronouns can feel disrespectful, unsafe, and harmful to the person being misgendered.”




Wednesday, February 01, 2023

California’s SB 876: A Missed Opportunity for Education Technology

California’s SB 876 is a bill that would create a state Digital Education Equity Program (DEEP). This program will be run by the California Department of Education, and the sponsors of the bill argue it would give help and training to schools and other educational organizations in using technology in their classrooms.

The bill would require the California Department of Education to authorize grants to each of the state’s 58 county offices of education. Each county office of education would have to tell the department of education what they did with the money, who they helped, and how much money they used every year. (One of the co-authors of this post sat for some years on a county board of education and can testify that county offices don’t have the capacity to properly evaluate grant proposals in this area.)

Much of the impetus for the bill appears to be addressing the “digital divide” in education. The digital divide refers to “the gap between those with sufficient knowledge of and access to technology and those without,” per an American University blog post.

According to the bill’s author:

Educators in many schools lack access to sufficient information and professional development to cost-effectively plan for and implement current and emerging technology to support instruction. ... Without a coordinated State and regional focus on policy, programs, and funding, many districts do not have equal access to the resources needed to select, access, and implement technology in classrooms effectively and to provide students access to these resources from homes.

In theory, DEEP would aim to help schools improve their use of technology in the classroom by providing funding for things like teacher training, resources and equipment, and online instruction. It would supposedly also help align technology use with the state’s education standards.

However, SB 876 still appears to be somewhat vague in its approach. While the bill lays out the general goal of providing technical assistance and teacher professional development to local educational agencies on the implementation of educational technology, it does not offer specific details on how this would be achieved. The Senate Floor Analyses states that DEEP will provide guidelines to “more effectively address locally determined educational needs with the use of technology,” so perhaps the guidelines will curb some of the ambiguity.

One major concern with this proposal is the lack of emphasis on cybersecurity and student digital privacy. Given the recent data breaches that have affected universities and schools, it is crucial that any program related to educational technology prioritizes the protection of sensitive student information. However, the bill does not address these concerns in any meaningful way.

Without relevant technology reforms, this bill falls flat. Research has shown that there is a poor correlation between extra school funds and student outcomes. Simply sending money to school districts won’t improve their performance.

During the pandemic, schools had to confront new remote-learning challenges [remote learning], and at times, schools waded waist-deep in potential student privacy violations and cybersecurity risks. This bill should have been an opportune time to reconsider such Orwellian monitoring of students.

It’s important for schools to take data security seriously, as they have a considerable amount of sensitive information on students and staff. The state should also make it easier for people to take legal action against organizations that don’t properly protect their data. In light of current digital security and student privacy concerns, it would be more beneficial for legislators to focus on developing legislation that addresses these specific issues.


Parents Want a Complete Overhaul of the Education System

In the wake of COVID-19, people now overwhelmingly believe that the education system's broader purpose needs to be rethought. This begins with a shift away from standardized testing, college prep and a one-size-fits-all model and toward personalized curricula, practical skills and subject mastery.

A new Purpose of Education Index survey released by the Massachusetts-based national think tank Populace found a radical shift in the way most of us view education and what our children should be getting out of it.

"The findings show the K-12 educational system is wildly unresponsive to what parents and children actually want," said Todd Rose, co-founder and CEO of Populace.

Rose added that people are not looking for something "better" -- they are looking for something fundamentally different. "They want a way out of the one-size-fits-all approach driven by standardized testing models and elite institutions making us compete in a zero-sum game and instead an educational framework geared towards individualized learning, practical skills, and preparation for a meaningful life."

The study was conducted with over 1,000 participants conducted with cooperation from YouGov and data analytics firm Gradient. Respondents were given 57 priorities for K-12 education and ranked them using a conjoint analysis that forces them into trade-off scenarios and avoids the distorting effects of social influence.

The fissure between the public education system and parents began in 2020, when school districts across the country closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Parents, often working in the same room where their children were being educated over Zoom, began to gain a more complete understanding of what and how their children were being taught -- and they did not like what they saw.

Attitudes changed almost overnight as parents got a peek behind the curtain at what their children were being taught, what was emphasized and how out-of-step the system was in preparing their children for the workplace after graduation. An awakening took place as parents soon learned the power teachers unions had, not just over curriculum but also over whether schools would even open.

That disruption has been devastating. Test scores shared with the Associated Press showed that the average student lost over half a year of learning in math and a quarter of a school year in reading. But students in some public-school districts lost twice that in learning.

This has all prompted many parents to move their children out of public schools and into private or parochial schools, most of which are not controlled by teachers unions and stayed open during the pandemic. The overall rate of parents choosing to home-school grew from 5.4% to 11.1%, according to data from the Census Bureau.

For the study, respondents were given 57 priorities for K-12 education and ranked them using a conjoint analysis that forces them into trade-off scenarios and avoids the distorting effects of social influence. Pre-COVID-19, people ranked preparedness for college as one of the highest priorities for a K-12 education. In this recent survey, it was one of the lowest priorities.

The study also showed that 70% believe more things about the educational system should change than stay the same, including 21% who say nearly everything should change.

Respondents said they wanted to see students develop practical skills such as managing personal finances, preparing meals or making appointments as their top priority -- functions that students a generation ago learned in home economics classes.

"Demonstrating basic reading, writing, and arithmetic," "being prepared for a career," and "hav(ing) the skills to be competitive in the local job market" are goals of education that went out of style in the last generation, but now people are more interested in bringing them back than they are in less practical and more short-term goals.

Overall, the report evinces widespread belief that education needs to be fundamentally changed. It needs to prepare students for the workforce, adulthood and success, not necessarily put students into the pipeline for college.


Helping 200 Teachers Abandon Indiana’s Largest Teachers Union

On Dec. 20, I helped my 200th teacher leave the Indiana State Teachers Association. This behemoth of a pyramid scheme charges Indiana teachers $1,000 per year to lobby for progressive political goals at the state and national level—while claiming to be integral in salary negotiation and legal defense.

Over the last five years, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of assisting teachers in navigating past the smoke and mirrors to leave the scam masquerading as an essential service for teachers. While the ISTA continues to lament teacher wages in the Indiana Statehouse, it siphons money from the salaries of teachers who gain nothing of value from the transaction.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard a sales pitch from the ISTA. I had just taken a science teaching position at Knightstown Intermediate School in Knightstown, Indiana, and after a lengthy safety briefing from the superintendent, a representative from the ISTA walked up to the front of the high school cafeteria and began to speak.

However, the droning speech wasn’t what cemented the memory forever in my mind—but the response from Knightstown staff. In her opening, the ISTA representative claimed, “The Indiana State Teachers Association provides essential services for all Indiana teachers that make our classrooms a better place!”

The collective chuckling and scorning that ensued from a large faction of teachers caught both the representative and me off guard. I had previously believed that the ISTA had a strong footing in Indiana, and though I wasn’t interested in joining the union, the vast majority of other public school teachers held it in high esteem.

This laughter shook a few who were returning to the district for their second or third year, having fallen for the pitch in previous years and simply renewed their dues. Two weeks later, I was standing with one of those teachers in the hallway after classes had ended for the day—taking part in the age-old tradition of after-school quibbling.

My colleague expressed her frustration about the ISTA taking money out of her paycheck biweekly, and about the local union representative telling her that there was “nothing she could do until it was time to renew dues next year.” The aggravated teacher also noted that since her conversation with the union representative, she had experienced a discernible increase in marketing emails from the ISTA.

I suggested an approach that many teachers would later use dozens of times over the next three years: inform the district payroll officer to cease allowing the ISTA to withdraw union dues. Fifteen minutes later we sat in her classroom, writing an email directing that the ISTA was to lose access to her paycheck. It was several months before the union had realized she had stopped paying and had left.

With the 5-4 Janus v. AFSCME decision a year later, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the free speech and association rights of public school teachers—ruling that teachers could not be compelled to join or remain in a union. Attorneys general in Alaska, Indiana, and Texas followed by issuing guidance that teachers must opt in to have union dues removed from their salaries (instead of needing to opt out).

By the time Janus came down, I had helped about 20 teachers leave the union at this point, but I was not prepared for the incoming flood. I later learned that one teacher I’d helped leave the ISTA had informed a group of friends at a professional development that I was aiding teachers, and word had spread.

Following Attorney General Curtis Hill’s guidance, I began to receive emails, texts, and direct messages on Twitter and Facebook from Hoosier teachers I’d never met who had heard I was willing to help them leave the ISTA. Between 2018 and 2021, I helped an additional 60 teachers leave the union through declining renewal, talking to district payroll, and in one particularly memorable case, announcing an elementary teacher’s departure in the middle of an ISTA meeting.

One article I wrote for the Washington Examiner on the rationale behind negotiating your own salary instead of relying on the unions resulted in quite a few messages from K-12 Hoosier teachers asking about the fastest way to abandon the ISTA.

In 2021, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a law into effect that required school districts to get permission from teachers each year before deducting union dues from their paycheck. This, coupled with a growing reputation I was earning for exposing ISTA-backed politics in classrooms, put my name in front of dozens of Indiana teachers looking to leave what was becoming known as an expensive, annoying, and pointless club.

Now, Indiana teachers only need to let their banks know that no more money should be allowed to go to the “Easy Pay” system set up by the ISTA. It’s easier than ever to leave.

By the end of 2021, scarcely a week would go by that five to 10 messages and/or emails would arrive in my inboxes asking me to share a friendly phone call with a teacher planning to leave the union. I recently crossed the threshold of having assisted 200 in leaving the ISTA (along with a few dozen aided in leaving other teachers unions), and I took some time to reflect on the ramifications of these actions.

I don’t believe that a $200,000 annual loss means that much to the Indiana State Teachers Association. Two hundred teachers in five years isn’t a death-blow to the 40,000-teacher membership that the ISTA claims to have.

I will point out that in contrast to the ISTA’s boasting, districts across the state are seeing a sharp decline in ISTA membership. Several administrators in both rural and urban districts have told me that they experienced over a 20% drop in union membership since 2016.

The biggest takeaway from my experience in talking to dissatisfied Hoosier teachers is the perception that the ISTA’s offerings are worthless.

The ISTA claims to advocate and to provide better working conditions and increased salaries to its teachers, and many of its local representatives promise that the ISTA will represent teachers in lawsuits and contract negotiations—thus providing safety and security.

Unfortunately, the ISTA is categorically worse at these stated promises than free alternatives that frankly require less effort. Of the 200 teachers I helped leave the ISTA, the vast majority indicated their aggravation at the union’s lack of effort in competent contract negotiation. Regardless of union status, Indiana teachers are constantly asked to sacrifice prep periods and to take over other teachers’ classes without additional compensation—all this without so much as a whimper from the ISTA.

I have received several text messages from Hoosier teachers who, after leaving the union, negotiated better-paying contracts for themselves in Lawrence, New Albany, Crawfordsville, Muncie, Greenwood, and Elkhart, Indiana.

Caleb Wakefield, a teacher in Pike Township in Indianapolis, told The Daily Signal, “The ISTA and [the National Education Association] seem to care more about courting politicians than the members they profess to serve. Most of the critical bargaining is done by local associations, and hardworking educators.”

I’m flattered to say that many teachers I’ve helped leave are happier to be out of the union. Martin Strother, a former teacher at Hamilton Southeastern, told The Daily Signal, “Tony helped a couple of teachers at my school leave the ISTA, and they’ve both been far better for it. No teacher deserves to be taken advantage of by the ISTA.”

While many teachers expressed their worry about discipline-related legal threats when absent from the union, the Attorney General’s Office reminds all public educators annually that in any discipline-related lawsuit, the state of Indiana would represent the teacher for free. There are also better representation options for teachers without the union’s massive price tag and political nonsense. Indiana Professional Educators promises the same legal protections that the ISTA offers at only $107 a year, without lobbying for Democrat policies.

Finally, the tidal wave of political content the ISTA pushes out has become unpalatable for Indiana teachers. While the ISTA has been fearmongering about education reform from libertarian and conservative policymakers for years, the last six years have been particularly toxic. Endless emails, calls to action, and teetering towers of talking points saturate the inboxes of teachers who would prefer to be left alone.

Several scandals have driven teachers to resign, of course. For example, in April 2022, the ISTA elected a man with a disturbingly racist and horny social media presence to be its vice president (following the outrage, he “voluntarily” stepped down).

Local negligence from the ISTA hurts countless teachers. Bree Boyce, a former Indiana special education teacher, told The Daily Signal, “When I was in the classroom and needed them to step up for me, the ISTA did not take the time to understand what was going on. Rather, they manipulated a young and naïve teacher while making the situation worse.”

One Indianapolis teacher, Mark Majeski, told The Daily Signal:

I left ISTA for primarily three reasons. First, the organization places a higher value on Democratic fundraising than on grassroots issues. Secondly, the local leadership is not interested in fighting administrative malfeasance and their dereliction of fiduciary responsibilities (most recently in the form of large amounts of money spent on [social and emotional learning], restorative practice, and the continued wasteful spend on technology that does not promote academic achievement). Finally, ISTA does not fulfill the mission of a traditional union. Rather, it is just a dues paying/fundraising segment of the radical Left of the Democratic Party.

The biggest conclusion I draw from helping 200 teachers leave the Indiana State Teachers Association is something we all can relate to in the last few years. Most teachers leaving the ISTA are exhausted. They’re tired of the endless political preening, progressive pressure, and empty promises that pour out of the mouths of state and national leadership. Most teachers want to be left alone, partnering with students’ homes to create the best academic environment possible. Over 200 teachers in Indiana have told me that the ISTA has become an obstacle to that goal.




Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Oklahoma Legislators Seek To Exclude Religious Schools From New School Choice Program

As Oklahoma moves toward expanding educational opportunities for students, some Oklahomans are not happy about all the opportunities out there — particularly at religious institutions.

The 2022 re-election of Governor Stitt and the election of the new superintendent for public instruction, Ryan Walters, was viewed as a “mandate” for enacting school choice policies in the state, and proposals for universal school choice are already in motion.

In the state legislature, there are now two pending bills that propose education savings account programs for Oklahoma students — one more restrictive in student eligibility than the other.

In their current states, both bills say that any participating private school “shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admissions policy, or curriculum to accept payments.”

Yet Democrats are not on board, a conservative think tank at Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, has pointed out.

One Democrat in the state house, Andy Fugate, is attempting to introduce legislation that would prevent private schools from using “the state funds to provide religious instruction or religious activities.” In a statement, he said his bill “addresses the concerns of those who fear school indoctrination.”

Mr. Fugate’s bill would make optional all religious instruction and rituals for students at religious schools who pay for tuition with ESAs, as well as prevent faith-based consideration in the admissions process for schools that accept the state funds.

“Oklahoma families should not have to exchange their religious freedom for their education,” he added.

Mr. Fugate’s bill relies on a status-use distinction between public funding for religious institutions that the Supreme Court has rejected, most forcefully this past summer in Carson v. Makin.

In Carson, the court ruled that Maine’s prohibition on the use of voucher funds at religious schools was tantamount to “discrimination against religion.”

Another Democratic lawmaker in Oklahoma has proposed legislation that would require schools receiving public money to operate under “the same laws, rules, regulations, and mandates prescribed for public schools.”

The Oklahoma supreme court has ruled that voucher funds do not constitute public aid once in the hands of parents.

“When the parents and not the government are the ones determining which private school offers the best learning environment for their child, the circuit between government and religion is broken,” the justices said in 2016 in a ruling on whether vouchers for disabled students could be used at religious schools.

Meanwhile, the Sooner State made waves in December when its attorney general at the time, John O’Connor, green-lit the possibility of religious charters in an advisory opinion.

Oklahoma — like all states with charter schools — currently has a prohibition on licensing religious charter schools. Mr. O’Connor, however, wrote that such a prohibition likely violates the Constitution and should not be enforced.

The opinion has paved the way for what could be the first religious charter school in the country. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City filed its application to operate a charter school Monday morning.

Yet Catholics in Oklahoma are not relying solely on the possibility of a Catholic charter school to advance their educational mission. The executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, Brett Farley, said the group would be “heavily involved” in lobbying for ESAs in the state.

In an email to the Sun, Mr. Farley said he and his colleagues were “more or less agnostic” as to how to achieve their goal of universal school choice in Oklahoma.


Schools Secretly War Against Parents’, Taxpayers’ Values

Government schools are increasingly keeping secrets from parents regarding their children, a development suggestive of an elite ruling class that recognizes few, if any, limits on its power. A current controversy in Indiana is emblematic. A school district secretly developed a plan to encourage children to adopt the identity of the opposite sex at school without their parents’ consent or even knowledge, The Daily Signalreports:

Following the exposure of a hidden “Gender Support Plan” and policy to conceal student transgender procedures from parents, the whistleblower, counselor Kathy McCord, has been placed on immediate and indefinite leave, and could be facing termination.

McCord, a counselor at Pendleton Heights High School in the South Madison Community School Corporation in Indiana, confirmed documents unearthed by parents in Madison County showing that counselors were asking teachers not to reveal a student’s new name and pronouns to parents.

McCord had toldThe Daily Signal about the new policy two days before a school board meeting last December 8:

School counselor Kathy McCord went on the record with The Daily Signal to outline the shady methods the school district employed to keep the so-called Gender Support Plan away from teachers and parents. McCord also described how she was ordered to compel speech from teachers by requiring them to use one set of names and pronouns with students and another with parents. …

McCord told The Daily Signal that Assistant Superintendent Andrew Kruer, [Superintendent Mark] Hall’s subordinate, had informed all counselors that this procedure of keeping information from parents was a school board-approved policy. Kruer also told counselors that the district’s legal counsel, LGBTQ+ advocate Jessica Heiser, had informed the counseling staff it was federal law.

This effort to indoctrinate students into values antithetical to those of their parents and of the taxpayers who pay for the schools is spreading rapidly across the United States, as we have regularlyreported at Heartland Daily News:

Even in strongly Republican areas where most parents are likely to be conservative, schools are implanting a radical, extremist ideology in children, The Federalist reports.

“One of the most visible ways many Idaho public schools push extremism common to far-left locales is in exposing kids to adult sexual practices and gender ideology, often without parent[s’] knowledge or consent,” writes Joy Pullman for The Federalist.

This is no minor difference of opinion. Regardless of whether one agrees with the substance of these teachings, it is a gigantic case of government overreach for schools to push on children a worldview radically different from what their parents are teaching them and what the taxpayers think they are paying for.

This puts educators, counselors, and administrators who think differently in an awful position:

The Daily Signal reported that McCord and another counselor, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed distress at the district policy. They said that they became school counselors to work with students and parents, not to come between them.

The fact that these issues are new and the required thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are completely in opposition to those of someone as far left as Barack Obama only a decade ago means many thousands of people working in the government education system have had to change their minds radically about these fundamental aspects of life, learn to love cognitive dissonance, move to lower-paying parochial schools, or find a new line of work. Those whose values do not align with the program cannot remain. The Indiana case shows this, as The Daily Signalreports:

Amanda Keegan, a geography and psychology teacher at Pendleton Heights High School, says she resigned in part to protest this policy.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Keegan said, “When I had to look at that parent, and feel like I was lying to that parent … I was sick to my stomach. I can’t lie to parents. I can’t do that again.”

The education establishment benefits from teacher exits because it accelerates the ideological purification of its workforce. The plan is simple and obvious: indoctrinate the teachers in woke colleges and universities and push out any current teachers, counselors, and administrators who dare to differ. Then, complain teachers are not paid nearly enough, and note teacher shortages are looming, thus requiring still-higher pay. When parents and other taxpayers expose your actions in school board meetings, shut off the microphone and have the boldest ones arrested, as Heartland Daily News has reported here, here, here, and in numerous other news stories and commentaries.

The matter of choice is central here. If parents choose to hand over their offspring to people who will teach them whatever the experts care to convey and will not tell the parents what they are doing, that may be the parents’ right, however foolish it would be for them to do so.

That is not the situation in these schools. The government compels parents to send their children to school and forces taxpayers to finance the system. With that power behind it, a government-established cadre of people manipulates their captive children to question basic elements of their identity and their place in the world. Giving such power to government is obviously a gravely risky decision.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the agenda being taught in these schools, it is obvious the parents who are handing over their children to them deserve to know what their kids are being taught, and the taxpayers who fund these institutions have a right to know whether their money is being spent on what they intend it to be devoted to.

State governments have full authority over the schools they create and fund. Parents have a right to complain to the school boards and should continue to do so. Real change, however, will remain a pipedream until parents and other taxpayers punish lawmakers in the voting booth for their negligence or complicity in allowing this. Only then will the government take seriously the movement for school choice and parents’ rights.

S.T. Karnick:


The truth about Australia’s education system: bullying, indoctrination, and intimidation

Recently, I interviewed an 18-year-old New South Wales University student named Tallesha. My goal was to get a first-hand glimpse of what is really going on in the education system.

It was incredibly insightful to speak with Tallesha. While high school is still vivid in her mind, she is now undertaking the transition into the university lifestyle. She recently completed a bridging course consisting of sociology, business, media, and writing; and will now study political science. She has the ambition of becoming a political journalist.

Drawing on her experiences, Tallesha summed up her thoughts by saying, ‘I believe a lot of the political issues we’re facing at the moment stem from the information and behaviours being taught in schools and universities.’

She went on to say, ‘What is currently being assumed about the education system is definitely not an overreaction, a large extent of genuine indoctrination is happening and it’s definitely getting worse.’

Expanding on those comments, Tallesha drew on her own specific experiences. ‘It’s very hard to openly disagree with the lecturers because your marks could suffer,’ she explained. ‘In my bridging course I did sociology and that was obviously very far left. So, in assignments, that would be based on Marxist theory. You had to accept their way as truth. If you debated that, you wouldn’t get the marks, because you would be seen as incorrect.’

She backed up her comments by providing an example.

‘A question on one of my tests was, “Is gender fixed?” And the correct answer was “false”, because it is supposed to be fluid. If you disagreed with that, you would lose that mark.’

Identifying as a Christian conservative, Tallesha obviously had an issue with this answer, but she can see no way of bypassing having to go along with the Marxist ideology that oppose her own beliefs. She appears to be in the tiny minority, however, as according to Tallesha, 95 per cent of her fellow students lean openly left.

This prompted me to ask Tallesha if she feels comfortable expressing her views in her classes. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘You pretty much can’t.’

From the moment her lecturers enter, there is clear ideology expressed. She told me that without fail, every lecturer introduces themselves with their pronouns. Is it little surprise that the students also follow suit, as Tallesha told me, ‘I had my graduation recently, and any speaker that got up, all announced their pronouns.’

With such a dominant lean towards leftist ideology, I asked Tallesha if any of her fellow students ever acknowledge that things should be more balanced. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘A lot of them don’t think they lean that far left. They think, “This is mainstream. Every young person should share our views. If you don’t then there’s something wrong with you.”’

Tallesha was then able to provide more context of how the peer pressure is applied.

‘In sociology, the way the other side was depicted is uneducated and misinformed. So, they make it seem like if you are part of the other side, it would be embarrassing,’ Tallesha recounted. ‘It was almost like bullying. My lecturer would always make jokes about conservative views, constantly.’

With the peer pressure in place, then comes the indoctrination.

Of the subjects she studied in her bridging course, Tallesha found business to be the most centrist, but her writing course contained clear left bias. ‘It was a uni prep course, so it teaches you all the skills you need to succeed in uni,’ she explained. ‘But each skill was taught in a context, and all the context they were taught in were some sort of left subject. Climate change was used. The freedom movement, the anti-vaccine moment was used.’

I find it hard to understand how anyone can paint ‘freedom’ in a negative light, but Tallesha was quick to inform me that ‘white supremacy’ is linked to the freedom movement. ‘They make lots of links that just don’t make sense,’ she said.

This prompted me to ask if any figures of the right are ridiculed. ‘Trump was definitely brought up a few times,’ she replied. ‘Even the Liberal Party, even though they’re not very conservative, the Liberal Party is attacked as well.’

I then asked if there is any politician that her lecturers adore. Her response was interesting. ‘No, I don’t think there are any specific ones.’

It seems if you attack your enemies constantly, then there is no need to defend your side.

My final question to Tallesha was, ‘What needs to happen to reform the education system?’

‘Honestly, I don’t really know. It’s pretty much that far gone. Because everyone in it and within it, is all left. Maybe ten years ago it could be saved, but now it’s all left. It’s too far infiltrated. You can’t get conservatives in there. If you aren’t left and you’re a lecturer, you’re not going to get a job. And if you are a conservative student, you’re very likely to be kicked out if you say the wrong thing.’

‘It’s almost bullying.’ Tallesha added, speaking of the peer pressure that is placed upon students. ‘All of them are so eager to fit in. The conservative side is being portrayed as embarrassing to be a part of and you’ll be made fun of if you’re part of that side. So, everyone is swaying away from that. It sways anyone that is not sure on their political views to the left pretty quickly, because they want to fit in.’

Interviewing Tallesha did not fill me with much hope. After all, this is our youth. This is our future. If Tallesha is correct and 95 per cent of students are left-leaning, then the other side of politics is faced with a big problem.




The Priestly Cycle of Universities: Why Do They Rise, Wokify, Fall and Rise Again?

Ed Dutton has been studying the histories of universities and notes how they are constantly changing. He sees them undergoing a life-cycle and identifies places like Stanford and Oxford as in an intellectually declining state

Along the way he notes the iron law that prestige not fixed. A university will be prestigious only as long as its teachers and students are high quality. Once a university's intellectual standards decline, so that university's prestige will decline.

One you start diluting student quality by letting in a "representstive" group of students rather than high merit students, you have set in train the destruction of that university's prestige. So the writing is on the wall for places like Stanford and Oxford. Degrees from there are still prestigious but will gradually become less so

I like Ed's claim that a high-achieving academic has to have both a top IQ and be socially non-conforming. That is a pretty good description of a high-functioning autistic and I note Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen's claim that the markers of high IQ and autism are essentially the same. So there is an academic type, as Ed says.

Ed likes to do a funny bit at the beginning of his videos but what follows is a serious exposition of his theory about the evolutionary stages a university undergoes


Adams, Banks are refusing to fight for good NYC public schools on multiple fronts

Perhaps Michael Bloomberg’s greatest achievement as mayor was fostering the creation of more good public schools in the city, giving middle-class families more reason to stay and lower-income parents real hope for their kids. Mayor Bill de Blasio then went to war on those schools — and the Eric Adams administration keeps blinking on undoing the damage.

Part of Blas’ war was prolonged assault on charters. But another was an attack on selective middle and high schools in the name of “equity.” And the results are now in from one of the most controversial moves: the “Diversity Plan” imposed on Brooklyn’s District 15 in 2018.

City Hall spent big to muscle D15 into “voluntarily” shifting all middle-school admissions to a lottery managed by educrats, ending the screens that some schools used to ensure new students were prepared for demanding classwork.

The plan was announced from MS 51, the school Blas’ own children (and those of then-City Council Brad Lander, another big booster of the plan) had already graduated from.

Prior to the change, the school had been the fourth biggest feeder to specialized high schools in the city. Now it’s the 16th. And it’s not just the most gifted who are hurting: seventh-grade math proficiency scores have fallen from 81% to 48%, with huge declines across all the racial groups the city tracks — a level of learning loss worse than other schools saw amid the pandemic — as student concerns over safety skyrocket.

We only know this now because a group of outraged parents fought for the info under the Freedom of Information laws. But in the meantime, Team Blas fostered similar changes in Manhattan’s District 2, then exploited the pandemic to impose lotteries on selective schools across the city. And today merit-based admissions are back only at 30% of previous levels.

That’s likely a permanent change, because Chancellor David Banks left every district’s superintendent to decide on whether to allow the return of selective admissions, and many declined — including District 2’s Kelly McGuire, who simply ignored clear parent fervor to save school standards.

It’s easier not to stand for excellence against moves in the name of “equity” that in reality on deliver mediocrity — at best.

Citywide public-school enrollment is already plummeting, and this will only speed up the exodus.

One safety valve could be allowing greater growth of charters, alternate public schools that offer new opportunity, especially for striving low-income families in areas where the regular public schools don’t deliver. But Team Adams isn’t standing up for them, either.

We’re thinking, of course, of Banks’ recent decision, plainly in cooperation with the Mayor’s Office, to give up on long-laid plans to provide space for three new Success Academy primary schools. That’s a signal that all charters will find it near-impossible to grow, even though Blas is finally gone.

The ideologues and special interests like the United Federation of Teachers don’t care about what parents want or children need; they’d rather rule absolutely over a public-education system that’s dying — and a mayor and chancellor who surely know better won’t fight back.

It’s a tragedy in (not very) slow motion.


War of words erupts between Opus Dei schools and Australia's ABC

Old-fashioned Biblical ideas -- like no sex before marriage -- are taught there. How disgraceful! No wonder the Leftist ABC is up in arms!

NSW’s powerful education authority is investigating Sydney schools linked to Opus Dei amid a war of words between the ultra-conservative Catholic group and the public broadcaster.

The ABC’s Four Corners is planning to air a program on Monday night titled Purity: An Education in Opus Dei, alleging “disturbing practices” by the controversial organisation in several schools and exploring its influence in the NSW Liberal Party.

Premier Dominic Perrottet attended Redfield College, one of the schools featured in the ABC expose, while Finance Minister Damien Tudehope also has links to the schools. Labor’s upper house MLC Greg Donnelly is described as an “Old Dad of Redfield”.

Redfield, Tangara School for Girls, Wollemi College and Montgrove College are operated by the Parents for Education Foundation (Pared). The schools are independent and not part of the Catholic diocese.

In a letter sent to parents this week co-signed by the principals of the four schools, the Pared Foundation claimed Monday’s episode “seems to be an attack on the Catholic faith” and an “attempt at damaging the political career” of Perrottet ahead of the March 25 state election.

That claim has been rejected by the ABC, which said the episode by reporter Louise Milligan “investigates serious allegations that are clearly in the public’s interest to be informed about, including opposing consent education, encouraging students to make decisions contrary to medical advice, harm to students as a result of their education, homophobia and recruitment of students under the guise of pastoral care”.

“There is nothing in the program that is an attack on the Catholic faith,” a spokesperson said.

“It is purely about Opus Dei and its affiliated educational institutions. The timing of the story is not connected to the NSW election and in fact it is being broadcast as far out from the election as it could be.”

The premier’s office declined to comment.

In the episode, Milligan - who has a long history covering the Catholic Church including issues surrounding Cardinal George Pell - reveals “in some cases the schools are not following state curriculum and are accused of persistent attempts to recruit teenagers to Opus Dei and have taught misinformation about sexual health, including discouraging girls from getting the human papillomavirus cervical cancer vaccine”.

A spokesperson for the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) told the Herald the agency was investigating the schools after allegations made by the ABC.

Pared confirmed NESA had contacted the group “to clarify how we address” concerns about the health and personal development curriculum.

The letter sent to parents from the principals lists multiple questions they claim were put to the schools by the ABC. It said the foundation would never discourage students from following medical advice but acknowledged it had changed how it addressed some issues, including the HPV vaccine.

“Prior to 2020, when the HPV vaccine was relatively new, and in response to many queries from concerned parents, Tangara issued some letters to parents with some reference material on the HPV vaccination program. Letters such as these were not sent after that period,” the letter said.

Redfield’s headmaster Matthew Aldous told the Herald: “Whenever specific concerns are brought to our attention they are dealt with immediately and professionally. It’s ludicrous to suggest that anything short of that would be done in this day and age.”

Opus Dei, a highly conservative and private Catholic prelature, was founded in the 1920s and given approval within the Catholic Church in 1950. Tangara and Redfield were founded by Pared in 1982 and each have school chaplains that are Opus Dei priests.

Dallas McInerney, the chief executive officer of Catholic Schools NSW, said the four schools investigated by the ABC are “good local schools”.

“Any targeted media attention by the ABC risks collateral damage for the children who are current students and who are returning to school. They shouldn’t be caught up in a wider agenda by the ABC,” McInerney, a senior Liberal in the party’s right-wing faction, said.

“They are not insular schools. These are good schools, doing good work on behalf of their students and families.”




Sunday, January 29, 2023

AP Teacher’s Guide Proves DeSantis Right in African-American Studies Clash

Last week’s rejection by Florida governor Ron DeSantis of the College Board’s pilot AP African-American Studies (APAAS) course has kicked up a controversy. Last Friday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre falsely accused DeSantis of trying to “block . . . the study of black Americans.”

In reality, DeSantis barred only this specific and very biased APAAS course plan — while inviting the College Board to revise it. Florida’s Stop WOKE Act actually mandates the teaching of a series of topics in the history of black Americans, from slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination, to the overcoming of these injustices, and more.

So there is no question here of “blocking the study of black Americans.” The issue is what specific sort of curriculum a given state should favor.

The debate over APAAS has been complicated by the College Board’s secrecy. The College Board has steadfastly refused to release the APAAS curriculum framework or associated materials. Nonetheless, I obtained a copy of the APAAS curriculum and wrote about it in September, laying out its socialist agenda and its promotion of Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Unfortunately, no one could judge the accuracy of my characterization because the curriculum remained secret. I confined myself at the time to a “fair use” discussion of the framework, declining to publish the full curriculum out of respect for the College Board’s insistence that it was a “trade secret.” In the wake of the controversy, however, the Florida Standard newspaper has obtained a copy of the pilot APAAS curriculum and made it public.

In another new development, I have now obtained a copy of a second document, the “APAAS Pilot Course Guide,” a manual designed for use by teachers. Taken together, the curriculum framework and the teacher’s guide expand our understanding of the course in a way that confirms the wisdom of DeSantis’s decision.

The most serious problems in APAAS are in the final quarter of the class (“Unit 4: Movements and Debates”). This is where the course grapples with contemporary political and cultural controversies. Overwhelmingly, APAAS’s approach is from the socialist Left, with very little in the way of even conventional liberal perspectives represented, not to mention conservative views. Most of the topics in the final quarter present controversial leftist authors as if their views were authoritative, with no critical or contrasting perspectives supplied. The scarcely disguised goal is to recruit students to various leftist political causes. Now let’s get down to cases.

The fourth quarter of the course features a topic on “The Movement for Black Lives.” The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) was started by the Marxist organizers who founded Black Lives Matter. Yet M4BL extends far beyond BLM, encompassing “over 170 Black-led organizations.” M4BL is organized around an extensive policy platform, the “Vision for Black Lives.” That platform is radical, to say the least. As you might expect, it includes planks such as defunding the police. M4BL’s platform goes further, however, by calling for the abolition of all money bail, and even all pretrial detention. To this end, the “Vision for Black Lives” endorses federal legislation by “Squad” member, Representative Ayanna Pressley.

It would be a mistake, however, to think of M4BL’s extensive policy menu as a mere attempt to influence the platform of the Democratic Party. As explained by Marxist activist Robin D. G. Kelley (whose work is the subject of the very next APAAS topic), the real purpose of M4BL’s platform is to serve as a “blueprint for social transformation,” radically changing the structure of American society by shifting us away from market principles and toward “’collective ownership’ of certain economic institutions” and a universal basic income.

Kelley also highlights the expansive nature of what he calls M4BL’s most controversial demand: reparations. For M4BL, the concept of reparations goes far beyond massive monetary awards and includes even “mandated changes in the school curriculum that acknowledge the impact of slavery, colonialism, and Jim Crow in producing wealth and racial inequality.” According to Kelley, M4BL wants these changes so schools can undermine “the common narrative that American wealth is the product of individual hard work and initiative, while poverty results from misfortune, culture, bad behavior, or inadequate education.” In other words, M4BL (and Kelley) want schools to inculcate the basic premises of Critical Race Theory.

The APAAS teacher’s guide presents M4BL’s agenda in a way that is entirely free of criticism or alternative viewpoints. All the recommended topic readings support Black Lives Matter, and the “possible focus areas” provided for teachers uncritically summarize M4BL’s policy platform.

One of two recommended books for this topic is From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. Taylor is a socialist, and in no way shy about it. Her book argues that BLM is a step toward what ought to be a revolutionary socialist transformation of the United States. While Taylor rejects Stalin’s authoritarianism, she remains quite fond of Marx and Lenin. Taylor sees capitalism as synonymous with racism, and she argues that any successful struggle against racism must ultimately replace capitalism as well. Taylor also dismisses “colorblindness” as a ploy to disguise the racism inherent in the capitalist system. (This view of colorblindness is excluded from Florida’s curriculum by law.)

Far from BLM fulfilling American ideals, as Taylor sees it, “when the Black movement goes into motion, it destabilizes all political life in the United States,” exposing “the foundational lie of the United States as a free and democratic society.” Taylor ends her book with a quote from the Marxist intellectual and “revolutionary,” C. L. R. James: “The hatred of bourgeois society and the readiness to destroy it when the opportunity should present itself, rests among [Blacks] to a degree greater than in any other section of the population in the United States.”

Virtually all APAAS authors in the final quarter of the course are part of the same tight group of far-left activists. Taylor’s book carries an enthusiastic blurb from Barbara Ransby, the author of the other book assigned for this topic; another blurb from Robin D. G. Kelley, the Marxist radical whose work is the subject of the very next APAAS topic; and a blurb from Michelle Alexander, whose work is the subject of a previous APAAS topic. In general, readings by authors assigned in the final quarter of APAAS endorse, are endorsed by, and overlap with, other APAAS readings. When it comes to APAAS’s treatment of contemporary policy debates, conventional American liberals and conservatives need not apply.

The APAAS topic immediately prior to the topic on “The Movement for Black Lives” covers “The Reparations Movement.” We’ve just seen that the most controversial demand of M4BL is reparations, expansively defined to include even mandated school curricula. So why does APAAS include yet another topic on reparations? It may not add up as an educational strategy, but it is an effective political recruiting tool.

The three suggested items for study in the reparations topic are Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article “The Case for Reparations,” a button that the teacher’s guide says serves to “promote” reparations for the Tulsa race massacre, and the copy of H.R. 40, a federal bill that sets up a commission to develop proposals for reparations. It’s clear from these assignments that APAAS itself is promoting reparations. No article criticizing this highly controversial policy is assigned. In effect, APAAS is pushing students to lobby for legislation. And by the way, M4BL also endorses H.R. 40, so students will find the same de facto call to legislative lobbying waiting for them in two successive topics.

The teacher’s guide purports to outline “debates” over reparations, yet the so-called debates don’t actually involve arguments against reparations. By “debates,” the guide simply means practical disagreements about who exactly should pay for reparations, who exactly should benefit, and the precise mixture of monetary compensation and public apology to be demanded. There is no disagreement about reparations as such. This is political advocacy, pure and simple.


Chinese Communist Party Targets American Kids by Infiltrating K-12 Schools

Congressional Republicans and Asia policy experts are sounding the alarm over the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on K-12 education as well as colleges in America through what are called Confucius Classrooms and Confucius Institutes.

“Confucius Institutes and Classrooms allow the Chinese Communist Party to wield influence throughout the American education system, projecting the CCP’s preferred message in the United States,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., chairman of a new House select committee on China, told The Daily Signal in an email.

The full name of the panel created Jan. 10 by Republican leadership is the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the Chinese Communist Party.

“The Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party will fight back against the malign influence of the CCP wherever it impacts American interests and national security, whether that be in the private sector or in the classroom,” Gallagher said.

Confucius Institutes, founded in 2004, are China-funded “cultural” centers that operate on college campuses. In the past few years, these centers have come under increased scrutiny as operations of Chinese state influence.

“For years, the Chinese Communist Party has been using Confucius Institutes as a Trojan horse to push their propaganda and revisionist history in American universities. Their goal is to control what we see, hear, and think about China,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, who introduced related legislation called the Transparency for Confucius Institutes Act in 2021, told The Daily Signal in an email.

“No foreign government should have the ability to influence American education—especially a rogue regime that commits egregious human rights violations and consistently undermines our democracy. Confucius Institutes, in any form, must be erased from U.S. society immediately,” Blackburn said.

An estimated 500 K-12 schools in the U.S. have had Confucius Classrooms, according to a National Association of Scholars report, “After Confucius Institutes: China’s Enduring Influence on American Higher Education.”

“Confucius Classrooms are essentially the K-12 parallel to Confucius Institutes, but they’re a lot less well documented. In many cases, they have survived even when the Confucius Institutes they were attached to have closed, which is particularly interesting,” John Metz, president of the Athenai Institute, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

The Athenai Institute describes itself as a nonpartisan, student-founded organization focused on removing the influence of the Chinese Communist Party from American college campuses.

“A number of them were established alongside or sort of in conjunction with the Asia Society,” Metz said of Confucius Classrooms. “But in January 2022, they announced that they were discontinuing their formal affiliation with Hanban.”

Hanban, also known as Confucius Institute Headquarters, changed its name in July 2020 to the Center for Language Education and Cooperation, Fox News reported. The center is part of the Chinese Ministry of Education.

“But a lot of those Confucius Classrooms remain, and in a nutshell, we see Confucius Classrooms as yet another way that the CCP tries to exercise control over, really, the way Americans think about China,” Metz told The Daily Signal.

Metz continued:

I think a lot of people might think that because Confucius Classrooms don’t necessarily provide access to cutting-edge research and because K-12 schools don’t necessarily, in a lot of people’s minds, play the same role in sort of shaping a generation of leaders, that therefore they’re not as important. But there are hundreds of [Confucius Classrooms] around the country.

At least 500 American school districts, K–12 school districts, have established … Confucius Classrooms at one time or another. And a lot of them provide the same kind of opportunity to shape discussion, not just of the Chinese language, but also of sensitive subjects like Chinese history in a way that’s favorable to the CCP.

Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms are “just one other example of how the CCP manipulates the interests of U.S. educational institutions for its gain,” said Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)

“So, they fund programs in the U.S., and they are able to staff them with their own teacher, their own instructors. They’re able to prescribe the curriculum that’s used and really create the curriculum,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal in a phone interview.

Ian Oxnevad, program research associate at the National Association of Scholars and co-author of the report “After Confucius Institutes: China’s Enduring Influence on American Higher Education,” warned of the potential threats and dangers associated with Confucius Classrooms, which he said “are largely the same” as Confucius Institutes.

“You still have foreign influence, obviously, shaping of the views of China of American kids, and that’s going to affect future public sentiment toward China,” Oxnevad told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “China’s not a benign regime, so … the influence operation matters.”

Oxnevad continued:

But on top of that, the fact that it’s just a matter of educational sovereignty. This is not something that really gets talked about. But if you have sovereignty as a concept, it should be applied to education as well. You shouldn’t be inviting a foreign power in to teach your children.

What country in their right mind would do that? Neocolonial powers do that. Colonial powers back in the day did that in developing countries. That’s not a healthy thing that a country should do.

Oxnevad also outlined what he thinks should be done about Confucius Classrooms.

“Make them illegal and shut them down,” Oxnevad said. “There’s no Catch-22 here. You wouldn’t let the Soviet Union come in and teach Russian to children, nor would you let Nazi Germany do the same with German. Why would you want China doing this? Especially when there’s plenty of resources here to teach Chinese as it is.”


Parents Seethe Over Schools’ ‘Social-Emotional Learning’ Exercises

Activists and parents are protesting what they see as increasing pressure on children to divulge personal information in school activities in an effort to build empathy in social-emotional learning exercises.

The latest example comes from the coast of Long Island, New York, where Shelter Island parents stormed a local school board earlier this month after an activity that crossed the line for many parents.

The activity, “Cross the Line,” asked students to respond to various prompts about their identity. Students situated themselves on either side of a line in response to the prompt, hence the name. Middle-school students were asked questions about their identity — political affiliations, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identity, and personal traumas.

According to the Shelter Island Reporter, some were even asked whether they had been victims of sexual assault or had suicidal ideations. The Reporter says the activity’s goal was “to make students aware of differences and similarities and … to develop empathy.”

Apparently, however, empathy was not increased universally after the activity, and students were bullied based on their responses. Parents demanded resignations and asked that the “Cross the Line” exercise never be conducted again.

The district superintendent, Brian Doelger, apologized and admitted to the Reporter that there was flawed execution in the program.

“Cross the Line” is just one activity related to social-emotional learning goals, which aim to work on students’ soft skills — self-awareness, empathy, decision-making, and more.

It’s also a fast-growing industry of curriculum sales and facilitated workshops, a market valued at about $1 billion annually, with public school districts shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars collectively for resources on SEL.

While social-emotional learning has not generated as much opposition as critical race and gender ideology, they are viewed as part and parcel by some school administrators — including the New York education department.

The state education department sees “equity” as an important part of its social-emotional learning mandate, particularly understanding the root causes and manifestations of so-called implicit bias, or judging others based on stereotypes.

“Implicit bias stands as a major obstacle to achieving equity in education, but increasing SEL competencies can help us to manage it,” a primer from the state on social-emotional learning reads. “Equity, implicit bias, CRT, and SEL are inextricably intertwined.”

One of the major parental rights activist groups, Parents Defending Education, has dedicated resources for learning about SEL and fighting what they call “transformative SEL” programs in schools.

“‘Transformative SEL’ is basically race and gender ideology embedded into what had previously been neutral student competencies,” the Parents Defending Education guide reads.

The organization’s vice president, Asra Nomani, has called SEL a “Trojan horse” used to funnel more controversial ideas about race and gender into classrooms. It’s another flashpoint in the ongoing battle between parent activists and teachers.

The largest teachers union in the country, the National Education Association, says SEL programs “increase student achievement” and help them develop lifelong skills.

The conflict between parents and schools on the issue will be headed to court in a new lawsuit. On Wednesday, America First Legal announced a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania school district for refusing to grant religious exemptions to SEL instruction.

The plaintiffs in the case believe the school’s SEL curriculum “conflicts with their Christian beliefs.” The school administration refused to grant the request for an exemption because the parents did not identify “specific instruction within the curriculum” that was antithetical to Christianity.

Elsewhere, the issue is being addressed by statewide policy makers. In Louisiana, the state board of education is revisiting its SEL curriculum and standards after receiving hundreds of comments opposing it, according to

Critics allege that the current iteration would encourage conversations about gender identity in students as young as 5 years old.

In Arizona, the recently elected superintendent of public instruction has planted a firm flag in the anti-SEL camp. The superintendent, Tom Horne, canceled all seminars on social-emotional learning at a statewide teachers conference this week. He also canceled sessions on diversity and race.