Friday, April 07, 2023

Kansas Legislature OKs opt-outs for LGBTQ materials in schools

Kansas lawmakers approved a bill Thursday aimed at helping parents opt their children out of public school lessons with LGBTQ-themed materials, as a Democratic lawmaker whose vote was crucial to banning transgender female athletes from girls' and women's sports faced calls to resign.

The Republican-controlled Kansas House voted 76-46 to approve a "parental rights" measure that would allow a parent to place their child in an alternative to a public K-12 school lesson or activity that "impairs the parent’s sincerely held beliefs, values or principles." The GOP-dominated Senate approved the measure last week, so it goes next to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

"If there is one family who are denied their rights, we need to address it," said Republican state Rep. Susan Estes, of Wichita.

While the measure covers lessons and materials dealing with race and possibly even evolution, it also is in line with the push by Republicans in statehouses across the U.S. to roll back LGBTQ rights, particularly transgender rights. State Rep. Heather Meyer, a Kansas City-area Democrat, called the measure a "perfect vehicle" for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

"We can see what’s been done in other states across the country where they have used this as a vehicle to attack the LGBTQ community," said Meyer, who is bisexual and has a 13-year-old transgender son.

The Legislature on Tuesday approved a broad bathroom bill and on Wednesday voted to override Kelly's veto of the measure on transgender athletes. Kansas is the 20th state to enact such a sports ban, and its law applies to club and school sports from kindergarten through college starting July 1.

GOP lawmakers also hoped to pass a bill Thursday that would require Kansas public schools to keep transgender girls from rooming with cisgendered girls and transgender boys, with cisgendered boys, on overnight school trips.

GOP conservatives also hadn’t given up on trying to pass a bill aimed at ending gender-affirming care for minors.

Kelly vetoed a bill last year that would have made it easier for parents to try to remove classroom or library materials. Supporters of this year's bill still were short of the two-thirds majorities in both chambers necessary to override a veto.

"What we heard in committee were parents who not only went to their teacher, they went to their principal and higher up in their school district and did not have their concerns addressed," Estes said.

Meanwhile, conservative Republicans were able to override Kelly's third veto of a bill on transgender athletes in three years because of the "yes" vote from a single Democrat, freshman Rep. Marvin Robinson, of Kansas City.

That Kansas vote came a day before President Joe Biden's administration announced a proposal to bar schools and colleges from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes but allow them to set some limits to preserve fairness.

Robinson represents a heavily Democratic district and replaced a retiring lawmaker who voted against overriding Kelly's veto in 2022. Kansas Young Democrats and the state Democratic Party's LGBTQ+ and Progressive caucuses demanded that he step down after Wednesday's vote.

Robinson also supported the parents' rights measure. Kansas House Democratic Leader Vic Miller said he would be "pleased" if Robinson resigned.

"Right now, he’s voting more with the other party than he is with ours," Miller said. "He ran as a Democrat, but he doesn’t seem to be serving as a Democrat."

Robinson told a conservative Kansas City radio talk show Thursday morning that he thought he was "on the same page" as Kelly because of a television commercial she aired during her reelection campaign. In that ad, Kelly looked into the camera and said: "Of course men should not play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree there."

At the time, Republicans accused Kelly of lying about her record. LGBTQ-rights advocates interpreted her comment as saying men playing girl's sports wasn't an issue because transgender girls and women are female.

Robinson told The Associated Press that no one in the Democratic Party told him last year that he was expected to vote against bills on transgender athletes. He also said a female Democratic colleague that he declined to name "told me I should die."

He rejected criticism that his vote is "hurting people’s kids." "Who could mistreat and look down on anybody?" he said. "You know, everybody is God’s creation."

He told the radio host that friends told him: "Man, you're up there with a bunch of demons."

Meyer said "absolutely none" of Robinson's fellow Democrats would have told him after the vote that he should die. "We care about mental health and we care about our colleagues, even if we disagree," Meyer said.


Opting Out of College

Economist Herbert Stein once famously said, when discussing the size of our national debt compared to GDP, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

That logic might appear obvious, but our nation’s colleges and universities have in recent decades seemed impervious to it. “US college costs just keep climbing,” Bloomberg reports. “And the increase is pushing the annual price for the upcoming academic year at Ivy League schools toward yet another hold-on-to-your-mortarboard mark: $90,000. Full costs at elite private colleges already stretch well into the $80,000s.” That’s well above what the typical American household earns in a year.

It’s a wonder our university system hasn’t yet bumped into Stein’s Law, and a wonder more folks haven’t had enough. “At some point, that math stops working out,” said Beth Akers, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an economist who focuses on higher education. “We get to a place where these degrees are just no longer worth it.”

Compounding these runaway costs is a growing mental health crisis on campus. A recent Gallup study found that 41% of college students have considered “stopping out” in the past six months, with 55% of those who’ve considered calling it quits citing emotional stress as a reason why.

So there’s the cost, and there’s the stress — although the latter seems to say more about the fragile state of our young people than the rigors of college. And then there’s the intrinsic appeal of a college education, which doesn’t seem to be what it once was.

As former Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder writes: “We have lost sight of the basics: are our young learning a lot about things that prepare them to be responsible and productive citizens in the future? Are we downplaying the dissemination of truth and beauty in favor of spending resources on other things? For example, do universities really need umpteen bureaucrats who neither teach nor do research that might help future generations?”

Vedder’s point about the bloated bureaucracy is a good one. And nowhere is it more apparent than in the “diversity” industry that has infected colleges large and small with “diversity, equity, and inclusion” staff up and down the hierarchy.

A 2021 report from The Heritage Foundation notes that many universities’ DEI programs “are bloated relative to academic pursuits and do not contribute to reported student well-being on campus.” The University of Michigan, for example, lists a whopping 163 staffers as having formal responsibility for providing DEI programming and services.

As for the breakdown of these, ahem, educational staff, Heritage writes: “Nineteen of those people work in a central office of DEI, headed by a Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer, who is subsequently supported by three people with the title Assistant Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion & Academic Affairs. Five people are listed in the Multicultural Center, another 24 are found in the Center for the Education of Women, and the LGBTQ Spectrum Center has 12 people. Eighteen people are listed on the Multiethnic Student Affairs website with another 14 found at the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives. Moreover, colleges and departments at the University of Michigan have their own DEI staff.”

Here’s another way to look at it: For every 14 people tasked with promoting DEI at the U of M, there is one person responsible for providing services to students with disabilities. And another way: Michigan has more than twice as many DEI staff as it does history faculty.

When one of the nation’s top-ranked public universities has 163 people on its payroll dedicated to “diversity,” it’s safe to assume that this university has not only failed to properly steward taxpayers’ money but, more fundamentally, has lost its way as an educational institution.

The American Spectator’s Dov Fischer weighed in on this DEI phenomenon as it pertained to the recent row at Stanford Law School, where an invited guest speaker, Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, was disgracefully shouted down by dozens of future leftist lawyers and lectured by the school’s diversity officer, Tirien Steinbach, who was later suspended for her role in ginning up the mob.

Fischer wrote: “These DEI deans are malignancies on the body academic, absolute poison. They get paid boatloads of money collected from overblown tuition, which saddles students and their parents with debt for life, to provide an ostensibly valuable service that my law degree, rabbinical degree, advanced history degree, and other educational attainments still leave me unable to fathom.

What do these noxious DEI warts do to better society other than to promote reverse racism, divide people by ethnicities and skin color, in many cases promote anti-Semitism, and preach virtue-signaling effluvium that, once analyzed objectively between the lines, promote nothing but hate, the good woke kind of hate, hate for the values that once made America great?”

These are all great questions — whether about cost, value, wokeness, diversity, or misplaced priorities — and they don’t lend themselves to great answers.

No wonder so many young people are dropping out, and so many others are refusing to even drop in.

As Professor Vedder concludes: “For years, the American public unflinchingly accepted the siren calls of the ‘college for all’ crowd: You will not succeed in life unless you go to college. They increasingly are rejecting that … [and] the trust in colleges being the path to opportunity in America has severely eroded.”


The Left’s ‘Banned Books’ Racket Is Actually a War on Parents’ Rights

Furor over banned books allows liberals to feign indignation over the alleged ‘authoritarianism’ of Republicans who don’t want kids reading identitarian pseudohistories or books depicting rape, violence, or gender dysphoria in their schools.

While checking out the “banned and challenged” display at my local Barnes & Noble recently, I was reminded that the entire kerfuffle is a giant racket. For publishers and booksellers, “banned” books are likely a money-making racket.

Virtually every allegedly “banned” book on the display table is already a massive (sometimes generational) bestseller. Not that this reality stops authors like Jodi Picoult, whose books dot virtually every bookstore in the country, from running around pretending their novels are “banned” because a sliver of taxpayers are no longer on the hook to buy them.

For the left, the banned book claim is a political racket, allowing them to feign indignation over the alleged “authoritarianism” of Republicans who don’t want kids reading identitarian pseudohistories or books depicting oral sex, rape, violence, or gender dysphoria in their schools.

Yet, major media now regularly contend, as indisputable fact, that “book bans” are in place. The claim is embedded in the Democrats’ daily rhetoric. After the mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, we were not plunged into another inane discussion about “stochastic terrorism” or political violence, but rather a preposterous comparison of Tennessee’s “book bans” and lax gun control.

As Congresswoman Liz Cheney noted, “if we really want to keep our children safe, we need to spend less time banning books and more time stopping the horrific gun violence in our schools.”

Books are banned in Tennessee in the same way a person can’t say the word “gay” in Florida. It’s a myth. Yet, here is a recent headline from NPR: “Plot twist: Activists skirt book bans with guerrilla giveaways and pop-up libraries.” In the piece, the reader learns that with “a record number of book bans” on the horizon, “some activists are finding creative ways to make banned books available to young readers anyway.”

“Activists” buying books at a local Barnes & Noble, where an endless supply exists, and handing them to other people’s children against the wishes of parents isn’t so much “creative” as it is creepy. NPR makes it sound as if these people were risking their lives trading samizdat one step ahead of the Secret Police. Any dope with a car, a bus pass, a bicycle, legs, or an internet connection can hand some impressionable kid softcore porn. Because there are no banned books.

Now, if conservative activists set up “pop-up” libraries around the corner from schools in progressive districts handing out “Huck Finn” and books celebrating the Second Amendment or the superiority of traditional families, one imagines NPR would find the guerrilla effort less charming.

One New York Times columnist argues that parents who vote for legislators that temper the cultural Marxist agenda in schools are engaging in a “state-sanctioned heckler’s veto.” So much for “democracy,” I guess. It is true that leftists, who run virtually every major school district in the nation, don’t need any laws or vetoes to dictate curriculums.

Yet most schools are run by the state. How else are parents supposed to initiate change? Well, they aren’t, right? That’s the point. The contemporary left doesn’t believe that parents have any say in which state-run school their children attend or what they are taught in them. Who’s the authoritarian, again?

Teacher-union types like to argue that parental rights bills are tantamount to telling a doctor how to operate on a patient. A more apt analogy is to say that Democrats want to force patients to undergo elective surgeries performed by untrained quacks.

Parental rights bills don’t instruct teachers on methods, they only stop strangers from exposing kids to revisionist histories and ideas about sexuality and ideologies that conflict with their beliefs. Then again, even if parents who don’t want their prepubescent kids indoctrinated with these ideas are in the minority, why should they be forced to accept instruction or books that have nothing to do with genuine civics or a well-rounded education?

When the government restricts free association in the marketplace, or giant tech companies are engaged in a concerted effort to censor ideas and news, we have a reason to worry about the state of free speech. When a heckler’s veto that dominates universities makes it virtually impossible to have an open discourse on campuses, we have reason to worry. “Book bans,” however, are just curriculum choices leftists don’t like.

It is certainly true that sometimes priggish moralists are overzealous in their targeting of books, sometimes the bans are plain stupid, sometimes they are political, and sometimes they are initiated by left-wing administrations (as has been the case for years).

Yet for the most part, “book ban” is just a euphemism for progressive administrators and teachers losing some of their power over your kids. While parents are compelled to live with the devastating professional failures of a teacher-union-dominated monopoly that struggles to teach basic math, reading, writing and science, there is no reason for them to accept political indoctrination, as well.




Thursday, April 06, 2023

Victory of Yeshivas in Court Opens an Avenue for Legislative Relief for Religious Families

New York’s Orthodox Jewish schools, or yeshivas, won a major victory in court last week. However, fully resolving the issues raised in the lawsuit will require legislative intervention.

Under pressure from a string of hostile and error-ridden stories in the New York Times and a campaign backed by the teachers union boss, Randi Weingarten, New York state has attempted to revive a century-old, largely dormant law that required students who enroll in private schools to be given an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that provided by New York’s public schools.

Last year the state issued new regulations to enforce this old statute, requiring inspections of nonpublic schools unless they were exempt due to their accreditation or participation in the state test. If the inspectors deem that private schools do not adequately cover the 18 subjects listed in state law, the state could require parents to unenroll their children and force the schools to close.

The state’s chasidic yeshivas were just about the only schools not covered by an exemption and would be subject to inspections and closure. In last week’s court decision, the judge stuck down the central part of the state’s effort to crack down on the yeshivas. The ruling forbids the state from closing private schools that failed inspections.

Judge Christina Ryba’s ruling noted that the law “places the burden for ensuring a child’s education squarely on the parent, not the school….” Parents can ensure that their children receive an education meeting all criteria of the compulsory education law, even if the school they choose does not.

Even if private schools do not cover everything required by substantial equivalence, Judge Ryba wrote, “parents should be permitted to supplement the education that their children receive at a nonpublic school” to be in full compliance, “such as by providing supplemental home instruction.”

Effectively, New York’s Compulsory Education Law treats everyone enrolled in noncompliant private schools as if they are hybrid homeschoolers who can cobble together their education from a combination of private school instruction and outside-of-school activities.

If the state wants to continue with its inspection regime and declare a number of yeshivas deficient, it will turn tens of thousands of private school students into hybrid homeschoolers, who will then have to complete various forms to describe how they are supplementing their private school instruction to comply with the compulsory education statute.

This will be a burden on those families, but it will be an even bigger burden on the state. Not only will state employees have to process and review all of these forms, they will then have to select which among the tens of thousands of families to investigate and — if found deficient after multiple rounds of remediation and appeals — which to sanction.

This will be a huge strain on state resources. Also it is certain to raise constitutional issues of discrimination and arbitrariness in selective enforcement that the judge ruled were “not yet ripe” in her decision last week.

There is an elegant solution that extracts the state of New York from this mess: Revise the Compulsory Education Law to redefine what constitutes an education.

Currently, the law contains a highly prescriptive list of 18 subjects and other requirements, including instruction in highway safety and traffic regulations, arson prevention, CPR, sex ed, patriotism, and “the history, meaning, significance and effect of … the Constitution of the State of New York and amendments thereto.”

However, the statute fails to appreciate the educational value of a yeshiva education, which, as Professor Moshe Krakowski has described, “more closely resemble[s] upper-level humanities coursework in a university than clerical training or contemplation of the Divine.”

New York would be better served by adopting a broad definition of education, similar to other states, that would properly distinguish between the traditional, if atypical, approaches that yeshivas have been using for hundreds of years and real truants who are not being educated at all.

The yeshiva victory in court has fended off the prospect of the state closing their schools, but leaves the state — and families — facing an enforcement nightmare. Fortunately, the problem can be solved with a modest and entirely reasonable legislative fix.


Another COVID Fail: School Budget Cliffs With Gaping Holes

Although the funds were nonrecurring, the nation’s largest school district used some of the money for enduring budget items and programs, including hiring 500 social workers, opening new bilingual programs, and expanding summer learning centers.

Now, the district faces a “fiscal cliff,” a situation in which spending creates budgetary needs in the future after a financial windfall is depleted.

“I am … deeply concerned about how the [New York City Department of Education] will sustain many long-term program expansions, which rely heavily on federal relief funds,” Rita Joseph, a New York City Council Member and the chair of the council's Education Committee, told her colleagues in November.

New York is joined by numerous other school systems that used the temporary funds to beef up staff. Some are already handing out pink slips.

In Stockton, Calif., the district is laying off 19 full-time employees hired with part of the $241 million the school district received in COVID relief. The district acknowledged that some of the money, which funded a total of 163 positions, was misspent.

Seattle schools received $145 million in relief and is handing out pink slips to up to 70 employees as it struggles with enrollment that has dropped 16% since 2020. Relief spending included $1.4 million on “equity work” and “response to racism.”

The district acknowledged its economic mismanagement in a public notice explaining its $131 million deficit: “Enrollment has decreased … while staff has increased.”

The fiscal cliff did not come out of the blue, as districts were warned of the challenges they would face in sustaining longer-term programs after the federal tranche was exhausted.

K-12 education last faced widespread financial trouble in 2009, as the Great Recession prompted government to provide nearly $50 billion in relief to districts, which reacted in a way similar to now. Layoffs and budget problems soon followed hiring and expansion.

“Districts are optimistic that something will happen that will not force them into making hard decisions,” said Chad Aldeman, a school finance pundit and founder of, a reading instruction website. “They see labor costs as fixed, so they don’t do a good job of scaling up or down. They have a hard time downsizing.”

A recent Rand study found that 77% of school districts used the federal money on exactly what numerous other fiscal hawks cautioned against: beefing up staffing with little regard for the future. “Roughly half of district leaders see a fiscal cliff looming after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) federal aid expires,” Rand researchers reported. The study noted that over three-quarters of public school districts have “increased their number of teaching and non-teaching staff above pre-pandemic levels.”

As in Seattle, districts across the U.S. are realizing that they made a mistake. The jobs of teachers, mid-level administrators, and low-level employees alike are on the chopping block. Also in danger are after-school programs, tutoring, and counseling, all aimed at addressing the damage caused by widespread school closures, typically locked down under strong pressure from teacher unions.


Hamline University president will RETIRE after Prophet Muhammad controversy where art professor who showed image in class was fired

The president of Hamline University will retire months after a scandal involving a professor who showed images of the Prophet Muhammad in an art history class.

President Fayneese Miller initially defended the small school in Minnesota's decision not to renew the contract of adjunct professor Erika Lopez Prater who had shown students the Muslim prophet - after providing them with a warning.

But the school finally backtracked after widespread criticism and a lawsuit filed by the professor.

Previously, leaders at Hamline said 71 of 92 faculty members who attended a meeting in January voted to call on Miller to resign immediately.

They said they had lost faith in Miller because of her handling of an objection lodged by a Muslim student who said seeing the artwork violated her religious beliefs.

The Monday email announcing Dr. Miller's 2024 retirement did not make mention of the controversy.

'Hamline is forever grateful for Dr. Miller's tireless and dedicated service,' wrote Ellen Watters, the chairwoman of the university's board of trustees, who also called Miller's tenure' innovative and transformational.'

In October, adjunct professor Prater showed an online class an image of the Prophet Muhammad as part of an art history class.

She warned the students watching virtually what she planned to do, and gave them ample warning to look away from the image if they were so inclined.

In some - but not all - Islamic sects, it is forbidden to look at the image of the prophet.

After the class, Aram Wedatalla - a student who is also the president of the university's Muslim association - complained.

Wedatalla, who spearheaded the campaign to get Lopez Prater fired, chose to remain online in the class.

Afterward, she and others promptly complained to school officials that the image 'blindsided' her and made her feel marginalized.

'I'm 23 years old. I have never once seen an image of the prophet,' she said in a conference streamed live on CAIR-MN's Facebook page, adding that she felt marginalized.

'It just breaks my heart that I have to stand here to tell people that something is Islamophobic and something actually hurts all of us, not only me.'

Prater, who'd been hired that semester for the first time and was due to return for the spring semester, was shown the door.

The university, bending to the demands of the Muslim association, called the incident 'Islamophobic'.

It sparked uproar among other Muslims and professors across the country, who said the school had stifled academic freedom.

One Muslim professor accused the school of advancing an 'extreme' Islamist view that is only held by a small number of people.

The school dug its heels in initially, saying it wanted to protect its Muslim students and make them feel heard before eventually retracting a statement that labeled Prater's actions Islamophobic.

When Prater broke her silence, she said: 'In my syllabus, I did note that I would be showing both representational and non representational images of holy figures such as the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ and Buddha.

'Of course, in an art history classroom, images are the primary source documents that we use as evidence in order to learn about diverse cultures and thinking and attitudes.

'I spent a couple minutes explaining to students, before I showed the images. I told my students if they didn't feel comfortable engaging visually, they were free to do what made most sense to them.

'I tried to empower them to walk away from the video portion of the online classroom, or do what kind of made most sense to them.

'I'm not a mind reader. My discussion in my class was fact based and on explaining the beginnings of Islam itself.

'All of the images that I used were very respectful, they were meant to be instructional and also referential in their original historical contexts.'

Professor Prater added that the student said her warnings 'didn't matter.'

'She had some pretty strong feelings that she expressed to me. But one of them that perhaps gets to the heart of the matter was she thought the warnings that I had provided to the class didn't even matter, because she believed that images of the Prophet Muhammad should never be shown full stop.'

In her lawsuit, Prater alleged that Hamline subjected her to religious discrimination and defamation, and damaged her professional and personal reputation.




Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Stanford University president promises to 'safeguard' free speech in blistering attack on woke law students after federal judges said they will refuse to hire them as clerks in wake of ambush on conservative member of the bench

The president of Stanford Law School is promising to 'safeguard' free speech after an embarrassing protest by a woke student mob - joined by the school's dean of 'equity' - at a Trump-appointed judge's speaking engagement at the school.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne - who previously published a public apology to Judge Kyle Duncan - also promised 'new initiatives to safeguard and strengthen' campus freedom of speech.

Duncan, from the fifth circuit of appeals, was ambushed by associate dean of equity, diversity and inclusion Tirien Steinbach during a discussion in early March.

Steinbach - a former ACLU lawyer who previously defended free speech - initially claimed Duncan had a right to express his views. But she then launched into an impassioned six minute speech - which she had written down - condemning his life's work.

Tessier-Lavigne cited the talk - which now has federal judges promising not to hire Stanford Law students as clerks - as a 'deeply disappointing event' and believed that the school must 'reject such corrosive conduct.'

In the letter, Tessier-Lavigne continues: 'We all navigate disagreements and differences with the people that we live and work with every day. As members of a university community, we are called on to extend our empathy beyond our close personal relationships – to see one another as people with complexity, not as partisan types.'

He also promised that freshman students would be given workshops that would teach them how to discuss contentious issues in a constructive manner.

'We must continue building understanding and active dialogue about both the opportunities and the expectations of being members of this community, including shared commitments to both free expression and to dignity and integrity in our interactions.'


Muzzling Free Expression on Campus Causes Self-Censorship

Societies advance through the creation, expression, and evaluation of alternative ideas. Therefore, for almost a millennium, we have had universities where ideas and discoveries are born and different perspectives are debated in “marketplaces of ideas” or “learning communities.” Yet there has been a decline in rational, reasonable discourse on issues of the day on modern campuses. This has been demonstrated by numerous suppressions of speakers, including one recently—and most shockingly—at the Stanford Law School, where a federal judge, Stuart Kyle Duncan, was prevented from speaking by a student protest, aided and abetted by the law school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) dean.

The university’s own administration was helping to lead the suppression of speech and ideas. It is incidents like this one that have made members of university communities afraid to express themselves, fearing potential negative outcomes (e.g., insults, attacks on character, possible physical attack, or efforts to dismiss) from individuals opposed to their viewpoints. Hence, expressed viewpoint diversity is on a notable decline. We are moving at least partway in the direction of universities in 20th-century totalitarian societies like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. And this movement has spread to the broader society.

Individuals are increasingly engaging in self-censorship—the consequences of using an inappropriate word become too costly, so we muzzle our expression. One recent example came courtesy of Whoopi Goldberg, who is hardly a paragon of reactionary anti-woke thinking. She recently was pressured into apologizing for suggesting that some people had been “gypped”—a synonym for “cheated” or “ripped off.” Goldberg has profusely apologized for using a word that some apparently find offensive. Why? It turns out that the word may be thought to imply that Roma people (commonly referred to as “gypsies”) are untrustworthy. These individuals, constituting a tiny fraction of one percent of the world’s population, live predominantly in Europe but are found throughout the world. Words that came into colloquial usage hundreds of years ago become verboten as decreed by a woke aristocracy increasingly funded by universities and supported by their DEI offices. As we economists say, “The cost of expressing an opinion outside the prevailing progressive academic mainstream has risen sharply.”

Let me offer the personal observation of an octogenarian whose higher education experiences span eight decades—from the 1950s as a young undergraduate through the 2020s as a professor. Throughout the first five of those decades, the last half of the 20th century, I felt that I could pretty much say what I wanted, protected most of the time by academic tenure. I sometimes was outspoken. In the 1980s, Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste attacked me publicly because, through op-ed writings, I promoted a voter referendum to roll back a massive income tax increase that Celeste advocated and the legislature approved. The president of my university was pressured by prominent politicians to fire me, but he appropriately said, “Professor Vedder has tenure, and, moreover, we believe in freedom of expression.”

I survived. However, if I had been born several decades later and the tax increase had taken place in, say, 2015 or 2020, would I have publicly spoken up? I doubt it. I would have censored myself, remaining quiet rather than writing op-eds opposing the governor. Why? Because I believe that the university administration very possibly would have joined politicians in condemning my behavior, perhaps even firing me. I likely would be further condemned by the faculty senate, and some DEI administrators might call a rally condemning my efforts to restrict taxation as hurtful to minorities and thus morally, if not legally, forbidden.

Although difficult to precisely quantify, I think the gap between the political perspective of university faculty and the general electorate has widened over time, mainly reflecting an increasingly progressive faculty orientation. The ivory tower has always been perceived as being a bit flakier and more leftist than the real world, but that difference now is huge. Today’s faculty are generally highly aware that they are, in effect, wards of the state, as their schools are dependent on governments not only for direct subsidies and research grants but also indirectly for funds from tuition fees artificially inflated over time by various federal student assistance programs.

Thus, colleges have been increasingly allied to progressive interests favoring governmental solutions to problems and denigrating private or market-derived ways of solving social issues. Moreover, within colleges and universities, the balance of power has shifted away from faculty, favoring non-academic administrators who are less imbued with the collegiate traditions of open and free inquiry embodied in such documents as the First Amendment or even the “Chicago Principles” (and related “Kalven Report”), which some prominent schools (e.g., Princeton, Columbia, Chicago, North Carolina, and Purdue) have explicitly adopted.

The recent case of Amy Wax, an eminent tenured University of Pennsylvania law professor, personifies why self-censorship is on the rise. In May, Penn will have a hearing that could lead to her dismissal. What is Professor Wax’s great alleged crime? Did she neglect teaching classes or verbally attack individual students? Is she extremely deficient in publication or research? No, Wax has won teaching awards and publishes frequently. She is being sanctioned for her expression of views in writings on issues like immigration or the advantages of traditional two-parent marriages. How can academics avoid the Wax nightmare? Keep your views to yourself—self-censor.

The move toward what Johns Hopkins political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg perceptively called “the all-administrative university” has been augmented by a pronounced increase in the power of the federal bureaucracy, especially the Department of Education. The balance of collegiate power has passed from a once largely dispassionate faculty highly respectful of First Amendment values and civil debate to a bureaucracy both within the universities and beyond that views its job, to borrow from a British royalty job description, as “defender of the Faith.” The “Faith” is the woke ideology prevalent in the academy, the media, and amongst many politicians. Dialogues are being replaced by ideologues.

Reducing fear of self-expression may be a positive effect of a surging national movement to suppress DEI initiatives in the universities and, perhaps, stop the excessive use of them in private business. Practices such as requiring employees to sign allegiance to diversity practices are inimical to free expression, and initiatives in many states—including large ones like Texas, Florida, and Ohio—to restrict or even outlaw DEI bureaucracies could end campus efforts to enforce viewpoint conformity. If, as I suspect, DEI becomes a political—and, thus, a potentially severe financial—liability for state universities, freedom of campus speech will likely eventually become rejuvenated, enhancing a vital intellectual life characterized by robust but civilized debate.


University cheats on notice after launch of ChatGPT detection software

Australia’s universities will gain access to new technology designed to crack down on cheats using ChatGPT but some top institutions are shunning the software as teachers look to redesign tests to combat the rise of artificial intelligence.

Most universities nationwide will on Wednesday have the option of using popular anti-plagiarism software service Turnitin to detect whether a student has used a chatbot to help write an essay or complete an assessment.

But some of the country’s biggest institutions including the University of Sydney, Monash University and Deakin University have said they will not use the software – at least initially – and are instead ramping up other detection methods to catch students using ChatGPT to write papers.

Academic integrity expert at the University of NSW, Cath Ellis, said there is a “real fear” the detection tool could lead universities to falsely accusing students of using ChatGPT to do their work.

“We could also end up with a massive tidal wave of referrals coming through from academics that we can’t handle, many that could be false accusations,” she said.

“Turnitin are releasing this tool, but the perception among the higher education sector is that the type of testing that has been done hasn’t been effectively communicated.”

James Thorley, regional vice president of Turnitin, claims the company’s new tool can identify if a student has used an AI chatbot in their work with 98 per cent confidence. He said about 780 high schools in Australia used Turnitin and will have access to the new tool.

“Banning ChatGPT isn’t feasible long-term,” said Thorley. “This detector isn’t just about maintaining academic integrity but is also about understanding how AI writing tools are changing the future of assessment,” he said.

However, Benjamin Miller, an English lecturer at Sydney University, said he is opting to redesign assessments for his first year students to deal with chatbots.

“I immediately started thinking about the ethics of using ChatGPT in academic writing, and I was surprised how well it could write and how widespread its use is,” he said.

“I now give students a sample of writing that ChatGPT has created, and they will be tested on how well it analyses and demonstrates critical thinking. They are also tested on how they exceed the capabilities of a chatbot.”

“ChatGPT isn’t great at analysis and evaluation, and often doesn’t connect ideas across paragraphs, so you can often pick up if it’s been used that way.”

A spokesperson for Sydney University said the institution would not be using Turnitin’s new AI detection feature immediately.

“We aim to avoid making major changes to our systems mid-semester, and without adequate testing or visibility, or time to prepare staff,” they said.

‘We could also end up with a massive tidal wave of referrals coming through from academics that we can’t handle, many that could be false accusations.’

Cath Ellis, Academic integrity expert at the University of NSW
The university said it would be reviewing the feature’s capability to see if it would help markers when assessing if a student’s work was original.

The university is also ramping up face-to-face supervision during oral exams and more pen-and-paper assessments.

Monash University has also decided against using Turnitin’s tool “given the technology is in its infancy”.

Deakin University said claims Turnitin’s tool has a 98 per cent accuracy rate in the detection of AI-generated text have not been verified by the institution, and flagged concerns it had been trained using out-of-date AI text generator models.

“Until the university can test its efficacy, Deakin has chosen not to apply the tool in the marking of student assessments,” said Associate Professor Trish McCluskey, Director, Digital Learning.

“This is to protect student data and is in line with the approach adopted by a growing list of global education providers, and we expect many Australian universities will follow our lead.”

However, UNSW said the feature would be available for academics to consider cautiously, but that staff would not be relying on it in any way.




Tuesday, April 04, 2023

How trans ideology took over our schools

Concern with what schools are teaching about sex, gender and relationships has been growing. Parents worry their children are being exposed to inappropriate sexualised content and that they are being taught to question their gender identity. Some even report discovering their children are using new names and pronouns while at school without their knowledge or consent. Yet these fears are frequently dismissed as reactionary parents trading in anecdotes and panic. Nothing to see here, has been the message from schools and campaigning organisations alike. Until now.

A report from Policy Exchange reveals the extent to which gender ideology is being promoted in schools and the shocking ways in which this puts children at risk. In Asleep at the Wheel: An Examination of Gender and Safeguarding in Schools, Lottie Moore uses hard data to expose the true proportion of schools that are leading children down the transgender path.

More than a quarter of schools allow male pupils to use the same toilets as girls

This research shows that an astonishing four in ten secondary schools now operate a policy of gender self-identification. This means that teachers ignore all records of a child’s biological sex and instead treat pupils as whatever gender they declare themselves to be. The safeguarding risks of this approach should be immediately obvious. Policy Exchange has the statistics: at least 28 per cent of secondary schools are not maintaining single sex toilets, and 19 per cent are not maintaining single-sex changing rooms.

In other words, at a time when concern about sexual harassment among teenagers is rife, more than a quarter of schools allow male pupils to use the same toilets as girls. And almost one third of schools now teach pupils that a person who self-identifies as a man or a woman should be treated as a man or woman in all circumstances, even if this does not match their biological sex. Presumably such moral lessons hold true when that person seeks to undress next to you in a changing room. Shockingly, girls are being instructed not to have boundaries or to expect privacy when it comes to their own bodies.

Sadly, it is all too easy to see how this situation has arisen. When faced with seemingly competing demands to safeguard pupils and to adhere to a contested gender ideology, headteachers and school governing bodies have taken the politically easier option and decided to appease transgender activists. But this may leave schools in breach of the law.

Take another shocking statistic the research has uncovered: only 28 per cent of secondary schools are reliably informing parents as soon as a child discloses feelings of gender distress. They allow pupils to adopt a new gender while at school and conspire to keep this from their parents. It is difficult to square this practice with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act which sets out the ‘right to respect for private and family life’.

Schools argue they are having to deal with a growing number of children presenting with gender distress and have, not unreasonably, sought help from external agencies on how best to handle this new problem. But this overlooks the role schools have played in promoting gender distress in the first place. Asleep at the Wheel reveals that 25 per cent of schools are teaching children that some people ‘may be born in the wrong body’ and almost three quarters of schools teach that people have a gender identity that may be different from their biological sex.

This makes it abundantly clear that it is not one or two activist teachers promoting regressive stereotypes over biological facts but that such ‘lessons’ are being repeated in the overwhelming majority of schools. This is in contravention of Sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996 which dictates that schools have a legal obligation to be politically impartial and that where political viewpoints are raised, children should be offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.

In attempting to address a problem at least partially of their own making, schools end up exacerbating confusion about gender still further. More than two-thirds of secondary schools insist that all pupils affirm a gender-distressed child’s new identity, presumably by using their preferred name and pronouns. In this way, children are compelled to speak untruths, and schools yet again fall foul of the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to freedom of expression.

The Policy Exchange research on gender and safeguarding is to be welcomed. Never again will activist teachers or political campaigners be able to deny the reality of what is happening within our schools. In an important foreword to the report, Labour’s Rosie Duffield is clear:

‘This government has failed children by allowing partisan beliefs to become entrenched within the education system. Meanwhile, the Opposition has failed to pull them up on it.’

This cannot be allowed to continue.


University of California Proposes Guaranteed Admission for Qualified Transfer Students

The University of California (UC) proposed a plan this week to guarantee admission to qualified community college students—but only for certain campuses.

UC officials presented their plans to state legislators during a March 28 state Assembly budget hearing.

To be guaranteed admission, students must be enrolled in a state community college and would need to complete general education courses required by UC and earn a minimum grade point average, according to UC officials.

Such transfer students may request the UC campus of their choice—and if they are not admitted, they are guaranteed admission to UC Santa Cruz, UC Merced, or UC Riverside.

Additionally, six of nine UC campuses already offer transfer-guaranteed admission programs—UC Merced, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara.

UC Academic Senate Chair Susan Cochran said during the meeting that the system hopes to simplify the process for transfer students so they don’t take more community college classes than they need to.

“The key to transfer is to ask students only what they need to do and not more,” Cochran said. “We think this proposal … is a positive step forward for simplifying transfers and helping UC meet its responsibilities to the people of the state of California.”

The proposal comes as UC transfer applications have fallen across all campuses—from 46,155 in fall 2021 to 39,363 for fall 2023—and total applications have dropped from 249,855 to 245,768 during the same time period.

As an incentive to increase enrollment, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 5 percent increase in funding for both the UC and California State University (CSU) systems in his 2023–24 fiscal budget proposal.

The increases amount to $216 million for UC and $227 million for CSU and fulfill a pledge Newsom made last year to give the systems five percent annual budget increases for the next five years if they agreed to work toward improving graduation and enrollment rates, particularly among California residents.

Newsom also promised UC an additional $30 million as an incentive to boost enrollment among California residents.


British Universities are accused of giving students the green light for cheating as they reject technology aimed at tackling AI plagiarism

Universities have been accused of giving students a green light to cheat after boycotting the rollout of new technology this week aimed at tackling an 'epidemic' of AI plagiarism.

Academics say they fear the implementation of the new software would be too close to exam season.

But last night, Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the boycott was akin to 'aiding and abetting cheating'.

Some 98 per cent of universities already use existing software called Turnitin to check whether work has been plagiarised.

The firm has now updated the software in order to keep pace with rapid developments in cheating due to AI technology.

But UCISA – which represents universities in the tech sector – wrote to the company to say that 88 per cent of universities were opposed to introducing the updated version of the software.

Deborah Green, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA), which coordinated the response, described the move to introduce it as 'completely unheard of' during the summer exam period and said that most universities opted out over fairness to students, some of whom will have already submitted work.

Experts have warned that the cheating epidemic is already at the point where AI can write entire projects, and then a different AI tool can reword it to make AI undetectable.

A spokesman for Universities UK said: 'Universities are absolutely committed to academic integrity and have become increasingly experienced at dealing with the issues raised by new technology such as AI.'




Monday, April 03, 2023

Westminster School and the sad decline of boys’ schools

Westminster School, one of Britain’s oldest public schools, has announced it will go fully ‘co-ed’ from 2030. Having first admitted girls to the sixth form in the 1970s, the school will now admit girls from the age of 13. This decision means that soon there will only be four remaining boys’ boarding schools left in the UK: Radley, Eton, Harrow and Tonbridge. Westminster says the decision is ‘based on a desire fully to reflect the community we serve, and to shape that community by educating brilliant young men and women with a commitment to making a difference.’ But the decline and fall of boys’ schools is not something to celebrate.

There are roughly 800 single sex schools left in England, but most of these are for girls. That’s good for parents looking for an empowering education for their daughters, but bad if you have a son who would benefit from a single-sex education.

There are about 24,000 schools in England. If paying fees is beyond you (which it is for most) then your chances of finding a state boys’ school are slim: only 157 state schools offer an education just for boys. Many of these are grammars who cling to their single-sex traditions. Single sex schools, and particularly those for boys, are disappearing fast as more and more schools follow Westminster’s lead and go ‘co-ed’. So much for diversity and choice.

These schools appear to have convinced themselves that boys somehow ‘need’ girls to civilise them (imagine the same being said in reverse) and that boys do better with hard working girls to pull them up. The evidence is not all one way. An academic study conducted in 2003 found that boys did better in an all-boys classroom when other factors had been controlled for, something the researcher claimed ‘directly contradicted the educational myth that males performed better in classrooms if females were present’.

When academics got together and looked at the data for single sex schooling, they concluded it didn’t really have much impact on exam results. It is the social side of school where this makes a difference.

Being a teenager is hard enough without the added stress of the presence of the opposite sex. Some boys will do well with the supposed civility of girls, but, for others, mixing with the other sex during their teenage years will make life harder. In the end, parents will know best – but that is pointless without the choice.

You don’t have to be a parent of a boy to understand that boys and girls are wired differently. A school that can structure its education just for boys should then be something we welcome. But they are quickly going out of fashion.

‘Boys don’t feel that schools are listening to them or taking the problems they face seriously enough. The emphasis has to be on schools to take more care of boys,’ Mark Brooks, a co-founder of the Men and Boys Coalition, told the Times earlier this week. He’s right – and we should start by protecting those schools that offer education only to boys, before it’s too late.

The demise of boys only schools should leave us wondering where boys can learn to be boys; an environment just for them. Parents should have much greater choice in education, allowing them to decide what is best for their son or daughter. After all, we will regret the loss of boys’ schools once they are gone. ?


The Yeshivas Story the Times Deems Unfit To Print

It’s passing strange, at least to us, that the most important development in yeshiva education all year hasn’t been fronted, if it has been covered at all, by the New York Times. Since September, the Gray Lady has published more than a dozen stories deriding the education provided by chasidic yeshivas and alleging all sorts of misconduct in its schools — particularly the failure of some of them to teach profane subjects that the schools deem heretical.

Yet it’s now been more than a week since a New York court ruled that the state’s education bureau has no power to do what the Times so clearly is campaigning for — that is, to shut down chasidic yeshivas that won’t provide a secular education like that of public schools or to mandate that parents transfer their children. The ruling is a breathtaking defeat for the Times’ campaign. Yet the cat has seems to have got the Gray Lady’s tongue.

The Associated Press, the Daily News, and the Sun all have covered the ruling. Yet the Gray Lady is mum despite her ambition to own the chasidic beat. Times reporters have been practically begging regulators and legislators to meddle in the education of thousands of religious Jews to ensure that their secular studies are up to snuff — with, at least, what the Times’ readers think chasidic youth should be learning, nevermind their parents, let alone God.

The so-called paper of record likes to take credit for new regulations introduced in September. Why not cover the fact that the regulators of schools were blocked by a court a week ago from enforcing their rules in yeshivas? The rules, which were passed two days after the Times’ first piece about the yeshivas, aim to subject yeshivas to oversight by the public schools from which parents are trying to protect their children.

Its reporters also overreached in its of coverage of a recent bill in the state senate against corporal punishment in schools — claiming it was introduced because of the Times’ reporting on discipline in yeshivas. Yet Senator Julia Salazar, who introduced one of the bills, tweets that the bill was introduced “because the law should *explicitly* ban corporal punishment in all schools.” She adds: “I haven’t seen any evidence of it being a pattern in yeshivas.”

That’s been the Gray Lady’s modus operandi in its investigation into yeshivas. The paper has cherry picked stories about New York’s fervently Orthodox Jews — largely from those who left the community. Schools and operators about whom the paper wrote claim the Times’ reports were riddled with error. An entire community feels that it has been misrepresented at a time when antisemitic attacks are on the rise.

Plus, too, it turns out that the Times has been tilting at what the court says is the wrong target — and yet the Times won’t even cover the court ruling for its own readers. The paper claims that yeshivas are “flush” with state and federal funding and misusing those funds by not providing secular education. Yet such funds are not tied to substantial equivalence. They are merely for providing mandated services, such as attendance and immunization records.

What the court said is that education regulators have no power to close schools or to mandate that parents transfer their children — making substantial equivalence regulations on schools essentially unenforceable. Compulsory education law, the court ruled, binds not schools but parents. In theory, it looks like New York State could pursue parents for freely exercising their religion. If the state does put parents in jail, no one will begrudge the Times the credit.


Federal judges announce they will refuse to hire clerks from Stanford Law School after woke students and diversity dean ambushed conservative member of the bench

Two federal judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, both appointed by former President Donald Trump, have announced that they will no longer hire law clerks from Stanford Law School.

The boycott is in response to the mistreatment of a fellow judge during a recent visit to the California school.

Judges James Ho and Elizabeth Branch had previously announced a similar boycott of Yale Law School last year, after a series of free speech incidents in which they complained about the school's approach to 'cancel culture.'

The boycotts will only apply to future students and not those currently enrolled as law students at the school.

'We will not hire any student who chooses to attend Stanford Law School in the future,' Ho said during a speech to the Texas Review of Law and Politics.

Yale and Stanford Law Schools are some of the most prestigious law schools in the country, having produced numerous prominent leaders, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford, at least five current US senators, and four current Supreme Court Justices.

Ho called the treatment of Fifth Circuit appellate judge Stuart Kyle Duncan 'intellectual terrorism.'

Duncan was shouted down by hundreds of students and berated by Stanford Diversity Dean Tirien Steinbach during his visit to the law school last month.

Students called him 'scum,' asked why he couldn't 'find the c***,' and screamed, 'We hope your daughters get raped.'

Steinbach is currently on leave and Stanford has ruled out disciplining the hecklers, who by the school's own admission violated its free speech policy.

Duncan was greeted with posters along the walls of the prestigious university - saying he had committed crimes against women, gays, blacks and 'trans people' in reference to a case.

He was asked to give a speech at the famous law school earlier in March about the circuit's Court of Appeals by the student chapter of the conservative Federalist Society but was met with abuse.

Fifth Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan eventually asked for an administrator when the heckling wouldn't stop and in stepped the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Tirien Steinbach

Associate Dean Steinbach stepped in during the screaming, but instead of calming the students down, she started piously lecturing Judge Duncan for six minutes using pre-prepared notes.

Law School Dean, Jenny Martinez, and Stanford President, Marc Tessier-Lavinge, have since 'formally apologized, confirming that protesters and administrators had violated Stanford policy' days later.

In his speech, Ho argued that the treatment of Duncan reflected 'rampant' viewpoint discrimination at elite law schools, some of which do not employ a single center-right professor.

'Rules aren't rules without consequences,' Ho said. 'And students who practice intolerance don't belong in the legal profession.'

He implied that a more politically diverse faculty and less ideologically uniform administration would go a long way towards lifting the boycott.

'How do we know everyone's views will be protected, if everyone's views aren't represented?', Ho asked.

'What some law schools tolerate and even encourage today is not intellectual exploration—but intellectual terrorism,' Ho suggested.

'Students don’t try to engage and learn from one another. They engage in disruption, intimidation, and public shaming. They try to terrorize people into submission and self-censorship, in a deliberate campaign to eradicate certain viewpoints from the public discourse,' he added.

'Law schools like to say that they’re training the next generation of leaders. But schools aren’t even teaching students how to be good citizens—let alone good lawyers. We’re not teaching the basic terms of our democracy.'

Ho's announcement is the latest and most dramatic effort to hold Stanford accountable for its treatment of Duncan, and he hopes his colleagues will follow suit.

In a subsequent interview following the Standford incident, Judge Duncan said the entire debacle was an embarrassment that made him fear for the country's future.




Sunday, April 02, 2023

Violent Transgender Activists and Antifa Agitators Shut Down Pro-Life Event at Virginia Commonwealth University

Violent transgender activists and Antifa agitators interrupted the final Students for Life “Lies Pro-Choicers Believe” Tour at Virginia Commonwealth University on Wednesday and shut the event down.

Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins’ and student ambassador Isabel Brown’s speaking tour concluded at the Richmond, Virginia, public university in violence as police arrested protesters and forced the speakers to leave.

“We were deeply disappointed in how campus and city police handled the incident as First Amendment rights were trampled upon and physical attacks were made due to inaction,” Students for Life press strategist and staff writer Caroline Wharton told The Daily Signal. “Pro-life speech is free speech and should have been firmly defended as such, especially at a public university.”

“Two people were arrested Wednesday evening after there was some disruption at an event in VCU’s University Student Commons,” the university told The Daily Signal. “The student organization ‘Students for Life at VCU’ invited a pro-life speaker to its meeting, which was open to the public and attracted about 70 people. The meeting was disrupted by the unruly conduct of some attendees, and VCU Police were called at about 5:40 p.m.”

The school said that two individuals not related to the university were arrested.

Antifa agitators showed up to the event holding signs for Black Lives Matter and the transgender movement while goading other protesters in the crowd. Antifa, an organization known for instigating violence, caused numerous altercations between the protesters and Students for Life staff, including documentarian Kevin Feliciano. Autumn Walser, president of Students for Life at VCU, received a leg injury while other students received scratches and cuts.

“Antifa came for a fight,” Students for Life of America Executive Vice President Tina Whittington said after the event. “The protesters had three chants they kept recycling: ‘Fascists Go Home,’ ‘Nazis Go Home,’ and ‘F— Pro-lifers.’”

“It was so ridiculous. That’s the definition of fascism and Nazism—not allowing for free speech,” Whittington said. “They wouldn’t allow other ideas to be expressed, and in a way, they won, even though pro-life students stayed to talk after the event.”

VCU police arrived and did not address the crowd of violent agitators but instead asked Hawkins to leave, to which she replied, “You would have to arrest me. I’m not leaving.”

“Students for Life will be providing security for Autumn on campus for the near future until we can be sure that she is safe here,” said Hawkins. “And we will be demanding that VCU invite me and Isabel back to hold an event that is safe for all to attend.”

Currently, VCU’s policy on the use of event space says that the school “recognizes that the free expression of ideas and open inquiry are essential in fulfilling its academic mission by embracing rigorous open discourse, argumentation, speaking, listening, learning and the exploration of ideas.”

This was not the first time Antifa had protested Hawkins, but this instance was the most violent yet, according to Students for Life.

According to Whittington, VCU police detained Students for Life team members and pro-life students while Antifa and the transgender activists were dispersed. VCU’s campus police did not respond when The Daily Signal reached out for a comment.

“Silencing the peaceful people because of fear of the loud and violent makes us all less safe,” said Hawkins. “We will be back to ensure that free speech truly exists at VCU.”


Science Says State-Run Preschool Is Not the Way

The Biden administration is set on ensuring every disadvantaged toddler has access to a preschool. To some parents, the idea of sending their toddler off to preschool sounds like a dream. Finally, a break from a demanding toddler who just refuses to nap. Finally, the government offering a “free” babysitting service to some parents who desperately need it.

What are the effects of state-run preschool?

As many of us know, it is important to follow the science because if we don’t, we are immediately dismissed and become a danger to society. The science tells us that state-run pre-K is not the way to go, especially if the child is considered disadvantaged. A 2022 study found on PubMed that included 2,900 children from low-income families shows that “the children randomly assigned to attend pre-K had lower state achievement test scores in third through sixth grades than control children, with the strongest negative effects in sixth grade.” The study also reveals, “A negative effect was also found for disciplinary infractions, attendance, and receipt of special education services.”

If the idea of that alone time and free babysitting still sounds appealing to parents, Chalkbeat Tennessee reports: “There’s too much focus on group instruction and rigid behavioral controls… Even discussion during ‘story time’ is generally limited to questions with a single ‘right’ answer, instead of engaging children to think more deeply.”

It is unrealistic to expect preschoolers to have deep and philosophical thoughts, and rigid instruction time with limited thought processes are not realistic either. Those who have been or are parents to preschool-aged children know that it is almost impossible to keep their child restricted and still for even a moment. At this age, children ought to be involved in free play and allowed the freedom to develop their own thoughts with the guidance of their parents. In fact, many homeschool parents with children of this age do not encourage formal instruction until age seven.

Although the intent of “free” state-run pre-K sounds like an attempt to help parents and give children a leg up with their education, that is not the case. As school districts across our country talk about the wonders of the “whole child” approach, we must remember that this is merely an attempt to further remove a child from the parents. When schools attempt to care for a child’s every need, the parent becomes an object in the way of the school. Suddenly, that alone time and free babysitter don’t sound so great after all.

Parenthood is tough and it is a lifetime commitment. Parenthood often comes with no breaks and turning down invites for a night around town. Social media does a great job of telling young parents what a drag parenthood is. But let us remember that our children at any age are a blessing, tough times will pass, and we the parents direct the upbringing of our children, not the government.


Australia: Blame politicians, not teachers

Our political elite are to blame for our educational malaise, not our educators…

At the start of another academic year, a quick survey of the educational scene is in order. Unsurprisingly, as anyone who’s taken even a cursory glance at our schools will note, the results are grim. Along with our slide down the PISA scales, there are plans to reform NAPLAN, install tutors in classrooms, and abolish the ATAR. All of this occurs alongside the sobering realisation that for all our increases in technology and funding, little has been achieved in tangible results.

In fact, we’ve gone backwards. As the latest PISA results show, over the last two decades Australia has slipped from being a top-ten performer to a country that fails to ‘exceed the OECD average in one of the assessment domains’. We’ve dropped ‘from fourth to 16th in reading, eighth to 17th in science and 11th to 29th in maths’. Even the commercial media are talking about a ‘crisis in education’.

Who’s to blame then? That’s easy: teachers. Across the political divide, there has been a unanimous answer to our educational malaise: we lack quality teachers. As piece after piece after piece has pointed out, improving teacher quality is the easiest way to lift educational outcomes and productivity.

It’s no surprise then that figures like Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Education, Matthew Bach, have waded into these murky old waters. Writing in The Australian and Spectator Australia, he cites a Productivity Commission report summarising the prevailing wisdom by stating, ‘…the largest single factor in student success, and their ability to go on and make a meaningful economic contribution, is teacher quality.’

Cue then the usual easy answers to what has been an intractable problem. Per Bach et al, what’s needed are relevant reforms: something inclusive of a higher ATAR entrance and a training regime with ‘meaningful and rigorous systems of teacher appraisal’. Simply put, hire brighter teachers and give them the right tools and training, and decades of decline will vanish overnight.

This is clearly not the response we require. In part, it’s impractical and tautological. In any field of endeavour, having higher-quality practitioners will lead to better results. Better chefs will improve our restaurants; better builders our houses. And dare I say it, better politicians will improve our politics. If Canberra expects a Montessori in every classroom, are we not entitled to a Metternich in return? Speaking as a qualified teacher, I can confirm that – like all jobs – our teachers reflect the usual range of abilities and intelligence. And that the majority carry out their roles with aplomb.

Yet this is not the primary problem. While there is some truth to the remarks that teachers have a part to play, it is my opinion that their main function is to obfuscate. The goal is to shift our social failures onto teachers and away from politicians. It’s a cynical ploy designed to exculpate the political class for their vast errors and offer up teachers in return. It appears to have become little more than a vanity project in which the innumerable problems now afflicting education and the economy can be alleviated with a sole teacher-led silver bullet.

As those really responsible for our decline are our elite and not our educators. A notion that is evident with even the most basic logic. For one, we already have a generation that has spent much more time in education than their predecessors – with more of us earning a degree than ever – for far inferior results. How do we square the circle that prior teachers – with their one year ‘dip-eds’ – spent far less time in training for far superior results?

Primarily, what recommendations such as Bach’s ignore is the decline in the social context in which teaching takes place. As like many such articles, little mention is made of the vast socio-cultural changes that have taken place and within which schools now operate.

The most obvious is our diversity. As is often noted, Australia is one of the most diverse societies in the world. Something that is not unrelated to our educational decline. As unfortunately for the cosmopolitans, per Pisa, the most successful education systems tend to be found in places of profound homogeneity. Aside from Singapore, the best-performing systems are in traditionalist locales like East Asia and Eastern Europe – and not the liberal West.

The negative effects of diversity are also witnessed within countries. As American author and educator Freddie de Boer has noted, there are a large and persistent gaps in educational attainment between different groups – and of which teachers can do little.

Related to this is the issue of classroom management. A notion that is the sine qua non of teaching and without with no learning can take place. This is something that continually successful systems such as Japan take for granted, yet it’s an area in which Australia performs particularly badly.

As a recent article in The Australian observed, our educators are now on the front lines of ‘classroom war zones’. A trend that has led to staff shortages as teachers leave the profession in droves as they are ‘stabbed…kicked…[and] bitten’. As the OECD confirms ‘Australian classrooms are among the least disciplined in the world’ with a third of surveyed students reporting that ‘the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quieten down’ and that ‘students don’t listen’.

This is not to mention even more extreme cases. Aside from ill-discipline and poor behaviour, pupils are now permitted religiously-sanctioned weapons, students are stabbed in schools, and schoolboys are killed in gang riots. On top of this are the increasing number of students with some form of learning disability such as ADHD or autism.

The state of the family is another concern. Even in schools of relative success and stability, many children are now attending without the support of a stay-at-home mum or traditional two-parent family. A trend that’s predictive of an assortment of negative outcomes and that starts from the earliest years of education. As American author Mary Eberstadt has observed, more time in child care and away from parents correlates with maladies such as sickness, disobedience, and aggression.

These are trends that are evident in Australia too. Despite the desires of our politicians, the farming out of infants to the State is not in their best interests or ours. Most importantly, even the much-touted economic calculus doesn’t add up. As Virginia Tapscott recently noted in The Australian:

Even the economic rationale of childcare has been called into question. While group care is the cheaper option in the short term due to a high carer to child ratio, the likes of Peter Cook, an Australian family psychiatrist, and Jay Belsky, a researcher with the University of California, have long argued that the consequences of childcare make it more expensive than parent care in the long run.

As like much economic thinking, it fails to consider non-economic criteria. In essence, many of the benefits of childcare are illusory. As Tapscott, citing the Australian psychiatrist Peter Cook, states: ‘Generous parental leave and caregiver support … would actually cost less than the consequences of parental absence.’

That’s right: it’s cheaper (and better) in the long run for parents to actually parent their children than to hand them off to strangers and the State. Childcare is thus a false economy. Like cheap wine or junk food, it’s something that appears to be a ‘financial saving at the outset but ends up leading to greater expenditure’.

All of which is related to our broader subordination of education to economics. Witness the state of our universities, for example. Now dominated by (full fee-paying) foreign students, tertiary education in Australia has become a farce: with worries by academics about the decline in literacy, numeracy, and academic standards ignored by administrators only concerned about the bottom line.

An explicit focus on teachers (and teaching) also ignores the main social trends taking place and against which teachers are essentially impotent. Book reading is down. Screen time is up. As is the continued dominance of America-led liberalism and its vulgar tendencies: like Hollywood, fast-food, and the coarseness and crudity it promotes. An ‘Empire of Lies’, as some have called it.

So by all means, train our teachers as well as we can. But don’t use them as a scapegoats for an elite-led social failure. It’s the political class who are to blame for our malaise, not our educators. It’s they who’ve changed the character of our schools and suburbs. It’s they who’ve reduced education to a business. It’s they who’ve helped eviscerate the family. It’s they who’ve overseen the deterioration in reading and culture. They are to blame for our decline, not our teachers.