Friday, April 14, 2023

This liberal university disarmed its police after the 2020 riots. Now they're reversing course

Portland State University has quietly returned guns to its campus police force, nearly three years after the anti-police protests and riots that drove the Oregon school to disarm security officers.

"Unfortunately, the environment around the PSU campus has changed since that time," the university's president Stephen Percy wrote Tuesday in an announcement.

Percy cited rising crime, an increase in weapons near campus and lack of support from the Portland Police Bureau for the policy change.

Student activists had lobbied for years to have campus police disarmed. Calls intensified in 2018 after campus police shot and killed Navy veteran Jason Washington as he tried to break up a fight outside a bar.

But it wasn't until the height of the 2020 protests, which raged for more than 100 consecutive nights, that Portland State announced its officers would stop routinely carrying guns on patrol.

"We can do an effective job without weapons," PSU campus safety chief Willi Halliburton told The Oregonian at the time. "I know they’re talented to do their jobs without the use of a weapon."

But then crime increased three years in a row across Portland. The city smashed its previous homicide record in 2021 and again last year. Many businesses have fled the city due to repeated burglaries and vandalism.

PSU reversed course on Feb. 14, according to The Oregonian, but didn't announce the change until this week.

"Recently, our officers encountered individuals on campus with weapons," Halliburton said. "This has made me make the hard decision to have more armed patrols on campus."

The college now has nine armed patrol officers, seven public safety officers and eight campus ambassadors, according to Halliburton.

"We have not abandoned unarmed patrols," he said. "You will see our officers respond to certain calls in an unarmed manner. This was done so at the officers' discretion and when it's safe."


SUNY drops SAT, ACT testing requirement for admission

The State University of New York will no longer require students to take either the SAT and ACT tests to apply to its four-year undergraduate colleges as enrollment declines.

The SUNY board of trustees unanimously scrapped the admission test requirement — for decades a rite of passage for high school students applying to colleges — during a meeting this week.

Like many other higher education institutions, SUNY, which boasts being the largest comprehensive public university system in the US with 64 campuses throughout the state, had temporarily suspended the standardized testing requirements from 2020 through the 2023 academic years, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But SUNY Chancellor John King said the use of SAT and ACT test results for admission purposes should be nixed indefinitely.

“It is recommended that the current authorization for campuses to suspend the undergraduate admissions requirement to submit SAT and ACT scores be continued prospectively, with flexibility maintained for campuses (students may still submit standardized test scores if available),” King said in a resolution that was submitted to the governing board.

“Maintaining a test-optional policy is consistent with national trends at peer institutions.”

A survey conducted last fall by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing found that more than 80% of US bachelor-degree granting colleges did not require students seeking fall 2023 admission to submit either ACT or SAT standardized exam scores.

The University of California system also will not consider ACT or SAT test scores for admissions decisions or the awarding of scholarships for any applicants.

“An overwhelming majority of undergraduate admissions offices now make selection decisions without relying on ACT/SAT results,” FairTest Executive Director Harry Feder said.

“These schools recognize that standardized test scores do not measure academic ‘merit.’ What they do assess quite accurately is family wealth, but that should not be the criteria for getting into college.”

Feder continued, “De-emphasizing standardized exam scores is a model that all of US education — from K-12 through graduate schools — should follow.”

Last month, New York’s Columbia University became the first ivy league school to make SAT and ACT tests optional for applicants.

SUNY’s enrollment has shrunk 20% over the last decade, though King did not cite the drop as a major factor in eliminating SAT-ACT scores for admissions.

He did say fewer New York State high school students are taking the SAT,” especially among historically underrepresented groups” — black and Latino students.

“Each SUNY campus will continue its longstanding commitment to a holistic review of student applications that includes grades, program of study, academic achievements, non-academic achievements, and other activities that allow for the evaluation of the potential success of a candidate for admission,” the chancellor said.


‘Deeply Perverse’: California School Board ‘Turns Education on its Head’ in Transgender Vote; Faces Lawsuit

The Center for American Liberty has filed suit against the superintendent and school board members of the Chico Unified School District in Northern California on behalf of Chico parent Aurora Regino.

At an April 5 Chico Unified School Board meeting, Regino claimed that Chico Unified transitioned her daughter without her knowledge or consent. According to Regino, during a time of intense stress in which Regino’s father had died and she was battling breast cancer, her elementary school-age daughter sought help from a school “mental wellness” counselor.

Regino further claimed that her daughter, also known as A.S., told the counselor that she wanted to tell Regino about the counseling sessions and her struggles with her sexual identity—but the counselor ignored A.S. Regino stated that because Chico Unified kept her daughter’s struggles and mental health crisis from her, her daughter was left to face bullying and other trauma alone.

At this point during Regino’s statement, individuals who sat on either side of the aisle and wore pride flags behind Regino rolled their eyes.

Pro-LGBTQ+ protesters showed up en masse to the school board meeting in support of the hidden transgender policy. Lindsay Briggs, a professor of public health at California State University-Chico, posted a disturbing message on Twitter celebrating “So many beautiful, radical, queer babes” coming to Chico to support the board’s decision to keep the secretive policy. The image below the tweet depicts a woman aiming a pistol with the caption, “Not gay as in happy, but queer as in f— you.”

Briggs’ profile on Twitter depicts two fists with the caption “Queers Bash Back.”

Briggs led many of the pro-LGBTQ+ protesters in heckles and chants against concerned parents during the school board meeting. None of the school board members made an effort to maintain order or quiet down the hecklers.

Regino told the Center for American Liberty that the Chico Unified Board’s response underscores the need for the lawsuit:

I’m still in awe about what I saw last night and how the Board allowed people to heckle and bully parents who were speaking about the right to be involved in their own children’s lives. … This decision is devastating for parents not only here in our community but also across the country. The next step to fight back is legal action and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Speaking to The Daily Signal, Jay Richards of The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society pointed out a critical flaw in Chico Unified’s policy of keeping parents in the dark:

This policy turns education on its head. Rather than treating parents as holding the primary authority for teaching children, which they may delegate to a school, this policy makes the educational the primary arbiter of a child’s education, and the parents as potential threats to that authority. It’s deeply perverse.

Like Chico Unified, many schools across the country that have enacted secretive transgender policies at the expense of parental rights. A March investigation from Parents Defending Education reported that almost 9,000 schools across all 50 states have policies in which parents are kept in the dark if their child is struggling with transgender-related mental health issues.

Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, criticized the push to hide “sensitive issues” from parents amid the current academic performance crisis. She told The Daily Signal:

Instead of developing plots to keep parents in the dark about sensitive issues pertaining to their children in school, the board should focus on getting the district back to basics. But sadly, parents shouldn’t hold their breath. The district system has long been beholden to powerful teachers unions like the National Education Association, an anti-parent special interest group whose modus operandi is looking out for the adults in the system and shielding public schools from any meaningful accountability to families.

While many states are in the process of passing legislation that would forbid public school districts from keeping parents in the dark concerning their child’s mental health, California has not yet passed such a bill. Instead, it has enshrined the “right” of a 12-year-old to withhold gender identity information from parents.

For states lacking parental rights laws, lawsuits appear to be the only answer for many parents. The Center for American Liberty is attempting to fill that gap.

“The Chico Unified School Board’s decision to keep the parental secrecy policy in place is a slap in the face to every parent whose child is under their care,” said the Center for American Liberty’s CEO, Harmeet Dhillon. “It makes a mockery of fundamental, constitutionally protected, parental rights and puts every child’s safety at risk. If the Board won’t rescind this unconstitutional policy, our lawsuit will prompt the court to do it for them.”




Thursday, April 13, 2023

A University Gets Free Speech Right … Mostly

Students are proving that they learned their social justice lessons well, as shout-downs of conservative campus speakers at universities like Stanford demonstrate. But when students demanded that state-funded George Mason University cancel Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin as this year’s commencement speaker, the university refused. The university president defended the decision to host Youngkin because, in his view, universities should expose students to different ideas. His response got it right—mostly.

Youngkin’s policies to protect parental rights in public education triggered backlash from several student groups when they learned that he would give this year’s commencement address at George Mason. His selection as speaker, they say, is harmful and will promote hate.

This rhetoric is unsurprising. As early as elementary school, students are being taught to react rather than reason and cancel rather than converse. And as incidents at Stanford and other universities have shown, administrators and diversity, equity, and inclusion offices are empowering and encouraging students to apply these lessons to shut down and silence opposing views.

But George Mason has chosen a different path. In response to students’ demands, university President Gregory Washington issued a public statement defending the university’s decision to host the popular governor.

Washington emphasized that encountering opposing views will make students better advocates for themselves beyond the university. After all, he explained, the university is a place to discuss precisely those topics on which people disagree. If George Mason shielded its students from ideas they didn’t like, the university would fail to fulfill its purpose.

Washington got this much right: George Mason would be doing its students a disservice by denying them exposure to ideas with which they disagree. Universities exist to equip students to engage with a multiplicity of views and claims, to ask hard questions, and to think for themselves. The university is more than a marketplace of ideas; it is (or should be) a place to be fully alive in the pursuit of objective, knowable truth.

This is why intellectual diversity on campus is so important. As Washington rightly acknowledged, diversity is not about skin pigment. It is about something deeper: the unique experiences, views, ideas, talents, and personalities each of us bring to the table. It is about recognizing that each person has inherent dignity as a human being that makes each person’s views worth hearing and discussing, even if those views are wrong.

And far from being an assault on dignity, encouraging students to consider different perspectives on difficult topics respects everyone’s dignity by inviting them to pursue the truth for themselves. We thrive when we keep the public square open for multiple perspectives and dialog on the topics that trouble us the most.

But Washington missed an important point: Discourse about difficult topics is not just an opportunity to become a better advocate for yourself. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on your own beliefs and to consider whether they might be wrong.

Although Washington didn’t mention this in his letter, we suspect the protesting students know it. In fact, we suspect their opposition to Youngkin’s speech is motivated chiefly by the fear of having to wrestle with facts and arguments that challenge their own beliefs.

With administrator-backed student protests becoming a fad across the country, it is refreshing to see a university stand up to cancel culture. Other universities could learn a lot from George Mason’s example. But while we applaud the school’s commitment to free speech, including for commencement speakers, the president’s statement is only the beginning.

Now the real test begins: Will George Mason lead the way in cultivating real discourse, or will the governor receive a Stanford-style welcome?

We hope that students will heed Washington’s advice, put aside the disruption and hate, and embrace discourse. Even better, they should hold out the possibility that their beliefs and opinions might be wrong.


Michigan Public Schools Admit Teaching Critical Race Theory

State governments in places like Florida, Virginia, and Arkansas are leading the fight against the use of race and sex to divide the country. These are welcome steps. But on the other side of the ledger, you have states like Michigan. There, the public schools are going in exactly the opposite direction.

Take Detroit, for example. Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti admitted that the schools are “deeply using critical race theory.”

Critical race theory is a body of work that teaches that racism is “systemic” in America. The teaching of this theory and its tenets in schools has been rejected by the likes of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Virginia counterpart, Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Vitti insists, however, that critical race theory will help Michigan students and that these students should understand systemic racism. Yet this type of curriculum encourages divisiveness rather than promoting family and American values.

Another example is in Livingston County. Mona Shand, a top aide to Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, sits on a “diversity council” that lobbies for teaching critical race theory within local schools.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, the council’s website bio for Shand was recently edited to remove references to Slotkin, changing from “Livingston County Representative for Rep. Elissa Slotkin” to “civic leader.” The council also removed a call to action for parents to advocate for critical race theory because of increasing pressure from parents who were upset with the potential for it to be included in the curriculum.

The current vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education, Pamela Pugh, is also pushing the divisive rhetoric. She is currently fighting Michigan Senate Bill 460, which would strip 5% of school funding for teaching the derivatives of critical race theory, while at the same time maintaining that critical race theory is not being taught in Michigan schools. She said that this legislation would confuse educators.

Pugh said to state legislators: “I go further to call on this body and your colleagues to embrace critical race theory as a framework for you to better understand educational inequality and structural racism so as to find solutions that lead to justice for all who live, work, learn, and play in Michigan.”

According to Michigan’s school code, the state requires that every school district provide education without discrimination as to religion, creed, color, or national origin. For a school to provide materials and opportunities in favor of one race over another would be discriminatory and violate that code.

Teaching true history is not about indoctrinating our children to the canard that this country is “systemically racist.” True history is teaching from an accurate lens that does not seek to persuade the students to adopt a political fad.

Critical race theory is, of course, not the only leftist fad affecting schools across the country and in the Great Lakes State.

At Gull Lake Community Schools in Michigan, teachers are promoting LGBTQ issues on social media platforms to students. A first-grade teacher in the district shared an image on Twitter that warned that children must have access to LGBTQ books and that those who do not promote them are guilty of discrimination.

Taxpayer dollars should not be used to promote gender ideology material or material that persuades a child to think that America is racist. Embracing an ideology that perpetuates division is not healthy for a school system. Threatening school districts that they must teach children about gender theory to further a political narrative is wrong for the district and its students.

There are some remedies, though. For example, public school officials in Michigan should publicize the course materials (syllabi, titles of assigned books, homework lessons, and in-class assignments) online. This would provide transparency for parents.

Additionally, schools need to return to teaching the values that America was founded upon, such as the fundamental principle that all men are created equal, which is the opposite of critical race theory. How are we going to appeal to tomorrow’s generation when we fall short of promoting American values?


Push for more Australian government support of vocational education

Australian National University chief Brian Schmidt has called on the federal government to extend HECS loans to vocational courses, and to open the way for new hybrid institutions spanning higher education and vocational education, to give students the sophisticated skills needed for the next wave of jobs.

In an unusual move for a university leader, Professor Schmidt outlined his vision for tertiary education in his own personal submission to the government’s universities review, which will publish its first report in June.

At the end of this year he will stand down as ANU vice-­chancellor after eight years in the job and he said his submission was a “distillation” of his experience. “I’ve thought a lot about higher education in the last seven and a bit years. We need to rethink the system from nose-to-tail,” he told The Australian.

Professor Schmidt said it was critical to bring together federally funded higher education system and the largely state-­­funded vocational education systems so that students could use HECS loans, which he would limit to non-profit education institutions, to do courses that spanned both.

He said university students also needed the sophisticated skills best taught in hands-on ­vocational education courses, and vocational graduates often wanted to upgrade their qualifications to degree level. “The current system doesn’t do hybrid well. If people can’t move between the two it’s problematic,” he said.

In his submission the Nobel prize winner also tells the universities review panel that Australia needs a clear and properly funded strategy for research that focuses on long-term national goals.

“We have in Australia no long-term vision for what research can do for the Australian people over time. We have a program here that lasts a year, a program there that lasts a year. We don’t have a national vision,” Professor Schmidt says.

He says the government should give universities clear ­research missions, such as “energy transformation” and then fund them to succeed both in basic research and in applied research that translates into technology.

He says it is vitally important for Australia to have a sovereign research capacity and it could not continue to use international student fees to pay for university research. “We outsource (the funding of) research to international students, including to strategic rivals. It’s not only not sustainable, it’s just not right,” Professor Schmidt says.

His thinking on faults of the tertiary education system is a far cry from his Nobel prize, awarded in 2011 for his joint discovery that the expansion of the universe was accelerating – evidence that space was imbued with a mysterious dark energy driving the galaxies apart. But in 2016 he made the surprise transition from astrophysicist to university administrator and wants to help create a tertiary education system that sets Australia up for the future.

He says an example of the new skills people need to learn – not just in post-school education but through their lives – is competency in working with artificial ­intelligence. “You’re either going to be ­replaced by ChatGPT-like things or you’re going to use them to be more productive,” he says.

In his submission Professor Schmidt warns that universities and vocational colleges need to be ready to compete with new low-cost, online-education companies that will offer courses at scale and threaten the future of public universities and TAFE colleges.

“These providers will deliver only a limited subset of activities, and use their cheaper costs structures to focus on those areas that are profitable, thereby reducing the financial viability of Australia’s TAFEs and universities, which have much broader societal expectations,” he says.

He says a hybrid education ­approach would “improve the agility of tertiary and higher education institutions to compete”.

Professor Schmidt’s submission also argues that HECS fees should be standardised for all courses, unlike the current system where annual fees range from about $4000 to more than $15,000 depending on the course.

He also tells the review panel that universities need to do more to give academic and research staff more career certainty. He blames the high level of casualisation of university staff partly on the “inappropriate (government) funding for teaching and research” but “some of it must be attributed to institutions putting other objectives ahead of the reasonable treatment of staff”.

He says the attraction of an academic career has diminished over the past two decades and that stipends for PhD students, who carry out much of the research work, must be improved.




Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Parents Scrub Toilets So Their Kids Can Attend This Christian School

One Christian school in Texas provides such a great education opportunity for children that parents are cleaning toilets at the school to afford tuition.

Braveheart Christian Academy in Arlington, Texas, provides children in preschool through sixth grade with an individualized approach to education and classroom sizes with a student-teacher ratio of 8 to 1.

Administrators say Braveheart focuses on a holistic approach, attempting to build both content knowledge and Christian character in each student.

Headmistress Chrystal Bernard told The Daily Signal that Braveheart individualizes education by assessing students’ gaps in reading, math, and social skills when they arrive at the school via placement tests—then each student’s teacher and parents work together over regular meetings to ensure those gaps are filled.

Bernard says that parents are thrilled to have such individualized feedback.

“We go over what specific skills the student has mastered, what they’re familiar with, and what they need to be introduced to,” the headmistress said. “Parents then know what needs to be addressed, supported, and worked on at home.”

Student classrooms are comprised of grade bands, rather than individual grades. Preschool and kindergarten are grouped together, along with first through third grades and fourth through sixth grades. Students are sorted regularly into subject-tasked small groups where teachers provide specialized instruction.

Braveheart students practice their skills in small, focused groups. (Photo courtesy of Braveheart Christian Academy)
Bernard, who used to teach math in public school, provides detailed instruction in math while others provide science projects, history lessons, physical education, and so on.

Bernard explained that grouping students into these “bands” provides a model of mentorship and discipleship among the students.

“It’s very community-heavy,” she said.

Bernard shared an example of her students’ success while testifying last week before the Texas Senate Education Committee. When one fourth grade student joined Braveheart, she said, his academic performance lagged at a first grade level. In just over a year, he has caught up academically with his peers.

Braveheart Christian Academy also runs a summer program to prevent learning loss between the spring and fall semesters. In the mornings, students participate in reading and math exercises to keep their minds sharp—then enjoy an afternoon full of fun activities such as moviegoing or swimming.

These “academic retention summer camps,” Bernard told The Daily Signal, are well attended by local children enrolled in both private and public schools.

Braveheart was founded amid the fallout from the COVID-19 school-closure disaster. The Bernards had just started homeschooling their children before COVID-19 reached pandemic status. As schools were closed and students in public schools suffered, word of the Bernards’ homeschooling approaches began to travel.

Before long, parents were asking the Bernards to tutor their children. Tutoring children individually was a stellar success, and the demand continued to grow until the Bernards founded Braveheart Christian Academy in autumn of 2021.

“If we don’t help these kids, life is not going to be the best for their kids or their generation, or the following generation,” Bernard said. “It’s a legacy we’re investing in.”

Tuition at Braveheart is $7,000 per year, which goes toward paying teacher salaries and building costs. Bernard told The Daily Signal that neither she nor her husband Joshua draw a salary from the school.

Chrystal and Joshua Bernard also are co-pastors at Believer’s Connection Church in Arlington.

Although many parents desire to see their children attend Braveheart Christian Academy, they are unable to afford it. In an effort to provide some assistance, Braveheart runs a program in which parents may volunteer at the school for up to eight hours per month at a rate of $25 an hour.

Parents do office work, clean classrooms, scrub toilets and restrooms, and perform other tasks to make sure their kids can take advantage of the opportunities at Braveheart.

Parents aren’t the only ones willing to make sacrifices to be a part of Braveheart. Two teachers took pay cuts by leaving the Dallas public school system to teach there. Bernard laments being unable to pay her teachers more, requiring some to DoorDash, babysit, and nanny after hours.

For both her students and teachers, Bernard says, she is hopeful Texas will pass a bill providing education savings accounts for families to spend on opportunities such as Braveheart:


Higher Education and the Law of Diminishing Returns

Early in the introductory college economics course, instructors talk about the Law of Diminishing Returns. An illustration: A farmer has a 100-acre field on which he wants to harvest wheat. If he does all the work himself, he can get 5,000 bushels of grain. With a second worker helping him, he can get 8,000 bushels, and with two helpers, 9,000. As more workers are added, output rises, but by sharply diminishing amounts.

Another example: The first ice cream cone a consumer eats adds a lot of pleasure (what economists call “utility”), but if the consumer is forced to eat lots of them, by the sixth or seventh cone the consumer may actually be uncomfortable from consuming too much of a good thing.

Like most things in life, higher education is subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns. Unfortunately, academics often ignore it, which leads to a massive misallocation of resources as government policy pushes us past the point of diminishing returns with college attendance.

Let’s start with the most fundamental question: How long should a student go to college in order to be certified as having “graduated,” or as having had a learning achievement justifying granting a bachelor’s degree? At America’s first university, Harvard, and nearly all others, the answer typically is four years, with a “year” in academia (unlike for the rest of humankind) defined as roughly 32 weeks of instruction. (The other 20 weeks in the calendar year were originally devoted to helping plant and harvest crops on the family farm.)

Yet at Britain’s first university, Oxford, a bachelor’s degree is typically awarded after three years of even more abbreviated (24 weeks of instruction) annual terms.

Why did it take Thomas Jefferson, a formidable intellect and prodigious bibliophile, only two years to graduate from the College of William and Mary, when our most recent presidents, with far lesser reputations for erudition, took twice as long to earn their degrees?

During a traditional liberal-arts education (which, increasingly, is being shunned in favor of more vocational-type training), students take foundational courses in their freshman and sophomore years, perhaps developing a good familiarity with literary titans and even mastering the rudiments of a foreign language or solidifying their knowledge of basic science and math. Students usually also gain at least a core understanding of the subject of their “major.” The junior and senior years are then devoted to deeper study of the major and the completion of a variety of electives.

All of that may be enlightening, but at some point, diminishing returns set in.

Using my subject of economics as an example, the critically important concepts are introduced in the first course or two: the importance of scarcity and opportunity costs, how market prices and competition help allocate resources efficiently, how and why output varies over time, and so forth. In the third and fourth year, students take specialized courses in relatively narrow areas of economics: money and banking, public finance, game theory, international trade issues, labor economics, statistics, and econometrics.

Rarely do graduating students use much of the knowledge gained in these latter classes extensively in the postgraduate world—with the exception being some students who go on to get advanced economics degrees.

On the basis of six decades of teaching, I would say that probably 60 percent of the important economic insights for the average student are learned in the first Principles of Economics survey course. The next 10 courses provide the other 40 percent. The Law of Diminishing Returns is at work here, and I think the same applies to most other academic disciplines.

Nevertheless, the cost to the student of college remains roughly the same in the senior year as it was in the first year of study. But the educational benefits sharply decline. Many students might want to leave after, say, three years, but the monetary “sheepskin effect” of having a diploma is substantial. Most employers are dazzled by the degree itself, not the student’s useful knowledge. If degree-completion were shortened to the European three-year standard, student costs would decline about 25 percent, and student borrowing to finance college would fall dramatically.

So why doesn’t it happen?

For one thing, money: Colleges want four years or even more of tuition fees per student, not just three years. For another, faculty want to teach relatively esoteric, low-demand advanced courses that seniors might feel compelled to take rather than packed courses with freshmen or sophomores.

Moreover, the colleges control the accrediting organizations that help enforce the four-year graduation standard. A school wanting to switch to a three-year degree would likely get flack from its general accreditor, which is essentially controlled by the competing schools it accredits. Accreditation reeks of monopoly elements, disastrous conflicts of interest, and other maladies that are worthy of a few essays of their own on another day. [Editor’s note: Read the Martin Center’s most recent take on the subject here.]

If colleges went to a three-year bachelor’s degree with internship/apprenticeship opportunities, students could get a good general education and solid training in a major field of study, along with practical experience in the real world of work.

Earnings data suggest that a large part of the human capital of our workers comes not through their formal study as children and young adults but via their on-the-job training. College graduates at age 50 typically make much more money (often at least double) than what their similarly trained 23-year-old counterparts make. Getting students out into the world a year or so earlier via three-year degrees would reduce education costs, increase the working proportion of the population, reduce student debt, and improve the national output. Let’s do it.

One caveat is in order. Some college education at present is effectively high-level vocational training, which may take four years to do correctly. I am thinking of degrees in engineering or architecture, for example. The optimal amount of higher education probably varies by discipline.

For students learning to do computer coding, a rigorous one- or two-year course works beautifully and avoids the unproductive diminishing returns associated with taking a plethora of largely irrelevant courses. I read stories of students who, after a couple of years of intensive training, get extremely well-paid jobs in computer-intensive fields. No extraneous coursework, no brainwashing in diversity and equity—just useful training. Such programs evidently do not go past the point of diminishing returns.

Higher education could learn from this experience. To be sure, we now offer professional degrees for those wanting to enter highly skilled vocations like medicine or law. But even here, I think reform is needed. I will save that for the second installment on this topic, coming next month.


NYC school spending soars 33% as enrollment, test scores dwindle

Spending on the New York City school system skyrocketed nearly 33% since 2016 as enrollment plummeted and test scores struggled, according to new data released Tuesday.

The cost per K-12 city Department of Education student totaled more than $37,000 for the fiscal year 2022 — and that figure is only expected to rise, surpassing $41,000 by 2026 if enrollment continues to drop off, the policy briefing by the Citizens Budget Commission found.

The system lost more than 141,000 students between the school years 2015-’16 and 2021-’22, it said.

“Simultaneous spending increases and enrollment declines led to rapid increases in K-12 DOE per-student spending,” the CBC found.

The staggering data comes as the DOE faces a fiscal cliff — 30% of the recent spending increase was fueled by a one-time boost in federal pandemic aid, which is drying up, according to the report.

Because of enrollment declines, the government cost per student shot up 15% in the fiscal year 2022 from the prior year, to $37,136 per K-to-12 student.

That figure equates to an eye-popping 47% increase since 2016 when there were more than 1 million students in the public school system. Now there are 900,000 students.

Current public school spending is $37.6 billion, a nearly 5% annual increase over the past seven years.

“As projected enrollment continues to decline, per-student spending will increase to nearly $38,000 in fiscal year 2024 and more than $41,000 in fiscal year 2026, or nearly $44,000 with likely collective bargaining costs,” the CBC said, referring to a likely new labor contract with the teachers’ union that will include salary hikes.

“Decisions about the DOE’s budget should consider enrollment declines and the City’s precarious fiscal condition.”

Education spending in upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget is projected to drop by a modest $401 million to $36.5 billion, primarily due to a $243 million decrease in federal pandemic aid.

Despite the explosion in spending, students’ results on the state’s standardized test scores sunk or were flat last school year following shutdowns during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The number of third to eighth-graders proficient in math dropped nearly eight points from 45.6% of students to 38%.

Meanwhile, the pass rate on the English Language Arts exam was up a tad from 47% of students proficient in 2019 to 49%, though there was a considerable drop in proficiency among third and fourth graders.

One parent activist-turned-state lawmaker said the Big Apple is getting weak bang for its buck.

“This unchecked spending is a shame,” said Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo (R-Staten Island), who formerly served seven years as parent president of Staten Island ‘s Community Education Council 31.

“We are pouring money into a school system that doesn’t work. Students are not performing well.”

When Pirozzolo was on the school panel, the city was spending about $25,000 per student.

“It’s the definition of insanity. It’s doing the same thing over and over again,” the Republican said.

“What’s the politicians’ response? They want to stop successful charter schools.”

Democratic lawmakers and the powerful teachers union have been fighting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to lift the regional cap to open up to 100 new charter schools in the city as part of the state budget.

The CBC said the Adams administration and the DOE will have to manage the impact of enrollment declines in individual schools by reducing staffing and funding while minimizing disruptions.

The budget watchdog also suggested the DOE be candid with the public if it plans to shrink or scrap programs currently propped up with federal pandemic funds.

The analysts said the mayor’s educrats must take a scalpel to ineffective or wasteful programs and “prioritize those that deliver maximum impact to the target populations.”

Hochul and state lawmakers have struggled to adopt a new state budget, which was due April 1.

The two sides have been so deadlocked in debate over changing bail reform and housing issues that serious talks about charter school expansion haven’t even begun.

Asked about the sobering CBC analysis, a mayoral spokesman said Adams and the DOE have prepared for the budget challenge.

“This administration has been open and honest about the long-term, combined challenges of declining enrollment, programs funded by one-time federal stimulus dollars, and rising costs tied to unfunded mandates from the state,” the City Hall rep said.

“Our mission for New York City Public Schools is to provide our students with exceptional foundational skills that will set them up for long-term social and economic success, and we will do so with all of our interested partners through the budget process.”




Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Two Alabama districts show stark divide in pandemic’s toll on schools

TUSKEGEE, Ala. — Delicia Peoples stood at the door of her first-period math class, trying to inject some joy into the task before her. She forced one ninth-grader to relinquish his earpods. (“I love you so, I’m taking them to save you from yourself.”) She greeted another with a hardy “You’re here today! Look at the Lord work miracles!”

And as she approached the whiteboard to begin the day’s lesson, she led the class in a chant meant to reinforce a core rule of algebra — when simplifying equations, one must perform the same operation on both sides of the equals sign.

“Both sides!” most of the class said in unison.

Sitting quietly in the back was Hayley Strickland, who didn’t understand any of it. As the classwork began in earnest, she copied the problems neatly onto notepaper, alternating between orange and pink pens. But she had no clue how to solve for “y,” as Peoples was instructing.


The class had a few minutes to try to solve the problem. Hayley stared at her paper. When the timer rang, she had written nothing.

For many students across Macon County, Ala. — and much of the nation — this is the reality of school three years after the covid-19 pandemic began: They are lost.

In Macon, a rural county east of Montgomery, students last year were almost a full grade below where their same-age peers were before the pandemic in math, and a half grade lower in reading, according to an analysis by researchers from Harvard and Stanford universities.

But results like this are not universal. In the county next door, a very different district is having a very different experience. In the Pike Road City Schools, where the median income of families is more than double that in Macon County and where developers are busy turning farmland into McMansions, the same analysis found that test scores had actually improved over the course of the pandemic.

The American school system has long been unequal — both in the depth of the need and resources to meet it. But while the pandemic affected all schools in profound ways, research shows it did more damage to those that were already the most vulnerable, with the recovery harder and slower.

The science on remote schooling is now clear. Here’s who it hurt most.

For students who were learning from home, especially those in low-income families, the challenges were acute. Many lacked reliable internet, a quiet place to study and a parent on-site to make sure they paid attention.

“We turned off schools and inequality grew a lot,” said Tom Kane, faculty director for the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, who helped create the Education Recovery Scorecard, a project of Harvard and Stanford universities.

His partner on the project, Sean Reardon of Stanford, said that before the pandemic, students from the wealthiest school communities were about five grade levels ahead of those from the poorest in math. By last year, that gap had grown to 5.5 grade levels.

“Socioeconomic status makes a difference in almost everything,” said Keith Lankford, the superintendent of Pike Road schools. In the years since the coronavirus emptied schools, that is proving truer than ever.


DEI Captures the University of Florida

The University of Florida has created a radical diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy that promotes racial and political preferences in faculty hiring, encourages white employees to engage with a twelve-step program called Racists Anonymous, and maintains racially segregated scholarship programs that violate federal civil rights law.

I have obtained a cache of internal documents via Sunshine Law records requests revealing the stunning scope, scale, and radicalism of UF’s “diversity and inclusion” programs. Officially, the university has reported to Governor Ron DeSantis that it hosts 31 DEI initiatives at a cost of $5 million per year. But these figures don’t capture the extent of the university’s rapidly growing DEI complex. In reality, DEI is not a series of standalone programs but an ideology that has been embedded in virtually every department on campus. (In an email, a University of Florida spokesman declined to answer specific questions about UF’s DEI bureaucracy and claimed that the university is “not indoctrinating.”)

These changes happened quickly. Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, UF leaders rolled out a massive number of diversity-focused initiatives. In July 2020, chief diversity officer Antonio Farias organized a university-wide plan for “antiracism measures,” which included mandatory diversity training for all students, faculty, and staff; an entire academic year focused on “the Black experience, racism and inequity”; a presidential task force to explore the university’s racist past; recommendations for renaming buildings, removing monuments, and banning “historic racist imagery”; and a host of programs, speakers, workshops, and town halls dedicated to racialist ideology.

The programs quickly spread. Under chief diversity officer Marsha McGriff, who replaced Farias in December 2021, DEI blitzed through the university administration. According to internal documents, McGriff’s three-year plan included the creation of an “institutional equity and inclusion blueprint,” the expansion of a university-wide “DEI infrastructure,” and the deployment of DEI cadres to each division, school, and college, to monitor and enforce DEI ideology at every level of the bureaucracy. As part of this program, the embedded cadres were tasked with conducting loyalty surveys, with questionnaires asking faculty and staff to rate their agreement with statements evaluating their unit’s “commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” financial support for DEI, and trainings on “unconscious bias” and “micro-aggressions.”

The “institutional equity and inclusion blueprint” has already had a major impact. Slides from a presentation on UF’s six-month “DEI inventory” study, conducted by Damon Williams, a strategist for diversity leadership retained by the university, would appear to show that UF has created 1,018 separate DEI initiatives (slide 55). Williams’s preliminary survey suggests that the process of ideological capture has spread throughout the university’s departments and divisions: 73 percent “have a DEI committee” and “DEI officer”; 70 percent “espoused commitment to DEI”; 53 percent “have a DEI strategic plan”; and 30 percent have “DEI in annual reports” and use “DEI in performance review.”

One area of focus for the DEI bureaucrats is to forcibly recompose the racial demographics of the professoriate. In 2021, DEI officials administered a survey to measure affirmative action efforts in faculty hiring and to question departments about their commitment to DEI-style hiring. The list of favored practices included “specific formal training in diversity, equity, and inclusion,” advertising through organizations “formed around DEI identity,” retaining an “equity specialist” to advise search committees, explicit race-based recruiting of individuals “from historically underrepresented groups,” and measuring “current workforce demographics” against targets and benchmarks.

The message from the top is not hard to decipher: departments must stack the deck in favor of racial minorities and use racial identity, rather than pure academic merit, as a key qualification in faculty hiring. And the administration will be watching—DEI bureaucrats are maintaining a spreadsheet of departments and faculty that comply with these practices and those that do not.

In addition, UF’s Human Resources department has established an “inclusive hiring hub” that offers trainings, guidelines, and an official Inclusive Hiring Badge in support of race-based hiring. As part of this initiative, faculty are encouraged to submit to racial training programs and participate in racially segregated conversation groups, or “affinity groups.” The university’s official “inclusive hiring” rubric explicitly prioritizes commitments to DEI ideology as part of the faculty hiring process, elevating “commitment to diversity” as one of the “key competencies” for job candidates. Other recommendations include a mandatory “statement on diversity and inclusion,” which, in practice, serves as a political loyalty test.

How does the HR bureaucracy view white faculty and staff? With derision. In a multi-day training program called Connected by UF, for example, the HR department and gender studies professor Trysh Travis lectured employees about their “white privilege,” “white fragility,” and the “‘unearned advantages’ of whiteness.” These supposed aspects of white racial identity, according to Travis, require “diagnosis” and “follow-up” to achieve a cure. As part of their “personal journey,” white participants were encouraged to engage with a twelve-step program called Racists Anonymous and internalize a series of mantras, including: “We admit our collective history is rooted in white supremacy”; “I have come to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to racism”; “I believe that only a power greater than me can restore me in my humanness to the non-racist creature as God designed me to be.” The ultimate goal? According to one featured resource: “the abolition of whiteness.”

The UF Counseling & Wellness Center has also become a hotbed of racial ideology. In 2021, the counseling department held a training program, “Healing and Transforming Racial Trauma in the Counseling Field,” that was designed, in the words of speaker Sandra Kim, to dismantle “white supremacy, patriarchy, [and] exploitive capitalism,” which are based on pathological “whiteness.”

The event resembled something of an intersectionality competition, with presenters—all professional-class academics, therapists, and consultants—taking turns positioning themselves with multi-hyphenated oppressed identities and claiming complex “ancestral traumas.” They translated the basic narrative of critical race theory into therapeutic terms, arguing that counselors must practice “intersectionality-oriented care” that transforms the personal into the political—and demand an overturning of society’s basic structures. While whites might have an “individual identity,” explained UF counseling professor Ana Puig, minorities have a “collectivistic identity” and, therefore, healing personal trauma is only possible through political liberation.

Today, Counseling & Wellness Center continues to use psychotherapy as a vehicle for ideology. Administrators and therapists hold racially segregated group-therapy sessions—always organized with a political valence—and promote resources from the activist organization Academics for Black Survival and Wellness, which accuses whites of “white terrorism” and encourages blacks to perform “black resistance.” In this program, one presenter argues that whites are guilty of “physical repression, beatings, whippings, police brutalization, racial programs, [and] psychological torture.” Another claims that “the culture of academia” itself is an oppressive environment that also perpetuates the “institutionalized effects of white terror.”

The objective is not academic scholarship, but Marxist activism: “We got to save life in the universe from these capitalists in America. They’re out to destroy every damn thing. So that’s the mission.”

UF’s descent into race-based ideology affects student programs, too. Scholarships and other opportunities have turned into something resembling a spoils system, punishing members of the oppressor class and rewarding members of the oppressed class. The university administers and promotes a range of scholarships that explicitly prohibit whites, and sometimes Asians, from applying. The UF/Santa Fe College Faculty Development Project, Minority Teacher Education Scholarship, and McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, to name a few, all prohibit white students from submitting applications, with the latter also excluding Asian students. These racially segregated programs violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but as DEI ideology has become ubiquitous in higher education, administrators have grown accustomed to violating the law with little consequence.

Fortunately, legislators in Tallahassee have taken notice. House Republicans have proposed legislation that would eliminate DEI programming at all Florida public universities. They need to recognize, though, that DEI has embedded itself in every department, program, and initiative. It will take continued vigilance and aggressive enforcement to root out DEI and restore academic excellence as the guiding light of Florida’s public university system. ?


Melbourne principal says schools struggling to combat vaping as minister blasts ‘public health menace’

The principal of a Melbourne secondary school says students addicted to nicotine vaping have trouble with their concentration and behaviour. Photograph: Nicholas.T Ansell/PA
Aschool principal at a major Melbourne high school has spoken of the significant resources being allocated to combat vaping, as students addicted to nicotine struggle with concentration and behaviour.

“When they’re experiencing withdrawal or experiencing a craving for nicotine, they experience tiredness, irritability, restlessness and appetite changes,” said the principal, who asked not to be identified.

“We get reports from teachers of young people leaving class and being found vaping. I think that’s a really big challenge for a young kid addicted to vaping, to be able to get through a one-hour period.”

A recent survey of 218 school staff members across public, Catholic and independent secondary schools found nearly half (46%) reported finding a student with an e-cigarette on campus at least monthly, and one-third of principals who responded reported suspending or expelling students at least monthly for e-cigarette possession or use.

The health minister, Mark Butler, said on Tuesday that he regularly receives concerns about vaping “from parents and from school communities”.

“This has become a very serious public health menace,” he said. “We’re determined to take really strong action against it. All health ministers are committed to strong reform in this area but also recognise that it can’t just be done at a commonwealth level or at a state level alone. We need to do it together.”

The principal said while Victoria’s education department was providing resources to teachers, addressing vaping in schools was complex work that goes beyond just educating children, and relying on school resources alone is not enough.

“I couldn’t give you a hard and fast number on how much money we have spent addressing vaping,” she said.

“We have spent money on upgrading our physical resources such as bathroom spaces and putting vape detectors in those, but it’s the human resource and the time resource that I can’t put the number on. Each school needs to gather data from their own community to identify when, where and why vaping is occurring. We spent a fair bit of time and work doing that.”

The principal said while health and sport curriculums had been updated to incorporate the harms of vaping, parents needed to be educated too.

“With some parents who maybe have previously been smokers themselves or may use vapes themselves, it is challenging,” she said. “They may not see vaping as a big deal or priority. We do sometimes get parents that talk about the fact that their child is not smoking, so vaping is perceived as being ‘better’.

“A lot of the work we’re doing at the moment is really targeting kids, which is absolutely necessary. But I also think there’s a really important role that parents play.”

The federal government is considering which reforms to introduce before the end of the year to curb youth vaping. A University of Sydney health law researcher, barrister Neil Francey, said there was an urgent need for the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC) to enforce consumer laws to tackle the issue.

Francey, who has extensive experience in tobacco litigation, said marketing strategies used to promote vaping to children, deficiencies in age verification requirements, easy payment and delivery methods, and false and misleading marketing claims by many vaping companies are in contravention of consumer law. He said this marketing, often directed to children, amounts to “unconscionable conduct”.

However, he said while “the ACCC should urgently consider enforcement action, the practicability of securing compliance with the law is another matter”.

“Prosecuting false representations and seeking injunctions to restrain misleading statements and unconscionable conduct can only be on a case by case basis,” he said. “It can’t be done on an industry-wide basis.”

An ACCC spokesperson said that vaporiser products require “a tailored regulatory approach … best managed by the Department of Health and Aged Care under the Therapeutic Goods Administration regime”.




Monday, April 10, 2023

New York Schools Are Normalizing Post-Covid Low Expectations

As New York schools struggle to recover from damaging Covid shutdowns, the Board of Regents is set to lower standards for what is a “good enough” education in New York.

After years of learning loss, Empire State educational “experts” appear to have decided the best remedy is to simply wipe the slate clean and accept their own self-inflicted fate.

As an elected parent leader, I am appalled that the Board of Regents is using gimmicks to hide the learning loss caused by school closures and mask mandates. We need a plan to address the learning loss and hold districts accountable — not an abdication of duty.

Students aren’t learning — so why bother testing them at all?

In the district that I represent, 25 percent of students are not proficient in English Language Arts and 30 percent are not proficient in Math. My district covers two-thirds of Manhattan and it is known for being one of the wealthiest and highest-performing school districts in NYC.

The situation is even worse across the state: a report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows that younger students in New York State lost more learning than the national average.

“We’re at this new normal. So for New York we are saying the new baseline is 2022,” the co-chairwoman of the Technical Advisory Committee, Marianne Perie, said at the latest Board of Regents meeting, as she tried to explain how the new proficiency scores will be decided for state tests in grades 3-8.

In short, instead of using the pre-Covid data from 2019 as the basis of comparison, students will now be measured against the lower 2022 numbers.

We cannot accept the “new normal” of lower expectations — indeed, this “new normal” establishes lower expectations for my youngest son than what I had a few years ago for my oldest child.

How can New York students hope to compete with students from other states that have not given up on them? How can our students compete in the highly competitive global marketplace against students from other countries with much higher academic proficiencies?

The research is clear. Students suffered the consequences of prolonged school closures and toddler mask mandates. Students in Florida and Texas — and in other countries — reaped the benefits of staying in school. We can see now the price our children are paying.

It is too late to go back in time and undo this harm. We must work to get our students back on track. Lowering the bar, however, is not the answer. Such a move will only cement the learning loss already suffered — and set these students up for a lifetime of subpar achievement.

It is imperative that the body responsible for education policy in New York focus its energy on developing a clear plan to collect data on the learning loss and hold school districts accountable in addressing it.

Instead, our state seems intent on digging the hole deeper. Legislators rejected Governor Hochul’s proposal to dedicate $250 million for high-impact tutoring. Why isn’t the Board of Regents supporting this important proposal that would provide tutoring for New York families who can’t afford it?

High-impact tutoring is a proven strategy to address learning loss; it was recommended by the federal government at the start of the pandemic and is widely used around the country. Just last month, both Washington, D.C., and New Jersey expanded their high-impact tutoring programs to keep the pace of closing achievement gaps for more students.

States like Colorado allowed the public a transparent view into the details of its learning loss strategies and associated outcomes at the statewide, district, and school levels.

New York seems content to let its own students wither while other states remediate the Covid-related learning loss.

The education commissioner, Betty Rosa, keeps celebrating that New York has distributed more than $14 billion in federal Covid aid funding to schools and districts, yet what are the outcomes for children from all these resources?

There is little solace to be found when New York spends more money per-pupil than any other state, but scores 46th nationally in fourth-grade math performance.

If we are going to move on from the pandemic, we have to right our education system. If we lower the educational expectations of our students now, we condemn them to a lifetime of lowered outcomes. Our families are tired of New York being no. 1 only on per-pupil funding.


Swimmer Riley Gaines, Advocate Against Transgender Competitors, Assaulted at California Campus Speech

A young woman who advocates for keeping biological males out of women’s sports has been assaulted during an appearance at a California university.

A former 12-time All American swimmer, Riley Gaines, traveled to San Francisco State University on Thursday to speak to a local Turning Point USA chapter about the necessity of keeping women safe in their own athletic spaces.

In a video posted online, Ms. Gaines can be seen fleeing a classroom with police by her side as a large group of transgender activists chase her down a hallway.

“The prisoners are running the asylum at SFSU,” Ms. Gaines wrote on Twitter. “I was ambushed and physically hit twice by a man. This is proof that women need sex-protected spaces.”

In another video, Ms. Gaines can be seen rushing down a hallway as she is protected by two law enforcement officers, who then unlock a door and barricade her inside. Dozens of protesters remained outside of the room where Ms. Gaines was held, demanding payment in exchange for her safe passage from campus. She was locked inside for three hours before she was able to leave.

Ms. Gaines’s husband, Louis Barker, told Fox News that he was frustrated police could not protect his wife. “She told me she was hit multiple times by a guy in a dress,” Mr. Barker said. “I was shaking. It made me that mad. It makes me sick to feel so helpless about it. She was under police protection and was still hit by a man wearing a dress.”

Since graduating from college last year, Ms. Gaines has become an outspoken advocate for keeping biological men out of women’s sports. She campaigned alongside a Georgia U.S. Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, ahead of last year’s midterm elections.

In an advertisement where she is seen sitting beside Mr. Walker, Ms. Gaines recalls how college sports associations showed little regard for the biologically female athletes who worked “so hard” to get the recognition they deserved.

“My senior year, I was forced to compete against a biological male,” Ms. Gaines says in the advertisement, referring to the University of Pennsylvania swimmer, Lia Thomas, who is transgender and won the 2022 women’s NCAA swimming championship.

“A man won the swimming title that belonged to a woman,” Ms. Gaines says.


National Teachers Group Censors Climate Science That Doesn’t Conform To Disaster Agenda

A growing debate on how climate science is taught in classrooms was highlighted last week at the National Science Teaching Association’s annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

The CO2 Coalition paid for a booth at the event. Despite approving the booth, the NSTA told the group it would have to remove its literature from display at the convention or it would be kicked out.

The material was critical of the association’s position that climate science should be taught as an absolute consensus and never presented as having any uncertainty.

Greg Wrightstone, president of the CO2 Coalition, refused to remove the offending material and was escorted out of the building.

“We accused them of censoring science, and then they confirmed that,” Wrightstone told Cowboy State Daily.

In a YouTube video of the altercation, Wrightstone is told by an event official that, “You can take down your literature or you can go home. It’s your choice.”

“So, we’re being kicked out?” Wrightstone asked. “Yes,” was the reply. “Unless you take down your literature. Then you can stay.” When the CO2 Coalition refused again, they were told, “You should pack up and get out.”

The NSTA is an organization with 40,000 members dedicated to developing best practices for teaching science, technology, engineering and math

The organization has an official position statement that encourages teachers to present climate science as having a singular view that is only questioned by pseudoscientific skeptics.

“Efforts to properly teach the science of climate change are regularly challenged by those seeking to frame it as being different from other scientific fields, often with claims that it is either ‘uncertain’ or ‘controversial,’” the statement reads.

What the NSTA considers beyond question is not just that carbon dioxide has an impact on the climate. It asks teachers to “clarify that societal controversies surrounding climate change are not scientific in nature, but are social, political and economic.”

Included in what it considers beyond question is that fossil fuels provide a net harm to society.

“Carbon-dense fossil fuels led to the Industrial Revolution and ultimately made our modern way of life possible. The continued extensive use of these same fuels now jeopardizes that very way of life,” the NSTA states.

Cowboy State Daily contacted the NSTA for an interview and didn’t receive a response.

Positive Feedback

The CO2 Coalition published a critique of the NSTA position statement arguing that science is not determined by consensus, but by experimentation and observation.

The coalition’s 120 members are scientists and professionals, 90% of whom have a Ph.D. or commiserate degree, such as a medical degree.

Wrightstone said that until they were kicked out of the NSTA convention, they were receiving positive feedback from teachers who came to the booth.

“We had other teachers saying, ‘I agree entirely with you, but I dare not teach this in my class or I’ll be fired,’” Wrightstone said.

He said his group sold out of its lesson plans in the first two hours.

Wrightstone argues that the ideal classroom wouldn’t be purged of any teaching of the idea that climate change produces catastrophic results justifying a rapid elimination of fossil fuels, but it would present science-based challenges to that viewpoint.

The NSTA, Wrightstone said, “has answers to the climate change situation. And those answers can’t be questioned.”

Too Negative

In Wyoming, the state has standards that all school districts must follow, but individual districts have a lot of room to set their own curricula.

In February, a spokesperson for two districts in Wyoming told Cowboy State Daily their policies require balanced perspectives in the classroom.

That same month, the Texas Board of Education was accused of undermining the basic tenets of climate science when it altered the state’s teaching standards to include discussions of the positive benefits of fossil fuels.

The board member, Patricia Hardy, who proposed the changes, told Cowboy State Daily the NSTA had representatives at a meeting where the changes were discussed. Hardy said she asked one of the representatives how plastics were going to be produced without petroleum.

“They just looked at me, like, ‘What does that have to do with anything?’” Hardy said.

E&E News reported that since Hardy thinks the teaching on climate science is too negative, she rejects mainstream climate science.

Minor Changes

Among the changes to the state education guidelines was the addition of the line, “Materials should focus on scientific processes and recognize the ongoing process of scientific discovery and change over time in the natural world.”

E&E News reported this was a “common climate denial talking point” because, even though it doesn’t in any way deny that carbon dioxide emissions impact climate, the statement suggests that temperatures change naturally.

Wrightstone said it’s a scientific fact that, long before humans were burning fossil fuels, temperatures wildly fluctuated on Earth. At times when life flourished on Earth, temperatures were much higher than they are now, as were levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Nonetheless, many feel this shouldn’t be taught in classrooms.

Previously, the board’s guidance stated that teaching materials should include teaching positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. In February, the board changed it to include positive aspects of Texas and its “abundant natural resources.”

E&E News quoted Texas State Board of Education member Rebecca Bell-Metereau claiming these minor changes would “steer schools toward buying books that emphasize baseless climate theories.”

Hardy said the purpose was only to create a more balanced presentation of energy in the classroom.

“We wanted our standards to be balanced. We didn’t want them to be biased,” Hardy said.




Sunday, April 09, 2023

GOP pushes to arm staff, eliminate 'ineffective' gun-free school zones after Nashville shooting

House Republicans this week put forward three proposals aimed at making it easier to train and arm school staff to defend themselves from school shooters, just days after a school shooting in Nashville took the lives of three young students and three staff members.

The March 27 shooting at The Covenant School, a private religious school, once more prompted Democrats to call for more gun control measures. But Republican lawmakers introduced three bills based on the idea that the best way to protect schools is to make them less of a target.

"Gun-free zones are ineffective and make our schools less safe. Since 1950, 94 percent of mass public shootings have occurred in places where citizens are banned from having guns," Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said this week. "Banks, churches, sports stadiums, and many of my colleagues in Congress are protected with firearms. Yet children inside the classroom are too frequently left vulnerable."

Massie and more than 20 House Republicans introduced the Safe Students Act on Thursday, which would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. He said repealing that law would make it easier for state and local governments to set their own firearms rules.

Massie’s bill is supported by groups like the Gun Owners of America, DC Project – Women for Gun Rights and the American Firearms Association.

"More than three decades of evidence since the passage of the 'Gun-Free School Zones Act' shows us that those who wish to do harm to others specifically target schools because they know everyone there is a sitting duck," said Patrick Parsons of The American Firearms Association. "These 'gun free zones' don't work, they empower criminals and endanger students, teachers and staff."

Also on Thursday, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., proposed legislation on his own that redirect unused COVID funding meant for schools so state education agencies can fund school security improvements. Those improvements include physical security measures but also armed school resource officers.

Garcia’s bill aims to hire at least two armed officers for every 500 students at a school, and the lawmaker noted that recent data shows fewer than half of schools have a resource officer on campus for a least one day a week.

"Nobody in this country wants to see these tragic events continue, and now we must work together to find solutions to deter future violence from taking place," said Garcia, who called his bill a "commonsense" measure aimed at hardening schools against violent crimes.

A third bill offered on Thursday, from Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., takes a similar approach and establishes a federal grant program aimed at boosting school security, including by training and hiring veterans and former police officers as school safety officers.

Mass shooting events have typically led to little in the way of new legislation, as Republicans and Democrats have opposing ideas on how to prevent them. Last week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused Republicans of doing "nothing" in the wake of the Nashville shooting, and again called for new gun control laws.

"We need to pass an assault weapons ban, mandate universal background checks, require safe storage of guns, hold manufacturers accountable," she said. "These are just commonsense policies with broad public support."


Is nothing sacred? Foul-mouthed woke protesters are accused of destroying a BIBLE while trying to shut down conservative event at upstate NY public university

Woke protestors were accused of destroying a bible while screaming down a conservative speaker at the University of Albany on Tuesday.

Conservative speaker Ian Haworth posted a picture of a crumpled up bible which he said protestors destroyed 'for no reason whatsoever' while they were shouting down his remarks about free speech on college campuses.

He had been invited to the public university to speak by its chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), an organization dedicated to promoting conservative politics founded by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk.

But as he began his presentation, Haworth said a crowd of students 'stormed' into the room and began shouting profanities at him, calling him a fascist member of the KKK, and even forming a conga line and dance circle to prevent him from speaking. He noted that the protesters did help themselves to the event's pizza.

Haworth was eventually able to continue his speech after law enforcement and faculty helped remove the disruptive students. In their 'official response' to the incident, the Young Democrat Socialists of America group which organized the protest said their removal was 'a clear suppression of free speech.'

Haworth took to Twitter to share photos and videos from the event, which showed a large group of people clearly preventing him from speaking by screaming and dancing, a tactic he referred to as 'the heckler's veto.'

He wrote that his planned discussion was about how he felt 'free speech is being destroyed on college campuses.'

'Like clockwork, some deranged protesters showed up and used the heckler's veto to try and shut down the event,' he wrote.

He posted videos of the protestors shouting things like 'F**k TPUSA,' 'Trans rights are human rights,' 'F**k Ian,' 'F**k you, fascists,' and 'No cops, no KKK, no TPUSA.' Haworth noted that he was Jewish.

At one point, a woman could be seen screaming 'This is what free speech looks like.'

In a video showing the protesters dancing in a conga line, Haworth wrote 'Not one person seemed concerned that this is a traditional Cuban carnival dance, and is therefore an act of cultural appropriation.'

Haworth published a piece in the Washington Examiner reflecting on the event, in which he wrote 'It's spectacularly ironic that these students aggressively attempted to prevent free speech during an event dedicated to the importance of free speech on college campuses.'

'Yes, the event was able to proceed after several hours, but only after protesters were escorted away by police. The fact remains, as these activists demonstrated, that college campuses are no longer a place for ideas to flourish. They're where ideas go to die.'

In their official response, the protesters accused Haworth of being an 'infamous transphobic alt-right figure,' and that his presence was a 'clear danger and significant threat to the many queer students at the University.'

The group said 'students attended the event as a peaceful demonstration of queer solidarity and joy,' and that their rights to free speech were denied them when authorities later removed them so the event could continue.

They insisted that was 'ironic considering that TPUSA and their guest Ian Haworth claim to uphold these rights.'

After quoting a number of rules in the student handbook they claimed were violated in the removal of dancing and screaming students from a lecture, the group demanded the university install a number of gender affirming measures. They also asked that any pictures of videos of them at the protest be removed from the internet.

In a statement to Fox News, the University of Albany said 'Consistent with the mission of an institution of higher learning, we expect members of our community to be able to voice their views in a manner that promotes constructive dialogue and honors UAlbany's commitment to freedom of expression.'

'This is especially important when it involves speech that members of our community find offensive or objectionable.'

'Our constitutional obligation to protect speech, even when that speech fundamentally conflicts with our core values, is a pillar of our democratic system. We are equally committed to fostering an environment in which all students feel safe and included — and that the right to protest is also protected.'


Supreme Court Tells Maine to Stop Religiously Discriminating. Maine Gets Creative, Does It Anyway

Last term, in Carson v. Makin, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Maine could not prevent parents from using otherwise generally available state school choice funds at religious schools simply because those schools provided religious instruction. But the state is back at it again, discriminating against families and the religious schools they want to send their kids to.

Crosspoint Church, which operates the Christian school that two of the Carson plaintiffs attended, is suing Maine state officials in response to a law that, once again, tries to keep private religious (or “sectarian”) schools from receiving tuition assistance program funds, this time by adding an eligibility requirement that they must comply with the state’s LGBT anti-discrimination policy.

The Pine Tree State just can’t seem to take a hint.

Maine does not operate public schools in every town, particularly in rural far northern Maine, but students must still attend K-12 schools. That means that in many cases, religious schools are the only option available for families looking for a quality local education.

For the first 100 years of its tuition assistance program, the state allowed families and children to choose any school using tuition assistance dollars—whether the schools were public or private, religious or secular.

But in 1981, the state enacted a new restriction: Any school receiving tuition assistance payments had to be “nonsectarian,” having no “religious practice” involved. A school could be named after a patron saint of the Catholic Church, for example, but teachers could not celebrate those ideas or even add value-laden concepts into the school curriculum.

In separating schools that were religious in name only from schools that actually practiced religion, lawmakers thought they could keep “truly” religious schools from accessing publicly available funds.

The plaintiff families in Carson v. Makin argued that the state program’s “nonsectarian” requirement violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against religion, and last year, the Supreme Court agreed.

The court relied on its decisions in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer (2017) and Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020) to perform a straightforward resolution of the case. In Trinity Lutheran, the court held that Missouri could not discriminate against otherwise eligible recipients of public benefits because of their religion. And in Espinoza, the court held unconstitutional a provision of the Montana Constitution that barred aid to a school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

In Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court determined that when private individuals use taxpayer funding to choose a religious K-12 school for their children, those individuals are not using public money to “establish” a religion—something that would be prohibited under the First Amendment to the Constitution. They’re simply making the best educational choice for their children.

Less than a year later, Maine education officials are back in federal court.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Carson, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey released a statement saying he was “terribly disappointed and disheartened” by the outcome. What’s more, Frey stressed that religious schools were still ineligible for the tuition program because of their religious stance on sexuality and gender—positions that he called “fundamentally at odds with values we hold dear.”

Frey promised to explore with “members of the Legislature statutory amendments to address the Court’s decision and ensure that public money is not used to promote discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry.” It was clear that to keep discriminating against religious schools, the Maine Legislature would need to get creative.

The outcome of Frey’s promised “exploration” was a law requiring academic institutions participating in the state’s school choice program to adhere to the Maine Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Originally, all religious schools were exempt from the nondiscrimination provisions in the Human Rights Act to accommodate their religious beliefs. But in anticipation of Carson, the Maine Legislature narrowed the religious exemption in the Human Rights Act to protect only religious schools that do not participate in the tuition program.

Without an exemption from the LGBT discrimination provisions, religious schools can face investigations, complaints, and fines for teaching students in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In its case on behalf of Crosspoint Church, public interest law firm First Liberty Institute calls the narrowed exemption a “poison pill” that deters religious schools from participating in the tuition assistance program and perpetuates the exact religious discrimination that the Supreme Court had already determined was unconstitutional.

In addition, the lawsuit points to a tweet by then-state House Speaker Ryan Fecteau in which he said that he’d “anticipated the ludicrous decision from the far-right [Supreme Court].” Fecteau stopped just shy of saying that in Maine’s search for ways to continue discriminating, they’d had a head start.

The law is on Crosspoint’s side. Not only has the Supreme Court already struck down the tuition program once for being unconstitutional, it has also clarified that a “government fails to act neutrally when it proceeds in a manner intolerant of religious beliefs or restricts practices because of their religious nature.”

The statements of government officials Frey and Fecteau are nothing if not intolerant.

Apparently, one lawsuit wasn’t enough to deter Maine from religious discrimination. Maybe this time, it will take the hint.