Friday, June 02, 2023

Some Democrats Give Hypocrisy A Bad Name On Education

"Public schools are good for your kids but not good for... my kids?"

This should be the Democrat Party's motto. They practice this hypocrisy, and sadly, get away with it. The liberal media is AWOL on challenging them.

Democrats would say "let public funds be used only for public schools." Translation: If you do not have the personal means, you are screwed; you have no school choice. That is not very American. All children should have an equal opportunity at success with no child being trapped in a failing school.

Why can't people take their resources (public funds derived from taxes paid) with them to the school of their choice? Why should only the wealthy be able to choose the school of their choice?

The landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 changed America for the better. "With all deliberate speed," it put us on course for a desegregated educational system meant in the bigger picture to convert us into an integrated society with no second-class citizens.

For decades, the leadership of the teachers unions and their acts to deprive all children and their families of the fundamental right to select the school of their choice - as long as parents could transport their children to the school - is in direct opposition to the spirit of the aforementioned Supreme Court decision.

Having been a product of integrated schools, as well as my children, as well as my students at Georgetown and the University of Virginia, I will go out on a limb and say that students of color who attend integrated K-12 schools do better than those in segregated schools.

Thus, we know one of the solutions, yet we refuse to take one of the remedies to failing schools and allow for school choice.

The public gets it. They have been screaming to free our children. Polls show that 72% of Americans are in favor of K-12 school choice. Democrat leaders, however, are out of touch.

In fact, recently North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, made national news when he wrongly declared a state of emergency because the Republican-controlled legislature decided to expand school choice in the state.

Democrat presidents past and current, an award-winning Democrat educator now serving in Congress, Democrat governors, and a host of other Democrat leaders have exercised their right to send their children to non-public schools. And yet they all attempt to forcefully deny that right to their constituents. Their actions are disingenuous.

Back in the day, no member of Congress would be caught driving a foreign made car. It was considered hypocritical to encourage Americans to buy American, and then be seen driving a foreign made vehicle because you could afford to do so (now, many foreign cars are actually assembled in the U.S.).

But Democrats have no qualms about sending their children to non-public schools simply because they can afford to do so, while prohibiting others from doing the same. That is a classic double standard.

Democrats and teachers unions are inseparable and make an interesting pair. If you look at who these unions give nearly every dollar to in political campaigns (well over 90%), you would believe that the forced dues they collect from every public school teacher in the land means that nearly all teachers are Democrats. Well, no. Not true.

One of their top agenda items is thwarting any form of non-public school choice. Tens of millions of campaign contributions go only to those political candidates who accept this absurd position.

It begs the question: If Democrats can be hypocritical on this issue, what other issues are they not being "straight" with us on?

Economics play a role in segregated schools as neighborhood schools in all Black neighborhoods would be nearly all Black, but school choice helps to alleviate this issue by allowing a child to leave their segregated school for an integrated one.

Black Democrat politicians working with the teachers unions are actually keeping Black children trapped in failing public schools. They are inadvertently supporting segregated schools.

Black Democrats have drunk the "Kool-Aid" that more spending will yield better test results. Yet the record is clear that spending on education has continuously gone up over the years. Throwing more money at schools is not the solution. But it is the narrative that teachers unions have been promoting for decades. Doing the same thing year after year, decade after decade, and expecting a different result is the textbook definition of insanity.

Republicans practice what they preach. They believe in school choice for themselves and for all Americans.

The Democrats' do-what-I-say-and-not-what-I-do form of governance is not the message we should be sending to our children and future leaders of America.

We cannot be so cynical that we allow such hypocrisy to be "par" for the course.


DHS-funded college program equates conservatives and Christians to militant neo-Nazis:

A college program that received taxpayer funds from the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security equated conservatives and Christians to militant neo-Nazis, according to watchdog group MRC Free Speech America.

Documents obtained by the conservative media watchdog revealed that the DHS’ Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention doled out $352,109 in fiscal year 2022 to a University of Dayton program that aimed to “develop and implement modules on the risks of and protective factors for radicalization to violence related to media literacy and online critical thinking for students,” the New York Post reported.

The DHS awarded 80 grants totaling nearly $40 million under its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program to establish “media literacy and online critical thinking initiatives.” In an internal memo obtained by MRC, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas referred to the grant program as a “high priority.”

According to the watchdog organization, the University of Dayton’s PREVENTS-OH was “among the most radical grantees.” The program vowed to fight “domestic violence extremism and hate movements.”

“For example, a chart used by DHS and its grantee in a training program equates mainstream groups with militant neo-Nazis, including: The Heritage Foundation, Fox News, the National Rifle Association (NRA), Breitbart News, PragerU, Turning Point USA, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF) and the Republican National Committee, among others,” MRC stated.

The chart, labeled “The Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization,” sorted various Christian, conservative, and known neo-Nazi groups into a pyramid. It placed “smaller” organizations with an “increased level of extremism” closer to the top.

During the university’s seminar, the presenter explained that groups listed at the bottom of the pyramid are considered “mainstream conservatism,” including the Republican Party, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

The second level of the graphic was labeled “alt-lite” and included Breitbart News Network, PragerU, Turning Point USA, Infowars, and “Make America Great Again.”

The final top two tiers, labeled “alt-right” and “accelerationist terrorism,” listed known radical hate groups.

“The seminar also compared former President Donald Trump to Pol Pot and suggested Florida Governor Ron DeSantis might wish to start a second Holocaust,” the watchdog group stated.

A DHS spokesperson told the Post, “This seminar was not funded, organized, or hosted by the Department of Homeland Security.”

“Similarly, the presented chart was not developed, presented, or endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security, and was not part of any successful grant application to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS does not profile, target, or discriminate against any individual for exercising their constitutional rights protected by the First Amendment,” the spokesperson added.

However, a DHS employee participated in the university’s seminar to discuss the department’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnership. Additionally, Dayton researchers noted that the seminar was part of the DHS grant program.

MRC’s vice president Dan Schneider accused the agency of “lying through its teeth once again.”

“DHS did indeed fund the PREVENTS-OH program a year after a graph and documents were presented that equated Nazis to conservatives, Christians, and Republicans,” Schneider stated.

“Laughably, the DHS Ohio grantee quickly scrubbed its website following this report, something innocent groups don’t do. But it is too late; we have already copied it. We also have proof that ‘PREVENTS-OH’ actually hosted the conference and that DHS was an active participant, including featuring a senior DHS official at the conference,” he continued.

Schneider called on Mayorkas to “step down immediately” and urged Congress to launch a criminal investigation into the DHS.


Virginia mom denounces book with illustrations of ‘deviant sex acts’ in school library, demands answers

A “frustrated” Virginia mother told Fox News Digital that Fairfax County Public Schools Board members need to address sexually explicit books found in their school library.

Stacy Langton, a mother of six, called out Fairfax County Public Schools for lack of inaction and accountability after she called to attention a book that contains illustrations of “deviant” “sex acts” that she discovered in the Fairfax County Public School Library.

Langton said that over the last 18 months, she spoke about several other books during the public comment period at school board meetings, a series she has titled “porn book story hour.”

“They have never once reached out to me,” she said. However, she did hear a response from the school board about “Queer: A Graphic History.”

“But when I spoke about this particular book, two weeks ago, they sent me an email the next day and that has never happened before,” she said. “It sounds like, they intend to speak to me about this book, which I find interesting because they’ve never done that before… maybe for them–maybe this book was a bridge too far. I don’t want to get overly optimistic because they’ve never done anything about these books.”

Langton added that “Queer: A Graphic History” is “especially egregious.”

She said “there hasn’t been any further motion” from the school board since she spoke up about the book two weeks ago.

On May 11th, Langton showed the board images from “Queer: A Graphic History,” a book authored by Meg-John Barker and illustrated by Jules Scheele during the public comment period.

She said to the board that the book “teaches that there is no good or bad kind of sex and that there are only a diverse range of practices and attractions.”

She described to the board an image in the book that involves “mom and dad” having “anal sex” but with the roles reversed with the mom using a strap-on dildo.

“Kids are supposed to think that this is normal and what parents are doing in private?” she told the board.

Other images in the book contain three people, including two men and one woman engaged in sexual intercourse.

Furthermore, the book delves into the history of sexual therapy, which was pioneered by Virginia Johnson and William Masters in the 1960s.

Langton told Fox News Digital that she wants accountability against the school board for allowing kids to have access to “sexually explicit” books.

“I’ve been looking for accountability on all of this from the beginning. I’ve been asking these questions on accountability from day one and nobody ever gives any accountability,” Langton said. “So one of the things I’ve asked is, how did this kind of material end up in the system? Who is bringing this into our school district? Right? And I can’t get any answers on that. And then the other part of the accountability is I’ve been saying from day one, this is illegal. You cannot put sexually explicit imagery in front of minors. It’s against the law.”




Thursday, June 01, 2023

What is the point of teaching English?

I greatly enjoyed my experience of English classes over 60 years ago. I got heavy exposure to the literary greats, both in poetry and fiction. It was a pleasure that I would wish on others but I know that the silver cord has been loosed and the the golden bowl is broken. More details on what has been lost here:

Only in the world of English teaching could you leave an industry conference feeling more confused about the purpose of your discipline than when you arrived. This conference was held in February by VATE (The Victorian Association of Teaching English) bringing secondary English teachers and department leaders from across Victoria to Deakin University. The dark cloud hanging over the industry, in this case in the form of a national teacher shortage, did not dissuade the typical good-natured banter and cheerful complaining between the mutually fatigued. Teachers became students as the day was divided into several sessions broken by recess and lunch. Those from the Grammar schools made comparisons between who had done a better job of gaming their median study score the previous year through tactical enrolments and expulsions, while those from public schools looked over in envy before turning to each other with tall tales of wrangling delinquents and plucking gems from the great unwashed masses. Scattered throughout the room were a few fearful whispers of ChatGPT. As a teacher who is two years into their career, I was here to learn how to better teach English – but what is teaching English?

English is often considered the beating heart of a secondary school’s academic life. This is partly out of necessity because most states require students to complete an English subject at Year 12, which ties a school’s ranking to its English proficiency. This is also caused by the more material fact that success in English predicts positive effects in other subject areas. English is also unique within the traditional core subjects (Science, Mathematics, English, History) as the only subject that has art, and the appreciation of art as art, at the centre of its classrooms. The only serious encounters with art that many Australians will have in their lives will be had within an English classroom.

Despite its importance, the purpose of English is a contentious issue among politicians, parents, journalists, and academics, let alone among teachers and students. There is a general consensus among English teachers that we are sick of being at the whim of Culture Wars, though I will posit that this is only another way of saying that we wish our culture would win already. For we know that the business of English teaching, whatever it is, is important. And woe to the civilisation which fails to realise this.

Returning to the conference… I was about to see first-hand the confusion surrounding the purpose of English. With an acknowledgment that Deakin had stolen the land it stood on (and with no sign that it would be giving it back anytime soon), we launched into the morning session. We delved into functional grammar and effective feedback, everything was grounded in objectivity as we looked into ‘the mathematics of English’ as the speaker put it. We poured over punctuation, syntax, spelling, and how best to teach them. Cast in this light, the goal of my profession, above all else, seemed clear: to teach students to accurately understand the world around them and, in turn, be understood through clear communication. But where exactly did that leave the beauty of the literature we studied? Was this beauty merely a utility that authors used to better communicate? Perhaps we would find out in the next session.

The next session focused on the new VCE unit featured in the senior year levels, Crafting Texts (Year 11) and Creating Texts (Year 12) with our speaker being one of its designers. As our speaker explained, the senior text lists are increasingly including shorter texts and anthologies of short stories as opposed to the traditional novel or play. This has been done to keep English engaging in light of our population’s diminishing attention span and a general lack of interest in reading books. In what is a step further in this direction, students will no longer be required to read whole texts, short or long, but rather a collection of excerpts called Mentor Texts centred around a generalised topic. Examples of these topics include ‘Futures’ or ‘Nature’ or perhaps, ‘Food’ – the choice of which is left with the school, as are the Mentor Texts. What is concerning here is not really the unit itself – which exposes students to a variety of writing techniques and approaches to a topic – but rather the line of thinking behind it. The conclusion of this sort of pandering to the lowest common denominator will eventually mean the expulsion of books altogether in favour of short-form media. How short? If we take the most popular media application with teens as an example, TikTok, then about 15 to 60 seconds. We are kidding ourselves if we think this change is a natural evolution of artistic tastes and that we, as English teachers, need to somehow keep up with or bow down to. Are we meant to believe nothing would be lost by reducing Shakespeare into bite-sized snippets or as if anything bite-sized could aspire to anything like the depth of a work by Shakespeare?

Part of the issue is that many educators have given up on taking an active role in the development of their students, taking a descriptivist role rather than providing any sort of prescription. In other words, we are stuck teaching students to appreciate what they are already interested in, cursed by the hangover from the academic fads of whole language approaches and process writing that taught English teachers to only ‘facilitate’ the organic development of language and not to provide rules that would obstruct that natural growth. While these approaches have rightly fallen out with academics they live on in schools and in curricula, drawing us ever closer to the day we begin teaching Emoji 101. It is from these educational trends that I was given the impression that English teaching is not about grammar but is about, above all else, facilitating the self-expression of our students. As the University of Melbourne academic, Raymond Misson wrote, ‘English teachers are not on about teaching single truths, they are on about capacity building, giving students the capacity to create their own set of values and their own hierarchy of truths suitable for dealing with the diversity of the texts they come across and the diversity of the world they live in.’

Though it may seem ridiculous to those outside of the teaching world, there are indeed teachers who happily celebrate the death of the novel and play as the predominant text forms studied in English. ‘Down with Shakespeare, down with Dickens!’ they cry. For it is often their view that the form of traditional literature, as well as the content, is contaminated by the slew of likely -isms, racism, sexism, colonialism, et cetera. In their view, the length of the novel or play amounts to textual mansplaining. The same teachers when forced to teach classics typically set students activities that gloss over the depth of these texts, by getting them to write and perform rap songs loosely connected to Hamlet or create blackout poetry by vandalising a page out of Bleak House. That students walk away from these texts feeling like they are irrelevant is often the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy held by these teachers that the classics are old, stuffy, and boring – even though the boredom is rather the result of poor teaching due to a lack of familiarity with these texts and their milieus. And thus the TikTok-isation of English appears to them as revitalisation. As for some, this pandering is a cathartic release from fears that they could bring more into their classrooms than merely a highly detailed knowledge of the Harry Potter universe. A release from fear that if they had used a fraction of the time they have spent arguing Dumbledore’s sexuality on online forums with familiarising themselves with the Western Canon that their classrooms would become portals to exploring truly different worlds rather than indulgent playgrounds populated by the inoffensive. It is these teachers that have raised our most recent generation to require the censorship of Roald Dahl’s use of ‘horsey face’, ‘idiot’, and ‘fat’.

These new senior English units based around short mentor texts are then a double-edged blade. In the right hands, it can be an engaging way of viewing a topic from multiple viewpoints across different time periods. It could also give students a cursory survey of many texts they could choose to read in full later on (unlikely, but possible). However, there is the danger that in the absence of a single authorial voice, or at least the absence of an artistic effort unified into a single text, students could be exposed to a shallow reading of texts cherry-picked according to agendas held by our more dictatorial teachers. This leaves the passing down of literary tradition vulnerable to being strangled, so to speak, in its crib. It is no coincidence that Adolf Hitler read in a manner similar to the process set up by these mentor text units – Hitler would skim read while choosing passages to literally rip from the books after first reading through the contents and the concluding pages to check it was suitable according to his own political ideology. It was this functionalist method that allowed him, for example, to make selective analogies from Carlyle’s biography of Frederick the Great to match his own circumstances. This approach could be seen not just in Hitler’s reading habits but also in the wider efforts of his regime, such as in the selective reading of the Bible that led to the creation of an antisemitic New Testament featuring an Aryan Jesus who hated the Jews. These tyrannical hermeneutics are common to all dictatorships, not to mention being increasingly found today festering around our schools and publishing houses. Therefore, in the teaching of these mentor text units, we would be wise to heed Pope’s famous warning: A little learning is a dangerous thing / Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

With the mentor text units explained, we had a brief lunch and shifted to the third session of the conference on the ethics of selecting texts. This session largely followed the party line that I had been hammered with over my two-year Master’s degree at the University of Melbourne. For while the error of over-prioritising self-expression has largely subsided in the academy, another has arisen around the role of English in the cultivation of morals. Thus, I was reminded in the third session that the actual purpose of English teaching is, above all else, creating a just and equitable society. In this session, our sixty minutes of hate featured one of the usual suspects that we as English teachers need to combat by putting the right books in the right hands. Whether it is the patriarchy, heteronormativity, settler-colonialism, or white supremacy the story always ends the same way and rests on the same erroneous propositions about English teaching and the nature of literature. The first error is always the reduction of the artwork to a sociological artefact or political chess piece, whether it’s a reduction of the content of the book or of its authorship. This attitude has long been entrenched in the discipline, as Paul de Man wrote in the 80s, English departments have become ‘large organisations in the service of everything except their own subject matter’. Hence, as we unwrap English teaching from these erroneous propositions let us make use of its own subject matter; namely, literature.

It should be no surprise then that merely teaching about the economic conditions of 19th-century England will not give students the same experience found in reading Dickens’ Hard Times, nor will instruction in Catholic theology give students the same experience as reading Dante’s Divine Comedy. Similarly, when we reduce a play like Macbeth to a solely feminist reading we are robbing our students of the full experience the text offers, and again not heeding Pope’s warning on the dangers of ill-digested books. Bringing ‘theory’ into our English classrooms may prove useful in illuminating the tenets of feminism – however, it ultimately fails in opening the text to a reader. It is particularly fraught in these ideologies with strict social programs. The students who are interested will soon find more straightforward propaganda and those who are not interested will walk away with a poor impression of what books can offer, either because they have been taught a good book in a shallow way or taught a shallow book.

The chief reason that our text lists are bloated with mediocre books is because of a preoccupation with author identity and apprehension to teaching books authored by ‘dead white males’. This has led to many texts being introduced on the virtue of their creator’s identity rather than on the text’s quality. This prejudice is merely a mirror image of the one it is aiming to solve and often results in a vicious circle where fresh prejudices form amongst students who are forced to read mediocre books studied merely because of the author’s identity. Ultimately, this attitude to text selection largely stems from exaggerated self-victimisation. As my University of Melbourne professor told my fellow teacher-candidates and me in a tutorial, ‘There are no First Nations authors on the text list this year so effectively Aboriginal viewpoints have been banned from being studied.’ Following this logic, we can find not only evidence of systematic racism against First Nations people in the text selection process but also Estonians since there were no Estonian authors, not to mention the Innuits, and all the other categories of persons not included that year. But of course, under the tenets of Wokery, certain kinds of oppressed peoples are more equal than others. For example, even the womanhood of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, has done nothing to protect her from the charge of being white and writing about black experiences in America. Indeed, the classic book has now been labelled racist by critics calling for it to be removed from English syllabi. Ironically, the nuance of the characters within To Kill a Mockingbird teaches the exact lessons about human nature that would benefit those obsessed with identity politics. That Atticus Finch can see the goodness in the mean-spirited and racist Mrs Dubose and call her ‘the bravest person [he] ever knew’ simply does not compute with a fanatical mind. Then again, perhaps it is nuance itself which offends.

Even if we imagine the social programs promoted by these ideologues were not so wrapped in fanaticism and hypocrisy, there are still a number of issues that plague the prospect of treating English as moral cultivation. For even when the right books are put in the right hands there is no guarantee that students will take away the intended message. There is no guarantee our students will automatically identify with the Aboriginal cause in watching Rabbit Proof Fence and go on to further the process of reconciliation. We can observe this in the attempted moral betterment of A Clockwork Orange’s Alex DeLarge, where despite giving the impression to the prison chaplain that he has taken to Christianity he actually enjoys reading the Bible to imagine ‘helping in and even taking charge of the tolchocking and the nailing in, being dressed in a toga that was the height of Roman fashion’.

But we need not be an Alex DeLarge to have monstrous thoughts while reading. As academic Joshua Landy has written, there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between our everyday beliefs and those we take on in reading a book. When watching a monster film, we often find ourselves taking some satisfaction when the rationalist character is brutally killed (the one who is stoutly closed-minded to the existence of the monster until it is too late), despite the fact our everyday beliefs concerning monsters are more likely aligned to the rationalist character than any other. Even the prospect of improving a general moral faculty like empathy is dubious and more often than not a reader may rebel, as Oscar Wilde did regarding Dickens’ moralistic tale The Old Curiosity Shop, writing: ‘One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.’

Despite these points, a proponent of the moralist approach to English might shelter behind an aestheticist position that students engaging with the artistry of writing is a good in itself. However, in reality, there is nothing preventing the fruits of eloquent writing from being used for evil ends. For instance, the use of euphemisms to conceal or distort ugly truths can be observed through the language used by the mafia (‘we took him on a one-way ride’), the military (‘significant collateral damage’), journalists (‘anti-choice politicians attack female reproductive rights’) or real estate agents (‘this cosy cottage is a renovator’s dream’).

I reflected on this and more as the teaching conference came to an end and we streamed out of Deakin University. Specifically, I tried to fit together in my mind the three answers I had received while trying to discern the purpose of my vocation. It was a difficult task since each member of this trinity appears to be incompatible with the others. They are also inadequate if they solely form the basis for discipline. If it’s based on grammar, then English is too dry and does not comprehend beauty. If it’s based on self-expression, then English becomes hopelessly solipsistic and forces teachers to pander to the whims of popular culture. Finally, if English is based on do-goodery it devolves into a study of propaganda at worst, or ineffectual moral development at best.

Yet there is hope. A harmony between the different aspects of English is possible because there once was such a harmony in the traditional trivium of rhetoric, logic, and grammar which once filled the educational role for society that English now does. In the trivium the objective, subjective, and ethical concerns of the language arts were balanced against each other. However, there is yet another trinity that underpinned and allowed this harmony to exist, and that is the trinity of the transcendentals – the true, the good, and the beautiful. Our secular society has given up the transcendental nature of the good, the true, and the beautiful and so there is no longer any social credence behind the idea that beauty is the splendour of truth, or in those famous words by Dostoevsky that: ‘Beauty will save the world.’ It is a return to transcendental truths that could bring a unified and purposeful direction back to English and save the discipline from disintegration. Or at the very least, save me from a life of teaching the art of the euphemism to future real estate agents. ?


How the Teachers Union Broke Public Education

On May 17, the Oakland, California, teachers union ended a two-week strike—the union’s third strike in five years. The district offered a substantial salary increase for teachers before the strike even began, but negotiations remained deadlocked for days over the union’s other demands. The Oakland Education Association (OEA) put forward several “common good” proposals that included drought-resistant shrubs, a Climate Justice Day, reparations for Black students, and converting unused school and office buildings into housing for homeless kids and their families.

Most of these “common good” issues were outside the legal scope of teachers’ contracts, but as The Wall Street Journal editorial board pointed out, OEA is not a rogue branch of the teachers union. The National Education Association (NEA)—the largest labor union in the U.S. representing teachers and other school faculty—explicitly tells teachers to bargain for the “common good,” advising union branches that, “When we expand the continuum of bargaining, we build power, and go on the offense in order to fight for social and racial justice.”

What makes the NEA’s bargaining approach so remarkable is the fact that this union and its counterpart, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), have recently inflicted profound racial and social injustice on the country’s school children in the form of extended school closures.

As an Oakland public school teacher, I was a staunch supporter of the teachers union and was a union representative at my school for three years. In 2020, however, I began to disagree with the union when it prevented me from returning to my classroom long after studies proved that school reopening was safe, even without COVID-19 mitigation measures. In my experience, the union’s actions were not motivated by sincere fears, but rather by a desire to virtue-signal and maintain comfortable work-from-home conditions.

Although union bosses like Randi Weingarten continue to obfuscate their role in school closures, the historical record is clear: The union repeatedly pushed to keep schools closed, and areas with greater union influence kept schools closed longer. Politicians, public health officials, and the media certainly had a hand in this fiasco, but the union egged on dramatic news stories, framed school reopening as a partisan issue, and directly interfered in CDC recommendations. Teachers saw firsthand that virtual learning was a farce and that children were suffering. While there may be plenty of blame to go around, teachers’ abandonment of their own students was a special kind of betrayal.

I am well aware that there were many problems plaguing public education before school closures, and that teaching was a challenging and exhausting job. Today, however, the crisis teachers face is an order of magnitude worse than it was in 2019, and this crisis is almost entirely self-inflicted. Public school enrollment is plummeting, kids are refusing to go to school, and disciplinary problems are spiraling out of control.

Many districts are in freefall. In Baltimore, one high school student told the local news that, “The rising number of violence within city public schools has been unfathomable.” More than 80% of U.S. schools have reported an increase in behavior issues. Nearly half of all schools have teacher shortages, and teachers continue to leave in droves.

Nationally, the chronic absence rate doubled, and it is not showing signs of improvement. In one San Francisco elementary school, almost 90% of students were chronically absent in the 2021-22 school year. In New York City, 50% of all Black students and 47% of all Latino students were chronically absent. Parents have no idea how far behind their kids really are, and schools cannot repair learning loss on a mass scale because the available workforce is simply not up to the task.

School closures were a yearlong exercise in anti-solidarity.

What happened in 2020 was the result of a long process in which the union replaced labor-related goals, which are finite and measurable, with activism, which is infinite and abstract. In 2018, a group of West Virginia teachers kicked off a national teachers strike wave. Most of these strikes had reasonable goals and broad public support, but, like all social movements, this strike wave gave birth to insatiable fanaticism.

In his 1951 book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer explained, “The danger of the fanatic to the development of a movement is that he cannot settle down … The taste for strong feeling drives him on to search for mysteries yet to be revealed and secret doors yet to be opened. He keeps groping for extremes.” The teachers union may have once had noble intentions, but these intentions have been hijacked by histrionic fanatics whose thirst for extremes might have contributed to the deaths of thousands of children and teenagers.

Although it still has the veneer of a labor organization, the teachers union is an activist arm of the Democratic Party. Since 2016, progressive leaders of the AFT and the NEA have increasingly prioritized political causes like Black Lives Matter and their opposition to Donald Trump. What’s more, external elements have also parasitized the union for their own objectives. For several years, left-wing publications and organizations pressured the teachers union to embrace social justice goals unrelated to those of traditional organized labor. The Democratic Socialists of America (an organization mostly composed of college-educated millennials) even made open attempts to infiltrate and influence the union.

At one time, the teachers proudly viewed education as an engine of social mobility. Today, the union is a captured institution, and it argues that the country must be remade for education to even be possible. Favoring ideological indoctrination over academic achievement fundamentally devalues teaching and learning. It is this devaluing that was the nail in the coffin for the school system


Australia: The Budget’s rivers of gold bypass education

Comedy writer Robert Orben is credited with saying, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.’ It is a phrase the federal government appears to want to put to the test.

This is despite handing down a Budget earlier this month which shows government spending is set to reach its highest level since 1993.

It was surprising to find education funding did not share in the rivers of taxpayers’ gold, given it was a fairly traditional Labor Budget. Treasurer Jim Chalmers did not even mention schools or universities in his Budget speech.

The little funding for education announced in the Budget papers was laser-focused on forcing the issues of race and gender onto students in a manner that almost put the cross-curriculum priorities in the National Curriculum to shame.

Perhaps the activists consider the long march through our educational institutions and our national curriculum complete…

As postmodern ideologies infiltrated the National Curriculum, Australia experienced a two-decade-long decline in education standards. A trend that is continuing, according to the OECD’s latest report.

Worse still, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows the average 15-year-old is more than a year behind students 10 years ago in reading, science, and maths. Today, Singapore, Poland, and Canada are among the many countries whose students are ahead of Australian 15-year-olds in these three key areas.

What is abundantly clear is that our education sector is failing young Australians.

A rare, glaring admission of the dire state of things was this Budget’s provision of $436 million for a foundation skills program to improve adults’ literacy, numeracy, and digital skills.

So, after 12 years of the National Curriculum, schools have been unable to inculcate the basics into a sizable number of their students. Any responsible government would recognise this as a profoundly significant problem and seek to address it forthwith.

According to the IPA’s research report, De-Educating Australia: How the National Curriculum is Failing Australian Children, students are being taught to view the world through a postmodern lens that recognises no objective fact.

This year’s Federal Budget has an obvious political slant, directing funding at minority groups while failing to address the broader problems in the Australian education system.

Independent schools are the losers, with funding expected to fall as inflation outstrips government support over the next financial year. Not surprisingly, the National Curriculum was the winner, with funding for ‘progressive’ priorities like Indigenous education and gender equity while infinitely more important outcomes like literacy and numeracy are ignored.

Funding for Indigenous education highlights the federal government’s focus on race as a key issue. The Budget sets aside $14.1 million to place educators in 60 primary schools to teach First Nation languages and provide greater cultural understanding. The problem with this decision is that it takes time and funds away from teaching the English language and the foundational skills students need.

Last year, the Federal Education Department’s performance measures showed that 11.2 per cent of Year 3 students failed to meet the minimum standard in national literacy tests.

Gender equity is another priority, with $20 million going toward teaching students about sexual consent and respectful relationships. Here the state takes on the role of the parent while once again failing to deliver core outcomes: literacy and numeracy. Programs like The Good Society, Respectful Relationships, Safe Schools, and Consent training promote a politicised narrative about gender and sexuality that disregards the views of many parents.

Gender equality and women’s participation in male-dominated sectors is another area underpinned by major funding. Women have been placed at the core of a $3.7 billion agreement between the states and territories to fund vocational education and skills training over the next five years. This feeds into the narrative that any disparity in the number of men and women working in a particular field is due to discrimination rather than choice.

The Labor government should stop and consider if women even want roles in male-dominated fields before they spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars on such programs.

The failure of leaders to understand key educational data and act accordingly is deeply concerning. While the $10 million set aside for phonics-based reading instruction for teachers is a step in the right direction, it is undercut by activities that clutter the curriculum.

This year’s budget fails our children while propping up a radical political agenda focused on gender equity and indigenous studies. It’s an education Budget for the Canberra bubble and inner-city elites, to the joy of left-wing activists and lobbyists.

But it is far removed from reality and the pressing needs of Australian students who after more than a decade of the National Curriculum still cannot keep pace when it comes to the basic skills of reading, writing, and understanding maths.




Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Leftism is fundamentally incompatible with what universities do

So it is a considerable tragedy that universities are a great bastion of Leftism

The besetting fault of Leftists is that they propose solutions to problems without first making much effort to understand the problem. Their ego makes them sure that they know it all without effort. Sadly, their ignorant solutions often make the problem worse

I have just come across a classic example of that. It appeared in the glossy magazine put out by my alma mater, the University of Queensland -- and was written by a UQ academic. For details, see:

To understand how brain-dead the article is you need only to know that there is a great shortage of rental accomodation in many advanced countries -- including Australia and the UK. Many people are not in a position to own their own homes so rely on what they can rent. And all governments -- including Soviet-style ones -- are very poor at providing housing. Even welfare housing is usually only a small fraction of the available rental housing

So in Australia, the UK, and elsewhere, it falls on private landlords to provide most of the rentals. But at the moment there are just not enough rentals to go around. People end up living in their cars and in the streets. And some groups cram six people into an apartment built for two.

So amid such a dire shortage of rental housing, you would think that governments would be going all-out to encourage more people to go landlording, would you not? But that is logical -- too logical for short-sighted Leftists. Instead, they are doing their level best to DISCOURAGE private landlording.

They seem to think that they can give tenants more rights without reducing the rights of landlords. But that is in fact a zero-sum game. A right for a tenant is a restriction on rights for a landlord.

A good example: Mandating that tenants must be allowed to keep a pet restricts landlords from forbidding pets. And landlords do usually want to forbid pets -- for good reasons. When a pet-owning tenant moves out, the piss and shit that has fallen on the landlord's carpet makes the carpet so stinky that the property is unlettable to new tenants. So the landlord has to spend thousands replacing the carpet. As a former landlord, I have been there and done that.

And making it compulsory for landlords to allow pets has actually been done where I live.

So the first two things listed as needing to be done for tenants in the UQ magazine are solidly aimed at advantaging tenants -- without the slightest evidence of thought about how landlords might respond to that. Real estate agents have already warned that new rights being contemplated will cause owners to withdraw their properties from the rental market. So the reforms that would supposedly "help" tenants are likely to leave more of them on the streets

Apartments and houses are being sold for very high prices at the moment so it will be very tempting for landlords to sell up. One despairs for our universities. Deep thought has become alien to them


‘Alarmist’ climate change teaching leaves pupils fearing for their future

More than half of teenagers think the world will likely end in their lifetime because of climate change, as parents warn of the dangers of “alarmist” teaching in schools.

Climate change education in schools is feeding anxiety among children and putting them off having families of their own, research has suggested.

A poll carried out of more than 1,000 sixth-form pupils in March found that 53 per cent believe it is “likely” that the world will end in their lifetime because of climate change.

It showed that 26 per cent of teenagers who ever feel anxious or sad say climate change has made their anxiety or sadness worse.

Half of 16- to 18-year-olds said people should have fewer children to stop “overpopulation and climate change”, according to the report published by the Civitas think tank.

Academics have warned that “eco-anxiety”, or a feeling of acute fear over the planet’s future, is on the rise among children and teenagers.

Dr Alex Standish, an associate professor of geography education at University College London, said that instead of reflecting “catastrophising narratives” around climate change, schools need to “provide children with perspective on global warming and offer them positive ways forwards”.

Climate change in the national curriculum in England is currently directly referenced in secondary school subjects, including science and geography. However, research has shown that most teachers across primaries and secondaries are teaching and talking to their pupils about the topic.

A survey of more than 600 primary and secondary teachers in England in 2021 found that teachers in England support an “action-based” climate change curriculum, including issues of “global social justice, beginning in primary school with mitigation projects such as conservation, local tree-planting and family advocacy”.


‘I'm suing after my kid was given a chest binder and gender-affirming therapy’

When Amber Lavigne found a chest binder (an undergarment used to flatten breast tissue) in her 13-year-old’s room, the mum was upset.

Her child, who identifies as a boy, had been seeing a new social worker called Roy at school, and without Amber’s knowledge, she alleges that Roy gave the teen gender-affirming counselling and provided the undergarment.

Amber’s family lives in Maine, where school policy excludes parents from gender affirming counselling because of the risk that some parents may react negatively to or try to stop their child’s transition, according to reporting by the New York Post and the Maine Wire.

On Tuesday the US mum has filed a lawsuit against the school board.

“Lavigne has never given [the school] cause to believe that [the child] will be harmed in any way by [Lavigne’s] knowledge of [gender-affirming counselling], nor is there any basis for such a belief. Consequently there is no rational basis for the school withholding and concealing such information,” the filing states.

But shortly after the mum complained about the counselling, a welfare agent from Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services visited the Lavigne home after an anonymous tip about alleged abuse. Amber said she believed the visit came because she spoke out against the school.

Amber was aware that in Year 7, a school social worker had been talking to the teen about mental health issues and questions of gender identity, but when she spoke to the counsellor, Amber said she understood that the issues had resolved themselves.

In Year 8 though, the teen began seeing Roy, a new social worker, without Amber’s knowledge. The mum wasn’t aware that the gender transitioning discussions had continued in secret until she found the chest binder.

Amber was furious about the secrecy and said it violated her rights.

“When school officials found out, they defended the counsellor’s actions, trampling on my constitutional rights at every turn,” the mum said in a statement released by her legal team at the Goldwater Institute.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held, over the last century, that parents have a fundament right to control and direct the education, upbringing and healthcare decisions of their children,” lead lawyer Adam Shelton added.

“But parents cannot meaningfully exercise this right if public schools hide vital information about their children from them.”


A Symptom of Urban Crime’s Toll on College Students

In recent years, there has been a surge in violent crime in our nation’s capital, and unfortunately, our college students have not been spared. This issue has become symptomatic of a larger problem that plagues urban cities across the nation, where college students are being robbed and carjacked, all at gunpoint. As these young adults work to educate themselves and become productive citizens, they are faced with a harrowing reality: Crime can find them even in the hallowed halls of academia. Washington, D.C., the city that represents our nation’s values and aspirations, has become a chilling example of the challenges these students face.

As parents send their children off to college, they envision a sanctuary of learning, growth and self-discovery. They do not expect their sons and daughters to be held at gunpoint while walking to class or to the library. Yet, that is the disheartening truth for far too many students in urban environments. Washington, D.C., home to several prestigious universities, has seen an alarming uptick in violent crime targeting college students.

In neighborhoods adjacent to some of our most esteemed institutions, such as Howard University, Georgetown University and American University, students are faced with a constant barrage of news stories about classmates being robbed, assaulted or even killed. This unrelenting assault on their sense of security and well-being has forced these young adults to adapt to a new reality — one where they are always on high alert, not just in their quest for knowledge but also for their personal safety.

The reasons for this surge in violent crime are multifaceted, ranging from poverty to drug addiction to the breakdown of the family structure. As a nation, we must confront these issues head-on to help create a safer environment for our students, and ultimately, for all of our citizens.

We cannot continue to ignore the impact of poverty on crime rates. For generations, the lack of resources and opportunities in underserved urban communities has led to a sense of despair and hopelessness. This desperation can drive young people to make regrettable choices, including resorting to crime as a means of survival.

By investing in education, job training and community development initiatives, we can provide a pathway out of poverty and give these individuals a reason to believe in a brighter future.

Another contributing factor to the high crime rates in our urban centers is drug addiction. The scourge of drugs, particularly opioids, has ravaged communities across the country. This epidemic has torn families apart and created a breeding ground for crime. A comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid crisis, including accessible addiction treatment services and support for those in recovery, is essential in our fight against urban crime.

In many of these communities, the breakdown of the family structure has been a significant contributor to the rise in crime. With an increase in single-parent households and the absence of positive role models, young people are often left to navigate the challenges of life without proper guidance. This void in their lives can make them susceptible to the influences of gang culture and criminal activity. By promoting strong families and providing mentorship programs, we can help our youth resist these dangerous temptations.

While we work to address these complex issues, we must also recognize the importance of supporting our law enforcement agencies. The men and women in blue risk their lives every day to keep our communities safe, and they need the proper resources and support to do their jobs effectively. The current trend of demonizing the police and advocating for defunding their budgets is counterproductive and detrimental to the safety of our college students and urban communities.

We need leaders who not only understand the gravity of the situation but are also willing to take bold and decisive actions to protect our most vulnerable citizens. This is not a time for complacency or empty promises. We need representatives who prioritize public safety above all else and are committed to allocating the necessary resources to combat crime effectively.

One crucial aspect of this is increasing police presence in high-risk areas. We cannot ignore the fact that a visible and proactive law enforcement presence is vital in deterring criminals and ensuring the safety of our communities. By supporting initiatives that bolster police presence and provide them with the tools they need, we send a strong message to criminals that their actions will not go unpunished.

We cannot stop at simply electing officials who promise change. We must hold them accountable for their actions. Transparency, effectiveness and proactive policing are nonnegotiable. Our elected officials must be transparent in their decision-making processes, ensuring that the public is well informed and involved. We need them to implement strategies that have been proven to work, continuously evaluate their effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.

To achieve this, we must actively participate in the democratic process. We must engage with our elected officials, express our concerns and demand action. By raising our voices, we can create a groundswell of support for the safety and well-being of our college students and urban communities. Together, we can work toward a future where education thrives, where the halls of academia remain sanctuaries of learning and growth, free from the grip of violent crime.




Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Outraged critics rip CUNY law grad’s ‘hate-filled’ commencement speech, demand billions in tax dollars be stripped

Muslim hate again

Outraged critics are demanding CUNY’s billions of dollars in taxpayer funding be stripped away after a law grad delivered a “hate-filled and dangerous’’ commencement address ripping NYPD “fascists” and Israel.

In her vitriolic May 12 graduation speech at the public City University of New York’s law school, newly minted grad Fatima Mousa Mohammed called for a “revolution” to take on the legal system’s “white supremacy’’ while blasting city cops and the US military and claiming Israel carries out “indiscriminate” murder.

“This hate-filled and dangerous speech has been brought to you by @CUNY and paid for by New York taxpayers,” tweeted Simcha Eichenstein, a Democratic state assemblyman representing Brooklyn. “Keep this in mind next time our elected leaders highlight their commitment to fighting antisemitism.”

Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said, “Imagine being so crazed by hatred for Israel as a Jewish State that you make it the subject of your commencement speech at a law school graduation.

“Anti-Israel derangement syndrome at work.”

During her speech, Mohammed accused the school of having “self-serving interests” and said it “continues to fail us,” continues to “train and cooperate with the fascist NYPD, the military” and continues “to train [Israeli] soldiers to carry out that violence globally.”

She also called the US legal system “a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world.”

She urged her classmates to continue the “revolution” to effect change, using their rage as “the fuel for the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.”

Mohammed was selected by the graduating class of 2023 to speak during their graduation ceremony.

Barry Grodenchik, a former Democratic city councilman, agreed with Rep. Torres’s assessment of Mohammed’s speech, writing “@RitchieTorres is spot on here. “This hater can spout her hate where she pleases but it should not be at the publicly funded @CUNY school of law.

“Her antisemitism destroyed this commencement and it must be roundly condemned and should not have been sanctioned with public funds.”

Councilman Ari Kagan — who recently left the Democratic party and became a Republican — called the address a “vile anti-American & anti-Israel speech promoting hate.

“Totally unacceptable graduation speech for taxpayers funded institution. @CUNY & @CUNY Law should immediately condemn this hateful speech & take all steps necessary to address such dangerous rhetoric!” he wrote in a tweet.

CUNY’s 2023 budget amounted to about $4.3billion, according to the office of city Comptroller Brad Lander. Most of that funding comes from the state through its annual budget, although more than $600 million came from the city.


University Facing Massive Backlash After Video from 'Black-Only Graduation' Goes Viral

The University of California Berkeley has found itself at the center of accusations that it has set Civil Rights back 60 years after hosting a black-only graduation service this month.

The school had announced in March that it was planning the segregated, black-only graduation event for this month which was “open to all majors,” but not to all races.

“The Department of African American Studies plans on hosting our annual Black Graduation ceremony, which is open to all majors and degree programs across the campus,” the school’s announcement read.

The ceremony was held last Saturday, on May 20 at Zellerbach Hall.

On the livestreamed video for the event, a description read, “Black Graduation is an annual, campus-wide ceremony that celebrates all Black/African/African American identifying students upon completion of their undergraduate, master’s, Ph.D., J.D., and/or professional degree programs.”


Why Seattle schools are more segregated today than the 1980s

In 1978, Seattle became the nation’s first major city to voluntarily integrate schools. Today, it’s hard to tell it ever happened.

As the city’s population grows more diverse, children attend schools markedly more racially isolated than those their parents attended. Black students are just as segregated now as they were during the Nixon administration. The number of schools where white students are in the majority has nearly doubled since the 1990s, even as white student enrollment has declined.

These conditions are important drivers of educational inequity — one of the reasons integration was practiced here for 40 years. Integration has been linked to increases in achievement for Black and Latino students, and helping students challenge racial bias. But schools are still largely a product of where kids live, and where they live is often a vestige of racist housing laws, generational wealth and government neglect. Left unaddressed, these forces seep into classrooms.

In the past decade, the district’s gap in academic outcomes between Black and white students grew to one of the widest in the country. Parent groups at one school can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars while another campus just a few miles away has no parent-teacher organization. Schools in wealthier, whiter areas tend to employ teachers who have more experience. And the advanced learning program at one school became so segregated the former superintendent heard it was called “Apartheid High.”

There is no shortage of people interested in fixing this stratification. It has been the central charge of countless school district leaders, nonprofits, students, parents, teachers and consultants. Taxpayers and philanthropists have collectively given billions toward a district that promises to unapologetically serve students “furthest from educational justice,” with an emphasis on Black boys.

But within this ecosystem, very few bring up integration as a solution anymore. This idea, initially aimed at reforming segregated schools in the American South, once had the backing of Seattle civil rights organizations. For decades, the district sent thousands of kids on buses to far-off neighborhoods in the name of resolving the same problems Seattle schools face today.

The end of Seattle’s formal integration efforts came after white parents sued over the district’s policy. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the parents’ favor in 2007.

District leaders have no plans to revive a program today; there isn’t a large public effort calling for one, either. For many racial justice advocates, gentrification has become a bigger foe. In the past 30 years, the district’s Black student population declined by a third.

“While we can’t reverse the impacts of the past, we can understand those impacts, and nurture and teach our students at every school,” said Brent Jones, Seattle schools superintendent, who is Black and was a student during the heyday of Seattle’s integration efforts. “Families have told us that serving students close to home is a community value and important.”

Each generation, including this one, has made its own attempts to lessen the pervasive consequences of segregation. Some are individual actions and some are major structural changes. None are as seismic as what Seattle schools tried nearly a half-century ago. ?




Monday, May 29, 2023

School Choice Success for Nebraska - Great for All Students

Just a decade ago, there were only a couple dozen states in the U.S. with school choice programs. This week, Nebraska has made history as the 50th state in the nation to pass a school choice bill — a monumental win for families in the Cornhusker State.

This passage is not only a major victory for the school choice movement in Nebraska; it is also a testament to the advancement of educational freedom and opportunities nationwide for all children, regardless of color, race, or economic status.

Nebraska’s LB753, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, which just passed with a supermajority from the Unicameral Legislature, establishes a tax-credit scholarship that will help more than ten thousand students attend a non-public school of their choice. Scholarships will average around $9,000 per student, depending on the needs of the family and tuition costs.

The Opportunity Scholarships Act will give first priority to students living in poverty, students with exceptional needs, those who experienced bullying, are in the foster system or are in military families, and children denied enrollment into another public school.

With the goal of empowering families, passing school choice in Nebraska was the right thing to do. As a Hispanic education advocate, I am fighting for my community to overcome inequality in education. A high-quality education is one of the only paths to success for children living in poverty.

A quality K-12 education is a path to economic progress and opportunity, preparing students for college and successful careers, and school choice will always be part of the solution since the traditional system of education will never fit all the individual needs of students and families.

While Nebraskans take pride in their public schools, public schools are not always the answer for every child. Students of color will particularly benefit from finally having access to more educational options.

Nowhere is that fact more clear than within the Latino community. However, according to the latest National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, the disparities between racial and socioeconomic subgroups continue to exist, and although they have fluctuated over the years, these disparities are not diminishing.

The achievement gaps in math and reading in Nebraska are wider than the national average, particularly for Hispanic and African American students. This is important as Latino students encompass the fastest-growing student population in the state, and they had an average score that was 24 points lower than that of white students.

Empirical data reflects that many students of color are academically suffering from a public education system that has been failing them for years. But there is reason to hope that these gaps will start closing through school choice. Evidence from other states, especially Florida, suggest that school choice can help close racial achievement gaps.

Families seek school choice for a variety of reasons. According to the 2022 Schooling in America Survey, among the top five priorities of education from parents include academic quality or reputation, safe environment, location, disciplinary policies and class size. Additionally, in my experience working with Latino families, they want to feel supported by their school, have the ability to exit a school due to bullying or more severe cases of violence, and also want to choose a school because it satisfies their views and ideas of what constitutes a decent education.

But test scores don’t always tell the whole story. School choice has already impacted students in Nebraska like Jayleesha Cooper and Brandon Villanueva Sanchez— both outstanding students of color from the Cornhusker State, whose parents did not give up until they were able to provide them with a quality K-12 education. Jayleesha and Brandon attribute their success to school choice and the sacrifices their parents made for their education.

Stories like these are perpetual in my community. Educational choice empowers underprivileged families to close achievement disparities and beat the odds of poverty. School choice gives access to the promise of the American Dream.

I understand the struggle that my community endures. As a first-generation Chilean-American, I grew up in the traditional public school system, overwhelmed by large classrooms and relentless bullying. I came to the United States seeking opportunity, and I knew that opportunity was only possible with a quality education.

The passage of this legislation will give educational opportunities for students who would not have it otherwise. It means legislators are finally listening to the parents and families who only want to give their children the best opportunities at success. It is truly a great day for Nebraska families.


Biden’s Message to Black College Graduates: You’re Victims, Not Leaders

Terris Todd

I sat in the crowd with thousands of beautiful families waiting to hear a message of inspiration, hope, and a brighter future like I would expect to hear at any commencement speech in America. Instead, sitting in the audience at the historically black Howard University, the graduates, their families, and I heard a message from the president of the United States laced with divisive rhetoric and political narratives that cast a dark shadow over our country.

Such an appalling, politically driven speech will no doubt leave many of the graduates in fear of certain of their fellow Americans and hopeless about the possibilities for their future in this country.

Howard University has been known for many years as a leader in STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as a home to many notable alumni who have impacted our nation and the world.

The National Science Foundation has ranked Howard University as the top producer of African American undergraduates who later go on to earn their science and engineering doctoral degrees.

One would have to wonder why President Joe Biden chose this institution with its reputation for excellence and chose such a happy and historic moment for these graduates to inform them that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy. I’m not just saying this because I’m at a black HBCU, I say it wherever I go.”

Well, Mr. President, that’s the problem.

Black Americans, like many other groups throughout our nation, understand that politicians for decades have come to their neighborhoods and their events to pander and fearmonger them into the trance of victimhood. These politicians feel compelled to do it even when those whom they are trying to make victims are surrounded by countless examples of triumph and perseverance—like their fellow graduates at Howard’s graduation ceremony.

If we were to ask black Americans what they believe are the greatest threats to their livelihood and their local communities, I can guarantee you they would not say that white supremacy was at the top of their list.

So, let’s move past the political talking points and speeches filled with trigger words that seek to control the emotional state of black Americans. We have heard it all and seen it all.

What we should have heard from the president of the United States was how the graduates who were earning their degrees in business or accounting that day, for example, should help our federal government get a handle on its outrageous debt and its unsustainable spending habits with Americans’ tax dollars.

My colleague, Rachel Greszler, wrote a piece describing how government’s freewheeling federal spending will do real harm to people like these graduates and their future children. She asked, “How could over $230,000 of total government debt per household—debt that must eventually be repaid—not burden younger and future generations?”

Many of the families who attended Howard’s graduation feel the pain of the nation’s current economic crisis firsthand, and dealing with inflation on a daily basis has made it extremely challenging for them to just survive.

Unfortunately, several others in the audience might not understand how the government’s overspending and lack of accountability have caused much of the pain their families feel.

What about a message from the president to the students who were earning their degrees in some form of medicine or health care-related field?

With a community, a nation, and a world suddenly stricken by a pandemic that took the lives of over a million people in the U.S. alone—on top of so many other diseases and conditions already plaguing our nation—it seems more fitting for a president to provide inspiration and encouragement to these students to take the lead on finding the cures to preserve human life.

But of course, the game of politics prevails, even during an event when politics matters the least.

At a time when the president should have inspired and motivated, he attempted to polarize and divide this nation even further. The students and their families deserved much better than the message they got that day.

But I have hope that the students graduating with degrees in medicine, mathematics, the sciences, technology, and other critical fields will be the very people who help to bring Americans together as they use their professions to advance the nation and create a better world for all of us.

Congratulations to the graduates and their families.

I pray that your journey into fulfilling careers and throughout life is one that we can all be very proud of.


Maine School Board Asks Church What It Believes About Marriage, Abortion, Gender Before Denying Lease

A Maine church that outgrew its meeting space applied with the local school board to lease space at a high school for worship services, but the school board appeared to apply a religious test to the church and negotiations fell through. Now, the church is suing.

“Public institutions that seek to lease their facilities for revenue should not be able to discriminate based on religious or political conviction,” Mariah Gondeiro, vice president and legal counsel of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, the law firm representing the church, said in a press release exclusively provided first to The Daily Signal.

Gondeiro is representing The Pines Church in Bangor, Maine, which sued the Hermon School Committee Tuesday. The Pines Church aimed to move to Hermon, Maine, because many church members live there. Yet Hermon had no rental spaces available, and it appeared that meeting at the high school represented the best option.

According to the complaint, organizations seeking short-term leases must work with the principal of the school and complete a facilities request form—a form that does not include any questions about the organization’s beliefs. Many organizations currently rent Hermon High School space, including Black Bear Basketball, Hermon Recreation, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and various baseball groups. The church had even offered to pay $1,000 per month, $400 over the original price, as a sign that it would invest in the community.

Yet, when the church filed the request form, Superintendent Micah Grant and a member of the Hermon school board asked pointed questions about the church’s positions on “issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Chris McLaughlin, a school board member who includes personal pronouns in his signature, wrote that he “wanted to get a better sense of how The Pines Church approaches issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and around their messaging around some key issues relevant to marginalized communities.”

He asked, “Is The Pines Church receptive of same-sex marriages? Do they consider marriage only to be between 1 man and 1 woman?”

He also requested information on the church’s positions on “access to safe and affordable abortion,” “access to gender-affirming medical care,” “conversion therapy for LGBTQIA+ individuals (youth and adults),” and “inclusive sexual education and access to birth control for youth.”

The lawsuit states that “the implications of the [board’s] questions are clear; unless [The Pines Church] affirms [Hermon School Department’s] religious and political beliefs, the [board] will not support [the church’s] lease proposal.”

The committee rejected Pastor Matt Gioia’s proposal to lease the high school for either six months or one year because of its religious beliefs on abortion, sexual orientation, “gender reassignment,” “conversion therapy,” and marriage, according to the lawsuit. The committee voted to allow the church to rent school facilities on a month-to-month basis after the pastor had told the committee that a month-to-month lease would not work.

“A month-to-month lease is not feasible for the church because it makes it impossible to plan and budget and allows [the school board] to terminate the lease on short notice, leaving the church with nowhere to go,” the suit explains.

The lawsuit alleges that the school board’s questions reflected “an improper motive on behalf of [the school district] to exclude traditional viewpoints on these issues from use of the school facilities.”

The church claims that the school board’s move “sends the message to houses of worship and other religious entities that organizations that maintain traditional historically orthodox biblical beliefs about human sexuality are second-class institutions, outsiders, and not full members of the Hermon community.”

Conservative Christians who follow the Bible define marriage as between one man and one woman, defend unborn life in the womb, and affirm that God created humans male and female, not transgender. Yet a growing social movement does not just reject these ideas but brands them hateful.

The church claims the school board violated its rights under the First Amendment, under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and under Maine’s public accommodations laws. The lawsuit asks the court to order the school board to award the church either a six-month or a yearlong lease, along with compensatory damages.

“The Hermon School Committee has a history of leasing their properties to secular organizations without persecution,” Gondeiro, the legal counsel, said. “We are advocating for fair and equitable treatment under the law, and The Pines Church was denied that opportunity by the Hermon School Committee.”

“We are understandably disappointed with the process in which we had to go through, but we are not discouraged,” Gioia said in a statement first provided to The Daily Signal. “We have seen the Lord move through our church and grow our community so much since our founding. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue our worship and fellowship without discrimination.”




Sunday, May 28, 2023

Colorado Teachers Continue Flirtation With Communism

What’s happening in Colorado is precisely what the U.S. Supreme Court tried to prevent decades ago.

In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold a New York state law prohibiting communists from teaching in public schools. Dubbed the Feinberg Law — the New York statute banned from the teaching profession anyone who called for the overthrow of the government.

The 6-3 decision, specifically crafted to keep communism out of the classroom, supported the belief that “(T)he state had a constitutional right to protect the immature minds of children in its public schools from subversive propaganda, subtle or otherwise, disseminated by those ‘to whom they look for guidance, authority and leadership.’”

Even then, the New York Teachers Union vowed to fight the law. Decades later, teachers’ unions are still fighting to put communism in the classroom.

During an event earlier this month organized by the Colorado AFL-CIO, the parent organization of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s second largest teacher’s union, a Colorado teacher took the stage to call for a “forceful cultural revolution."

Tim Hernandez is a teacher at Aurora West Preparatory Academy in the Aurora Public Schools District, according to its website. He announced in his speech at the Colorado AFL-CIO event that he advocates for Marxism-Leninism to be taught in schools, admitting that he teaches radical communist doctrines in his classroom.

The Colorado teacher has published his radical anti-white views on his public social media accounts, calling for white people to “distance themselves from their whiteness.”

Imagine the civil rights uproar if a public school employee with a taxpayer-funded salary called for blacks to “distance themselves from their blackness.”

This wildly racist suggestion would surely have resulted in the teacher being fired and facing legal action for racial discrimination and/or hate speech. But when it’s white students being discriminated against, Hernandez’s actions are not only overlooked but endorsed by teachers’ unions across the country.

The Colorado Education Association (CEA), the largest teachers’ union in the Mountain State, with more than 39,000 members, has gone even further to advocate for communist ideology by passing an anti-capitalism resolution at its 97th annual delegate assembly last month.

The resolution asserts, “(T)he CEA believes that capitalism requires exploitation of children, public schools, land, labor, and/or resources and, therefore, the only way to fully address systemic racism (the school-to-prison pipeline), climate change, patriarchy (gender and LGBTQ disparities), educational inequality, and income inequality is to dismantle capitalism and replace it with a new, equitable economic system.”

The director of communications at CEA, Lauren Stephenson, claimed the resolution “reflect(s) the views of the union’s 39,000 members.”

This radically anti-American ideology is being championed by teacher’s’ unions and written into lesson plans all over the state.

Colorado State Sen. Mark Baisley (R-Roxborough Park) has alerted Colorado Attorney General John Kellner about Hernandez’s public rhetoric, warning “history has shown us how violent this movement can become.”

“This radical teacher’s call for a forceful revolution against the people may very well be a crime,” he said. “And adding a racial motivation may also make this a hate crime.”

Baisley continued, “It’s unconscionable that any school in Colorado, let alone a preparatory Academy, would employ a teacher who uses such a primeval call to arms.”

Hernandez’s contract with the Denver Public School was not renewed after he was placed on administrative leave for helping students organize a walkout, which resulted in police helicopters surrounding the school. Hernandez claims his contract was not renewed because, “(W)hite school leaders did not appreciate the ways (he) advocated for students.”

After being placed on administrative leave by Denver Public Schools for organizing a student walkout that was planned off-campus at the home of an Aurora Public School principal, Hernandez was offered a position at Aurora Public Schools, where the Aurora principal told him, “I’ve already seen everything that you can do. I’ll let you teach whatever you want. You can come to our school. Please help me transform our school.’”

And so he has. Just not in the way the district’s parents would approve of.


Parents Sue Maryland School Board After Kids Allegedly Forced to Read 'Pride Books'

Last Tuesday, a group of six parents from Maryland took a stand for parental rights and filed a lawsuit against the Montgomery County Board of Education.

These parents, from diverse religious backgrounds including Islam, Catholicism, and Orthodox Christianity, are pushing back against what they see as an overreach by the school board.

They allege that the board has violated their parental rights by mandating books promoting a one-sided view of transgender ideology and same-sex relationships without prior notification to parents​​.

Last fall, the board introduced a list of 13 new books, branded as “LGBTQ-inclusive,” aimed at students from pre-K to eighth grade.

The inclusion of these books in the curriculum, however, has sparked controversy, as they are viewed by the parents as pushing a particular narrative around gender identity and sexuality that is inconsistent with their religious beliefs and principles of sound science​.

One of the contested books, “Love, Violet,” intended for children as young as kindergarten, explores the theme of girls developing romantic feelings for other girls.

Another book, “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope,” aimed at kindergarten-age children as well, introduces the idea that a girl could actually be a boy.

A third book, “Pride Puppy,” designed for children aged three to five, serves as an introduction to Pride parades.

The lawsuit also mentions that these books invite children as young as three to search for images related to LGBTQ activism and specific symbols like the “intersex flag,” amongst others​​.

The parents’ legal team, led by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative law firm with a focus on religious freedom, argues that the school board’s actions violate Maryland state law, which requires school boards to notify parents about any curriculum material related to “sexuality” and permits parents to withdraw their child from such lessons.

The lawsuit further claims that the board has breached one of its own policies, as it has allegedly informed parents that they can no longer opt their children out of this particular curriculum​​.

Eric Baxter, Vice President and Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund, voiced the parents’ concerns, stating, “Children are entitled to guidance from their own parents, who know and love them best, regarding how they’ll be introduced to complex issues concerning gender identity, transgenderism, and human sexuality.”

He further added, “Forced, ideological discussions during story hour won’t cut it, and excluding parents will only hinder, not help, inclusivity”​.

The lawsuit is the latest example of parents nationwide asserting their rights in the face of school decisions that they believe conflict with their values and beliefs.

The parents are seeking an immediate injunction against the school board’s policy of no parental notice or opt-out option.

Named in the lawsuit are school board members and Superintendent Monifa McKnight of Montgomery County Public Schools, an affluent district located just north of Washington, D.C.​.

What does this mean for you as parents, educators, and concerned citizens?

It’s a call to action to remain vigilant and involved in our children’s education, to ensure that our values and beliefs are respected, and to fight for our rights to guide our children’s understanding of complex issues.

After all, as Baxter puts it, “When it comes to kids, it’s still ‘mom and dad know best.’ Schools can best help kids learn kindness by teaming up with parents, not cutting them out of the picture”​​.


Woke judges say there are topics high school kids CAN’T debate

My four years on a high school debate team in Broward County, Florida, taught me to challenge ideas, question assumptions and think outside the box.

It also helped me overcome a terrible childhood stutter.

And I wasn’t half-bad: I placed ninth my first time at the National Speech & Debate Association nationals, sixth at the Harvard national and was runner-up at the Emory national.

After college, between 2017 and 2019, I coached a debate team at an underprivileged high school in Miami.

There, I witnessed the pillars of high school debate start to crumble. Since then, the decline has continued, from a competition that rewards evidence and reasoning to one that punishes students for what they say and how they say it.

First, some background.

Imagine a high school sophomore on the debate team.

She’s been given her topic about a month in advance, but she won’t know who her judge is until hours before her debate round.

During that time squeeze — perhaps she’ll pace the halls as I did at the 2012 national tournament in Indianapolis — she’ll scroll on her phone to look up her judge’s name on Tabroom, a public database maintained by the NSDA.

That’s where judges post “paradigms,” which explain what they look for during a debate.

If a judge prefers competitors not “spread” — speak a mile a minute — debaters will moderate their pace.

If a judge emphasizes “impacts” — the reasons why an argument matters — debaters adjust accordingly.

But let’s say when the high school sophomore clicks Tabroom, she sees that her judge is Lila Lavender, the 2019 national debate champion, whose paradigm reads, “Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. . . . I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I’m judging. . . . I will no longer evaluate and thus never vote for rightest capitalist-imperialist positions/arguments. . . . Examples of arguments of this nature are as follows: fascism good, capitalism good, imperialist war good, neoliberalism good, defenses of US or otherwise bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or normalizing Israel, colonialism good, US white fascist policing good, etc.”

How will knowing that information about the judge change the way she makes her case?

Traditionally, high school students would have encountered a judge like former West Point debater Henry Smith, whose paradigm asks students to “focus on clarity over speed” and reminds them that “every argument should explain exactly how [they] win the debate.”

In the past few years, however, judges with paradigms tainted by politics and ideology are becoming common.

Debate judge Shubham Gupta’s paradigm reads, “If you are discussing immigrants in a round and describe the person as ‘illegal,’ I will immediately stop the round, give you the loss with low speaks” — low speaker points — “give you a stern lecture, and then talk to your coach. . . . I will not have you making the debate space unsafe.”

Debate Judge Kriti Sharma concurs: under her list of “Things That Will Cause You To Automatically Lose,” number three is “Referring to immigrants as ‘illegal.’ ”

Should a high school student automatically lose and be publicly humiliated for using a term that’s not only ubiquitous in media and politics but accurate?

Once students have been exposed to enough of these partisan paradigms, they internalize that point of view and adjust their arguments going forward.

That’s why you rarely see students present arguments in favor of capitalism, defending Israel or challenging affirmative action.

Most students choose not to fight this coercion.

They see it as a necessary evil that’s required to win debates and secure accolades, scholarships and college acceptance letters.

On paper, the NSDA rejects what Lavender, Gupta and Sharma are doing. Its rules state, “Judges should decide the round as it is debated, not based on their personal beliefs.”