Friday, August 18, 2023

The worrisome popularity of sociology in British High Schools

I taught sociology for a number of years in a major university and can say that it is as bad as Rod Liddle (below) says it is

It was bleak despair once again when I read that sociology is shooting up the A-level list, along with its ESN older sister, psychology. These are the two subjects da kidz want to study these days, both shooting up the list of preferences. Psychology is now the second most popular subject (largely for the dweebs who can’t cope with a proper science) and sociology is up from ninth to fifth.

In a sense, we should probably be glad that this mangled subject (Latin prefix, Greek suffix – that alone should give you a clue as to the depths of its idiocy) is proving popular with the young social justice warriors. It might keep them away from proper subjects, such as history and geography. In the past 30 years both of those disciplines have simply become yet another branch of resentment studies – in a sense a mere adjunct to sociology. They have become about real, exaggerated or imagined oppression and little else. Perhaps now, with the radicals turning to sociology, both subjects might be reclaimed.

Sociology is tendentious, half-baked, spuriously scientific, politically biased and – frankly – of no use to man or beast. I should know; I studied it at the London School of Economics and Political Science back in the early 1980s and it was as stupid then as it is now. Much like the altar at which it worships, Marxism, it is a creature of the 19th century and the desperate wish firstly to provide a ‘holistic’ view of everything and secondly to replace religious faith with science. Auguste Comte coined the word ‘sociology’ in between doing much better things with his life. Like Marx and almost every other philosopher of the 19th century, Comte was a social evolutionist: mankind develops in pre-ordained stages. That is the first flaw of the discipline – it doesn’t.

The accusations of political bias are furiously contested by those within the discipline, largely, I suspect, because they know they are true. When I studied the subject the most right-wing sociologist on the curriculum was the American Talcott Parsons, who described himself as a ‘Stevenson Democrat’ (after Adlai) and was suspected by J. Edgar Hoover of being the leader of a ring of communists at Harvard University. The rest of the stuff was pretty much down-the-line Marxism: conflict and oppression. It is remarkable how this subject still clings to the tenets of an ideology which since 1989 has been a byword for catastrophic economic failure and tyranny. But then so do the leaders of Black Lives Matter, who when railing against the concept of the ‘white saviour’ make an exception for good ol’ Karl.

The extent of that bias within the subject? A study by Jose Duarte suggested that 58 to 66 per cent of ‘social scientists’ were liberal (in the US meaning of the term) and only 5 to 8 per cent conservative. But social scientists presumably included economists, where the inherent bias is far less pronounced. A better indication might come from a study by Jon Shields of the Claremont McKenna College in California, which suggested that 12 out of a total of 6,000 sociologists were what one might call conservative.

The impulse within the discipline is always to concentrate on conflict, be it class-based or gender-based or the consequence of racial difference. There is no room for nuance: it is all a Manichaean divide between the oppressor and the oppressed. Anything which might mitigate social divides is dismissed as chimeric, much as Marx once dismissed patriotism, say, or religious faith as deluding. And when equality is reached within one or another sphere, sociology moves the goal posts to demand ever more radical forms of ‘equality’.

Well, if the kids want to spend £40,000 immersed in this liberal fantasy, it’s their call. Although what they will do with their degrees at the end is a moot point.


NYC charter schools enroll wave of kids from migrant families: ‘We want to help’

New York City charter schools have enrolled a wave of children from asylum-seeking families that have recently arrived in the five boroughs in an effort to help address the ongoing migrant crisis.

Democracy Prep, one of the city’s largest charter school networks with 14 schools in The Bronx and Harlem, has begun taking in arrivals in at least three schools that currently have no waiting lists — including Harlem Prep Middle School, Harlem Prep HS and Democracy Prep Endurance HS.

Other charter schools that have enrolled migrant kids include Family Life Academy in The Bronx, Voice Charter School in Long Island City, Growing up Green in LIC and Jamaica and Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn and Staten Island, charter school sector sources said.

There have been 19,000 children enrolled in city shelters since July 2022, and Mayor Eric Adams’ office said most of them are migrant kids.

“We’ve already enrolled 40 [migrant students] across our middle schools and high schools concentrated on the east side of Harlem,” said Democracy Prep regional Superintendent Emmanuel George.

“Since the surge has happened, we want to help. We want to bring kids into our doors.”

“We are a community charter school, you’ve got to serve. You’ve got to act,” George said.

Charter schools with waiting lists of students from prior random lottery drawings are forbidden from enrolling migrants or other students. But schools are permitted to enroll children in cases where there is no backlog.

“Some [grades] have waiting lists and some don’t. “People can apply, they can get in,” George said.

“We want to abide by the state lottery rules but at the same time the wait list will not be a barrier for us in schools where we are still seeking enrollment. If there are migrants entering into our communities, we want to make sure enrollment is not a barrier.”

He said enrollment officers distributed applications in English, Spanish and French to parents of kids in migrant shelters.

“We had people who can speak the language,” George said.

There are 274 charter schools in the city serving 142,500 students. Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately managed and mostly non-union schools that operate independently from the city Department of Education. Many have a longer school day and school year and outperform their neighboring traditional public schools, test data and studies show.

Like traditional public schools, charters have seen a decline in enrollment with a decline in the city’s student-age population. The city’s public school enrollment has plummeted from 1.1 million students a decade ago to under 900,000.


Trustees for the New College of Florida have voted to end a 28-year-old gender studies program

Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist and Manhattan Institute scholar appointed to New College’s board of trustees by Gov. Ron DeSantis, introduced the motion to direct the school’s president to eliminate the gender studies program.

The board voted 7-3 in favor of the motion at a meeting Thursday.

Rufo said during the meeting that the gender studies program is “wildly contradictory” to the board’s mission to advance a classical liberal arts education at the Sarasota college, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“Removal of gender studies as an area of concentration at New College is fully in accord with its strategic mission to be the state of Florida’s liberal arts honors college,” board member Matthew Spalding, a Hillsdale College professor and dean, told The Daily Signal.

“Not only does gender studies fall well outside this focus, but its ideologically driven and tendentious character render it more a movement of cultural politics than an academic discipline,” Spalding added. “Any substantial topic taken up in gender studies may be found thoroughly treated in the ordinary academic disciplines such as history, psychology, or biology.”

Spalding previously oversaw programs on American principles and political thought at The Heritage Foundation, parent organization of The Daily Signal.

The New School’s board voted in February to eliminate its diversity, equity, and inclusion office in February, which some observers call a testament to the school’s rapid return to focusing on a classical liberal arts education.

The New College of Florida’s gender studies program, established in 1995, included courses such as Women’s and Feminist Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Queer and Trans Studies, and Masculinity Studies.

The gender studies program “intersects with interdisciplinary fields including Cultural, Ethnic, and Africana Studies,” according to a school webpage about it.

DeSantis, a Republican candidate for the presidency, has touted the New College as a way to advance conservative principles and in January named six conservatives to the school’s 12-member board of trustees.

The governor has said he aims to shape the state’s only liberal arts school to become an example of a traditional, conservative education.

Disgruntled students protested Rufo’s visit to New College in May, and one allegedly spat on the trustee. The student was charged with battery, a first-degree misdemeanor, but on Thursday came to an agreement with the school in which she will withdraw from the school and won’t be prosecuted.

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said that he hopes the new direction will transform the New College of Florida into a sort of “Hillsdale of the South.”

Hillsdale College, in Michigan, is a celebrated liberal arts college with a conservative approach.




Thursday, August 17, 2023

Ruling Against Middle Schooler Punished for Wearing ‘There Are Only 2 Genders’ T-Shirt to Be Appealed

The Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a “notice of appeal” after a federal district court in Massachusetts ruled that a middle school in Middleborough, Massachusetts, has the right to prohibit a student from wearing a “There are only two genders” T-shirt to school.

“We look forward to showing the court how this isn’t just about a T-shirt,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Logan Spena told The Daily Signal of its Aug. 4 appeal. “This is about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from the school’s radical gender-identity ideology.”

By appealing the district court’s initial ruling, ADF hopes to prohibit Nichols Middle School from denying Liam Morrison, 12, who will be an eighth grader this fall, his right to wear a shirt that expresses his beliefs.

While the middle school promotes and lets their students wear attire that promotes Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ groups, and others, it would not let Morrison wear a shirt that says “There are only two genders” or “There are *censored* genders” to school.

“Public school officials can’t force Liam to remove a shirt that states his position when the school lets every other student wear clothing that speaks on the same issue,” Spena said.

Currently, the middle school has a speech policy, according to the complaint, that says “clothing must not state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.”

The school’s dress code policy adds that “other apparel that the administration determines to be unacceptable to our community standards will not be allowed.”

When ADF attorneys asked for clarification, schools Superintendent Carolyn Lyons reaffirmed the school’s policy and said that it “has, and will continue to, prohibit the wearing of a T-shirt by [Morrison] or anyone else which is likely to be considered discriminatory, harassing and/or bullying to others, including those who are gender nonconforming by suggesting that their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not exist or is invalid,” the legal group’s complaint says.

As a result, “the schools’ speech policy unconstitutionally censors certain student expressions merely because school officials deem a student’s expression ‘offensive’ to others,” while also giving the school “unbridled, overbroad discretion to choose what is acceptable for student expression,” Spena explained.

When the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears Morrison’s case, it will have the opportunity to uphold the First Amendment of the Constitution and follow Supreme Court precedents by correcting the district court’s decision, which disregarded both, the ADF says.

“Our Constitution protects the right of all Americans, including students, to speak messages that are consistent with what they believe,” Spena told The Daily Signal. “Students don’t forfeit their free speech when they walk into the school building.”

But that’s exactly what happened to Morrison when he wore a shirt that said “There are only two genders” to school. Morrison was brought to the principal’s office and told to take off the shirt or go home. He chose to go home, but a few days later wore a shirt that said “There are *censored* genders.”

Morrison was again sent to the principal’s office, but rather than miss another day of class, he changed his shirt.

The school claimed students had said the shirt made them feel uncomfortable, the complaint says, adding that no one cared whether Morrison felt uncomfortable with the transgender and LGBTQ signs throughout the school that contradicted his beliefs.

“If the court of appeals corrects the district court’s ruling, and we believe that it will,” Spena said, then Morrison will be allowed to wear his “There are only two genders” shirt to school as the case progresses.


Our academics are attacking the whole concept of knowledge

The first problem about decolonisation is the word itself. Colonisation is the process of establishing control over a foreign territory and its indigenous inhabitants, by settlement, conquest or political manipulation. But decolonisation? It has come to mean much more than the reversal of that process. Today, it refers to an altogether wider agenda, whose central objective is to discredit or downgrade the cultural achievements of the West. Objective truth and empirical investigation are mere western constructs. They are optional ideas which need have no weight beyond the western societies which invented them. But the West has imposed them on the rest of the world by a process akin to the colonial conquests of the past four centuries.

In New Zealand, this attitude to truth has led to a revised school syllabus in which Maori folk beliefs about the world are to be treated as if they were just as valid as the body of empirical knowledge that is called science everywhere else. However, we do not need to go to New Zealand to see intellectual decolonisation in action. University faculties in Britain are all expected to publish ‘decolonisation statements’ filled with guilt and angst about the western origin of so much modern knowledge.

Oxford University’s Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division may seem an unpromising candidate for decolonisation, but its decolonisation statement attacks the whole concept of knowledge. ‘As we work towards greater inclusion’, it declares, ‘we need to have a broader understanding of what constitutes scientific knowledge.’ Among other things, this is said to involve ‘challenging western-centric ideas of “objectivity”, “expertise” and “merit” ’, and ‘removing structural hierarchies that privilege certain knowledge and certain peoples over others’. The instinct behind statements like these is not scholarly or scientific. It is political. It devalues knowledge by redefining it, as a way of protesting against the endemic sense of racial superiority which is said to characterise British society.

Doug Stokes is based at the University of Exeter, an institution whose history department proclaims on its website that ‘the very ways we are conditioned to look at and think about the past are often derived from imperialist and racialised schools of thought’. His new book, Against Decolonisation, is a powerful protest against this kind of stale clich√©.

Stokes challenges the dominant cultural and political narrative which portrays Britain as endemically racist. Racial prejudice is too natural to human beings to be eliminated entirely, but statistical studies suggest that by most measures Britain is one of the least racist societies in Europe. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Mayor of London all come from minority ethnic groups. British universities, including the most selective, have a student population in which ethnic minorities are well represented at every level of academic attainment.

Stokes digs deeper into the figures, to show that ‘ethnic minorities’ is too large and varied a category to serve as a useful instrument of analysis. There are significant differences between racial groups. And all of them do significantly better than the category that persistently loses out on university education, namely poor white males.

These points have been made before, notably in the March 2021 report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. The report concluded that economic geography, socio-economic background and family values were far more significant determinants of outcomes than racism. As it pointed out, the life chances of the child of a Harrow-raised British Indian accountant were very different from those of the child of a Bradford-raised British Pakistani taxi driver. Both of them had better prospects than ‘low income white boys, especially those from former industrial and coastal towns’. The Commission’s report was received with howls of outrage by those who felt that they were being deprived of their victimhood. But the objectors rarely engaged with the detailed supporting data on which it was based.

Although the points which Stokes makes are not new, they have rarely been made with such verve and force as they are in this succinct demolition of modern decolonisation theory. He is particularly critical of the reports of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which he accuses of dodgy statistical analysis, and Universities UK, the representative body of vice-chancellors, which has uncritically imposed a decolonisation agenda on the whole university sector.

How did we come to this pass? Stokes argues that the narrative of embedded (‘institutional’) racism in western societies was adopted to fill the intellectual gap left by the decline of Marxism. Cultural control replaced class oppression as the mechanism by which the capitalist West was said to maintain its dominant role in the world. The chief prophets of this doctrine were the French postmodernist philosopher Michel Foucault, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, and the Palestinian-American historian Edward Said. Foucault taught that the structures of power determine what is generally perceived to be true. What we think we know is actually no more than an artificial consensus created by our invisible control over schools, universities, publishers and museums and other cultural institutions in our own interest. It followed that to change the world, it was necessary to take control of those institutions and impose a new intellectual consensus. Said took this idea further. The notion of the inherent superiority of western science and culture, he argued, was a new form of colonialism. It enabled the West to maintain its dominance long after it had shed its colonies. Yet western ideas, western science and western history had no objective claim to authority. They were simply the products of western power structures.

These ideas have never had much traction in France, the land of their birth. But they have taken root in Britain and America in the minds of many who have never read Foucault or Said. In Britain, race theorists such as Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University, have argued that the claims made for western culture are a form of racial prejudice. They are an assertion of the inherent superiority of whites over people of colour which is hardwired throughout British society. This kind of thinking, says Stokes, is what lies behind the obsession with race that is currently transforming British universities.

The problem about postmodernist theories is the same as the problem about other forms of determinism. They underestimate the originality of the human mind. They also ignore the universality of abstract ideas. The fact that Aristotle or Einstein first articulated an idea does not make it a ‘western’ idea. If some statement about the world is true in New Zealand or Africa, it must be equally true in Britain or America, or it is not true at all.

However, the main objection to decolonisation is not that it is false but that it is narrow-minded, obsessive and intolerant. People will continue to disagree about the prevalence and the origin of racial prejudice. Error and discord are inevitable hazards of the free market in ideas. But the decolonisers are not just trying to defend their views. They are seeking to upend the free market in ideas by imposing them. This is a natural consequence of their approach to intellectual inquiry. For those who believe that knowledge and truth are mere social constructs there is no point in debate. Alternative visions of the world are just the product of social conditioning. Social change and suppression of dissent are the only answers. Schools and universities must be the battlegrounds. Hence the obligatory decolonisation statements, the imposition of a highly controversial agenda on the syllabus, the no-platforming of opponents and the real fears of so many academics that if they step out of line their careers will be blighted.

These are symptoms of the narrowing of our intellectual world, even in the citadels of the mind which should be its foremost defenders. Perhaps books like this one will encourage more academics to summon up the courage to resist the bullying and to challenge the new conformity. Not everyone will agree with them. But everyone who truly cares about truth will welcome the opening up of a debate which the universities have largely foreclosed.


‘M’ is for Marxism: schools get an ‘F’ for fail

Senator Ralph Babet

Australian schools are failing our children. Instead of teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, schools have become centres for brainwashing. From kindergarten up, children are not being educated they are being indoctrinated with the toxic lies of identity politics, Critical Race Theory, and climate alarmism.

This is due to the long march of cultural Marxists through our institutions. Unable to bring about a communist revolution in the West, cultural Marxists have slowly gained control of our universities including the teaching faculties. They have written textbooks, converted teachers, and now they are reaping the fruits of their labour with educators throughout Australia brainwashing their students.

But it’s not just our schools that are suffering. University-educated students with their neo-Marxist values make their way into the media, into the professions, and the human resource departments of corporations. Everywhere you look our institutions – the ABC, the big sporting organisations, big businesses, libraries, museums, and art galleries – are all marching to the beat of the same drum.

This is a disaster for our society. Our schools are no longer places where young Australians acquire the skills to become productive members of society and critical thinkers, they are taught to feel guilty and to be ashamed of our country.

Students are taught that Australia is a racist, sexist, white supremacist nation. They do not learn about the great achievements of Western Civilisation. Instead, they are taught that the economic, social, and environmental practices of the West are destroying life on Earth.

It’s no wonder that young Australians are so pessimistic about the future after 13 years of relentless negativity in schools.

Some are suffering from a brand new psychological disorder called ‘eco-anxiety’.

Some don’t want to have children because they believe that the world is such a terrible place.

Some are driven to drop out and start taking drugs.

Some succumb to deaths of despair.

A call is made to the Kids Helpline every 80 seconds in Australia, equating to a devastating 330,000 cries for help from children around the country every year.

Yet despite the obvious demand, most of these calls are not answered due to a lack of funding.

It’s a dire situation, according to mental health experts. Of the 328,424 young people who tried to contact the Kids Helpline in 2022, only 145,000 were connected to a counsellor. That’s just two calls connected out of every five that are received.

This is truly a tragedy. We have to stop the barrage of lies and negativity that are poisoning young people’s minds. More than one hundred thousand people choose to migrate to Australia every year because it is a beacon of freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity in a world where far too many people face poverty and oppression.

Is it any wonder that homeschooling is booming in Australia? It’s not just because of Covid. School lockdowns were an eye-opener for a lot of parents.

Supervising their children at home, parents became aware of some of the toxic or time-wasting content in the school curriculum.

As a result, registrations for home education took off in 2020.

There was a 20 per cent increase in NSW and Victoria and a 26 per cent increase in Queensland compared with the previous year.

But the trend has been on the rise in every state and territory over the last decade.

In 2011, just over 9,000 children were being educated at home. Ten years later, in 2021 there were 26,000 children registered for home education.

Young Australians need an education system that fills them with pride in this country and gives them the skills to thrive in modern Australia. It’s time that people with conservative family values demanded better in all walks of life, starting with our schools.




Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Colleges Spending, Students Paying

Since 2002, most colleges and universities across the U.S. have had an exponential increase in tuition prices. According to a Wall Street Journal report of 50 flagship schools — the oldest public university in each state — the median price increase over the course of 20 years for students is 64%. Only the cost of healthcare and gas have risen more than tuition rates. Forbes points out that between 1980 and 2020, there was a 169% increase in tuition costs.

The question is: Why are most higher-education institutions putting the onus on students to foot the ever-growing bill? Aren’t most of them getting funding from the federal government?

The answer is yes … and no. According to the Journal: “Three-fourths of states did cut their support, undermining a longstanding principle that schools educated the populace with government backing. But universities generally didn’t tighten their belts as a result. Rather, they raised prices far beyond what was needed to fill the hole.”

Apparently, the people who are supposed to be the best and the brightest running our universities are clueless as to how budgeting and money work. It’s either that, or they — like the federal government — are practitioners of modern monetary theory. The average school over the course of the past 20 years increased its spending by 34%.

The majority of schools are investing their money into illustrious sports programs, additional (and arguably unnecessary) admin and staff, and offering state-of-the-art facilities to attract the wealthiest students. It is the rare school that has been savvy and caring enough to try to keep prices low for its students. Idaho is one of the exceptions. Purdue is another.

Parents, and eventually students (because few low- to middle-income students can afford not to take student loans), continue to take on years and years of debt, all to pay for the feckless spending of their alma maters.

Many are still beholden to companies that won’t hire people who don’t have a college degree. For others, it’s a matter of family legacy or the pride of being the first college graduate that drives them into this debt. Still for others, it’s just the next expected step in the plan they have for their lives. Very few students at 18 years of age go to college with a specific vocational purpose like lawyer, doctor, or scientist. These young adults end up wasting precious dollars and years trying to “figure out what they want to do.”

And because they are only 18, they have very little understanding of what that amount of debt does to future credit scores and budgeting. Many are so ill-equipped to face the loan payments that they end up continuing to get higher and higher degrees, all to forestall their eventual massive bill payments. CNBC points out that while tuition costs have gone up 169% since the 1980s, income for young workers has increased only 19%.

It is truly a scandal how much these universities are asking students to pay to attend.

There have been some positives, however. Many universities are starting to cull their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) dead-weight hires from the payroll. Others are attempting to keep their enrollment about the same as pre-COVID pandemic. And people like Dr. Jordan Peterson are developing affordable online schools.

Most, however, are spending more than they earn — and doing so with little public accountability and with little regard for the plight of the students they are wantonly impoverishing


The Decline of a NYC Christian College Reflects Western Civilizational Decay

Earlier this month the King’s College in New York City announced it was canceling classes for the fall semester, laying off most of its faculty and staff, and struggling to recover its recently revoked academic accreditation. The fate of Manhattan’s most prominent Christian Evangelical college — a school rooted in the political and literary canon of Western civilization — is uncertain.

Nevertheless, the decline of the King’s College is bound up not only with the ills of higher education, but also with the deeper cultural crisis affecting America and the West.

Having served as a professor of history at King’s for more than a decade, I am aware of the college’s challenges and self-inflicted wounds. But if the college fails, its failure cannot be blamed exclusively on the impact of Covid-19, rising crime rates, declining enrollment, or tangle-footed leadership. Something much deeper, and more debilitating, is at work: a collective indifference about the remarkable inheritance of our Judeo-Christian civilization and our moral obligation to preserve it for each generation.

On the political and cultural Left, this indifference often amounts to contempt. Western civilization, we are told, is a conceit. Our traditional beliefs and institutions are merely a social construction: tools of the oppressor against the oppressed. The United States, as the lead country in the West, is the embodiment of all its failings.Thus, courses on Western civilization have virtually disappeared in higher education, and the history of the United States is retold as a tale of unremitting racism and exploitation.

Not Just the Left
It is not only the radical Left, however, that ignores our inheritance in the ideals and institutions of the West.Today there are voices on the political and religious Right that seem unaware of this legacy and its impact on the American political order. National conservatives, among others, portray the liberal tradition — from John Locke to James Madison — as morally toxic. In doing so, they fail to grasp how Christian ideas about freedom, forgiveness, charity, equality, and justice were able to permeate our culture — and how easily these ideas become corrupted or discarded.

Ironically, both the progressive Left and the new Right fail to comprehend the crucial educational task of transmission. As the American Founders put it in the Northwest Ordinance (1787): “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

This helps to explain the plight of the King’s College. Its students tend to be risk-takers, and the setting of New York City separates the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly. Since its move to Manhattan in 1999, the college has sent its graduates into the fields of law, journalism, finance, business, education, and the arts. Many have gone to top-tier graduate and professional schools, such as Harvard, Yale, New York University, Columbia, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago. They are some of the most entrepreneurial, mission-oriented young people you will meet. And their sense of vocation, refined in the crucible of New York City, is nurtured in an academic environment where the cultivation of the mind — alongside the cultivation of Christian character — is taken seriously.

Thus the question, Where are the conservative and Christian foundations and philanthropists who understand the critical role of education in cultural renewal? Where are they investing their treasures? More and more of it is going into political campaigns: The idolization of politics now cuts across partisan lines.

Where are the Resources?

In the 2020 presidential election, for example, conservative and Republican donors gave the Trump campaign a staggering $1.96 billion — and to what effect? Just 1 percent of that amount — nearly $20 million — would reopen and reinvigorate the King’s College overnight. Ten percent, roughly $200 million, could create a flagship Christian research institution with state-of-the-art facilities in New York City. It would establish a beachhead of intellectual and spiritual sanity in one of the most strategic cultural centers in the world.

Often it requires the perspective of those deprived of the achievements of our liberal democratic tradition to appreciate its unrivaled importance to human flourishing. Yeonmi Park, who escaped from North Korea at the age of 13, describes her bizarre experience after arriving in the United States and moving to New York City. In an essay for the Free Press, she explains that she wanted to free herself of the mental outlook of the typical North Korean — the habit of not being able to think for herself. But she found that the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, and her education at Columbia were of no help to her.

Why? Because of the drumbeat of self-loathing that she encountered in the liberal media and in her circle of progressive friends. She identified the Western canon as her lifeline:

It wasn’t the education I received at Columbia, or following the American press, that helped me. I was reading old books… . I started to believe, as I still do now, that the only way to think for yourself is to ignore the mainstream media, and largely forget the daily news cycle, and connect instead with the great minds of the past, who know all of our problems better than we do ourselves. There is a reason why the great books of Western civilization are all banned in dictatorships.

Park is talking about the humanities: the disciplines of history, literature, politics, philosophy, economics, the arts, and religion. These subjects once formed the lifeblood of our greatest academic institutions. They were the safe harbor where the most important questions could be asked and debated: questions about justice and virtue, about politics and the good society, and about the meaning and purpose of our mortal lives. It is through the study of the humanities that the collective wisdom of the West in grappling with those questions is transmitted.

Loss of Appreciation for the Humanities

This has been the mission of the King’s College, in a city that seems increasingly cut off from the spiritual inheritance of our Judeo-Christian civilization. The school has been sustained financially by a relatively small group of generous donors. Its struggles reflect the fact that too many conservatives are as detached from the value of its educational purpose as is the woke Left. With a handful of wonderful exceptions, we cannot depend on the current leadership in the conservative Christian community to appreciate the depth of the problem.

More than 40 years ago, Charles Malik, the Lebanese diplomat and an Arab Christian, saw it clearly. He issued a challenge to Evangelicals during a speech at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. “If Christians do not care for the intellectual health of their own children and for the fate of their own civilization,” he asked, “a health and fate so inextricably bound up with the state of the mind and the spirit in the universities, who is going to care?”

Caring About the Christian University is Caring About Young People

To care about the Christian university is to care about our young people — which requires a supreme commitment to caring about the future. Historically, this was the motive force behind the transformation of the Greco-Roman world by the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. Tom Holland, a classical historian and the author of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, has acknowledged his own surprise at “what it was that made Christianity so subversive and disruptive” of the ethical norms and assumptions of classical culture. “So profound has been the impact of Christianity on the development of Western civilization,” he writes,“that it has come to be hidden from view.”

There are in the West today powerful forces dedicated to keeping Christianity’s impact hidden in the shadows. But the Christian academy, like no other institution, can chase away the shadows with Light: the light of young minds illuminated by Truths that have built and sustained our civilization over the centuries.

A civilization that does not care very much about these things gets exactly what it deserves. ?


What if there’s a simple way to close the gap?

It is one of the ironies of life that those whe need high quality education the least are also the ones most likely to get it. Private schools undoubtedly help kids to learn and develop more effectively than do government schools. Yet the kids in private schools usually come from wealthy homes where talent is passed on both genetically and via a more learning-oriented environment

So it is a rather obvious idea to turn that on its head and give a quality education for the bottom rather than the top end of the social scale. And the example below would seemto have reaped rich rewards from that approach. It is likely however that the kids selected to benefit from the program were a carefully selected bunch and you can always get better reults from selective admissions. The success of the strategy might in other words be limitred to a small subset of poor students who were capable of using expanded opportunities. Poor students can in some cases be quite bright. I was one myself

Andrew Penfold’s ears pricked up last week when he heard federal Education Minister Jason Clare observing young Indigenous men are more likely to go to jail than university.

Clare said university costs taxpayers about $11,000 per year on average, per student. Jail costs taxpayers $148,000 per prisoner, per year. For juvenile justice, it‘s $1 million a year, per kid.

Penfold got out his calculator.

To send an Indigenous child to one of the nation’s most prestigious schools costs his Australian Indigenous Education Foundation approximately $150,000.

That’s for six years – the entirety of high school.

And the 1200 students who’ve won an AIEF scholarship over the organisation’s 15-year history have an average 90 per cent school completion rate. This year it’s 93 per cent, with 50 bright young things to be celebrated at a graduation celebration on Monday night.

“Every single kid who goes to school, completes Year 12 and goes on to do something productive with their life, they then become an incredible role model in their family. And each time you change your family one by one, you change your whole community. The ripple effect of that is you actually are changing the country,” Penfold says.

That brings Penfold – who has a gift for making big things seem simple – to some intimidating numbers.

The Closing The Gap targets for education are that by 2031, 96 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people should have completed Year 12, and 70 per cent should have a tertiary qualification.

“We know from evidence that where Indigenous people are well-educated, including university and 12 completion, there really is no gap,” says Penfold, who with his wife Michelle quit a finance career in the late 2000s to devote himself to Indigenous education.

But, he says, “there needs to be an upstream supply”.

“If you don‘t have more kids completing year 12, you’re not going to be having the kids to go to university. Some years ago I saw some data that said to achieve the Year 12 Closing The Gap target only involves educating to Year 12 an additional 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.

“So when you move away from talking in percentages and start talking about the number of students, it actually feels quite achievable. Of course we (AIEF) can’t do 10,000 on our own. But collectively there’s enough organisations out there that have got the track record to demonstrate that if there was further investment given, they would be able to close that gap.

“And literally the only thing holding that back is the funding.”

Indigenous graduates are now working as police officers, teachers, lawyers, doctors and academics.

And, like Brianna Dennis, community leaders. Now 36, Dennis left Walgett, in NSW’s central west, in 1999 for St Scholastica’s in Sydney‘s Glebe.

“I was really, really excited, actually, for this new opportunity. I was only 11 years old.

“If I’d stayed back home – our family really struggled. I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving home. But the exposure from the educational opportunities presented to me have been critical.”

Dennis went to university and travelled the world after school – and was the first in her family to buy a home. She now lives in Dubbo as the district manager for MacKillop Family Service.

Dennis takes immense pride in seeing opportunity light up her girls Orani, eight and Nhalara, three.

“Both my daughters participate in gymnastics, something I always wanted to do as a child but didn’t have the opportunity locally, plus my family wouldn’t have been able to afford it. I am glad my children get to experience what I never could.”

Dennis knows sometimes parents are reluctant to let children leave home, for fear they may never return, but firmly believes connection to country cannot be extinguished.

“These educational opportunities are not something for communities to fear.

“Some kids will go away and then come back, and some will stay home and take other opportunities. And both are now enriching community life – in their own ways.”

Kodie Mason is one AIEF grad who has come home.

After St Vincent’s College in Sydney’s Potts Point, and a degree at UNSW, Mason is back in the vibrant Dharawal community around La Perouse, on Botany Bay’s northern edge.

She has started her own business, Malima, teaching traditional weaving techniques passed down in her family’s direct descent from the Dharawal people who first came into contact with the Endeavour‘s crew.

Through her community work, Mason was invited to write the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for her distant great-grandmother Biyarung ‘Biddy’ Giles, an expert fisherwoman and hunter who also founded her own business.

“She had a couple of boats, she was running fishing and hunting tours around Botany Bay, having her own business at a time when Aboriginal people were thought incapable.

“So looking at my life – I’ve got my own business, practising my culture, and sharing my knowledge.”

Between these two lives, two centuries apart, came the NSW Aborigines Protection Act, which allowed wholesale child removal and the dislocation of communities from traditional lands.

“We still feel those impacts today,” Mason says. “So to be able to go out and get a great education, and finish high school, go to university; I just feel so privileged.”

Mason is excited about the possibility of an Indigenous voice to parliament, and recently got to meet Anthony Albanese at the Garma festival in Arnhem Land.

“Our grandparents and great-grandparents; they’ve all been fighting to have a say in what happens and how they’re treated. I definitely think it will make a huge impact in Aboriginal communities across Australia, and we’ll start to see more positive outcomes for our people.”

If Andrew Penfold is the father of AIEF, Paul Hough is its godfather. The Marist brother was strongly influenced by Shirley ‘Mum Shirl’ Smith, the famous Redfern matriarch and prisoner advocate who raised scores of children in her own home, and reconciliation activist and priest Ted Kennedy.

In the 1970s Kennedy asked Hough to come and work with him in Redfern. “I remember one night Father Ted looked across the table at me and said: ‘Why don’t you give all that (teaching) stuff away and come and work with us?’ “And I said ‘Ted, I appreciate your confidence but as Marists, we do it through education.”

That remark rang through Hough’s career for the next five decades as he pioneered Indigenous education programs from St Augustine’s in Cairns to St Gregory’s in Campbelltown.

He was leading St Joseph’s in Sydney’s Hunters Hill in the 2000s when Andrew Penfold, a Joey’s old boy, approached him with the wild idea to give up his job and volunteer at St Joseph’s in a bid to grow Indigenous enrolment.

“He came up with the idea of setting up a fund which would be $8 million,” Hough says. “We thought that was probably the last we’d see of him for a while. Anyway, he came back in about 15 months’ time and said: ‘Guess what? I’ve got it.’ He went straight to the big end of town. “He’s got the business brain, and he’s got the head that knows how to work it.”

Penfold is confident AIEF, which presently takes 350 students per annum, could grow to take 1000 a year on its present model of seeking Government funding which is matched dollar-for-dollar by fundraising.

Penfold is unashamedly “interested in scale”. “It’s not because we are trying to be famous,“ Penfold says. The more students we have, the more impact we make on changing the country.“




Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Parents Could Face Jail Time for Sending 2 Emails School Staff Don’t Like: Critics Sound Alarm on California Bill

California already has undermined the rights of parents from out of state when it comes to experimental transgender “health care,” but the Legislature also is considering a bill that would criminalize causing “substantial disorder” at school board meetings—an attempt to “chill parents from speaking out,” critics warn.

SB 596, which the California State Senate passed in May, 30-8, would expand state law that bars adults from subjecting “a school employee to harassment.”

The bill, now making its way to the floor of the lower chamber, the California State Assembly, would expand the definition of “school employee” to cover any employee or official of a school district, charter school, and county or state education board or office.

The bill also would outlaw, as a misdemeanor, actions that cause “substantial disorder” at a school board meeting.

The law proposed in the Golden State doesn’t define “substantial disorder,” and its definition of “harassment” leaves broad room for interpretation. Under the proposal, Californians who violate the provision face a fine of $500 to $1,000, a year in county jail, or both. A second offense would mean mandatory jail time and could involve another fine; a third offense would mean more jail time and perhaps a third fine.

“It’s clear they’re trying to chill parents from speaking out,” Sarah Parshall Perry, a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Daily Signal on Wednesday. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)

“I find it curious that there’s no definition of ‘substantial’ or ‘disruption’ within the proposed text,” Perry said. “Considering that these are essential terms for the bill, it’s likely that if passed, the law would fall under a vagueness challenge.”

Parents “have a right to express themselves under the protections of the First Amendment,” she noted. “Ordinary limitations on certain speech—making a true threat of violence, for example—already apply within the context of the First Amendment, making the criminal penalty here unnecessary, legally suspect, and ideologically driven.”

“California Democrats want to increase the presence of minors’ activism while working to chill the free speech of rightfully concerned parents and taxpayers,” Kelly Schenkoske, a California mother who homeschools her two children in conjunction with a public charter school program, told The Daily Signal.

“Instead of focusing on solutions for a state riddled with low academic achievement, a drug crisis, homelessness, rising taxes, human trafficking, water storage issues, and fire prevention, this Democrat-controlled Legislature continues to propose their aggressive, anti-family, legislative pet projects,” Schenkoske added. “Their work over the years to erode parental involvement and rights has been noticed by parents who will stand courageously to speak for the protection of their children and for a better education.”

Jim Manley, state legal policy deputy director at the Pacific Legal Institute, told The Daily Signal that the state government has the prerogative to make laws regarding school board meetings, but the vagueness of the text might encourage school employees and prosecutors to chill parents’ rights to speak freely.

“The idea that the government is trying to regulate conduct at school board meetings is pretty normal,” Manley said. “What sends up potential red flags is some of the language in this bill.”

SB 596 defines “harassment” as “a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate person.” The bill defines “course of conduct” as “a pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose.”

A parent or other critic “saying two things that the school official finds harassing could be enough to qualify there,” Manley said. “An email that simply torments would count as harassment under this standard.”

The lawyer noted that “to torment” merely means “to cause mental suffering.”

“If you send two emails that cause a school board official to mentally suffer, technically you fall under this definition,” Manley said.

The bill “could be interpreted in a way that chills people’s ability to communicate with elected officials,” he said.

Manley also noted that the bill includes an exemption for “any otherwise lawful employee concerted activity, including, but not limited to, picketing and the distribution of handbills.”

“Parents showing up to hand out literature would not be exempt” under the proposed law, the lawyer said. “Given how broadly this expands the coverage of the crime, I’d like to see the exemption be similarly broad. As written now, it only applies to employees who are picketing.”

Matt McReynolds, deputy chief counsel at the Pacific Justice Institute, echoed these concerns.

“I would certainly agree that SB 596 targets conservative parents who have been energized and re-engaging at the school board level,” McReynolds told The Daily Signal.

“It’s not just speaking at school board meetings; this would criminalize sending emails that seriously annoy or alarm school employees,” he said. “Note, too, the double standards, beginning with the exception in the legislation for labor union activity such as picketing.”

McReynolds also said the “larger context” of the bill is “revealing.”

“In nearly all other areas, our state leaders are stressing decriminalization and have released thousands of dangerous offenders back into our communities,” he said. “The rhetoric about mass incarceration and overcriminalization goes out the window when they’re going after their political enemies. And in the school setting itself, our legislators are moving to reduce the ability of teachers and administrators to punish kids for defiance, disruption, and disorder. The hypocrisy is unmistakable.”

McReynolds also mentioned AB 1078, which passed the California State Assembly in May. That bill, which aims to boost instructional materials regarding diversity by circumventing parents, threatens “to reduce parents’ influence at the school board level,” McReynolds argued,

State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino, the Democrat who sponsored SB 596, didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on the bill.

The bill comes amid new California laws prioritizing children’s stated gender identity over parental rights.

Last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed into law SB 107, a bill to turn California into a “sanctuary state” for “gender-affirming care.” The measure, which took effect in January, gives California courts the ability to award custody of a child if someone removes that child from his or her parents in another state to obtain such “care” over the parents’ disagreement.

In June, a California state senator told parents to flee the state as the Senate debated a bill that would subject parents who refuse to “affirm” their children’s “gender transitions” to child abuse charges.

“In the past when we’ve had these discussions and I’ve seen parental rights atrophied, I’ve encouraged people to keep fighting,” state Sen. Scott Wilk, a Republican, said. “I’ve changed my mind on that.”

“If you love your children, you need to flee California. You need to flee,” Wilk urged.


State Schools Chief Seeks Answers on District’s Reported Ties to Chinese Government

Parents Defending Education’s new report, “Little Red Classrooms,” offers some worrisome information about China’s reach in U.S. K-12 schools through so-called Confucius Classrooms.

The report notes that Parents Defending Education “uncovered contracts that show Confucius Classrooms, or other Chinese government-backed programming, are still in operation” in a number of schools throughout the U.S., including Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma.

“On July 11, 2022, the Tulsa Public Schools board of education approved entering into an agreement with the Confucius Classroom Coordination Offices, which [operate] out of the International Leadership of Texas Global nonprofit,” the report says. “The Chinese International Education Foundation would cover the cost of the program. Carver Middle School offers students a ‘Confucius Connection’ through its ‘Global Awareness’ programming.”

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction, says, “What we did is, we—immediately upon finding this out—we have required the district to turn over any contracts, any curriculum, anything that’s been handed out through this course.”

“So, we are actively compiling that from the district right now to do a deep dive into, ‘Hey, what was the Chinese government trying to get in this classroom? What were the teachers discussing in these classes?’” Walters says, adding:

So that’s what we’ve required of the district right now. So, we are going to be looking for that information to have a better understanding of what was being funneled into these classrooms.

Walters joins today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the Parents Defending Education report, whether he has spoken with any teachers, parents, or students at Tulsa’s Carver Middle School, and Tulsa Public Schools’ response to his Twitter video, “China will not be allowed in Oklahoma schools.”


Texas elementary school fires black teacher after numerous racist tweets against white people go viral

A teacher at an elementary school in Texas was fired after several racist, anti-white messages on social media were picked up by conservatives and went viral.

Danielle Allen taught first grade at a Thompson Elementary School in the Mesquite Independent School District near Dallas when she posted the missives against white people on social media.

Allen referred to herself as a "black supremacist" and posted a message implying that she wanted to have her sister's boyfriend killed because he was white. “I promise I’ll help you hide the body. Bring all 4 of your guns," she said in one message.

In a video she posted later, Allen then smiled as she promised to do everything in her power to break up the biracial relationship.

“Why shouldn’t I hate white people?” she said in another post. "I enjoy being racist! I'm never changing!" read another message.

On Monday, she claimed that she had talked to school administrators about the controversy and that they had reassured her that her job was safe.

On Tuesday, the school posted a message saying that Allen was no longer employed at the school and was not "eligible" for rehire.

“Nevertheless, the highly offensive statements posted to her X account do not reflect the values and standards of Mesquite ISD, and the district condemns them in the strongest terms," they added.

Allen has since deleted her social media account and has been removed from the staff directory of the school.