Friday, September 01, 2023

California Students Sue the State Over Educational Inequities During Lockdown

As has been said many times, and studies have shown, the Covid pandemic exposed the racial and economic disparities in the health system in the United States. Race was reportedly a factor in the treatment of Covid, and longstanding systemic social and health inequities apparently contributed to an increased risk of death from COVID-19. Blacks and Hispanics suffered more heart ailments and worse in hospital prospects for mortality because of both medical and social inequities. But the inequities of the pandemic extended further and affected school children who were locked down out of school and were supposed to get an education via remote learning. The socio-economic divide apparently interfered with children’s education during Covid. Now, students are going to court to prove it.

California lawsuit

A judge gave the green light to a group of low income students of color to go to trial with the lawsuit against California. The students allege the state failed to provide the neediest students with adequate equipment and services to learn remotely during the eight months in 2020, when schools were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state doesn’t dispute the fact that studies have shown "educational inequality increased from 2019 to 2022, and achievement gaps widened" between public school students of different races and income levels in California. This is according to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman. The judge added that during the pandemic, the state "implemented a remote learning policy that failed to provide all students with computers and Internet access," and California officials knew that non-white and low-income students were being harmed more than others. Seligman added that a trial was necessary to see if the state had violated discrimination laws and a state constitutional guarantee of educational equality.

Suit doesn’t seek monetary damages

The lawsuit isn’t asking for money, but instead wants court ordered measures to close the statewide learning gap, such as tutoring, literacy coaches and accountability requirements for California. There are about 6 million students in California public schools. According to Judge Seligman, in the eight months after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered schools closed, the state distributed more than 45,000 laptops and more than 73,000 computing devices to students. However, between 800,000 and 1 million students still lacked adequate access, or any access at all, to online classes.

State officials claim the impact of the pandemic was similar among all categories of students. Researchers for the plaintiffs say poor and non-white students were harmed disproportionately, and a trial is needed to resolve the factual dispute. A spokesperson for Public Counsel, a non-profit law firm representing the students, said the ruling by Judge Seligman to go forward with a trial is a “resounding victory” for the students and shows they have a good case. The state Department of Education had no comment.

Remote learning didn’t work

The suit describes the conditions for 14 non-white students during lockdowns in Oakland and Los Angeles. Twin sisters living in Oakland were attending school until March of 2020, when school stopped. Their teacher held remote classes only twice during the rest of the school year. The suit says the teacher told the student’s mother some other students couldn’t connect remotely so classes were cancelled. One girl received a computer which stopped working after a month and took another month to replace. The suit also contends during the lockdown "wealthier students more often had access to private spaces conducive to learning, while lower-income students of color typically shared their 'classroom' with other family members."

Lawyers for California maintain the state "has worked aggressively to bridge the existing digital divide and provide technology and connectivity to the students." Judge Seligman disagreed, noting in the plaintiff’s research there was a dramatic decline of low-income students during the lockdown. "While there is evidence that (state officials) took some steps to address pandemic-related impacts, the question is whether those steps were reasonable," and this must be decided in a trial, the judge wrote. It appears the inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic go beyond health care in this country.


Back to (What Kind of) School: Education or Indoctrination?

As millions of children return to public school, it’s a good idea to again examine what they are being taught and what is being left out. It also offers an annual opportunity for parents to ask if their kids are being educated or indoctrinated.

At the recent convention of the National Education Association in Orlando, Florida, reports told of delegates waving rainbow signs proclaiming: “freedom to teach” and “freedom to learn.” The demonstrators oppose parental concerns over what they regard as pornography in certain books, an opposition that has tarred them as “book banners.” Peculiar how it’s “academic freedom” to introduce books that promote behavior and ideas many parents oppose, but “censorship” to object to them.

The NEA adopted two amendments supporting “reproductive rights” for women. “Forced motherhood is female enslavement” read a second amendment. This is appropriate for prepubescent children, or students of any age? The delegates continue to favor the LGBTQ-plus agenda, which professes to advocate for sexual and gender equality under the law. They also approved a measure supporting “asylum for all.”

How is any of this preparing children to compete with China and other nations in math, reading, and science?

It isn’t.

The New York Times reported last October: “U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading. … In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is blamed for some of the decline, but as the NAEP notes, the trend has been headed downward for many years.

It hasn’t always been this way. Joel Belz, a columnist for World magazine, recalled in 2006 a 1924 education pamphlet designed to prepare eighth graders for high school. It had the lengthy title “Stephenson’s Iowa State Eighth Grade Examination Question Book.” Belz thinks most high school seniors today would find the questions challenging.

They include arithmetic: “A wall 77 feet long, 6-1/2 feet high, and 14 inches thick is built of bricks costing $9 per M. What was the entire cost of the bricks if 22 bricks were sufficient to make a cubic foot of wall?”

Grammar: “Define five of the following terms: antecedent, tense, object, conjugation, auxiliary verb, expletive, reflexive pronoun.”

Civil government: “Name three township, three county, and three state officers and state what office each person holds … “

I’m betting not many students today could name their members of Congress, much less local officials.

Other categories were geography, physiology (“beginning with food in the mouth, trace the course of digestion, naming the juices with which the food is mixed and the results. What is the reason that spitting on the street is dangerous to the health of a community?”), history, music, and reading.

These were supported by a daily salute to the American flag and other expressions of patriotism.

Who decided these subjects and practices were unnecessary to a well-rounded education and equipping children to become good citizens and lead prosperous and healthy lives? Is it the teachers unions and other activists who see schools not as places for educating the next generation, but as indoctrination centers for their secular-progressive worldview?

Some parents have begun moving away from public schools. Increasing numbers are homeschooling their children or taking advantage of school choice programs.

For the rest, get them out now while you are still able to save their minds, spirits and the country.


Australia: A pushback against the war on the West

Amongst the post-modern rot that infests most of our universities’ humanities faculties stands one small institution that proudly focuses on the origins and brilliance of our Western Civilisation. This institution is growing (officially opening new buildings last week), has heavy-weight support, and is getting outstanding student feedback. Could it serve as the beacon for others to follow, and in doing so, be an important pushback against the intellectual war on the West?

My hope is that the answer is yes. Such a pushback is desperately needed in Australia, particularly in academia, which I will explain.

But first, let me tell you about the institution in question: Campion College. Located near Paramatta in western Sydney, Campion established itself as Australia’s first liberal arts college in 2006 and today has graduated hundreds of students. It dedicates itself to immersing students in the great books and figures that underpin our modern culture, in the correct belief that such immersion is important for individual development, and vital for the continuation of a society that is amongst the most wealthy, tolerant, and free of any society in all of human history.

Students in their three-year degree follow a linear progression starting first in the ancient world, then the medieval, and finally the modern world in third year. Philosophy, history, literature, and theology are interwoven into a coherent picture of the West’s development and the greatest thinkers who influenced it.

Sound radical? Of course not, but unfortunately such an approach is radical in today’s higher education landscape. Much of what is taught in humanities faculties either ignores the development of Western ideas and societies or is markedly hostile to them. It is particularly anti-Christian, which is intricately tied to Western development.

It is difficult to get a complete read on this, but consider the Institute for Public Affairs’ analysis of university history courses. It examined the 791 subjects offered across 35 Australian universities in 2022 and determined that history ‘is no longer about a study of the past, as it has been replaced by post-modern theory…[where] traditional explanations of cause and effects are discarded as everything is reduced to a study of (purported) power relations.’

It found that more history subjects taught about race, than democracy. More taught about ‘identity’ than enlightenment. A full 255 of the 791 subjects were expressly focused on identity politics. That is class, race, or gender.

I am not aware of analyses of other disciplines in the humanities faculties, but I would be surprised if there were not similar findings.

Moreover, except for the three universities that accepted the funding offered by the Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation, almost none has a dedicated program, like Campion’s, which is an integrated course of study to instil in the student the sweep of ideas that have led to where Australia is today.

The same trend has occurred in school curriculum. When, as Education Minister, I first examined the new draft national curriculum in 2021, I was astounded that there was almost nothing positive said about modern Australia and almost nothing negative about ancient Australia before Europeans arrived.

The forgetting (or loathing) of our history is undoubtedly already having an impact on the confidence that people have in our society today and in the future.

Already a third of 18 to 29-year-old Australians believe that there are preferable alternatives to democracy, according to the Lowy Institute Poll.

If our schools and universities are not teaching the origins and demonstrable benefits of our modern Western society (or are being explicitly hostile to it), then where will we be in 20 years when another generation has been ‘educated’ in these institutions? Will young people defend our democracy as previous generations did? Will we remain as tolerant, cohesive, or wealthy if we are always assessed on our race, gender, or sexuality, and not the content of our character?

Scottish historian Niall Ferguson believes that the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in Western countries is not radical Islam, or a potential clash with a rising China, but the eating of our society from within.

We have to push back and this must involve getting our education institutions back to teaching at least a neutral view of our history, if not an overtly positive one, given the opportunities a person lucky enough to be Australian has been blessed with.

This can be done in schools through government decisions, as I was attempting to do with the national curriculum. In universities, it requires institutional leadership.

Campion College shows that it can be done. Its building opening last week was attended by former Prime Ministers, sitting MPs, religious leaders, and senior business people. They were present to support the small college, but mainly to support a bigger principle.

As former deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, said in officially opening the buildings: ‘We are in a civilisation moment.’

Campion College is doing its bit to keep us on the right side of this moment. I hope others follow.




Thursday, August 31, 2023

The Economic Benefits of School Choice

It’s back to school this week for Florida students and many others across the country.

The first days and weeks of a new school year are always filled with anticipation, adjustments, transitions, and growth for parents and students. Yet, this school year’s “firsts” for an expanding pool of families also includes the first time that their children will have the resources and freedom to enroll in the school of their choice.

The short- and long-term consequences of these new opportunities for school choice aren’t just experienced within the four walls of a home or school building, or by the families now empowered to pursue them. The impact of education choice stretches across communities and economies, helping to unleash prosperity and growth that benefits everyone.

Since 2021, eight states have passed universal or near-universal school choice programs, affecting over 13 million students nationwide—a growth of over 4 million in just two years.

Florida’s universal choice program was passed by the Florida Legislature on March 23 and took effect July 1, making this back-to-school week the first experience for many parents newly eligible to draw down approximately $8,000 per year to spend toward their children’s educations.

To provide families an opportunity to pay for education costs ranging from tuition to school supplies, the legislation creates education savings accounts that may be used toward private school tuition, tutoring, or anything else under the approved legislative umbrella.

With no restriction on families that may participate, certain areas become more populated than others, shepherding an influx of economic vitality. With school choice comes increased competition, encouraging businesses—especially small business entrepreneurs and real estate investors—to transform their development and growth strategies to cater to emerging markets, as families relocate to take advantage of expanded educational options.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, introduced “School Scores” to its website, which allows potential buyers to access a school-ranking system based on letter grades ranging from A+ to D, calculated by state testing performance data available from public schools.

Indeed, businesses likewise consider tax rates, inflation, and supply and demand in deciding where to set up shop. They also consider access to high-performing schools for their employees, who place a high value on working close to quality schools for their children to attend.

Florida’s universal choice program has certainly set the national standard for how to respect families’ individual decisions about the schooling best for their children. But it’s also a model for other states looking to experience the economic boom that comes with incentivizing more people to “follow the money.”

Why does the economy benefit from school choice? Bartley Danielsen, associate professor of finance and real estate at North Carolina State University, emphasizes that school choice fosters communitywide economic prosperity.

This allows families to remain in their dwellings, rather than feeling led to switch neighborhoods based on school districts. In turn, real estate becomes equally coveted across regions where school choice is implemented.

Virginia is an apt case study. As a state that offers little parent choice in education outside the public system, the Old Dominion has experienced rapid outward migration since the onset of COVID-19, which saw some schools there getting national attention for infamous mask mandates and increasingly progressive curriculum.

From fall 2019 to fall 2021, public schools in Virginia saw a collective loss of over 46,000 students. On the list of states with greatest population decline, Virginia is now tenth—joining the likes of California, New York, and much of the Northeast, all of which offer little to no educational options outside their public systems.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s neighbors of West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina are all net positive for migration, as are the other proximal Southern states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida—with Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida being significantly so.

A feather in the cap of these rapidly growing states is the existence of steadily expanding school choice programs.

Beyond benefiting states’ economic livelihood, taxpayers across the states are also seeing savings as a result of these expanding programs. Out of 52 analyses on the fiscal impact of private school choice programs, 47 were found to generate overall savings for taxpayers. Another study in 2018 found that school choice programs generated $12.4 to $28.3 billion in tax savings.

Expanding education choice options as widely as possible isn’t just good for the students who enroll in the programs. These programs encourage economic growth and competition between states looking to attract and retain small businesses, job growth, stable families, and thriving communities.

This year is just the beginning of realizing the potential—not just in our kids, but in our policy solutions. ?


Commie Chic Invades American Grade Schools

Every day, my son, who is in seventh grade, sees a quotation from Angela Davis painted on his school’s wall: “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” (The line actually comes from Karl Marx.) Four years ago, during Black History Month, a poster of Davis beamed down from the wall of his public elementary school in Brooklyn.

I eagerly praise my son’s charter school to other parents. It’s full of dedicated teachers who urge their students to debate politics and history with an open mind. So I wrote to the administration, proposing that they should balance the school’s homage to Davis with a quotation from Andrei Sakharov or Natan Sharansky, who fought to free the millions of Soviet bloc citizens that Davis wanted to keep locked up. After all, I reasoned, some of the school’s families are themselves refugees from communist tyrannies. My suggestion was met with silence.

Davis, who is now euphemistically celebrated as an “activist,” was in fact a loyal apparatchik who served working-class betrayers, some of whom were murderous bureaucrats, and others outright maniacs who defy any normative political description. Among the objects of her adoration were dullards like the East German leader Erich Honecker and the stupefied (and stupefying) Soviet Communist Party Chairman Leonid Brezhnev, as well as the Reverend Jim Jones. Before the grotesque mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, Davis broadcast a worshipful speech about Jones to the imprisoned Black women who were murdered by his cult.

There’s hardly a more famous American communist than Davis, who twice ran for vice president on the CP ticket and stayed true to the party until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. For decades, she tirelessly defended the brutalities of the elderly white men who ran the Eastern bloc. Now entering old age herself, Davis has escaped her rightful place doing penance at a memorial to victims of Stalinist tyranny to become a beacon for American millennials who make Soviet-style Black History Month posters. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has named Davis her “idol.” Omar, like rest of her Squad, is cut from Davis’ pattern: Spurning the legions of African American women who stood up for freedom, she instead celebrates a dedicated lifelong bootlicker of communist-bloc tyrants. What redeems Davis, in the eyes of Omar and her fellow progressives, is apparently the fact that she was put on trial for supplying guns to the Black Panthers who murdered hostages during a 1970 shootout.

My son’s school is not the only one with an enthusiasm for Davis. In 2021, City Journal reported on an elementary school in Philadelphia that led fifth graders in a simulated Black Power rally in which they shouted “Free Angela!,” a reference to Davis’ incarceration on murder and conspiracy charges, and adorned the walls of the school with murals of Davis and Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton. Last year, a high school in Rockland County, New York, invited Davis to speak on campus (the speech was canceled due to parental outrage). And the website of the National Women’s History Museum offers a lesson plan—Common Core compliant!—on Davis’ thought, which promises to help students “better make sense of the struggles of women and historically marginalized communities.”

Praise for communists like Davis is a sign of the times. After all, the argument goes, they fought for the oppressed and against the evils of capitalism. A colleague who teaches Russian history tells me that in each class a handful of his students announce that they are communists. The students come equipped with handy rationalizations to explain away monstrous Soviet crimes. They argue, for instance, that Stalin was needed to defeat Hitler; if there had been no Stalin, many more Jews would have died in the Holocaust, so the numbers of Stalin’s dead are outweighed by the people Hitler would have killed.

It’s not just the left that makes excuses for the Soviet regime’s crimes. President Trump claimed that Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 “because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.” Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB man, models himself after the Soviet rulers in his paranoid wish to silence dissent, his reliance on political assassination, and his use of military force to establish regional dominance, so it’s no surprise that he sees the communist era as a pinnacle of Russian glory. The official Chinese line on Mao is that he was a great leader who made some errors. No Chinese citizen will dare to discuss Mao’s more striking errors, like the 20 million-plus killed by famine during the Great Leap Forward.

The state of Virginia also officially discourages teaching about the criminal behavior of communist regimes. In February the Virginia Senate’s Democrats killed a Republican-sponsored bill that would have required public schools to teach students about the victims of communism. Public school teachers in Virginia are already required to cover slavery and the Holocaust. So why not communism? Because, a representative of the Virginia teachers union explained, “There is a strong association between communism and Asians,” and so studying communism could lead to anti-Asian hate.

Idiots will attack anyone for any reason—a fact to live with. But the Virginia teachers union explanation is plainly bunk. It seems exceedingly unlikely that high school students, after learning about the many millions of Chinese peasants sacrificed at Mao’s whim, would pin the blame for the dictator’s atrocities on the Chinese American kid sitting next to them in class—perhaps a descendent of one of Mao’s victims.

The reality of course is that the Virginia teachers union is loath to desecrate the memories of their own communist poster boy and poster girl heroes. The real reason for failing to include communism in a history curriculum, one suspects, is that it reflects so poorly on the American left, which has so often made common cause with tyrants so long as they were anti-American, while blaming the right for all forms of “oppression.” If “right-wingers” are all racists and fascists, then it follows that communists were the good guys—even when they were committing mass murder.


Colorado School Board Hands Victory to Child Sporting a Gadsden Flag on Backpack

A Colorado Springs school board walked back a decision from a school administrator that a student could not display a Gadsden flag on his backpack.

The update came after video of the administrator telling the boy’s mother that her son could not return to class with the Gadsden flag patch on the bag went viral. Even Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, weighed in.

"The reason we do not want the flag displayed is due to its origins with slavery and the slave trade," Beth Danjuma, assistant principal of the junior high building at The Vanguard School, is recorded saying.

The boy’s mother informs her that the flag was a symbol used during the Revolutionary War and did not promote slavery, but to no avail.

“I am here to enforce the policy that was provided, by the district, and definitely, you have every right to not agree to it,” Danjuma responds.

With the incident thrust into the national spotlight, however, the school’s board of directors called an emergency meeting and reversed course.

“From Vanguard’s founding we have proudly supported our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the ordered liberty that all Americans have enjoyed for almost 250 years. The Vanguard School recognizes the historical significance of the Gadsden flag and its place in history. This incident is an occasion for us to reaffirm our deep commitment to a classical education in support of these American principles,” the board told Vanguard families in an email.




Wednesday, August 30, 2023

California AG Sues School District to Stop Policy That Informs Parents of Student Gender Transitions

California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit Monday against the Chino Valley Unified School District for approving a policy that requires school officials to inform parents if their child wants to change their gender.

The district’s board of education approved the policy in July after many parents weighed in, some in favor and some against, but the district was slapped with a subpoena after Bonta opened a civil rights investigation in August, according to a press release.

Bonta took the investigation a step further by filing a lawsuit, arguing that his office’s “message” was “loud and clear,” according to a statement in a press release.

“Every student has the right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity—regardless of their gender identity,” Bonta said. “We’re in court challenging Chino Valley Unified’s forced outing policy for wrongfully and unconstitutionally discriminating against and violating the privacy rights of LGBTQ+ students. The forced outing policy wrongfully endangers the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of non-conforming students who lack an accepting environment in the classroom and at home.”

In addition to informing parents about name and pronoun changes, the policy requires that the school informs them if their child is “accessing sex-segregated school programs and activities” or using bathrooms that don’t match their biological sex, according to the rule. The lawsuit, however, claims that the district “singled out” transgender and “gender nonconforming” students through the policy’s “discriminatory treatment.”

A district spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation that they were complying with the subpoena request but had not had the “opportunity to examine the lawsuit.”

“At this time, the District is working with its legal counsel to review the lawsuit and its contents,” the spokesperson said. “Prior to the filing, District personnel had been working with complete transparency in providing Attorney General Bonta’s office with requested documents and records. Superintendent [Norm] Enfield spoke with the [Department of Justice’s] legal counsel weekly to confirm the District was providing requested files, which had changed several times from the original subpoena.”


The Ne Plus Ultra of Collegiate Wokeness

Observers of the American collegiate scene are likely well aware of the academic jihad against University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and the disgraceful shouting down of federal judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford, led by a woke DEI apparatchik. But in terms of outrageous violations of American norms of academic conduct, due process, and civility, nothing compares with the treatment of Professor Scott Gerber of Ohio Northern University (ONU).

Unlike elite coastal schools like Penn or Stanford, ONU is a Midwestern private school of so-so reputation, not on lists of the 10 best colleges in Ohio, much less the nation. The university is located in the sleepy town of Ada, an hour’s drive from any metropolis, whose 2021 estimated population of 5,256 was lower than in 1970. Its greatest claim to fame is possibly not ONU but the fact that it is the home of the manufacturer of NFL footballs.

Professor Gerber teaches in the ONU law school. U.S. News ranks ONU in the bottom one-third of Ohio’s law schools and as 146th best in the nation (Stanford is #1, Penn #4). The program is a back-up choice for students unable to get into Ohio State, Case Western Reserve, or the University of Cincinnati. It has almost nothing to brag about.

But there is one important legal scholar on the ONU law faculty—Gerber—and he is also a fine teacher. His book First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas is a highly praised assessment of an important Supreme Court justice. He has authored eight other books and has given presentations at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia.

I talked to three law-school-professor friends of mine (all at schools ranked higher than ONU): All said that Professor Gerber is light-years ahead of anyone else at ONU Law in terms of scholarly reputation. He is also a rather popular professor whose classes are usually filled. As one student said, “He makes class fun by creating a comforting atmosphere that I haven’t felt in most classes.” Gerber is conservative, which led another student to note, “It’s refreshing to not have to listen to left views the whole time like almost every other class.”

Nevertheless, ONU is desperately trying to fire Gerber, although it hasn’t said why with any degree of clarity.

Gerber brought this matter to national attention in a May 9 op-ed in the The Wall Street Journal, “DEI Brings Kafka to My Law School.” As Gerber recounts, “Around 1 p.m on Friday, April 14, Ohio Northern University campus security officers entered my classroom with my students present and escorted me to the dean’s office. Armed town police followed me down the hall. My students appeared shocked and frightened. I know I was.”

Gerber was not given any concrete reasons after being told that he was being banned from campus, other than his lack of “collegiality.” He was directed to sign a separation agreement.

Gerber’s ordeal led me to comment, also in the The Wall Street Journal, that “if we fired every instructor for lack of perceived ‘collegiality,’ we would have a national crisis from academic villages depopulated of their faculty.” Furthermore, by disrupting classes during an academic term, ONU appears to have shown callous disregard for its own students.

The most likely real reason ONU wants Gerber gone is that he is not “woke.” He has publicly said the university’s call for diversity does not mention intellectual or viewpoint diversity, and indeed Gerber has been told viewpoint diversity is not an objective at ONU.

Gerber believes students should hear alternative perspectives on issues of the day and then reach some conclusion—that ONU should be a marketplace of ideas rather than a monopolistic mouthpiece for a single perspective on issues, be they diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) obsessions or other, more substantive matters. It’s also worth noting that Gerber is on the Ohio advisory council of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

ONU law school’s dean told Gerber to get lost, without any hearing, any due process, any opportunity to appear before an impartial panel, etc. That’s certainly in violation of ONU’s established procedures for evaluating tenured faculty alleged to have engaged in misconduct, and probably also the law. In legal wrangling since then, the Hardin County Common Pleas Court has had to constrain ONU at least temporarily from carrying out its plans.

The story is long and sordid, but the latest major act came when a student (!) informed Gerber that his constitutional law course for this fall would not be taught by him. The administration didn’t even have the decency to tell Gerber directly that he’s been stripped of courses he’s taught for years.

Dozens of noted legal scholars, such as Randall Kennedy, professor of law at Harvard, have protested this whole affair for its contempt for due process and the free expression of ideas, the heart of what universities are all about. Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, has been eloquent in his multiple cris de coeur on Gerber’s behalf.

Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, has likewise very articulately protested this outrage, as has the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has similarly been appalled and has appealed multiple times to ONU president Melissa Baumann.

The tale is not over. There are apparently at least intermittent legal conversations going on between attorneys for Gerber and ONU, and the local court is still involved in the matter.

Universities increasingly suppress professors who dare to question woke ideology. But lots of questions nag me: Where is the ONU Board of Trustees? Why are they, the governing body, on the sidelines of an issue of this importance? Don’t they (and the university’s president) care that this crusade against a fine professor will cost both money and reputation? Why would the police from the town get involved (on the wrong side) in a private matter not involving a crime?

I used to think the biggest problem in American higher education was its grotesque inefficiency and the accompanying high costs to both students and taxpayers. Now I realize that something critical is more important: Universities increasingly suppress professors, students, and campus guests who dare question the woke ideology that has become so dominant on most American campuses.

In the wake of falling enrollments and declining public support, you would think that colleges would shape up. However, the “creative destruction” that motivates American capitalist enterprises to be efficient and innovative, constantly reinventing themselves, is largely absent on college campuses, as they are protected financially by vast government subsidies. As enrollments decline and public support weakens, hopefully the sad era of Woke Supremacy on campus is beginning to wind down. I hope it will save Scott Gerber.


Australia: Schools force Anglican backdown on statement opposing same-sex marriage

Principals at Sydney’s Anglican schools will no longer be forced to sign a document affirming they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman under a new proposal by the church that is set to abolish the controversial requirement.

In a draft policy statement, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney says incoming school heads must instead show they are of Christian faith and character, be actively involved in a Bible-based church and sign “a personal commitment to organisational faithfulness”.

The plan to scrap the clause opposing gay marriage – which was inserted into a general statement of faith in 2019 – comes after the matter sparked an outpouring of anger and frustration among Anglican school leaders and provoked intense backlash from parents.

The review of the rule forms part of a major governance overhaul of all Sydney Anglican diocese-run organisations, including more than 30 schools across the state.

In a report to be presented at its Synod next month, the diocese says the marriage clause has become a lightning rod for concerns about how the church imposes rules on schools.

“Feedback has focused on the relational difficulties it has created in school contexts ... with communities and alumni who are deeply influenced by a modern culture hostile to traditional Christian beliefs and practices,” the report says.

“This may create a barrier for the recruitment of governors and leaders, who, while personally agreeing with the statement, may face sanctions from their employer or be prevented from taking up these voluntary roles.”

The conservative Sydney diocese oversees a number of high-fee Sydney schools, including Shore, King’s, Barker College, Abbotsleigh, Trinity Grammar and St Catherine’s. Their councils are made up of volunteers, and are dominated by representatives of the diocese.

The extra clause, which surprised principals and councils when it was added by the Sydney diocese in 2019, said: “faith produces obedience in accordance with God’s word, including sexual faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman, and abstinence in all other circumstances”. New school heads and board members were forced to sign the statement as a condition of their employment.

Last year, parents at Australia’s oldest private girls’ school, St Catherine’s, lobbied its council to scrap the rule after it was revealed that its next principal could only accept the job if they agreed to the terms. Former Abbotsleigh head Judith Poole was brought out of retirement to serve as interim principal at the $40,000-a-year school until the end of 2024.

A similar backlash followed at Illawarra Grammar, where frustrated parents took the matter to its school council to raise their concerns the edict fails to “align with the values of mainstream Australia”. Parents at both schools say the communities were not consulted on the statement.

This month, Illawarra Grammar appointed a new principal, Julie Greenhalgh, who had recently retired after 16 years as head of inner west private girls’ school Meriden. In a letter to parents, the school said Greenhalgh was originally a member of the selection panel for the role but stepped down from the panel so that she could apply for the head position.

The school had previously told parents that more than 220 “educational leaders” had expressed interest in the principal role.

A spokesman for the Sydney diocese said while it had received feedback on the clause, it had “already been discussing ways in which the policy could be improved”.

“The review of the governance policy is ongoing. A school’s executive leadership will need to be Christian in faith and character, following the teachings of Jesus and beliefs and tenets of the diocese, but the commitment they make will be a commitment to organisational faithfulness,” he said.

School board members appointed by the diocese, and new principals, must be of “Christian faith and character” and “attend regularly and be actively involved in a Bible-based Christian church”.




Tuesday, August 29, 2023

UK: What went wrong at the Open University?

The Open University is a cherished British institution. The sociologist Michael Young, who went on to become a Labour peer, conceived this ‘university of the air’ as a force which would democratise university education, bringing learning to the masses via lectures broadcast by the BBC at the crack of dawn.

One can only imagine how horrified Young would have been to learn that the beloved OU, which has given second chances to so many students, is currently facing three legal challenges from staff and students who say they have been discriminated against because they dared to express the ‘gender critical’ view that sex matters.

When EDI departments take control, it means that nonsense is imposed from on high, and it is the same nonsense for everyone

Professor Jo Phoenix’s case will go to the Employment Tribunal in October. As a criminologist, she has spoken critically on issues such as male offenders being housed in the female prison estate. Her claim centres on the harassment that she says she faced from OU colleagues as a result. (An OU spokesperson says, ‘The Open University is an environment where an academic can express a view freely, and others can choose to disagree. That is the nature of academic debate and holds true, even for the most polarising of topics.’) Tucker is a PhD student who also says that she has been bullied and harassed at the OU because of her gender critical views.

The most recent and perhaps the most shocking case is that of Almut Gadow, who was sacked from her role teaching criminal law at the OU after she challenged new requirements to teach gender identity theory as an uncontested truth. Gadow is being supported by the Free Speech Union, whose founder and director is Michael Young’s son Toby.

If Gadow is successful, her case will exemplify the way in which university curricula are being ‘liberated’ from academic control by EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) departments. Gadow says that the OU EDI department demanded that all curricula should be revised in line with the tenets of a set of theories which are often termed ‘Critical Social Justice’, which includes intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, decoloniality, Education for Sustainable Development, Queer Theory, and gender identity theory. Crucially, Gadow claims EDI wanted these ideas to be taught not as theories, but as uncontested facts. The law course that Gadow taught on, she says, was redesigned around a ‘core theme’ of ‘liberating the curriculum’.

According to Gadow’s statement, tutors were told to teach about gender identity, insisting that gender identity should trump sex in criminal contexts, for example leading to the demand that pronouns should be identity-based, implying that a female rape victim should be obliged to call her rapist ‘she’ if the perpetrator claimed to identify as a woman.

Gadow’s claim also touches on the potential intellectualisation of paedophilia. Gadow says in her Crowdfunder statement: ‘It had become apparent to me that some [curriculum liberators] treated ‘minor attraction’ (i.e. paedophilia) as part of the “diverse sexualities and gender identities” Open University law teaching now seeks to “centre”.’

This may seem astonishing, but Queer Theory is identified with the intellectualisation of paedophilia. A search of the OU library catalogue for ‘minor attraction’ returns 273 hits. The first of these is ‘Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue’, published in 2017. This paper uses a ‘queer criminology’ framework to question the stigmatisation of paedophiles:

‘There exists evidence that minor attraction is a sexual orientation, and the parallels between the treatment of MAPs [Minor-Attracted Persons] and LGBT populations are striking. Employing queer criminology’s use of deconstructionist techniques, we address the current state of criminology and criminal justice, which sees MAPs as a suspect population warranting formal control’.

In an ideologically monolithic climate, Gadow’s crime was essentially asking awkward questions in an online forum for law tutors after being told it was not the correct forum for that type of discussion. She says she was accused of insubordination and of violating the OU’s transgender inclusion policy. She was told that her persistent critical comments amounted to bullying and harassment, and was sacked for gross misconduct.

The OU contest Gadow’s account, saying: ‘Given these ongoing legal proceedings, we do not intend to comment further at this time, save to say that we strongly dispute the account which we understand Almut Gadow to have given to the media about the circumstances of, and reasons for, her dismissal; the university’s criminal law curriculum and modules; and its equality, diversity and inclusion policies.’

Academic freedom does not only apply to research, it is also central to what makes university teaching different from school teaching. Scholars have traditionally designed their own courses. Some of these courses may have been bad or even nonsensical, but their content was not mandated by management. When EDI departments take control, it means that nonsense is imposed from on high, and it is the same nonsense for everyone.

Gadow’s case shines a light on current restrictions on academic freedom regarding the curriculum and teaching. The academic freedom to teach, and even to ask questions about the curriculum, is increasingly being restricted by EDI encroachment into what would once have been seen as academic, scientific and scholarly prerogatives. Gadow’s case may be extreme, but it reflects a wider trend, reflected for example in QAA curriculum benchmarks adopting ‘Critical Social Justice’ theories across curricula, even in mathematics.

University managers often say that EDI must be ‘at the heart of everything we do’. This is reflected for example in recent proposals to centre EDI in the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). At first glance, ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ may seem as unobjectionable as motherhood and apple pie. But Almut Gadow’s case shows that we need to look again. The Open University once championed real equality, diversity and inclusion by encouraging people from all walks of life to pursue education. These values could not be more different from the narrowly ideological agenda that Almut Gadow has so bravely challenged.


‘Not Indoctrination’: Judge Rejects Maryland Parents’ Plea to Restore Opt-Out for LGBTQ Books

A U.S. District Court judge denied Maryland parents’ request Thursday for an order allowing them to opt their children out of instruction using LGBTQ “Pride Storybooks.”

Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other parents demanded the right to opt out of an LGBTQ book curriculum for pre-K through fifth grades in Montgomery County Public Schools, a Maryland school district just outside the nation’s capital.

Although Maryland law requires schools to allow parents to opt their children out of “all sexuality instruction” and to provide advance notice for such lessons, the new policy, adopted in March, excluded any opt-out right.

The parents sued, requesting a preliminary injunction to force the Montgomery County school system to restore the opt-out provision until the court fully resolves the case. Classes resume next Monday, so parents had hoped to secure the injunction before that date.

District Judge Deborah Boardman rejected the parents’ motion Thursday, ruling that they “have not shown that [the school district’s] use of the storybooks crosses the line from permissible influence to potentially impermissible indoctrination.”

Boardman, an appointee of President Joe Biden, ruled that Montgomery County Public Schools had not violated parents’ right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment because, under the policy, “teachers will occasionally read one of the handful of books, lead discussions and ask questions about the characters, and respond to questions and comments in ways that encourage tolerance for different views and lifestyles.”

“That is not indoctrination,” the judge wrote.

Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, the religious liberty law firm that represents the Montgomery County parents, condemned the judge’s ruling.

“The court’s decision is an assault on children’s right to be guided by their parents on complex and sensitive issues regarding human sexuality,” Baxter told The Daily Signal in a written statement Thursday. “The school board should let kids be kids and let parents decide how and when to best educate their own children consistent with their religious beliefs.”

The school district’s refusal to grant an opt-out right brought together parents from various faith traditions, including atheism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Ethiopian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism. Becket says it represents hundreds of parents through the local organization Kids First.

The parents sued the school board May 23, specifically demanding the right to opt their kids out of the LGBTQ storybooks.

“These books are in fact teaching explicit sexual orientation and gender identity issues as early as pre-k,” Will Haun, senior counsel at Becket Law, told The Daily Signal earlier this month. The associated reading instructions, he said, “require teachers to make dismissive statements about a student’s religious beliefs, to shame children who disagree, and to teach as facts things that some would not agree are facts.”

The Pride Storybooks include selections such as “My Rainbow,” which tells the story of a mother who creates a rainbow-colored wig for a child the book presents as transgender. “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope” recounts the tale of a biological girl who identifies as a boy and who struggles to convince the world that she is male. “Prince & Knight” and “Love, Violet” tell same-sex romance stories.

During a Montgomery County school board meeting, board member Lynne Harris said, “Because saying that a kindergartener can’t be present when you read a book about a rainbow unicorn because it offends your religious rights or your family values or your core beliefs is just telling that kid, ‘Here’s another reason to hate another person.'”

Harris also insisted that “transgender, LGBTQ individuals are not an ideology, they’re a reality.”

In her ruling, Boardman said the Montgomery County school board’s refusal to allow kids to opt out of such instruction did not represent a violation of parents’ religious freedom to educate their children according to their spiritual duty, because the policy doesn’t forbid parents from instructing their children on these issues after school.

Boardman also cited the school board’s reasons for refusing the opt-out measure: too many students would opt out; teachers would have to track a large number of opt-out requests; and allowing those requests would stigmatize LGBTQ students.

“The school board was concerned that permitting some students to leave the classroom whenever books featuring LGBTQ characters were used would expose students who believe the books represent
them and their families to social stigma and isolation,” Boardman wrote. “The school board believed that would defeat its ‘efforts to ensure a classroom environment that is safe and conducive to learning for all students’ and would risk putting MCPS out of compliance with state and federal nondiscrimination laws.”

Boardman ruled that “every court that has addressed the question has concluded that the mere exposure in public school to ideas that contradict religious beliefs does not burden the religious exercise of students or parents.”

The judge did not note critics’ concerns that transgender ideology, by celebrating individuals who claim they were “born in the wrong body,” creates an incentive for children to adopt a gender identity opposite their biological sex, an identity that encourages the use of experimental medical interventions.


Australia: Old-school teaching styles make struggling students successful

Seated in rows, the young students at St Vincent’s Primary School are watching their teacher, all eyes on the prize of learning something new. “A verb is a doing and action word,” the teacher says, and the entire class chimes in repetition before each child turns to repeat the words to a classmate. Every student writes a verb on a small whiteboard to show the teacher, who calls on them at random to describe a verb.

“It does sound old school,” says Monique Egan, acting principal of the Canberra Catholic school. “But there’s no doubt it helps children focus. There’s less opportunity for kids to hide and not engage. There are no long teacher explanations – students have to listen, and they’re responding, thinking, doing, making, showing and writing. I’ve never seen the school do this well.”

St Vincent’s school has embraced a teaching method known as direct or explicit instruction, derided for decades as “drill and kill”. It involves teaching children to read by phonics, sounding out words instead of memorising or guessing words from pictures. Homework is minimal but students are encouraged to read books at home and recite their times tables, the foundation of mathematics.

The method is gaining momentum as it dawns on schooling systems that quality teaching may be the solution to Australia’s ever-declining educational outcomes. Progressive ideology, the inquiry-based learning that sets tasks for students to discover facts and skills using their own initiative, has failed a generation of the most vulnerable children who stand to gain the most from a sound education.

St Vincent’s Primary School is part of the nation’s biggest experiment in using explicit instruction to lift student results.

It is one of 56 schools in the Catholic Education Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, whose director Ross Fox has transformed teaching styles through a program called Catalyst.

No longer do children sit around tables where they must bend their necks to see the teacher, and are easily distracted by a cheeky classmate pulling a face or snapping a pencil. Now they sit in rows, with plenty of space for teachers to walk and check on progress. Any children struggling with their schoolwork are placed upfront, and taken out for small-group remedial instruction if they fall behind.

Based on the scientific concept of cognitive load, lessons are delivered with clear instructions from the teacher and constant questioning of students to test their understanding. Concepts are repeated and practised, then reviewed regularly, to help children remember. Teaching materials are shown on smartboards, stripped of any distracting animations that stop kids concentrating.

Catholic Education has spent $3000 to $4000 training each teacher in the explicit instruction methods, including phonics, that universities failed to teach them in a four-year degree.

Lessons are far from dull because teachers don’t drone on at the front of the classroom but keep kids constantly involved.

“There’s so much repetition, but the skill of the teachers is to make that repetition enjoyable in an engaging lesson,” Fox says. “There’s a benefit to sitting in rows and facing the teacher because attention during that precious instructional time is so important. If you want a child to learn new knowledge, the most effective way is to tell them clearly and precisely what you want them to learn.”

The improvements are eye-opening. An Equity Economics analysis shows that in reading, 42 per cent of year 3 students in Catholic schools in Canberra and Goulburn were behind kids in similar schools across Australia in 2019. Last year, just three years after Catalyst transformed classrooms, only 4 per cent of year 3s were underperforming.

Inspired by this success, Catholic schools in Tasmania and Melbourne also are adopting the Catalyst model, the brainchild of Knowledge Society chief executive Elena Douglas, a self-described evangelist of explicit instruction.

“There are 9500 schools in Australia and 6500 are primary schools – every single one of them has to be changed,” she tells Inquirer. “We are getting close to influence over 1000. Once every state has 50 or so schools doing it there will be a systemic effect, and it is looking likely that Catholic systems will be the vector (for change). The first step is to teach the teachers.”

Shocking results from this year’s national literacy and numeracy tests reveal how children are falling off the escalator of education. One in 10 students is defined as requiring additional support to catch up with classmates. One in four students is described as developing their skills – a polite way of saying they have failed to meet the minimum standards set in NAPLAN.

All up, one in three students is below the benchmark set by the nation’s education ministers. Half the nation’s students fall into the strong category, meaning they meet the standards, but only one in six students exceeds them. Boys are likelier than girls to need support. First Nations students underperform at three times the rate of their classmates and a quarter of children require remedial support if their own parents had dropped out of high school.

What has gone wrong? Taxpayers have poured $662bn into schools since Labor prime minister Julia Gillard faced down education unions by mandating the national testing of every student in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Apart from a slight lift in literacy standards in years 3 and 5 following the uptake of phonics-based reading instruction in more schools in recent years, the results remain dire. Australian students are now more likely to fail than to excel in the basics of reading, writing, mathematics, spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds – First Nations students, kids in regional and remote areas, those with unemployed or poorly educated parent – have fallen behind the furthest. If NAPLAN results are extrapolated across all four million school students, 1.3 million children are failing to meet minimum standards for the basic subjects of English and maths.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has declared the results “make it blisteringly clear that we need serious reform in education”. As he prepares to broker a long-term funding deal with the states and territories next year, Clare has insisted the federal government will no longer write blank cheques. In December, education ministers will consider a review of key targets and specific reforms to be tied to spending on schools, after a review headed by Australian Education Research Organisation chairwoman Lisa O’Brien, a former chief executive of The Smith Family educational charity.

Catch-up tutoring for struggling students – individually or in small groups – is emerging as Clare’s favoured solution to help school strugglers. The minister has seen small group tutoring succeed at Chullora Public School in his western Sydney electorate of Blaxland.

“If you fall behind in third grade, it’s very hard to catch up by the time you’re in year 9,” he said this week, citing an AERO study that tracked the performance of 185,000 students across seven years of NAPLAN testing and found only one in five managed to catch up in high school. “If you take them out of the class – one teacher, a couple of kids – they can learn as much in 18 weeks as you would normally expect to learn in 12 months.” Clare provided federal funding to central Australian schools this year to pay for phonics-based reading instruction and catch-up tutoring for some of the nation’s most disadvantaged children.

Catching up is essential, but so is turning off the pipeline of failure by stopping kids from falling behind in the first place. Educational success begins at home. Children who don’t attend preschool or whose parents spend more on beer than on food – let alone books – are starting from behind. Kids are less likely to learn if their families are blighted by domestic violence, disability, homelessness, addiction or mental illness. Children can’t choose their parents and have no control over the choices of adults. Society and schools mustn’t blame the victims of disadvantage and dysfunction.




Monday, August 28, 2023

In Woke Wars, Faith-Based Virginia Schools See Enrollment Jump

Schools rooted in a biblical worldview are seeing increased enrollment in Virginia, while public schools are faltering.

According to a recent report, Catholic schools in Northern Virginia have seen a 10% increase in enrollment since 2019.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington covers the entirety of Northern Virginia, including Loudoun County, which has been at the heart of the controversy over gender ideology in schools. The diocese is home to 50 schools, ranging from pre-K through high school. Collectively, these schools have 18,488 students this year, a jump of nearly 2,000 since the fall of 2019.

Arlington’s bishop, Michael Burbidge, told The Washington Stand, “One reason for this change is, parents value the underlying philosophy of Catholic education, that parents are the first and primary educators of their children and that schoolteachers and administrators are there to support them in that journey.”

He continued, “[P]arents recognize that young people hear so many untruths and falsehoods in our world today. Thus, they look to enroll their children in schools that, in addition to excellence in education, assist them with the spiritual formation of their children, and teach them the truth in love.”

Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for education studies at the Family Research Council, further pointed to school closures as a key issue for parents.

“Catholic schools were among the first to reopen for in-person learning,” she told The Washington Stand. “Parents remember this well—Catholic or not. One of the reasons for the election of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) was disappointment over school closures in progressive counties that were too long and COVID protocols that were onerous and unsupported by research or even ‘the science.’”

“The debate over gender identity in Loudoun County added insult and very real injury,” she added. “The Arlington Diocese has been faithful to [the Catholic Church’s] teachings on sex and gender, so parents feel their children will be safe from queer-theory indoctrination, in addition to knowing the schools can be relied on.”

Since 2020, the Loudoun County Public Schools board has been a hotbed of controversy surrounding gender-ideology policies in schools.

Leesburg Elementary School gym teacher Tanner Cross was suspended in 2020 after citing his Christian faith and complaining to the school board of a policy requiring teachers to refer to students by “preferred” pronouns differing from students’ biological sexes.

West Point High School teacher Peter Vlaming was fired later that year, also for refusing to use a transgender-identifying student’s “preferred” pronouns. Another teacher was barred from including a Bible verse in her email signature.

The Loudoun County Public Schools board also ordered teachers to keep students’ gender transitions and “preferred” pronouns a secret from students’ parents and stocked school library shelves with LGBTQ+ propaganda and pornographic materials.

Other teachers complained of hostile and toxic working environments created by school board policies on gender ideology, critical race theory, and COVID-19, including threats to fire teachers for not wearing face masks.

Outrage against the Loudoun County Public Schools board culminated after the board attempted to cover up the rape and sexual assault of female students by another student.

In May 2021, a male student identifying as “gender fluid” sodomized a 12-year-old girl in the women’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School. School authorities reported the incident to the local authorities, resulting in criminal charges. The perpetrator was transferred to Broad Run High School in the same school district.

Shortly afterward, the Loudoun County Public Schools board voted to approve a new policy allowing students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond to their biological sexes.

When confronted by the Stone Bridge victim’s father, who argued such a policy would only allow further sexual assaults, the school board told him there were no records of a sexual assault.

In October 2021, the same “gender fluid” male student sexually assaulted another female student at Broad Run High School. A state grand jury later declared that the Loudoun County Public Schools board “failed at every juncture” in protecting the two female students from rape and sexual assault, and Superintendent Scott Ziegler was indicted for covering up the rape and the sexual assault, even keeping the information from the school board.

Earlier this year, Youngkin mandated students use the bathrooms and play on the sports teams that correspond to their biological sexes and ordered teachers to inform parents of students’ gender transitions or “preferred” pronouns.

“This is about doing what’s best for the child,” he explained.

Loudoun County is just one example of gender ideology dominating school districts. Kilgannon commented, “The demand for alternatives to public school shows that parents want the best for their children, and they are increasingly skeptical that public schools are up to the task.”

Catholic schools aren’t the only evidence of this trend. Other biblically rooted schools in the area have also seen increased interest and enrollment.

Cornerstone Christian Academy in Middleburg, Virginia, opened its doors on Tuesday, welcoming 545 K-8 students, with plans to add high school grades every year, according to Cornerstone Chapel Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick. The faith- and family-oriented school received a reported 2,000 admissions inquiries the week the church’s plans were announced to the public.

According to its website, Cornerstone Christian Academy focuses on “instilling a Biblical worldview [in students] and forging a culture of excellence grounded in the Truth of God’s Word.”

Kilgannon stressed the importance of such educational institutions and the importance of maintaining the values they teach.

We need to pray that all faith-based schools remain true to their doctrines and values, while expanding in an effort to meet the needs of the community. Our faith-based schools must not turn into church-subsidized, cheaper-option progressive private schools. This is an opportunity to teach and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not conform to the whims of a world gone mad.

The increased enrollment in faith-based schools comes as nearby public schools see decreased enrollment. Between the fall of 2019 and spring of 2023, enrollment in Fairfax County Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, dropped by nearly 10,000 students.


Climate Brainwashing the kids

Hammering K-12 school children nonstop about the dangers of climate change in every class, even math, art and gym, is child abuse.

Barely one-third of fourth graders can read or do math at grade level, according to the latest national scores, but climate activists are demanding kids hear about global warming in every class. New Jersey mandates it, and now Connecticut is following suit as the school year opens. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams is requiring every public school participate in Climate Action Day.

The climate push is nakedly political, spearheaded in New Jersey by the governor's wife, first lady Tammy Murphy, a founding member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Project. Lessons link urban heat islands to tree placement inequities, redlining and racism.

New York City holds out activist Greta Thunberg as a climate hero and role model, telling kids to "get involved in the global student climate action movement" and "get to know community leaders and register to vote." Everything short of pre-enrolling kindergarteners in the Democratic Party. Parents should be outraged.

Climate change is the Left's religion. The messaging is as heavy-handed as catechism in a religious school.

It's also scary. Children are being told that global warming is killing their favorite animals. At Slackwood Elementary School in New Jersey, first graders are taught that transportation, heating, and raising livestock are "making Earth feel unwell."

The reality is that these children are too young to comprehend the trade-offs of moving to zero carbon immediately. A first grader doesn't know Mommy can't afford an electric vehicle -- average price $53,000.

Children should be taught about the wonders of nature, learning to identify mammals, reptiles, fish and birds, oceans, plants and deserts. They are too young to address the ethical and economic implications of eliminating fossil fuels.

First graders don't understand the impact on their family's budget when the Con Ed bill doubles to pay for the shift to wind and solar, which New Yorkers are warned will happen here.

The U.S. has already reduced emissions of the six most common pollutants by 78% since 1970, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But try explaining that to a first grader who doesn't know percentages and has no frame of reference for comparing the U.S. record with, say, the soaring pollution rates in China and India.

These issues are appropriate for high school students, and they should be presented as controversies -- with all viewpoints included.

Climate education advocates say they're just teaching "facts" everyone agrees on. Don't buy it.

The scientific community is divided about the urgency of eliminating fossil fuels. A poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University of 400 geologists, climatologists, meteorologists and other scientists found that 41% do not believe global warming will cause "significant harm" during our lifetimes.

A majority of scientists also disagree with the claim kids hear from teachers that we're facing a significant increase in severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes.

Eliminating fossil fuels on the radical Left's green timetable will clobber ordinary people: costing jobs, raising living costs and weakening America's position in the world. Yet climate change educators oppose any discussion of the cost of getting to zero.

California, New York and Oregon are currently considering mimicking New Jersey's "every class is a climate class" curriculum. But some states are resisting.

Texas state education authorities are urging districts to present the pros and cons of fossil fuels and avoid textbooks that present only one side. That's smart, considering how many moms and dads there earn a living in carbon-related industries.

In Ohio, Republican state lawmakers want to require publicly funded colleges to present all viewpoints on climate change, "encourag(ing) students to reach their own conclusions," and not to "inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view."

Good luck enforcing that on college campuses. But it should be the rule in every public school.

Parents: Stand up to the indoctrinators. Ramming the same scary message into your child's head over and over again in class after class is brainwashing.

We live in America, not China.


In Australian universities there is no room for dissenting views on Indigenous issues


Some readers may harbour a sneaking suspicion that Australia’s universities have a serious problem with collapsing viewpoint diversity among their professors and lecturers, to the extent that whole departments on campus have become conservative-free zones. They also may suspect that many university students, as well as academics, self-censor and keep their dissenting views to themselves. Spoiler alert: these suspicions are well founded.

Let me use the upcoming constitutional referendum on the voice to illustrate. Recent polls show the No side has a considerable lead. I mention these polls of the wider public’s view simply to contrast it with the very different world on our campuses. Many Australian universities officially have come out in favour of the Yes side and have done so despite the two main political parties taking opposite sides in the referendum – thereby making this a party-political matter and so the taking of sides by any publicly funded university, in part, a choosing by them and their governing boards between the political positioning of the two main parties. The University of NSW even has lit up one of its main buildings with a big “Yes”, emblematically transmogrifying the institution’s name into “UNYesW”.

It’s bad enough when big corporations use shareholder money to support one side in this referendum (virtually always the Yes side, and to the tune of tens of millions of dollars), and likewise when charities do so (arguably calling into serious question whether they are straying outside their charitable purposes, and also huge amounts of money virtually all to the pro side). But when taxpayer-funded universities use your tax dollars to take a side on a crucial constitutional referendum issue that splits the country, well, that’s even worse. It’s not just a form of virtue signalling with other people’s money; it comes close to being an improper use of taxpayer money.

Now, truth be told, some of our universities have opted not to support the Yes side. They’ve opted to stay officially neutral. Needless to say, neutrality is the best we can hope for. You see, I don’t know of a single Australian university, not one, that has come out for No. And this despite plenty of our tertiary institutions breaking cover to support the Yes side. Heck, it’s despite the majority of polled voters being against this proposal.

Now move down to a more granular level, to what things are like on campus. As a longtime out-of-the-closet political conservative (and cards on the table here, an outspoken No proponent from day one), I get a fair few people calling me to tell me what things are like on campuses around the country. Get this: most universities seem to have decided to put on “information sessions” about the voice.

I do not know of a single university that is putting on one of these events where there are the same number of No speakers as those for Yes on these panels. By contrast, I do know of a good few where every single speaker is (or, if you look up the resume, sure seems likely to be) a Yes speaker.

Let that sink in for a moment. It’s wall-to-wall supporters of the voice supposedly giving students some sort of balanced information about the voice. It would be laughable, if it weren’t. And if you query this you get this sort of basic answer: “We’ve briefed one of the speakers to give the No side.” Got that? Because the great free-speech philosopher John Stuart Mill is rolling in his grave.

No one can seriously believe that a person strongly committed to one side of a highly contentious and moralised issue can do even a half-decent job of giving the other side’s case.

Moreover, when a university purports to be giving a disinterested information session to faculty and students where the views expressed cover the whole range of outlooks from A all the way still to A (“Getting to Yes”, as it were), students and faculty notice. Many will say nothing; they’ll self-censor; they’ll think about what is most prudential given the upcoming promotion application or essay to hand in. And they’ll keep shtum.

I’m going to be blunt. Today’s universities are not overly congenial places for those with conservative political views. There are myriad studies out of the US and Britain showing that viewpoint diversity is collapsing on university campuses – because maybe, for a start, those with right-of-centre views would prefer we flew just the national flag, that there be some respite from the incessant acknowledgments of country, and to see the paring back of the diversity, equity and inclusion bureaucracy that forces everything to be seen through the prism of identity politics.

US author Jonathan Haidt, himself of the centre-left, details this loss of diverging outlooks on campus chapter and verse, and greatly laments it. Because universities aren’t meant to be factories of monolithic orthodoxy and groupthink. But more and more that is exactly what we’re seeing. If you doubt me, maybe because your memory of university life goes back three decades or more, go and find out how your old university is handling the voice referendum issue. And realise just how much of the Yes case is being run by employees of universities (second spoiler alert: nearly all of it).

Of course, when the progressive-left orthodoxies become held by the preponderance of academics and near-on all the senior managers, that also affects free speech on campus. You won’t see it by looking at university codes of conduct, policies, statutory frameworks and the like. The collapse of viewpoint diversity works more indirectly and insidiously. Many dissenters and apostates from the university orthodoxy (students included) learn to self-censor, to keep quiet, to ride out the one-sided indoctrination sessions (aka, on occasion, voice “information sessions”). Or they quit and do something else. In the context of institutions supposedly dedicated to the free flow and competition of ideas it’s a sad state of affairs.




Sunday, August 27, 2023

Law School Administrators Huddle To Circumvent Affirmative Action Ban

Top law school administrators are brainstorming ways to circumvent the Supreme Court's ban on race-based admissions, advising schools not to create a "record" of "discriminatory intent" and warning that socioeconomic preferences will result in too many white and Asian students being admitted.

That advice, dispensed at a legal conference in July, came from UC Berkeley Law School dean Erwin Chemerinsky and University of Michigan general counsel Timothy Lynch. Hosted by the American Association of Law Schools, the event focused on how institutions could use race-neutral means to achieve diversity.

When attendees questioned the legality of such methods, arguing that they could be struck down because of their race-conscious motive, Lynch stressed the need for plausible deniability.

"You should be aware right now of the record you're creating," Lynch told the conference, which was ostensibly devoted to helping schools comply with the Supreme Court's decision. "What are your faculty saying in emails? What are they saying in public?"

Plaintiffs often look for evidence of "discriminatory intent," Lynch explained, noting that the Supreme Court explicitly forbade backdoor racial preferences in its ruling. The "key question," he said, is "what can you say right now is the race-neutral explanation for doing it, and how do you avoid having your faculty colleagues muddy the record?"

"Great point," replied Chemerinsky, who moderated the conference. The Berkeley Law dean had been caught on tape a few days earlier, in June, describing how his school gets around California's ban on affirmative action in faculty hiring, joking with students that "if ever I'm deposed, I'm going to deny I said this to you."

In another exchange, Lynch warned that socioeconomic preferences were no substitute for racial ones—and appeared to suggest that class-based admissions help too many white and Asian students.

It "doesn't do the trick demographically," he said, because in states like Michigan, "there are many more people who are not underrepresented who are low-income."

Lawyers who reviewed footage of the conference said it could form part of the very "record" Lynch warned against creating, exposing schools to legal liability and giving plaintiffs ample ammo for a lawsuit.

"If these people were ever sued for race discrimination, this video would be exhibit A to the jury," said Samantha Harris, an attorney who specializes in education law. "Even if the speakers could articulate a non-discriminatory reason for their policies, the video calls into question their sincerity."

Lynch's statement about socioeconomics was a red flag, said Gail Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego who sits on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Dan Morenoff, the executive director of the American Civil Rights Project, which litigates reverse discrimination cases.

"What's the old definition of a gaffe? Saying exactly what you mean," Morenoff said. "It's like they're trying to assure they'll lose the eventual litigation."

Reached for comment, Chemerinsky said the exchanges had been taken out of context.

"The assumption of the conference—and of Mr. Lynch's remarks and mine—was that schools will comply in good faith with the Court's ruling," Chemerinsky said. Addressing the video from June, Chemerinsky added that Berkeley "does not consider race in any of its hiring and admissions decisions."


After Years in the Wilderness, Conservative Christian Education Is Being Born Again Post-Pandemic

Arcadia Christian Academy, which opened in Arizona on Aug. 8, is one of dozens of Christian micro-schools popping up across the country, offering a hybrid in-class and at-home education to keep costs down and the odds of survival up in an increasingly competitive K-12 sector. What’s more, many long-established Christian schools are growing their enrollment after years of stagnation.

The recent post-pandemic rebound in Christian education, prompted by parental anger over public school shutdowns and the expansion of school choice programs, comes after a prolonged period of plunging enrollment and shutdowns since the mid-2000s. Behind that decline were dismay over unaccredited schools and an emphasis on preaching the gospel over teaching rigorous courses, according to interviews with Christian school leaders, parents, and national associations, as well as religious education scholars and consultants.

They tell the story now of a Christian school movement with about 700,000 students in 8,000 schools that’s striving to leave behind its reclusive evangelical roots and reinvent itself for today, with STEM programs, AP classes, and classical “great books” curriculums.

The revamp, demanded by millennial parents and embraced by leaders of accreditation associations, is propelled by a combination of push-and-pull forces.

The push started with COVID. Public schools lost an estimated 1.2 million students during the pandemic. Upset over the long-term closure of classrooms, some parents also objected to what they observed their kids being taught during remote learning at home: Schools with a progressive tilt were teaching that gender is a fluid concept and that America is an inherently racist nation.

Evangelical schools have taken in a fair share of these public school refugees by appealing to the conservative views of parents. In their statements of faith, schools not only stress classic doctrine, such as the Bible as the word of God and the second coming of Jesus Christ. The statements also include the conservative Christian take on hot-button issues, such as it’s a sin to deny one’s biological sex.

“Alarmed that schools are embracing gender neutral ideology?” Arizona’s Dream City Christian School asks parents rhetorically on its homepage.

The pull factor – a major expansion of school choice programs – is now adding to the appeal of Christian schools. In addition to programs in 32 states that mostly provide taxpayer funding for the private education of low-income and special needs kids, eight states recently approved universal laws that make all students eligible for scholarships, regardless of family wealth. At Christian schools, these state-funded scholarships typically cover most if not all tuition, providing a powerful incentive for families that’s boosting enrollment.

But after the growth spurt, scholars and school leaders are asking a big question: Does it have legs or will it soon burn out?

New-wave Christian schooling faces plenty of headwinds. There’s competition for students from well-established Catholic schools, which have a superior academic track record, as well as rapidly expanding charter networks and homeschooling, says David Sikkink, a prominent scholar of religious education at Notre Dame. And there are the old-guard fundamentalist schools that resist accreditation and refuse to accept school-choice funding.

“Are Christian schools going to retain those parents who came at the end of COVID and continue to grow?” says Vance Nichols, head of Alta Loma Christian School in southern California. “That’s the question of the moment.”

In Florida and Arizona, the answer to that question seems to be yes, thanks to new universal choice laws.

By removing income and other restrictions on receiving school choice funding, the universal laws have expanded the eligibility pool nationwide by about 4 million students, bringing the total to more than 13 million, according to the advocacy group EdChoice.


Destructive Leftist influence on Australian education

One in three Australian school children, according to the latest Naplan results, are falling well behind in literacy and numeracy. A cynic might be tempted to compare that number with the approximately one in three Australians who voted for Labor at the last election. For sure, it’s a facetious comparison, but, alas, not an inaccurate one. There is no question that now, fifty years on from the Whitlam government and its disastrous experiments in corrupting young peoples’ minds with socialist claptrap, we can safely conclude that the modern Australian left has wilfully damaged the intellectual development of two generations of Australian children.

That is not to say there aren’t any bright kids out there. There most certainly are. Australian ingenuity, resilience, optimism, determination, entrepreneurialism and go-getter qualities still thrive amongst many of our great youth. But they have been egregiously betrayed by an academic system that has starved them of the great minds and works that should be their birthright. Denied them the critical thinking and academic robustness that is essential to living a positive and productive, not to mention an intellectually fulfilling, life.

Even those kids who do thrive academically and achieve good results have been seriously damaged thanks to a shockingly low standard of education built largely upon leftist ideology and Labor/Greens dogma. Gay propaganda fills the walls, anti-white racist theories abound and our extraordinary academic traditions are wilfully ignored. Only this week we learned of a school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire where pre-school kids are forced to write essays apologising for British colonialism. This is intellectual child abuse; Marxism’s ‘long march’ at its most pernicious.

As with everything the left touches, and pours money into, the results are invariably the same: failure. So more money is poured in. And the failures continue to mount.

The reason is simple. The entire modern leftist approach of ‘we know what is best for you’ is wrong. They don’t know and never did know. Individuals must be free to make mistakes, be free to bounce back, be free to explore unorthodox ideas, be free to challenge and be free to dream of a better way. Sadly, the entrepreneurial flame of so many of our youth is now being wasted in the dead ends of eco-alarmism and woke ideology. Schools and universities teach unrelenting propaganda and ‘consensus’ rather than the free thinking that is critical to genuine progress and insight.

Bedwetters of the Liberal party fool themselves that the ‘times have changed’ and that in order to attract younger ‘more progressive’ voters the right needs to adopt left-leaning policies and priorities. The opposite is true. Having marinated in a sludge of toxic environmentalism and grievance politics throughout their entire childhood, what young intellectually-deprived minds desperately require is alternative stimulation, not more of the same.

For sure, many kids will lazily hang on to the dreary, soul-sapping self-loathing of wokeness, complete with its climate doom-mongering and sinister Malthusian ideology. But exposed to the tantalising and forbidden spark of an alternative, positive, optimistic, freedom-loving, modern conservatism, many young minds are capable of being inspired. Having spent most of their childhoods being brainwashed into believing there is no future worth striving for because the planet is doomed to disappear in an imaginary climate inferno sometime in the next (5? 12? 20? 50? It keeps changing) years, and having been convinced that their ancestors were either blood-thirsty racists or imprisoned slaves, it must surely be wonderfully refreshing to hear the alternative conservative perspective: climate change is at best a hoax, at worst a manageable phenomenon, we are not doomed, we have all the available technology already to hand to reduce emissions to zero if we are so inclined, not that we necessarily need to, and our ancestors, black and white, were extraordinarily gifted and caring people, many of whom gave up their own lives to ensure we get to enjoy the nourishing fruits of our culture and our history.

Indeed, what is needed from the Liberal leadership is not more pandering to the left, but quite the opposite: a determination to vociferously and energetically oppose the left’s fraudulent agenda wherever and whenever it pops its ugly head up.

Youth and rebelliousness have always gone hand in hand. The cunning trick of the modern left has been, through our education system, to convince these adolescents that ‘climate activism’ and ‘being an ally to LGBTQ+’ or ‘supporting the Voice’ is somehow a rebellious action. It is not. It is as mainstream and as boringly unimaginative as you can possibly get. These gullible kids have been hoodwinked into supporting the big, pampered, all-powerful, elitist and monied end of town.

During the late 1970s, the rebellious rock ’n’ roll culture had itself become bloated, pampered, self-indulgent and lazy, unrecognisable to the original rebels of the early 1960s. Appalled that these cocaine-addled, squillionaire LA rock stars somehow represented them, angry kids found their own way to rebel, as punks.

The only credible radicalism and anti-authoritarianism on offer to today’s youth is to oppose woke intolerance and the left’s brainwashing and racist grievance ideology. Call it ‘punk conservatism’ if you will.

Let’s hope the indomitable Aussie spirit can once again rise to defeat the freedom-hating socialists ruining our children’s future prospects and prosperity.