Thursday, September 14, 2023

'The Words You Spoke Are Disturbing': Kennedy Stuns As He Reads Explicit Kids' Books During Hearing

Sen. John Kennedy showed his Democratic colleagues exactly what they’re defending in public schools and libraries when he read sexually graphic excerpts from some of the “banned books” at the center of this culture war battle.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Book Bans: Examining How Censorship Limits Liberty and Literature,” Kennedy read from “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Gender Queer” – the two most banned books during the 2021-2022 school year, according to PEN America.

"What are you asking us to do? Are you suggesting that only librarians should decide whether the two books that I just referenced should be available to kids? Is that what you’re saying,” the Republican asked Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias.

“With all due respect, Senator, the words you spoke are disturbing, especially coming out of your mouth, it’s very disturbing,” Giannoulias responded. “But I would also tell you that we’re not advocating for kids to read porn.

“We are advocating for parents, random parents, not to have the ability under the guise of keeping kids safe to try and challenge the worldview of every single manner on these issues,” Giannoulias continued. “When individual parents are allowed to make a decision of where that line is and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ which involves a rape scene, should that book be pulled from our libraries? I think it becomes a slippery slope.”

While Kennedy agreed with the witnesses that “censorship is bad,” he said the point is about the books he referenced, not “Catcher in the Rye.”

“So tell me what you want, who gets to decide? And all I’ve heard is the librarians. And parents have nothing to do with it. And if that’s your response, what planet did you just parachute in from?” Kennedy said.

“Senator, with all due respect, parents absolutely have a say. My parents were immigrants, came to this country. We never checked out books without our parents seeing what books we’re reading,” Giannoulias replied. “They encouraged us to read books.”

Democrats, like Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), argued that they’re not “advocating for sexually explicit content to be available in an elementary school library or in [the] children’s section of the library.”

“That’s a distraction from the real challenge,” he continued. “I understand and respect that parents may choose to limit what their children read, especially at younger ages. My wife and I did. Others do, too. But no parent should have the right to tell another parent’s child what they can and cannot read in school or at home. Every student deserves access to books that reflect their experiences and help them better understand who they are.”


'Atrocious': PA School District Rehires 'Trans' Coach Who Undressed Around Young Girls

This week, a school district in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania voted to rehire a tennis coach who believes he is a “trans woman” and previously undressed in front of young girls in the locker room.

According to Penn Live, the Gettysburg Area School District voted 6-to-2 to rehire David “Sasha” Yates, the coach in question. The board was previously deadlocked and experienced weeks of delays on coming to a final decision.

In an email to Penn Live after the decision, Yates claimed that he felt “delighted” to return to his position as a tennis coach for the local high school. Yates reportedly began “transitioning” to live as a woman in 2021.

“I have been very moved by the outpouring of support that I have received,” Yates said, adding “I am very much looking forward to continuing to support and guide both teams as they represent Gettysburg Area High School in the coming seasons.”

Penn Live’s report claims that the situation arose from conservatives in the community taking issue with the fact that Yates thinks he is a woman (via Penn Live):

The lack of clarity as to why Yates’ contract was being impeded - despite what students described as a stellar coaching record - led to an outpouring of concern that Yates was indeed being singled out because of her gender. The issue was exacerbated by board member Michelle Smyers giving interviews to conservative media outlets criticizing Yates, and working with a right-wing law firm that said it was combatting the “insidious transgender movement” by assisting Smyers.

However, Townhall previously reported that there was more to the story. At a recent school board meeting, a parent named Steve Carbaugh shared that his daughter ran into Yates in one of the women’s facilities

“My daughter was in the bathroom across from the gymnasium in the senior high school, going to the restroom before one of her sporting events. While she exited the bathroom stall, she ran into Mr. David Yates in the female bathroom. Imagine that, a 16-year-old female running into a full grown adult in the restroom of her high school,” Carbaugh reportedly stated.

In addition, reports claimed that in the fall of 2022, Yates entered the girls’ locker room while the soccer team was changing (via The Epoch Times):

Mr. Yates changed his clothing too, stripping down to bra and panties, a school board member familiar with the situation told The Epoch Times, adding that students reported that it was clear from what they saw that Mr. Yates was still fully a man.

Two school board members have students on the soccer team and at least one of their students was present when this occurred, the board member said.

“Now, everybody in this area seems to be crying that it is hate—that nobody wants this guy back because he's transgender and it’s hate. This has absolutely nothing to do with hate on my part. I don't care what the guy wants to call himself,” Carbaugh reportedly stated. “What's right is right. What’s wrong is wrong.”

“My job as a parent is to protect my child. And he had no business going into that bathroom, and his actions proved that he cannot be trusted. He went into a girls’ locker room and changed while the girls varsity soccer team was in there. They talked to him about it. And he went into a girls’ restroom facility. When is enough enough?” he added.

Paula Scanlan, a teammate of Will “Lia” Thomas at the University of Pennsylvania who was forced to share a locker room with him, called the decision to rehire Yates “shameful.”

Meg Brock, a Republican committee member in Pennsylvania, called the decision “atrocious” and added that schools aren’t protecting girls if there’s no policy in place explicitly preventing “confused men who think they are women” from women’s spaces.


California school district pays $27M to settle suit over death of teen assaulted by fellow students

A Southern California school district has agreed to pay $27 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of an eighth-grade boy who died after being assaulted by two other students at a middle school four years ago.

The settlement with the Moreno Valley Unified School District was announced Wednesday by lawyers for relatives of 13-year-old Diego Stolz, who was sucker-punched at Landmark Middle School in September 2019.

One of the teens struck the teenager in the head from behind and he fell, hitting his head against a pillar. The teens then continued punching Stolz, who died nine days later from a brain injury. The attack was recorded on video.

Dave Ring, an attorney for the Stolz family, said the boy’s death would have been preventable if there was an anti-bullying policy in place at the school about 65 miles east of Los Angeles.

“Schools need to realize that bullying can never be tolerated and that any complaints of bullying and assault must be taken seriously,” Ring said in a news release.

School officials will not be commenting on the settlement, district spokesperson Anahi Velasco said in an email Wednesday.

The district said previously that it changed its bullying reporting system and its training for employees. Also, the school’s principal and vice principal were replaced.

The family’s wrongful-death lawsuit claimed that Stolz complained to the assistant principal that he was being bullied before the assault that killed him.

The assailants, who were 14 at the time of the attack, entered the equivalent of guilty pleas in juvenile court to involuntary manslaughter and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

The teens spent 47 days in juvenile custody. A judge declined to sentence them to more jail time, but ordered that they undergo anger management therapy.




Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Schools, Universities Bringing Back Mask Mandates, Shutdowns

Schools and universities around the U.S. are bringing back mask mandates and shutdowns as COVID-19 numbers rise, according to public records reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Runge Independent School District in Texas, Magoffin County Schools in Kentucky, Lee County School District in Kentucky, and Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Maryland are all reimplementing some form of COVID-19 measures, according to public records reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Some universities are reimplementing mask mandates, such as Dillard University in Louisiana and Morris Brown College in Georgia, though Morris Brown College backtracked on its mandate.

Rising COVID-19 numbers are cited by schools, colleges, and universities as the reasoning for returning COVID-19 mandates and shutdowns. COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 15.7% from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26 compared to the previous week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Magoffin County Schools and Lee County School District in Kentucky shut down in-person classes due to respiratory illnesses in the districts in August.

“We were seeing an uptick of absentees. They were saying COVID, but they were also putting strep throat in there, and there was a virus going around, a stomach virus,” Magoffin County Health Department Director Pete Shepherd told WKYT News, a Kentucky-based outlet.

Three kindergarteners at Rosemary Hills Elementary School in Maryland tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday and the school is now requiring the students and staff involved to wear masks for 10 days.

Children don’t become seriously ill from COVID-19 as often as adults do, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical center. “While children are as likely to get COVID-19 as adults, kids are less likely to become severely ill. Up to 50% of children and adolescents might have COVID-19 with no symptoms,” its website reads.

Dillard University in Louisiana reinstituted a mask mandate to “mitigate the spread” of COVID-19 on campus in August.

“COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the nation and we are seeing elevated numbers of reported infections in the Dillard community as students return to campus from across the country. We want everyone to be aware of the steps being taken on our campus to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Dillard University’s website reads.

Morris Brown College reinstituted its mask mandate in August due to rising COVID-19 cases in Georgia and said the college has no cases yet but is “taking precautionary measures for the next 14 days.”

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of our Morris Brown College community remains paramount to this administration,” read a campus letter that President Kevin James shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A January 2023 Cochrane meta-analysis found that it was “uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses.”

Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance introduced legislation for a federal mask mandate ban Tuesday, according to a press release. “We tried mask mandates once in this country. They failed to control the spread of respiratory viruses, violated basic bodily freedom, and set our fellow citizens against one another,” Vance said in the press release.

Runge Independent School District, Magoffin County Schools, Lee County School District, Rosemary Hills Elementary School, Dillard University and Morris Brown College did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.


Education Around the Country Looks Different This School Year. Here’s What Parents Need to Know

Jennifer Wolverton has a plan for her child’s education: A great laptop, software programs for practicing writing and designing artwork, piano lessons, and art classes.

She is also looking for education therapy sessions for help with ADHD and dysgraphia (difficulty writing by hand).

But that’s just for ninth grade. She has plans for her student’s entire high school career, including community college classes on videography, business management, and graphic design.

Now, though, there are obstacles in the way. “Last year, we spent $3,400 on therapies alone, and we are looking at $10,000 in therapies this year,” Wolverton said in an interview.

She would consider a traditional school, but, she says, “The schools have never ‘pivoted.’” That is to say, they have not updated their services to meet the new needs that students today are bringing to school.

“We need an exit ramp, and an education savings account is an exit ramp,” Wolverton says.

As we explain in our new report, these accounts and similar education choice options are now available to millions of families around the U.S. after state lawmakers made 2023 the “year of education freedom.”

Officials in four states enacted new universal choice policies (Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah) and legislators in two other states expanded existing policies to all students (Florida and Ohio), bringing the total number of states with universal choice to eight.

Policymakers in seven states passed new education choice policies and eight states expanded existing education opportunities, such as private school scholarships and education savings accounts.

With a K-12 education savings account, mothers and fathers can use their child’s portion of the state education formula to “unbundle” his or her children’s education.

They can hire personal tutors, purchase textbooks, pay private school tuition, find education therapies, and more—simultaneously, if they choose.

Wolverton’s family lives in Alabama, and she is already taking advantage of homeschool co-op and micro-school options in the state, but, as her plans indicate, she has ambitious expectations through high school and beyond.

To reach their goals, education must be more than a system of “moving a pot of money from this school to that school,” she says. It should be a process of selecting from different products and services and “making it more flexible.”

Mothers and fathers are clamoring for these choices. After Arizona lawmakers expanded student eligibility for the state’s education savings accounts in 2022 to include all children in the state, more than 50,000 new students have enrolled in the accounts. In Ohio, where officials expanded eligibility for private school scholarships this year, more than 66,000 students have applied to participate.

Some 55% of adults say they are dissatisfied with K-12 education today, a figure that has seen a steady increase since 2020. The reasons are many—including that reading and math test scores have fallen to historic lows.

But that’s not all. Surveys find that Americans do not want children taught radical ideas about “gender” in school, nor do they want boys participating on girls sports teams. Polls find that parents do not want their children taught that America is defined by slavery or that their skin color is the most important thing about them.

In 2023, lawmakers addressed these concerns, too.

Lawmakers in seven states adopted either parental bills of rights or provisions that require school officials to inform parents when their student comes to school and wants to be addressed by a name or pronoun that does not match the child’s birth certificate, or both. The latter policy, called the Given Name Act, is an effective measure that calls on educators to work with mothers and fathers and secures parents’ roles as their child’s primary caregivers.

Alabama lawmakers expanded the state’s existing private school scholarship option for K-12 families, but Wolverton and other parents like her are watching what legislators are doing in states nearby.

The broad eligibility for education options in states such as Florida and Oklahoma and the versatility of the education savings accounts and account-style options in Arkansas and Iowa “would be life-changing” for her family and those like hers, she said.

“We love unbundled education in our house,” Wolverton said.

State lawmakers made this school year one of new, creative opportunities for millions of families around the U.S. Millions more are waiting—and ready—for education freedom to come to their states.


Private Catholic School Quietly Introduces Social Justice Course, 'Disguised as Religion Class,' Required for Graduation

A private Catholic school in Maryland has quietly introduced a social justice course for seniors that's required for graduation. One mother calls it social justice indoctrination "disguised as a religion class." The curriculum is vague; much is kept secret.

Now, she's demanding answers.

"We chose this school because we thought it was more conservative compared to some of the others," Mrs. Fletcher told The Epoch Times.

Social justice training, on the other hand, frequently pushes students to see the world through the lens of systemic racism and inequity, in other words, that of CRT.

The "syllabus" is particularly vague, and Mrs. Fletcher is unsettled by the ambiguity surrounding the curriculum.
The document states that classroom assignments, tests, and homework will be done primarily in the form of essays.

"There aren't even any books," Mrs. Fletcher said. "For three years, I bought religion books and books for English class. But this year, no religion books. I've never seen a class with no books. How will I know what's being covered in class?"

Grades are based on an equally vague points system. Students receive up to five points at the end of each eight-day cycle based on their level of "participation" in the class.

Mrs. Fletcher questions whether "participation" refers to the student's level of involvement or the degree to which a student agrees with the teacher.

Knowing that CRT often goes hand in hand with transgender ideology, Mrs. Fletcher worries that JC could be indoctrinating her daughter through a secretive social justice course.

"My daughter came home yesterday and said she was confused," she recalled. "When I asked her to show me what confused her, she wouldn't show me. That's because she knows it's something I won't want to see. You shouldn't want to hide things from your parents."

The Epoch Times has previously reported on children who were secretly indoctrinated into the transgender lifestyle at their schools.

Another document, the "Reflection Rubric," thinly explains the teacher's expectations and his scoring system.

Up to 10 points are possible for students who can "explain the key points of his or her reflection" when answering questions.

Handwritten notes taken by Mrs. Fletcher's daughter during class show the definitions students were given for four topics: Catholic Social Teaching, Economics, Politics, and Prudential Questions. The last topic deals with political issues "where the Church can offer guidance, but does not have a universal teaching."

"What does any of this have to do with religion?" Mrs. Fletcher asked.




Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Elementary school teachers must now embrace DEI principles to get hired at many public schools: study

There’s no question students face mounting challenges as they head back to classrooms across the country this month. But are COVID-era school closures solely to blame?

The answer is a resounding no.

The lagging test scores and reading delays that have been widely reported over the past few months stem from much more than simply misguided COVID policies.

A new report from the National Opportunity Project reveals that school districts across America – in red and blue states alike – are now considering teachers’ social and political views alongside instructional qualifications during the hiring process.

This means that if the teacher at the head of your kid’s classroom was hired in recent years, there’s a strong chance he or she was chosen not for their credentials — but because they passed an ideological litmus test.

The National Opportunity Project surveyed more than 70 school districts across America over the past year about their hiring protocols.

They also reviewed district hiring documents such as applications, interview questions, and candidate evaluation rubrics.

Here is what NOP found: Applicants in the Denver Public School system for an elementary art teacher position must: “Lead for racial and educational excellence and work to dismantle systems of oppression and inequity in our community…”

In Georgia, City Schools of Decatur require hiring teams to be staffed for racial and gender equity by “ensur[ing] that there is at least one person of color and one woman or gender-fluid individual on the interview panel. Individuals who embody other aspects of diversity should be included as well.”

Since when were these characteristics needed to determine who should be teaching our kids?

Indeed, more than one-third of the school districts that responded to NOP’s request for transparency around their hiring practice revealed protocols that are clearly based on ideological bias.

Many more districts tout public commitments to divisive ideologies or DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)-focused mission statements. We’ve known for a long time that these types of controversial policies are commonplace in higher education; but only recently are they permeating classrooms with students as young as preschool age.

What’s the reason for all this? As the old adage goes, “Personnel is policy.”

The people behind these policies aim to change the culture of public schools by only hiring staff who adhere to their political and ideological viewpoints.

The districts’ DEI statements — or commitments to “culturally responsive-sustaining education” in the case of New York Public Schools — are not merely lip service.

They inform every element of the public school experience, including who gets to stand at the head of the classroom.

It’s no wonder far-left political viewpoints now course through much of America’s public school systems; the application process is designed to weed out anyone who thinks differently or is independent-minded.

The National Opportunity Project found that the same schools giving preference to teachers with certain political and social views are adopting other divisive, and sometimes illegal, policies, as well.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, applicants to the public school district are asked, “What does equity mean to you? How do you plan to keep equity at the center of your classroom?” Responses that show strong agreement with DEI concepts such as “equity journey,” “equity work,” and “understanding that race is a social construct” are rated more highly on a scoring rubric.

However, not everyone in Fairfax County thinks this type of discrimination is acceptable.

The school district is facing a federal lawsuit for adopting race-based admissions to its selective math and science magnet school.

In neighboring Loudoun County, Virginia, applicants for teaching positions are asked: “How would race and diversity impact your classroom?”

In the meantime, the Loudoun County Public Schools have faced multiple lawsuits for racial and viewpoint discrimination and bias against a teacher and students in recent years.

In Evanston, a large suburb outside Chicago, the local high school district has highlighted its commitment to “anti-racism” since at least 2020.

The National Opportunity Project’s investigation found that candidates for teaching positions must “demonstrate a commitment to social justice, equity, excellence and high expectations for all students.”

The district’s equity pledge even spurred the creation of Advanced Placement Calculus classes segregated by race.

When it comes to our kids, they need the best and brightest teachers by their side – not people who pass a political litmus test.

As the gaping holes caused by COVID-era closures confirm, American students are struggling to catch up in the classroom and prepare for life after graduation.

School hiring policies should be focused on putting the most qualified adults in front of students, no matter their race, their personal political beliefs, or their point of view on the news of the day.


Youngkin Pardons Father Who Erupted At School Board Meeting After His Daughter Was Sexually Assaulted

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA.) pardoned the Loudoun County father who protested against the sexual assault of his daughter and her school's attempt to cover up the incident.

On Sunday, Youngkin said he righted a wrong after the father, Scott Smith, was convicted of disorderly conduct in August 2021 after he erupted at a school board meeting after its members mishandled the investigation into his daughter's attack.

“I spoke with Mr. Smith on Friday, and I had the privilege of telling Mr. Smith that I will pardon him, and we did that on Friday," Youngkin said on Fox News. “We righted a wrong. He should've never been prosecuted here. This was a dad standing up for his daughter."

The governor claimed the school district covered up the young girl’s attack, where she was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom.

“No one did anything about it,” Youngkin added.

Smith's daughter was sexually assaulted in a restroom at Stone Bridge High School by a biological male who identified as a female. The boy was reportedly wearing a skirt.

Youngkin praised the father’s action, suggesting any parent would have done the same thing.

"Mr. Smith did what any father would do, what any parent would do, which is stand up for their child," Youngkin said. "This was a gross miscarriage of justice."

A month after the incident in August 2021, Smith was arrested and eventually convicted of two criminal charges after the school board meeting went off the tracks involving Sheriff deputies.

However, his conviction of resisting arrest was eventually tossed out.

“I really appreciate what he had done because when he campaigned, he made it very clear that if he were elected, he would do what he could to get to the bottom of what happened to not just my family but everything that was going on in Loudoun County," Smith said in a statement.

Youngkin has been a vocal opponent against the Left’s transgender propaganda. He has vowed to crack down on Virginia public schools that refuse to enforce requirements that parents be informed if their child expresses any gender confusion at school.


Australia: Poor reading and writing skills are dooming students to failure in high school and university, eminent scientist warns

One of Australia’s most eminent scientists has blasted a lack of basic literacy for sabotaging students’ success in high school and university, as damning new data reveals that failed teaching methods could cost a generation of children $12 billion in lifetime earnings.

High school science teachers have blamed low literacy for students’ struggles in the high-stakes STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, is demanding more focus on the phonics-based teaching of reading and writing in primary school, as well as the ­basics of mathematics, to stop students failing in high school.

“These are muscle memory subjects you need to know early,’’ Dr Finkel said on Sunday.

“In literacy, not teaching phonics has been a serious problem because we have a generation that hasn’t been taught effectively how to read. And good luck picking up mathematics at university for a subject like engineering or architecture if you didn’t learn it at school.’’

Shockingly low levels of literacy are also revealed in a report by Equity Economics, which calculates $12bn in lost lifetime earnings for children who fail to master reading and writing.

The report is under consideration by a panel of experts advising education ministers on key targets and priorities for their next national school reform agreement.

Teachers Professional Association of Australia’s Scott Stanford launched a scathing attack against the sheer…
It shows the ACT is the only state or territory in which year 9 students are reading at the level expected for their grade, based on mean scores from last year’s ­NAPLAN literacy and numeracy tests.

ear 9 students performed at the level expected of a year 8 student in South Australia, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. But in Queensland and Tasmania, year 9 students had the reading ability of a year 7 student, in terms of mean scores.

The report says four out of every 10 students in Australia do not meet international reading benchmarks for 15-year-olds.

“Children with lower levels of literacy are more likely to end up in the lowest income bracket in the future,’’ the report states.

“This perpetuates a cycle of reliance on government assistance and escalates costs within healthcare, housing, employment and justice systems. The impact extends across lifetimes and generations.’’

Dr Finkel, an eminent neuroscientist and electrical engineer who served as chief scientist from 2016 to 2020, warned that low ­levels of literacy were sabotaging teenagers’ learning in other subjects at high school.

Many science teachers “do not think their students are proficient in what many would consider basic skills.’’

“Literacy and numeracy underpin the higher-order thinking we expect in our science classrooms,’’ he said.

“Students in science should be applying their knowledge from maths and English classes to reinforce their learning and access scientific concepts.’’

The warning from such a high-profile scientist will put pressure on the nation’s education ministers to mandate the teaching of phonics-based reading – in which students sound out letter combinations to “decode’’ words instead of guessing them by looking at pictures, or learning them by heart.

Dr Finkel, who has also served as special adviser to the federal government on low emissions technologies, co-founded science education company Stile Education, which provides curriculum materials to one in three Australian high schools.

In Stile Education’s latest survey of more than 1100 Australian high school science teachers, 57 per cent per cent felt their students’ literacy levels were limiting their ability to understand science in high school.

Half felt their students’ poor grasp of maths was limiting their ability to understand science. Students could not use basic spreadsheet tools to manipulate or visualise data.

Dr Finkel said children also needed to be taught to touch type, given they spent so much time on computers.

Forty per cent of teachers felt their teenage students were not proficient touch typists – an important skill if children were to avoid injury such as carpal tunnel, tendinitis or repetitive strain injury from using keyboards incorrectly.

Alarmingly, given the rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT, 40 per cent of teachers felt their students could not understand the difference between a good and a bad source of information on the internet.

To reduce cheating and improve learning, Dr Finkel called for a return to pen-and-paper exams in schools, with students reading their answers aloud, to “bypass any opportunity for AI to be involved”.

Dr Finkel said it was essential that students learn to think for themselves, based on the foundational skills of reading, writing and maths taught in schools.

“People need that ability deeply ingrained in their brains, so they can be part of a real-time conversation,’’ he said.

“Too few students can tell the difference between good and bad information on the internet.

“In the workplace, if you’re having a discussion with people around the table, you expect each of your colleagues to articulate their thoughts clearly and verbally.

“You can’t do that if everyone says, ‘I need 10 minutes to research my answer’.”

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said on Sunday that he was “interested in what works’’.

“Phonics is a critical part of that and so is catch-up tutoring,’’ he said. “Some children need extra intensive support, either one-on-one or in a small group to help them catch up and keep up.’’

Mr Clare said educational priorities and targets for schools were under review for the next schools reform agreement with state and territory governments next year.




Monday, September 11, 2023

Teachers union chief calls private schools ‘fascist’ but sends her son to one

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis-Gates loves to call private schools “fascist” and “racist” — but it turns out she sends her son to one.

Davis-Gates has long bragged about how her children go to the Chicago public schools. But she recently got outed as sending a son to a prestigious private Catholic school on Chicago’s south side, De La Salle Institute (average tuition: $14,750 a year).

Good for her as a mom, choosing what’s best for her boy.

But this makes her rhetoric calling school choice “actually the choice of racists” and private schools “segregation academies” utterly damning.

She even helped kill an Illinois program providing grants to underprivileged children for private-school tuition; when it ends in January 2025, some 9,000 kids will lose out on what she provides for her own son.

That doesn’t merely make her a hypocrite: It means she knows her rhetoric is untrue — but spouts it anyway in service to her powerful union.

That is, she’s demonizing others for power and profit — a hallmark of actual fascists, in most people’s books.


Classical Education’s Remedy for America’s Loneliness

By Rachel Alexander Cambre

In-person social engagement has been decreasing across all age groups for quite some time, as has the average number of close friends Americans report having.

Classical schools embrace an older understanding of education, one that prepares students for festivity and friendship, rather than socially handicapping them.

In immersing students in the truth, beauty, and goodness of reality, institutions of classical education are leading the way.

At a weeklong Austin Institute seminar for high school students for which I served as a faculty member this summer, I was pleased, but not surprised, by the academic caliber of the participants. What I didn’t expect, however, was their notable sense of social ease, which I witnessed as they quickly began to befriend one another both inside and outside the classroom. I soon discovered their educational backgrounds had taught them not only how to read, write, and think, but how to live well with others.

The Loneliest Generation

The social graces of the twenty rising high school juniors and seniors were especially striking in light of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory issued this May. In the advisory, the Surgeon General warns of an alarming dearth of social connection throughout the U.S. In-person social engagement has been decreasing across all age groups for quite some time, the report details, as has the average number of close friends Americans report having.

The consequences are serious: the weaker our social ties, the more susceptible to physical and mental health problems we become. Young people are particularly at risk, with Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 today spending 70% less time with friends than the same age group did in 2003, and reporting greater levels of loneliness than in past generations.

Why are today’s teens and twenty-somethings, many of whom are surrounded by peers in high school or college, so lonely? In his work on Generation Z, what he dubs the “loneliest generation,” Daniel Cox, a scholar in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute, links higher levels of social isolation to changes in upbringing.

For generations, Cox explains, childhood revolved around “developing strong social networks” by, for instance, spending time “going to church barbeques or block parties.” Over the past few decades, however, parents have increasingly prioritized individuality as the primary goal for their children, beginning with the unique baby names they give them to help them stand out, as Joe Pinsker explored in an essay for The Atlantic last year.

Hence, kids spend much more time trying to distinguish themselves in achievement-based activities than trying to get along with siblings or neighbors through play around the neighborhood or conversation around the dinner table. Cox concludes that consequently, fewer young Americans have learned the art of cultivating community.

Education Ordered toward True Leisure

The Austin Institute participants had been raised differently. While many factors influence upbringing, one constant was that they had each received a classical education—some at public charter schools, others at private religious academies, and still others at home through homeschool co-ops. During our week together, it became clear that the purpose, content, and method of their educations had helped to form their social natures.

While mornings and afternoons at the Institute were spent in classroom sessions on philosophy and literature, evenings were spent engaging in a range of recreational activities, from playing music and learning the English waltz to theatrical readings of Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance and Karol Wojtyła’s The Jeweler’s Shop.

Having taught college students and observed their social customs for the past five years, I expected the group of 16- and 17-year-olds at the Austin Institute to balk at the notion of soberly singing, dancing, and acting in front of one another. Studying great texts is one thing; performing is another. But these students welcomed the opportunity. I soon learned they weren’t afraid to “perform” for one another precisely because they did not see these activities as opportunities for performance. They saw them not as instrumental—avenues for achievement—but as intrinsically worthwhile occasions for leisure.

Nor were their dispositions coincidental. They were informed by their classical educations, which teach students to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty not for the professional or social accolades that academic study can accrue, but for its own sake. As I outlined in a Heritage Foundation Report on leisure and education in America earlier this year, classical schools offer students a countercultural approach to education, departing from their mainstream counterparts perhaps most radically in their overarching commitment to “the enduring, the changeless, and the permanent,” as the Great Hearts Academies teaching philosophy puts it, rather than to the trendy, the circumstantial, or the contingent.

Much like the Gen Z parents Daniel Cox describes, mainstream educational institutions profess to help students stand out and get ahead, whether through high standardized test scores, Advanced Placement courses, competitive arts and athletic programs, or, more recently, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. High school teachers and administrators counsel students to pursue these various measures of achievement and individuality for the opportunities they will provide, offering social mobility through admission to certain colleges and, eventually, eligibility for careers.

At its best, an achievement-oriented education teaches students to work hard and strive for excellence. But “teaching to the test” or to college admission standards often leaves students with another takeaway: that one studies, plays sports, or pursues justice not because the material one studies is true, the sport one plays is beautiful, or the justice one pursues is good, but because such pursuits will earn professional promotion, economic advancement, and social approval. Should these activities cease to further one’s academic or career success, they would likewise lose their value. Even worse, this utilitarian attitude can easily corrupt relationships with other human beings. Once games and service hours become a means to personal advancement, so, too, can the teammates, friends, and community we serve.

In contrast, classical schools embrace an older understanding of education, one that prepares students for festivity and friendship, rather than socially handicapping them. Like their ancient and medieval predecessors, classical educators maintain that a crucial purpose of education is to liberate students from a calculative, utilitarian mindset by teaching them how to enjoy intrinsically worthwhile activities for their own sake. This does not mean that classical schools downplay the importance of working hard or striving for excellence, but that they emphasize the intrinsic goodness and beauty of those virtues—like those of fortitude and magnanimity—so that students might cultivate them because they are good and beautiful, not because they will help them to acquire wealth, power, or fame.

In other words, classically educated students learn how to practice virtue when they are at leisure, not just when they are pressed by necessity. As Aristotle explains in the Politics, education must make citizens “capable of being at leisure.” This is why, in addition to teaching citizens useful arts and sciences, the Greeks also reserved a central place for music, “with a view to the pastime that is in leisure.”

In learning how to hear and marvel at intricate melodies and harmonies, students also learn how to perceive and appreciate the order and beauty of nature and the whole of human life, and, further, how to celebrate that beauty in genuine festivity, with friends and fellow citizens. Hence, Aristotle references Homer’s Odysseus in saying “that this is the best pastime, when human beings are enjoying good cheer and ‘the banqueters seated in order throughout the hall to listen to a singer.’”

Similarly, today’s classical schools teach students how to be at leisure with one another in part by hosting social gatherings that they prepare students to enjoy beforehand. As several Austin Institute students explained to me during our evening of waltzing, their schools and homeschool co-ops host ballroom, swing, and line dance lessons before every school dance, so that they might become occasions for delight rather than anxiety or boredom.

Other students added that they had begun to play musical instruments in a similar manner—learning casually from friends and siblings after school. In doing so, these students had picked up more than skills in the arts or lines for their résumés; they had learned how to enjoy life together.

The Great Conversation

This conviviality animates the classroom as well, where classical educators teach students how to converse with peers and authorities alike by raising questions that have captivated thinkers for millennia. Though classical curricula can vary, a common commitment to “renewing the great conversation,” to quote the theme of this year’s National Symposium for Classical Education, unites them. Aware of the extensive history of pivotal words and deeds—treatises, speeches, dialogues, poems, and plays, as well as foundings, covenants, discoveries, revolutions, and wars—that have shaped the way we live today, classical educators seek to bequeath to new generations their intellectual heritage, helping them better understand themselves and the world around them.

Neither geographically nor ideologically monolithic, this heritage includes the Western foundations of Greek philosophy and Roman law, as well as the Eastern origins of Judaism and Christianity, and its leading thinkers are marked not by unexamined opinion but by a willingness to question opinion through deliberation and discourse.

Hence, studying the key questions that have perplexed the greatest minds of human history not only introduces students to the “great conversation” responsible for our civilization today but invites them to join in. When encountering Plato and Aristotle’s disagreement over the idea of the good, the Bible and Niccolo Machiavelli’s divergent teachings about virtue, or James Madison and Thomas Jefferson’s debate over intergenerational justice, students discover that these arguments are not mere historical artifacts but live questions for each of us today.

Furthermore, exchanges like these demonstrate that the search for truth occurs not in isolation but in community, through living and reasoning together. Students of classical education thus learn that without meaningful conversation and friendship, individuality can only take you so far.

Replacing Imaginary Friends with Real Ones

Perhaps the most obvious sign of social maturity among the summer seminar students was their detachment from personal devices, which the Surgeon General Advisory on loneliness singles out as detrimental to social connection. Though most of them had phones in case of emergency, they voluntarily kept them stowed away for the week. This healthy freedom from screens the students no doubt learned from their parents, the primary educators of their characters. Yet, it surely helps that most classical schools also discourage the ubiquity of phones and tablets. “Although we teach to a variety of learning modes,” the Great Hearts Academies teaching philosophy explains, “we believe the written and spoken word hold a privileged position in human expression and knowledge.”

The Surgeon General Advisory identifies “reform[ing] digital environments” as one of its six pillars for advancing social connection. In calling for increased data transparency from technological companies, the Surgeon General hopes to further the development of “safety standards (such as age-related protections for young people) that ensure products do not worsen social disconnection.”

Measures to reduce smartphone addiction among the youth are commendable, especially as artificial intelligence companies work to create chatbot-driven avatars to fill the void of in-person relationships. Still, these efforts will only go so far without commensurate endeavors to draw young people into the “real world.” In immersing students in the truth, beauty, and goodness of reality, institutions of classical education are leading the way.


A reading revolution is underway in many Australian schools but classes are still a 'lottery' for parents

Noni Bogart's daughter Zoe was a bubbly and confident child when she started school. But she struggled to learn to read, and repeating a year didn't help.

Zoe was learning to read at a Canberra school that used a strategy that has since been removed from the Australian curriculum, yet remains in use in many classrooms around the country.

The three-cueing system encourages children to think of a word when they get stuck and ask themselves: "Does it make sense here? Does it sound right? Does it look right?"

This technique is coupled with "predictable" home readers — books that follow a pattern with pictures to match.

"The books that she was reading at the time, they were pretty much just 'look at the picture and guess what the words are'," Ms Bogart says.

By year 3, Zoe was barely able to read kindergarten books. It left her feeling frustrated and her mother "quite let down".

"I put my trust into the teachers and into the public system, and I've literally got no result," Ms Bogart says.

She took matters into her own hands, finding a tutor and scraping together enough money to move Zoe and her older sister Lacey to a Catholic school.

There, they were taught letters and sounds in a particular order so they could blend them and decode unfamiliar words.

The theory is that, after a child has decoded a word a number of times, they will just know it and progress to more difficult words and sentences.

Canberra-Goulburn Catholic schools, as well as public schools in South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia, have trained their teachers to deliver this structured, explicit literacy approach.

Once Zoe was taught this way, she caught up to her peers within two years.

Ms Bogart says her family is an experiment that shows how effective the explicit instruction of phonics can be.

Her son Jagger learnt this way from the start, and the kindergarten student is already at a year 2 reading level, according to his mother, who has been on her own learning journey to teach her children at home.

Jagger had the benefit of using Zoe's old "decodable readers" — books that use a restricted number of letters and sounds the child has been learning. "There's proof there that those decodable readers work," Ms Bogart says.

Children like Zoe are known as "instructional casualties" by advocates of structured, explicit literacy.

Speech pathologist Scarlett Gaffey sees many of them in her Canberra clinic who are "failing to learn to read not because they can't but because they're not taught well enough".

"I'm working on other things like speech and language or stuttering perhaps," Ms Gaffey says. "But on top of that, because the school is teaching them using a 'balanced literacy' method, I then have to spend significant amounts of time teaching them to read."

Debate has raged for decades over the best way to teach children to read — whether that's focusing on the meaning of words in a balanced literacy approach, where students immerse themselves in literature, or focusing on learning letter-sound combinations, known as phonics.

Pamela Snow co-founded the Science of Language and Reading Lab at La Trobe University. She says the evidence clearly backs the explicit instruction of phonics and that reading, unlike speaking, must be taught.

"We know that children who are effective readers early on are the ones who have acquired those automatic decoding skills," she says. "What we don't want is for children to be taught strategies that effectively promote guessing."

Professor Snow says there is huge variation in how schools teach across the country, creating a "lottery" for parents. "Two schools only a few kilometres apart can be taking a completely different approach to reading instruction," she says.

"It's reasonable for parents to not give any real thought to the question of whether their child would be taught to read when they go to school — it's just assumed — and some will be lucky and some won't be so lucky. "But it shouldn't be a lottery."

Professor Snow says the stakes are high: children who are early strugglers experience a "multiplier effect" as they go through school, potentially facing a "lifetime on the margins of society".

"When that support isn't provided in a timely manner, the gap opens up — and it opens up early and it opens up very wide," she says.




Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Conservative State May Offer Students a traditional Alternative to the ACT and SAT

This year, Townhall reported how the United States Supreme Court struck down affirmative action admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. This change to college admissions sent shockwaves across the country

Now, one state is proposing a new kind of exam to offer as an alternative to the SAT and ACT, which would change up the college admissions process at public universities throughout the state.

This week, the New York Times reported that Florida is expected to approve a classical exam as a competitor to the SAT and ACT to “shake up the education establishment.”

Reportedly, the Classic Learning Test is an alternative to the SAT and ACT for some religious colleges and includes an “emphasis on the Western canon, with a big dose of Christian thought.”

This week, Florida’s public university system is expected to approve the test for its admissions, which would include Florida State University and the University of Florida.

“We are always seeking ways to improve,” Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the State University System of Florida, told the outlet.

Jeremy Tate, the founder of Classic Learning Initiatives, developed the exam. It includes three sections on verbal reasoning, grammar and writing, and quantitative reasoning.


Schools are cutting advisers and tutors as COVID aid money dries up. Students are still struggling

Davion Williams wants to go to college. A counselor at his Detroit charter school last year helped him visualize that goal, but he knows he’ll need more help to navigate the application process.

So he was discouraged to learn the high school where he just began his sophomore year had laid off its college transition adviser – a staff member who provided extra help coordinating financial aid applications, transcript requests, campus visits and more.

The advisers had been hired at 19 schools with federal pandemic relief money. In June, when Detroit’s budget was finalized, their jobs were among nearly 300 that were eliminated.

Millions of kids are missing weeks of school as attendance tanks across the US

An unprecedented infusion of aid money the U.S. government provided to schools during the pandemic has begun to dwindle. Like Williams’ school, some districts already are winding down programming like expanded summer school and after-school tutoring. Some teachers and support staff brought on to help kids through the crisis are being let go.

The relief money, totaling roughly $190 billion, was meant to help schools address needs arising from COVID-19, including making up for learning loss during the pandemic. But the latest national data shows large swaths of American students remain behind academically compared with where they would have been if not for the pandemic.

Montgomery County schools, the largest district in Maryland, is reducing or eliminating tutoring, summer school, and other programs that were covered by federal pandemic aid. Facing a budget gap, the district opted for those cuts instead of increasing class sizes, said Robert Reilly, associate superintendent of finance. The district will focus instead on providing math and reading support in the classroom, he said.

But among parents, there’s a sense that there remains “a lot of work to be done” to help students catch up, said Laura Mitchell, a vice president of a districtwide parent-teacher council.

Mitchell, whose granddaughter attends high school in the district, said tutoring has been a blessing for struggling students. The district’s cuts will scale back tutoring by more than half this year.

“If we take that away, who’s going to help those who are falling behind?” she said.

Districts have through September 2024 to earmark the last of the money provided by Congress in three COVID relief packages. Some schools have already started pulling back programming to soften the blow, and the next budget year is likely to be even more painful, with the arrival of what some describe as a “funding cliff.”

In a June survey of hundreds of school system leaders by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, half said they would need to decrease staffing of specialists, such as tutors and reading coaches, for the new school year. Half also said they were cutting summer-learning programs.


Students at a regional Australian university told to 'reflect deeply' on career choice if they oppose more rights for blacks

A university professor is under fire for telling allied health students who don't support the Indigenous Voice to Parliament to consider a different career.

Charles Darwin University Associate Professor Bea Staley sent a pro-Voice email to speech therapy students suggesting they should rethink a career in allied health if they plan to vote No at the October 14 referendum.

'As you know, CDU has also taken the stance of a Yes vote,' Professor Stanley wrote.

'The speech pathology courses at CDU have been created with notions of equity and social justice at their core. We will be voting Yes.

'If you feel you are unable to vote Yes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' rights, you might want to reflect deeply on whether a career in allied health in Australia is really for you.'

Associate Professor Staley described the referendum as 'Australia's Brexit moment'.

'If we as Australians seek to move towards reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we must vote Yes,' she continued.

'A Yes vote will not make up for the atrocities of colonisation, but it is certainly a step in the right direction for a more humane and just Australian society.'

Federal NT Senator and prominent No campaigner Jacinta Price described the email as 'effectively bullying'.

She claimed concerned students had previously contacted her office regarding CDU's stance on the Voice.

'They no longer feel like they have the freedom to discuss – certainly this issue – and that they are being ostracised because the school, the University, took the position to support the Voice,' Senator Price told Sky News on Thursday night.

'This is a leadership failure, and I would call on the chancellor to correct this to ensure this sort of pressure isn't applied to students by their lecturers.'

'Universities are supposed to be spaces where debate is encouraged, where universities don't take a position on a political issue.

Sky News host Rita Panahi later described Professor Staley's email as insane.

Charles Darwin University vice-chancellor Professor Scott Bowman said the lecturer would be 'counselled' and stressed that anyone who votes No still make excellent healthcare workers.

'We respect everyone's right to hold their own views regarding the referendum,' he said.

'CDU has actively provided a platform for discussion and the exchange of well-informed ideas and points of view. 'We know that people who vote no will still make excellent healthcare workers.'

CDU is yet to comment on whether the matter will be investigated further but has reiterated its support for the Voice.

Professor Stanley supervises PhD students in her areas of expertise and has several active research projects.

'Bea's teaching and research interests relate to language development, literacy, diversity and difference,' her university bio states.

'Bea studies children and youth in the context of their families and communities.'