Friday, September 29, 2023

The Left's thought police are destroying America's colleges

The discourse surrounding campus free speech , or the lack thereof, is a political wedge on the Left between liberals and progressives.

On one hand, liberals have joined the conservative outcry against campus hall monitors who sanctimoniously police university classrooms for violators of anti-racist and woke gender ideology. On the other, progressives defend their illiberal tactics and wither at the thought of state legislatures and governors stepping in to strengthen the values of the First Amendment .

The tension is at the heart of United States politics. Have institutions, including the university system, been so thoroughly captured by anti-American and illiberal ideology that the government must step in to restore viewpoint diversity, free thought, and free expression?

To help answer the question, as chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, I investigated the state of free speech on college campuses and released the findings in a report .

The thrust of the report paints a grim picture: free speech is all but an illusion for many college students, teachers, and administrators.

The report highlights university policies that are flagrantly anti-free speech. Take, for example, the oxymoronically named “free speech zones,” which limit speech to highly regulated and often out-of-the-way areas of campus. Modern universities purport to be places of free debate and open discussion, but in fact, this freedom is often forced out of the classroom, where instead, students are expected to parrot their professors and peers. This policy is clearly unconstitutional, and yet dozens of schools maintain it.

Policies such as these are the reason nearly two-thirds of college students believe their campus climate prevents individuals from speaking freely on campus. These numbers are chilling.

They also reveal the extent to which universities, in practice and often in policy, have strayed from what the Supreme Court has long established: that “state colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment.”

Yet university culture is directly at odds with free speech principles. Colleges and universities have used taxpayer dollars to subsidize culturally one-sided woke faculty and administrators and to allow shout-downs , disinvitations of speakers, and “ cancelations .” A recent survey found that almost two-thirds of college students see no problem with shouting down speakers on campus, and nearly one in five considers it acceptable to use violence to stop certain speech.

Moreover, many universities require lock-step discipleship behind woke policies and politics. Coerced conformity is antithetical to academic freedom, and yet, increasing numbers of schools use political tests to exclude dissenting positions and ensure conformity. Currently, one in five schools requires faculty candidates to provide a statement on their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Take the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, which announced that by the 2024-2025 academic year, candidates seeking promotion or tenure must submit personal DEI statements.

Pushing the discipleship of DEI is not only happening at the faculty level. Over 90% of freshman orientation programs across the nation included DEI programming, while only 30% reviewed free speech or viewpoint diversity.

The fundamental telos of every academic institution is – or should be – the relentless pursuit of truth. The rampant censorship described by the committee report undermines that pursuit, but the report also offers possible solutions.

If colleges and universities cannot safeguard diversity of thought among their students and faculty on their own, then Congress may look to where the law could assist institutions in upholding First Amendment rights. Committee recommendations include institutional disclosure requirements, adoption of free speech statements, and prohibitions on the use of political tests.

Congress is not merely free to uphold the First Amendment rights of students and faculty – it is obliged to do so. Remaining silent on this issue is an easy way to lose forever these institutions to progressives who have no moral qualms about turning the university from the free market of ideas into a monolithic echo chamber of woke viewpoints.

Liberty is endowed to the people by our creator, not by government institutions. The government, therefore, has the moral obligation to protect and defend that liberty in the context of taxpayer-funded institutions such as colleges and universities.

Bottom line: our university system has been captured by anti-American and illiberal ideology, and it is time to restore viewpoint diversity, free thought, and free expression in American universities.


Why have so many British parents stopped sending their children to school?

Breaktime at school, and 13-year-old Harry was crouching in the only place he felt safe — a bush in the corner of the playground.

Since returning to school after lockdown, he had been relentlessly bullied by a gang of children. 'I told loads of teachers multiple times. They never even talked to the bullies.'

That morning Harry had plucked up the courage to ask the deputy head if he could move to another school. 'The situation is even worse there!' he told the boy.

Now Harry heard the gang yell out his name. He felt so scared, he thought he was going to be physically sick. Suddenly he got up and walked out of the school gates. At home he told his parents, 'I don't want to go back. Ever!'

So he hasn't.

Around the country, children have been starting the new academic year. But an increasing number, like Harry, are being home-educated.

Indeed, the statistics are startling, as a report from the Centre For Social Justice (CSJ), called Out Of Sight And Out Of Mind, reveals. It estimates some 81,000 children were home-educated at the start of the 2021/22 academic year. That's equivalent to 80 average-sized secondary schools. Even more extraordinarily, half of those had only moved into home education since lockdown.

Local authority sources spoke to the Centre For Social Justice only on the condition of anonymity — proving how loaded the topic of home-schooling is. They revealed that, in some areas, home-education uptake shot up by 180 per cent when schools re-opened.

Of course, home-schooling has long been a feature of our education system, albeit a niche one — for wealthier families who can afford to have one parent educating their children, or for those who prefer a more alternative lifestyle. But as I've discovered in this exclusive investigation, the current explosion in home-schooling reveals something more disturbing than parents suddenly fancying a spot of teaching at their kitchen table — a worrying flight of children leaving state education.

And, make no mistake, the families abandoning formal education are not homeschooling because they want to. They are home-schooling because they are desperate. Last year, my two-part series for the Mail, The Lost Children Of Lockdown, revealed how profoundly teens and young children had been affected by Covid lockdowns.

Yesterday, the Education Committee revealed 22.5 per cent of pupils are consistently absent from school — almost double the pre-pandemic rate. It described this as a 'great concern'.

That might, in part, be explained by a study by consultancy Public First this month, which showed that factors such as Covid, teachers' strikes and, most recently, the RAAC concrete scandal, have also contributed to a 'seismic shift' in parental attitudes towards education.

Pre-pandemic, ensuring daily attendance was considered a tenet of good parenting, but now it's socially acceptable to take children on holiday in term time. From there, it's not such a big step to abandoning school altogether.

I found every sector of society was affected — from the most comfortable to the poorest: middle-class families; single parents; ethnic minorities; even parents whose own education was so bad they are, in effect, functionally illiterate — all forced to home-educate.

All pointed to an education system in crisis. Some parents felt schools were failing their children academically or emotionally, painting a picture of a generation of children anxious in the aftermath of lockdown.

Others felt they were hotbeds of violence and bullying. Some cited a new educational 'woke' agenda which they felt had become uncomfortably prevalent, and was being presented to children at far too young an age.

And — as is always the case — I found the poorest hardest hit, with an absence of guidance or financial support.

'Home education is changing out of all recognition at the moment,' explained Jacky, the lead for home education at a local authority in the north of England, who spoke to me off the record.

'Covid revealed a lot,' added Ziggy Moore, founder of Moore Education, an online tuition programme for maths and English, who has seen a boom in business because of parents home-schooling and also using private tutors.

Thanks to online lessons during lockdown, parents observed how schools were educating their kids up close — and what they saw did not please them.

'I am now seeing with my own eyes that you are not educating my child to a level that is even passable. I can see first-hand how it's not benefiting my child,' as one African Caribbean mother from Brixton, South London, remarked about her 12-year-old daughter's school.

She now home-schools her, assisted by a part-time job with the local council which means she can work flexibly. She hopes to do the same with her two other children.

She's not alone. 'Online learning was a joke in my child's school,' said one parent. 'Some teachers disappeared abroad, we heard. And they never marked my son's work,' said one mother who now home schools, but to do so had to give up her job and go on benefits. 'Money is tight, I can tell you,' she admitted.

Some previously unhappy children blossomed away from school — especially those with special educational needs (SEN), such as the children of Natasha, who is self-employed and lives in a prosperous market town in the Midlands.

'My twins were failed by the school system from the moment they entered it,' she said. She saw her primary-aged twins just parked in a classroom with one teaching assistant and a group of other SEN children.

'Then, during the first lockdown, I was able to see the mental health issues and stresses from being let down by the school system melt away [from them].'

She started teaching them herself. Today, she says: 'My children are thriving. I have them back!'

Some parents acted to avoid disaster for their children's mental health. One single mother who lives in a leafy Essex suburb gave up a well-paid job in marketing to homeschool her child.

'She has suffered from anxiety and depression since lockdown and refuses to go to school. If I was not home-schooling, she would not have an education.' The school tried to help by offering flexible hours to her daughter, but as the mother pointed out: 'You can't force a 15-year-old into school.'

But even without the impact of lockdown, many no longer see school as a safe place, thanks to bullying and social media spats boiling over.

'My children need safeguarding from school,' said one father from Norfolk. He caught his teenage son stealing a kitchen knife from the house 'for a showdown with another lad'. They had been exchanging threats on Snapchat all night.

For today, social media means bullying continues 24/7 on children's smart-phones, with feuds erupting into sickening violence — no doubt contributing to the fact that, shockingly, boys under 16 are most likely to be stabbed on the way home from school.

'Around here,' said the Norfolk father who has reluctantly started home-schooling, 'you hear the police sirens at 8am then again at 3.49pm.'

It's not surprising, then, that parents of home-schooled teenage boys see a substantial reduction of peer-group influence and online bullying.

I also found home-schooling burgeoning among ethnic minorities. As one African Caribbean mother from Streatham, South London, explained: 'School is where our boys start on the trajectory to gangs, crime and prison. Why would I set my child on that path?'

Her son is 15. She credits home-schooling with the fact that he is focused on his education and hasn't been drawn into gang culture.

The curriculum is another cause for concern. Emily, from an upper-middle-class family, worked for a charitable foundation until an incident at her daughter's state school forced her to opt for home-schooling.

Her seven-year-old daughter had become increasingly anxious and depressed. 'She finally admitted she was scared men with terrifying weapons were going to come and take her away and told me: 'And I won't see you again!' '

Baffled, Emily looked through her daughter's school workbooks — and found they contained the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban aged 15 on her way to school.

'My daughter is seven. She does not know where Pakistan is. This is an issue in Islamic countries, but no teacher will point that out because it's considered racist. So my daughter thinks this is happening in Clapham.'

Another home-schooling mother who lives in Richmond, South-West London, discovered her seven-year-old son was encouraged to report on parents who held 'old-fashioned views' on trans rights and climate change. She said: 'My son's teachers are all young activists. They are trying to create a different belief system in my child which actively undermines my parental rights.'

I found some home-schooling parents were anxious about relationships and sex education classes. Indeed, Ziggy Moore explained that, for children from traditional communities, school can be a minefield: 'If you do not hold the prevailing view, you are in trouble.'

But the prevailing view changes from month to month and is very confusing for a child, especially for 'say, children from poor, African, church-going families whose parents work back-to-back shifts'.

They are unaware of the difference between LGBQ and LGBTQ or the potential offence leaving out a letter can cause. They soon learn.

Ziggy knows one West African 12-year-old who handed his relationships and sex education teacher a note two days before class. 'Please, Miss, don't ask me any questions. I will say the wrong thing and the other kids in the class will come after me.'

Three home-schooling Muslim mothers from North London told me they were disconcerted by 'the LGBTQ agenda that's being pushed onto our kids now', and what they saw as inappropriate sex education at too young an age.

One told me she also felt strongly that home-schooled children were more polite, articulate and confident than many of their school-educated peers.

While her child has been taught about the importance of diversity, trans rights and gay marriage, she believes the school failed her six-year-old on the basics. 'I had her in school for two years and she's so behind on reading and writing. The only thing she knows is what I've since taught her at home.'

Certainly, these parents felt they had no alternative. But the fact remains that little data is collected about home-educated children.

Indeed, nine in ten local authorities admit they are unable even to identify every child in home education. We have the highest rate of home education in Europe, but the least regulation.

What happens to these children? Do they pass exams — homeschooled children are not required to sit GCSEs — go to university, find employment, end up in prison? No one knows.

There is no legal obligation on parents to disclose their reasons to home-educate. In one local authority, according to the CSJ report, almost half of families did not give a reason at all.

In practice, home-educating means those 81,000 children could be anywhere. Enjoying an educational trip to a stately home. Selling pies on a market stall. Or on a train delivering drugs on county lines.

The only thing they have in common is that their parents have sent a letter to school de-registering them. Officially, at least, they are being 'home-educated', rather than just being persistently absent from school.

But even for those with the best of intentions, home-schooling can prove a challenge — especially for disadvantaged parents.

Just taking a GCSE can cost up to £300 each. Jacky, the lead for home education at a northern local authority, sees many families doing an excellent job. But many struggle. In the CSJ report, one local authority admitted that, of its 500 home-schooled children, only half were getting a suitable education.

Local authorities, too, are vague about what an education is — counting leaves in a park or baking a cake satisfies one, bedtime reading another. Working on a market stall full time — as one child was doing — does not.

The only tool Jacky has for children like this is a School Attendance Order, which is expensive to apply for and can take months to enforce, during which time the child is not being educated.

It's too easy for children simply to disappear. One officer admitted he had not seen a particular child for two years.

Harry, the bullied boy who walked out of school, shows the chalk and cheese elements of home education. Both his parents worked and could not afford to stop. Harry admits, left to himself, he would have sat in his room on his computer.

Fortunately for him, his aunt Mary stepped up. She explained: 'Not everyone has got a retired aunt with pointy elbows who was an accountant. And you need pointy elbows because kids like Harry have suffered so much.'

She was shocked to discover the lack of funds available for home-schooling families, and the complication of which syllabus and exam boards to choose. 'Every stage is a learning stage,' said Mary. 'But I like a challenge.'

She was dismayed to discover how far behind Harry was, and how damaged he had been by constant failure at school. He did not know his times tables or how to subtract. But she was soon rewarded by his transformation when they discovered physics together.

'That was the first moment I have been happy in years,' admitted Harry. Mary managed to get funding from a charity to pay for Harry to train as a car mechanic two days a week. He plans to have a career working with farm equipment.

The morning Harry got 100 per cent in an online maths quiz, 'he nearly cried', said Mary. 'I never got 100 per cent before,' Harry said. His aunt beamed: 'It's like changing someone's life story.'

What a shame it took such a crisis in his school, a place he should've been safe, to make that change


Why bad classroom behaviour is demoralising Australia's teachers

This is a major reason why I sent my son to a private school

Australia is facing a dire teaching shortage, and one of its root causes remains under-addressed: out-of-control classroom behaviour. Privately, and in online discussion groups, teachers report feeling burnt out and unsupported. They face defiant pupils, uncooperative parents and administrators with impossible expectations.

“I’ve been teaching for 22 years. Over that time student behaviours gradually worsened but this has dramatically accelerated since Covid,” lamented one teacher in online forum r/AustralianTeachers.

These anecdotes are backed up by large-scale survey evidence. In 2022, a Monash University study of 5000 teachers found that one-quarter did not feel safe in their job. In online forums, teachers share their war stories. “I’m on duty in a break and I go to tell a group of kids sitting out of bounds and out of sight to come back, and they just say ‘nah, we’re not gonna do that’,” writes one teacher.

“I signed up to teach not to manage behaviour. I always knew I would have to deal with some behaviour, but not to the point where my class has to be evacuated for safety,” reports another.

Forget about microaggressions, or poor-taste jokes (reasons for other workplaces to be described as “toxic”) for teachers, a toxic workplace consists of chairs being thrown around rooms, and weapons being brought to class.

“I’ve had to confiscate knives from students and I’ve been punched in the stomach while pregnant by a student,” reported one teacher in a 2019 study. And it isn’t just the experiences of those teachers who post online. A 2021 survey of 570 Australian teachers found that: “Behaviour management was … frequently nominated by teachers as the greatest challenge they face. Teachers explained that just a small minority of disruptive students can have a large and negative impact on the majority, and that managing these behaviours takes even further time away from teaching. Sixty-eight per cent of teachers indicated they spend more than 10 per cent of their day managing individual student behavioural issues. Seventeen per cent said that this consumes over half their day.”

Parents are not much help, either. Teachers report the parents of defiant pupils often have uncooperative attitudes themselves, and can be dismissive of their child’s bad behaviour. One teacher online shares their daily routine of emailing parents about their child’s disorderly conduct, only to receive such responses as “hahaha sounds like them”.

Within three years, NSW is projected to have a shortfall of 1700 secondary teachers, according to federal Department of Education modelling. And this shortage will be most acute in science and mathematics. This is part of a broader trend across Australia, where more than 9000 secondary teachers are expected to be in short supply, and more than 50,000 teachers are anticipated to leave the profession between 2020 and 2025, including 5000 aged 25 to 29.

Currently, one in five pupils in regional NSW is taught maths by a non-specialist teacher, and up to 70,000 pupils could be affected by teacher shortages by 2030. Despite a government strategy to add 3700 teachers over the next decade, there is still no plan to address teachers’ work conditions, such as deteriorating classrooms and stress, in order to make the profession more sustainable.

So what is to be done? Greg Ashman, a deputy principal and education researcher, argued in a NSW Senate inquiry earlier this year that the first step to fixing a problem is recognising there is one.

The Senate inquiry’s terms of reference emphasised that, based on a 2018 Program for International Assessment analysis, Australian classrooms are some of the most chaotic globally, ranking 69th out of 76 jurisdictions.

Ashman argues that part of the issue is that our education bureaucracy is influenced by ideologies that do not recognise bad behaviour for what it is. Poor behaviour is interpreted as a “form of communication,” meaning a child or teenager is in need of extra support, not consequences.

This is reflected in the comments posted by teachers in online forums: “Apparently we are not supposed to use the term ‘behaviour’ anymore,” wrote one teacher just this week. “Apparently behavioural issues are ‘wellbeing’ issues. And behaviour is a stigmatising term for young people.”

In some cases, bad behaviour is medicalised as Oppositional Defiant Disorder – a disorder that is recognised by the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5). It may be appropriate to use this label in some cases. However, once a disorder has been diagnosed, all consequences can be interpreted as “discrimination”. Schools are required to be “inclusive” and that means being inclusive of children with ODD.

Disability and mental health diagnoses of all types are on the rise. Last year, 22.5 per cent of schoolchildren in NSW were identified as having at least one “disability”, a label that often works as a get-out-of-consequences-free card.

Given the war stories and dire statistics, perhaps it should be no surprise that 40 per cent of teachers leave the profession within just five years. We do not expect other professionals to work in environments where they are disrespected and, at times, abused just for doing their jobs.

But ultimately, the real victims in all of this are the pupils who are just trying to learn. Disruptive children make it hard for everyone to concentrate, and one problem child can detrimentally impact an entire classroom.

Given the lack of control in our classroom environments, perhaps it is no surprise our literacy and numeracy standards continue to decline. Despite the hundreds of billions spent on education.




Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Freedom of Choice in Education: the Origins of a Slogan

American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten is currently taking heat for her attempts to revive an old smear against school vouchers. In a recent interview, the teacher’s union boss claimed that pro-voucher slogans about “choice” were really coded dog whistles from the segregationist era.

Weingarten has a long history of falsely claiming that vouchers originated as part of the backlash against the 1954 desegregation ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. In reality, the concept of school choice traces back centuries prior. It can be found in the works of classical liberal philosophers Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and John Stuart Mill, all of whom were also outspoken antislavery men. As a matter of education policy, the first voucher programs came to the United States in the late 19th century, when towns in rural New England set up a town-based tuitioning system that offered students a choice in public schooling.

Voucher opponents have nonetheless pushed the line that the idea grew out of the segregationist backlash to Brown v. Board in the 1950s south. In addition to its anachronism, this claim is at odds with historical evidence. In Virginia, which adopted a voucher-like tuition grant system in 1959, several segregationist hardliners mounted a campaign against the program. According to their openly racist arguments, vouchers would open the door to the “negro engulfment” of formerly all-white public schools by giving African-American students the ability to transfer schools. This practice undermined some of the main segregationist tactics for slowing the implementation of Brown: the use of enrollment caps, geographic zoning, and other barriers to impede the enrollment of black students.

Weingarten’s own union forebears had direct culpability in these racist actions. The Virginia Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, linked arms with segregationist attorney John S. Battle, Jr. to attack the tuition grants. In 1961, the union launched a lobbying campaign to restrict their use after a Richmond newspaper reported that many parents were using the grants to move their children out of segregated schools and into integrated institutions.

In this case, Weingarten’s latest argument carries the added twist of a new historical falsehood.

In January of 1959 that year, the Virginia assembly was thrown into chaos after a pair of court rulings struck down the segregationist “Massive Resistance” program of US Senator Harry Flood Byrd and his political machine. Seizing the opportunity to outflank Byrd, an unusual coalition of moderate segregationist “cushioners” and anti-segregationists, the latter mostly from the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C., crafted a race-neutral tuition grant program as part of a replacement for “Massive Resistance.” Supporters dubbed the tuition grant system a “freedom of choice” program, which is the basis of Weingarten’s claim about language and the coding thereof.

As we dig deeper into the evidence though, an added complication emerges. The tuition grant provision originated on a subcommittee of the specially-convened Perrow Commission on Education, which was tasked with a legislative response to the court rulings. On that subcommittee sat Sen. John A.K. Donovan, an anti-segregationist from Northern Virginia. During the Massive Resistance era, Donovan provided one of the only consistent votes against the Byrd machine. He made a name for himself after Brown v. Board by denouncing legislative harassment of the NAACP by the Byrd machine.

Senator Donovan was also a voucher supporter with close ties to the Catholic voucher advocacy group, Citizens for Educational Freedom (CEF). Records from the legislative proceedings indicate that Donovan was one of the main drafters of the tuition grant bill’s language

This historical detail matters, because in 1961 Donovan recounted these events in a letter to Father Virgil Blum, a priest at Marquette University who directed CEF’s national voucher advocacy efforts. Blum himself was an outspoken anti-segregationist, and encouraged his organization—with Donovan’s assistance—to file amicus briefs in the ongoing court battles against Prince Edward County, Virginia, a “Massive Resistance” holdout that shuttered its school system to prevent integration.

In their 1961 correspondence, Blum noted that he had made use of the “freedom of choice” slogan to advocate for vouchers. As Donovan quipped in return, “incidentally, I am to blame for Virginia’s school plan being titled ‘freedom of choice.’” He recounted that he used this phrase in a press statement as the bill was being unveiled. Thereafter, “the Governor and the press called it the ‘freedom of choice plan.’”

Blum responded to Donovan, stating “I am happy that you supplied the title ‘freedom of choice’ to the Virginia school plan. If this term should receive a general acceptance throughout the United States, it would serve to point up the fundamental issue of the civil rights of parents in the choice of a school for the education of their children.” Blum had a reason of his own to appreciate the slogan. Around the same time as the events in Virginia, he published a short book entitled Freedom of Choice in Education, laying out the philosophical case for school vouchers.

As these details reveal, the language of “choice” traces back to a voucher-supporting state senator and a voucher-supporting Catholic priest. Incidentally, that state senator provided a lonely voice against the very same segregationist “Massive Resistance” movement that Weingarten invokes to smear voucher advocates today. And the same Catholic priest denounced the segregationist alliances that Virginia’s teachers union embraced.


Pennsylvania Students Protest Pro-Trans Bathroom Policy

High school students in the Keystone State are protesting transgender ideology in their bathrooms. Hundreds of students in the Perkiomen Valley School District north of Philadelphia staged a walkout on Friday, in response to the school board allowing students who identify as transgender to use whichever bathroom they like.

A policy barring students who identify as transgender from accessing bathrooms that don’t correspond to their biological sexes was proposed at a school board meeting Monday of last week. After a four-hour board meeting, five board members voted against the policy and four voted in favor of it.

John Ott, the student who organized the subsequent walkout, explained, “Kids were upset. Girls—we wanted to protect them. They were upset. They didn’t want men in their bathroom.”

Ott’s mother, Stephanie, added, “The safety of females is so important and these students that stood out that walked out, they are to be commended. They have courage and they exercised their First Amendment rights. This is about protecting our children and our privacy and boys and girls. It’s simple biology.”

Student Victoria Rudolph said, “There needs [sic] to be some changes. It’s just uncomfortable, seeing 19-year-old men or 18-year-old men in the bathroom.”

The Perkiomen Valley walkout comes in the midst of a nationwide debate over the transgender agenda in classrooms, including in school bathrooms.

In California, for example, the state’s attorney general is suing school districts for implementing parental notification policies, requiring staff and faculty to alert parents when students attempt to socially transition genders, including when students use bathrooms that don’t correspond to their biological sexes.

Despite this, a growing number of Golden State school boards are implementing these policies, and parents have introduced ballot initiatives to combat pro-trans legislation. Those ballot initiatives make parental notification policies mandatory and require students who identify as transgender to use the bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams that correspond to their biological sexes.

In August, a judge in New Jersey also barred Garden State school districts from implementing parental notification policies, despite a wide number of New Jersey residents—including a majority of Democrats—favoring such policies. In Maryland, a federal judge ruled that parents can’t opt their children out of LGBT propaganda sessions in elementary schools, even when invoking religious liberty.

Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia first drew national attention to the transgenderism-in-schools debate back in 2021 after implementing numerous pro-trans policies and firing or suspending teachers for refusing to go along with the program.

Perhaps most notably, the school board was intensely criticized for allowing at least two female students to be raped and sexually assaulted by a male student who identified as “gender fluid,” and attempting to cover up the assaults.

The first rape occurred in a women’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School, when a 12-year-old girl was forcibly sodomized by a male student. Later, when attempting to approve a policy allowing trans-identifying students to use the bathrooms of their choice, the school board denied any knowledge of the rape, even when questioned by the victim’s father.

Just as students are now doing in Pennsylvania, students at Broad Run High School in Loudoun County staged a walkout after the school board’s complicity in the rape was revealed.


School District Can’t Punish Teachers Who Refuse to Lie to Parents About Their Children, Court Rules

A federal judge has blocked a Southern California school district from punishing teachers who notify parents about their child’s purported gender transition in violation of district policy.

One of the lawyers who represented the teachers claims the ruling provides a “framework” for striking down policies banning parental notification across the country.

“It’s hard to overstate the significance of this ruling. There’s really nothing like it nationwide,” Paul Jonna, special counsel at the Thomas More Society and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP, told The Daily Signal in a statement Tuesday. “These gender policies at schools are dangerous and unconstitutional, and this ruling provides a framework for striking them down nationwide.”

“We know this fight is far from over, but the Thomas More Society is committed to seeing it through to the end,” Jonna added. The Thomas More Society, a not-for-profit public interest law firm, focuses on cases involving life, family, and freedom.

The Thomas More Society represents Elizabeth Mirabelli and Lori Ann West, two teachers in the Escondido Union School District with 55 years of experience between them. The teachers sued the school district after it established policy Administrative Regulation 5145.3, which mandates that teachers and school staff will immediately accept a student’s expressed gender identity and bars teachers from revealing the student’s claimed gender identity to parents or guardians unless the student consents to notifying them.

In a training session on Feb. 3, 2022, a district instructor told teachers that if they revealed a student’s stated transgender identity to parents or to other “individuals who do not have a legitimate need for the information,” that would be considered discriminatory harassment punishable under a policy the district adopted in 2003.

In August 2022, the teachers received an email with a list of students, including their preferred names and pronouns. The list included directions on whether teachers could disclose the names and pronouns to the students’ parents or guardians. Mirabelli reportedly received an email with a list of students like this: “[student name]: Preferred name is [redacted] (pronouns are he/him). Dad and stepmom are NOT aware, please use [redacted] and she/her when calling home.”

Mirabelli and West sued the school district, the California Board of Education, and the state superintendent of public instruction, claiming AR 5145.3 violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

Judge Roger T. Benitez in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled Thursday that the teachers are likely to prevail on their religious freedom claims, and he granted a preliminary injunction preventing the school district from punishing Mirabelli and West if they notify parents about their kids’ stated transgender identities.

Benitez, an appointee of President George W. Bush, noted that the district considers “communicating to a parent the social transition of a school student to a new gender” to be “discrimination/harassment” despite “having little medical or factual connection to actual discrimination or harassment.”

He ruled that Mirabelli and West “are entitled to preliminary injunctive relief from what the defendants are requiring them to do here, which is to subjugate their sincerely-held religious beliefs that parents of schoolchildren have a God-ordained right to know of significant gender identity-related events.”

Benitez cited nine Supreme Court rulings declaring that “parents have a right, grounded in the Constitution, to direct the education, health, and upbringing, and to maintain the well-being of, their children.”

“Parental involvement in essential to the healthy maturation of schoolchildren,” he wrote. “The Escondido Union School District has adopted a policy without parent input that places a communication barrier between parents and teachers. Some parents who do not want such barriers may have the wherewithal to place their children in private schools or homeschool, or to move to a different public school district. Families in middle or lower socio-economic circumstances have no such options.”

“For these parents, the new policy appears to undermine their own constitutional rights while it conflicts with knowledgeable medical opinion,” he added. “An order enjoining the new district policy is in the better interests of the entire community, as well as the plaintiff teachers.”

The judge cited Dr. Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist with 40 years of experience who claims to be a transgender woman.

“A school-facilitated transition without parental consent interferes with parents’ ability to pursue a careful assessment and/or therapeutic approach prior to transitioning, prevents parents from making the decision about whether a transition will be best for their child, and creates unnecessary tension in the parent-child relationship,” Anderson warned. “Nor is facilitating a double life for some children, in which they present as transgender in some contexts, but cisgender in other contexts, in their best interests.”

Benitez concluded that the school’s policy causes “a trifecta of harm.”

The policy “harms the child who needs parental guidance and possibly mental health intervention to determine if the incongruence is organic or whether it is the result of bullying, peer pressure, or a fleeting impulse. It harms the parents by depriving them of the long recognized Fourteenth Amendment right to care, guide, and make health care decisions for their children. And finally, it harms plaintiffs who are compelled to violate the parent’s rights by forcing plaintiffs to conceal information they feel is critical for the welfare of their students—violating plaintiffs’ religious beliefs.”

The judge ruled that it is unclear whether the teachers can prove the school district violated their rights to free speech, but the court can resolve that issue later, because the school district likely violated their religious freedom.

Both Mirabelli and West believe that God has ordained the relationship between parents and children and that God forbids lying and deceit.

Since teachers, rather than all school staff, were required to attend the February 2022 training, Benitez ruled that the school district’s policy was not “generally applicable” and, therefore, it is subject to “strict scrutiny,” a legal test to determine if the government violated essential rights. To pass this test, the government must prove that the policy is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.

The judge ruled that the district has not identified a “compelling government interest” in hiding a student’s stated gender identity from parents and that the district did not consider the “least restrictive means” in pursuing such a policy.

“In the end, Mirabelli and West face an unlawful choice along the lines of: ‘lose your faith and keep your job, or keep your faith and lose your job,'” Benitez ruled.

The judge’s ruling does not resolve the case. Rather, Benitez granted a preliminary injunction blocking the school district from punishing Mirabelli or West for disclosing students’ stated gender identities to parents. The injunction will only last until another order from the court, and the underlying case remains unresolved.

The ruling comes shortly after California’s Democratic attorney general, Rob Bonta, sued the Chino Valley Unified School District to block its policy requiring schools to notify parents if their children claim to identify as transgender. Earlier this month, a California superior court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Chino Valley policy.

Bonta and other California officials will likely defend policies that hide the truth from parents, but Benitez’s ruling may well provide a “framework” for striking down such policies, as Jonna suggests. In any case, these issues are likely to rise to higher courts, and parental notification ultimately may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.




Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Government Public Uneducation System

Over the last several years, there has been an undeniable decline in the public education system. As evidenced by the programs that have been invoked through past administrations, there is reason to suspect that the agenda is to intentionally create an entirely uneducated society.

In 2002, there was the implementation of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act that essentially placed all determination of a school’s success on getting every kid to pass identical tests throughout the year. It discouraged creativity and exploration in education and stifled the unique talents and strengths of every teacher that they might have otherwise used to help children develop a love of learning and forced both educators and students into a box with little chance to grow outside of that set space.

The Obama era Common Core system was met with mixed feelings at best. Teachers were forced to switch to this new method of instruction in English and math, while parents were caught in the weeds of helping their children with homework assignments based on what sometimes seemed like nonsensical methods. While Common Core was adopted by all but four of the 50 states, many have since abandoned the standard, as there was little evidence to suggest that it was having the intended effect of boosting educational outcomes.

However, despite the underwhelming delivery of these past programs, it is probably safe to point to the school closures during the pandemic of 2020 as having the most devastating impact on the educational progress of any generation in modern history.

Since then, studies have suggested that the learning loss for children kept out of their primary learning environment for this extended period may be years, and it is a loss that would be almost impossible to make up under the best of circumstances.

Even so, every effort should be made to increase the focus on material that would possibly accelerate the lessons for these students, foster an environment to encourage setting goals and reaching milestones, and work to overcome these unprecedented challenges.

But this is the year 2023. And virtually nothing makes sense anymore.

Instead, there are schools that have decided to ride the downward spiral set by the events of the last few years. There are teachers who believe that students will thrive if all obstacles and challenged are removed. As these students were pushed back down to the lowest rung of the ladder in their educational progress, their instructors have decided that it’s where they should stay.

In Portland, Oregon, proposals are being put forward that would essentially set a groundwork of failure for students who are already struggling. The New York Post outlines some of the practices for teachers to consider: “No more zeroes, no more 100-point scale, no more points docked for late work, and no more grade penalties for those who cheat.”

Of course, if anyone is to question the motives of laying out a plan that will clearly punish those who work hard and reward those who slack off or cheat, you will be called a racist. Apparently, this system is “about reducing bias” and “considering the diverse backgrounds and needs of students.”

Similarly, across the country in another blue-state dystopia, math scores plummeted by 26% in Brooklyn’s Math and Science Exploratory School. Instead of examining the teaching methods that were used and brainstorming ways to improve the approach so that students could absorb what they were being taught and bring their scores back up, the administrative body decided to remove the word “Math” from the name of the school entirely.

It is now just “The Exploratory School.”

Students are being robbed. The younger years of childhood are the most opportune stages of life where it is possible to bounce back, to overcome, and to regain lost momentum.

By contrast, to encourage kids to believe that being challenged is unnecessary, and to have the adults around them make the intentional decision not to improve their education, denies them critical aspects of their growth and development.

We know that when we are challenged, we mature and flourish in ways that we would not be able to otherwise. It is that space of discomfort and having our abilities tested where the greatest progress is made, remarkable levels of confidence can be achieved, and the highest points of potential can be reached.

Yet these kids will grow up without that understanding.

The people meant to lead them there are, once again, shutting down the most crucial aspects of their learning environment, and making it unavailable for the foreseeable future.


The Left’s Priesthood: How DEI Offices Weaponize Virginia Universities

Tyler O'Neil

Those of us who work in the capital city I refer to as “Mordor” have slim pickings on where to live, and I chose Virginia, which I consider to be the most conservative option. Little did I know, the Old Dominion ranks first in the nation for applying the Left’s most effective tool in weaponizing public universities: offices purporting to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

These DEI offices are the bureaucracy of the bureaucracy. They exist to push leftist ideology throughout the institution, hounding school administrators, staff, and professors to toe the line on “anti-racism” and gender ideology.

They represent a new priesthood pushing leftist dogma within noble institutions once dedicated to higher learning but increasingly acting as ideological factories that produce “woke” activists.

While corporate America has begun excising the DEI cancer, it has taken root and flourished in academia.

Last week, we saw DEI on full display when Virginia Tech’s DEI director, Catherine Cotrupi, used her publicly funded email account to forward someone’s email pleading with readers to campaign against school board candidates the email branded as “hateful.”

Why did the candidates qualify as “hateful?” Because they support Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s commonsense policies on transgender issues. Youngkin, of course, is a Republican.

One of the targeted school board candidates said she was considering filing a lawsuit. The other candidate is a father who personally experienced the “transgender” nightmare of having a school tell him it knows better than him what is good for his daughter.

From public comments on Facebook, it seems that some of Cotrupi’s colleagues have defended her, saying that it’s her job to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and that the school board candidates were spreading “hate.” Therefore, it is permissible for Cotrupi to use government funds to encourage people to campaign against these candidates—regardless of what the law or Virginia Tech’s official policy states.

This defense reveals the underlying mentality of DEI and why these offices pose such a threat to open discourse in American universities.

The email in question praises two school board candidates, one for attacking “anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric” by “comparing it to the racism she experienced growing up in the era of school integration resistance” and the other for opposing “the hateful proposals being set forth by the Moms for Liberty crowd.”

These sentences sum up the Left’s attack on the parental rights movement, specifically echoing the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As I explain in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC took the program it has used to bankrupt organizations associated with the Ku Klux Klan and weaponized it against conservative groups, partially to scare its donors into ponying up cash and partially to silence ideological opponents. In 2019, amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that led the SPLC to fire its co-founder, a former employee came forward to call the “hate” accusations a “highly profitable scam.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center puts conservative groups on a “hate map” with the KKK. In 2012, a terrorist used this “hate map” to target a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Although the SPLC condemned the attack, it kept the target of the gunman’s attack on its “hate map.”

Earlier this year, the SPLC added parental rights groups, including Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education, to its “hate map.” A few months before that, the SPLC compared the parental rights movement to the “Uptown Klans” of white southerners opposed to school integration in the 1950s.

It may seem an accident that one DEI director at Virginia Tech forwarded this one email opposing school board candidates and echoing the SPLC, but the DEI apparatus exists to forward a notion of “diversity” that brands opponents as “racist,” “bigoted,” or “hateful.”

Americans support the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the DEI movement defines these terms in divisive ways: Racial diversity counts, but ideological diversity does not. “Equity” translates to redistribution of wealth along racial lines rather than equal rules for everyone to succeed according to his or her effort and merit. “Inclusion” encompasses any sexual or gender “identity,” but rarely the Judeo-Christian principles that built the very universities these DEI offices subvert.

DEI also isn’t limited to Virginia Tech.

A Heritage Foundation report measured the size of DEI bureaucracies at the 65 universities that in 2021 were members of one of the Power 5 athletic conferences (the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12, the Southeastern Conference, and the Atlantic Coast Conference), finding that the average university listed more than 45 people as having formal responsibility for promoting DEI goals. (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)

DEI staff outnumbered professors at the average university’s history department (by a factor of 1.4 to 1). The average university had 3.4 employees working to promote DEI for every 100 tenured or tenure-track faculty members.

Although universities in California and Oregon employed many DEI staff, Virginia ranked No.1 in the nation for the most leftist culture warriors working full time, according to a recent Heritage analysis.

The University of Virginia listed 94 employees as part of its DEI bureaucracy, while Virginia Tech had 83 and George Mason University had 69—a far greater percentage of staff per 100 tenured or tenure-track faculty.

Virginians consider George Mason University a center-right school, but its University Life division hosts a “Black Lives Matter” website that recommends donating to or signing petitions for organizations that support abolishing police departments, engaging in Marxist revolution, treating Americans differently according to their race, and diminishing the nuclear family. The school’s “advocate” button links to an article entitled “Guide to Being an Anti-Racism Activist,” which implores readers to combat “systemic racism” and encourages white readers to acknowledge “the racism that lives within you.”

As Youngkin spoke at George Mason’s graduation ceremony in May, Galilea Sejas-Machado, a student who founded the Hispanic Latine Leadership Alliance (which appears to use “Latine” in its name and refers to Latino and Latina students as “Latinx”) and served as a student ambassador at the Center for Culture, Equity and Empowerment, held a sign reading “We Will Not Debate Humanity!”

Sejas-Machado had given a speech honoring “Indigenous communities and sovereign tribes,” in which she identified herself as “a strong, independent Latine woman.”

DEI activists have used the idea of “diversity” to set up an ideological bureaucracy in the academy, and this bureaucracy undermines the open debate and free inquiry that should define higher learning. These offices impose the tenets of woke ideology, from an obsession with race to the mandated belief that a man can become a woman just by saying so.

The Virginia Tech DEI director’s decision to use her publicly funded email account to oppose “hate” in an school board election marks one example of how universities’ DEI bloat impacts the world outside the ivied walls of higher learning.

As more students such as Sejas-Machado matriculate through these institutions, this ideology will spread far beyond the university.


Arizona State University’s Racially Biased Training Violates State Law, Watchdog Warns

Arizona State University officials appear to have violated state law by requiring staff to complete “racial equity” training, according to a new report by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.

Arizona has stringent laws against imposing training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—called DEI—in taxpayer-funded programs. These laws prohibit the use of taxpayer money for training sessions that assign blame or judgment based on race, ethnicity, or sex.

Arizona State University’s sessions, called training in “ASU Inclusive Communities,” require school staff to sit through lessons on how to “critique whiteness,” “white privilege,” and “white fragility.” The training claims that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are “systems of [white] superiority.”

Goldwater Institute, a free market think tank, describes this training as a part of what it calls the state university’s “DEI regime—a cancerous web of taxpayer-funded, racially discriminatory initiatives that are seeping into every aspect of university life, from faculty hiring to faculty training to classroom indoctrination.”

Goldwater also alleges that ASU, also in Phoenix, requires journalism students in its Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to take a “mandatory DEI course as a requirement for graduation.”

Stacy Skankey, a Goldwater staff attorney who authored the report, told The Daily Signal that the course includes units on preferred personal pronouns “and other biased language.”

This isn’t the first time ASU stoked controversy via progressive activism. In July, ASU professors told students not to attend a university event with Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk, resulting in donor Tom Lewis canceling future gifts to the university.

“Thirty-seven out of 47 faculty at Barrett signed a really nasty letter of condemnation for the event. You can find it online,” Lewis told the Daily Signal in an interview. “They were calling Prager and Kirk purveyors of hate and homophobes and things like that.”

Goldwater filed a public records request March 6 with ASU, asking for “copies of course syllabi for the ‘Diversity and Civility at Cronkite’ course for the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters.”

The think tank’s two requests for an update on the filing March 20 and 24 were unanswered. After an attorney requested an update April 7, Kimberly Demarchi, ASU’s vice president of legal affairs and deputy general counsel, replied that “some responsive records were gathered” and the school “would follow up in the next week with an update.”

Demarchi did not “follow up in the next week,” however. She didn’t respond until April 29, when she wrote that the university would not provide copies because of “copyright protection” for the course syllabi.

But no state or federal copyright law protects a state university’s course syllabi from a public records request.

Skankey’s report for Goldwater Institute concludes that “the school has delayed in providing full answers to what’s being taught in the DEI course, even though it’s public information under Arizona’s public records law.”

To combat Arizona State University’s apparently obstructive approach, Goldwater sent two letters to Fred DuVal, chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees and regulates the state’s public and private colleges and universities.

The two letters to DuVal allege that it’s illegal for ASU to be “spending public money and requiring faculty and staff to take the ‘ASU Inclusive Communities’ training course.” The letters cite state law (ARS § 41-1494).

“That statute prohibits the state and its agencies from: (1) ‘us[ing] public monies for training’; or (2) ‘requir[ing] an employee to engage in training … that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex,’” Skankey wrote.

Another letter from the Goldwater Institute, dated Tuesday, demands that ASU provide full access to the requested materials, threatening legal action if the university fails to comply with state law.

DuVal did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment by time of publication.

Jay Thorne, associate vice president of media relations and strategic communications for ASU, responded to The Daily Signal’s earlier request for comment after initial publication of this report. Thorne confirmed some of Goldwater Institute’s claims while disputing its characterizations of them.

Thorne confirmed that all undergraduate students in the degree programs for sports journalism, journalism and mass communication, and digital audiences must take a required one-credit course called “Diversity and Civility at Cronkite.” Thorne insisted that the diversity aspect includes conservatives.

Although he disputed that the course includes a “section” or “module” on personal pronouns, Thorne confirmed that it “does discuss the concept of pronouns (along with many other concepts) as it relates to gender identity.”

Thorne also confirmed that ASU employees receive training on “Inclusive Communities” in order “to ensure their success in working with a very large student community that comes from all socio-economic backgrounds from all 50 states and 150 countries from around the world.”

The ASU spokesman disputed the notion that such instruction is a “DEI program,” however.

“There are no required DEI programs for ASU faculty or staff,” Thorne said.




Monday, September 25, 2023

How the Supremes can head off back-door racial favoritism by US colleges

Legend had it that whoever untied the impossibly convoluted Gordian Knot would rule the world.

Facing the intractable challenge, young Alexander the Great took out his sword, cut the Knot and went on to conquer the largest empire to date, spanning Greece, Egypt and India.

We have a Gordian Knot today — in the form of the murky college-admissions environment that followed the Supreme Court ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

The ruling was plain enough: Students must not be treated in any way on the basis of race in admissions; that amounts to unconstitutional racial discrimination.

Yet the ruling set off a woke storm.

The White House blasted the ruling (though President Joe Biden never explained what about it exactly ticked him off), and Harvard immediately redid its upcoming admissions application form to help get around the order: Its first essay prompt now asks applicants how their “life experiences” shaped them in view of Harvard’s recognition of the importance of a “diverse” student body.

Expect the multibillion-dollar Diversity, Equity, Inclusion industrial complex to rack its brains finding schemes to circumvent the SFFA ruling.

DEI racketeers’ continued prosperity depends on their tenacity to subvert Chief Justice John Roberts’ dictum that the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to . . . stop discriminating on the basis of race. They’ll be searching high and low for ways.

Sure to come, then, is an unending stream of increasingly complex and stealthy schemes resulting in multitudes of expensive legal actions sure to keep lawyers busy for decades — all while allowing colleges to continue their racial discrimination.

The Supreme Court has a choice.

It can allow itself to be trapped into a war of attrition with the DEI establishment, and labor to unravel each and every twisty, stealthy scheme, now and to come, each with its double-speak, code words and plausible deniability. That would suit the DEI folks just fine.

Or, it can whip out a mighty sword and cut the Gordian Knot — by asking why colleges have a race checkbox in the first place.

Many colleges don’t ask for SAT/ACT scores any longer, because they say they fear triggering “implicit racial bias.” (They actually think the existence of scores data would add pressure to admit kids based on race-blind merit.)

They don’t ask for applicants’ (your child’s future roommates?) criminal history any longer, because, again, they say they fear triggering “implicit racial bias.”

Yet they explicitly ask for race? If they aren’t doing racial engineering, why track racial-engineering performance?

Might there be a legitimate need for colleges to collect self-identified racial information? That’s hard to imagine. For starters, self-identified race is hoax-ridden, with 34% of white college applicants pretending to be “minority,” per one study.

Furthermore, racial categories, in truth, have neither biological nor cultural validity, with neither “Asian,” nor “Hispanic,” nor “black,” nor “white” describing anything in common without engaging in at best ignorant and at worst toxic stereotyping.

Still, granting a theoretical possibility for a legitimate (constitutional) need, the Supreme Court could allow the collection and use of racial information, but it should subject such policies to the high legal standard of strict scrutiny.

That means colleges — and their regulators and suppliers — that want to collect or use such info may do so, but they must show that:

They have a legitimate need for it that cannot be fulfilled another way.

The use of racial information effectively addresses the stated need in a precise and measurable way.

The need (and policies) have an end date declared in advance.

The schools have put safeguards in place to ensure the racial information is used only for the stated need and duration.

This is precisely what the Chinese American Citizens Alliance-Greater New York asked the Supreme Court to consider in the amicus brief it filed Friday, along with eight other educational partners, asking the justices to hear an appeal by parents of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School in their lawsuit against their school board for racial discrimination against Asian students.

Such conditions would ensure that colleges follow the plain order in the SFFA ruling —that “what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.”


UK: Teachers who 'misgender' trans pupils are not guilty of discrimination, says equality watchdog

Teachers who ‘misgender’ trans pupils are not guilty of discrimination, guidance from the equality watchdog suggests.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) also urged the Government to publish its own long-awaited guidelines to give clarity to teachers and families.

Rishi Sunak vowed in March that official guidance on transgender students would be released before the summer break. But Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said in July that it would be delayed.

Yesterday, the EHRC clarified its own legal advice, deleting an example in an earlier version from 2014 to reflect that misgendering a pupil does not constitute discrimination.

The original guidance posed the question: ‘A previously female pupil has started to live as a boy and has adopted a male name. Does the school have to use this name and refer to the pupil as a boy?’

The answer provided said that to not do so would be ‘direct gender reassignment discrimination’. Misgendering a pupil would not amount to discrimination because they do not have the legal right to transition gender, it is understood.

Campaigners yesterday hailed the watchdog’s change in position.

Helen Joyce, from campaign group Sex Matters, said: ‘It’s very helpful that... the EHRC has finally removed this legally faulty example from its technical guidance.

‘The improvements will make it easier for the Department for Education to bring out strong guidance.’

Baroness Falkner, chairman of the EHRC, said the DfE should publish the guidelines as soon as possible, adding: ‘It is crucial we avoid any confusion on this important topic.’

This week the NHS published its own trans guidance for schools due to the delayed government document. It says schools should not let children who question their gender ‘socially transition’ without parental consent


Australia: Will no university students ever fail now?

British politician Enoch Powell famously said ‘All political lives end in failure’ – a proposition amply corroborated by his own career. Scholars are vulnerable to a similar fate. To paraphrase the famous anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, academics can be certain of two things: someday, they will all be dead, and eventually, they will all be proven wrong. (Sahlins’ tip for a successful scholarly career: make sure the first precedes the second.)

Even superstars fail. In a classic Nike advertisement, basketball legend Michael Jordan confesses to missing more than 9,000 shots and losing almost 300 basketball games in his career. ‘Twenty-six times,’ he says, ‘I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot – and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life.’ Then he delivers the line that has attracted millions of people to view the ad on YouTube: ‘And that is why I succeed.’

Jordan’s message is motivating and inspiring, but it’s also worrying. If failure is essential to success, then what are the prospects for our current crop of students who have never experienced failure of any kind? No school student is held back, summer school repeats are rare, and first-class honours are becoming the typical university grade. What happens when these students move out of education, where success is now the norm, to a world in which failure is ubiquitous? Never having had to deal with setbacks, never having failed at anything, will they have the capacity to cope? We will soon find out.

Over the past 20 years, government policy has resulted in an avalanche of university students. The highest-ranked institutions swept up the best-prepared applicants, forcing the less prestigious universities to lower their entry standards drastically. Not surprisingly, many of these poorly prepared students are finding themselves unable to complete their courses; dropout rates have climbed to record levels.

Under the rules governing accreditation, Australian universities have a legal requirement to ensure that the students they admit have the educational background and study support to complete their courses. It appears that universities have flaunted this requirement, so the government has stepped in.

In a daring display of its unshakeable commitment to the academic success of its constituents, the federal government has introduced legislation that could revolutionise, or perhaps obliterate, the way we understand the concept of failure. Call it the ‘No Student Left Behind – Especially If They’ve Failed’ Act. It’s an ambitious move, guaranteeing the total eradication of that ghastly ‘F’ word from the Australian educational system: failure.

The Australian government is mandating that university students who score less than 50 per cent in their exams shall be entitled to a slew of educational life-savers. University-funded tutoring, counselling, examination do-overs, special exams and extended deadlines are all on the table. With these bountiful resources at their disposal, no student will ever feel the sting of failure again. And to ensure universities are as invested in the success of their students as the government, a hefty fine of $18,780 per student will be introduced for those institutions that fail to help their students rise above the 50 per cent benchmark.

If Dante were alive, he might have added a tenth circle to his Inferno for the university administrators who will have to deal with this fiscal sword of Damocles. Instead of cramming more students into lecture halls and labs, universities will have to find funds for an army of tutors, counsellors and exam monitors.

But worry not, for the Education Minister has spoken: ‘Universities should be helping students to succeed, not to fail.’ It’s a comforting thought, almost reminiscent of a fairy tale ending. It gives students a cosy sense of assurance that the government is there, always ready to sweep in and replace the big bad wolf of failure with the benevolent fairy godmother of success. But will it work?

Tim Harford fears it won’t. In his book, Adapt: Why Success Always Follows Failure, Harford claims that messing up is central to learning. Students gain more from mistakes, blind alleys and dead ends than from success. Failures give students the opportunity to ‘pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again’.

Such resilience is essential because becoming an expert is a long process, at least 10,000 hours, says Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Expertise takes a long time to acquire because, outside of universities, 50 per cent is not good enough. The real world has higher standards. Businesses will collapse if their accountants are only 50 per cent accurate, computer programs that work only half the time are useless, and no one would be happy if surgeons fluffed half their operations. A 10,000-hour apprenticeship provides plenty of opportunities for students to learn from their errors, and everyone knows that practice makes perfect.

Failing is not only essential to honing one’s skills, but it also provides the chance to cultivate oneself (‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’). The character traits forged by experiencing and overcoming failure are necessary for success in any field. Tenaciousness, resilience, drive, perseverance and the ability to delay gratification while working toward a distant goal are just as crucial in achieving success as intelligence. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth calls this combination of character traits ‘grit’. It comes from confronting failure and overcoming it. Without failure, progress is impossible.

Universities, faced with high costs and potential fines, may be tempted to take the easy way out and pass every single student. That view might sound cynical, but it is realistic. Will a university degree retain its lustre when passing becomes an expected, almost mundane occurrence rather than a reward for hard work, grit and resilience? If everyone is a winner, is anyone winning anything at all?

But these are long-term concerns and our politicians are unable to think beyond the next election campaign. They look forward to offering voters a world where failure ceases to exist and success requires no effort. A world in which every student gets a degree just for showing up.

It’s an idyllic vision that might catch on across the globe. Imagine a future in which everyone gets a shot at the Grand Dream, even if their exam scores are below 50 per cent, a time in which the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ has shut its doors forever. Fans of Horatio Alger novels, the stoic pioneers who defined the ethos of hard work and success through perseverance, must be turning in their graves.

The moral of the story, dear reader, is that university failure is on the brink of extinction. At least, it is Down Under. This extraordinary development will have vast repercussions for education, success, and the very nature of our universities.

Of course, we want our students to succeed. But passing every student will ensure just the opposite. By preventing students from experiencing failure, we will keep them from gaining the self-confidence that comes from overcoming it.

If we want young people to be able to handle life’s inevitable slings and arrows, then for their own sake, we must let them fail.




Sunday, September 24, 2023

Fury as ZERO children at 13 Baltimore state schools pass math exam - as parent groups call on leaders to step down

Baltimore is very Leftist and very black. Some very intensive tutoring would be needed to turn the situation around. It doesn't seem likely to happen

A slate of Baltimore schools have sparked outrage after zero students passed their state math exams - with almost 75 percent testing at the lowest possible score.

The poor performances came in the latest round of Maryland's state testing, where 13 high schools in the city - a staggering 40 percent - failed to produce a single student with a 'proficient' score in math.

'This is educational homicide,' said Jason Rodriguez, deputy director of Baltimore-based nonprofit People Empowered by the Struggle, to Fox Baltimore.

The activist said there is 'no excuse' for the failure, which has come after years of warnings over the city's poor education standards.

It also comes days after a scathing new study found that schooling across America fell to dire lows during the pandemic, concluding that one-third of fourth and eighth grade students can't even read at a 'basic' level.

The concerning results, which were first raised by Project Baltimore, also saw 74.5 percent of students in the 13 failing schools score just a one of four on their test - the lowest a person can score.

Some of the city's best-known schools, including Patterson High School, Frederick Douglass, and Reginald F. Lewis, made their way onto the list, while Baltimore City Schools also received $1.6 billion last year from taxpayers.

It was the largest funding the educational authority has ever received, leading to questions over where the money went.

'So, it's not a funding issue. We're getting plenty of funding,' Rodriguez said. 'I don't think money is the issue. I think accountability is the issue.'

Alongside the huge investment from the taxpayers, the school district also received $799 million in Covid relief funding from the federal government.

Rodriguez's group has previously held rallies over the mounting educational crisis in the city, and in 2021 led calls for Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises to resign over low test scores and falling graduation rates.

The frightening situation has come six years after another report by Project Baltimore again found that 13 schools in the city had zero students test 'proficiently' in math.

'We're still dealing with these same issues year after year,' Rodriguez continued. 'It's just scary to me and alarming to me because we know that what's happening now, you know, it's just opening up the floodgates to the school-to-prison pipeline.

'I'm beyond angry... This is why we've been calling for the resignation of the school CEO.'

While a lack of funding may not be to blame, a bombshell study published this month by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) found that 16 million students were chronically absent during the pandemic.

The millions of students had missed more than 10 percent of schools days during the 2021-22 year, twice the number seen in previous years.

More than eight in 10 public schools also reported stunted behavioral and social-emotional development in their students due to the pandemic, according to a May survey cited in the report.

Project Baltimore was reportedly able to produce the results through a source, and the state is not due to announce the official results until later this month. The results are allegedly expected to be heavily redacted to confuse the number of schools underperforming.

In a statement following the shocking test results, Baltimore City School District said: 'Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) appreciates recent one-time and ongoing increases in funding from our community.

'City Schools uses the funding to increase student achievement. Our complete 2023 Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) math data paints a genuine picture of our progress.

'But make no mistake: these recent increases do not diminish or patch over years of chronic underfunding that has directly contributed to our current outcomes. That recovery takes an equal or more significant amount of time to remediate.

'Right now, the facts are clear: City Schools' students have earned two consecutive years of improved scores on the math MCAP following national decreases during the COVID pandemic. Seven of eight grade levels experienced growth in math between SY2021-22 and SY2022-23, mirroring growth in Maryland overall.

'We acknowledge that some of our high school students continue to experience challenges in math following the pandemic, especially if they were struggling beforehand.

'The work is underway to improve outcomes for students. But treating student achievement as an 'if-then' proposition does a great disservice to our community.'


Former teacher of 30 years quits job over 'out of control' students, low pay: We've 'had enough'

Stacey Sawyer, former public school teacher of 30 years, discusses the state of U.S. public schools post-pandemic, teacher salaries, students' test scores and school attendance.

Teachers nationwide are quitting their jobs at an alarming rate. Florida's Lee County School District is dealing with a major shortage, with several teachers quitting after feeling financially undervalued and facing a lack of discipline among students.

Stacey Sawyer is one of the many teachers choosing to cut ties with her 30-year career as an educator, arguing that students' behavior has gotten "out of control" since the pandemic.

"The behavior issues have gotten out of control from a lot of things. There are no subs for teachers, so they're having to work during their planning and take over other classes," Sawyer said during an appearance on "The Big Money Show."

"Those classes are getting inundated with more and more students. The district just puts more work on to the teachers and there is no extra pay. And I think that teachers are just – they're tired. ‘Teacher tired’ is a whole different ballgame, and they've had enough."

The teacher shortage is not unique to the state of Florida. Some students are finding themselves in classes without licensed teachers while districts across the nation face shortages across the board – ranging from school nurses and psychologists to educators.

Clark County School District, the largest in Nevada and the fifth largest in the United States, is also the district facing the most teacher vacancies in the state.

Co-host Jackie DeAngelis asked the former teacher what she believes could be an impactful solution, and for her, the answer was simple: Higher pay.

"They need extra pay because otherwise it just seems like they're doing it all for nothing. They keep getting extra put on top of them. 'Do this,' 'work an extra hour after school' and 'work during your weekends,' and add more to it. And so the pay is not worth it anymore to some of these teachers," Sawyer said.

"They feel like they're being taken advantage of. And they are. And if you want to keep your teachers, especially your veteran teachers, your veteran teachers are going to be the ones that help you and that help the younger teachers. They need to be paid. And those younger teachers need to see that, 'Hey, the longer that I stay in the profession, I'm going to get paid more.'"

In correlation to the teacher shortage, the U.S. education system is experiencing "multi-decade lows" when it comes to student test scores, as noted by substitute co-host Lydia Hu.

Sawyer explained that students who are giving minimal effort are being "pushed along," allowing them to continue to under-perform. She argues that teachers are "doing the best" they can, but parents need to make sure they're getting their kids to school.

"We are seeing our students being pushed along. So, I've had students that have missed 70 some days of school, and they still got pushed along. They were given a test at the end of the year, and even given help on that test. And they passed the test, and they move them along," she added.

"I'm not sure if the teachers can do anything about it. We try we make phone calls. We try to get them in the school. We're doing the best that we can, but we need parents' help also. Parents need to make sure that they're getting their kids to school, and they're not."


West Point Military Academy Sued Over Race-Based Admissions

A conservative advocacy group that won a Supreme Court case against race-based enrollment policies at Harvard is now suing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, alleging that the academy's admissions policy is unconstitutional as it's partly based on race.

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed a complaint (pdf) on Sept. 19 at a federal court in New York, arguing that West Point uses race and ethnicity as factors in admissions, violating the Fifth Amendment's equal-protection principle.
The group wants the court to find the use of race in admissions at West Point unconstitutional and impose race-blind candidate evaluation procedures.

SFFA is the same group that won a case before the Supreme Court on June 29, reviving a strict interpretation of the 14th Amendment to make clear that equal treatment under the law bars discrimination based on race, even when that discrimination gives a leg up to groups considered "marginalized" or "underrepresented" in public life.
Heartened by its recent win against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the group has set its sights on purging the U.S. military—and West Point—from what it sees as woke policies.

In its latest legal action, SFFA argued that, for most of its history, the West Point Academy evaluated cadets based on achievement and merit—but that has now changed.

“Instead of admitting future cadets based on objective metrics and leadership potential, West Point focuses on race,” the group wrote in the lawsuit. “In fact, it openly publishes its racial composition ‘goals,’ and its director of admissions brags that race is wholly determinative for hundreds if not thousands of applicants.”

But "America's enemies do not fight differently based on the race of the commanding officer opposing them" and "soldiers must follow orders without regard to the skin color of those giving them," the group added.

However, West Point sets benchmarks for the percentage of each class that should be filled by people of different races and ethnicities, and it "meticulously tracks its compliance with those figures down to a tenth of a percentage point," the group said.

West Point has nearly 4,400 undergraduates. Of these, 2,693 are white, 483 black or African American, 545 Hispanic/Latino, 414 Asian, and 38 American Indian or Alaska Native, according to October 2022 data from West Point (pdf).

SFFA wants the court to declare West Point's admissions policy unlawful and block it, arguing that the academy "discriminates based on race."

"Over the years, courts have been mindful of the military's unique role in our nation's life and the distinctive considerations that come with it. However, no level of deference justifies these polarizing and disliked racial classifications and preferences in admissions to West Point or any of our service academies," Edward Blum, president of SFFA, said in a statement.

Asked for comment, the West Point public affairs office told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: “The U.S. Military Academy does not comment on pending litigation.”

On its website, West Point says that its Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program "formulates, directs, and sustains a comprehensive effort to maximize human potential and to ensure fair treatment for all soldiers based solely on merit, performance, and potential in support of readiness. MEO philosophy is based on fairness, justice, and equity."

West Point pledges to "ensure equal opportunity and fair treatment for all cadets, soldiers, and family members, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex (gender identity), or sexual orientation and provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior. "

This comes amid a broader critique that the quality of America's warfighters is being undermined by policies and actions that generally fall under the umbrella of "woke.