Thursday, December 07, 2023

Can We Save our Universities?

Stop giving money to elite institutions

It took the widely reported, repellent, and exempt wave of anti-Semitism and violent pro-Hamas protestors harassing Jews, finally to convince Americans that their own hallmark universities are illiberal centers of mediocrity and intolerance—and increasingly unsafe.

Of course, Americans had long known that something had gone wrong at their colleges. They had increasingly encountered college graduates who were poorly educated in basic skills and lacked general knowledge—and yet highly politicized, and intolerant of different views and opinions. Ignorant but arrogant is a sad way to start an adult life.

College, the public knew, has certainly eroded from our cherished idea of a four-year idealized respite from adult employment. It once was intended to be a place where youth learned to be open-minded, tolerant, skilled, and eager to learn the nature and traditions of Western civilization, art, literature, languages, philosophy, and history.

Instead, all too often “college” has now descended into a six-to-seven-year misadventure that nationwide often results in only half those enrolled ever receiving degrees. Nearly all sink deeply in student debt. And yet for all the borrowed tuition money, few prove capable of writing analytically, speaking articulately, or knowing the general referents, past and present, of their very civilization.

Students, especially at the elite campuses, learn to mouth monotonously accusations of “genocide.” “apartheid,” “colonialism,” or “imperialism.” But they lack the ability to define these nouns. As a result, they so often name drop empty slogans in the context of supposed Western sins.

Again, October 7 brought these sorry facts to national attention. Adolescent screamers on video showed no awareness that dropping leaflets and sending texts to avoid collateral deaths is not “genocide.” Most chant the “river to the sea” with no clue that it resonates the very ethos of mass murdering, mutilation, and dehumanization of Jewish elderly, women, children, and infants in the most savage fashion on October 7.

Accusatory students who scream “apartheid” seemed to have no clue that a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab, with citizenship rights that vastly exceed those in all other Middle East nations.

They have no notion of the ancient and long connections of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, or how in the world the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque found itself atop the far more ancient Herod’s Jewish Second Temple sanctuary.

As far as “colonialism” and “occupation” goes, they are clueless that the longest, non-Arab colonial rule of Palestine was the more than 300-years of often brutal Ottoman/Turkish imperialistic control. Nor do they have much knowledge of the repeated and combined efforts of far larger and richer Arab nations to wipe tiny Israel out, especially during the full-scale wars of 1947-48, 1967, and 1973.

Instead, politically correct orthodoxies, not the knowledge or logic, of a student, became the hallmark of an “educated” American graduate. Students and faculty were considered “moral” for proclaiming their devotion to diversity, equity, and inclusion, without a clue that historically unity, equality, and fairness were the better aspirations. Without formal study in civics and ethics, students learned that any means were justified to advance political aims merely asserted as morally superior to others.

After October 7, it proved a small campus step from years of institutionalized racially separated graduations, dorms, and campus centers to singling out and often segregating Jewish students from campus spaces.

At Arizona State, Jewish students had to be escorted by police from a campus debate event. Even 20 years ago administrators would likely have expelled those threatening violence—or been forced to resign themselves. Today, they are terrified of mostly foreign students who abuse their visas and seem to despise the host they dare not leave to return home.

Administrators at prestigious MIT admit that some of their foreign students are openly harassing Jews. But the university will not expel such anti-Semites in fear they might lose their student visas and thus have to return to their Middle-East homes and stew about their own miscreant behavior and ingratitude to their hosts. Instead, for college administrators, entitled, and full-tuition paying children of Middle East’s elites are seen as cash cows whose money masks their bigotry.

As a result, cynical MIT grandees now simply warn Jewish students where and where not it is safe to walk on their own campuses. And thus, they confirm the embarrassing reality that the university is either unable or does not wish to stop the systematic anti-Jewish hatred on their own turf.

Yet since when did such student guests in the United States feel empowered to shut down bridges during commute hours, tear down American flags on Veterans Day, and scout out and hunt-down Jewish-Americans on campus?

If universities canonize critical race theorist Ibram Kendi, who insists that “anti-racism” requires good racism to combat bad racism, then is it any wonder that professors of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and various studies courses at UC Davis or Stanford prominently harassed and threatened Jewish students, or at Cornell cheered on news of Hamas’s murder spree?

If campuses drop the SAT requirement, and no longer rank comparative high-school grade point averages, but instead rely on racial and ethnic quotas and “diversity statements” for university admissions, is it any surprise that insecure and passive-aggressive students feel entitled and exempt from any ramifications for their venom?

And if campuses are fixated on race and superficial appearances, and reward those who are supposedly not guilty of “white privilege,” it is easy to understand why anti-Semites believe they can justify their hatred by assuming Jews are guilty for being white, and they themselves exempt for being nonwhite bigots.

If the endowments of our top universities have reached record-setting multibillion-dollar levels, and if the billion-dollar annual income on those massive sums are non-taxable on the pretense campuses are apolitical and teach inductively rather than indoctrinate, then is it such a shock that exempted huge budgets lead to more staffers than students?

At Stanford, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that there were 16,938 graduate and undergraduate students, but they were out-numbered by the combined total of 15,750 administrators and their staffers, and 2,288 faculty. Would it not be easier and perhaps even cheaper just to hire one tutor for each student and forgo the administrators?

If anti-Semitic and racist professors enjoy life-long tenure, and if such guaranteed lifetime employment has de facto eliminated conservative voices among the faculty, why would any bigot mouthing genocidal chants ever worry about his job security?

So again, ignorant and arrogant describes what the public has concluded of campuses in the last few weeks.

In contrast, there is little such anti-Semitic violence at community colleges or trade schools, where the majority of students attends, and must work to pay for their education, and learn skills in a world apart from therapeutic gut courses. In truth, a multiple-choice American history test at a junior college now demands more knowledge from a student than the weaponized essay requirement of an Ivy-League -studies class.

Taxpayers soon will no longer wish to subsidize elite education, especially when campuses no longer can guarantee their graduates are broadly educated and their professional and graduate programs can no longer turn out top-flight experts and specialists.

So, what happened to America’s once monopoly on global excellence in higher education?

In a word, there was too much money—and too little accountability. Tuition soared faster than the rate of annual inflation. The federal government subsidizes almost $2 trillion in student loans, regardless of the quality of education the student receives, and often with the expectation there will be few if any consequences when indebted but poorly educated students’ default on their repayment obligations.

The professors who harass students, and rant endlessly off topic about current politics, are often not audited or reviewed on the quality of their scholarship and teaching as much as their political views, and their racial, gender, and ethnic status. Most have little knowledge of the reality outside the academic world—having spent their entire lives as students and then faculty confined to campus. Tenure is seen as a birthright rather than an ossified privilege only accorded to a tiny fraction of the workforce on the pretense that faculty should be heterodox, independent thinkers, without ideological blinders.

So, to save us from the monsters we created, Americans must get the government out of the student loan business. We must demand that universities’ endowments back their own student loans.

The government should tax endowment income and end lifelong tenure. Universities must expel and deport foreign students who violate campus laws as they violently act out their various hatreds.

Reinstate the SAT for admissions, and end racial quotas. And require a national SAT-like exit exam to reassure the public that graduates at least know more when they leave college than when they enrolled—an increasingly dubious assumption.

But most important of all: the public should stop giving money to elite institutions. To continue such philanthropy is akin to supplying heroin to an addict, gas to a fire, or fireworks to children.

Do not consider our prestigious schools any longer necessarily prestigious. Many are not. Do not hire a graduate simply because she graduated from Yale, or he attended Stanford—unless one prefers to risk dealing with an employee poorly schooled but likely to act out a pampered victim status and to disrupt a workplace.


If Your Kids Aren’t Happy at School, Find Them Another One

“I hated going to school when I was a kid,” said Elon Musk in a 2015 interview. “It was torture.”

When deciding how his own children would be educated, Musk rejected traditional schooling and created his own project-based microschool, Ad Astra, in 2014, on his SpaceX campus. “The kids really love going to school,” said Musk about Ad Astra in that same interview, adding that “they actually think vacations are too long as they want to go back to school.” In 2020, Ad Astra evolved into the fully online school, Astra Nova, and its popular math enrichment spin-off, Synthesis.

You don’t need to be a billionaire to find—or create—an ideal school for your kids. If they’re not happy at school, there’s never been a better time to exit for something else.

Today, there are many low-cost schools and learning spaces across the US that foster joyful learning—and they are becoming increasingly accessible due to widespread education choice policies that enable taxpayer funding to follow students instead of going to district schools.

“When schools are focused on the needs of adults rather than needs of children, the children will lose out and that’s what’s happening in many school systems around the country,” said Jack Johnson Pannell, a former public charter school founder in Baltimore who this fall launched a private microschool, Trinity Arch Preparatory Academy for Boys, in Phoenix. He specifically chose to open his small school in Arizona due to the state’s universal school choice policies and the relative ease of being an education entrepreneur there.

Pannell grew frustrated by the institutional constraints of traditional schooling that made it difficult to best serve students, such as the inability to add extra recess time, eliminate homework, or facilitate side-by-side, individualized learning—all of which are features of the Trinity Arch Prep experience. He believes learners and parents are growing similarly frustrated.

“Any kid who is walking into a traditional school and sitting in a chair for seven hours a day, five days a week, I hope they are screaming out to the educators: We can’t do this anymore! We don’t want to do this anymore! I’m not learning anything by preparing for this quiz and that quiz and that test, and fighting with the teacher whether the homework is done or read or not,” Pannell told me in our recent podcast interview. “I think children and families will demand real change in education,” he added.

Your children should be happy at school. If instead they dread Monday mornings or count down the hours until the weekend arrives, it’s a good sign they might be better off in a different school or learning environment. If you are spending what should be quality family time with your children on homework battles and arguments over test prep and grades, then maybe it’s worth considering other educational options where your kids will find greater happiness and fulfillment.

“The ultimate goal of the conduct of each of us, as an individual, is to maximize his own happiness and well-being,” wrote economic journalist and FEE founding board member, Henry Hazlitt, in Foundations of Morality. He went on to explain that “no two people find their happiness or satisfactions in precisely the same things,” which is why it is decentralized “social cooperation that best enables each of us to pursue his own ends.”

We are seeing how a decentralized education ecosystem is leading to greater happiness and well-being, as families find just the right learning fit for their children and educators rekindle their love of teaching as school founders.

For some students, the best fit might be a faith-based, character-focused microschool like Trinity Arch Prep, while for others it might be an Acton Academy, or a Sudbury school, or a classical school, or a Prenda pod, or a Montessori school, or a KaiPod, or a self-directed learning center, or a hybrid homeschool program or homeschool co-op, or a high-quality online school, or one of the thousands of independent microschools, learning pods, homeschooling collaboratives, and low-cost private schools sprouting all across the country.

As education shifts from one-size-fits-all, coercive schooling to a vibrant marketplace of options, individuals and families are better able to make learning choices that enhance their own happiness and well-being—however they define it.


Noise, chaos and disengagement: I was wrong about open-plan classrooms

As a principal, I got it wrong about open-plan classrooms. It’s an inconvenient truth for me to face, but the findings of the recently released Senate inquiry into teaching in Australia are too hard for me to ignore.

The inquiry was set up last year to examine why Australia was in 2018 ranked 69 out of 76 countries for “disciplinary climate” in classrooms based on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) surveys. Korea had the best disciplinary climate, while the United States was ranked 24th and the UK 28th.

It’s rare that I find myself agreeing with a Senate inquiry into education. And there’s plenty in its report released last week for me to disagree with, too.

For instance, the suggestion that we establish a “behaviour curriculum” where students are taught respect one more excruciating time by teachers already at their wits’ end squeezing in the complementary lessons on honesty, responsibility and empathy is just bonkers.

Only a staggeringly low level of consultation with actual teachers and a gaping gulf between what sounds like a good idea and what’s helpful could lead senators to suggest something so simplistic and preposterous.

So, let’s be clear on that one. Kids don’t become respectful via a mini-lesson on respect any more prevalently than they become serial killers when they read about Jack the Ripper.

All that said, the report’s assertion that we do away with the fad of open-plan learning environments, inspired by our unquenchable thirst to follow the lead of successful Scandinavian school systems, stands the test of logical scrutiny.

Many schools in perceived educational powerhouses, such as Finland, have removed the walls of the classrooms in an attempt to have teachers co-operate and collaborate more effectively.

It’s sound, in theory. Schools, for centuries, have been built like egg cartons and have denied teachers the very best professional learning they can access – seeing another teacher deploy the craft expertly.

And so, we removed the barriers in countless schools – like mine. I was the inaugural principal of a school built for co-teaching, a model where two teachers worked together with about 50 students.

We trained these teachers thoroughly using the work and guidance of international experts, even some from Finland. We paired the teachers for professional growth, rather than simply with their friends, and invested in healthy professional co-operation.

We certainly did more to prepare and train our teachers for a huge architectural transformation than many schools who knock the walls down with an “OK, let’s see how this goes” attitude.

The classrooms were fitted with acoustic paneling to mitigate the obvious risk of doubling the noise level of the students in a single space and the results weren’t entirely negative.

I paired one graduate teacher, who’d never taught a lesson before, with a brilliantly gifted and emerging leader. After 12 months, the grad had seen countless hours of exemplary classroom practice and his compatriot had won a promotion for her leadership and mentorship.

But were these gains worth it? I’d say no, firmly.

Despite our best efforts and the funky paneling, I witnessed noise levels above what I’d consider conducive to learning, thinking and problem-solving.

I watched problematic student behaviours become more difficult for teachers to identify and support. This was exacerbated by the square meterage of the classroom because the architects of the school had used the open-plan excuse to reduce the per-student space allocated to each classroom.

I saw panicked teachers revert to the senior of the pair delivering around 80 per cent of the student instruction while the more junior teacher waited nervously to come off the bench.

That’s not ideal. It’s really hard – like incredibly hard – to engage more than 50 students in how you multiply fractions when they’d rather be playing Xbox.

And I watched as our neurodiverse students and those affected by trauma struggled. In open-plan learning environments, these students too easily slip through the cracks while teacher attention takes a more group-than-individual focus.

Further, I’ve watched these students become genuinely disturbed by the noise levels. Nobody can learn, least of all these kids for whom education means everything to their future independence, when they’re freaked out by their environment.

So, I’ve concluded that my leadership of a school with a thoroughly open-plan intention was, on balance, a failure. And I don’t even feel bad about it.

Sure, I can be accused of succumbing to a little Finn-envy and agreeing to lead a school whose architecture would contribute to us learning a national lesson the hard way – by trial and error.

But that’s how so much great learning happens. Most adults reading this article didn’t learn that the stove is hot via parental insistence. Seared fingertips did that job for you, and it’s a lesson that taught you well.

Our schools should always seek opportunities to work differently and to help our rapidly evolving young people to engage effectively. But they should also be brave enough to admit it when their experiments and initiatives fail. Open plan is just such a failure.

We’ll discuss the absurd folly of respect mini-lessons another time.




Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Anti-Israel Protests Help Diagnose the University’s Ailment, But It May Be Too Late for a Solution

Machiavelli observes in “The Prince” that politics presents challenges akin to those physicians sometimes face: “ … in the beginning of the illness it is easy to cure and difficult to recognize, but in the progress of time, when it has not been recognized and treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to recognize and difficult to cure.”

So too for higher education in America: At this late date, our universities’ dysfunction—and the damage to the nation it has wrought—has become easy to recognize, but curing the dysfunction has become difficult.

The Hamas jihadists’ Oct. 7 atrocities in southern Israel may have provoked a watershed moment for higher education in America. Student and faculty expressions of solidarity with the mass murderers, university administrators’ initial confusion and missteps, and the eruption of antisemitism on campus compelled many who have long averted their eyes to confront our universities’ role in fanning the flames of division and discord.

However, since most university administrators, professors, wealthy donors, left-of-center commentators, and politicians of both parties have allowed the dysfunction to progress for decades without calling higher education to account or warning the public, only dramatic and costly interventions provide hope at this point of remedying the cluster of pathologies ravaging America’s universities.

Evidence that it is now permissible to speak in polite society about the dire state of our universities comes from The New York Times opinion page. Since Oct. 7, the Times has published several pieces declaring that our universities have gone badly astray and proposing measures to repair them.

These opinions are welcome, but tardy by several decades. They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of Band-Aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

On Oct. 16, in “The Moral Deficiencies of a Liberal Education,” Ezekiel Emanuel proclaimed, “We have failed.” As vice provost for global initiatives and professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Emanuel sees the failure as personal and professional: The transformation of our universities into boot camps for inculcating progressive opinions about social justice and disdain for other views proceeded under his watch.

Students blaming Israel for Hamas’ massacres and praising the terrorists “have revealed their moral obliviousness and the deficiency of their educations,” stated Emanuel. “But the deeper problem is not them. It is what they are being taught—or, more specifically, what they are not being taught.” Universities “have failed to give them the ethical foundation and moral compass to recognize the basics of humanity.”

A bioethicist, Emanuel calls for a two-course ethics requirement, and, more generally, the restoration of a curriculum built around required courses (he doesn’t say which ones).

Professors must cease their widespread dereliction of duty, he adds, which consists in refraining from challenging students’ opinions for fear of discomfiting or offending them. The aim is to rebuild undergraduate education “around honing critical thinking skills and moral and logical reasoning so students can emerge as engaged citizens.”

Emanuel’s measures move in the right direction but are inadequate to the challenge because they overlook how a proper liberal education itself furnishes and refines minds and provides an ethical foundation and moral compass.

The center of liberal education in America must consist in the study of the principles of freedom—moral, economic, and political—on which the nation is based and the constitutional structure and virtues of mind and character through which they are institutionalized and preserved.

Since those principles and virtues have a history, the broader Western civilization of which they are a part must also be studied. And since Western civilization revolves around the tension between individuality and our shared humanity, liberal education includes study of other civilizations.

On Nov. 8, in “How Are Students Expected to Live Like this on Campuses?” New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman observed that the numerous instances “of abhorrent speech by students and faculty members, mostly aimed at Israel, Jews and even Jewish students” raised pressing questions of free speech.

“How should a university respond,” asked Wegman, “when members of its community express sentiments that are at odds with the values the school is trying to inculcate, not to mention with human decency?” His answer was good insofar as it goes. “Speech should be presumptively allowed, as a basic principle of free inquiry and academic debate,” he asserted, while drawing the line at expression that concretely threatens, harasses, or incites to violence.

But are university administrators and faculty members disposed to vindicate free speech? Are they competent to draw the necessary lines? Are they prepared to face the mob? Wegman skirts these questions.

He acknowledges that universities have eroded free speech on campus, not least by instituting speech codes and by affirming campus orthodoxies on controversial political questions. His principal recommendation is mandatory free-speech training for first-year students to build “a culture of basic respect and listening.” But who will educate the educators?

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training.

Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

On Nov. 16, in “Universities are Failing at Inclusion,” Times columnist David Brooks also took grim, post-Oct. 7 realities as his point of departure: “Jewish students on America’s campuses have found themselves confronted with those who celebrate a terrorist operation that featured the mass murder and reportedly the rape of fellow Jews.”

Brooks blamed higher education for betraying its mission. “Universities are supposed to be centers of inquiry and curiosity—places where people are tolerant of difference and learn about other points of view,” he wrote. “Instead, too many have become brutalizing ideological war zones.”

“How on earth did this happen?” asked Brooks, who mentioned that he has “been teaching on college campuses off and on for 25 years.” He faulted “a hard-edged ideological framework that has been spreading in high school and college, on social media, in diversity training seminars and in popular culture.”

Although he said the framework lacks a name, it reflects a postmodern progressivism. It holds that group identity is more important than shared humanity; the fundamental social and political distinction is between oppressors and oppressed; a person in one group cannot understand a person in another; racism and bigotry are endemic to America; principles of freedom—free speech, due process, meritocracy—are tools of oppression; and affirming these dogmas of postmodern progressivism takes precedence over acquiring knowledge and developing intellectual independence and integrity.

It is not feasible, Brooks argued, to jettison the deeply entrenched campus diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracies that divide people into racial and ethnic groups, give preferential treatment based on group membership, and exclude dissenting views. Instead, he advocated the teaching of true diversity grounded in the remarkable achievements of American pluralism.

To help students understand that they “live in one of the most diverse societies in history” and prepare them to cooperate with others from different backgrounds and with alternative perspectives, courses should “explore diversity, identity and history from a pluralistic framework” and assign “a range of books on the social and moral skills you need to see people across difference.”

Brooks rightly espouses study of diversity in America and the means of preserving and enriching it, but he makes the same mistake as Emanuel and Wegman. All three suppose that special classes—on moral reasoning, free speech, and diversity—will provide an antidote to our universities’ ills.

Liberal education is itself the best means available for cultivating toleration and civility, virtues conspicuously lacking on campus but essential to freedom and democracy. The sciences and the social sciences mustn’t be neglected. But serious study of literature, history, and philosophy—at once questioning and rigorous, patient and probing, and determined to understand before criticizing or extolling—provides an incomparable tutorial in the complexities and continuities of morality and politics, the competing conceptions of the good life, and the basic rights and fundamental freedoms that are inseparable from human dignity.

That campus dysfunction is now easy to recognize but difficult to cure does not revoke the obligation to do what is in our power to repair America’s colleges and universities by providing students with the liberal education they need and deserve.


Eliminate Federal Intrusion in Education to Reduce Budget Deficit

Earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service slashed its outlook for the United States’ credit rating from “stable” to “negative” pointing to economic risks including high interest rates, the government’s steadily growing debt and political polarization in Washington.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, updated projections show a federal budget deficit of $1.5 trillion for 2023. By eliminating the federal government’s intrusion in education, annual government spending could be reduced by $725.8 billion. Not only could Congress dramatically cut the deficit, reducing debt in the long run, they could demonstrate political will and cooperation by collaborating to remove the unconstitutional federal encroachment on local education decisions.

The time is right. Parents are fed up with indoctrination in government schools and citizens are suffering from inflation, high interest rates and inexcusable debt accumulation.

Serious conversations are happening throughout the country about the legitimate and effective role of the federal government in education. Many on both sides of the political aisle agree the federal government has become unreasonably intrusive and ineffective in education policy and practice. Some states are even beginning to look at weaning themselves off the federal dole.

Spending for education in the United States has risen dramatically in recent decades. Federal elementary and secondary discretionary spending under the US Department of Education (USED) rose to $692 billion in 2022. This is in addition to the $9 billion in spending by the Department of Health and Human Services for Head Start and the Department of Agriculture’s $22 billion for Free and Reduced Lunch. The Department of Education has an administration budget of $2.8 billion and employs over 4,000 people.

Despite dramatic increases in federal intervention and funding in the public education system since the 1960s, educational achievement has not improved. The most widely used measure of school achievement are scores from National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which shows no significant change. Efforts to improve educational outcomes for low-income children have also been expensive and unproductive. Even the federal college grant and loan programs have been ineffective for students. The evidence is inarguable, the federal government’s intervention in education has been a dismal failure.

Moreover, the majority of nefarious pedagogies originate from the federal government and are incentivized with federal funding. For example, in 2010, the Common Core Standards were forced on states through “Race to the Top” federal grants. In 2021, to receive the third round of “COVID Relief” funding, state education agencies had to certify they would advance “equity and inclusion” (a.k.a. Critical Race Theory). Last year, the Biden Administration threatened to withhold “Free and Reduced Lunch” funds from states who didn’t have unisex bathrooms.

Although this experiment with federal control of local public schools has gone on for half a century now, it has failed. We need to stop treating children like guinea pigs in some social engineering laboratory and start embracing children as human beings to be supported and inspired to achieve their own dreams and aspirations. We must return America's education to its proper local roots and restore parental authority over their children's education.

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) is a nonprofit, nationwide coalition of state leaders focused on restoring local control of education by eradicating federal intrusion. USPIE’s Blueprint to Close USED and End All Federal Education Mandates explains the elimination of federal intervention can be achieved in five steps: 1) Send all program management and funding to the states including Pell Grants for college. 2) Repeal all laws permitting federal intervention in K-12 education starting with ESSA. 3) Privatize college loan programs through savings & loan institutions. 4) Eliminate all offices and divisions in the US Department of Education and related spending. 5) Reduce federal tax collection, shifting education revenue responsibilities entirely back to the states.

America needs to return to a culture where parents, empowered with the authority to choose what and how their children learn, are the undisputed primary educators of their children; where local schools operate in support of families, and where education is unencumbered by federal mandates.

Any member of Congress serious about returning federal spending to sane levels and saving our country from destruction through the indoctrination of children should refer to the USPIE Blueprint for a detailed plan to dismantle federal intrusion in education.


‘Australia’s long-term slide’ in reading, maths and science, PISA results show

Being taught ideological rubbish instread of a real education shows

Australian teenagers have fallen almost two full academic years behind students who went to school in the early 2000s, with nearly half of pupils failing to reach national standards in maths and reading in the latest round of international tests.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results reveals the huge achievement gap between the richest and poorest students is continuing to expand after a $320 billion school funding deal was signed more than four years ago.

Despite the lacklustre results, Australia regained its place in the international top 10 for the first time since 2003, but testing authorities say that is largely due to the decline of other countries, rather than significant local improvement.

Singapore was the highest-performing country in all subject areas in 2022, with a mean score of 575 points in maths, 561 in science and 543 in reading, compared with Australia’s 487, 507 and 498.

In NSW, more than 20 per cent of students are now classified as low performers, meaning they do not have the skills and knowledge to allow them to adequately participate in the workforce.

Overall, the proportion of low performers in maths, reading and science has doubled since 2000, while at the same time the number of high-performing students has fallen.

The findings underscore glaring inequities in the nation’s education system: 15-year-olds from disadvantaged families lag their advantaged counterparts by five years of schooling. Indigenous students are around four years behind non-Indigenous students.

Lisa De Bortoli, a co-author of the Australian PISA report, said for NSW students there was no significant change in maths and reading results since 2015. However, science results improved across the state between 2018 and 2022.

Overall, the latest PISA results – the first since the COVID-19 pandemic – show the nation’s education system has stagnated since the last report was released in 2019.

Australia was now below only nine other countries in mathematics – compared with 22 in 2018 – and eight for science and reading, De Bortoli said. Those countries include Singapore, Macao, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Estonia and Canada.

It was above the OECD average for all subjects including maths after failing to exceed the figure in 2018. But De Bortoli said the OECD average for both maths and reading had fallen significantly.

“While it’s encouraging that Australia’s results have stabilised, it’s important to recognise that our position in the top 10 is largely due to the performance of other countries dropping below ours,” she said.

“We’ve got almost half of our 15-year-olds, they’re treading water … in terms of having those elementary skills that they’re expected to have at an age when they should be swimming.”

Andreas Schleicher, OECD director for education and skills, pointed to Ireland as one country that had outperformed Australia over time because teaching was a prestigious profession, and they had less focus on class size.

When it came to high performing Asian countries, Schleicher said there was less freedom for the teacher to interpret the curriculum, and parent involvement in education varied.

“One of the factors that may have contributed to Australia’s long-term slide is the loss in [the academic] demand on students … It’s become easier for students to be successful, and that’s not what you see in East Asia.”

“High performing systems … take [parents] as co-constructors of learning opportunity. They’re very active in making sure that parents do play their part.”

Schleicher said students who report feeling anxious without devices near them have lower maths results, and that school-wide bans on smartphones at school was the only effective way to reduce technology distraction in the classroom.

The latest results show more than 40 per cent of Australian students in the lowest socioeconomic quartile were low performers in maths. About 12 per cent of Australian students performed at a high level in mathematics, compared with Singapore’s 41 per cent.

“Students from the lowest socioeconomic background are six times more likely to be low performers than their more advantaged peers,” De Bortoli said. “We also have 10 per cent more low-performing students compared to when testing began in 2000.”

“Every child should have the right to develop strong literacy and numeracy skills, and the data shows we aren’t doing that,” she said.

Australia’s students are now the equivalent of about four school years behind in maths compared with students in the world’s top-performing country, Singapore, and almost three behind in science and more than two in reading.

PISA is normally held every three years to test the higher-order thinking skills of 15-year-olds. In 2022, tests were taken by about 690,000 students from 81 countries, including 13,437 from Australia.

Australian students’ performance has fallen over past two decades, with maths dropping 37 points since 2003, science falling 20 points since 2006 and reading down 30 points since 2000. De Bertoli said 20 points is roughly equal to one year of learning.

Australian girls suffered their biggest drop in reading, falling half an academic year behind compared to their peers who sat the test in 2018.

Just over half achieved the national proficient standard: 51 per cent in maths, 58 per cent in science and 57 per cent in reading.

Students of migrants and those born in other countries outperformed Australian-born students in maths and reading. In both those domains, there were fewer Australian-born than foreign-born children who achieved national proficient standard.

When school and student-level socioeconomic background is factored in, both independent and government schools perform better than Catholic schools in maths and science. For reading, results showed there was no advantage for independent students, but government students performed better than Catholic students.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said the results highlighted the need to fix the funding and education gap in Australian schools.

“Students from poor families, Indigenous students and students from the regional areas are more likely to need additional support,” he said.

“The PISA assessment highlights that Australia has a good education system, but it can be a lot better and fairer.”

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said government funding for public schools had increased by 17 per cent between 2012 and 2021 but funding for private schools had risen by double that amount in the same time.

“Unacceptable achievement gaps between students from different backgrounds and locations are a clear reminder we don’t have an equitable education system that can meet the needs of every child,” Haythorpe said.

Glenn Fahey, research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the halt to a long-term slide in international rankings may “bring some relief, but there’s also no cause for a victory lap”.

“For all the talk of funding and equity as goals of the system, our approaches to these challenges don’t appear to be working.

“The best that can be said for one of the world’s biggest influxes of school funding is that results have flatlined. And, despite concern for lifting the system’s equity, the richer are getting smarter and the poor are falling further behind. For all the Gonski ‘good-feels’ about equity, we’re not making any headway in raising educational opportunity,” Fahey said.




California Schools Add Leftmedia Indoctrination

California Democrats hate free speech because it’s proving to be a hurdle in their crusade to indoctrinate the whole of the state and indeed the entire country into accepting the Left’s political and cultural agendas.

Under the guise of seeking to protect schoolchildren from the threat of “misinformation,” the Democrat-controlled state government recently passed Assembly Bill 873, which Governor Gavin Newsom promptly signed into law.

What this legislation does is “act to add Section 33548 to the Education Code, relating to pupil instruction” on media literacy. The state government is effectively choosing “ethical media” standards to be taught to public school students grades K-12. The curriculum guide includes covering how “the proliferation of online misinformation has posed risks to international peace, interfered with democratic decision-making and threatened public health.”

Gee, we wonder how the Democrats who wrote the law or the Democrat teachers union members who’ll follow it in the classroom will interpret that.

The legislation also presents itself as an effort to protect children from the ills of social media. Its supposed aim is “to ensure that all pupils in California are prepared with media literacy skills necessary to safely, responsibly, and critically consume and use social media and other forms of media.”

But what are these “media literacy skills”? Well, Democrat assembly member Marc Berman, who sponsored the bill, essentially admitted its design is to get students to accept the Democrat Party’s policy agenda items as incontrovertible truth. As Berman put it, “From climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories to the January 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol, the spread of online misinformation has had global and deadly consequences.”

What this legislation is seeking to do is train up students to accept only Leftmedia sources and narratives as reliable and trustworthy. It’s a blatant effort to bias schoolchildren’s views in favor of the mainstream media, which indoctrinates in the climate cult, suppresses vaccine information, and lies about elections and the January 6 riot, just to name a few.

Opposing so-called misinformation, disinformation, and fake news has become a Democrat hobby horse, and of course the question of who determines what is accurate and trustworthy news is left entirely up to them. It’s an argument to justify infringing on Americans’ First Amendment rights, without blatantly saying as such.

California isn’t the only Democrat-controlled state to engage in such “media literacy” education standards, as New Jersey, Illinois, and Delaware have similar education lessons for public school students. However, no state has been as aggressive as the Golden State.

Teaching the facts, and teaching children how to engage with and think through the facts rather than telling them what to believe, has always been the crux of the issue with educational standards. The basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic were once recognized as foundational building blocks needed to equip students with the skills and tools for them to further develop their ability to access, accumulate, and apply knowledge and information for themselves. That used to be the primary goal of schools.

Increasingly, however, these basic educational building blocks have seemingly become secondary as special interest agendas and policy issues have taken center stage. Teaching students what to think rather than how to think has taken precedence in places like California.


Hell Freezes Over: Maher Is Onboard With This Part of Trump's Education Policy

Bill Maher’s Friday episode was a doozy, as the comedian continues to direct firepower toward his side for their adoption of illiberal tendencies. It’s become more frequent, though he did go after House Speaker Mike Johnson hard toward the end of the broadcast. Democratic Party strategist James Carville and Dave Rubin, a conservative commentator and YouTube personality, were the guests.

Maher’s segment on Trump’s second term was more of a lighting round, trying to highlight what he feels are the more insane policies, like shooting shoplifters on sight and a quicker death penalty. I don’t really care about those, but the comedian did agree with the former president's education priority: teaching students to love their country, not hate it.

This tenet didn’t bother Maher as much, as he’s been ripping progressive students and activists for siding with the terrorists since Hamas’ brutal October 7 attacks against Israel. They’re the only side who is cheering for Hamas, hoping for a similar comeuppance here in America.

Maher admits they’ve been indoctrinated. It’s also an area where Maher feels is a massive vulnerability in the Democratic Party, as young people are siding with the Palestinians, whereas the older guard is with Israel. Carville was his usual Ragin’ Cajun self, noting that young people have always been stupid, and that this subsect is no different. They’re not educated on the subject, adding that Gaza is a lot of things, but Israel isn’t a colonizing power and never has been.

Carville did try to slip in Trump’s Chancellorsville remarks, which Rubin corrected. Maher phrased it as inelegant, though this is probably one of the few times where the former president’s full remarks have been fleshed out, debunking the long-held liberal myth that he was supportive of the white nationalist crowd during that terrible rally in 2017.

But, as he always does, if Maher must torch liberals, he had to redirect fire at the GOP, which he did over religion and Speaker Johnson, but you can watch that on your own time. And frankly, it’s nothing new; Maher has lobbed similar attacks on religion and the Republican Party for years. Let’s focus on the areas of agreement, which are expanding as the HBO host sees how his side has gone insane on crucial issues, and then laugh when left-wingers try to gaslight everyone into thinking Maher is a conservative. He’s decidedly not, but he's also not a pro-intersectionality, anti-free speech dolt like the rest of progressive America.


School Assigned Girl to Sleep With Boy Who Identifies as Trans Without Parental Notification

An 11-year-old girl was assigned to share a bed with a male student who identifies as a transgender girl while on a cross-country school trip, according to a demand letter sent Monday. That girl’s parents are now calling upon the public school system to provide answers and clarification of its policies related to children who identify as transgender.

Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, Joe and Serena Wailes are calling on the Colorado-based Jefferson County School Board and Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland to clarify “whether JCPS will continue this practice of intentionally withholding information about rooming accommodations from parents like the Waileses, who object to their children rooming with a student of the opposite sex, regardless of the other student’s gender identity.”

“This practice renders it impossible for these parents to make informed decisions about their children’s privacy, upbringing, and participation in school-sponsored programs,” reads the demand letter, which was exclusively provided to The Daily Signal. “Additionally, our clients request information related to JB R-1 and the ability to opt out of this rooming policy for all future school trips.”

The Waileses describe how their daughter, who is in fifth grade, went on a JCPS-sponsored trip to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in June 2023. JCPS had repeatedly told parents that the boys and girls on the trip would be roomed on different floors—and chaperones told the students that boys would not even be allowed to visit the girls’ floor, as well as vice versa, according to the letter.

Serena Wailes also went on the trip, though she was not a chaperone.

The Wailes’ 11-year-old daughter, who is identified in the letter as “D.W.,” was assigned to a room with three other students, according to the demand letter. Two of these students were girls from her school, and the third student was a boy who identified as a girl (named in the letter as “K.E.M.”) who went to a different school.

D.W. and K.E.M were told that they would share a bed, and that evening, when the students were in their room together, K.E.M. reportedly revealed to the girls that he is a boy who identified as a girl.

“We were definitely not aware of that before we went on the trip,” Serena Wailes told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. The mother shared that this young boy was presenting as a girl, wearing girls’ clothing, and had longer hair.

Uncomfortable at the thought of sharing both a room and her bed with a boy, D.W. snuck into the bathroom and called her mother. Then she went downstairs and met her mom in the lobby to discuss the matter.

Serena Wailes told The Daily Signal that her daughter was “terrified and really upset about the idea of sharing a bed with a biological boy—even though she had a good relationship with this other student.”

“I was really upset,” Serena Wailes told The Daily Signal. “One, I was really upset that she was put in that situation at 11 years old—I don’t feel that is fair to put kids in that kind of situation—and two, that we were not even given the information that this was a possibility before the trip. The whole time they’re saying, ‘Girls on one floor, boys on another, they’re not going to be in each other’s rooms unless it is pre-approved.’ So we’re going through this whole process, not even recognizing that this is a possibility.”

Joe Wailes said that his wife called him from the hotel and filled him in about the situation.

“I felt a bit helpless,” he said. “I was 2,000 miles away. My daughter is scared in a bathroom trying to get herself out of a situation. It was a frustrating experience, and I just really felt like it was not a situation my daughter should be put in.”

School chaperones called one of the trip leaders, Principal Ryan Lucas, who called the boy’s parents, according to the letter: “K.E.M.’s parents confirmed their child’s transgender gender identity and that K.E.M. was to be in ‘stealth mode,’ meaning students on the trip would not know about their child’s transgender status.”

After a good deal of trouble, chaperones finally agreed to move the male student, with a different female student, to another room.

“Throughout the entire evening, K.E.M.’s privacy and feelings were always the primary concern of JCPS employees,” the letter said. “After JCPS disregarded D.W.’s privacy and the Waileses’ parental rights, JCPS then silenced D.W., thus infringing on her freedom of speech, when a JCPS teacher told the three girls that they were not allowed to tell anyone that K.E.M. was transgender, even though K.E.M. voluntarily chose to share this information.”

According to the demand letter, the school district’s policy is, “in most cases,” to room students based on the gender they identify as, rather than their sex.

The Wailes parents have two fourth-grade children registered to attend a trip to New York, Washington, and Philadelphia in 2024, and they emphasize in their letter that the district must clarify its policies for room assignments for students, as well as parental ability to opt their children out of sharing rooms with children of the opposite sex.

“They want to make sure that every parent knows that this is a possibility and can have the opportunity to opt out or make the best decision for their kid,” Kate Anderson, director of the Center for Parental Rights at Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal. “But they also have two younger children that they want to make sure are not in the same situation that their older daughter was in.”




Monday, December 04, 2023

DIPLOMAS FOR SALE: No attendance required for students willing to pay a few hundred bucks to graduate

Obtaining a diploma in one of Louisiana’s unapproved schools won’t take four years of education, just a few hundred dollars, according to a recent report.

Springfield Prepatory School provides "Christian homeschooling and adult education assistance," according to its website. It also provides adults "that have been through homeschooling" assistance in obtaining their high school diploma.

A list of prices is listed on the front window of the school building: $250 for diploma services, a $50 application fee, $35 for a diploma cover and $130 to walk in a cap and gown at a ceremony, according to an Associated Press report.

Over 21,000 students are enrolled in the unapproved schools across Louisiana, like Springfield Prep, according to the AP. Unlike public schools with hundreds or thousands of students, these private schools are created to serve individual homeschooling families.

Kitty Sibley Morrison, Springfield Prep's principal, told the AP she is not selling diplomas.

"We’re not here to make money," she said. "We serve the poor in ministry here," Sibley Morrison added in a brief statement to Fox News. "Helping them to understand how to use their parental rights to choose homeschooling. We facilitate parental homeschooling with support services."

Arliya Martin accepted her diploma from Springfield Prep this year.

After getting kicked out of high school in 10th grade, Martin attempted to get her GED without success. This summer, she met Morrison and within days had a diploma in her hand. The document was backdated to 2015, according to the AP.

A Louisiana Department of Education spokesperson told the AP diplomas cannot generally be awarded retroactively.

"Adults 21 and younger will get a state-approved diploma based on Louisiana Home Study Guidelines of 2010," the school’s website states. "Older adults can receive a private home school diploma based on the Louisiana Home Study Law of 1972."

Martin’s diploma stated she had completed a program for graduation "approved by the Louisiana Board of Education." Sibley Morrison later admitted there had been a mistake and that the document would be corrected, according to the AP.

Sibley Morrison said her school can advertise "state-approved" diplomas since she encourages families in her program to simultaneously enroll in state-approved home study program.

"I inform the poor of the rights they have had for fifty years, but have been deprived of the knowledge by the media and the public school system," said Sibley Morrison. "I keep on top of all laws regarding Christian homeschooling."

"When parents say, ‘My child is ready to go into the real world’ — I take their word for it," she said.

The number of students enrolled in the state’s unapproved schools has nearly doubled since before the pandemic from around 11,600 in the 2017-18 school year to more than 21,000 in 2022-23, according to data obtained through a public records request by the AP and The Advocate.


Progressive Public High School Offers Race-Segregated Classes

Diversity, equity, and inclusion policies have grown so diverse that they now include policies reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.

A Chicago-area school district is attempting to boost academic achievement among black and Latino students by offering blacks-only and Latino-only classes. The segregated classes are called “affinity” classes, and they aim to reduce the so-called academic achievement gap by making black and Latino students feel more comfortable in class.

As Evanston, Illinois, School Board Vice President Monique Parsons described the problem this month, “Our black students are, for lack of a better word … at the bottom, consistently still. And they are being outperformed consistently.”

Evanston could have offered extra tutoring, parent engagement programs, or similar interventions. Instead, it offered special black-only classes taught by black teachers, on the theory that black students would learn better without white peers around.

Evanston is not the only community to offer race-segregated classrooms. Woke strongholds such as Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland have been offering race-specific high school electives focusing on subjects like African-American history since at least 2015. Evanston’s innovation was to expand the concept of race-segregated classrooms to math and English classes, such as Algebra 2 and AP Calculus.

Of course, federal nondiscrimination laws forbid school districts from separating students on the basis of race, but the Evanston school district attempts to sidestep these laws by making the classes voluntary. Is that acceptable? To answer that question, consider what would have happened if Arkansas high schools in the 1950s had offered voluntary, whites-only classes to make white students feel more comfortable.

“In this example, the school system is failing to educate a portion of students. Rather than blame themselves for failing to prepare students to advance academically, this school system asks students to segregate themselves based on race,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, told The Washington Stand. “The students must do it themselves so the school doesn’t violate civil rights laws that protect them from racial segregation.”

Fortunately, Evanston’s racial segregation scheme has not encountered universal participation. Approximately 200 of the high school’s 3,600 students (a little more than 5%) are attending race-segregated classes. About 25% of the student population is black, and about 20% is Latino, which comes out to about 1 in 9 black students and 1 in 7 Latino students attending the segregated classes. While not universal, these numbers still represent a sizable percentage of the school’s minority populations.

Regardless, the problem lies in the principle, not the implementation.

“We would all agree that it would be wrong if white people were looking to create spaces where everyone was white, but somehow the calculation is supposed to be different if black or brown people want to create spaces where no one is white,” Joseph Backholm, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for biblical worldview and strategic engagement, told The Washington Stand.

In August 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (informed educators in a “Dear Colleague” letter, “OCR generally will open an investigation under Title VI [a civil rights nondiscrimination law] where there are allegations that the use of a curriculum or program separates students or otherwise treats them differently based on their race” (emphasis added). That is precisely what Evanston’s program does, even if it is voluntary.

“This is a great example of how wokeness changes our moral evaluations,” Backholm explained. “In wokelandia, a person labeled an oppressor can do exactly the same thing as one of the oppressed, but it is wrong for one and right for the other. It’s very bad moral reasoning.”

Evanston has distinguished itself in recent years for its zeal to address past discrimination through present discrimination. The city became the first in America to approve reparations payments for black Americans in 2021. In 2019, the City Council passed a resolution declaring Evanston “an anti-racist city” and “acknowledg[ing] that the trauma inflicted on people of color by persistent white supremacist ideology results in psychological harm affecting educational, economic, and social outcomes; and conjures painful memories of our City’s past … ”

Such self-abasement might be understandable if the city had been the site of some notorious lynching or a KKK hotbed. Instead, Evanston was founded by Methodists—the backbone of the abolition movement—and incorporated in 1863, the year of the Emancipation Proclamation. The city’s zeal to apologize for racism seems to outpace its actual record of racial discrimination.

Countering racism infuses Evanston’s current policy of racially-segregated classes, too. “Equity guides many of the district’s decisions,” reported The Wall Street Journal, “embodied in a stated board goal: ‘Recognizing that racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished achievement of students, ETHS will strive to eliminate the predictability of academic achievement based upon race.’”

Kilgannon said this “deeply troubling” goal “summarizes quite precisely the problem with ‘equity’ as a worldview-guiding policy.” She explained, “Student achievement has many factors. ‘Centering’ racism as the most devastating factor will not produce better academic outcomes and is likely to produce an even more toxic environment for children of every race.”

Indeed, students who choose to participate in the racially-segregated classes may have already bought into that woke indoctrination. By segregating themselves, they will miss out on the opportunity to learn and grow from interacting with people who are different from them. They will encounter expectations that don’t prepare them for the real world. They will accept the false premise that their skin color arbitrarily limits their potential academic success. Meanwhile, the students—white, black, and Latino—who stay behind in the mixed classes also miss out on interactions with their peers.

“In athletics, all play together. They don’t have a white team, a black team, and a Latino team,” argued Jay Sabatino, a former high school teacher, principal, and superintendent in Illinois public schools, who retired after 30 years in education. “They have one Evanston team. All contribute, and all make mistakes. If a student in class or on the basketball court feels unsafe because he made a mistake, the teacher should address that. A safe environment (physically and emotionally) is the result of an excellent school.”

“What I fear is happening is that these students are being given the impression that their skin color is the most important thing about them,” Backholm agreed, “and that they need protection from people who don’t look like them. If that’s the case, these segregated classrooms will end up giving them a much greater handicap in life than whatever math deficiencies they may have.”

“As long as the program is voluntary, I can accept it more than if it is ‘the way we do things,’” Sabatino told The Washington Stand. But he expressed concerns about the process, based upon The Wall Street Journal’s reporting that the school district was dodging media inquiries and had not published data on the program’s success over the past four years.

“Transparency in these decisions (at a district or school level) should be paramount. That Evanston would not respond to questions should throw up a red flag to the community.” Additionally, “Any district that does not look at the data critically and report out on them is not operating optimally. This isn’t an administrator’s school; it’s the community’s.”

“This example is one of the many reasons we encourage Christians to run for school board, and why we support in prayer Christians serving in schools as teachers and staff,” said Kilgannon. “Only a system devoid of God can produce this kind of situation. Christians are needed now more than ever in education of every kind.”

America’s educational establishment—such as national teachers unions and education training programs—is pushing schools to embed godless, toxic ideologies based on Marxism into curriculums, instruction, and every aspect of school life. It instructs students to classify everyone as either oppressor or oppressed, based not upon their individual behavior but upon their belonging to groups. Many of these groups, which determine someone’s moral standing according to woke ideology, are based upon unchangeable physical characteristics, such as a person’s skin color or ethnicity.

Creating special classes for certain “oppressed” groups (blacks and Latinos) to escape from the supposed “oppressors” (whites), as Evanston school district has done, is just another method for subtly advancing this radical indoctrination agenda. But will it actually help students learn better in AP calculus class? The case to make for it is not very persuasive.

Instead of imbibing untested racial ideology, there are time-tested methods for academic improvement which Evanston could try. Based on his 30 years of experience, Sabatino said, “I’ll always endorse this: Hard work and perseverance lead to success.”


Mindfulness therapy does little for high-schoolers' mental health, research finds

When a group of teenagers was given eight weeks of therapy and mindfulness training, there was no improvement in their overall mental health, a study has shown.

The University of Sydney paper tracked more than 1,000 year 8 and year 9 high-schoolers, half of whom were given dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), while the other half were not.

DBT is a type of psychological intervention based on various emotional regulation skills centred primarily around mindfulness.

The DBT therapy group engaged in mindfulness and other emotional regulation exercises.

Lead author Lauren Harvey said the only improvements were seen among those students who continued their therapy exercises at home.

The clinical psychologist said these results suggested that participants needed a certain willingness for the therapy to be effective.

"What some of these findings are telling is we need that level of engagement and buy-in," Dr Harvey said.

"The research is starting to show that it's not about a particular strategy, it's actually about how we use certain strategies and in which context we apply them."

She said similar studies in the UK had also cast doubt over the efficacy of mindfulness meditation in classrooms.

Dr Harvey said, therefore, she did not advise these practices be imposed in classrooms or workplaces, since the evidence suggested it was not generally effective.

While companies such as Amazon have introduced mindfulness booths for staff, Dr Harvey said such enthusiasm for mindfulness activities may be misleading.

She said sometimes problems were "systemic", rather than internal. "With the rise of mindfulness in our society it's been branded as a panacea to fix all of our issues, but realistically it's probably not," Dr Harvey said.

Sarah Swannell, a director of Willow Oak Psychology, says DBT is generally not appropriate for children who show no real interest in it. As a DBT clinician, she says the therapy is traditionally used by people actively seeking help for depression, emotional dysregulation, and suicidality.

Dr Swannell also said time frames for the therapy also tended to be much longer than eight weeks, with training often continuing for 12 months.

She said DBT could be effective in a classroom setting, provided it was offered as an opt-in activity.

"The buy-in needs to be not just by the kids who are receiving the intervention, but the entire school," Dr Swannell said. "All of the teachers, the staff, and the administration need to be on board with it so that there's a really positive culture around learning skills."




Sunday, December 03, 2023

UK:Is this a Taliban-run school in Kabul? No, one of our top comprehensives: Death threats to staff for stopping Muslim pupils praying, a girl forced to quit the choir because 'her religion bars singing' and another pressured to wear a hijab

It was a suburban schoolyard like any other, a place where pupils could gossip excitedly with friends or have a kickabout with a football in the precious breaks between lessons.

But earlier this year, that normality was shattered and the playground became a place that the school's own headmistress described as 'dangerous' and 'intimidating' – 'where there is discrimination and harassment.

'Where I have to have police in… [where] I have had to hire security for staff whose lives are now endangered.'

It all started with a prayer. A prayer by a teenage girl that, by the school's account, became weaponised by an influential Muslim clique, fuelling a culture war that has split pupils along religious lines and provoked death threats and bomb scares.

Now the row is heading for the High Court, pitching the demands of a vocal subsection of one religious group against teachers' authority to run their non-religious school in the way they believe is best for all their pupils.

Papers lodged with the court – exclusively obtained by The Mail on Sunday – reveal in concerning detail how quickly and how aggressively events escalated following a confrontation between a teacher and the girl who wanted to pray in the playground.

The documents describe how a culture of coercion emerged among the Muslim pupils, led by a group of about 30 youngsters with strict ideas about what their faith entails. They intimidated those who chose not to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, pressured one girl into wearing the hijab and forced another to quit the choir by telling her it was forbidden – 'haram' – under Islamic doctrine.

A court order means neither the school nor anyone involved can be named, not least for fear of further inflaming tensions. But it is one of the best regarded state comprehensives in England, and if such religious hostility can erupt here, there are fears it could erupt anywhere. Or quite possibly already has.

The flashpoint came during Ramadan in late March this year. Before then, the school says no pupil had ever sought to conduct what it describes as 'prayer rituals' in the schoolyard.

But at that point a small number said they wanted to perform one of the five daily prayers required of devout followers of Islam. Known as the Duhr, it should be completed between 12.30pm and 2pm.

The school said it did not try to stop the prayers, as long as 'they did not involve a breach of policy' – believed to be a ban on prayer mats. Pupils got around this by using their school blazers instead. In the court papers, the school says it quickly became apparent that allowing the prayers 'had an increasingly negative impact', and fostered an 'intimidatory and aggressive atmosphere' within the grounds.

The numbers taking part in the prayers swelled from a few to about 30 within just a week.

'This resulted in a division in the playground between the Muslim and the non-Muslim children which had never happened before,' the school says.

The group also became a powerful coterie, accused of 'intimidation of Muslim pupils who chose not to pray' and aggressively staring at those who chose to eat lunch rather than fast. 'Muslim children not wishing to engage in prayer rituals had been intimidated when eating, intimidated into changing their dress, and intimidated into dropping out of the choir,' the school says.

The school banned all prayer as a result of the tensions building up. Things came to a head when a Year 9 girl – aged 13 or 14 – clashed with a teacher on March 23, the first day of Ramadan, when she produced a prayer mat in the playground.

The ground was wet and dirty as it had been raining, so she did not want to use her jacket. The teacher told her that the mat was banned, and harsh words were exchanged, which led to the girl being suspended for two days for 'extreme rudeness'. It is this pupil, along with her mother, who is bringing a case under human rights laws, claiming her right to practise her religion has been suppressed.

Her expulsion triggered complaints that the school was Islamophobic and led to 'the most appalling abuse and threats' to teachers.

The school was bombarded by threatening emails and phone calls, including one which read: 'If you carry on disrespecting our Muslim children you will be dealt with like the filthy dog that you are.'

One member of staff had a brick thrown through their window at home, others received death threats and, in the case of a black teacher, racist abuse.

Bottles were thrown into the playground from the street. Another member of staff suffered an attempted break-in.

The school also received a bomb threat via an email warning: 'We have planted several bombs in the building, many of which are hidden in toilets, hall rooms and classes on all floors. These are the consequences of your actions.'

Police were called and had to sweep the building for explosives, but found none.

The headmistress said she imposed the ban on prayer after weighing up all the options and she could see no other way, given they had become such a 'catalyst for abuse and threats'.

The pupil – known as TTT in the court papers – and her lawyers say those vile reactions were not the fault of any of the 'children who have sought to pray in school', but rather of the school's attitude to prayer and its ultimate ban.

This is not the first educational establishment to find itself in the firing line of the culture wars.

Activists have picketed schools whose sex education classes mention same-sex relationships; a teacher at Batley Grammar in West Yorkshire was forced into hiding after showing his pupils an image of the Prophet Mohammed; and in 2021 protesters gathered at Allerton Grange School in Leeds after its headteacher asked pupils not to bring Palestinian flags to school because it could be perceived as anti-Semitic.

The forthcoming case is further evidence of how some religious groups seek to influence secular schools. Pupil TTT – who has applied for legal aid to fund her case – is challenging the prayer ban as an infringement of her right to 'freedom of thought, conscience and religion' under the European Convention of Human Rights, the same legislation used to stop the Government from implementing its plan of sending small-boat migrants to Rwanda.

However, the school argues that Muslims do not have to conduct the prayers at the specific times. Under a provision called Qadaa, followers can catch up with any prayer they miss for a good reason as soon as possible after the usual time.

Given the Duhr lunchtime prayer is the only ritual that falls in the school day, it could be completed at home later, the school says, as the 'disruption and inconvenience' it causes to other pupils is good enough reason to delay it.

They say their prayer ban does not break human rights laws as the pupil 'can simply do Qadaa', adding: 'The school's policy does not prevent her from manifesting what she perceives a requirement of her religion to be.'

However, the girl insists that being on a break in the playground is not good enough reason to justify Qadaa, although she accepts that being in a lesson would be.

She is also calling for the school to provide a prayer room and allow mats to fulfil the Islamic requirement for cleanliness while at prayer. However the headmistress says there is no suitable room on the premises, and it would be impractical to make one by moving desks to clear a space in classrooms and back again at the end.

Nor is there enough staff to supervise the prayer rooms.

The school said TTT's parents knew there was no prayer room when she applied to the school – an assertion the family reject – and that she could move to a different school that allows prayers if she wanted.

They argue that while freedom of religion is an absolute right, its practice is not, so followers can be restricted from praying in places such as schools.

The school also expressed frustration that the pupil brought her case to the High Court before its governing body had considered whether to approve the headteacher's temporary ban, though in the end they upheld it. It also stressed the point that it is banning rituals associated with prayers, not prayers themselves.

Its submission to the High Court concludes: '[TTT] may disagree with the policies and priorities of the school, but it is not for a pupil or – it is submitted – the court, to second-guess the carefully considered decisions of the school in this context.'


UMass Boston ditches ‘litmus test’ demand for new professors to back DEI

Want a job at the University of Massachusetts Boston? Well, until recently, you’d have to pledge your commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion first.

The worrying requirement came to light in a job ad, requiring would-be assistant professors in computer science to write a “diversity statement that reflects [their] commitment to diversity equity and inclusion” as part of their job application.

And applicants for a lecturer position in the department of health science were required to demonstrate a commitment “to support[ing] our goal of ensuring an inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplace and educational environment.”

That’s a political litmus test if I’ve ever seen one.

Thankfully, the school has quietly dropped the requirement, after being called out by First Amendment watchdog group the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

Required DEI statements, according to FIRE, “encroach on faculty’s First Amendment right not to adopt prescribed views.”

“Their subjective criteria could easily also be abused to penalize applicants with minority, dissenting, or even simply nuanced views on DEI-related issues that may not dovetail perfectly with the university’s goals,” FIRE program officer Haley Gluhanich wrote in a letter to the university.

FIRE’s right. Requiring professors to profess allegiance to vague and highly-politicized concepts of “equity” and “inclusion” is undoubtedly an infringement upon their academic freedom.

Besides, what exactly does DEI have to do with computer science?

In my book “The Canceling of the American Mind,” my co-author Greg Lukianoff and I argue that it’s about time all colleges drop required DEI statements.

“To any sensible person, a statement requiring you to explain your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is a political litmus test,” Lukianoff, who serves as president and CEO of FIRE, told The Post. “There is literally no way that’s not being abused as a way to evaluate someone’s politics.”

Although promoting “diversity” sounds like a laudable goal on face value, the DEI bureaucracy that’s taken over college campuses and corporations alike is divisive.

Champions of DEI can be hugely alienating, like “White Fragility” author Robin DiAngelo who advised people of color to “get away from white people” and diversity consultants who instructed Coca Cola employees on how to “be less white.”

I’ve seen this firsthand. When I was 14, my classmates and I were divided into “affinity groups” based on race and segregated into separate buildings to discuss our experiences — all in the name of “equity.”

Even as a young teen, I already felt alienated by DEI. No doubt professors seeking employment may feel the same — but they may also feel pressured to betray their conscience for the sake of securing a paycheck.

No college or university that purports to protect the free speech and free conscience of their faculty should require a commitment to any concept or philosophy — let alone one that’s so controversial.


Australia: Elite universities loathe us

The Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne identifies its purpose as considering how Australia’s founding as a settler colony informs our capacity to engage with the central challenges of our time.

The opening salvo of the Centre’s November conference declared, ‘Global failure to understand and engage with the colonial roots of the impending climate catastrophe both constrains our collective capacities to untangle this wicked problem and simultaneously works to secure settler futurity and white supremacy.’

The academics heading up the Centre have affirmed their desire to tear down the political, legal and social framework of our nation to make way for a new, vaguely defined utopia. It is important to remember that what is discussed by the elites on university campuses today has a strange way of becoming government policy, generated by the political ruling class, tomorrow.

The Voice to parliament was one such Trojan horse, celebrated by universities and pushed by government. It sought to dismantle the constitution – the ultimate expression of ‘settler futurity and white supremacy’ – and rebuild it by means of a provision which would have divided Australians permanently on the basis of race. This was a clear attack on equality and our egalitarian way of life.

Next on the agenda is the Bill currently before parliament to amend the Climate Change Act 2022. The Bill significantly undermines Australia’s energy security and economic competitiveness and is a clear attack on the free market.

The title of the conference, ‘A Profound Reorganising of Things’, encapsulates what those on the centre right are up against: a narrative positing that the liberal-democratic system of government is fundamentally broken due to its colonial roots and is the primary cause of most of the world’s problems. Replete with a ‘welcome to country’, ‘smoking ceremony’ and ‘dance performance’, the conference flaunted its woke credentials through classic virtue-signalling.

The program brochure links a myriad of inequities and injustices to colonialism. The incarceration of indigenous people, the divide between rich and poor, the alleged mistreatment of refugees, and poor health outcomes are all traced back to ‘corrupt’ colonial land relations. For the academics at the Australian Centre, this is a moral problem. This is made abundantly clear by the use of words like ‘wicked’, ‘violent’ and ‘unjust’. Elite institutions and their globalist allies are waging a holy war against an evil system. The Marxist trappings of this agenda are plainly evident.

This leads to perhaps the most radical claim in the program brochure, ‘The incarceration of Indigenous peoples in so-called Australia is deeply implicated in the warming of the planet, is deeply implicated in the offshore detention of asylum seekers, and so on.’ What the links are between these apparently disconnected issues remains a mystery. Perhaps the conference proceedings enlightened attendees as to the connection. However, the statement lacks the academic rigour you would expect from an institution of Melbourne University’s standing.

Tertiary discourse should raise the intellectual culture of the nation. Yet this latest chapter appears to be nothing more than sloganeering, paid for with the taxpayers’ credit card.

Universities exist to impart knowledge, hone young minds and produce research that benefits society. They should not make wild speculations, unsupported by coherent argument, about highly political and ideological issues.

The Australian Centre’s latest initiative demonstrates just how out of touch universities are with the very real problems faced by mainstream Australians today. Those facing cost-of-living pressures, interest rate rises, soaring utility bills and record rental and housing prices should not be subsidising the mindless activism of cosseted academics.

According to a forthcoming survey commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs, lowering the cost of living is twice as important to Australians aged 16 to 25 than any other issue. In contrast, fewer than one in ten young Australians think reducing emissions should be a government priority.

As Australians’ financial circumstances deteriorate, it appears that such elite issues as climate catastrophism and colonialism are resonating less and less with the broader population. This is despite the narrative being shaped and promoted by our universities for decades. And the problem is not limited to universities, although it may start there. This is a sector-wide issue, with schools enthusiastically promoting a radical green agenda.

Just like the national curriculum, university teaching degrees focus on activism around highly political issues, such as sustainability, at the expense of core literacy and numeracy skills.

Recently released IPA research found that nearly one third of all teaching subjects relate to ideological issues, while fewer than one in ten teaching subjects focus on the core skills of literacy and numeracy.

If you need further proof of the politicisation of schools, look no further than the recent climate rallies staged by students across Australia. Schoolchildren skipped class to protest alleged government inaction on climate change. Tens of thousands of students attended these events after being encouraged to use a ‘climate doctor’s certificate’ and take a sick day from school.

Highlighting the strong link between education and public policy, the Bill to amend the Climate Change Act 2022 would impose a statutory duty on decision-makers to consider the wellbeing of children when making ‘significant decisions’ in relation to the exploration and extraction of coal, oil and gas.

IPA research concludes such an amendment would provide clear grounds for activists to engage in green lawfare aimed at delaying and cancelling vital resources projects, further compromising energy security and undermining Australia’s economic competitiveness.

One might have been able to laugh off the wild and wacky ideas coming out of universities in the past, but there is nothing funny about such ideas being adopted and imposed as government policy. Such ideas then become costly and destructive. Taxpayers are entitled to expect governments to hold universities to account and to direct funding towards research that does not deliberately undermine Australian prosperity and our way of life.

The Australian Centre was right about one thing. A ‘profound reorganising of things’ is required. However, it is the universities – not our political system – that need a makeover.