Thursday, January 04, 2024

Universities Symptom of Much Bigger Problem

I have written in the past about the similarities of the stress and tensions in our country today to the stress and tensions that were taking place in the years before the Civil War.

A free country will always have debate and differences of opinion. But that debate becomes dangerous and destructive when the differences strike at the core premises that define the very existence of the nation. When we can no longer agree about who we are, what we stand for, and why we exist, our very existence comes into question.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Then the basic premises of our free country were challenged by the existence of slavery.

The country is divided today by those who see injustice as a problem to be defined and solved by politics and those who continue to see injustice as evil defined by Scripture and dealt with through repentance and self-correction.

When the issue of slavery tore apart our nation, most Americans were church-going citizens. The dividing line then was between those who saw slavery as a sin and those who did not.

As Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, delivered as the Civil War raged, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other.”

But today the division is between those for whom religion is relevant and those for whom it is not. The latter, overwhelmingly, are on the political Left.

The recent Wall Street Journal/NORC polling on national values shows the picture clearly.

Of those who say religion is personally “very important,” 27% of Democrats say yes and 53% of Republicans say yes.

Of those who say patriotism is “very important,” 23% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans say yes.

Of those who agree that schools and universities have gone “too far … taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity,” 6% of Democrats agree and 55% of Republicans agree.

Of those who agree that “Businesses taking steps to promote racial and ethnic diversity” have gone “too far,” 7% of Democrats agree and 52% of Republicans agree.

Many are now shocked to see how politicized our universities have become. But the data shows that this is not a problem limited to our universities; it reflects broader, deep changes in our society.

Injustice has become a problem relegated to politics as religion has increasingly been purged from our society.

DEI—diversity, equity, inclusion—is a tool designed by secularists, who produce their own definition of injustice and then design their own quantitative tool to solve the problem they have themselves defined.

This is one slice of ideology that is a subset of broader godless movements in social engineering—communism and socialism.

President Ronald Reagan gave one the nation’s great speeches in March 1983 to the National Association of Evangelicals in which he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

Reagan said then, “But we must never forget that no government schemes are going to perfect man. We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.”

Speaking about the then-Soviet Union, Reagan said, “Let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual man … they are the focus of evil in the modern world.”

With the surge to the left in our country, and the purge of the influence of religion, we have produced our own “government schemes,” pretending they will “perfect man” and solve our social challenges.

The result is the ongoing expansion of government and a burden of national debt and government spending that is crushing us.

Reagan quoted William Penn saying, “If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.”

This is where we are today.


Oregon high school cancels 'all-ages family friendly' drag festival featuring local queen 'Poison Waters'

An Oregon high school was forced to cancel it drag festival featuring local queen 'Poison Waters' after the school allegedly received alarming threats.

The event labeled as 'family-friendly' was scheduled to take place on Sunday afternoon in the school's auditorium at Lakeridge High School located in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

It was presented by the school's Gender and Sexualities Alliance with hopes of bringing 'visibility' to the community.

The drag queen performer, known as 'Poison Waters' that was set to perform is entertainer, Kevin Cook, who also describes himself as a community activist, who has been around since the 1980s.

Earlier this week, the school issued a statement stating that the event was postponed out of concern for the safety of the students, teachers and staff, after the school claimed that 'alarming threats were made by known violent and hate-driven organizations.'

On Tuesday, Libs of TikTok shared the drag show for student event on their site being held by @lakeridgepacers claiming that 'a bunch of parents reached out to them about this.'

'Parents are very doesn’t care,' the post read, in part. They also alleged the school 'completely disregarded all parents’ concerns.'

It remains unclear what groups sent the threatening messages to the school claiming they would incite violence.

When reached out to Lakeridge High School to get more information about the incident, they were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

The event flyer, 'Oswego Drag Fest,' shows a photo of Poison Waters. A $15 donation was suggested where proceeds go towards the Trevor Project, Story Time, Drag Show and Performer.

The school's full statement reads: 'With a heavy heart and deep concern for the safety of our students, teachers, and staff, we must regrettably announce the postponement of the DragFest event scheduled for January 7.

'This decision has been driven by the alarming threats made by known violent and hate-driven organizations.

'These threats have arisen due to invitations extended to such organizations by individuals within and outside our learning community who do not align with our core values of inclusivity and belonging.'

The Libs of TikTok post garnered more than a million views with many expressing relief that the event was canceled with many outraged that a drag show was taking place at the school in the first place.


NY Gov. Kathy Hochul announces plan to get school reading instruction ‘back to basics’

New York needs to get back to the basics when it comes to teaching kids how to read, Gov. Kathy Hochul says.

The Governor announced Wednesday that she wants to ditch the trendy “whole language” method of teaching English and get back to drilling kids on phonics and reading comprehension.

“Despite the best efforts, it’s showing that it’s not working anymore,” Hochul said of the state’s new reading plan, dubbed “Back to Basics,” at an elementary school in Watervliet, NY.

“I think every child should have the best shot in life, the best shot to learn how to read, the best shot to become completely literate by the time they leave school.”

The whole language approach teaches children to read entire words and try to understand their meaning within context. Proponents of whole language thought that by battering kids with words again and again, they would pick up the meaning within context. The children’s series “Dick and Jane” being a prime example.

Phonics teaches by piecing together or decoding parts of words to connect them together and understand their meaning, but that style was ditched by mainstream educators in the early 2000’s.

“About 20 years ago, they thought ‘it’s whole different way of learning, why don’t we just put kids in a room with books and they’ll figure it out?’ Do you think that’s very smart?,” Hochul asked the audience at her announcement, which included some fourth graders in the front row.

“No,” one tot retorted.

A growing swath of researchers and activist organizations agree with the fourth grader.

An NAACP chapter has gone as far as petitioning Oakland, Ca. schools, demanding they teach traditional phonics, framing it as a civil rights issue, citing disproportionately lower literacy rates amongst Black, Latino and Asian American Pacific Islander students.

“It’s not just science, it’s common sense,” Hochul said.

The Governor’s proposal is backed by the powerful state teacher’s union, school administrators, and the New York State Parent Teachers Association.

“These policies are not merely the results of the latest fad,” NYSUT President Melinda Person said. “I want to be really clear about this. This is the result of decades of research, brain science information from 10s of 1000s of studies, that is driving us toward this change in instructional practice.”

“NYS PTA is excited that Governor Hochul is supporting our great educators, schools, families and children in this important work,” New York PTA President Helen Hoffman wrote in a statement. “The science of reading instruction has certainly changed over the years, and with this new infusion of resources, support for the important work classroom teachers do each day will be expanded.

The proposed state legislation builds off a sweeping overhaul of elementary literacy instruction rolled out by the Adams’ administration in half of the Big Apple’s school districts in May last year.

The program known as NYC Reads requires city schools to choose between three sets of approved curriculums that focus on reading education for elementary school students.

“New York City has begun doing this and is learning that implementation requires buy-in from teachers and principals,” Nicole Brownstein a spokesperson for NYC Public Schools told the Post.

“[The Governor] is also right in her attempt to require teacher training programs at SUNY and CUNY to emphasize reading instruction that has been proven to be effective.”




Wednesday, January 03, 2024

President Claudine Gay falls at Harvard

She had no instinct for what was right. She was a moral and intellectual wasteland. So much for affirmative action, Destructive action might be a better term for it

Claudine Gay’s resignation Tuesday from the presidency of Harvard is a measure of accountability amid scandals on campus antisemitism and plagiarism. Her leadership had clearly become a drain on the school’s reputation. The question is whether the Harvard Corporation that chose her and presided over this debacle will rebalance by installing an educator who isn’t afraid to challenge the school’s dominant and censorious progressive factions.

In the months since Hamas brutally murdered Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, the atmosphere on Harvard’s campus has been hostile to Jewish students. During one rally, the Crimson newspaper reported, a student “led the crowd in a chant of ‘Long live Palestine; long live the intifada; intifada, intifada; globalise the intifada.” Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi of Harvard Chabad said Dec. 13 that a menorah couldn’t be left outside on campus overnight, “because there’s fear that it’ll be vandalised.” Sen. Dan Sullivan described on these pages the intimidating scene inside the school’s Widener Library.

That was only days after Ms. Gay’s disastrous testimony to the House, which also prompted the University of Pennsylvania’s president to quit. Asked about chants to “globalise the intifada,” Ms. Gay said such calls were “hateful,” “abhorrent,” and “at odds with the values of Harvard,” but she would not say that they violated the code of conduct.

Ms. Gay’s focus was what constitutes actionable bullying or harassment under First Amendment principles. But the double standard on her campus is obvious, and the presidents struck many Americans as smugly dismissive. Ms. Gay soon apologised, saying she “failed to convey what is my truth,” a thoroughly modern thing to say at an institution whose venerable motto is Veritas. “Her” truth, as opposed to the truth, which is what veritas is supposed to stand for.

Then came allegations that passages of text in Ms. Gay’s academic papers had been duplicated, sometimes almost verbatim, from other scholars. Harvard initially told the New York Post that plagiarism claims were “demonstrably false,” via a letter from a law firm with experience in defamation lawsuits, before admitting “inadequate citation” after stories about the allegations broke.

The Harvard Corporation has embarrassed itself throughout these controversies, declaring as recently as Dec. 12: “Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.” The process of finding a new president, it said Tuesday, “will begin in due course.” In the interim, the role will be filled by Provost Alan Garber.

The prescription should be clear, at Harvard and beyond. What has been happening on college campuses results from the failure of leaders to support traditional liberal values of free inquiry and debate. Prestigious institutions are racked with ideological protest from a contingent of students and many faculty who seem to care more about activism than learning. Despite the distraction, or worse, that this poses to good academic work, administrators keep flinching instead of drawing hard lines.

It’s time to try the opposite. Perhaps Larry Summers is available to give it another go.


Why Literature Is Crucial for a Good Education

Imagine flying an airplane without any practice. No test runs. No simulators. No instructor. No preparation. Just you in the cockpit in a misty cloud, unable to see. There’s a good likelihood that you will crash. In order to successfully fly an airplane, you need to be able to practice the maneuvers over and over before you do them in real life, and you need to learn from the wisdom of an experienced pilot before you take to the skies on your own.

The same holds true for living a good life, which is the ultimate goal of education. We need practice and experience if we wish to be successful—in the truest sense—in life. Few of us can perform any action expertly with no practice, and that also holds true for living well.

Experiencing Life Through Literature

But where can we find “practice” for life? How can children and young adults gain life experience when they are still, by definition, inexperienced? The answer is good literature. Through it, you can experience, in a way, multiple lifetimes—centuries worth of the experience of our civilization’s greatest minds, transmitted to us through the classic literary works of our culture. If education is about forming happy and virtuous human beings who have the wisdom and strength to live well, then literature has a key role to play in it.

All art is an imitation of something, as Plato and Aristotle tell us. A painter imitates a landscape. A sculptor imitates the human form. A fiction writer imitates life itself, and the best novels have about them something of the quality and texture of life in all its complexity, grit, and glory. The greatest writers—literary giants such as Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, and Dostoevsky—are individuals with profound wisdom and experience and penetrating insight into human nature, with its glimmering peaks and shadowy depths, who communicate this wisdom through entertaining and moving imitations of life.

When you read a true classic, you enter into the thoughts and feelings of a character. You get outside of yourself. And, maybe most importantly, you see the consequences of that character’s decisions, both the good and the ill, play out dramatically before your eyes. For children and teens, then, this can be a kind of test run for the decisions they will have to make in their own lives. Guided by the wise literary pilots of past ages, young readers learn from the mistakes and triumphs of characters so that they don’t have to learn the same lessons the hard way—by brutal, unforgiving personal experience. Literature provides life experiences without the painful price tag.

Training the Emotions

Although much of education (rightly) focuses on training the mind, literature adds to this the often neglected aspect of training the emotions—that is, forming within students the habits of fitting emotional responses to what they encounter in the world, responses that align with the right reason. As C.S. Lewis says in “The Abolition of Man,”

“Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it—believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence, or our contempt.”

Lewis goes on to lament the rise of what he calls “men without chests,” people whose hearts haven’t been properly developed alongside their heads to react to the world in a healthy way.
We need “men with chests” now more than ever—not sentimental people, those who seek emotion for emotion’s sake, but people whose hearts have been ennobled and elevated by contact with visions of profound beauty and truth, enshrined within great works of art. We need people who react viscerally to evil by rejecting it and to good by yearning for it.

In his description of an ideal education, contained in his “Politics,” Aristotle says, “Virtue consists in rejoicing and loving and hating aright, [and] there is clearly nothing which we are so much concerned to acquire and to cultivate as the power of forming right judgements, and of taking delight in good dispositions and noble action.”

Aristotle explains that the cultivation of taking “delight in good dispositions and noble action” can be accomplished through music. He points out that certain kinds of music can exercise our emotions, making us feel courageous, hopeful, etc., and “the habit of feeling pleasure or pain at mere representations is not far removed from the same feeling about realities.”

Modern science confirms Aristotle’s claim that art—like music or literature—can form the emotions to be healthy. It’s been scientifically demonstrated that reading literary fiction actually improves one’s empathy. After all, literature is always helping us to imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s position.

The Holistic Passion of Literature

Literature appeals to the whole person—the mind, the emotions, the imagination, the memory, and the senses. As poet William Wordsworth says of the power of poetry, “its object is truth ... carried alive into the heart by passion.”

Since it engages so many human faculties at once, it has the power to teach truth in a way that nothing else can. It’s one thing to know what fidelity is in theory. It’s another to see it, to live it out, in some sense, alongside Penelope in the “Odyssey.” It’s one thing to know intellectually that murder is wrong and nihilism leads to despair. It’s another to experience, as it were, the profound and miserable psychological, moral, familial, and legal ramifications of these things alongside Raskolnikov in “Crime and Punishment.”

Literature is truth embodied, truth brought alive, and truth burned into the heart. And isn’t that what we hope for in the education of our children—that truth will be not only a fact they memorize but also a reality they experience, a contact with something vitally alive and meaningful? Can there be a better form of education than this?

The very best literature goes further still. Through its artistic representation of reality, it draws our attention to things we might otherwise miss, things we think we already know, revealing them to us as strange and new, unveiling the beauty of the ordinary. Indeed, a great work of literature opens our eyes to see the grandeur of what is and opens our ears to hear the echo of the infinite resounding through “ordinary” life, which, with a quickening of the heart, we realize isn’t ordinary at all but rather full of beauty, mystery, and wonder.


Good News: Catholic Women’s School Comes to Its Senses

Saint Mary’s College, an exclusively women-only institution that’s part of the Notre Dame University system, made headlines a few months ago. In a shocking and shortsightedly woke move, the college announced that it would admit male students. No, Saint Mary’s wasn’t technically going co-ed; the policy change it was proposing would allow male students who “identify” as female to be included on the women-only campus.

However, before Christmas, the college announced a surprising turn of events. The college’s board and particularly its president, Katie Conboy, faced fierce pushback from both the student body and the external larger Catholic Church. It was intense enough that the president and board reversed their earlier woke decision. In a letter cowritten by President Conboy and Maureen Smith, a member of the school’s board of trustees, they addressed the initial decision to change the policy to admit males, as well as their reasoning for reverting to the original policy.

The letter was full of astonishment for the backlash they received: “When the board approved this update, we viewed it as a reflection of our college’s commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community. We believed it affirmed our identity as an inclusive, Catholic, women’s college.”

Note how “inclusive” takes rhetorical priority over “Catholic” or “women.” That tells you all you need to know.

Conboy and Smith then went on to say: “As this last month unfolded, we lost people’s trust and unintentionally created division where we had hoped for unity. For this, we are deeply sorry. Taking all these factors into consideration, the Board has decided that we will return to our previous admission policy.”

This is a victory not only for the integrity of Catholic teachings but also for the integrity of a school whose stated purpose is to be a women-only college. It also, perhaps, exposed these college board members and administrators to the reality that their woke ideas aren’t universally accepted or even true.

Sadly, this isn’t the case for other colleges and universities. Women-only safe spaces are systematically being invaded by mentally delusional males. At the University of Wyoming, Kappa Kappa Gamma allowed a mentally ill young man who identifies as a woman to join its sorority. Six members of the sorority sued, but their lawsuit was thrown out. Now other alumnae who have been speaking up for the girls have been excommunicated from Kappa Kappa Gamma. It truly is astonishing.

Overall on the Gender Marxism front of the culture wars, however, there has been a noticeable turn back toward sanity. Physicians of integrity have been coming forward with years of data backing the science that the current treatment methods for transgenderism are disastrous. A study has come out (as if we needed one) proving that male and female biology are accurate predictors of sports performance. I.e., men are bigger and stronger than women, and aside from an anomalous female, men are going to be victorious most of the time in physical activities.

In many ways, it can be said that 2023 has been a rubber band that snapped back. As writer and investigative journalist Abigail Shrier put it: “The coercive tools of social ostracism and censorship were wielded against us with smug pride. Then, in 2023, our positions became conventional wisdom, but we were still unacceptable. It was all so obvious, suddenly, even to members of the MSM. They’d arrived where we’d long been, but seemed to think they’d discovered the land by dint of their own wisdom, preferring to ignore the grotesque inhabitants.”

Shrier goes on to encourage conservative stalwarts to embrace the newcomers. At least the change is coming. If we as parents, teachers, and concerned citizens continue to push for the protection of our kids — even and especially the older and supposedly wise college kids — reality and truth will be reasserted to those with eyes to see.




Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Ignorance and Apathy: The history departments at many schools need a serious upgrade

The joke is told about a poll taker who asks about ignorance and apathy in the country. “I don’t know, and I don’t care,” says the respondent.

The consequences of that attitude are playing out across America.

There are two questions most reporters never seem to ask when it comes to mass demonstrations like the recent ones over the Israeli-Hamas War. One is whether they are spontaneous, or are they organized and subsidized by outside entities? Second, have large financial gifts from foreign entities and left-wing organizations compromised some universities that fear losing money should they speak up in ways that might offend the donors? Failure to ask these questions contributes to public (and student) ignorance and apathy.

Valerie Richardson of The Washington Times is an exception among journalists. She writes: “The same U.S. universities that increasingly are seen as breeding grounds for antisemitism have taken billions of dollars in previously undisclosed donations from the Middle East.”

This connection between donations and influence is claimed in a lawsuit by the Lawfare Project on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University student Yael Canaan. She says she has been the target of “pervasive anti-Jewish discrimination.” Canaan linked her allegations to the half-billion dollars donated to the university by Qatar since 2021.

Richardson writes about a report by the Network Contagion Research Institute which showed that “universities reported more than $13 billion … in gifts … from foreign sources” between 2014 and 2019. Kenneth Marcus, president of the Brandeis Center, told the newspaper, “What they want is influence.” Shouldn’t that be obvious?

During her recent controversial testimony before a congressional committee, Harvard President Claudine Gay claimed the school has “strict policies” on which gifts and contracts it accepts and that donors do not influence its policies. Is she saying that antisemitism is home grown? If so, what does that say about the biases of the professors who are transmitting ignorance and what some might consider propaganda to their students?

China has infiltrated American universities by making large donations that support “ Confucius Institutes” which promote Chinese language and cultural programs. In 2019, there were a hundred such institutes. Today, there are reportedly fewer than five. Schools commonly “cited the potential loss of federal funding and external pressures as contributing to their decision to close” their institutes.

However, some critics say the institutes that remain are being used as part of a larger effort to advance the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, which include spying and the theft of intellectual property, stealing U.S. military secrets and harassment of Chinese students and others who are critical of the Beijing regime.

Three years ago, a Jewish organization conducted a first-ever survey in all 50 states to discover what adults under 40 know about the Holocaust. The survey, conducted by the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found “sixty-three percent did not know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and over half of those thought the death toll was fewer than 2 million.” While more than 40,000 death camps and ghettos were established during World War II, “nearly half of U.S. respondents could not name a single one.” One in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust” before.

Deliberate ignorance and false teaching about events here and in the Middle East and China, along with the refusal of American media to pay serious attention to the connection between foreign donations and university policies and teaching, plays into the hands of those who do not wish America well.

Clearly the history departments at many schools need a serious upgrade and a lot of reporters could use a crash course in history at a university that refuses donations from foreign entities that have agendas.


Leftmedia Smears Homeschooling as Dangerous

The Washington Post recently ran an anti-homeschooling propaganda hit piece titled “What home schooling hides: A boy tortured and starved by his stepmom.” The article, which is part of a series the Post is running to smear homeschooling, notes the tragic story of a young 11-year-old boy whose repeated abuse by his stepmother eventually led to his death.

The obvious culprit and perpetrator of this crime is the boy’s stepmother, and she is now in prison as a result. The boy’s father was apparently not present, as he is also doing time in prison, but the article does not make clear whether his incarceration is related to the crime against his son.

The Post covers this heartbreaking story at the outset but then takes a rather twisted turn with the following loaded statement: “Little research exists on the links between homeschooling and child abuse.” What? It sure seems that the conclusion the Post wants to infer is that homeschooling is to blame for this boy’s death.

The biggest reason behind the young boy’s abuse and death had to do with his broken home life. But the Post avoids that glaring factor.

Interestingly, after observing that “little research exists” to link homeschooling and child abuse, the article then goes on to state, “But the research also suggests that when abuse does occur in home-school families, it can escalate into especially severe forms — and that some parents exploit lax home education laws to avoid contact with social service agencies.”

Does the research exist or doesn’t it? This game of sleight-of-hand “journalism” is played to inject an entirely unrelated study from 2014 as “evidence” to support the Post’s preconceived conclusion — the strong implication that homeschooling is more dangerous for children than public schooling.

If it weren’t so serious, it would be laughable, but the Post notes for the study that of more than two dozen children treated for torture from five different states, “17 victims [were] old enough to attend school, eight were home-schooled.”

Once again, homeschooling is the Post’s implied villain. Logically, one could just as easily point out that more than half of the 17 victims old enough to attend school went to public or private schools. So, we can now blame public or private schools for the abuse these children suffered?

Absent other specific criteria, that statistic is as meaningless as suggesting that more victims were from states with colder climates than warmer ones. Correlation is not causation, no matter how hard the Post plays like it is.

The real reason for this anti-homeschooling hit piece is the fact that homeschooling has become an increasingly popular option for parents, especially since the COVID pandemic, when the vaunted public school system across much of the country bowed to the increasingly extreme and illogical demands of teachers unions rather than parents.

Furthermore, COVID opened many parents’ eyes to the reality of what their children were being taught. In many instances, they saw that their children were being indoctrinated in leftist ideologies like critical race theory. Schools also pushed the gender-bending nonsense of “transgenderism,” which resulted in preferred pronouns and accesses for “transgender”-identifying students to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice. Some schools are even pushing pornography. And don’t forget about all the ridiculous masking rules.

At the most basic level, schools are failing to educate children adequately. And then schools are dropping testing standards because they are “racist.”

Parents have every right to be upset and out of genuine concern for their children’s education and well-being pull them out of public school and homeschool if possible. Far from damaging their kids, the data overwhelmingly shows that homeschooled children test well ahead of their public school contemporaries.

The Washington Post, by contrast, would have readers think that government and public school officials have more love and concern for the welfare of children than their parents. However, the fact of the matter is that stories of parental abuse are far from the norm, as parents naturally have a greater love for their children than even the best teachers.

So why the spate of hit pieces against homeschooling? The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Hennessey says it’s simple: follow the money.

“The lockdowns and lockouts of 2020 dealt a reputational blow to the education blob — that quasipublic syndicate of teachers unions, government bureaucracies, brand-name credentialing institutions and their media allies whose mission is to keep taxpayer money flowing to public schools. Most of that money is linked to students, many of whom left during the plague year and haven’t returned. Now the crisis is over and the blob wants its monopoly back.”


Maryland county claims school board can create seat only illegal immigrants can vote on

A Maryland county claims under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it can create a school board seat that only illegal immigrants can vote for, according to reports.

The Washington Times reported that Howard County officials appeared before a federal court of appeals last month and defended its current process of having a school board seat occupied by a student, in which only public school students are allowed to vote for.

Some Howard County residents are challenging the practice on the basis of it being unconstitutional discrimination in voting, particularly against the county general electorate and students at religious schools who cannot vote for the student seat.

An attorney for the challengers, Michael Smith, told the publication it is a "zero-sum game." He explained that empowering students to choose one of the eight school board members takes away power from the general electorate.

"You have 12.5% of the voting authority of that board that’s removed from registered voters," Smith said.

Eight counties in Maryland have a student serving on their respective board of education. In Howard County, officials argue the selection of a student is more of an appointment because, despite students casting a vote for their student candidate of choice, the board and school officials narrow down the candidates.

A county attorney, Amy Marshak, explained to the publication that the election is not just a popularity contest. "While students do vote, they do it as part of a very limited process," she said.

The case has been through several courts at this point.

A lower court sided with the county and determined the process violates the First Amendment religious rights and 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause of those students who are shut out of voting.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though, questioned the decision, asking if a vote is not being taken, is it really an appointive process?

The appeals court also argued if it is not an appointment, but it is an election, the process gets tangled with voting rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

"You’ve got this additional seat that is not subject to the one-person, one-vote rule," Chief Judge Albert Diaz reportedly said. "That’s a problem."

The seat held by the student does not have the power to vote on the budget or personnel matters, though plaintiffs in the case say a student board member was able to cast the decision-making vote to close school longer because of the pandemic.




Monday, January 01, 2024

Harvard Honor Council student accuses school of double standard, says President Claudine Gay must resign over plagiarism scandal

She is academic garbage. She shames all real scholars by occupying a leadership position. Her only qualification for her position would seem to be her skin color. The usual Leftist racism at work

A member of Harvard’s student Honor Council called for the resignation of university president Claudine Gay over her ongoing plagiarism scandal — accusing the school’s governing body of having one standard for the embattled administrator and another for the student body.

“Gay’s getting off easy,” the student, who sits on the council tasked with deciding sanctions for classmates caught plagiarizing, wrote in a letter published anonymously in the Harvard Crimson Sunday.

“Let’s compare the treatment of Harvard undergraduates suspected of plagiarism with that of their president,” they wrote.

“When students — my classmates, peers, and friends — appear before the council, they are distraught. For most, it is the worst day of their college careers. For some, it is the worst day of their lives. They often cry.”

First time plagiarism infractions — which can stem from omitted quotation marks, and incomplete or absent citations — typically result in one term of probation and the stripping away of the student’s “good standing” status, which prevents them from studying abroad or even graduating, the author wrote.

Repeat offenses can result in students being forced to withdraw from the university for two semesters, according to the letter, published in Harvard’s student newspaper.

“What is striking about the allegations of plagiarism against President Gay is that the improprieties are routine and pervasive,” the letter said.

Gay was found to have used “duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in some of her academic work, the school’s governing body, the Harvard Corporation said after an investigation.

Instead of Gay being forced to step away from the university as students would for similar offenses, Harvard stood behind its president and allowed her to correct the mistakes, the student letter noted.

“That the Corporation considers her corrections an adequate response is not fair to undergraduates, who cannot simply submit corrections to avoid penalties,” the student wrote.

“When my peers are found responsible for multiple instances of inadequate citation, they are often suspended for an academic year. When the president of their university is found responsible for the same types of infractions, the fellows of the Corporation ‘unanimously stand in support of’ her,” the letter said, citing the Corporation’s statement about the scandal.

The scandal has left many calling for Gay’s resignation and others shrugging the mistakes off as unintentional.

“A sober-minded assessment of the plagiarism charges indicates that Gay’s behavior constitutes plagiarism, but since the errors do not appear intentional, they do not warrant her resignation,” the Harvard Crimson’s editorial board wrote in an op-ed published Saturday.

The member of the student Honor Council dismissed arguments excusing the plagiarism for being unintentional as ridiculous.

“While a single lifted paragraph could be blamed on a lapse in judgment, a pattern is more concerning,” the student wrote.

“There is one standard for me and my peers and another, much lower standard for our University’s president. The Corporation should resolve the double standard by demanding her resignation.”


Harvard Should Pay Its Fair Share

What can we do about the corruption of American higher education? Milton Friedman had an idea 20 years ago: Tax the schools rather than subsidize them. That reflected a change of heart. In “Capitalism and Freedom” (1960), he argued that college education had enough “positive externalities” to justify subsidies. But when I was researching a book in 2003, I emailed him (then 91) and asked if he still believed that.

He replied: “I have not changed my view that higher education has some positive externality, but I have become much more aware that it also has negative externalities. I am much more dubious than I was . . . that there is any justification at all for government subsidy of higher education. The spread of PC”—political correctness—“would seem to be a very strong negative externality, and certainly the 1960s student demonstrations were negative externalities. . . . A full analysis along those lines might lead you to conclude that higher education should be taxed to offset its negative externalities.”

The past 20 years have seen negative externalities multiply: discriminatory hiring, promotion and contracting; the exclusion of conservative scholars; the suppression of speech. The case for taxing universities is stronger than ever.

A small move in that direction occurred in 2017, when Congress enacted an endowment tax. But it is small and applies only to some 35 wealthy private schools. House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith wants to increase that levy, but the effect would still be limited, since it would exclude public schools with small endowments.

A far better approach would be for state governments to reduce subsidies and introduce some taxation—local levies on property or state sales taxes for tuition and fees. The feds could help by getting out of the student-loan business and taxing schools’ investment income. Why should ordinary citizens pay a 23.8% tax on capital gains while Harvard, with its $50 billion endowment, pays nothing?


Universities Are Prioritizing Their Health Systems Over Teaching. That’s Killing Academic Freedom

Higher education has had a historically bad year.

In June, the Supreme Court imposed constitutional restraints on how universities select its own students. Throughout the summer, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis trumpeted his bullying of higher education in the state, making it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. And most recently, university presidents were humiliated during a congressional testimony on antisemitism on campus. One central lesson emerging at year’s end is that, more than ever, we in higher education need our university leaders to be bold and articulate defenders of academic freedom. Yet this is precisely what they have not been able to do.

Before we blame the individuals on center stage, however, we should look at the structural causes that brought us to this moment. A big reason for our disenchantment is that the job of a university president no longer prioritizes being a pioneering thought leader, but instead requires the skills of a savvy lobbyist. For most large universities, administrators’ attention has increasingly focused on outside funding and large revenue generators and away from student instruction and traditional scholarship.

One significant reason — one that has been wholly unappreciated but is growing in importance — is the role many universities play in our nation’s health sector. Universities with health systems are better understood as health systems with universities. As such, they are highly dependent on the graces and whims of policymakers, and their leaders are structurally restrained from asserting independence against, or challenging the wrongheaded politics of, elected leaders. In the end, academic freedom is the big loser.

Window into the Politics of Higher Education

It is not just Desantis, the Supreme Court and Congress. Many state legislatures have targeted higher education to advance their political objectives, and my home state of North Carolina offers a vivid microcosm of what might be called the new politics of higher education.

This legislative term, the state’s General Assembly advanced a number of bills this year that targeted academic ventures on the state’s University of North Carolina flagship campus, including a bill that would eliminate tenure, an effort to prescribe how instructors are to teach American history, and a budgetary intervention aimed to promote certain political ideologies.

The UNC faculty protested vocally, as nearly 700 signed a letter decrying the state’s recent actions “violate the principles of academic freedom and shared governance that undergird higher education in N.C. and the U.S.” UNC administrators, however, have not protested. Instead, UNC leaders aggressively sought special favors for its health system. The crown prize was the North Carolina Senate vote, 48-0, to grant the UNC Health system immunity from federal antitrust laws (after public scrutiny, the measure did not pass the state House).

We should be clear: health policy experts — including researchers at UNC’s renowned Gillings School of Global Public Health — agree that this is a horrendous policy move. The federal antitrust laws, designed to prevent monopolies and preserve competition, are gravely needed in the health sector (in the Senate’s limited debate, this much was conceded), and voluminous research has shown that hospital monopolies severely raise health care costs while reducing quality.

The mystery is not why the state considered implementing such unwise policy, since legislatures routinely extend special privileges to favored institutions. The real curiosity is why, with its academic integrity threatened and its independence on the line, UNC invested its limited political capital to ask for such a naked political favor.

The University-turned-Health System Finances

One answer — albeit a distressing one — is that UNC, like many large universities, is really a hospital system with a university appendage. UNC Health has a budget that is about $2.2 billion more than the entirety of UNC’s flagship campus in Chapel Hill ($3.5 billion vs $5.5 billion). This is also true for North Carolina’s private universities that operate health systems, like Duke University, whose health system has a budget $1.1 billion larger than the remainder of the university ($4.5 billion vs $3.4 billion). Moreover, both health systems are growing faster than the rest of both campuses.

These facts are important because the financial health of hospitals is highly dependent on political decisions. For example, the North Carolina General Assembly’s legislative session this year included debates over Medicaid expansion, which would infuse enormous sums of additional dollars into the state’s health sector, and “certificate of need” rules that would govern whether current hospitals could prevent competition from new entrants. The legislature — like all other state legislatures — also routinely makes decisions on insurance eligibility, the array of services that medical professionals may offer (so called scope-of-practice rules) and the tax-exempt status of many health care facilities.

So, perhaps it is not surprising that UNC leaders prioritized legislation that enhanced the financial security of its hospital system rather than measures that would protect its Chapel Hill faculty. And perhaps it is not surprising the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard — each of which rely heavily on government, foundation and industry funding (UPenn’s health system has a budget that is more than twice the university’s) — might seek presidents who exhibit the cautious effectiveness of corporate leaders, who can assure cooperation with policymakers and compromise with ideologues, rather than visionaries who inspire resoluteness




Sunday, December 31, 2023

Democratic elites hate charter schools BECAUSE they perform better and give disadvantaged kids a chance

By Adam B. Coleman

We like to tell ourselves failure isn’t an option, but for decades, failure has been the status quo for the education of children of the working class and poor.

Failure was always on the table when it was those “other kids” who would suffer the consequences of mismanaged and corrupt local-government-run schools, and many fought to ensure that bureaucracy would keep their destiny one of destitution.

But when we give those castaway children a chance to excel in alternative institutions like private and charter schools, they quickly prove to us the only ones who failed were the adults who forced them to remain in educational squalor for so many years.

The New York Charter School Center just examined the latest assessments of third- to eighth-grade students and found charter schools outperformed their traditional public-school counterparts — especially in educating minority kids.

Students who attended city charter schools scored 7 percentage points higher on the English language arts exam, with 59% passing versus 52% in city Department of Education-run schools, and 13 percentage points higher on the math exam, with 63% passing versus 50%.

Black charter-school students outperformed their district counterparts by 19 percentage points in English and 27 percentage points in math.

Similarly, Hispanic charter-school kids beat their public-school peers by 16 percentage points in English and 25 percentage points in math.

With 90% of enrolled charter-school students being black and Hispanic and 80% of them coming from low-income families, New York charter schools have provided the children who were once forgotten in underachieving public schools an opportunity to experience economic mobility despite the efforts of pro-teachers-union Democrats.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such results.

Last year, a State University of New York Charter Schools Institute analysis found the largest disparity of educational excellence in The Bronx, which has dozens of alternative schools.

The number of students at SUNY-approved charters there who reached proficiency in English was 28 percentage points higher and in math 35 points higher than in neighboring public schools.

At the Academic Leadership Charter School, 84% of students were proficient in English, compared with just 31% in surrounding schools in District 7. The school is in Mott Haven, a neighborhood with a median income of $25,325 a year that’s 72% Hispanic and 24% black.

The elitists who plague the Democratic Party can only see as far as the landscaped shrubs at the entrance of their cul-de-sacs and refuse to acknowledge that the excellence in their local public school is not a reflection of what’s happening on the other side of the tracks.

They cannot comprehend the far-too-frequent situation of a child graduating from a public high school illiterate — because minimum standards of being capable of reading and writing are nearly guaranteed where they’re from.

We live in the land of the free but tell certain children that they shouldn’t be free to choose anything other than what isn’t working in education.

The Democrats in power claim to care about the lives of all children, but most do everything possible to uphold a system that puts union interests before a child’s hope.

They have no idea what it’s like to be a child who attends a school that ultimately doesn’t care if you pass legitimately or not and is too inept to rescue a child who is struggling to stay afloat.

I do, because I was this child.

I was never diagnosed in school, because no one cared enough to pay attention to what was obvious, but I displayed signs of dyslexia, which made my high-school learning experience horrendous and demoralizing.

In the last three years of high school, I failed and had to take summer classes to pass through the next grade and graduate.

I remember returning to school after my summer classes and finding nothing had changed. And no one cared about why I kept ending up in this circumstance.

As an adult, I now know why: These educators’ objective is to project an illusion of success, even if it means pushing stragglers like me across the finish line, to uphold the institutional status quo.

I wonder how many other children are like me, left behind because their struggles are an inconvenience for the people who place platitudes over results.

How many of us see these children who are raised in undesirable environments and view their existence as such as well?

If it’s American to strive for freedom of choice, then it’s anti-American to prevent our children from having a choice.


Missouri School District Offers Coloring Pages on Preferred Pronouns, Gender Expression to Kindergartners

A Missouri school district is providing elementary-school teachers with coloring pages, asking children as young as kindergartners to choose their pronouns and draw the corresponding hair and clothing.

Webster Groves School District Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Shane Williamson emailed administrators a resource list of “Gender Identity and Expression Activities” in October 2022 in honor of LGBT History Awareness Month, according to public documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and shared with The Daily Signal.

“I believe it would be good to start our own resource sheet that provides ideas and activities that can help affirm and support our elementary students around the topic of gender identity and expression,” Williamson said in the email.

Williamson started the list and allowed others to add more activity resources. She did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

The list includes two “Playing with Pronouns” coloring pages from the Gender Wheel website for kindergarten through fifth grade and links to Welcoming Schools resources on gender-expansive classrooms and Advocates for Youth’s K-12 sexuality curriculum.

The “My Personal Style” coloring page asks children to draw themselves in the “style that feels the most like you.” The page features a gender-neutral child in the middle surrounded by both boy and girl options for clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry.

The other “Playing the Pronouns” coloring page includes a maze with a child of uncertain sex at one end and a text bubble saying, “Help Dylan find their baseball hat” at the other end, with “their” in lieu of either “his” or “her.”

“The Gender Wheel reminds us that we must see gender and bodies in a nonlinear continuum, and not in isolation,” according to the Gender Wheel website, which makes the claim that gender stereotypes have no basis in nature.

Jay Greene, a senior education fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Daily Signal the coloring pages used by the St. Louis-area school district are inappropriate for young children.

“Asking kindergartners in a Missouri public school to reimagine their gender identity and list their pronouns is simply not age-appropriate and almost certainly inconsistent with the priorities of families in that community,” Greene said. “Even if we think certain topics can lead to productive discussions, not all topics are appropriate for all ages of children.”

The Welcoming Schools lesson plans, which the Webster Groves resource list designates as age appropriate for kindergarten through eighth grade, aim at “creating classrooms and schools that are free of gender stereotypes and gender norms that limit all children,” according to its website.

The “Lesson Plans to Create Gender Expansive Classrooms and Support Transgender and Nonbinary Students,” produced by the far-left Human Rights Campaign, include LGBTQ children’s book downloads, such as “I Am Jazz,” the story of transgender-identifying biological male Jazz Jennings; “Julian Is a Mermaid,” the story of a boy who wants to dress like a female mermaid; “Jacob’s New Dress,” about a boy who wears a dress to school; and “They, She, He, Easy as ABC,” a child’s guide to “inclusive pronouns.”

“A key focus of our program is to provide comprehensive resources for educators to teach about transgender and nonbinary people and to affirm all students’ identities across the gender spectrum,” the Welcoming Schools website says.

Other book recommendations for children kindergarten age and older include “Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope”; “They, She, He, Me, Free to Be!”; and “Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story About Friendship and Gender.”

A winter-related lesson available for download about a “Gender Snowperson” for third through fifth grades asks children to draw their gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and so-called sex assigned at birth.

Children learn about nonbinary butterflies in another lesson designated as appropriate for kindergarten to second grade classrooms.

“Introducing students to animals that are nonbinary, as opposed to the ‘female and male’ gender binary, helps them to understand that there are many genders and that nature displays great diversity,” the lesson plan says.

Martin Bennet, secretary and treasurer of the St. Louis County Family Association, which submitted the FOIA request, said the Webster Groves lessons are indicative of what’s happening in public schools in Missouri and elsewhere.

“The inappropriate lessons that are occurring in public education, along with the continual slide in academic performance, is why the Missouri Legislature and Gov. [Mike] Parson must make school choice a reality for parents in Missouri,” Bennet told The Daily Signal.

K-12 lesson plans from Advocates for Youth feature elementary lessons on “Thinking Outside the (Gender) Box,” different kinds of families, gender roles, and understanding that “there are some body parts that mostly just girls have and some parts that mostly just boys have.”

A lesson on pregnancy lists abortion as a pregnancy option. Teachers are to show the students a video on options, then say, “Let’s take a closer look at these three options and identify what a person should consider with each option. For example, with the option of abortion, a person should consider if abortion is available in their local area or would require them to travel.”

Optional homework outlined in the lesson plan undermines crisis pregnancy centers, more commonly referred to as pregnancy resource centers or pregnancy help centers.

“Research the phrase Crisis Pregnancy Center, which are centers that aim to block a pregnant person’s access to a safe abortion,” the lesson plan says. “Identify three key facts about crisis pregnancy centers that set them apart from health care centers.”

Advocates for Youth’s use of “pregnant person” implies that pregnancy is not exclusive to women.

Abortion is defined as “when a pregnant person decides to end the pregnancy by accessing a safe medical procedure or medication to remove the pregnancy from the person’s uterus.”

Webster Groves School District did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.


Texas Public University Closes DEI Office to Comply With New Law...But Here's What It Did Next

The University of Texas-San Antonio has closed its Office of Inclusive Excellence ahead of a law taking effect Jan. 1 that bars Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices at public universities.

But in an email to the campus community, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy announced a new office has been created using the same staff.

“I’m writing today to share a new path ahead that upholds the law while still advancing our core values to ensure a welcoming, collaborative and supportive environment where all faculty, staff and students can thrive,” Eighmy wrote.

As you know, Senate Bill 17 goes into effect on January 1, 2024 and charges college and university governing boards with ensuring that diversity, equity and inclusion offices are not maintained or upheld. As a result, effective January 1, UTSA's Office of Inclusive Excellence will be closed.

A new office—the Office of Campus and Community Belonging—will be established to enhance our university’s mission and create unique opportunities for faculty, staff and students. The new office will focus on three pillars: ADA & Accessibility, Campus Climate, and Community Partnership Bridges.

The office’s first pillar, ADA and Accessibility, will serve as the university’s focal point to coordinate and connect established campus-wide systems, programs and processes designed to support accessibility for our community members. The second pillar, Campus Climate, will take a proactive approach to maintaining a welcoming environment to enhance the student, staff and faculty experience. Lastly, the third pillar, Community Partnership Bridges, will work to increase access to higher education for community members across San Antonio. A plan to support this pillar will be implemented in the coming year.

The president said the new office will be staffed with those from the Office of Inclusive Excellence, though in “new roles with updated responsibilities.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 17 in June. The measure says an “institution of higher education may not establish or maintain a diversity, equity, and inclusion office or hire or assign an employee of the institution, or contract with a third party, to perform the duties of a diversity, equity, and inclusion office.”

Whether the university respects the law with the new office remains to be seen.

“I would be shocked and dismayed were they to seek to circumvent the DEI bans,” Texas Public Policy Foundation's Thomas Lindsay told The College Fix.