Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Putting Public Colleges on a Path to Privatization

Public colleges and universities in the United States will never be as conservative as many conservatives want, nor will they become as progressive as many progressives want. A key impediment is the First Amendment: government officials cannot reach into the college classroom to require or ban any viewpoint. Although both groups of advocates claim to prioritize teaching “how” to think versus “indoctrination,” various unsuccessful efforts to either ban or require “critical theory” viewpoints, for example, demonstrate that many advocates want what the First Amendment will not permit.

Meanwhile, many moderates critique higher education for the huge success of progressives in creating a culture of speech suppression against not only conservatives but also moderates, particularly on social issues. Public and private universities alike suffer from demonstrated cultures of timidity when it comes to sharing ideas that stand to the right of the prevailing academic regime. That is the opposite of the intellectual life of a great university.

The public pays for much of this and expects accountability, but “academic freedom” concerns have historically featured deference even to blatant activism among professors.

One solution in these circumstances is to stop funding public colleges in the first place, which means to stop having them, and instead, to privatize them.

States could save more than $126 billion per year if they stopped subsidizing higher education. Texas alone would save nearly $14 billion.

Two Paths to Privatization

The straightest path to privatization is to gradually reduce state funding to zero. In return, the state can let each college hold its own title to the land on which it sits. Land grant status is probably no impediment, considering that some private colleges, including MIT and Cornell, are land-grant colleges.

Cutting the cord, though, may be politically difficult for legislators. Such a plan may require legislators to have the same privatization policy for many years in a row, closing their ears as public university advocates cry ever louder that they can’t compete with the nearby private universities unless they get special treatment. But such a plan, after all, frees up millions or billions of dollars for other purposes.

Economists have given me an alternative: the legislature could appropriate to a college about eighteen to twenty times the average appropriation from the past five years. That amount creates an endowment that spins off about the same amount as a normal, annual appropriation, so it would be revenue-neutral for the college. At the same time, the appropriation will be funded by a long-term bond. A bond issue of 18X over thirty years at 4 percent interest, for example, would also be revenue neutral for the state.

In this scenario, the institution immediately becomes private as part of the legislation. The ironclad provision tied into the appropriation and bond is that the university will never again ask for or receive a penny in state funding—though it may compete for state grants on an equal basis with other private entities, and its students may remain eligible for any tuition grants that are offered to state residents. The state would still own the land on which the college sits, providing a ninety-nine-year lease. The college, with enough in the bank to assuage lenders’ concerns, could buy the land from the state at a market price at any time.

From an enrollment perspective, the time for privatization is ripe. Many colleges are naturally losing enrollment due to a decline in the population of college-aged young adults, higher education has suffered a loss of credibility due to faculty activism, and prospective students have a decreasing perception that college is worth the investment. These colleges might jump at the chance to lock in an endowment at the 18X level rather than downsizing along with the student body and then waiting a generation or two for the opportunity to upsize again.

States should not rush into this plan while interest rates are so high, however. States seeking to privatize their universities through an endowment/bond plan should wait for interest rates to return below 4 percent.

Case Study: Fairmont State University

Take, for example, Fairmont State University, a public university in West Virginia, where I live. Fairmont fits the pattern of high access but weak outcomes. It is open to almost anyone, with a 98-percent acceptance rate, and it has a correspondingly high dropout rate, with only 19 percent graduating in four years and 40 percent within six years.

Largely due to state subsidies, Fairmont gives a $10,000 discount to in-state students, charging them $8,708 per year instead of $18,924. Fairmont estimates all other annual expenses at around $12,000 per year. Its first-year retention rate of 69 percent means that many students (31 percent, or nearly a third) decide quickly that they should pursue a different path, and those students lose no more than one year of full-time work while spending no more than $21,000 if they stay for both semesters. It hurts, but they can recover. (Notably, only about 70 percent of Fairmont students attend full time, suggesting that six years rather than four is a fair mark for assessment. Also, part-time students may have significant year-round income to offset expenses.)

For Fairmont students who persist past year one, though, only four out of seven have graduated by the end of six years (69 percent make it past year one, but only 40 percent of the original total finish by year six). Those odds are poor. At $21,000 per year to not finish a degree, these results are not just scandalous, but a waste of taxpayer funding and student tuition.

For the 2025 fiscal year, the State of West Virginia appropriated $20,671,494 to Fairmont State University, considering only the main line item for the university, not other funding streams. Given a student body of about 3,500, this appropriation is about $5,906 per student. Yet, much of that funding is wasted because so many students leave with no degree.

These statistics show the cost of matching high access with low completion. Fairmont is no extreme case, but just one of many examples across public universities in America.

Meanwhile, just sixty miles south is Davis & Elkins College, a private university trying to compete with West Virginia’s subsidized public colleges. Before aid, the average student there accumulates about $45,000 in costs. A student has about $18,000 left to pay after receiving all financial aid. A healthier market in postsecondary education would stop subsidizing Fairmont, letting colleges like Davis & Elkins compete on a level field.

One way to do this is to end the annual subsidy to Fairmont and privatize it—either cold turkey or over time. In fact, West Virginia has already followed this path, reducing the per-student subsidy by $953 between 2001 and 2022.

At the same time, West Virginia could target additional scholarship aid to students who are most likely to succeed in college, and hold a more compassionate line against admitting students who are unlikely to succeed. Currently, Fairmont takes a lot of first-year tuition for students who are reasonably likely not to finish a degree, which Fairmont could predict in part using applicants’ SAT scores. Instead, West Virginia could end Fairmont’s funding and reallocate some funds to students likely to graduate. Funding students is a better economic choice than subsidizing institutions, as education economics expert Andrew Gillen describes in a recent paper. Moreover, with up to $21 million saved, West Virginia also could reallocate some funds to career colleges, where many adults go when they need a Plan B.

In exchange for termination of the subsidy, Fairmont would receive title to its land and become free from many state regulations—the oversight and central planning that make it harder for public universities to innovate and adapt. Although this plan could be enacted in a single budget year, Fairmont’s path to privatization could involve subsidy decreases over a period of five to ten years.

If legislators dislike this privatization plan, there is an alternative: funding a revenue-neutral endowment using a long-term bond. This choice would immediately give Fairmont the benefits of a private university while ending the annual state subsidy.

In Fairmont’s case, 18X its current appropriation is about $372 million. This amount would dramatically increase Fairmont’s endowment from its present $32 million. Considering long-term market returns against inflation, it is not unreasonable for Fairmont to expect the 5.55-percent annual return required for this plan to be revenue-neutral. Fairmont could spend all of the annual interest each year or could choose a smaller annual payout in order to see the endowment grow—or at least match inflation.

In the long run—over the course of a thirty-year bond—the Fairmont area is likely to increase in population, with Fairmont State’s enrollment increasing accordingly. But the privatization deal is that in exchange for its endowment windfall, Fairmont State cannot ever get another appropriation. Due to inflation, the value of the windfall will probably decrease over time. In this scenario, Fairmont’s path to privatization will be effectively realized as the state infusion becomes worth less and less and the playing field becomes level.

Since the deal puts private-sector trustees in charge, it must prevent them from closing up shop and taking the money. Fairmont would be required to maintain nonprofit status into perpetuity. Fairmont would lease or buy its land from the state, with its large endowment providing attractive surety to lenders. Or, if the state gives Fairmont title to the land, it must always be used for an educational purpose. If Fairmont closes for any reason, any remaining equity must go to another nonprofit educational purpose (or back to the state if there is no suitable beneficiary).

To give this deal teeth, there probably should be a third-party beneficiary. In other words, if either party reneges on its part of the deal, a third party should have the right to recover from Fairmont most or all of that $372 million. The third party could be, for example, Davis & Elkins College, which ought to have a reasonable expectation that the deal will be honored as the college makes its own plans. This provision should be a sharp incentive for the state legislature not to renege on its promise to taxpayers.

Public Education Needs the Discipline of the Market

Apart from ideological and academic concerns about university activism, American colleges’ embarrassingly low rates of student persistence from year one into graduation lead to an indisputable conclusion that traditional “four-year” college programs are severely over-enrolled. This problem began with the mid-twentieth century GI Bill, which intentionally put veterans in college instead of the workforce, and massive subsidies to colleges have grown. The cost of greatly improving college access has been millions of students who leave their hometowns and forgo full-time employment for four to six years, only to leave school with debt but no degree.

No one knows the true market for postsecondary education because of the extreme distortions caused by extreme subsidies. These distortions should end. While state actors can do relatively little about federal student loans and the billions of dollars transferred via federally sponsored research, states do control whether to keep their public colleges public.

To better align state postsecondary system enrollment with state needs, far more students should be in career colleges relative to “four-year” bachelor’s programs. Ending state subsidies for programs that provide bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (the overproduction of advanced degrees is a topic for another time) means putting public universities on a path to privatization.

A path to privatization is not only possible but could be welcomed by many public colleges. One option is to gradually shrink the annual appropriation to zero and to repurpose the funding or let it remain with taxpayers. Another option, which may be particularly desired by colleges likely to shrink with demographic and other trends, is to privatize them outright. States can provide one-time endowment funding to replace state subsidies, funding the deal with a long-term bond and protecting the deal by giving enforcement incentives to a third-party beneficiary.

The large endowment will also give potential lenders and donors more confidence in the long-term viability of the institution. Furthermore, privatizing colleges will not only free them from bureaucratic impediments to innovation, but also will relieve government leaders from the pressure to interfere ideologically.

Postsecondary education in the United States needs the discipline of the market. Putting all public colleges and universities on a path to privatization—and, eventually, removing all forms of public subsidy—is how to get there.


"Decolonisation" destroys knowledge

Kevin Donnelly

In 1945, British author George Orwell said, ‘One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.’ While written 79 years ago, the current move by activists to decolonise the curriculum illustrates the relevance of Orwell’s observation.

Post-colonial academics argue that instead of being impartial and based on the search for truth, Western universities are enforcing a Eurocentric and white supremacist curriculum. In Australia, the UK, South Africa, and America (but not in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, or communist Russia and China) activists insist course work must be assessed, deconstructed, and cleansed.

Based on neo-Marxist critical theory and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are meant to believe that the way universities define, structure, and assess what is taught is inherently racist and oppressive and guaranteed to disadvantage and oppress black, African, and minority ethnic (BAME) students.

As a result, two UK-based academics, in a recent research paper, argue the white curriculum must be radically reshaped to ‘integrate marginalised voices, diverse cultural perspectives, and non-Eurocentric knowledge systems’.

The two academics are especially critical of STEM subjects, saying their supposed objectivity and impartiality ‘mask underlying colonial influences’ that can be traced to a time when colonial powers ‘used their perceived cultural and intellectual superiority as a means to justify their domination over colonised populations’.

Closed book examinations, in English, with time restrictions and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers are also criticised as disadvantaging BAME students. Such assessment favours what the two academics call as ‘positivist’ view.

They also criticise a view of assessment where ‘knowledge is only recognised when it can be logically or mathematically proven or scientifically verified’. As an alternative, the academics argue assessment ‘must depart from traditional structures’ and embrace ‘decolonial elements that undo colonial practices and influences’.

Once the university assessment process has been decolonised, students will experience ‘an inclusive learning environment with a contextual awareness of our increasingly connected world, thereby transforming assessments from rigid constructs to adaptable instruments relevant and sensitive to individual students’ backgrounds and lives’.

For those still committed to rationality, reason, and objectivity it’s vital to realise the research paper in question is just one recent example of a cultural-Marxist inspired approach to rid the curriculum of whiteness.

In 2015, academics at a major Australian university argued ‘the dominance of whiteness in the curriculum is associated with systemic problems such as social inclusion, implicit bias, structural inequality, and intersectional discrimination’.

Also in 2015, students at an international university published 8 Reasons the Curriculum is White where they argue privileging Enlightenment science promotes an ideology where ‘people racialised as white are morally and intellectually superior’.

Not to be outdone, academics at another university argue that as ‘UK science is inherently white’ it’s impossible to argue it can be ‘objective and apolitical’. The academics also insist that European science ‘was both a fundamental contributor to European imperialism and a major beneficiary of its injustices’.

Such is the power of post-colonial theory and the push to decolonise the curriculum schools are also impacted. The Australian national mathematics curriculum asks students to study Aboriginal mathematical thinking, including ‘algebraic thinking’.

An outline of the science curriculum states, ‘First Nations Australians have worked scientifically for millennia and continue to provide significant contributions to developments in science.’ So much for Pythagoras, Archimedes, Ptolemy, and Enlightenment thinkers including Kant and Newton.

In New Zealand, controversy recently erupted over the move to include Maori knowledge in the science and mathematics curriculums. Once again, the assumption is that how such disciplines are structured and taught, instead of being objective and impartial, are cultural constructs.

As argued by Winston in Orwell’s 1984, one of the most sinister and effective ways Big Brother and the Party enforce domination is by employing mind control and group think. No matter how illogical or irrational, whatever the Thought Police enforce must be endorsed.

Such is the all-powerful mind control enforced by the Party, Winston concludes, ‘In the end the Party would announce that two and two make five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later.’

The move to decolonise the curriculum (by painting STEM subjects as white supremacist cultural constructs and insisting there is nothing preferable or superior about Enlightenment thinking or Western science) mirrors what Orwell warns about.

If subjects like science and mathematics are nothing more than cultural constructs, then there truly will be a time when four plus four equals five.


Australia: Reforms failed on maths teaching, says new report

Students’ falling maths scores can be stemmed and reversed by focusing on teacher effectiveness instead of dedicating resources to measures such as increasing teacher-to-student ratios or lifting funding for disadvantaged groups, a new report claims.

“There has been limited interaction with the science of learning with key domains, particularly mathematics and mathematical cognition and learning,” according to the report from the Centre for Independent Studies.

Siobhan Merlo, author of The Science of Maths and how to Apply it, said she hoped the report “gives teachers the tools that they need to understand how learning works and what the implications are for the way they teach”.

She contrasted Australia’s faltering performance in international scores compared to peer countries such as Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan.

“I feel like in Australia … we have instructional casualties,” she said, adding the reasons were “multifaceted” including the country was not producing enough maths teachers.

“Teachers generally don’t go into maths teaching as much as they go into other subjects, so we definitely don’t have enough maths teachers. We have a lot of out-of-subject teachers teaching maths in Australia.”

She said focusing on measures such as teacher-to-student ratios and directing funding to disadvantaged students – measures of the kind that had been proposed in the Gonski review – had not worked.

“If these things they did target had worked, we wouldn’t see the results we’ve got now,” she said. “Despite this funding and despite these best efforts, we’re seeing that decline or stagnation. Teacher effectiveness has not been properly addressed in the Gonski review.”

On the topic of teaching effectiveness, Dr Merlo’s report advocates for thinking about it in a “measurable-effectiveness focused” way.

This school of thought focuses on “explicit instruction and developing mathematical competency”, the report states.

“Engagement happens via building competency and setting students up for success, not via relaxing requirements on correctness of answers or refraining from using timed tests.”


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Monday, July 22, 2024

UK: Universities Face Cash “Catastrophe” With Threat of Mergers and Course Cuts

Universities are facing a financial crisis, according to the Times, with arts and humanities degrees being targeted for closure as demand tanks. Here’s an excerpt:

Three leading institutions are understood to be in serious peril and ministers are being urged to introduce an emergency rescue package to avert “catastrophe” and prevent bankruptcies.

The Government is considering merging one medium-sized university with another and is drawing up plans to “tackle problems within the sector”.

This week, Bridget Phillipson, the Education Secretary, is expected to appoint a new interim head of the Office for Students, the regulator that ensures students get value for money and upholds standards of education, to spearhead the recovery.

It has forecast that 40% of England’s universities will run budget deficits this year and warned of closures and mergers. In a sign of the scale of the crisis, a senior Whitehall source said that it “has been at the top of a list of challenges inherited from the last Government”.

Last week, the University and College Union (UCU) held talks with Phillipson and Jacqui Smith, the Skills minister, to urge action to save jobs.

Jo Grady, its General Secretary, spelt out her concerns to them in a letter. “Anything short of an emergency rescue package for the sector will be insufficient to stave off catastrophe,” she wrote. …

Goldsmiths’s proposed redundancies included half of the History and Sociology department and a third of all English and creative writing academics. …

At Winchester, which describes itself as “the university for sustainability and social justice”, jobs have been lost at departments including the Climate and Social Justice Institute.

Robert Beckford, the university’s only black professor who was the director of the institute, was made redundant this month. He said universities that axed such subjects and focused on vocational subjects could become “little more than glorified FE colleges”.

Arts and humanities degrees are being targeted for closure because lucrative overseas students who pay high fees prefer to study science and technology degrees. …

Official figures released on Friday revealed another slump in the number of both U.K. and overseas students applying to start degrees in September. …

Kent said it had reduced a £25 million deficit to £17.5 million. About 50 staff have been shed by voluntary redundancy, and courses including art history and journalism have been cut.


Kentucky’s Higher Ed Bureaucrats Mandate Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination. Arbitrary quotas. Top-down mandates from above imposed by unelected bureaucrats. These are the dictates of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE)—a powerful body that holds punitive sway over the state’s public colleges and universities.

A new Goldwater Institute report reveals the extent of the council’s power—including the ability to punish those who don’t comply with its arbitrary orders. It’s the latest example of divisive dogma being forced on America’s students through the nation’s higher ed system, even as the U.S. is beginning to reject the discriminatory, politically charged tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Indeed, CPE now uses its power to force DEI practices and programming upon public institutions of higher education in ways leading to deeply troubling—and in some cases, outright bizarre—outcomes.

As documented in this analysis:

CPE misuses its powers of oversight intended to promote “equal educational opportunity” to instead require public postsecondary institutions to engage in racial discrimination and dubious DEI practices.

As required by CPE, institutions must set yearly quotas for student enrollment by race and ethnicity. They must also set quotas for the racial and ethnic makeup of faculty and staff.
CPE evaluates institutions annually on whether they meet these “diversity” quotas and other “diversity” goals. Institutions that fail this evaluation process are prohibited from establishing new academic programs to serve students.

During its 2024 DEI review process, CPE failed just one four-year institution—Kentucky State University (KSU), one of the state’s only two federally recognized historically black colleges and universities—despite the school enrolling an undergraduate student body that was two-thirds African American. In its performance improvement plan following this failure, KSU committed to increasing its enrollment of “Latinx” students.

It isn’t just bad policy—the Attorney General of Kentucky has found that CPE’s requirement that institutions discriminate on the basis of race violates the Constitution.

But there’s a solution: the Kentucky legislature can put an end to CPE’s “diversity” regime by adopting reforms designed by the Goldwater Institute to prohibit the promotion of DEI and racial discrimination in public higher education and to end all curricular requirements forcing students to take DEI courses in order to graduate.

At public universities around the country, DEI is seeping every aspect of university life. But the Goldwater Institute is spearheading the nationwide campaign to fight back, ending discriminatory DEI practices in 10 states.

Taxpayer-funded discrimination has no place in higher education—so we’re putting a stop to it.


Australia: Why some parents have swapped school for homeschooling

Heidi Ryan says it took until her eldest child reached year 11 to realise mainstream school was doing her three children more harm than good.

So she turned to homeschooling.

Like her two older children, now 24 and 20, her youngest daughter, 16, is autistic. Each struggled with the teaching style at school and so, six years ago, Ryan decided to become both teacher and mother.

“It was the best thing we ever did,” she said. “For their mental health, us as a family and for their understanding of who they are and how they learn.”

She is one of a growing number of “accidental homeschoolers” who now account for about 85 per cent of the sector, according to Queensland University of Technology education researcher Dr Rebecca English.

“These are families who never intended to homeschool but for reasons such as school refusal, neurodivergence, bullying or just having kids who are different prompted parents to look for alternatives,” she said.

A speech therapist, Ryan said not having to follow standardised assessments took the pressure off and allowed activities and subjects to be child-led. A fan of cosplay, Ryan has included wig styling in their lessons.

“We don’t do any formal assessment, I don’t quiz them on things. I can see and acknowledge their learning is happening in subtle ways.”

Ryan has used open university courses, online apps and programs from support organisations like the Home Education Network, and has tapped into parent-run groups, which organise excursions and other learning opportunities.

She made sure her children kept in contact with existing school friends and encouraged them to form new friendships through their homeschooling network and extracurricular activities, such as volleyball, archery, pottery, cosplay and tennis.

Once the domain of libertarians and Christian families, English said the impact of COVID restrictions on schools had proved a tipping point for many families.

“It was like a risk-free trial,” English said of enforced homeschooling under COVID restrictions. “People got a taste of how family life could be organised, and once they tried it many didn’t go back.”

Department of Education data shows the number of students being homeschooled jumped 112 per cent from 5333 in 2018 to more than 11,332 students in 2022.

As of June last year, there were 10,481 students registered. While it represents an 8 per cent decrease on 2022’s COVID-induced spike, data shows registrations have grown steadily since 2018.

“The numbers were tracking up anyway but COVID was a real shot in the arm,” English said.

Last year 59 per cent of homeschooled students were aged under 12, with the remainder aged 13 and over.

Families who chose to homeschool need to register with the Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority, which audits 10 per cent of homeschooling households a year. Parents are not required to follow a prescribed curriculum or provide progress reports, but they do need to submit lesson plans covering eight key learning areas.

If requirements of homeschooling are not met, the authority can cancel the homeschooling registration.

Kirsty James from the Home Education Network said homeschooling suited a range of students, particularly neurodiverse, disabled and high-performing students and those unable to attend mainstream schools.

“Some children with sensory issues can’t deal with noise or uniforms that are uncomfortable or scratchy, or they struggle with bright lighting,” James said. “When a child is in their home they are in an environment that is comfortable to them.”

Asked what she would have done if homeschooling wasn’t an option, Ryan pauses.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think we would have just pushed through because we wouldn’t have had a choice. We would’ve come out of the other end with a dislike of school and learning. Which is a bit sad.”


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Sunday, July 21, 2024

Trump Shooter’s School Issues Statement To Correct Reporting

The fact that Crooks had a college degree while apparently working in a humble job as some sort of kitchen hand may have led to him feeling angry and resentul and thus caused him to strike out at "society" as he saw it

Bethel Park School District (BPSD), the school district previously attended by 2024 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s shooter, issued a statement Saturday to correct reports of the gunman’s involvements.

The school district confirmed Thomas Matthew Crooks, who shot Trump in the ear at a July 13 Butler, Pennsylvania campaign rally, graduated from Bethel Park High School in 2022. BPSD addressed several “misconceptions” about Crooks, including claims relating to bullying, threats of violence and rifle team involvement through its statement.

The district stated there are no records relating to Crooks being “relentlessly bullied” in school despite several reports claiming this “may have led” to the attempt on Trump’s life.

“The school district maintains detailed records, including academic performance, attendance, disciplinary history, and health records. According to our records, Mr. Crooks excelled academically, regularly attended school, and had no disciplinary incidents, including those related to bullying or threats,” BPSD stated.

The district also clarified that “a different student,” not Crooks, “threatened violence” against Bethel Park High School in 2019. The incident was “thoroughly investigated and quickly addressed” at the time, and the district made clear “it had no connection whatsoever” to the failed assassin. (RELATED: ‘You Owe President Trump Answers!’: Video Shows GOP Senators Confront Secret Service Director Kim Cheatle)

Crooks was also not an official rifle team member, as his school has no record of him trying out nor does the coach “recall meeting him,” according to the statement. The district, however, acknowledged Crooks could have “attended a practice, took a shot, and never returned,” which would not have been documented.

“Mr. Crooks was known as a quiet, bright young man who generally got along with his teachers and classmates,” BPSD stated.

Since graduating high school, Crooks earned an associate’s degree in engineering science from the Community College of Allegheny County, according to the school district. He also worked as a dietary aide at Bethel Park Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“It would be wildly irresponsible for us to speculate on his state of mind in the two years since we last saw Thomas Crooks,” the district stated.


‘They’re Not Listening To Us’: 100 Muslim Parents Oppose Gender Ideology at Virginia School Board Meeting

About 100 Muslims attended the Fairfax County School Board meeting on Thursday night to protest the school district’s plans to add radical gender ideology to elementary schools’ curriculums.

The Northern Virginia school district unanimously approved changes to its Family Life Education Curriculum on June 27—including teaching kindergartners about the supposed “gender spectrum” and middle schoolers about transgenderism—despite significant parental opposition.

A Muslim woman, Thoraia Hussein, a Fairfax mother of six, spoke against the district’s Family Life Education Curriculum and sexually explicit books in county libraries on behalf of Muslim parents and those of other faiths.

“According to the First Amendment, you may have personal beliefs, but you may not enforce them upon others,” Hussein said. “Referencing last year’s [Fairfax County Public Schools] parent survey, the majority chose not to pass gender ideology education and sex education to school curriculum.”

Hussein spoke about pornographic books in libraries, such as “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Gender Queer,” and “This Book is Gay.”

“Those books are not just sexually exploiting children, but also offend our core values as Muslims,” she said. Hussein’s minute-long speech was met with resounding applause and cheers throughout the packed auditorium.

Muslims have a history of taking a strong stand against radical gender ideology being taught in their children’s schools. Arab and Muslim protesters shut down a school board meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, in October 2022 over sexually explicit LGBTQ library books.

Muslims also protested outside the U.S. District Court in Maryland last summer in response to Montgomery County Public Schools’ plan to read LGBTQ “Pride Storybooks” to children without parental consent.

The Daily Signal spoke with Hussein after her public testimony.

While Hussein believes gender ideology is sinful due to her religion, she said she respects people with different beliefs. She just wants the school district to have that same respect for her beliefs.

“It’s not only about that respect,” she told The Daily Signal. “It’s about telling my children, ‘What you believe is wrong.’ I’m not going around telling your children what you believe is wrong. I respect what you choose for yourself. So, I just expect you to respect the same—what I chose for my children.”

Hussein had brought some of the sexually explicit books from local schools to her mosque, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., to show other families the importance of opposing radical gender ideology in Fairfax County.

“We couldn’t even finish reading [them],” Hussein said of the books. “It was so inappropriate.”

That inspired about 100 Muslims, including the mosque’s imam, to support her public testimony at the School Board meeting.

Since her oldest child was in kindergarten 17 years ago, the district has made decisions based on surveys on parents, Hussein said, yet the district completely ignored parental pushback about adding gender ideology to the elementary school curriculum.

Most parents and community members do not support adding lessons on gender identity in elementary schools, the district admitted in a summary of comments submitted about the Family Life curriculum.

Parents shared concerns about lessons on gender identity not being age-appropriate for elementary schoolers, and expressed the belief that they, not schools, should be the primary educators of their children on such topics.

“Even though parents were really upset, saying that they don’t want their children to be introduced to such explicit sex information, still they said [the community review] is not accurate, and they went ahead, and they want to do a pilot program about it,” Hussein said. “And that’s what makes us feel as parents that we’re not heard. We are supposed to take care of our children, but at the same time, we’re not allowed to do so, because they’re not listening to us.”

The district will implement a pilot program in 14 elementary schools for a coed Family Life Education Curriculum for the 2024-2025 academic year.

As a mother of six and a local youth mentor, Hussein has firsthand experience with how age-inappropriate information about gender ideology harms children.

“I’ve seen a lot of issues with children going to school reading about things, and they don’t find anyone to actually explain to them about it,” she said. “So, they’re getting exposed to information that they don’t know how to process. And most of the time, parents are not there, or they are not aware because of the pressures of life.”

Hussein is concerned about the confusion caused by children learning they supposedly can be any gender they want.

“In my religion, we have only male and female,” she said.

Hussein’s youngest child, who is in elementary school, walked out of his classroom when his teacher started a lesson on gender ideology. The child told his teacher that it violates his religion.

When asked about the widespread parent opposition to gender ideology instruction, the school district told The Daily Signal that parents can opt their children out of the Family Life Education Curriculum.

“As you know, should any parent wish to opt their child out of FLE, they are able to do so,” said the district’s media relations manager, Julie Allen.

But parents shouldn’t have to opt their kids out, according to Hussein.

“A lot of parents, like immigrants, come from different backgrounds,” she said. “They don’t understand that there is a choice to opt out. And those are the most vulnerable children, because their parents cannot address it. They don’t understand what’s going on.”

Schools should focus on education and leave religion to parents, according to Hussein.

“Let’s leave this conversation to parents, because parents have to have the right to teach their children their values,” she said.

The Muslim families protesting gender ideology in Fairfax County don’t want to cause trouble, Hussein explained, adding they just want to protect their right to raise their kids in accordance with their faith.

“Our religion encourages us to love everyone,” she said. “At the same time, our religion is our life, and anything that touches that is considered a threat to who we are. So, it’s not that we hate anybody. We don’t want to force anyone into anything. And indeed, we don’t anyone to force whatever they want on us.”


Elite University Profs’ Obstruction Charges Over Pro-Palestinian Protests Dropped

Four educators at Northwestern University had their charges dropped Friday after being arrested on Thursday for obstructing law enforcement during a pro-Palestinian encampment in April, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

The four faculty members were previously charged with a Class A misdemeanor that would have landed them a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail time, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported earlier this week.

The university created an agreement with the protesters in April before the protest, limiting the encampment to students, faculty and staff to ensure other community members could engage in different activities in the area. The demonstrations occurred on the Evanston campus in April, according to ABC 7 Chicago.

The Cook County State Attorney General’s office cited the policy of not charging peaceful protesters, ABC 7 Chicago reported.

“It’s a pretty mind-blowing experience to have your employer send their own police after you to arrest you within your place of employment,” Alithia Zamantakis, an assistant professor at Northwestern’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, who previously faced the charges, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Four individuals have been issued Class A misdemeanor citations by the Northwestern Police Department for obstructing a police officer during the protests on Deering Meadow earlier this year,” [University spokesman Jon] Yates told the Daily Caller News Foundation earlier this week.

“While the University permits peaceful demonstrations, it does not permit activity that disrupts University operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community,” Yates previously told the DCNF

One professor attempted to file a police report during the April encampment against another instructor for shoving police officers trying to make arrests, the DCNF reported. One student was also assaulted by an anti-Israel protester.


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Thursday, July 18, 2024

The 4-Day School Week: It's a Trend Across America ... Despite Questionable Results

Next month, the Huntsville School District in Arkansas will join the wave of public schools switching to a four-day week.

The shorter school week, which first emerged in a few rural areas decades ago, is now expanding into suburbs and smaller cities. At least 2,100 schools in half the states have embraced the three-day weekend mostly as an incentive to hire and keep teachers, prompting cheers of support from instructors, unions, and many families.

Despite the growing popularity of the shorter week, some researchers and lawmakers are pushing back on the strategy. While its impact on teacher shortages appears to be mixed in different districts, its harmful effects on the academic growth of students – arguably the top priority of public education – is clear. Teams of researchers examining the program in a variety of states have come to a similar conclusion: The four-day week stymies learning in math and English when instructional time is reduced, as is often the case.

The most authoritative multi-state study to date found that students have suffered small-to-medium negative effects, learning “significantly less” than they would have in a traditional five-day program, says co-author Emily Morton of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

The push for a shorter week comes at a troubling time for public schools. Many districts remain in a tough spot in the wake of the pandemic, suffering from increased teacher turnover as well as classrooms full of students who have recovered only a small portion of months and even years of lost learning. What’s more, an unprecedented $190 billion in emergency federal aid ends in September, adding to the financial pressures on districts.

While superintendents see the four-day week as an inexpensive way to address the need for teachers, they also risk causing further harm to students. “It’s a huge mistake to move to a four-day school week,” said Matt Kraft of Brown University, who co-wrote a paper on the influence of class time on learning. “At this moment we need to maximize instructional time to support students’ academic recovery, not reduce it.”

But a Monday-to-Thursday or Tuesday-to-Friday week is a gamble some school leaders are willing to take.

Huntsville Superintendent Jonathan Warren, who led his district’s move to a four-day week before his recent retirement, has read the critical research. Initially he had reservations too. But he changed his mind after a survey of teachers and families revealed that they favored the shorter schedule by a wide margin over three other options, including the traditional five-day program.

To lessen the risks to students, Warren followed the advice of researchers to lengthen the remaining four school days enough so they receive at least the same amount of instructional time in math and English. He hopes students won’t fall further behind, but only time will tell.

“We recognize the potential risk, and we will be monitoring the metrics to make sure that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits, mostly with teacher retention,” Warren told RealClear. “If student outcomes show a drop, a dramatic drop, then it's a no brainer to go back to traditional calendar.”


‘Infuriating’: Minnesota Mom Slams School District’s OK’ing of Radical Transgender Restroom Guidelines

On Tuesday night, another Minnesota school district voted to allow boys who say they identify as transgender into girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.

Rochester Public Schools approved the “Supporting Transgender and/or Gender-Expansive Students” policy originally introduced on June 11.

The policy also allows a transgender-identifying boy to share a room with a girl on an overnight trip without the girl’s or her parents’ knowledge.

Though Jeannine Buntrock’s three children are zoned for Rochester Public Schools, she moved her daughters to a different district to avoid policies like these. She told The Daily Signal she hopes the policy will be overturned in the near future.

“It’s infuriating, but not surprising, as Rochester Public Schools have persistently refused to listen to parents on this and other troubling issues,” said Buntrock, who serves as president for her local Moms for Liberty chapter.

The vote makes official what the district and many others in Minnesota already practiced, Buntrock said.

“RPS now officially makes itself accountable for all damage that will result from important information about minors being withheld from the people who care for them most and are charged primarily with their well-being—their parents,” she said.

“It’s a battle for the mind,” Buntrock contends. “While girls are browbeaten into accepting males into what should be their safe spaces in order to be ‘socially acceptable,’ they’ll never see that they are losing their rights.”

Since the policy’s introduction last month, the district also added clarification that the policy does not permit “non-transgender or non-gender-expansive students (i.e., cisgender students)” to “use a facility that does not correspond to their gender identity.” The new language’s purpose is “to enforce appropriate use of facilities.”

The district did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment about whether it’s unfair that some students have to adhere to “appropriate use of facilities” while others don’t.

The school board also added guidelines for parents on changing their child’s name, gender identity, and pronouns in the schools’ information system.

The policy permits transgender students to participate in school trips, including overnight trips “in a manner that corresponds with their gender identity or in a manner that allows the student to feel the safest, included, and most comfortable.”

“In all cases, the school has an obligation to maintain the privacy of all students and cannot disclose or require the disclosure of the student’s gender identity to the other students or the parent(s)/guardian(s) of other students,” the guidelines say.

The district works with students to determine what spaces, including restrooms and locker rooms, are most “comfortable” for the student. Students will “in no case” be required to use the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender if they say it conflicts with their so-called gender identity.

“In situations where students are segregated by gender, students have the right to participate in any such activities or conform to any such rule, policy, or practice in a manner that aligns with their gender identity consistently asserted at school,” according to the policy.

Rochester Public Schools will make “reasonable” changes to the curriculum and train staff in order “to accommodate students whose gender identity aligns outside the binary male and female constraints.”

“By pandering to a tiny minority that activists are on record saying they wish to grow, RPS and all schools quietly implementing the same policies are betraying all girls,” Buntrock said. “Parents must help their daughters see that this is not OK, and that safe, single-sex spaces are a right fought for them by women in the past.”

Yet the mom of three says she is optimistic about the younger generation rising up against radical gender ideology.

“Just like girls could put an end to males in girls sports by refusing to participate, so can they put an end to males in female bathrooms and locker rooms by refusing to enter them when a male is present,” she said.

“It’s time for girls and women of all ages to step out in strength and say that enough is enough,” Buntrock said.


PsiQuantum to help shape Qld university offerings

Queensland’s biggest universities have struck a skills partnership with PsiQuantum that gives the Silicon Valley startup a say in the direction their science, technology and maths courses take.

The memorandum of understanding, which comes as the company looks to secure a pipeline of talent for its attempts to build the world’s first fault tolerant quantum computer, also opens the door to joint research projects with the universities.

Five universities, together accounting for some 110,000 students, are represented in the consortium: the University of Queensland, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, the University of South Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Announced on Tuesday, the university and research tie-up with PsiQuantum is the first partnership to emerge from the $940 million joint investment by the federal and Queensland governments.

The investment, which includes $370 million in equity, has been mired in controversy since it was announced in April, with key details still to emerge almost three months on.

Under the new partnership, the five universities will work with PsiQuantum to create targeted educational programs that develop the skills required for quantum computing and other advanced technology industries.

PsiQuantum will have input in the development of “study modules, courses, degree, lectures and industry training”, including at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The programs will also provide “pathways for traditional STEM careers like engineering and software development into the quantum sector”, allowing upskilling of “diverse scientists” to take place.

Roles in the company’s sights include quantum applications engineers, software developers and other technical lab staff, as well as more traditional roles like mechanical, optical and electrical engineers.

“This collaboration will provide a framework for academic institutions in Australia to offer opportunities for academic, postgraduate, and undergraduate placements that will attracts and retain leading Australian and global talent,” PsiQuantum said.

The company has also previously promised PhD positions, mentoring and internship opportunities, although they were not included in Tuesday’s announcement.

PsiQuantum chief executive and co-founder Jeremy O’Brien said the partnership will “help ensure that Australia is developing the necessary skills and driving research to continue leading this field for decades to come”.

Professor O’Brien developed the beginning of the photonics-based quantum approach being pursued by PsiQuantum at the University of Queensland. The approach uses uses photons as a representation of qubits instead of electrons.

University of Queensland vice-chancellor Deborah Terry said the university will “work with PsiQuantum across the education spectrum – from schools, through TAFE, to universities– to prepare our students for future jobs in quantum and advanced technologies.

“Our researchers are also incredibly excited to explore and find projects of common interest with PsiQuantum, taking full advantage of this unique opportunity,” she said.


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The Guardian view on the widening attainment gap: poorer children need a boost

The widening gap between the educational attainment of the richest and poorest pupils at English schools is a blow for everyone who wants to see the latter fulfil their potential, and for our society to become less divided and more equal. It is revealed in the latest report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which focuses on 2019-23, so its findings are a snapshot of the pandemic and its aftermath. While the declining achievements of children from poorer backgrounds are not a surprise, it is dismaying to see predictions about the damaging and uneven impact of Covid disruption come true.

Shrinking this gap is a longstanding objective, and one that the pupil premium – extra funding for schools with poorer intakes – was designed to further. But with the gap for 11- and 16-year-olds now bigger than at any time since 2011, a decade of progress has been wiped out. For children with special educational needs, the deterioration is even starker (though older pupils in this category are doing better). The report also adds to a concerning body of evidence about the youngest children, with poorer five-year-olds falling further behind. A recent survey of teachers found that growing numbers of reception-year pupils are not toilet-trained and struggle to play with others.

The appointment last week of Sir Kevan Collins as a schools adviser was a positive signal. His resignation in 2021, after the then prime minister Boris Johnson rejected his pandemic catch-up plan, was a low moment. Labour’s promise to recruit 6,500 teachers and open breakfast clubs – funded by taxes on private school fees – are two more steps in the right direction. Staff shortages and food poverty make life in schools far harder.

Inspection of multi-academy trusts, which is also expected to feature in the king’s speech, would have been introduced years ago were it not for market ideologues fixated on their freedoms. The same goes for rules allowing academies to sidestep the national curriculum and hire unqualified teachers. Likewise, a promised register of children not in school should already exist. While some free spirits resent state intrusion into home-schooling arrangements, the risks to children from missing out on education are too great. Councils should keep tabs, not look away and hope for the best.

While such rule changes are important, they do not guarantee improvement, just as getting more children into school is not a magic bullet. Curriculum and workforce problems have built up over years. Conservative reforms to special needs provision have been a disaster. The fact that London is an outlier, where poorer children do better, speaks to the city’s dynamism. It does not make up for weaknesses elsewhere.

A promised cross-government child poverty strategy should make a difference. The two-child limit on benefits should be lifted straight away. The EPI’s recommendation of a new funding premium for 16- to 19-year-olds should also be taken seriously. The lack of focus on alternatives to the A-level-to-university pipeline is a chronic problem, restricting the life chances of millions of young people.

Labour has ditched the levelling up brand, describing it as a gimmick. But however the new government decides to frame it, boosting the chances of less well-off children should be a core objective. Education is a social as well as an economic investment. What happens in classrooms can contribute to a more cohesive and less polarised society.


NYC schools chief says parents don’t care about class size as he battles against state mandate

It's teacher quality that matter, not class size

New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks claimed Tuesday that parents don’t care if classrooms are overcrowded, as he argued against a billion-dollar-plus state mandate to reduce their size.

Banks testified at a public hearing in Albany in which he asked legislators to adjust the formula used to fund schools around the state so that the Big Apple can fund the smaller-class-size mandate.`

Shortly before, Banks spoke at a Police Athletic League luncheon in Manhattan along with billionaire businessman and Harlem native John Catsimatidis.

Banks drew on his and Catsimatidis shared experience through the city’s public-school system, saying they grew up in “overcrowded” classrooms and turned out more than fine.

Banks noted that according to the state’s guidelines, classes at Manhattan’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School are “overcrowded” — yet “everyone is doing extraordinarily well.”

“And the parents are saying to us, ‘Whatever you do, to meet this law, do not cut off the enrollment number. Don’t lower the enrollment number. We don’t care that it’s overcrowded,’” he said.

“But what is better than class sizes is a high-quality teacher, because I can give you a class with 15 kids, but if you have a mediocre teacher, you’re going to get mediocre results,” Banks said to the packed room at Mutual of America in Midtown.

“But with a phenomenal teacher, everybody learns. I grew up in classes that were packed.”

Banks said he does understand the reasoning for reducing class sizes.

“Science tells us smaller class sizes are good,” he said — before ranting about the costs of executing the state’s mandate.

“It’s going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars from construction of capital, plus to build more buildings and expand more classrooms,” he said of reducing class sizes in the city.

“And we’d have to hire at least another 10,000 to 12,000 more teachers in order to be in compliance with this law — which the Independent Budget Office estimated would add another $1.4 [billion] to $1.9 billion more that we’re going to need.

“So the financial implications are real.”

Earlier this year, Albany gave city schools the ability to expand their capital plans by $2 billion to increase and renovate school facilities.

State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who was instrumental in securing the $2 billion capital-plan move, criticized Banks for not using increases in state school aid over the past few years to begin implementing the looming class-size requirements.

“They spent the state aid on other things that they prioritize, which I’m not saying those are bad things, but the foundation aid formula and the mandate that the foundation formula funds should be met first,” Liu told The Post.

“I’ll fight right alongside them to get more state funding, but calling the class-size-reduction responsibility an unfunded mandate and hemming and hawing at every turn and saying they can’t do it and they won’t do it, it’s not going to do them and in turn our school kids [any good] in due course,” he added.

Gov. Kathy Hochul first floated changes to the schools funding formula in her state budget proposal this year, but she agreed to ditch major revisions this time, around opting to punt the issue to next year’s budget.

Tuesday’s hearing was the first in several being conducted by the Rockefeller Institute, which was contracted by the state to make recommendations about the foundation aid formula ahead what is bound to be a bruising fight in next year’s budget negotiations.


Success Academy’s Regents results again prove charters are a win for kids

State Regents exams, usually given to students in 10th and 11th grade, and beat the 2023 results of nearly 200,000 regular public high schoolers, outperforming them by more than 30%.

The method behind those stunning stats: Success believes kids are capable of meeting high standards and gives them the tools and support to do it.

Most regular public schools keep hiding their own incompetence by lowering the bar for students. Success starts kids on challenging coursework early, setting up students to be college-ready (and often miles ahead of their peers at city-run schools) by the time they graduate.

Meanwhile, the United Federation of Teachers pushes back against any suggestion that teachers are responsible for actually educating their students.

Remember: These are the same Regents exams that New York is making optional in favor of watered-down proficiency tests — one more way the state’s education “leaders” are giving up on teaching kids, even as they rail about “equity” and pretend that standardized tests are somehow unfair to minority students.

The outcomes for the kids at Success pour cold water on that argument.

Of the 2,400 Success scholars who sat for the Regents in June, 56% were black, 31% Hispanic and 74% economically disadvantaged — yet they passed with flying colors.

Success’ model isn’t for every student — but it’s a winner for knowledge-hungry kids, who are proving it works with near-miraculous performances on state tests, time and time again.

These are bright students who, without the chance to attend a charter, would otherwise likely be stuck in poorly run neighborhood schools from kindergarten on — and so never enc

Instead, they’re thriving at Success.

If Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams still somehow need a sign that they should be pushing hard for new charter schools, this is a big, flashing one.


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Battle on the Homefront for Military Personnel

It’s no secret that the U.S. military has been slowly pushing left-wing agenda items. This has been happening for years but really hit its stride under President Joe Biden.

Our woke military leaders aren’t only pushing the leftist agenda on our troops. The Daily Caller reports that schools within the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA), which serve the children of military personnel posted abroad, are actively indoctrinating children in far-left ideologies. The DODEA is notoriously secretive and intentionally makes Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests difficult because of all the redactions and lengthy process.

An organization called OpenTheBooks has published an oversight report exposing some of the radical left-wing rot happening in these schools. The DODEA is using a toxic mixture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) ideology and “transformative” social and emotional learning techniques to make students worried and incapable of functioning in society.

In March 2023, the DODEA said it disbanded its DEI department because there was significant pushback from the public. However, as with many other public schools across the nation, the DEI agenda is still being taught; it’s just rebranded. Staff get around this by using curriculum that is publicly accessible. Many use the racist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a teaching resource. You can’t get more radical than the SPLC.

For example, the SPLC gives a lesson plan that urges 3rd-5th graders to create an artistic mural or hang posters that spark community discussions about social justice.

Then there is the fact that the DODEA is actively pushing an anti-American agenda. According to OpenTheBooks, both students and teachers regularly engage in DEI struggle sessions. Some of the topics include Thanksgiving/America’s existence being bad because of colonization, the patriarchy, and the evils of capitalism.

How do we reverse this terrible state of affairs in the DODEA? Parents could pull their kids out and homeschool or send them to private school, but that isn’t without financial costs. Unlike the State Department, these Pentagon personnel do not have a government-provided voucher that allows parents to opt out of the terrible DODEA schooling experience.

This is slowly changing, however. Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) has proposed an amendment to a defense spending bill that would hold these schools accountable for their poor academic performance and provide school choice vouchers for service members.

“These military service members are deployed abroad to defend and embody American ideals on the world stage,” OpenTheBooks CEO Adam Andrzejewski told The Daily Caller. “Yet their children are being indoctrinated to a philosophy that places complex racial and gender identities over national pride. In fact, pushing students toward activism and teaching them that their relative privilege dictates their life experience can actually alienate them from the American dream.”

These military mothers and fathers are now faced with having to battle on two fronts. Their first battle line is defending American interests wherever they are stationed. Their second is having to fix what the DODEA breaks as far as indoctrinating their children into hating America and all that they fight for.

The DODEA is a disgrace. Our military personnel and their families deserve better.


How About a Different DEI in Higher Ed?

American universities are more diverse and inclusive than ever, or so we’ve been told.

In reality, though, the academic world is a place where free speech is suppressed, and faculty and staff are forced to take oaths to diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), as well as anti-racism.

“Diversity statements require applicants for jobs, promotions, or grants to demonstrate how they will advance DEI principles as a condition of success,” reports Newsweek. “This requirement discriminates against conservative and classical liberal applicants who, reflecting the views of a majority of Americans, prioritize equal treatment, objective truth, and freedom of speech above equal outcomes and emotional safety for minorities. Diversity statements are loyalty oaths which violate applicants’ freedom of conscience and discriminate on the basis of philosophical belief.”

Those who don’t pledge their loyalty are reprimanded, fired, or not hired in the first place. Those who conform must constantly self-censor, ever fearful they might have their names handed over to diversity officers if they step out of line.

Colleges and universities should be places where faculty and students feel free to share ideas, engage in respectful debates, and seek truth. Now, even those who consider themselves liberal are under scrutiny if they break from the status quo and defend the idea of academic freedom.

Over at the TaxProf blog, Paul Caron writes, “The university’s ideological narrowing has advanced so far that even liberal institutionalists — faculty who believe universities should be places of intellectual pluralism and adhere to the traditional academic norms of merit and free inquiry — are in decline.”

Professors in the 1960s and ‘70s clamored for academic freedom, but their goal was to dismantle and replace the Western canon and replace it with a far-reaching Marxist agenda. Over time, radical professors and administrators became the majority, hiring only like-minded professors and creating an insulated environment hostile to moderate or conservative viewpoints.

In 2022, the Legatum Institute published a study of academics in the U.S. and other countries that found “clear evidence of a strong ideological imbalance on campus” and noted that conservative faculty are more likely to self-censor. It also discovered that 91% of so-called right-wing academics support academic freedom, but only 45% of left-wing academics are “willing to compromise on the principle of academic freedom.” Unsurprisingly, 91% of conservative faculty believe academic freedom “should always be prioritized even it if violates social justice ideology,” compared to only 45% of leftist faculty.

The leaders of the diversity movement are focused more on training students to become activists than educated citizens. They have an agenda, and they need foot soldiers who just happen to be the unwitting students coming to class thinking they’re getting an education. Today, the system ensures those students will have plenty of leftist instructors to lead the way.

The requirement that new faculty and staff pledge their loyalty to DEI keeps independent-minded or conservative scholars from entering the profession. Others remaining in the system face increasing pressure to conform or leave. The result is a system ruled by people who’ve abandoned any semblance of free thought while publicly claiming to believe in diversity and inclusion.

According to the Goldwater Institute, “Americans are realizing that DEI cloaks its radical and discriminatory aims in feel-good buzzwords. The ideology behind DEI divides the world into the simplistic categories of 'oppressor’ and ‘oppressed,’ calling for discrimination against ‘oppressors’ to achieve ‘social justice.’”

The news isn’t all bleak for free thinkers looking to become professors. There is a growing movement to diversify higher education with more right-leaning perspectives. National Affairs reports, “In the face of these daunting challenges, it is encouraging that at least some moderate and liberal professors have recently expressed their support for more political diversity in the academy. As of this writing, more than 2,000 professors and graduate students have joined the Heterodox Academy, an organization that is expressly concerned with the absence of center-right thinkers in many areas of the social sciences and humanities.”

There’s more good news. The tide is beginning to turn in other ways as institutions across the country are scrapping diversity statements and closing diversity offices.

At the same time, we can’t rest on these recent developments. Many schools are simply rebranding their diversity programs, focusing on the term “engagement” instead of diversity or inclusion.

Let’s work to ensure the trend continues in restoring our nation’s colleges and universities and making sure they are laboratories of ideas instead of factories of propaganda.


Rep. Donalds Rips Democrats for Not Being ‘Pro-Choice’ on Education

Rep. Byron Donalds made a case for school choice in a speech Monday on the opening night of the Republican National Convention.

The Florida Republican talked about his own story of growing up poor, while his mother pushed to ensure he had a good education. But he said too many children today are trapped in failing schools.

“Don’t those kids who grew up like I grew up deserve the same chance that I had?” Donalds said.

He went on to talk about how the president and vice president live very different lives than struggling Americans.

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris sent their kids to high-priced private schools,” Donalds said. “Since they are in the pocket of the far left teachers unions they trap poor kids like me in falling schools with no way out.”

He also noted that Democrats are quick to call themselves “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion—but not for education.

“They say they’re pro-choice, but not if you want choice over what your kids are taught,” he said. “Donald Trump believes every parent deserves a choice and every child deserves a chance.”

He added that the policies of President Joe Biden have also made it more difficult for Anericans through increased inflation.

“The massive inflation created by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has only made it worse,” he said, adding:

During my first term in Congress, I served on the Budget Committee and the Small Business Committee. We told Joe Biden that his so-called American Rescue Plan was going to cause inflation.

The Biden-Harris administration told us not to worry. I knew better. I have nearly two decades of experience as a financial professional, and the evidence is in. Go to any grocery store. Buy eggs, buy beef, buy milk. Even housing prices have skyrocketed. All Americans deserve shot at the American dream. But under Joe Biden’s debilitating economic policies, for far too many Americans, that dream has slipped away.


My other blogs: Main ones below

http://jonjayray.com/covidwatch.html (COVID WATCH)

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com/ (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/short/short.html (Subject index to my blog posts)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


Monday, July 15, 2024

Education as We Knew It Is Gone

The American public education system is abysmal, and more Americans are aware of that painful fact than ever before.

The increase in dissatisfaction was highlighted in a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey indicated that “about half of U.S. adults (51%) say that the country’s public k-12 education system is generally going in the wrong direction.” A very small group of those surveyed believe it’s going in the right direction, while the rest are unsure.

Even more troubling were the responses from those on the front lines of this learning crisis. In a separate survey, a shocking 82% of teachers believe that “the overall state of public K-12 education has gotten worse in the past five years.”

However, what might be the most unsurprising revelation is that opinions on how the education system is performing and how it is serving America’s students are greatly influenced by a person’s political affiliation. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans don’t like what has been happening in today’s classrooms, while a significantly lower number of Democrats share those concerns.

It might have to do with the growing distinction between what one believes constitutes an education. Conservatives tend to advocate focusing on math, reading, and science in academics, while those on the Left seem to support more lessons on social justice causes, political activism, and gender ideology.

Educational outcomes over the last several years serve as a strong indicator of which of these priorities have been pushed to the top of the list. American students are failing in the basics of reading and writing, yet they can proudly recite countless gender identities. The idea that it’s normal for teachers to request that classroom lessons, activities, and conversations be kept from parents seems to be more widely accepted among students as well.

Destructive ideologies about gender and politics have taken over where reading and writing lesson plans used to exist, forcing parents into constant battles with teachers and administrators over the boundaries for educators and indoctrination. As such, it has become clearer that reversing course may not be an option anymore. The solution might require drastic changes to the entire system.

School choice has become critical for parents of all incomes and working classes, as it keeps their tax dollars from being automatically allocated to failing establishments.

Once opposed to the idea of school vouchers, professor Jonathan Turley has made a notable shift in his position: “Florida is moving to allow residents the choice to go to private or public schools. Other states like Utah are moving toward a similar alternative with school vouchers. I oppose such moves away from public schools, but I have lost faith in the willingness of most schools to restore educational priorities and standards.”

The call for change has also been heard and acted on in Nebraska, as State Senator Lou Ann Linehan and a “long line of women leaders … pushed education freedom across the finish line,” according to Erica Jedynak and Shannon Pahls in the New York Post. This determined group of community members was able to secure a win for school choice, as Governor Jim Pillen, joining 11 other states to take similar action, signed a law that includes “education savings accounts that empower families, enabling them to spend thousands of dollars a year on the alternatives to traditional public schools that are best for their kids.”

Understandably, as public schools are the most easily accessible for most families, they will likely continue to be the first choice for many parents and their children. However, the option for families to take their money and their children elsewhere will hopefully motivate school administrators to return to actual teaching in the classroom, as they would face the looming threat of losing their funding if they fail to deliver (a standard that most workers accept on a daily basis).

Activist teachers have been given countless opportunities to change course. Despite the hostile tone that far too many of today’s school staff seem to have toward parents, many of those parents would like to have that trust and that relationship rebuilt and to have teachers with a passion to educate be able to do so. However, that trust has been shattered, and parents are now demanding action.

There is nothing about celebrating Pride Month, about telling children that they can pick their gender, or about telling them that America is irredeemably racist that furthers this vital educational mission.


The Trade School Boom


According to a new Gallup poll, just 36% of American adults have “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of confidence in higher education. This is down from 57% in 2015.

Why? The main factor for this downturn in confidence is the skyrocketing cost of college. Many Americans simply don’t believe that higher education is worth the cost.

The student debt “crisis” is emblematic of this problem. Too many college graduates are finding that employment after college doesn’t pay enough to cover their tens of thousands (or more) in student loan debt. Waiting for Joe Biden’s phony “generosity” isn’t always an option, either.

Another factor is what’s being taught at too many colleges and universities. Many of them have become little other than indoctrination centers for leftist ideology. They are not focused on teaching students how to think but rather what to think. Why would anyone want to go into debt to be indoctrinated in diversity, equity, and inclusion? It’s a recipe for stunting genuine intellectual curiosity, scientific innovation, and personal development.

These are reasons why a growing number of high school graduates are opting for trade schools. “More students are gravitating towards the trades because it’s hands-on and you can make a lucrative career for yourself right out of high school without financing $150,000 of debt to attend a four-year college,” says Vince Gregg, principal of Blue Ridge Technical Center in Front Royal, Virginia. He observes that over the last few years, enrollment in the technical school has been booming.

Down in Clearwater, Florida, Pinellas Technical College has seen similar growth, with annual enrollment having increased by 4% over the last two years. The trade school offers seven apprenticeship programs and 30 certifications. The trade school’s director, Jakub Prokop, noted that this growth is unusual. “Historically, technical colleges experience an enrollment decline in times of low unemployment,” he said, “but we’re seeing the opposite for the first time in at least 30 years.”

The likely reason for this is twofold. The first is financial. Trade school graduates not only make money as they learn, thereby avoiding a mountain of debt, but they also command higher starting salaries: an average of $50,000. Second, there is an opportunity to learn and develop valuable hands-on work skills. Whether a plumber, electrician, HVAC technician, computer technician, or construction worker, to name a few, the opportunities in the trades have never been better.

Our Pop Culture Contrarian Podcast team, of which I am a part, discussed this issue in a recent episode: “Gen Z: The Tool Belt Generation and the Evolving World.”

Since the pandemic, trade schools have seen enrollment numbers jump. From Spring 2023 to Spring 2024, trade school enrollment jumped 4.7%, totaling 4.4 million students. Meanwhile, traditional four-year colleges saw only a 1.7% growth in enrollment over the same period.

The numbers show that a growing number of high school graduates are making a more fiscally wise decision. For many, it’s also a more satisfying one.\


There's been another rise in homeschooling in Australia's capital

Homeschooling continues to grow in popularity with the latest ACT Schools Census showing a 6.5 per cent increase in the amount of students being taught outside traditional schools.

In the year to February 2024, the amount of students being homeschooled increased to 495. In the same period, private school enrolments increased by 2.1 per cent and public school enrolments fell by 0.6 per cent.

An Education Directorate spokesman said the numbers in the ACT reflected nationwide trends, with many jurisdictions experiencing larger increases in homeschooling numbers.

"Families have the choice to enrol in alternative educational pathways outside public/non-public schools," the spokesman said.

"The increased level of enrolment in home education may be attributed to both increased awareness of alternative pathways, as well as ongoing impacts that arose from the pandemic."

Queensland University of Technology education researcher Dr Rebecca English said the ACT's regulatory environment was kind to parents seeking homeschooling options. "It's much easier to homeschool in ACT than NSW or Queensland. Registration is geared towards parents' needs," she said.

"In the ACT because of the way the regulators have worked with advocates it's a really positive environment for homeschooling."

In her home state, by contrast, advocates assume between 50 to 80 per cent of homeschooled children may not be registered.

"[In Queensland] it's just a bit of a blind spot. The government doesn't have a strong relationship with the community."

Dr English said homeschooling could often be a positive option for students. "I think the research shows us that it is at worst benign and at best a better option than traditional schooling, in terms of students' reports of satisfaction with their education and civic engagement," she said, noting that much of the research comes from the United States.

Sydney Home Education Network president Vivienne Fox said conditions for homeschooling in the ACT are hugely favourable.

"The ACT already allows for kids to do part-time homeschooling. The regulatory system is the best in the whole country," she said.

Ms Fox, who homeschooled her five children and has worked with various homeschooling organisations, said the option was growing in popularity even before COVID-19.

"During COVID it got a kick in the pants, so many people got the opportunity to see what their kids were really doing at school," she said.

"I thought schools would become more flexible and there would be more recognition of the value of a tailored form of education but NSW hasn't improved at all in that way.


Sunday, July 14, 2024

British Empire Must be Presented Like Nazi Germany, Curriculum Guidelines Insist

The British Empire should be taught to school pupils like Nazi Germany, curriculum guidelines from the “leading provider of support for schools and trusts” insist. The Telegraph has more.

Guidance created by school support organisation The Key and offered to teachers across the country provides tips on how to make the history curriculum “anti-racist”.

Teachers are advised to present the British Empire to secondary pupils like Nazi Germany, as a power that “committed atrocities”.

Pupils should also not be taught about the balance of “good and bad” aspects of Empire, the guidance states.

The “anti-racism curriculum review” guidance was created by The Key, which began as a Government pilot and now provides teaching resources to more than 100,000 school leaders.

The guide for teachers works as a series of prompts, to which answers are provided.

If “topics such as the British Empire taught impartially (i.e., as if the British Empire was an equal mix of good and bad)” while other topics are not, teachers are told to “re-frame” the subject.

Guidance seen by the Telegraph states that teachers should “teach colonialism as ‘invading and exploiting’ other countries, and present the British Empire as you would other global powers that committed atrocities, e.g. Nazi Germany”.

It adds that staff should “avoid presenting the British Empire as an equal balance of good and bad”, explaining: “The problem with the ‘balance sheet’ model is that the beneficiaries of Empire were one group of people (i.e., the colonisers) and the losers were those who were colonised.”


Academics mock free speech threats because their speech isn't threatened

Jon Stewart

"The First Amendment Is Out of Control." That headline in a recent column in the New York Times warned Americans of a menace lurking around them and threatening their livelihoods and very lives. That menace is free speech and the media and academia are ramping up attacks on a right that once defined us as a people.

In my new book "The Indispensable Right: Free Speech in an Age of Rage," I discuss how we are living in the most dangerous anti-free speech period in our history. An alliance of the government, corporations, academia, and media have assembled to create an unprecedented system of censorship, blacklisting, and speech regulation. This movement is expanding and accelerating in its effort to curtail the right that Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called "indispensable" to our constitutional system.

It is, of course, no easy task to convince a free people to give up a core part of identity and liberty. You have to make them afraid. Very afraid.

The current anti-free speech movement in the United States has its origins in higher education, where faculty have long argued that free speech is harmful. Starting in secondary schools, we have raised a generation of speech phobics who believe that opposing views are triggering and dangerous.

Anti-free speech books have been heralded in the media. University of Michigan Law Professor and MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade has written how dangerous free speech is for the nation. Her book, "Attack from Within," describes how free speech is what she calls the "Achilles Heel" of America, portraying this right not as the value that defines this nation but the threat that lurks within it.

McQuade and many on the left are working to convince people that "disinformation" is a threat to them and that free speech is the vehicle that makes them vulnerable.

It is a clarion's call that has been pushed by President Joe Biden who claims that companies refusing to censor citizens are "killing people." The Biden administration has sought to use disinformation to justify an unprecedented system of censorship.

As I have laid out in testimony before Congress, Jen Easterly, who heads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, extended her agency’s mandate over "critical infrastructure" to include "our cognitive infrastructure." The resulting censorship efforts included combating "malinformation" – described as information "based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate." So, you can cite true facts but still be censored for misleading others.

The media has been running an unrelenting line of anti-free speech columns. Recently, the New York Times ran a column by former Biden official and Columbia University law professor Tim Wu describing how the First Amendment was "out of control" in protecting too much speech.

Wu insists that the First Amendment is now "beginning to threaten many of the essential jobs of the state, such as protecting national security and the safety and privacy of its citizens." He bizarrely claims that the First Amendment "now mostly protects corporate interests."

So free speech not only threatens your life, your job, and your privacy, but serves corporate masters. Ready to sign your rights away?

Wait, there is more.

There is a movement afoot to rewrite the First Amendment through an amendment. George Washington University Law School Professor Mary Anne Franks believes that the First Amendment is "aggressively individualistic" and needs to be rewritten to "redo" the work of the Framers.

Her new amendment suggestion replaces the clear statement in favor of a convoluted, ambiguous statement of free speech that will be "subject to responsibility for abuses." It then adds that "all conflicts of such rights shall be resolved in accordance with the principle of equality and dignity of all persons."

Franks has also dismissed objections to the censorship on social media and insisted that "the Internet model of free speech is little more than cacophony, where the loudest, most provocative, or most unlikeable voice dominates . . . If we want to protect free speech, we should not only resist the attempt to remake college campuses in the image of the Internet but consider the benefits of remaking the Internet in the image of the university."


Australia: International students deserve more bang for their extra bucks

The federal government’s doubling of application fees for international students may smack of a blatant rip off, but it also provides a rare chance to make the whole visa processing system more transparent and efficient.

Lifting the fee by 125 per cent from $710 to $1600 gives Australia an unenviable reputation as the most expensive place in the world for international student application fees. Canada is a relative bargain at $CA150 ($A164), while New Zealand’s fee is $NZ375 ($A343), the UK charges 490 pounds ($A930) and United States $US510 ($A765).

The fee hike has rightly generated a torrent of criticism from the International Education Association of Australia, Universities Australia, and International Education Association amid fears there’ll be a steep drop in applications from prospective students.

But surely those who still apply despite the increase are entitled to expect more bang for their buck?

For example, if my local cafe increases the cost of my daily coffee by 125 per cent, I’ll be OK with that if they throw in a croissant as well. If not, I’ll go elsewhere. It’s a no-brainer.

With all the extra revenue the federal government will generate from the higher visa application fee, there is no excuse not to use the money to make the visa processing system more efficient.

The government has repeatedly cried foul that it doesn’t have the resources to improve the system.

But now there is no excuse.

Prospective international students paying the highest application fees in the world should expect a superior service in exchange.

There are two crucial changes the government could make to ensure this happens.

The first is straightforward: use the extra revenue from higher application fees to employ more public servants to process visa applications. This would ensure a faster turnaround and provide more certainty for applicants and agents. Ideally, visa applications should be processed in less than four weeks.

The second change would involve making all visa criteria transparent so students have a better indication of whether their application will succeed before they hand over $1600.

Currently, only some of the criteria students must meet are measurable. This includes their English language skills and ability to financially support themselves while in Australia. However, the process to determine whether an applicant is a “genuine” student is opaque.

Many prospective students have their visa applications rejected because they are deemed not to be “genuine” students.

However, given there is no specific criteria outlining what constitutes a “genuine” student it is difficult (if not impossible) for the applicant to know whether they will meet the requirements.

This could be made fairer and more transparent by clearly specifying criteria an applicant needs to meet in order to be deemed a “genuine” student.

Making these changes would attract more quality international students into Australia’s education system. It would help students determine whether to proceed, giving them confidence that they can satisfy all the criteria and not be at risk of losing their $1600.

Australia has spent years establishing its reputation as a world leader in international education.

But this increase in visa application fees – on top of the reduction in international student numbers as part of the government’s new migration strategy and tighter rules around temporary graduate visas – is putting that reputation severely at risk.

If Australia insists on making itself the most expensive country in the world for international student visas, it must provide better value for money.

Failing to make these changes would be a missed opportunity that heightens the risk of talented students looking for enrolment opportunities in other countries.


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