Thursday, February 08, 2024

Kids Finally Returned to School After a Lengthy Teachers Strike. Here’s How the Teachers Union Reacted

Students in Newton, Massachusetts returned to the classroom this week following a teachers strike that lasted more than two weeks, according to several reports.

The walkout began on Jan. 19, impacting 2,000 instructors and about 12,000 students, according to The Washington Post. It was the sixth teachers strike in the state since 2022 and the longest, though strikes are illegal in the state.

Reportedly, the strike occurred over wages for employees. The Newton Teachers Association bargained with Newton Public Schools for 10 months before the previous contract expired on August 31, 2023. On Sunday, a new contract was solidified (via WBUR):

Ratified by NTA members Sunday, it includes a 30% raise in starting salary for teacher aides — from $28,270 to $36,778 — and a district promise to hire at least five more social workers at the elementary schools. The union and the district also agreed to double the number of district-paid parental leave days from 10 days to 20 days and allow total paid parental leave of 60 days, up from 40 days. They also negotiated a 12% increase to annual cost of living adjustments for all educators over the next four years.

The new terms will cost the Newton Public Schools an additional $53 million compared with the last contract. A return to work agreement, meantime, specifies that no educators will face disciplinary action for the work stoppage.

In a statement, a teachers union bargainer, Ryan Normandin, said that the teachers taught their students to “stand up for themselves.”

“We taught our students not to be afraid that when those in power try to take away your rights, that they should stand up for themselves, that they should not do it alone, but together,” Normandin said. “We taught every other district in this state what will happen if they try to balance their budgets on the backs of our students and educators.”

Nicki Neily, president and founder of Parents Defending Education, reacted to the statement on X.

“You robbed your innocent students of the ability to receive an education,” she wrote.

In recent years, has Townhall covered how many teachers unions across the country went on strike ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. This is the same time most school districts planned to return to full-time, in-person and "normal" schooling since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in record breaking learning loss.


At Columbia Law School, only one student club was rejected this year — the one formed to oppose antisemitism

LONG BEFORE antisemitism erupted on college campuses last fall, Marie-Alice Legrand knew what hostility to Jews could lead to.

As a young girl growing up in Hamburg, Germany, Legrand could look from her bedroom window onto the bare expanse of the Bornplatz, the site of what was once the city's largest synagogue. The great Jewish house of worship was torched on Kristallnacht by antisemitic mobs; a few months later the Nazis ordered the Jewish community to demolish what remained of the building and turn over the land to the city. The deportation of Hamburg's Jews to the death camps began in 1941. In the summer of 1942, the Jewish family that owned what would later become Legrand's childhood home was murdered in Auschwitz.

Like all schoolchildren in modern Germany, Legrand was taught from an early age about the Holocaust. "I always thought about what those individuals must have gone through," she told me in a phone conversation Monday. "When we learned about the hatred of the Jews, about the mass murder, I tried hard to relate to the people who were involved."

A Black German of French Caribbean descent, Legrand went to Paris to study history and management, then moved to New York to earn a law degree at Columbia University. She said she hadn't expected to become an activist in her final year, but everything changed after Israel was savagely attacked on Oct. 7.

Legrand was shocked when the Columbia campus erupted in "blatant antisemitism and hate," as she wrote on LinkedIn. Anti-Israel throngs publicly cheered the Hamas atrocities and marched behind banners bearing Palestinian flags and the words "By Any Means Necessary." A tenured Columbia professor waxed ecstatic over the murders, rapes, and abductions of Israelis, which he called "astounding," "awesome," and "victories of the resistance." More than 140 other faculty members signed a letter defending the barbaric assault as a legitimate "military action" against the Jewish state.

The callousness of what she was seeing scandalized Legrand. She knew students at Columbia who had lost friends or relatives in the Oct. 7 pogrom, she told me, but "there was not one ounce of sympathy or compassion extended to my Jewish and Israeli friends." She reached out on social media. "You are not alone," she posted. "I unequivocally support and stand with you."

She decided to offer more than comfort. Over the next few months, Legrand assembled a group of students, Jews and non-Jews alike, to create a new campus club, Law Students Against Antisemitism. They drafted a charter laying out their objectives: to raise awareness of historical and contemporary antisemitism, to foster dialogue, and to provide support for students targeted by antisemitism.

Student groups are ubiquitous at Columbia — the university boasts that there are more than 500 clubs and organizations, at least 85 in the law school alone. Given the surge of venomous anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bigotry, especially among young Americans and in academia, the need for groups like Law Students Against Antisemitism is self-evident.

On Jan. 23, Legrand and the group's other officers appeared before the law school student senate to request official recognition for their club. Such recognition, which is needed to reserve space on campus and be assigned a Columbia email address, is normally a routine formality. Eight other clubs requested approval last month; all eight were rubber-stamped in a few minutes.

But not Law Students Against Antisemitism.

Before the vote was held, a delegation of progressive students showed up to demand that Legrand's group be rejected on the grounds that it would "silence pro-Palestine activists on campus and brand their political speech as antisemitic." It would do so, they claimed, by adopting the standard definition of antisemitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The accusation was ridiculous on multiple grounds. First and most obviously, no voluntary student group has the power to silence anyone, on campus or off. Second, as recent months have made plain, there has been no shortage of pro-Palestine expression on Columbia's campus.

Above all, it is beyond surreal to denounce an organization opposed to antisemitism for adopting the most widely used definition of the term. The IHRA formulation has been accepted by 42 countries — including the United States — and by well over 1,000 states, provinces, cities, nongovernmental organizations, and corporations. In fact, it is the definition relied on by the federal government in its enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

In the end, the absurdity of the attack made no difference. For an hour, Legrand and her colleagues were grilled by the student senate. Then, by an anonymous vote, Law Students Against Antisemitism was rejected.

Legrand knows only too well how tenacious antisemitism can be. She said she was "heartbroken" by the student senate vote and by the moral perversity of those who would mobilize to kill an organization like hers. But she is not giving up. She hasn't forgotten the view from her childhood bedroom window. And she knows that in the fight against antisemitism, surrender can be fatal.


Classroom chaos linked to Aussie teaching styles

Teachers should instruct rowdy students in good behaviour and use back-to-basic teaching ­methods, a senate inquiry into chaotic classrooms will recommend on Wednesday.

Schools need closer ties with health services to give students faster access to psychologists, social workers and behaviour specialists, the Senate Standing Committee on Education has concluded after a 15-month inquiry into the issue of increasing disruption in classrooms.

The committee will recommend that the Senate begin a follow-up inquiry, to investigate Australia’s declining academic standards, focusing on literacy and numeracy.

Its final report contains fresh data from student surveys in the latest global testing of 15-year-old students in maths and science, the 2021 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).

A startling 83 per cent of students responded that “students do not listen to what the teacher said’’ in mathematics lessons.

Ten per cent said students failed to listen in “every lesson’’, one in four said classmates did not listen to the teacher “most lessons’’, and half said students failed to listen during “some lessons’’.

In contrast, just 1 per cent of students in Japan – one of the highest-performing countries – said students failed to listen in every lesson. Only one in 20 Japanese students said classmates ignored the teacher in most lessons, and one-third said students failed to listen in some lessons.

An analysis prepared for the senate committee found that the “disciplinary climate’’ in Australian schools was the fifth-lowest among 37 nations in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

The senate inquiry, chaired by Liberal Party Senator Matt O’Sullivan, will recommend the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (ACARA) devise a “behaviour curriculum’’ to teach students how to behave in class.

It calls on teachers to use evidence-based teaching methods, including “explicit instruction’’ with step-by-step explanations, and practice and testing to ensure all children mastered each lesson.

The committee has called for an end to open-plan classrooms, which can be noisy and distracting for teachers and students.

Teachers told the inquiry that out-of-control students had sexually assaulted and threatened to kill them, punched classmates, and dealt drugs in the playground.

The National Catholic Education Commission said principals were the victims of physical violence at 11 times the rate of average Australians. The Australian Psychological Society said disruptive behaviour could be linked to low levels of literacy.

Children and Media Australia said violent videos and games were a risk factor for aggression among children and teenager.

Vaping was singled out by the NSW Primary Principals’ Association.

The Australian Secondary Principals’ Association said many teachers were at “breaking point and the addition of disruptive youth adds to this load’’.




Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Virginia May Be a Purple State, but Many of Its Colleges Are ‘Social Justice’ Blue

Virginia is a very purple state, evenly divided between conservatives and liberals, but its universities are not equally balanced ideologically.

A simple way to gauge how “woke” universities are is to search for certain terms in their course catalogs. The more “woke” words that appear in the titles and descriptions of courses and programs, the more left-leaning the university is likely to be.

Harry R. Lewis, a computer science professor and former dean of Harvard College, recently did this to demonstrate how radical Harvard had become. Terms like “social justice,” “decolonization,” and “oppression” have become ubiquitous in its course catalog.

Replicating Lewis’ approach for the 15 public universities in Virginia reveals some unexpected patterns.

The term “social justice” appears 72 times in the course catalog of James Madison University, 59 times for George Mason University, and 53 times for Virginia Commonwealth University.

None of the other dozen public universities in Virginia have even half as many mentions of “social justice” in their catalogs. Virginia’s two historically black public universities, Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, don’t even mention “social justice” a dozen times in their catalogs.

But these universities are not all the same size and may not have an equal number of courses and programs described in their catalogs. For a better apples-to-apples comparison, we can also look at how often more traditional terms, such as “Constitution,” appear in their catalogs.

The term “social justice” appears in the James Madison University catalog 4.5 times as often as the term “Constitution.” For Virginia Commonwealth University, “social justice” is 3.1 times as common as “Constitution.” At George Mason University, it is 2.6 times as common.

For the historically black institutions, Norfolk State and Virginia State, their catalogs mention “Constitution” more often than they do “social justice.” The same is true for the flagship University of Virginia, as well as at Old Dominion University, Christopher Newport University, Longwood University, and Virginia Military Institute.

In fact, VMI does not have a single course or program that includes the terms “social justice,” “decolonization,” “liberation,” “white supremacy,” or “intersectionality” in their titles or descriptions, but it does have 13 with the term “Constitution.” By contrast, William & Mary University’s catalog mentions these woke terms 17 times. The Constitution? Only three times.

Obviously, these are not perfect proxies for how woke universities are, but they roughly give us a flavor of the ideological tilt of their academic offerings.

And it’s important to note that benign-sounding terms such as “social justice” are often anything but benign.

In their highly useful “cheat sheet for policymakers,” titled “Responding to Social Justice Rhetoric,” authors Bruce Gilley, Peter Boghossian, and James Lindsay explain that “social justice,” as the woke define it, means “group entitlements, which is the reframing of particular political demands as universal moral imperatives [and] a denial of just rewards to individuals who follow the law.”

The relative frequency of woke terms such as “social justice” in course and program titles, and descriptions that feature more traditional topics, such as the Constitution, does not seem to be related to the size of the university or its demographic composition.

Woke universities in Virginia come in all sizes, from very large ones such as George Mason, James Madison, and Virginia Commonwealth to very small ones, such as William & Mary and the University of Mary Washington. And those with greater ideological balance are as big as the University of Virginia and as small as VMI.

The fact that Virginia’s two public historically black institutions, as well as some universities with relatively high percentages of low-income students (as measured by Pell Grants), such as Longwood and Old Dominion universities, have very little interest in woke courses and programs suggests that this is not being driven by student demographics or demand.

When universities go woke, it’s the result of decisions made by their leaders. And it’s their leaders who need to be held accountable.

University presidents, provosts, and deans make choices about how to allocate resources, hire additional faculty, and create new academic programs. Boards of trustees approve those decisions and review the performance of senior administrators. Those decisions determine whether a university has dozens of social justice courses and programs and only a handful on the Constitution.

It’s time for us all to remember that these universities are public institutions and are ultimately accountable to the residents of Virginia. If they deviate too far from what Virginians want, voters will demand that their political representatives appoint administrators who will restore ideological balance.


Indiana AG Launches Portal for Parents to Monitor Public Schools’ Discriminatory Policies, Content

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita announced, in an exclusive interview Monday with The Daily Signal, the launch of a public portal online for parents in the state’s public schools to submit and monitor content of concern to them.

“This is a tool to empower parents in their dealings with their own school system so they can better raise their kids, which is their job and not the schools’,” Rokita, a Republican, said of the online portal.

The past several years have seen national concern about public school systems hiding discriminatory and sexually or racially inappropriate content and policies from parents. Indiana is no exception.

Dozens of Indiana schools have incorporated critical race theory and gender transition plans without the consent of, much less the awareness of, many Hoosier parents.

Accuracy in Media last year released undercover videos in which several administrators at five Indiana public schools admitted to teaching critical race theory despite telling parents otherwise. At least two of those administrators since have stepped down or been placed on leave.

A previous report by The Daily Signal exposed one Indiana school system’s hidden gender support plan, which required teachers to omit information about a student’s “gender transition” in conversations with his or her parents. The school system fired that whistleblower, a school counselor, for revealing the information; she is currently suing the district.

As attorney general, Rokita outlined these “constituent concerns” as the rationale behind his office’s new “Eyes on Education” online portal, which would allow parents to submit policies, lesson plans, and other concerning matters to be reviewed by the Attorney General’s office and placed on a public database for other parents to see.

The vision for the portal began to take shape around the end of 2021, Rokita told The Daily Signal:

Parents were sending me lesson plans. This is around the time that we were calling out critical race theory and this social [and] emotional learning that was being taught to teachers and then teachers to the students, and it was corrupting the whole educational experience.

Many teachers and administrators claimed that critical race theory and radical gender ideology were not being taught in public schools. But, using social media, many parents posted concerning videos, screenshots, lessons, and policies that showed otherwise.

“So either these parents are part of a huge conspiracy and making all this stuff up, as the teachers and principals and school board members would have you believe,” Rokita said, “or there’s really something going on—even in good ol’ Indiana. So we’ve been collecting these different submissions for about the last year and a half.”

I asked Rokita what plans were in place to verify materials sent to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office—citing a situation in which many Hoosier parents were fooled by a hoax about litter boxes at a high school in Kokomo, Indiana.

Rokita responded that “rumor mill” submissions would result in a call to the individual who submitted the material, followed up by a second look by his office’s investigators.

“We deal with very complex, complicated professional licensing issues, so to speak, and ten of thousands of other cases per year,” Rokita responded. “We can get to the root of a liar, of a fake, pretty easy. But really it’s also for self-policing.”

The attorney general said he thinks this is a job for the state superintendent of schools. But just like the Parents Bill of Rights document that Rokita launched in June 2021, he said, he took on this project because “no one’s picking up the mantle.”

The theme of the entire project is transparency, Rokita said. If a school system disagrees with what has been posted by his office, the attorney general said, the “denial” also will be posted.

“I’m not going to go and start investigating schools,” Rokita said. “No. 1, I don’t have the statutory authority to go in there. But this is going to be a portal, a transparent portal where we can cut through the rumor mill.”

To cut through this “rumor mill,” Rokita said, his office would post only primary documents and verified material, letters, and policies from the schools.


A Democrat Mayor Voiced His Support to Remove Police From Schools. Here’s How the Community Responded

In an interview late last month, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said that he supports ending a program that puts uniformed police officers in dozens of Chicago Public Schools.

The mayor made the remarks in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. In the interview, he voiced his support to end the $10.3 million contract with the Chicago Police Department. CPS officials reportedly told school principals last month to prepare for the removal of the officers next fall.

“The Board of Education is moving in the direction that I do support,” the mayor told the outlet. “There is an intergovernmental agreement between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department. To end that agreement, there’s no qualms from me there.”

Johnson as a mayoral candidate said he would remove all officers and focus on those alternative solutions. But once he took office, he backed off, saying Local School Councils should make individual decisions. Now he has once again reversed course.

A Chicago school principal and several lawmakers, on the other hand, expressed that the city’s Board of Education should not make the decision on whether or not police stay in schools.

William Howard Taft High School Principal Mark Grishaber told Fox News that the removal of school resource officers (SRO) at CPS should be decided by the Local School Councils (LSC) as opposed to the Board of Education.

"Let each school's LSC decide if they want to retain their SRO's or let them go. Many years ago the system was broke, but through the efforts of Jadine Chou and CPS, the SRO's are now in the schools that want them and the SRO's are now trained," Grishaber said in an email to Fox News Digital.

Reportedly, earlier last month, the Chicago Board of Education wanted to strip Local School Councils, which are made up of parents, teachers, and students, of their power to choose whether to have SROs at their schools.

"Each school in CPS is different. Principals and other community members on Local School Councils understand the environment and needs of their schools. They are best equipped to determine the necessity of school resource officers," the Illinois Policy Institute told Fox. "Local School Councils already have the power to remove officers, but district leaders are taking away that local control."

Grishaber added: "If the Mayor and the Board really believe what they say, that the safety of our students is their number one concern and the Mayor and the board really believe in listening to student and community voices then the decision should be crystal clear.”

The Sun-Times noted that Alderman Peter Chico, a Democrat, said that police officers were removed from George Washington High School in the city. As a result, he heard complaints from CPD that calls from the school increased. And, parents didn’t feel comfortable with the lack of police presence.

Ald. Ruth Cruz added that parents have spoken to her about their concerns with a lack of police in schools. Cruz, a former LSC member, said that these decisions should be left up to these committees.

This debate about police officers in schools has occurred in other school districts across the country. In Alexandria, Virginia, the Alexandria City Council voted in 2021 to return police to schools after the school board and superintendent worked to remove them (via the Washington Post):

After several incidents involving students and guns this fall escalated safety concerns, parents and top school officials pleaded with the council to reinstate the decades-old initiative. This week, their calls were enough to sway just one key lawmaker.

“I’m willing to take that step back,” said council member John T. Chapman (D), who had initially voted to defund SROs. “We know this program is not a silver bullet, but we have to do something here tonight.”

City council members had previously voted to reallocate $800,000 for SROs to expand mental health programs for students.

“We want to thank the Alexandria City Council for its decision to work with us and agree to the reinstatement of our [SROs],” Alexandria City schools spokeswoman Julia Burgos said. “SROs serve as a proactive safety mechanism while serving as a trusted adult for our students.”




Tuesday, February 06, 2024

‘Did Not Align With Our Mission’: Catholic University Fires Professor Who Brought in ‘Abortion Doula’

Catholic University confirmed to The Daily Signal that it has terminated the contract of the professor who invited a self-declared “abortion doula” to speak to students about coaching women through abortions and “pregnant men” through a “seahorse birth.”

Catholic University President Peter Kilpatrick announced to students on Jan. 30 that the university “terminated our contract with the professor who invited the speaker” after obtaining “clear evidence that the content of the class did not align with our mission and identity.”

“We first heard of the incident on Wednesday and began to gather information from the students and the professor,” Kilpatrick explained. “We had been told that one student had a recording of the class, and had plans to send it to the media, but the recording was not shared with the university administration.”

“We received one media inquiry Thursday, and one on Friday, asking for comment,” he continued. “While we were unable to confirm what exactly was said in the class, we did determine that the speaker’s views on life issues and on the anthropology of the human person were not consistent with our mission and identity as a faithful Catholic university, and that she should not be allowed to address the class again.”

Kilpatrick emphasized that Catholic University is strongly committed to promoting “the full truth of the human person and to protecting human life from conception to natural death.”

“In our rigorous pursuit of truth and justice, we engage at times with arguments or ideologies contrary to reason or to the Gospel,” he said. “But we do so fully confident in the clarity given by the combined lights of reason and faith, and we commit to never advocate for sin or to give moral equivalence to error. As witnessed by the life and virtue of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we just celebrated as a community, such engagement with opposing ideas helps us both to grow in our command of truth and to respond to error with empathy, compassion, and mercy.”

“Here at Catholic University, we have the unique opportunity and common blessing to pursue truth, to grow in faith, and to exercise charity,” he added. “Our studies aim at producing wisdom, which includes excellence in living and sharing the truth with others. May our common study help us to understand life, to love goodness, and to promote and protect the dignity of the human person.”

The Daily Signal first reported the story of the “abortion doula” last week after a Catholic University nursing student detailed the abortion lecture. The student noted that the guest speaker said she also practices Reiki, a controversial Japanese method of spiritual healing and self-improvement.

“It was really unsettling,” nursing student Felipe Avila, 20, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Friday. “The fundamental point is to understand human development from conception to natural death, right? And they brought in someone who counsels women to terminate life.”

Psychology lecturer Melissa Goldberg (who did not respond to requests for comment) invited the doula, Rachel Carbonneau, to address her class, titled Psychology 379: Lifespan Development.

The term doula usually refers to a professional who provides physical and emotional support to a woman before, during, and shortly after childbirth. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, defines an abortion doula as someone who “provides physical and emotional support to a patient during their abortion process.”

Carbonneau identified herself to the class as an “abortion doula,” according to the audio recording obtained by The Daily Signal. The founder and CEO of the LGBTQ-aligned doula company Family Ways also was an English lecturer at Catholic University from 2005 to 2008, her LinkedIn profile says.

Avila, the nursing student, said he first recognized the doula’s misalignment with the Catholic school’s values when Carbonneau began “using terms like birthing persons [and] pregnant person.” The lecturer was “very strategic in avoiding the word ‘woman,’” Avila said.

One of Avila’s classmates repeatedly asked Carbonneau how abortion ties into her work as a doula, which prompted the lecturer to share her pro-abortion stance openly.

“This is a space I feel comfortable navigating,” the doula said in response to questions.

Carbonneau also described what she called “seahorse birth.”

“We work with trans clients,” Carbonneau told students, according to the audio. “I have some men who have given birth; it’s amazing, we call it seahorse birth. It’s lovely, especially when it’s a water birth; it’s fantastic.”

Female seahorses still produce eggs and male seahorses fertilize them, but male seahorses incubate the young in a special pouch, from which the young emerge. This does not mean male seahorses become female, but they do appear to “give birth,” in a sense, so pro-transgender activists claim that when a “transgender man” gives birth, that is similar to a male seahorse doing so.

She insisted: “It’s not my business as a doula or a human being to pass judgment on how anybody else chooses to live their life.”

When discussing the stigma of “pregnant men,” Carbonneau urged students to “normalize” the discussion of women who identify as men giving birth.

“I think just normalizing it, right? Using the gender-neutral language, talking about pregnant men as pregnant people, pregnant women, pregnant men, pregnant humans,” she told the class.

Carbonneau acknowledged the tension between her support for abortion and the Catholic position on the issue, saying she herself had studied at the university.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that abortion is a “moral evil” and “gravely contrary to the moral law.”

The doula’s presentation Tuesday at Catholic University felt “unsettling,” Avila said. The student pointed out that “one of the many reasons that students like me and many of my peers made the decision to attend Catholic University is for that Catholic identity.”

“The university should not wait for there to be public pressure or a public outcry for there to be some kind of change … if they want to preserve the Catholic identity, then they need to take these things a lot more seriously,” Avila added.

Carbonneau said she uses Reiki, a Japanese spiritual healing technique condemned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as incompatible with Christian teaching and scientific evidence. In 2009, the conference said that “it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions … to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.”

Catholic University acknowledged the contradiction between Carbonneau’s support for abortion and the institution’s own values on Friday in a statement to The Daily Signal.

“The Catholic University of America was appalled to learn about reports regarding this guest speaker,” the university told The Daily Signal. “It does not reflect our mission and values as a university that is committed to upholding the dignity of life at all stages.”

“The guest speaker will not be speaking again to the class, and we are re-communicating the terms and expectations by which all outside speakers are vetted and invited,” the university, added, referring to Carbonneau.


Missouri AG Orders School District to Cease Teaching Radical Gender Ideology Without Parents’ OK

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey this week ordered a local school district to “cease and desist” teaching students about human sexuality, including gender ideology, without parental consent ahead of time.

In a letter Monday exclusively obtained by The Daily Signal, Bailey also ordered the Webster Groves School District to review all classroom materials for compliance with the law.

“Failing to notify parents in advance, failing to provide parents with the content of the instruction and materials, failing to clearly offer an opportunity to opt out, or failing to uphold a parent’s opt-out decision violates Missouri law and represents a direct assault upon parents’ rights,” Bailey, a Republican, wrote to John Simpson, superintendent of schools for the Webster Groves district.

Tenth-graders at Webster Groves High School, in the suburbs of St. Louis, were required to watch a slideshow on “oppression and privilege” that appeared to violate state law by using information from a Planned Parenthood affiliate that lists abortion clinics on its website, The Daily Signal reported in October.

The website of the Planned Parenthood affiliate, Teen Health Source, tells teens about “porn literacy” and “hookups” for casual sex. The organization defines abortion as “a safe medical procedure that ends a pregnancy” and suggests “trangender care” clinics that offer minors sterilizing hormone therapy and referrals for transgender surgery.

“My office has received reports that Webster Groves School District has provided materials related to human sexuality to students without notifying parents in advance, without providing a clear opportunity for parents to opt-out their child, and in some instances refusing to honor parents’ opt-out decisions,” Bailey says in his letter to Simpson.

The Missouri attorney general describes the slideshow presentation as discussing gender identity, sexual orientation, and abortion, all topics of “human sexuality.”

“Missouri law requires every school district and charter school to notify each student’s parent or guardian before providing any human sexuality materials or instruction to students,” Bailey writes to the Webster Groves superintendent, citing specific provisions of law. “Schools must provide to parents the content of any human sexuality materials or instruction and give parents the opportunity to opt their child out.”

Derek Duncan, communications director for the school district, confirmed Friday that Simpson had received Bailey’s letter.

“We did receive a notice from the AG’s office,” Duncan told The Daily Signal. “We will address and respond to the concerns raised in a cooperative and transparent manner.”

Parents have the “natural right” to direct their children’s upbringing and education, Bailey tells Simpson in the letter:

According to long-established Supreme Court precedent and Missouri state statute, schools must respect parents’ rights concerning human sexuality instruction and materials.

Specifically, this means that schools must notify parents in advance and provide them with information about the instructional content and materials that will be shared with their children in order to give each parent a clear opt-out opportunity.

Plainly stated, parents get to make decisions about the kind of human sexuality education their children will receive and schools are legally obligated to respect parents’ decisions.

Bailey ordered the district to “cease and desist” its use of human sexuality materials that have not been approved by parents in advance and to review all its class materials.

“Moreover, Webster Groves School District must immediately review all instructional resources, including reading lists, classroom and campus libraries, and any diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging materials that address issues of human sexuality, to ensure they comply with state law,” Bailey writes.

The Webster Groves school system had destroyed her family’s trust in school officials’ judgment, one mother told The Daily Signal in response Friday to the attorney general’s order.

“Their pattern of hiding gender ideology education from parents is well established and it’s simply a matter of time before parental rights are once again violated with an inappropriate survey, slideshow, or nudge towards activism,” the mother, who asked not to be identified, said.

She said she hopes Bailey’s letter will create a sense of urgency for Simpson as superintendent.

“He must draw a hard line with would-be activist staff—inform parents ahead of any human sexuality content or consequences will follow,” she said.


School Choice Revolution Helps Homeschoolers, Too

A school choice revolution is sweeping the nation. Ten states ha ve passed universal education choice initiatives in the last two years. In addition to private school tuition, most of these new programs allow families to use their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to cover certain homeschool expenses.

The loudest and most influential pushback against school choice comes from Democratic politicians in the pocket of the teachers unions, who want to protect their monopoly over education. However, others have voiced the opposite concern that school choice could increase government regulation of private education.

The concern that "with government shekels come government shackles" is understandable, but misplaced. Shackles can be imposed even without subsidies, and states that have education choice policies tend to respect homeschooling autonomy more than those that don’t.

The government can already regulate private education without providing any funding. It has happened historically and still happens today. Oregon went as far as outlawing private education altogether in 1922 at the behest of the Ku Klux Klan, which sought to shut down Catholic schools. Thankfully, in 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that bigoted law, famously ruling that "the child is not the mere creature of the State."

Yet funding need not come with burdensome regulations. States without school choice policies—including Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island—are among the worst states when it comes to burdensome regulations for homeschool families according to the Home School Legal Defense Association. Meanwhile, states like Iowa, Indiana and Oklahoma respect the autonomy of homeschool families and have universal or nearly universal education choice policies.

States with more school choice generally have more freedom to homeschool. In fact, last year, Ohio lawmakers passed both universal school choice and a reduction in homeschool regulation.

Education choice policies shift the locus of control over education from politicians and bureaucrats to families. When a government-run school fails to meet a child’s individual learning needs or is pushing values that run contrary to her family’s values, choice policies give that family an immediate escape hatch.

Empowering families with education choice also reduces the likelihood of harmful government regulation. As more families benefit from private and home education, the coalition willing to fight for the autonomy of private education will also grow.

The school choice coalition has been careful to support legislation that includes language preserving the autonomy of private education providers. For example, Arizona’s education savings account (ESA) statute states that a school "shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admissions policy or curriculum" as a condition of accepting ESA students. Arizona enacted ESAs more than a decade ago and there have been no encroachments on the freedoms of private schools or homeschoolers.

Nearly every state constitution requires the state legislature to subsidize education to grant every child access to schooling. The question is only whether that subsidy will be in the form of government-run schools to which students are assigned, or directly to families who have the freedom to choose where and how their children are educated.

School choice is always voluntary. No school choice policy has ever forced a family or a school to participate. All families and schools can weigh the costs and benefits and make their own decisions.

Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. As economist Thomas Sowell often reminded us, "there are no solutions, only tradeoffs." School choice isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s the most viable option we have today. America’s education system would be much better off if every family had access to the learning environments that worked best for their children.




Monday, February 05, 2024

The shame of Britain’s ‘cash for courses’ universities

‘If you can take the lift, why go through the hardest route?’ a recruitment officer representing four Russell Group universities asked an undercover reporter for the Sunday Times.

He boasted that ‘foundation’ course pathways onto undergraduate courses at Russell Group universities are much easier than the entry requirements for British applicants: overseas applicants ‘pay more money […] so they give leeway for international students […] It’s not something they want to tell you, but it’s the truth.’

And how. The paper reports that ‘overseas students wishing to study an economics degree using one of the pathways needed grades of CCC at Bristol; CCD at Durham; DDE at Exeter; DDE at Newcastle; and just a single D at Leeds. Yet the same universities’ A-level entry requirements for UK students is A*AA or AAA.’ Odd, isn’t it, when we’re making such a noise about immigration policy favouring only the cream of international talent that we seem to be applying the opposite metric when it comes to university admissions. I don’t think it makes you a little Englander to find it perverse that it’s much harder for British than foreign students to get a place in a British university.

Britain’s higher education sector has, historically, been something to be proud of

These universities have been quick to pooh-pooh the Sunday Times’s reporting – which, as Mandy Rice-Davies might have said, ‘they would, wouldn’t they?’ They say that it can’t possibly be the case that foreign students are ‘squeezing out’ domestic applicants because, look, domestic admissions to Russell Group universities are at a record high and foreign applications have slumped. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re right about this. I would be surprised, though, if that trend was privately regarded by the average vice-chancellor with anything but horror. There’s a reason they spend millions pimping themselves abroad.

If there’s a temporary shortage of foreign students, in other words, it’s not for want of trying. The slump in foreign students, particularly from the EU, is down to that awkwardness in 2016. That and the fact our general enthusiasm for making it harder for foreigners to live here may yet put a dent in the flow of Indian and Chinese money. This will cook the universities’ gooses yet further. The way university funding is now set up means that all but a very few universities positively rely on foreigners to pay the bills.

The universities further complain that the Sunday Times failed to differentiate between the traditional, front-door admission system via UCAS and the one-year ‘foundation’ courses offered to foreign students. It seems to me that the paper differentiated between them rather well: it made the point that getting into the latter, more or less, requires the offspring of your average Chinese billionaire to be able to make a smudge on a bit of paper with his thumb, whereas the former asks a native Briton to get a clutch of A*s at A-level. They grumble that this is not comparing like with like… but that’s sort of the point.

Sure, a foundation course doesn’t guarantee a straight-C student will go on to join the regular undergraduate course the following year alongside higher-achieving British peers. But the paper found all sorts of people prepared to testify that the end-of-year exams needed to get you through aren’t especially taxing. Pass rates of between 93 and 100 per cent were reported. So the back door does, to all intents and purposes, exist.

And why on earth wouldn’t it? Vice-chancellors are encouraged to run universities as businesses, and businesses tend to look for profit. If student fees for Britons are capped at a quarter of what you can charge a foreigner, you’re going to do everything you can to get some wealthy foreigners in through the door before you go bust.

There are two models of what a university education is for, and they have always jostled along together. One is the humanistic, perhaps slightly hippy-dippy notion that learning is in and of itself a good thing: that it benefits both the individual human and the common lot of humanity, on average, to have minds expanded and assumptions tested. This is the version that thinks that the Greats are great, that studying poems for three years partially or wholly on the taxpayer’s dime is just the sort of thing a civilised society should encourage, and that universities are the engines of our commonwealth of knowledge.

Then there’s the instrumental version, which is that learning is a good thing because it increases your human capital, creates the sort of people who will power a high-skill economy, boosts the graduate’s expected lifetime earnings by a measurable amount, and all in all keeps the wheels of industry whizzing merrily round. This is the version, increasingly favoured by government these last few decades, which wants to see a return on investment one way or another. It wants its students to cover their bills; and it wants, with a view to boosting the wider economy, to encourage the sorts of students who go on to become engineers or tech wizards rather than poets. (There is, of course, a third model of what a university education is for, favoured by many undergraduates back when it was free, which had to do with getting blootered and trying to shag people, but that need not detain us overmuch here.)

As I say, these models have always jostled along together. The balance has shifted dramatically to the latter lately, with times being tough and Wordsworth looking more optional. But there’s always been a sense that universities do both things at once. I’m not sure if the current funding situation continues, though, that they are likely to be able to do either for much longer.

The trend is towards a larger number of foreign students, and a larger number of students tout court. As Kingsley Amis said, ‘More will mean worse.’ If, as the Sunday Times suggests, they aren’t starting on an even academic footing with their British fellows, teaching wealthy but derr-brained foreign students will slow the progress of the brighter kids. One lecturer told the paper: ‘They might struggle to keep up on the courses, especially with the written work, and this can mean more work for me and a slower pace for the rest of the students in the class.’

Even if these foreign cash-cows aren’t actively displacing domestic students, they are unlikely to stick around – and will become ever more unlikely to as we make it harder for foreign graduates to live and work here. In effect, they’ll swoop in, enjoy the cachet of an elite education, and then repatriate their human capital smartly to their countries of origin or to the international job market. The national circulatory system of scholarship – where the smartest graduates either boost the UK economy by working here or refresh the lifeblood of British academia with postgraduate work – will have sprung a leak. Or, perhaps, invited a vampire across the threshold.

Britain’s higher education sector has, historically, been something to be proud of. The fact that all these foreigners still want to study here is testament to that. But if its short-to-medium-term survival strategy is to lower its standards and change its demographic, which over time will diminish its attraction to foreign students in the first place, there may not be a long term. ?


Harvard Plagiarism: Et Tu?

Fresh off the Claudine Gay scandal, an even more obvious plagiarist seems to be embedded in the ranks of Harvard University. Sherri Ann Charleston is the storied university's chief diversity officer. She was hired by the school in 2020 and was partially responsible for Gay's ascension to the presidency. Charleston previously held a similar position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her title was chief affirmative action officer.

So you're starting to get a picture already of what sort of academic Charleston is. She is ideologically focused on Racial Marxism initiatives, much like Claudine Gay. The next question is, how is her body of scholarly work? Is she actually an academic, or is she riding on the coattails of other people's work and her own intersectional status?

An anonymous complaint has been filed against her alleging 40 examples of plagiarism in her body of academic work. Her dissertation, like Gay's, was riddled with lack of attribution or proper use of quotation marks when referencing others.

Charleston's worst offense, though, involved a 2014 paper (her only peer-reviewed work) in which she apparently plagiarized her husband. LaVar Charleston, a fellow academic of the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) infrastructure at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote a 2012 study for the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. He then teamed up with his wife and another academic, Jerlando Jackson, and basically republished the 2012 study through the Journal of Negro Education in 2014.

The 2014 study quoted the same interviewees as the original, and it even included the same findings. All in all, about 20% of the 2014 paper was ripped straight from the original 2012 study conducted by LaVar. What makes it worse is they cited the 2012 paper in the writings to undergird that paper's main theory.

This type of academic fraud is called "duplicate publication" and is "typically a form of self-plagiarism in which authors republish old work in a bid to pad their résumés," according to The Washington Free Beacon. "Here, though, the duplicate paper added two new authors, Sherri Ann Charleston and Jerlando Jackson, who had no involvement in the original, letting them claim credit for the research and making them party to the con."

If these allegations are true, then not only Sherri Charleston but also her husband and Jerlando Jackson all enjoyed career boosts based on this fraudulent paper. However, holding academics to account is more than just calling out their academic malfeasance. One could perhaps start to conclude that intellectual dishonesty is rife throughout the DEI infrastructure within the higher education system.

The diversity, equity, and inclusion grift is a cancer on our academic institutions, though hardly the only one. There are several insidious aspects to DEI. First, it creates a culture within academia that lets DEI adherents get away with any and every intellectual malpractice and not be held to account.

This has largely proven true until this point because DEI aligns politically with the rest of higher ed's left-leaning agendas. Second, DEIers have a built-in get-out-of-jail-free card. If anyone calls them out, they can cry racism and accusers will usually back down. Third, and finally, DEI is a disservice to those academics of color who are in university positions because of their stellar academic work and incredible teaching.

DEI isn't about merit but about making sure the playing field is equal. If individuals have to cheat to make the playing field "equal," it's justified in their minds. However, to the public at large, as well as to the scholars who didn't take the racist DEI shortcut, this is a bad look.

Harvard is once again showing just how much it has fallen from its former academic glory by those it chooses to promote to leadership.


Anti-Israel protesters spew anti-cop chants, clash with officers at Columbia University: ‘NYPD, burn in hell!’

Anti-Israel protesters spewing anti-cop chants clashed with police at a rally outside Columbia University on Friday — leading to nine arrests over several hours.

The “All Out for Palestine” demonstration kicked off at 3 p.m. and less than two hours later protesters waving Palestinian flags could be seen in footage posted to social media scuffling with NYPD officers in the street.

“NYPD, KKK. IDF they’re all the same,” the group chanted as at least one protester was seen being detained by police.

A swarm of screaming protesters tried to intervene and rip cops off a woman as they tried to take her into custody in a scuffle, the clip shows.

The demonstration was organized in response to allegations that anti-Israel student demonstrators were sprayed with an unknown, foul-smelling chemical on Jan. 19 while marching through the campus of Columbia University.

The two alleged assailants were banned from campus following the incident and police kicked off an investigation into what “appears to have been serious crimes, possibly hate crimes,” Interim Provost Dennis A. Mitchell said last month.

When Friday’s main protest — attended by hundreds — died down, a smaller group marched south to West 107th Street and Broadway, where more arrests were made.

“You are violent thugs. You are criminals! You are the most violent. You are the most f–king violent,” one protester in custody yelled at cops from the back of a police van.

“It is right to rebel. NYPD, burn in hell! It is right to rebel. NYPD, burn in hell!” others chanted.

A woman holding up a poster of kidnapped Israelis was chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” — a Jewish solidarity anthem — when protesters surrounded her and ripped it out of her hands.

“Don’t you dare!” the pro-Israel woman yelled before cops separated her from the crowd.




Supreme Court allows West Point to continue using race as a factor in admissions

The Supreme Court is allowing West Point to continue taking race into account in admissions, while a lawsuit over its policies continues.

The justices on Friday rejected an emergency appeal seeking to force a change in the admissions process at West Point. The order, issued without any noted dissents, comes as the military academy is making decisions on whom to admit for its next entering class, the Class of 2028.

The military academy had been explicitly left out of the court’s decision in June that ended affirmative action almost everywhere in college admissions.

The court’s conservative majority said race-conscious admissions plans violate the U.S. Constitution, in cases from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest private and public colleges, respectively. But the high court made clear that its decision did not cover West Point and the nation’s other service academies, raising the possibility that national security interests could affect the legal analysis.

In their brief unsigned order Friday, the justices cautioned against reading too much into it, noting “this order should not be construed as expressing any view on the merits of the constitutional question.”

Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the Harvard and North Carolina cases, sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in September. It filed a similar suit against the U.S. Naval Academy in October.

Lower courts had declined to block the admissions policies at both schools while the lawsuits are ongoing. Only the West Point ruling has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

“Every day that passes between now and then is one where West Point, employing an illegal race-based admissions process, can end another applicant’s dream of joining the Long Gray Line,” lawyers for Students for Fair Admissions wrote in a court filing.

West Point graduates account make up about 20% of all Army officers and nearly half the Army’s current four-star generals, the Justice Department wrote in its brief asking the court to leave the school’s current policies in place.

In recent years, West Point, located on the west bank of the Hudson River about 40 miles (about 65 kilometers) north of New York City, has taken steps to diversify its ranks by increasing outreach to metropolitan areas including New York, Atlanta and Detroit.

“For more than forty years, our Nation’s military leaders have determined that a diverse Army officer corps is a national-security imperative and that achieving that diversity requires limited consideration of race in selecting those who join the Army as cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point,” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the Biden administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.


Florida University System Removes ‘Left-Wing’ Sociology Course From Core Requirements

The 17-member board of governors of the Florida University System decided Wednesday to eliminate a sociology course from the core requirements to graduate and to replace it with an American history class, according to a press release.

The new class, Introductory Survey to 1877, will introduce students to America’s founding, slavery, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction era and will replace Principles of Sociology as a course requirement, according to a State University System of Florida press release.

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz has previously derided sociology, saying the discipline has been taken over by “left-wing activists,” and Florida University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said the move would have a “positive impact.”

“I am proud of the Board’s decision today and look forward to the positive impact the addition of this course will have on our students’ and their future success. Florida’s students of our State University System will have the opportunity to learn about the creation and development of our nation as part of the core course options,” Rodrigues said in a Wednesday press release.

The American Sociological Association criticized the decision, asserting the move was uninformed.

“The decision seems to be coming not from an informed perspective, but rather from a gross misunderstanding of sociology as an illegitimate discipline driven by ‘radical’ and ‘woke’ ideology,” a statement from the American Sociological Association Wednesday said, according to The New York Times.

The Florida board of education also replaced a sociology requirement with an American history requirement, according to a Jan. 17 press release.

“Sociology has been hijacked by left-wing activists and no longer serves its intended purpose as a general knowledge course for students,” Diaz said in a December statement.

Florida’s university system has over 430,000 students, making it one of the largest public university systems, according to the Times.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a point of instituting reforms to the university system, alleging it has a left-wing bias, according to the Times. DeSantis appointed six trustees to the New College of Florida board in January 2023 and the college has since eliminated its diversity, equity, and inclusion offices and its gender studies courses.

The UF system did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.


Charter School Authorizers Need a New Association Focused More on Students, Innovation

Charter schools, which are public schools authorized by state laws, differ from traditional public schools, primarily because they enjoy exemptions from most of the state’s educational bureaucracy and regulations in exchange for accountability to parents and authorizers.

The authorizers negotiate the charter contract, under which the school promises to operate in certain ways, and those authorizers can withdraw the contract under certain circumstances.

Authorizers also can help charter schools innovate and learn from one another.

But what if the national association of authorizers, as it develops “best practices,” encourages members to replace one bureaucracy with another? Or issues ideological pressure? Or uses its assessment of the regulatory regime as its test of quality, rather than innovation or the number of charter schools in a state or actual student outcomes?

That’s the situation we are in today under the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). Authorizers need a new association, one focused on innovation and student outcomes.

As Heritage Foundation research fellow Jason Bedrick has demonstrated, NACSA has pushed “diversity, equity and inclusion,” substituting its own ideological judgment for that of state and local authorizers and parents themselves. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)

Meanwhile, NACSA’s push for a laundry list of authorization requirements has, perversely, made it harder for minority identity groups to succeed.

Bedrick notes academic research supporting that conclusion:

NACSA’s policy recommendations disproportionately prevent black aspiring school leaders from receiving authorization to operate charter schools. The recommendations also disproportionately result in the closure of charter schools that serve a higher proportion of black students.

Furthermore, NACSA ranks states’ regulatory regimes more in terms of bureaucratic hurdles than in terms of quality or quantity of outcomes.

As another Heritage Foundation research fellow, Jay P. Greene, noted in 2021:

NACSA rankings seem to prefer approaches that lead to few or no charter schools actually opening. And those NACSA rankings bear no relationship to test-score measures of school performance or later life outcomes. This approach to ranking simply does not make sense.

Rankings can inspire states to compete and do better, so some good news is that the Education Freedom Institute has offered an outcomes-oriented approach to replace NACSA’s.

But that still leaves NACSA as an authorizer association focused on the wrong things. Instead, this being National School Choice Week 2024, we propose a new association of charter school authorizers that focuses on best practices for innovation and student-centered outcomes.

Here are some principles and ideas that the new association would promote:

An authorizer should interpret ambiguities in state law liberally—on the side of permission and innovation.

The role of an authorizer is to be ideologically neutral. An authorizer should not pressure schools, their governing boards, or itself to create identity-group “diversity.” At the same time, an authorizer should not pressure schools or governing boards that choose liberal policies (or any other ideology) to change its values or policies.

An authorizer should strive to enforce no more and no less than the state law describes. An authorizer should stay in its lane and leave rulemaking up to the legislature.

An authorizer should work to protect charter schools from state agencies that seek to interfere with the schools’ autonomy. For example, in West Virginia, a charter school was told by one agency that its after-school programs had to be regulated like a day care site. In response, the state authorizer successfully advocated for a change in state law to make it clear that a charter school is not subject to the dozens (if not hundreds) of pages of rules that this agency was saying were required.

Parents tend to be the best source of accountability for charter schools (while, of course, an authorizer also considers financial audits and other technicalities that parents often cannot access). Parents often see a charter school as the best option compared with the alternatives, so they enroll their children there and decide whether to keep them there. Parents who like or dislike standardized tests can use test scores or ignore them as they make their choices. Parents who prefer workforce or college-going outcomes or a variety of other values also make their own choices.

Ultimately, while a school should adhere to any outcome metrics it has promised in its contract, enrollment and retention are excellent proxies for the relative quality of a school.

The new association also should provide guidance on evaluating applications; on how to help struggling schools; on which policies and provisions of law can increase innovation and student service, and on which provisions unduly interfere; on where to find government funding; on how to help schools find and engage private donors; on how to promote funding equity between charter schools and non-charter public schools; and on how to assess whether it’s time to withdraw a charter.

NACSA’s analysis shows there are about 20 states with independent authorizing boards, whether governmental or nonprofit. These are the authorizers most likely to want to join the new association. (Where a state department of education is the authorizer, we are not optimistic that most departments can see the value of a minimalist regulatory approach.)