Thursday, March 14, 2024

Virginia College Announces Students Can Major in ‘Cannabis Studies’

The sale of marijuana for nonmedical purposes is illegal in Virginia, not to mention at the federal level. But that hasn’t stopped Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, from developing an entire major and minor totally dedicated to training students to participate in the marijuana industry. Students who choose this field of study will graduate with a bachelor of science in cannabis studies. And, no, that’s not a bad joke about students who spend their college years stoned.

When Roanoke College announced the program earlier this year, leaders of the college hailed it for providing education in an area of great need. “I commend the faculty for developing a transdisciplinary academic program that fills a significant educational gap,” said Kathy Wolfe, vice president for academic affairs at Roanoke College.

Students who major in cannabis choose from two tracks. First, they can study the “science” of the marijuana industry, which focuses on the “botany, biology, and chemistry” surrounding growing marijuana. Second, they can explore “the social justice and governmental policy around cannabis legislation.” In other words, they can spend their four years of college either growing marijuana or participating in roundtable discussions about the supposed injustice of the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes. As for the former, the college assures that only hemp varieties with 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or less, will be used. It claims that these plants will “have no psychoactive effects” so as to comply with federal law. (Students will still, according to the college, be “provide[d] … with the scientific training needed to be successful in the industry.”)

In order to receive a B.S. in cannabis studies, students can take courses such as “Cannabis and It’s Regulation,” organic chemistry, cell biology, “Cannabis and Race,” “Cannabis and Disabilities,” “Cannabis and Pop Culture,” “Insects and Cannabis,” “Ethnobotany,” “Cannabis and Society,” and “Inequality in Criminal Justice.”

The college uses the term “cannabis” rather than marijuana at least partially because it claims the word “marijuana” is “a racially charged term with a checkered past.”

The college is quite clear that the major will train students to cash in on the marijuana trade. It advertises to students: “Our program, which is the first of its kind in Virginia, will allow graduates to capitalize on a rapidly growing industry.” Roanoke College receives state funds via the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant, meaning the state of Virginia will be paying to train Virginia students to participate in business activities that are illegal in Virginia. Yet Roanoke claims that its program will benefit the state: “Roanoke College aims to guide the commonwealth to improve understanding and application of knowledge around cannabis.” The college also plans to use federal funding to train students to grow and sell the Schedule I drug.

Roanoke College claims that marijuana shows “great promise as a medical remedy,” yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve its use for the treatment of any condition, and a 2022 study showed that marijuana is totally ineffective for the treatment of pain, depression, or anxiety.

Studies have shown that about 30 percent of adults who use marijuana recreationally will develop an addiction to the drug. In addition, 44.7 percent of people who use marijuana move on to other illegal drugs


Academics Embrace New ‘Deficit Framing’ to Justify Underperforming and Immature Students

It is an open secret among college professors and university administrators that college students aren’t what they used to be.

They struggle with lengthy reading assignments and basic vocabulary. They don’t know rudimentary algebra. They can’t add or subtract fractions. They complain that deadlines, hard exams, and required attendance are impediments to their success.

Yet, although some professors view these deficits as problems to be fixed, many in academia have embraced bits of pedagogical fluff intertwined with fashionable DEI that suggest there is something demotivating if not bigoted about acknowledging deficits as deficits and holding students to basic academic or professional standards, while implying bad grades and a lack of maturity on the part of students are simple quirks educators just need to better accept.

One such fluffy concept is that of “deficit framing,” sometimes referred to as “deficit thinking” or a “deficit model lens.” As defined by education researcher Chelsea Heinbach in a 2021 interview, deficit thinking is “the belief that there is a prescribed ‘correct’ way of being — also known as the norm — and anyone who operates outside of that norm is operating at a deficit.”

These individuals, she said, are perceived by those engaged in deficit thinking as needing to be fixed or having to “‘try harder’ and ultimately conform to the practices of the dominant culture.”

Heinbach went on to advocate for “changing the norm to accommodate others,” suggesting that minority, disabled, first-generation, international, and nontraditional students with responsibilities related to work or family are all harmed by the maintenance of such norms.

In 2023, Aaminah Long, a PhD student in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington, echoed similar sentiments on a blog hosted on her university’s website.

Deficit models, she wrote, “are particularly problematic as they subscribe to the notion that students and their environments are responsible for their failures instead of acknowledging the role of dominant power structures in constructing those environments.”

“Instructing from a deficit model lens,” wrote Long, “is especially harmful to marginalized students, overlooking their cultural strengths, diminishing the value of their lived experiences, and invalidating their communities’ sense of agency by assuming that educational institutions are the only ‘valid’ sources of knowledge and rejecting long-standing cultural practices and ways of knowing.”

One of Long’s recommendations for instructors to move away from such deficit models was to embrace another fluffy idea and “[f]oster a growth mindset.”

In its simplest form, the notion of a growth mindset may be innocuous if not beneficial, as it suggests students should view academic challenges as opportunities for growth and see their intelligence and class performance as things that can be improved with effort.

Yet, in practice, some educators who seek to cultivate a growth mindset in students can take the endeavor to rather absurd places.

Stephanie Erickson from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, for example, has decried “[p]olicies such as not accepting late homework, deducting points for late assignments, and not allowing for revisions on large stakes assignments” as these policies “go against a growth mindset” and “implicitly value specific norms surrounding work ethic, time management, and learning approaches.”

In practice, such interpretations of a growth mindset merge with another bit of pedagogical fluff known as ungrading, which holds that grades can be demotivating to students and has spurred some professors to do away with due dates, stop penalizing late work, and start allowing students to self-grade.

Collectively, when these kinds of fluffy ideas are translated into policy at a university, department, or even just a classroom level, they at best provide a pseudo-intellectual justification for taking unprepared, underperforming, or immature students and moving them along without ensuring they develop the basic academic and professional competencies they lack.

At worst, however, the embrace of such pedagogical fluff, given its overlap with DEI, can disincentivize those in academia who notice deficits in their students from acknowledging the problem publicly and penalize those that do thus ensuring obvious deficits in student ability and character remain.

For example, in a recent incident at my own academic institution, Northern Illinois University, when philosophy Professor Alicia Finch stated at a faculty senate meeting, “I’m just not convinced they [intro students] know how to do college. And I sometimes think, well, maybe we need a coordinated effort to teach them,” she was inevitably and publicly dressed down by our Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Carol Sumner, for her “deficit framing” of students.

“We just had a conversation yesterday at looking at how we’re student-centered and what are we doing for student success,” stated Sumner prior to reading a quote on her phone from a source she didn’t bother to name.

“It says,” she began, “‘Using an asset-based approach to student success requires more than the institution simply identifying that the students are having challenges, but explores the ways to which structural and systemic issues impair and derail student success. It does not position the issues or challenges being due to deficits within the individual students.’”

Sumner suggested “practices, policies and pedagogies” that focus on fixing student deficits, actually “reinforce colonialism, subjugation and the inferiority of minoritized students.”

She then went on to “reposition” Finch’s question as “How are we as institutions identifying the challenges and structures that we put in place where students are not successful.”

In other words, there isn’t a problem with students entering college grossly unprepared. The problem is college is too challenging. Those that say otherwise are colonizing subjugators.

Anyone who seriously might want to address student deficits should think twice. And the students that enter college unable to handle lengthy texts, basic vocabulary, or rudimentary algebra may very well graduate that way.


Why abolishing boys schools is an act of woke madness

Greg Sheridan

The campaign to abolish single-sex schools, especially boys schools, is a sign of the madness of ideology and the badness of groupthink.

It reflects the dreary, dull, lifeless, joyless, small “S” Stalinist bureaucratic conformity that progressive ideology routinely attempts to impose. It’s a rush to insanity, where pressure will come on every successful boys school to become coeducational.

Let’s state the obvious. Boys schools, girls schools and co-ed schools can all be extremely good, mediocre or terrible. It’s a good thing for our educational environment, and for countless families and students, that different types of schools flourish.

Gender Equality Advocate Michelle May says. “The argument is that currently it is not done on merit,” Ms May said. “It’s still very much a boys club. “As long as we’ve got More
It seems a pity that some boys schools with long, good traditions now feel obliged to go co-ed. They may be feeling cultural pressure.

Let me confess. I spent the majority of my schooling at a Christian Brothers school in Sydney that was for boys only. It was a great school, with wide socio-economic and racial diversity, and certainly taught its students respect for women and girls, and respect for everyone.

It wasn’t an exclusively male environment. There were female teachers, librarians, admin staff, mothers in the tuck shop. To be rude, much less sexist, towards any of these would have been unthinkable and would have earned draconian punishment.

The contemporary debate is too ideological. If a particular school has a behaviour problem, that needs to be fixed. Abolishing boys schools generally would be wretched iconoclastic vandalism.

In the Financial Review last week an anonymous business executive called for ending single-sex schools and said boys schools should stop trying to make “men” out of their students.

How weird is this? What is it that boys are supposed to become if not men? Giraffes? Oranges?

The piece reflects the confused and counter-productive campaign against masculinity. Men, like women, can do terrible things. Men are responsible for much more violence than women. I agree we’re living through a plague of domestic violence that we must stop. But you won’t make men decent, respectful and successful by telling them masculinity itself is bad.

Seventeen years ago, in central Melbourne, about 7.30am, a biker, who had been on an all-night binge, was beating up his girlfriend. Two men came to her aid. One was killed in the process. In giving his life to the instinct to protect a woman under assault, that man was displaying masculinity, and it wasn’t toxic.

At the school I attended more than 50 years ago, the brothers, and all the teachers, stressed that men had certain obligations to women – politeness, consideration, respect, courtesy.

The brothers taught that when walking down the street with a girl the bloke should try to walk between the girl and the road. That’s so any danger coming from the road, such as a car crashing off the street, hits the bloke first.

That may all seem hopelessly outdated. But men and women are still different. Completely equal but different. The idea that the differences are mainly the result of socialisation is contemporary ideology waging war against human nature.

Almost no one really lives their life according to the new ideology. Is there a household in Australia where, if a married couple hears a strange noise in the middle of the night, the husband turns to the wife and says: “Now, darling, why don’t you go and see if that noise is a burglar. I’ll stay here by the phone. I would go myself but I don’t want us to be trapped in gender stereotypes.”

It’s good that women’s sport is increasingly seen as the equal of men’s sport. But it’s still different. No one argues that men and women should play rugby league together. The army for a long time included boxing in its training. It’s a tough sport. Maybe its concussion risks render it no longer fit for such training. But you can see it helped soldiers cope psychologically with experiencing a physical blow but carrying on. It has never been the case that men and women enter the same boxing ring and box against each other.

The variety of human experience is vast but boys and girls are different. Co-ed can work superbly, but so can schools that focus only on boys, or only girls. Boys and girls do tend, within all kinds of statistical variation, to learn a bit differently, so boys schools can focus on the way boys learn.

Girls tend to mature earlier than boys and in that early adolescent period a single-sex school allows a boy to remain a boy for as long as necessary. And then become a man.

Cardinal George Pell once remarked that “self-confidence, directness and an instinct for struggle and competition” characterised Christian Brothers schools. That’s pretty accurate.

But boys schools also offer boys a distinctive diversity. At a boys school, if there’s going to be a choir it has to be the boys singing.

The school I went to was exceptionally strong in sports. My one season as a junior rugby league player led to a broken shoulder; my parents decided I’d dispense with footy. I wasn’t very good at sport anyway but the school offered multitudes of other activities. I was always in the debating team, the chess club, sometimes the drama performances, sometimes music groups, briefly in the science club, in Christian youth groups and a million other things.

Even though I didn’t play football or cricket, and hardly excelled at the sports I did participate in, I never felt out of place. Books, learning, contention, energy, purpose, competition – it was a pro-life environment.

The teachers occasionally gave us the strap for our malefactions. Some of life’s antipathies are irrational. I greatly disliked one teacher, who warmly returned my sentiments. No doubt unfairly, I thought him a dogmatic smart alec. Perhaps we were too much alike.

I persecuted him with many pedantic questions and points of order while staying well within the rules and norms. One day, nonetheless, he sort of gave in and gave me the strap. I went home that afternoon immensely chuffed, feeling I’d won a moral victory.

There were times, of course, when we were louts and hooligans, and needed strong direction. The school was pretty strict. Sensibly so. And it had a great tradition. Wearing its uniform meant something. We cared about it. No doubt it struck other kids entirely differently.

But it gave me wonderful treasures. In its library, in primary school, I met PG Wodehouse, my lifelong companion.

We moved house and I finished at a co-ed school. It was good, too. Diversity is good. The urge of ideological censors to hammer everything into a single monotonous conformity is as misbegotten as their demonisation of masculinity, and of the need to turn good boys, indeed, into good men.




Wednesday, March 13, 2024

House Education Committee Demands Documents Related to Elite University’s Handling of Antisemitism

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is demanding documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology related to the school’s handling of antisemitism on campus, according to a Friday letter.

The House committee is requesting all reports of antisemitic and discriminatory acts at the university since Jan. 1, 2021; documents outlining the school’s processes to respond to “allegations of hate crimes, discrimination, bias, or harassment”; and documents related to the outcome of disciplinary processes, among others, according to the letter addressed to MIT President Sally Kornbluth and MIT Corp. Chair Mark Gorenberg.

The committee is investigating several elite universities after their presidents testified in December and refused to say if calling for the genocide of Jews violated the schools’ codes of conduct.

“The Committee on Education and the Workforce (the Committee) is investigating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT or the Institute) response to antisemitism and its failure to protect Jewish students. We have grave concerns regarding the inadequacy of MIT’s response to antisemitism on campus,” the letter reads.

The committee alleges that the university has ignored antisemitism on its campus since Oct. 7 and cited several incidents, including a pro-Palestinian activist group disrupting classes and allegedly harassing students. Kornbluth is also alleged to have told MIT Israel Alliance President Talia Khan that the school could not evenly apply the code of conduct due to fear of “losing faculty support.”

“MIT has cited its supposed commitment to free speech as limiting its ability to take action against antisemitism on campus. However, the Institute has demonstrated a clear double standard in how it has tolerated antisemitic harassment and intimidation by acting to suppress and penalize expression it deemed problematic. In October 2021, MIT’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department canceled University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot’s planned John Carlson lecture over Abbot’s views on diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the letter reads.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is also demanding documents related to the amount of foreign donations to MIT, as well as donations to MIT from Qatari sources, including the Qatar Foundation, since Jan. 1, 2021, according to the letter.

Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania are also under investigation by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Harvard President Claudine Gay and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned from their roles after the Dec. 5 hearing on antisemitism on college campuses.


At the CREATE Conservatory, an Alternative to Public Schools

Nikki Duslak says she never fit in as a public school teacher. “I have a background in theater—a bachelor’s degree in fine art and musical theater—and I always carried that love with me in the classroom. I was constantly doing crazy, off‐​the‐​wall things and other teachers would look at me like I had six heads,” she explains. “I had always had that passion to integrate art into my classroom, and I saw firsthand what it could do for students.”

She remembers sitting in the teachers’ room at lunch hearing people complain about the state of things. “If I was a school principal, I wouldn’t do things this way,” she thought. So, she went back to school and got her masters in educational leadership and policy studies. “I became a school principal, and I constantly found myself saying, ‘Gosh, this is awful. Someday I’m going to open my own school, and I’m going to do things differently.’”

But a “someday” dream doesn’t always become reality. “It was very challenging to even think about because there were so many loose ends. There is no handbook or guidebook; it’s different depending on what state you’re in. And it was just a very overwhelming thought,” Nikki says.

Eventually, it was her own child’s needs that gave Nikki the push she needed. Her son was reading at a third‐​grade level and solving Algebra problems at age three, so she knew it was going to be tough to find the right school for him. After trying a few options—including having him in classes with 13‐​year‐​olds when he was five—Nikki realized it was time to start a new kind of school. The result is CREATE Conservatory, which opened in Florida in 2020.

“People think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I found a book called Nonprofits for Dummies, and I sat down with the book and a bottle of wine. I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it,’” she recalls. “I decided that the fear of what would happen if I tried to open the school was less than the fear of what was going to happen to him if I didn’t.”

Nikki’s public school career gave her a realization that the public system is about mass producing. “If you’re a mass production kind of student, then that might work great for you. If you’re the kind of student who can sit down and be quiet and listen—and you can show what you’ve learned through a very specific methodology—that system might work for you. But it doesn’t work for so many of our children,” she says.

What I was really trying to create was an environment where students were able to show what they know as opposed to being caught with what they don’t know. And an opportunity to teach children how to think; I believe so much of the modern education system has removed opportunities for children to think. We’re asking them to memorize information. We’re asking them to spit it back at us. But we’re not teaching them how to be critical thinkers. We’re not teaching them how to solve problems, especially how to solve problems creatively, which I believe is a massive part of your eventual success, whether it’s college or career or the workforce or military. Being able to look at a problem and solve it in a creative way is just something that doesn’t exist in the system right now. So for me that became, ‘How do I do that?’ I was immediately drawn back to all those times in a classroom where I saw arts integration be so wildly successful. And that was with students that you’d never think. I was teaching in a very rural, very low income school, and I was using arts integration.

Nikki and her team write the curriculum themselves. “I think part of why we don’t see arts integration as a more widespread methodology is because it is incredibly hard,” she says. “You have to have a really deep understanding of the arts. You have to have a very deep understanding of curriculum, curriculum writing, and scope and sequence. And you also have to have an incredible knowledge of your students who are in front of you. Because if you don’t have all three of those things, it’s not going to work.” Nikki uses Florida state standards as the basis and then finds ways to incorporate the arts into various topics.

“We don’t have textbooks here. We learn everything through videos or articles I find online,” Nikki says. “If we want to study the solar system, if we want to learn about space, why am I going to use a 10‐​year‐​old textbook when I can go to NASA’s website right now and we can talk about the comet they discovered this morning? We can pull it up on the screen and read the website right now. The kids feel like they’re cutting edge because they’re learning about it, and it just happened yesterday. And they’re excited about it.”

After the struggles of Nikki’s own gifted children trying to fit in a standard classroom, differentiation is a key aspect of CREATE. “The way that we differentiate here is either through content, product, or process,” she explains. She currently has 4th grade through 9th grade in one classroom, and she acknowledges that’s a challenge. She’ll do a group lesson on a subject and then break them into smaller groups to work on specific aspects at more individualized levels. This allows students to work on mastery at their ability level rather than an arbitrary metric based on their age.

Nikki has been approached about creating a curriculum that can be replicated in other schools, but she hasn’t figured out a way due to the creativity and personalization she incorporates throughout all of her classes. “I find that the curriculum piece is becoming that someday dream of mine. Someday when I have time, I’m going to sit down and flesh this out a bit because I do think it’s something that we need,” she says. Considering her last “someday” dream became a flourishing microschool that was a semifinalist for the Yass Prize, it’s probably safe to keep an eye out for her curriculum in the future.

When she first started planning CREATE, Nikki was a school choice skeptic because she saw the state as part of the problem when it came to public schools. But then she realized she would retain autonomy with Florida’s scholarship programs, so she now happily participates to ensure students in her rural, low‐​income area can attend CREATE Conservatory.

“As adults, it’s rare that we have the opportunity to sit back and reflect on a decision that we made and be able to say I’m very proud of myself. But I do with this because I really was very opposed to it at the beginning. Then the more I sat down and read, the more I looked into it, and the more I talked to people, I thought, ‘Well, I think I was wrong about this. And I think if the school’s going to survive, we have to go this route.’ And so every day I’m thankful I was smart enough to realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and to change my opinion about it all,” she says. “I couldn’t be more thankful for Step Up and for AAA and for all the things that they do because we wouldn’t exist at this point without them.”


Australia:Christian schools under fire from official body

Tax deductibility for Greenie bodies is OK but not for Christian ones.

The insidious influence of Catholic schools was a matter of no small concern to the colonial establishment in the late 19th century, not least because of their devilish power to corrupt the youth.

“Large numbers of children are perverted to Popery before their parents are aware of the true character of the teaching,” The Protestant Weekly reported in 1886, arguing that Catholic schools should be barred from government funding. Romanist education was “a false mean deceit” propagating “a religion degrading to the intellect and the heart as its design was simply to extract money”.

Such narrow sectarian prejudice would be deemed inappropriate in the 21st century by the guardians of diversity and inclusion, whose job is to make everybody feel comfortable.

Today, their intolerance extends to all forms of Christian education and, indeed, to any private school that undermines the monopoly of the state system. The Productivity Commission fired a particularly nasty salvo against religious schools, out of character for an organisation that once anchored its findings in data rather than the fashionable preconceptions of the intelligentsia.

In November, the Commission published a draft report recommending that donations to Christian school building funds should no longer be tax-deductible. The draft argued that the Deductible Gift Recipient status granted by the Australian Taxation Office to a wide range of registered charities was inappropriate since religious education had limited claim to a broader public purpose.

The PC argues that DGR donations require co-investment from taxpayers since a $100 donation from someone in the top income bracket saved them $35 in tax. This, the PC argues, is unfair since the priorities for public investment in schools should be decided by the government, not God-bothering tax dodgers.

They were not the exact words the PC used, but how else should we read a passage like this? “The Commission does not see a case for additional government support for the practice of religion through the DGR system.”

Or this? “Providing indirect government support through school building funds means government funding is not prioritised according to a systemic assessment of the infrastructure needs of different schools.”

The naive proposition that the government knows better where to spend public money than the public themselves sits awkwardly with the lessons from the Rudd government’s Building the Education Revolution program, a $16.2bn splurge on school infrastructure projects to stave off the recession that never was. The official report into the implementation of the BER by Brad Orgill found public schools in Queensland, NSW and Victoria paid 25 per cent more than Catholic schools and 55 per cent more than independent schools for near identical projects.

Yet the Commission doggedly insists that tax deductibility for donations to school building projects is unfair. It bolsters its argument with a peculiarly perverse interpretation of what constitutes private benefit. Potential donors are most likely to be people directly involved with the school, it claims, and are likely to reap the fruits of their donations as the parents of students or as alumni.

The Commission does not oppose tax-deductible donations per se. Indeed, it argues that they should be extended to a broader range of charities. Nor is it opposed to charities that want to build things, just those who like to build buildings that could be used for religious purposes.

It declares the building of social capital to be a worthy charitable ambition. Ditto is the building of bonds between individuals and communities, however loose that goal might be defined. Capacity-building activities for organisations and individuals get a tick, particularly the building of empowerment and self-determination by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. Indeed, the Commission recommends the establishment of an independent philanthropic foundation controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for that very purpose.

It is religion to which the Commission seems to object. Not all of the 5000 school building funds that are currently endorsed are religious. Some three-quarters are for charities, and a quarter for government entities, such as public schools.

Yet the Commission wears its prejudices on its sleeve by mounting arguments exclusively against Christian schools rather than private schools. The concerns about tax-deductible proselytising do not extend to the 148 environmental charities with tax-deductible status.

The Commission does not question the broader public purpose of Boundless Earth Limited, which attracted $30.6m in revenue in its most recent annual report lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Boundless Earth gained its tax-deductible concession in 2021, stating its purpose is ”to accelerate climate solutions at the scale and speed required for Australia to do its fair share to avert the climate crisis”. Boundless Earth’s registered address is 13 Trelawney Street, Woollahra, the site of the former German consulate now owned by Mike Cannon-Brookes.

The Commission makes no recommendation that the projects and organisations Boundless Earth funds should be put on the public record, or suggest that Boundless should be declared an associated entity by the Australian Electoral Commission under the disclosure rules for political donations. And this would not be an unreasonable recommendation since Cannon-Brookes has made no secret of his financial support for the teal campaign at the last federal election.

The granting of DGR status to Boundless, Greenpeace, Lock The Gate, the Australian Solar Energy Society (which operates as the Smart Energy Council) the Climate Council, Farmers for Climate Action, Veterinarians for Climate Action and other members of the renewable energy cheer squad reinforces the growing concern that privileges of charitable status should be reviewed.

The Albanese government has prudently distanced itself from the Commission’s recommendations. “It’s not something we’re considering,” Assistant Education Minister Anthony Chisholm told a Senate committee last month.

The Commission is right to complain that the DGR system is poorly designed. It is piecemeal, overly complex and lacks a coherent policy rationale. It is responsible for inefficient, inconsistent and unfair outcomes for charities, donors and the community. It is badly in need of review.

Yet the draft report of the philanthropy inquiry is a small-minded, mean-spirited document unworthy of an organisation with a reputation for forensic and impartial examination of public policy. For the sake of their own reputation, the commissioners should find the courage to send the report back to its authors and ask them to start again.




Tuesday, March 12, 2024

A Fraudulent Attack on Education Choice

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes has indicted former government employees hired by a fellow Democrat, then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, for defrauding the government. Now she’s desperately trying to use the story as a cudgel against families benefitting from the state’s popular Empowerment Scholarship Account policy.

On Thursday, Mayes’ office announced the indictment of five people, including three former Arizona Department of Education employees, for “allegedly engaging in fraud, conspiracy, computer tampering, illegally conducting an enterprise, money laundering and forgery” related to the ESA.

“My overarching concern here is this is a program that is easy to target for fraud,” Mayes claimed.

But these were no ordinary scammers. This was an inside job.

According to the grand jury indictment, the three former ADE employees, “admitted minor students, real and fictitious into the ESA Program by using false, forged, or fraudulent documentation,” including falsified special-education evaluations from public schools, and “awarded said student funds from the ESA Program, and approved expenses for reimbursement or funds for distribution of behalf of said students for their own benefit.”

Had the scammers not been working at the Department of Education, this would not have been possible. As ESA director John Ward explained to the Arizona Capitol Times, the ESA program already has proper guardrails in place: “ADE employees are trained to review birth certificates and look for anything ‘strange’ or ‘unusual’ in assessing authenticity of disability evaluations.”

Unlike the Arizona’s Health Care Cost Containment System scandal—which has seen dozens of scammers indicted for stealing more than a billion dollars from the state’s Medicaid system—ordinary scammers could not have gotten away with this without help from inside.

Moreover, the scammers were caught. Contrary to Mayes’s telling, the Arizona Education Department was investigating its own employees before the AG’s office got involved. “The Attorney General is not telling the truth when she states that the alleged criminal activities of former ADE employees did not raise flags in the department,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne clarified in a press release. “In fact, the opposite is true. Our office did alert the Attorney General’s Office to concerns we discovered regarding” the former employees.

Mayes’s attempt to smear the ESA program as having a “lack of controls and regulations” is belied by the facts. The most recent review by the ESA by the Arizona Auditor General found an improper payment rate of nearly zero. During their “review of all 168,020 approved transactions identified in the Department’s Program account transaction data” over the prior fiscal year, they “found only 1 successful transaction at an unapproved merchant totaling $30.”

In other words, the rate of improper payments to unapproved merchants was only 0.001 percent.

That’s far better than other government programs. According to a 2021 analysis by the federal Office of Management and Budget, the improper payment rate across federal agencies is 7.2 percent. Some of the worst offenders are the federal school meals programs. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “the school meals programs have reported high improper payment error rates, as high as almost 16 percent for the National School Lunch Program and almost 23 percent for the School Breakfast Program over the past 4 years.”

Opponents of school choice like Mayes and Save Our Schools Arizona are predictably using the indictments to attack the popular ESA program. But anyone who is really concerned about waste, fraud, and abuse should start in the district school system.

As the Goldwater Institute documented, “just 10 percent of Arizona’s school districts have managed to accumulate almost $26 million in documented fraud” over two decades. If the attorney general is really concerned about fraud, perhaps she should investigate the 13 school districts that the Arizona Auditor General has reprimanded for failing to comply with the state’s financial reporting requirements.

The district schools aren’t immune from hiring people who commit fraud either. In just the last two years, employees at school districts in Glendale, Hyder, and Wilson have been indicted for theft, fraud, forgery, and misuse of public funds, while an Eloy School District employee pled guilty to theft and forgery.

Any fraud or theft should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But no one has proposed eliminating AHCCCS or the district schools over the financial misconduct of external or internal swindlers.

Politicians and special interests are exploiting the ESA indictments to push an agenda that would cheat children out of a quality education and punish parents for the misdeeds of bamboozling bureaucrats. The public should recognize their fraudulent smears for what they are.


Embattled Ivy League Professor Amy Wax Alleges School is Attempting to ‘Punish’ Her for Conservative Speech

She's a hero of straight talk

University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) law professor Amy Wax alleged that the university does not adhere to free speech standards and is targeting the scholar because of her conservative beliefs.

Wax, who spoke to the Daily Caller News Foundation, has made several controversial statements outside of the classroom, and the university has claimed that her speech created “a hostile campus environment.” Former UPenn President Liz Magill signed off on sanctions against Wax, which Wax said was an attempt to sanction her for extramural speech, which is speech outside the classroom, and said that the school is “flagrantly in violation of the principles of academic freedom.”

“Penn has zero interest in developing and adhering to principles of a consistent position on free expression, zero interest. They can protect the people they basically agree with or favor, like the pro-Palestinians, anti-Israeli, antisemitic, and they can punish people like me. They have never articulated a consistent position,” Wax told the DCNF.

“Everybody says after October 7, universities are on the run, they’re going to change the way they do things or after the affirmative action case, they’re going to change the way they do things. I don’t see any evidence of that. I hear people doubling down on their conviction that everything they’re doing is right and good,” Wax continued.

Universities are dominated by left-wing professors, with one 2018 review of over 60 top colleges in the U.S. revealing that the professoriate is over ten to one Democratic to Republican. Wax pointed to the left-wing dominance of the universities as a reason she was being targeted for her more conservative speech, while radical left-wing speech had largely gone unquestioned.

As recently as 2015, UPenn awarded Wax with the school’s top teaching prize, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, according to a UPenn news article. “Cancel culture really started accelerating around, I think, around 2015, 2016,” Wax told the DCNF.

The Penn Law Council of Student Representatives held a student body meeting with then-UPenn Law School Dean Theodore Ruger in September 2019 to discuss “issues regarding Professor Amy Wax,” according to an email obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a free speech legal organization.

“The objections to me had nothing really to do with the quality of my teaching. It had to do with my openly expressing views and opinions and discussing facts that were forbidden and deviated from this very narrow catechism,” Wax told the DCNF. Wax said that many of the ideas and thoughts she had expressed were discussed in mainstream conservative circles but are forbidden at universities.

Wax previously made controversial statements, including saying that America should let fewer Asians immigrate to the country due to their “indifference to liberty,” and that different racial “groups have different levels of ability” and that unequal outcomes are “not due to racism,” according to a June 2023 UPenn memo obtained by The Washington Free Beacon. She also said that diversity, equity and inclusion officers “couldn’t be scholars if their life depended on it,” and that they are “true believer bureaucrats.”

“People are afraid now to express a lot of this stuff in public because they will be censured or even lose their job or their livelihood,” Wax told the DCNF. “There is a myth, a fairy tale in the universities that all people are equal in their latent ability, whatever that means, and their achievement, and that is just completely contrary to fact.”

Wax said allegations that she made students uncomfortable in the classroom were unfounded and that Ruger targeted her for extramural speech. She pointed out that the recently leaked memo of the faculty senate didn’t list any speech in the classroom.

The memo recommends that Wax receive a public reprimand from university leadership, a loss of her named chair and a requirement to note when she publicly speaks, she is not speaking for the university. It also recommends a one-year suspension at half pay and a loss of summer pay in perpetuity. The memo claims that Wax’s speech should be treated as “major infractions of University behavioral standards.”

Magill, who signed off on the recommendation to sanction Wax in the leaked memo, argued at a Dec. 5 congressional hearing that the university had been lenient on antisemitic speech due to the school’s adherence to free speech principles. Magill also defended the Palestine Writes Festival at the school, which involved one speaker who likened Zionism to Nazism and one who said “most Jews” are “evil.”

“Liz Magill lied to Congress because it has never adhered to First Amendment standards,” Wax told the DCNF. “But the fact that they’re bringing this case against me is directly contrary to First Amendment standards.”

Free speech issues on college campuses have been a source of fierce debate since the Oct.7 terrorist attacks against Israel. Former Harvard President Claudine Gay wrote that students “had a right to speak” after over 30 student groups signed a letter blaming the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel and also alluded to free speech at the Dec. 5 congressional hearing on antisemitism.

Harvard University previously rescinded an offer to a student in 2019 for alleged racist comments made when he was 16 years old, and disinvited feminist philosopher Devin Buckley from campus in 2022 because of her views on trans issues.

MIT President Sally Kornbluth allegedly told MIT Israel Alliance President Talia Khan that the university could not evenly apply the code of conduct due to fear of possibly “losing faculty support.” MIT previously disinvited speaker Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, due to his criticism of affirmative action.

“The far left holds power in the universities, and they are not about to relinquish it,” Wax told the DCNF.


Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin Signs Bill Banning Legacy Admissions

This will put a few noses out of joint

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed a bill Friday banning legacy admissions at public colleges in the state.

Several states have moved to eliminate legacy admissions, which are admissions based on prior familial attendance to a school, after the fall of race-based admissions at the Supreme Court in June 2023. The bill passed the Virginia Senate with bipartisan support, 39-0, and passed the state’s House of Delegates 99-0, and has now been signed by Youngkin.

“Governor Youngkin has consistently advocated for merit-based admissions to Virginia’s colleges and universities. In Virginia, students can be encouraged to know their hard work and academic career will be recognized on its merit,” a spokesperson for Youngkin told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“No public institution of higher education shall provide any manner of preferential treatment in the admissions decision to any student applicant on the basis of such student’s legacy status or such student’s familial relationship to any donor to such institution,” the bill reads.

“It’s about fairness. It’s about higher ed being available to everybody,” Virginia Democratic state Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview before the Senate vote, according to The Associated Press.

The Connecticut legislature’s education committee said it plans to look into legacy admissions during this upcoming legislative session, according to the Connecticut Mirror. Federal legislation was also introduced in November to eliminate legacy admissions in Congress by Indiana Republican Sen. Todd Young and Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

Nearly 56% of the top 250 colleges and universities in the U.S. used legacy admissions in the enrollment process.




Monday, March 11, 2024

Outrage grows after Nevada college oversight leader asked if state's universities have any men 'masquerading as women' on sports teams and hurting girls

A Nevada college oversight leader is facing calls to resign after referring to trans athletes as 'men masquerading as women.'

Patrick Boylan has been slammed for making the comments during a meeting of the Nevada System of Higher Education's Board of Regents on Friday.

He said he had 'one simple question' for the athletic directors who were presenting to the board before asking, 'Do we have any men masquerading as women playing in any of our teams and hurting any of the women?'

The question was shut down by board attorney Michael Wixom, who advised it was against federal privacy laws to collate and disclose that information. He cautioned the directors not to respond and said any question would need to be brought on a separate agenda.

Boylan's remarks were also blasted by The Nevada Faculty Alliance which said it was, 'deeply angered by repeated anti-transgender comments.'

The alliance said it was 'especially appalled' by the regent's 'aggressive response' to a student leader who upbraided his remarks in the public comment portion of the meeting.

In the public comment section Kevin Osorio-Hernández, president of the Nevada State Student Alliance, told Boylan he was disappointed by the rhetoric and that he hopes he can 'expand and change your paradigm'.

Boylan told the student he had freedom of speech and continued to make inflammatory remarks.

'If he has not had his "you know what" cut off or anything, he's still a man,' Boylan said.

But Boylan has stood by his position and confirmed to the Las Vegas Review that he has no plans to step down.

He asserted that 'safety and freedom of speech' are more important than the feelings of the faculty alliance headed by Jim New, which he said had 'totally misconstrued' his comments.

Boylan insisted he was doing the right thing by talking about women's safety in sport and claimed to have been confused about the proper way to refer to trans people.

The regent defended his position and maintains he was just trying to speak up for women in sport. 'If I used the wrong terms, then OK,' he said, adding he had received emails of support since the meeting.

'They're tired of all of this woke nonsense,' he said. Boylan also told the outlet he believes trans athletes should get to compete in their own separate category.

He admitted during the Friday meeting his comments came on the heels of high-profile incidents across the nation of trans athletes competing against women and leading to injuries of the girls. One recent incident happened in Massachusetts when a trans athlete competed in a high school basketball game.

The faculty alliance argues that Boylan's conduct goes against the board's anti-discrimination policy.

'In the March 1 meeting, Regent Boylan also questioned the qualifications of students from underrepresented minority groups,' their statement added.

'These are not isolated incidents. Regent Boylan has a history of racist and discriminatory remarks that have been condemned by a number of Nevada System of Higher Education students, including the Senate of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.'

However, not everyone is supportive of the calls for his resignation.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks came to Boylan's defense, saying he was being asked to step down, 'for stating that a man is a man.'


Classroom Warfare

While COVID-related school violence may have subsided, too many teachers and students are still not safe in the classroom.

About 857,500 violent incidents and 479,500 nonviolent incidents were recorded by public schools in 2021-22, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. (Nonviolent incidents include theft, vandalism, drug possession, etc.) About 67% of public schools reported having at least one violent incident.

Hence, it’s hardly surprising that almost half of all teachers reported they “desire or plan to quit or transfer their jobs due to concerns about school climate and school safety,” per a 2022 study by the American Psychological Association,

The ongoing question is what to do about this egregious problem. The National Education Association claims that to deal with it, we must hire more counselors and interventionists.

While additional counselors who can reason with youthful offenders may help in some cases, it is not a fix that will always work.

Corporal punishment?

While there may be something to be said for the “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child mentality” (18 states still permit corporal punishment), this approach is fraught with problems. Schools benefit from a school-wide discipline program, and not all teachers are comfortable whacking kids. I know that when I taught a middle school, it would be unthinkable for me to paddle a 13-year-old, especially a girl. Also, many parents might not want to send their kids to a school with a designated flogger.


Having a campus cop is helpful. A law enforcement officer surely is a deterrent to some miscreants. It’s important to note that while many teacher union leaders want to defund the cops, many boots-on-the-ground teachers disagree. A 2021 Heritage Foundation survey asked if defunding school resource officers will make schools safer and just 7% of teachers responded affirmatively. Additionally, an Ed Week Research Center poll from 2020 showed that, when asked if armed police officers should be eliminated from our nation’s schools, only 20% of teachers, principals, and district leaders completely or partly agreed.

But the racially obsessed equity crowd maintains that a cop’s presence “increases the number of students facing suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, particularly if they are black.” The same bunch, howeve

The race hustlers in the Windy City are acting on the issue. The Chicago Board of Education has just voted to approve a resolution to remove police officers from its schools by the beginning of next school year.

Restorative justice

Promoted by the teachers’ unions and other leftwing education establishmentarians,this touchy-feely new-age malarkey is dangerous. It emphasizes “making the victim and offender whole” and involves “an open discussion of feelings.” Restorative justice came into being because blacks are far more likely to be suspended than other ethnic groups. The suggestion here, of course, is that white teachers and administrators tend to be racist. But the bean counters never get around to explaining why the racial disparity exists even in schools where black principals and staff predominate.


Forget the school bus — these kids are flying first class

A private tutor to the ultra rich and famous — including the Jenners and Dr. Dre — is lifting the lid on what its like to work with their kids and how some parents fork out as much as $32,000 a month in fees.

Celebrity tutor Tiffany Sorya — who once dissected Catcher in the Rye with Kylie Jenner as she had her makeup applied — told The Post homeschooling demand soared during the pandemic and has now entrenched itself as an increasingly appealing path.

“This started in LA,” said the founder of Novel Education Group. “Families of a certain type — celebrities, high profile CEOS who were traveling a lot — they needed something that fits their lifestyle.”

The richest families find private tutors are much more flexible than traditional schooling options, and for the right price elite educators can be at their beck and call around the clock as they jet set around the world.

Others harbor security and privacy concerns for their children at regular campuses — no matter how exclusive or expensive.

“The idea of being locked into one location for ten months out of the year is not going to work for them,” Sorya said.

The private educator was tasked with supervising the homeschooling of Dr. Dre’s daughter, Truly, whose creative pursuits made a traditional education unappealing and largely unfeasible.

“The parents still want standards, they want structure,” she said. “But they also want to have the ability to nurture their kids’ interests outside the classroom. They aren’t so interested in the prom and football games. They’re busy making albums.”

Demand for high-end homeschooling has become so intense that some of Sorya’s clients are withdrawing their children from some of New York and Los Angeles’ most prestigious private schools to pivot to remote education.

The costs of top-tier homeschooling, Sorya said, have rocketed accordingly.

While her packages vary, a full-time tutor costs roughly $16,000 a month. Those instructors are available at all times and will jump on a plane to meet with their students as needed.

Some clients, Sorya said, hire two such tutors to work with their children at a cost of $32,000 a month.

Typically, clients have their assigned in-home teacher sign airtight non-disclosure agreements to guard against leaks and loose lips.

Other especially demanding clients have asked Sorya to find them tutors without any personal attachments so they can focus solely on their children.




Sunday, March 10, 2024

Is the ‘Test-Optional’ Racist Scheme Under Threat?

Elite colleges are engaged in a balancing act: They are trying to maintain their reputation for having the best students while also giving an admissions advantage to their preferred races. In recent years, the desire for racial diversity has trumped academic excellence. This reality was clearly demonstrated in the Supreme Court cases Harvard v. Students for Fair Admissions and University of North Carolina v. Students for Fair Admissions. The cases numerically showed the extent to which these universities choose less-qualified black and Hispanic students over better-qualified Asian and white students. At Harvard University, for instance, black applicants in the fourth-lowest decile of academic achievement had a greater chance of admission than Asian students in the top decile of academic achievement.

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling that racial preferences in college admissions are illegal under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, many colleges have moved to permanently eliminate standardized testing requirements so as to continue preferring less-qualified black and Hispanic students over better-qualified Asian and white students without getting caught.

Some colleges that have eliminated standardized testing requirements have been quite clear that they intend to surreptitiously continue using race. For example, the president of the University of Louisville, which has gone test-optional, stated in the wake of the Students for Fair Admissions decisions that the university would instead use “experience with race” in admissions decisions. “[W]e’re going to drive a truck through experience with race in terms of our admissions,” said President Kim Schatzel. In addition, the University of California voted in 2020 to totally remove standardized testing from admissions decisions in the name of equity.

While going test-optional gives colleges license to continue racially discriminating without getting caught, it has a negative side effect: It decreases the quality of a college’s student body. This is because standardized testing is the best predictor of academic success and a strong predictor of post-college success. Eliminating this accurate predictor makes it difficult for colleges to choose the best students.

While numerous colleges have opted to forego standardized testing requirements in order to evade allegations of racial discrimination, there is now a small movement among elite universities to reintroduce standardized testing requirements. These schools are recognizing the fact that standardized testing is critical to achieving their goal of building an elite student body. This goal is important to them because the value of the degrees they grant lies in the perception that their students are talented and successful (and less in their ability to actually teach their students).

This week, Brown University announced that it will require students to submit standardized testing scores in the upcoming admissions cycle. In doing so, Brown joins Yale, Dartmouth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in ditching pandemic-era test-optional policies. In making the announcement, Brown cited the benefit of standardized testing for building an excellent student body: “Our analysis made clear that SAT and ACT scores are among the key indicators that help predict a student’s ability to succeed and thrive in Brown’s demanding academic environment.” When Yale made its announcement that it would restore its testing requirement, it stated that standardized testing is actually the best indicator of academic success at Yale.

Brown also sought to claim that standardized testing is beneficial to its goal of achieving racial diversity. “The committee was concerned that some students from less-advantaged backgrounds are choosing not to submit scores under the test-optional policy, when doing so would actually increase their chances of being admitted,” the university said. Similarly, Dartmouth has claimed that standardized testing is helpful in identifying low-income students who will be successful in college.

Brown’s decision to restore its testing requirement even though doing so will make it accountable for whether it fairly judges students of all races shows that the ideology of diversity, equity, and inclusion has not totally overtaken the university. It still maintains a drive to produce students who are academically talented, regardless of race. However, while merit has triumphed over racial bias in regard to Brown’s standardized testing policy, this does not mean that the university will not practice racial discrimination in admissions. The school is simply not so wildly ideological as to eliminate the best indicator of merit.

The decisions of these top schools to restore testing requirements could put pressure on other schools to restore their requirements. This is because standardized testing’s ability to most accurately predict student success will mean that schools that require it will be more effective at admitting the best students. In addition, these schools’ standardized testing policies could give them a reputation for admitting the best students, given that it is well-known that standardized testing is highly effective at identifying people who will be successful. Thus, in elite colleges’ race to enroll the best students and better their reputations in comparison to one another, the ones with standardized testing requirements will have an advantage over the ones that do not.

This could mean that more elite schools will shift back toward requiring standardized testing. However, the incentive to compete will also be tempered by college administrations’ preferences for certain races over others, as well as their ideological commitment to equity over merit.

Brown’s decision to restore its standardized testing requirement gives hope that merit will still be valued in higher education. However, it remains uncertain whether this is a minor gesture by a school seeking to increase its competitiveness or a genuine progression toward the prioritization of merit over equity.


When Classical Learning Meets Public Education, the Dialogue Isn't Always Socratic

The future of the controversial classical education movement will be showcased later this month when Columbia University senior lecturer Roosevelt Montás is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at a national symposium hosted by Great Hearts, the biggest classical charter network.

The views of Montás, author of the widely praised memoir "Rescuing Socrates," are well to the left of many in the classical charter movement, which is rooted in Christian conservatism. What makes Montás’ upcoming speech so notable, then, is the signal it sends about the movement’s effort to diversify its brand and project a welcoming attitude as it seeks to expand beyond conservative strongholds and suburbs where it began.

But not everyone is enamored of the effort, neither educational conservatives nor local school officials, unions, and progressive advocates. The latter liken classical charters to a Trojan Horse, sneaking quasi-Christian right-wing dogma into public education under the cover of liberal arts.

That makes classical education perhaps the biggest culture-war flashpoint in the current disruption of traditional public education prompted by the historic exodus of students during the pandemic – even though the movement's numbers are small.

In all, there are about 250 classical charters today, according to one study, making them a small niche within the broader charter sector of 8,000 schools and campuses focused on everything from STEM subjects to art to special needs. They have produced both notable successes and scandalous failures in bringing innovation to public education.

Classical education, whose name gained traction in the 1980s to evoke the movement's focus on liberal arts and the Western canon, is struggling to overcome local political opposition and open schools in lower-income communities where most students reside. By making common cause with a range of prominent black and Latino thinkers and educators like Montás, classical charter leaders hope to show that their style of moral education is valuable to students from all backgrounds and beliefs.

“Our experience has been that the bar for opening a classical charter school that serves disadvantaged students is much higher, and that the process gets extremely political early on,” said Kathleen O’Toole, who heads the K-12 program at Hillsdale College, a Christian school at the center of the wrangling. “The opposition paints us as if we're trying to do political things with children, which we are not.”

Some of the movement’s top leaders are outspoken Republicans and have Ph.D.s from the conservative Claremont Graduate University. And some classical charters convey a patriotic zeal in their marketing as a counterpoint to the social justice zeal found in some traditional public schools.

But classical leaders reject the accusation that they are running a partisan enterprise, saying they aim for something higher, in line with Aristotle’s teaching – to nurture in students a desire to find their own answers to the big question of what constitutes the good life.

“We base ourselves in the West, in the culture of freedom that produced the Magna Carta, the founding documents of this country, and the civil rights movement,” said Dan Scoggin, co-founder of Great Hearts and a Claremont alum. “We read Marx, Rousseau – writers who push back on the Christian tradition, but it’s also a big part of Western culture. To those who try to pigeonhole classical charters as pseudo-Christian, no, we are not.”

Robert Jackson, who arranged for Montás to address the symposium in Phoenix, is at the center of the effort to mainstream classical education. After teaching at a Christian college and working at Great Hearts, Jackson started Classical Commons, a new platform to unite educators from different political and religious camps and support the recruitment and training of classical teachers – a key to expansion.

“There is an impulse among the classical leaders that this time-tested education should also be available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who haven’t had the opportunity,” said Albert Cheng, who runs a classical education research lab at the University of Arkansas. “There’s a social justice vibe to it. Everyone isn’t marching lockstep to a conservative ideology.”

To enlarge the tent of classical education, scholars like Cornel West, the progressive independent presidential aspirant, are giving talks at events and making podcasts about the liberating power of classical education for all students. Classical Academic Press, run by white Christian writer Christopher Perrin, published “The Black Intellectual Tradition,” highlighting how the classics inspired leaders from Anna Julia Cooper to Martin Luther King in the quest for justice.

Change is also coming to the classrooms. Professor Anika Prather, a co-author of “The Black Intellectual Tradition” and founder of the Living Water Christian school, has made many presentations to teachers at classical charters. Leaders are also debating whether to add more diverse authors to their Great Books reading lists after the Classical Learning Test, an assessment group, did so. (Related article here.)

But reappraising the Western canon doesn’t sit well with hardline conservatives in the movement like David Goodwin, president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools. He has issued several warnings, in his writings and to RealClear, about the dangerous waters classical charters are entering.

Goodwin says it was bad enough that charters removed the moorings of Christian truth from education. Now they are succumbing to the intense pressures for diversity, which he calls antithetical to the mission of classical education – the Platonic pursuit of “truth, goodness and beauty in a meritorious way.”

Josh Herring, a professor who helped run the Thales network of private classical academies, adds that the movement’s attempt to find a middle ground that no longer exists in America will fail. Instead, he says, it should embrace its fundamental conservatism and accept the fact that all education is inescapably political. “For classical education to continue to thrive, it has to know its own essence and defend that essence,” he says.

Squeezed from both the left and right, classical charters are nonetheless charging ahead in their effort to grow. Their biggest assets are families that form long waiting lists to enroll at the many high-performing classical charters. Some parents are attracted by their conservative reputation, but mostly it’s their rigorous curriculum that focuses on core academic subjects in the tradition of liberal arts, according to a study by Arkansas’ Cheng.

Classical education, a term the movement adopted to suggest its ancient lineage, reemerged first with private Christian schools in the 1980s. They provided the inspiration and part of the curriculum for the first classical charter, Tempe Prep, in Arizona in 1996.

Scoggin, a Christian like most of the charter movement leaders, worked as head of school at Tempe before setting up Great Hearts. He capitalized on Arizona’s school choice law, which made it possible to bring the classical model into public education and reach more families that couldn’t afford private tuition. Starting in 2003, Great Hearts now has 44 academies in Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana and expects to get to 70 in five years.

Classical charters are not as antiquarian as the name implies. College prep courses and state test scores still matter, but they also focus to varying degrees on canonical literature, ancient history, philosophy, religious texts, and Latin and Greek. A few schools, like St. Croix Prep outside of Minneapolis, have even resurrected a medieval form of teaching called the trivium that breaks up every subject in three stages over 12 years – facts first, then argument, and finally persuasion.

Put simply, the charters want students to grapple with what it means to be human before they create their LinkedIn page.

Many add a modern touch. Washington Latin, one of a handful of urban classical schools, mixes Latin and student-led Socratic seminars in every subject with a modern twist to the reading list. Students read ancient and contemporary books on similar themes, such as Plato’s “Symposium” and the black scholar bell hooks’ seminal 2000 feminist work, “All About Love,” to create a dialog between the two worlds, says Diana Smith, the charter’s chief of classical education.

“We have a long waiting list to enroll because of our willingness to talk about the true, the good and the beautiful that goes beyond what came from Western Greece and Rome,” Smith said.


Universality and the university

More selectivity needed for admissions, not less

Recently, the Australian University Accord met to discuss the manifest failings of our tertiary education system. The result has been a predictable raft of recommendations, couched in the langue de bois of our modern class: equity, innovation, agility, et al. In other words, all the things that got us into this mess to start with. These are words that, once they start tumbling from someone’s mouth, indemnify them against the risk of being identified as a genuine mind.

Established by the Labor Party, we should expect the Australian University Accord’s report would reflect Labor values. Those Labor values now apparently include the annihilation of the working man, with the recommendation that 80 per cent of Australians should pass through the hallowed doors of the university system. They, like everything else in a society driven by data-as-God, mistake quantity for quality.

In one respect, they are addressing a genuine problem. As a nation we are perhaps stupider than ever; PISA results continue to decline, and our primary and secondary education systems are mutual reflections of our tertiary system. Literary references, a command of basic mathematics, a sense of history, and the ability to write coherently: these all seem blue remembered hills.

However, furthering universal education is unlikely to fix the problems the proliferation of universal education created. For reasons entirely predictable, education proved vulnerable to the law of diminishing returns. An elite education cannot be made available to everybody; it is far easier to ensure that nobody receives an elite education. This is the cost of equity-above-all-else as a governing principle. People are not equal, and cannot be made equal. People cannot even be made to regard one another as equal. Equality, along with our obsession with data, is another false god of our age.

The problem with the university system is not one of scarcity, but one of inflation. We bend every possible requirement to allow people the opportunity to enter university, and do everything possible to prevent them failing once they’re there. We’re one step from conscripting the population into tertiary education, and the credentials required for entry-level jobs have changed to reflect this. This is to say nothing of adolescence extended, family delayed, and earning prospects limited for several years of study. A bachelor’s degree today is the equivalent of the school leaver certificate of yesterday; people collect master’s degrees today like they collected Pokémon as children. Credentialism for most of the population represents a ticket to the middle class and social respectability, as much as potential earning power in the future. These are powerful incentives, which explain why 60 per cent of the population has been pressed into the ivory tower at some point in their lives. Yet careerism is not the only purpose the university is supposed to serve.

Among those giving, everything produced by the university sector – certainly in the non-empirical world – has been through a peer-reviewed strainer to prevent anything original or novel emerging. They reference one another like incestuous monks and write in a bizarre argot to demonstrate their membership. Some faculties, and some universities, are worse than others. They bring to mind the scholasticism of earlier centuries, but without the rigour. And, as was the case in the Reformation, genuinely new ideas will emerge from outside the walls of what we consider epistemologically established. Many academics are reincarnations of apocryphal medieval theologians arguing about the quantity of angels that can fit on a pinhead. It is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for your average academic to produce something interesting.

On the receiving end, the university system is no better. Every second person has a Mickey-Mouse degree from a Mickey-Mouse university, and few of them could hold an intelligent conversation with a secondary school graduate from half a century ago. Whatever the university is producing, it is not minds. But I’ve long held the suspicion that this is exactly the point. The last thing the postmodern West is interested in is a population with minds, and for most people what passes for wisdom today is browsing Wikipedia and calling out logical fallacies on Reddit. The snarky intellect of the educated Millennial or Zoomer, like a shallow and unbearably noisy stream, lacks blue water. We produce sophistry among those who should be passing on the knowledge of our civilisation, and encourage cynicism among those who receive it.

Aside from the turgid careerism of academics and the acquisitiveness of students – perhaps sellers and buyers of indulgences is a better term – there are two obvious reasons why The Powers That Be encourage this. The first is for financial reasons. Education is big business in Australia. Only mining has a larger output share. The university system doubles as a means of laundering citizenship and immigration, and siphoning money from overseas elites adds to the cash paid over the span of their working lives by native-born graduates. The government collects more revenue from HECS than it does from the petroleum resource rent tax. No government that values its bottom line is going to advocate for less tertiary education.

The second reason is an ideological one. The universities are captured institutions: an American report estimated that the ratio of conservative to liberal professors shifted 350 per cent in the latter direction since 1984. Even if you enter to study STEM or something vocational, they’ll still get you with the mandatory modules on diversity and Indigenous perspectives and all the rest of the postmodern religiosity we now accept as normal. The result is a braindead middle class composed of eunuchs and temple priestesses. If this sounds hyperbolic, remember how the university sector responded to the Western Civilisation courses offered by the Ramsay Centre. You’d think they’d like more money and more students, but to give them credit, occasionally their principles get in the way. Both ANU and the University of Sydney weren’t interested. They value the message above the money. Today’s liberal-Marxist elite, who live in constant terror afraid of their own shadows, will broker no competition in the world of ideas. They know it was thanks to that they got their stranglehold to begin with. They also suspect, in their heart of hearts, that their cherished ideas are terrible, anti-natural, and essentially anti-human.

The postmodern university is a house of cards. It would be too much to expect the Australian Universities Accord to admit as much.