Thursday, April 11, 2024

It’s time to end Albany’s destructive micromanagement of NYC schools

A year after being tasked with studying the effectiveness of mayoral control of New York City’s public-school system, the State Education Department delivered a 300-page report undermining it — and so leaving no one accountable for school-system failure.

Plus, SED’s $250,000 study calls for setting up a commission to look for more ways to mess things up.

The Legislature’s leaders rejected Gov. Hochul’s push to renew mayoral control in negotiations for the state budget, when she has maximum leverage to resist watering it down, as they did two years ago by reducing how much of the Panel for Educational Policy Adams appoints.

Here’s hoping Gov. Kathy Hochul doesn’t cave in budget talks
And they clearly hope to undermine it some more this year — because they’re in the pocket of the teachers unions, which strongly prefer a system prone to behind-the-scenes manipulation, like the old Board of Education.

Note that it’s the Legislature (mainly Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie) that chooses the state Board of Regents, who govern SED: So, in sniping at mayoral control, SED simply did what its masters wanted.

Notably, the report mainly cites the input of “activist” parents who mainly parrot city United Federation of Teachers talking points.

When city parents rallied to retain Gifted & Talented programs and protect high-performing schools, the UFT and its pawns worked to undermine them.

The SED report is just another play in the sordid Albany game of rewarding special interests while spreading out the blame so voters can’t hold anyone accountable — in this case, to impose that same dark design on the city Department of Education.

Taxpayers, parents and students be damned.

Kudos to Assembly Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx) for opposing this drive, saying, “We should keep what we have and hold someone accountable and that would be the mayor.”

Every other school system in the state has a settled system of governance; only New York City is subjected to this periodic micromanagement (mismanagement, actually) from Albany.

This obscene, venal farce must end: Mayoral control should be made permanent.


Education Eclipsed: Unnecessary School Closures Breed Anxious Children

A total eclipse crossed the country this week in a display of natural wonder. Rather than seize the opportunity for an engaging science lesson, hundreds of school districts with several hundred thousand students decided to close for the day, many citing safety concerns that students might accidentally look at the eclipse without proper eye protection.

Even worse than failing to teach students about science, the decision to close schools for the eclipse teaches students to have irrational fears about their safety. If we want to understand why young people are experiencing alarming levels of anxiety and having difficulty developing into capable adults, all we have to do is look at examples like the excess cautiousness exhibited by schools regarding the eclipse.

To put in perspective how irrational it is for schools to close during the eclipse out of safety concerns, let’s review how incredibly unlikely it is that the eclipse would harm anyone. It is true that people should wear protective eyeglasses when looking directly at the sun during an eclipse. But the instances in which people stare at the sun without protection and cause permanent and serious damage to their eyes are so rare that they almost round down to zero.

In 1999, a total solar eclipse crossed the southern part of England, a country with 99 million people. An article in the British Journal of Medicine reports that a total of 14 people experienced any eye injuries from that event, and those were mostly minor and temporary.

In fact, an earlier study of an eclipse in Turkey found that the handful of injuries were so ephemeral that only “10% of those with damage had permanent visual loss to the extent that they were not able to read a car number [license] plate at 25 yards.”

The only serious injury documented from the England eclipse occurred after someone “looked at the sun for around 20 minutes without protection.”

If schools were unable to distribute the protective eyewear that was widely available and avoid having students stare at the sun without that protection for 20 minutes, they would be so lacking in behavioral control that they should be permanently closed, rather than just close for that day.

It’s worth noting that students could also damage their eyes if they stab them repeatedly with pencils. Presumably, schools have sufficient behavioral control to avoid closing over concerns about pencil-induced blindness.

Despite the fact that the threat posed by the eclipse to student health is about as remote as that posed by pencils, hundreds of school districts across the country decided to close for safety reasons.

In Arkansas alone, 104 school districts with 163,954 students, or about 35% of all students in the state, closed for the eclipse. In the state of New York, more than 200 school districts closed. In Ohio, the number of school districts that closed also exceeded 100, including schools in Cleveland, the state’s second-most populous city. Another 100 school districts closed in Texas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Even in Louisiana, which was not in the path of the total eclipse, there were still school districts that closed, “with many citing safety concerns.”

People sometimes say, “You can’t be too careful,” but the truth is you can be. Excessive cautiousness promotes a fragility among young people that hinders their ability to develop as capable adults. As both Jonathan Haidt and Abigail Shrier have documented in their recent books, crippling fear of the broader world is making it less likely that young people physically gather and socialize, driving them into dangerously isolated and distorted virtual lives.

Excessive anxiety is making it less likely for young people to get driver’s licenses, less likely to date, and ultimately less likely to form new families with their own children.

We can’t lay blame for all of this on the decision of more than 500 school districts this week to close for the eclipse. But we can see these closures as an indication of how public schools are failing our children by modeling excessive and irrational concerns about safety. It’s this same excessive and irrational caution that led so many schools to close for long stretches of the COVID-19 pandemic, with disastrous consequences for both academic and social development.

During both the eclipse and COVID-19, public schools made decisions for the convenience of the adults who work in them without concern for their students or families. Handing out protective eyewear, walking outside to look at the eclipse, and having to remind students to be sure to use the glasses can seem like a hassle to unmotivated teachers and administrators. They similarly hate going on field trips to visit historical sites or cultural institutions. As they see it, things could only go wrong if they leave the safe confines of the classroom.

But most families do not want their children raised by schools surrounded by virtual bubble wrap. They want their children to develop into capable and independent adults.

If we want to prevent the next generation from becoming paralyzed with anxiety and irrational concerns for safety, we need to shift power from excessively cautious and unmotivated public schools to parents. When parents can choose their schools, they will find those that balance safety and exploration in a way that suits the needs of their own children and not those of the adults who work in schools.


Ohio college students fear for safety, launch system to alert crime off campus

Students at the University of Cincinnati have banded together to create the Cincy Crime Stoppers Instagram page to alert students about incidents around campus.

A description for the Cincy Crime Stoppers says the page is for "Bearcats who live off-campus and have been a victim of a crime" to "send in anonymous tips to help keep" the "community safe."

"We're a group of student[s] … who have all been victims of different things while we're students at UC," said Hailey Smith, a criminal justice student in her junior year and representative for the page. "We noticed that there needed to be some sort of outlet for students to be more aware of what's happening around the campus."

Smith added that the students who created the page — who have fallen victim to various crimes from armed robberies to break-ins, felt a need for more alerts about crime near campus. Cincy Crime Stoppers aims to do that by sending real-time alerts to followers.

A description for the Cincy Crime Stoppers page says it is for "Bearcats who live off-campus and have been a victim of a crime" to "send in anonymous tips to help keep" the "community safe." (Michael Hickey)

"Cars on our street get broken into at least a couple times every month," Smith said.

The UC junior is passionate about crime prevention and reduction and hopes the Cincy Crime Stoppers page has a positive impact on the community, even on a small scale. She and other students feel the university can be "vague" in crime alerts sent out to students.

Cincy Crime Stoppers aims to not only give students more information about crime near campus but also help law enforcement get more tips.

University of Cincinnati students have launched a crime alert page called Cincy Crime Stoppers. (Instagram)

"We want to get confirmed information before we send it out, of course, and we also want to put out … the most important stuff, but also this stuff that … is unreported by UC," she said.

Most recently, students are mourning the death of Benjamin Addison, a 21-year-old UC student who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of March 30 while he was trying to stop a car theft. Police named a 17-year-old suspect in connection with Addison's death.

Addison's father said in a Facebook post that two people were trying to break into the 21-year-old's Hyundai. Prosecutors are asking for the teen suspect's case to be transferred to adult court while the suspect's attorney is pushing for his release, according to FOX 19 Cincinnati.

"He was the light of my life and truly my best friend. He was such an amazing young man and I [don't] know if I will ever get over this pain. Please pray for me and my family," Joe Addison wrote.

UC has not released any kind of public statement acknowledging Addison's death, and Smith said students feel as if they've been left in the dark. The university did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Fox News Digital.




Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Public school students in this state could soon be required to take gun safety courses

The Tennessee state legislature passed a bill, which is now headed to the governor's desk, requiring public schools to teach "age-appropriate and grade-appropriate" gun safety courses to students starting next year.

"We see this proposed legislation as a critical step in averting firearm related accidents while fostering greater awareness and responsibility among gun owners," the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Todd, a Republican, said in a February hearing.

The Tennessee Senate passed HB 2882 in a 24-3 vote on Thursday after the bill made its way through the House in February. If signed by Gov. Bill Lee, the courses will begin in the 2025-2026 school year.

The gun safety classes would be taught primarily through videos and online resources and would teach things like firearm storage, school safety, and how to avoid getting hurt if a student finds a gun and to immediately notify an adult if a gun is found. The bill stipulates the lessons will "not include the use or presence of live ammunition, live fire, or live firearms."

"This curriculum would be developed to instruct children on how to properly stay away from a firearm if they happen to see a firearm, and what to do as far as reporting if they find a firearm," Republican Sen. Paul Bailey said during Thursday's session.

Bill Lee visits a Tennessee classroom
The Tennessee Senate passed HB 2882 in a 24-3 vote on Thursday after the bill made its way through the House in February. It now heads to Gov. Bill Lee's desk. (Office of the Governor of Tennessee)

The bill requires that lessons be "viewpoint neutral on political topics, such as gun rights, gun violence, and the Second Amendment."

Senate Republicans voted against an amendment that would have allowed parents to opt children out of the training.

Proponents of the legislation compared it to other mandatory safety training concepts like fire drills. But opponents say it does not adequately address the root cause of school shootings.

"Children are already bearing an incredible brunt of the escalation that we’ve seen in gun violence – that is widely reported in our own state government’s data. Data demonstrates that children are increasingly likely to become victims of firearms in homicides, suicides, gun violence, accidental deaths," Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Democrat, said on Thursday. "But rather than deal with the fact that there are firearms that are negligently and recklessly left somewhere by adults, we’re trying to teach children how to deal with that negligence."

If passed, the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will determine the curriculum parameters, including ages and grade levels, for the lessons.


These States Are Pushing Back Against Biden's 'Brazen' New Student Debt Scheme

President Joe Biden again thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court this week when he announced another "plan" to reallocate as much as $475 billion in student debt from borrowers to the rest of the country's taxpaying citizens — and he again faces a federal lawsuit over his unconstitutional abuse of executive power to achieve what Congress won't approve.

Led by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a coalition of seven states — Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Dakota, Ohio, and Oklahoma — filed their suit against Biden's latest attempt to buy votes via phony and unlawful promises of loan "forgiveness."

"With the stroke of his pen, Joe Biden is attempting to saddle working Missourians with a half trillion dollars in college debt," Bailey said in a statement provided to Townhall. "The United States Constitution makes clear that the President lacks the authority to unilaterally ‘cancel’ student loan debt for millions of Americans without express permission from Congress."

"The President does not get to thwart the Constitution when it suits his political agenda," Bailey emphasized. "I’m filing suit to halt his brazen attempt to curry favor with some citizens by forcing others to shoulder their debts. The Constitution will continue to mean something as long as I’m Attorney General."

The state attorneys general argue in their fresh challenge to Biden's runaway abuse of power that the Supreme Court has already "declared that the President cannot 'unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy'" while President Biden "is at it again, even bragging that 'the Supreme Court blocked it. They blocked it. But that didn't stop me.'"

Yet again, the President is unilaterally trying to impose an extraordinarily expensive and controversial policy that he could not get through Congress. This latest attempt to sidestep the Constitution is only the most recent instance in a long but troubling pattern of the President relying on innocuous language from decades-old statutes to impose drastic, costly policy changes on the American people without their consent.

As Katie reported on Monday, the Biden administration announced it would pursue loan "cancellation" (read: reallocation to American taxpayers) for a total of 30 million student loan borrowers. This sort of action, of course, even former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the president lacked the authority to take. What's more, the Supreme Court already ruled that Biden did not have the authority to buy votes by pretending to erase (the debt is still there!) balances for millions of Americans ahead of November's election.

Yet, almost giddily, Biden's Education Secretary Miguel Cardona "bragged about finding ways around the June 2023 Supreme Court ruling that declared Biden doesn't have the legal authority to reallocate debt," as Katie noted. "When the Supreme Court struck down the President’s boldest student debt relief plan, within hours, we said, 'We won’t be deterred,'" Cardona said. "We announced a new rulemaking process designed to provide borrowers relief under the Higher Education Act."


Australia: Stark new figures showing Qld’s loss of teachers outstripping recruitment

The elephant in the room is the chaotic state of many classrooms -- with little or no effective discipline. So what is our genius government about to do? Make discipline even harder. No wonder teachers are giving up where they can

Queensland’s loss of teachers and teacher aides is outstripping the recruitment of new staff by 50 per cent, new figures reveal.

In response to a Sunday Mail report on a record exodus of educators from the state department, government frontbencher Meaghan Scanlon said that to date, the state government had hired more than 5900 new teachers and 2300 new teacher aides.

“The retention rate of teachers and of all teacher aides is around 95 per cent,” she said.

While the government was on track to meet its four-year teacher recruitment target, the new figures revealed a worsening resignation rate over four years.

Teacher and teacher aide resignations increased by more than 60 per cent from 2020-23.

Teacher resignations have spiked 54 per cent since 2020, with more than 2600 state school teachers ditching the profession last year, compared with about 1600 three years prior.

The number of teacher aides quitting is even more stark, with 1142 resignations last year compared with just 637 in 2020.

In total, 8646 teachers and 3729 teacher aides quit from state schools in four years.

This overshadowed the state government being on track to fulfil its 2020 promise to hire more than 6100 new teachers and 1100 new teacher aides by the end of this year.

Ms Scanlon said: “There’s a whole range of factors at the moment that are pushing people from all different industries to look at other types of jobs that are available.

“We also know there are teacher aides who are actually getting qualifications to basically become teachers as well.

“We are trying to attract our key workers to regional Queensland and there are a whole range of incentives out there.”

Education Minister Di Farmer said earlier there were various reasons why teaching staff resign including transitioning to a departmental role, returning to study, or family commitments.

“Queensland’s universities continue to deliver a pipeline of new teachers and help teacher aides transition to Registered Teacher positions,” a spokesman for Ms Farmer’s office said.

“We will continue to monitor trends in resignations within the Department of Education to ensure support services and training opportunities are fit for purpose.”

It comes as tensions remain high over the proposed amendments to the state’s Education Act, which were introduced last month, including changes to suspensions and exclusions.

They would see new appeal rights for students who had accumulated 11 days of short suspensions within a year.

They would also require student support plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with a disability, and Prep students who were suspended or excluded.

The powerful Queensland Teachers Union said its members were appalled.

“The Bill fails to contribute to the good order and management of state schools because it undermines the professional decision-making powers of school principals and will exacerbate excessive workload pressures on school leaders,” the QTU submission said.

Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland state secretary Edward Schuller said it would take decisions away from school leaders and give the power to bureaucrats.

“Beyond a basic question of functionality, the attempt to introduce a Department of Education managed appeals process is a slap in the face to principals and their schooling communities, and serves to worsen the issue of student discipline,” TPAQ’s submission said.

Ms Scanlon said the government had listened to the QTU and other organisations and taken on board the feedback from the parliamentary committee hearings.

“Of course, we’ll take on board any of (the parliamentary committee’s) recommendations, our principals’ powers in regards to suspensions haven’t changed,” she said.

“I think everyone expects that it’s reasonable that we ensure that young people who are facing suspensions get the support they need, but it’s important that we also support our teachers.

“We have increased some funding and started to do dedicated programs, particularly for young people who have seen a number of suspensions.




Tuesday, April 09, 2024

US colleges impose new limits on transgender athletes

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the governing body for small US colleges, has announced a policy that effectively bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.

In a move that was approved by a 20-0 vote of its council of presidents, the NAIA ruled athletes will only be allowed to compete in women’s sports if they were assigned the female gender at birth.

Transgender athletes may still participate in college sport, but only in male categories.

A student who has begun hormone therapy may participate in activities such as workouts, practices and team activities, but not in inter-scholastic competition.

The NAIA oversees about 83,000 athletes in 249 mostly small colleges across the US.

The ruling is believed to be the first of its kind in college sport, but it does not affect the more high-profile National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which oversees student athletics across 1100 schools and about 500,000 student athletes.

“We know there are a lot of different opinions out there,” NAIA president Jim Carr told CBS Sports.

“For us, we believed our first responsibility was to create fairness and competition in the NAIA … we also think it aligns with the reasons Title IX was created. You’re allowed to have separate but equal opportunities for women to compete.”

The NAIA issued a statement after the decision: “With the exception of competitive (cheerleading) and competitive dance, the NAIA created separate categories for male and female participants,” it read.

“Each NAIA sport includes some combination of strength, speed and stamina, providing competitive advantages for male student-athletes. As a result, the NAIA policy for transgender student-athletes applies to all sports except for competitive cheer and competitive dance, which are open to all students.”

The Washington Post reported that the NAIA ban has sparked “concerns” that the NCAA might follow suit.

In March, a more than a dozen current and former college athletes filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the sports governing body for more than 500,000 athletes of violating their rights by allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

The issue rose to prominence in 2022 when Penn University swimmer Lia Thomas became the only openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship.

That year, Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4min33.24sec, beating out Olympic silver medallist Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds.

Thomas had previously competed for the university as Will Thomas for three years and was ranked No.462 in the NCAA.

Title IX gives women athletes the right to equal opportunity in sports in educational institutions that receive federal government funding.

The Biden administration had planned to overhaul the legislation but has so far stalled on finalising laws that would provide stronger support for transgender and non-binary students, as well as victims of sexual assault.

Former president Donald Trump has promised to ban trans women from women’s sports if re-elected.


Public Schools Are Fully Funded Already

Teachers unions and politicians frequently say that public schools need to be “fully funded.” Some politicians even run on the campaign promise of working hard to fully fund schools. Truthfully, no one knows what that means, and a price tag is never given when asked how much it will take to fully fund schools.

In 2020 and 2021, the federal government provided about $190.5 billion toward the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) to allegedly make schools better and safer during the pandemic. One must wonder: How were the ESSER funds spent nationwide?

Many schools used their ESSER funds to hire more administrators and learning specialists, as well as create or expand tutoring and social and emotional learning programs.

Why does this matter? ESSER funds are not recurring funds from the federal government. They have an expiration date. This means that school districts nationwide spent the funds on recurring initiatives and salaries, knowing they have an expiration date. This results in school districts needing to either cut or fit their new recurring expenses into an already inflated budget.

This raises another question: What budgets do school districts already have?

The Baltimore school district’s budget for 2025 has been approved for $2.58 billion. This is the same district where zero students at 13 high schools tested proficient on state math exams, as Fox 5 News reported.

In 2023, Nashville’s school district had a budget of $1.2 billion, according to News Channel 5. In that same year, only 34% of students tested proficient in math, and 36% of students tested proficient in English Language Arts assessments.

Aside from a school district’s regular budget, many districts also have foundations, whereby they take monetary donations to get more funding for their schools. School districts also often apply for grants, which give them even more money to fund their schools.

As ESSER funds for school districts expire, teachers unions and politicians are about to cry out that we must “fully fund” schools.

I would argue that schools are fully funded and have been for quite some time. What has been missing is transparency and accountability in how school districts use the funds they are given.

School districts spend millions on contracts with social and emotional learning providers while students continue to graduate with low proficiency in reading and math. Central offices are bloated with unnecessary administrative positions that do not produce positive results.

Memphis public schools recently announced their new superintendent’s salary starts at $325,000. This is the same school district where only 22% of students can read and write proficiently, and only 13% of students can do math proficiently.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a Chief Equity Officer is $151,203. Most school districts employ a Chief Equity Officer.

Parents and community members have the power to hold their local school district accountable for how funds are spent. Reading school budgets can be confusing and boring, but it must be done when school districts continue to ask for more money each year.


This Is How Much New Student Debt Biden Just Reallocated

In defiance of the Supreme Court and in an effort to buy votes in November, President Joe Biden announced yet another round of student loan debt reallocation Monday.

"To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to approve debt cancellation for 4 million borrowers, helping these borrowers get more breathing room in their daily lives, access economic mobility, buy homes, start businesses, and pursue their dreams," the White House touted in a statement. "Today, President Biden is announcing his Administration’s new plans that, if finalized as proposed, would provide debt relief to over 30 million borrowers when combined with actions the Administration has taken over the last four years."

During a call with reporters, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona bragged about finding ways around the June 2023 Supreme Court ruling that declared Biden doesn't have the legal authority to reallocate debt.

"When the Supreme Court struck down the President’s boldest student debt relief plan, within hours, we said, 'We won’t be deterred,'" Cardona said. "We announced a new rulemaking process designed to provide borrowers relief under the Higher Education Act."

Meanwhile, the cost of college continues to skyrocket as a result of government intervention, lack of incentives to lower tuition costs and federal bailouts.




Monday, April 08, 2024

Anxious generation don’t know how risk can lead to reward


As a teenager, few experiences for me matched the thrill of crowd-surfing. In the year 2000, I attended my first big festival and remember floating above a sea of people in a ritual of hedonistic camaraderie.

Although it was not hard for a 15-year-old girl to be lofted into the air, the real challenge lay in braving the moshpit below. It was a churning sea of people that could easily leave one bruised and battered. But emerging from this chaos was always a badge of honour – the physical gauntlet had been conquered.

That secular rite of passage, however, only exists in distant memory. In the early 2000s, there were no phones and no selfies. We were a generation who lived viscerally in the moment, not for virtual approval. I share this story because this activity – crowd-surfing – no longer exists, as far as I can tell. It is not permitted at most concerts today for safety reasons. Not only that, but the large music festivals of my youth are also going extinct.

The Big Day Out was cancelled in 2014, and this year’s Splendour in the Grass has been dumped, partially due to poor ticket sales. A lack of interest from Generation Z means the tribal gatherings of my youth are becoming far less frequent.

And although I am not yet 40, I am starting to look back on my own adolescence with a sense of wistfulness.I understand the thrills I experienced probably won’t be available to my own kids.

Wholesale changes to childhood and adolescence extend far beyond crowd-surfing at music festivals, however.

Jonathan Haidt’s fourth book, The Anxious Generation, has changed the conversation about phones, social media and young people in a way that may prove permanent. And it only hit the shelves a few weeks ago.

His book shows that young girls in particular have been hit by a tidal wave of mental illness since 2010, across the Anglosphere countries including Australia.

He argues that there is no other plausible explanation for this tidal wave of depression and anxiety than the ubiquitous uptake of the smartphone. Today, the average teenager spends more than seven hours, or 43 per cent of their waking hours, on their devices. And when they are not on their devices, they are worried about what’s going on online. Their agitated minds are elsewhere.

As an elder millennial (born between 1981 and 1995), I experienced a childhood free from phones and social media. We had a computer but it didn’t do much, and the internet was painfully slow. By the time I had my first smartphone I already had a degree.

Every one of us who came of age before the advent of phones and social media underwent formative brain development unmarred by attention-hijacking technologies. This is important.

It’s one thing for adults to become addicted to a substance or product, and another thing for children to become addicted before their adult brains have had a chance to form.

Yet Haidt’s book addresses more than just phones. It also explores the culture of “safetyism” and its impact on child development. Since the 1980s, parents, teachers, and other adults have increasingly attempted to insulate youth from risk, depriving kids of essential experiences for proper maturation. Let me explain.

Imagine a young child’s development like that of a tree. As a tree grows, strong winds buffet its trunk and branches. This causes the tree to produce what is called “stress wood” at its base. Stress wood fortifies the tree’s core, allowing it to remain upright and sturdy as it reaches greater heights. The more intense the winds, the more stress wood develops, resulting in a stronger, more resilient tree. Trees with stronger bases live longer and grow taller.

When we protect our children from wind – that is, when we protect them from the real world – we prevent them from developing their own stress wood. In our context, we don’t literally grow extra layers of bark, but we develop an internal confidence that we can look after ourselves, solve our own problems, and go through the world as agents of our own destiny.

That doesn’t mean children need to be thrown into situations that resemble the Hunger Games or be sent down into the coalmines of yesteryear. However, just as athletes must find the right balance between too little training and overtraining, there exists an ideal middle ground when it comes to childhood stress levels.

For the post-1995 generation, we seem to have created a toxic blend of too much stress in the virtual world, and too little stress in the real world in the form of physical and psychological risk-taking. And the result is a generation suffering anxiety and depression at record levels.

The solution is not just to take away the phones – although that would be a good start. It’s to reintroduce risky play as an important part of early life.

I believe my own lived experience – crowd-surfing, moshpits, and all – made me comfortable with taking productive risks as an adult. I married at 27, had my first child at 28, and started a successful business at 31. Would I have followed that agentic trajectory if, at the age of 15, I was addicted to consuming TikToks in my bedroom? It’s doubtful.


Students Deserve to Know the Truth About Socialism

For the past few decades, American students have been taught a whitewashed version of socialism. Such is why nearly half of young Americans have a “positive” view of socialism and 70 percent of Millennials are “somewhat or extremely likely to vote for a socialist candidate.”

This is a dire threat to the future of the United States considering this cohort will soon become the political, business, and societal leaders of this nation, not to mention the largest voting bloc for years to come.

The reason that most young Americans have a distorted view of socialism is because the public school system has been derelict in its duty of properly educating students about the truth regarding socialism. Trust me, as a former public high school social studies teacher who taught in Illinois and South Carolina for many years in the mid-2010s, I have seen first-hand how biased and inaccurate the teaching of socialism has become in classrooms throughout the country.

In general, the vast majority of my former teaching colleagues both in Illinois and South Carolina harbored a positive disposition towards socialism. As far as I could tell, most of them were inundated with socialist rhetoric while they attended teacher college programs. Although most Americans are probably unaware, the overwhelming majority of higher education courses and programs designed for teachers are full of socialist propaganda.

This was definitely the case for me. While pursuing my master’s degree in secondary education at a teacher college in the Chicagoland area, I was absolutely shocked at the amount of socialist ideology espoused. I was not alone in this concern. In truth, several of my fellow future teachers were also appalled at the blatant socialist indoctrination. However, like me, they were afraid to speak out lest they incur the wrath of the socialist professor who ultimately determined whether or not we graduated.

The reason I bring this all up is because there is a giant void in classroom materials and resources that present socialism in an honest light. In fact, most of the teachers I worked with while designing curricula for U.S. history, world history, and American government relied on the pseudo-textbook by avowed socialist Howard Zinn titled, A Young People’s History of the United States.

To fill this void, I present Socialism At A Glance, a new book by The Heartland Institute’s Socialism Research Center. This book, co-written by yours truly and Jack McPherrin, provides a broad overview of socialism. Specifically, Socialism At A Glance examines the origins of socialist philosophy, which dates back to ancient times; covers the relationship between socialism and human nature; analyzes The Communist Manifesto; discusses the rise of “democratic socialism” in the late 20th century; and takes readers on an epic journey through socialist regimes beginning with the Soviet Union—the first and longest experiment with socialism on a grand scale. Readers will also learn what daily life is like under a variety of socialist governments, from Nazi Germany to modern-day China.

Our objective in writing this book is to present the truth about socialism, which is why we rely upon original sources including speeches by prominent socialist leaders and various policy documents produced by these governments that explicitly outline the absence of freedom and private property rights that has been part and parcel to practically every socialist government that has existed to this day.

For too long, millions of students in America have been brainwashed into believing that socialism is a preferable way of organizing society and distributing resources. But, as history shows, this is not true. In fact, history shows that socialism, even when implemented with the best of intentions, inevitably devolves into political persecution, abject poverty, mass murder, and general misery.

In late 1945, after World War II had ended and socialist Nazi Germany was defeated, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Three years later, while appearing before the House of Commons, Churchill stated, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

If we learned anything from the socialist experiments of the 20th century, it is that socialism has failed to deliver the utopian dreams promised by socialist leaders again and again. Given this track record of failure and wretchedness, we must ensure that socialism does not undergo a renaissance in the 21st century. To prevent this from occurring, it is absolutely necessary that we ensure that future generations of Americans receive a sound education concerning socialism. Do not rely upon the public schools to deliver this message, take it upon yourself to educate your friends and family members about the full truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to socialism.


Rutgers, Johns Hopkins End COVID Vaccine Mandates

Two big East Coast universities just ended their COVID-19 vaccine mandates for students and employees.

Rutgers University in New Jersey and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland both dropped the requirement this week. Their decisions came after a March report by The College Fix listed the schools and more than 40 others that still mandated vaccines.

“As of April 1, 2024, Rutgers no longer requires students, faculty, staff, and university affiliates to be immunized against the COVID-19 virus,” the university website states.

Rutgers also welcomes individuals to wear face coverings, but it does not require them, according to its website.

Lucia Sinatra, co-founder of No College Mandates, which tracks COVID-19 vaccine requirements on campuses, expressed surprise at the news.

The Defender reports:

Sinatra, who has been actively advocating for the removal of college vaccine mandates, was taken aback by Rutgers’ sudden change in policy.

“We had no warning whatsoever,” said Sinatra, who stayed in regular contact with the university. “In fact, we just kept hearing, ‘This COVID-19 mandate is never going to go away.’” […]

“From what I’m hearing from parents, from the noise that we’re making on social media, there are families that are completely taking these colleges off their list because these mandates were in place for so long,” she said.

Political pressure also may have been a factor in the decision.

In early March, New Jersey Sen. Declan O’Scanlon said the fact that Rutgers still had the mandate was “absurd and irrational.” The Republican lawmaker advocated for cutting off the university’s funding if it did not change.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins also ended its mandate on April 1. The requirement is gone for most students, faculty, and staff, but there are exceptions for individuals in the schools of medicine and nursing, according to the university website.

The university also still “strongly recommends that all students, staff, and faculty” be vaccinated for the virus.

“COVID-19 remains a serious illness, and we must continue to be diligent to prevent the spread of the virus,” it states. “…Those who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines have lower risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 than those who are unvaccinated or have received only the primary series.”

In early March, the Centers for Disease Control loosened protocols for the virus. The CDC now recommends a 24-hour isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19, down from five days.

Others, including Harvard University, Montclair State University in New Jersey, Santa Clara University in California, and St. Mary’s College of California, also ended their COVID vaccine mandates after the CDC announcement.

Last summer, nearly 100 schools still required COVID-19 vaccines, The Fix reported at the time.




Sunday, April 07, 2024

To restore educational excellence, end the government’s monopoly on schools

America’s public schools took shape in the early 19th century.

Advocates believed universal education was best achieved through a unitary system of publicly funded, state-operated schools.

They saw these schools performing three critical missions: providing an academically superior education, promoting national solidarity and instilling strong moral values.

How are public schools doing in achieving these original goals?

At times over the past 200 years, some schools have performed admirably.

But in recent decades, despite the infusion of ever-increasing resources, the quality of public education has clearly fallen.

To start, the declining academic quality is a national scandal.

Students’ dismal math and reading scores are the lowest in decades — and the situation becomes even bleaker when scores are compared internationally.

American students have not scored at or above the international average in mathematics in two decades.

Countries like China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea have consistently earned the highest math scores.

Our nation’s prosperity and security depend on continued technological leadership, but America’s mediocre educational performance in international rankings signals decline.

When an international assessment was administered in 2018, China earned the top score; the United States ranked 38th.

America’s reading and science scores remain far below China’s first-place scores.

And private-school students — Catholic-school students, in particular — typically score higher on national assessments than public-school students.

In New York, charter-school students are achieving substantially higher proficiency rates than their counterparts in traditional public schools.

Public schools are also failing in their second mission.

Instead of promoting unity by forging common bonds, they’re doing the exact opposite.

Increasingly, schools are adopting curricula and espousing ideologies, like critical race theory, designed to teach students they are divided by unbridgeable differences.

Shared cultural identity, trust between peers and faith in individual effort crumble when students are taught America is evil, white people are inherently privileged and racist and disparate outcomes are caused by systemic racism.

Perversely, state schools indoctrinate students with ideologies that challenge the very legitimacy of our nation — explicitly attacking and undermining our Founding Fathers, documents and principles.

Public schools are no longer the institutions we can trust to forge an unum out of the pluribus.

By contrast, studies show America’s private and religious schools more effectively instill political tolerance, encourage civic participation, teach civic skills and foster patriotism in students.

Indeed, parochial schools have an enviable record of integrating wave after wave of new immigrants into American society — a legacy they still embody today.

Finally, how are public schools doing in fostering moral values?

Early public-education advocates believed moral instruction is central to education — and they were right.

Education requires not only teaching technical skills; it demands cultivating moral values.

But the idea a government institution can perform this moral function was doomed to fail in a country destined to become as diverse as ours.

To be a moral teacher, the state must decide what values it will teach.

Yet all values come from an underlying belief system — in America it has been Judeo-Christianity — that explains what it means to be “good.”

Inevitably, then, any government school seeking to teach morality will take positions on matters of religious belief.

But it violates the Constitution for the government to promote a particular religious viewpoint or usurp parents’ right to determine their children’s religious formation.

Up until the 1960s, public schools finessed this problem by explicitly embracing America’s Judeo-Christian heritage: Curricula incorporated a general form of Christianity into the classroom; the Bible was read; Christian prayers were said at school.

These moral values aligned with the traditional religious beliefs of Americans, the vast majority self-identified Christians.

But this changed in the 1960s as religious diversity increased and the Supreme Court demanded schools be strictly “neutral” on religious matters.

That spurred aggressive efforts to secularize public schools by purging all vestiges of traditional religion.

This left a moral void, and when Christianity was dispatched from the classroom, a new belief system took its place.

By the time President Barack Obama took office, progressives had substituted an alternative, secular belief system that justified the values they wanted to teach.

Today, public schools indoctrinate students in radical ideologies — like CRT and transgenderism — that are, at bottom, ersatz religions contrary to traditional religious beliefs.

More and more, government-run schools have become cockpits for a vicious, winner-take-all culture war.

The first step toward achieving educational excellence is to eliminate the monopoly government-run schools have over publicly supported primary and secondary education.

Parents have paramount authority over their children’s moral upbringing and should be able to choose any academically qualified school that best suits their children’s needs.

As in many other Western countries, as long as children are receiving the approved secular curriculum, they should not be denied support simply because their parents have chosen to obtain that education through a religiously affiliated school.

Voucher programs that allow for school choice will reinvigorate education and encourage innovation to serve diverse students’ needs and desires.

School choice puts purchasing power into the hands of parents so they can escape failing schools and obtain quality education for their children.

Our children — and America’s future — deserve better


School Busing of a Different Sort: Nonprofit Takes Students to Off-Campus Bible Studies

Once a week, an estimated 30,000 students across the country are picked up by what’s called “a big, red LifeWise bus” and leave public school grounds for a Bible lesson at a local church or other religious institution.

It might surprise some, but it’s entirely legal in the United States, says LifeWise Academy founder and CEO Joel Penton.

LifeWise was created in 2019, after Penton saw a local program like it in his hometown of Ayersville, Ohio. Students would briefly leave their public school classrooms for Bible lessons at a local church or other religious facility, and then return to school to continue their reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons.

Currently, LifeWise Academy serves 323 schools in 12 states, and about 30,000 K-12 students, Penton said in a recent phone interview.

The nonprofit’s CEO addressed an area of confusion for many parents, who are uncertain when offered the option of midday Bible lessons for their children. Parents often assume that the government has full control over their child’s school day.

“I know what people are feeling,” Penton said. “They’re feeling that the school owns that time—the state owns the time of 8 a.m. [to] 3 p.m., or whatever the school day is, and that’s just not true.”

That understanding of parents’ rights regarding their children’s school time was legally validated by the Supreme Court in a 1952 case, Zorach v. Clauson, he said. The case permitted New York City students to leave their classrooms for religious instruction.

Penton says that ruling allows any parent to let their child receive Bible lessons through his program and not violate the First Amendment’s establishment-of-religion clause.

Another issue Penton says that LifeWise critics raise is a misunderstanding of the separation of church and state. The separation concept is not actually in the Constitution, but it’s often still cited when referencing issues involving religion and public schools.

Ironically, Penton insists that LifeWise is the epitome of church and state separation. “Kids are quite literally separated from the state school,” he explained.

The LifeWise founder has taken some heat from leftists for his Bible program. He says critics are “few and far between … but tend to be loud.”

An NBC News report on Tuesday focused on how the organization occasionally offers “ice cream or popcorn parties” to encourage students to attend its lessons. That, NBC suggested, was a ploy to attract secular students who otherwise might not attend. It was the second of three reports NBC aired on the religious group.

Left-leaning sister network MSNBC ran a follow-up report on Wednesday, with host Alex Wagner claiming that LifeWise is “currently influencing the minds of public-school kids in progressive cities like Columbus [Ohio].”

That 10-minute segment, which included a rebroadcast of part of the previous NBC report about LifeWise, suggested that teaching students about the Bible could be indirectly affecting elections in “blue island cities” in red states.

In a video posted on X (formerly Twitter), Penton said that NBC “admitted that the program is very successful, that it’s growing rapidly.” He added that LifeWise is good for schools, too, noting that post-COVID-19, “chronic absenteeism” remained a big problem nationwide, but when LifeWise participates in the school day, absenteeism goes down.

Penton cites an independent study in October from the Thomas P. Miller & Associates consulting firm, which found that when LifeWise programs are in place, there is a “statistically strong” increase in student attendance. LifeWise programs are said to even have a similar positive impact with respect to disciplinary issues, which decrease at participating schools.

LifeWise almost always can persuade schools to permit its program, Penton said. “Ninety-three percent of the time the school says, ‘Yes, let’s do this.’”

The nonprofit founder says that LifeWise serves students in 12 states, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Some 250 of the programs serve elementary schools, a majority of the total.

There’s no charge for participation in LifeWise, Penton said, for either school systems or the student participants.

“We want to make the Bible available to all of them [students]. And that’s what we’ve been trying to build, a plug-and-play program any community can implement,” Penton said. Forthcoming programs include schools in Washington state and even California, in a Los Angeles County school.

He said he hopes to have LifeWise operating in at least 20 states and 500 schools by this fall.

To start a LifeWise Academy program, would-be participants can go to LifeWise’s website and start an online petition. Once there are more than 50 signatories from an area, LifeWise will aid local community members in the process of scouting a location and getting permission from the local school board.


‘Inclusive’ Sex Education Puts Kids at Risk

As suicide rates, sexual assaults, mass depression, and anxiety grip America’s youth, the Biden administration, state legislatures, and public school districts have begun usurping science education with “transgender and gender-nonconforming” curriculum.

Students in over a dozen states no longer have access to biologically based sex education; that’s been replaced by liberal laws and policies requiring classrooms to exchange biologically proven facts with pseudo-scientific advocacy of gender fluidity.

Despite the claims of the U.S. Department of Education, no quantitative studies show gender transition or “gender nonconformity” is a healthy or normal part of human development.

These child-targeted policy prescriptions are often sweetened artificially by using comfortable terminology, such as “comprehensive,” “inclusive,” and “gender affirming” to paint those who disagree with the unscientific, immoral content aimed at minors as bigoted and heartless.

If parents respond negatively to the content of these postmodern sex-education revisions, news outlets (which may claim to be unbiased) use those gaslighting terms in their coverage of the outrage.

This effectively gatekeeps any debate about negative consequences by portraying dissidents as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals. After all, what kind of monster wouldn’t be inclusive and affirming?

The most recent and flagrant example of this has been seen in Arizona’s Flagstaff Unified School District. Local parents obtained a video of school district staff discussing changes to the sex-ed curriculum that included removing the boy/girl binary.

When parents shared their concerns at the next school board meeting, board President Christine Fredericks responded: “I will never apologize for being inclusive.”

So far, liberals’ strategy of dismissing any commonsense concerns with moral scolding straight out of a 1990s anti-bullying commercial has been effective. Parents who expressed concern about teenage boys pretending to be girls to gain access to girls’ locker rooms were disregarded as backward, uninformed, and unfeeling.

When tragedy struck, in part due to these policies and worldviews—as in the sexual assault by a “gender-nonconforming” boy in a girls’ restroom of Virginia’s Loudoun County Public Schools—parents were scolded again and charged with being bigoted opportunists.

Similarly, after the shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, in which a transgender assailant slaughtered three 9-year-old students and three staff members at the private Christian school, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded by suggesting that “transphobia” was the true danger.

An LGBTQ+ activist organization called The Trevor Project has intimated repeatedly that the near 40% suicide rate for transgender individuals isn’t due to mental illness and toxic prescriptions. Instead, it’s the result of “bullying,” which also has been redefined to mean “anyone who doesn’t passionately support the child’s transition.”

The assertion has been echoed consistently without question by federally funded media outlets such as PBS.

This quantitatively unverified accusation is a key rationale from the Left in why updating sex education curriculum is essential for them. After all, the point of sex ed is to answer students’ questions concerning physiological and reproductive development.

These answers in biology-based sex education clearly differentiate men and women, not just in external sexual organs but in development rate, hormone production and balance, and higher susceptibility to certain diseases and conditions.

A postmodern, “inclusive” approach as outlined by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, teachers unions, and massive grants from the Biden administration removes that differentiation altogether.

Separating sex and gender as physicality and mentality, therefore disconnecting behavior from sex by suggesting that your sex comprises your organs whereas your gender is all in your mind, is heinously distant from reality. Naturally produced hormones based on sex govern anatomical systems, behavior, immune response, and reproduction.

The additional foolishness of encouraging minors that changing external appendages somehow certifies a gender change only adds insult to the injury of what was historically a scientifically sound subject.

Although biological sex education warned boys and girls of their higher likelihood of developing cancerous tumors in certain sex-specific organs and advised them to watch for signs at different ages, the new “gender affirming” sex ed does nothing to warn students about the carcinogenic danger of “hormonal treatments” in gender transitions.

The human endocrine system is incredibly fragile; tampering with it can be perilous. Women who seek hormonal treatment for menopause are required to be warned that doing so quadruples their risk of developing cancer. Although the same hormones are injected in transgender treatments, no such carcinogen warning is required or offered in any current “gender affirming” sex-ed curriculum.

The lack of patients’ mental health improvement and increasingly higher rates of detransition and regret aren’t mentioned either.

None of the biology, anatomy, and physiology, or developmental psychology texts from which I’ve taught have ever provided a shred of evidence justifying the omission or twisting of critical information when instructing students.

At that point, you’re no longer a teacher, you’re a sleazy salesman for a pyramid scheme.

The misnamed “sex education” that the Department of Education describes as “safe and supported” is in reality temporal, shallow, and dangerous. As other nations ban transgender experiments on minors, President Joe Biden’s administration has put American children in danger via woke dictate, bastardizing health education into its antithesis.

Sex education in the U.S. is quickly becoming a sick joke, and permanent damage to American children is the punchline.