Thursday, April 18, 2024

Muslim student loses bid to take part in prayer rituals at ‘Britain’s strictest school’

A headteacher famous for her strict discipline has hailed a landmark High Court ruling which backed the school’s right to ban prayer rituals in the playground.

Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in Brent, north London, said the outcome was a “victory for all schools” after a judge rejected a Muslim’s pupil claim that the policy interfered with her rights to religious freedom.

The pupil, who cannot be named, had claimed that the policy is discriminatory and “uniquely” affects her faith due to its ritualised nature.

But in an 83-page written ruling on Tuesday after a two-day hearing in January, Mr Justice Linden dismissed the pupil’s arguments and backed the school, which had argued its policy was justified after it faced death and bomb threats linked to religious observance on site.

Ms Birbalsingh, a former government social mobility tsar who co-founded the non-faith secondary state school with former home secretary Suella Braverman, said: “A school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves. The court’s decision is therefore a victory for all schools.

“Schools should not be forced by one child and her mother to change its approach simply because they have decided they don’t like something at the school,” she added.

The case will be seen as upholding the right of non-religious schools to make their own decision about whether to set aside time and space for pupils to pray.

Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, said the ruling in the case, which was estimated to cost the taxpayer at least £500,000, should give all school leaders confidence in making the right decision for their school.

Secular campaigners, meanwhile, said the ruling serves as a reminder that claims of religious freedom “do not trump all other considerations”.

The head also suggested that the child’s mother had helped write the statements, even though the woman allegedly intends to send her second child to Michaela as well.

“The judge is clear that the child’s statements were not written by her alone,” said Ms Birbalsingh. “Indeed this mum intends to send her second child to Michaela, starting in September. At the same time, this mum has sent a letter to our lawyers suggesting that she may take us to court yet again over another issue at the school she doesn’t like, presumably once again at the taxpayer’s expense.”

The pupil who brought the legal challenge said in a statement provided by law firm Simpson Millar: “I am obviously very disappointed that the judge did not agree with me,” she said. “As is set out in the judgement, I do not agree that it would be too hard for the school to accommodate pupils who wished to pray in the lunch break.

“Even though I lost, I still feel that I did the right thing in seeking to challenge the ban. I tried my best and was true to myself and my religion.”

The pupil’s mother said she was “profoundly dismayed by the case’s outcome”, claiming that the “case was rooted in the understanding that prayer isn’t just a desirable act for us, it’s an essential element that shapes our lives as Muslims.”

“In our faith, prayer holds undeniable importance, guiding us through each challenge with strength and faith,” she said.

In another statement, headteacher Ms Birbalsingh claimed that Muslim pupils last year had been put under pressure “to pray, to drop out of the choir, to wear a hijab” while teachers faced abuse and intimidation. She said there had been a false narrative peddled that Muslims were the oppressed minority at the school.

“In 2014, 30 per cent of our intake was Muslim. It is now 50 per cent. We are oversubscribed. If our families did not like the school, they would not repeatedly choose to send their children to Michaela,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The pupil argued that the policy – which forbids her from praying for around five minutes at lunch time, on dates when faith rules required it, but not during lessons – was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society”.

The pupil’s lawyers previously said the “prayer ban” unlawfully breached her right to religious freedom, adding that it made her feel “like somebody saying they don’t feel like I properly belong here”. The court was told the pupil, referred to only as TTT, is making only a “modest” request to be allowed to pray at lunchtime.

The student also challenged allegedly unfair decisions to temporarily suspend her from school.

Mr Justice Linden, who heard the case at the High Court in London in January, said there was a “a rational connection between the aim of promoting the team ethos of the school, inclusivity, social cohesion etc and the prayer ritual policy”.

He said: “The disadvantage to Muslim pupils at the school caused by the prayer ritual policy is in my view outweighed by the aims which it seeks to promote in the interests of the school community as a whole, including Muslim pupils.”

He also upheld the student's challenge to a decision to temporarily exclude her from the school.

Ms Braverman said: “Michaela has always been a school which prioritises high achievement. And I know how hard Katharine [Birbalsingh] has worked to make it a success right from the early days when I was involved in helping to set up the school as chairman of governors.

“This is a victory for the children and their parents who want them to live happy and fulfilled lives.”

Dan Rosenberg, a lawyer at Simpson Millar, which represented the pupil, said the judge had noted the case raised “issues of genuine public interest in circumstances where the school’s approach has come into conflict with the religious perspective of an important section of society”.

“If a school wishes to uphold a secular ethos, it should be entitled to do so,” said Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society. “Schools should be environments where everyone feels welcomed and valued, but that doesn’t mean students have untrammelled religious freedom.

“Where the manifestation of religion is deemed divisive or disruptive, a balance must be struck. We’re pleased the school’s actions have been vindicated.”

The school’s lawyers had claimed that the governors and headteacher at the school of some 700 pupils, about half of whom are Muslim, had “a margin of latitude, discretion or judgement” over its policies.

The court was told that Ms Birbalsingh first introduced the policy in March last year, with it being backed by the governing body in May – allegedly “on the basis of misinformation and errors”.


Bill Gates' money behind 'perverse' curriculum teaching math instruction is 'White supremacy'

Billionaire Bill Gates has invested billions of dollars in education over the years, notably bolstering far-left ideas, including assertions that mathematics instruction is "White supremacy" and children are born sexual.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded a curriculum called "A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction," which is run by The Education Trust-West. The organization listed the Gates Foundation under its acknowledgment section for the curriculum on their website stating, "We also wish to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their generous financial support of this project."

The curriculum from The Education Trust-West titled "Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction" offers tips and tricks to educators to turn mathematicians in K-12 schools into "antiracist math educators"

It also offered "Exercises for educators to reflect on their own biases to transform their instructional practice."

Teachers have a central role in "deconstructing racism in mathematics" and "dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms by making visible the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture with respect to math," the group states.

Parents Defending Education's Nicole Neily told Fox News Digital that Gates' funding the math equity programs is "perverse," especially given the success he derived from proficiency in the subject.

"It's awful. I mean, [the part where it says] showing your answer in math class is White supremacy culture. I have to take a step back and think – the people who are teaching this, is that what they're teaching their own children? I have to think not," she said.

About 40% of Gates' K-12 education budget goes into math, according to Education Week. In 2022, the Gates Foundation announced over $1 billion in funds for math education.

In addition to funding math education initiatives, the Gates Foundation also provides funds for social and emotional learning (SEL), a billion-dollar industry in K-12 education which claims to develop students' self-awareness, self-control and interpersonal skills.

According to the Gates Foundation website, it provided $500,000 in November 2020 for a curriculum developed at Yale University, called RULER, with lessons probing into the student's emotions, personal relationships, traumas, beliefs and psychological triggers. The stated purpose of the grant was "to support the growth of RULER in the 2020-21 school year."

One section of the curriculum focused on teaching students to recognize societal norms and rules, and how those can be defied: "Make sure to explain that even though we call these patterns 'rules,' we do not need to follow them."

The curriculum encouraged kids to "see red" on their "mood meters," to be enraged by social justice issues and said educators should bring inflammatory images into the classroom to cultivate the rage among their students. It further asked teachers to "nudge" children into feelings of anger by using emotionally-charged imagery.

"[E]mploy strategies to nudge your students towards feeling red when you are preparing to discuss topics such as injustice. To shift your students into the red, consider showing them controversial photographs or news headlines, or consider prompting them with a thought-provoking topic where they are required to choose a side," the materials said.

Parents raised concerns the Gates-funded curriculum was turning kids into raging social justice activists through emotional manipulation. Neily said it was "like psychological experimentation on kids."

"Where is the evidence for this, right, that putting children into a state of emotional distress can make them learn better. I think it's sick that they're doing this to little kids," she told Fox News Digital.

The Gates Foundation has also funded $80 million to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) – a separate entity from the U.S. nonprofit – which wields significant influence on global sex education. The NGO comprises 120 independent organizations in over 146 countries and has received – including its European network.


Columbia University President Says Calling for Annihilation of Jews Violates School’s Code of Conduct

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said in a congressional hearing on April 17 that calling for the annihilation of Jews violates the Ivy League school’s code of conduct, as she came under fire over the university’s response to growing on-campus anti-Semitism since Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

In the attack, Hamas killed and raped Israelis and took Israeli hostages, resulting in the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

At the House Education and Workforce Committee hearing, in response to the question by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) of whether “calling for the genocide of Jews violates Columbia’s code of conduct,” Ms. Shafik—along with Columbia Law School professor David Schizer and Board of Trustees Co-Chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman—said, “Yes, it does.”

This was in contrast to a hearing held by that committee on Dec. 6, 2023, when then-University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, then-Harvard President Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth refused to unequivocally say that calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment or bullying, instead saying the issue is a “context-dependent decision.”

The question—whether calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment or bullying—came from House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

On April 16, Ms. Bonamici was one of 44 lawmakers to vote against a House resolution stating that the Palestinian rallying cry of “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” is anti-Semitic and condemnable.

That slogan is a call for ”the eradication of the State of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea“ that ”seeks to deny Jewish people the right to self-determination and calls for the removal of the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland,” the resolution stated.

However, despite saying that calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment, Ms. Shafik sidestepped when asked whether mobs of people shouting “from the river to the sea” or “long live the Intifada” are being anti-Semitic. She said that she finds those phrases to be “upsetting” and that “it’s a difficult issue.”

Incidents at the 270-year-old university have included an unauthorized protest on April 4 of pro-Palestine students with signs bearing messages such as “Globalize the Intifada”—a reference to the periods of Palestinian terrorism against Israel during 1987–1993 and 2000–2005. Jewish students have complained of anti-Semitic graffiti and anti-Jewish verbal and physical abuse.

Other signs on campus have included the messages “Zionist Donors and Trustees Hands Off Our University” and “Zionism is Terrorism.”

The university suspended four pro-Palestine students for putting forth an unauthorized anti-Israel event in March titled “Resistance 101” that Ms. Shafik called “an abhorrent breach” of the university’s values. However, those students were still allowed to attend the April 4 demonstration.

A pro-Israel student was suspended after spraying “fart spray” toward pro-Palestine demonstrators. He has since sued the school.

Two Columbia professors—Joseph Massad, chair of the school’s Academic Review Committee, and Katherine Franke—are under investigation by the university, while Mohamed Abdou will no longer be a faculty member there, Ms. Shafik said. However, members of the House committee blasted the university over what they called its insufficient response to anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) gave the university a “D” when it came to dealing with hatred toward Jews and Israel. Columbia has a history of anti-Semitism, including faculty members such as the late Edward Said.




Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Veteran Teacher: Here’s What’s Wrong with Traditional Schooling

For 19 years, I was a master of time. Down to the minute, I controlled time for others and used it to meet my and others’ ends, irrespective of the desires of those in front of me. In short, I was a public-school teacher, and controlling time was my talent. Although I and other adults often talked about helping students reach their potential and grow as learners, what we really did each day was control their time and force upon them ideas and subjects in which most of them had little to no interest.

What if there were a better way? A way to help each student learn the way he or she learns best, develop autonomy, explore passions, and take control of his or her own time? Thankfully, that way does exist in the form of alternative schools and learning programs that continue to increase in number each day.

For example, I remember Adam*, a bright and motivated senior with a passion for business. However, Adam felt pressured to attend college even though he felt no real drive to do so. He dutifully attended his classes and earned high grades, but he shared with me towards the end of the school year that he felt like college would be a waste of time and money. What he truly wanted was to enter the business world and gain experience, not sit in an intro to astronomy class to pad the college’s bottom line. What if Adam had known about Praxis, the college alternative that helps students develop professional skills and work alongside a mentor for a full year? Might such a program have been a better fit for someone like Adam than the one-size-fits-none college curriculum?

I also remember Bailey, a shy freshman who only sporadically turned in work but who often participated in our in-class discussions, especially those about contentious issues. One day after class, I asked her about her incomplete work, and she told me that everything she enjoyed was outside school and that she felt she wasn’t “good at school.” What if Bailey had known about North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens, an unschool that builds personalized curricula around students’ interests and strengths and eschews grades in favor of learning? Might she have felt differently about her days and about learning?

Finally, I remember Celine, an outspoken junior whose inquisitive mind often led to numerous questions each class period but also to a dissatisfaction with the perceived “mindlessness” and passivity of school. Celine’s parents had even considered homeschooling, but her father told me they were afraid to “mess things up.” What if Celine and her parents had known about Brooklyn Apple Academy, a “home for homeschoolers” that offers part-time classes, field trips, and camps, including a program called “The Works” in which students investigate the functioning of the city’s infrastructure? Might Celine have been more active in and excited about learning, and might her parents have felt more confident homeschooling knowing that they weren’t going at it alone?

The above examples are just three among hundreds I can recall from my work controlling students’ time, and I’m sure you are familiar with thousands more that all tell us the same thing: coercive schooling does not work and harms far more than it helps. However, what if children and their parents had alternatives to such a baneful system, and what if these alternatives were voluntary and focused on students’ actual needs and interests? Luckily for us, these alternatives are here, and more are opening each day. As a repentant master of others’ time, I implore you: seek out these alternatives and leave behind government schools’ coercion and disinterest. Children deserve nothing less. ?


Education Department’s Incompetence on Student Aid Hurts Millions

Millions of students each year rely on student loans and grants to afford the rising cost of college. This year, that’s about 17 million Americans.

They fill out the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. But this year, the U.S. Department of Education is very far behind in processing the forms, and it has committed many major errors.

As a result, most colleges have no idea how much financial aid their students and applicants will get. The students don’t know either.

That’s no exaggeration. FAFSA forms from high school seniors are down about 27%, or about half a million students. It’s unclear whether those students will keep trying or will give up on college.

Some colleges might go under because of the drop in enrollment, with colleges losing not only tuition, but also income from room and board.

Meanwhile, only 7 million FAFSA forms have been transmitted to colleges, but 15% to 30% of them have errors, depending on which recent report one reads.

Observers who have a low opinion of government competence and capacities need to look even lower.

The litany of errors and the timeline of sheer incompetence provided in recent congressional testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee is jaw-dropping. Anyone interested in how we got here, and where to place the blame, should read this damning testimony.

All the while, as these financial aid experts note, the Department of Education has provided incomplete and contradictory information day by day, hiding bad news under false headlines of making progress.

A common deadline for students to accept their financial-aid packages and commit to enrollment is May 1. Colleges all over are extending their deadlines. But that’s not enough.

One college president told me:

It’s an actual disaster. And I’m worried it will have a large negative impact for our state. We can’t get our ISIRs [Institutional Student Information Records regarding financial aid eligibility], even for continuing students.

We can’t process summer awards. We can’t even see if new students have submitted their FAFSA for the fall to know if we’ll need additional documents for verification. … It will keep us from being able to award state aid because it’s contingent on federal aid.

The origin of these problems was a law with good intentions. The FAFSA form was long, and then-Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. (a former secretary of education), pushed successfully for simplification back in December 2020. It was something of a departing gift to the outgoing senator. But to get it done required a $1.6 billion payout to Historically Black Colleges and Universities—unmerited loan forgiveness to historically black colleges and universities under the HBCU Capital Financing Program.

The Department of Education had years to prepare for the simplified FAFSA. Instead, it launched its own unlawful, unjust, unpopular, expensive, and often regressive schemes for student loan debt transfers from borrowers to taxpayers.

If the Department of Education had prioritized the FAFSA rollout, more students would be seeing more financial aid. Instead, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s legacy will be one of a failed agenda that kept losing in court on the one hand and reduced college access on the other.

After the devastating testimony in the subcommittee, Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., remarked, “This sure doesn’t make arguing to keep the Department of Education any easier.” Quite right.


Australia: Queensland Backtracks on Homeschool Curriculum Mandate

Under proposed education reforms in Queensland, home-schooled children will not have to follow the national curriculum but will instead have their progress checked by a new government advisory group.

Currently, there is no set homeschooling curriculum, but parents or caregivers are required to develop an educational program based on the eight core learning set out in the Australian National Curriculum, which includes English, maths, science, humanities and social science, arts, technology, physical education, and language learning.

In March, the government attempted to mandate the curriculum via a Queensland parliamentary committee tasked with drafting the Education General Provisions Amendment (EGPA) Bill, which proposed changes to homeschooling.

However, after consultation with education stakeholders, doubts were cast over whether such a mandate would alienate the stay-at-home students and their families.

As a result, Education Minister Di Farmer has announced that a new Home School Advisory Group will be established.

The government said it respects the right of parents to home-school, but the advisory group will check on whether children are receiving comparable learning.

“I will also be establishing a Home Education Advisory Group to consider in detail how we ensure children being homeschooled are receiving the high-quality education,” Ms. Farmer said.

“Additionally, a review will commence into the role of the Home Education Unit to how best it can help not only better regulate, but provide important support to families who choose to home school.

“All Queensland children are entitled to be safe wherever they live and learn and as a former child safety minister, I understand too well that this is not always the case.”

Homeschooling in Australia has been steadily growing in popularity as an alternative to traditional schooling, initially taking hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of children now staying home from the traditional classroom surged by nearly 300 percent in 2023.

Families choose homeschooling for a variety of reasons, including a desire for more flexibility in their children’s education, dissatisfaction with the schooling system, or a wish to provide a tailored education that meets their child’s individual needs.

Proponents of the method say one of the key benefits of homeschooling is the ability to customise the educational experience to suit the child’s learning style, interests, and pace.

Homeschooled children often have more freedom to explore subjects in depth and pursue areas of passion. Additionally, homeschooling can provide a more flexible schedule, allowing for travel, family commitments, or other activities.

Critics of homeschooling often point towards potential issues with a lack of social interaction with children the same age, hampering adult development, and failing to maintain a consistent schedule required when entering the workforce.

Response to the Homeschool Changes

Free2Homeschool campaign manager Patricia Fitzgerald, who is hosting a “peaceful picnic” at Parliament House in Brisbane to celebrate the withdrawal of the national curriculum, said parents and caregivers should be kept in the loop.

“Queensland Home Educators want to ensure they are recognised, supported and are consulted appropriately so that any legislation reflects the actual needs of home education in the community,” Ms. Fitzgerald said.

Shadow education minister Christian Rowan saw the backdown as a failure for Labor.

“Labor has descended into a government in chaos and crisis which utterly failed to consult and listen to Queenslanders on this issue and now has been forced to abandon its reckless plans,” Mr. Rowan said on April 15.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles disagreed with Mr. Rowan’s sentiment.

“I have always said I will listen to Queenslanders and act when I need to, which is why I worked with Minister Farmer to ensure we heard the concerns of teachers.”

“I look forward to seeing updated consultation proceed,” he said




Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Fentanyl Is Killing Our Students: Here’s How Students Are Fighting Back

Ten years ago, I had never heard the word “fentanyl.” Now, every sorority and fraternity on my college campus is equipped with Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, a lifesaving medication used to treat opioid overdoses.

The fentanyl crisis is acutely felt on college campuses. Oftentimes, college students will take a pill that they thought was Xanax or Ritalin and end up dead.

According to federal data, the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45 is fentanyl overdose.

In the last three years alone, examples include three students at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill dying from fentanyl poisoning, and two students at Ohio State University died within a week of each other from fentanyl.

Having seen the horrors of fentanyl nationwide, and particularly in the state of Arizona (where more than five people a day die due to opioid overdoses, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services), students at the University of Arizona are leading the way in increasing access to Narcan, fentanyl test strips, and other overdose prevention measures.

On the University of Arizona’s campus, the presidents of 13 sororities and 18 fraternities have access to Narcan.

“As a chapter of over 425 members, 96 of which live in our chapter facility, it was crucial for us to have those options available,” Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority President Sasha Sanderson told me in an interview. “Having access to Narcan and fentanyl test strips in the house gives me peace of mind.”

The University of Arizona’s student-run emergency medical services team has increased access to Narcan on campus by providing a “Narcan locator” on the university website. The locator shows a map of the surrounding community and pins Narcan distribution sites. The website also provides information about Narcan training and distribution on campus.

The medical services team has collaborated with Greek-life organizations and is now turning its sights toward dormitory buildings to ensure more students have access to the lifesaving effects of Narcan.

“As with any safety issue, knowledge is important. We try and maximize the awareness of the dangers of opioids. The state of Arizona has a law which permits EMS/police agencies to leave behind prepackaged intranasal naloxone,” said the team’s public information officer, Tamra Ingersoll.

“We have worked with Greek Life, and as our partnership continues to evolve with Counter Narcotics Alliance (CNA), we will be working with Resident Life [on-campus housing] to ensure that Naloxone is available among the first aid items in student living areas,” she said.

Fentanyl is one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths because of its highly potent nature.

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because the nature of a drug deal is illegal, drug dealers don’t have to provide ingredient lists, meaning that they can lace drugs with fentanyl unbeknownst to the user. Dealers are incentivized to use fentanyl as a filler because it is faster and cheaper to produce than other drugs.

It is nearly impossible to tell if a drug has been laced with fentanyl before use. And drug dealers will taint anything from counterfeit prescription medicines that they sell online to stronger substances like cocaine. It only takes 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is the equivalent of about 10-15 grains of salt, to kill someone.

It’s crucial to understand that fentanyl deaths aren’t just affecting long-term drug users. They also affect college students who take a pill that they thought was safe and end up dead. College kids have always made mistakes, but nowadays, a mistake could cost them their lives.

While student-led efforts to prevent fentanyl overdoses are noble, experts suggest we would be better off stopping the flow of fentanyl into the country to begin with. That starts with sealing the border.

“Fentanyl is infiltrating our borders and killing our citizens. We must take both national and international action,” wrote Heritage Foundation legal expert Hans von Spakovsky.

Fentanyl is smuggled into the country through legal and illegal ports of entry, highlighting a serious security issue for the U.S.

In 2023, over 27,000 pounds of fentanyl were seized at legal ports of entry along the southern border. However, the majority of fentanyl is smuggled between ports of entry—meaning there is no way to know how much fentanyl is in the U.S.

In the same way the Biden administration could stop the flow of illegal migrants across the border, it could also stop much of the flow of fentanyl into the country.

Defending our border and stopping the flow of fentanyl is critical if we want to protect American college students.

I hope that in the next 10 years, we can return to a time when “fentanyl” wasn’t in my regular vocabulary.


I Go to College in DC. Why Is It So Unsafe Here?

The words every parent dreads when a child goes off to college: “Mom, Dad. My school is on lockdown for an active shooter.” I’ve told my parents this twice now.

Violence has become a regular occurrence in my three years at The Catholic University of America, acronymized as CUA.

Last week, CUA issued a shelter-in-place order because a 14-year-old was shot and killed at the campus Metro station. The arrested suspect was 17.

A social studies teacher was mugged, shot, and killed on my campus last July. A large blood stain was left where he died for days afterward, a friend who was on campus at the time said.

CUA locked down last April because of a “swatting” scam. This is where a bad actor makes a fake 911 call claiming an active shooter was on campus. Thus, police SWAT teams are called and respond despite no actual threat.

I was in class at the time; classmates volunteered to sit in front of the doors to block them. I am grateful that it was a false alarm.

Last May, in the neighborhood adjacent to campus, a man confessed to killing and beheading a handyman.

In freshman year, I saw gang violence firsthand. Waiting for a Metro train at the campus station, I saw two men beating each other until one jumped on a train. The other’s face was dripping in blood from what seemed like a broken nose. He called someone on a cell phone and screamed about needing a ski mask so people wouldn’t recognize him.

The Catholic University of America sends alerts to the student body whenever a crime is reported in the area surrounding campus. To the credit of CUA, it updates students as much as possible. That said, I see that muggings, carjackings, shootings, and other violent crimes occur mere blocks away from my dorm almost weekly.

My school is in Washington, D.C. In a city with such strict gun laws, you would expect safer streets. You can’t open carry a firearm in the District of Columbia; the city requires universal background checks and bans “assault weapons.”

The elected government of the nation’s capital doesn’t support the “castle doctrine” of a person’s right to defend his own home. In D.C., there is a “duty to retreat.”

If the city’s gun laws are working, how is it that I have had to hide twice because of active shooters?

Crime in the District has been on the rise. I wrote about it last year for my school newspaper. Violent crime jumped 23% from February 2022 to February 2023. Assaults, muggings, and carjackings have gone up.

The increase in carjackings last year prompted D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, to give out steering-wheel locks.

Leftist billionaire financier George Soros is known for trying to transform America’s criminal justice system by contributing big money to the campaigns of soft-on-crime candidates for district attorney across the country. Once elected, these liberal DAs have trumped the efforts of so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI.

However, such efforts come at a serious cost to students like me. Our safety is the price for their progressive policies.

Violent criminals across the country are receiving reduced sentences if convicted or aren’t being charged at all.

Recently it was discovered that major cities such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles failed to submit crime data to the FBI.

An op-ed published in the Washington Examiner and co-written by former Assistant FBI Director Mark Morgan contends that the FBI erred in counting violent crimes: The bureau claims that crime in major cities has gone down, when in fact it has gone up over the past five years. (Morgan, acting chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the Trump administration, is now a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, parent organization of The Daily Signal.)

An organization cited in the op-ed, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which collects police data, says homicides in major cities have gone up 23%. The Council on Criminal Justice, a similar organization, estimates that homicide is up 18% and violent crime in general is up 8%.

Matthew Graves, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, also serves as the local prosecutor in the nation’s capital. An appointee of President Joe Biden, Graves is embroiled in a case stemming from the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, that has caused scandal and division throughout the country.

Am I supposed to trust that Graves will be tough on crime when it opposes his woke ideals? Am I supposed to trust that he will keep me safe?

Right now, thousands of parents are preparing their children for college, buying mattress toppers, laptops, and red solo cups. However, the reality is that many students, especially females, also will purchase personal alarms and pepper spray.

Why is this our reality? It is mostly our own fault.

We choose our leaders. The government enforces the law only through the consent of the governed. This is good news, though; the political reality is in our hands. We need to call out lawmakers who are soft on crime, take civic action, and stop sitting passively while students of any age are forced to face the underbelly of our nation’s cities.

Only when we stand up against the woke mob will our cities become safer.


Education hiring continues regardless of the number of students

New data for the 2022-2023 academic year paints a disturbing picture. While students are slowly trickling back into public schools post-COVID-19, the same cannot be said for staffing. The National Center for Education Statistics revealed an increase of 173,000 students in public schools, yet during the same period, a staggering 159,000 employees were hired, including 15,000 additional teachers.

Researcher Chad Aldeman provides specific examples of hiring trends in various districts across the country. He explains that about one-third of these districts added teachers while serving fewer students. For instance, Philadelphia lost nearly 16,000 students but employed 200 more teachers, dropping its student-to-teacher ratio from about 17:1 to under 15:1.

About a quarter of all districts followed the path of California’s Capistrano Unified School District, which lowered its teaching force over time, but not as fast as it lost students. Capistrano suffered a 22% decline in student enrollment but reduced its teaching staff by just 7%.

Another group of districts grew student enrollments, but their teacher count has risen even faster. The Katy Independent School District, near Houston, added 4,299 students last year, a gain of 4.9%. At the same time, it hired 366 teachers, a 6% gain. Over the period, its student body increased by 22% while its teacher count grew by 29%.

But as Aldeman notes, the future is murky, “As districts spend down the last of their federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief ) dollars, they may have to lay off staff or close under-enrolled buildings.”

If teachers must be laid off, the typical union contract stipulates that it must be done by seniority or the “last in, first out” (LIFO) regimen. This industrial style of dealing with a teacher overage is typified by Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools system, where the teacher union contract states that after considering years of experience with the district, if two teachers have equal seniority,the last several digits of a teacher’s Social Security number would be the tiebreaker for a layoff.

Also, a study from Stanford U. found that only 13% to 16% of the teachers laid off in a seniority-based system would also be cut under a system based on teacher effectiveness.

Then, there is the problem of “under-enrolled” schools, for which Chicago is the poster child. At this time, one-third of Chicago’s 473 public schools (CPS) are at less than 50% capacity. Considering that just 20% of 3rd through 8th graders in the Windy City are proficient in reading and only 15% are proficient in math, this is hardly surprising. Also, in 30 Chicago public schools, no student can read at grade level.

Egregiously, the city’s Douglass High School, with only 34 students enrolled, is slated to receive $34 million for renovations.

Why not have these kids go somewhere else? As Ted Dabrowski of Wirepoints maintains, “Already families have abandoned these schools. The question for CPS is, ‘Why are you keeping empty, failing schools open?’ Shut them and use the money elsewhere or give the money back to the taxpayers.”

It’s noteworthy that if one is an equity-driven fanatic, anti-shutdown doggedness does not apply to all schools.




Monday, April 15, 2024

Now Glasgow University's new rector brands the UK part of an 'axis of genocide'

The new rector of Glasgow University claimed the UK is part of an ‘axis of genocide’ in a speech marking his appointment, the Mail can reveal.

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British-Palestinian medic, was elected with 80 per cent of the student vote.

The surgeon sparked fury after claiming last week the university ‘colludes in the murder of innocent civilians’ because it has shares in arms firms that supply Israel.

He also quoted ‘immortal [IRA hunger striker] Bobby Sands’. Now it has emerged Dr Abu-Sittah, 55, used the same speech, published in full online at the weekend, to condemn the UK for its role in an ‘axis of genocide’ in Gaza.

We can also reveal the university authorities looked at concerns about him before he was elected but found there was no reason to prevent him from standing.

Jewish campaigners had highlighted a video which showed him weeping over the death of Maher Al-Yamani, a co-founder of the proscribed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is accused of participating in the October 7 massacre in Israel.

In an email to the campaigners on March 28, principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said the university was bound by regulations which limited the actions it could take.

Tory MSP Annie Wells said: ‘I am deeply concerned with the language used by the new Glasgow University rector. Many people will rightfully be outraged at his glorification of convicted terrorists and eulogy of an anti-Semitic terrorist leader.’

In his speech, Dr Abu-Sittah said the ‘genocidal project is like an iceberg of which Israel is only the tip.

‘The rest of the iceberg is made up of an axis of genocide. This axis of genocide is the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada and France… countries that have supported Israel with arms and continue to support the genocide with arms.’

In response to the claims against him, Dr Abu-Sittah insisted he ‘vehemently opposes terrorism’.


Nebraska lawmakers pass bill that would allow smaller school districts to arm staff members

Students in some of Nebraska's smallest school districts could soon be protected by armed staff, thanks to one of over 100 bills passed by the state legislature last week.

The provision that would allow such staff to carry firearms in schools and at school-related events originally included all districts across the Cornhusker State, but now applies only to those with under 5,000 residents after opposition from some areas of the state led lawmakers to compromise.

"It doesn't apply to all the schools. This was designed for the rural schools where they didn't have a resource officer or law enforcement wasn't readily available," state Sen. Tom Brewer, who introduced the measure, said, according to a local report.

State Sen. Tom Brewer said the bill to arm staff members or to enable districts to employ other armed security aims to help rural districts. (iStock)

The measure would enable schools to either hire security or elect a specific member of the school to carry a weapon.

"It can be anyone from the superintendent to the janitor," Brewer continued, according to the report. Regardless of the choice, those who are armed must undergo training.

Some fear that, without the imminent presence of someone capable of confronting a school shooter in the event of an emergency, law enforcement could otherwise be 15 minutes – or further – away from these rural districts.

It's among several GOP-led states' efforts to protect or expand gun rights or firearm safety instruction to protect students and staff, including two measures in Tennessee, one in Iowa and another in New Hampshire.

Despite opposition from some who speculate the expansion of gun rights and access could hinder rather than help safety efforts, these measures have charged ahead.

In Omaha, Superintendent Matthew Ray said he could understand why Nebraska's measure could apply to less populated school districts with fewer resources, but failed to see its need in his own district.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, at least 32 states allow teachers or school staff to be armed at school, including several states neighboring Nebraska.

Brewer's proposed measure was passed as part of Legislative Bill 1329, an education package that passed 40-0 on the next-to-last day of the legislative session last week.

It now awaits Republican Gov. Jim Pillen's signature.


Fighting Antisemitism in American Public Schools: A Losing Battle

Is it wrong to have a “hijab-wearing day” in an American public school at this point in time, asking students to wear a hijab, the conventional head covering worn by Muslim women?

A Hijab Day “event” was recently hosted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) in a Montgomery County (Md.) public school. Surprisingly, I found Hijab Day on the Northwood High School calendar, along with Spirit Day, Twin Day and Spring Break. If this was intended to be a lighthearted, fun event, it totally missed the mark, at least for the Jewish students.

Hijab Day was not created to acquaint people with Muslim culture, as the MSA claimed. Perhaps, if it had been, there would have been food, singing and other festivities. Unfortunately, Hijab Day was another thinly veiled (pun intended) ploy to show and garner support for Hamas during the Israel-Hamas War.

The MSA claimed the hijab is not a religious symbol, but, in fact, it is. The mandate to wear a hijab is one of the fundamental religious practices of Islam. In this country, we abide by the separation of church and state, as established by the First Amendment, which is why, for example, our children do not recite prayers in school.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “Since the 1960s, the federal courts have made it crystal clear that officially sponsored prayer and proselytizing is not acceptable in the school environment .….

When public school officials disregard the US Constitution’s mandate of religious neutrality, they not only violate students’ rights to remain free from government-imposed religious viewpoints, but also usurp their parents’ rights to decide and direct the religious upbringing of their children.”

As far as I am concerned, just like the all-day silent protest that Muslim students held at my children’s school (where Muslim kids sat in class all day, but did not speak), Hijab Day was inappropriate and, for the Jewish students, a form of intimidation and harassment.

Supporters of Hijab Day say it had nothing to do with the Israel-Hamas war. If so, then why did the MSA call the event Hijab Nova on its publicity poster? The Nova Music Festival in the Negev Desert was one of the sites of Hamas’ brutal attacks on October 7th 2023—the attacks which incited the war.

The members of the MSA said they simply liked the word “nova.” Were they being disingenuous or deliberately offensive? I imagine that the music festival was named Nova because it was outdoors, under the sky. What does nova have to do with wearing a hijab? (The all-day affair on school grounds reminds me of the time I was approached in my college dining hall by a religious group seeking to recruit me. Inappropriate!)

Nobody is denying anyone the right to wear a hijab. As a Jew, I am not knocking modesty or Muslim beliefs, but Jewish people don’t go around asking non-Jews to don a tallit (prayer shawl). Especially now that Israel and Hamas are at war, asking all the students to wear a hijab is an anti-Zionist, antisemitic statement in support of the Hamas terrorists. The MSA may as well have waved the Palestinian flag.

Further disappointing to me was that school staff participated—they donned hijabs and took photos of each other. This is another example of school staff making poor decisions that can influence our children. Would Mormon parents want their children to put on a hijab, take a photograph and post it on social media knowing that some people might misinterpret the photograph as meaning that these kids don’t respect their own religion and support the Palestinian cause?

Do we want our children to go along mindlessly with what someone else tells them to do? Isn’t the idea of education to raise children who become independent thinkers and not mindless followers? The Nazi regime started with many people blindly following Hitler without thinking for themselves.

Unfortunately, it appears as if the Montgomery Public School System, once considered to be a top school system in this country, is now a bastion of unchecked antisemitism. Though in the scheme of things Hijab Day may be one of the milder antisemitic infractions, once again, the MSA managed to trample on the rights of non-Muslim students to attend school in a safe, unintimidating environment. Allowing Hijab Day is yet another example of the school administrators’ insensitivity.




Sunday, April 14, 2024

Biden wipes away another $11b in student debt

US President Joe Biden has cancelled $US7.4 billion ($11.4 billion) in student loan debt as he tries to shore up support with young voters who are disproportionately affected by soaring education costs, but who may be drifting away over his policy on Israel and the war in the Gaza Strip.

The latest round of relief is part of a strategy by the White House to take smaller, targeted actions for certain subsets of borrowers after the Supreme Court struck down a far more ambitious plan to wipe out $US400 billion in debt last year.

Biden said this week that he would make another attempt at large-scale debt forgiveness for about 30 million people, despite Republican opposition and legal challenges. But in the meantime, he has been chipping away at student debt by fixing and streamlining existing programs that have been plagued by bureaucratic and other problems for years.

Saturday’s announcement was the latest such move, affecting about 277,000 people. White House officials said those borrowers would be notified by email.

More than 200,000 of those who qualified had borrowed relatively small amounts originally – $US12,000 or less – and have been making payments through the administration’s income-driven repayment plan, known as SAVE.

Others who will see relief include teachers, librarians, academics and public safety workers who have been making student loan payments for 10 years under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Another 65,000 borrowers enrolled in other income-driven repayment plans will receive adjustments reducing their debt, said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

So far, the Biden administration has forgiven $US153 billion in debt for 4.3 million borrowers.

“We’ve approved help for roughly 1 out of 10 of the 43 million Americans who have federal student loans,” Cardona told reporters.

Republicans in Congress characterise student debt relief as unfair to borrowers who struggled to pay off their student debt without assistance.

“You’re incentivising people to not pay back student loans, and at the same time penalising and forcing people who did to subsidise those who didn’t,” Republican congressman John Moolenaar, said during a hearing this week, in which Cardona testified about the Education Department’s budget request for next year.

“I don’t see it as unfair. I see it as, we’re fixing something that’s broken,” Cardona said. “We have better repayment plans now so we don’t have to be in the business of forgiving loans in the future.”

On Monday, Biden outlined a new attempt to wipe out student loan debt on a larger scale, beyond the scope of the programs he has been relying on so far.

The new plan would reduce the amount that 25 million borrowers still owe on their undergraduate and graduate loans. It would wipe away the entire amount for more than 4 million Americans. Altogether, White House officials said, 10 million borrowers would see debt relief of $US5000 or more.

That plan must undergo a public comment period that stretches through the northern summer. It also must survive legal challenges.

The original plan relied on a law called the HEROES Act, which the administration argued allowed the government to waive student debt during a national emergency like the COVID pandemic. The Supreme Court disagreed.

Biden administration officials said because the new approach is based on a different law – the Higher Education Act – it is more likely to survive the expected challenges.


A fifth grader from Washington State who wanted to start an interfaith prayer club at school because 'she felt alone' is speaking out after her request was denied

More hate. The hatred of Christians is almost an illness on the Left

Laura Toney, who is 11 and attends Creekside Elementary School in Sammamish, east of Seattle, had hoped to start the on-campus club to bring together students of different faith backgrounds to 'serve their community'.

But her pitch to start such a club was rejected despite a Pride Club being approved only weeks earlier.

'I wanted to start it because I felt kind of alone in the classroom and at school and so I realized I had some friends and I knew some other people that felt the same way and so I talked to them and I was just like you know what it would be a great idea to make a club where people could come together and do good in the community,' Laura told Fox News.

The school is now being accused of violating the young student's First Amendment's religious freedom protections by denying her request.

'I think that this is something that I am very passionate about. I wouldn't be here if I didn't really want to make this happen, if I didn't think that it would be a great opportunity for everyone,' Laura added.

Creekside already allows more than a dozen other 'non-religious clubs' to meet including a Pride Club, which is a 'safe space' for educating students and staff on 'LGBTQIA+ history and people,' according to the school's website.

Principal Amy Allison also allows a Green Team, focused on making the school 'more sustainable'. A Marimba Club, Chess Club and Student Council are all among other secular groups currently permitted.

Laura's mother, Kayla Toney, is associate counsel at First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit Christian conservative legal organization which often litigates in First Amendment cases on religion.

'The first amendment is clear, the free speech clause and the free exercise clause both protect Laura's ability to pray, to speak about her faith, to gather with other religious students and the law is clear,' Kayla Toney said during the same Fox interview.

'If the school allows at least one non-curricular club, no matter what the club is about, it has to allow a religious club and it's actually viewpoint discrimination to deny a religious club just because it's religious.'

Kayla Toney has put her beliefs down in a detailed letter, writing to the Issaquah School District on behalf of First Liberty Institute.

She wrote: 'Denying the formation of a religious student club while allowing other clubs violates the Constitution. School officials at Creekside Elementary are engaged in religious discrimination against an eleven-year-old girl who simply wants to pray, feel support from other religious friends, and do community service.'

When Laura and her mom met with Principal Allison in February, it was claimed all the funding for school clubs had already been allocated back in October, yet the pair allege how a Pride Club was launched just weeks before the meeting took place.

A spokesperson for the school has explained the prayer club's funding shortfall.

'Once the school year begins, the building budget is set and additional clubs are usually not added until the following school year,' the school stated, but Kayla does not buy the school's reasoning.

'She [Laura] even offered to do fundraisers if necessary. The Pride club again had started just a week before and another club is due to start pretty soon as well. So that excuse definitely did not make sense,' Kayla explained.

'The supreme court made it very clear that the First Amendment protects students and employees freedom and ability to live out their faith publicly, to pray, to exercise their faith. It's not something we have to hide as Americans because we have this strong protection of the first amendment.'

Kayla Toney states that the request to start a prayer club should be permitted no later than April 29, 2024.

'If we do not hear from you and receive those assurances by that time, we will proceed as our clients direct, likely pursuing all available legal remedies,' a letter to the principal concludes.


Australian students choose arts [humanities] degrees in droves despite huge rise in fees under Morrison government

I took an Arts degree and enjoyed it but whether the taxpayer should be funding it is another question

Owen Magee knew how high his student loan would be if he enrolled in an arts degree – he saw the headlines in 2020, when he was still in early adolescence.

But measures introduced by the former Morrison government that doubled the price of some degrees to incentivise students into other courses didn’t dissuade him, nor did recent cost-of-living increases.

“I decided I’d prefer doing something I’m interested in,” the 18-year-old says of his decision to study a media and arts degree at the University of New South Wales.

“A lot of young people are moving away from conventional ideas of education and the workforce to pursuing things we genuinely enjoy in life.

“We know what’s best for us – we’re willing to stand up and say ‘this is our future, we’re not going to allow our lives to be dictated’.”

Data provided to Guardian Australia shows Magee is not alone. Students are flocking to arts degrees in record numbers despite a 113% rise in student contributions for communications, humanities and society and culture degrees, implemented as part of the widely condemned Job-ready Graduates (JRG) scheme.

It’s equivalent to $16,323 a year, or about $50,000 for a three-year degree.

Despite the spike, Australia’s largest universities including UNSW, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney and Monash have all experienced a jump in applications for arts degrees, leading to higher enrolments.

At the University of Melbourne, demand for its Bachelor of Arts degree is higher in 2024 than any time in the past five years.

It’s had a 14% surge in the number of first preferences for the bachelor program since 2022, while enrolments have also jumped since 2021, rising from 1,597 to 1,641 this year.

Monash University has seen first preferences for arts degrees rise by 11% since 2021. Enrolments jumped almost 2% this year, at the same rate as the University of Sydney, which has consistently grown its arts enrolments since the JRG reforms were introduced.

Prof Claire Annesley, dean of arts, design and architecture at UNSW, says there has been a “massive swell” of students choosing degrees in her faculty.

First preferences for arts degrees surged by 14% at UNSW this year, while the student course load was also up.

“I think they can see the future better than we can,” she says. “This generation of young people will be creating jobs you and I can’t imagine – and industry knows that as well.”

The latest graduate outcomes survey reported the largest increase in employment rates in the field of humanities (up from 81.7% in 2021 to 86.6% in 2022).

Median graduate salaries also jumped, sitting at $66,700 compared with sciences and mathematics at $66,000 and business and management $65,000.

In the unknown future of AI, Annesley says humanities offer skillsets that can’t be replaced by emerging technology. Complex societal problems – from the climate emergency to the pandemic – need effective communicators and policymakers.

“AI can reproduce what we already know, but creativity is an innately human skill,” she says.

“Right now we’re penalising people we need to be part of the business of innovation and core solutions. There’s an urgency here.”

The CEO of Universities Australia, Luke Sheehy, says JRG “failed” to encourage students into certain disciplines and instead shifted additional costs on to students and universities.

According to the University Admissions Centre (UAC), which manages applications for New South Wales universities, 21% of first preferences were directed to society and culture degrees in the most recent intake, with roughly the same number of offers provided.

The most popular courses were a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Double Law at UNSW.

The figures are nearly identical to 2021. Yet in the same period, first preferences to health, historically the most popular study area, have reduced (28% to 25%), as year 12 applicants have turned to arts degrees in higher numbers.

“We’ve already called and will continue to call on government to prioritise student support measures in the forthcoming budget,” he says.

The Universities Accord final report recommended JRG needed “urgent remediation”, adding it had “significantly and unfairly increased what students repay”.

The education minister, Jason Clare, told Guardian Australia the government would respond to the recommendations in the accord “shortly”.

But to Magee, the further into his course he gets, the more concerned about his economic future he becomes.

“Down the road, my student debt will take a lot of my income … it worries me,” he says.

“The government should be encouraging students to find paths they enjoy, not restricting it.”