Thursday, April 25, 2024

Parents Question Why Virginia High School Staging Drag Musical, Brunch

Rather sickening

A high school theater troupe is staging the risque musical “Kinky Boots” just outside the nation’s capital “in collaboration” with a leading Virginia school system’s “Pride” programs, prompting concern and questions from some parents.

The Beyond the Page Theatre Company at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia, will perform “Kinky Boots” eight times between Thursday and May 4, according to emails obtained by The Daily Signal.

A “drag brunch” and a “talk back” session on the need for more “LGBTQ+ plays/musicals” are scheduled in connection with the production, spurring concern among parents.

In a letter Tuesday to the high school’s principal, parents wrote that “it is our belief that such content does not belong on school property, especially when it involves minors.”

The 2013 Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” tells the story of a struggling shoe factory owner who partners with a local drag queen to save the factory by dressing all of the male employees in drag for a show.

An email from the West Potomac Theatre Boosters does warn that the musical, a collaboration between pop singer Cyndi Lauper and actor-playwright Harvey Fierstein, “contains strong language and mature content.”

The eight performances of “Kinky Boots” aren’t the only planned events. A “Talkback [sic] with FCPS Pride”—or Fairfax County Public Schools Pride—is scheduled Saturday to “explore the significance of producing LGBTQ+ plays/musicals, delve into drag history, and explore ways to support the LGBTQ+ community.”

And on May 4, a “drag brunch” will be held before the 1 p.m. show, featuring “some of D.C.’s most fabulous performers: Dixie Crystal, Pirouette, and Orpheus Rose.”

Fairfax County Public Schools serves just under 180,000 students in northeastern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Some local parents are outraged by the staging of “Kinky Boots” at a high school and voiced “strong objection” to both the content of the musical and the associated events in a letter Wednesday to Jessica Statz, principal of West Potomac High School, which includes grades 9 through 12. They wrote:

We understand that artistic expression comes in various forms, but we must tactfully express our view that ‘drag’ is not merely an art form but often associated with adult entertainment and, in some contexts, sex work.

Therefore, it is our belief that such content does not belong on school property, especially when it involves minors.

Some Fairfax County parents also asked that Statz clarify any minimum age to attend the musical and associated events; requirements for parental accompaniment and parental notice; and the educational value and financial cost of the musical.

Some parents also want to know whether Fairfax County Public Schools has completed background checks of the drag performers. The school system’s policy requires background checks for adult volunteers who are in contact with children.

Fairfax County Public Schools, West Potomac High School, and Statz did not respond to The Daily Signal’s requests for comment before time of publication.

Shelly Arnoldi, one of the parents who signed the letter of protest to the principal, described the production of “Kinky Boots” and the associated events as “glamorizing sex work.”

Drag shows, in which men wear women’s makeup and clothing (often lingerie) and sing or dance in a sexually provocative manner, have been a form of adult-oriented entertainment as long as it has existed.

In 2015 in San Francisco, however, many LGBTQ+ activist groups began arguing that drag is an essential part of “expression.” Those first readers at “drag queen story hours” claimed they wanted to make reading to children less “heteronormative.”

The encouragement of inherently sexual drag shows open to minors by LGBTQ+ activist groups has stirred national outrage and condemnation, especially after incidents in which performers behaved sexually in front of or directly to underage children.

In 2022, a drag queen gyrated next to a small girl while singing derogatory, sexual lyrics at a drag event for “all ages” in Texas. Also that year, a nearly naked drag queen at an “all ages” drag brunch in Miami paraded a young girl around a restaurant full of cheering patrons.

And last year, a North Carolina community college increased the age requirement for attending drag shows after a drag queen straddled a minor at a campus event.

A Wisconsin drag queen, a member of the anti-Catholic group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was arrested in February and charged with four counts of exploiting a child and four counts of possessing child pornography.

“Drag by definition is sexual,” Arnoldi, one of the parents protesting the production, told The Daily Signal. “They wouldn’t do a show on a girl being a stripper—that wouldn’t be appropriate either.”

Opposing the staging of “Kinky Boots” at a high school “isn’t about being gay or straight,” she said. “This is about normalizing the sex business to minors.”


'Grading for Equity': Promoting Students by Banning Grades of Zero and Leaving No Class Cut-Ups Behind

Joe Feldman has faced many tough crowds in the course of successfully selling his “Grading for Equity” program to school districts across the nation. During the consultant’s presentations, teachers concerned that his approach lowers standards have rolled their eyes, questioned his understanding of students, and worse.

Despite the frequent resistance from teachers, dozens of districts from California to Massachusetts are giving the consultant’s ambitious project a shot. As schools face a series of crises, including a spike in chronic absenteeism and sharp academic decline, grading for equity offers a path to better grades and higher graduation rates. Its practices include the removal of behavior in calculating grades, the end of penalties for late assignments, allowing students to retake exams, and a ban on zeros as the lowest mark.

Since the pandemic, districts have been lowering standards by making grading more lenient to help struggling students, according to several studies. But Feldman insists that his sweeping overhaul isn’t part of that controversial trend. He says the practices he promotes are a matter of fairness and accuracy in an educational system that’s stacked against blacks, Latinos and other disadvantaged students.

Grading for equity, however, stirs enough dissent among teachers and parents that some districts have dropped the difficult revamp in mid-stream. They say Feldman’s reforms are a form of leniency that brings out the worst in some students, hurting the very kids he wants to help.

“What’s most troubling are the practices that lower expectations, like giving a 50 percent grade instead of a zero even when a student doesn't attempt the assignment,” said Meredith Coffey, a former teacher and now a researcher at Thomas B. Fordham Institute who co-wrote a report on grading for equity. “If students know that they could do nothing and get 50 percent, why would they work hard? Many would do nothing.”

In some districts, grading for equity is part of the controversial agenda that’s taken hold in urban areas and seeks to wash away perceived “systemic racism” in classrooms in the wake of the George Floyd murder in 2020. In Fairfax County, a district that’s embraced grading for equity, leaders have also pushed “anti-racist” education for students and paid author and crusader Ibram X. Kendi $20,000 to give a one-hour Zoom presentation, telling staff that anti-racism means working to achieve equitable outcomes.

Like critical race theory, cops in schools, and transgender bathrooms, grading for equity is galvanizing divisions in the cultural conflict over public education. Progressives support it as a path to closing the stubborn achievement gap between rich and poor students while conservatives fear it further undermines high expectations that encourage all students to strive to improve.

A savvy promoter, Feldman frequently posts on X, expressing his excitement to schools and conference organizers who tap his expertise. He likes to plug his book, too. “Grading for Equity,” with a second edition in 2023, has sold 175,000 copies, a top-five bestseller from publisher Corwin.

Grading for equity, a term coined by Feldman, isn’t a fringe movement. Some districts adopted pieces of the program before the pandemic undermined the ability of many students to keep up academically. Since then, many more districts have embraced it.

Last year, with Feldman’s help, Boston Public Schools approved a shift to equity grading. In Oregon, Portland Public Schools is making plans to implement similar grading reforms by 2025, and thousands of New York City and Los Angeles teachers have been trained in equitable grading practices. Smaller districts in California, Nevada, New York, and other states have also adopted the program.

Zenaida Perez says half of the teachers in her Fairfax district, the largest in Virginia, oppose grading for equity but are afraid to speak up because they fear retaliation. “At least 30 percent of my students definitely make less effort,” said Perez, who has taught in the district for 16 years. “Sometimes they do not come to school and I still must give them a 50%. That is absolutely ridiculous.”

In some ways, Feldman’s biggest roadblock are the students, who like all humans procrastinate if given the chance. DePaul University psychologist Joe Ferrari, who has written extensively about the condition, says 20% of people are chronic procrastinators. If schools remove deadlines with penalties, he says most students would likely also delay and delay doing their work. “People will always gravitate to the easiest path,” he said. “Humans seek pleasure and avoid pain.”


Antisemitic Protests on College Campuses Represent ‘Anti-Western and Anti-American Movement,’ Professor Says

Pro-Palestine protests on the campuses of some of America’s most elite colleges have resulted in hundreds of arrests and led Columbia University in New York to move classes online for the remainder of the semester.

The pro-Hamas, anti-Israel protests at Columbia University, Yale, and New York University aren’t just representative of an “antisemitic movement,” but a “fundamentally an anti-Western and anti-American movement,” Bill Jacobson says.

Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor and the founder of Legal Insurrection and the Equal Protection Project, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain who or what is driving the antisemitism on America’s college campuses.

Jacobson points to the activist organization National Students for Justice in Palestine as the organizing force behind the current protests.

“They are an organization I have followed and written about for well over a decade,” Jacobson says of the pro-Palestine group. “They support terrorists. They honor people like Rasmea Odeh, who killed two Jewish students in Jerusalem.”

Jacobson points to the ideology of critical race theory, which has spread across college campuses, for this rise in antisemitism. The related push for “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI, is fundamentally anti-colonialism, Jacobson says, explaining that Israel is viewed by antisemites as “colonial occupiers.”

The anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment likely will continue on college campuses, he says, because “unless you are going to change the faculty at these schools, unless you are going to change the fundamental ideologies which drive them, removing students from the courtyard isn’t going to change a thing.”




Wednesday, April 24, 2024

New Zealand’s conservative education revolution

In New Zealand, one of the most exciting education reforms in the world is quietly getting underway. Erica Stanford, the country’s new Education Minister, is on a mission to overhaul the education system from top to bottom – and she is leaving no stone unturned.

Stanford, a rising star in Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s cabinet, has hit the ground running since taking office in late 2023. In just a few short months, she has announced a suite of reforms that promise to fundamentally reshape the way New Zealand children are taught.

At the heart of Stanford’s agenda is a return to knowledge-rich curricula and explicit instruction in foundational skills. It is a decisive break from the child-centred, competency-based approach that has dominated New Zealand classrooms for decades.

Under the reforms, primary schools will be required to dedicate an average of one hour each per day to reading, writing and maths. While it is doubtful that the requirement will be rigorously enforced, it sends a strong signal that the Minister is serious about improvement in these crucial skills. Not that an hour for each of these core subjects should be too hard a challenge for schools.

Mobile phones will be banned during school hours to minimise distractions. Schools will be required to assess student progress in core subjects twice per year and to report the results to parents. And the curriculum will be reviewed to specify in detail the knowledge students must master at each year level.

Now, one might say that these policy measures are hardly rocket science. In a way, one could rather describe them as common sense or a “back to basics” approach. But it is precisely that which makes Stanford’s policies so revolutionary. For decades, the education establishment has not focussed sufficiently on the basics, nor even displayed common sense.

Perhaps Stanford’s most consequential change is a requirement for all primary schools to use a “structured literacy” approach to teaching reading. Structured literacy systematically and explicitly teaches children the key components of reading, including phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

The structured literacy mandate marks a seismic shift for New Zealand education. For years, the prevailing approach has been based on “whole language” theory, which assumes children learn to read naturally through exposure to books. Phonics and other foundational skills have often taken a backseat.

The results have been disastrous. New Zealand’s literacy rates have declined steadily over recent decades. On international assessments like PIRLS, the country now ranks well below other advanced nations. A shocking two-thirds of students failed the writing component of a recent pilot assessment for NCEA, the national assessment system.

Stanford is determined to reverse this trend. Her structured literacy push is backed by a mountain of evidence from cognitive science and reading research. Study after study has shown that explicit, systematic instruction in phonics and other key skills is the most effective way to teach reading – especially for students who struggle.

Crucially, Stanford is putting serious resources behind the reforms. Schools will receive extensive training and support to implement structured literacy in the classroom. Teachers will learn the science of reading and how to use direct instruction techniques.

It is a comprehensive, evidence-based approach that has few parallels in the world. If implemented well, it could transform the literacy landscape in New Zealand and provide a model for other countries to follow.

But Stanford’s ambitions extend beyond reading. Across the board, she is working to re-orient New Zealand education towards a knowledge-rich curriculum that specifies the content students must learn in each subject, at each grade level.

The curriculum reforms mark a rejection of the “21st century skills” philosophy that has long dominated New Zealand education. For years, the emphasis has been on generic competencies like “critical thinking” and “problem solving” rather than mastery of subject knowledge. Traditional academic disciplines have often been sidelined in favour of “project-based learning” and “student-led inquiry”.

Stanford argues this approach has badly shortchanged New Zealand children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. On that, she can point to a wealth of research showing that knowledge is the key to reading comprehension, critical thinking, and academic success. Students need a broad base of background knowledge to engage with complex texts and ideas.

By contrast, the skills-focused approach has often left students with significant gaps in their knowledge. Many arrive at university lacking even basic facts about history, science, and literature. Even worse, many lack basic writing skills, having made it through school never having written more than a paragraph at a time. The consequences are particularly acute for disadvantaged students, who are less likely to acquire academic knowledge or literacy at home.

Stanford’s solution is to create a sequenced, content-rich curriculum that builds knowledge systematically over time. The goal is to ensure all students, regardless of background, have access to the key facts, ideas and concepts that underpin each subject.

Of course, there will be resistance from some quarters of the education establishment, particularly those wedded to child-centred, inquiry-based approaches.

But cognitive research backs Stanford’s approach. It has consistently shown that explicit instruction, regular practice, and a strong foundation of background knowledge are essential for learning. Students do not acquire skills like critical thinking in a vacuum; they need a rich base of content knowledge to draw upon.

Stanford also has the strong backing of Prime Minister Luxon. Education reform was a central plank of the National Party’s successful 2023 election campaign. Luxon has staked his government’s credibility on lifting academic achievement and closing equity gaps.

As Stanford presses ahead with her reforms, there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way. But if she succeeds, the impact will be profound, and not just for New Zealand’s students.

New Zealand could provide powerful proof that a knowledge-rich curriculum and explicit instruction work. In a global education landscape still largely dominated by skills-based, constructivist thinking, Stanford’s agenda would offer a compelling counter-narrative.

Other countries will be watching New Zealand closely in the years ahead. If Stanford can demonstrate that a knowledge-rich curriculum, coupled with explicit, research-based instructional methods, can lift achievement at scale, it could have far-reaching implications for education policy around the world.


Yale Student Stabbed at Pro-Hamas Demonstration Describes How the Campus Is a Terror Snake Pit

There’s that saying: history repeats itself. And then, some liberals have zero grasp of this topic, which is why we’re seeing a nationwide Charlottesville-like protest but without the tiki torches. It’s not white supremacist agitators either—it’s young people. The alt-right yelled, “Jews will not replace us.” These leftist clowns chant “Long live the Intifada,” and other war cries that directly call for the destruction of Israel. It all means the same: kill all the Jews. The keffiyeh has replaced the swastika.

The Ivy League is reverting to its antisemitic roots. At Yale, these pro-terrorist thugs established an encampment this month, went on a hunger strike, and have now assaulted Jewish students. They’ve been captured trying to stop Jewish students from entering certain buildings. Sahar Tartak was stabbed in the eye, and there is significant doubt that she will get justice for being victimized simply for existing (via The Free Press):

I was stabbed in the eye last night on Yale University’s campus because I am a Jew.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but since October 7, Yale has refused to take action against students glorifying violence, chanting “resistance is justified,” “celebrat[ing] the resistance’s success,” and fundraising for “Palestinian anarchist fighters” on the frontlines of the “resistance.” In more recent days, the school has allowed students to run roughshod over their most basic policies against postering, time and place restrictions, disorderly conduct, respect for university property, and the rights of others, not to mention stalking and harassment.

Yesterday, I paid the price for their inaction.


By April 20, the students’ encampment had grown to roughly forty tents, sleeping bags, umbrellas, and a stereo. On Saturday night, a student in a Class of 2026 group chat encouraged Yalies to come and show their support for Yalies4Palestine. As a student journalist for the Yale Free Press, I went to check it out. Other reporters from the Yale Daily News were already on the scene.

I should say here that I am a visibly observant Jew who wears a large Star of David around my neck and dresses modestly. I went over with my friend Netanel Crispe, who is also identifiably Jewish because of his beard, black hat, and tzitzit.

When we approached the anti-Israel protest accompanying the tent encampment to document the demonstration, we were quickly walled off by demonstration organizers and attendees who stood in a line in front of us. No one else documenting the event was blockaded this way.


They pointed their middle fingers at me and yelled “Free Palestine,” and the taunting continued until a six-foot-something male protester holding a Palestinian flag waved the flag in my face and then stabbed me with it in my left eye.

My assailant was masked and wearing a keffiyeh, concealing his identity. He also wore glasses and a black jacket. I started to yell and chase after him, but the wall of students continued to block me as I screamed. Next, I went to the Yale police, but they offered little in the way of assistance. They told me that their orders came from administrators who weren’t present at the demonstration, and that there were only seven officers to handle a crowd of about 500. So I was checked out by an ambulance EMT, who recommended I go to the hospital.

The midnight demonstration, the encampment, the violence, all of it violates Yale policy. Some of it, like my assault, also violates state and federal law. Yet nothing meaningful seems to happen in response. Given Yale’s permissiveness, I had the sinking feeling that someone would get hurt. I just didn’t expect it to be me.

It’s a damning and unnerving account of how it’s open season on Jewish students at Yale. And if that wasn’t eerie enough, Tartak said this assault reminded her of how her mother was persecuted for being Jewish in Iran, being subjected to rocks that left her with a scar on one eyelid that remains visible to this day.

Why are college presidents and administrators endorsing these attacks? Why are they allowing the inmates to run the asylum? Is it fear, or do they agree with the vicious antisemitism and anti-Israel advocacy that’s veered into calls for genocide against Jewish people?

The signs that things could go off the rails at Yale were seen last year, too.


Columbia University protests: students face ‘gut-wrenching’ abuse

It’s 8850km from Jerusalem to the grounds of Columbia University in New York, so Shoshana Aufzien hoped that when she left her home in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks, she would find some measure of peace.

Yet Aufzien, 17, who is set to attend Barnard, a liberal arts college for women attached to the Ivy League university, is starting to think twice.

For more than a week Columbia, which is one of the finest schools in the country, with alumni including Barack Obama, has become the leading battleground for a clash of cultures that has consumed campuses across America.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters have been occupying the centre of the campus and refusing to budge. This has led to increasingly ill-tempered clashes with pro-Israel demonstrators and the police.

Aufzien said she decided to join the protests this week in support of Israel. She recalled waking up on the morning of the October 7 Hamas attacks to the “sound of sirens” before rushing to the bomb shelter where she spent the rest of the day, terrified.

“I’m a proud Jew,” she said. “I saw the pain and suffering of Israelis and to see self-proclaimed activists on campus [spreading] anti-Semitic rhetoric is gut-wrenching.”

Others, like Shai Davidai, assistant professor at the Columbia Business School, say the university has done little to protect Jewish students and teachers. At a protest this week he said he had been denied access to his workplace and that his staff pass had been deactivated.

The university has been approached for comment.

“They’re not letting me, a Jewish professor at Columbia, inside the main campus,” Davidai told a crowd of supporters and journalists at the university’s gates. “They’re willing to use Jewish brains but they don’t want to let Jewish people in.”

NYU Heightens Security Amid Slew of Protests

With armed police stationed at every corner and drones buzzing overhead, the increasingly tense environment has pitted friends against each other and divided colleagues.

One student at Barnard College said she had been called “disgusting” and “a terrorist” for wearing a keffiyeh, the distinctive traditional scarf that has become a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians. She declined to share her name for fear of reprisal.

“[A woman] took photos of me and told me that she would send them to the university to get me expelled,” she said.

Pro-Palestinian activists argue they are peacefully protesting against the war in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 34,000 people, according to the Hamas-run authorities. They say that the arrest of students violates their right to protest and insist that any anti-Semitic attack against fellow students are by an extremist minority and not representative.

Over the past week the unrest has spread quickly to other renowned universities and now threatens to derail plans for graduation ceremonies.

On Monday riot police swooped in to arrest more than 150 pro-Palestine protesters at New York University, and 60 people were arrested at Yale University.

Columbia University has announced that it would switch to hybrid learning for the rest of the term, so that students do not need to attend classes on campus.

Sadie, a political science major at Barnard, described the past week as the most chaotic of her four years at the university. The senior student, who did not share her last name, said she felt especially threatened by non-students with extremist beliefs who had hijacked what had been mostly peaceful protests.

“I have [felt unsafe]. Obviously the heavy police presence is a factor. Since entry to campus is so controlled, it’s really hard to feel comfortable,” she said, moments before an altercation broke out between a man blaming Israel for the September 11 attacks and a Pro-Israel individual threatening physical violence.

Student activists began occupying large parts of Columbia’s campus when Minouche Shafik, its president, was called to Congress to testify about how the university was addressing concerns about anti-Semitism and the perceived failure to protect students.

The former president of the London School of Economics and former vice-president of the World Bank failed to assuage the fears of Jewish students and faculty and faces growing calls to resign, as her counterparts at Harvard and Pennsylvania University have done.

She also provoked the anger of students and faculty after she called in the police to forcibly remove the tents last week, prompting clashes and leading to arrests.

Over the weekend 54 Columbia Law School professors sent a letter to the university’s leadership condemning the decision.

The chaos on campus has caught the attention of President Biden and Donald Trump, his probable rival in November’s election.

“I condemn the anti-Semitic protests,” Biden told reporters on Monday. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday as he entered a court in Manhattan for the second day of his hush-money trial, Trump labelled the protests “a disgrace” and “Biden’s fault”.

Despite fees of about $US90,000 ($140,000), Emily, a 19-year-old student, would rather stay at home.

“It just becomes unimaginably worse every single day,” she said. “I go to bed every night thinking, ‘How could this possibly get any worse?’ and then I wake up to that unimaginable reality.”




Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Florida’s New ‘History of Communism’ Law Is a Model All States Should Follow

By Christopher Talgo

When it comes to sensible education policy, Florida has been at the vanguard in recent years. From the Parental Rights in Education Act to universal school choice legislation, Florida lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis clearly understand that prudent education reforms are sorely needed.

On April 17, DeSantis signed SB 1264, which will reinforce Florida’s education standards by requiring that students learn about “the dangers and evils of Communism.”

According to DeSantis, “We will not allow our students to live in ignorance, nor be indoctrinated by Communist apologists in schools. To the contrary, we will ensure students in Florida are taught the truth about the evils and dangers of Communism.”

“I know firsthand the evils that Communism brings, and I am proud to stand by Governor DeSantis as he signs this legislation to ensure Florida remains the bastion of freedom,” added Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz.

Like Diaz, I have firsthand experience, at least when it comes to educating students about the history and ideology of communism. For several years, I was a public high school social studies teacher, first in Illinois and then in South Carolina. I specialized in three subjects: U.S. history, world history, and American government, all of which touch upon the subject of socialism/communism in one form or another.

I completed my student teaching program at a very prominent public high school in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where I shadowed and eventually taught a semester of world history and U.S. history. I must say I was totally dumbfounded when I observed my “master teacher” give presentations on anything related to socialism/communism.

In short, he consistently went out of his way to whitewash the horrors of socialist regimes, from the Soviet Union to Cuba to China. He always framed socialism as morally superior to free-market capitalism. And he regularly echoed that the reason these socialist nations failed or didn’t deliver fully on their promises of utopian egalitarianism was due to meddling from the West.

I know it is difficult to believe, but my “master teacher” at this nationally recognized high school was far from the only social studies teacher with socialist leanings. In fact, it was the norm throughout the entire social studies department.

After I finished my student teaching program, I moved to South Carolina, with the hopes that a conservative state would have a less “socialist-friendly” teaching environment. Boy, was I wrong.

To my astonishment, after landing a full-time teaching position at a public high school outside Hilton Head, things were just as bad.

Like my experience at the aforementioned Chicagoland high school, the social studies department at my new school in South Carolina was chock-full of socialist sympathizers.

I spent five years teaching U.S. history, world history, and American government at this school, during which I chronically witnessed what I can only describe as “socialist indoctrination” from most of my colleagues. In many cases, blatantly pro-socialist ideology was being masqueraded as “giving both sides.” To my chagrin, this became nauseating after several years.

Such is why I decided to retire from the teaching profession and dedicate my life to speaking the truth about public policy in general, and socialism, in particular.

Many years later, I am a research fellow with The Heartland Institute’s Socialism Research Center (SRC), which is “devoted to informing the world about the dangers, including the moral dangers, associated with socialism, communism, and other forms of collectivism.”

The reason I bring this up is because the SRC has just published a book, Socialism at a Glance, which offers a concise history of socialism including an analysis of socialist ideology and The Communist Manifesto.

As a former teacher, I am well aware that there remains a giant void in accurate teaching materials on the subject of socialism. Socialism at a Glance was designed to fill that void, to serve as a resource for anyone interested in learning the unvarnished truth about socialism.

Now, back to the new Florida law. In a nutshell, the new law is designed to beef up the “existing Communist history standards with instruction on the history of Communism in the United States and the tactics of Communist movements,” “promote the importance of economic and individual freedoms as a means to advance human progress,” and prepare “students to withstand indoctrination on Communism at colleges and universities.”

Those are all noble endeavors, not to mention completely necessary, and should serve as the bedrock for socialism teaching standards in all 50 states.


Largest Christian University in America Gets Fined $37 Million. Coincidence or Targeted Attack?

A dust storm of political madness is brewing in Phoenix as Grand Canyon University faces the continued threats of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

Christians have watched as the Biden administration attacks biblical views left and right, with a particularly vehement disregard for the sanctity of life and marriage. As such, it can’t be too surprising that Cardona, a part of this leftist administration, has vowed to shut down America’s largest Christian university.

In late October, Grand Canyon University was hit with “a $37.7 million fine brought by the federal government over allegations that it lied to students about the cost of its programs,” The Associated Press reported—an accusation that GCU President Brian Mueller described as “ridiculous.”

Around the same time, Liberty University, America’s second-largest Christian university, also was fined $37 million “over alleged underreporting of crimes.”

Grand Canyon University appealed its fine in November even though a hearing is not expected until January 2025. But the question Mueller has is one of integrity. Is this genuine consideration for the well-being of students, or is this a targeted attack against religious institutions?

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the two largest Christian universities in the country, this one and Liberty University, are both being fined almost the identical amount at almost the identical time?” GCU’s president speculated in a speech. “Now is there a cause and effect there? I don’t know. But it’s a fact.”

The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing early this month about the Biden administration’s decision to “crack down on GCU and other universities like it.”

During the proceedings, Cardona and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., made their disapproval of Grand Canyon University and similar universities obvious. “[W]e are cracking down not only to shut them down, but to send a message to not prey on students,” Cardona said.

Supporters of GCU agree that the fine seems unprecedented and motivated by ideological bias. American Principles Project Policy Director Jon Schweppe said: “The federal government’s education agenda is punishing schools that do not conform to their progressive ideology. It’s time we take a stand against this egregious abuse of power.”

Another conservative think tank, the Goldwater Institute, sued the Education Department for “refusing to turn over” public documents “that explain why” the agency fined GCU. The goal of the lawsuit is to unmask the reason behind the fine.

“With its motto of ‘private, Christian, affordable’ and its track record of graduating students into high-demand and high-paying jobs, GCU is a success story by any metric. And it stands apart from universities across the country that are facing declining enrollment, that are indoctrinating students with radical politics, and that are under attack for failing to defend the First Amendment,” the Goldwater Institute wrote. “So then why are the feds targeting GCU, a popular university that seems to be doing everything right? That’s exactly what we’re going to find out.”

Although immense uncertainty still surrounds this case, Grand Canyon University’s president took the time to share with The Washington Stand how his staff, faculty, and students are faring and how believers everywhere can help.

Mueller emphasized that GCU has faced various issues over the years. But despite the government’s action, he said he wanted people to know that “interestingly enough … it has had zero impact on anything that we’re doing.”

He continued: “The enrollments are just continuing to grow … [and] the morale is very high in terms of our faculty and staff. The campus is extremely vibrant. I mean, the students absolutely love this place. They’re extremely loyal to [the school] and so we just keep marching through it.”

And although the fine that Grand Canyon University was dealt by the Education Department is “a problem,” Mueller said, he is thankful that GCU remains optimistic.

Christian “mission, not politics, is our motivation and it is our hope,” he told The Washington Stand. As a university, Mueller explained, GCU exists to “pour into” the community around it.

“[O]ur reach into the neighborhood and caring for disadvantaged populations has been a way to live out our faith” in a way “that has risen above … political divide,” Mueller said. Ultimately, with support from “both sides of the aisle” in Arizona, he noted, “all the issues we have are with a very small number of people in Washington D.C.”

“We encourage people to be involved politically and vote,” Mueller said, adding: “But our faith will stand above the politics always, and our politics will never become our religion.”

Because, for “many people in our country today, their politics have become their religion, and that’s when things … go really bad in our society,” he said.

Mueller pointed out that Grand Canyon University is “trying to be an example of a Christian community that can rise above those things and focus on helping people” through service, as Scripture calls believers to do.

Mueller concluded with a request for prayer as the university works through these troubling times, and for “the hearts of certain people in Washington, D.C. to be softened.” He added that “it’s hard to make progress and resolve differences when people just … don’t want to talk to each other.”


Teachers’ group to focus on Palestine on Australian war memorial Day

This is a lot of nonsense. The charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba and related action was against the army of the Ottoman Turks, not Palestinians. It was incidentally the last successful cavalry charge in history so is well worth remembering as an achievement of Australian troops. And there is no doubt that charging into the guns of 1,000 Turkish riflemen in an entrenched position was heroic, if heroism matters any more

A pro-Palestine teachers group has excoriated the Anzac legacy just two days before Australia commemorates its military history.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Teachers and School Staff for Palestine group called for the Anzac legend to be “dismantled” and linked a slaughter committed by World War One Anzac troops to the current war against Gaza.

Secondary schoolteacher Lucy Honan said it was important for students to understand Australia’s role in the Middle Eastern conflict.

“It is so important that students know that the Anzacs left a long and violent historical imprint in Palestine and in Sarafand al-’Amar in particular,” Ms Honan said.

“The British created a prison camp for Palestinian activists at Sarafand al-’Amar.

“The residents fled or were evacuated in the 1948 Nakba, and the site then became one of Israel’s largest military bases.

“This is a legacy to dismantle, not to glorify.”

The group has developed an educational resource for classrooms, aiming to redress current Anzac narratives and “enable rigorous, critical and empowering education”.

Primary schoolteacher Bill Abrahams said it was important to use objective teaching resources rather than relying on information from parties with vested interests in Israeli weaponry.

“Rather than depending on teaching resources published by the Australian War Memorial — which is funded in part by weapons companies implicated in the genocide in Gaza, like Boeing, Thales and Northrupp Grumman — we will use resources that help us and our students reflect critically on Australia’s military involvement in Palestine,” he said.

Teachers have been encouraged to foreground the massacre of as many as 137 people in the Palestinian village, Sarafand al-’Amar, committed by ANZACs in 1918.

The booklet is a 40-page resource featuring explanations about how Anzac Day relates to Palestine, the British Mandate, the Sarafand al-’Amar massacre, the 1948 Nakba, and many primary and secondary historical sources.

The group has connections within hundreds of schools around Australia.

Secondary schoolteacher Pippa Tandy, a member of TSSP, said the booklet was in line with curriculum requirements and was age-adaptable for different grades.

“People talk about Anzac Day as being about Australian identity, but a lot of people are feeling that we want an identity arising out of truth and honesty, rather than lies and obfuscation,” Ms Tandy said.

“We actually find by looking at the curriculum, looking at the outcomes we’re supposed to be achieving in school, we’re finding that talking about Palestine is actually not something we should be prevented from doing.

“It’s quite legitimate to talk about Palestine in the classroom.

“Obviously, we’re not promoting a particular point of view, but we are committed to the idea that there is no neutrality in genocide.”

She said while it was possible there could be backlash from parents, criticism had always been outweighed by support.

“If parents raise issues with us, we talk to them – and that’s the only way through,” she said. “Ultimately, by informing students about this piece of history, all we’re doing is educating them.”

An RSL Australia spokesman said the matter was “more for education authorities” but emphasised the importance of commemorating the lives of veterans.

“Whatever the political, constitutional and international treaty obligations prevailing at the time (WWI), the RSL’s role is to represent our veterans and remember and honour their service, commitment and bravery, and encourage all Australians to do the same,” they said.

“We do this continually, but particularly on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and on other key commemoration dates.”




Monday, April 22, 2024

USC cancels speech by Crazy Rich Asians director amid uproar over barring of pro-Palestinian valedictorian

The University of Southern California has scrapped commencement speeches by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M Chu and other honorees amid an uproar over the cancellation of a graduation speech by pro-Palestinian valedictorian Asna Tabassum.

On Friday (19 April), USC announced the decision in a letter posted to the university’s website.

That update came as a follow-up to an announcement earlier in the week calling off Ms Tabassum’s speech over a growing furore relating to the war in Gaza that had drawn in “many voices outside of USC” and had “escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption”.

“We cannot ignore the fact that similar risks have led to harassment and even violence at other campuses,” the statement continued. “As always, and particularly when tensions are running so high across the world, we must prioritize the safety of our community.”

Friday’s letter states that “given the highly publicized circumstances surrounding our main-stage commencement program” it was decided to “release our outside speakers and honorees from attending this year’s ceremony”.

It continued: “We’ve been talking to this exceptional group and hope to confer these honorary degrees at a future commencement or other academic ceremonies.”

Chu, a USC alumnus, was scheduled to deliver the school’s commencement speech at the main ceremony on 10 May in front of approximately 65,000 attendees.

In addition to Crazy Rich Asians, Chu has directed and produced a wide range of movies, notably In the Heights and the highly anticipated movie adaptation of the musical Wicked.

Also scheduled to attend and receive honorary degrees were tennis legend Billie Jean King, National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, and National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt.

King will still give the keynote speech at a separate ceremony for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Ms Tabassum, a fourth-year biomedical engineering student from Chino Hills, California, was set to give a speech at the ceremony on 10 May.

Valedictorian is the academic title conferred upon the highest-ranked student among those graduating from an educational institution, typically based on the highest grade point average.

As well as her stellar academic record, Ms Tabassum was noted for having engaged in multiple community outreach and non-profit organisations during her time at USC, including helping to send medical supplies to Turkey, Syria and Ukraine.

In her social media bio, she also includes a link to a pro-Palestinian website. She describes herself as a first-generation South Asian-American Muslim.

USC stressed in its decision to call off Ms Tabassum’s speech: “To be clear: this decision has nothing to do with freedom of speech. There is no free-speech entitlement to speak at a commencement. The issue here is how best to maintain campus security and safety, period.”

USC’s decision has been met with outrage from advocacy groups, including CAIR Greater Los Angeles, which said it “empowers voices of hate” and violated the university’s obligation to protect its students


‘That Is Not a Religion’: DeSantis Bars Satanists From Florida School Chaplaincy Program

The Sunshine State is now welcoming chaplains into public schools, but Satanists need not apply.

On Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a bill into law allowing chaplains to volunteer to offer counseling at public and charter schools. However, the Catholic governor warned that Satanists would not be accepted into the program, as some Christian and conservative groups had feared.

“Now some have said if you do a school chaplain program that somehow you’re going to have Satanists running around in all our schools,” DeSantis said in a press conference. “We’re not playing those games in Florida. That is not a religion. That is not qualifying to be able to participate in this. We’re going to be using common sense when it comes to this, so you don’t have to worry about that.”

The Florida Senate version of the bill was approved in February and the House version was approved early last month. The legislation’s text states, “Each school district or charter school may adopt a policy to authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide supports, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board.”

The new law requires volunteer chaplains to pass a background check and would require school administrators to publicize each volunteer chaplain’s religious affiliation and obtain parental consent before a student begins counseling.

“Any opportunity that exists for ministers or chaplains in the public sector must not discriminate based on religious affiliation,” said The Satanic Temple’s “Director of Ministry” Penemue Grigori in February. “Our ministers look forward to participating in opportunities to do good in the community, including the opportunities created by this bill, right alongside the clergy of other religions.”

Ryan Jayne of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Action Fund added, “I think there is a 100% chance you see satanic chaplains, and also of course other religious minorities that the majority-Christian population might not be a fan of. The Satanic Temple is a church, whether people like it or not.”

“It is wonderful to have such a strong statement denying the legitimacy of Satanism as a religion or church from Governor DeSantis. But I worry that appeals to common sense will not hold in the most ideological school systems, even in Florida,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for education studies, commented to The Washington Stand. “Regardless, this is an important step in acknowledging the role that faith plays in our lives and how important it is that the big questions students have about morality, life and death, and God’s plan for their lives are best answered by a parent or priest, pastor, or chaplain.”

DeSantis has criticized Satanism in the past, arguing that it is not a religion. In December, after military veteran and outspoken Christian Michael Cassidy toppled and beheaded a Baphomet idol erected in the Iowa State Capitol Building by The Satanic Temple, the Florida governor declared, “Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a ‘religion’ by the federal government. … Good prevails over evil—that’s the American spirit.”

On its website, The Satanic Temple responds to the question “Do you worship Satan?” The organization states, “No, nor do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural.” The Satanic Temple adds, “Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. … Our metaphoric representation is the literary Satan best exemplified by Milton and the Romantic Satanists from Blake to Shelley to Anatole France.”

Now that it has been signed by DeSantis, Florida’s new law goes into effect on July 1.


In maths, truth and knowledge can’t be mere matters of opinion

From an analytical philosophy viewpoint, mathematics is a set of conventions with useful properties. If you break those conventions, you destroy its usefulness

In universities across the world, humanities departments have, over time, come to reject the notion that there is such a thing as objective truth.

This nihilistic outlook was originally promoted by a small group of academics in the mid-20th century, but is now the dominant philosophy in a range of disciplines from literary criticism to gender and cultural studies. And while the doctrine has quietly swallowed the humanities, many thought it would never infiltrate the hard sciences. If one is engineering a bridge, for example, it would be reckless to reject the objective truth of gravity. If one is studying mathematics it would be foolish to deny that 2 + 2 = 4.

Yet the notion that postmodernism would stop at the walls of the hard sciences looks naive in retrospect. In recent years, efforts to “decolonise” the sciences have been successful in New Zealand with Maori “ways of knowing” to be taught alongside chemistry, physics and biology in science classrooms. Commenting on the New Zealand policy, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has described it as “pernicious nonsense”.

To understand Dawkins’ ire, it’s worth digging a little deeper into what “decolonising science” actually means. It is an outgrowth of a larger push to “decolonise knowledge” inside the universities. Academics leading this movement explicitly reject the notion there are objective facts that can be discovered via rational or scientific inquiry.

And, rather than being a method to discover how the world works, such theorists argue Western science has been used as a tool to subjugate others. Efforts to “decolonise” science are therefore efforts to undo this subjugation, by bringing into the fold other “ways of knowing” that exist outside scientific methodology. These might include local knowledge about land management, religious knowledge about cosmology, or traditional ways of healing.

Writing in The Conversation, academic Alex Broadbent, of the University of Johannesburg, argues: “There is African belief, and European belief, and your belief, and mine – but none of us have the right to assert that something is true, is a fact, or works, contrary to anyone else’s belief.”

But if we are to treat this claim seriously it takes us to some interesting destinations. It would mean ignoring modern medicine in favour of traditional healing practices when treating cancer or heart disease. It would mean denying the laws of physics that allow planes to fly safely, based on myths about human flight. And it would mean disregarding engineering standards for building safe bridges, roads and buildings, because such standards derive from colonial methods.

Of course, this would be highly impractical. In the real world, we do not recognise the opinions of flat-earthers are equal to those of astronauts, or the knowledge of a psychic is equivalent to an oncologist. We recognise that while everyone is deserving of respect and dignity, not all opinions – or indeed “ways of knowing” – are equal in standing. But recognising the validity of science does not mean we cannot respect or study Indigenous culture. A deeper understanding of non-Western cultures is important – and we have an entire academic discipline devoted to just that. Anthropology exists to study the practices, cosmologies and knowledge systems of Indigenous populations.

Yet decolonial thinkers will argue that by isolating the study of Indigenous ways of knowing the anthropology department is itself a form of oppression.

From their perspective, knowledge grounded in spirituality and folklore should not be seen as mere cultural artefacts, but as being equal to physics, chemistry and biology. Decolonial activists reject the hierarchy that places scientific rationality above superstition and intuition.

Australia is not immune to this line of thinking, and neither are the hard sciences at our most prestigious institutions. The Australian National University’s Mathematical Sciences Institute this month released a press statement about a special topics course in Indigenous mathematics. Course convener Rowena Ball is quoted as saying “Indigenous and First Nations peoples around the world are standing up and saying: ‘Our knowledge is just as good as anybody else’s − why can’t we teach it to our children in our schools, and in our own way?’.” The press release also states that “Numbers and arithmetic and accounting often are of secondary importance in Indigenous mathematics”.

What are some forms of Indigenous mathematics? The example given by Ball is directions in smoke signalling. “One interesting example that we are currently investigating is the use of chiral symmetry to engineer a long-distance smoke signalling technology in real time,” she says. Theory and mathematics in Mithaka society were systematised and taught intergenerationally. You don’t just somehow pop up and suddenly start a chiral signalling technology. It has been taught and developed and practised by many people through the generations.”

Commenting on her assertion that smoke signalling is a sophisticated form of mathematics, Jerry Coyne, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago, said bluntly: “I don’t find this at all convincing … patterns of smoke, like drumbeats, is a kind of language, and how to make the patterns and get them understood correctly is based on trial and error. Where does the math come in?”

In establishing a special topics course for Indigenous mathematics, the ANU is trying to serve two masters. On the one hand, universities such as ANU want to portray themselves as vanguards of social justice, in an attempt to attract students and placate activist staff. Yet on the other hand, these same institutions seek to justify collecting public funding and student fees on the premise that they provide a rigorous and substantive education.

But herein lies the irony – by indulging the decolonial activist agenda that rejects the existence of objective truths or a hierarchy of knowledge, universities undermine the very premise on which society deems them worthy of public funding. If we accept the decolonial notion that no form of knowledge can be deemed superior to any other, then what exactly are students paying for? What specialised skills or benefits do university graduates gain that non-graduates lack?

The contradiction is that the university as an institution exists solely because certain forms of systematised knowledge were historically elevated above others and deemed worthy of dedicated study, preservation and expansion. So why should the public continue to fund these multibillion-dollar organisations if the knowledge they offer is just as valid as any other “way of knowing”?




Sunday, April 21, 2024

Majority of Catholic Women’s Colleges Enroll Men Who Identify As Trans Women

A majority of the Catholic women’s colleges in the United States allow men who identify as transgender women to enroll, according to a new report—despite church teaching on gender and sex.

The National Catholic Register reported on Friday that of the three dozen women’s colleges throughout the country, most are now admitting men. The publication notes that there are eight Catholic women’s colleges, all founded by Catholic female religious orders, and each of those colleges has an independent board of trustees that oversees them.

Five of the eight women’s colleges explicitly state on their websites that they allow men who identify as women to enroll in their institutions, according to the National Catholic Register. According to a pro-transgender organization, Campus Pride, two more of the colleges also allow trans-identifying students to enroll.

“We have a twofold identity crisis—both among young people captured by gender ideology, and among Catholic colleges that defy the Church and reject the Catholic teaching that is foundational to authentic Catholic education,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, told the National Catholic Register.

Some of those colleges go so far as to claim that their pro-transgender policies are inspired by Catholic teaching—although Pope Francis himself has explicitly rejected gender ideology. And only one of the bishops in the dioceses where these schools are located told NCR that his diocese is taking action on the policies.

1. Alverno College

At Alverno College in Milwaukee, for example, the college claims on its website: “In the Catholic tradition of caring and respect for each human person, we support students on their journey of self-discovery and recognize that gender identity may change over time.”

“Alverno has put guidelines and services in place to support transgender students as integral members of our diverse campus community. Specifically, Alverno College admits students who consistently live and identify as women,” the Alverno website states. “In addition, continuing students whose gender identity changes after admission are encouraged to persist through graduation, experiencing the personal and academic support each student deserves from an Alverno education.”

2. Mount Mary University

Mount Mary University, which is also in Milwaukee, similarly describes itself as a “Catholic university that believes and acts in accordance to the tradition of caring, respect, and educational access.” The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“As such, MMU strives to create an environment that is inclusive of all gender identities and intersectionality,” the Mount Mary University website explains. “At the undergraduate level, all individuals who identify as women (including cisgender and transgender women), intersex individuals who do not identify as male, and nonbinary individuals are eligible for admission to MMU.”

3. Mount Saint Mary’s University

Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles states that “any student who was born female or who identifies as female is eligible for admission to our traditional undergraduate women’s university.” The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

4. St. Catherine University

St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, “admits students of all genders and gender identities to the College for Adults and the Graduate College and admits all students who identify as women to the College for Women.” The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

5. College of Saint Benedict

College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, admits “applicants who were assigned female at birth, as well as those who were assigned male or female at birth but now consistently live and identify as female, transgender, gender fluid or nonbinary.” The college did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

6. Trinity Washington University

Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., reportedly allows men who identify as women to enroll, according to Campus Pride, an LGBTQ organization tracking women’s colleges’ admissions policies. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

7. The College of Saint Mary

The College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, is similarly reported to allow men who identify as women to enroll, according to Campus Pride. The college did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

8. Saint Mary’s College

The Daily Signal reported in November that Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, would allow men who identify as women to enroll at the college in the fall of 2024. That news was first reported by the Notre Dame student newspaper, The Observer.

In December, the college announced it was backtracking on that decision.

President Katie Conboy claimed in an email at the time the initial decision was viewed as a “reflection of our College’s commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community”—but said that it is “increasingly clear” that “the position we took is not shared by all members of our community.”

The college did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Department of Education’s New Title IX Rule Just as Bad as Expected

The Department of Education just released its long-delayed Title IX rule—a rewrite of the 50 year-old civil rights law so vast that it promises to turn Title IX’s guarantee of sex equality in education completely upside down.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is all of a single sentence. It simply bars sex discrimination in any federally funded education program. It does not matter how much federal funding a school or institution of higher education receives. And it does not matter whether such funding from the federal government is direct or indirect. So yes, even the vast majority of private schools must comply with the rule.

But this simple longstanding prohibition on sex discrimination has been manipulated by the Biden administration to both undermine constitutional freedoms—like the freedom of speech—and erase the very women that Title IX was enacted to protect.

The Department of Education has unilaterally expanded the prohibition against discrimination based on “sex” to include a prohibition against discrimination based on: “sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Under the Biden administration’s sweeping new Title IX rule, any K–12 school or institution of higher education that receives any federal funding would have to open girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, housing accommodations, sports teams, and any other sex-separated educational program or offering to biological boys who claim to “identify” as girls. Similarly, boys’ facilities would have to be accessible to biological girls who “identify” as boys.

And the law’s decimation of equality doesn’t stop there. The regulations also eliminate due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct (like the right to call witnesses, introduce evidence, or be represented by counsel during an investigation), and violates the First Amendment to the Constitution by forcing teachers and fellow students to use of a student’s “preferred pronouns.”

The regulations also require K-12 schools to accept a child’s gender identity regardless of biological sex without providing any notice to, much less seeking the approval of, the child’s parents.

And while the Education Department has punted, at least for the moment, on its second Title IX rule—one that applies only to athletics—the Biden administration’s representation that sports are not included in today’s rule is a complete head fake. By expanding the definition of “sex” to include “gender identity” and applying the rule to all “extracurricular activities,” male and female athletic teams will be a thing of the past. Indeed, the word “athletics” appears in the new rule at least 31 times.

Furthermore, the Department of Education’s reading of Title IX lacks any support in the text of the title, its implementing regulations, and the law’s congressional history.

Congress had a chance in 1987 to amend the Title IX “sex” definition to include “gender identity,” when it amended Title IX under the Civil Rights Restoration Act. But it did not.

Executive agencies are empowered only to promulgate “rules” or “regulations” that implement or interpret laws passed by Congress—not to create completely new laws.

Apparently, the Department of Education has forgotten that.

Now the question isn’t if legal challenges will follow, but how fast they’ll come.

The Independent Women’s Law Center has already indicated it is readying a lawsuit against the Department of Education. Others are likely to follow. Let’s hope so.


Australian schools have been ordered to use this teaching method. Will staff comply?

This should be a non-issue. A good teacher will do both things: Get the kids thinking first then tell them what they need to know

Last month, every public school teacher across the state was told they would be getting some training.

On their first day back from the autumn holidays, a professional learning session would cover explicit teaching.

For some veteran educators, it meant revisiting what they had known for decades and covered in teachers’ college. For their younger colleagues, explicit teaching – where students are given clear, step-by-step instructions – represents the industrial-era model of schooling their university lecturers taught them to fear.

Explicit teaching typically involves telling students sitting in rows the steps required to perform a skill or task at the start of the lesson before allowing them to practice it. In contrast, inquiry learning means confronting students with a problem and asking them to try and work out the answers for themselves, similar to how a scientist might. Advocates say inquiry-based learning fosters more in-depth understanding and deep thinking. Explicit teaching adherents believe inquiry learning is ineffective, wastes time and unnecessarily confuses students.

While schools in NSW over the past two decades have adopted inquiry-based learning, conservative voices in the education sector have been increasingly agitating for the use of explicit teaching.

Backed by academics who had studied the science of learning, The Australian Education Research Organisation reviewed more than 328 studies and found explicit instruction was an effective teaching practice across a variety of contexts for different subgroups of students.

In the wake of that evidence, the NSW Department of Education told staff this month that teachers would be supported “to ensure explicit teaching strategies are embedded in every classroom”.

“Explicit teaching is effective when learning is new or complex because it is responsive to how the brain processes, stores and retrieves information,” an email sent earlier this month said.

At a recent meeting in Sydney’s CBD at the headquarters of the conservative think tank, The Centre for Independent Studies, University of Texas education researcher Sarah Powell gave a talk alongside Australian maths teacher Toni Hatten-Roberts. Both are explicit teaching proponents and believe students should rote learn certain facts, such as multiplication tables, in primary school.

Powell said when schools prioritised inquiry-based learning, they missed out on opportunities for children to learn their times tables.

“It ends up a lot of the time related to socioeconomic status – parents who have the time and the knowledge and the wherewithal are practising their [multiplication] facts, they’re doing flashcards, they’re singing the songs, and they’re doing this in the car as they go to soccer practice,” she said.

“There are other parents who don’t have the time. They’re working two shifts at the hospital and they maybe don’t even know that they should be practising [times tables] in the home. It ends up being the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

Like the decades-long reading wars or the maths wars that have gripped US educators, the debate between explicit and inquiry learning has morphed into a kind of culture war in Australia, where academics’ views are pitted against right-wing think tanks.

While those who adhere to the inquiry ideology believe more in-depth learning happens when students work things out for themselves, those who see the value in explicit teaching believe students must have the ability to perform mathematical calculations using well-rehearsed procedures quickly and accurately.

Students should also be able to recall some facts, like times tables, to the point of automaticity. Doing so, they say, provides a strong foundation for higher-level mathematics skills needed for problem-solving, reasoning, and critical thinking, as well as real-world problem-solving.

In response to the department’s explicit teaching focus, university academics across the country rose into action to criticise it for overemphasising explicit instruction. They described it as unproven by research while undermining teachers’ professional authority.

Western Sydney University senior lecturer Dr Lynde Tan acknowledged a variety of skills could be taught and improved through explicit teaching, but research found the method was laden with inherent risks and required precautions.

The teaching style behind the state’s top-performing schools
“These risks include: students’ over-reliance on the teacher as the knowledge provider inhibits self-directed learning, which is a key 21st-century skill in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. The rigidity inherent in explicit teaching prioritises recall of facts and rote learning over critical thinking,” she said.

Associate Professor Jorge Knijnik said the edict undermined teachers’ professional autonomy. He said explicit teaching, which was centred around the teacher who does most of the talking, could complement more contemporary approaches to maximise learning.

NSW Mathematical Association president Katherin Cartwright told the Herald that explicit teaching and inquiry-based learning were not mutually exclusive.

“It is not free-for-all when you see inquiry-based learning. It is a joy to see kids understand how something works and why it works,” she said.

“Death by PowerPoint seems to be returning. Now all these teachers are making PowerPoints for every single lesson. You might get immediate results on tests, but it is not giving them deep knowledge and skills in how to reason.”

But Dr Greg Ashman, a maths teacher, author and long-time proponent of explicit teaching said occasionally explaining a concept or skill to students was not the same as using explicit instruction in every lesson.

“As long as I have been arguing about explicit teaching versus inquiry learning, I have had people respond that their version of inquiry learning includes a lot of explicit instruction. What they mean is that they occasionally explain things to students,” he said.

“However, that’s quite different to a systematic approach where all concepts are explained, and all procedures demonstrated before students are asked to use these concepts and procedures. That’s what I mean by explicit teaching.

“I honestly have no idea how NSW is going to train all its teachers in explicit teaching in a day, especially given the entrenched inquiry ideology.”

The push towards explicit teaching is part of the NSW Department of Education’s plan for public education, which has a focus on reducing gaps in student outcomes, due to structural inequities.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Amber Flohm said explicit teaching was a valuable methodology but cautioned against making it mandatory.

“Explicit teaching must not be mandated. Ultimately, teachers will adapt and adopt when explicit teaching is critical, but there are other times when students demonstrate understanding of a concept, the teacher should be able to use their judgment.”

The Herald asked the department how it planned to monitor whether teachers were actually using explicit teaching in light of opposition from proponents of other methods. A spokesman did not directly answer that question, but said it could survey students and parents to ask them about their experiences of explicit teaching.