Tuesday, April 24, 2018




Arizona Teachers Vote To Strike, Sparking Statewide Walkout

Teachers in Arizona held a strike vote on Thursday that launched Arizona's first-ever statewide walkout and turned down a proposed pay raise — instead demanding increased school funding.

The Arizona Education Association and the grass-roots group the Arizona Educators United announced that teachers will walk off the job April 26.

At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.

Initially, Ducey's plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. But both groups have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.

AZPTA President Beth Simek, in a video statement, said that an analysis from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff, coupled with her group's research, led to their decision to oppose Ducey's plan.

"In light of the funding streams that have come to light regarding the '20 by 2020' plan, we can no longer support the governor's proposal," said Simek. "As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process."

School support staff groups say they feel left out of the governor's plan.

In a tweet, Save Our Schools Arizona said, "It is now clear the existing proposal is not sustainable or comprehensive as a means of increasing educator pay and re-investing in Arizona's classrooms and schools."

Both groups said that they are still ready to work with the governor on a new plan.

Arizona's teachers plan to strike is an unprecedented move and comes with high risk.

According to The Associated Press:

"Teachers themselves could face consequences in this right-to-work state, where unions do not collectively bargain with school districts and representation is not mandatory. The Arizona Education Association has warned its 20,000 members about a 1971 Arizona attorney general opinion saying a statewide strike would be illegal under common law and participants could lose their teaching credentials."

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A Nutty Professor Strikes Again

It happened again this week, another university professor was exposed as an unhinged liberal, filled with uncontrollable rage.

In the aftermath of the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, tributes flowed in from around the world, except not from Randa Jarrar, a Fresno State University English professor. Jarrar tweeted that Mrs. Bush was a “racist” and that she was glad the “the witch is dead.” In response to the outpouring of support for the Bush family, Jarrar tweeted, “F… outta here with your nice words.” She also expressed extreme hatred for the relatives of Barbara Bush, tweeting “Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise.”

While it is sad that a so-called English professor had to resort to profanity to express her point of view, it is even worse that someone entrusted to educate young people harbors such hatred. In response to the controversy, Fresno State University President Joseph Castro said, “Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.” It was announced that an “investigation” into Jarrar’s behavior was underway.

This semester, Jarrar is on sabbatical and is traveling overseas. She crowed that because she was tenured she could not be fired. Her arrogance only enraged people even more and after her real phone number was posted, calls started flooding in to her office. To distract her critics, Jarrar falsely claimed that her work phone number had not been officially activated and posted another one for those who “really wanna reach me.”

Unfortunately, the phone number she posted was for a University of Arizona mental health crisis line. The volunteers operating the phones were inundated with calls from people wanting to complain about Jarrar, not those in need of mental health counseling. Jarrar’s stunt may have prevented those who were suffering from an actual mental health crisis from receiving critical assistance.

The sad episode not only exposes the sickness of Jarrar, but also the clear problems on many college campuses today. Throughout the country, in far too many colleges and universities, administrators have hired nutcases like Jarrar to teach impressionable youngsters. As a result, many parents are paying exorbitant tuition for their children to be indoctrinated, not educated.

Presenting alternative perspectives to liberalism is not allowed on many campuses. Just this week, Professor Josh Blackman tried to present a lecture, ironically on the importance of free speech, but was shouted down by protestors at the City University of New York School of Law.

On a regular basis, conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro, Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos face threats of violence on college campus and outright hostility from administrators who look for every opportunity to cancel their speeches. Often, university officials delight in canceling conservative speeches by claiming that security costs are too high or adequate facilities for the speakers are not available.

In contrast, leftist viewpoints are seemingly always welcome and liberal professors are celebrated and protected no matter how extreme their views. Last year, Lars Maischak, another hateful Fresno State University professor, made news when he tweeted that President Donald Trump “must hang.” The history instructor was not allowed to teach during last Fall’s semester but, incredibly, was not fired.

In the case of Jarrar, Fresno State University should immediately terminate the employment of this detestable individual. She does not possess basic decency or respect for other points of view. Jarrar represents the antithesis to the type of atmosphere that should be cultivated on college campuses where differing opinions are encouraged and welcomed.

Another reason that may cause Fresno State to act involves the negative response from some of their major contributors. A few large donors are raising objections to Jarrar and threatening to withhold their usual financial support. One such contributor, Ed Dunkel, Jr., said, “I have huge concerns. This represents such an embarrassment to the university and the community. It's hard to believe this is an isolated thing that just happened. I have to imagine people previously knew of this person's character and what she's about.”

In fact, donors may be the key in forcing universities to end the stifling environment of liberal indoctrination. If major donors started boycotting, university administrators would get the message quickly and may start to adjust their policies. Otherwise, the abuse of conservatives, the indoctrination of students and the vile hatred spewing from professors will continue unabated.

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Harvard grad students vote to unionize

Harvard University graduate students have voted to join the United Auto Workers, part of a wave of teaching and research assistants on private college campuses embracing the labor movement.

In a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned election held Wednesday and Thursday, the vote was 1,931 to 1,523, creating a bargaining unit of nearly 5,000 students, including several hundred undergraduates in teaching positions, the UAW and Harvard said Friday. The union said Harvard is committed to bargaining on a contract, but the university said it has not yet decided.

The UAW, with its deep blue-collar roots, has become a seemingly unlikely bastion of academic organizing, attracting more grad student members than any other union.

Since 1990, when the union successfully organized graduate students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it has brought graduate students at four other public universities into the fold, including the massive California State University system. The effort accelerated at private universities following a 2016 NLRB ruling that recognized Columbia University students’ right to organize.

At Harvard, those backing the union said they are looking for stability in their wages (the usual 3 percent annual raise was cut in half this school year), more robust health care, and a better process for resolving grievances. But above all, they are seeking bargaining power, said Ben Green, a fourth-year PhD student in applied math.

“The main thing that we really want is to have a greater say, greater democracy, in our working conditions,” he said. “By joining with UAW, we’re also joining with these other universities organizing with them. We’re building power not just for graduate workers at Harvard, but for graduate workers across the country.”

This is the second time Harvard graduate students have held a union vote. The results of the first election, in the fall of 2016, were scrapped following disputes over the voter list, leading to months of litigation.

“Regardless of the outcome, this election underscores the importance of the university’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students,” Harvard said in a statement. “We want every student to thrive here and to benefit from Harvard’s extraordinary academic opportunities.”

The rise in unionization among graduate students reflects the growing role of younger, more white-collar workers in unions. Last year, a third of new union members nationwide were in professional or technical occupations, and more than three-quarters were under age 35, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Teaching and research assistants at many public-sector colleges and universities are covered by state collective bargaining laws, most of which consider grad students to be employees. Their counterparts at private schools, however, are at the mercy of the NLRB, which has gone back and forth on the issue.

The UAW, officially the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, has 45,000 grad students and 30,000 academic workers among its 400,000 members. Although the bulk of its members are auto workers and other manufacturing employees, it also represents legal aid attorneys, Foxwoods casino workers, Museum of Modern Art employees, Village Voice writers, and Sierra Club staffers.

Interest from those at private colleges and universities was sparked in 2013, when NYU grad students voted to join the UAW through a non-NLRB election. It remains the only private university with a collective bargaining agreement. The following year, the New School and Columbia kicked off campaigns to join the UAW, followed by Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University.

“From that point on there was tremendous energy,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A, which covers New England.

A 2016 decision by the NLRB, reinstating the right of grad students at private universities to organize, stoked the fire further.

Last year, grad students at Tufts and Brandeis both voted to join SEIU Local 509, among the more than 20,000 private-sector students involved in union campaigns in the past year and a half, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.

But with President Trump in office, and his three appointees giving the NLRB a 3-2 Republican majority, the pendulum could swing back.

Given all the back and forth on whether grad students at private universities have the right to organize, and the possibility that a more conservative labor board would say they don’t, some students have become reluctant to test their luck with the NLRB. Rather than risking setting a new legal precedent that could crush other union drives, some grad students — including those organizing at BC, Yale, and the University of Chicago — have abandoned their efforts to unionize through the NLRB and are trying to pressure universities to voluntarily recognize and negotiate with them, which can be difficult.

“These workers and our union are not defeated or demoralized by the threat posed by an anti-worker labor board put in place by President Trump and the Republican Congress,” Kushner said. “We are inventing new strategies, switching tactics, and taking bold steps to go outside of the NLRB.”

Some campaigns have reached a fever pitch. Graduate students at Columbia, whose membership with the UAW has been certified by the NLRB, voted to strike next week if the school continues to refuse to bargain.

At Harvard, the administration has sent a series of e-mails to students making a case against unionization, referencing the Columbia strike and noting that school deans and leaders would be “legally prohibited from working directly with individual students” on matters of wages and working conditions.

Along with increased stipends, better health care coverage, and more stability in their work, Harvard organizers want a sexual harassment policy that gives students more protection. Just last month, the prominent Harvard government professor Jorge Dominguez was placed on leave, and then abruptly retired, after allegations of sexual misconduct spanning three decades came to light. Despite the fact that multiple women had complained to university administrators over the years, Dominguez continued to climb the ranks.

A contract recently negotiated by the UAW at the University of Connecticut strengthened protections against sexual harassment, union officials note, including detailing specific offenses — such as sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, and standing too close — and expanding the time period that students have to file a complaint.

Grad students are highly dependent on their advisers, especially in science, where research tends to be funded by grants awarded to specific professors, making those students more vulnerable to abuse because their jobs depend on that person, said Green, the Harvard applied-math student. And as it stands, there is no clear process for addressing complaints, said Niharika Singh, a fourth-year PhD student in public policy.

“With a union we have expanded options for dealing with sexual harassment on campus,” she said. “These are not minor issues. They are pervasive.”

SOURCE 




Monday, April 23, 2018




Charter schools continue to show the need for school choice

By Natalia Castro

Charter schools are transforming American education. For the country’s most at risk students, charter schools are playing a critical role in building educational opportunities for students. As the Department of Education expands charter school use, studies proving their effectiveness have begun pouring into academia, proving that school choice is the best path toward educational advancement.

The biannual National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has released their 2017 National Report Cards assessing achievement across American schools through controlled variables. On a national level, charter schools appear to be even with non-charter schools, but John Valant of the Brookings Institute explains there is a clear reason why. In his March 2016 article, Valant explains charter schools are often clustered in urban areas and use a lottery system to take on a district’s most poor and underserved students. This allows them to show particular growth in America’s most needed areas.

This is further illustrated by the NAEP report, which showed on the district level, charter schools far outperform traditional schools. In America’s most diverse cities, charter schools are leading the way.

In Atlanta, with 19 percent of schools now being charter schools, charter school students produce average math test scores that are 17 points higher than their non-charter school counterparts. Similarly, in Los Angeles, charter school students score on average 28 points higher on math test scores.

In Cleveland, Ohio’s most diverse county, charter school students score on average 18 points higher than their non-charter counterparts on reading exams. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s most diverse county, charter school students outperform non-charter school students on reading test scores by 14 points.

The Center for Public Education fact sheet on charter schools attests this is due to diverse teaching staffs that can teach free from excessive state and federal regulations. With the ability to craft entire curriculums around student success, charter schools are able to experiment different methods of success.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has seen these positive impacts first hand in her home state of Michigan.

Findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan compared students who received admittance into a charter school system through a lottery with those who also applied for the lottery but got denied in order to measure school success. While transitioning students showed the smallest progress, by the time charter school students graduated they displayed higher scores in both math and reading.

But this was by far the greatest impact.

In these Michigan charter schools, teachers are 47 percent more likely to be viewed as mentors than administrators. Principles observe teaching roughly 9 hours per day versus roughly 2 hours in traditional schools, due to administrative tasks. While teachers are paid less in charter schools, they are 20 percent more likely to receive performance bonuses.

Charter schools encourage the entire administrative staff to work for and with students, thus creating a holistically stronger learning environment. Last September, Secretary DeVos decided to allocate significant funds toward charter school development. Across the country, for our most at-risk students, those funds are paying off. But states do not have to wait federal intervention, they are already proving that once broken free from centralized control, particularly in urban areas, charter schools are providing better opportunities for the nation’s most at risk students.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Governmen

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School Dist. Condemns Employee’s Retweet of Mom Whose Son Was Killed by Drunken, Criminal Illegal

An Oregon School District has denounced, and parents are demanding the firing of, a school official who retweeted a post by a woman whose son was killed by a drunken, criminal illegal alien.

The parents’ petition denounces Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips for being “anti-undocumented alien,” The Oregonian reports:

“A petition demanding the Beaverton School District fire ‘anti-undocumented/immigrant and xenophobe Deputy Superintendent Steve Phillips’ gained steam Tuesday, the day after it was reported that Phillips retweeted an anti-undocumented immigrant tweet.”

Phillips’ “xenophobe” offense? He shared a March 25 post by Mary Ann Mendoza, whose Arizona police sergeant son was killed in a head-on crash by a drunk-driving, previously-deported Latino illegal alien. In her Tweet, Mendoza called illegal alien crime “one of the most PREVENTABLE causes of death in America:

“One of the biggest PREVENTABLE cause of death in America? An Avg of 12 Americans are killed daily by Illegal Aliens in our country. That’s over 4300 Americans a YEAR!! They are more dangerous than assault rifles and should be BANNED from our country #Marchtoendillegalkillings”

Superintendent Dan Grotting issued a statement condemning Phillips’ retweet of Mendoza’s pro-border security post as contrary to the school district’s “deeply held” pro-illegal immigrant “values”:

“The views expressed in a recent social media post and retweet by the Deputy Superintendent are not in keeping with the standards and values we hold as the Beaverton School District. The views are contrary to our deeply held values as expressed in our Strategic Plan and Pillars of Learning. We apologize for the hurt this has caused our staff, students and community.”

Mendoza’s son was killed in 2014 by 41-year-old Raul Corona-Silva, a convicted criminal who had lived in the U.S. illegally for more than 20 years, according to a report by The Phoenix New Times.

Following her son’s death, Mendoza helped found Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC). According AVIAC’s website, the organization “was started by several who have suffered the ultimate tragedy of losing a loved one to illegal alien crime.”

The group says its mission is to advocate for victims, as well as for deportation of all of those illegally living in the U.S.:

“As our name implies we want to be advocates for those who have been impacted by crimes committed by illegal aliens. The only successful accomplishment would be to stop illegal alien crime and that can only happen with the deportation of all people that are in the country illegally.”

Mendoza’s statistics appear to be based on data previously released by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

SOURCE





Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' claim that federal intervention hasn't improved outcomes for students is based on the most recent data.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” caused quite a bit of backlash from critics.

As my colleague Jonathan Butcher has written, “60 Minutes” ignored many of the facts about the state of education in America. Response to the interview drew quite a bit of criticism of DeVos and her policy solutions.

Perhaps one of the most pivotal moments came when she suggested that the United States’ heavy federal investment in education has not yielded any results. Stahl hit back, asserting that school performance has been on the rise.

But the latest government data show otherwise. According to the recently released 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s “report card,” we now have more evidence that DeVos was correct.

In fact, recent scores show virtually no improvement over 2015 scores. Eighth-grade reading saw a single point improvement over 2015 scores (10 points is considered equivalent to a grade level), while all other categories saw no improvement.

These lackluster results come on the heels of declines on the 2015 assessment, suggesting the beginning of a trend in the wrong direction for academic outcomes.

Indeed, Stahl’s claim that the state of public schools has gotten better simply doesn’t hold up to the data. It fact, DeVos is entirely correct to point out that public school outcomes have not meaningfully improved, and that our nation’s heavy federal intervention in K-12 education has failed to help the problem.

As Heritage Foundation education fellow Lindsey Burke writes:

Forty-nine out of 50 states were stagnant on the 2017 report card, and achievement gaps persist. Historically, federal education spending has been appropriated to close gaps, yet this spending—more than $2 trillion in inflation-adjusted spending at the federal level alone since 1965—has utterly failed to achieve that goal.

Increasing federal intervention over the past half-century, and the resulting burden of complying with federal programs, rules, and regulations, have created a parasitic relationship with federal education programs and states, and is straining the time and resources of local schools.

Indeed, for decades, Washington has poured billions of dollars into the public education system under the assumption that more federal spending will close achievement caps and improve the academic outcomes of students. With mounting evidence that more federal spending is not the answer, it may be time to consider other policy approaches.

DeVos is correct to suggest school choice as a solution to lackluster school performance. Parents who cannot afford to send their child to a school that is the right fit deserve to have options. As DeVos told Stahl:

Any family that has the economic means and the power to make choices is doing so for their children. Families that don’t have the power, that can’t decide, ‘I’m gonna move from this apartment in downtown whatever to the suburb where I think the school is gonna be better for my child.’ If they don’t have that choice, and they are assigned to that school, they are stuck there. I am fighting for the parents who don’t have those choices. We need all parents to have those choices.

In light of recent evidence from the nation’s report card, “60 Minutes” and other school choice critics should consider that DeVos was correct in her framing of problems facing the nation’s schools and is on the right track with possible solutions—namely, that empowering parents is the right approach to improving American education.

SOURCE



Sunday, April 22, 2018


UC Berkeley Student Newspaper Moans That Students Voted For A Squirrel For The Student Senate


Probably a prank by students sick of Lefist preaching

On Tuesday, The Daily Cal, the student newspaper of the University of California, Berkeley, convulsed in agitation that students on the campus didn’t take their votes in the ASUC election seriously enough, as 538 of them voted for a squirrel.

The ASUC is the officially recognized student association at the university.

The Daily Cal noted that on Monday, Chancellor Carol Christ sent a campus-wide email urging students to fight tuition hikes. The Daily Cal huffed, “Members of the ASUC commit their lives to helping fellow students — but now, that mission is at risk.”

Then the lecture: “It’s a shocking display of privilege to vote for a squirrel over candidates who have actual plans to help students who need it. Instead of electing qualified students who had real, tangible ideas — improving UCPD relations, boosting housing, bolstering sexual violence or mental health awareness — many of you (at least 538 strong) thought it might be a funny joke to have a man dressed up in a squirrel costume with no real platforms represent you at the administrative table.”

The Daily Cal was referring to “furry boi,” a satirical squirrel candidate who was represented by campus sophomore Stephen Boyle. The paper sneered, “Boyle had no campaign promises — and he didn’t even show up to the tabulations ceremony. Still, you voted for him.”

The paper added, “But this ASUC election season showed that students just vote for the latest meme trend. It’s not just that: So many students don’t vote at all. So many students vote for their one friend senate candidate and nothing else. And this year, so many students even voted in response to a fraternity-wide email that seemed to borrow liberally from the fear-mongering rhetoric that fuels populist political campaigns.”

Then, a warning: “It’s up to the new ASUC executives and senators to make sure that the student body takes the ASUC more seriously for the next election. With one of those senators being a squirrel, our confidence is wavering.”

So with all the pontificating The Daily Cal has published about students acting responsibly, it ‘s fun to remember this from 2017, when they ran an op-ed that was actually a series of op-eds talking about why violence was useful in shutting down political debate.

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The Chinese Communist Party Is Setting Up Cells at Universities Across America

It’s a strategy to tighten ideological control. And it’s happening around the world.

In July 2017, a group of nine Chinese students and faculty from Huazhong University of Science and Technology participating in a summer program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) formed a Chinese Communist Party branch on the third floor of Hopkins Hall, a campus dormitory.

The group held meetings to discuss party ideology, taking a group photo in front of a red flag emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, according to a July 2017 article and photos posted to the Huazhong University website. The students’ home institution had sent four teachers on the trip, directing them to set up the party cell to strengthen “ideological guidance” while the students were in the United States.

The Illinois university partners with several Chinese universities in exchange programs; at least two of those Chinese universities have directed participants to form party cells on the Urbana-Champaign campus, using those cells for ideological monitoring and control, according to articles posted to university websites and interviews with student participants.

One Chinese exchange student who studied at UIUC in the fall of 2017 says that before embarking on the study tour in Illinois, the students had to attend a lecture on the dangers of the Falun Gong, a strongly anti-party spiritual group banned in mainland China but active in the United States.

After the students’ arrival in Illinois, their home university asked the group to set up a temporary party branch and requested that the students hold a viewing party to watch the 19th party plenum in October, the major party planning conference held every five years. (The plenum was the subject of a major global propaganda push, with Chinese embassies and consulates reaching out to Chinese community organizations around the world, asking them to organize events for their members.)

The exchange students at UIUC were also asked to report on any potentially subversive opinions their classmates may have evinced while abroad, according to the student.

“After we went back to China, we had one-on-one meetings with our teachers. We talked about ourselves and others performance abroad,” the student says. “We had to talk about whether other students had some anti-party thought.”

Illinois is not alone. Party cells have appeared in California, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The cells appear to be part of a strategy, now expanded under Chinese President Xi Jinping, to extend direct party control globally and to insulate students and scholars abroad from the influence of “harmful ideology,” sometimes by asking members to report on each other’s behaviors and beliefs.

Members of a Chinese Communist Party cell at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hold a meeting on July 20, 2017. (Fair Use/Huazhong University of Science and Technology)

These overseas cells fit in with the party’s broader goals, says Samantha Hoffman, a visiting fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. “You still know that if you actively protest against [the party], or if you make some kinds of comments, you know that that could harm you later on,” she says. “Information gets around. It’s a way of controlling what you are willing to do.”

Since assuming office in late 2012, Xi has implemented a sweeping campaign to consolidate more power in the party’s hands. A major reorganization announced in late March transferred control of key government bureaus to party organs, changes that appear to undo some elements of the party-state divide set up by party leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

Xi has also cracked down on universities, calling for greater ideological control on campuses. In early 2016, the Ministry of Education released a directive calling for more “patriotic education” for students — including Chinese students studying abroad. And in December 2017, Xi urged overseas Chinese students to adopt the attitude of “studying abroad to serve the country.”

The overseas party branches are typically established by a group of Chinese exchange students or visiting scholars at the direction of their home institution’s party committee, according to articles and reports viewed by Foreign Policy. Each cohort forms its own cell, which is typically then disbanded when the group returns to China.

The party isn’t shy about the purpose of these new branches. “The rising number of overseas party branches is a new phenomenon, showing the growing influence of the [Chinese Communist Party] and China,” according to a November 2017 report in the party-aligned Global Times newspaper. “Overseas party cells are also responsible for promoting party and government policies.”

The UIUC public affairs office declined to comment on whether it was aware that party cells were being established on campus.

“We take the safety and security of all of our students seriously and work extremely hard to ensure that they have the opportunity to freely pursue the full educational experience we promised them when they chose to come to Illinois,” the university said in a statement to FP.

China’s effort to establish party branches at universities abroad has already hit some road bumps. In November 2017, a group of visiting Chinese scholars at the University of California, Davis attracted international media attention after it was revealed that they had founded a party branch on the Davis campus.

The scholars disbanded the branch shortly after its creation, citing unspecified concerns over compliance with “local laws.”

Yet other efforts appear to have gone largely unnoticed.

In August 2017, three teachers and five visiting scholars from Zhejiang University of Technology School of Pharmacy formed a party cell at the University of California, San Diego, holding meetings in a campus dormitory in which they selected their party secretary and discussed Xi’s recent speeches.

In July 2017, a group of visiting teachers from Shanghai Business School set up a party branch at West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, where they held joint events with the Confucius Institute there, according to an article posted to the Shanghai Business School website. Other branches have been set up at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, Ohio State University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of North Dakota’s aviation department, according to Chinese-language articles published on WeChat.

Grouping students into party cells while abroad sounds like a “downward extension” of a policy that has long been applied to high-ranking Chinese officials who travel overseas, says Andrew Chubb, a fellow at the Princeton-Harvard China and the World program. “This is important information that should be carefully considered by universities hosting exchanges. Host institutions need to make sure they are familiar with the kinds of situations their exchange students may be in,” he says.

The party cells popping up on campuses across the United States aren’t the Communist Party’s only expansion abroad. The U.S.-based party branches are part of a growing network of cells located on campuses in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, South Korea, Thailand, and elsewhere.

One hub for the establishment of party cells on campuses around the world is Shanghai International Studies University, which has partnerships with institutions in 56 different countries and regions, including in the United States. According to the November 2017 Global Times report, the university’s School of European and Latin American Studies started setting up party branches at its study abroad locations in 2009; it now operates party cells in a number of countries, including Spain, Portugal, Chile, Greece, Mexico, Italy, and the Netherlands.

The cells aren’t always used for ideological purposes. In March 2011, as the Arab Spring protests devolved into a civil war in Libya, Beijing sent a warship to the region to evacuate all 35,000 Chinese nationals there. A small group of Chinese students on Crete, members of a party cell at the University of Athens, participated in the evacuation effort, according to an article in the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s main newspaper.

Helping to evacuate compatriots from a war zone is the type of humanitarian work many university groups would want to promote, but the students’ mobilization demonstrates Beijing’s growing capacity to establish functional party cells in Western countries that can be activated if needed.

“The party branches are the channel through which political power is exercised. It does not mean good or bad — power is not that,” says Peter Mattis, a China analyst at the Jamestown Foundation. “The way and purpose for which it is used is what matters.”

At least one Chinese university connected to the military has established party branches abroad as well. In 2012, the National University of Defense Technology, an institution affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), set up eight overseas party cells, including in the United Kingdom, according to a report in the official PLA Daily.

The branches were required to collect written ideological reports from members each quarter and submit them to their political department. The goal, according to the PLA Daily, was to strengthen the “management” of overseas students and to “resolutely resist the corrosion caused by harmful ideology.”

For Chinese students abroad, there’s a clear message, according to Hoffman of the Mercator Institute.

“You know that the party’s there,” she says. “It’s integrated directly into your study abroad experience.”

SOURCE






Western civilisation at risk from its ignorant young

Left-dominated schools have erased most of our history

JANET ALBRECHTSEN writes from Australia

A friend of mine came to Australia from Czechoslovakia as a 14-year-old in 1970. Like others who have lived through another form of government, he views democracy differently from those of us lucky enough to know no other system. He treasures it more, understanding its intrinsic connection to freedom. And he sees more clearly the warning signs of a system that is being undermined from within.

My friend left his home country two years after the Prague Spring, that brief period in 1968 when reformists stood up to the communist yoke of the Soviet Union. Reform was extinguished when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August that year. It wasn’t until 1989, and the Velvet Revolution, that the central European country was freed from communist rule.

My friend’s escape from communism turned on a dime. His mother sought authority to leave their closed country to visit her “dying” mother in Austria. It was tricky. It took years, so the “dying” mother was on her deathbed until the authorisation came through. They packed up their tiny car and headed for the Austrian border. A checkpoint officer asked the boy’s mother for her citizenship papers, then waved them on. Then the officer shouted: “Stop!” The family froze, thinking they had been caught trying to escape. The boy’s stepfather reversed the car back to the officer, who handed back the citizenship papers. “You’ll need these,” he said. In that moment, he was the white knight silently helping them escape.

After a few months in a refugee centre in Vienna, where the boy heard ABBA singing Fernando on the radio and drank Coca-Cola for the first time, the family left for Australia. At his local high school in Sydney’s Hunters Hill, he was the cool kid with a ghetto blaster. Except he wasn’t listening to music. He recorded his lessons so that, at home, he could slowly decipher the words in this strange new language. He recalls a terrific indigenous teacher who spent afternoons teaching him English.

Now in his early 60s, my Czech friend, a doctor and brilliant businessman who cares about boosting educational outcomes, is worried about the future of our democracy. He doesn’t pine for the patriotic indoctrination of Czech communists or their repression. But he tells me that he is worried by a different kind of indoctrination in the West.

Today, hurt feelings and being offended are enough to limit fundamental freedoms. And a swath of laws and bureaucracies are committed to those same repressive ends. It doesn’t matter that the intentions behind these laws were once good, it is enough that the outcomes are now rotten.

Consider the poor barber at the Hunters Hill Barber Shop just down the road from my friend’s old school. Late last year Sam Rahim turned away a woman who wanted him to cut her daughter’s hair. Sam the barber told her he was qualified only to cut boys’ hair, politely directing her to a salon up the road. She took to social media and ran to the Australian Human Rights Commission claiming he breached anti-discrimination laws. He offered an apology. And now he has been served with court papers for a claim that he breached the Sex Discrimination Act.

Sam and his wife, Ronda, have set up a GoFundMe page because, as he told the media, “The legal costs are more than we have ever anticipated.”

If his actions contravene the law, then the law stinks. But even being drawn into the morass is a travesty of common sense. Yet this is where we are today: common sense is on the decline.

That said, the Rahims have support from people who understand the end point of these doctrinaire laws. As Matthew Lesh, a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, wrote on the Rahims’ fundraising page: “Your treatment is absolutely reprehensible. An individual should not be forced to do a service that they do not provide, nor should they have to defend themselves in court. Good luck.”

Good luck to rest of us, too. We live in an age of hyper-reactions by givers and takers of offence. At Starbucks in the US a couple of employees in an organisation of 175,000 workers make a mistake, and now 8000 stores will be closed while all employees are sent to racial-bias training. A basic sense of proportion has been lost.

Today, words are being struck off as unacceptable by workplace language police. Schools and librarians are more fixated on the word “nigger” than the moral teaching in a text such as To Kill a Mockingbird, to the point that the whole book has been banished.

Our basic biology is under attack by an obsession with transgender identity when only a small fraction of people swing that way. Jobs are lost when a dissident ­employee says something even slightly nonconformist about a workplace diversity policy.

And worst of all, we’re not having a debates over ideas. We’re having a contest over whether there should be a contest of ideas. Increasingly, words and ideas are being censored for psychological reasons, where they are treated as a form of emotional violence, and those who utter such words are seen as not just wrong but evil.

As writer Lionel Shriver wrote in Prospect magazine earlier this year, “If words that cause umbrage are acts of violence, the state has every right to impound your dictionary.” We’re not there yet, but the empowering message that words will never hurt me is lost to a past era. And the whiff of a new kind of repression is unmistake­able to those who recognise the smell.

It’s worth asking whether the ideas of the Enlightenment are at risk of being forgotten. Is Western civilisation headed down a path of un-Enlightenment? Will it be too late before more of us understand what is being sacrificed on the altars of politically correct fashion and self-loathing?

My Czech friend raised some of these questions during a recent visit to Australia by Robert Tombs. The historian, who has taught history at the University of Cambridge for almost a half-century, spoke to sold-out audiences about Western civilisation. Maybe there is hope on the horizon. Jordan Peterson is a cultural rock star for retelling some common sense. And Tombs’s tremendous book from 2014, The English and Their History, was named book of the year by five publications: The Economist, The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, The Times and The Spectator. Even The Guardian lauded it as “a work of supreme intelligence”.

Speaking to audiences in Sydney and Melbourne at events organised by the IPA (of which I am a director), Tombs pointed out that a generation ago if he had told colleagues he was off to Australia to defend Western civilisation, they would have yawned and wondered why he needed to do the bleeding obvious. Today it’s provocative.

Tombs defies the self-loathing critics because he is no rah-rah cheerleader for Western civilisation. “The West,” he says, “ravaged continents, burnt heretics, invented the gas chamber and the atom bomb, and almost destroyed itself in two world wars.”

But Western civilisation, when seen in its full sweep, is also how we learned to end slavery, to defeat totalitarianism, to be ashamed of war and genocide and persecution. It is a story of innovation, one of unsettling change and impassioned debate. It is, he says, “an action-packed adventure story, not a philosophical treatise”. And that is how it should be taught at school and university.

Tombs recalls speaking to a class of senior secondary students in Britain. He asked the class whether they could see any parallels between Hitler and Mussolini. The teacher interrupted: “We don’t do Mussolini.”

Did the class understand the relationship between Hitler and Stalin then? “We don’t do Stalin, either,” said the teacher.

Tombs suggested they consider the connection between Hitler’s rise and World War I. You guessed it. “We don’t do that anything before the second world war,” said the teacher. Tombs reminded us we short-change students by teaching history as a series of ad hoc skirmishes.

Learning from history, understanding the full sweep of Western civilisation, depends on understanding perspective, throwing up parallels between events.

As we sit on the cusp of an era of un-Enlightenment, we should remember that this story of innovation, of ideas about equality, the rule of law, universal human rights, property rights and freedom, is not one preordained towards success.

Tombs suggests we view the story of Western civilisation as being ruled by something akin to the laws of cricket rather than, say, the laws of physics. “We don’t discover them, we make them up and agree to them.”

That was a few weeks before some Aussie cricketers in South Africa cheated, but you get his drift about ideas emanating from us and needing our commitment.

Tombs mentioned a young PhD student supervised by one of his colleagues at Cambridge. The young woman was a Mormon, she was home-schooled in Salt Lake City and studied at Brigham Young University, a Mormon university. She told her Cambridge supervisor that she felt freer at that Mormon University to express views outside the orthodoxy of the Mormon community — at least they believed in redemption. When she expressed ideas outside the confines of orthodox thought at Cambridge, she was seen as beyond the pale.

When freedom of expression is lost, we lose the ability to continue that story of innovation. Here are a few clues that suggest the story of Western civilisation is not being taught. An annual Lowy Institute poll tells us that only 52 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 29 believe democracy is the preferable form of government.

Now brace yourself further. Polls in the US suggest that 50 per cent of American millennials say they wished they lived in a socialist country rather than a capitalist one. In Britain, 24 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds see big business as more dangerous to the world than communism.

And this: almost one-fifth of Americans aged between 21 and 29 see Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as a hero (23 per cent). Even more consider Vladimir Lenin a hero (26 per cent), while Kim Jong-un is a hero for 23 per cent of them.

A third of millennials think ­George W. Bush killed more people than Stalin did.

And here’s the rub: 71 per cent of millennials can’t define communism and four-fifths don’t know how many people died under communist rule.

If the younger generation haven’t lived it or learned about the horrible consequences of repressing freedom, how can they value the freedom they have?

My Czech friend knows better than most that our challenge is to make sure they do learn, so they don’t live it. The alternative is us sliding further into an age of un-Enlightenment.

SOURCE


Friday, April 20, 2018



Mystery Cambridge University student wins ‘best bum 2017’ and praises her ‘a**e and thighs’

A STUDENT known only as Vita has taken out “best bum of 2017”. She puts her success down to her “considerable a**e and thighs”.



THIS is the voluptuous winner of Cambridge University’s ‘best bum’ 2017 award — who admits she has a “considerable a**e and thighs”.

The undergraduate — named only as ‘Vita’ — believes her win over far slimmer entrants is a victory for “body acceptance”.

Her saucy winning shot, leaning naked against an oak tree, won 24.32 per cent of the vote among readers of The Tab student newspaper.

“I don’t have the most athletic figure and I have quite a considerable arse and thighs,” she said.

“It says a lot about how far the world has come in body acceptance.

“I have worked hard to accept my body. I wanted to prove that to myself by doing something I wouldn’t usually do.

“I didn’t even expect the photo would be in the top 10 — let alone be the winner.

“I’ve never been so proud of something like that. I’m probably more proud of that than getting into Cambridge.”

Vita only decided to enter the competition when her friend — a professional photographer — asked her the night before.

She said: “During the shoot, it was so cold and my feet were wet. You can’t notice in the photo but the photos were taken near a football pitch during a football match.

“I don’t think they saw us — we would have noticed if they had noticed us.

“It was also next to the train line and every time a train was about to go by, the photographer threw my coat at me to give me some modesty!”

She took victory by a one per cent margin ahead of second place ‘Virginia’, who polled 23.08 per cent with a similar pose in a tree.

Now Vita’s curvaceous derrière has become a star on campus with friends commending her for her boldness.

She said: “Everyone who has seen my photos has been so positive. I have seen comments online saying that I’m fat but I’m going to ignore the trolls.

“I know there are comments saying that Cambridge students are ‘snowflakes’ and not working but I think it’s sad and narrow-minded to call us that!

“It’s an old-fashioned point of view — I’m going to focus on the positives.

“I can understand why they would concerned but at the same time everyone was young once and quite a few people see their a**e!”

Vita added: “When I told my mum, I was really worried because she’s quite conservative but she thought it was hilarious!

“She even showed the photo to my old teachers and they thought it was hilarious too.”

SOURCE






Scotland: Pupils urge their school chaplain to quit in row over gay marriage

Hundreds of names have been added to a petition by pupils at Carnoustie High School, Angus, against the Rev Mike Goss. The petition demands that the school break its ties with Mr Goss, accusing him of being against gay marriage and claiming that he has stated his dislike for the LGBTQ+ community.

Mr Goss, the minister of Barry Parish Church, described the petition as lies and said that the allegations were potentially actionable.

He has offered to meet the LGBTQ+ community at Carnoustie High to discuss their concerns.

SOURCE






South Australia's trial of England's year one phonics check shows why we need it

The proposal to introduce a phonics check - employed in schools in England towards the end of year one - into Australian schools has created considerable controversy. It has been said it would prove stressful to young children and is unnecessary, because phonics is already taught adequately in most Australian schools as part of the literacy curriculum.
Read more: Explainer: what is phonics and why is it important?

The South Australian government commissioned a trial of the utility of the phonics check last year. The results allay many of the reservations about the check and confirm the need for its introduction.

The phonics check consists of 40 single words children read aloud to a teacher. There are 20 real words and 20 "pseudo words" - all of which can be read using phonic decoding. The pseudo words are included because they can't be read from sight memory and are a purer test of phonics ability.

The headline data on student performance shows the majority of children in Reception (the first "foundation year" of school) and year one found the test items difficult. The average number of correctly read items was 11 out of 40 for Reception students and 22 out of 40 for year one.

Given the phonics check is designed for students in year one, it was expected Reception students would score low. This confirms the wisdom of the SA Department of Education and Child Development's decision to expand the trial from the original design (Reception only) to include year one. But the year one performance was also low relative to their counterparts in England and the expectations of their teachers.

In England, student performance is reported against a "threshold score" of 32 out of 40. For the past two years, 81% of year one students in the UK achieved this score. Only 15% of children in the SA trial achieved at this level.

According to the trial evaluation report, teachers and leaders observed:

students did more poorly than expected, across the board. Numerous respondents reported feeling surprised and disappointed by the results based on students' known reading abilities and results on the Running Record.

This is a clear indication existing assessments in these SA schools were not providing an accurate measure of students' decoding abilities.

The distribution of scores in SA was very different to the distribution of scores in England. In SA, student scores were distributed on a bell curve. English student scores are skewed to the right of the distribution. This means most children in SA scored around the middle, whereas most children in England score at the higher end. In many English schools, 100% achieve the threshold score.

Four ways South Australia's phonics check was different
The phonics check trial in SA employed exactly the same word items used in England in 2016. But there were methodological differences in how the checks were conducted in SA and in England, which may cloud the comparability of the results obtained.

The sample. In SA, the group of 4,406 students in 56 schools who participated in the trial was from a self-selected sample of schools who volunteered. In England, all schools are required to administer the check annually. So, the SA sample may not be truly representative of the state as a whole, let alone of students Australia-wide.

The font. Teachers raised the issue that the font used in the check was different from the standard font used in SA schools. But by the end of year one, children will have encountered many different fonts in books and elsewhere. It's unlikely this will have been a major factor influencing performance on the check.

Timing. In England, the check is given to students about a month before the end of year one (after nearly two years of initial instruction). But in the SA trial, the check was given earlier, in term three. The SA students had about a term less to learn letter sound correspondences, and this needs to be kept in mind.

The "stopping rule". More significant was the decision to advise teachers to discontinue testing once a child had made three consecutive errors. This stopping rule has the potential to deflate scores on the check, because students who had been stopped might have gone on to answer few more questions correctly. The evaluation report also found the stopping rule was not consistently applied. It's unlikely many children failing three items in succession would be able to achieve the threshold score of 32 items out of 40.

A stop rule is not part of the standard conditions used in England, although teachers do stop children if they are struggling. As many as 41% have been found to do this.

Students liked it

Teachers and leaders in the trial reported all students responded positively, including struggling readers, and they were engaged and interested. There were no reports of anxiety or stress for students. Teachers "universally" commented that students "loved the one-to-one time with the teacher".

Teachers and school leaders were overwhelmingly positive
The feedback from teachers and school leaders was encouraging and positive about all aspects of the administration of the check and the information it provided, including:

the sufficiency of training and support materials

the ease of administration

the length and duration of the check for young students

the engagement and effort of the students, and

the usefulness of the data it yielded on student reading abilities, for the purposes of guiding instruction and for identifying and supporting students who "may otherwise be slipping under the radar".

The phonics check was reported to be a "good eye-opener for teachers", and widely seen as complementing rather than duplicating existing assessments.

What should happen next?

In spite of the differences in methodology compared with the phonics check in England, it's unlikely their combined effect could account for such a difference in performance between the two. SA's results suggest there is little room for complacency about the state of phonics teaching in SA.

Almost all teachers in the trial said they taught phonics using either synthetic or analytic methods, reflecting the claim that Australian teachers already teach phonics. But there was no information to verify that phonics teaching is systematic or explicit, and these results clearly suggest they don't teach it well enough.

The SA trial of the year one phonics check has been an important initiative. The evaluation report will be a valuable guide to changes that need to be made for a state-wide implementation.

Even more significantly, the trial has provided strong support for implementation of the year one phonics check across Australia. Or, at the very least, for other states and territories to conduct similar trials. It supports the findings of the expert panel for the Australian government, and has validated the arguments of advocates that the phonics check gives teachers vital information about decoding skills not gained from other systemic assessments, and is neither burdensome for teachers nor stressful for students.

SOURCE





Thursday, April 19, 2018



Purdue University Just Froze Tuition for the 7th Straight Year. Mitch Daniels Explains How

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana and director of President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, spoke exclusively to The Daily Signal’s Rob Bluey at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education on Thursday. Daniels explained how Purdue has been able to freeze its tuition for seven consecutive years and why free speech is flourishing on its campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. A transcript of his Daily Signal interview is below.

Bluey: We’re here at the Reagan Institute Summit on Education. What’s your message to the attendees at this event?

Mitch Daniels: I believe that higher education as we’ve known it is in some jeopardy. A lot of institutions, at least, are going to have difficulty persuading sufficient numbers of students and their families in the future that they’re providing value commensurate with the cost that they’re charging.

I also suggested that there are big opportunities that we need as a society to have addressed. Large numbers of people who could better themselves in life if they were to complete that degree that they started and didn’t finish, or maybe do one from scratch. We’re going to need new ways and means of reaching them, since many of them are well beyond the stage in life where they can engage in old-fashioned residential education.

Transform “Tax Day” into “Freedom Day.” Support the campaign to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent >>

Bluey: From a policy perspective, what are some reforms that you would like to see for higher education?

Daniels: Government’s not the answer to every question. It’s not the hammer for every nail.

There are just as many ways in which government involvement has been a contributor to this problem than it is its solution. Clearly, it could help if student financial aid programs were much less complex than they are today. If it would simply deregulate many of the requirements that have been piled on to schools. It’s part of the cost problem.

“Government’s not the answer to every question. It’s not the hammer for every nail.” —@purduemitch

We know that the explosion in federal grants and loans has contributed to driving up the costs. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have done it in the first place, only that it needs re-examination as to whether we’re really getting enough value out of it on net.

But this is a problem, mainly, for system to solve itself, or someone else will. Or the innovators, or so-called disruptors, will solve it for us.

Bluey: Just today, you announced that you were freezing tuition at Purdue University. This is the seventh straight year. That seems remarkable that an institution of your size has been able to do that. How have you been able to do that?

Daniels: It’s simpler than some people imagine, really. It was simply establishing this as our priority and asking everybody in the community, Purdue family, to contribute to it.

We have a wonderfully diverse community at Purdue. Faculty, students, staff. We disagree about all sorts of things, but one thing that almost everybody agrees with is we want our university to be accessible to students, if they’re up to our standards, from whatever socio-economic background. And so, there’s been a lot of support for doing it.

“We disagree about all sorts of things, but one thing that almost everybody agrees with is we want our university to be accessible to students.” —@purduemitch

We’ve grown the student body, and that was part of it. We’ve affected some efficiencies and cost savings, but we can do … believe me, we’ve not done nearly what I think should.

By solving the equation for zero, as opposed to first deciding how much to spend and then dialing up the tuition to match, which was the old formula still practiced by some, we have not found it that difficult. It has turned into a selling point for our school.

We started out doing it because we thought it was right to do. As we’ve been able to extend it and extend it, it has turned out it was a reasonably prudent thing to do. And it’s now the next academic quality, the second most often mentioned reason that a student applies to or accepts admission to Purdue.

Bluey: What’s your message to other college and university presidents?

Daniels: I don’t preach. Thank goodness we have a very diverse system. All sorts of variety across it. Small, large, public, private. The whole spectrum.

I always decline the invitation to suggest that anything that we’ve done at Purdue University is necessarily for others. Except just to say that in support of the system, really, with affection for the network that we have had.

I mean, it has been the finest in the world. We want it to stay that way. But to do so, it’s going to have avoid denial, face up to the fact that we have not provided enough value, enough quality for the dollar we’ve charged, and be quick and nimble to make adjustments before disruptors of our sector do what they did to newspapers and big-box bookstores.

Bluey: Free speech on college campus has been a big issue, along with political correctness more broadly. What’s your experience been at Purdue? Is it as bad as it’s perceived to be?

Daniels: Not at our university, I’m happy to say. And I think it possibly, as a problem, has somewhat crested, and I hope it’s receding somewhat. The authoritarianism, the intolerance, the stifling of alternative viewpoints, the insistence on so-called diversity in every respect except diversity of viewpoint.

“You can’t serve the ultimate purpose of higher education if you don’t have a genuine free speech environment.” —@purduemitch

But as Purdue University, we have the gold star rating for free speech, and have for years. We were the first school to embrace what we like to call the Chicago principles. We thought they were so good when the University of Chicago enunciated them, our trustees simply adopted them.

I’m very happy to tell you that people who disagree strongly about other things, about many of these issues, on our campus at least, have really supported strongly the idea that you can’t have freedom of inquiry. You can’t serve the ultimate purpose of higher education if you don’t have a genuine free speech environment.

Our freshman students, in a couple of months, our incoming students, along with the rest of the orientation, will go to a program we created, which we have shared with other schools, which explains these principles and role plays them so that from the first class that they take at Purdue, students understand that here, we may sanction conduct, but never speech. And the answer to erroneous or offensive or intolerant speech is better speech.

SOURCE






3 Student Journalists Sue University for Covering Up Teacher’s Role in Anti-Trump Campus Rally

Three student journalists have filed a lawsuit against their Illinois university and an instructor, alleging that the teacher grabbed and broke a smartphone as they tried to report on an anti-Trump rally.  

The three students’ federal suit against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and instructor Tariq Khan says that the university got a restraining order preventing them from reporting on Khan’s involvement in the November protest against President Donald Trump.

Khan, 39, was charged with destruction of property after taking and smashing a student’s smartphone on the pavement, an action caught on video.

The suit contends that the instructor and university officials violated the students’ constitutional rights to free press, free speech, and due process, according to the law firm representing the students, Mauck & Baker, LLC.

“The First Amendment should not be a partisan issue or something only conservatives are willing to defend,” the law firm said in a formal statement.

The suit claims that the school punished freshmen Joel Valdez and Blair Nelson and senior Andrew Minik for reporting on the anti-Trump rally, the organizers of which included the Black Rose Anarchist Federation.

“During the rally, Black Rose spokesman and university instructor, Tariq Khan, assaulted Joel Valdez and also went after student Blair Nelson who was video-recording the event,” the law firm said. “Co-plaintiff Andrew Minik, who was not at the event, reported on the incident for Campus Reform, a college news organization.”

The university’s restraining order on Valdez and Nelson was “to prevent them from reporting on Tariq Khan,” their lawyers said in a press release.

A video of the incident appears to show Khan, a doctoral candidate and graduate instructor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, yelling at students, physically assaulting one, and taking and throwing the phone to the pavement.

“Our attorneys are reviewing this,” a university spokesman said Friday, declining further comment to The Daily Signal on the lawsuit.

Khan is seen in the video saying “f— Donald Trump” and telling Valdez and other members of Turning Point USA, a conservative student organization present during the demonstration, that he will “go tear down one of your flyers right now.”

The video shows Valdez appearing to anger Khan by suggesting the instructor had nothing better to do than protest Trump and asking, “Don’t you have kids to look after?”

Khan then accuses students of threatening his children at least 25 times in a span of about three minutes. He is seen raising his hand and apparently attempting to hit Nelson, who is recording him with a phone.

The video shows Khan shouting at students when they ask him how they have made a threat, accusing them of threatening his children.

Other times he chooses not to reply, as shown in this six-minute video, which contains language many viewers may find offensive:

The university instructor is seen saying to students: “You’d better check yourself, OK? Check yourself. I’ll f— you up.”

The broken phone reportedly had an estimated value of $700.

University police charged Khan with criminal destruction of property. His case is pending.

According to the lawsuit, the university secured a restraining order on the three students at the request of Khan after Minik, a senior, reported on the incident for Campus Reform.

“I was told that if I wanted the ‘situation to improve,’ that I should stop writing about Khan,” Minik told lawyers, according to the law firm.

The Daily Signal was not able to reach Khan, whose contact information was removed from the university’s website after the incident, and Campus Reform has said he has not responded to its requests for comment.

In February, the university’s Campus Faculty Association issued a statement supporting Khan, describing him as an Air Force veteran who is “an engaged, thoughtful, and committed scholar and a wonderful and effective teacher.”

The lawsuit alleges that Khan is “affiliated with a number of extreme left-wing groups including the Black Rose Anarchist Federation, an ‘Antifa’ group advocating revolution and expressly justifying political violence.”

Khan also is backed by Campus Antifascist Network, a far-left group that organizes protests against conservatives on campus, The Daily Signal has learned.

Campus Antifascist Network released a statement in support of Khan in January that accused Turning Point USA of instigating his actions.

The statement sought to link Turning Point USA to Campus Reform, saying the news organization is its “associated media arm.”

In fact, TurningPoint.News, not Campus Reform, is the group’s media arm.

SOURCE





Australia hosting unprecedented numbers of international students

Being in a similar time zone to China helps.  No jet lag

Australia is hosting unprecedented numbers of international students, who now make up more than a quarter of enrolments at some universities.

Department of Education figures show that in February, Australian universities, private colleges, English language courses, and schools registered a combined 542,054 enrolments.

That compares with 305,534 total enrolments five years ago.

Students from China make up the largest proportion of students at 31 per cent, followed by India, Nepal, Malaysia and Vietnam.

But universities have been seeking to diversify their international student markets, and the latest figures show there have been big rises in the numbers of students from Brazil and Colombia.

Western Australia has even opened up a market for students from Bhutan, with almost 1,000 students from that country enrolled in courses at WA institutions this year.

Grattan Institute higher education program director, Andrew Norton, said some universities were making huge profits out of the international student market.

"Because the Government has effectively capped the number of domestic students, international students are becoming an increasing percentage of all students," Mr Norton said.

"A lot of that revenue to universities is being invested in buildings and in research activities."

International students are concentrated in the larger Group of Eight universities and technology universities.

"That means there are huge numbers of international students living in the inner cities of Australia's big capitals," Mr Norton said.

"That is transforming the rental market, it's transforming the nature of the restaurants in the area, it's changing what the streets look like. So this is having a big effect on certain parts of Australia well beyond the university gates."

Chinese student Eva Li, 22, is studying finance at the University of Sydney. She said she chose the university because of its high international ranking. "There are lots of Chinese students here, education is very high level," Ms Li said. "It's not better than the good universities in America or England, but it's also quite A grade.

"The teachers are very good. It's a different type of education in Australia than in China. We have more chance to communicate with the teacher than in China. There are a lot of group works and it is not quite like this in China.

"It's a very good experience for me. Maybe I will be back to China for my job, but I will still have a good memory (of) here."

The value of the international student market has increased 22 per cent since 2016 and is now worth $32.2 billion a year.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government was committed to maintaining a stable regime of visa entry rules to provide certainty for international students.

"We'll continue to work to promote the value of our education system to the rest of the world," Mr Birmingham said.

Universities Australia's chief executive Belinda Robinson said the growth in the international student market reflected the quality that was on offer.

"We have almost doubled enrolments over the past decade and built international education into Australia's third-largest export sector," Ms Robinson said.

"This supports Australian communities, jobs, regional economies and our relationships in the world.

"These half a million international students will become tomorrow's global leaders, returning home as informal ambassadors for Australia and extending our nation's worldwide networks in business, diplomacy and politics."

SOURCE

Wednesday, April 18, 2018




The costs, opportunities, and limitations of the expansion of 529 education savings accounts

The Brookings Institution Doesn't like the tax losses involved so downplays the benefits

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act substantively changed 529 college savings plans. In an effort to promote school choice, the Act expanded the list of eligible 529 expenses to include K-12 private school tuition. This federal change in the definition of qualified expenses will impact many states, particularly those that offer 529 tax deductions and credits.

In this paper, we examine the potential impact of the 529 expansion on the distribution of benefits across families, on the promotion of private school choice, and on possible fiscal implications for individual states. Our overall assessment of the likely impact in these three areas is that the 529 expansion to private K-12 schools will primarily benefit affluent families, produce limited incentives for promoting private school choice, and come at a nontrivial cost to states.

We discuss some ways that states might respond to promote progressive tax policy and expand private school choice. A simple roll-back of state tax breaks, and/or direct investment in school choice end up as the most straightforward ways to achieve these goals.

OVERVIEW

The key benefit of 529 plans is that earnings on contributions are not subject to federal taxes when withdrawn to pay for tuition and other select college expenses. When earnings from 529 contributions accrue over long time periods as they do, for example, when parents establish and fund a 529 plan when their child is young and begin to draw it down when that child enters college, the financial benefit of exemption from federal taxes can be substantial.[1] However, the time period between putting money into a 529 plan and withdrawing it for K-12 tuition will typically be far shorter.  The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates the loss to the Federal Treasury will be a modest $600 million over 10 years.[2]

The federal tax code defines 529s and the expenses they may be used for, but states run the plans. All but two states, Washington State and Wyoming, offer 529 plans. Most importantly, more than 30 states offer state-level tax deductions or credits, which can be claimed on each year’s state tax return, for those who put money into the plans. These immediate state-level tax benefits are what will almost certainly draw more people who are paying private school tuition into 529 accounts – any family paying private school tuition in a state offering 529 tax benefits would be foolish, financially speaking, not to make use of them. The rub is that as more families start claiming the benefits, state revenues will decline.

More than two months after the passage of the TCJA, many states are still uncertain as to how they will accommodate this federal change in definition of qualified expenses. Most states will have to respond in some way—by changing state regulations or laws to block or welcome the expansion and by communicating those options to account holders. At last count, of the 34 states with 529 deductions or credits, eighteen automatically conformed or have passed legislation to conform to the federal 529 change, while sixteen have either argued that their state 529 incentives cannot be used for K-12 expenses, despite the federal change, or have yet to determine their course.[3] For some of these states, this could include new legislation that constrains the state tax benefits in their own specific 529 plan

The real question for states is whether they wish to use their own tax systems to support spending on private K-12 education through the vehicle of 529 plans. The answer to this question will clearly vary, depending on the political complexion of a state government, financial implications, and broader attitudes towards school choice. We focus on the fiscal implications for states (the cost to tax payers), distributional consequences for families (who will financially benefit most), and the potential for promoting private school choice. Our overall assessment of the likely impact in these three areas is that it will hit state revenue, largely help affluent families, and have only a limited positive impact on private school enrollment.

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Student Journalist Says Discipline Policies Weakened School Safety Before Parkland Shooting

While the media continues to focus on gun control in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, one area student has dug into his school’s policies and found them wanting.

Kenneth Preston, a 19-year-old student journalist who attends high school in Broward County, Florida, has done an in-depth investigation of the superintendent and school board.

Preston’s thorough report, released on Tuesday, says that Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie and the school district failed to spend over $100 million of federal money intended for school safety upgrades.

Runcie once worked under former Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the Chicago Public Schools system.

Preston’s report says that the school had been sitting on this money since 2014, and that only about 5 percent of it had been spent.

“The findings of our investigation is [sic] two-fold. First off, a $100 million which superintendent and the school board had access to. Since 2014, roughly 5 percent of that money has been spent,” Preston said in an in-depth interview with Sirius XM host David Webb.

Preston said that Runcie gave him a “long-winded runaround” about what happened to the money.

In addition, Preston has called into question the school district’s use of the PROMISE program.

This program was aligned with a 2014 Obama-era federal initiative, which aimed at ending the “school to prison pipeline” as well as racial disparities in discipline by focusing on counseling and “restorative justice” instead of using law enforcement to correct on-campus misbehavior.

Preston spoke at a Broward County School Board meeting on Tuesday, but said during his remarks that just before the meeting started, his allotted time to speak was cut to three minutes.

The seven panelists Preston had lined up were removed from the schedule.

On the day before the hearing, Preston said he was forced to attend a two-hour meeting with the superintendent and the families of the victims to discuss his report.

“I was denied the right to have an attorney present. I was refused the opportunity to record the meeting, and I was told this was because the superintendent wouldn’t have any representation of his own,” Preston said.

He said that when he arrived at the meeting, it was “stacked with 10 district officials in addition to the superintendent.”

Preston continued: “It makes me wonder how committed to transparency and truth you are when I was denied the right to have an attorney present as well as the opportunity to record the meeting while the superintendent was allowed to bring 10 district officials who work for him and attempt to re-educate me.”

“Something doesn’t smell quite right in Broward, and this school district is the epicenter,” Preston said.

The Obama administration had touted the Broward school discipline program as a model of success.

But after a Parkland student went on a murderous rampage at the school, many wonder how an individual expressing so many red flags could have fallen through the cracks.

As the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden wrote, Broward County’s discipline policies pressured Parkland officials “to post lower statistics on school-safety problems. This climate of disengagement could have allowed [Nikolas] Cruz to slip through the cracks in the system.”

Runcie, who was also at the school board hearing, reiterated previous statements from the school district, saying, “Contrary to what people believe or may have heard, Nikolas Cruz was never a part of the PROMISE program, he never had any infractions that would have made him eligible for the PROMISE program.”

However, a recent report in RealClearInvestigations noted that the school’s official discipline policy lists “‘assault without the use of a weapon’ and ‘battery without serious bodily injury,’ as well as ‘disorderly conduct,’ as misdemeanors that ‘should not be reported to Law Enforcement Agencies or Broward District Schools Police.’”

The RealClearInvestigations report also said:

A repeat offender, Cruz benefited from the lax discipline policy, if not the counseling. Although he was disciplined for a string of offenses—including assault, threatening teachers, and carrying bullets in his backpack—he was never taken into custody or even expelled. Instead, school authorities referred him to mandatory counseling or transferred him to alternative schools.

The lack of criminal record allowed Cruz to purchase an AR-15, according to the report.

At the hearing, Runcie essentially called criticism of the school’s discipline policies fake news.

“Connecting PROMISE to this horrific tragedy is truly unfortunate, I think it’s reprehensible, and we’re not going to dismantle a program in this district that is serving and helping kids appropriately because of news that is not fact-based,” Runcie said.

Runcie worked closely with the Obama administration on its school discipline policy, according to the Washington Examiner.

“Runcie was invited to the White House in 2015 for a Rethink Discipline summit, while the district received a $54 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant in October 2016 that was based in part on its efforts to keep high-risk students in school,” the Examiner reported.

While the school district maintains support of the controversial program, it has a growing list of detractors, including the deputy sheriff and president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, Jeff Bell.

“If I have a weapon or even ammunition on school grounds, and I have certain things in my past, I could be arrested for that, but Mr. Cruz just gets off scot-free,” Bell said, according to the Examiner. “And that’s the thing. If he had gotten arrested just once for disorderly conduct or trespassing or something like that, that would have shown up on his criminal record, and could have sent up some red flags before he was ever allowed to buy a firearm.”

There have also been calls for the Department of Education to rescind the Obama-era school discipline guideline, which is being reviewed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

SOURCE






Australia: 'Is graffiti an art form or a criminal offence?': Schools accused of dumbing down English lessons with tests on STREET TAGS

English teachers  being asked to teach students to 'read graffiti' in Queensland

The sample assessment, detailed on the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority website, asks students to engage, examine and evaluate graffiti.  

Images of graffiti are provided to the students who are asked to explain, 'How do you know about the graffiti? Who produces the graffiti? Is graffiti an art form or a  criminal offence?'

The exercise even provides examples of student responses to the graffiti images, with answers including 'I have seen graffiti on the way to school' and 'It is mainly done by young people'.

Queensland's Education Minister refused to comment, while the curriculum authority described the assessment as an 'optional resource' for teachers, according to the Courier Mail.

'Decisions around the use of assessment items and contexts for learning are made at the school level,' he said.

SOURCE

Tuesday, April 17, 2018



College Student Poses With Gun for Graduation Photo, Firing Up Twitter



A student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga used her senior photo shoot to showcase support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms, but not everyone is happy about it.

Brenna Spencer, 22, tweeted out a picture of herself lifting up a pink T-shirt slightly to reveal a handgun in her waistband. The shirt reads: “Women for Trump.”

“I wanted my graduation photos to be personal and to be about my journey,” Spencer told The Daily Signal by text Wednesday night. “So with me loving the Second Amendment and conservative politics, it’s what inspired me to take and post the photo.”

Despite the backlash she has received from the Twitterverse, Spencer told Fox News Channel she has no regrets about tweeting out the photo.

She told The Daily Signal it was a “helpful” experience despite the negative reactions. “I believe standing up for what I believe in and trying to empower women to protect themselves is helpful,” she said.

One tweet suggested that Spencer take down the picture if she ever wants to be employed.

“You realize employers will see this right? Hope you enjoy living with Mom and Dad,” tweeted Lisa Simpson, who goes by Lisa Simpson Democrat on Twitter.

Spencer works at Turning Point USA, a nonprofit focused on conservative activism on college campuses. [Disclosure: The reporter of this story is president of Turning Point USA at Michigan State University.]

Co-workers were quick to point out that her employer supports her and the photo. The founder of Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk, applauded Spencer in a tweet for exemplifying “real feminism”:

Another employee, Alana Mastrangelo, tweeted out a similar photo with the message: “Here I am in solidarity with Brenna, also carrying in public.”

The comments on Spencer’s tweeted photo range from GIFs, brief video clips, and memes suggesting she get some counseling.

One person called Spencer an “attention grabbing” young woman, while another wrote that she broke the law by bringing her gun near a building with a no-weapons policy. The photo was taken outside the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, which bans firearms inside.

One Twitter user, Victoria Silva, alerted police by tagging the Chattanooga Police Department.

“Per the thread, this young female is taking a photo [with] a firearm, in an area [with] a posted ‘no-weapons’ policy,” Silva tweeted. “This showboating behavior is irresponsible, reckless, and potentially dangerous. Signed, A concerned citizen.”

But Spencer told The Daily Signal that she doesn’t see the photo shoot that way. “My goal was to empower women to protect themselves, [so] yes, I think it was successful,” she said.

SOURCE






BOOK REVIEW: "The Case against Education. Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money"

By Bryan Caplan

Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

Despite being immensely popular --and immensely lucrative—education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity —in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee.

Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society's top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability.

He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers.

Romantic notions about education being "good for the soul" must yield to careful research and common sense—The Case against Education" points the way.

Bryan Caplan is professor of economics at George Mason University and a blogger at EconLog. He is the author of "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun than You Think" and "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies" (Princeton). He lives in Oakton, Virginia.

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Lure teachers to the small towns with extra cash and nice houses, Australian government advised

Teachers "at the top of their game" would be lured from the city to the bush with extra cash, nice houses and a guaranteed right of return under a plan to improve student results in Australia's regional schools.

A lengthy review of regional education has urged the federal government to offer more incentives for established teachers to do a stint outside the city, and to break down the stigma around the bush as a place for teachers to work.

Teachers should also be given an "absolute, rock-solid guarantee" they can return to their original school, said the report's author, education professor and former teacher John Halsey.

He pointed to models used in mining and engineering industries to lure staff to regional areas by offering "very nice housing", and flying staff and their families free-of-charge to inspect their would-be homes.

A 34-year-old teacher moving to an isolated area does not want to share a house with strangers, Professor Halsey said. And people's enthusiasm about working in rural areas was often "drained away every day after work by complaints and disappointments about the quality of housing" from family members. "It's just a fact of life," Professor Halsey told Fairfax Media. "Housing and conditions in some locations - and in some more than others - is a major issue."

The report also recommended teachers be lured with "targeted salary and conditions packages" and a guarantee they can return to their original post, not just any school.

"If you're prepared to go to Broken Hill and you've come out of the green leafies in Sydney, being told you can return to greater metropolitan Sydney is not going to cut it," Professor Halsey said.

The Turnbull government commissioned the review last year in a bid to improve lagging results for country students compared to their city counterparts. The report, presented to education ministers on Friday, also recommended making the national curriculum more relevant to regional and remote students.

"The achievements of [country] students have in the main lagged behind urban students for decades," Professor Halsey wrote. "This has to be turned around in the shortest time possible."

The report acknowledged the drawback in luring teachers to the bush temporarily was that turnover would remain high. But it was still desirable to get more teachers "at the top of their game" into regional schools.

Beginner teachers were often seen as "an important [but] over-represented" component of staff in regional schools, Professor Halsey said. "Experience does count for something and accounts in some instances for a lot," he said.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there was "no silver bullet" to fixing inequities in regional education but he would examine the recommendations and respond

SOURCE