Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Race-obsessed students at SOAS

Leftists seem incapable of treating people as individuals in their own right.  Why should the race of a thinker matter?  That he has interesting thoughts should be the sole criterion.  I like the thinking of the Buddha; I like the thinking of Jesus Christ and I like the thinking of Ludwig Wittgenstein and I see no reason why I should bother about the race of any of them.  Wittgenstein, for instance, was a skinny Austrian Jew but that has nothing to do with my interest in his ideas

“They Kant be serious!”, spluttered the Daily Mail headline in its most McEnroe-ish tone. “PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from university syllabus”. “Great thinkers too male and pale, students declare”, trumpeted the Times. The Telegraph, too, was outraged: “They are said to be the founding fathers of western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white.”

Whiteness is not a useful category when talking of philosophy. When people speak, they speak ideas, not identity.
The prestigious London University was the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas). It hit the headlines last month when journalists discovered that students, backed by many of their lecturers, have set up a campaign to “Decolonise Our Minds” by transforming the curriculum. So shocking did the idea seem of a British university refusing to teach Plato, Locke or Kant that the story was picked up by newspapers across the globe. BBC2’s Newsnight debated whether “universities should eschew western philosophers”. This predictably generated more outraged headlines when one of the guests, sociologist Kehinde Andrews, denounced Soas as a “white institution” and the Enlightenment as “racist”.

For academics and students at Soas, the press coverage itself is the cause of outrage. “When the report came out that we were trying to take white men off the table, it was just bewildering because we had no intention of doing that,” says Sian Hawthorne, a convenor of the undergraduate course World Philosophies, the only philosophy degree that Soas provides. “Our courses are intimately engaged with European thought.”

“We’re not trying to exclude European thinkers,” says a second-year doctoral student, and a member of the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We’re trying to desacralise European thinkers, stopping them from being treated as unquestionable. What we are doing is quite reasonable.”

So what is the truth behind the headlines? Will philosophy students at Soas really not be taught Aristotle and Kant? Do the students and academics have a point that the curriculum is “too white”? And what should be the place of European philosophy, and European philosophers, in an age of globalisation and of a shifting power balance from west to east?

The School of Oriental and African Studies was founded in 1916 “to secure the running of the British Empire”, as historian Ian Brown puts it in his history of the institution. Its aim was to provide “instruction to colonial administrators, commercial managers, and military officers, but also to missionaries, doctors and teachers”. Soas taught them the local languages as well as providing “an authoritative introduction to the customs, religions, laws of the people whom they were to govern”.

Today, of the more than 6,000 students at Soas, almost half come from abroad, from 130 countries, and more than half are black or minority ethnic. Far from teaching students how to administer the empire, the school now helps develop independent, postcolonial societies. It sees its mission also as providing a critique of empire, and of its continuing legacies, a view that extends to the very top of Soas management. “Our minds are colonised, absolutely,” says Deborah Johnston. Johnston is no student, nor even a mere academic, but the pro-director of learning and teaching, one of the most senior management figures at Soas. She continues: ‘‘In most UK universities there has been a dominance of European thought. That’s why we need to do work to decolonise the curriculum, and our minds.”

For some, such views emanating from the very top of the institution entrench the belief that, in the words of an academic at another London college, “Soas is the most politicised of British universities”. Others, however, see the problem not as one of an institution that is too politicised but as one that has not yet rid itself of the ghosts of empire. The curriculum, such critics claim, is still too rooted in a colonial view of the world, too stuffed with European thinkers, and too blind to African, Asian and Latin American thinkers.

Neelam Chhara is a third-year politics student at Soas, and the Student Union officer for “equality and liberation”. “On my course in political theory,” she says, “we discussed 26 thinkers. Just two were non-European – Frantz Fanon and Gandhi.”

Such “frustrations with our curriculum” led students to set up the Decolonising Our Minds group. “We thought: why not show what an alternative curriculum could look like by hosting thinkers and academics that didn’t centre on Europe like our curriculum was doing.”

Meera Sabaratnam laughs when I tell her about Chhara’s reading list. “That’s two more non-Europeans than when I was taught political theory in my undergraduate PPE at Oxford.” Sabaratnam is a lecturer in international relations at Soas. As an institution, it is, she says, much better than most universities. For instance, 39% of academic staff are of black or minority ethnic background – more than three times the figure for British universities overall. Nevertheless, she supports the Decolonising Our Minds campaign. “It is necessary to talk about colonial legacies and to look at how colonialism and racism impact the institution.”

The argument for a more diverse curriculum seems reasonable, indeed unquestionable. After all, philosophers and thinkers come not just from Europe. There are great non-European intellectual traditions, myriad philosophical schools from China, India, Africa and the Muslim world, many of which have shaped European philosophy. Three years ago I wrote a book on the global history of ethics, called The Quest for a Moral Compass, which drew not just on European philosophers, but also on the works of Mo Tzu and Zhu Xi, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina, Anton Wilhelm Amo and Frantz Fanon, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Fung Yu Lan. All these different thinkers, I wanted to show, can be woven into a single but complex narrative through which we can rethink global history.

And yet, the debate about a “diverse curriculum” is not as straightforward as one might imagine. Few would contest the idea that European thinkers should not be on the curriculum simply because they are European. But of the major European philosophers that often dominate reading lists – such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Kant, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Arendt or Sartre – how many are there simply because they are European rather than because their ideas merit study?

Sabaratnam acknowledges the problem. “Framing a course is primarily about content: what are the issues that need to be taught, and who can speak interestingly about those issues? How many European thinkers you include and the balance between European and non-European thinkers is an academic decision. If you want to understand political theory, you can’t avoid engagement with Kant, Hegel and so on.”

“But,” she adds, “that can’t be the be-all-and- end-all.” There has, she insists, “to be a parallel debate about diversity and representation. There is value in having non-European thinkers and women on those reading lists.”

If European thinkers should not be on reading lists simply because they are European, should non-Europeans be included just because they are non-European, solely for the value of increased diversity? Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at New York University, and last year’s Reith lecturer on Radio 4, is sceptical. He teaches a course on global ethics, which includes European, Chinese, Arab and Indian thinkers. The key question for him, however, is not “Is the curriculum sufficiently diverse?” but “Is any particular thinker worth studying?”

“If they were uninteresting or unimportant,” he observes, “it would not be much of a defence to say, ‘They are Arab or Chinese and make the course more diverse.’”

The difficulties in thinking about a diverse curriculum can be seen in the founding statement of the Decolonising Our Minds campaign. It does not say: “We need to expand our curriculum to include philosophers from across the globe”. Rather, it insists (under the heading “Decolonising Soas: Confronting the White Institution”) that, “If white philosophers are required, then to teach their work from a critical viewpoint.” This suggests that not having white philosophers should be the default position. This might not quite be “students demanding white philosophers be dropped from university syllabus”, as the newspapers claimed, but it’s not that far off.

“When you put it to me like that,” says Sian Hawthorne, “yes, I think that is problematic. However, I take a more generous reading of that statement as saying whomever is taught, whoever’s work is drawn on, it must always be dealt with critically. That is one of the first principles of a university education.”

The students themselves told me that they had not realised what the statement actually said, and would change it.

Do we need to be particularly critical of white philosophers, I asked Hawthorne. Yes, she replied, because “whiteness has been engaged in perpetuating forms of oppression and marginalisation and exclusion”. Does she think that all European philosophy is tainted by racism and colonialism? “Yes. There’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate this.”

But by insisting that the work of all white philosophers, from Aristotle to Arendt, from Socrates to Sartre, should be seen as tainted by racism, is she not confusing ideas and identity? Is she not falling into the same trap as racists, suggesting that because one possesses a particular identity, so one’s ideas are necessarily distinct, and linked to that identity? A philosopher is white so his or her ideas are contaminated.

Hawthorne rejects the criticism, and uses as an analogy the way that academics look upon the work of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Heidegger was one of the most influential 20th-century philosophers, having shaped the ideas of a host of thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida. He was also a Nazi with repulsively antisemitic views. The discovery of Heidegger’s nazism and antisemitism has led to much debate about how to treat his philosophical ideas.

“Do we deal with Heidegger?” asks Hawthorne. “I think we must. But we must do so in the understanding that he was a Nazi. We don’t not read his texts. But we read them carefully. That should also be the case with white philosophers. Just because they’re white doesn’t mean that they’re written off. But we need to be careful.”

This, though, is a false analogy. What concerns many about Heidegger is not his skin colour or his identity but his political views. Asking whether Heidegger’s Nazi views should affect the way that we understand his philosophical ideas is different from insisting that, because Aristotle or Kant or Arendt were white, we should be careful in the way we read their writings.


Those Imperialistic Christian Missionaries

Some Williams College professors want ‘context’ for a monument to spreading the Gospel.

On Sept. 11, 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Rev. Richard Spalding passed the Haystack Monument on his way to the chapel at Williams College. The modest marble pillar is nestled on the spot where in 1806 five students took shelter from a storm and pledged to spread the Gospel world-wide.

In the twilight, the college chaplain noticed a group of students quietly praying at the monument, seeking solace from the day’s horrific events. He realized that, for some members of the Williams community, the unobtrusive monument is more than just a historic site that honors the founding of the Christian foreign-missionary movement. It is holy ground. He has a deep respect for the monument and the students who had prayed there. Yet today Mr. Spalding is a member of a committee to consider whether campus memorials and other spaces, including Haystack, contribute to an “unwelcoming” campus atmosphere.

Williams College President Adam Falk established the panel in December 2015 to review a 1942 mural of the school’s founder Col. Ephraim Williams and his military ally, Mohawk leader Hendrick Theyanoguin. Some students had objected to the painting, which depicts the two men reviewing battle plans. One said that it “white-washes the broader history of the era.”

Mr. Falk ordered the painting covered while the committee conducted its work. The panel ultimately recommended the mural be uncovered and remain in place. Committee members suggested that a caption be installed to “contextualize” the work, that a website with background material be developed, and that the college consider bringing in “indigenous artists” to respond to the mural.

Mr. Falk’s charge also included a directive to consider other campus spaces that could be “problematic in a modern context,” that is, potentially triggering for those who regard themselves as perpetually oppressed.

The College Fix reported last month that the panel is now taking a look at the Haystack Monument, and a headline in the Christian Examiner suggested it could be removed. But the committee’s chairwoman Karen Merrill is adamant that removing the monument is not on the table. She insisted that the committee is only trying to find ways to bridge “the gap between the Williams of the past and the Williams of today.”

Williams seems to be adopting what is known in the academy as “contextualization”—a way to preserve history while providing alternate perspectives. In theory, it seeks to honor the principles of free speech, open debate and rigorous inquiry that are the hallmarks of a liberal education. In practice, however, contextualization often turns into an exercise in self-flagellation that provides the professional victim class the soapbox on which to air its latest grievances.

How might Williams go about “contextualizing” the Haystack Monument?

The monument’s bicentennial celebration in 2006 provides clues. The weekend events included twilight vespers, panel discussions on the meaning of mission work today, and Sunday worship services. But the event also featured a critical reflection in which Prof. Denise Buell argued that Christian missionary work is “a justification” for violent forms of cultural imperialism.

All of this reflects what Glenn Shuck, a scholar who taught courses on the history of Christianity at Williams for over a decade, calls the college’s “ironic relationship” with the monument: It is a memorial to something important that happened on campus—but not something of which the college’s faculty is necessarily proud. According to Mr. Shuck, many Williams faculty members regard efforts to translate the Bible into other languages to spread Christianity as inherently racist and imperialist, a view he does not share.

Despite the recent media tempest about the Haystack Monument, the statue seems relatively uncontroversial among students. I spoke with about 15 students walking by the monument this week, and none knew what it represented. Once told, not one took offense.

Why would a college undertake a review of spaces and structures about which there is no current controversy? Perhaps, as class of ’62 graduate Herbert A. Allen Jr. wrote in a letter to The Williams Record, the college is simply trying “to stay ahead of intellectual lynch mobs.” But in suggesting, even inadvertently, that an unobtrusive monument to Christian missionary work is offensive, Williams has lent legitimacy to the perpetually aggrieved and has risked encouraging the piqued mob.


Male Muslim students at Sydney public school given permission to refuse to shake hands with women - because it is against their religion

Muslim students at a Sydney public school can refuse to shake hands with women even at an awards ceremony.

The Hurstville Boys Campus of Georges River College introduced the policy to allow Muslim boys to instead put their hand on the heart as a greeting.

The Year 7 to 10 school's two principals told guests at its 2016 presentation day, including notable community members, that students may decline the gesture.

The practice comes from the Muslim teaching of hadith that states: 'It is better to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is not permissible to you.'

The NSW Education told The Australian it approved of the 'agreed protocol' that was developed through consultation between staff, parents and students.

'The department require­s its schools to recognise and respect the cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds of all students, with the intent to promote an open and tolerant attitude towards a diverse Australian community­,' it said.

The department said principals were best placed to know the needs of their communities when following that requirement.

Such a literal interpretation of hadith, which describes the practices of the prophet Mohammed is controversial even among Australian Muslim leaders.

Australia's Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed shakes hands with women as did his predecessor, Fehmi Naji El-Imam, and Islamic schools do not even have the policy.

Former Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit said many young students were taught to take it 'too seriously' and it should apply in a school context. 'For some young adults, when they meet people of the opposite sex, to shake someone's hand suggests a friendship,' he said.

Mr Seyit said it was an issue because Australians do not understand the custom and could be embarrassed if they were 'left hanging'.

'Students should be able to shake hands with the teacher or the principal, or receive a greeting from a visitor to the school,' he said.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Higher business rates (property taxes) will leave British universities paying millions more

Universities face paying millions more in tax as a result of a big rise in their business rates, analysis has revealed.

Manchester University, Nottingham and Warwick are expected to be the worst hit when new business rates kick in. Experts have warned that a significant rise in the value of university buildings will make the sector one of the biggest losers from the changes.

The government faced an outcry from high street retailers, pubs and restaurants over the introduction of the new rates. More than half a million businesses are expecting higher bills.

Figures show that the government is expecting to raise an additional £1 billion from business rates this year.


The student Left’s culture of intolerance is creating a new generation of conservatives

Student demands for censorship get a lot of coverage. Spiked Online’s Free Speech University Rankings, now in its third annual edition, argues that there is a “crisis of free speech on campus”.

By analysing the censorious policies and actions that have taken place on British campuses, Spiked concluded that 63.5 per cent of universities actively censor speech and 30.5 per cent stifle speech through excessive regulation. You can barely go a few days without encountering a new op-ed covering censorship on campus.

Maajid Nawaz describes the students demanding censorship as members of the “regressive left”. Milo Yiannopoulos calls them “snowflakes”.

With all of this book-burning and platform-denying madness sweeping up much of the media’s interest in campus culture, the gradual rise of another group of students has gone under-reported. British and American millennials and post-millennials – also known as ‘Gen Z’ – are warming to conservatism.

To understand why this is happening, it is important to consider the vast changes that have taken place in Western student politics over the last fifty years.

Students were once in favour of free speech. In the mid-1960s, students of the University of California, Berkeley undertook a mass-movement for free speech. Under the leadership of Leftist heroes like Jack Weinberg, Bettina Aptheker and Jackie Goldberg, students demanded that the university administration retracted their on-campus ban of political activities. They demanded their freedom of speech. Mario Savio delivered what is generally recognised as the iconic speech of the University of California, Berkeley's (UCB) free speech movement. Here is the speech’s most powerful section:

“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

Savio’s speech helped push the movement towards success. Berkeley students won their full rights. Students, now liberated from the “machine” of university censorship, were able to create the anti-Vietnam student movement, another famous campus protest.

Nowadays, the student Left are unwilling to honour Savio’s legacy. On the 2nd of February, violent protests at Berkeley shut down a talk by popular conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. Instead of maintaining a liberal and free atmosphere for speech and argument, Berkeley students have become the gears, wheels and levers of the machine that Savio wanted to stop.

In the space of fifty years, Berkeley students have gone from rioting against a university administration that limited their freedom of speech to violently opposing the presence of a speaker they disagree with.

In the modern era, students have often been attracted to the politics of the Left. 1968 saw pivotal student protests around the world. In the United States, students were central to the civil rights movement. In France, students joined forces with millions of striking workers to protest against capitalism.

The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton was in Paris during the 1968 riots and has said that it was whilst witnessing the uprising that he became a conservative.

The violence at Berkeley mirrors the street protests in Paris from 1968. Privileged and excitable students living in one of the most blessed parts of the world went out and created havoc in order to overthrow an opponent that they refused to tolerate. The Parisians, at least, had a deeper political cause – but the Berkeley students carried out the ugliest form of protest. It is the form of protest that says “I don’t like that view, therefore you must not be allowed to express it” and it is causing a lot of students to have their own ‘Scruton moment’.

There have been several responses to campus censorship in the United Kingdom and the United States. One of the most interesting developments has been the rise in demand for conservative thought. In the United States, college tours by speakers popular with conservatives such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro and Christina Hoff Sommers have become huge events. There has been a spike in membership in conservative college clubs including Young Americans for Liberty, which boasts 804 chapters filled with 308,927 members.

In the United Kingdom, free speech societies have been started across the country.

‘Speakeasy’ groups have been founded at the LSE, Leeds, Queen Mary, Cardiff, Oxford, Manchester and at Edinburgh, where I study. In these groups, ‘unacceptable’ conservative thoughts are debated amongst liberally-minded (as all good conservatives are) students.

Moreover, some student unions have voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS).

Analysis from market research firm, The Gild, shows that ‘Gen Z’ is the most conservative generation since 1945. The research reveals that ‘Gen Z’ Britons are more likely to favour conservative spending, dislike tattoos and body-piercings, and oppose marijuana legislation.

The youth and student members of the British Left have given up trying to win arguments on principle, preferring to shut down the views of those they opponents. But ‘Gen Z’ live in the time of mass media where anyone’s political views can be shared worldwide at ease. By pushing a “you can’t say that” attitude, the young Left in the UK and the US are reducing their opportunity to respond to conservative ideas, and, as a result of this, conservatism is on the rise.

Nowadays, the only thing that is stopping a student from accessing a new idea is a censorious gag from a student union or NUS apparatchik. Whilst the student Left have historically campaigned in support of causes that the West’s youth have been favourable towards, such as the anti-war and anti-austerity movements, they are now picking on something that is dear to us: freedom of information.

Students of my generation have grown up in an era of mass-communication. Each year has brought new tools for the flow of ideas, conversation and media. The rapid expansion of affordable technology has been matched by the growth of the social media market. When it is common for students to be able to easily interact with anyone in the world via a portable computer that fits in their pocket, nothing seems more silly to us than cliquey calls for censorship.

That is why young people and students are becoming conservatives – they’re the only people making the case for a freedom that they love.


Eighth-grade teacher is suspended after giving students instructions on how to cook and inject meth for drama class

An eighth grade teacher who gave students instructions for making and injecting crystal meth for an acting assignment has been suspended without pay.

An Ontario mother was outraged when her 13-year-old son, who is a student at Erin Mills Middle School, brought home the assignment with a long list of ingredients.

'I popped a blood vessel,' Delight Greenridge told CBC. 'I was in a state of shock...I'm thinking this cannot be real.' 

Greenridge's son said the original assignment had involved creating a skit about a television show using emotions, but the teacher suggest cooking crystal meth instead after they struggled to come up with an idea.

The instructor told students to 'act scared' while making the drug and to 'act happy' when injecting it.

The eight-graders were even provided with directions such as wiping their arms 'to prevent any bacteria infection' before injection, Gizmodo reported.

 Greenridge said the situation was 'mind-boggling.'  She added: 'It could undo a lot of what I taught him because sometimes he would think the things the teacher says are sometimes more important than the things mum says.'

Peel District School Board suspended the teacher without pay as they conduct the investigation. They said the teacher obtained the instructions from the internet after a student needed help coming up with an idea for the assignment.

The board did not disclose the person's name or what was discussed with the teacher after Greenridge's complaint.

Carla Pereira, manager of communications for the Peel school district said: 'The curriculum is the curriculum...but how teachers instruct the class is up to them.' 

While she said it was 'inappropriate' she added that there is no specific policy for this incident. 'We share the parents' concerns around that particular assignment', Pereira said.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Crooked Kerry Returning to Yale to 'Empower the Next Generation of Idealists and Diplomats'

Has he still got the hat?

Former Secretary of State and U.S. Senator John Kerry is joining his alma mater, Yale University, as the school's first-ever Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs.

Yale announced on Thursday that Kerry will "oversee the Kerry Initiative, "an interdisciplinary program that will tackle pressing global challenges through teaching, research, and international dialogue."

Yale said the Kerry Initiative advances its "long tradition of preparing the next generation of world leaders."

Kerry said he wants to "empower the next generation of idealists and diplomats."

Kerry will partner with other Yale scholars in examining "questions of global importance," such as failed states, violent extremism, climate change, and "the challenge of authoritarian populism" (a term academics used to describe the politics of conservatives Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher).

From his new perch, Kerry will lead a seminar in the 2017-1018 year, and he'll also "convene "conversations among global stakeholders, both in New Haven and overseas, to develop new approaches to solving" the world's "crucial challenges."

“Yale’s been a part of my life since I first walked on campus as a teenager and heard Allard Lowenstein challenge my generation to get involved and make a difference," Yale quoted him as saying.

"This is where I first raised my hand as a junior and pledged to defend the Constitution, and it’s where I first debated and struggled with issues of war and peace. Teaching, researching, convening, engaging and collaborating with young people and together wrestling with the world’s most complex issues is an exciting chapter in the journey that began for me in New Haven.

"I’m grateful to President Salovey for his enthusiasm about what we can do together as a Yale community and how we can empower the next generation of idealists and diplomats and activists to be a part of public service and a cause bigger than themselves.”

Yale President Peter Salovey said he's honored to welcome Kerry, "with his vast insights and experience on global affairs" to "inspire the next generation of national and world leaders."


Revealed: how censorship on British campuses is getting worse

It’s that time of year again. The only university rankings to be branded ‘vile’ by the National Union of Students is back. Today we launch the 2017 findings of the Free Speech University Rankings, spiked’s groundbreaking analysis of campus censorship in the UK, now in its third year. We’ve assessed 115 universities, looking at the bans and policies universities and students’ unions use to stifle free speech on campus, and ranked them using our traffic-light system. This year’s survey is once again full of fascinating insights into the parlous state of free speech in the academy, not to mention shocking and (sometimes unintentionally) hilarious examples of campus authoritarianism. The overall picture is bleak.

According to our research, 63.5 per cent of institutions are ranked Red, meaning they place significant restrictions on speech by banning particular speakers, materials or ideas. Meanwhile, 30.5 per cent of institutions are ranked Amber, meaning they place more slippery restrictions on offensive speech, or chill free speech through regulation of speakers’ and students’ conduct and activities. This means that only six per cent of UK universities we surveyed place no significant restrictions on speech, other than where the law requires it. And the rate of censorship has steadily increased over the past three years. In 2015, just 40 per cent of institutions were ranked Red.

For anyone who’s been anywhere near a campus recently, this will come as no surprise. Students’ unions no longer just No Platform the odd edgy speaker - they ban ‘tarts and vicars’ parties and ‘offensive hand gestures’. But what’s perhaps most striking in this year’s findings is how fast universities are catching up. Though SUs are still far more censorious than universities, 23.5 per cent of university administrations are now ranked Red, compared with 15 per cent just last year. As spiked has always argued, to assume that campus censorship is purely the work of blue-haired students is to give them too much credit. They clearly operate within institutions – and ultimately, a society – that affirms their outlook.

Though some university leaders have recently taken a stand against the Safe Space excesses of some of their students, they’re simply not practising what they preach. We isolated two concerning trends in this year’s rankings: clampdowns on discussion of religion and clampdowns on debate about transgenderism. At some of Britain’s most prestigious universities – once interested in probing perceived wisdom and in pursuing truth – the oldest and newest orthodoxies in the book are being ringfenced from criticism. ‘Transphobic propaganda’ is banned at eight universities, and 43 per cent hold religion and belief policies that guard against offending faith groups. And more often than not, these stem from university administrations rather than SUs.

As Joanna Williams discusses elsewhere on spiked today, universities and students’ unions have become illiberal bedfellows. And not only do they share a bureaucratic, illiberal outlook - you often get the sense that universities outsource their censorship to students’ unions, who, as Williams puts it, ‘are all too happy to put a radical gloss on moralising’. Though their motivations may be different – universities often seem most interested in batting away bad publicity – the effect of this collusion is stark. Collectively, students’ unions and universities are presiding over byzantine, speech-policing bureaucracies that undermine the university’s very moral mission. And the excesses of SU censorship are at the very least enabled by university managers.

If there is an upside to all this, it is the response from students themselves, who have begun to realise just how much these institutions hold them in contempt. Campus campaigns to overturn bans, stunts to draw attention to SU censorship, and a new movement to disaffiliate students’ unions from the National Union of Students – the source of some of the most illiberal policies and initiatives on campus today – have been heartwarming. Students go to university to expand their mind, to challenge themselves, to be free - and that’s impossible under the dead hand of censorship and regulation. Here’s hoping the FSUR will continue to play a key role in fuelling the fightback.


Let’s abandon sex education

We should teach kids the biological facts, not how to feel about sex

The demand for sex education to be made compulsory, to move beyond biology and into the emotional realm, and to cover a broader, more inclusive range of topics, unites purple-haired feminists with blue-rinsed members of the House of Lords, and LGBT campaigners with Daily Telegraph readers. These diverse groups come together in the feigned astonishment that accompanies their rhetorical question: ‘Why wouldn’t we teach children not to rape?’ They share a belief that savagery is released when sexuality is allowed free reign, that an innate predatory impulse is held in check only by teachers and the correct learning outcomes.

There’s surely no better time to raise awareness of this cynical, twisted and fearful view of relationships than Valentine’s Day. Members of the National Student Pride, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the National Union of Students LGBT+ campaign chose 14 February to send postcards to MPs demanding that sex education be made mandatory, that it cover the topic of consent and that it include lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. The current state of sex-and-relationships education (SRE) is presented as the cause of all problems. ‘My poor SRE contributed to body-shaming and poor mental health’, says one postcard. ‘A lack of knowledge made it more difficult for me to come out’, claims another. Yet campaigners are pushing at an open door: last week it was revealed that with 23 Conservative MPs now backing a change in the law, ‘compulsory relationship education’ will almost certainly be introduced.

The relentless campaigning around sex education is bizarre. The overwhelming majority of children already receive SRE – it stopped being simply about biological facts as far back as the 1960s (1). The Handbook of Health Education, government advice for schools published in 1968, recommended that children should learn about contraception and that sex should be presented as an emotional experience. Despite subsequent changes in the political weather, in practice, sex education has become ever more entrenched as a feature in the school curriculum, and continues to expand into new areas. In 1990, sex education became part of personal and social education (PSE) classes which, in 1996, became part of the ‘basic curriculum’. In 2010, the Department for Education reiterated that ‘children need high-quality SRE so they can make wise and informed choices’. In 2013, the Department of Health’s Sexual Health Improvement Framework also argued the need for all children to receive high-quality SRE.

Unfortunately, the ever-present clamour for more and better SRE isn’t simply a waste of time. SRE is being championed as a means of teaching children not just biology, and not just how to behave when in a relationship, but how to think and feel about sex. Sex is presented to young people as risky – not simply because of unwanted pregnancy or sexually-transmitted infections, but as emotionally risky. Sex, children are taught, can seriously damage your emotional wellbeing – it needs to be practised in a way that is not just physically safe, but emotionally safe. In order to protect themselves from this risk, children are encouraged to master, often through roleplay, a range of pre-approved emotional responses. Sex education has moved from biology, to PSE, to safeguarding and child protection.

Any attempt at teaching more than the biology of sex necessarily involves imparting values and moral judgements. This is precisely why campaigns around sex education are such a big deal at the moment. Timetabled lessons teach children what to think about the most private areas of their lives and how to conduct relationships with each other in the most direct and unmediated way possible. The values currently being pushed (the questioning of gender and the assumption of heterosexuality as well as the importance of asking for, and receiving, consent before every interaction) chime with an agenda being promoted by feminist campaigners.

Consent has become such an important part of sex education because it expresses ideas around emotional risk in a concrete form. As such it provides a practical opportunity for children to demonstrate having mastered correct emotional responses. A 2012 national OFSTED report spells out that SRE should ‘promote equality in relationships and emphasise the importance of seeking and gaining mutual consent through positive and active communication’. This must, the report stresses, go beyond teaching children how to say ‘no’. For the youngest pupils, consent is covered as part of safeguarding legislation. Children are taught that their body belongs to them and that they can say who has access to it. This promotes unnecessary fear and teaches children suspicion and mistrust of adults. It reaches into the heart of intimate relationships and presents the family as a site of potential abuse rather than a source of love and nurturing.

Older children are taught that sexual consent is an important feature of a ‘healthy’ relationship, because it means that people have freely chosen to engage with each other in pre-determined sexual acts. They are taught that consent must not be inferred, assumed, coerced or gained by exploitation. Sex without formal consent is, by implication, unhealthy, risky and dangerous to an individual’s emotional wellbeing.

Teaching children a state-sanctioned method not just for having sex but for thinking about sex, often long before they are ready to put theory into practice, throws up a number of problems. The focus on consent teaches that sex without the incantation of pre-rehearsed scripts learnt in the safety of the classroom is rape. They are taught that they will be emotionally damaged from such an experience. The subtext here, although rarely acknowledged, is that boys will grow up to be potential rapists and girls to be victims. In order to protect themselves, both boys and girls need to be constantly vigilant and must monitor each other’s behaviour – even when in private.

Campaigners are quick to present SRE as entirely positive. We are told that SRE classes are simply a commonsense means of protecting children and young adults from physical and emotional harm. But this is to wish problems away with a cloak of simplicity. There is no correct way to behave in the context of a relationship. A disjuncture between the reality of the bedroom and the rhetoric of the classroom doesn’t equate to rape. Not only is there no correct way to behave, there is also no correct way to feel about sex. Telling children some emotional responses are better than others is worse than disingenuous, it promotes a fear and anxiety of intimate relationships that jeopardises their future private lives.

We don’t need more or better sex education – we need to abandon it altogether. Yes, let’s teach children basic biology. But let’s leave them to work out how they think, feel and behave in relationships for themselves.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Revisionist History Strikes Yale

Yale University has joined the Left’s campaign of historical purges. Not that it was unforeseen or unexpected. We alerted readers to Yale’s disgraceful capitulation to revisionist history back in August, when the school formed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming. It’s goal? To “develop clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus.”

Six months later, the institution has declared officially that John C. Calhoun will no longer represent Calhoun College, a residential college erected in 1933 whose moniker, we’re haughtily lectured, improperly dignifies the racist ex-politician and Yale alumnus. His replacement will be Grace Hopper, who served in the Navy and became famous for developing the field of computer science. Calhoun, like so many during his time, was a passionate promoter of slave ownership, an admittedly regrettable and indefensible position that, curiously, has culminated into a pivotal sticking point some 167 years after his death. Enter Case No. Umpteen in bizarre selective outrage and double standards.

As Roger Kimball observes in The Wall Street Journal, “Calhoun owned slaves. But so did Timothy Dwight, Calhoun’s mentor at Yale, who has a college named in his honor. So did Benjamin Silliman, who also gives his name to a residential college, and whose mother was the largest slave owner in Fairfield County, Conn. So did Ezra Stiles, John Davenport and even Jonathan Edwards, all of whom have colleges named in their honor at Yale.” Where are the demands to repudiate them and others like Elihu Yale, whose early benevolence not only helped facilitate the development of Yale College but eventually persuaded school officials to name the school after him?

As Kimball explains, “[W]hereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his ‘just and kind’ treatment of slaves and the ‘stainless integrity’ of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. Is all that not ‘fundamentally at odds’ with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?” Apparently, the administration doesn’t have time to contemplate such things. It’s too busy sanctioning parties for the less-than-honorable Black Panthers.


DC Councilmember Tells Mayor To Remove Education Chair Over Betsy DeVos Support

D.C. Council Member David Grosso urged Mayor Muriel Bowser Wednesday to remove education co-chair Anthony Williams over his support for Betsy DeVos, who now serves as secretary of education.

In a letter sent to Bowser, Grosso argued that former Washington, D.C., Mayor Anthony Williams must be removed from his position as co-chair of the D.C. Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force because he abandoned neutrality through his vocal support for DeVos during Senate confirmation hearings.

The Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force is an initiative responsible for delivering a report to the mayor on how best to improve coordination between public schools in Washington, in order to boost student success.

For Grosso, Williams’ open support for DeVos compromises his ability to render impartial recommendations. Williams featured in a video posted online by the American Federation for Children, in which he enthusiastically backed DeVos.

“In my opinion,” Grosso wrote, “this creates a conflict of interest given his influential role on the Task Force and its stated mission.”

“As I stated to Deputy Mayor Niles, it is the opinion of the majority of our residents that “public schools” includes both traditional and public charter schools,” Grosso continued. “The Task Force’s mission of creating recommendations for a fair public education and Mr. Williams’ endorsement of a nominee who supports voucher programs are in conflict.”

Grosso then argued that past experiments of voucher programs in D.C. resulted in public dollars being funneled to low-quality, low-performing private schools.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a long-time advocate of school choice: the idea that parents can receive vouchers to send their children to schools they prefer, whether that school is a private school, charter school or magnet school.


Australian government to end funding for SA Islamic school

The federal government has axed funding for a controversial Islamic school in South Australia.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced today that his department will no longer fund the Islamic College of South Australia in Adelaide from April 13.

Senator Birmingham said the school had failed to comply with financial reporting requirements, including the submission of quarterly reports.

"It is disappointing that after the number of chances this school has been given and the constructive work the Department has been doing with the authority since November 2015 the school has still failed to meet the reasonable standards and expectations placed on them," Senator Birmingham said.

He said the government had not taken the decision lightly but was left with no choice but to withdraw funding.

"The school authority is not meeting the strict conditions placed on them in April 2016, which included obligations around improvements to governance and financial management and regular reporting on progress in making the required changes."
The Commonwealth Government provided $4 million to the school during last year.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The MTA’s myopic agenda

FRESH OFF A victory on Question 2, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, led by combative firebrand Barbara Madeloni, is pushing legislation to undermine key pillars of this state’s highly successful education-improvement effort. The MTA’s main bill takes aim at so-called high-stakes testing, under which students have at least five opportunities to pass the MCAS graduation exam. Even as it calls for hundreds of millions more in state education spending, the MTA wants a three-year moratorium on those tests, with the goal of nixing them entirely.

The bill would also rewrite school-turnaround legislation, dramatically limiting the powers that the law gives districts and the state to intervene with underperforming schools. And it would also prohibit districts from using student learning, growth, or achievement data in teacher evaluations. Meanwhile, the MTA is stepping up its “opt-out” push, an effort to persuade parents to keep their children from taking the statewide tests.

Senator Michael Rush, D-West Roxbury, the lead Senate sponsor of the MTA legislation, says he decided to file the bill based on conversation with teachers in his district. “A lot of these concerns I have had,” he said. “Largely, they feel students are being overtested.”

No surprise there. Teachers unions have long had an ambivalent stance on education reform, supportive of the additional resources but leery of the accompanying accountability. Still, a move to eliminate statewide standardized testing ignores the history of educational improvement in Massachusetts. Our best-in-the-nation status was achieved in large part because of the landmark education reform law of 1993, which married a big new infusion of resources to statewide standards and assessments. The 2010 follow-up law, meanwhile, gave the districts and state important new powers to intervene with underperforming schools.

Statewide tests have been an instrumental part of that improvement effort. Anti-testing partisans often assert that a student’s socioeconomic status is determinative of his or her academic performance, and that real improvement can’t be made unless poverty is eradicated. But the Massachusetts experience belies that contention. Since the advent of the MCAS, districts have been able to pinpoint and focus on students’ weaknesses and needs, improve instruction and tutoring, and dramatically boost passing and proficiency levels. Those test results have also led to a concerted focus on lagging urban schools.

“This bill begins to dismantle in large steps that framework, and that to me would be a tremendous mistake for the Commonwealth,” says Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

Yes it would, which makes it unfortunate that the legislation has attracted more than 100 cosponsors. Given that even Rush doesn’t exhibit a clear grasp of how the MTA’s legislation would change the school-turnaround process, it’s hard to think that most of his cosponsors do. These lawmakers need to undertake some serious homework about exactly how Massachusetts made it to the top nationally on education.

As for the opt-out: On its website, the MTA describes it as “the right of parents to opt their children out of state standardized tests” and makes it sound as though doing so carries no consequences, at least for non-high-school students. But there is no right to opt out; the tests are mandatory. And because school evaluations are based on a broad cross section of students, a school whose participation rate falls significantly could see itself drop a performance level. That happened with both Boston Latin School and the Roger Clap School in Dorchester last year. Further, parents miss a chance to see how their child is doing according to a uniform state standard.

The MTA’s legislation is self-interested and wrong-headed, but not particularly surprising, at least not in the Madeloni era. It deserves to die a quiet death in committee.

Encouraging families to opt their kids out of testing, on the other hand, is irresponsible, an attempt to use parents and students as pawns in the union’s anti-testing crusade. The MTA should know better than to lead families down that counterproductive path.


Education Reform Expert Recommends Shutting Down Department of Education

Vicki Alger, research fellow at the Independent Institute, delivered a speech at The Heartland Institute on February 1 about her new book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of American ‘s Children. You can watch her presentation here.

Alger ‘s research at the Independent Institute focuses on education reforms that provide a competitive education marketplace and increases parental control over their children ‘s education. The author of more than 40 education policy studies, Alger has advised the U.S. Department of Education on public school choice and higher education, and has also helped to advance educational reform in her home state of Arizona.

Alger ‘s research also inspired the introduction of the most school-choice bills in the history of California, five in all. Prior to her career in education policy, Alger taught college-level courses in American politics, English composition and rhetoric, and early British literature.

As is noted on the back cover of Alger’s book:

For nearly 100 years the federal government left education almost entirely in the hands of the citizenry and state and local governments, but in 1979, with the creation of the US Department of Education a sprawling bureaucracy with 153 programs, 5,000 employees, and an annual budget of approximately $70 billion, the federal government intruded itself into almost every area of education.

Accordingly, Alger reveals in her book that 1) federal involvement in education has been a failure, and 2) assesses, identifies, and articulates the best strategy for success.

Alger further explains how and why U.S. students are mediocre achievers in math, science, and other subjects when compared to many other nations – despite America’s schools being the most costly in the world. In her presentation, Alger debunked the common misconception that this nation was once a world leader in elementary and secondary education. We never ranked at the top. America can’t get back to the head of the class because we never were at the head of the class. In fact, we have always scored at, or near, the bottom of the rankings. But with effective educational reforms, the academic performance of American students could improve significantly.

For those who are advocates of school choice, Alger presents strong arguments for giving more power to parents and students.

Evolution of Department of Education

The original Department of Education was created in 1867 – and downsized to an office the following year – to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. While the agency’s name and location within the executive branch have changed over the past 130 years, this early emphasis on getting information on what works in education to teachers and education policymakers continues down to the present day.

When debate opened in the House on June 5, 1866 about a national channel of communication among school officers of different states and the federal government, there was neither mention nor desire to utilize the federal treasury to fund any educational programs. There was no hint that the department would do anything other than collect statistics. In short, the department was to be an educational statistical service located in Washington, D.C. The department, which started out with four employees, acted as a clearing house of data for educators and policymakers.

Democratic Rep. Samuel Moulto from Illinois had this to say about his version of a Department of Education – which has come to pass in America today, but which was never sanctioned by our Constitution:

Now, sir, in order to make education universal, what do we want? What is the crying necessity of this nation today? Why, sir, we want a head. We want a pure fountain from which a pure stream can be poured upon all the States. We want a controlling head by which the various conflicting systems in the different States can be harmonized, by which there can be uniformity, by which all mischievous errors that have crept in may be pointed out and eradicated.

Present-day Department of Education

There is no traditional or historical basis for The Department of Education. The department represents a political agenda administered from Washington DC. The department was moved here and there during its history, and went through some name changes, but in whatever form it has taken it has failed to improve education – such as in 2016, when the department spent $200 billion.

In 1976, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter promised to create a Department of Education, and is immediately endorsed by the National Education Association. This is first time the NEA endorsed a presidential candidate in more than a century of existence.

In 1979, after much opposition, Congress narrowly passed legislation to split off a new Department of Education from the existing Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers provided powerful lobbying support for the creation of the new department. The Department of Education began operations in 1980 with 6,400 employees. When campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan calls the Department of Education “President Carter’s new bureaucratic boondoggle” and promised to abolish it – a promise, obviously, he could not keep.

The Department of Education was created to improve management and efficiency, but as Alger noted in her talk at Heartland, the department represents just one more piece of government with lots of bureaucrats. By her count, Alger said just 6 percent of Education Department programs are effective. Although the department is getting more expensive to operate, children have not been better-educated after three decades of massive funding.

The theme that ran throughout Alger’s book presentation was that it’s time to eliminate the Department of Education. As she remarked: “Education doesn’t get any better like a fine wine.”

According Alger, student achievement has been flat since the late 60s up to today. It is fair to ask how can this is so when American schools are among the most costly in the world? Yet American students experience only mediocre achievements in math and science, in contrast to students who excel in countries that spend far less per student. Alger puts some of the blame on the resistance to school choice and competition.

Concern about the achievement gap in America versus other countries in the world led to the school-reform movement of the 1980s. Improving student achievement became all-important, so reforms began exploring how the federal government count partner with the states – a tactic that went against how education policy had been viewed in the past, one driven primarily by the states.

Standard-based Education Reform explored in the 1980’s

Standard-based education reform began with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 which eventually led to Common Core.

During the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, two standards-based programs were set in motion: No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Both program failed. Nevertheless, the Obama administration was able to sneak Common Core State Standards beneath the radar of the American people by peddling the program to states, sight unseen, through the offer of money to cash-strapped states.

Ze’ev Wurman, former U.S. Department of Education official, called Common Core standards mediocre. In no way were they to be considered a proper preparation for college.

Alger ascribes the failure of Common Core to Obama Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who was plucked from Chicago, where he served as superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools from 2001 to 2009. It was Duncan’s mission to eliminate the extreme variation in standards across America so this nation had only one system of learning.

‘Strategic Dismantling’ of the Department of Education

Alger’s two-step process to eliminate the Department of Education follows:

Shutter up. Eliminate 19 program offices to reduce and overhaul cost. This would save $14 billion.

Return control of managing programs back to the states, citizens, and school districts. This would save $216 billion. (Programs remain operable from three to five years. As programs expire, discontinue them.)

As related by Alger:

Schools rely on federal funding to the amount of 10 cents on a dollar. The new mandate for Common Core required more money for schools to implement than did No Child Left Behind, yet schools were told to rip up the No Child Left Behind mandate to replace with Common Core.

Arizona, a Leader in Charter Schools

Alger was instrumental in her home state of Arizona in approving charter schools, an achievement that is now celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Charters faced steep opposition in Arizona, with critics predicting doom. But the sky did not fall in Arizona because of charter schools, nor were public schools starved. Instead, Arizona has more top high schools than any other state, yet Arizona spends $5,000 less on the average than the average state. (Illinois has no top high school, other than possibly some of Chicago’s magnet schools.) Black students in Arizona, meanwhile, have made the highest math gains on the nation’s latest report card. Why should children be kept in schools that don’t work for them?

Alger supports publicly funded vouchers, and particularly Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), because every dollar follows the child. Algar said she has helped five states implement ESA programs directed by the state, not the federal government.

Q&A with Vicki Alger

Concerning Betsy DeVos? Vicki Alger believes Betsy DeVos, even though she endured a tough nomination fight, will be a strong leader for Trump. Hopefully, Alger said, DeVos will do away with the disaster of Common Core, which in the process will demolish the ESSA Act – through which parents are bullied and threatened about their child’s graduation unless the test associated with Common Core is taken.

Concerning budget of U.S. Department of Education established in 1979? Out of the $200 billion spent to operate the department, only about 10 percent is sent back to the states. That means it takes $130 billion just to administer the distribution of money back to the states, certainly a massive political boondoggle.

Mustn’t some standards exist to measure how students are progressing in subject matter, although Common Core is a failure? California, Alger said, has little else going for it, but it does have a good state testing program. There is no shortage of basic state skill tests if a parent wants to know where there kids are on basic skills, but don’t trust the state to administer the test.

Don’t parents want to know what their child knows at the beginning of a school year and at the end? Vicki Alger believes the focus should be more on parents having choices rather than testing standards.

In closing

So often the battle seems insurmountable, but those of us who are sick of top-down federal control of education on both sides of the aisle outnumber those who wish to keep the status quo.

Thirty-seven years after the modern Department of Education was established under Jimmy Carter, students are not better off. Now is the time to sever the partnership of education with the federal government by abolishing the Department of Education. Let President Trump and your legislators hear from you as a necessary component toward Draining the Swamp.


Petition to fire Berkeley teacher garners 500 signatures

A petition to oust a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who was involved with a counter-protest against a white supremacist group in Sacramento has gathered more than 500 signatures

The middle school teacher’s involvement at the protest prompted threats of violence against students at King.

Yvette Felarca — the middle school teacher and a member of the group By Any Means Necessary, which says it’s “building a new civil rights movement” — was filmed in Sacramento on June 26 taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending a rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. The violent altercation made headlines across the U.S. after seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized during the pandemonium.

Robert Jacobsen, a former student at King Middle School, launched a petition drive on Change.org after learning about Felarca’s involvement in the Sacramento altercation. The petition demands that the Berkeley Unified School District fire Felarca. It argues that citizens of the U.S., regardless of their political views have the right to free speech. Felarca’s interference with those rights are grounds for dismissal, according to the petition.

“Felarca is a 7th- and 8th-grade Humanities teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley,” reads the petition. “Among her responsibilities is teaching the students under her tutelage about the Bill of Rights. Someone who does not believe in free speech should not teach kids about their constitutional rights.”

“Felarca’s activity would get a student expelled at best, or jailed at worst. And yet she’s meant to be a role model for students. She has repeatedly advocated the use of militant, violent tactics to shut down opponents of her personal political pack, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).”

Jacobsen told Berkeleyside via email that he had nothing against Felarca personally, and that she never taught classes while he attended King. Jacobsen said he filed the petition because he doesn’t believe that it’s fair that a “militant agitator like Felarca mold impressionable students,” and that a teacher who “manipulates teenagers into joining their group should teach teens.”

Berkeleyside has not uncovered evidence that Felarca conveys her political views in the classroom.

A video posted to YouTube depicts a woman matching Felarca’s description confronting a demonstrator, yelling in his face, “Get the fuck off our streets,” punching him several times in the stomach, and pulling his backpack. Moments later another protester pulls him to the ground. Thus far, no charges have been filed against Felarca, according to the Sacramento DA’s office.

Referring to both the Sacramento prosecutor’s office and the school district, Jacobsen called the response from the government thus far “lackluster,” and added that if there was ever a reason to fire a teacher, “assaulting a man for exercising his right to free speech” should be grounds to do so.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans told Berkeleyside via email that Felarca is still employed but declined to go into further detail. “Because this involves an employee, everything is confidential,” wrote Evans.

Jacobsen said the school district isn’t planning to oust Felarca because “they can’t discipline anyone for what they do in their private life.”

The California Highway Patrol is conducting an investigation into the violence at the protest but did not return several phone messages requesting comment. Typically, law enforcement does not comment on ongoing investigations.

In the aftermath of the protests, King Middle School was flooded with anonymous emails demanding Felarca be fired. One of the emails threatened “that if certain actions were not taken against the teacher within the week, someone would come to King with the intent to harm students,” according to the school district.

The FBI determined the email threat was “low level,” but Berkeley police stepped up patrols around the school and assigned an additional officer to patrol the campus at 1781 Rose St. The school district relocated two programs that were running at King over the summer, said Evans.

The controversy and threats of violence, as well as Felarca’s involvement, have frustrated some parents with children at King.

“I don’t want to blame the teacher — but I also wonder about her judgment,” one parent told Berkeleyside. Referring to the white supremacist group in Sacramento, the parent continued: “She’s dealing with a group known to hate minorities and with a history of violence. She may be putting children in danger. I support free speech, but as a parent, I’m upset that she’s getting involved with crazy people.”

Felarca (right) was among the leaders of the December 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Yvette Felarca (right) was among the leaders of the Dec. 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Felarca did not respond to email messages and phone calls seeking comment. However, in a Facebook post, Felarca thanked her supporters and said she held the presumptive Republican nominee for president Donald Trump responsible for the threats. “His politics of racist demagoguery and hate is inciting these vile threats of violence, even against children,” she wrote. “It exposes why Trump and his racist, Nazi, and KKK supporters need to be defeated — and it shows us what Donald Trump’s vision for America really is, and why we need to keep building the movement.”

Activism is nothing new to Felarca. She has, in the past, taken an active role in teachers’ union politics and continues to be politically active with BAMN.

BAMN was formed in 1995 and has been embroiled in controversy over its militant stances ever since. For example, in a 2015 action, BAMN won a victory of sorts as its members mobilized in support of a UC Berkeley student who was allegedly raped. As part of the campaign, BAMN printed more than 100 posters bearing a photo of the young man accused by another student and the word “Rapist” in large bold type. BAMN also held rallies and ultimately the young man was suspended from the university until 2019.

Prosecutors declined to file charges after determining there was insufficient evidence to prove rape beyond a reasonable doubt.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Scottish university’s new principal promises to widen access

Scotland is heavily socialist so they take this tilting at windmills seriously.  Most of the capitalistic Scots emigrated long ago.  It's mainly the dependent ones that are left

Peter Mathieson, who is expected to take over in Edinburgh early next year, admitted that existing efforts to improve diversity had not delivered acceptable results

The incoming head of one of Scotland’s leading universities has promised to take radical action to drive up the number of students it attracts from deprived communities.

Peter Mathieson, who is resigning as president of Hong Kong University and is expected to take over in Edinburgh early next year, admitted that existing efforts to improve diversity had not delivered acceptable results.

Figures for 2015-16 revealed that just 5.2 per cent of new undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh came from the poorest fifth of Scotland, a three-year low for the institution. Only 16.5 per cent of the university’s Scottish students come from the poorest 40 per cent of the country.


Stalin Wasn’t All Bad (Explain British Schoolteachers)

Stalin wasn’t all bad, you know.

Sure he was a murderous thug responsible for around 50 million deaths, while reducing the rest of the population to a state of misery, poverty, and near-permanent terror. Sure his collective farming policy turned breadbaskets into famine-starved hellholes where cannibalism was rife and his Five Year Plans destroyed what was left of the Russian economy after Lenin.

But let’s not forget the upsides: he “ended the exploitation of peasants by greedy landlords and to rid of the greedy and troublesome kulaks”‘ and he “helped peasants work together”.

This, amazingly, is what children are being taught in British schools. The quotations come from the GCP GCSE Modern World History revision guide and indicate the kind of answers kids are expected to give in their history exams when talking about Stalin’s collectivisation of farms.

Apparently, this is part of a method where they are expected to discuss the Pros and Cons of each issue.

I learned this from an article in The Daily Telegraph by James Bartholomew, the financial journalist and author, who happens to be the guest on my Delingpole podcast this week.

Like me, Bartholomew is an ardent believer in a minimal state. That is, he thinks that whenever government tries to make things better it almost invariably makes things worse – and that the state is, therefore, best cut out of the equation as often as humanly possible.

That history is teaching lunacy is a fairly typical consequence of excess government. In a free education market, where anyone could set up a school, it’s somewhat unlikely that the history curriculum would allow the promulgation of such outrageous left wing propaganda.

Stalin was loathsome – directly responsible for more deaths even than Hitler. Yet schools that – as Bartholomew notes – would never dream of asking kids to talk about the Pros of the Holocaust somehow feel it’s OK to look for some of the positives in this sadistic Communist tyrant. Why?

Partly because in Britain – as in the U.S., where Betsy DeVos has arrived as Education Secretary not a moment too soon – schools have been skewed by the values of the public sector which, like those of public sectors everywhere, are unerringly left wing.

Very few parents would wish their child to be taught that Stalin had his upsides. But few get much choice in the matter because there is no competitive market in schools: bad teachers are rarely sacked (as they would be in private sector industries, but not in the heavily unionised state sector) and if the school in your area is failing and teaching your children badly there’s probably nowhere else nearby you can move them.

Also, the fact that you don’t pay your kids’ state school fees – the “government” does – means you probably have lower expectations (accompanied perhaps by a false sense of gratitude for a service provided “free”) than you would if the fees came more obviously out of your pocket.

For these and many other reasons, our state schools will go on failing to improve and teachers will go on indoctrinating our children with left wing propaganda. (Though there are exceptions: one of the things I’m very much looking forward to, sometime this year, is paying a visit to one of the state school sector’s shining successes – Katharine Birbalsingh’s Michaela Community School. I’ll be recording a podcast there.)

But it’s not just bad schooling which is an inevitable product of the welfare state. Let’s not forget the welfare state also creates bad healthcare, bad housing, unemployment, poor care for the elderly and economic stagnation.


School choice keeps the peace

by Jeff Jacoby

PUBLIC SCHOOLS are commonly described as engines of democracy and citizenship, and a bulwark against social strife. Which makes the Democrats' bitter and unremitting campaign against Betsy DeVos all the more ironic.

DeVos, the next secretary of education, is a billionaire who has for years channeled her money and energy into the cause of education reform, especially for the underprivileged. Yet her nomination drove the left to a frenzy of opposition evoked by no other Cabinet nominee.

The confirmation of the new secretary was a blow to the powerful teachers unions that exercise so much clout in Democratic Party circles. The unions depend for their wealth and influence on the public education monopoly that keeps millions of students trapped in chronically failing schools, and like all monopolists they have a visceral antipathy to competition. They despise DeVos because of her passion for dramatically expanding school choice — through charter schools, online "virtual" teaching, homeschooling, or vouchers to pay for private or parochial school tuition.

The benefits of school choice, especially for kids in the poorest districts, have been confirmed and reconfirmed. Polls routinely find that substantial majorities of Americans favor more school choice. And as the stunning number of student names on charter school waiting lists demonstrates, the hunger for a better option than the local public school is anything but theoretical.

Yet the reasons to liberate Americans from the monopoly of government-run schooling go beyond educational outcomes and academic success. School choice also promotes peace.

Public schools, it is said, bring together children from differing backgrounds and imbue them with the shared values that unite our pluralist society and prevent balkanization. It's a pretty theory, but it has never been true.

"Throughout American history," observes Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, "public schooling has produced political disputes, animosity, and sometimes even bloodshed between diverse people. Such clashes are inevitable in government-run schooling because all Americans are required to support the public schools, but only those with the most political power control them."

Far from being the glue that holds our communities together, public schooling is too often the wedge that drives them apart. Americans differ profoundly on countless fundamental matters — abortion and guns, gay marriage and Darwinism, immigration and policing, Islam and foreign trade. By definition, a one-size-fits-all public school model — in which school committees decide which messages schools promote, which textbooks are used, and which programs get funded — cannot reflect the views of all parents.

For those who find themselves in the minority, there is no equitable resolution. Either they resign themselves to the indoctrination of their children in ways they don't approve, or they do battle with other parents or elected officials to change the way their kids are taught, or they pull out of the government-education system altogether, opening their own schools at their own expense while still having to pay for the public schools where their priorities are rejected.

When public schools have a monopoly on education, coercion is inescapable. And where there is coercion, there will be conflict.

At the Cato website, McCluskey maintains a "Public School Battle Map" that catalogs the clashes and angry controversies into which neighbors are constantly driven by the public school status quo. These battles erupt in state after state, year after year. They are fought over differences about curriculum, moral and religious values, reading assignments, race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender. For 2016 alone, scores of conflicts are recorded: in a Louisiana school district, for example, where students were banned from bringing American flags to football games; in Mississippi, where legislation was introduced to protect the right of teachers to discuss "controversial subjects," such as creationism; in Maine, where a high school senior's gay pride quote for his yearbook was censored; in Colorado, where atheists demanded the right to distribute antireligious literature to students.

McCluskey's map, which goes back only to 2001, records more than 1,500 instances of such political fighting. When schools are controlled by the government, and the government is controlled by the winners of elections, parents, teachers, and administrators will inevitably end up doing battle.

More school choice means less educational conflict. Let families choose from a wide array of educational options, and you diminish their impulse to fight over what gets taught and by whom. Winner-take-all is a terrible model for civil society. By contrast, a model built on freedom, pluralism, and equality — a model in which parents have as much leeway to provide for their children's schooling as they do for their meals, clothing, or religious training — would be immeasurably fairer, and a far better bet for keeping the peace. (Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump administration signals change in policy for transgender students

The Trump administration signaled Friday that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights, submitting a legal brief withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity.

The move by the Justice Department does not immediately change the situation for the nation’s public schools, as a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.

But it suggests that the Trump administration will take a different approach on the issue of transgender rights, which many conservatives thought went too far under President Obama.

And how the administration decides to proceed on the particular issue of transgender students and bathroom use would affect several other cases in which students are challenging their school districts’ policies, including one involving Virginia student Gavin Grimm, which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court later this spring.

The brief, filed in the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, came as part of a long-running suit by 12 states opposed to Education Department guidance issued last year directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The Obama administration took the position that barring students from bathrooms that matched their gender identity was a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in public schools.


Schools In Greece to Replace Greek Tragedy Lessons with Gender Studies  

Schools in Greece may be forced to abandon the teaching of classical Greek tragedy so they can make room for lessons on gender studies.

A plan being considered by the left-wing government in the cash-strapped nation could see literary works like Antigone thrown by the wayside.

The notoriously difficult texts could be pushed aside in favor of "gender equality, same-sex marriages and sex education", according to The Times of London.

If passed, the move would be another blow to Classical scholarship, which is in retreat across much of the world.

Other seminal texts, like the historian Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War, have already been scrapped.

Greek students have an obvious advantage since ancient Athenian texts - dating to around 450BC - are similar enough to the modern language that they could be read as easily as an English speaker might approach Chaucer.

Elsewhere, studying Greek texts in the original is an increasingly elite discipline, mostly confined to Classics departments in elite universities.

Speaking to The Times, Antonis Mastrapas of the National Federation of Classical Studies Professors, said: "This is preposterous. Not even during Greece's gruelling years of dictatorship were the works of ancient masters like Sophocles and Thucydides excluded from high school curriculums."


The Federal Government's Big Bet on Student Loans Goes Bad

 With the flurry of executive actions that President Trump has taken since coming into office on January 20, 2016 that has dominated the nation's news coverage, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the deteriorating condition of the U.S. government's student loan portfolio under President Obama's administration, which became news in the days just before the inauguration. The Wall Street Journal reports on the Education Department's student loan reporting scandal:

Many more students have defaulted on or failed to pay back their college loans than the U.S. government previously believed.

Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.

When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.

Worse, the WSJ`s editors have suggested that rather than having been the result of a computer coding error, the previous numbers on student loan defaults at thousands of colleges and trade schools may have been cooked to support President Obama's political agenda. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Adminstrators excerpts the following portions of the WSJ`s editorial analysis:

In early January the department disclosed that it had discovered a `coding error' that incorrectly computed College Scorecard repayment rates-that is, the percentage of borrowers who haven't defaulted and have repaid at least one dollar of their loan principal. The department says the error `led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar.'

The department played down the mistake, but the new average three-year repayment rate has declined by 20 percentage points to 46%. This is huge. It means that fewer than half of undergraduate borrowers at the average college are paying down their debt.

... The other scandal is that the Obama Administration used the inflated Scorecard repayment data as a pretext to single out for-profit colleges for punitive regulation. The punishment was tucked into a rule finalized in October allowing borrowers who claim their college defrauded them to discharge their debt. It requires for-profits in which 50% or fewer borrowers are paying down their principal to post the equivalent of a surgeon general's warning in all promotional materials.

... This combination of cynicism and incompetence is what made the Obama Administration's regulatory machine so destructive. One of the biggest messes it leaves behind is the government takeover of student loans that is likely to saddle taxpayers with hundreds of billions in losses. The Trump Administration now has to begin the cleanup job.

The Education Department's corrected numbers confirm that the problem of student loan defaults and delinquencies is not confined to for-profit institutions, but also exists at similar levels among both non-profit and public institutions.

But the problems don't stop there. Since President Obama greatly increased the role of the federal government in directly issuing student loans, borrowing nearly one trillion dollars to loan out to students at colleges and trade schools over the last 8 years, that 54% of student loan borrowers are now either defaulting or are delinquent in making payments on their loans means that the U.S. government isn't getting anywhere near the revenue that it needs to sustain this portion of the national debt.

The options that the U.S. government has to deal with the increasingly negative outcomes from this situation are limited. With such inadequate revenues from student loan payments coming in to cover the cost of servicing their portion of the national debt, the U.S. government must either cut spending, increase taxes, or borrow even more money than it was planning to roll over the debt and compensate for that unrealized revenue.

Getting the U.S. government into the student loan business in such a big way was supposed to improve its fiscal situation, eliminating the need for politicians to risk their seats in Washington D.C. by having to make such potentially unpopular choices. Sadly, President Obama's student loan fiasco would appear to have only made the need to make those hard choices more unavoidable.