Tuesday, January 23, 2018

America's teacher shortage

High teacher turnover is the root problem and: "Teachers leave schools with poor working conditions where they feel they cannot have success with their students".  Working in a jungle is not for everyone

This past fall, school districts nationwide faced serious teacher shortages that left many schools scrambling to find qualified teachers. Today, halfway through the academic year, many students are being taught by a temporary teacher because their schools could not fill positions in time — in Arizona, for example, more than 1 in 5 teaching positions remained unfilled four months into the school year, and an estimated 20 percent to 30 percent of teachers in urban school systems are hired after the school year starts. Projections suggest that the national teacher shortage is only going to get worse, particularly in hard-to-staff subjects such as mathematics, science and special education.

In response, policymakers have taken steps to boost the supply of teachers. In December, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) passed emergency regulations designed to alleviate what he called the “growing crisis” of a statewide teacher shortage by streamlining education requirements for new teachers. Lawmakers in Arizona, Illinois and Minnesota recently took steps to increase the number of new teachers by lowering the teacher licensure requirements. States such as Oklahoma have staffed classrooms by providing record numbers of temporary emergency certifications. And, motivated in part by a call to ameliorate teacher shortages, New York state recently allowed charter schools to certify their own teachers and dropped literacy tests for teacher candidates.

Although these efforts may prove to be helpful, they fail to address one fundamental root of the problem: School systems need to hire teachers in great numbers only if they don’t retain enough of the well-qualified teachers they currently employ. Unfortunately, 15 years after Richard Ingersoll cautioned about the “revolving door” in the teaching profession, the challenge of teacher retention remains. This revolving door is not only expensive for schools and destabilizing for students, but it also contributes to inequality in educational experiences — students of color and those living in poverty are less likely to be assigned effective teachers.

Recognizing that better information is needed to understand and address this long-standing challenge, we conducted a large-scale study of teacher retention in a diverse set of 16 urban public school districts in seven states that together serve nearly 2.5 million students annually.

We found that on average, just over half of new teachers in the districts we examined remain in the classroom after five years. This finding largely mirrors prior research. What our work newly reveals, however, is substantial variation around this average: While turnover is a challenge in all of the districts we study, it’s a real crisis in some. Our study documented five important trends about teacher retention.

First, across the districts, the share of novice teachers who left their district within five years ranges from just less than half to nearly 75 percent. This is an enormous difference in retention rates. The annual hiring costs in the district with the lowest teacher retention rate would be about $4 million lower if it retained novice teachers at the highest rate we observe. In an era of tight school budgets, these dollars can and should be better spent elsewhere.

Second, even when teachers stay in the same district, they frequently move across schools. In one district, half of novice teachers stayed in the district, but only 1 in 5 remained in the same school for five years. This building-level turnover means that schools still must invest resources to find and train new candidates. And there is good evidence that turnover can hurt students because it causes organizational instability.

Third, after teachers leave the classroom, their likelihood of returning varies widely by district. In half of the districts we examined, it is common for teachers to return after a temporary leave of absence, such as parental leave. In the other half, few teachers returned after going on leave. This suggests that struggling districts may benefit from human resource policies that encourage teachers to return after a leave.

Fourth, we found that few teachers depart the urban districts we studied for other districts in the same state. Thus, these urban districts can’t necessarily point to their suburban counterparts as the drivers of their retention challenges.

Fifth, encouragingly, we found relatively higher retention among more effective teachers. Here again, however, we found considerable variation across districts. These differences imply an additional cost — lower student achievement — in districts struggling to retain their top performers.

Our research revealed no obvious, simple way to improve teacher retention. The differences in retention rates that we saw across districts are not explained by easy-to-observe factors such as student demographics or teacher salaries. But related research shows that teachers leave schools with poor working conditions where they feel they cannot have success with their students, and they stay in schools where they feel supported by their colleagues, their principals and their school culture. Working to build more supportive school environments can both help students and ameliorate the retention crisis plaguing some of our urban school systems.

With teacher shortages on the rise across the country, policymakers must expand their focus beyond policies that only increase the supply of new teachers. While such efforts might act as Band-Aids to solve immediate shortages, they alone will not address the roots of the challenge. Our research shows that some districts are facing turnover rates that are unsustainably high. With teacher shortages on the rise and as states and districts make strides in promoting equal access to high-quality teachers for all students, a focus on teacher retention and attention to what conditions encourage teachers to stay at a particular school must be part of the solution.


UK: Girls must be told they CAN'T have it all says new head of leading girls' private schools who believes women must balance career and family

Women are held back by outdated ideas about what they should be able to achieve in their professional and personal life, according to the new head of the Girls' School Association.

In her first interview since taking up the post, Gwen Byrom, 47, headmistress of Loughborough High School, said the idea that schools must teach a more nuanced version of feminism.

She said that encouraging young women to aspire to positions of power is one of her top priorities in the role but she wants them to realise they will need to balance careers and family.

'One message is that you can't be a successful leader if you have children. The other message has been in the past that you can have it all, you can have everything and do everything,' she told The Sunday Telegraph.

'I think we are now getting to a more nuanced position [where] you can talk about the challenges that face families … How do women step up into leadership roles and balance those challenges?

'Rather than promising girls that they should expect to enjoy a high-powered careers at the same time as raising a family, it is more important to teach them about the challenges of balancing priorities.'

'I think it is a conversation for students generally about their lives, how they will manage themselves and how they are going to manage their commitments over their life.'

'I am a working mother, I took my last period of maternity leave while I was a head. That was obviously fairly visible.

'This is a very busy job, it is a very full-on job, but I am still a mum and I can do both things. If the girls ask me how things are, if they ask me about particular situations, I will talk to them about how I manage things generally.'

Mrs Byrom has five children aged between two and 19 years old.

She said: 'I wouldn't necessarily set myself up as a role model for the girls in my school - but they may look at me and say if the head can do it, if the head can have a family and a busy job, then maybe I can as well.'


Australia: Fewer students make the grade for teaching courses as new standards take effect

This tightening of standards for teachers was long overdue but may not be sustainable if teacher shortages develop

For the first time, Victorian school leavers wanting to study undergraduate teaching this year had to achieve a minimum ATAR of 65.

The change coincided with a 22 per cent decline in offers made to aspiring teachers in the first round of university offers, an analysis by The Age found.

A total of 1933 offers for education or teaching courses were made to school leavers, 220 fewer than last year. The remaining 697 places went to other applicants, down from 1211 in 2017.

It came as the average ATAR of students pursuing education courses increased to 69.53, up from 62.7 last year.

In previous years, some education courses have only required an ATAR of 30.

This turnaround was welcomed by Victorian Education Minister James Merlino. "We always said we wanted to raise the bar for those wanting to become a teacher to ensure we keep lifting standards in our classrooms," he said.

The minimum ATAR will be hiked up to 70 in 2019 as part of a state government push to improve teacher quality and stem an oversupply of graduates entering the profession.

All aspiring teachers also have to pass a new non-academic test that screens them for resilience, ethics and empathy.

But Joanna Barbousas, the president of the Victorian Council of Deans of Education, warned that the changes could lead to a teacher shortage.

"There are concerns around the short term finances of university education programs and what it will mean for the profession in terms of a decrease in teacher supply," she said.

Associate professor Barbousas, who is also the head of La Trobe University's education department, said entry requirements were important but the real focus should be on the quality of courses.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace dismissed concerns of a teacher shortage, and said the changes would improve the standing of the teaching profession.

"Teaching is an incredibly complex job and we need to make sure that we have people that can deal with those complexities and deliver the highest quality education," she said.

The number of offers for some teaching courses has more than halved over the past four years.

A total of 285 first round places were offered at Australian Catholic University's primary teacher education course in 2014, but this year there were just 131 offers.

The large drop coincided with an increase in the university's clearly-in ATAR score from 58.5 to 65.

Offers also plunged for Deakin University's primary teaching course, Victoria University's Prep-Year 12 teaching stream, and RMIT's Primary Education course.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Outrage as 200 schools in Germany 'punish' children with ADHD by asking them to wear 13lb sand-filled vests to weigh them down in their seats

Hyperactive children were once seen simply as "naughty" and flogged for it.  This seems a better alternative

Schools in Germany are asking naughty and hyperactive children to wear heavy sand-filled vests to calm them down and keep them in their seats.

The controversial sand vests, weighing between 2.7 and 13lb, are used by 200 schools in the country - despite reservations of some parents and psychiatrists.

Supporters of the vests, which cost between £124 and £150, say they are very effective at curbing children's restlessness in many cases.

Increasingly more children are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) each year in Germany, as elsewhere.

Schools using the vests say they are a straightforward way of tackling the problem and a kinder and less complex form of therapy than drugs such as Ritalin.

Gerhild de Wall, head of the inclusion unit at the Grumbrechtstrasse school in the Harburg district of Hamburg, says children love wearing the vests and they are never forced into putting them on.

She first came across them while teaching in the United States, where they are referred to as 'compression vests' or 'squeeze jackets' and sometimes used for autistic children.

De Wall thinks the vests help children feel centred and concentrate better rather than acting as a constraint.

But she says that even though the weight is evenly spread over the child's upper body, they should not be worn for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Barbara Truller-Voigt, whose nine-year-old son Frederick has worn a 2kg sand vest at his Hamburg school for the past three years to treat his ADHD, said her son thinks it helps him and doesn't mind wearing it.

'He can concentrate better and is more able to take an active part in lessons because he's not spending the whole time trying to keep his arms and legs under control,' she said.   

But critics say they are similar to straitjackets worn by violent patients in psychiatric hospitals and could stigmatise their wearers.

One parent said she thought people had 'lost the plot', writing on Facebook: 'It would be best if we avoided such torture methods.

'How can you say to a child, 'You're sick, and as a punishment you have to wear this sand-filled jacket which is not only physical agony but will make you look like an idiot in front of the rest of the class.''

And many psychiatrists are sceptical about the vests, especially because the long-term effects of wearing them are unknown.

Michael Schulte-Markwort, director at the Child and Youth Psychiatry University Clinic in Eppendorf, Hamburg, told German newspaper Die Tageszeitung they were 'ethically questionable'.

He also said they could be seen as a one-size-fits-all remedy for attention deficiency disorders and schools should instead focus on the child's individual problems.


Community split on New Mexico charter school raffling off GUNS  for fundraiser to build a new school building

A school in New Mexico is making fast enemy out of parents concerned about a gun raffle fundraiser that has been happening annually for years. 

Estancia Valley Classical Academy in Moriarty, New Mexico, has a fundraising group comprised of staff and parents. They host numerous fundraisers every year in hopes of constructing a new school building.

At the 2017 'Made in America' fundraiser, the big-ticket items were a gun and a rifle.

And while those living near the school didn't comment, KRQU News 13 spoke with families in Alburquerque who felt those were warranted items. 

'I think it's good for the kids to build familiarity with the firearms and know what they're doing,' said Albuquerque resident Colt Noah.

According to the Public Education Department, it is up to individual districts or schools to decide how they wish to raise money and the state has no control. The state is only able to enforce that the money be used for proper ventures.

According to the school's website, they've been holding gun raffles during the fundraiser since 2015.

The school is a charter school meaning it is run independently separate from public schools.

And while they are less stringent with their guidelines, other schools do have rules on what can be sold at fundraisers. 


Muslims win one in London

A primary school that controversially banned pupils from wearing hijabs appears to have backed down after the chair of governors announced his resignation following complaints from parents.

St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, east London, hit the headlines at the weekend after the Sunday Times reported it had banned Muslim girls under the age of eight from wearing headscarves, to the delight of campaigners who argued it enforces religious conformity on children.

That decision, along with curbs on children fasting on school days during Ramadan, upset many parents, who said they had not been consulted.

On Friday, the school’s chair of governors, Arif Qawi, said he was stepping down, telling colleagues in an email: “I wish the school continued success and am truly sorry that my actions have caused any harm to the reputation of the fantastic school.”

Qawi’s comments regarding “Islamisation” posted on social media attracted sustained criticism, while parents complained that they first heard about the ban through the media rather than the school.

The website for St Stephen’s posted a note on Friday, headlined as a uniform policy update, that read: “Having spoken to our school community we now have a deeper understanding of the matter and have decided to reverse our position with immediate effect.”

The note was later amended to read: “The school has taken the decision to make the changes to this policy with immediate effect and this follows on from conversations with our school community. We will work with out school community to continue to review this policy going forward in the best interests of our children.”

Miqdaad Versi, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said his organisation welcomed Qawi’s resignation because of his “appalling” statements in support of the ban.

“This decision on religious symbols did not appear to target adherents of other faiths and appears to have been made without consulting the parents or community,” Versi said. “Yet serious questions remain unanswered as to the school leadership’s attitude towards Muslims, which are potentially discriminatory.

“It is deeply disappointing that a primary school with such a reputation has acted in this way. We hope that future decisions are made carefully and with full consultation with local communities.”

Amina Lone, an activist who has lobbied the government to bar hijabs in schools for young girls, was disappointed by the school’s U-turn: “A result of clicktivism in all its polarised glory. So much for choice and individual liberty. Terribly sad day for a secular democracy,” Lone wrote on Twitter.

Earlier this week, a group of Newham councillors criticised the school’s decision for creating a “toxic atmosphere” and called for the hijab ban to be reversed.

“It is troubling that the school has decided on a course of action that has clearly divided them from the very community they look to serve,” the councillors said in a statement.

The Department for Education’s policy is for individual schools to set their own uniform policies.

The Sunday Times had previously claimed that St Stephen’s was the best primary school in England last year, based on its outstanding key stage two test results. But the DfE’s performance tables show that a small number of other primaries achieved better results.

The school did not respond to attempts to contact it.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

USC Professor Tells Students that ‘Israeli Zionists’ Are ‘Terrorists’

Members of the University of Southern California community are asking the school’s administration to condemn a professor that told students that “Israeli Zionists” are “terrorists.”
Professor David Kang of USC has come under fire after students leaked a PowerPoint slide from one of his International Relations courses. In the slide, Kang listed several terrorist groups. Amongst those on the list, Kang listed “Israeli Zionists.” Notably absent from the list were terror organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

A petition circulating around the University of Southern California calling for the administration to condemn Kang for his inclusion of “Israeli Zionists” on his list of terrorist groups. The petition asks the university to “speak out against the bigotry” that Professor Kang expressed through his list.

On October 26, 2017, at the University of Southern California (USC), International Studies Professor David Kang gave a presentation to his class about terrorism where a slide called “Who are terrorists?” equated “Israeli Zionists” to the likes of the “North Korea”, “Tamil Tigers”, “IRA” & other established terrorist groups in history. No radical Islamic countries or terror organizations such as Iran, ISIS, El-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas, made the list.

In a statement to Campus Reform, Kang attempted to clarify what he said in the classroom. “I was not labeling any group as terrorists, only making the point that these groups have been called terrorist organizations by others,” Kang said. “The point of the exercise was to get students to think about how and why organizations are labeled as terrorist organizations, and to foster a discussion about who does the labeling and for what purpose.”

Despite Kang’s clarification, students from the course claim that Kang did not explain his intentions when he presented the slide to the class. “His class was critical thinking based but in this case he did not make that clear when presenting the slide nor gave any explanation to the historical context as to why Zionists would be a labeled a ‘terrorist’ organization,” the student said. “There were likely many impressionable students in the class who aren’t familiar with the issue who could now associate Zionism with North Korea and Al Qaeda, etc.”

Just this week, UCLA student body president Arielle Mokhtarzadeh announced that she had been on the receiving end of anti-semitic vandalism. She reported that someone had destroyed a Mezuzah (a Jewish ornament containing one of Judaism’s central prayers) that she had placed outside of her student government office.


Betsy DeVos: Common Core is dead at U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave a far-ranging speech today in Washington at an American Enterprise Institute conference, “Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned.”

She announced the death of Common Core, at least in her federal agency.

DeVos also decried the federal government’s initiatives to improve education. “We saw two presidents from different political parties and philosophies take two different approaches. Federally mandated assessments. Federal money. Federal standards. All originated in Washington, and none solved the problem. Too many of America’s students are still unprepared,” she said.

And she touched on a favorite topic, school choice.

“Choice in education is not when a student picks a different classroom in this building or that building, uses this voucher or that tax-credit scholarship. Choice in education is bigger than that. Those are just mechanisms,” she said. “It’s about freedom to learn. Freedom to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from falling and to get back up and try again. It’s freedom to find the best way to learn and grow… to find the exciting and engaging combination that unlocks individual potential.”


How the Great Books Are Revolutionizing College Admissions Tests

You may remember taking the SAT or the ACT. Hours and hours of memorizing techniques and tricks, all to get that perfect score to unlock your college dreams.

These tests have monopolized the college entrance process, and in recent years—in the case of the SAT in particular—have been tied to the controversial Common Core standards.

The Classic Learning Test offers an alternative to the SAT and ACT. As opposed to these standardized tests, the Classic Learning Test measures a student’s knowledge of great works of literature and applied mathematical skills.

Of course, the struggle in offering an alternative to the SAT and ACT is having colleges and universities adopt the tests as a part of their admissions process.

But colleges are increasingly accepting the Classic Learning Test, and 86 colleges across the country now accept it as a part of their admissions process as an alternative to the SAT and ACT.

Christopher Newport University in Virginia became the most recent college to announce that it will now accept the Classic Learning Test. The president of the university, Paul Trible, said of the decision:

As a former United States senator and president of Christopher Newport in Virginia for the past 22 years, I believe that higher education must enrich minds and stir hearts and instruct and inspire students to live lives of meaning, consequence, and purpose. At Christopher Newport we call that leading lives of significance.

Christopher Newport is thrilled to see a renewed focus on the humanities and a renaissance of classical education throughout America. We recognize that [the Classic Learning Test] is playing an important role in this renewal, and therefore I am excited to announce tonight that Christopher Newport University will be the first major public university in the U.S. to adopt the [Classic Learning Test] as an admissions standard.

Christopher Newport joins a growing list of colleges and universities in accepting the Classic Learning Test, from the University of Dallas and Hillsdale College to Belmont Abbey College and Calvin College.

With school choice programs growing rapidly across the United States, students are starting to personalize their education to fit their unique needs. The college admissions process, therefore, should similarly reflect the diverse skillsets and academic strengths that students bring to the table.

The Common Core-aligned SAT and ACT have been heavily criticized for their very limiting format that too often reflects a student’s ability to learn testing tricks, rather than core knowledge.

And, as my colleague Lindsey Burke wrote in 2014 when the SAT underwent a revamp to align with Common Core, students in traditional public schools weren’t the only ones affected:

The hugely controversial Common Core initiative is at least partly responsible for the latest revamp of the SAT college entrance exam. This puts great pressure on non-Common Core states, private schools, and homeschoolers to comply with national standards to keep students from doing poorly on the new Common Core-aligned SAT. … perhaps this alignment to Common Core will further motivate universities to disregard the test altogether, or to discard it in favor of other assessment instruments.

College and university presidents, it appears, are beginning to do just that, providing an alternative to the SAT and ACT.

Incorporating an assessment like the Classic Learning Test, which measures proficiency in mathematics and the great books, into colleges’ menu of admissions criteria will be critical for the thousands of students across the country who attend classically-oriented K-12 schools.

As the Classic Learning Test chips away at the two large testing monoliths, colleges are growing increasingly confident in employing new, rigorous assessments, and students are beginning to see their options expand for demonstrating their knowledge of the great books.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Conn. Supreme Court Sides With State in Education Funding Fight

Court refuses to dictate level of funding for particular schools

The Connecticut Supreme Court has found families in an education funding lawsuit failed to show disparities in the classroom are tied to unequal state funding.

Wednesday’s decision reversed a Hartford Superior Court ruling that the state violated Articles 8, 1 and 20 of the state constitution by allegedly failing to provide minimally adequate and substantially equal opportunity to all students. The court remanded the case to Hartford Superior Court with direction to render judgment for the state.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2005 against the state by more than 50 parents and students.

While Chief Justice Chase Rogers, who wrote the majority opinion, said the court sympathized with the plight of students in rural communities, she also noted that the plaintiffs in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, did not make their case.

“Although the plaintiffs have convincingly demonstrated that in this state there is a gap in educational achievement between the poorest and neediest students and their more fortunate peers, disparities in educational achievement, standing alone, do not constitute proof that our state constitution’s equal protection provisions have been violated,” Rogers wrote. “The plaintiffs have not shown that this gap is the result of the state’s unlawful discrimination against poor and needy students in its provision of educational resources as opposed to the complex web of disadvantaging societal conditions over which the schools have no control. Indeed, the trial court found that the state is providing significantly more educational resources to schools with large numbers of poor and needy students than to other schools.”

Rogers said it’s up to the Legislature, not the courts, to create educational policy.

Rogers also noted that the trial court properly found the plaintiffs failed to establish that the state violated the equal protection provisions of the state constitution.

Justice Richard Palmer, who wrote the concurrence and dissent along with Justices Richard Robinson and Michael Sheldon, said he believed the families “were not afforded the opportunity to prove their case according to the correct legal standard. … I dissent from that portion of the majority opinion that directs judgment for the defendants. Instead, I would remand the case for a new trial.”

Joseph Moodhe, an attorney with Debevoise & Plimpton in New York City, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Moodhe did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Other attorneys on the case referred questions to Moodhe.

Attorney General George Jepsen applauded the ruling.

“I am grateful to the Supreme Court for its careful and thoughtful consideration of this important case,” Jepsen said in a statement. “We argued in this appeal that the trial court exceeded its authority and that, therefore, the decision should be overturned. The court correctly determined that Connecticut’s public education system and its public education funding do not violate constitutional standards and that—absent such a constitutional deficiency—education policy decisions rest with the representative branches of government.”

Nicholas Mercier, vice chairman of the New Britain Board of Education, said he believes there’s a disparity between urban centers such as New Britain and their suburban counterparts.

“It’s a shame this has been dragging out for so long,” Mercier said. “The state clearly needs to do more to fund our poorest school districts, including New Britain. The evidence of that is not only in the state testing, but the fact that they [the Legislature] do not even follow their legislative formula in determining need.”


Chan Zuckerberg philanthropy taps UMass Amherst to create AI scientific research tool

This might actually be helpful.  The flood of new academic papers must be hard to navigate.  The methods I used to use to keep up would not work very well these days

A philanthropy started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan has awarded a $5.5 million grant to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Center for Data Science to create a free tool that would make millions of published scientific and medical findings easily accessible to researchers worldwide.

The project, called Computable Knowledge, would use a branch of artificial intelligence known as knowledge representation and reasoning to create a navigable map of scientific findings from millions of new and historical research articles. The project aims to help scientists stay current on new research and to make it easier to find previously unknown connections between findings in genetics, diseases, drugs, and treatments.

Using AI, the initiative promises to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery by removing the bottleneck created by the millions of peer review papers published every year. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is also building a team of AI scientists to collaborate on the project.

For UMass, it is a chance to showcase its work in artificial intelligence by “revolutionizing science,” said Andrew McCallum, director of the Center for Data Science, who will head the partnership.

“AI was getting to the point that it was ripe to help [by using] automated reasoning and making predictions about relations [in scientific findings] that are not directly observed, but for which we have peripheral evidence,” McCallum said, comparing the first-of-its-kind project to “how map apps are now indispensable tools for navigating the physical world.”

The service, which is expected to take several years to complete, will be accessible through Meta, an AI search tool acquired by the Chan Zuckerberg initiative a year ago. McCallum said that work has already begun and that the first version of the tool could be released within a year.

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Chan said the tool will allow scientists “to explore research in a highly visual way.”

“If we hope to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime, we must help scientists find new ways to explore, navigate, and reason across research,” she wrote.

The $5.5 million investment, the organization’s first donation and partnership with the university, is expected to result in the hiring of software engineers in Western Massachusetts to work on the project, as well as support the research of several graduate and PhD students, and postdoctoral researchers at the Center for Data Science, McCallum said.

In the statement Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker praised the selection of UMass Amherst to “play a major role in this groundbreaking initiative that will give scientists tremendous power to share their research around the world.”


More Australian graduates head into part-time jobs as economic chill persists

Economic chill my foot.  Employment grew markedly last year.  The economy delivered a near record 380,000 new jobs last year — most of them full-time.  The problem is useless degrees and the continual dumbing down of what is taught

Impact of global financial crisis and increased supply of university-educated candidates leaves 38% of graduates in part-time work

University leavers in Australia are increasingly settling for part-time employment after graduation as a flood of job seekers holding bachelor degrees dilute their own buying power.

On Friday the latest graduate outcomes survey revealed that the last decade has seen a rise of 17 percentage points increase in the number of university leavers in part-time employment, while the number of recent graduates in full-time work remains stubbornly below below the levels of the global financial crisis.

It’s what the survey authors say is part of a “pronounced trend towards part-time employment among graduates”. Between 2008 and 2017 the proportion of employed graduates working part-time increased by 17 percentage points to 38% of all graduates.

While the shift to part-time employment is part of a broader trend in the labour market, it’s particularly pronounced amongst university leavers.

For example in 2017 male graduates were far more likely to be employed part-time than the overall male workforce. Part-time employment was 32% for male graduates compared with 18.7% for employed men overall.

Phil Lewis, the director of the Centre for Labour Market Research at the University of Canberra, said the trend to part-time employment was down to supply and demand.

Between 2009 and 2016 domestic undergraduate enrolments grew by 33%, which Lewis said was have an impact on employer choice.

“There’s a certain number of people and a certain number of jobs,” he said. “When the economy is booming the queue becomes very short so employers take whoever they can get [but] the huge increase in graduates since the introduction of the demand-driven system just means the queue gets bigger.

“These people will get a job eventually but at the moment new graduates are right at the back because employers can pick whoever they want.”

The survey also found that since 2008 the full-time employment rate among bachelor degree holders has fallen from 85% to 71.8%.

Bruce Guthrie, a research manager from Graduate Careers Australia, said: “In a way it’s the unfortunate timing of an increase in graduate output coinciding with a reduced demand for new graduates.

“I used to hold out hopes that the situation would return to pre-GFC levels of strong employment outcomes for new graduates but it looks like the GFC has dislocated many industries and patterns of doing business world-wide and it might be that we’ll never get back to those levels of demand.”

The survey comes as the federal education minister Simon Birmingham engages in a war with universities over funding.

In its mid-year budget update the government announced it will cut $2.2bn from universities predominantly through a two-year freeze in commonwealth grants funding for teaching and learning – effectively the end of the demand-driven system.

The minister has signalled that he will seek to force universities to improve graduate outcomes by attaching performance-based measures including graduate outcomes to funding.

He said the survey demonstrated the benefits of “ensuring universities are more accountable and transparent about the job prospects of their graduates”.

“For example the results show that 82% of graduates with degrees in teaching secured full-time employment within four months of finishing, with the figure dipping to 60% for graduates in the creative arts and communications fields,” he said.

But Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia acting chief executive, pointed out the figures only accounted for graduate outcomes four months after graduating.

“The data shows that graduates, like everyone entering the labour market, need time to establish in their careers. But this immediate outlook can shift quickly – within three years of finishing their studies, nine in 10 graduates are employed full-time,” she said.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toby Young: once more into the breach

Outspoken conservative, Toby Young, was appointed to the Office for Students, a regulatory body, by the British PM.  The Left erupted with rage, causing Toby to give up the job for the sake of peace. The sequel below:

I naively thought that if I resigned from the Office for Students, stepped down from the Fulbright Commission and apologised for the offensive things I’d said on Twitter the witch-hunt would end. In fact, it has reached a new, frenzied pitch. The mob’s blood lust is up and it won’t rest until it has completely destroyed me.

Things took an ugly turn yesterday when Private Eye published a story saying I had attended ‘a secretive conference’ at University College London last year organised by Dr James Thompson, an Honorary Lecturer in Psychology at UCL. This is an annual affair known as the London Conference on Intelligence. It then went on to summarise some of the more outlandish papers presented at this event in previous years – not in the year I attended, mind ­– such as a paper arguing that racial differences in penis length predict different levels of parental care. It pointed out that in 2015 and 2016 this conference had been attended by someone described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as a ‘white nationalist and extremist’. It even dug up a blog post by one of the attendees in which he tried to justify child rape. It described all these people as my ‘friends’.

Needless to say, this article has led to a deluge of grotesque smears, on everything from the Canary to Russia Today. (The Russia Today article is headlined: ‘Shamed Toby Young ‘attended secret eugenics conference with neo-Nazis and paedophiles’.) More alarmingly, seemingly respectable, mainstream newspapers have followed up these stories – slightly toned down, of course, but with the same implication: that I am a neo-Nazi, an apologist for paedophilia and God knows what else.

So here are the facts. Yes, I went to the 2017 London Conference on Intelligence – I popped in for a few hours on a Saturday and sat at the back. I did not present a paper or give a lecture or appear on a platform or anything remotely like that. I had not met any of the other people in the lecture room before, save for Dr Thompson, and was unfamiliar with their work. I was completely ignorant of what had been discussed at the same event in previous years. All I knew was that some of them occupied the weird and whacky outer fringe of the world of genetics.

My reason for attending was because I had been asked – as a journalist – to give a lecture by the International Society of Intelligence Researchers at the University of Montreal later in the year and I was planning to talk about the history of controversies provoked by intelligence researchers. I thought the UCL conference would provide me with some anecdotal material for the lecture – and it did. To repeat, I was there as a journalist researching a talk I had to give a few months later and which was subsequently published.

Yes, I heard some people express some pretty odd views. But I don’t accept that listening to someone putting forward an idea constitutes tacit acceptance or approval of that idea, however unpalatable. That’s the kind of reasoning that leads to people being no-platformed on university campuses.

In an article for the Guardian, the University of Montreal conference, where I did actually speak, is described as ‘similar’ to the UCL conference. Complete nonsense. It was a super-respectable, three-day affair held at the Montreal Neurological Institute. Numerous world-renowned academics spoke at it, including Steven Pinker, the famous Harvard professor, and James Flynn, the political scientist who has given his name to the ‘Flynn effect’. In 2015, the same lecture I gave – the Constance Holden Memorial Address — was given by Dr Alice Dreger, a well-regarded author and academic.

You can see the website for the Montreal conference, and the roster of speakers, here. Virtually every one is a tenured professor. To reiterate, that’s the conference I spoke at, not the one in London.

Polly Toynbee joined the lynch mob earlier today – or, rather, re-appeared in the lynch mob – in a column headlined: ‘With his views on eugenics, why does Toby Young still have a job in education?’ In the column, she repeats the smear in the headline, calling me a ‘eugenicist’ – again, the implication being that I’m some kind of neo-Nazi. In case you miss the point, she says I’m on the ‘far right’ and I think ‘the poor are inferior’. (Bit rich, considering Polly sent her children to expensive private schools and mine are all at state schools, but still.)

Polly’s ‘eugenicist’ slur – which has been thrown at me by virtually the entire Parliamentary Labour Party – is based on a deliberate misunderstanding of an article I wrote for an Australian periodical in 2015 called Quadrant and is then ‘backed up’ by Polly by selectively quoting from it. She also throws in the fact that I attended a ‘secretive eugenics conference’, etc., etc.

In that article for Quadrant – which you can read here – I discuss an idea first presented by Julian Savulescu, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, which he summarises as follows:

Imagine you are having in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and you produce four embryos. One is to be implanted. You are told that there is a genetic test for predisposition to scoring well on IQ tests (let’s call this intelligence). If an embryo has gene subtypes (alleles) A, B there is a greater than 50% chance it will score more than 140 if given an ordinary education and upbringing. If it has subtypes C, D there is a much lower chance it will score over 140. Would you test the four embryos for these gene subtypes and use this information in selecting which embryo to implant?

Now, we haven’t yet developed the ‘genetic test’ referred to by Savulescu, and it’s possible that we may never do so because: (a) intelligence may not be genetically-based; and (b) even if it is, we may never discover all the subs-sets and combinations of genes associated with it. But what if it is and we do? Science fiction today becomes science fact tomorrow. In my Quadrant article, I discuss an obvious risk associated with the technology described by Savulescu, namely, that if it is ever invented, the first people to take advantage of it will be the rich so they can give their children an even greater advantage than they currently enjoy. In short, it will make inequality even worse.

My solution to this problem, set out in the article, is that this technology, if it comes on stream, should be banned for everyone except the very poor. I wasn’t proposing sterilisation of the poor or some fiendish form of genetic engineering so they could have babies with ‘high IQ genes’ or anything like that. Just a form of IVF that would be available on the National Health to the least well off, should they wish to take advantage of it. Not mandatory, just an option, a way of giving their children a head start. I was thinking about how to reduce the risk that this new technology will exacerbate existing levels of inequality – how to use it to reduce inequality. I described my proposal as ‘a form of egalitarianism’.

It is for this that Polly Toynbee – who obviously hasn’t read the article – has labelled me a ‘eugenicist’.

You think I’m mischaracterising my article? Dressing it up to make it sound less like an extract from Mein Kampf? Don’t take my word for it. Read this summary of my argument by Iain Brassington, who writes a bioethics blog for the Journal of Medical Ethics. After marvelling at all the people who’ve called me a ‘eugenicist’ (including Vince Cable, no less), he points out that what I’m suggesting ‘is in many ways, fairly unremarkable’.

What’s notable from a bioethicist’s perspective is just how familiar the arguments being presented here are. It’s hard to read Young’s article without thinking of a good chunk of the work on genetic screening, and on enhancement, that’s been done over the past few years… it’s pretty standard stuff in seminar discussions about screening; and nor is there anything that is obviously morally beyond the pale.

Hear that Polly? Nothing that is obviously morally beyond the pale. He thinks I’m wrong about lots of stuff, by the way – just not a Nazi. Read his piece. It’s very good.

So that’s the long and the short of it. Because, as a journalist, I went and had a look at a strange conference being held at UCL – and because I discussed a familiar bio-ethics problem in an obscure Australian periodical – I’m some kind of ‘far right’ nut job who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near kids, let alone schools.

It has been suggested – in the Guardian and elsewhere – that the reason I stepped down from the Office for Students is because I knew the Private Eye article was coming out and my number was up. That’s balls. I said some stupid, puerile things on Twitter late at night of which I’m thoroughly ashamed and for which I’ve unreservedly apologised. It became clear that having said those things, I couldn’t serve on the Office for Students without causing an almighty stink that would render it unable to do its job. But I’m not remotely ashamed of having attended the London Conference on Intelligence.

I believe in free speech. That includes defending the right of researchers and academics, however beyond the pale, to present their findings to other researchers in their field at academic conferences so they can be scrutinised and debated. If you believe someone is putting forward a theory that is wrong, unsupported by the evidence, you should want their theories to be exposed to scrutiny, not swept under the carpet. No-platforming people whose ideas you disapprove of is self-defeating.

That’s been my lifelong credo – and I had hoped to bring it to bear in the Office for Students, which has been tasked with protecting academic freedom. That is not to be and I have accepted that. But enough already. Just because I sat at the back in a lecture room at UCL one afternoon, scribbling away in my reporter’s notepad, while some right-wing fruitcakes held forth about ‘dysgenics’ does not make me a Nazi. If it did, then the fact that Jeremy Corbyn regularly attended a conference run by Holocaust-denier Paul Eisen would make him an anti-Semite.


Teacher Labels Classroom Ban on Hats, Hoodies in Classroom a Microaggression

A Michigan public high school mathematics teacher challenged the ban on students wearing hats and hoodies in the classroom as a "microaggression," in an article for an "enlightened masculinity" blog.

Paul Hartzer, who teaches geometry at Hamtramck High School, according to his resume, argued that removing a hat indoors is "a European tradition, and many feel that expecting students of color to learn and follow this guideline is yet another way in which European ‘culture' is shown as superior to their own heritage."

A "common defense for hoodie bans is that we teachers are preparing students for the ‘real world,'" wrote Hartzer, but that insinuates "we're suggesting that the corporate America model is what they should be striving towards."

"This is a European model of success, tied to 1950s White Men. It implies there's something wrong with any other route to success … which is a microaggression," he wrote for The Good Men Project, where he is the lead editor of education.

Further, banning hooded clothing can also be a "socioeconomic microaggression," as money-strapped students may have to update their wardrobe to comply with the school guideline.

While school administrators have cited reasonable concerns about students hiding earbuds or weapons beneath their headwear, Hartzer contended that schools may be "using logical-sounding reasons to hide a more problematic reason for such classroom bans: To enforce respect through control and appearance."

"Another very Eurocentric value is that appearance is more important than reality," he wrote.

Hartzer argued that students wearing earbuds will likely continue to be inattentive even if he removed them, and it was not worth the risk disrupting the rest of the class by confronting him. "Power struggles become an issue of costs vs. benefits," he wrote.

Hoodies can denote gang membership, whose obvious risks can be mitigated by prohibiting such clothes, but Hartzer questioned if school safety is best served by "reminding students multiple times a day that they're seen as potential criminals."

"What does a student of color hear when a white authority figure enforces what they see as a trivial, arbitrary rule?" asked Hartzer.

"Microaggressions against anyone who isn't an affluent, able-bodied, white, cis Christian man are tragically widespread in our culture," he wrote.

Hoodie and hat bans are another one of the education system's "disingenuous policies that start with disrespectful implications about our students," he concluded.

Hartzer, who has taught English and mathematics in Michigan since 2012, was not immediately available for comment.


New Education Focus On Old-School CivicsIn era of strained public discourse, educators urged to teach civic engagement from a Jewish perspective

At last year’s Jewish Futures Conference, the theme of which was “Hacking Happiness,” psychologist Dan Ariely argued that “happiness comes from a sense of purpose, meaning and contribution to others.” It should come as no surprise, then, that this year’s conference shifted outward to look at how Jewish civics education can “elevate American democracy.”

“Clearly, the political climate, the social climate, the civil discourse climate all led us to think this was an important topic, and we also think it’s a topic that Jewish educators don’t often think about,” said David Bryfman, chief innovation officer at the Jewish Education Project, which puts on the annual one-day conference in partnership with Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah.
“Often they [educators] are more concerned about how can we make us better off as a Jewish people, make the Jewish community stronger, and we thought it’s time for Jews to also begin to look outwardly and how can we make America or our civil society a stronger one as well,” he said.

The panels at the conference, held on Dec. 13 at New York University, focused on not just how to teach civics education in a Jewish context but also on how Jewish wisdom, tradition and values can contribute to improving the broader societies in which Jews live.

In the opening session, Tamara Tweel, who teaches civics at Columbia University and is director of strategic development at the Hillel Office of Innovation, pointed out that in Jewish tradition, freedom is not “simply a natural occurrence,” but one that must be secured through laws and institutions.

Rabbi Lee Moore, left, and musician Josh Nelson lead attendees in ‘Maoz Tzur’ and ‘This Land Is Your Land’ during lunch at the conference, which was held on the first day of Chanukah. Courtesy of The Jewish Education Project

As Jews, she said, “Our freedom was not secured when we left slavery, it was not secured when wandering in the desert. It was secured at Sinai. It was secured when we entered into a covenant that endowed us with a framework to live well together, to govern ourselves with self-restraint and communal obligations.”

Because “this kind of political freedom requires an extraordinary amount of self-discipline,” Tweel said, it’s vital that educators prepare students for that responsibility.

In America today, she argued, the basic confidence in and belief that government is designed for the people by the people has been eroded; currently only 20 percent of Americans believe they can trust the government. This trust has been eroded due to international forces including globalization and war and also due “to a history of policy decisions that have led to an almost universal disappearance of national service and civic education” as well as “an incarceration rate that presents our government as an entity that easily seizes freedom rather than seeks to preserve it.”

“Our current political system … does not promote a national commitment to political participation. The majority of Americans do not serve and do not vote. We have abandoned governing ourselves,” Tweel said.

Jewish tradition, however, has rituals built into it that can address this growing lack of a sense of communal responsibility, she said, including a ritualized focus on origin stories and on forgiveness.

“What would it look like if every family … celebrated “Constitution Day?” Tweel asked. “What would a national day of atonement and forgiveness look like?”

“It is up to you,” Tweel concluded, “to teach our children that we are uniquely blessed to be a people who were conceived in liberty, living in a country conceived in liberty and that it is our civic duty, and perhaps our sacred duty, to take responsibility for this fragile heritage and preserve it before it breaks.”

Joel Westheimer, research chair in democracy and education at the University of Ottawa, noted that in America, the whole reason public education was created was to allow people to participate in self-governance.

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, he said, “If the people are not educated enough to govern their own affairs, the solution is not to take that power of governance away from them … but to educate them.” When the United States was born, democracy was a new idea to most people, he said. “Now we’re in a period where the very success of that experiment is being called into question,” he said, with the rise of “anti-democratic leaders” around the world. Civics education has been marginalized as the focus on standardized test preparation grows.

However, he said, while it’s a “very difficult time for democracy in America,” it’s also a “moment of opportunity.”

“Civic engagement is up, watching the news is up. Yes, we’re lost in our echo chambers of information but there are many, many young people engaged,” he said.

In an interview after his talk, Westheimer said educators can make a difference. “I’ve seen fantastic programs where educators completely transform kids … helping them to be the best kind of person they can be and strengthen democratic society simultaneously.”

Just as the political climate inspired the Jewish Education Project to make civic engagement the theme of the conference, it was the current political climate that inspired many of the more than 325 educators who came to the conference.

Rabbi Mick Fine, director of Hebrew-language curriculum and instruction at Beit Rabban Day School, said that for him “it was very important to consider” how the next generation of Jewish people “can effect change” and “create a world that reflects our values.”

Rabbi Daniel Gordon, associate national director of development at NCSY, called the topic of the conference “critical.”

“I think it’s an issue that if you deal with teenagers and if you deal with anybody in the con[tinuing] education space it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Is it complicated? Absolutely. Is it complex? Certainly. But all those things are reasons that we should have the conversation and not shy away from it.”

Matt Williams, managing director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, said that he came because, “A number of Jewish organizations that I work with are really invested in understanding what it means to be a Jew in America at this particular moment and the question of civic engagement is inescapably a part of what it is they care about.”

But, he said, “they’re not sure how to navigate it within what is a very fraught political context. … Everyone is looking for answers and this is a conference where we can begin to address some of these issues.”


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Special-Needs Program So Popular It Has Exhausted All Funding

The Gardiner Scholarship Program, Florida’s education savings account (ESA) program for students with special needs, is so popular it has exhausted all funding for the 2017­–18 school year. Already the largest ESA program in the country (based on enrollment), there are now roughly 10,150 students receiving a scholarship. The state legislature appropriated $107.4 million for the program in 2017–18.

According to Step Up For Students, the largest of the state-approved nonprofit organizations that helps administer the program, there are another 1,270 students who have been approved for a scholarship but will not be able to receive their money due to a lack of funding. These students will be placed on a waiting list and will have first priority for any increase in funding for the 2018–19 school year.

“We have definitely exhausted every last dollar, every last penny,” Step Up for Students’ Vice President of Operations, Gina Lynch, told redefinEd. “There is healthy demand for the program.”

The popularity of ESAs in the Sunshine State means the time has arrived for the state to expand on the success of the Gardiner Scholarship Program with the creation of a new universal ESA program that would be open to all K–12 students. William Mattox, director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, has suggested this scholarship program be named after Mary McLeod Bethune, a child of slaves and civil rights icon.

“Adopting a Bethune Scholarship would give every Florida child a K-12 education tailored to meet his or her unique needs,” Mattox concluded in an article he wrote about the proposed scholarship program. “It would pay tribute to a courageous Florida educator and carry forward her faith-informed belief in each child’s unique worth and dignity. More than anything, adopting a Bethune Scholarship would ensure that every child in the state of Florida – every child – has the opportunity to receive a K-12 education tailored to his or her unique needs, interests, aptitudes, and learning style.”

The overwhelming majority of the available empirical evidence makes it clear educational choice offers families improved access to high-quality schools that meet their widely diverse needs and desires, and it does so at a lower cost while benefitting public school students and taxpayers. Just as important, education choice programs are broadly popular because they allow parents to exercise their fundamental right to direct the education of their children.

ESA programs are not a silver-bullet solution to every problem plaguing Florida’s school system, but they certainly allow families much greater opportunities to meet each child’s particular education needs. The goal of public education in the Sunshine State today and in the years to come should be to allow all parents to choose which schools their children attend, require every school to compete for every student who walks through its doors, and make sure every child has the opportunity to attend a quality school.


Public School Kids Get Assembly on Sex Changes

A Northern Virginia public school held a school-wide assembly before Christmas break featuring transgender crusader Amy Ellis Nutt.

George Mason High School in the City of Falls Church brought in Nutt, a Washington Post reporter, to lecture students on her book Becoming Nicole, about a boy who “identified” as a girl as a toddler, had his puberty suppressed as a child, and was castrated as a teenager.

Nutt’s lecture hit all the usual notes. Your gender is “assigned at birth” by people who might get it wrong. Toddlers can be transgender. Moray eels change sex and female reef fish produce sperm when there are no males. “Gender is a spectrum,” everyone must get “comfortable” with new gender language that is “changing every day.” Asking a biological boy to use the teachers’ rather than the girls’ restroom is “bullying.”

The full assembly can be viewed on YouTube.

The sponsor of the event was the Falls Church Education Foundation.

Did the school make plain to the students that they could decline to attend? That’s not clear. In her presentation, Nutt quipped: “Thank you for coming, although I know you’re probably required to be here.”

Nor is it clear whether parents were fully informed about the assembly in advance. At least one shocked George Mason teacher, who remains anonymous, says parents were not.

What does seem clear is that this public school will not hold another school-wide assembly featuring other views on the issue such as first-person accounts of the negative consequences of “transitioning,” health warnings from pediatricians and other medical experts, or condemnation from the feminist community, from which the term “female erasure” has sprung to describe the transgender program.

Transgender ideology in children is extremely controversial, not least because so many children who experience gender dysphoria later desist and accept their natal biology. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), as many as 98% of boys and 88% of girls will “grow out of” their gender dysphoria and accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.

There is no medical or psychological test to show which 2% of those boys will persist in their gender dysphoria as young adults. Protocols that encourage school-wide affirmation of every case of gender dysphoria could impede the overwhelming majority of children from accepting their natal biology as well as sow confusion in other vulnerable children.

There has been a spate of articles in recent weeks on the phenomenon of “rapid onset” gender dysphoria in teen girls, thought to be a “social contagion”-like anorexia 30 years ago. Details of these cases reported by therapists are heartbreaking.

At the end of the talk, Nutt was asked two student questions, written on index cards.

“What is gender dysphoria and how does the transgender community respond to the idea that they are glorifying the mental health condition known as gender dysphoria?”

That was a good question, and evidence that at least one student at George Mason has held on to his critical thinking skills.

Nutt’s answer was not good. “Gender dysphoria is not a mental health condition,” she said, continuing: “It is included in the DSM, which is the bible of mental illnesses, of psychiatrists, but only because gender dysphoria isn’t the inability or confusion of a transgender child to understand why they are the way they are, it’s the failure for [sic] other people to understand that. It’s the confusion that comes because of the cultural misconceptions and not being able to fit into that.”

So a person is diagnosed because other people are confused? It’s in “the bible of mental illnesses” because it’s a healthy condition that the culture doesn’t understand? Now I am confused.

The DSM defines gender dysphoria in children as “clinically significant distress” from “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” manifested by, among other things, “a strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy.”

The ICD — the International Classification of Diseases — calls it a “childhood disorder” characterized by “persistent and intense distress.” Diagnosis requires “a profound disturbance of the normal gender identity.”

If Nutt is trying to dismiss their distress as a cultural condition, she’s freelancing.

The final question was also a good one: “Did Nicole undergo reassignment surgery and if so was there any risk to it?”

Nutt’s answer was bad and sort of creepy. “Yes. She was 17 at the time… I was there.”

“It was not the most important thing … but it was the last thing that she needed to do,” said Nutt. “What was important for her early on was to have her puberty suppressed as a child, so that she knew what she really wanted.”

Puberty-blockers are serious business. Puberty suppression and cross-sex hormones can stunt a person’s growth and render him completely infertile, never able to have genetically-related children, even by artificial means. You cannot walk back up this road.

What’s more, there are no scientific studies on their use by growing children. None.

Nutt’s cavalier treatment of puberty blockers was awfully reckless.

And isn’t her logic backwards? How does blocking your natural development tell you what you really want? Isn’t it, rather, tipping the scales toward an ideologically predetermined outcome?

Did Nicole even have the capacity to consent to this untested, irreversible medical treatment in the first place? “There is a serious ethical problem with allowing irreversible, life-changing procedures to be performed on minors who are too young to give valid consent themselves,” cautions the American College of Pediatricians.

Nutt went on: “When the time for puberty came, she took estrogen, and she made the puberty that all girls do at the right time.”

Making the puberty that all girls do is strange phraseology. But of course this teen could not make the puberty that all girls do without ovaries and a uterus. Were the teen girls in the audience misled? Were the boys?

As to risk, Nutt brushed it aside: “You know, there’s always a risk to surgery, it’s actually not that complicated. She will be, for all purposes, physically and biologically a girl. A woman.”

Wrong. Biologically, Nicole will never be a girl. Every cell in Nicole’s body contains male sex chromosomes. A lifetime of male-suppressing hormones will never change that fact.

At one point in her lecture, Nutt said: “I’m not trying to be funny, I’m trying to be factual.”

She should have tried harder.

Children suffering from gender dysphoria deserve our compassion. Surely their suffering is genuine, and profound. But they also deserve an adult response: first and foremost, our recognition that the distress and confusion they are experiencing will give way to acceptance of their natal biology in the vast majority of cases.

The person with persistent dysphoria who ultimately chooses radical surgery and a lifetime of hormones deserves compassion, too. As well as great sympathy, in my opinion, for treating a healthy body as sick and a troubled mind as healthy.

Nutt obviously disagrees. There is great disagreement on this issue, especially among medical experts.

When a public school takes sides, nobody wins. But students, and taxpayers, lose.


Australia: Lunch box checks have kids too scared to eat

NUTRITIONISTS are calling for an easing of lunch box policing when school returns next week, claiming the inspections have some children too scared to eat.

With a number of schools around Queensland implementing so-called healthy eating policies to deal with allergies and fight childhood obesity, teachers have been turned into the “food police”, randomly inspecting lunch boxes for items such as lollies, cakes, sweets, chips, nuts and eggs and sending letters to parents who break the rules.

But nutritionists warn the practice has gone too far, with mums and dads stressed out about what to feed their child and children developing fears around food.

“People have been writing in to me on social media saying that their child is afraid to open their lunch box at school because they know the teacher is coming along to inspect the lunch box so they would rather just not eat,” Sunshine Coast nutritionist Tara Leong said.

“The parents are also afraid of what they’re sending to school because they might get a letter home.

“It’s definitely not the way to manage what parents are sending to school in lunch boxes and the health situation in Australia.”

Mrs Leong said labelling food “good” and “bad” could also be destructive to a child’s relationship with food in the long term.

“If the teacher comes along and says, ‘That’s a bad food’, then what this whole ‘bad food, good food’ situation sets up is that the child is then a ‘bad child’ for eating that ‘bad food’ or the mother is a ‘bad mother’ for sending that piece of food, so then there’s this moral link to the food and it shouldn’t be that way,” she said.

Brisbane nutritionist and dietitian Kate Di Prima said schools had gone “berserk” with their food policing, especially when it came to bans of allergy-causing foods.

“To simply fill the lunch box without making everything from scratch has become almost impossible,” she said.

“It’s getting silly because there’s six different allergic (groups), you’ve got nuts, eggs, shellfish, wheat, soy, dairy. Are we going to remove all of that because then we’re left with nothing? Everyone will have a gluten-free, paleo lunch box, which is not balanced for children,” she said.

What does a healthy school lunchbox look like?

The over-policing of lunch boxes and a general confusion among parents over what is healthy has also caused some parents to ditch entire food groups, such as dairy and carbohydrates, from their children’s diets, with potentially dangerous consequences, the experts warn.

“I’m frightened by the amount of children who aren’t being fed carbohydrates,” Mrs Leong said.

“It’s really scary because they need it to be able to think.

“Unless there’s a medical diagnosis that your child needs to maybe eliminate something then there’s no reason to cut it out and doing so can put children at risk of malnutrition.”

Both experts agreed that parents needed to take a simple back-to-basics approach with children’s lunches, opting for fruit and yoghurt for morning tea, and a main meal of healthy carbs, protein and good fats, like an avocado, chicken and salad sandwich.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Teaching in Britain is HARD

The writer below is right to condemn the blizzard of red tape that benights teachers but treads lightly on the biggest problem:  Pupil indiscipline.  That is extremely stressful and destructive of all that a teacher tries to do. That needs to be recognized and dealt with  -- but there's no sign of it.  It's "too hard" to do anything that might upset the little petals.

Britain’s teachers are overworked, underpaid and put under so much stress that a small army of them leave the profession every year for another job. Assuming, that is, they are well enough to secure alternative employment. Last year some 3,750 of them were signed off on long-term sick leave due to pressure, anxiety, and mental illness. That number came via a freedom of information request submitted by the Liberal Democrats.

The figures show that one in 83 members of the profession is now out of action for the long haul, which is up 5 per cent on last year. All told, 1.3 million sick days were taken for reasons relating to stress and mental health over the past four years, including 312,000 in 2016-17.

Numbers like that will come as a surprise only to people who have no experience of living with and/or around members of the teaching profession.

As someone who has that experience, I can testify that the average figure of a 55-hour working week for classroom teachers, 60 hours for school leaders, actually looks to be a little on the low side.

Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not knock off at 3.30, or shortly after whenever the gates at their particular schools shut. Nor do they start a few minutes before they open.

They spend many hours before and after their pupils have left engaged in meticulous and detailed lesson-planning, form-filling, data collection, marking, assessments and dealing with whatever crap Whitehall mandarins dream up to dangle under the nose of the latest Education Secretary so they can make it look like they’re doing their jobs before they knock off early.

Thanks to the desperate desire of a succession of Education Secretaries – from both major parties I’m sorry to say – to be seen as “reforming” and “dedicated to improving standards”, today’s children undergo a blizzard of assessments.

Schools frequently have one or another of their teachers spending half their time not teaching but collating and processing data. Every child is transformed into a mass of data points with a granularity that would surprise all but the most diligent of forensic accountants.

And those holidays that radio talk show hosts and callers find so bothersome? They’re mythical. No teacher I know gets anything like the 13 weeks per year during which schools don’t hold lessons. They’d never get everything done if they took all that time off.

All this comes on top of, you know, attempting to educate classes full of 30 kids or more, which is a challenge most Britons would find quite beyond them. I know I would. I know most cabinet ministers would, although I’d dearly love to see Boris Johnson trying to keep control of a class full of stroppy 15-year-olds at an inner city comp. It might inject a much needed dose of humility into the corpulent buffoon that masquerades as Britain’s Foreign Secretary.

Now imagine trying to teach a class of 30 kids when you’re knackered, having spent half the previous night filling in forms. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. More to the point, it’s not good for our children. It really isn’t.

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I want my kids’ teachers to be relaxed and rested when they hit the classroom because that’s when people typically do their best work.

I’m not against pushing people to give their best, and I’m not against high expectations, and I’m not even against a bit of stress, which can help guard against complacency and keep everyone’s eyes on the ball. But what we have now is people trying to do a demanding job under a pressure that has become so extreme it is driving them off a cliff.

This is not the first such set of data highlighting the issue. Stories like this periodically pop up and when they do, people go to the Department for Education for comment, which inevitably responds by ignoring the problem and saying something like “teaching is a great job and we’re hiring more teachers than ever”. The latter of course is because it is losing more teachers than ever.

The system is already creaking. Unfortunately, it might have to break before anything really changes and sadly a lot of people will get broken in the process. Our children will also pay a heavy price.


A citizen reply to a defender of the status quo in American schools

E. Scott Cracraft is a professor of history and social sciences at the New Hampshire Community College at Laconia.  He is a defender of American public schools and a critic of school reform.  His views are here

Scott Cracraft is no voice of reason in the debate that surrounds education. (That is) my first reaction after reading his commentary. His fiery rhetoric represents exactly what's wrong in society today. An opposing opinion isn't just a different view. It is a cause to suit up in full armor holding an axe.

It's no mystery why students act out defiantly and dangerously when others with a different view speak on campus. Last year, at Middlebury college a fist-throwing brawl erupted when an unwanted speaker took the podium. Several people required hospitalization including a professor. Intolerance and disrespect for opposing opinion is being taught on campus by teachers like Scott Cracraft. You can feel the pulse of this hate by simply reading Scott's commentary. It transcends intolerance immediately into bullying, outrage.

The person with the opposing view must be bad, mean, and a lower-class being. Scott's commentary was a full-throated, personal, axe wielding attack on those who disagree with him. This is the only method of engagement Scott Cracraft understands concerning opposing logic. That he is allowed to continually scream his public dividing, hate-spreading, divisiveness without being silenced by his superiors reveals the depth of the dysfunction in education top to bottom. It exposes the solidarity of the wall of obstruction in education to change. Change desperately needed to address what has been a thirty-year trail of failure by any macro measure as it concerns both the quality and price of education across America in all parts of it.

Education in America is under full, frontal attack with more than good reason. The in-your-face refusal by Scott and his peers to raise the quality of their product, and stop the cost spiral has brought "competition" to public education like it has never seen since its founding. The belligerent, bullying refusal to fix education by those running it has forced the public to embrace what I call the "work around." New Hampshire just passed education choice. Parents can now remove their kids from public schools. They can send them anywhere they believe their children can access a better education using public money. The less wealthy now access the same opportunities as the financially well heeled always have had. I cheer the equality! Charter schools, private schools, vouchers and alternatives to public schools are flourishing everywhere with good reason. Tens of millions of parents demand a far better product than public education often provides. Surely so in thousands of inner city schools in every big city in America.

Education's poor performance is not lack of money. Every study ever conducted reveals America spends more per student than any other country on earth while getting the most average results. We pay for a BMW education. We get a VW Beetle from Scott Cracraft and his peers, if we are lucky. Often we are not lucky. Education lacks a structure of compliance and accountability that assures both cost and quality will be achieved.

There is no commitment to academic excellence or cost control. In fact it's just the reverse. The first, and only concern of teacher unions is job security, increased wages and avoiding accountability. It has been that way since Eve bit the apple. Try telling a teachers' union we are only going to pay for success. They will laugh you silly. Their laughter has resulted in head-on competition for themselves. When teaching finally becomes about the kids' bests interests first, not teachers' best interests, it will be the best day for kids in America since the ink dried on the Constitution.

When education finally becomes a business, operated like one, with the same dedication to excellence in terms of best product for the best price will be the day competition with public education can stop. We will then — and only then — get the quality of product taxpayers want, pay for and kids must have to compete in the global economic world of today.


The hatred of selective government schools never stops

Instead of seeing such schools as a way to give bright kids from poor backgrounds the sort of education that private schools give, they are seen as offensive to the insane Leftist goal of "equality".  So reasons will always be found to downgrade them.  Report below from Australia

Education Minister Rob Stokes says opening up selective schools to local students would create a more equitable education system, as the NSW Department of Education reviews the decades-old system for teaching the state's brightest students.

Mr Stokes said the selective system should not "create a rigid, separated public education system".

"While recognising that selective schools have a history and are popular, is it correct that local kids must walk past a local public selective school that is closed to them?" he said.

"We need to have public schools that are inclusive of everyone rather than deliberately separate children on the basis that some are gifted and talented and others are not.

"There may be merit in opening up selective schools to local enrolments and providing more local opportunities to selective classes in comprehensive schools."

It is understood the idea involves introducing comprehensive streams to selective schools.

It comes as the department continues a wide-ranging review of its gifted and talented policy for NSW public schools, including an overhaul of the entry test for selective schools amid concerns that wealthy families are able to game the system by engaging expensive tutoring services.

NSW currently has 19 fully selective and 29 partially selective schools, the most of any state, and the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) shows that the state's top-performing selective schools such as James Ruse, Baulkham Hills and North Sydney Boys are significantly more advantaged than exclusive private schools such as The King's School and Knox Grammar.

ICSEA scores are used by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to assess the socio-educational background of a school's student cohort based on geographical location and parental education and occupation, with a higher score indicating a higher level of advantage.

The median ICSEA score in NSW is 1000.

James Ruse has an ICSEA score of 1240 and North Sydney Boys has a score of 1210, compared with King's score of 1160, and Knox's score of 1178.

Additionally, selective schools consistently outperform private and comprehensive schools in the Higher School Certificate, and comprised nine out of the top 10 schools by performance in last year's exams, including the privately selective Sydney Grammar.

Professor of education at the University of Sydney, Anthony Welch, said that a local intake to selective schools could ensure they better reflect the wider population.

"What we know about those schools is that they're increasingly selective not merely in academic terms but in social terms too," Professor Welch said. "Having a wider intake and more mixed classes would improve equity."

Professor Welch said selective schools also impact nearby comprehensive schools.  "They cream off all the high-achieving kids from the whole area, so the impact on neighbouring schools is quite the opposite," he said.

Mother-of-two Licia Heath, from Sydney's east, said having two selective schools, Sydney Boys and Sydney Girls, in the area has contributed to overcrowding at her local comprehensive school, Rose Bay Secondary College, which had 1132 students in 2017.

"We think the school's going to be in absolutely dire straits," said Ms Heath, who is a spokeswoman for the Community for Local Options for Secondary Education (CLOSE), which is calling for a new comprehensive co-educational high school for the area.

Ms Heath said she'd be happy to send her sons Jude and Leo Jungwirth, aged 9 and 6, respectively, to Sydney Boys if it was opened to local students. "I've had a look at the academic requirements and possibly one of our sons would get into it, but we want them to be at the same school," she said.

Labor's spokesman for education Jihad Dib said that he supports opening up selective schools but is also pushing for more selective streams in comprehensive schools. "Opening up selective schools to students who are otherwise excluded will ensure they've got the opportunity to go to a high-performing school," Mr Dib said.

"But what I'd really like to see are selective streams in every school so kids who want a selective school education can go to their local school."