Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Trump plays the race card yet again by targeting affirmative action on campus

I would have thought it was affirmative action advocates who are playing the race card.  Trump is opposing use of race in admission decisions. 

The writer below pins his argument about the evilness of Trump on blacks being under-represented in tertiary colleges.  But what does that prove and why is it bad?  To the race-obsessed Leftists it is obviously bad but people not concerned about race might simply say: "That's the way the cookie crumbles" and leave it at that. 

And given the long-term failure of blacks to increase their presence in tertiary institutions, "That's the way the cookie crumbles" could be the only reasonable response -- or at least the only response that acknowledges reality

One wonders at the poor grip on reality of the writer below.  He also hates on the greater presence of the rich in universities.  High income earners do tend to be brighter and that is hereditary so their children are much more likely to meet the criteria for college admission. Only a Communist society could change that but even the Soviet union had a distinct favoured elite -- The Nomenklatura.  So when will the galoot below accept that all men will NEVER be equal?  He will never accept it because it goes against his Leftist religion.

He will never get the Communist society he seems to want so he will take whatever pressure towards it that he can get:  The pressure to enrol in colleges those who are less fit for it but are the "right" race.  He can't see that he is using an injustice to create some semblance of his impossible dream.  He can't see that he is the racist

Once again, Donald Trump pummels reality to please his base. As often, his cudgel is race.

His Justice Department, The New York Times reports, is investigating colleges, including Harvard, whose admissions policies supposedly disfavor whites and Asians to benefit blacks and Hispanics. This is perverse, for the evidence shows that those minorities continue to be underrepresented on American campuses.

Indeed, in the last 35 years this gap has widened. A comprehensive study by the Times shows that the percentage of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged, and that the increase in Hispanics has not kept up with their growth rate overall. The same holds true at top liberal arts colleges and public flagship universities, including the University of California in America’s most diverse state.

In 2003, the Supreme Court found that promoting diversity on campus is a legitimate consideration in admissions policy. But according to the Department of Education, since that ruling we have seen little progress.

As of 2014, the African-American population in four-year colleges had risen 1 percentage point, to 13 percent, over the preceding decade. Hispanics were up only a little more. Yet Trump’s DOJ, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is “attempting . . . to achieve what they have not been able to do with the Supreme Court” — discourage affirmative action.

His campaign thrived on deliberately stoking racial anxieties and resentments. Surveys show that a belief that whites are treated unfairly is a powerful predictor of support for Trump. Similarly, his adherents are more likely to feel that the growth of racial or ethnic groups is negatively affecting our society.

These feelings pervade the GOP electorate. A 2017 survey showed that 43 percent of Republicans believe there is significant discrimination against whites, whereas only 27 percent of them believe the same for blacks. As Thomas Edsall spelled out in the Times, Trump benefits from a “white identity politics” among voters who want the advantages they imagine accrue to minorities.

Now Trump’s presidency is reeling. His attack on affirmative action on campus is red meat for white people, demonstrating he will correct the passion for diversity which, his followers believe, limits white opportunity by skewing college admissions.

Thus does bigotry bury what, for the GOP, is a highly inconvenient truth. According to The Washington Post: “At 38 top colleges in the United States, more students come from the top 1 percent of income earners than from the bottom 60 percent.” It is income inequality, not race, that disadvantages lower-bracket whites.

But for Republican ideologues and cynics, reverse discrimination in admissions is a politically potent myth, energizing the base while providing cover for policies favoring the wealthy. Nowhere is this pernicious stalking horse more empowered than among Republican judges on the Supreme Court, to whom Trump will ultimately look to banish affirmative action.

Principal among them is Chief Justice John Roberts. It was in opposition to affirmative action in admissions that he wrote his famous dictum: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

This excruciating platitude does not withstand exposure to the world as it actually exists, including in college admissions. Such banality is, perhaps, to be expected from a smug country clubber, smiling benignly at the waiter who has just served up his favorite single malt scotch. But from America’s chief justice, it drives rulings that serve the ideology and electoral interests of the GOP at the cost of justice for minorities.

This effort is epitomized by Fisher v. University of Texas, the most recent challenge to affirmative action before the Supreme Court.

At issue was a modest plan allowing the university to consider race as one of many “plus factors” in some students’ admissions decisions. The white plaintiff conveniently overlooked that of the 47 students admitted with lower grades and test scores, 42 were white. A narrow majority of justices upheld the Texas program.

Roberts dissented. At oral argument he demanded to know: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”

Seriously? Does Roberts really imagine that this is about the principles of physics? What about those disadvantaged students — minorities and the poor — who the university sought to help? Or what students of all backgrounds experience as part of a diverse student body? His calculated obtuseness exposes the GOP’s attack on affirmative action for what it is — a callous sham.

But there Roberts remains, awaiting the next attack, which beyond doubt will be supported by Donald Trump.


Trump, DeVos have stopped forgiving student loans for college scam victims

Not so quick to give out taxpayer money

The Trump administration has not approved a single debt cancellation request from students who received federal loans to pay for failed, for-profit colleges, according to the Department of Education's Inspector General.

Thousands of students who attended now defunct for-profit colleges such as Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes applied for debt forgiveness under a program launched by the Obama administration. And during the last six months of President Barack Obama's president, more than 46,000 claims were sent in.

The Obama administration's Education Department approved nearly 28,000 of those claims during those final six months.

But since President Donald Trump's first day in office on Jan. 20, the Education Department has received nearly 26,000 claims and approved zero of them, according to the IG report.

But there also haven't been many denials, either -- the IG report says only two claims have been denied.

That's because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has paused the program pending further review the process of debt forgiveness, as well as the possibility of abandoning the program altogether.

Canceling the program would affect at least 87,000 borrowers who have submitted claims and are waiting for approval as of October, according to the Washington Post.

The IG report recommends that the program be restarted.

A. Wayne Johnson, chief operating officer of the federal student aid program, said relief could soon come for about 11,000 former Corinthian students, according to the BBC.

Democrats have criticized DeVos for not more quickly finding a solution for students who have fallen victim to for-profit college scams.

"When a predatory college breaks the law to trick students into enrolling, those students are entitled to have their federal student loans canceled to help them start over," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in November.



Teacher Who Was Fired For ‘Misgendering’ A Student Slaps School With Lawsuit

A teacher who was fired for calling a transgender student by her biological gender hit back at the school with a lawsuit.

After math teacher Joshua Sutcliffe, 27, allegedly said “well done girls” to two students at an Oxfordshire secondary school in England, the school suspended him and called for a disciplinary hearing. He apologized to the student, but he was charged with misconduct for “misgendering,” according to the Evening Standard.

Not long after, Sutcliffe was fired from his teaching post and he responded by sending a letter to the school saying that it’s equality policies are “totalitarian,” Metro reports. “I regret that our relations have reached this point, but I feel I have no choice but to bring legal proceedings against you without further notice,” Sutcliffe wrote in his letter.

“While the suggestion that gender is fluid conflicts sharply with my Christian beliefs… I have never looked to impose my convictions on others,” Sutcliffe, who is also a Christian pastor, said the school initially suspended him for six weeks, according to BBC News. He also thinks referring to someone by their birth gender isn’t wrong or unreasonable, according to the Daily Mail.

More than 2,000 children aged three to 18 in the U.K. were referred to a gender identity specialist last year, BBC reports.

The teacher’s firing and sequential lawsuit comes after similar events in the U.S. An 8-year-old transgender student and his parents recently sued a California school for failing to let him express his identity as a girl and another set of parents filed a lawsuit against a school in New York, alleging the school created a hostile environment for their five-year-old kid, according to The New York Times.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How America Is Breaking Public Education (?)

Ethan Siegel, writing and depicted below, somehow manages to combine unoriginality with being a bit of a nut.  The image below is only one of his eccentric depictions of himself.

Siegel has reduced the problems of education to only one factor -- albeit a factor popular among teachers.  He says teachers need to be treated like professionals but that they are not. What teacher union would disagree with that?

Being Left-leaning, however, Siegel has not thought to ask WHY teachers are inapty treated.  To describe a problem seems to him a sufficient contribution without offering any solution to it. If you can't call "racism" as a response to some problem, Leftists are stumped.

And for anybody with experience in the education sector, the reason for the situation is obvious:  Most public school teachers are dummies.  Except for a few dedicated souls, those who teach are those who could get no other work deserving of a college education.  A bright graduate will look to teach only as a last resort, and  will very rarely drop to that last level.  The "Teach for America" system is an explicit recognition that bright graduates typically don't go into teaching.

OK.  That's the first part of the explanation.  Now we ask WHY teaching is such an unattractive job in most places today.  It helps to answer that to consider some places where teachers are high quality -- say South Korea.  Teachers there mostly have higher degrees and are something of an elite.  How come?  Because teaching has long been a rewarding and prestigious occupation and there is nothing in South Korea to disrupt that.  Even from ancient Sumeria we have a depiction of a parent giving a teacher a fleece -- a bit better than an apple for the teacher.

So what has gone wrong in the Anglosphere countries of recent times?  Answer: Leftist destruction of discipline.  Teachers now have very few disciplinary options available and a few unruly students can now totally destroy the classroom experience.  Teaching becomes a constant battle to get the attention of the students.  In many public schools teachers are little more than child-minders.  They can do very little teaching. So we have the experience of places like California where students can graduate High School while being barely able to read and write

And who would want to work in that environment?  Only those with no other options.  So as older teachers retire, classrooms have been left in the hands of people with very little in the way of educational achievement themselves.  Politicians talk about demanding that admission to their teacher-training colleges include only candidates with good GPAs etc but if they insisted on that, they would soon run out of teachers.

But good classroom management is within living memory so higher educational standards are possible -- but only if Leftist "reforms" of the last 30 years or so are rolled back

The ultimate dream of public education is incredibly simple. Students, ideally, would go to a classroom, receive top-notch instruction from a passionate, well-informed teacher, would work hard in their class, and would come away with a new set of skills, talents, interests, and capabilities. Over the past few decades in the United States, a number of education reforms have been enacted, designed to measure and improve student learning outcomes, holding teachers accountable for their students' performances. Despite these well-intentioned programs, including No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, public education is more broken than ever. The reason, as much as we hate to admit it, is that we've disobeyed the cardinal rule of success in any industry: treating your workers like professionals.

Everyone who's been through school has had experiences with a wide variety of teachers, ranging from the colossally bad to the spectacularly good. There are a few qualities universally ascribed to the best teachers, and the lists almost always include the following traits:

* a passion for their chosen subject,

* a deep, expert-level knowledge of the subject matter they're teaching,

* a willingness to cater to a variety of learning styles and to employ a variety of educational techniques,

* and a vision for what a class of properly educated students would be able to know and demonstrate at the end of the academic year.

Yet despite knowing what a spectacular teacher looks like, the educational models we have in place actively discourage every one of these.

The first and largest problem is that every educational program we've had in place since 2002 — the first year that No Child Left Behind took effect — prioritizes student performance on standardized tests above all else. Test performance is now tied to both school funding, and the evaluation of teachers and administrators. In many cases, there exists no empirical evidence to back up the validity of this approach, yet it's universally accepted as the way things ought to be.

Imagine, for a moment, that this weren't education, but any other job. Imagine how you'd feel if you found yourself employed in such a role.

Requiring teachers to follow a script in a variety of educational settings is one of the surest ways to squash creativity and kill student interest. It is a more widespread practice than ever before.

You have, on any given day, a slew of unique problems to tackle. These include how to reach, motivate, and excite the people whose education and performance you're responsible for. It includes imparting them with skills that will enable them to succeed in the world, which will be vastly different from state-to-state, county-to-county, and even classroom-to-classroom. Gifted students, average students, special needs students, and students with severe disabilities are all often found in the same class, requiring a deft touch to keep everyone motivated and engaged. Moreover, students often come to class with problems that place them at a competitive disadvantage, such as food insecurity, unaddressed physical, dental, and mental health issues, or home life responsibilities that severely curtail their ability to invest in academics.

If your goal was to achieve the greatest learning outcome possible for each of your students, what would you need to be successful? You'd need the freedom to decide what to teach, how to teach it, how to evaluate and assess your students, and how to structure your classroom and curriculum. You'd need the freedom to make individualized plans or separate plans for students who were achieving at different levels. You'd need the resources — financial, time, and support resources — to maximize the return on your efforts. In short, you'd need the same thing that any employee in any role needs: the freedom and flexibility to assess your own situation, and make empowered decisions.

In public education, if teachers do that, they are penalized to an extraordinary extent. Passion is disincentivized, as whatever aspects your passionate about take a back seat to what will appear on the standardized test. Expert knowledge is thrown to the wayside, as curiosity and engagement is seen as a distraction. A vision for what successful students look like is narrowed down to one metric alone: test performance. And a teacher's evaluation of what skills are important to develop is treated as less than nothing, as anything that fails to raise a student's test score is something that everyone — the teacher, the school, and the student — are all penalized for.

If this were common practice in any other industry, we'd be outraged. How dare you presume to micromanage the experts, the very people you hired to do a difficult job full of unique challenges to the best of their abilities! Yet in education, we have this unrealistic dream that a scripted, one-sized-fits-all strategy will somehow lead to success for all. That we can somehow, through just the right set of instructions, transform a mediocre teacher into a great one.

This hasn't worked in any walk of life, and it doesn't work in education. If we were serious about improving the quality of public education in this country (or any country), we wouldn't focus on a one-size-fits-all model, whether at the federal or state level. We would fully fund schools everywhere, regardless of test scores, economic concerns, or teacher quality. We would make a concerted effort to pay desirable wages to extremely qualified, expert-knowledge-level educators, and give them the support resources they need to succeed. And we'd evaluate them across a variety of objective and subjective metrics, with any standardized testing components making up only a small part of an evaluation.

The most important goal of an education is something we rarely talk about: the set of skills and the capabilities of thinking and problem solving that a student acquires. Part of what makes an adult successful in this world is the unique toolkit they have for approaching, attacking, and defeating the challenges they face in this world. A diversity of experiences and methods among the population is a great way to ensure that more problems can be solved; absolute uniformity is as bad for human society as monoculture is for agriculture. The greatest advances in science and society have come about because of the unique backgrounds and approaches some of the greatest minds in history possessed and utilized. Unless our goal is societal stagnation, we need to encourage creativity and excellence, not only in our students, but in our educators as well.

Like any job involving an interaction with other people, teaching is as much of an art as it is a science. By taking away the freedom to innovate, we aren't improving the outcomes of the worst teachers or even average teachers; we're simply telling the good ones that their skills and talents aren't needed here. By refusing to treat teachers like professionals — by failing to empower them to teach students in the best way that they see fit — we demonstrate the simple fact that we don't trust them to do a good job, or even to understand what doing a good job looks like. Until we abandon the failed education model we've adopted since the start of the 21st century, public education will continue to be broken. As long as we insist on telling teachers what to teach and how to teach it, we'll continue to fail our children.


Why history education is central to the survival of democracy

Canadians are at war over their history. The CBC series Canada: The Story of Us caused outrage in spring 2017 with the choices made for its historical storyline. Critics called the series anglocentric and said it omitted the roles of the Acadians and Mi'kmaq people.

Statues and names of prominent Canadians have also been the centre of vigorous debate across the country this year. One of these debates has focused on the statue of Edward Cornwallis in a public park in Halifax — the military officer who founded Halifax for the British in 1749, but also offered a cash bounty to anyone who killed an Indigenous person. They have also included calls from the the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (EFTO) to remove so-called “architect of genocide” Sir John A. Macdonald’s name from elementary schools across the province.

Amid debates over the renaming of public buildings across the country, our public history is being hotly contested. And Canada is not alone. As protests and counter protests about the public commemoration of Civil War figures in the United States demonstrate, history is a significant public concern in many places around the world.

For history educators like myself, the good news is that the public obviously cares about history very much. The bad news is that we can’t seem to talk about it without resorting to name calling, vitriol and sometimes — as evident in recent events in Charlottesville — violence.

I believe the teaching of history to be more important than ever. History — if funded and taught well — can teach a tolerance for ambiguity. It can provide people with strategies to help them think through complex issues.

War, and war memorials in particular, are central to collective memory. Taught well, war offer windows into the construction of personal and national identity.

Between virtue and evil

Our public discourse has become dangerously polarized — making democratic deliberation about collective memory, history and the common good almost impossible.

Reflecting on the 2017 French election, French political scientist Nicole Bacharan described the worry and stress resulting from, “the division of the country and the hatred that came out of groups of people who can’t discuss anything, can’t understand each other, can’t talk.”

Bacharan is just one of many voices lamenting the poverty of civic discourse in democratic jurisdictions around the world. The debates about public history installations are one manifestation of that wider trend. I think they illustrate an important aspect of this toxic polarization — a seeming inability to handle nuance.

Citizens want things kept simple. In their view, historical figures or events represented in public memorials are either iconic representations of virtue and progress that should stand for all time, or they are manifestations of evil and should be torn down. There seems to be no room for complex alternatives.

The trouble is, life is complicated and full of nuance. We like the dividing line between our heroes and villains to be clear but as Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn points out in The Gulag Archipelago:

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Teach history, teach complexity

I am convinced that contemporary approaches to history education can help citizens develop the tolerance for complexity and ambiguity necessary to engage effectively in civic life.

Over the past half century there has been an explosion in theoretical and empirical research related to the teaching of history, and there is a growing consensus around the world about what constitutes effective teaching and learning in the field. Some key elements of that consensus include:

* History education must move beyond the transmission of what historians know to include attention to historical method — how historians know. This is often referred to as historical thinking.

* History education must include attention to historical consciousness, or how history and memory work to shape how we think about ourselves, our communities and our place in the world.

* There are many places where history can be learned, including classrooms, historical sites, museums, patriotic ceremonies and family events.

* History education must engage students in thinking about what constitutes evidence about the past and how we assess and construct accounts about the past.

* Research evidence makes it clear that students, even those in primary school, can learn to think in sophisticated and complex ways about the past and its relationship to the present and the future.

* Effective history education requires well-educated and skilled teachers.

History as educational priority

While this consensus exists among researchers and many history teachers around the world, conditions in the classroom or lecture theatre are often very different.

One key issue is that education in social studies — and history education in particular — has diminished as a priority area in public education in Canada and around the world.

Traditionally social studies was considered one of the core areas of the curriculum, but the policy changes in the past 30 years — in New Brunswick, across Canada and globally — has been toward subjects considered more immediately useful for fostering employment, particularly in technical fields.

There are several other key factors limiting the implementation of effective history education. These include a persistent focus on nation building rather than developing critical skills, and assigning teachers with little or no history background to teach courses in the area.

War and collective memory

Colleagues and I at the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick have developed a broad program in history education to complement the Centre’s well-established work in history.

Central to this initiative is collaboration between historians, history educators and teachers — to develop materials and approaches that implement the consensus on effective history education described above.

We believe the theme of war and society offers a potentially effective way to do this for several reasons:

* Topics in the area are often presented as iconic and, as Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan points out in The Uses and Abuses of History, part of the purpose of teaching history is to challenge and investigate icons.

* War and war memorials are often central to collective memory and they provide a window into the construction of personal and national identity.

* War shows up in school curricula, museums, family lore and community memorials. This provides the opportunity to bring the community into the classroom, as well as consider relationships among the past, present and future.

* Virtually all elements of the study of war and society, including community memorials, are contested. This provides opportunities for students to examine diverse historical perspectives.

* The issues involved are multilayered and complex. As historian Tim Cook points out in his recent book about the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge: “Vimy, like all legends, is a layered skein of stories, myths, wishful thinking and conflicting narratives.”

Research from around the world shows that fostering the abilities of young citizens to grapple with these complex and difficult questions lays a foundation for enhanced civic discourse in the future.

We do not want to end debates about our history; we do hope to make them more substantive and fruitful.


College Republicans Kicked Out Of Coffee Shop For Wearing MAGA Hats

A coffee shop owner gave college Republicans five minutes to get out of the shop because of their MAGA hats, according to a Friday video.

The unnamed owner of Rodrigue’s Coffee at Fordham University in New York kicked the college Republicans out because the MAGA hats allegedly violated the shop’s “safe space policy,” reported Campus Reform. “I am protecting my customers,” said the owner.

“We are your customers,” responded a member of the college Republicans. “We bought something.”

“I don’t want people like you supporting this club. No one here wants people like you supporting our club,” the owner told the group. “I am giving you five minutes.”

When one student asked for a refund, the owner said “you had some coffee … do not try to outsmart me.”

One of the college Republicans asked the owner to explain how the MAGA hat violated the safe space policy, to which the owner responded by suggesting it stood for “fascism! Nazis! You have three minutes.”

Rodrigue’s Coffee Shop’s “safe space policy” instructs customers to “not make assumptions about someone’s gender, sexuality, race, class, or experiences. Be aware of your identity, while being considerate of the personhood of your peers.”

“We went there because we wanted to test the unwritten rule that conservatives were banned from that coffee shop,” said one Fordham College Republican to Campus Reform.”We went there and just started doing some homework and studying. Then we were asked to leave.”

The college Republican asserted that, as a student who paid over $70,000 in tuition per year, he should be able to use campus buildings and express his political views in them.

“Rodrigues is a student-operated part of our student-led Campus Activities Board and advised by Student Affairs staff,” said Bob Howe, Fordham’s assistant vice president for communications, to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There is no University safe space policy, nor one that excludes any members of the Fordham community from any public spaces on the basis of their political views.”

Howe told TheDCNF that Fordham values a diversity of opinions and said that the university is still looking into the occurrence and will appropriately sanction students who may have infringed upon the school’s code of conduct.

TheDCNF reached out to Rodrigue’s Coffee Shop for comment, but received none in time for press.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Campus Watch Exposes Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers at Georgetown University

A new Campus Watch report details how Georgetown University's Middle East studies faculty has radicalized in recent years to include not just the fellow travelers of previous decades but actual Islamist professors.

Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown University by Campus Watch, a project of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, exposes this alarming increase in anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Western biases among professors, some Saudi funded, in the heart of the American capital.

"Georgetown's decades-long reputation as ground zero for apologists for Islamism is well deserved" said Winfield Myers, director of academic affairs at the Forum and head of Campus Watch. "But our research reveals alarming trends in its recent hiring and promotion of actual Islamist professors who propagandize for Islamist goals in their teaching and scholarship," Myers added.

As advisors to policymakers and politicians, Georgetown's faculty consistently misread the Middle East, as when John Esposito argued that Islamism was the surest path to democracy in the region, a theory proved false by events, for example in Egypt and Turkey. The report concludes that "the permeation of postcolonial theory and aggressive Islamism into academia has given rise to politicized scholarship that yields little useful expertise to policymakers."

The executive summary of the report is below

Executive Summary

Georgetown University's various Middle East studies (MES) faculty have a reputation as the most intolerant, ideological, anti-Israel, and pro-Islamist in the United States. This detailed new Campus Watch report, Islamists, Apologists, and Fellow Travelers: Middle East Studies Faculty at Georgetown University, demonstrates that this reputation is well deserved, but recent hiring trends promise an even more radical future.

The problem began decades ago with the old guard, scholars such as Michael Hudson, John Esposito, and John Voll who were trained in the once-rigorous disciplines that make up MES –history, languages, political science, religious studies, and more. They advanced then-fashionable theories of Arab nationalism, Islamic democracy, and anti-Zionism. Willful blindness to systemic problems in the region supported a revisionist historiography that actively undermined the earlier MES work. That these scholars uncritically embraced Edward Said's deeply flawed book Orientalism (1978) revealed how deeply politicized MES had become. Georgetown faculty adopted Said's anti-intellectual, know-nothing approach of labeling Western scholars (whose erudition he could never hope to match) as racist, imperialist Orientalists.

Said's malignant postcolonial reading of the region so dominated Georgetown's faculty that by 2005, when Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bestowed $20 million on the school, the transformation was complete. But the prince's largess was not wasted: it gave Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (ACMCU), an enhanced platform from which to spread a pro-Islamist message. Thus did Georgetown become the country's leading center of Islamist apologetics. Then matters got yet worse.

The past decade saw a new guard, consisting not merely of fellow travelers of the old guard, but of authentic Islamists, ascend. Chief among these is Jonathan Brown, who became director of ACMCU upon Esposito's retirement in 2015. A convert to Islam who has defended the practice of slavery, Brown represents a new generation of disciplinary leaders who see themselves not as apologists for Islamism, but proselytizers for it. Others include Osama Abi-Mershed, Felicitas Opwis, and Emma Gannagé.

From its perch in the nation's capital, Georgetown's MES faculty wields great influence on every branch of government as expert advisors, as well as on the media. The result, as the Campus Watch report concludes, is that "the permeation of postcolonial theory and aggressive Islamism into academia has given rise to politicized scholarship that yields little useful expertise to policymakers." Yet, "From underestimating threats to national security to misrepresenting empirical data, the impact is considerable."

This dangerous situation should be unacceptable to all those connected to Georgetown University; they should take immediate steps to ensure that the university ends its role as an Islamist outpost on the Potomac.


UK: Grammar schools 'contrary to common good' - Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised grammar schools as "contrary to the notion of the common good". Speaking in the House of Lords, the Most Rev Justin Welby called for education to focus on "drawing the best out of every person", rather than a selective approach.

He said governments should not look to the past and "waste our time rummaging there for the solutions of tomorrow."

The archbishop led a debate on education, saying the country was now in a "fourth digital revolution" and schools had one of the "greatest challenges" in tackling the "seismic shift" when it comes to preparing children for the future.

However, he said "children of privilege continue to inherit privilege" and the system was not acting in a way to help everyone.

"The academic selective approach to education, one which prioritises separation as a necessary precondition for the nurture of excellence, makes a statement about the purpose of education that is contrary to the notion of the common good," the archbishop said.

"An approach that neglects those of lesser ability or because of a misguided notion of levelling out does not give the fullest opportunity to those of highest ability or does not enable all to develop a sense of community and mutuality."

His comments have been denounced by some MPs who back the schools. Conservative Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Mail: "[Mr Welby] is obviously entitled to his own views, but the evidence is that grammar schools are a great way for under-privileged children to escape poverty. "It is well known that they provide social mobility for the under-privileged."

Fellow Conservative MP Conor Burns also told the newspaper: "Many grammar school provide invaluable opportunities for children from both poor and rich backgrounds, and give them the opportunities they may not otherwise have."


Australian Universities becoming ‘increasingly hostile to free speech’

Australian universities have become increasingly hostile to free speech, with an audit finding most campuses have instituted policies, guidelines or charters that prohibit students from making “insulting” or “unwelcome” comments, telling “offensive jokes” or, in some cases, engaging in “sarcasm”.

Analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs has revealed 81 per cent of Australia’s 42 universities are actively hostile to free speech on campus as a result of censorious policies or actions taken by administrators or students.

A further 17 per cent potentially threaten free speech by maintaining policies that could stifle student expression.

Only one, the University of New England in Armidale, NSW, actively supports free speech on campus and is among a handful of institutions with a policy upholding intellectual freedom.

The University of Sydney has been named as the most hostile ­university. It topped the ranking, scoring 36 — more than double its nearest rival, Charles Sturt University.

Rather than its policies, it was Sydney University’s role in ­numerous censorship scandals, largely led by student activity, that had contributed to its score.

IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh, who carried out the audit, said many policies appeared to extend beyond the law, meaning students were more restricted as to what they could say or do on campus than out in the wider community. He cited the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it unlawful for a person to commit an act “reasonably likely … to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate ­another person or a group” on the grounds of race or ­ethnicity.

“The vast majority of universities seem to have introduced policies that prevent behaviour without applying that reasonable person test,” he said. “They also extend the idea of offence to hurt feelings, or emotional injury or unwelcome ­behaviour.”

Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence said he believed it was the role of a university to host debate on difficult topics and to encourage ­people to disagree. “While I recognise not everyone will agree with the university’s decision not to take a position on issues … I do believe that the right to express a view must be defended; this is codified in our charter of academic freedom,” Dr Spence said. [but not acted on]

“The University of Sydney supports academic freedom,” a spokeswoman said. [For Leftists only]


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ivy League Billions: Sponsored by the American Taxpayer

Despite cumulative endowments of $119 billion, we're still paying big for these eight elite universities

Open the Books, an organization dedicated to transparency of government spending, tracks and publishes government spending online and serves as one of the largest private databases of government spending in the world. Their motto, “Every dime. Online. In Real Time,” reflects their mission of making government spending transparent and accessible to the public. Open the Books publishes a report every quarter, focusing on an aspect of government spending.

Earlier this year, they published an oversight report entitled, “Ivy League, Inc.,” which reveals the government money and tax privileges granted to the eight colleges of the Ivy League: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University.

The endowments for these universities range from $3.2 billion (Brown) to $35.7 billion (Harvard). As Open the Books Founder and CEO Adam Andrzejewski wryly remarks in Forbes, “Many pundits describe the Ivy League as ‘a hedge fund with classes.’” Open the Books notes that the combined endowments of the universities ($119.4 billion) could fund a full-ride scholarship for all Ivy undergraduate students for the next 51 years. As non-profits, the government does not tax the Ivy League schools on their endowment earnings. So, they not only operate like a hedge fund, but a hedge fund with tax privileges.

While the Ivy League certainly commits no error in freely raising money from alumni and private donors, the Open the Books report reveals how the Ivy League profits off of taxpayers who pay the Ivy League whether they want to or not. Tracking government payments and entitlements for six years (FY2010-FY2015), Open the Books discovered the total Ivy League cost to taxpayers as $41.9 billion, or about $6.93 billion per year. This number includes payments, subsidies and special tax treatment. In terms of total government money received, 16 states (including South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii, Utah, Alaska and Montana) receive less government money per year than the Ivy League does. In other words, entire states take less government money per year than a group of eight universities, each of which have multi-billion-dollar endowments. They don’t need the money, so why are they receiving it?

Lobbying for their interests seems to be part of the answer. Open the Books reveals that between 2010-2014, the Ivy League spent $17.8 million on lobbying Congress to advocate for their interests. This explains the preference given to the Ivies, and the billions of dollars granted to these institutions in federal contracts, subsidies and tax privileges.

While government grants and contracts make sense in terms of groundbreaking medical research, they don’t make sense in terms of the unnecessary research funded by the American taxpayer. Consider the following grants:

$137,530 from the National Science Foundation to Dartmouth College to fund the making of a video game entitled “Layoff.” In this game, the player must fire employees until he or she receives a bank bailout. In the game, bankers are invincible and cannot be fired.

$53,419 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Brown University to study whether homosexual men and male sex workers in Mexico City would decrease the number of sex partners and/or use condoms if the government paid them.

$5.7 million from the National Science Foundation to Columbia University to develop a website entitled Future Coast. The website allows visitors to leave voicemails describing how they think the world will be changed by destructive climate change in the future (2020-2065). Examples include a dwindling Alaska and a California without water.

Most people do not object to private research to fund such projects. If a person wants to develop a video game or study sexual habits and incentives of men in Mexico City or listen to fictional voicemails, why not? But these people should do what the rest of the country does: raise capital, fundraise and involve their friends. The American taxpayer should not have to shoulder the cost.

In fact, the Ivy League receives more money from their government contract “side gig” ($25.27 billion) than they do from student tuition payments ($22 billion). This prompts the question, Is their government contract “business” a higher priority than their students?

Further, the Ivy League schools receive an enormous $3.7 billion tax break in local government property taxes. Open the Books estimates that with regard to local property taxes, the Ivy Leagues should be paying approximately $617 million per year. However, due to the lost revenue, residential property taxes in the surrounding areas are 20-30% higher. In the case of Princeton University, residents sued the school, and won a settlement of $18 million.

Ultimately, the Open the Books report on the Ivy League shows taxpayers what has really been happening to their money. While the Ivy League should be able to maintain their status as top universities, the time has come to re-examine how much, if any, government money they should receive.

When we place all the issues facing our country on the table, government money should be prioritized toward keeping our communities safe and encouraging human flourishing, not toward contributing to the billion-dollar corporatism of the Ivy League. They can do that on their own.


Defining value: without expensive research, there’s no ‘higher’ to higher education

Higher education is expensive.  It is more expensive, in fact, than many people realise because many of the costs of higher education originate with a set of activities that are not well understood by outsiders. Teaching in its strictest sense is only one part of these costs. The most obvious other costs include research and public engagement.

There are two important points to be made that are lost in the current frenzy to assess whether higher education is “good value”.

The first is that if universities were not engaged in research and public engagement activities, there would be no “higher” to higher education. There is something special about the opportunity to study not simply with people who are excellent teachers, but with those who are at the cutting edge of developing new ideas about a subject. This kind of teaching is special, and it is expensive.

Similarly, there is something special about being part of an institution that has a broader responsibility to the public to lead evidence-based conversations, to intervene in political and social debates, to sponsor art and literature, to develop new technologies and make scientific discoveries. But, again, this is very expensive.

The second is the question of who gets to decide whether all of this is “good value”. Today’s story from the National Audit Office points out that just one in three students think that their degree is good value. I am not surprised. A student today pays up to £9,250 a year just for their tuition. This is a lot of money. On what basis can that student decide whether this is good value?

Let me suggest an analogy. Anyone who has lived in a country where healthcare is fully privatised will know what it feels like to realise just how expensive essential medical treatment is. If the UK government openly took the decision to privatise the NHS (which is a different proposition from the stealth privatisation of the past 20 years), one of the first things that would happen would be a newspaper campaign against rip-off doctors.

It would not matter that the vast majority of the cost of healthcare goes on facilities, equipment, medicines and insurance policies, because most people do not understand the cost of all these things. Patients are not customers. And neither are students. They are not “always right” and the value of higher education is not for them alone to decide. It is a question of the benefits that research and teaching bring to society as a whole.

Academics and universities are partly to blame. We have not done a good enough job of explaining what is special about “higher” education. Our students do not recognise the value of the unique privileges of being taught by leading researchers and of participating in public bodies that lead conversations. We could do much more to help them understand this.

But the fault is not entirely with the universities.

This discussion is the obvious and inevitable result of the introduction of tuition fees: placing the cost of universities on the shoulders of students encouraged in the belief that higher education exists only for their benefit. Asking them if they consider it good value confirms that we believe that they are capable of judging this. “Satisfaction”, after all, is not the same thing as “learning”.

And education is not a pick-and-mix market.

What comparison can students make to ascertain whether their education is good value? School, as I have tried to show, is a bad comparison, as schools do not perform the same functions as higher education. What about other universities? Perhaps the two-thirds of students who think that their education is bad value are comparing themselves with peer experiences? If so, this would be a good indication of what nonsense the measure is, suggesting that student perceptions are systematically dissatisfied, with students perceiving another’s experiences as better value than their own.

Or perhaps they are aware of the elephant in my blog post: the fact that England now has the most expensive tuition fees in the world?

But before jumping to any conclusions about the significance of this statistic, it is worth pointing out that England now has, in some senses, a completely different fees system to either Europe – where most universities retain the system of nominal fees that used to exist in the UK – or the US, where a few institutions charge exorbitant fees, many state universities charge fees below the English rate, and a range of other providers charge a lot less.

The fact that almost all English universities chose to charge the top rate offered by the government means that average fees are more than in the US. But in the US, a great many institutions of higher education are not performing the roles in research and public impact that almost all British universities carry out.

We could have that here, too, if that’s what the students and the newspapers whipping up this dissatisfaction want. Would they regret what we have lost once it is gone?


The root of the Left’s anger lies in our universities

Comment from Australia

As excited crowds of people lined up around the block to attend Milo Yiannoplous’ first Sydney talk last Tuesday, dozens of riot police corralled into a local park the large crowd of furious left-wing activists who were doing their best to stop the event happening.

Stirring them on were young women, mainly students from Sydney University, screeching into their megaphones while their frustrated audience entertained themselves taking selfies, brandishing crude signs and doing their best to provoke police.

It can’t have helped when they heard the 2000-plus crowd roar their approval as Milo attacked feminists and gender studies courses, debunked myths about wage gaps and campus rape crises, and challenged his audience to stand up to bullying leftists.

Milo has spent the past week giving interviews about his recent activities, including his tours of American universities which are successfully forcing administrations into allowing more free speech on campuses.

Key groups are now planning similar activities for Australian universities.

Milo announced this week in our YouTube interview that he was keen to return and take part. He’s just one of many social media heroes soon to be invited to these shores as part of a concerted effort to wrestle back higher education from what Milo describes as a “stiflingly homogenous leftist grip which is undermining the foundations of free society.”

While our Coalition politicians spent their time plotting changing captains on a sinking ship, they’d be well advised to take note of this proposed counter-revolution. Therein lies the only hope of rescuing their political parties from a very real threat to the future of conservative parties both here and abroad — the sharp turn left in women’s voting preferences.

Startling new data from the Australian National University, to be revealed in Inquirer in tomorrow’s The Weekend Australian, shows it is young women who are driving a major shift towards left-wing parties. Midst the complex reasons for this shift, left-leaning university education is at the heart of this trend — with women most likely to take the humanities subjects now stepped in Neo-Marxist and postmodernist ideology.

Those ferociously leftist young women trying to shut down Milo’s talks are set to join successive generations of women already voting conservative parties out of office — unless efforts to reclaim the universities prove successful.


Friday, December 08, 2017

Harvard sticks with restrictions on all-male clubs, eliciting lawsuit threats

The hypocrisy and sheer anti-male hostility in this is mind boggling. Feminists worldwide campaign for safe spaces for women.  Why must there be no safe spaces for men?  What is a "safe space" for women is apparently a "gender-discriminatory organization" for men. (The words of Harvard’s president, Drew Faust). How absurd! I think I will start accusing feminists of sponsoring "gender-discriminatory organizations".

Is it no coincidence that Harvard is currently run by a woman with, no doubt, impeccable feminist credentials. The fact that Faust in not a Harvard graduate may also contribute to her disrespect for its traditions.  She is not of course alone in her Leftist wish for restrictions but she could have stopped the whole push from the beginning if she had wanted to.

The figleaf justifying the policy is that club members sometimes behave badly.  So they do -- like students worldwide. And let the badly behaved culprits be prosecuted and punished appropriately.  But where is the justice in punishing everybody for the misdeeds of a few?  That's not even a semblance of justice.  It makes the Harvard administration look like a kangaroo court

Harvard University announced Tuesday that it will not ban its exclusive all-male final clubs outright but will continue to sanction their members, upholding the college’s current policy.

The fate of the social clubs, which count US presidents and powerbrokers among their alumni, has sparked fierce debate among Harvard’s students, faculty, and graduates over the past two years.

University administrators have sought to phase out the off-campus groups, blaming them for social divisions and alcohol-fueled parties that have led to sexual assaults. This summer, a faculty committee recommended the most severe punishment yet: that students who join final clubs, as well as single-gender fraternities and sororities, be suspended or expelled.

That plan, which would have effectively put an end to the clubs, touched off a firestorm of criticism. Alumni threatened to withhold donations, free speech advocates argued that Harvard had overstepped its legal authority, and students balked at the proposed restrictions on their social lives.

On Tuesday, university officials said they had decided to maintain the current policy, which restricts students who join unrecognized single-gender groups from leading campus organizations and sports teams and bars them from receiving recommendations from the dean for Rhodes or Marshall scholarships.

“Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources,” Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a statement released with William Lee, a Boston lawyer and the head of the university’s governing board.

The policy was instituted in 2016 and began with this year’s incoming class.

The decision to maintain the status quo was met with anger and threats of lawsuits from the clubs’ representatives.

“Harvard could not be more wrong,” said Heather Kirk, a spokeswoman for the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities and is considering legal action against the policy. “It’s ironic that one of the most exclusive institutions in the world is limiting what organizations students can join.”

Rick Porteus, graduate president of the all-male Fly Club, said it has existed for more than 180 years and isn’t going anywhere. He said Harvard should not dictate how students spend their free time and criticized the college for not fostering a better social life on campus.

The clubs are socioeconomically and racially diverse, he said, something Harvard has ignored. “This is really a childish approach to maturing young adults into full adulthood,” he said.

Fly Club members will meet to discuss whether to sue, representatives said.

Harvard has eight unrecognized male final clubs, with secret traditions and mysterious names like the Delphic, the Fox, and the Porcellian. Many were founded in the 1800s, and their alumni include T.S. Eliot, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Gates, and John F. Kennedy.

The clubs hold sizable endowments and own stately homes near Harvard Square where students line up to attend their parties.

Harvard also has six female final clubs, as well as five fraternities and four sororities, all unrecognized by the university.

Heather Furnas, a California plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this year, said that sororities and women’s groups are unfairly being swept up by this policy. She has warned the college that she will not make future donations because of this issue.

“How does membership in women’s clubs warrant being barred from leadership positions, being captain of a varsity athletic team, or receiving a college endorsement for a prestigious graduate fellowship?” Furnas asked.

“Harvard’s sanction of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations in the name of diversity is effectively social engineering. I just don’t feel comfortable with social engineering.”

Typically, the decision on the final clubs would have been made by Faust. But because she is stepping down as president in June, Harvard’s governing board voted on the policy. Faust is a member of the governing board.

Since Harvard began debating the policy, one of the final clubs and a fraternity have become gender-neutral, and a men’s club and a women’s club decided to share resources.

University officials said those are signs the campus culture is changing.

Harvard said it will review the policy in five years to determine whether it is effective.


Best reading in British schools for a generation

England came joint eighth with Norway and Taiwan in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study

English primary schoolchildren have achieved the highest reading standards for a generation because of improvements by boys, according to a test that placed them joint eighth in the world.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, used the results of tests taken by nine and ten-year-old children to claim success for the use of phonics in the classroom and to attack teaching unions and ideological opponents of his reforms. He now wants to see primary school pupils reading at a speed of 100 words a minute to improve their comprehension.

Mr Gibb attributed progress in England to the introduction of phonics, which uses individual sounds and blends them together to make words. He said that “dogmatic romanticism” had prevented teaching using such evidence-based methods before his tenure.


Prof offers extra credit to 'rally against the GOP tax bill'

Kutztown University students received an email Tuesday morning inviting them to earn "additional extra credit" for attending a rally against the GOP tax plan hosted by the faculty. The email instructs students to "find me at the event and sign your name" in order to earn the extra credit.

“Please join your faculty as we rally against the GOP Tax Bill that has serious implications to you and on Higher Education. This is an opportunity to gain additional extra credit,” the email states, with a bolded subject line of “Additional Extra Credit Opportunity!”

While the email was initially drafted by Dr. Mauricia John, a professor in the publicly funded school’s Anthropology and Sociology Department, it is unclear whether other professors are offering their students the same opportunity, as the email indicates that the rally is a collaborative effort by the faculty.

An advertisement for the rally, sponsored by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, was attached to the email, with a banner declaring “rally with us against the tax bill!”

“This bill threatens tax increases on our students. Tell congress to make education affordable to all. Defend not defund higher education. Tuition waivers should not be taxed,” the flyer goes on to state.

Faculty spokesperson Daniel Spiegel insisted that the event is "not in any way political or partisan," but is simply an effort to "stand up for higher education by alerting our campus community about the harm that the tax bill currently being considered in Congress could cause to the goals and accessibility of higher education."

"The speakers will be speaking on the effect of this bill," he added. "We will be encouraging people to fulfill their obligation as a citizen  to contact their representatives to express their opinion."


Thursday, December 07, 2017

Taking a second look at the learn-to-code craze

I must say that the craze puzzles me.  From all I have seen serious coding in languages like C and its derivatives is only possible for perhaps the top 2% or 5% in IQ.  And for them it soon becomes a doddle.  As Jesus said in another context, "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 25:29, ESV).

In my decades of experience as a statistical analysis programmer, I have met a lot of other programmers and all have had the bright eyes that only high IQ gives.

I actually have form as a teacher of coding. In my academic career, I once tried to teach a sociology class at a major university the FORTRAN language.  As far as I could tell, by the end of the semester none of them had actually "got" it.  And they would have been fairly bright.

I would like to see evidence that a person of average IQ can code productively -- or at all -- but until I do I think I will rather reluctantly have to believe the Left-type explanation below

Over the past five years, the idea that computer programming – or “coding” – is the key to the future for both children and adults alike has become received wisdom in the United States. The aim of making computer science a “new basic” skill for all Americans has driven the formation of dozens of nonprofit organizations, coding schools and policy programs.

As the third annual Computer Science Education Week begins, it is worth taking a closer look at this recent coding craze. The Obama administration’s “Computer Science For All” initiative and the Trump administration’s new effort are both based on the idea that computer programming is not only a fun and exciting activity, but a necessary skill for the jobs of the future.

However, the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place. The current campaign to teach American kids to code may be the latest example of tech companies using concerns about education to achieve their own goals. This raises some important questions about who stands to gain the most from the recent computer science push.
Old rhetoric about a ‘new economy’

One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations.

The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps: According to a California legislative analysis, the bill’s supporters felt that “computer literacy for children is becoming a necessity in today’s world” and that the bill would help in “placing needed ‘hardware’ in schools unable to afford computers in any other way.”

Kids Can’t Wait took advantage of Reagan-era concerns that Americans were “falling behind” global competitors in the “new economy.” In 1983, a U.S. Department of Education report titled “A Nation at Risk” warned that the country’s “once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.” The report’s authors blamed the American education system for turning out graduates who were underprepared for a fast-changing, technology-infused workplace.

Over the past 30 years, the same rhetoric has appeared again and again. In 1998, Bill Clinton proclaimed that “access to new technology means … access to the new economy.” In 2016, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith described the Obama administration’s coding initiative as an “ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to get every student in America an early start with the skills they’ll need to be part of the new economy.”

While technology is often framed as the solution for success in a globalized labor market, the evidence is less clear. In his 2003 book “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom,” education researcher Larry Cuban warned that technology on its own would not solve “education’s age-old problems,” such as inequitable funding, inadequate facilities and overworked teachers.

Cuban found that some educational technology initiatives from the 1990s did help students get access to computers and learn basic skills. But that didn’t necessarily translate into higher-wage jobs when those students entered the workforce. However, the equipment and software needed to teach them brought large windfalls for tech companies – in 1995 the industry was worth US$4 billion.

Under pressure

If computers in schools didn’t work as promised two decades ago, then what’s behind the current coding push? Cuban points out that few school boards and administrators can resist pressure from business leaders, public officials and parents. Organizations like the CS For All Consortium, for example, have a large membership of education companies who are taking advantage of funding from state legislatures.

A huge boost comes from the tech giants, too. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others are collectively contributing $300 million to the Trump administration’s new federal initiative – no doubt seeing, as The New York Times observed, the potential to “market their own devices and software in schools as coding classes spread.”

This isn’t always the best deal for students. In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District planned to give Apple iPads to every student in every school – at a cost of $1.3 billion. The program was a fiasco: The iPads had technical problems and incomplete software that made them essentially useless. The fallout included investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a legal settlement in which Apple and its partners repaid the school district $6.4 million.

However, tech companies are framing their efforts in more noble terms. In June 2017, Microsoft president Brad Smith compared the efforts of tech industry nonprofit to previous efforts to improve science and technology training in the United States. Recalling the focus on scientific research that drove the Space Race, Smith said, “We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century.”

Indeed, tech companies are having a very hard time hiring and retaining software engineers. With new concerns about restrictions on visas for skilled immigrant workers, the industry could definitely benefit from a workforce trained with public dollars.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho which read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.
History repeating?

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap” between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities has helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

As millions of dollars flow to technology companies in the name of education, they often bypass other major needs of U.S. schools. Technology in the classroom can’t solve the problems that budget cuts, large class sizes and low teacher salaries create. Worse still, new research is finding that contemporary tech-driven educational reforms may end up intensifying the problems they were trying to fix.

Who will benefit most from this new computer science push? History tells us that it may not be students.


U.S. schoolchildren tumble in international reading exam rankings, worrying educators

And their performance will continue to worsen until the Leftist grip on education is prised away.  The Left WANT dumb citizens  -- easier to manipulate

The United States tumbled in international rankings released Tuesday of reading skills among fourth-graders, raising warning flags about students’ ability to compete with international peers.

The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system.

The United States has traditionally performed well on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years. In 2016, however, the average score in the United States dropped to 549 out of 1,000, compared to 556 in 2011. The country’s ranking fell from fifth in the world in 2011 to 13th, with 12 education systems outscoring the United States by statistically significant margins. Three other countries roughly tied with the United States; they  scored higher, but the differences were not ­notable.

“We seem to be declining as other education systems record larger gains on the assessment,” Peggy G. Carr, acting commissioner for the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, said during a news conference Friday. “This is a trend we’ve seen on other international assessments in which the U.S. participates.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos weighed in on the scores in a tweet Tuesday: “Our students can’t move ahead – in school or in life – if they’re falling behind in reading. We must do better for students, parents & educators. We must #RethinkSchool,” she wrote. DeVos’s visited several charter and private schools in the fall on a tour she dubbed “Rethink School.”

The international exam was given to 4,400 U.S. fourth-graders who composed a nationally representative sample. The United States was outscored by countries and school systems that typically score well on international assessments, with Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong topping the list. But it was also surpassed by Latvia, one of the poorest countries in the European Union. Meanwhile, Poland and Norway leapfrogged ahead of the United States.

The report adds to a worrisome body of evidence that academic achievement is stagnant or slipping among U.S. schoolchildren. Fourth-graders and eighth-graders continued to lag behind their counterparts in Asian countries in math and science, according to another international exam administered in 2015. That same year, high school seniors showed unchanged results in reading and slipping scores in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an exam given every two years. Reading scores on that test for fourth-graders remained unchanged and dropped for eighth-graders.

“This is kind of an international confirmation that something may be going on in the United States where our academic performance — which, generally speaking, was going upward — may have stopped,” said Tom Loveless, a nonresident senior fellow who studies education at the Brookings Institution, a think tank.

Carr noted that the worst-performing students posted the largest losses on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study test, suggesting U.S. schools should do more to improve achievement among their most challenged students. The average score for the bottom 25 percent of students fell from 510 to 501 points from 2011 to 2016.

“Other education systems seem to be doing a better job of moving students from lower levels of achievement to higher levels of achievement,” Carr said.

Students in schools with higher free- and reduced-lunch rates, a rough proxy for poverty, also performed worse than the average. Black and Hispanic students lagged behind the national average, while Asian students outperformed all other groups.


What American School Districts Can Learn From How Israel Successfully Rotates Its Superintendents

Superintendent quality trickles down to school-level results such as standardized test scores and school climate, according to a new study on the Israeli education system published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The paper is part of a growing strand of research examining management quality in public schools, and it contributes to the debate over district leaders’ true importance in the United States.

How Districts Are Joining the Fight to Close a Troubling Training Gap Among America’s School Leaders

Conducted by Israeli researchers, the study takes advantage of the country’s practice of regularly rotating schools in superintendents’ portfolios every 3 to 5 years. While district leadership assignments in many countries are largely non-random — the most experienced and effective administrators may be placed in particularly challenging areas, or else choose a plum role in an affluent community elsewhere — Israel’s superintendents have new schools assigned to them as veterans retire or are promoted.

The authors estimate that the average school experiences a superintendent change every 5–6 years. In most instances, the country’s ministry of education simply transfers a retiring superintendent’s entire group of schools — usually around 15 — to a new leader. This shuffling, the authors argue, means selection bias played no role in their results.

For an indicator of school quality, the study uses Growth and Effectiveness Measurements for Schools (GEMS) data from 2002 to 2005. GEMS includes standardized test data in Hebrew, English, and math for fifth- and eighth-graders, along with surveys of staff morale and student well-being. With the exception of religious Orthodox and Arab schools, each primary and middle school in the country is measured every two years, so the four-year data set gave the authors a window into two rounds of assessments.

The authors also ranked superintendents’ “value added” by measuring academic achievement at schools that remained under the same superintendent for the duration of the experiment and at schools that switched to new superintendents during that time.

The study’s conclusion: Being assigned to a more effective superintendent meaningfully benefited a school’s academic performance. Test scores rose incrementally as superintendent quality improved, with the effects visible in students on either end of the socioeconomic divide.

“Schools with higher quality superintendents are more likely to address school climate, violence and bullying, and implement interventions that lead to lower violence in school and higher social school satisfaction among students,” they write, directly comparing the reduction of violence and bullying in schools with especially engaged superintendents to the “no excuses” philosophy of American charter schools.

The results come at a time when the importance of school and district management is being reconsidered and traditional educational structures have come into competition with new challengers. Some researchers have pointed to collaborative networks of schools in New Zealand and the United Kingdom as a model for American reformers.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

New Higher Education Reform Bill Will Help Low-Income Americans Go To College

Today, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, will introduce a landmark proposal to overhaul the way the federal government funds and oversees higher education. Based on a draft summary of the legislation that I’ve had a chance to review, one thing stands out about the bill: its focus on helping low-income Americans gain a college education.

The economic value of reforming the Pell Grant program

One of the most important economic divisions in America is between those who have a college degree, and those who do not. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, the median income of Americans who haven’t gone to college is $36,000, while that of those with a college degree is approximately $60,000: 67% higher.

While a four-year college degree isn’t for everyone, and isn’t needed for every job, college will always be a de facto requirement for higher-level professional work. And so it’s important to make sure that every American who wants to go to college can afford to do so.

The average cost of attending a public four-year college is $65,000, and $150,000 at a private one, according to the Department of Education. On average, tuition has grown 5% a year for the past ten years. That’s a rate far faster than that of consumer inflation.

There are three basic problems that lower- and middle-income Americans face when confronting the U.S. higher education system.

The first is the one noted above: that the underlying cost of a four-year college degree is too expensive. The second is that federal student aid programs are badly structured, making it harder for aid recipients to complete their college coursework in a reasonable timeframe. The third is that we don’t create enough policy room for alternatives to a four-year brick-and-mortar college degree: low-cost vocational schools and online degrees.

The new Foxx bill—called The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act—proposes dozens of reforms, many of which would make significant progress toward these policy goals.

PROSPER simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA). It eliminates the requirement for online colleges to register in any state except those where they have physical locations. It invests in apprenticeship programs at community colleges. It provides prospective students with information on the average debt, average salaries and completion rates of colleges students and alumni. And it consolidates and reforms student loans, grants and tax credits.

Helping needy students complete their degrees on time

In this article, I’ll focus one key area of the PROSPER Act: reforming federal student aid for low-income Americans, which is largely run through the Pell Grant program.

The Pell Grant comprises around 55% of all need-based federal student aid in the U.S. During the 2016-17 academic year, 7.1 million students received a total of $26.6 billion in Pell Grants.

Pell Grants are intended to help lower-income people go to college. But in many ways the Pell Grant system leaves the poor behind.

The Grant's formula takes the Department of Education 38 single-spaced pages to explain. But despite all of that complexity—or, perhaps, because of it—the Pell formula actually makes it harder for low-income students to graduate on time, and harder to graduate in good financial health.

The Pell Grant formula only funds a students' course load up to what the Department of Education defines as full-time enrollment: 12 credits per semester.

But for a college student to graduate on-time, he or she typically needs to take 15 credits per semester. As a result, students in need who wish to graduate on time must forgo need-based aid.

Students who want to graduate on time shouldn’t be hindered by Pell Grant rules. Some students might even wish to accelerate their studies and enter the workforce sooner. But this 12-credit per semester limit applies to all Pell recipients.

There are numerous other major drawbacks to the Pell Grant program, some of which I have written about previously:

Bias against needier students. The Pell Grant formula is not restricted to students below specified income limits, but is instead restricted to students with income below a multiple of the current maximum grant amount per student. The effect of this is that when funding for the grant is increased by lawmakers, an increasing amount of need-based Pell funds are sent to wealthier and wealthier students.

Bias toward costlier colleges. Many Pell Grant recipients are required to attend a sufficiently expensive collage to be eligible for a grant. The Pell Formula reduces many student's grant amount to zero if they spend below a certain amount on college.

Disincentive to complete college on time. The Pell formula creates an incentive for not completing a degree on-time, because it only funds up to 12 credits.

Bias against families with multiple children in college. The Pell formula does not account for when multiple family members are enrolled in college at the same time. The ability of a given family to pay for college is estimated as equal whether they have one or three children in college.

Complexity. The Pell formula is overly complex, taking 38-pages of small type to explain. This makes it hard for students and parents to understand the basis for their grant amounts.

Helping students who are working their way through college

The kid who works his way through college carries on a classic, all-American tradition. But there is a growing amount of evidence that college students who spend significant amounts of time working on jobs unrelated to their schoolwork fail to ever graduate. A 2014 study by Richard Medellin at the University of Maryland using Department of Education data found that students were half as likely to ever complete their degrees if they were working more than 30 hours per week.

The Higher Education Act proposes additional Pell funding for students who take enough credits to "put them on track to graduate on time," thereby reducing the financial pressure on low-income students who are working their way through college. (The legislative summary I reviewed did not provide details of how this would work, but 15 credits per semester is commonly considered "on track.") The extra Pell funds may permit these students to work fewer hours at part-time jobs, or it may afford them extra hours of child-care, or additional gas money so they can complete assignments, or only take the part-time work they want.

Consolidating federal student aid programs

The PROSPER Act proposes to consolidate all federal college grant programs, including the Pell Grants, into one grant program. Because modifications to the Pell were discussed in the legislation summary I reviewed, I expect that other federal college grants will be incorporated in to the Pell.

The PROSPER Act's expansion of the Pell Grant program to support lower-income students who want to finish their degrees on-time is consistent with other major proposals in the Act that focus on creating a faster, less-costly means of obtaining postsecondary education and entering the workforce.

The Act allocates $183 million to community colleges to create apprenticeship programs of two years or less to prepare students for jobs in specific industries.

The Act makes it easier for students to study affordably, on their own time, in their own way, by removing regulatory obstacles to competency-based colleges, where students simply take one comprehensive course examination to earn a course credit. These test-based based colleges, such as Western Governors University, have comparably low prices and generally don't require books, homework, or attendance of classes.

The Act makes it cheaper and easier for online innovators in education to serve students wherever they are, for less money, by eliminating the requirement for online educators to register in states, except those where they have physical locations.

The PROSPER Act represents substantial reform and promise

Rep. Foxx’s will likely encounter criticism from those who support “free college” reforms, such as Bernie Sanders’ proposal to fully subsidize community college for students of all income levels. The PROSPER Act differs from such far-reaching subsidy proposals in two major ways: it focuses resources and programs on helping Americans with the greatest financial need; and it expands the choices for students who need financial aid, rather than steering them overwhelmingly towards community colleges.

Most importantly, the PROSPER Act takes steps to tackle the high underlying cost of higher education: the most important challenge for those who want to level the playing field between those with economic opportunity and those without.


Tax Bills Could Expand Private School Benefits and Hurt Public Education

Which may be no bad thing. All education should be private.  A view from the NYT below

WASHINGTON — As Friday night turned into Saturday morning, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking vote in the Senate to extend a tax benefit available for higher education to families paying tuition for private elementary and secondary education — or even homeschooling their children.

The vote on the amendment by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, was emblematic of the sweeping tax bills entering final negotiations between House and Senate Republicans. Provisions in both measures could change families’ approach to elementary and secondary education, and every type of school stands to benefit except those attended by 90 percent of the nation’s students — public schools.

Under the House and Senate bills, families who can afford to put money away for private or sectarian schools each month would be able to watch their savings earn interest and capital gains free of taxation. In the Senate bill, even home schoolers could withdraw up to $10,000 a year for school expenses in their own living room — from tax-favored savings accounts.

By contrast, the drastic curtailing of state and local tax deductions in both bills could hamstring local governments’ efforts to finance their public schools. State, county and city governments have always struggled to raise taxes or pass bond measures for schools, but were able to argue that increases in sales or income tax rates could be deducted from federal income taxes. In the House and Senate bills, the state and local tax deduction would be reduced to a deduction of up to $10,000 of property taxes each year and nothing else.

The National Education Association released a state-by-state analysis of how the tax bill would affect public schools, concluding that in the next decade, $370 billion worth of state and local revenue and 370,000 education jobs are at risk.

“We have provisions that are incentivizing parents to keep students in private schools or send them to private schools,” said Sasha Pudelski, assistant director for policy and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators. “If there’s going to be tax breaks in the bill, giving it to the parents in the private education system over the public education system doesn’t make any sense.”

How generous the new tax preference for private education would be is subject to debate. As with current 529 plans, contributions would not be tax deductible, but interest and capital gains would not be taxed. Withdrawing funds for elementary school would not give families much time to see their investments grow tax-free. That alone has divided advocates of school choice.

“As currently structured, 529 plans are not designed to deliver significant benefits to poor families in college,” wrote Nat Malkus of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “Giving families flexibility to spend those funds sooner does nothing to address their capacity to save; it only minimizes the potential benefits.”

In urging his colleagues to vote for the amendment, Mr. Cruz said the expansion “ensures that each child receives an education that meets their individual needs, instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach to education, or limited to their ZIP code.” He said the provision would “help working class and middle-income families save and prepare for their children’s educational expenses.”

But that assumes that those working-class families have money to save, and many do not.

“The opinion ranges from being marginally helpful, to a nothingburger, to being harmful because it plays into the narrative that school choice is about helping rich people,” said Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which favors government-funded vouchers for private school tuition. “Are there people out there who cannot afford school choice and will now be able to? No.”

Some conservatives say the amendment falls well short of the president’s request for Congress to “pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth.” Instead, they say, it benefits wealthy families who already have thousands of dollars at their disposal to pay for their children to attend nonpublic schools.

But other conservative groups, like the Heritage Foundation, which began advocating the expansion of 529 plans in 2012, praised the amendment. Lindsey M. Burke, director of the foundation’s Center for Education Policy, said that when more families learned that anyone could contribute to the savings plans, they would become more popular at all income levels.

Ms. Burke disagreed with public school advocates that the 529 expansions would hurt public schools by incentivizing families to leave them.

“If their district-assigned school is a good fit, they have nothing to worry about,” she said.

For homeschoolers, the Cruz amendment was a cause for celebration. For years, homeschool advocates have denounced what they called a “discriminatory” tax code. Not only were 529s limited to just college costs, but existing K-12 expense accounts, called Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, are recognized for homeschools only in a handful of states where they can win designations as private schools. Coverdell contributions are limited to $2,000 a year, while contributions to 529 accounts can reach $14,000 a year without incurring gift taxes.

Will Estrada, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, called the Cruz amendment a “massive win” for homeschooling families.

Mr. Estrada said that since the Trump administration took office, the organization had been working behind the scenes with the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and Ivanka Trump’s staff to have the nearly two million students in home schools recognized. Homeschooling families spend about $500 to $600 a year on average on instructional materials like books, Mr. Estrada said.

“We want to be treated fairly,” he said.

For public school advocates, the 529 expansion was just the latest in a series of decisions they said illustrated the Trump administration’s disinvestment in public education.

“It’s just icing on the cake,” Ms. Pudelski said. “It seems they’re just asking how many different ways can we not support public schools.”


University of Ottawa Students Reject Israel Boycotts, Marking Ninth Consecutive BDS Defeat in Canada

Student leaders at the University of Ottawa rejected a motion to support boycotts of Israel on Sunday, marking the ninth consecutive defeat for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign on Canadian campuses over the past two years.

The measure, brought before the Board of Administration of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), sought to include an item backing BDS to the body’s policy handbook.

The Board rejected the motion, opting instead to require the SFUO “to do all in its power to peacefully resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Student were only notified of the upcoming vote on Friday — hours before the onset of Shabbat — prompting the Jewish human rights group B’nai Brith Canada to notify SFUO directors that an endorsement of BDS could invite legal action.

“The SFUO’s proposed BDS vote would have violated the notice requirements guaranteed by its own constitution, as well as the student union’s policy on discrimination, which prohibits the SFUO from discriminating on the basis of nationality or religion,” B’nai Brith Canada explained in a statement.

The vote comes weeks after an unsuccessful effort to withdraw the club status of Hillel Ottawa and its Israel Awareness Committee.

“We commend the SFUO for removing the reference to BDS from this resolution,” Dovi Chein, director of Hillel Ottawa, said on Sunday. “We are incredibly proud of the students who made a powerful case today for the SFUO to reject the destructive and divisive path of BDS.”

B’nai Brith pointed out that Sunday’s vote was ninth time in a row that BDS was defeated on a Canadian campus. “Over the past two years, BDS votes have failed at the University of Toronto (twice), the University of Waterloo, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Winnipeg — and now the University of Ottawa as well,” the group noted.

Robert Walker, national director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, cautioned that “the pro-Israel community certainly should be pleased when BDS motions fail to pass on campus, but we can never forget the bigger picture.”

He pointed to a recent controversy at McGill University, where a student claimed he was removed from a leadership role on campus “because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.”

“BDS votes,” Walker said, “are merely a sideshow of the far wider anti-Israel movement on campus.”