Friday, May 17, 2013

Federal Title IX Enforcers Effectively Define Dating and Sex Education as “Sexual Harassment”

by Hans Bader

No one would believe you if you made this up, but it’s now actually happened: The Justice Department and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights now have effectively defined dating and sex education as “sexual harassment.” The definition is found in a May 9 Title IX Letter of Findings and Resolution Agreement involving the University of Montana.

In a radical departure from Title IX jurisprudence, the federal government declares that “any” unwelcome sexual speech or other conduct is “sexual harassment” regardless of whether it is severe, repeated, or pervasive, and regardless of whether it would offend a reasonable person. In its findings, it rejected narrower definitions rooted in federal court rulings, declaring that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” (The Federal government has also effectively mandated “unconstitutional speech codes at colleges and universities nationwide,” notes the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.)

By contrast, the Supreme Court has ruled that to constitute illegal sexual harassment, sexual advances or other verbal or physical conduct must be severe and pervasive, create a hostile environment, and be “objectively offensive” to a “reasonable person.” See, e.g., Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999). According to the Supreme Court, isolated instances of trivially offensive sexual speech are not illegal, and are not considered “sexual harassment” in even the broadest possible sense: the conception of harassment that applies under federal law’s anti-retaliation provisions, which allow employees to sue when they are disciplined for reporting what they in good faith believe to be sexual harassment, even if does not rise to the level of sexual harassment in a narrow legal sense. See Clark County School District v. Breeden (2001).

The definition of “sexual harassment” that the federal government demands that the University of Montana adopt is far broader than the sexual harassment policies declared unconstitutionally overbroad by federal appeals courts in DeJohn v. Temple University, Saxe v. State College Area School District, and McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands, which made clear that there is no “sexual harassment” exception to the First Amendment.

The University of Montana applied federal definitions of sexual harassment, that exclude trivially offensive conduct and things that do not offend reasonable people, in its internal sexual harassment policy. The Justice and Education Departments took issue with this, saying that conduct, or speech on sexual topics, is harassment even if “it is” not “objectively offensive”:

Third, Sexual Harassment Policy 406.5.1 improperly suggests that the conduct does not constitute sexual harassment unless it is objectively offensive. This policy provides examples of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature but then states that “[w]hether conduct is sufficiently offensive to constitute sexual harassment is determined from the perspective of an objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation.” Whether conduct is objectively offensive is a factor used to determine if a hostile environment has been created, but it is not the standard to determine whether conduct was “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and therefore constitutes “sexual harassment.” . . .

sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” (Findings at pg. 9)

It also made very clear that this broad rule reaches speech — “verbal conduct” — not just physical conduct:

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature7 and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. (Findings, pg. 4)

In short, sexual harassment is defined to include “any” speech or other verbal conduct even if it would not offend a reasonable person, but rather only is offensive from the subjective viewpoint of a hypersensitive person.  Making a sexual or racial harassment policy entirely subjective makes it unconstitutionally vague on its face. See Dambrot v. Central Michigan Univ., 55 F.3d 1177 (6th Cir. 1995) (racial harassment policy void for vagueness where it required “subjective reference”); Cohen v. San Bernardino Valley College, 92 F.3d 968 (9th Cir. 1996) (voiding harassment policy as applied to professor’s speech on vagueness ground; policy must provide fair notice).

Banning all sexual speech that is offensive to any listener would effectively ban sex education and sexual humor, making every sex education class “sexual harassment” when it offends a squeamish student. Some students are made uncomfortable by such topics: for example, sexual harassment charges were unsuccessfully brought after sex educator Toni Blake told a joke while demonstrating a condom. Unlike the Education Department, the courts have rejected the idea that such humor inherently constitutes “sexual harassment.” See Brown v. Hot, Sexy & Safer Products, Inc., 68 F.3d 525 (1st Cir. 1995) (students sued over comments in sex education class; court ruled that since sexual speech must be “severe” or “pervasive” and create “hostile environment” to constitute sexual harassment, the lawsuit should be dismissed; it ruled that sexual humor in the sex education lecture about “erection wear” and anal sex was not enough for liability, since a reasonable person would not have viewed the comments as intended to harass); Black v. Zaring Homes, 104 F.3d 822 (6th Cir. 1997) (jokes about “sticky buns” were not bad enough to constitute sexual harassment, despite being unwelcome.).

Defining “any” romantic overture or sexual speech as “harassment” based purely on subjective reactions has dire implications for dating. It defines a single, unrepeated, civil request to go out on a date as “sexual harassment” even if the requester never makes the request again after learning that it was “subjectively” unwelcome.

That may effectively ban dating (since no one is a mind reader, and the whole point of asking someone out on a date is because you don’t know before asking whether they would be interested without first asking). Such a de facto ban on dating violates freedom of intimate association. Even banning dating between certain people can violate freedom of intimate association; here, the definition would define all offers to go out on a date as potentially sexual harassment unless the offerer is omniscient. See Wilson v. Taylor, 733 F.2d 1539, 1544 (11th Cir. 1984) (appeals court ruled that freedom of intimate association was violated by restriction on public employee dating a single individual, the relative of a criminal suspect.).

Perversely, the government suggests that punishment may be required BEFORE a disciplinary hearing, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland‘s “sentence first, verdict afterwards“:

a university must take immediate steps to protect the complainant from further harassment prior to the completion of the Title IX and Title IV investigation/resolution. Appropriate steps may include separating the accused harasser and the complainant, providing counseling for the complainant and/or harasser, and/or taking disciplinary action against the harasser.


Homeland Security funded exercise portrayed homeschoolers as terrorists

Taken on its own, the KOMO 4 News report below out of Seattle paints a stark and frightening picture of police battling “angry parents” in a simulated shooting at a school. The practice of police training to take on everything from homeschoolers to patriots and constitutionalists – “rightwing extremists” in government parlance – is anything but a rarity. Such exercises are now a prominent feature of the expanding police state.

In 2002, Alex Jones covered school shooting police exercises targeting homeschoolers, a topic included in his film, Police State Trilogy. Since that time, the effort to malign homeschooling parents as extremists and terrorists has only increased.

Police State Exercises Now Part of Public Education Landscape

In 2004, cops in Muskegon, Michigan conducted a “mock attack” on a school bus as part of a terrorism response exercise. The terrorists portrayed in the exercise were not fanatical Muslims or even phantom rightwing extremists – they were said to be fanatical homeschoolers.

According to the Muskegon Chronicle, the exercise was a simulated “attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled,” Homeschool World reported in September, 2004.

The simulated attack was funded by the Department of Homeland Security.  Prison reported:
    "The mock attack was funded by a Homeland Security grant and required the participation of students to act bloody and injured, also involving hospitals, morgues and mannequins painted up to look like dead children, as parents were ordered to dash to emergency rooms frantic in the belief that their child had perished.

    The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District later had to apologize for characterizing homeschoolers as terrorists after hundreds of complaints poured in.

    Stereotypes consistently propped-up by the media demonize homeschoolers as hicks, retards and extremists, despite the fact the local and national spelling bees are routinely won by homeschooled children.

    The ceaseless attack on homeschooling is an attempt to neutralize any alternatives parents have to placing their children in the state run re-education gulags known as the “public school system.”

“Michigan is the epicenter of the agenda to mould all schools into youth internment centers, indoctrinating all children to accept the presence of surveillance cameras, biometric scanning to access buildings and buy food, ID tracking cards and men in uniforms pointing guns at them as normal,” Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones wrote on November 6, 2008. “Allied to this is the openly stated agenda not to educate but to dumb down students and brainwash them with bizarre humanist rhetoric about the evils of the family, all in preparation for their smooth acquiescence into enslaved adulthood as a downtrodden worker bee under the control matrix of the elite.”

But it is not simply homeschoolers who are portrayed as terrorists in government school exercises.

In 2011, Pottawatamie County, Iowa, and Homeland Security conducted an exercise simulating a school shooting. The shooter was portrayed as a “white teen boy, whose family is involved in anti-illegal immigration rallies” and supports the Second Amendment. The father of the shooter was portrayed as a member of an “underground white supremacist group,” according to an email sent to

School children are now routinely subjected to unannounced exercises. In a Michigan school in 2006, militarized cops took students “from the classroom into the halls, patted down by officers and asked what they had in their pockets.” The Associated Press reported that some of the children “were so scared, they just about wet their pants.”

“In the years since 9/11 and the Columbine school shootings, there has been a concerted effort to make school emergency drills much more ‘realistic’ and much more intense,” writes Michael Snyder. “Unfortunately, the fact that many of these drills are deeply traumatizing many children does not seem to bother too many people.  Do we really need to have ‘active shooter’ drills where men point guns at our kids and fire blanks at them?”

Snyder documents numerous instances where school officials, in coordination with local militarized police often operating with Department of Homeland Security grants, have relocated children during mock terror drills and active shooter scenarios. Schools also routinely engage in lockdown drills, an activity that naturally acclimates young minds to accept an ever-encroaching police state.

“Schools have become hi-tech prisons,” Steve Watson wrote in 2007. “Children all across America and the UK are being conditioned to accept that they are not free and that they must submit to draconian laws and measures for their own safety… Everyday we post reports from mainstream news sources documenting this disturbing trend.”

Homeschooling: Part of Domestic Terror Construct

The demonization of Americans who are opposed to interning their children in public reeducation facilities predates the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the attacks of September 11, 2001.

According to Time Magazine, the rhetoric that supposedly contributed to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City came from “well known-elements of far-right thought: tax protesters, Christian homeschoolers, conspiracy theorists… and self-reliant types” in opposition to the federal government.

Lew Finch, the superintendent of schools in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, went further and directly placed the blame for the bombing on homeschoolers. “There is a dedicated, very well organized, very well financed movement in America that is very anti-public schools, very anti-government,” he told the Des Moines Register on May 4, 1995. “The ultimate example of that sentiment is the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.”

“We will continue to see armed men terrorize our children, aim guns at their head and indoctrinate them to accept living under tyranny unless parents and teacher organizations band together to file huge lawsuits against those responsible and we vehemently denounce the insidious Sovietization of the public school system,” Watson and Jones noted.

Homeschool parents and organizations, as well, would be wise to combat insidious government propaganda that likens them to terrorists. Left unopposed, this massive brainwashing effort will convert an entire generation into believing that homeschooling is not only evil and socially harmful, but it breeds terrorists.

The goal is to completely eradicate parent directed education and the threat it poses to public indoctrination mills that train children to passively participate in their own destruction while simultaneously worshipping government.


British Catholic primary calls in Stonewall to eradicate 'homophobic bullying' after pupil calls another student's shoes 'gay'

Gay rights activists have been called into a Roman Catholic primary school to give staff lessons in 'homophobic bullying' after a five-year-old boy was heard saying another boy’s shoes were 'gay'.

The jibe, sometimes used by children to mean 'bad' or 'rubbish', was made by a pupil in the infants’ playground of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Wimbledon, south London.

It was reported by an adult supervisor to Sarah Crouch, the head teacher, who decided that it amounted to homophobic abuse.

She then invited Stonewall, the gay rights group, into the school to teach staff how to educate children in sexual equality.

The training day went ahead with the consent of all but one of the governors and with the blessing of the authorities of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

The school is now the first and only Catholic primary school in the country to be listed as a Stonewall 'Primary School Champion' of gay equality.

Stonewall resources for primary schools are based around a pack called 'Different Families Same Love', which imparts the message that same-sex couple households are equal to those founded on marriage between heterosexuals.

Children are taught not to use the word 'gay' derisively because it would upset children who might be gay or might have gay parents.

But the decision to allow Stonewall into a Catholic primary has shocked campaigners who believe that the gay rights group should not be allowed to impose their views on young children.

They claim that such minor incidents were being used as a device to enter schools to teach 'gay propaganda'.

One Catholic close to the school said she was deeply concerned that the teachers were being trained to undermine a family based on a marriage between a man and a woman.

'I don’t think that teaching 'mummy and mummy' is equal to mummy and daddy is right in a Catholic primary school because Catholic Church teaching doesn’t agree with that,' said the woman, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals.

Miss Crouch said she called the campaign group into St Mary’s simply to train staff 'on how to tackle homophobic language and bullying'.

'As a school, and as Catholics, we are opposed to prejudice of any kind and felt it was important to tackle the issue of homophobic language and bullying.

'The training was very successful and we feel confident that if any incidents of this kind of language occur our staff  have the means to address them appropriately.'

But Dr Patricia Morgan, a leading sociologist, said the decision to allow Stonewall into a Catholic primary school was 'completely wrong'.

'Hasn’'t the Catholic Church got more sense?' she asked. 'Everyone is kow-towing to these pressure groups which want to get access to children to promote their cause.

'I think it is incredible that they are interfering in casual insults hurled around by small children.

'We are now using the use 'gay' as a pretext for the introduction of children to sexual minorities at an innocent stage. Is it important for children to know about sexual variety at the age of five?'

Antonia Tully, national co-ordinator of the Safe at School campaign, said that the presence of gay activists in primary schools would alarm parents.

She said: 'Many parents will be very concerned that a gay rights organisation is considered to be an appropriate source of advice on how to deal with children using inappropriate language in the playground.

'If a primary school takes on Stonewall’s agenda young children will be exposed to homosexual issues which they are too young to understand properly,' she added.

'Parents expect a school to provide an education, not subject their children to gay propaganda.'

Stonewall itself has been a severe critic of the teaching of the Catholic Church, which holds that homosexual sexual acts are objectively disordered, although it is neutral about sexual orientation.

The gay rights charity is driving the campaign for same-sex marriage and is diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church’s resistance to it.

It claims that homophobic bullying is a common phenomenon in primary schools that had to be eradicated.

A Stonewall 'Teachers' Report' found that three quarters of primary school teachers hear children use the phrases 'that's so gay' or 'you’re so gay' and two in five primary school teachers say children experience homophobic bullying.

'Fear of bullying can stop children from talking about their families and from doing what they enjoy,' said a spokesman.

'All schools have a legal obligation to respond to homophobic bullying and by celebrating difference they can prevent it from happening in the first place.'


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hating America

Walter E. Williams

Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of setting the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon, attended the University of Massachusetts. Maybe they hated our nation before college, but if you want lessons on hating America, college attendance might be a good start. Let's look at it.

"We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it." That's taught to University of Hawaii students by Professor Haunani-Kay Trask. Richard Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University and the U.N. Human Rights Council's Palestine monitor, explained the Boston bombings by saying, "The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world." Professor Falk has also stated that President George W. Bush ordered the destruction of the twin towers.

University of Southern California professor Darry Sragow preaches hate to his students in his regulation of elections and political finance class, recently telling them that Republicans are stupid, racist losers and that they are angry old white people. A few years ago, Rod Swanson, a UCLA economics professor, told his class, "The United States of America, backed by facts, is the greediest and most selfish country in the world." Penn State University professor Matt Jordan compared supporters of the voter ID laws to the Ku Klux Klan. Professor Sharon Sweet, an algebra teacher at Brevard Community College, told her students to sign a pledge that read, "I pledge to vote for President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket." Fortunately, the college's trustees fired her.

University of Rhode Island history professor Erik Loomis tweeted, "I want (National Rifle Association executive vice president) Wayne LaPierre's head on a stick." He asked, "Can (we) define NRA membership as dues contributing to a terrorist organization?" Here's a sample of how Professor Loomis frequently expresses himself: "Motherf---ing f---heads f---ing f---."

Then there's Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman, who explained our national problems by saying, "But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions." Professor Seidman worked for The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. When he was sworn in as an officer of the court, I wonder what constitution he swore to uphold and defend.

Parents don't have to wait for college admission for their youngsters to receive America-hating lessons. Scott Compton, an English teacher at Chapin High School in Chapin, S.C., was put on administrative leave after he allegedly threw an American flag on the floor and stomped on it in front of his students. He has chosen to resign.

An Advanced Placement world geography teacher at Lumberton High School in Texas encouraged students to dress in Islamic clothing and instructed them to refer to the 9/11 hijackers not as terrorists but as "freedom fighters." They were also told to stop referring to the Holocaust as genocide. John Valastro, the superintendent of the Lumberton Independent School District, told Fox News that the teacher did absolutely nothing wrong.

In McAllen, Texas, teachers tried to force a teenager to sing the Mexican national anthem and recite Mexico's pledge of allegiance. The teen refused, saying it was against her beliefs as an American. She was thrown out of the class and given a failing grade for that day's assignment. Her father has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his daughter against the McAllen Independent School District.

Investor's Business Daily ran a story that shows student indoctrination is official union policy: "A New Low From The California Federation Of Teachers: Urine Indoctrination" (12/5/12). The union's website has a cartoon narrated by leftist Hollywood actor Ed Asner. In tones used when reading to children, Asner says: "(Rich people) love their money more than anything in the whole world. ... Over time, rich people decided they weren't rich enough, so they came up with ways to get richer." The cartoon finishes its class warfare message by graphically depicting "the rich" urinating on the poor.

These people running our education system are destroying the minds and values of our young people, and we allow them to do it.


Chalkboard Rebellion in the Golden State

Ten California teachers are suing to break one of the strongest iron triangles in American politics, where the taxpayers pay the teachers; the teachers’ union supports candidates and referenda, and that leads eventually to the teachers getting better pay, benefits and working conditions.

A civil rights law firm filed a federal law suit April 30 on behalf of 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International challenging the state’s closed shop law that has them contributing to support political activity they opposed.

"Individual teachers have a constitutional right to decide for themselves whether to join a union and financially support its efforts," said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, the Washington-based non-profit law firm taking on the case.

"The government may not compel teachers to provide financial support to policies with which they fundamentally disagree,” he said.

Rebecca Friedrichs, one of the teacher plaintiffs, said, “The union spends millions of teachers' hard earned monies supporting causes and candidates that many of us oppose.”

Friedrichs said she does not want to control or stop the union from its activities. “The union is free to press its agenda, but individual teachers should not be forced to pay for it.”

It comes down to fairness, she said. “It is shocking to me and many other teachers that union officials have the power by law to spend our wages to press for causes that many of us oppose on moral, fiscal, or philosophical grounds."

By going after the California Teachers Association, these teachers are going after the biggest fish in the 50-state pond. In the Golden State, the CTA donated more than $150 million in political donations between 2003 and 2012, according to the website The other defendants are the National Education Association as well as 10 affiliated local teachers’ unions and local school officials.

In the last decade, the CTA gave 89 percent of its contributions to ballot initiatives, 10 percent to Democrats and less than 1 percent to Republicans, according to the site. The union backed 299 winners, 77 losers and a total of 625 incumbents.

California is a state with a huge political tradition of getting things done by ballot referendum, and the union was deeply involved in left-wing causes. In 2003, the union gave $250,000 to a fund called: Californians Against the Costly Recall of the Governor, during the recall election of Democrat J. Graham “Gray” Davis Jr., and 2008 the union donated $1.3 million to defeat Proposition 8, a referendum that amended the state constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.

In 2012, the CTA spent $21 million to successfully defeat Proposition 32, which would have prohibited paycheck-deductions to unions to support political causes. If that seems like a lot of money, consider the teachers union was only in for a third of the $65 million raised from dozens of other unions in the state.

With the defeat at the polls, California opponents to compulsory support of union political activities need are turning to the courts.

“Forcing educators to financially support causes that run contrary to their political and policy beliefs violates their First Amendment rights to free expression and association and cannot withstand First Amendment scrutiny,” said Michael A. Carvin, partner with Jones Day and lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“The Supreme Court questioned the continued constitutionality of ‘agency shop’ laws last year in the Knox decision,” he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 Knox v. Employees Intl. Union that the Service Employees International Union in California violated the First Amendment rights of its non-union members by forcing them to pay a 25 percent increase in union dues without their consent to help fight ballot initiatives in the state, he said.

In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote: “Because a public-sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences, the compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on First Amendment rights.”

Dues and agency fees yield the CTA 2011 revenue of more than $191 million. The revenues came not only from member dues. The “agency shop” law means to compensate unions for their work “collective bargaining” on behalf of all workers, members and non-members, so non-union teachers are obligated to pay dues to a union they do not belong.

Depending on the local union, non-union member teachers in California can pay more than $1,000 a year to cover their share of collective bargaining expenses. These expenses include the CTA magazine “The California Educator,” despite the publication’s intense political tone and messages.

The CTA similarly charges programs advocating the gay rights agenda and union conferences and activities as collective bargaining.

Annually, non-union member teachers can opt-out of the mandatory dues, but the law suit contends that the process is complicated and exposes teachers opting out to harassment.

The suit argues there is no compelling reason to continue that agency shop process.


Value for money? British students pay nine times more for their University fees - but get just 20 minutes extra a week with lecturers

University tuition fees have soared by nine times in the past six years - yet students are getting just 20 minutes extra a week with lecturers as a result.

A new study raises fresh questions about standards, revealing that on average an undergraduate at an English university spends about 900 hours a year on their studies, around 300 hours less than recommended by the university watchdog.

Studying for a degree at an English university is still 'more like a part-time than a full-time job', according to the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), which co-authored the report.

The study also highlights stark differences between institutions and between courses in the amount of time students spend with lecturers, and suggests that some undergraduates are studying for less than half the hours of their peers.

The 2013 Student Academic Experience survey, produced by HEPI and Which?, questioned thousands of students at UK universities for their views of their courses.

The findings show that the total student workload - both time spent in lectures and private study - now averages about 30 hours a week, equivalent to around 900 hours for each 29-week academic year.

This is around 25 per cent less than the 1,200 hours suggested by the Quality Assurance Agency, the study says.

HEPI's report on the survey says: 'In our previous report we commented that study at an English university was more like a part-time than a full-time job, and so it has proved again.'

The survey also shows that since the first HEPI Academic Experience survey was conducted in 2006, just before tuition fees rose from £1,000 to £3,000, the amount of 'contact hours' - time spent with academics in lecturers and seminars - has risen by just 20 minutes a week.

During this same period, fees have risen nine-fold from £1,000 a year to a maximum of £9,000 a year at English universities.

Students are getting just eight minutes extra with lecturers compared to 2007, when fees were £3,000 a year.

HEPI's report on the survey says: 'There is no sign that as students pay more they are receiving more for their money, and that is reflected in a sharp increase in the proportion of students who feel that they are not receiving good value for money.'

Around three in ten first-year students at English universities, the first group to face fees of up to £9,000, say that they do not think their course offers value for money, the survey found.

The survey does reveal that students generally believe that they are putting more effort into their studies, spending 14 hours and eight minutes on average on private study, over an hour more than in 2006.

The study comes after it was revealed that the Treasury fears the funding system is unsustainable.

The Treasury is said to be concerned that the new system – which sees students borrow up to £9,000 a year for their course fees – will not recoup its costs.

Officials anticipated that 28 per cent of loans would never be repaid. It is now understood that their estimate stands at 40 per cent.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Common Core GED book: '9/11 hijackers were poor Afghans'

They can't even keep straight the few facts that they do use.  The 9/11 people were mainly highly educated Saudis.

By Oleg Atbashian

Adult basic education and GED programs, with about 800,000 students taking GED tests each year, serve a segment of society that escaped government schools, including many homeschoolers. But the national propaganda effort called the Common Core Curriculum is spreading its tentacles to them.

While many may not take the GED seriously, calling it the “Good Enough Diploma,” consider that quite a few homeschoolers take GED tests as a way to cancel out high school attendance requirements and lessen the record-keeping burden on home educators caused by compulsory attendance laws in every state.

Thus, aligning GED with Common Core has the potential of erasing all the efforts and sacrifices the homeschooling parents have put in to protect their children from the centralized indoctrination.

You can run but you can’t hide from the omnipresent Big Brother: the new GED workbooks and requirements will still drag many of their children through the biased Common Core curriculum.

What exactly is in store for today’s two million homeschoolers and the hundreds of thousands of American adults taking the GED test annually?

In March 2013, New Readers Press, a publishing division of ProLiteracy — the world’s largest organization of adult basic education and literacy programs — released a revised edition of its bestselling Scoreboost series for the 2014 GED test. With eight supplemental workbooks on the mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies tests, the new series is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and has been expanded, according to the publisher, “to cover the complexities of the new math test as well as the analytic writing required by the extended-response items.”

New extended-response items on the GED test will provide students with one or more source texts followed by a prompt or question, and the answers will be scored with a three-trait rubric. According to the Social Studies Extended Response Scoring Guide, a maximum of three points will be awarded in Trait 1 (Creation of Arguments and Use of Evidence) if the student can “generate a fact-based argument that demonstrates a clear understanding of the historical relationships among ideas, events, and figures as presented in the source text(s) and the contexts from which they are drawn”; can cite “relevant, specific evidence from primary and/or secondary source text(s) that adequately supports an argument”; and is “well connected to both the prompt and the source text(s)”.

But what if the source text is wrong on facts and presents a narrow set of partisan political beliefs — in addition to being poorly written and downright confusing?

Below is an excerpt from a larger Social Studies Extended Response, found on page 52 from Writing Across the Tests: Responding to Text on the Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science Test, entitled, “Does Foreign Aid Really Help?”

    "Those who support sending aid to poor countries do so because poor countries often have high levels of poverty, poor educational systems, an ineffective police and judicial force, and limited public services such as healthcare, transportation networks, and banking systems. They believe that when living conditions are this poor, crime levels tend to be higher. Poorer countries, because they have weak governments, often have areas that attract terrorist groups because no one is there to stop them from pursuing those types of activities. Thus, poor countries are often home to terrorist groups that are free to plan and carry out attacks on the rich, industrialized nations, without fear of being stopped. This is in fact what happened on 9/11 when terrorists from Afghanistan hijacked planes and carried out attacks on the United States. In this case, the terrorists originated in a country that had received large amounts of foreign aid from rich countries. Apparently, it didn’t work."

And here is the following test prompt:  "Should rich countries continue to give aid to poor countries, or should they stop giving aid? Develop an argument that supports your position, and make sure to use specific details to help develop your ideas."

The dictionary definition of “indoctrinate” is “to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.” This is exactly what will happen when GED students are required to generate ideas, attitudes, and cognitive strategies based on the above misleading and purely sectarian “progressive” worldview, which disregards the proven beneficiary power of the free markets, misconstrues the motivation of Islamic terrorists, and misrepresents the identities of the 9/11 hijackers, who were, for the most part, educated Muslim Arabs from well-to-do families in oil-rich countries that, in fact, send plenty of foreign aid to support Islamic extremism around the world.

The source text on Global Warming (Page 54) provides a statement that global temperatures are increasing, followed by two theories that explain it — the use of fossil fuels and deforestation — both of which attribute Global Warming to human industrial activity and population growth.

Omitted in this “scientific text” is the existence of other scientific data and theories, for example, the cyclical nature of the planet’s climate and the impact of solar activity on Earth’s temperatures. Nor does it mention the fact that the concept of man-made global warming is most actively promoted by those politicians who have a vested interest in imposing government regulations, which would allow them a greater control over the economy and people’s lives.

The students are then asked to write a short essay, within approximately ten minutes, with a “correct” explanation of “how human activity has directly contributed to the rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere,” using “multiple pieces of evidence from the text to support their answer.”

A dictionary defines “leading question” as “a question phrased in a manner that tends to suggest the desired answer, such as What do you think of the horrible effects of pollution?” They may as well have used this new GED workbook as an example.

Apparently New Readers Press is well aware of bias in writing and the difference between fact and opinion, stating:  "When a statement is made to appear true because it is related to known facts, but is not itself a fact, speculation has occurred. Be on the lookout for statements that may be mere speculation rather than solid facts. (Thinking Skills: Critical Thinking for Reading, Science, and Social Studies - Strategy 10 page 30)".

Unfortunately, the publisher doesn’t apply this principle to its own materials, which not only mislead the students with biased allegations, but also require them to use these inaccurate statements to develop an argument in an essay, thus adding even more legitimacy to prejudicial assertions.

We contacted the publisher and received a quick and rather amicable email response. The editor was open to the idea of rephrasing the inaccurate language and even offered to preface the questionable passages on foreign aid with a disclaimer that they should be taken as editorials.

While we are grateful for the courteous concession, we’re not in the mood for celebration. How many watchdog activists will it take to sift through all the Common Core materials once it launches nationally, and will future responses, if any, be as courteous when the curriculum is supervised and mandated by the federal government?

The GED Test is currently used by all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, U.S. insular areas, Canadian provinces and territories, the U.S. military, and federal correctional institutions for the purpose of awarding a high school graduation equivalency credential.

While homeschoolers usually excel in GED testing, many of the GED students are high school dropouts who often lack background knowledge about government processes, historical facts, and the context in which they occur. It is imperative that resources used to help them gain this knowledge be above political opinion or biased representation.

Until now the United States has benefited from its decentralized, compartmentalized political system, whereby various economic, political, and educational concepts could originate and be tested in individual states and localities before they were shared with others. If they were useful, other states would learn from these practices and willingly implement them within their own jurisdictions. If they were harmful, they would die out without inflicting major damage on a national scale.

The initiative to centralize public education changes that, bringing it closer to the erstwhile Soviet model.

Having lived and started my working career as a teacher in the USSR, I remember the imposition of identical, centrally planned curriculum on every cookie-cutter school nationwide.

The main reason for such mandatory conformity was to maintain a total ideological control and compliance with policies of the totalitarian government. All other aspects of education were secondary to that prime directive.

What possible purpose can centralized education have in the United States if not to channel the same ideological conformity to American students, making it easier for the federal bureaucracy to control the educational content?

As history and culture of the Department of Education indicate, this isn’t a mere theoretical projection. The educational career and legacy of Bill Ayers alone should raise enough red flags not to allow any centralized educational system to be implemented. Even if it may appear benign at first, the prevailing political tendencies in today’s academia will inevitably turn such a system into a conduit of ideological indoctrination.

Once Common Core is nationally implemented and federally enforced, public education will become just another word for a forcible indoctrination of our children to induce them to give up their parents’ political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.

This is the dictionary definition of brainwashing.


Pence Hits Pause: Indiana Sets The Pace On Common Core Education Agenda

Indiana’s new Governor Mike Pence has signed in to law a bill that will “pause’’ the state’s involvement in the nationwide Common Core education agenda. That fact that this is happening in Indiana has some very specific political significance, while the fact that it is happening at all has broad ramifications.

Before getting in to the meaning of Pence’s maneuver, consider some facts about Common Core. Officially named the “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” the agenda is not, itself, about curriculum mandates. It is a set of academic standards that students in the various grade levels are expected to achieve, in the states that have agreed to adopt the standards.

It is also the case that Common Core was created by the Obama Administration, but rather, it is actually an effort that first emerged at the state level, undertaken by state governors and state superintendents of education nationwide. The official sponsoring organizations of the initiative are the National Governor’s Association (“NGA”), and the Council of Chief State School Officers (“CCSO”).

Attempts to impose academic standards on public educators date back to the early 1980’s. In the 1990’s it became a state-driven matter, while The federal No Child Left Behind Act, signed in to law by President George W Bush in January of 2002, required the states to create their own academic standards, and then to achieve them, in order to receive federal education funds.

During the past decade, state Governors and state education Superintendents began to collaborate in an effort to bring uniformity to their respective states’ academic standards, and today, there are three primary organizations that advance the Common Core agenda. The NGA and the CCSO, as noted above, remain as the official sponsoring organizations of the initiative. Separately, a group called Common Core, Inc., a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 organization based in Washington, D.C., writes curriculum (not academic standards) that is intended to help educators comply with Common Core Standards.

Supporters of the Common Core State Standards like to remind people that the initiative receives bipartisan support around the country. This is true - both the right-leaning “Excellence In Education Foundation.” a group headed by former Republican Governor Jeb Bush, and the left-wing American Federation of Teachers, support Common Core. Similarly, both Republican and Democrat Governors - including Governor Butch Otter (R-Idaho), Governor Jerry Brown (D-California), and Governor Duval Patrick (D-Massachusetts), all support the Common Core effort.

But Common Core also receives bipartisan opposition. The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, along with libertarian leaning groups like the Pioneer Institute of Boston, opposes the Common Core effort. But so also does Glenda Ritz, a Democrat who currently serves as Indiana’s State Superintendent of Education.

Ritz’ election in the heavily Republican state of Indiana is often cited as evidence of Common Core’s unpopularity. In November of 2012, Ritz unseated Indiana’s incumbent Republican State Superintendent, Dr. Tony Bennett, in part by campaigning against the Common Core initiative and claiming that Indiana’s adoption of the Common Core standards would result in a loss of state sovereignty. Ritz ended up receiving more votes in that election than did the new (and now very popular) Governor Mike Pence – and herein lies the significance f Pence’s latest move.

But Indiana’s “pause” on Common Core is not merely important for political reasons (it does, in fact, exemplify a sense of cooperation between Democrat Ritz and Republican Pence). It also demonstrates that at least some Americans still have a genuine concern about the federal government taking-over and controlling very intimate areas of our lives. It suggests that some of our fellow Americans still adhere to the wisdom of, say, Thomas Jefferson, who warned of the threat of tyranny from government, instead of buying-in to the naïve and selfish view that President Obama articulated last week in his commencement address to Ohio State University when he admonished graduates to resist those who warn of government tyranny (as if such a thing doesn’t really exist).

But is the Common Core standards agenda to be regarded as “tyranny?” Three separate federal laws prohibit the federal government from dictating educational curriculum content to the nation’s public schools. Yet on President Barack Obama’s watch, there has been a concerted effort within his administration to commandeer the Common Core agenda, and to skirt federal restraints.

Back in 2009 and 2010 when the administration was distributing so-called “stimulus” funds, one of the criteria for public schools to receive funds was for school districts to adopt higher “college and career standards” for students. And it just so happened that, in order to qualify for the stimulus funds, many states chose at that time to adopt the “Common Core” academic standards so they could apply for, and receive the federal funds.

The bipartisan group of Governors and state school Superintendents who support the Common Core agenda undoubtedly has the best of intentions. Yet the inability among elected officials to see how government power can be abused is a problem for both Republicans and Democrats.

The other states’ should follow Indiana’s lead. And after we hit “pause” on Common Core, let’s consider the same for Obamacare.


Students Fight Back to Save Ten Commandments

Hundreds of Christians in a small Oklahoma town have decided to draw a line in the sand and fight back against a national association of atheist and agnostics who want displays of the Ten Commandments removed from local schools.

“It’s Christianity under attack within our own country,” said Josh Moore, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Muldrow, Okla. “The irony can’t be missed by anyone who’s lived in this country or grown up in this country.”

The controversy surrounds Ten Commandment plaques are that are posted in a number of classrooms at Muldrow High School. It’s unclear when the plaques were installed.

Ron Flanagan, the superintendent of the local school district, told Fox News they had received a complaint about the Ten Commandments from the Freedom From Religion Foundation – an organization that has a long history of targeting displays of the Christian faith in public schools.

The complaint was allegedly filed by an "anonymous" member of the community. “If the facts are as presented to us, and the Ten Commandments are on display throughout Muldrow Public Schools, the displays must be removed immediately,” wrote FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott, in a letter to the school district.

The FFRF said the displays are a “flagrant violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. “Any student will view a Ten Commandments display in school as being endorsed by the school,” Elliott wrote. “Muldrow Public Schools promotion of the Judeo-Christian Bible and religion over non-religion impermissibly turns any non-Christian or non-believing student, parent or staff member into an outsider.”

Flanagan would not say whether or not the school district would comply with their demands. He referred all questions to the district’s attorney. The school board will discuss the controversy at a meeting on Monday.

But hundreds of students have decided to stand up and defend the plaques by launching petitions and raising awareness on social networking sites. And lots of folks around town are wondering why a Wisconsin-based organization is concerned about the affairs of Muldrow, Okla.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” student Chase Howard told television station KHOG. “One person kind of put it out there on Twitter. A couple of us hash tagged it and asked people to get it trending. After that it just caught on.”

Benjamin Hill, 18, is one of the students who signed the petition. He said he understands why non-Christians might be upset over the display, but he said students should have the right to express their faith.

“I’d really like it if they would leave the Ten Commandments up,” he told Fox News. “I think they should allow the expression of religion in school.” Pastor Moore told Fox News that the local interfaith ministerial associated printed 1,000 t-shirts emblazoned with the Ten Commandments – and many students plan on wearing the shirts to class.

“It’s not to protest or to be ugly,” he said. “Legally, they do have First Amendment rights. They can voice what they believe in. We are encouraging them to do that in a way that is respectful of others.”

Parent Denise Armer told KHOG she supports the students’ efforts to save the Ten Commandment plaques.

“If other kids don’t want to read the Ten Commandments, then they don’t have to,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that they have to make everyone else do what they want.”

Pastor Moore said it’s not surprising that the Christian faith is coming under such a fierce attack.

“It’s promised in Scripture,” he said. “As believers and followers, it’s a matter of recognizing that and responding in an appropriate manner.”

The ministerial association also said they supported school leadership.

“It’s tough for them,” Moore told Fox News. “Their hands are tied from a legal perspective. We’re supporting them and ministering to them. We don’t want to alienate their or throw them under the bus.”


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Free Speech for Conservative Students?
It sounded like a freedom-of-religion case when a Columbus, Texas high school relay-race team was disqualified from the state track championship because Derrick Hayes pointed heavenward after his team won the race. That would seem odd in a red state like Texas. It turned out that officials were so strict, they warned runners to make no hand gestures after the finish line. Hayes had apparently pointed forward, and then upward, and for that he was out.

It can be tough to be a student in today's public schools. Never mind restrictions on the schools. It is becoming impossible to express a socially conservative or Christian viewpoint — as a student. Across the land, everyone is ordered to welcome without a discouraging word any expression of the gay or transgender variety. But try to say the G-word or oppose abortion, and watch someone lower the boom.

—In Minnesota, a sixth-grade student was prohibited by her public school from distributing pro-life pamphlets during lunchtime. One of the fliers read, "Save the baby humans. Stop abortion."

A few days later, she was called into the school director's office and told that some students find pro-life fliers offensive and that she was no longer allowed to pass them out during or after school hours, even if other students requested them. In an email to the student's parents, the school's executive director claimed that the content of the fliers was inconsistent with the school's educational mission.

"The school has a right to censor students without violating their free speech," the director wrote. "In short, public schools have every right to prohibit student speech."

Lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit on May 3. "Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas," said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. "The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs."

—In New Mexico, a group of evangelical high school students aligned with the "Church on the Move" lost a round last month in their fight to give classmates two-inch "fetus dolls" with a pro-life message attached. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school district's authority to stop the doll distribution. Why?

The 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District established that students have free speech in schools, as long as it doesn't disrupt school discipline. According to Education Week, teachers complained that students who had received the roughly 300 dolls that were handed out were throwing the dolls across classrooms, using them to plug toilets and in other ways causing serious disruptions in the school day.

There are no reports of any legal or disciplinary actions taken against the students responsible for vandalism.

—In Michigan, the Students for Life chapter at Eastern Michigan University applied for student fee funding to host a display on campus called the Genocide Awareness Project, a traveling photo-mural exhibit which compares the contemporary genocide of abortion to other forms of genocide. EMU denied the funding request because they deemed the photos of the aborted babies and the event as too controversial and one-sided. But they've granted money to left-wing activist groups discussing "welfare rights," as well as race-issues and abortion rights groups.

Of course, all the old anti-prayer bias remains. In Arkansas, the Riverside School district in Lake City decided not to allow a sixth-grade graduation this year. Saying a prayer at this ceremony had never been an issue before. Predictably, the school district decided to cancel the graduation ceremony after just one parent came out and protested the prayer — and the school received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sometimes, there's still a win. A Texas state judge has just ruled that banners displayed at football games by cheerleaders at Kountze High School quoting Bible verses were "constitutionally permissible." At first, the school district stopped the banners after the Freedom From Religion Foundation protested. But after a public meeting in February, the school board of trustees issued the weakest of resolutions in which it wrote that the district was not required to ban messages on school banners that displayed "fleeting expressions of community sentiment solely because the source or origin of such messages is religious."

That "fleeting expressions" language can spur a smile. Just as federal judges have ruled that it's acceptable for broadcast television networks to air "fleeting" expressions of profanity while children watch at home, schools in religious communities might allow impressionable youth to be exposed to "fleeting" expressions in favor of God.


Georgia School Bans Religious Graduation Songs

A Georgia school district will no longer allow prayers or songs with religious references at graduation ceremonies after a Wisconsin group threatened to file a lawsuit and suggested that forcing non-Christian students to listen to religious music was a form of bullying.

“If the valedictorians want to thank their parents, grandparents and god, that’s freedom of speech,” Houston County Superintendent Robin Hines told the Macon Telegraph. “We can’t stop that. As long as it’s not lewd, they can say whatever they want.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the school district a letter complaining that last year’s graduation ceremony included prayers and a musical performance of a song written by a Christian artist.

“It is wholly inappropriate for Christian worship songs to be performed in a public school setting or at public school events,” wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. “There are a multitude of secular songs that would be appropriate.”

The FFRF took offense to “Find Your Wings,” a song written by well-known Christian artist Mark Harris, arguing that it was a blatantly religious song that “belongs in a church, not a public school event.”

“I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams and that faith gives you the courage to dare to do great things,” read the lyrics.

The FFRF alleged the song excluded non-evangelical Christians, Jewish, Muslim and non-religious students and their families. They said the song breached the district’s obligation to remain neutral on religion.

“Public schools should not be seeking out songs that exclude students and create a divisive environment,” Seidel wrote. “Bullying is rampant and on social media and Houston County Schools should be striving to find inclusive, secular songs that all can enjoy without compromising their own personal beliefs.”

The FFRF demanded that the district also cease all graduation prayers – noting that such behavior is against the law.

“Even when student-delivered, the Supreme Court has found these prayers unconstitutional,” Seidel wrote.

The school superintendent told the local newspaper that the school district doesn’t have a choice. They must follow the law.

The Macon Telegraph heralded the district’s decision and said it was prudent to follow the law and not incur legal expenses.

“We are a pluralistic society with many faiths and beliefs,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial. “Parents want their children indoctrinated in their family’s faith. That faith is not always Christianity. After all, it’s a parent’s job to teach their children in their religious tradition, not the school’s.”

But not everyone agrees with the decision.

“It’s an attack on the Christian faith,” said Bobby Nix, youth pastor at the First Baptist Church of Perry. “We’re heading towards a Godless society.”

Nix told Fox News that he understands why the school district did what they did – but he said there comes a time when people have to take a stand.

“I hope our kids will stand up – not to be ugly about it – but to stand up for their rights they have in Christ – their constitutional rights,” he told Fox News.

Parent Terri Minter told the Telegraph that she was disappointed in the superintendent.

“I cannot for the life for me understand what in the world would cause him to be afraid to stand firm to his beliefs,” she said. “Just because you have the voice of a few that don’t want it, we should not have to be afraid.”

But the FFRF’s Seidel said it doesn’t matter if just one person objects to the religious-themed song or prayers.

“It makes no difference how many students want prayer or wouldn’t be offended by prayers at their graduation ceremony,” he wrote. “The School District has a duty to remain neutral toward religion.”


Shock as 84 schools have NO white British pupils at all... double the number of five years ago

More than 80 state schools in England have no white British pupils, Government figures show.

The number of such schools appears to have more than doubled over the past five years, and the findings will fuel concerns that some parts of the country are becoming increasingly segregated.

The new figures follow research showing that white Britons are retreating from areas dominated by ethnic minorities, to be replaced by immigrants and other ethnic minorities.

Critics said that the previous Labour Government’s ‘open-door’ immigration policy had created ‘huge’ problems for integration, which was now threatening the country’s social cohesion.

The Department for Education figures, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, show that 84 schools recorded last year that no pupils on their rolls were white British. Of those, 67 are primaries, eight secondaries and the remainder special or pupil referral units.

The statistics, derived from the annual school census, found that the highest concentration is in Birmingham, with 22 such schools, followed by Oldham with eight, Leicester with seven and the London borough of Tower Hamlets with six.

Other local authority areas in which there are at least two schools with no white British pupils include Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Lancashire, Rochdale, Surrey, Walsall and Worcester, as well as the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, and Southwark. The schools, which were not named, are likely to include England’s 11 state Muslim schools, three state Sikh schools and one state Hindu school.

One school that is understood to have no white British pupils is Gladstone Primary in Peterborough, which is dominated by students from the Punjab, with smaller groups from Afghanistan and Lithuania. None of its 440 pupils has English as a first language.

In 2008, the Department of Education said there were 31 state schools that had recorded no white children on their rolls – including children of white migrants.

MigrationWatch’s Sir Andrew Green said: ‘This is yet another indication of the huge impact of Labour mass migration policies on our society.

‘The result of three million immigrants in ten years has created a huge problem for integration of the newcomers. Obviously, if there are no children of the host community in a school, the prospects of integration are close to zero.

‘In the longer term, this is bound to effect the cohesion of our society as a whole.’

The new figures follow a study published earlier this month by the Left-leaning think tank Demos which showed white Britons are moving out of areas where they are in a minority at the same time as the ethnic minority population was growing.

The study said that 45 per cent of ethnic minorities in England and Wales, about four million people, live in areas where less than half the population is white British.

Demos director David Goodhart said the number of schools with no white British pupils was ‘depressingly high’ because it suggested there must be many others where the proportion of such pupils was tiny.


Monday, May 13, 2013

College Bubble Bursts After Decades of Extravagance

Markets work. But sometimes they take time.  That's the uncomfortable lesson that proprietors of America's colleges and universities are learning.

For many years, market forces didn't seem to apply to them. There was a widespread societal consensus that a college education was a good economic investment.

Politicians gave lip service to the idea that everyone should go to college. No one should be stopped by a lack of money.

There was historic precedent. The G.I. Bill of Rights vastly expanded college populations and helped build prosperous post-World War II America. Putting even more through college would make us even more prosperous.

So Congress passed student loan and grant programs to make it easier for people to pay for college and university tuitions. That increased potential higher education revenues.

Surprise! Over the last three decades, tuitions rose faster than the economy grew.

For a long time, that didn't seem to be a problem. College still seemed like a good investment during the quarter century of low-inflation economic growth from 1982 to 2007. You could pay off those loans with earnings increased by your degree.

Meanwhile colleges and universities -- and not just the highly selective ones -- competed for students whose test scores would improve their ratings in the U.S. News College Guide by giving "scholarships" that actually were discounts on the tuition list price.

To attract these students, the educational institutions built fancy dormitories, gymnasiums and student centers. And they vastly increased the number of administrators, to the point where colleges and universities had more administrators than teachers.

Government helped to produce an ever-increasing demand for higher education. So higher education administrators saw no need to compete on price. Higher tuitions just gave your school more prestige.

Now the higher education bubble has burst. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that that the average "tuition discount rate" offered incoming freshmen last fall by private colleges and universities has reached an all-time high of 45 percent.

At the same time, their "sticker price" tuitions have increased by the smallest amount in the last dozen years. Tuitions for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities also increased by the smallest amount during that period.

Applicants are negotiating bigger discounts than they used to. Market competition has kicked in.

What has happened is that in a recessionary and sluggish economy, potential customers have been figuring out that a college diploma may not be a good investment -- particularly if it entails six-figure college loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

The Millennial Generation that voted so heavily for Barack Obama -- 66 to 32 percent in 2008, 60 to 37 percent in 2012 -- has had a hard time finding jobs, even with diplomas in hand. Especially if their degrees are in gender studies or similar fields beloved of academics.

In even worse condition are those students who never get a degree, a disproportionate number of whom are blacks and Hispanics admitted under affirmative action programs who prove unable to keep up with the pace of instruction at schools where most students enter much better prepared.

We see in higher education something like what we saw in housing. Government programs aimed at increasing college education and homeownership, particularly among minorities, turn out to hurt many of the intended beneficiaries.

The intentions of the people who created these programs were good. The results -- well, not so much.

Home ownership is a good thing generally, but it's not good for everybody. The young and transient, for example, are often better off renting.

Higher education is a good thing generally too, but again not for everyone. People whose talents are more artisanal than academic are often better off getting a job or vocational training than seeking a degree that guarantees them student loan debt but not a job.

College and university administrators are not used to being disciplined by market forces. For years, they thought they were above all that.

Many got into the habit of producing a product that didn't serve their consumers' interests well. In a prosperous and growing economy, there seems to be no penalty for doing so.

In more straitened circumstances, they are discovering that, sooner or later, markets work. Their old business model is no longer working.

Colleges and universities have been doing a good job of meeting their administrators' needs. Now, in the new normal economy, they're scrambling to serve society's needs, as well.


Britain's universities should take a lesson from the USA

A British perspective

Britain and the US have chosen two very different models for funding universities – and it’s clear which is winning

If a bunch of sadistic academics were to construct a mass experiment into mankind’s ability to resist temptation, it would look a lot like Stanford University. First, plonk a campus in one of the world’s most agreeable climates and make it look more like a spa hotel than a place of study. Next, have students dress as if they have stepped off the beach, and make sure one lies just half an hour away. Then hang hammocks between trees on the way to lecture theatres to ensnare the weak-willed. Finally, funnel 1,800 teenagers a year into this den of distraction – and see if they can do any work.

Oddly, they do. Work of sufficient quality to make Stanford one of the best universities on the planet. While famous for computing (and begetting Silicon Valley), most of its departments are now ranked amongst the world’s top five. Nor is it full of geeks: its athletic record is such that, if Stanford were a country, it would have come sixth in the Olympics – ahead of Germany and Australia. Rather than being a Californian freak, it is just the latest example of an extraordinary trend: the way that American universities are making dazzling progress while most British ones are in a state of crisis.

When Teddy Roosevelt visited Stanford a century ago, he said he had not been prepared for the sheer beauty of the place. Neither had I when I spent last week there as a media fellow at the Hoover Institute, on one of the many programmes which have no equivalent here. But what strikes a British visitor most is the mix of students. Knowing Stanford’s reputation, I had imagined it to be full of preppy, roistering Americans with parents rich enough to afford the $40,000-a-year fees. Instead I found students from all kinds of backgrounds, just over a third of whom are white. A fifth are Asian and a sixth Hispanic. It is a social and ethnic melting pot.

What makes all this possible is that Stanford is a private university. To British ears, the very phrase suggests a selfish club for the rich. Yet it is Stanford’s independence that allows it to run its own controversial but effective policies to find bright pupils from poor backgrounds. Google is, famously, a product of Stanford. But so is Julian Castro, the 38-year-old Mayor of San Antonio and a rising star of the Democratic Party who was offered a place in spite of mediocre school grades. He happily supports its “affirmative action” policy because, as he puts it, “I’ve seen it work in my own life”.

Britain and America have chosen two very different models of universities, and it is clear which one is winning. The academic rankings (compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University) show 17 American ones in the top 20, with Britain represented only by Oxford and Cambridge.

It might not be a surprise that the American universities do so well academically, given their funding. What is more surprising is that they appear to do far better on social justice, not to mention sporting prowess and entrepreneurial zeal. Stanford has a needs-blind admissions policy, and will subsidise whoever can’t afford it. The majority of students receive a subsidy that covers most, if not all, of the fees.

In Britain, our universities are hurtling down the international league tables – a fact that is partly explained by the dire levels of funding. A study published yesterday suggested it was a minor miracle that Oxford and Cambridge have retained their status given how cash-strapped they are. In theory, British universities should be safe because they are assured stable funding from the state. But, as things turned out, the world’s governments are in a financial crisis – while global philanthropy is booming.

If Stanford was run by the state of California, it would likely be as broke as the state of California. As things stand, it raised a cool $1 billion last year, almost double Oxford and Cambridge put together. It has managed to create a virtuous circle: it picks students who tend to remain grateful for their education, so donate generously in later life – especially if they think it helps bright, less fortunate youngsters do well. The same is true for Harvard, Yale and many of the top American foundations. They have collectively come up with a formula linking independence, sound finance, academic excellence and social justice.

British universities are some of the worst-funded in Europe – a problem that will not be remedied by the new tuition fees. Charging £9,000 a year covers barely half the cost of putting an undergraduate through Oxbridge. Worse, the Government’s funding formula pushes the universities towards having papers published in academic journals, rather than forging links with the outside world.

Last week I met IBM managers enrolled for a short course in Stanford’s “d.School” of entrepreneurship and an Army colonel studying Libya before his deployment to US Africa Command in Stuttgart. Such links are all too scarce in British universities.

Even on the Times Higher Education Supplement’s rankings, just five of them make the top 50. Our academics are notoriously underpaid, which is more dangerous than ever in a global marketplace. Students who have been mis-sold higher education for decades are finally waking up to the scam.

The old sales pitch, that a degree will mean you earn £100,000 more over a lifetime than a classmate who starts work at 18, is a sum conjured up by mixing up doctors’ and lawyers’ degrees with the others. For a male history graduate, it’s £35 a year more, and for others (“creative arts” degrees) it’s £15,000 less over a lifetime.

It’s getting harder than ever for Britain to look down, intellectually, on America. Its universities are world-class, and expanding fast. Oxford and Cambridge may be far older, but neither can afford to be cocooned in an archaic world of dining at high tables and mispronouncing words like “Magdalen”. The global competition has never been fiercer, and they are facing a future of austerity while it’s boom time for their private rivals. The very fact that the world’s most respected university ranking system is run from Shanghai gives an idea of how quickly the competition is evolving.

It is Stanford’s independence that allows it to try out its social mobility formula, with a success rate that Britain’s engineers of equality could only dream about. If Stanford were government-run, its star-picking would be branded “positive discrimination” and banned under Californian state law. The University of Texas is being taken to the Supreme Court on precisely this point, and the defence documents include a submission from a Stanford psychologist, Greg Walton, who argues that true meritocracy means taking account of the stronger headwinds facing poorer students.

For all its drama, Britain’s tuition fees debacle has not secured the future of our universities. There still isn’t enough money and the new Office for Fair Access threatens new levels of political interference. Once, we may have been able to dismiss the American model of independent universities as hideously expensive, financially unstable or socially unfair. It is impossible to do so anymore. For the British universities who can afford it, independence will seem like an increasingly attractive option.


Learn From History

History is one of our greatest teachers.  It's just too bad so many of our young people think history started with the death of Princess Di or the birth of the iPhone.

I was painfully reminded of America’s historical illiteracy and the failure of our educational system last week while golfing with a few strangers in Burbank, Calif.

One of the young men in my foursome was about 30 and ran a restaurant in Los Angeles.

When I told him in passing that I was going to be flying to Normandy, France, the next morning to raise a flag at an American cemetery there, his awful education betrayed him.

“Why would there be an American cemetery at Normandy?” he asked.

I thought he was kidding me, but he wasn’t.  “Why?” I asked. “Did you ever see ‘Saving Private Ryan’?”


“Did you ever see ‘The Longest Day’?”


“Do you remember the Second World War?”

“I knew there was a war.”

“Do you know anything about D-Day?”

He looked at me like, “Huh?”

I was shocked – and blunt.

“You don’t know why there’d be an American cemetery at Normandy? You’re proof the education system of this country sucks.”

After my golf outing, I flew to Normandy for the weekend. I had the honor of raising the flag over the American cemetery at Normandy on Sunday and visiting the small town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, which became the first French town liberated from the Germans in World War II.

U.S. airborne troops captured the tiny town before dawn on June 6, 1944, to prevent German troops from using roads to attack Americans landing at Utah and Omaha beaches.

(For those who know their World War II history only from the movies, the airdrop at Sainte-Mere-Eglise is shown in “The Longest Day” and features Red Buttons as paratrooper John Steele, who played dead after his parachute got hung up on the church steeple.)

It was great to visit little Sainte-Mere-Eglise and its 1,600 people. I met some of the few remaining 90-something soldiers who fought at Normandy and I talked to elderly French people who remember when hundreds of brave young Americans dropped from the sky to liberate their town.

But I was disappointed to learn that our government seems to have forgotten about marking the anniversary of D-Day.

In fact, the Obama administration is doing so little this year that the French government is pulling out of the annual event and the American honor guard is being forced to pay its own airfare to Normandy.

As for the 2014 anniversary, the last major 10-year celebration that will include surviving veterans of D-Day, it also is being neglected by the Obama administration.

President Clinton nominated someone to be in charge of the 1994 anniversary two years in advance. But as of this date, no one has been nominated to be in charge of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014.

I’m sure President Obama will eventually find time between his never-ending campaigning and his serial golf outings to choose someone to oversee the 2014 D-Day anniversary events in Normandy.

But it was embarrassing for me to go the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mere-Eglise and be asked why “my government” doesn’t care about the D-Day anniversaries.

The people of Sainte-Mere-Eglise love Americans because America saved them. They will never forget D-Day. They still have a dummy of an American paratrooper hanging from their church steeple.

What happened at D-Day wasn’t just a movie. It was history.

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t teach it, if we don’t honor its anniversary, if we don’t tell guys like my young golf buddy why what happened there was so important, it might as well have never happened.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

VA: Two boys suspended for using pencils as “guns”

Two Suffolk second graders have been suspended for making shooting noises while pointing pencils at each other.

Media outlets report the 7-year-old boys were suspended for two days for a violation of the Suffolk school system’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons. They were playing with one another in class Friday at Driver Elementary.

“When I asked him about it, he said, ‘Well I was being a Marine and the other guy was being a bad guy,’” said Paul Marshall, one of the boys’ fathers. “It’s as simple as that.”

Marshall, a former Marine, said he believes school officials overreacted.

But Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw said a pencil is considered a weapon when it’s pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made.

“Some children would consider it threatening, who are scared about shootings in schools or shootings in the community,” Bradshaw said. “Kids don’t think about ‘Cowboys and Indians’ anymore, they think about drive-by shootings and murders and everything they see on television news every day.”

Bradshaw said the policy has been in place for at least two decades. It also bans drawing a picture of a gun and pointing a finger in a threatening manner.

Marshall said his son has good grades and no history of being disruptive in class. On the suspension note, the teacher noted that the boy stopped when she told him to do so.

He said school administrators failed to use common sense.  “Enough is enough,” said Paul Marshall. “I see it as the tail is now wagging the dog.”

Bradshaw said the suspensions were effective Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s an effort to try to get kids not to bring any form of violence, even if it’s violent play, into the classroom,” Bradshaw said. “There has to be a consequence because it’s a rule. And it’s a rule that the principals go over.”


Imagine Hitler as one of the Mr Men: Michael Gove slams history teaching in scathing attack on Britain's 'play-based' lessons

Children are being ‘infantalised’ by teachers who encourage them to learn history through Mr Men characters and Disney films, Michael Gove said yesterday.

In a blistering attack on school teaching, the Education Secretary claimed pupils were being told to compare Hitler and his henchmen to Mr Men characters and to learn about the Middle Ages by watching Disney’s Robin Hood.

Mr Gove also criticised the debasement of English lessons, saying some schools were telling pupils to read ‘transient vampire books’ like the Twilight series instead of ‘transcendent Victorian novels’ such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

He said teaching was being ‘crushed under the weight of play-based pedagogy which infantilises children, teachers and our culture’.

In his speech to an education conference in Brighton Mr Gove referred to a website which suggests teenagers should translate the story of Nazi Germany into a tale in the style of Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Men books.

The website,, written by a teacher working in France, tells students they should ‘discuss which characters are the best match’.  ‘The activity is a great way of rounding off or revising the rise of Hitler,’ it says, adding the exercise could also help primary pupils learn about the period.

Mr Gove said: ‘I may be unfamiliar with all of Roger Hargreaves’ work but I am not sure he ever got round to producing Mr Anti-Semitic Dictator, Mr Junker General or Mr Dutch Communist Scapegoat.’

He also referred to a 2012 issue of Primary History, produced by the Historical Association, which suggests students learn about the Middle Ages through Disney’s portrayal of King John as a cowardly lion.

‘If that proves too taxing then they are asked to organise a fashion parade or make plasticine models,’ he said.

Mr Gove’s comments come amid criticism of his proposed changes to the national curriculum from teachers and education academics.

His plans for history teaching, in particular, have come under fire from critics who claim the new focus on key dates and characters is too narrow and will impede children’s ability to think for themselves.

English lessons were also being dumbed down, Mr Gove warned, with the ‘overwhelming majority’ of GCSE pupils studying 20th century texts, rather than books from an earlier period.

Mr Gove added: ‘Under this Government...the Department for Education is setting higher expectations for every child. Because that is what parents want.’

Russell Tarr, who is responsible for the activehistory website, said: ‘The purpose of the activity is a further challenge to get them (students) to think about it in a different way and to take a complex story which they have written an in-depth essay about and turn it into something that can be used for other students.’


Branson tells Australian forum not to waste money on degrees

Billionaire Sir Richard Branson used a university-sponsored lunch to tell a room full of MBAs, undergraduates and high schoolers not to waste money on business degrees.

The entrepreneur and businessman also said the Australian economy would benefit from the adoption of a formal quota system to get more women on big company boards.

Speaking as a guest of the University of Queensland Business School, Sir Richard said there was an argument to be made in favour of redirecting government funding from the tertiary system into the hands of would-be business students by way of an entrepreneurial fund.

His comments come as the Gillard Government propsoses $2.8 billion worth of cuts to universities and self education to free up funds for its Gonski school reforms.

“When it comes to things like business education, we have an interesting debate," Sir Richard said.  “[Success] is far tougher to teach at university.

“As an entrepreneur, you just need to be able to add up, subtract and multiply.  "You should be able to do that by the time you're 15.

"What matters is you create products that people really want.  "You can always get someone else to add up the figures for you.”

Mick Spencer, a young business leader and successful entrepreneur who sat with Sir Richard on the panel, agreed with the Virgin boss's appraisal.

The 22-year-old OnTheGo founder said universities teach people to become employees, not employers, and that undergraduates interning at his company often said they learned more on the job than in the lecture theatre.

"It would be better if there was more real-life experience put into universities," he said.

But Professor Andrew Griffiths, Dean of the UQ Business School and fellow panel member said that's exactly what modern tertiary institutions offered.

"Part of that is saying that as a university, as a business school, we're about lifelong learning," Professor Griffiths said.

His view was echoed by Professor Iain Watson, Executive Dean, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law from the UQ Business School who listed several of the university's programs that connected students with the “real world”.

"We pride ourselves on our educational program," he said.

"It's without question the relevance of that and the recognition of that that's really important to us."

On the subject of what could be done to improve Australia's business culture Sir Richard said now was the time to tap into the Asian market and take advantage of its geographical proximity to booming South East Asian economies.

However it was another recommendation that stirred whoops from the room. "I think that companies as a whole should embrace ... women more," he said.  "It's incredible that most boardrooms have a maximum of one or two women in them."

He says since Scandinavia "forced" businesses to include women on boards, there had been significant improvements to their business culture, society and bottom line.

"I haven't managed to get that in our own companies," he says. "I think it's something that needs to be forced through by law."