Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Are Colleges Cancelling ‘American Sniper’?

Yes, it’s political correctness run amok. But it’s more than that. Campuses are grooming whiners because they aren’t nurturing citizens.

The pattern of on-campus culture wars is now as familiar as the plot of a blockbuster film. And no sooner did the University of Michigan’s Center for Campus Involvement announce a screening of American Sniper than a wave of upset broke out.

Things escalated quickly. The Michigan Muslim Students’ Association organized an open letter campaign, boasting 200 signatures, against the event. CCI balked, first canning and then rescheduling the social gathering. Michigan’s celebrity football coach, Jim Harbaugh, vehemently tweeted his support. A key administrator reinstated the original screening. And some irate students at other campuses—like Brown University’s Nicholas Asker—found themselves momentary media stars by claiming that, after all, “canceling the movie is perfectly consistent with freedom of expression, and showing the movie is what contradicts freedom of expression.”

Pundits accordingly trained their guns on these Orwellian, barrel-bound fish. But there is more to the story than the totalitarian instinct that alone guides minds when political correctness advances to its illogical conclusion. As Alyssa Rosenberg aptly observed: “Like so many controversies over campus speakers, events, or even freelance writing by professors, the University of Michigan’s ‘American Sniper’ kerfuffle is both a symptom of and a distraction from larger questions about campus climates and students’ sense of themselves and their environments.”

Put differently, the story-beyond-the-story concerns not what political correctness has done to academia, but what academia has done to political correctness. Alone, there’s something tremendously inconsequential about the emotionally fragile urge to micro-police all attitudes—in much the same way that there’s not necessarily very much at stake when people go around acting like jerks. In a mature environment, humans often opt—often without much fore- or afterthought—to simply shake off acts of political correctness or incorrectness.

But while today’s college campus is many things, mature it is not. This in itself is a special sort of problem, especially from the standpoint of those who believe that infantilization has set in and America’s teens and twentysomethings are being emotionally disabled by the institutions that surround them.

On the other hand, a strong case can be made that the opposite problem holds sway: Students in educational institutions are there because they’re in fact not ready for the prime time of adult society. Treating them otherwise is to invite disaster, in the form of a string of psychodramas resolvable only by recourse to unending arbitration.

The root issue is simple: The mission of colleges and universities today is no longer to educate students.
A clear-eyed look at the situation reveals that the maturity level of today’s college students is not an explanation but only a facet of the perpetual circus surrounding affirmative consent rules, campus kangaroo courts, and battered feelings syndrome. On close inspection, maturity itself turns out to be a red herring, an imprecise way to account for how institutions of higher education have made such a monster out of political correctness.

The root issue is simple: The mission of colleges and universities today is no longer to educate students. This may sound farfetched and odd, until one considers just how many missions our schools believe it is their duty to pursue. Today, no campus is worthy of the name unless it is simultaneously functioning as a business; a fundraising machine; a donor nexus; a quasi-philanthropy; a research institute; an administrative micro-state; a sort of secular church where the neoliberal creed of upward mobility through diversity and inclusion is taught every step of the way; and, yes, a place where humans are supplied in some manner with information, which they are then rewarded in some manner for reiterating back to campus hirelings more or less intact.

You may or may not thrill to the splendor and adaptability of the new “multiversity.” But you cannot deny that it is more like a city-state than like a school. Rather than educating those it admits, our multiversities actually raise them to be something very much indeed like citizens. Only trouble is, in these virtual city-states there is no such thing as actual citizenship. Despite the presence of a civic religion, a ruling elite, a rich treasury, a private police, an independent judiciary, and a labyrinthine tower of administrative offices, “student government” is nearly an oxymoron. Tiny budgets and trivial agendas define it. Talent and ambition vanish within it.

Even more perversely, while university administrators and professors proudly see themselves as interchangeable members of a cognitive caste freed from any local prejudice, students are driven madly into the confines of the most parochial of worldviews—whether the ever-more-exotic micro-niches of identity politics or the chauvinistic corridors of the stereotypical campus fraternity. Not even college sports transcends the banality of tribe.

All these problems could be erased if universities really were city-states. Pride could find itself a more adult, more productive, and more empowering means of campus expression. But of course it’s laughable to think that such an unfinished hodgepodge of human beings as today’s students could become citizens of anything so concrete and particular as a campus-state. For them, even the nation-state is often too demanding.

Small wonder political correctness has metastasized so swiftly in the precincts of these negligent little despotisms called campuses. There is nothing to contain it or even to define it. Why not censorship as freedom of expression? In a city without citizens, politics is an absurdity. To fully escape the madness, campus must again become a place to learn, and little more.


Paying for Kids’ College Top American Financial Worry

 More parents in the United States say paying for their children’s college education is their chief financial worry, ranking it above saving for retirement, unforeseen medical expenses, paying bills or maintaining their lifestyle, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The poll showed 73 percent of Americans with children younger than 18 say they are "very worried" or "moderately worried" about paying for their children’s higher education.
“Parents worry more about college funding even more than the most financially vulnerable group – low-income Americans -- worry about any financial matter,” Gallup noted in its analysis.

Seventy percent of those making less than $30,000 per year say they worry about paying for medical expenses – still three percent less than those parents of kids under 18 who say they worry about college tuition.

About 77 percent of parents earning less than $100,000 per year say they worry about how they will pay for their children’s college, compared to 61 percent of those earning more than $100,000 per year, the data showed. Among those earning less than $30,000 per year, 85 percent say they worry about affording college tuition.

“Parents thus face twin challenges of paying for ever-escalating college expenses for one or more children and saving for their own retirement. And parents worry a great deal about both, but slightly more about college (73%) than retirement (68%),” Gallup noted.

Among those who do not have children under 18, saving for retirement ranked the top financial worry at 56 percent, the poll showed.

“Since 2001, Gallup has asked more than 16,000 Americans how much they worry about each of eight separate financial matters, ranging from having enough money for retirement to making minimum payments on credit cards,” Gallup explained in its analysis, adding, “[t]he rank order of these fundamental financial concerns has not varied much over time, although the percentage expressing worry in any given year can vary depending on the strength of the economy.”

Gallup gathered the data from combined annual surveys each April from 2001 to 2015. The combined surveys polled 16,302 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 4,431 adults with children 18 and over. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 2 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.


Australia: Muslim head-teacher believes if females run in races they may lose their virginity

The principal of an Islamic school has come under fire after he reportedly banned girls from running, amid fears it would cause them to lose their virginity.

Former teachers of Al-Taqwa College, in Melbourne's outer western suburbs, claim in a letter sent to the state and federal education ministers that principal Omar Hallak was discriminating against female students.

The Age reported that the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is currently investigating the allegations.

This comes a month after revelations that Mr Hallak was telling students at his school that Islamic State was not 'created' by Muslims, but was instead a plot against them by the West.

The letter sent to ministers by a former teacher this week about the girls not being able to fully participate in sport claimed Mr Hallak believes there is 'scientific evidence' to back his claims.

'The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may 'lose their virginity',' the letter said.  'The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.'

The principal of Al-Taqwa College banned female primary school students from participating in the 2013 and 2014 cross country district events, the teacher also claimed.

They said the principal had been unaware that the female students were training for the event, and got involved when he was notified.

When they found out they had been prevented from competing, a group of female students penned a letter to their principal asking him to let them compete.

'This letter is about the cross country event that has been cancelled', the letter from 'cross country girls' read.  'Apparantly (sic) it is because girls can't run and that is really offensive to all the girls that were going to participate in the event.  'As a school principal you should treat all the subjects equally just to be fair to all the students that want to participate in a sport event', the letter continued.

The note from the group of students also raises that point that 'it doesn't say girls can't run in the hadith (sayings of the prophet Mohammed)' and they should be able to participate as long as they are wearing 'appropriate clothes'.

Education minister James Merlino has told 3AW the reports are concerning and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating.  "If true these are very concerning reports and I have asked the VRQA to investigate and report back to me," Mr Merlino has told 3AW on Thursday.

When contacted by Daily Mail Australia Al-Taqwa College refused to comment.

Last month it was reported that Mr Hallak was teaching students at his school that Islamic State was not the doing of Muslims, but rather a plot against them.

He reportedly shows his almost 2,000 students ‘evidence’ that Islamic State terrorists are ‘not linked to Islam’.

‘We don’t believe Muslims are creating IS,’ Mr Hallak told The Age. He believes that the murder and brutality carried out by Islamic State terrorists is actually a plot by Western countries to control oil in the Middle East.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vicious antisemitism is roaring back

The real victims of violent bigotry in our country are Jews.

Jews account for just over 2% of our population, but they are the victims, according to FBI statistics, of over 60% of all hate crimes committed in the U.S.

And where is this hatred most virulent? Among less educated and poorer Americans? No.

This hatred is spewed most flagrantly by our intellectual elite on the college campuses of this country where university administrators allow Islamist brown shirts who support Hamas and Hezbollah to wage unending hate campaigns against Israel and the Jewish students who support it.

University administrators turn a blind eye to daily anti Semitic activities—ranging from intimidation and harassment to outbreaks of overt physical violence -- against Jewish and pro-Israel students they would not tolerate if they were committed against students from any other ethnic group.

Jew Hatred has become the dirty little secret of American higher education.

Worst of all, no one was doing anything about this cancer on our campuses until the Freedom Center stepped up to launch a “Jew Hatred on Campus” campaign a few weeks ago.

Since then, we’ve been telling it like it is about the campus organization most responsible for this anti Semitic jihad—the Hamas-supporting Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP.) And although the fight is far from over, we’ve already succeeded in turning up the volume on the conversation about anti Semitism in our universities and colleges, supporting embattled Jewish students and putting the radical SJP on the defensive.

Just days after its official launch, the Jew Hatred on Campus campaign struck its first blow by placing posters at 50 campuses across the nation. Each poster features images portraying all sorts of brutality supported by SJP and their extremist allies. One such image portrays a Palestinian about to be executed by AK-47 wielding Hamas terrorists; another portrays a Palestinian civilian being dragged through the streets of Gaza from the back of a motorcycle driven by Hamas operatives.

But these “guerrilla” campaign tactics weren’t enough for us. We wanted to take our efforts a step further… …My colleague Ben Shapiro and I then ventured into the lion’s den at University of North Carolina, Boston College, Brandeis, Ohio State and other campuses to speak about the hatred of Jews that is not only tolerated by encouraged in our universities.

The Jew Hatred on campus campaign helped change the dialogue about anti Semitism on campus from “does it exist” to “who is responsible.”

Our campaign on Campus campaign has been covered in dozens of prestigious publications around the globe including the Washington Times, the American Thinker, the Jewish Journal, and the Breitbart News Network, reaching a cumulative audience of 100 million.

And just a few days ago I wrote an oped titled “Islamic Jihad Comes to Campus” for the Washington Times that was reprinted by several U.S. publications and by newspapers as far away as Israel and the Philippines.

Our next step will be to stage teach-ins on campus anti Semitism at UCLA, the University of Minnesota, SUNY Stonybrook and other schools later this spring and to keep the pressure on Students for Justice in Palestine, a group hat supports Hamas as passionately as it hates Israel.

We won’t stop until the SJP’s spewing of hate against Jews is seen in the same ugly light as the KKK’s spewing of hate against blacks.

We won’t stop until university administrations enforce their own codes of behavior and provide protection for Jewish students similar to the protections provided to other ethnic and religious groups on their campuses.

We won’t stop until this rebirth of anti Semitism is defeated and made into a history that is not allowed to repeat itself.

Via email from David Horowitz

How Schools Use Medicaid Money to Pay for Truancy Officers, Deans and Healthy-Eating Magnets

At a school board meeting in Henrico County, Va., two months ago, a panel of school district officials and board members had been left speechless.

School district officials were in the midst of crafting the district’s budget for 2016, and the five-member board had just heard a presentation from Assistant Superintendent for Finance Terry Stone, who outlined a $1.1 million plan to fund more than a dozen positions at various schools.

The proposal shocked the board members, who expressed their gratitude toward Stone and her team for crafting the plan.

“That’s incredible,” board member Lisa Marshall said. “Thank you. Did you pull that one out of your hat?”  “I find that remarkable and exciting,” John Montgomery Jr., the board’s chair, said.

The additional $1.1 million came from coffers unknown to the school board, but tapped by school districts across Virginia and the country: Medicaid reimbursements.

Stone proposed using the money to hire three psychologists, three social workers, five part-time truancy workers, five part-time deans of students and reimbursements for mileage.

“To the extent that they’re used for [the Medicaid] population, it allows you to bill for additional services and increase your revenue,” Stone said at the February board meeting.

Schools provide many health and social services to students, including those who are Medicaid-eligible. Some districts shoulder the costs of these services, but can actually use Medicaid funding to pay for these services and request reimbursements.

Henrico County, located in southeastern Virginia, first began accepting Medicaid reimbursements in fiscal year 2012. That year, the district received roughly $98,000 in reimbursements. This year, officials estimate reimbursements from the federal program will total more than $1.1 million.

Guidelines for Funding

Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, but states are in charge of administering the program. States adhere to Medicaid plans—an agreement between the state and federal government.

Schools can obtain Medicaid reimbursements through three different types of claiming, the most popular being administrative claiming. The administrative claiming program allows states to submit reimbursement claims for administrative activities that “directly support the Medicaid program.”

In order for activities to be reimbursable, they must be “found necessary by the secretary for the proper and efficient administration” of a state Medicaid plan.

Dennis Smith, former director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during President George W. Bush’s administration, told The Daily Signal that states are supposed to provide guidance to schools as to how they can use Medicaid reimbursements.

In Colorado, for example, schools must submit a plan for how they want to use the reimbursement funds. That blueprint must then be approved by the state.

However, Smith said it’s unknown whether they’re requiring school districts to adhere to guidelines governing how reimbursements are used.

John Hill, executive director of the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education, said schools are given a good deal of flexibility in how they use Medicaid reimbursements.

“The bottom line is if they wanted to put new bleachers at the football stadium, they can do that. I wouldn’t like to see that happen, but there’s nothing that could prevent it from happening,” said John Hill.

“They can be used for whatever they want to use it for,” Hill told The Daily Signal. “The bottom line is if they wanted to put new bleachers at the football stadium, they can do that. I wouldn’t like to see that happen, but there’s nothing that could prevent it from happening.”

In Henrico County, Stone told school board members that legally, there is nothing binding the funds to a specific purpose. However, the district’s school board agreed the dollars should be used for health and social services.

Smith contends that in specific instances, use of Medicaid reimbursements can be beneficial to students and within the spectrum of what Medicaid should be used for. For example, a school may be a good place for a student with developmental disabilities to receive physical therapy. Smith said it would be reasonable for a large district like Henrico to use reimbursements to hire a physical therapist.

However, administrative claiming opens the door for more abuses of Medicaid dollars. Smith said it would be questionable for a school to use reimbursements to hire deans and truancy officers.

“Medicaid should be paying for treatments and therapies,” he said. “There are bright lines that should be drawn for these things—what clearly Medicaid should and shouldn’t be paying for.”

Controls Put in Place

Despite a claiming guide released in 2003 and guidance provided by states, Smith noted that abuse of Medicaid reimbursements is often found through independent audits conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state agencies.

As a result of such audits, school districts have been forced to return money.

In November 2013, an audit conducted by CMS of California’s administrative claiming program examined three educational entities.

The audit found that two of those three—Turlock Unified School District and Turlare County Office of Education—received improper reimbursements from 2010 to 2011.

In one instance, at Turlock Unified School District, two preschool teachers billed Medicaid and indicated that they spent every hour of their workday conducting Medicaid outreach. However, the government found they spent 50 percent of their time on school-related activities and the remaining time on Medicaid administrative activities.

The district alone had filed claims totaling $3.4 million.

According to EdSource, a website that tracks education in California, reimbursements also served to fill budget shortfalls.

Following the audit, CMS requested the state return more than $4 million in “unsupported school-based administrative costs.”

Similarly, a 2000 report from the Government Accountability Office found that “poor controls over what constitutes an allowable administrative activity cost claim have resulted in improper Medicaid reimbursements.”

In Colorado, some districts are using the reimbursements to fund wellness efforts.

Adams 12 Five Star, which serves students in the northeastern part of the state, received $1.2 million in reimbursements in 2013. The money paid for things like suicide prevention training, nursing hours and outreach to students who were uninsured.

Academy District 20, which serves Colorado Springs, used the Medicaid dollars to pay for magnets stamped with healthy snack suggestions.

“It’s been a very consistent and growing source of revenue for districts,” Bridget Beatty, coordinator for health strategies for Denver Public Schools, told Chalkbeat Colorado in 2013. “It is one of the only sources that has been increasing in the last few years.”

Hill of the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education said schools filing claims for Medicaid reimbursements “ebbs and flows” depending on a variety of different factors. However, he noted that the number of schools requesting the funds has held steady over the last four to five years.

When districts find themselves strapped for cash, Hill said, they begin exploring Medicaid reimbursements more deeply.

To rein in Medicaid reimbursements for things outside the program’s realm, Smith, the former CMS administrator, said the lines of what is and what isn’t Medicaid’s responsibility need to be brightened.  “It’s not Medicaid’s job to fund the schools,” he said.


British parents and schools MUST make sure children are active: Two-thirds of 5 to 11 year olds are failing to reach healthy fitness levels, experts warn

Maybe kids should be allowed to run around the playground again

Two-thirds of primary school-age children are failing to reach the recommended levels of fitness for their age group, experts have warned. 

A new study of 10,000 five to 11-year-olds found that 67 per cent were unable to reach targets in running, jumping and throwing.

Meanwhile, a quarter - 24 per cent - fell 'significantly below' the recommended levels, indicating that fitness is a cause for concern.

Fit For Sport, which conducted the tests, said the results show that parents and schools must do more to increase children's activity levels to ensure they stay healthy.

The children were assessed as they were asked to carry out the Activity Challenge.

It involved a series of tests created to check various aspects of fitness, including stamina, agility, co-ordination and cardiovascular endurance.

The aim was to establish a good idea of the children's fitness and physical literacy.

It found that just over a third (36 per cent) of five to seven-year-olds were at an adequate level of fitness.

That number fell to 32 per cent and 33 per cent for eight to nine and 10 to 11-year-olds respectively.

The guidelines set out by the chief medical officer recommend that children spend 60 minutes a day being physically active - yet only 21 per cent of boys and 16 per cent of girls achieve this.

The lowest results were recorded in running challenges that test cardiovascular endurance, indicating that not only are many children getting too little physical activity, they are also failing to spend enough time doing vigorous intensity activity where they are out of breath and their heart rate increases.

Fit For Sport founder Dean Horridge, said: 'Parents know how well their children perform academically, but they often have no idea how fit their kids are.

'Two-thirds of the 10,000 children we tested were unable to meet achievable levels of fitness, like completing 60 star jumps in one minute.  'This is a clear call to action.

'Physical inactivity is a ticking time bomb for the UK's health and both parents and schools must make sure children are spending enough time being active to improve their fitness and health levels now, and set them off on a journey to an active life.'


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What Public Schools Can Learn from Homeschool Parents

In March, dozens of families attended the Greater Saint Louis Home Educators Expo. The discussions led by parents, former educators, and homeschool alumni were an echo of what public school teachers have rallied for since the establishment of standardized testing—more creativity in education.

Much like public school teachers, parents must ensure children receive a well-rounded education, but the difference is that parents are able to spend more time exploring their children’s interests.

“I want to help you love this,” Diana Waring explained to her children about her approach to educating at home.  Waring relayed her friend Beverly’s story.

"Beverly was a mother who homeschooled her two boys. Lacking a college degree, she was afraid she would not be able to properly educate her children. One day, Beverly took her sons to the public library to pick out books that interested them. The boys gravitated toward cartoons. At home, they spent time creating their own drawings using homemade equipment. They caught the attention of a Disney cartoonist, who was amazed at what the boys were able to do on their own. Chris and Allan Miller are now professional graphic artists."

If the Miller brothers had been educated in a traditional school, certainly they would have been taught by a teacher with a college degree or higher, but would their creative interests have been fostered?

In Missouri, homeschool parents are directed to keep records of their children’s studies, much like the plan books teachers keep, but unless there is an issue—the state does not actively regulate what occurs inside the home environment. This freedom allows parents to teach in a stress-free atmosphere.

Often, homeschoolers are viewed with suspicion by traditional educators, but they shouldn’t be. Instead, officials should be looking for ways to provide a customized educational experience, like the homeschool experience of Chris and Allan Miller, for every child. We could start by creating an Education Savings Account program and empowering students with access to course choice.


Students unsure whether anatomical models are appropriate at Johns Hopkins

For three decades, the North Baltimore Pro-Life Study Group has set up a display of anatomical models of fetal development as part of Johns Hopkins University’s (JHU’s) annual Spring Fair. This year, however, JHU’s Arts and Crafts Committee decided to disallow the display because it “contains triggering and disturbing images and content.” Thankfully, after pushback from student Andrew Guernsey, president of the student group Voice for Life, the Committee reversed its decision. But as Guernsey points out in emails to the student government, speakers on campus may still be subject to policies that can be used to censor a broad range of speech—despite JHU’s written commitments to free expression.

Although JHU is a private university not bound by the First Amendment, its written policies give students a reasonable expectation that expression will not be censored on campus just because someone may find it “disturbing.” JHU provides, for example, that “[a]cceptance of membership in the University community carries with it an obligation on the part of each individual to respect the rights of others, to protect the University as a forum for the free expression of ideas, and to obey the law.” Johns Hopkins also declares on its website that “[t]he University encourages and promotes the free exchange of ideas on campus.” The Student Government Association’s (SGA’s) Constitution states: “Students have a right to free speech in all matters relating to the SGA. The spirit of this sentiment shall be extended to all student activities on the Homewood [main] campus.” These broad statements strongly suggest that neither administrators nor students may engage in censorship on campus.

The Arts and Crafts Committee is a group of students tasked with organizing the Spring Fair, during which approximately 80 vendors of crafts and nonprofit advocacy groups gather on the university’s campus to share their products or messages with students. According to LifeSiteNews, the Committee decided last year to require that “any images a vendor plans to display at his/her booth must be pre-approved by the Arts and Crafts Committee.” In addition, the Committee claims “the right to reject illegal, vulgar, triggering, or otherwise disturbing images.”

It is not at all clear from the Committee’s policy what constitutes “disturbing” images. Indeed, it is even more unclear considering that non-graphic anatomical models of fetuses (i.e., one can easily tell what it being shown, but there is no blood or realistic viscera depicted) apparently fit the bill. As Guernsey asked in objecting to the policy, “Will gay and lesbian groups be banned from Spring Fair because some religious people find homosexual activity ‘disturbing’?”

The Committee’s enactment of this policy and its initial choice to censor the display demonstrate a worrying eagerness to interfere with the expression of others at the behest of those who disagree with the viewpoint being expressed. In an email to Sheila Wharam, who normally presents the display at the Spring Fair, the Committee explained that these steps were taken “due to feedback [it] received identifying [her] fetus models as triggering to students on campus.” The Committee wrote, “We hope you understand that our intention is not to restrict your freedom of speech or expression, but rather to create an inclusive and respectful environment for all.”

But if “inclusive and respectful” means that no student will ever be made uncomfortable, then it is simply impossible to create that kind of environment without significantly restricting freedom of expression—or even shutting down discussions on controversial topics completely. Given that the Spring Fair aims, in part, to help groups “spread awareness for various causes,” it would be counterproductive to apply this standard to the event.

Thankfully, the Committee reconsidered, and it is allowing plans to display the model to go forward this year. In a statement to, the Committee said:

    "We … were wrong in our initial decision and, upon further reflection, have decided we will not impose restrictions on the displays presented by any community groups at Spring Fair …. The committee values free speech".

This is a positive step, but concerns remain. First of all, it is absurd that members of the JHU community—overwhelmingly adults, who ostensibly are there to learn—are treated as though they are unable to confront depictions of the human body. Of course, FIRE takes no stance on the issue of reproductive rights. But to our knowledge, the debate in this case wasn’t over the factual accuracy or moral righteousness of the display (as debates on abortion often are). It was over whether models crafted to show the size and developmental stages of fetuses were so potentially harmful to students that they should be subject to censorship.

Wharam posed this question in an email that was forwarded to LifeSiteNews:

    "Does it make sense for a world class college like Hopkins allied to the third-ranked medical school in the country to refuse to allow an exhibit of a physiologically accurate depiction of human development, something students see in high school[?]"

FIRE thinks not. Like students at elite law schools who were demanding not to be taught rape law, the insistence of JHU students on being permitted to avoid information they might find uncomfortable is perplexing. In any case, Wharam’s models certainly don’t constitute any of the narrow categories of speech JHU students should expect to be prohibited from engaging in, like true threats or obscenity.

In addition, the Committee has not explicitly rescinded its right to censor other “disturbing” displays at its whim. Guernsey argued in emails to the SGA that the Committee’s policy violates the SGA Constitution’s provision on free speech. Because the Spring Fair is among the enumerated “committees and commissions” established by the SGA Constitution, content- and viewpoint-based censorship should play no part in management of the fair.

This isn’t the first time JHU students have encountered obstacles to speaking freely, nor is it the first time Guernsey has shed light on conflicting policies at JHU. Last August, for example, Guernsey spoke out in response to the SGA’s viewpoint-based reclassification of student advocacy groups in order to render them eligible for a much smaller amount of funding than they were before. And before that, Guernsey encountered significant opposition from the SGA when trying to gain recognition for Voice for Life. The group was initially rejected for blatantly viewpoint-based reasons, but SGA’s rejection was overturned after FIRE intervened.

FIRE hopes that JHU’s student government and all of its branches take Guernsey’s pleas to heart and take steps to foster a truly open environment for the expression of all viewpoints, even those with which they may personally disagree. In this case, adherence to the SGA Constitution, JHU’s written institutional policies, or common sense would have been helpful.


Patronising women won’t help bridge the STEM gender gap

Last month, Girl Geeks, a nationwide programme to encourage more women to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers, launched at the University of Newcastle and the University of Northumbria. This is just the latest in a series of new initiatives aimed at tackling the so-called STEM gender gap in academia and industry.

According to a survey last year, while women make up almost half of the UK workforce, they only account for one-fifth of the STEM industry. This, as many have claimed, is because STEM subjects have always been considered ‘male’ subjects. In order to tackle this, a range of bursaries, incentives and mentoring programmes, like Girl Geeks, have been created in order to encourage young women to study STEM subjects at university and later get a job in the STEM industry.

In terms of offering scholarships, universities have always favoured subjects like science and maths, because there is much higher demand for them in the workforce. This has only added to the perception that young female students are getting a raw deal, as women have been traditionally drawn to the arts and the humanities. However, there’s more to this story.

For a start, despite the increased number of scholarship opportunities and support offered to women in STEM subjects, women currently dominate in subjects like veterinary science and medicine. But, more crucially, this flurry of new schemes has had the effect of pushing young women in a certain direction, subtly discouraging them from choosing subjects that don’t come with as many opportunities. As well as scholarships, internships and work experience in the STEM industry are more readily advertised, leaving people outside of these fields with less support. In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter what gender you are or what subject you wish to study – you should get just as much support as everyone else.

Seeing the varying STEM scholarships on offer to women, it all seems like we’ve gone a step too far. It appears as if young women need this extra support and help. All of this is offensive, unfair and patronising. What’s more, it is now getting to the point where it is disadvantaging young men in the same field, who aren’t offered the same prospects. Honestly, I don’t think there is a problem here that schemes and quotas can solve. The real Geek Girls out there are more than capable of bridging the gender gap themselves.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Is the Chinese education system really one of the best in the world?

Comment on Quora below from Old China Hand, a Western man who has taught in China for many years

The problem with the Chinese education system is that it is geared towards producing graduates with a lot of knowledge. Successful students have succeeded in memorizing a vast amount of material.

However there is not enough emphasis on critical or analytical thinking, on creativity and originality. The problem is that Chinese culture is so ancient, everything has been said sometime. You just have to dig it out and reference it to succeed.

As a result foreign companies in China almost always prefer staff who have been educated overseas for executive positions. They are more confident and have their own ideas. When you ask them a question requiring their opinion on something, they tend to give it more freely whereas a local will tend to sidestep until they can get an idea of what the "correct" answer is.

Feminism in education today

A university lecturer has come under fire for screening a graphic video of her vagina to a class of shocked first-year students in the UK.

In clips from her “feminist performance art”, Lauren Barri-Holstein inserted a knife handle into her vagina and threw tomatoes at the blade, gave birth to a plastic Bambi figurine and urinated on stage.

She told students at Queen Mary University of London that the work of art was relevant to her teaching module but some were left scarred.

“It was surreal. I honestly didn’t know how to react. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look her in the eye in person. It’s just weird,” a student told the campus newspaper The Tab.


The British student occupiers dying by their own censorious sword

To protect the right to protest, students must get serious about free speech.

After almost a month of musty sit-ins and ad hoc Owen Jones Q&As, it seems the recent flurry of London student occupations are drawing to a close. Yesterday, the University of the Arts London (UAL) won an injunction against student occupiers who have been camped out in the reception area of Central Saint Martins in King’s Cross since 19 March. OccupyUAL, which inspired similar occupations at King’s College, LSE and Goldsmiths, was a response to UAL’s plans to cut 580 foundation-course places for art and design. Fifteen of the occupiers, half of whom are officers in the students’ unions, were summoned to appear at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday.

It seemed inevitable. Universities across the country have shown little hesitation in calling in the authorities as a series of anti-cuts demonstrations and occupations have bubbled up across the country. In 2012, occupiers at the University of Sussex were served with an injunction and five of the leaders were expelled following an occupation in protest at the privatisation of campus services. At Warwick last December, police, armed with tear gas and tasers, were called to break up an anti-fees protest.

This is a troubling development. The freedom to protest, on campus or elsewhere, is not absolute. One person’s right to express his or her political convictions through physical action does, necessarily, have to be weighed against the rights of other citizens, or students, to go about their business and access certain spaces. Nevertheless, this balancing act is one which UAL and others have all but refused to strike – setting a dangerous precedent for the future of student protest.

But before we join in the chorus of hashtag solidarity, it’s important to note that these students have done nothing to help themselves. After a brief flurry in 2010, recent anti-cuts movements have completely failed to gain any meaningful support from the vast majority of students. The ongoing LSE occupation only consists of around 10 regular protesters, out of an enrolment of over 10,000. The fact that only 15 protesters were the subject of UAL’s injunction paints a similarly paltry picture. If you flout the rules to make a political point, you should expect consequences. But, with a little more student muscle and moral support behind the occupiers, UAL would not have been able to call in the authorities with such ease – and to so little protest.

But, more crucially, student protesters have also made a rod for their own back. Shelly Asquith, the president of UAL’s students’ union and one of 15 named in UAL’s injunction, damned the university’s action as an affront to their ‘fundamental human right to protest’ and an expression of ‘utter contempt’ for students and their views. Given that students’ union radicals have been at the forefront of policing campus speech and protest – No Platforming controversial speakers, imposing smothering Safe Space policies, and banning campus demonstrations by pro-life groups – they can hardly claim the mantle of free-speech martyrs.

Universities have long colluded with students’ unions to keep undesirable speakers and controversial groups off campus. UAL’s decision to call in the cops was a reflection of the deeply risk-averse and intolerant dynamic that illiberal students themselves have helped to create. When you restrict the free speech and free assembly of those you disagree with, it won’t be long before it comes back to bite you in the arse. This is an age-old lesson that these students need to learn.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Teachers more likely to label black students as troublemakers, study finds

The report below is a summary of research by two minority  psychologists, Eberhardt and Okonofua.  In the study, "Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students",  the authors tried to pin more frequent punishment of black students on inaccurate "stereotypes" held by teachers.

It is not completely clear what view of stereotyping that the authors adopt.  To be a bit paradoxical about it, stereotyping is often stereotyped. By that I mean that the old 1930s view of stereotypes as fixed, rigid and impermeable to evidence seems still to be widely held, even among psychologists, who should by now know better.  There is a massive body of research findings (a summary from some time ago here) to show that, among most people, stereotypes are the exact opposite of that -- i.e. they are highly and rapidly responsive to evidence and change readily as new evidence becomes available.  They tend to be valuable generalizations

There are of course some extremists who hold to their beliefs so rigidly that no evidence can dislodge the beliefs concerned.  A good example is the way committed Green/Leftists cling to their global warming beliefs, despite the only global temperature changes over the last 18 years being in hundredths of one degree Celsius -- change which is insignificant both statistically and in every other way.

At any event, the authors below were unable to exclude the very real possibility that blacks students simply behave more disruptively and are therefore seen accurately to be more likely to be a continuing problem.  Insofar as it is a stereotype, the stereotype could be an accurate one.

This is very naive research that proves nothing. The press release is here.  The journal article is: "Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students"

Teachers can judge the behaviour of black students more harshly than while pupils, new research has suggested.

A study by researchers at Stanford University examined the reaction of secondary and primary school teachers in the United States to student race.

They found that the teachers were more likely to view youngsters who they thought were black as troublemakers than those they thought were white.

The researchers say this may go someway towards explaining why black children are often disciplined more at schools compared to other pupils.

Professor Jennifer Eberhardt, a psychologist at Stanford University, said: 'The fact that black children are disproportionately disciplined in school is behind dispute.

'What is less clear is why. We see that stereotypes not only can be used to allow people to interpret a specific behavior in isolation, but also stereotypes can heighten our sensitivity to behavioral patterns across time.

In their study, which is published in the journal Psychological Science, Professor Eberhardt and her colleagues presented teachers with fictional school records.

These records described two instances of misbehaviour by a student. The teachers were asked about their perception of the severity, how irritated that misbehaviour would make them and how the student should be punished.

They were also asked whether they saw the student as a troublemaker and if they could imagine themselves suspending that pupil in the future.

The researchers randomly assigned names to the student records, in some cases suggesting the student was black with names like Deshawn or Darnell and in others suggesting they were white with names like Greg or Jake.

The researchers found that racial stereotypes had little impact on the teachers' views of the pupils after one infraction.

However, the second piece of misbehaviour was seen as 'more troubling' when committed by a black student rather than a white one.

The teachers also tended to want to discipline black students more harshly as they were more likely to see the misbehaviour as part of a pattern.

The researchers suggest that psychological interventions could be used to help change the stereotypes of black students influencing the way teachers treat pupils.


Top British school cleared of discriminating against poor and non-Catholic children when selecting pupils

A Roman Catholic school attended by Nick Clegg’s eldest son and two of Tony Blair’s has been cleared of discriminating against the poor.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator criticised the Oratory School in London for engaging in ‘social selection’, saying it had broken the rules in 105 different ways.

The state-funded school in Fulham, West London, was ordered to revise its admissions policy last year after the watchdog decided it was biased against working-class and non-Catholic children.

The watchdog accused the school of cherry-picking privileged white children using its strict faith-based entry requirements.

But yesterday, this was overturned by a High Court judge who said this decision was ‘flawed’ and ‘unreasonable’.

Mr Justice Cobb said: ‘The adjudicator’s conclusion that the governing body of the school had operated an admissions system which was socially selective, discriminatory, and unfairly disadvantageous to children from less well-off families was flawed and was reached by a process which was procedurally unfair to the school.’

The school, founded in 1863, has prioritised pupils based on whether they sing in the choir, arrange flowers in church, serve at the altar or assist in pastoral work.

In its ruling, the watchdog said the school must not grant places ‘on the basis of any practical or financial support parents may give to the school’ - nor should children be favoured on the basis of their hobbies and activities.

It said the ratio of children receiving free school meals - used as an indicator of poverty - was only 6-7 per cent compared with the local average of 25.1 per cent.

Mr Clegg’s eldest son Antonio, 12, attends, while Mr Blair sent his two eldest sons, Nicky and Euan, to the school with daughter Kathryn believed to have joined in the sixth form.

The boys’ school, which admits girls to the sixth form, also counts deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman among its alumni.

It is one of the most popular in the country and is always oversubscribed.

In a reserved judgment after a hearing last month Mr Justice Cobb ordered the adjudicator to think again after remitting the case to be heard by a fresh adjudicator.

He said: ‘I am satisfied that the adjudicator reaches this conclusion by a mix of flawed reasoning and unfair process. In the circumstances I am satisfied that this finding must be quashed.’

He ordered the adjudicator to pay 80 per cent of the school’s £155,000 costs with £60,000 on account.

Ane Vernon, solicitor for the school, said: ‘The allegation that the school was socially selective and discriminating against less well-off families has been hurtful to staff, pupils and parents.

‘This damaging allegation has been found by the judge to be wrong and unfair, and the finding vindicates the robust approach the school has had to take against the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.’

Headmaster David McFadden added: ‘The judge’s decision supports us in continuing to preserve the school’s ethos and serving Catholic families throughout the whole of London.

‘It is profoundly regrettable that the school - and other schools - have to expend precious resources, year after year, in standing up to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

‘These are key resources that should go to our children’s education and their future, not overturning ultimately flawed and unmeritorious decisions. Schools within the state sector have serious questions to ask about the adjudication process.’

The judge said he feared his conclusions would not bring an end to investigations into the school which had been going on for ‘far too long.’

London Oratory was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and has some of the best results in the country.

Church groups have complained that a ‘secular agenda’ is increasingly being imposed on faith schools which aim to uphold their traditional beliefs.


Ohio Teachers Strongly Dislike Common Core Tests

Ohio Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner has been instrumental in keeping Common Core in Ohio despite several years of vigorous grassroots efforts to replace it with higher-quality academic standards. Recently, she commissioned a survey of teachers, principals, and superintendents to see what they think of the state’s new tests, which are the second half of the Common Core initiative (after benchmarks that forecast what the tests will contain). By a 100-to-1 ratio, teachers and superintendents “strongly disagree” the tests “went well,” compared to those who “strongly agree.”

Of the 6,657 teachers who responded, only 51 “strongly agreed” the tests went well, while 5,427 “strongly disagreed.” An even larger proportion of teachers “strongly disagreed” the students were given an appropriate amount of time to complete the tests.

These results are, quite simply, astounding. More than half the state’s superintendents responded, an astronomically high response rate for a voluntary online survey. The vast majority also said technological problems were a significant obstacle to completing the tests.

Also significantly, at the same time it had switched to new Common Core math and English tests, Ohio had switched to new social studies and science tests from a private vendor. Educators were far less dissatisfied with the non-Common Core tests than with the Common Core tests.

These survey results vindicate years of warnings from Common Core opponents that the tests will be a train wreck, both because they demand technology far beyond what most schools can support and because Common Core itself is nebulous and unlikely to produce clear test questions.

The results also require state policymakers to make a big decision. Will the facts on the ground change their evidence-free support for Common Core? In the private market, this would hardly be a question. Nobody buys anything that has an average rating of three or lower on’s five-star rating system. But because states essentially have a monopoly over K–12 education, lawmakers are often more likely to listen to special interests who give them political cover and campaign donations than the people who have to live with their policies.

What Ohio lawmakers do with these survey results will reveal their real masters. Based on their previous blind support for Common Core, the prospects aren’t good.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sustainability Gone Wild in colleges and universities

In a world of ever-increasing plenty, sustainability is irrelevant.  And plenty is created, not discovered.  It is created by human inventiveness, which has never been greater than now.

An example of how ingenuity creates resources:  Bauxite is an extremely plentiful mineral.  You can find it just lying on the ground as a sea of little red pebbles in some places.  But it was not a resource until Hall and Heroult discovered how to extract aluminum from it.  The Hall and Heroult process is now virtually the only source of aluminum and has made aluminum very cheap. 

As aluminum foil it is now so cheap that it is routinely put out with the garbage. Yet once it was up with silver and gold for rarity and value

Syracuse University alumni are new additions to the lengthening list of persons who can stop contributing to their alma maters. The university has succumbed — after, one suspects, not much agonizing — to the temptation to indulge in progressive gestures. It will divest all fossil fuel stocks from its endowment. It thereby trumps Stanford, whose halfhearted exercise in right-mindedness has been to divest only coal stocks. Evidently carbon from coal is more morally disquieting than carbon from petroleum.

The effect of these decisions on consumption of fossil fuels will be nil; the effect on the growth of institutions' endowments will be negative. The effect on alumni giving should be substantial, because divesting institutions are proclaiming that the goal of expanding educational resources is less important than the striking of righteous poses — if there can be anything righteous about flamboyant futility.

The divestment movement is a manifestation of a larger phenomenon, academia’s embrace of “sustainability,” a development explored in “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism” from the National Association of Scholars (NAS). The word “fundamentalism” is appropriate, for five reasons:

* Like many religions' premises, the sustainability movement’s premises are more assumed than demonstrated.

* Second, weighing the costs of obedience to sustainability’s commandments is considered unworthy.

* Third, the sustainability crusade supplies acolytes with a worldview that infuses their lives with purpose and meaning.

* Fourth, the sustainability movement uses apocalyptic rhetoric to express its eschatology.

* Fifth, the church of sustainability seeks converts, encourages conformity to orthodoxy and regards rival interpretations of reality as heretical impediments to salvation.

Some subscribers to the sustainability catechism are sincerely puzzled by the accusation that it is political correctness repackaged. They see it as indisputable because it is undisputed; it is obvious, elementary, even banal. Actually, however, the term “sustainable” postulates fragility and scarcity that entail government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity.

The unvarying progressive agenda is for government to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity. “Sustainability” swaddles this agenda in “science,” as progressives understand this — “settled” findings that would be grim if they did not mandate progressivism.

Orthodoxy was enshrined in the 2006 “American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.” Since then, the NAS study concludes, “the campus sustainability movement has gone from a minor thread of campus activism to becoming the master narrative of what ‘liberal education’ should seek to accomplish.”

Government subsidizes the orthodoxy: The Environmental Protection Agency alone has spent more than $333 million on sustainability fellowships and grants. Anti-capitalism is explicit: Markets “privilege” individuals over communities. Indoctrination is relentless: Cornell has 403 sustainability courses (e.g., “The Ethics of Eating”). Sustainability pledges are common. The University of Virginia’s is: “I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”

Sustainability, as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science, as with: Climate change causes prostitution (warming increases poverty, which increases … ). Or the “environmental racism” of the supposed warming that supposedly caused hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately impacted New Orleans blacks.

The same sort of people — sometimes the same people — who once predicted catastrophe from the exhaustion of fossil fuels now predict catastrophe because of a surfeit of such fuels. Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado, divestment enthusiast and possessor of astonishing knowledge, says: If we burn all known fossil fuels, we will make the planet uninhabitable, so, “Why should any rational institution invest in further exploration and development when we already have at least three times more than we can ever use?”

There is a social benefit from the sustainability mania: the further marginalization of academia. It prevents colleges and universities from trading on what they are rapidly forfeiting, their reputations for seriousness.

The divestment impulse recognizes no limiting principle. As it works its way through progressivism’s thicket of moral imperatives — shedding investments tainted by involvement with Israel, firearms, tobacco, red meat, irrigation-dependent agriculture, etc. — progressivism’s dream of ever-more-minute regulation of life is realized, but only in campus cocoons.

College tuitions are soaring in tandem with thickening layers of administrative bloat. So here is a proposal: Hundreds of millions could be saved, with no cost to any institution’s core educational mission, by eliminating every position whose title contains the word “sustainability” — and, while we are at it, “diversity,” “multicultural” or “inclusivity.” The result would be higher education higher than the propaganda-saturated version we have, and more sustainable (!).


Wyo. Catholic College Latest to Abstain From Federal Student Loan Program

Wyoming Catholic College has joined a handful of institutions of higher learning that refuse to participate in federal student loan and grant programs because of “burdensome regulatory requirements [that] are clearly troubling for faith-based institutions.”

“By abstaining from federal funding programs, we will safeguard our mission from unwarranted federal involvement—an involvement increasingly at odds with our Catholic beliefs, the content of our curriculum, and our institutional practices,” college president Kevin Roberts said in February after the school’s board of directors voted unanimously to reject federal funding.

“Our decision is a prudential one,” said board chairman Andrew Emrich, adding that “pivotal legal decisions, executive orders, and administrative interpretations were all pointing to some near-term (and perhaps long-term) challenges for institutions of faith.”

“We really didn’t want the federal government meddling in our lives here,” board member David Kellogg told The New York Times. “The federal  government hands you money and then threatens to withdraw that money if you don’t do what they want.”

It costs $28,150 a year to attend the small four-year liberal arts college in Lander, Wyoming, which has a great books/great outdoors curriculum, and requires students to participate in a three-week backpacking trip and turn in their cell phones and computers while on campus. The college set up a private loan program to help current and future students who need financial aid.

“There’s a real concern that eventually strings will be attached to student aid, and they don’t want to be put in that position,” explained Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, which recommends the small Catholic college to prospective students and their families.

“They want to retain their Catholic identity despite increasing efforts by the Obama administration and the Left to force their social agenda, which is rooted in non-discrimination law.

"If those laws can be applied in the same way as Title IX, any institution that participates in the student loan program will be forced to comply with their social engineering,” such as providing benefits to same-sex couples, allowing transgender students access to bathrooms reserved for the opposite biological sex or even altering the content of their instruction.

“There’s a grave danger that this is the direction we’re headed,” Reilly added, noting that intrusion into college curriculums has already begun.

“We’ve had a situation with Franciscan University of Steubenville [Ohio] where an accreditor for the psychology program stepped in and complained about a discussion of different forms of [sexual] deviancy. So it will likely come through the accreditation process first,” he told

“It’s very difficult for larger institutions that have used the federal money to expand their campus facilities to not participate in the student aid program because they’re competing against institutions that do participate,” he pointed out. “But Wyoming Catholic College is new and renting its current space, so they can keep costs as low as possible.”

Several Supreme Court cases involving government funding and religious freedom during the 1960s and ‘70s prompted a number of prominent Catholic colleges and universities, such as Fordham and Georgetown, to “take their crucifixes down” and transfer ownership from religious orders to lay boards of trustees. “It turned out that the worst-case scenarios did not materialize, but they secularized anyway,” Reilly said.

“Catholic institutions have generally been very wary of taking federal money, but grants or student loans were considered different because the money supposedly went to the individual student, not directly to the institution. However, Title IX ended that illusion,” he told

“It’s clear that the federal government can, through non-discrimination laws, impose nearly anything it wants. That hasn’t happened yet, but for schools with a strong Catholic identity like Wyoming Catholic College who were considering participating in the student loan program, it’s a bad time to get in.”

Christendom College in Virginia, Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania also do not participate in federal student loan programs.

“The College’s decision has proven prophetic given the federal government’s current assault on religious freedom and its expanding use of funding conditions to promote policy preferences,” Christendom’s website states. “The federal government takeover of the student loan industry as part of the recent health-care reform is a stark warning that the government is seeking broader control of higher education.”


Schools Are Panicking over Testing Opt-Outs

When it comes to testing, just say no

When it comes to the welfare of their kids, parents can be pretty formidable. As it becomes increasingly clear in school districts across America that the standardized tests aligned with Common Core standards are making education worse, more parents are choosing to just say no.

Most states have provisions to allow parents to opt out of standardized tests if they have a reasonable objection, but as increasing numbers of people are taking advantage of this option, the schools are starting to get a bit jumpy. In Wayne County, West Virginia, for example, some students are feeling pressure to conform or be cast out.

West Virginia has two basic standardized tests, the older assessment known as the Westest, and the newer Smarter Balanced assessments that are being phased in as part of Common Core. After a wave of opt-out requests in Wayne County, a special assembly was called to single out the students who requested to opt out, with conduct that has been described as “bullying.”

The affected students told their story on the Tom Roten radio show, and said that the school tried to intimidate them into taking the tests, even though they are not legally required to. The obvious question is, why do schools care so much?

The answer can be found in audio of a school board meeting held on December 19, 2013 (relevant audio begins at 1:26:32 in the video.) The State Superintendent of Education was asked point blank about opting out of standardized test, and said quite clearly that there was no penalty for students who wished to opt out. In fact, he said it multiple times. This should settle any questions about whether parents are allowed to opt out, but what comes next reveals why schools are so eager to conceal this fact. Schools have participation quotas for their tests, meaning that a certain percentage of students have to take them, or else the school itself faces a penalty, typically in the form of funding.

So schools are panicking that they may lose money and therefore are trying to bully students into taking endless tests that don’t actually educate people. It’s easy to blame school administrators for this, but the root of the problem is the tests themselves, along with the incentives and quotas handed down from the federal government. This further underscores the urgent need to sever the link between the federal incentives and education funding. and restore autonomy to state and local school systems.