Friday, November 13, 2015
Campus Commotions Show We're Raising Fragile Kids
By Jonah Goldberg
It seems like every week there’s a new horror story of political correctness run amok at some college campus.
A warning not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes sparked an imbroglio at Yale, which went viral over the weekend. A lecturer asked in an email, “Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
Students went ballistic. When an administrator (who is the lecturer’s spouse) defended free speech, some students wanted his head. One student wrote in a Yale Herald op-ed (now taken down), “He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”
Washington Post columnist (and Tufts professor) Daniel Drezner was initially horrified by the spectacle but ultimately backtracked. Invoking Friedrich Hayek’s insights from “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” Drezner cautions outside observers that “there is an awful lot of knowledge that is local in character, that cannot be culled from abstract principles or detached observers.”
As a Hayek fanboy and champion of localism, I should be quite sympathetic. But this time, I think Drezner’s initial reaction was closer to the mark. The notion that the Yale incident is an isolated one defies all of the evidence.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, and Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, recently wrote a sweeping survey titled “The Coddling of the American Mind” for the Atlantic, in which they cataloged how students are being swaddled in an emotional cocoon.
Taco bars at sorority fundraisers are considered offensive. A group at Duke University deemed phrases such as “man up” too horrible to tolerate. And so on.
The suggestion that the tempest at Yale is an isolated incident reminds me of my favorite line from Thoreau: “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
So what is going on?
Well, a lot. Many conservatives want to put all the blame on political correctness or cultural Marxism. And though I think such ideologies certainly belong in the dock, political correctness is now quite old.
Lamentations about it were commonplace when I was in college 25 years ago. Does anyone, other than a few campus hotheads, actually believe universities are more intolerant, bigoted and racist than they were a generation ago?
What has changed are the students. Yes, there has been a lot of ideological indoctrination in which kids are taught that taking offense gives them power. But, again, that idea is old. What’s new is the way kids are being raised.
Consider play. Children are hardwired to play. That’s how we learn. But what happens when play is micromanaged? St. Lawrence University professor Steven Horwitz argues that it undermines democracy.
Free play — tag in the schoolyard, pickup basketball at the park, etc. — is a very complicated thing. It requires young people to negotiate rules among themselves, without the benefit of some third-party authority figure. These skills are hugely important in life. When parents or teachers short-circuit that process by constantly intervening to stop bullying or just to make sure that everyone plays nice, Horwitz argues, “we are taking away a key piece of what makes it possible for free people to be peaceful, cooperative people by devising bottom-up solutions to a variety of conflicts.”
The rise in “helicopter parenting” and the epidemic of “everyone gets a trophy” education are another facet of the same problem. We’re raising millions of kids to be smart and kind, but also fragile.
And what happens when large numbers of these delicate little flowers are set free to navigate their way through life? They feel unsafe and demand “safe spaces.” They feel threatened by uncomfortable ideas and demand “trigger warnings.” They might even want written rules or contracts to help them negotiate sexual relations.
In other words, this is the generation the mandarins of political correctness have been waiting for.
Is This the Next Mizzou? As Racial Tensions Rise, Ithaca College President Faces Mounting Criticism
Another president blamed for not being hysterical enough
Around a thousand miles northeast of the University of Missouri, where racial tensions and protests led to the resignation of the university president, students and faculty at Ithaca College have mounted a challenge to their own leader following protests over alleged incidents of racism at the small private college.
For months, the college of just 6,600 students nestled in the Finger Lakes has seen mounting criticism of President Tom Rochon for what students and faculty believe is an inadequate response to a number of racist incidents occurring on campus. On Wednesday afternoon, students are expected to hold a “walk-out” in further protest.
“There have been a litany of episodes and incidents during [Rochon’s] tenure here which have led to frustration because, when brought to his attention, the view of the protesters is that he has been unresponsive,” Don Lifton, a 29-year professor at the Ithaca College School of Business, told The Daily Signal.
Now, with the nation focused on events in Missouri, tensions between students and Rochon have come to a head, as students have been asked to participate in a Student Government Association-sanctioned survey asking for a vote of “confidence” or “no confidence” in Rochon, Kyle Stewart, vice president of communications for the Student Government Association, told The Daily Signal.
The Student Government Association voted unanimously to hold the vote for students but is a neutral party, he said.
The vote comes as Ithaca’s Faculty Council, the representative body of the college’s faculty, are scheduled to meet Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of holding their own vote, which, according to Lifton, represents “unprecedented” action taken against Ithaca’s top official.
“Over my years of service here, there have been a variety of presidents each having their strengths and weaknesses, but never has a president during—I’ve been here for three—never had his two predecessors have those amongst us, never has it come to a vote of confidence,” Lifton said.
If both students and faculty cast votes of no confidence in Rochon, it would cause the Ithaca College Board of Trustees—charged with hiring the college president—to re-evaluate Rochon’s future with the college, Stewart and Lifton said.
‘Racial Problems’ on Campus
Rochon became the president of Ithaca College in 2008. In recent years, students have become increasingly unhappy with his leadership following three separate events that students and protesters with People of Color at Ithaca College—a student activist group known as POC at IC—say were perceived as racially charged, Stewart said.
The first involved public safety officers who, during training sessions with Ithaca College resident assistants, allegedly made “racially insensitive” and “aggressive” statements, according to The Ithacan, Ithaca College’s student newspaper.
The second, Stewart said, centered on an off-campus party hosted by an unaffiliated fraternity last month. The party was themed “Preps and Crooks,” and students and alumni viewed the theme, described in a Facebook post, as “racially charged” and a “microaggression,” according to The Ithacan.
The last incident occurred during a university-sponsored event called “Blue Sky Reimagining” last month, where an African-American alumna of Ithaca College said she had a “savage hunger” to succeed in her professional career. A Caucasian Ithaca College alumnus speaking alongside the woman repeated her description, calling the alumna a “savage” multiple times, Stewart said.
“Those were a few of the racial problems on campus,” Stewart, a sophomore, told The Daily Signal.
People of Color at Ithaca College called on Rochon to respond to the incidents and became frustrated when the responses from Ithaca College’s administration were inconsistent, Stewart said.
In the case of the fraternity event, the response from college leadership was swift, and Ithaca distanced itself from both the fraternity and the event, calling the language in a post describing the party “reprehensible for its racial and class stereotyping,” the Ithacan reported.
Ithaca’s response to the comments at Blue Sky Reimagining, however, came days later—and after a video was taken offline.
“There’s definitely tense feelings,” Stewart said. “I think there’s a lot of people who are actively involved in these issues. The group, POC at IC, every day they’re involved with trying to improve the campus climate.”
Perhaps the most telling incident showcasing students’ disapproval of Rochon’s handling of such alleged racism, though, came two weeks ago at a forum hosted by Rochon called “Addressing Community Action on Racism and Cultural Bias.”
Fifteen minutes into the event, attended by thousands of students and faculty, Lifton recalled, 40 students with POC at IC moved down the center aisles shouting chants of “Tom Rochon, no confidence.”
The student activists took the stage—where Rochon sat with other college administrators—and outlined why the college president needed to be removed.
“I never felt there was a danger of violence,” Lifton said. “It was awkward, tense, and unprecedented, but I never felt I was in danger during this protest.”
After the students cleared the stage and left the event—followed by what Lifton estimated to be about half the crowd—the professor himself went to the microphone and made a declaration: for Rochon to step down.
“It’s unfortunate, but we need a fresh face to help us reform,” Lifton said. “He’s been on campus for seven years, and the climate during his watch has deteriorated. There are too many of us who have lost patience with dialoguing with him because the past opportunities of dialogue led to nothing adequately concrete.”
In a statement to The Daily Signal, Ithaca College said issues involving “racial and cultural bias” have garnered the full attention of Rochon but noted that the college has improvements to make.
“Ithaca College must be a caring and inclusive community where all students, faculty, staff and visitors feel safe and respected,” the statement said. “There is no question that the college, like the rest of our nation, has a great deal of work to do to make this happen, including the very urgent need to combat systemic and structural racism.”
‘Larger National Issues’
The unrest among faculty and students at Ithaca College comes as racial tensions at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., led to university President Tim Wolfe’s resignation.
Similar to the concerns voiced at Ithaca College, University of Missouri students expressed disapproval of Wolfe’s handling of racist incidents, according to the New York Times. Wolfe ultimately stepped down after the university’s football team threatened to boycott the remainder of the season as a gesture of solidarity with students protesting the administration, the Times also reported.
In interviews with The Daily Signal, Stewart and Lifton outlined what students, faculty, and administrators can do to address the racial issues plaguing Ithaca College’s campus.
“I think the main thing the campus needs to work on is respect for everyone. We can’t really move forward as a campus unless every single person respects everyone else regardless of gender, color, sexual orientation,” Stewart said.
“I want a new leader to give us a fresh start,” Lifton said. “I want a new leader who will have a honeymoon period to demonstrate a systematic concern with addressing racial tensions on this campus. … I want a new leader who can prove a mettle to be up to this challenge of inclusivity and dramatic change in the campus climate.”
And both student and teacher agreed that the events taking place at their college, as well as the University of Missouri and Yale University, speak to a larger, national issue.
“I feel like it reflects a national climate on colleges, especially Missouri and Yale,” Stewart said. “I feel like I’m not sure if we’re any different than other colleges right now, but there’s tension, and we are looking to resolve that in the best way possible.”
“I think that what we have here, lamentably, is systemic of a larger struggle, and that Ithaca College undergraduates would be so engaged in it speaks so commendably to them, all of them,” Lifton said. “I think it’s systematic of larger national issues playing out locally.”
Muslim-run school in Britain: Children told to chant, 'Do we send Christmas cards? No!' and 'Do we celebrate Christmas? No!'
Pupils at Oldknow Academy, a school implicated in the Trojan horse scandal, were led in anti-Christian chants in assemblies, it has been alleged. Teacher Asif Khan allegedly led pupils shouting: “We don’t believe in Christmas, do we?” and “Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, was he?”, a tribunal was told
In these assemblies Mr Khan who was a classroom teacher, also allegedly talked about “hellfire” and “prostitutes”.
Apparently some teachers were so disgusted they walked out.
Former deputy head teacher Jahangir Akbar and Asif Khan both stand accused of unacceptable professional behaviour and/or conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.
The professional conduct hearing panel is taking place at The Beeches, Selly Oak Road, Bournville.
It was told that children were also asked to shout: “Do we send Christmas cards? No!” and “Do we celebrate Christmas? No!”, although Mr Khan denies the claims. It was said that the assembly was “like a rally” with a “plainly divisive” attitude.
Asif Khan failed to turn up to the appearance before the National College for Leadership & Training (NCTL) panel and may now be living in Qatar.
Christopher Gillespie, the lawyer representing the National College for Teaching and Leadership , said: “An agreement was made to introduce an undue amount of religious influence into the education of Oldknow School. “The distinction between a faith school and a state school was being blurred if not obliterated.”
Ann Connor, an education advisor contracted to work for Department for Education, was asked to visit the school after Peter Clarke’s 2014 report into Birmingham Schools. She said: “I found the school to be extraordinary. There was an element of fear.”
One female member of staff was allegedly frightened of Mr Khan and of potential repercussions for her in the school. A teacher told Ann Connor: “I am too frightened and he knows where I live.”
Ms Connor said there were signs written only in Arabic including the name of an office block, doors on toilets and a school lunch menu displayed on a class notice board.
In the hearing it was heard that one parent complained of the “increasing Islamic ethos in the school.”
Other concerns raised were that a school trip to Saudi Arabia was only available to certain male Muslim students and that teachers were discouraged from putting up Christmas decorations.
In one episode in January 2014 a mother complained that a teacher at the school had told her daughter that she should be avoided because of her religion. Mr Gillespie said: “This was a horrific message to be sending out and it’s outrageous that a young child was left with this impression. “This should have triggered more of an investigation and was incredibly divisive.”
A maths lesson was also allegedly segregated with the girls sat at the back of the room.
It was further alleged that pupils were told they could not sing, use musical instruments or draw trees or eyes.
When newspaper articles started running about the school in 2014 Mr Akbar allegedly warned teachers to stop leaking information to journalists.
In defence Andrew Faux, representing Mr Akbar, said religious worship was in line with the requirements in British educational law. He also said Mr Akbar was not a teacher at the school when Arabic started to be taught and the trips to Saudi Arabia began.
There are currently 12 teachers from the five ‘Trojan Horse’ schools facing disciplinary action and possible life-time bans from the classroom. The hearing is listed to run until November 18.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:49 AM
Thursday, November 12, 2015
British Catholic schools to ban Islam from High School religious studies
The Roman Catholic Church is at the centre of a row after ordering its schools to teach Judaism alongside Christianity in GCSE religious studies – ruling out Islam or other faiths.
The edict was described as ‘very disappointing’ by senior Muslim leaders. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the decision undermined Pope Francis’s message of greater tolerance between the faiths, and urged Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols to think again.
The Church’s move follows last year’s reforms to the GCSE exam. Under the new rules, schools are required to teach two religions rather than one.
The change was designed to drive extremism out of the classroom following the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, in which individuals were found to have been introducing fundamentalist Islamic teaching into Muslim schools in Birmingham.
Paul Barber, the director at the Catholic Education Service, said teaching about the Jewish faith would ensure schools continued to comply with the stipulations of bishops that pupils are given a solid grounding in Christianity.
He said, however, that pupils would learn about other faiths during normal religious education lessons.
But critics said many of the Catholic Church’s 2,150 primary and secondary schools have a significant number of pupils from an Islamic background, including the Rosary Catholic Primary in Birmingham, where more than 90 per cent of the children are Muslim.
Sir Iqbal said: ‘This is not a good decision. It does not reflect well on the messages that are coming out from the Church for greater tolerance of other faiths.
‘This is a difficult time for religions and the last thing you would expect is a major faith making such a statement.
And Rabbi Jonathan Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire, said: ‘I urge all religious authorities to allow individual heads the freedom to decide what is best for pupils.
Parents’ Fears Confirmed: Liberal Arts Students Earn Less
Students at elite liberal arts colleges don’t make as much early in their careers as those who attend highly selective research universities
For the first time, government data back up what some parents have long suspected: Students who choose elite liberal arts colleges don’t earn as much money early in their careers as those who attend highly selective research universities.
The disparity, determined by a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data, means that some liberal arts colleges may face tough questions about the potential payoff of their expensive tuition. That may be especially true for students needing financial aid, the group covered by the government’s figures.
The Education Department in September released salary numbers as part of its College Scorecard, an online tool that compares colleges on cost, student debt and graduation rates. For the first time, the government also paired information on federal student aid recipients with income tax records to compute median earnings figures for each school.
The Journal compared median earnings 10 years after students enrolled at the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country to median earnings for students at the most selective research universities. The Journal analyzed salary figures for the top 50 schools in each category that had the highest average SAT scores. Those Ivy League schools, selective state colleges and other national universities compete with liberal arts colleges for the many of the same highly qualified applicants.
At nearly half of the top liberal arts colleges, the reported median salary 10 years out was below $50,000. (The government didn’t release the underlying data necessary to calculate an overall median salary for those schools.) Students at almost all of the top research universities beat the $50,000 mark, while at about a third of top research universities they had median salaries above $70,000.
Administrators at some liberal arts colleges say the disparity can be explained in part by the fact their students are following passions that may not yield high earnings, not because the graduates lack job options. They also caution that median earnings figures are skewed in favor of colleges that offer degrees in higher-paying fields such as engineering, business and health care.
Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, called the government’s scorecard a “huge disservice” to students because it puts too much emphasis on earnings while ignoring the intangible benefits of education, including a strong grounding in the arts and humanities.
“It is in effect teaching them that the main thing that matters in education is how much they’re going to make,” said Ms. Schneider, whose organization advocates in favor of a liberal-arts curriculum.
The median income calculations reflect the earnings in 2011 and 2012 of students who entered college 10 years prior. The figures include both graduates and dropouts; they are limited to students working and not enrolled in graduate school at the time of the snapshot. The scorecard doesn’t break down earnings by field of study because the Education Department didn’t track that information until recently.
Another limitation: The data reflect only students who received federal loans or grants—a sliver of the population at some top universities. For instance, less than 15% of Harvard undergraduates received federal aid in 2013.
Proponents of the scorecard say the new data are essential to giving families more information about the return on their investment.
“It might not tell us how every student from a college does,” said Ben Miller, a senior director at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “But if I’m someone looking at getting a loan, I would probably want to know what I’ll make.”
But Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, a nonprofit that studies the social sciences and education, said the median salary figures aren’t particularly helpful for evaluating schools that offer widely diverse fields of study. Those colleges may send some students into high-paying fields and others into low-paying ones. For instance, the scorecard doesn’t tell families whether an English major from Princeton makes more than an English major from Swarthmore College.
“What you study is at least as important and maybe even more important than where you study,” he said.
Administrators at some liberal arts colleges attribute the salaries of their graduates in part to student interest in public service. Greg Brown, chief financial officer at Swarthmore, said that many students who select the Pennsylvania college are already civic-minded. There, the median salary is $49,400.
Mr. Brown speculates that Ivy League salaries are skewed upward by students heading to Wall Street. Most of those schools had a median earnings figure above $70,000.
“Our students tend to not be as interested in careers in finance,” he said.
Students at elite liberal arts colleges don’t earn as much 10 years after enrollment as those at highly selective research universities, such as the University of California, Berkeley, above, a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data found.
The Education Department also didn’t release earnings figures for a period longer than 10 years after students start college. Officials at liberal arts schools said that many of their students pursue advanced degrees, which can give them a midcareer earnings boost.
That may be the case at Oberlin College, according to Ben Jones, a spokesman for the Ohio school. Its median earnings—about $38,000—was among the lowest in the Journal’s analysis of elite schools.
Mr. Jones said that roughly 75% of the school’s alumni attend graduate school within a decade of finishing their undergraduate degrees, and often pursue public service careers before entering graduate programs.
Reihonna Frost, a 2008 Oberlin grad who majored in psychology, had several low-paying jobs before starting graduate school this year. She made under $30,000 a year in her first job, working with children at risk for developmental delays. Her next jobs, including a stint as a research assistant at the University of Chicago, paid similarly. She recently began a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts.
Ms. Frost said she received federal financial aid as well as grants from Oberlin. She graduated with about $20,000 in debt, most of which she said she has paid off.
At many liberal arts colleges, “there is a real aversion to the idea of occupational training,” she said.
UVA fraternity files $25M defamation suit against Rolling Stone magazine
The fraternity that was the focus of a debunked Rolling Stone article about a gang rape filed a $25 million lawsuit against the magazine Monday, saying the piece made the frat and its members "the object of an avalanche of condemnation worldwide."
The complaint, filed in Charlottesville Circuit Court, also names Sabrina Rubin Erdely as a defendant. It is the third filed in response to the November 2014 article entitled "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA." Three individual fraternity members and recent graduates of the University of Virginia are suing for at least $225,000 each, and a university associate dean who claims she was portrayed as the "chief villain" is suing the magazine for more than $7.5 million.
Rolling Stone spokeswoman Kathryn Brenner said the magazine has no comment on the lawsuit.
The article described in chilling detail a student's account of being raped by seven men at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012. It portrayed university officials as insensitive and unresponsive to the plight of the student, who was identified only as Jackie, and suggested that the attack was emblematic of a culture of sexual violence at the elite public university.
The story horrified university leaders, sparked protests at the school and prompted a new round of national discussions about sexual assault on U.S. campuses.
However, details in the lengthy narrative did not hold up under scrutiny by other media organizations. For example, Phi Kappa Psi did not host any social event at its house on the day of the alleged gang rape as the article claimed. Additional discrepancies led Rolling Stone to commission an examination by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, which said in a blistering report that Rolling Stone failed at virtually every step, from the reporting by Erdely to an editing process that included high-ranking staffers.
The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism report said the magazine's shortcomings "encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking."
The article said a woman named "Jackie" was gang-raped at the fraternity house. Police have said there is no evidence the attack took place.
The journalism school's analysis was accompanied by a statement from Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana apologizing for the failures and retracting the November 2014 story.
Some University of Virginia students previously said none of that will erase the article's repercussions.
"I think the real casualty of the report is the University of Virginia's trust in journalism," said Abraham Axler of New York City, president of the university's Student Council. "I don't think any University of Virginia student going through this will ever read an article the same way."
An investigation by Charlottesville police also found no evidence to back up Jackie's claims. Despite the retractions and apologizes, the fraternity said the damage was already done.
"These allegations did not concern harmless fraternity pranks," the fraternity said in the lawsuit. "These were allegations of ritualized and criminal gang-rape that Rolling Stone knew were the predicates for annihilation of Phi Kappa Psi and widespread persecution of its members."
The complaint alleges that the magazine set out to find a story of "graphic and violent rape" at an elite university and rejected other possible stories that were not sensational enough.
"Rolling Stone and Erdely had an agenda, and they were recklessly oblivious to the harm they would cause innocent victims in their ruthless pursuit of that agenda," the lawsuit said.
Posted by jonjayray at 12:44 AM
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Irrational racial upheaval at University of Missouri
Some white students allegedly yelled racial slurs at some black students late at night so the university president is responsible for that??
Just hours after University of Missouri (MU) president Tim Wolfe was driven from office over racial tensions at the school, the chancellor of the school’s flagship Columbia campus announced that he will be stepping down as well, increasing the body count in a gruesome day for the university. Meanwhile, activists at the school say their struggle is not over and that they plan to release even more demands for the school in the near future.
R. Bowen Loftin will leave his post at the end of the year, after which vice chancellor Hank Foley will take over on an interim basis until a new chancellor is chosen.
The announcement came just a few hours after nine deans of the Columbia campus sent a letter to the school’s Board of Curators calling for his dismissal, citing the repeated crises that have rocked the campus. The deans accused Loftin, who has only been at MU since February 2014, of creating a “toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation.”
Like the departed Wolfe, Loftin had been criticized for not doing enough to address racial issues on campus. For example, he was attacked for not endorsing protest actions following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and for not instituting a diversity course requirement for students. But Loftin has also been attacked for non-racial reasons, such as the school’s decision to cancel contracts with Planned Parenthood and an attempt to cancel health insurance for graduate students.
Still, the fact that Loftin was forced out today and not later is almost certainly due to the uproar created by the decision of MU’s football team to go on strike until President Wolfe was forced from office, which led to an emergency meeting of the Board of Curators in an attempt to end what has ballooned into a huge crisis.
Along with the departures, the school’s Board of Curators has also announced a host of initiatives intended to assuage activists. Among these new initiatives is the hiring of a full-time chief diversity officer, efforts to hire and retain more non-white faculty, and the creation of diversity task forces at each MU campus.
This may not be enough for activists, though, who have demanded the school institute a quota system for hiring blacks and compel students and faculty to participate in a “diversity and inclusion curriculum” that will be created by non-white students and faculty members.
Already, the leaders of the group Concerned Students 1950 say they plan to release a new list of demands for the school to follow-up on Wolfe’s departure.
Professor fired for being white: ‘Black Power’ administrator costs university $4.8 million
A historically black college in St. Louis, Mo., has been forced to cough up $4.85 million to a fired professor when a court found the woman was fired for being white.
Beverly Wilkins was a professor at Harris-Stowe State University’s College of Education from 2001 until 2010, when she was fired. In 2012, though, she struck back with a lawsuit, saying her departure wasn’t for budgetary or performance reasons but instead was due to an administrator’s vendetta against the white race.
According to Wilkins’ lawsuit, she started to be pushed out at Harris-Stowe after the college hired Latisha Smith as a faculty member in 2007. Smith was quickly promoted to assistant dean and then dean of the College of Education, and Wilkins said she subscribed to a “black power” ideology that drove her to purge the college of all whites. In 2010 Wilkins was fired, with Smith blaming the move on state budget cuts. Wilkins says every white professor at the school was ultimately let go, except for one protected by tenure. Meanwhile, only one black professor was let go, and it was due to a sex crime conviction.
While Harris-Stowe’s budget was used to justify Wilkins termination, shortly after she was let go the school hired two new (black) professors to teach her classes, at a combined salary higher than what Wilkins earned.
Smith attempted to conceal her behavior by deleting emails, but some slipped through the cracks and provided critical evidence for the lawsuit. In one email, a black instructor complained to Smith about her egregious prejudice.
“I am floored to know that we have an interim leader that has voiced her prejudice so openly to me and others,” the email, published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says.
Smith no longer serves as dean, but her acts have still put the school on the hook for millions.
The ruling, delivered by a jury, awards Wilkins $1.35 million in compensation for lost wages and emotional distress, as well as $3.5 million in punitive damages. The ruling could potentially be modified by a judge.
Neither Wilkins nor Harris-Stowe are commenting on the ruling, though Harris-Stowe board member Ronald Norwood described the outcome as “regrettable” in a statement to the Post-Dispatch, suggesting the school might appeal.
The New Intolerance of Student Activism
A fight over Halloween costumes at Yale has devolved into an effort to censor dissenting views
Professor Nicholas Christakis lives at Yale, where he presides over one of its undergraduate colleges. His wife Erika, a lecturer in early childhood education, shares that duty. They reside among students and are responsible for shaping residential life. And before Halloween, some students complained to them that Yale administrators were offering heavy-handed advice on what Halloween costumes to avoid.
Erika Christakis reflected on the frustrations of the students, drew on her scholarship and career experience, and composed an email inviting the community to think about the controversy through an intellectual lens that few if any had considered. Her message was a model of relevant, thoughtful, civil engagement.
For her trouble, a faction of students are now trying to get the couple removed from their residential positions, which is to say, censured and ousted from their home on campus. Hundreds of Yale students are attacking them, some with hateful insults, shouted epithets, and a campaign of public shaming. In doing so, they have shown an illiberal streak that flows from flaws in their well-intentioned ideology.
But none of that excuses the Yale activists who’ve bullied these particular faculty in recent days. They’re behaving more like Reddit parodies of “social-justice warriors” than coherent activists, and I suspect they will look back on their behavior with chagrin. The purpose of writing about their missteps now is not to condemn these students. Their young lives are tremendously impressive by any reasonable measure. They are unfortunate to live in an era in which the normal mistakes of youth are unusually visible. To keep the focus where it belongs I won’t be naming any of them here.
The focus belongs on the flawed ideas that they’ve absorbed.
With world-altering research to support, graduates who assume positions of extraordinary power, and a $24.9 billion endowment to marshal for better or worse, Yale administrators face huge opportunity costs as they parcel out their days. Many hours must be spent looking after undergraduates, who experience problems as serious as clinical depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and sexual assault. Administrators also help others, who struggle with financial stress or being the first in their families to attend college.
It is therefore remarkable that no fewer than 13 administrators took scarce time to compose, circulate, and co-sign a letter advising adult students on how to dress for Halloween, a cause that misguided campus activists mistake for a social-justice priority.
“Parents who wonder why college tuition is so high and why it increases so much each year may be less than pleased to learn that their sons and daughters will have an opportunity to interact with more administrators and staffers—but not more professors,” Benjamin Ginsberg observed in Washington Monthly back in 2011. “For many of these career managers, promoting teaching and research is less important than expanding their own administrative domains.” All over America, dispensing Halloween costume advice is now an annual ritual performed by college administrators.
Erika Christakis was questioning that practice when she composed her email, adding nuance to a conversation that some students were already having. Traditionally, she began, Halloween is both a day of subversion for young people and a time when adults exert their control over their behavior: from bygone, overblown fears about candy spiked with poison or razorblades to a more recent aversion to the sugar in candy.
“This year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween,” she wrote. “I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”
It’s hard to imagine a more deferential way to begin voicing her alternative view. And having shown her interlocutors that she respects them and shares their ends, she explained her misgivings about the means of telling college kids what to wear on Halloween:
I wanted to share my thoughts with you from a totally different angle, as an educator concerned with the developmental stages of childhood and young adulthood.
As a former preschool teacher... it is hard for me to give credence to a claim that there is something objectionably “appropriative” about a blonde haired child’s wanting to be Mulan for a day. Pretend play is the foundation of most cognitive tasks, and it seems to me that we want to be in the business of encouraging the exercise of imagination, not constraining it.
I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick. But, then, I wonder what is the statute of limitations on dreaming of dressing as Tiana the Frog Princess if you aren’t a black girl from New Orleans? Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions; they seem unanswerable. Or at the least, they put us on slippery terrain that I, for one, prefer not to cross.
Which is my point.
I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others. I can’t defend them anymore than you could defend yours.
When I was in college, a position of this sort taken by a faculty member would likely have been regarded as a show of respect for all students and their ability to think for themselves. She added, “even if we could agree on how to avoid offense,” there may be something lost if administrators try to stamp out all offense-giving behavior:
I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious... a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people's capacity—in your capacity to exercise selfcensure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?
In her view, students would be better served if colleges showed more faith in their capacity to work things out themselves, which would help them to develop cognitive skills. “Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are hallmarks of a free and open society,” she wrote. “But—again, speaking as a child development specialist—I think there might be something missing in our discourse about … free speech (including how we dress) on campus, and it is this: What does this debate about Halloween costumes say about our view of young adults, of their strength and judgment? In other words: Whose business is it to control the forms of costumes of young people? It's not mine, I know that.”
That’s the measured, thoughtful pre-Halloween email that caused Yale students to demand that Nicholas and Erika Christakis resign their roles at Silliman College. That’s how Nicholas Christakis came to stand in an emotionally charged crowd of Silliman students, where he attempted to respond to the fallout from the email his wife sent.
Watching footage of that meeting, a fundamental disagreement is revealed between professor and undergrads. Christakis believes that he has an obligation to listen to the views of the students, to reflect upon them, and to either respond that he is persuaded or to articulate why he has a different view. Put another way, he believes that one respects students by engaging them in earnest dialogue. But many of the students believe that his responsibility is to hear their demands for an apology and to issue it. They see anything short of a confession of wrongdoing as unacceptable. In their view, one respects students by validating their subjective feelings.
Notice that the student position allows no room for civil disagreement.
Given this set of assumptions, perhaps it is no surprise that the students behave like bullies even as they see themselves as victims. This is most vividly illustrated in a video clip that begins with one student saying, “Walk away, he doesn’t deserve to be listened to.”
At Yale, every residential college has a “master”––a professor who lives in residence with their family, and is responsible for its academic, intellectual, and social life. “Masters work with students to shape each residential college community,” Yale states, “bringing their own distinct social, cultural, and intellectual influences to the colleges.” The approach is far costlier than what’s on offer at commuter schools, but aims to create a richer intellectual environment where undergrads can learn from faculty and one another even outside the classroom.
“In your position as master,” one student says, “it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students who live in Silliman. You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?!”
“No,” he said, “I don’t agree with that.”
The student explodes, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position?! Who the fuck hired you?! You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master you should step down! It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here. You are not doing that!”
The Yale student appears to believe that creating an intellectual space and a home are at odds with one another. But the entire model of a residential college is premised on the notion that it’s worthwhile for students to reside in a campus home infused with intellectualism, even though creating it requires lavishing extraordinary resources on youngsters who are already among the world’s most advantaged. It is no accident that masters are drawn from the ranks of the faculty.
The student finally declares, “You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting!” Bear in mind that this is a student described by peers with phrases like, to cite one example, “I've never known her to be anything other than extremely kind, level-headed, and rational.” But her apparent embrace of an ideology that tends toward intolerance produce a very different set of behaviors.
In the face of hateful personal attacks like that, Nicholas Christakis listened and gave restrained, civil responses. He later magnanimously tweeted, “No one, especially no students exercising right to speech, should be judged just on basis of short video clip.” (He is right.) And he invited students who still disagreed with him, and with his wife, to continue the conversation at a brunch to be hosted in their campus home.
In “The Coddling of the American Mind,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argued that too many college students engage in “catastrophizing,” which is to say, turning common events into nightmarish trials or claiming that easily bearable events are too awful to bear. After citing examples, they concluded, “smart people do, in fact, overreact to innocuous speech, make mountains out of molehills, and seek punishment for anyone whose words make anyone else feel uncomfortable.”
What Yale students did next vividly illustrates that phenomenon.
According to The Washington Post, “several students in Silliman said they cannot bear to live in the college anymore.” These are young people who live in safe, heated buildings with two Steinway grand pianos, an indoor basketball court, a courtyard with hammocks and picnic tables, a computer lab, a dance studio, a gym, a movie theater, a film-editing lab, billiard tables, an art gallery, and four music practice rooms. But they can’t bear this setting that millions of people would risk their lives to inhabit because one woman wrote an email that hurt their feelings?
Another Silliman resident declared in a campus publication, “I have had to watch my friends defend their right to this institution. This email and the subsequent reaction to it have interrupted their lives. I have friends who are not going to class, who are not doing their homework, who are losing sleep, who are skipping meals, and who are having breakdowns.” One feels for these students. But if an email about Halloween costumes has them skipping class and suffering breakdowns, either they need help from mental-health professionals or they’ve been grievously ill-served by debilitating ideological notions they’ve acquired about what ought to cause them pain.
The student next described what she thinks residential life at Yale should be. Her words: “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” In fact, students were perfectly free to talk about their pain. Some felt entitled to something more, and that is what prolonged the debate—not a faculty member who’d rather have been anywhere else.
As students saw it, their pain ought to have been the decisive factor in determining the acceptability of the Halloween email. They thought their request for an apology ought to have been sufficient to secure one. Who taught them that it is righteous to pillory faculty for failing to validate their feelings, as if disagreement is tantamount to disrespect? Their mindset is anti-diversity, anti-pluralism, and anti-tolerance, a seeming data-point in favor of April Kelly-Woessner’s provocative argument that “young people today are less politically tolerant than their parents’ generation.”
Hundreds of Yale students have now signed an open letter to Erika Christakis that is alarming in its own right, not least because it is so poorly reasoned. “Your email equates old traditions of using harmful stereotypes and tropes to further degrade marginalized people, to preschoolers playing make believe,” the letter inaccurately summarizes. “This both trivializes the harm done by these tropes and infantilizes the student body to which the request was made.”
Up is down. The person saying that adult men and women should work Halloween out among themselves is accused of infantilizing them. “You fail to distinguish the difference between cosplaying fictional characters and misrepresenting actual groups of people,” the letter continues, though Erika Christakis specifically wrote in her Halloween email, “I suppose we could agree that there is a difference between fantasizing about an individual character vs. appropriating a culture, wholesale, the latter of which could be seen as (tacky)(offensive)(jejeune)(hurtful), take your pick.”
Hundreds of Yalies signed on to the blatant misrepresentations of her text. The open letter continues:
In your email, you ask students to “look away” if costumes are offensive, as if the degradation of our cultures and people, and the violence that grows out of it is something that we can ignore. We were told to meet the offensive parties head on, without suggesting any modes or means to facilitate these discussions to promote understanding.
This beggars belief. Yale students told to talk to each other if they find a peer’s costume offensive helplessly declare that they’re unable to do so without an authority figure specifying “any modes or means to facilitate these discussions,” as if they’re Martians unfamiliar with a concept as rudimentary as disagreeing in conversation, even as they publish an open letter that is, itself, a mode of facilitating discussion.
“We are not asking to be coddled,” the open letter insists. “The real coddling is telling the privileged majority on campus that they do not have to engage with the brutal pasts that are a part of the costumes they seek to wear.” But no one asserted that students should not be questioned about offensive costumes––only that fellow Yale students, not meddling administrators, should do the questioning, conduct the conversations, and shape the norms for themselves. “We simply ask that our existences not be invalidated on campus,” the letter says, catastrophizing.
This notion that one’s existence can be invalidated by a fellow 18-year-old donning an offensive costume is perhaps the most disempowering notion aired at Yale.
It ought to be disputed rather than indulged for the sake of these students, who need someone to teach them how empowered they are by virtue of their mere enrollment; that no one is capable of invalidating their existence, full stop; that their worth is inherent, not contingent; that everyone is offended by things around them; that they are capable of tremendous resilience; and that most possess it now despite the disempowering ideology foisted on them by well-intentioned, wrongheaded ideologues encouraging them to imagine that they are not privileged.
Here’s one of the ways that white men at Yale are most privileged of all: When a white male student at an elite college says that he feels disempowered, the first impulse of the campus left is to show him the extent of his power and privilege. When any other students say they feel disempowered, the campus left’s impulse is to validate their statements. This does a huge disservice to everyone except white male students. It’s baffling that so few campus activists seem to realize this drawback of emphasizing victim status even if college administrators sometimes treat it as currency.
That isn’t to dismiss all complaints by Yale students. If contested claims that black students were turned away from a party due to their skin color are true, for example, that is outrageous. If any discrete group of students is ever discriminated against, or disproportionately victimized by campus crime, or graded more harshly by professors, then of course students should protest and remedies should be implemented.
Some Yalies are defending their broken activist culture by seizing on more defensible reasons for being upset. “The protests are not really about Halloween costumes or a frat party,” Yale senior Aaron Lewis writes. “They’re about a mismatch between the Yale we find in admissions brochures and the Yale we experience every day. They’re about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long. The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn’t.”
But regardless of other controversies at Yale, its students owe Nicholas and Erika Christakis an apology. And they owe apologies to other objects of their intolerance, too.
The most recent incident occurred over the weekend. During a conference on freedom of speech, Greg Lukianoff reportedly said, “Looking at the reaction to Erika Christakis’s email, you would have thought someone wiped out an entire Indian village.” An attendee posted that quote to Facebook. “The online Facebook post led a group of Native American women, other students of color and their supporters to protest the conference in an impromptu gathering outside of LC 102, where the Buckley event was taking place,” the Yale Daily News reported.
A bit later the protesters disgraced themselves:
Around 5:45 p.m., as attendees began to leave the conference, students chanted the phrase “Genocide is not a joke” and held up written signs of the same words. Taking Howard’s reminder into account, protesters formed a clear path through which attendants could leave.
A large group of students eventually gathered outside of the building on High Street, where several attendees were spat on, according to Buckley fellows who were present during the conference. One Buckley Fellow added that he was spat on and called a racist. Another, who identifies as a minority himself, said he has been labeled a “traitor” by several.
These students were offended by one person’s words, and were free to offer their own words in turn. That wasn’t enough for them, so they spat on different people who listened to those words and called one minority student a traitor to his race. In their muddled ideology, the Yale activists had to destroy the safe space to save it.
Posted by jonjayray at 2:01 AM
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Ithaca College Prof. at Cornell Lecture: Agriculture is ‘Capitalist Racialized Patriarchy’
Just another loud old Jewish Leftist lady. There is no indication that she knows anything about agriculture. Just an attention-seeker, as far as I can see. Is she aware that agriculture feeds her?
Zillah Eisenstein, a professor politics at Ithaca College, declared in a lecture last Friday that agriculture is “capitalist, racialized patriarchy.”
The lecture was titled “Thinking about Hetero-Racist Misogyny in ‘Agriculture'” and took place at nearby Cornell University as part of a seminar series on gender issues in the practice of agriculture.
Eisenstein also declared that if war and climate change are extinguished, then there will be “room for revolutionary agriculture.”
Though an author of 12 books with titles such as Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism and her memoir Manmade Breast Cancers, Eisenstein has never worked in or studied agriculture. The professor explained that she was speaking as part of a seminar series on women in agriculture by stating, “[m]y point here is you’re thinking agriculture and I’m thinking capitalist racialized patriarchy.”
Eisenstein also declared that if war and climate change are extinguished, then there will be “room for revolutionary agriculture.”
Most of her lecture was devoted to the concept of intersectionality, or the idea that different forms of discrimination and oppression are interrelated and cannot be understood independently of each other. Eisenstein mostly digressed to philosophical ruminations about capitalism, racism, sexism, imperialism, neo-liberal democracy, and Marxism.
Eisenstein said after being invited to give the lecture, she began thinking about the topic of agriculture by first asking what is intellectually and politically “invisible” in agriculture, and then positing the question of what happens to the “notion of gender” in different agricultural sectors.
“The idea here is gender… can’t and doesn’t stay static, and yet of course it does,” Eisenstein said. “[T]he whole notion of the sexual division of labor that is both implied in the concept of agriculture and also stands outside it.” A significant portion of Eisenstein’s lecture contained such contradictions in terms, which the professor suggested would aid one in analyzing agriculture.
“The notion again [is] of a society, of a world system, of a global economy that talks about what is produced, and talks so much less about what is silently reproduced,” she said.
From there, Eisenstein began to speak more about capitalism and her own political theories, lamenting in particular about how “politics is defined by your position on capitalism [and] never about bodies,” and about the United States’ “fascist democracy.” She turned her critique towards the patriarchy, which she said makes race, gender, and sex invisible to those who regularly practice and study agriculture. Eisenstein said this is the case because the patriarchy is “the flipping of reality [and the] silencing and making invisible particularly women of color.”
Eisenstein challenged the audience to “invert the false universality” of topics such as agriculture and capitalism, and instead focus on more specific ideas, like those intersecting race, gender, and sex. She expressed her dissatisfaction with the Pope on this front for his focus on economic inequality, which she says has the effect of ignoring gender and racial inequalities.
According to Eisenstein, because women are on average poorer than men, the real problem society faces is not the “universal” economic inequality but the “specific” gender inequality. Later, the professor suggested that rather than thinking in universal terms, as man has for most of its modern intellectual history, it would be better to think in “polyversal” terms.
Toward the end of the lecture, after expounding on the differences between “same” and “similar,” Eisenstein summarily declared: “Equality that is the same—I don’t want it.”
During the ensuing Q&A session, Eisenstein fielded several questions about her views on class struggle, the parallels between the patriarchy’s dominance of the female body and of agriculture, and about encouraging more people of color to study agriculture and food science. In response to some of these questions, Eisenstein delved into even further-removed digressions, such as comparing Guantanamo Bay to Nazi concentration camps. The professor also took shots at the Republican Party throughout her speech, saying towards the end that she prefers working with progressive people of color and “really wouldn’t care to have [Dr. Ben] Carson on my team”.
Catholic High School Football Program Banned From Praying Plans To Defy Rule
A North Dakota Catholic High School football program has been prohibited from praying over the loud speaker at Saturday’s playoff game, but they said Friday they intend to pray regardless of the consequences.
The North Dakota High School Activities Association, a public entity which hosts the football league of high schools, has banned praying over the loud speaker during playoff games. Still, Shanley High School, a private Catholic school in Fargo, North Dakota has prayed over the loud speaker every game during the regular season.
But now that it is playoff time, the school says the association specifically told them they were not allowed to pray at Saturday’s game, which will be held at Shanley High’s field.
Shanley High School has teamed up with the Thomas More Society, a religious liberty legal group, and intends to defy the rule. The school sent a letter to the association Friday informing them of their intention to disobey, and that letter was provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Shanley High School argues in the letter they are clearly a religious institution not subject to separation of church and state requirements.
“However, our understanding is that the association’s position is that playoff games are ‘sponsored’ by the association itself, and that that ‘sponsorship’ somehow converts Shanley’s football field into state property and Shanley into a state actor,” the letter reads. “This ‘sponsorship’ is illusory; in all material respects, Shanley will be hosting the game exactly as it does in the regular season—it will, for example, run ticket sales, organize and sell concessions, provide an announcer to announce the game, and provide down markers, for example.”
While the association says allowing the prayers would violate the Establishement Clause as an official endorsement of religion, the school argues that actually denying the right to pray is the real violation of the First Amendment.
“Additionally, based on our preliminary review, this prohibition is a violation of the free speech and free religious exercise rights of the school, as a private and religious entity,” the letter reads. “The Supreme Court has clearly held that it is unconstitutional to require private entities to give up their religious identity in order to participate in government sponsored programs.”
The association did not immediately respond for request for comment. The school argues that no reasonable observer would come to a football game at a Catholic school and view a prayer as a government endorsement of religion.
“And they will be looking down on a massive Christian cross, featured in the Shanley crest, which is emblazoned in the center of the field at the fifty-yard line,” the letter reads. “Therefore, it is our opinion that the distinction between the regular season and playoffs has no merit in supporting the association’s assertion that it is required to treat playoffs differently in order to avoid an Establishment Clause violation. In short, no one attending a football game at this proudly Catholic high school will mistake it for a courthouse, city hall, or public high school.”
This conflict comes just a week after a Washington football coach was put on leave for praying midfield after games, despite his district’s warnings.
Australia: "Alternative" school in meltdown
ABOUT a third of students will leave a Reservoir primary school that teaches transcendental meditation amid a host of complaints.
Maharishi School principal Frances Clarke confirmed a third of the school's 97 students would not return in 2016 "for various reasons, not just because they have concerns about the school".
Ms Clarke said the school had hired an education consultant to review all aspects of the school.
The private school, founded in 1996 before moving to Reservoir in 2002, offers daily meditation, small class sizes, no religious affiliation and consciousness-based education.
The student exodus comes as parents voice concerns with a lack of student assessment, poor record keeping and gender-segregated classes.
The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) - the authority responsible for ensuring education meets quality standards - last week confirmed it had received four complaints about the school.
Parent Lefa Singleton Norton said the school's "deeply unhappy parent body" was concerned with a lack of policies and procedures at the school, and a decision to separate some classes by sex.
"Our biggest problem was the gender-segregation stuff, that's kind of where this all started for us, and then it wasn't until trying to deal with those problems that it became apparent just how lax the school was with regards to policies and procedures," Ms Singleton Norton said.
The school recently axed single-sex classes following parent complaints.
One parent, who asked not to be named, said she would not re-enrol her two children after discovering the school had kept little-to-no test or assessment records.
"On the 19th of October I sent the board a formal request saying, `OK, the school claims they've done these tests, the school claims to have a detailed file on my student, I want it by tomorrow'," the parent said. "What I got was just a ramshackle collection of some literacy assessments and no maths assessments.
"Her (maths) workbook was almost entirely unmarked for the first two semesters of the year."
The principal, Ms Clarke, said she was "disappointed" the student in question's workbook had not been marked for "about four months".
She said the school had held a public meeting, reinstated the Parents and Friends Association, and was working through the constitution and taking on board what parents' concerns are.
Posted by jonjayray at 2:03 AM
Monday, November 09, 2015
Massachusetts shoots the messenger
How do they know that they "were turning away some great students whose standardized test scores did not reflect their ability to succeed”? What crystal ball do they have which outsmarts the SAT? It's nonsense of course.
But it's easy to translate what they mean: "We were turning away presentable but dumb black students whom we thought might have a chance at university". So they are scrapping the messenger (the SAT) that was telling them that such students really are incapable at university
The University of Massachusetts Lowell and Salem State University have both dropped the SAT requirement for admissions this fall on a temporary basis, reports The Boston Globe .
The universities are the latest to join the trend — hundreds of schools have abandoned the standardized test, a topic of heated debate. Supporters say the test is a good way to compare students from a variety of backgrounds; Critics say it favors kids from wealthy, well-educated families, reports the Globe.
“We were turning away some great students whose standardized test scores did not reflect their ability to succeed,” Kerri Johnston, associate dean of enrollment and director of admissions at UMass Lowell, wrote in a letter to high school counselors last month, reported the Globe.
What This College President Thinks Obama’s College Scorecard Is Missing
The U.S. Department of Education has released its “College Scorecard,” a searchable college-affordability database that President Obama described as containing “reliable data on every institution of higher education.” Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.
I can say so as a president of a college excluded from the scorecard. This scorecard generally poses risks to institutional autonomy and may shape the American higher education landscape in unexpected, negative ways.
Nearly two centuries ago, writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr penned the words, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
For independent Grove City College, a highly ranked private liberal arts college that fought a higher education legal battle with the Department of Education all the way to the Supreme Court in 1984, this proverb is all too real.
Back then, I was a recent graduate of Grove City College; today, I serve as its president. And once again, Grove City College must respond to the long arm of the federal government in higher education, as we did three decades ago.
Because Grove City College does not accept federal financial aid as a matter of principle, we are excluded from the scorecard. We understand that accepting federal student aid opens colleges and universities to a myriad of federal regulations.
Our 1984 Supreme Court case (GCC v. Bell) was about that issue—freedom from intrusive and expensive federal regulation—and we decided to raise private support and use private student loans to maintain independence from the federal government.
As one of my predecessors, Dr. John Moore, observed in 1996 when Grove City College withdrew from the federal student loan program, “[t]here is no way to be sure that the government would not add regulations that would strike at the heart of the College’s mission. As a private, Christian college, we have legitimate concern about federal interference in what we teach and how we teach it.”
Today, most Americans might find it admirable that our 2,500 students do not take federal tax dollars to fund their degrees. And yet, sadly, the American people cannot learn about Grove City College via the Department of Education’s scorecard, despite Obama’s boast that it includes every college and university.
This means students are not learning about a valuable educational choice. Ironically, as the regulatory burden on higher education increases, our independence as an institution has increased in importance and economic value: Our tuition is far below the national average, 95 percent of our last two graduating classes were employed or in graduate school within six months, and our alumni earnings are in the top quartile nationally according to PayScale.com.
The federal government’s intrusion into this realm carries a real threat to institutional autonomy. In 2013, before settling on the College Scorecard, the Obama administration proposed a comprehensive federal ratings system to measure accessibility, affordability, and outcomes at all American colleges and universities.
The results of this system would have determined institutional eligibility for participation in the federal student aid program. Smaller private colleges that focus on classroom teaching tend to be tuition-dependent, making federal student aid their financial lifeblood. Poor performance on the proposed ratings system would have spelled doom for many private colleges, thereby diminishing a great strength of the American system of higher education: its institutional diversity.
The proposed ratings system was eventually scrapped in response to the objections of the higher education community, yet shades of its heavy-handed determinism remain in the scorecard. The federal government is now the purveyor of an official website that sanctions one set of institutional performance criteria in a one-size-fits-all manner. Colleges of all stripes—public and private, large and small, urban and rural, religiously affiliated and non-sectarian—are evaluated by the same criteria, regardless of institutional mission or context.
The danger is that the public will view the College scorecard as an objective consumer information tool, and colleges will focus on the outcomes contained therein to the detriment of other less quantifiable—but equally important—institutional objectives.
In addition to financial indicators, at Grove City College we consider other indicators just as important for measuring how well we are accomplishing our mission. At our 2009 conference “Faith, Freedom, and Higher Education,” Professor Gary Scott Smith, Ph.D., said, “The mission of today’s Christian colleges is extremely challenging and incredibly important. They are called to prepare well-educated, committed Christians who can serve God lovingly, joyfully, courageously, and diligently in a world with enormous spiritual, material, and physical needs.”
In short, we measure the value of education by the holistic value it provides to our students, to the nation, to the world—to the common good.
Performance metrics and accountability in higher education are critical to quality and public confidence. As the general public evaluates the College Scorecard, it would be wise to consider the cost of the expanded federal role it represents. Grove City College has demonstrated that excellence does not have to be bankrolled by the federal government.
Upon further review, we believe that the public will conclude that appropriate measures of educational quality do not have to be decreed by the federal government, either.
Australia Tops Education Marks In Global Prosperity Report
Australia's education system has been ranked the best in the world by a new report into global prosperity.
The Legatum Prosperity Index, assembled by the Legatum Institute, bills itself as "a uniquely multi-dimensional picture of the world’s nations," ranking 142 countries in economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, personal freedom, safety and security, health and social capital.
Australia is ranked seventh in the overall prosperity ranking, but was awarded top marks for education. The education ranking was determined through analysing data around class size, girls to boys enrolment ratio, secondary and tertiary enrolment, perceptions that children learn and satisfaction with educational quality.
Aside from the chart-topping rank in education, the rest of Australia's marks were hardly impressive. Australia ranked fourth in social capital -- which includes volunteering, charitable donations, helping strangers, trust in others and marriage -- ninth in personal freedom and 10th in governance, but failed to crack the top 10 in any other category.
We ranked 12th in economy, 14th in entrepreneurship and opportunity, 15th in health and 15th in safety and security.
Australian ranked seventh overall out of the 142 countries, the third year in a row we have occupied the #7 spot.
The top positions were, predictably, dominated by Scandinavian nations. Norway topped the list, followed by Switzerland and Denmark, but our trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand now occupy fourth spot on the global prosperity index.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:48 AM
Sunday, November 08, 2015
Headteachers are drafting in former pupils to plug teaching gaps amid fears of decade-long staff shortage in British classrooms
Schools are turning to former pupils to plug gaps in their staffing amid fears of a decade of teacher shortages.
Heads are urging ex-students to train so they can draft them in to take lessons, while others use financial incentives to ‘poach’ staff.
The increasingly desperate measures come as experts have warned of recruitment problems for another ten years.
A new Department for Education teacher supply model shows that the net number of extra secondary staff needed yearly will peak in 2019 at 24,550 - a five per cent rise on 2015.
This includes those returning to teaching and new trainees. However, the government has already failed to meet its targets for secondary trainees in 2013 and 2014.
And the number of teachers needed in secondaries each year will continue to be higher than the current - unmet - demand until at least 2026, according to an analysis by the Times Educational Supplement.
At Parmiter’s School in Watford, Hertfordshire, former students are now teaching and training to be teachers.
Jan Stevens, deputy head teacher, told the TES: ‘We’ve always invited students to join the Old Parmiterians, but it used to be just a social network.
‘Now, in the past three or four years, we have started actively contacting former students and asking them if they want to become teachers.
‘They don’t bypass anything. They still have to apply through Ucas. But it encourages them to apply. Sometimes it may not even have occurred to them to become a teacher.’
In his previous role as chief executive of the Cabot Learning Federation in Bristol, Sir David Carter, now regional schools commissioner for the South West, ran a year-long work experience course for Year 12 students who were interested in teaching.
Sir David said: ‘Some of them were almost as good as our trainee teachers.’
Meanwhile, Vic Goddard, principal of Passmores Academy and star of TV show, Educating Essex, has stopped running ‘best practice days’ - where teachers spend an inset day at another school - after two members of his staff were poached.
Last year, a Passmores maths trainee was also offered a higher salary at the school where she carried out her second placement.
Mr Goddard said: ‘I am one maths teacher short, so I understand the pressure. But my integrity and reputation is more important than one maths teacher.’
Teacher workforce expert, Professor John Howson, said: ‘We are looking at the prospect of another decade of teacher shortages.
‘I am seriously worried about how schools are going to fill places.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘The number of teachers in England’s schools is at a record high, with 13,100 more than in 2010, and we are making sustained progress in secondary recruitment.
‘We have recruited more teachers in most secondary subjects, including English, maths, physics and computing, than we did last year.
‘On top of this, we have also seen the highest number of people returning to teaching than ever before, with 14,100 returning this year.’
Feds Rule to Force High School Girls to Undress Next to Naked Boys Who Think They’re Girls
One imagines this will go to court
On Monday, the federal government declared itself fit for the madhouse by mandating that a Chicago high school allow a full biological male into the girls’ locker room for all purposes, including nudity. This biological male, the feds determined, was different because he thinks he is a female.
The feds have ruled that the presence of a twig-and-berries in the girls’ locker room has been mandated by Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Yes, ladies and gents and non-cisgenders: it turns out that the battle against sexism enshrined in the ill-written Title IX was actually intended to force underage young women to look at the penises and testicles of mentally ill boys.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights spent almost two years checking out the Township High School District 211 because of the transgender “girl.” He filed a complaint with the feds in 2013 after the school refused “unrestricted access” to the girls’ locker room. The district eventually agreed to allow the boy into the girls’ room so long as he used a privacy curtain while disrobing.
That wasn’t good enough. The feds determined that this still constituted discrimination. Why? As John Knight, director of the alphabet-soup LGBT and AIDS Project at the ACLU, stated, this was “blatant discrimination.” He explained (well, we think it’s a he, unless he identifies differently today):
It’s not voluntary; it’s mandatory for her. It’s one thing to say to all the girls, “You can choose if you want some extra privacy,” but it’s another thing to say, “You, and you alone, must use them.” That sends a pretty strong signal to her that she’s not accepted and the district does not see her as a girl.
Perhaps the district does not see “her” as a “girl” because “she” is not a she, a her, or a girl. Nonetheless, the Office for Civil Rights agreed, with Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon averring:
All students deserve the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities – this is a basic civil right. Unfortunately, Township High School District 211 is not following the law because the district continues to deny a female student the right to use the girls’ locker room.
The student is not female. But never mind that: the subjective opinion of a mentally ill person now governs a student body of some 12,000.
So here, in a nutshell, is the government’s new policy with regard to sex and sexuality among youngsters:
If you’re a boy who shows a picture of your penis to a girl in your class, you have likely violated both federal child pornography laws as well as local sexual harassment laws. If this happens consistently in your school, the school has violated Title IX.
If you’re a boy who says he’s a girl, the girl must be placed in position to see your penis and testicles. If the school does not allow this, the school has violated Title IX.
If you’re an adult who sexually touches a child with the consent of the child, you have committed a crime, since children are incapable of consent.
If you’re an adult who gives a child hormone therapy or surgery to prevent normal development of the genitals, with the consent of the child, you are a hero.
If this all makes sense to you, you should be working for the federal Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.
This is what happens when a society loses its moral moorings. In its quest to destroy God, the left unhitched its wagon from eternal truths and, instead, decided to substitute its own idea of utopia. To reach that utopia – freedom from social expectations and standards – objectivity itself had to be destroyed, so as to avoid blame. Objective truth lost all meaning; only subjectivity mattered. Science became the enemy, since it establishes provable truths; it had to be quashed and quelled. Language became the enemy, since definitions exclude people and things not covered by those definitions; it had to be perverted and hijacked.
And so we now live through the looking glass, waiting for the next philosophically incoherent ruling from our masters of time and space. Or mistresses. Or whatever.
Grammar schools: Address to the Traditional Britain Group Conference, London, October 24 2015
One of the curious things about education is that, having experienced it at first hand, everyone believes themselves to be an expert on it. This is particularly damaging in the case of politicians, whose record of interference in education during the post-war era has offered a prime example of the dead hand of the state going where it has no business to be. Meanwhile, those who supposedly are the experts – those who teach – have effectively presided over the decline of their profession through decades of mistaken ideology and a belief that their profession continues to offer the last resting place for the Marxist spirit of 1968.
It is difficult for us to imagine now, but there was a time not so long ago when our education system was largely independent of government. The universities, in particular, were held to be self-governing communities of scholars, which is the model of the university we inherited from medieval times. At Oxford, there was not even any formal government instrument that permitted the University to grant degrees; simply the acknowledgement that it had done so since time immemorial and should continue in a similar manner. The history of our schools begins with the grammar schools, established by the Church, and from these our great independent schools developed from collegiate foundations – Eton, Winchester, Radley – which were both closely allied to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and, because they were boarding schools, could accept their pupils without geographical restriction.
Grammar schools have been much in the news recently and it is worth analysing some of the motives behind the debate on them and its wider context within our education system. I must declare a personal interest here: I was myself educated at what was at that time the top co-educational grammar school in the country. It was an academically highly selective school that was tremendously successful and which gave its pupils an outstanding education.
The history of state intervention in the grammar schools begins in 1869 under Gladstone, with the Endowed Schools Act. This Act followed upon the Public Schools Act of the previous year and proposed to restructure the endowments of the grammar schools so that they were more evenly distributed around the country and so that there was better provision for girls’ education. The Act changed many of the grammar schools which had been endowed to offer free classical education to boys into independent co-educational schools teaching a broader curriculum. The 1907 Education (Administrative Provisions) Act then introduced a requirement that all schools aided by government grant must reserve 25% of their places as free scholarships for students from the public elementary schools. This reform effectively brought about the grammar school in its twentieth-century guise.
It is with the 1944 Education Act that we see a designated role for the grammar schools as part of the tripartite system proposed, under which they would educate the top 25% of pupils. At this point there were around 1,200 state funded grammar schools, including not only those of ancient foundation but many which had been founded in the Victorian era, with its strong emphasis on self-improvement. In addition, there were 179 direct grant grammar schools, at which between 25 and 50% of pupils were educated free of charge and the remainder paid fees. All these became the maintained sector’s response to the independent schools; academic powerhouses dedicated to the needs of the most able.
We should now consider this system in its wider context. The tripartite system – divided between grammar schools, secondary moderns and technical schools – was designed to ensure that educational resources were distributed according to the ability of pupils to benefit from them and the state to provide for them. It was predicated upon the assumption that academically selective education produced the best results in terms of educating future leaders of the country in all areas, and above all upon the assumption that a university education should place academic excellence at the forefront of its priorities and should be reserved for those who stood to benefit most from it. It was academically competitive and there were consequences for failure at any level of the process. If, for example, you failed the eleven plus examination, you were unlikely to go to university.
Until 1965, this resulted in a situation where the universities were almost entirely filled by the products of independent and grammar schools. Their reputation was extremely high and their independence in academic terms was unquestioned. In a 1969 contribution to the educational “Black Papers”, Professor Richard Lynn wrote, “British education has been designed primarily to produce an intellectual elite. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, such an elite is necessary to keep going the intellectual and cultural tradition of European civilisation.” There was no suggestion in those days that the universities existed merely to train students for a career. Rather, they provided an academic education and existed for the purpose of propagating academic virtues, of which scholarship for its own sake and teaching were chief. Their graduates were, of course, in high demand by employers, but outside the specific professions, this was as much because of their intellectual calibre and qualities of character as it was because of any specific knowledge they possessed. In those days, the attitude persisted within independent and grammar school teaching that if someone was of the intellectual calibre to have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge they were capable of mastering and teaching any subject required at school level within reason. There were many examples of classicists who taught English Literature, or physicists who taught mathematics, and of course many academic staff also coached sport and music to a high level. Indeed, such breadth was viewed as a positive attribute.
We cannot pin the blame for the decline in our education entirely upon the Labour Party. It is quite true that many in the Labour Party have seen opposition to selective and fee-paying education as a cornerstone of their egalitarianism. But the Conservative Party has throughout the past fifty years signally failed to show support for academically selective education and as a result has been as willing a participant in our decline as its political rivals. The expansion of the universities during the 1960s took place under a Conservative government, which accepted the recommendations of the Robbins Report. The major expansion which followed during the 1990s and which is still ongoing has likewise been initiated by Conservatives. While the Conservatives introduced the Assisted Places scheme at independent schools in 1980, they have so far done nothing to bring it back since Tony Blair, himself an alumnus of Fettes, abolished it in 1997.
And yet, while our politicians can all trumpet that they have got more people into university education, what they cannot address is the fact that when you convert a selective education system into a mass education system you inevitably devalue the end product. In the 1960s it was extremely rare to see graduates working in non-graduate jobs because there was no graduate employment available to them. Nowadays it is commonplace. This transition has involved the creation of a deliberate untruth and its maintenance by an elaborate and costly bureaucracy. The untruth is that a British degree, wherever it is from, is a product of universal value. There is no end of quangos and interest groups – the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, Universities UK, GuildHE – all of which are dedicated to maintaining that premise of “quality assurance”, to continually expanding higher education seemingly without limitation, and ultimately to what amounts to a universal higher education system whereby all who go to school can be admitted to a university.
It is interesting to note that the funding of education has told the truth far more than have the pronouncements from the powers that be. Until the 1990s, it was generally true that if you were successful in winning a university place, you would not have to pay for your education and you could access a grant that would cover your living expenses. With the rapid expansion in higher education and the conversion of the former polytechnics into universities came student loans to replace grants. Now, as the university sector expands even further, students in England and Wales must pay tuition fees in addition to the debts they incur for their maintenance.
Higher education has changed from an experience that was due to our brightest as of right to a commodity which is now available to all if they wish to pay for it, and particularly to foreign students who will pay even more than domestic ones. It is hardly surprising that if higher education is presented as a product within a marketplace – albeit a marketplace that consists entirely of a state monopoly – that the public will assess its value shrewdly and in many cases will decide that it is not worth the price being charged for it. That, however, cannot conceal the fact that for those who can benefit from academically selective higher education, that kind of education is increasingly subordinate to the mass higher education system, in which the scholarly ideal has been replaced by that of the Research Assessment Exercise and the demand for research to result in tangible product. Moreover any higher education is now increasingly out of reach for those without significant financial means or who are unwilling to incur significant debt against an uncertain return.
Education is the visible casualty of these changes, but it is not the only part of the picture. One very practical reason why governments have embraced mass higher education is because our society no longer has a large number of unskilled or semi-skilled jobs available. Where they are available, there is an increasing expectation that they will be filled by cheap immigrant labour. This leaves the unskilled native population to exist on benefits and occasional appearances on Channel Five. The government takes the view that the answer to this is to subject all to more education, hence its raising of the school leaving age. But this ignores the plain fact that of our population, a large number are not capable nor temperamentally suited to continuing their education. What they need is jobs, not an artificial means of keeping them off the unemployment statistics.
One curious characteristic of the decline of British education has been the willingness of those who have benefitted from its excellence to implement measures that have effectively denied the next generation the opportunity to benefit from the same opportunities as them. The losers in this are the academically able but financially impecunious. Social mobility is not something that should be the preserve of socialist politicians. During the 1980s there was much talk of Britain as a meritocracy, and yet the opportunities for those born in poverty to rise through the education system nowadays are fewer than they ever have been. Our politics, law, media and even the Olympics are now dominated by former pupils of independent schools. Since the effective abolition of the grammar schools the number of state school entrants to Oxford and Cambridge has fallen. This is not merely because pupils are not reaching the required academic standard but also because their teachers in too many cases believe that the top universities are elitist and that pupils should instead go to their local university much as they do their local school. In believing this, they condemn their pupils to fail.
An expectation has developed that those who are successful in our society will either pay for their children to be educated at independent schools, or will, usually for ideological reasons where they oppose selective education, send them to take their chances at the local comprehensive. The former option is becoming more difficult, because independent school fees are now pitched at a level that attracts the children of foreign oligarchs, and increasingly international students are taking more and more of the independent school places in this country at the expense of those from our own population who could benefit from such an education if only it were more reasonably priced.
The way in which properties are now sold according to the catchment areas of good schools tells us another fundamental truth; the education system may have abolished selection officially, but another kind of selection – one far less fair and far less transparent – is going on behind the scenes. We should not forget that the grammar schools had no catchment areas; they took everyone who passed the entrance exam regardless of where they lived. If you decide school admissions on the basis of property prices, you will create schools that are segregated by class and you will ensure that the poorest areas have the worst-performing schools.
League tables and OFSTED inspections are the government’s chosen means of reassuring us about the standards of our schools, but they are selective in the story they tell. Some examinations count for more than others, and schools have effectively played the system by entering pupils for them accordingly. On the other hand, weaker candidates have been withdrawn from subjects lest their results should reflect badly on the school’s standing.
And this brings us back to the grammar schools. When the Labour government abolished the tripartite system in 1965, it largely forced the maintained grammar schools to become comprehensives. Only in a few local authorities – just imagine today, local authorities defying central government! – did the grammar schools remain. In 1975, Labour ended the direct grant system and forced direct grant grammar schools to become comprehensives or independent schools if they wanted to continue. This left what remains today: 169 grammar schools in England and Wales and 69 in Northern Ireland.
We should ask why seventeen years of Conservative government between 1979 and 1997 did not see a renaissance for selective education, and indeed why further grammar schools closed or ceased to be selective during that period. The answer is that by this point, our education system had become one of the firmest bastions of the Left in the country. Its official endorsement of comprehensive education has been unwavering despite the eminently visible problems that have resulted from it.
Any measure of reform or any challenge to the comprehensive system has been shouted down by the teaching unions, the university departments of education and the quangos – a group which Michael Gove used to refer to as “the blob”. He has said that these people believe that schools “shouldn’t be doing anything so old-fashioned as passing on knowledge, requiring children to work hard, or immersing them in anything like dates in history or times tables in mathematics…the result of their approach has been countless children condemned to a prison house of ignorance.” When I was at school, my teachers were drawn from all parts of the political spectrum. When I became a teacher myself, that was far less the case. My belief is that the comprehensive system exists to benefit one sector of society solely, and that is the teachers who find it ideologically to their liking.
By the end of my time in teaching it was axiomatic that whatever your politics, if you wished to teach, you would accept the Leftist orthodoxy that the profession had imposed and that you would not challenge it. That orthodoxy says, in essence, that all must have prizes and that the excellent are the enemy of the good. It sees education not as an academic pursuit but instead as a means of social engineering and vocational training, and as a means of reducing crime and social disorder. Over the years it has provided a happy home for all manner of Marxist nonsense and has enshrined teaching methods, particularly in basic English, that fail to achieve the same results as the traditional methods they replaced. It is not difficult to see the decline in the standard of written English in public life today compared to that of fifty years ago, and we have those teachers who promoted free expression ahead of spelling and grammar to thank for that.
Any education system will produce winners and losers. If we say that all must have prizes, then we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that those prizes will be of limited value. We cannot create their value merely by attaching government branding to them, for no-one believes that something is good simply because the government endorses it. Indeed, we had a situation in this country for many years where the products of the state monopoly, notably those of British Leyland, were regarded as markedly inferior to those of the private sector.
The state can only win in education by deliberately retarding any perceived or actual competition. It does so through legislation – the Education Reform Act of 1988 effectively banned private sector universities – and for those entities that are private or independent in theory, it has devised a web of regulation and bureaucracy that in practice curtails their independence. OFSTED is one manifestation of this. Another is the devaluation that has characterized our exam system.
For many years, O and A level examinations were regarded as a gold standard. They were difficult to obtain and represented a high standard of achievement. They were unashamedly academic and required a high degree of factual recall. They could be taught in a way that stretched the most able and allowed for considerable extension activity. They were tested predominantly through timed examinations and not through coursework or continuous assessment.
This was also the model of educational assessment maintained by the universities who were in turn responsible for the examination boards. While the CSE examination taken in secondary modern schools was not regarded as prestigious there is no question that it was a rigorous and well respected credential, as indeed were the awards of the former polytechnics. The fact that those awards were not degrees or were not O and A levels did not diminish their fitness for purpose, but it fostered a belief among egalitarians that they were second-tier qualifications and that they deserved the same titles as would be awarded to the more academically inclined.
Unfortunately, this academic inflation has proved very costly. Because we no longer teach woodwork and metalwork in our schools, we end up importing our joiners and plumbers from Poland, and those who want to learn a skilled trade are unlikely to do so during their school years. The truth is that not everyone needs, wants or will benefit from an academic education, and when subjected to one against their will, it is unsurprising that many teenagers become disruptive and unco-operative.
It is interesting to note that while we have moved away from the academically selective model and from traditional modes of teaching and assessment, other former British possessions, notably India, have kept it and benefitted strongly as a result. The government determined to take the examination boards out of university control, to privatize them and to introduce competition.
The result has been a race to the lowest denominator. The examinations are not invariably easier, but they have become increasingly turgid and reductive, with an emphasis on turning everything into something that can be easily and transparently assessed in simple terms. The GCSE examination, brainchild of Sir Keith Joseph and strongly opposed at the time by Baroness Thatcher, has been a misguided attempt to merge academic and vocational education, and the fact that a number of selective schools have turned to international examinations to replace it in recent years testifies to its limitations. It is also notable that many academically demanding schools now prefer the International Baccalaureate to A levels.
I believe that Michael Gove will come to be seen as the only Education Secretary of the past fifty years to have genuinely understood some of these problems and tried, in the face of overwhelming opposition from “the blob”, to address them. I hasten to add that this is not a general endorsement of Gove’s views or policy solutions, many of which I disagree with. He has, however, endeavoured to return rigour to our exam system and it may well be that he has, at least in some respects, succeeded. How lasting that success will be remains to be seen.
Gove, after all, was replaced as Education Secretary because, so it is said, his approach was seen to be too confrontational; the opposition he had aroused included two votes of no confidence from three teaching unions, voodoo pincushions, anti-Gove T-shirts and an entire Twitter feed devoted to hating him.
But the fact remains that we must confront the education establishment and we must win that confrontation if we are to achieve anything at all. The path of least resistance is to go along with the blob and do their bidding. The difficulty with that is that it fails those who lack a voice in this debate but whose interests need to be right at its heart: our next generation of pupils. Perhaps Gove, who was born far from privilege and won a scholarship to an independent school, understood this more than many of his colleagues.
I want to close by noting some aspects of the ethos of the grammar school. For all that academies and free schools may have some elements of it, they are still a long way away.
The good grammar school is a highly structured and disciplined institution where academic values are at the heart of the life of the school and these are allied to an institutional endorsement of Christian principle irrespective of pupils’ own religious beliefs.
It is formal in its rituals, encouraging teachers to wear academic dress, having a house system that is both pastoral and competitive, and maintaining high standards of uniform and behaviour. Often the school has an extensive history and distinctive, occasionally eccentric, traditions.
What it teaches should be what the top selective universities demand. I well remember that my school did not teach certain subjects because those universities did not take them seriously at entrance, and that it disdained vocational studies altogether.
Unlike the comprehensives, the grammar school is not a school where all are forced to study the same curriculum regardless of ability. Above all, it is a place where to excel academically is the norm and where to aim high is natural, with the expectation that the vast majority of pupils would go on to places at university and the best would go on to those which were rated most highly.
If the grammar school is an elite, then it is not in my experience a complacent elite, but rather one where elite status must be earned anew by each generation of pupils and teachers. When such schools work, they offer a beacon of opportunity for those who, on merit, win a place at them. We need more of them.
In 1997, John Major promised us a grammar school in every town, a phrase which has since been echoed by UKIP. It is time to restore our culture and values to our education system, and a strong grammar school system is the best way to do this.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:46 AM