Friday, December 30, 2016

Thousands sign petition demanding university fire professor whose husband berated Ivanka Trump

A PETITION calling for the sacking of the university professor whose husband heckled Ivanka Trump on a flight is swiftly building momentum.

Thousands of people had signed the petition as of Wednesday morning to have urban studies and planning professor Matt Lasner removed from his position at Hunter College in New York City after last week’s headline-grabbing run-in.

The petition was created by the group Right Wing Millennials and is seeking Mr Lasner’s removal from the administration based on his “immature and cruel harassment of Ivanka Trump and her family”.

Mr Lasner and his husband, Dan Goldstein, were kicked off a JetBlue flight to San Francisco at JFK airport when Mr Goldstein berated President-elect Donald Trump’s daughter over her father’s policies.

Ms Trump was flying with her husband Jared Kushner and their three children at the time.

“Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private,” Mr Goldstein, a Brooklyn lawyer, reportedly said while holding his own child at the time.

A witness told Reuters that Mr Goldstein told a crew member that Mr Trump’s family “ruin our country, now try [to] ruin our flight!”

The 35-year-old businesswoman reportedly remained calm and tried to distract her children with crayons while airline staff swiftly removed the pair from the flight.

“You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?” Mr Goldstein said, according to TMZ.

Mr Lasner disputed the reported version of events on Twitter.

“My husband expressed his displeasure in a calm tone, JetBlue staff overheard, and they kicked us off the plane,” he wrote.

However an hour prior to that, Mr Lasner wrote on Twitter: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil”

The tweets were later deleted, as was Mr Lasner’s Twitter account soon after.

JetBlue released a statement defending their decision.

“The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly. If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight. Our team worked to re-accommodate the party on the next available flight,” the airline said.

The petition to sack the associate professor reads: “Someone like Mr Lasner, who would harass a mother and her child simply trying to go about their day, does not deserve the honour of teaching.

“The fact that he tried to cover up and change the story around to avoid the consequences of his actions is also a testament to his character. He is NOT a good example for our youth.”


Scotland: Take religion out of the classroom

A majority of Scots believe that rules should be changed to ensure that children are not made to take part in religious observance at school, a poll for The Times has revealed.

The YouGov survey shows that 38 per cent of adults believe that there should not be a place for worship in the education system.

A further 17 per cent said that their preferred option would be for observance to continue but for children to be able to opt out, even without parental consent. The Scottish government is considering revising its guidance to head teachers, which states that opportunities for religious observance must take place at least six times a year in non-denominational schools.


Man unable to read takes University of Sydney to anti-discrimination board after they reject him as PhD candidate

Would ANY university want to graduate a man who can't read? And non-readers don't seem to be a protected group under Australian law

A student who suffers from dyslexia has claimed three universities rejected him as a PhD candidate because of his disability.

James Bond said his Doctor of Philosophy application for a place at the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Newcastle was turned down.

The man with an IQ of 150 has lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board alleging there was lack of support services at the University of Sydney for people with dyslexia, Fairfax Media reported.

He claims the university was discriminating against students with dyslexia after he was unable to complete his enrolment because there was no access to a scribe.

Students are required to submit a full research proposal to apply for a PhD.

Mr Bond, who struggles with reading, had used audio recordings and a scribe to complete his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Research at Macquarie University.

The University of Sydney penned a letter to Mr Bond, encouraging him to resubmit his application with a scribe provided by institution.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

They Grew Up in a Poor Neighborhood. How School Choice Changed These Brothers’ Lives

Carlos and Calvin Battle grew up in the poorest neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where nearly two-thirds of children are living in poverty. In 2016, only 42 percent of students attending the local public high school graduated.

In an attempt to get her sons a better education, their mother, Pam Battle, enrolled Calvin and Carlos in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The program provides low-income families vouchers to send their children to private schools, and has shown a promising ability to increase graduation rates. However, many—including teachers unions, the Obama administration, and the education establishment—have worked to shut down the program.

Watch the video to see how the program influenced the Battle family, and to hear why Calvin and Carlos think programs like it could help others succeed not just in school, but in life.


A Georgia college student is suing his school over his First Amendment right to free speech

Lawyers for Georgia Gwinnett College student Chike Uzuegbunam filed a lawsuit against the school on Monday.

Uzuegbunam “believes it is his duty to inform others” of his evangelical Christian beliefs and “for their own benefit, that they have sinned and need salvation through Jesus Christ,” the lawsuit says.

“Today’s college students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, commissioners, and voters,” Casey Mattox, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a statement.“That’s why it’s so important that public universities model the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students, and why it should disturb everyone that [Georgia Gwinnett College] and many other colleges are communicating to a generation that the Constitution doesn’t matter.”

Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit legal organization representing Uzuegbunam, says the university cannot censor Uzuegbunam because it would be a violation of his First Amendment rights.

“The First Amendment guarantees every student’s freedom of speech and religion,” Travis Barham, Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel, said in a statement. “Every public school—and especially a state college that is supposed to be the ‘marketplace of ideas’—has the duty to protect and promote those freedoms.”

The student says officials at his college restricted his ability to share his faith with other students, limiting him to free speech in a small zone and requested he ask permission in advance to use the space.

The lawsuit claims the college “burdens his free speech because he is prohibited from saying anything that might offend, disturb, or discomfort anyone who happens to hear him lest he be punished for ‘disorderly conduct.’”

All students must submit a free speech zone request three days prior to using the two small speech zones on campus, the lawsuit says. The college has a “Freedom of Expression Policy” that requires students to submit a free speech area request form, along with all publicity materials, for all activities in the designated free speech area.

“Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is committed to providing a forum for free and open expression of divergent points of view by students, student organizations, faculty, staff, and visitors,” the college’s student handbook says. “GGC also recognizes its responsibility to provide a secure learning environment which allows members of the community to express their views in ways which do not disrupt the operation of the college.”

The Freedom of Expression Policy says:

Reasonable limitations may be placed on time, place, and manner of speeches, gatherings, distribution of written materials, and marches in order to serve the interests of health and safety, prevent disruption of the educational process, and protect against the invasion of the rights of others as deemed necessary by Georgia Gwinnett College.

The college defines the free speech zones as “the concrete area/walkway between Student Housing and the Student Center or the concrete in front of the Food Court area, Building A.”

The areas are “generally available from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday,” the handbook says.

“On occasion upon written request, other areas and other times may be authorized, and the college reserves the right to modify the free speech areas based on the operational needs of the institution,” the policy adds.

Alliance Defending Freedom calls the zones “ridiculously” small and says they take up less than 0.0015 percent of the campus.

The school stopped the student named in the lawsuit from handing out religious literature and talking to students about his religion this past summer even after he followed the protocol set by the college, Alliance Defending Freedom claims.

The student claims that in August, he was allegedly following school rules while “preaching the love of Christ.” Campus police stopped him after about 20 minutes because of “some calls” complaining about him, according to the lawsuit.

“If students want to speak—whether through oral or written communication—anywhere else on campus, then they must obtain a permit from college officials,” the lawsuit says. “Thus, students may not speak spontaneously anywhere on campus. If students violate this policy, they violate the college’s Student Code of Conduct and expose themselves to a variety of sanctions, including expulsion.”

A spokeswoman for the college told The Daily Signal that Georgia Gwinnett College is unable to comment on the lawsuit.

“Officials at Georgia Gwinnett College were not notified of the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation,” the spokeswoman told The Daily Signal in an email.

“When Mr. Uzuegbunam tried to share his religious views in one of the speech zones after reserving it for this purpose, defendants required him to stop because his speech had generated complaints [and] informed him that his speech constituted ‘disorderly conduct’ because it had generated complaints,” the lawsuit goes on to say.

The lawsuit requests that the school suspend its policy on free speech zones


Here’s why non-government schools work better

KEVIN DONNELLY comments from Australia:

In 2004, in Why Our Schools are Failing, I argued Australia’s competitive academic curriculum was being "attacked and undermined by a series of ideologically driven changes that have conspired to ­reduce standards and ­impose a politically correct, mediocre view of education on our schools”.

Three years later, in Dumbing Down, I repeated the claim, arguing that Australia’s cultural-left education establishment, instead of supporting high-risk examinations, teacher-directed lessons and meritocracy, was redefining the curriculum "as an instrument to bring about equity and ­social justice”.

At the time the Australian Curriculum Studies Association organised two national conferences involving leading education bureau­crats, professional organisations, teacher unions and like-minded academics to argue all was well and that critics such as the News Corp’s newspapers were guilty of orchestrating a "black media debate” and a "conservative backlash”.

The Australian’s campaign for rigour and standards in education, especially its defence of classic literature and teaching grammar, was condemned by one critic as a "particularly ferocious campaign” that was guilty of wanting "to ­restore a traditional approach to the teaching of English”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s clear where the truth lies. Despite investing additional billions and implementing a raft of education reforms, Australia’s ranking in international tests is going backwards and too many students are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and culturally impoverished.

In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, Australian students were ranked 22nd; in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, Australian students were ranked 20th in mathematics; and in the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, our Year 4 science students were outperformed by 17 other countries.

Australia’s national curriculum, instead of acknowledging we are a Western liberal democracy and the significance of our ­Judeo-Christian heritage, em­braces cultural relativism and prioritises politically correct indi­genous, Asian and sustainability perspectives.

Instead of focusing on the ­basics, teachers are pressured to teach Marxist-inspired programs such as the LGBTI Safe Schools program where gender is fluid and limitless and Roz Ward, one of the founders, argues: "It will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people.”

What’s to be done? It’s rare that those responsible for failure are capable of choosing the right way forward. Organisations such as ACSA, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research are part of the problem, not the solution.

Instead of education fads and a command-and-control model mandated by such bodies, where schools are made to implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, assess­ment, accountability and staffing system, schools must be freed from provider capture and given the autonomy to manage themselves.

As argued by Melbourne-based Brian Caldwell: "There is a powerful educational logic to locating a higher level of authority, responsibility and accountability for curriculum, teaching and assessment at the school level. Each school has a unique mix of students in respect to their needs, interests, aptitudes and ambitions; indeed, each classroom has a unique mix.”

The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice.

In a paper this year — The ­Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement — European research Ludger Woessmann identifies "school autonomy and private competition” as important factors when ­explaining why some education systems outperform others.

Instead of adopting ineffective fads such as constructivism — where the emphasis is on inquiry-based discovery learning, teachers being guides by the side and content being secondary to process — it is vital to ensure that teacher training and classroom practice are evidence-based.

Not so in Australia, where the dominant approach is based on constructivism.

In opposition, and when arguing in favour of explicit teaching and direct instruction, NSW academic John Sweller states that "there is no aspect of human cognitive architecture that suggests that inquiry-based learning should be superior to ­direct ­instructional guidance and much to suggest that it is likely to be ­inferior”.

American educationalist ED Hirsch and Sweller argue that children must be able to automatically recall what has been taught. Primary schoolchildren, in particular, need to memorise times ­tables, do mental arithmetic and learn to recite poems and ballads.

After citing several research studies, Hirsch concludes: "Varied and repeated practice leading to rapid recall and automaticity is necessary to higher-order problem-solving skills in both mathematics and the sciences.”

Even though Australia has one of the highest rates of classroom computer use, our results are going backwards.

A recent OECD study concludes "countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”.

At a time when Australia’s education ministers are deciding a new school funding model after 2017, it is also vital to realise investing additional billions, as argued by the AEU and NSW’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, is not the solution. Australia has been down that road across 20 years and standards have failed to improve.

The debate needs to shift from throwing more money after bad, a la Gonski, to identifying the most cost-effective way to use ­resources to raise standards.

As noted by Eric Hanushek and Woessmann in The Knowledge Capital of Nations, the focus must be on "how money is spent ­(instead) of how much money is spent”.

And here the research is clear. Stronger performing education systems embrace competition, autonomy, diversity and choice in education, and benchmark their curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning against world’s best practice and evidence-based research.

Teachers set high expectations with a disciplined classroom environment, students are taught to be resilient and motivated to succeed, there is less external micro­management, and parents are ­engaged and supportive of their children’s teachers.

As argued in the Review of the Australian National Curriculum I co-chaired, it is also vital to eschew educational fads and new age, politically correct ideology and ­ensure what is taught is based on what American psychologist Jerome Bruner describes as "the structure of the disciplines”.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pre-school to prevent delinquency?

The rant below is typical of disassociated Leftist thought. Jacqueline Maley points to problems and just asserts that pre-school will fix them.  Asking for evidence that your "cure" will in fact cure anything is chronically "forgotten" among Leftists.  Evidence connecting the cure to the problem is absent.

She points to the problems that children reared in feral environments pose for both themselves and everyone else and then points out that if you get an infant very early, you may be able to train its brain into more positive behaviour channels.  It's a reasonable conjecture.

So how do we implement this draconian intervention?  The infant brain is at it most plastic when it is youngest.  The plasticity is highest just after birth and declines steadily thereafter. To make Maley's idea work, you would have to take masses of infants away from their families from shortly after birth.  Is that going to happen?  The "stolen generations" furore guarantees that it will not.

So she does not even explore that option.  She just states blandly and blindly that pre-school  will achieve the desired result.  But, for a start, pre-school is far to late to do much good and, secondly, any effect of a  few hours in pre-school will be overwhelmed by the very different experience of the feral home for the remaining 18 hours (or more) of the day.

Maley quotes theories of U.S. educators that say there is a small advantage in pre-school but those theories fade into insignificance when we look at the actual experience with the American "Head Start" program -- now in existence for many decades. It aimed to give a quality pre-school experience to children from deprived homes.  It produced some initially promising results, as new programs often do, but those  advantages rapidly faded away, leaving a program that scholarly analysts see as an abject failure.  The program is now kept going mainly as a means of offering a child-minding service in poor areas

Ms Maley hasn't got a clue.  Like most Leftist writing hers has an initial plausibility until you know all the facts

There is one simple thing politicians could do right now that would save the budget millions, or even billions, of dollars over the next generation.

The evidence is clear that this near-magic initiative works to prevent poverty, illiteracy, social delinquency, welfare dependency, ill health, and even cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Politicians like to talk about there being no "silver bullet" solution to any given problem, but according to economists and doctors, and at least one Nobel prize winner who has devoted his life to this cause, this is as close to it as it gets.

All they have to do is better fund preschools.

After 20 years of solid research into child brain development, scientists now know (and I use the verb "know" in the entirely scientific, evidence-based, non-feelpinion sense) that the human brain in the infant-to-child period is exquisitely sensitive to its environment.

Whatever crappy destiny a child's genes have planned for him or her, it will usually only be triggered in a bad environment, where a child's basic physical needs are not met, or where his or her parents fail to provide a nurturing, stimulating and responsive backdrop.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, a feted paediatrician who is probably Australia's foremost expert in early intervention and childhood development, says none of this research is touchy-feely or vague.

It is "robust and non-contested" neuroscience.

We all know that children who are exposed to abuse or neglect often grow up to have psychological and behavioural problems.

But the research shows there are long-term physical and neurological consequences from what you and I might call a crappy childhood.

The effects from a bad environment are as real and long-lasting as a blow to the head, or a kick to the kidneys might be.

"In situations of extreme poverty, child abuse, substance abuse, or any situation where the child is exposed to unpredictability and a lack of responsiveness, stress levels go up in the brain," Oberklaid says.

"This produces cortisol, and cortisol levels affect the brain's functioning. You get the biologic embedding of environmental events, so after a generation or two you start to see changes in genetic material."

Here's the real kicker: increased stress in those early years resets the body's physiological regulatory system at a sub-optimal level, meaning these children, as they grow up, are more likely to develop disease like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It also buggers their brain's frontal lobe development, which governs what is known as "executive function" – a trio of cognitive processes that are essential to functioning as a happy and productive adult: working memory, mental flexibility and self control.

Take a survey of your nearest prison population and you will find it full of men and women who have difficulty holding more than a few pieces of information in their minds at once, who are bad at switching between tasks and who have poor or zero impulse control.

Children are not born with these skills, and they are unlikely to develop them in dysfunctional home environments.

That's why compulsory, state-subsided preschool for at least one year, but ideally two, is something economists are switching on to.

The Nobel-winning American economist James Heckman has devoted much of his professional life to researching the economics of early childhood, and has shown that funding early childhood delivers a return on investment.

His analysis of one preschool program estimated a 7 to 10 per cent return on investment. Analysis of another early childhood program, the Chicago Child-Parent Centre, estimated $48,000 in benefits to the public per child from a half-day of public preschool. The estimated return on investment was $7 for every dollar invested.

These savings are based on the greater adult productivity of the kids involved, and reduced costs in remedial education, healthcare and criminal justice participation down the line.

The good news is we know exactly what we have to do in order to prevent a lot of these adverse outcomes.

Oberklaid spends his life advocating early intervention policy, and has advised state and federal ministers on the subject.

If he could make politicians do one single thing, it would be to fund one year of universal preschool education. Even better, fund two years of it.

Preschool helps develop the early building blocks of educational success – learning colours and numbers, understanding patterns, realising that printed words hold meaning. It socialises children. Any language, hearing or developmental problems a child may have are picked up early.


Some possible directions for education under Trump

Trump has called for the abolition of the Department of Education, as did Reagan. By contrast, both Presidents Bush sought to strengthen that Department. Trump has nominated the splendid Betsy DeVos to be secretary of the Department, and she is a fighter for every kind of school choice. The federal government spends seven or eight percent of its money on education, and its method is typical of the federal intrusion into local matters: it gives money from the federal treasury to states and localities on condition. The conditions are myriad, confusing, and usually ugly when they can be understood. Title IV of the Higher Education Act governs federal student aid, and it numbers around 500 pages. A lawyer for our college told me once that I would be unable to read it, because he himself cannot read it, for which reason his firm keeps a specialist who is the only person he knows who understands what it says. For this reason alone, it would be a grand thing to get rid of the Department of Education.

There are also some excellent intermediate steps. If one changed the conditions of the federal education money that goes to states, localities, and schools, there could be an immediate influence. Education is one of those things that is easy enough to understand, but hard to do. The first thing to understand is that human beings are made to learn, and they desire to do it naturally. This means the job of teachers, like the job of parents, is to help children learn, not to make them or cause them to learn. Good schools are built around this fact. It also means that authority over the schools can best be exercised by those who are closest to the students. What if the federal government required states to pass charter laws that delegated wide latitude and real authority to schools, not to the Department of Education or to state departments of education or to school districts? What if it relied, not upon high-stakes centralized testing as in Common Core, but in the simple fact that parents and teachers are much more likely to care for students than strangers, even if those strangers are highly trained federal bureaucrats?

The chairman of our education program at Hillsdale College has written a series of standards that states might adopt for K-12 education. For each grade, they take up about half a page. But if a child can do the things on that half a page, the child has learned a lot. Here is a way for higher levels of government to be sure that any money they give to lower levels is well spent in education. It involves hardly any management of details. That is the constitutional model, the model that comes from our Founding.

To follow this practice would liberalize the system. It would mean that there would be plenty of bad charter schools, just as there are plenty of bad schools now. But it would also mean that there would be a proliferation of good ones. Hillsdale College has helped to found 16 charter schools, with more coming, and they are all doing well. Everybody wears a uniform and signs an honor code. Everybody—indeed everybody in kindergarten—learns to read. Everybody studies mathematics at least through pre-calculus. Everybody learns Latin, history, literature, philosophy, physics, biology, and chemistry. Everybody is admitted by a lottery system. For the inner-city schools, care is taken to advertise only in the immediate area, to make the opportunity available to the children who live in poor areas. The students in these schools make on the average excellent scores on the ubiquitous state standardized tests, and they do this without class time or curriculum set aside to prepare for those tests. They do very well even in relation to the legions of public schools that now take months to cram only for those tests, which means the students know little more than what is on those tests, and all the adults get raises and promotions if the students do well. That’s why there have been spectacular instances of cheating—by teachers and school administrators!—on those tests.

The kind of education going on in Hillsdale’s charter schools is not something that could be advanced nationally by a federal mandate. Key to the success of these schools is that the school leaders, the parents, and the teachers are all glad to be there and all help willingly to make it work. In other words, they are all volunteers. It is a partnership. Partnerships are cooperative, not imperative. If you force people who are unwilling to do something, they will not do it very well, which is the encapsulation of human freedom.

Nowhere is this freedom more evident than in the process of learning. At Hillsdale College the curriculum is rigorous and the standards of behavior are high. But they are not imperative. The ultimate penalty is simply this question: are you sure you want to be here, when there are so many other options, options generally not quite so difficult or strict? The student who responds yes to that question is self-governing, which is the aim. That is why we at Hillsdale would not support a national law that everyone had to do what we do. We know too much about human beings to think that would work.

Let us say that the Department of Education began to reform itself along these lines. It is in a real position to lead if it will do so, because it would be setting a profound example: it would be teaching the governments below not to give people orders all the time. It would be teaching them that parents do after all love their children in the great majority of cases, and that the strongest institutions are built on love. It would be teaching them that schools can do better without a national engineering project to take over their work, to set their tests, to prescribe their behavior. And this would lay the ground for the Department’s abolition.


CA: Move away from bond financing for public school construction

Proposition 51, which state voters passed Nov. 8, does nothing to improve how school facilities are paid for. Rather than doubling down on debt to construct needed school facilities, the state should enact sensible reforms that enable all public schools — not just those that can afford powerful lobbyists — to fund ongoing facilities renewal and construction costs.

Switching from debt-based facilities funding to a cash-based strategy could cut current construction and maintenance expenses nearly in half by simply eliminating interest payments. Viewed another way, for the same cost California could buy twice as much as it does now.

California should overhaul its funding formula to include ongoing facilities maintenance because, by using industry formulas and standards, these costs are highly predictable. Taxpayers are on the hook for already approved bonds and interest; they should at least have more fiscally responsible funding options in the future.

Prop. 51, a $9 billion statewide school bond, allocates the lion’s share of the bond monies to district and charter school construction and modernization. When interest on the debt is counted, its true cost nearly doubles to $17.6 billion.

Even before Prop. 51 passed, the state owed $50 billion in principal and interest on school-facility bonds dating to 1988. That debt will cost taxpayers roughly $2 billion annually until 2044. Prop. 51 heaps on an additional $500 million in debt per year for the next 35 years, at a time when student enrollment in California schools is essentially flat. Yet, we shouldn’t have to break the bank just to maintain school buildings — especially given the state’s $400 billion debt.

Under the state’s 20-year-old school-facilities finance system, funding is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Maintenance and construction are also not considered ongoing expenses, and funding is not prioritized on need. This means Californians are paying through the nose for buildings long after their expiration date.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that annual facilities maintenance, modernization and replacement costs for schools statewide would be roughly 4 percent of total replacement cost. That works out to $8 billion annually assuming an average useful building life of 25 years, which would cost approximately $1,300 more per student.

Fixing the facilities financial abyss that is confronting the state can be accomplished in two ways:

 * Plan for necessary facilities upgrades and construction for roughly 25 years out from now, assuming all California schools will have the upgrades they need through Prop. 51. District and charter schools should submit an inventory of all buildings and their characteristics. From this inventory a realistic budget can be derived for current and ongoing facilities needs. With an honest and accurate accounting, taxpayers can have a real discussion about priorities, and waste can be eliminated.

 * Budget realistically and optimize existing assets. With an accurate inventory and overview of needs, districts can lower costs and free up money to retire costly debt interest faster.

Though the current bonding is set and unlikely to change, it’s high time California takes commonsense steps to start digging itself out of the debt hole it’s created, rather than digging deeper.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bloomberg's Fake News on School Shooting Numbers

Billionaire gun-hater Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety is at it again. The Huffington Post used some phony Everytown statistics to push a little “fake news” when it ran a story claiming that since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 there have been more than 200 school shootings. This non-critical piece of reporting did not question the validity of statistics from the overtly anti-gun Bloomberg-funded organization. Instead, in typical leftist fashion, they applied narrow terminology as broadly and loosely as possible so as to make the case that “gun violence” is a major epidemic on school campuses.

Thanks to the work of Bob Owens at Bearing Arms, however, Everytown’s use of the term “school shooting” was fact checked and shown to be so broadly applied as to render it meaningless. For instance, Everytown listed any gun-related discharge of any kind on or near a school as a school shooting. This included a negligently discharged weapon during the cleaning process, gang-related shootings near schools, suicides, a jogger shot in the leg on the edge of a campus, and after-hours shootings in a school parking lot in which the participants had no connection with the school. Owens concluded that of the 203 so-called “school shootings” cited, only 44 could even very broadly fit the category. Did we mention that schools are “gun free zones”?

Proving yet again the leftist rag that it is, the Huffington Post would clearly rather promote the anti-gun agenda with fictitious data than inform its readers of the facts. That’s Leftmedia fake news for you.

On a interesting side note, as gun sales in 2016 continue to set records, an unexpected group has contributed to those record numbers — liberals, who are buying firearms following the election of Donald Trump. Evidently, they have determined it’s time for them to take responsibility for protecting their own safe spaces.


More Snowflakes: Colleges Expanding Definition of 'Disabled Student'

Anyone who has followed academic issues since the anti-intellectual 1960s knows that the university is in serious trouble, catering to a professoriate that has bought into the travesty of “social justice” a coercive ideology obsessed with “victim groups.”

The university’s ancestral mission of pursuing truth has been replaced by a species of social engineering and leftist indoctrination. At the same time, it views its mandate as establishing a “safe space” for a student clientele that spends far too much of its time and energy “wringing its hands over pronouns, gluten and microaggressions” rather than devoting itself to the rigors of study and the acquisition of honest merit. These impoverished souls have come to be known as “snowflakes,” justifiably.

One of the most revealing indicators of the university’s failure to consistently produce able-minded graduates is the institutionalizing of disability accommodation through adapted exams and other measures implemented by Student Access Services. The intention was originally a laudable one: to help otherwise capable students with serious or crippling infirmities to further their academic careers with every reasonable chance of success. Like many noble endeavors, it soon tumbled victim to the law of unintended consequences.

Within a very short period, disabilities multiplied like rabbits on steroids. A poor memory became a disability, for which students were allowed to bring a “Memory Aid” to exams -- once called “cheating.” Fear of exams became a disability for which the student could be permitted to write at home. Bipolarity became a disability for which a student could request assignment deferrals and forgiveness for class absences, sometimes amounting to credit received for a course almost never attended. Habitual time-stress became a disability for which extra writing time would be allotted. Students who are unequal to the task of listening to and summarizing lecture material can request a “note-taker” conscripted from the student body -- a permit which entails a host of obvious pragmatic and pedagogical perplexities.

Scent allergies became a disability, requiring teachers to abjure cologne or provide the student with an unoccupied room. Difficulty with normative procedures became a disability requiring advance course outlines and transcriptions of what are called “alternative format materials.” Dyslexia became a disability akin to blindness. A note from a psychologist reporting a student “under my care” can be used to set aside academic criteria and official class deportment.

Almost every conceivable inconvenience that most of us dealt with individually in our day as students has become a disability needing singular accommodation -- a sequel glossed over by the typically bland and misleading language of Access documents stressing “academic integrity” and respect for “standards of achievement.” The discrepancy between word and act is glaring. A “letter of attestation” provided by the Service acknowledges the teacher’s authority; the fact is that her authority is progressively undermined as the student’s demands take precedence over the teacher’s prerogatives.

To cope with the deluge of disability claimants, university Access services have ballooned since their founding only a decade or so ago. The dozen or so office personnel who labor under an unmanageable load at my wife’s university have to produce thousands of adapted exams. The bureaucratic machinery needed to process the epidemic of dysfunction is subject to engine meld. Adjustments in scheduling, teacher availability, the shuffling of classrooms, calls for the provision of exam questions even before a course is over, the furnishing of hardware devices and software programs, and the according of grades for unsubmitted, massively delayed, partially completed or defective work has placed the entire academic project in jeopardy. I estimate on the basis of figures I have privately reviewed that approximately 10 percent of the student body benefits from special privileges.

The consequences do not stop there. Decent, hard-working students -- in any event, those who remain -- see their grades effectively devalued like a currency. Productivity is not rewarded and morale is sabotaged. Responsible teachers (who, incidentally, are not informed of the nature of their students’ disabilities or of the specialized equipment and constraints demanded) find that their workloads have increased, that the directives issued are often non-compliable (e.g., my wife has received demands for, among other things, an ergonomic chair in the classroom, an item she cannot procure), and that they are always in peril of falling afoul of a blizzard of mysterious regulations.

The fact is that professors are no longer in charge of their own classrooms. External administrators and government officials make decisions about how they must conduct their teaching and which students they are allowed to fail. In a startling case, Heinz Klatt, a professor at the University of Western Ontario (pretentiously rebadged as Western University), was prohibited from failing a psychology student whose mental retardation (now called “intellectual disability”) prevented her from fulfilling the course requirements. The faculty dean changed her F to a B.

Who or what really benefits from such accommodation is an open question -- not the university’s academic reputation, not disciplinary scruple in the classroom or optimal learning for the dwindling residue of achievers, not the organization that may hire the student, and certainly not the student herself who will be unable to prosper in the professional position for which she has sought accreditation.

Most alarmingly, teachers are vulnerable by law to frivolous allegations of misconduct from aggrieved or vindictive students, which may result in a teacher having to face an extramural Social Justice Tribunal with the power to levy significant fines and tarnish or destroy a reputation. My wife has been summoned before the Social Justice Tribunal of Ontario in response to a disability grievance, which on any rational assessment is without foundation. Universities, and the governments which finance and control them, are endowed with the authority to “disable” a person’s life on the flimsiest of grounds. Such is the ironic form of disability -- the deliberate disabling of those who are not disabled.

The practice of disabling the able -- or potentially able -- is now a prominent feature of university protocol, pertaining not only to the remnant of honorable professors but, as mentioned, to a generation of students increasingly consumed by progressivist memes and fundamentally non-academic issues, valorizing feeling over thought and sociological canards -- the “rape culture” and “white privilege” fantasies chief among these -- over actual learning, study and research. Distressingly, we have reached the point where a student can have a teacher punished or fired for a trivial or non-existent offense but a teacher cannot recommend that a student be expelled for breach of academic conduct or violation of a civil code of behavior. Students have begun to control the parietal agenda.

Thus, it is by no means surprising that students at Barnard College are agitating for a transgender woman of color to serve as the institution’s next president. Intersectional identity euchres mere qualification, another “disability project” sure to meet with stunning success. Similarly, why affect astonishment that students, with the blessing of the Penn State English Department, have replaced the iconic portrait of Shakespeare with that of the self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde, who could not tell the difference between a poetical object and a polemical tract? It is no longer a question of actual, imagined or exaggerated disability but of a criterial pathology which favors mediocrity over accomplishment and ideological purity over professional capacity.

Indeed, disability at every level is the name of the game, the incubator for societal collapse. It has spread out of the academy into the culture at large like James Rollins’ Sixth Extinction, a virus based on the arsenic of ignorance and the iron phosphate of impregnable self-indulgence. It is, as I’ve suggested, not only the overweening solicitude for those who experience, or who claim to experience, one or another disability that has brought the university into disrepute. It is the general weakening of academic standards, the watering down of the curriculum, the profusion of bogus courses, the focus on political indoctrination, the Bowdlerizing of history and the substitution of pedestrian ciphers for true greats that is turning the university into a caricature of its original educational and civilizing purpose. It is an institution no less disabled than many of the students its cossets and graduates.

Think of this when your doctor has to consult an index card to refresh his memory or your accountant suffers a nervous breakdown when confronted by a complicated tax return or your child’s grade-school teacher cannot write an intelligible report card or you have to sit through a poetry reading by a poet who never mastered basic grammar or you meet an esteemed professor of classical rhetoric who cannot read Aristotle in the original or your lawyer proves ignorant of legal procedure or the bridge you’re driving over starts to sway and groan. These are not fanciful episodes; I can attest to them. And they are multiplying at a shocking rate.

In Push Back: Reclaiming the American Judeo-Christian Spirit, Rabbi Aryeh Spiro admonishes us to “push back against an unrelenting and programmed assault by liberal demagogues co-opting our schools and colleges.” Regrettably, we “have not fought back nearly enough” -- perhaps because we too have been disabled by the propaganda of the Ivy League left and a terminally disreputable media, having ceded both our saving skepticism and moral language to them. We, too, historically speaking, have memory issues, and may have grown allergic to hard thinking. We, too, have frittered away our native endowments.

When the university succumbs to the disability prepossession across the board, the culture itself is at risk of intellectual and functional decay. It grows progressively disabled, incapable of dealing with reality, of managing its economic affairs, of recognizing its enemies, of absorbing adversity, and of disambiguating truth from error, fact from fiction and nature from ideology. Unfortunately, there is no superordinate Disability Office to appeal to, from which we can demand or expect the false magnanimity of concessionary privileges -- which would, in any case, merely compound the syndrome from which we suffer.

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead in The Aims of Education struggled with the conundrum of effective priority regarding education and culture. Where does change begin, he wondered, with culture or education? -- a question he was unable to answer satisfactorily. It is reminiscent of the enigma of whether nature or nurture is the determining factor in human development. Clearly, both elements are differentially in play. But the university, as the feeder institution for the society it ostensibly serves, is a more cohesive locus than the environing atmospherics of culture as a whole and can be addressed with greater analytical precision. One thing is certain. If it cannot return to scholarly health, the cultural malady threatens to become permanent. And the F will remain an F


How Harvard Drove a Wedge Into Football

This story starts with the equally ineffective intelligence and counterintelligence activities of the Yale and Harvard football teams of the early 1890s.

Agents from Yale were suspected to be lurking in a Cambridge cemetery near the Harvard practice field.

Harvard responded by building a great big beautiful wall — or, rather, a higher fence — to prevent these Yale men from posing a security threat.

James L. Knox, Harvard class of 1898, later explained how an opportunistic surveillance conducted by one Yale man a continent away nearly defeated its purpose.

"In those days it was the common practice to spy on the enemy through any channel," Knox wrote in "The H Book of Harvard Athletics, 1852-1922," "and it was rumored that Yale scouts were watching daily work-outs from the tower in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

"An appeal to Major Henry L. Higginson, who gave Soldiers Field to Harvard, brought forth the money to increase the height of the fence to cut off the view from the tower," Knox wrote.

"For this, and a thousand other good reasons, Major Higginson was a welcome guest at secret practice," Knox said. "One afternoon he brought with him an elderly gentleman who had never seen an American football game."

This man was not a spy, but he became an unwitting source.

"The gentleman left that night for San Francisco and in a restaurant there shortly after his arrival, gave a crude description to his table companions of the practice and the 'Flying Wedge' as he saw it," Knox wrote.

"At an adjoining table sat a Yale man who knew football," the tale continued. "He could not, however, make head or tail of what he heard but forthwith wrote the story in detail to New Haven. The Yale coaching camp could not solve the riddle but did reach the wise conclusion that the Yale team should watch the ball with extreme care and make no move unless sure that the right thing were being done."

Yale, however, did indeed have an agent monitoring Harvard practices. Only Theodore S. Woolsey did not lurk in Mount Auburn Cemetery. He watched Harvard's summer camp in York Harbor, Maine.

Woolsey was a friend of Yale's Walter Camp, Founding Father of American football.

As related in Scott McQuilkin and Ronald Smith's "The Rise and Fall of the Flying Wedge," published in the Journal of Sports History in 1993, Woolsey wrote Camp on July 17, 1892.

"Woolsey reported that Lorin Deland was adapting 'military strategy to football' and 'testing the practicability of these new plays,'" McQuilkin and Smith wrote.

"To work them out at all," Woolsey observed sarcastically to Camp, "would require a standard of team play which Harvard is not usually up to."

But Deland, a Boston businessman new to football, was now Harvard's top strategic thinker. Like Camp, he would leave an indelible mark on football.

Parke Davis, a former Princeton player who in 1911 published "Football, the American Collegiate Game," explained the immediate impact of Deland's innovation.

"For many years the standard opening play at the beginning of each half had been the old Princeton V, commonly known as the V Trick," Davis wrote.

But in 1892 against Yale, Harvard played a different trick.

"To the surprise of players and spectators, however, the Crimson did not form a V," said Davis. "Instead, B.W. Trafford, holding the ball, took a position at the center of Harvard's 45-yard line. The remaining 10 men divided into two sections and fell back to the 25-yard line, each section grouping near the side line, but at opposite sides of the field. Without putting the ball in play Trafford waved his hand and the two sections came swiftly forward in lock step, converging toward Trafford and gathering tremendous momentum as they ran. Just as they reached Trafford the latter put the ball in play and disappeared within the mass of men, thus launching against the Yale men standing in their tracks the famous flying wedge."

Davis's verdict: "No play ever has been devised so spectacular and sensational as this one."

In 1893, Harvard's rivals imitated Deland's flying wedge and applied the same principal to regular plays from scrimmage.

"As this wedge was started before the ball was put in play, and as the latter was not snapped until the wedge was about to strike its objective point," Davis observed of one such play run by Yale, "it is needless to say that the impact was such that the objective point usually remembered it for years."

"Unfortunately, this season of exceptional tactical brilliance was fraught with many mishaps," Davis noted.

Newspapers carried alarming reports of injuries, some of which Davis said were "the product of exaggeration." A committee was formed, chaired by Camp, to comprehensively survey former college football players about their history of injuries and their "suggestions for improvement of the game."

"These answers when compiled and published proved that the charges against football had been exaggerated so grossly that these accusations subsided and almost ceased," Davis wrote.

But the flying wedge was banned and one of the many evolutionary periods in the rules of football began. They have delivered a sport that remains America's greatest game.

In the report published by Camp's committee, Prof. Eugene Richards of Yale delivered an enduring analysis of that game.

"As there is no other college sport which so brings out the best virtues in a man," he said, "so there is no others college sport which is so dependent for its success upon good all-round men."


Monday, December 26, 2016

'Minneapolis School Embraces Family-Style Dining'

"What if school lunchtime was more than just a wait in line and a race to find a seat and eat, but instead was more like a traditional family meal – a time when friends gather to enjoy their food, engage in meaningful conversation, build relationships and gain important life skills?"

That's the question posed by the principal of a Minneapolis public elementary school in a blog posted Tuesday on the Agriculture Department website.

The principal explains that her school decided to abandon the typical chaotic and impersonal lunchroom experience and create a family-style dining program.

"We seized the opportunity that lunch can provide students a chance to gain important knowledge, life skills and habits," Ginger Davis Kranz wrote.

"We reflected on what that would look like and decided to eliminate the lunch line, seat children at round tables where food is served family style, give the children meal responsibilities where they help their peers and maintain the environment and bring teachers, staff and volunteers in the dining hall to join students for the 30-minute lunch."

Kranz said family-style dining aims to build an appreciation for food and where it comes from; create "an awareness of self and others"; produce an understanding of healthy eating; provide a calm space for eating, learning and manners; and give students time to eat and socialize in a healthy way.

In other words, all the things children used to learn at the family dining table.

During the meal, school staff  and volunteers monitor portion sizes and "meal pattern requirements," as mandated by the Obama administration. Student help set the table, pass the food, and clean up afterwards to "restore the environment."

Students serves as “table leads” or “hosts,” taking milk or water orders from their tables, then pouring it into cups and serve to their peers.

The principal says since the family dining started last January, "we continue to tweak the process, but overall, it has been well received by students, families and the community. Instead of a chaotic, student management problem, our lunchroom is a welcoming community that enriches students and adults alike."


Sexual harassment in British schools

It’s a problem that is widespread but few parents know about it – the sexual harassment of teen girls in school. Two independent investigations in the past three months came to the same conclusion: a huge number of schoolgirls in Britain are verbally or physically abused during the school day.

In September, a cross-party report from the Women and Equalities Committee announced that more than half of young women aged 13-21 have faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year, and almost a third of 16 to 18-year-old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. Many more – nearly three quarters – say they hear “slut” or “slag” used at school on a regular basis.

By Year 7, sexual language is common. A lunchtime supervisor told the government committee that girls “seem resigned to this treatment. When I have spoken to them about it, they say none of the teachers listen. If I challenge the boys, they seem to feel it is acceptable and just ‘banter’.”

Earlier this month, a report from Girlguiding Scotland, which has more than 50,000 members, returned similar statistics.

It is a normal part of development that relationships between teenagers become sexualised, but what is to blame for this increase in harassment? Some cite online porn. Others blame sexting and rap culture. Experts argue that it isn’t only girls who are the victims. Boys feel under pressure – many feel they will be excluded socially if they don’t join in with sexualised behaviour, be it verbal or physical. “There is peer pressure for many boys to be sexually forward, which comes across in this groping behaviour, but the greater pressure is on those who want to speak against that and feel they are not in a position to do so, even though they are in the majority,” said David Brockway of the Great Men Project. “This is partly because, as with all schools, the culture of ‘telling’ is the worse thing you can do, but also because they will automatically be met by the response of, ‘You’re a pussy’, ‘wet’, ‘a girl’, ‘gay’ – all the stereotypically masculine gendered insults.”

At the launch of its report, Girlguiding Scotland called for sex education classes to teach both boys and girls about the importance of consent. The government now agrees, acknowledging that sexual harassment has become “an accepted part of school life”. Plans include introducing topics such as sexting, sexual consent and pornography in class – and making sex education compulsory.

One thing everyone agrees on is that harassment is common.


British Prep schools struggling to fill free places for poorer pupils

Private school heads have admitted that many of their free places for poor children go unfilled because they cannot find eligible families to take them.

Almost half of independent prep schools said that they did not get enough applicants for fully funded bursaries, with one in ten saying they had not offered a free place at all in the past year. The disclosure will raise further questions about whether some private schools are doing enough to justify their charitable status.

Prep schools claimed that poor parents were put off by negative stereotypes of private schools that portrayed them as elitist and quirky, but critics accused them of not trying hard enough to publicise free places.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lord Carey portrait  ‘to be pulled from window of Strand campus of Kings College London --  after LGBT group's anti-homophobia campaign

Unusually for the Anglican Episcopate, Carey is a genuine man of God and a believing Christian so is a true believer, not a hater.  Taking his picture down is just silly tokenism.  It is unlikely to bother him.  Christians have real issues to deal with

CONTROVERSIAL alumnus Lord Carey looks set to be removed from Strand’s windows – two years after he was branded “homophobic” for his diatribe on gay marriage.

The move marks a landmark victory for LGBT Liberation groups who fought tirelessly since the alum told a Tory Party fringe audience that gay relationships “should not be put on the same level” as straight ones.

The Principal Ed ‘Babe’ Byrne met with tenacious leader of the KCL LGBT Liberation Association Ben Hunt on Tuesday morning and agreed there was a need to refresh the windows.

Ben said the changing the windows “will also mean the removal of Lord Carey and the inclusion of minorities in the discussions for new alumni.”

“The Principal has asked me to compile a list of new alumni for the window in suggestions,” he added, saying a committee will be formed to decide on the new alums.

Lord Carey was condemned by LGBT groups after he told a Tory party fringe audience in 2010: “Same sex relationships are not the same as heterosexual relationships and should not be put on the same level.”

Speaking about the introduction of the gay marriage, he added: “Why does it feel to us that our cultural homeland and identity is being plundered?”

The transcript on Lord Carey’s website of the speech removes the phrase “and should not be put on the same level”, despite Lord Carey’s website claiming the text is “unedited”.

Speaking to Roar earlier this week, a College spokesperson said: “It is likely, subject to planning approval, that the proposed redevelopment of the Strand campus will require a review of the Strand windows and we will consider the diverse views of our students, staff and alumni at the appropriate time.”

However, it’s unclear from the proposals whether the Strand windows will stay at all. The College are reportedly keen on choosing better LGBT and BME (black and minority ethnic) representation on the refreshed windows as well as younger figures.

But a spokesperson rejected the campaign in 2010 saying that the College was a “diverse and inclusive community” and hence Lord Carey should remain on the Strand front.  “[King’s] reject the notion of any censorship of ideas Lord Carey’s views are his own and were offered as part of an open debate,” they said.

Ben wrote to Ed last December to say he was open to debate, but against giving Carey a platform to air his controversial remarks.

The pair met in January, where Ed apparently hinted Lord Carey could be replaced by another alumnus. After hearing nothing, Hunt threatened direct action, which led to the offer of Tuesday’s meeting.

Roar sparked a petition to remove Lord Carey from the Strand windows back in late 2012, racking up 680 comments, and has supported his removal ever since.

A 2013 motion passed at Student Council read: “Not only are the statements made by Lord Carey unacceptable, they are deeply offensive.”

Lord Carey graduated from King’s back in 1962 with a 2:1 in Divinity before he ascended through the Church of England’s ranks to become the 103rd Archbishop of Canterbury.


Democrat: 'The Only People Against School Choice...Are the Ones That Have It'

Kevin Chavous, a Democrat and former D.C. councilman, said he believes in school choice, and he's a "great friend" of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, who also supports school choice.

"And, look, the only people who are against school choice, Tucker, are the ones that have it," Chavous told Fox News's Tucker Carlson Tuesday night.

Chavous said support for voucher programs is high among black and Hispanic voters, and he said the issue is one "that can unify America," even if the NAACP and the liberal teachers unions oppose it.

"What we need, and I think Betsy gets this, we need to depoliticize it, you know...and build this national consensus around learning that promotes what's best for children."

Chavous pointed to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federal voucher program supported by congressional Republicans that has served 6,000 students. "And 90 percent of those kids graduate. Ninety percent of them go to college. They come from schools where over half the kids drop out. So, you know, that's an amazing turn around -- 6,000 lives that otherwise would have been changed if they hadn't gotten that opportunity.

"And we have seen this with our charter school movement. Over almost half the kids in D.C. public...schools are in charter schools," which are tuition-free public schools that are run by nonprofits.

As has reported, when President Barack Obama came to office in 2009, he tried to defund the Opportunity Scholarship Program, but he finally settled on a plan that would allow then-current recipients of the vouchers to continue, but would not allow new people into the program. When Republicans took back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, they renewed the program and extended it through 2016.

Chavous said one of "really exciting" things about Betsy DeVos, with whom he has worked, is that she is a "consensus builder."

"She is going to be a star in this cabinet because she believes reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats and building consensus around collaborative ideas that help kids. And that's the problem, when people try to ram school choice or ram these proposals, similar to Common Core, down the throat of people who are not ready for it, and that flies in the face of Betsy's stance. That's going to make a big difference.

"People want school choice, but you have to have them understand how it works, have them have peer-to-peer conversations and then give examples, lift up the models that work."

Chavous rejected the argument that taking children out of bad public schools will drain funding and "destroy" those schools, as some of DeVos's critics have argued.

"It's absolutely not the case," he said. "What we want to do is make our public schools work for our kids. I envision America where all kids have equal access to quality education. And the best way to do that is the short-term remedy of getting kids in good schools today, particularly those who come from bad schools.

"And also it helps lift all boats, because as we've seen in D.C. and Florida and other places, when the public schools see that there is a real threat to their monopolistic existence, they respond."

Chavous pointed to Education Department data showing that 48 percent of public schools are either failing or underperforming. "We need to shake things up and there is no better way to do that than through school choice."

For the current school year, individual scholarship awards for qualifying D.C. students in the voucher program are up to $12,679 for high school and up to $8,452 for elementary and middle school. Opportunity Scholarships may be used at any of the schools participating in the program and can be used to pay for tuition, uniforms, books, and other school-related fees.


"Hate Spaces" Film Exposes Campus Intolerance

A new documentary, "Hate Spaces," exposes the epidemic of campus intolerance favoring Muslims and anti-Israel activists over Jews and Israel supporters when it comes to free speech, academic freedom, and protection from abuse.

The film is being released theatrically by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT), a Boston-based non-profit dedicated to raising public awareness about the increasingly hostile campus environment. "Hate Spaces" premiered Nov. 30 in New York, and will be screened at select locations around the country (contact for details). The film will also be available on DVD in early 2017 and eventually on YouTube. Click here to sign up for alerts.

The film's title refers to the concept of "safe spaces" that has been used to silence unpopular speech on universities around the United States.

Executive Producer Avi Goldwasser, who also wrote and directed "Safe Spaces," first noticed the extent of the campus problem in 2004, when he produced "Columbia Unbecoming." That film documented the intimidation by Columbia University professors of Jewish students who supported Israel. "Jewish students were abused by faculty members and the administration ignored it," Goldwasser told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). "The abusing professor got tenure."

Indeed, anti-Israel lies, incitement, and hate speech are often tolerated under the banners of academic freedom and free speech. Last September, for example, the University of California, Berkeley reinstated a student-led course that presented a demonizing, one-sided history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after public outcry claimed that free speech and academic freedom were jeopardized by the course's suspension. In contrast, pro-Israel speech is attacked by Israel critics who demand the right to have "safe spaces" free from "hate speech."

"Any support of Israel is hate speech!" one protestor in the film proclaims.

Groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association (MSA), and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) leverage their politically favored status to exercise rights and protections that they try to deny their political opponents. At Northeastern University, SJP violated school policies over a two-year period, including "vandalism of university property, disrupting the events of other student organizations, not getting the appropriate permits when required, distributing unauthorized materials inside residence halls and sliding them under the doors of private rooms, not providing a 'civility statement' which was required after a previous sanction [and] not meeting with university advisers," according to Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul.

"We have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, zero tolerance for racism or any kind of hatred," Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun said in the film, defending his school's decision to suspend SJP.

But SJP successfully reframed the school's response as suppression of free speech and rallied public and media pressure until their suspension was lifted. Thus, in an SJP-dominated campus, speech that violates school policies and harasses Jews and Israel supporters is protected as "free speech" rather than punished as "hate speech."

By contrast, critics of Islam have been silenced with accusations of "hate speech" and "Islamophobia." In 2014, Brandeis University canceled a speaking invitation and honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a campaigner for women's rights and a fierce critic of Islam, after she was branded an "Islamophobe" by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Around the same time, CAIR used similar accusations to stop the screening of a documentary on honor killings.

Meanwhile, Jewish students and organizations are targeted with impunity, as feckless college administrators hesitate to take remedial action (as happened at Connecticut College). One of the reasons for their reluctance, the film suggests, is fear of jeopardizing funding - collectively, over $1 billion over the last six years - from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Through brazen lies - like claiming that Israel "commits genocide" and "apartheid" - SJP and MSA have created campus environments that are hostile to Jews and pro-Israel students, while suppressing support for Israel as "hate speech."

"Hate Spaces" was a story that had to be told, Goldwasser said, because "most people do not realize how the hostility is being institutionalized, made fashionable by a combination of forces including radical faculty, radical student organizations, and an enabling university administration. While many anti-Jewish incidents and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel) campaign are reported by the media, few are willing to connect the dots and report on the underlying ideology and extremist organizations that are inciting the hostility."

The film shows how such campus hostility can reach as far as student council meetings, events that should be focused on campus affairs and otherwise far-removed from Middle East politics. It features UCLA sophomore Rachel Beyda, who applied for a leadership position on the Undergraduate Students Association Council. She was challenged by an SJP-backed campaign that claimed her Jewish background would make her biased when deciding sensitive campus issues. For about 40 minutes, students questioned whether her Jewish identity would make her a less fair-minded leader, even though three other students deciding her fate had been similarly active in their respective communities (Iranian students' group, the MSA, and the Sikh students' group).

The film also highlights the extent of SJP's infiltration into academia. The organization, which has ties to Muslim-Brotherhood-linked groups, has chapters on more than 600 campuses. "Hate Spaces" underscores how there is "sensitivity training" on many campuses for just about every group (including for bestiality and incest at Yale) but not when it comes to groups relating to Jews or Israel.

The film includes footage of SJP founder Hatem Bazian calling for an intifada in America during a 2004 San Francisco rally. In addition to heading the University of California, Berkeley's Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, Bazian is AMP's founder and national chair. AMP provides funding, printed materials (including "Apartheid walls" for public demonstrations), and staff to SJP chapters.

"Hate Spaces" cites the IPT's 2015 report about AMP support for Hamas and terrorism against Israel.

It includes footage from an AMP event with several disturbing quotes. "When I look at the people who fight with the Israeli Occupation Forces," says AMP's Munjed Ahmad in one example, "I don't think we understand how many American Jews who were involved in the assault of Gaza the past summer were American...Of those people massacring those 500 children and those civilians, there were American Jews."

Taher Herzallah asks: "What if as Muslims, we wanted to establish an Islamic State? Is that wrong? What if, as Muslims, we wanted to use violent means to resist occupation? Is that wrong?"

"Hate Spaces" attempts to explain how campuses became so hostile to Israel. By manipulating identity politics, SJP created an anti-Israel alliance of hard-left groups. They exploit the academically trendy concept of "intersectionality" - the idea that all injustices are interconnected - to demonize Israel and make common cause with activists from totally unrelated movements, like the campaign to address police violence.

SJP also attracts well-meaning students concerned about equality and social justice by portraying Palestinians as blameless victims of wholly unjustified Israeli attacks. "What drew me to SJP was my motivation to support equal human rights," one student says in the film. "I joined them because I felt that the Palestinian people were being oppressed."

Another student explains how "SJP deliberately works with anti-Zionist Jewish organizations because working with those organizations helps to immunize them ...against charges of bigotry and anti-Semitism. It gives SJP cover."

"Hate Spaces" points out that student demographics have also helped SJP, because tens of thousands of students from Muslim countries that are traditionally hostile to Israel have arrived on U.S. college campuses in recent years. As noted by a former-SJP activist interviewed in the documentary, "There's definitely a lot of ethnic solidarity between Muslims and Palestinians because [a] majority of the Palestinians are Muslims, so it's almost like a brotherhood."

Goldwasser describes the intended audience for "Hate Spaces" as "decent Americans, especially, those in leadership positions." He believes that "once they are educated about this outrage on campus, there is a chance that changes will be made. All we ask is that Jewish students be treated equally, receive the same protection as any other minority on campus."

The film notes that professors and administrators have only exacerbated the campus movement promoting BDS, through their indifference or open complicity with the movement's campus leaders and tactics: "Many university officials are uncomfortable dealing with hatred that comes from a non-Western minority, preferring to selectively invoke the concepts of academic freedom and free speech instead of fulfilling their responsibility to Jewish students."


Friday, December 23, 2016

Alumnus gives university £4m to "lead the charge against a “post-truth” world"

We read: "St Andrews will use the money to recruit world-leading staff to its school of English and school of philosophical, anthropological and film studies".  I must say that I don't think you will get much truth out of that lot

Scotland’s oldest university intends to lead the charge against a “post-truth” world with the help of a multimillion- pound donation from a former student.

Christopher Davis has given the University of St Andrews $5 million (£4 million), allowing it to establish a chair in philosophy and public affairs, as well as an endowed lectureship in American literature.

The university said that the windfall was an important boost to the enduring values of academia. The gift came after Sally Mapstone, the university’s new principal, used her recent installation address to issue a rallying cry to her colleagues in what she said was a climate of hostility to experts.

She characterised recent political developments, such as the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, as “convulsions” in a “post-truth climate in which expertise is derided”.

The gift from Mr Davis, who graduated from the university in 1987 with a degree in moral philosophy and practical theology, is believed to be one of the largest single gifts received by a Scottish university. After leaving Fife, Mr Davis worked for the Episcopal Church in Paris before returning to his native United States, where he worked in investment management.

Mr Davis arranged the donation from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, which is named after his grandfather, an investment banker and philanthropist who died in 1994 after serving as American ambassador to Switzerland under the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Mr Davis said: “I owe more to St Andrews than I can say. The university’s ethos embodies values that are increasingly rare on campuses and in society: academic rigour, informed and open-minded debate, internationalism, good-willed collegiality and simple decency. In today’s world, what could be more deserving of support?”

“Post-truth” was named recently as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

St Andrews will use the money to recruit world-leading staff to its school of English and school of philosophical, anthropological and film studies.

The creation of an endowed lectureship in American literature tightens St Andrews’ ties with the US. It was the first British university to teach American literature.


Colorado State Hires Counselor To Treat ‘Racial Battle Fatigue’

Colorado State University (CSU) has hired a counselor to assist students suffering from “racial battle fatigue,” the school announced Monday.

The hire was made last summer, but publicized Monday when the school published an update on its response to a series of student recommendations regarding diversity. The list of recommendations, which resemble a set of demands, were issued in November 2015 when student activists marched in solidarity with Concerned Student 1950, a black protest group at the University of Missouri. Since receiving the list, CSU says the requests have served as a “touchstone” for its actions over the past year

One of the recommendations called for the school to dedicate more resources to treating “mental health issues specifically dealing with racial oppression and racial battle fatigue.”

In its Monday announcement, CSU gleefully announced it had met this request.

“This summer, the Counseling Center hired a psychologist whose specialty is working with racial battle fatigue for students of color on predominantly white campuses,” the school said.

“Racial battle fatigue” is a concept coined by University of Utah professor William Smith. Smith argued that non-white people suffer an accumulation of fatigue from trying to overcome microaggressions, stereotypes, and misconceptions in their day to day lives. This accumulated fatigue supposedly causes headaches and exhaustion, which help to perpetuate the alleged systemic advantages of white people.

“This has been a great step, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes said in the school’s update. “Our plan over the next few years is to continue to increase staff and programming where needed to meet the needs of students and the university.”

The school boasted about other ways it is meeting last November’s demands. Several student senate seats have been allotted to specific groups and organizations based on “diversity,” and the school is also crafting a wider diversity plan with an eye towards increasing the overall population of “diverse” students. The school also says it is considering making Introduction to Ethnic Studies and Introduction to Women Studies required courses for all students, though it may find a broader means of increasing diversity within the curriculum.


Middle School Girl Gets Suspended for Possessing a Butter Knife

Who would have thought a butter knife could become the center of a school controversy?

Last month, officials at Silver Trail Middle School near Miami, Florida, suspended an 11-year-old honors student for violating a county policy strictly prohibiting weapons on campus. The girl’s weapon of choice: a butter knife fit for a toddler.

To highlight the dangers of having this dull knife on campus, the police noted to state prosecutors that the girl used it to cut a peach. Such is the folly of overcriminalization: Every minor mishap gets crammed into the criminal justice system when it could be easily resolved by other means.

In defense of their daughter, the girl’s parents explained that they gave her a set of utensils “made for children to learn how to eat properly.” But despite this educational purpose behind the possession, school officials pounced when the girl brandished the short, dull, rounded utensil, cut a peach in half, and shared it with a hungry friend during lunch time in the school cafeteria.

A commonsense response? Give the girl a gold star for sharing. But instead, the county’s zero tolerance policy toward weapons required punishment.

The zero tolerance policy prohibits possession of a Class B weapon on school premises. This includes such items as razor blades, nunchakus, shotgun shells, and knives—including “blunt-bladed table knives.” Possession of these weapons is considered a criminal incident and can trigger a host of consequences, including not only a minimum six-day suspension from school, but also a mandatory report to law enforcement.

That’s failure No. 1 by the adults in the room. A student using a butter knife is not an incident that requires the time and attention of law enforcement.

And here is failure No. 2: After examining the evidence—a single butter knife—the police department turned over the investigation to the local Florida state attorney’s office, which is now weighing whether to bring criminal charges against the student.

A spokeswoman for the school district maintains that the school followed district policy throughout the incident, while pointing out that the district is working with the family of the suspended student by agreeing to reduce her suspension from six to three days. Needless to say, the family is not satisfied with the ongoing investigation and has hired a lawyer to represent them in the matter.

Surely, there must be someone along the chain of command with the requisite discretion to understand that an 11-year-old cutting a peach with a child’s butter knife is not the type of evil that a school weapons ban is intended to protect against.

The rigidness of a zero tolerance policy that requires taxpayer dollars to fund a criminal investigation into a student who simply cut a peach illustrates a systemic flaw in school discipline procedures.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident, but yet another example of an overreaction to minor infractions due to a zero tolerance school weapons ban, which can have serious consequences.

In Ohio, 10th-grader Da’von Shaw gave a class presentation on how to make a healthy breakfast, which included an apple that he sliced in front of the class. Da’von received a five-day suspension for possessing a weapon on campus due to his demonstration.

In California, high school senior Brandon Cappelletti was not nearly as fortunate. He faced a misdemeanor charge after school officials discovered pocket knives left over from a family fishing trip in the console of his car, which was parked on school grounds. Cappelletti narrowly avoided expulsion due to community outrage against the disproportionate punishment.

Cappelletti’s football coach opposed the severity of potential consequences by sharing, “I’m willing to stick my neck out for these kids because they are the kind we want representing us in society … I hope their lives won’t change because of an innocent mistake.”

Criminal charges carry a multitude of collateral consequences, which could have prevented Cappelletti from following in his father’s footsteps and joining the Marines. He enlisted shortly after charges were dropped.

In all of the aforementioned incidents, schools relied on zero tolerance policies that can produce harmful and unexpected results. To be sure, schools must take weapons seriously, but in a way that requires educators to exercise discretion in evaluating what is in fact a weapon, as well as the nature of an offense.

This one-size-fits-all approach to discipline is a significant contributor to overcriminalization, which is the effort to punish every mistake and attempt to solve every problem through the use of the criminal law and penalties.

This ill-suited suspension and investigation into an 11-year-old with a butter knife is an apt opportunity for school districts and localities to use a little common sense and re-examine how to handle rules violations in a more constructive and equitable manner.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Traditional Assigned-District Public Schools ‘May Be An Endangered Species’

Judging by the results of a parental satisfaction survey, traditional assigned-district public schools “may be an endangered species,” according to a new report from Education Next.

The first-of -its-kind survey, which was released Tuesday in Washington, D.C., compared parental satisfaction ratings for traditional assigned-district public schools, private/parochial schools, district schools-of-choice such as magnet schools, and publicly funded charter schools.

“Among the four sectors, parents of students attending assigned-district schools are the least likely to say they are ‘very satisfied’ with their child’s school,” according to the nationally representative survey of 1,571 parents, which was conducted between May 6th and June 13th.

But assigned-district school parents are generally more likely to say that their schools have “serious” behavior problems with students who miss class, fight, use drugs, and destroy property, the survey found.

It will take a strong political defense of the district-operated school system, which assigns children to the specific place where they are to be educated, to thwart an underlying trend toward greater choice that has gathered support among the families that are most directly affected“It will take a strong political defense of the district-operated school system, which assigns children to the specific place where they are to be educated, to thwart an underlying trend toward greater choice that has gathered support among the families that are most directly affected,” wrote the report’s co-authors, Harvard Government Professor and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Paul Peterson and post-doctoral fellow Albert Cheng.

President-elect Donald Trump has nominated school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education and pledged to “repriortize existing federal dollars” to establish a new $20 billion federal program that expands school choice “to every K-12 student who today lives in poverty.”

DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children, is a pioneer of the school choice movement who helped pass Michigan’s first charter school bill in 1993. In 2010, DeVos and her husband founded the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a public charter high school.

Parents who opt out of the “free, more convenient assigned-district alternative” in favor of private, charter or magnet schools consistently report higher levels of satisfaction despite tuition payments and/or transportation challenges, the survey found.

Overall, school satisfaction is highest in the private sector, followed by the charter sector and then the district schools-of-choice sector, the survey found.

District-assigned public schools, which currently educate 75 percent of K-12 students in the nation, ranked the lowest in parental satisfaction.

Eighty-two percent of parents with a child in a private school reported being “very satisfied” with their school’s academic standards, compared to 68 percent for charter schools, 64 percent for district schools-of-choice, and 55 percent for assigned-district public schools.

Likewise, 83 percent of private school parents reported being “very satisfied” with their school’s disciplinary policies, followed by 66 percent of charter school parents, 63 percent of district school-of-choice parents, and 56 percent of parents whose child attends an assigned-district public school.

The same pattern held true when parents were asked their overall satisfaction level regarding their child’s teacher and the way the school staff interacts with them.

“Charters are a viable—and perhaps the preferred—option for those seeking to expand choice within the public sector,” the EdNext report noted. They are also more likely to enroll disadvantaged African American and Hispanic students who live in urban centers.

“Yet the high level of satisfaction with private schools provides encouragement for those who support school voucher initiatives, which increase access to the private sector by paying some or all of students’ tuition,” the report added.

Both high- and low-income parents reported being happiest with their children’s private schools.

“Averaging across all indicators, the difference in the share of low-income families who are ‘very satisfied’ with aspects of their child’s private school is 25 percentage points, which is similar to the difference of 22 percentage points among high-income families. This suggests that school vouchers or other programmatic interventions that expand families’ access to private schools have a good chance of boosting levels of parental satisfaction,” the report noted.

Parental satisfaction with charter schools is also higher than with traditional public schools.

“Both low- and high-income parents whose children attend charter schools are considerably more satisfied than comparable parents at assigned-district schools,” the report noted.

“Nina Rees,  president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said during a panel discussion following release of the report that although charters receive only 70 cents for every dollar spent on district-assigned schools, parental satisfaction is higher because “a lot of charter schools have emulated the best practices of private schools,” including adopting a “no excuses model”.

Panelist Christopher Cerf, superintendent of Newark Public Schools, said that every child in his school district is given the opportunity to attend a school of their choosing, noting that 44 percent of Newark students attend charter schools.

“There’s no question that children who do not exercise choice have a deeper set of educational challengers,” Cerf said.  

But Howard Fuller, an education professor at Marquette University and chairman emeritus of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, said that some charter schools have focused “more on choice than accountability”.

Fuller also noted that “black parents have a more negative view of schools than any other race,” surmising that schools are “just another institution that they interact with that have let them down.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 75 percent of American K-12 students attend assigned-district public schools, 10 percent attend private or parochial schools, 9 percent attend non-charter district schools-of-choice, and 6 percent attend publicly funded charter schools.


Education Dept. Upholds Revoking of Embattled Accreditor’s Recognition

There is no doubt that some accreditors have abused their status

John B. King Jr., the secretary of education, on Monday upheld the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to revoke the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, an agency that had accredited for-profit colleges that suffered recent high-profile collapses.

The department revoked the accreditor’s recognition in September, after it was accused of lax oversight in its accreditation of two now-defunct for-profit educators, ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges. After its recognition was revoked, the accreditor, known as Acics, appealed the decision.

In a written statement, the agency said it would sue to regain its recognition.

“Acics has acknowledged its shortcomings and worked diligently to correct them so that, together with Acics-accredited institutions, we can continue to work to help students achieve their academic and career goals,” said Roger Williams, the accreditor’s interim president, in the statement.

The accreditor’s loss of federal recognition, if not overturned by the courts or reversed by the incoming Trump administration, would require the hundreds of colleges Acics accredits to seek another accrediting body or lose access to federal student-aid dollars. They may continue to receive such financial aid for up to 18 months, but could face new restrictions from the department. Some are likely to close.


Australia: Less education is associated with more heart attacks, a lot more

This is just the old trilogy of IQ, wealth and health.  IQ is the key variable. Smart people are better at getting rich and  going far in education. High IQ also appears to be in most cases just one indication of general biological fitness.  The brain is just another part of the body, after all. So a well functioning brain and a well functioning heart tend to go together

The lower your education the more vulnerable you are to suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to a new Australian study.

The Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, published in the International Journal for Equity in Health, found Australians who leave school without a school certificate are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as those with a university degree.

Lead researcher Dr Rosemary Korda says the findings of the five-year longitudinal study are "disturbing but clear".

Researchers investigated the links between education and cardiovascular disease events - such as heart attack or stroke - by following more than 276,000 men an women in NSW aged over 45.

In adults aged 45-64 years, heart attack rates among those with no educational qualifications were more than double those with a degree.

The risk was about two-thirds or 70 per cent higher for those with some tertiary qualification, such as that obtained for a trade, just not a university degree.

The study shows just how much cardiovascular disease can be prevented. Dr Korda says a similar pattern of inequality existed between household income and cardiovascular disease events.

She also noted there are lots of complexities to this study and their findings could reflect a number of factors.

"It could reflect different lifestyle behaviours, so different levels of smoking in the community, different levels of obesity, so those risk factors that increase your risk of heart attack of stroke."

"It could reflect healthcare, so we know that there could be differences in the uptake of the use of preventative medication to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke."

What these differences in cardiovascular disease rates between more and less disadvantaged groups show is just how much cardiovascular disease in the population can be prevented, said Dr Korda.

"With better education often you have better income and more resources to draw on so you are in a better position."

Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Australia, with an average of one Australian dying every 27 minutes.

Heart Foundation NSW CEO Kerry Doyle says this research provides further opportunity to "unpack" the specific relationship between educational achievement and cardiovascular disease risk.

"We know that good education impacts long-term health by influencing what type of job you have, where you live and what food choices you make," Ms Doyle said.