Friday, March 10, 2017
Looking for fascism in America? Look left, on campus
Projection is the psychological term for imagining that others possess faults which are actually your own. Case in point: those liberal predictions that after Donald Trump lost the election, violent Trump supporters would attack innocent people, especially members of minority groups. Visions of storm troopers danced in their heads. Vast mobs of white-hooded Ku Klux Klanners would terrify the countryside. Brownshirts and Blackshirts would infest the city streets.
Something like that is happening now — but the violence is coming from leftists, not Trumpists. Take the University of California, Berkeley, [long pause] please. That's where a speech to the Young Republicans by rightist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was shut down by a screaming mob on February 1, as this eyewitness account from Power Line's Steven Hayward records. Not only was the speech shut down, but gangs of ski-masked and bandana-wearing protesters roamed the streets just off campus with sledgehammers, smashing ATM machines. In one instance, Hayward reports, a 62-year-old Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton held up a sign reading "1st Amendment Protects All Speech" and, on the obverse side, "Even Milo's" was punched in the nose and dropped to the ground.
Where were the police? Not in a position to help—by design. In this "lethal, horror situation," said University of California Berkeley campus police chief Margo Bennett, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We have to do exactly what we did last night: to show tremendous restraint." They made just one arrest. As for City of Berkeley police, according to the San Francisco Chronicle they came equipped with riot gear, but "as the violence escalated, officers pulled back." Police on a balcony ordered rioters to disperse, but made no move to stop them, supposedly to prevent injury to "innocent protesters and bystanders." City police made no arrests. "Our primary objective with the resources we had was the protection of life."
In other words, don't count on the campus or city police in Berkeley to protect you against violent thugs. Berkeley (which voted 90 percent for Hillary Clinton, 5 percent for Jill Stein and 3 percent for Donald Trump) seems to be taking the same approach to organized masked black-clad thugs that Italian authorities took to Mussolini's Brownshirts and Weimar Republic authorities took to Hitler's Brownshirts. If fascist violence is thriving and unpunished anywhere in America, it's in Berkeley.
It also made an appearance in Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, (73 percent Clinton, 16 percent Trump) when my American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray appeared in response to an invitation from political science Professor Allison Stanger to speak to students Thursday. Here is Murray's account of how he was shouted down by protesters, how in line with previous arrangements he went to speak in another room where his talk could be livestreamed. It too was interrupted by chants and the triggering of fire alarms (which I suspect in Vermont as elsewhere is at least a misdemeanor offense).
As they walked out the talk with two security guards. Murray describes what happened next: "I didn't see it happen, but someone grabbed Allison's hair just as someone else shoved her from another direction, damaging muscles, tendons, and fascia in her neck. I was stumbling because of the shoving. If it hadn't been for Allison and Bill keeping hold of me and the security guards pulling people off me, I would have been pushed to the ground. That much is sure.
What would have happened after that I don't know, but I do recall thinking that being on the ground was a really bad idea, and I should try really hard to avoid that. Unlike Allison, I wasn't actually hurt at all." The security guards were not able to prevent that, and I gather that in tiny Middlebury, unlike Berkeley, there is no large campus or municipal police force.
Murray praises Professor Stanger and Middlebury administrators and wonders whether they will or will be able to impose penalties, including criminal prosecution, on students or others who behaved unlawfully or in violation of campus code. He notes that in many previous appearances most students responded to protests by asking the protesters to pipe down; that apparently didn't happen, or if it did it didn't work, at Middlebury.
He goes on: "That leads me to two critical questions for which I have no empirical answers: What is the percentage of tenured faculty on American campuses who are still unambiguously on the side of free intellectual exchange? What is the percentage of them who are willing to express that position openly? I am confident that the answer to the first question is still far greater than fifty percent. But what about the answer to the second question? My reading of events on campuses over the last few years is that a minority of faculty are cowing a majority in the same way that a minority of students are cowing the majority." He concludes, "What happened last Thursday has the potential to be a disaster for liberal education."
What happened in Berkeley and Middlebury this month is more evidence that liberal college and university campuses have become the part of American society with the lowest tolerance for and protection of free speech. The liberals who have been quaking in fear of Trumpists thugs might want to notice where the real violent thuggery is occurring and which side of the political spectrum is tolerating it. They're guilty of projection.
One final note: the Associated Press ran a story about the response to Murray's speech in Middlebury that twice in its first three paragraphs repeated characterizations of him as a "white nationalist." The Washington Post, to its shame, printed the story unchanged. This is a disgraceful libel, as anyone who knows Murray's work or knows him personally knows very well.
The AP writer and the Post editor who passed the story along relied for their second characterization on the Southern Poverty Law Center — a dicey source as Harry Zieve Cohen of The American Interest and Charlotte Allen in The Weekly Standard make clear. Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron, if he still wishes to claim the mantle of an objective journalist, should find out how this vile slur got into his paper and make an appropriate disclosure and apology.
New Evidence on School-Choice Successes in Wisconsin
Higher test scores for students who go to the school their parents freely choose
During President Donald Trump’s Joint Address to Congress, 25-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native Denisha Merriweather stood tall in the crowded House gallery. The President recognized Merriweather as an example of how school choice, in her case the Florida tax-credit scholarship, can open up opportunities for thousands of low-income children, often minority, who are trapped in failing public schools.
As Alexandra DeSanctis recently explained at NRO, Merriweather had struggled with reading earlier in her educational career, failing third grade twice. But she was able to use a tax-credit scholarship to attend private school from sixth grade to graduation and is now a college graduate with a master’s degree. She serves as a sterling example of how school choice can transform lives and extend the ladder of opportunity to those who need it most.
President Trump and Betsy DeVos, his reform-minded education secretary, have pledged to make school choice a pillar of the administration’s education agenda. Trump has said he wants Congress to dedicate $20 billion to extend school choice, most likely in the form of tax-credit scholarships, to millions of students across the country. The results could be revolutionary, and a new study from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty shows why.
Milwaukee, Wis., is home to the nation’s oldest private school-choice program. Created in the early 1990s with a bipartisan coalition, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) has grown to serve more than 27,000 students, all low-income and overwhelmingly minority.
While the demand for school choice is evidenced by its popularity, data on whether private-voucher and charter schools serve to educate students better than traditional public schools have been subject to a muddied and distorted debate. The problem has been that making “apples to apples” comparisons about student outcomes across education sectors — public, private, and charter — has been hindered by insufficient data. Testing was inconsistent, and demographic data were often unavailable.
Even if we could compare test scores between voucher students and those in traditional public schools, we were unable to control for demographic characteristics of study that might affect outcomes. In other words, it was generally impossible to know whether voucher students were comparable to those in public schools.
But new testing mandates and the release of demographic information from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has enabled the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty to make a first-of-its-kind comparison between school sectors.
In a new study, Apples to Apples: The Definitive Look at School Test Scores in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we were finally able to compare like groups of students. The results are astonishing. On an apples-to-apples basis, we found that private schools in the voucher program and public charter schools in Milwaukee performed significantly better on the 2016 ACT and state exams than did traditional public schools.
When factors such as poverty, race, and the number of students who are not proficient in English are taken into account and properly controlled for, we find that student outcomes on test scores are simply better in the private and charter sectors than they are in traditional public schools.
In Milwaukee, the choice and charter sectors are consistently outperforming the Milwaukee Public Schools. In addition to higher proficiency rates on statewide tests, students in the choice program score, on average, 2.8 points higher than students in traditional public schools on the ACT.
These results are most pronounced in Milwaukee’s Catholic and Lutheran schools, whose students outperform even other choice students. Students in charter schools also see significant performance differences, scoring 4.4 points higher on average.
When we focused outside of Milwaukee, the research revealed that students in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program and the Racine Parental Choice Program, the newest choice programs in Wisconsin, scored 6 points higher on the ACT.
President Trump and Secretary DeVos may be on the cusp of a revolution in education, though the specifics of any national school-choice plan matter greatly. After decades of largely unsuccessful, top-down, Washington-centered approaches to education reform, students and parents will be empowered to make the decisions that best suit them.
This study matters, not to build one sector up and tear another down, but because it helps provide parents and the general public with the best information about what is working and what isn’t in our schools. For families of modest means, who, like all families, wish to give their children the best chance to succeed, school choice is often the best choice.
Australia: NSW selective schools cater to the brightest students -- Asians
Amusing. An Asian writer below is complaining that Asian students ace tests of academic ability. So much so that schools for the gifted are dominated by Asian students. How could it be otherwise? East Asians simply have markedly higher average IQs. People are just going to have to cope with that.
It's true that Asians "cram" a lot and thus get top exam results but such cramming will not help bring higher scores on an admissions test -- which will largely be an IQ test.
In both Sydney and Melbourne, Asian enrolments make up more than 80 per cent of the school community in virtually all selective schools.
In 2016, selective schools made up eight of the top 10 schools in the Higher School Certificate leaderboard. This is not surprising, as selective schools are government schools designed to cater for gifted and talented students with superior academic ability and high classroom performance.
Unlike other government schools, they are unzoned, so students can apply regardless of where they live.
But these public schools are increasingly bastions of inequality, rather than simply havens for the gifted and talented.
Figures from the government’s MySchool website show that in NSW, selective high schools are among the most socio-educationally advantaged in the state, surpassing even prestigious private schools.
The levels of advantage within selective schools are perhaps even more stark when we compare the students falling within the top quarter of socio-educational advantage (Q1) with those in the bottom quarter (Q4).
In 2015, an average of 74 per cent of students in Sydney’s selective schools were drawn from the most advantaged quarter, compared to only 2 per cent from the bottom quarter.
More than half (56 per cent) of Sydney’s selective schools had no students at all from the lowest quarter in 2015.
What’s more, this inequality has grown noticeably in just five years, with 2010 figures showing a (slightly) more balanced distribution.
On average 60 per cent of selective school students came from the highest quarter, while 9 per cent were from the lowest.
There are signs that other states are moving towards the NSW model. Victoria now has four selective schools, whose enrolments are similarly polarised, though not to the same extent as in NSW.
As public schools designed to cater for gifted and talented students, selective schools should be accessible to high achievers regardless of family background.
The MySchool figures raise serious questions about how accessible or meritocratic selective schools really are. They have become more inaccessible in recent years, almost completely so to the most disadvantaged groups.
Entry to selective schools is becoming increasingly competitive, with growing evidence that success is reliant on months or years of training through academic tutoring centres. Sometimes this begins in early primary school.
In my research with students and families in selective schools in Sydney, interviewees explained that many tutoring centres offered programs specifically focused on the selective schools test.
This kind of academic tutoring, designed solely to improve students’ test-taking skills, is quite a different phenomenon to the traditional tutoring undertaken by those who might be struggling in a particular subject area.
Academic tutoring is particularly popular among east and south Asian migrants to Australia, who are often accustomed to the practice in their home countries.
As a result, selective schools, as well as being increasingly dominated by the socially advantaged, are also now dominated by students from Language Backgrounds Other Than English.
In both Sydney and Melbourne, these enrolments make up more than 80 per cent of the school community in virtually all selective schools. At James Ruse, the figure was 97 per cent in 2015. I have previously analysed some of the social implications of this ethnic imbalance, from self-segregation in the playground to hostility from Anglo-Australian parents who accuse Asian-Australians of “gaming the system”.
The demographic profile of selective schools therefore reflects Australia’s skilled migration policy, which overwhelmingly selects highly educated, professional migrants.
These middle-class migrants, keen to see their kids do well, but also anxious about their place in a new society, have sometimes been unfairly demonised as “tiger parents”. But their behaviour is a logical response to Australian education policies that increasingly emphasise competition and schooling hierarchies.
Ultimately, most students sitting for the selective schools test this week will be unsuccessful in securing a place. And based on current trends, we can confidently predict who will be successful: the majority will come from the most advantaged groups in our society, often from Asian migrant families. Virtually none will be from the most disadvantaged groups.
Selective schools were set up to provide opportunities to the gifted and talented, not just the wealthy, gifted and talented.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:49 AM
Thursday, March 09, 2017
‘Chronically Upset’ Columbia University Faculty ‘Affected’ by Trump, Demand Campus Safe Spaces
“Stunned” faculty at Columbia University (CU), a prestigious Ivy League institution with a 2016-17 undergraduate tuition rate of $52,478, called for a website, “more open discourse,” and “physical space for conversations” to help faculty who are “affected by the Trump administration” and want to express their concerns “without fear of negative consequences.”
The CU Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC) made these requests at the Feb. 24 University Senate meeting, held to “support discourse” regarding the Trump administration’s impact on faculty members.
FAC co-chairs Robert Pollack and Letty Moss-Salentijn originally laid out these requests in February in a letter to University President Lee Bollinger, who defined the Trump presidency as “a challenge to what Columbia stands for.”
“We know no one at Columbia who is not upset, chronically and deeply, since the election,” Pollack and Moss-Salentijn wrote, claiming that Donald Trump’s presidency has resulted in a “malaise that sits like a fog over Columbia.”
They recommended repurposing certain areas on campus to provide space for “quiet, difficult conversations,” with Pollack adding at the meeting that “faculty are human beings, and as such, may feel intimated. There’s no point or place for the expression of that anxiety.”
The committee also requested that residence hall lounges be made accessible to professors, so they can converse with students who have felt “shock, disgust, and sadness” since President Trump’s election victory.
The morning following the presidential election, professors postponed midterm exams, canceled classes, and disregarded lesson plans.
“I know a lot of you guys are emotionally exhausted after tonight – I am too,” computer science Professor Jessica Ouyang wrote in an election-night email to her students. “Let’s take the weekend to get ourselves back to normal.”
College Campus Disgrace
Walter E. Williams
While college administrators and professors accept disgraceful behavior, we as taxpayers, donors and parents should not foot the bill. Let's look at some of that behavior.
A University of Washington Tacoma Writing Center press release told students that expecting Americans to use proper grammar perpetuates racism. The University of Nebraska Omaha will host a workshop for "anti-racist allies" to develop "action plans" that confront America's "foundation of systemic oppression" in the context of "the current political climate." The workshop was inspired by professor Tammie Kennedy's recent book, titled "Rhetorics of Whiteness." She will lead a discussion on "taking action against white supremacy."
Black students at the University of Michigan demand campus officials provide them with "a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work."
Bob Lange is an associate professor emeritus of physics and an adjunct associate professor at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. He says, "It is not terrorism to kill representatives of a government that you are opposed to." His remarks were reported by Canary Mission, a group of students who document people and groups who are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on American college campuses. It reports that Lange maintained that the 2012 terrorist attacks on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya — which killed four people and injured 10 others — were "not terrorism."
Orange Coast College suspended Caleb O'Neil for violating an obscure school policy against recording classroom lectures. It's what he recorded that was disturbing to the college administration. He recorded a human sexuality professor, Olga Perez Stable Cox, spending class time telling her students that Donald Trump's election was an "act of terrorism" because he is a "white supremacist" and Vice President Mike Pence "is one of the most anti-gay humans in this country." Additionally, the professor asked all of the Trump supporters in the classroom to stand up and be accounted for. In a relatively rare incidence of the education establishment's doing the right thing, the Coast Community College District's board of trustees overrode the college president and rescinded O'Neil's suspension and other sanctions. What the board did not do was to sanction Cox for being a thug and bullying her students.
Commentator Dennis Prager recently wrote a column titled "Why Professors Object to Being Recorded." Prager says: "Our colleges and universities (and an increasing number of high schools and elementary schools) have been transformed from educational institutions into indoctrination institutions. With the left-wing takeover of universities, their primary aim has become graduating as many leftists as possible."
He adds: "Most professors objecting to being recorded know on some level that they are persuasive only when their audience is composed largely of very young people just out of high school. They know that if their ideas are exposed to adults, they may be revealed as intellectual lightweights." These professors know that they are persuasive only when their audience is composed of very young people with minds full of mush. If their ideas are exposed to more mature adults, they will be seen as quacks, hustlers and charlatans.
By the way, I've taught graduate and undergraduate economic theory for 36 years at George Mason University. At the beginning of each semester, I invite students to record my lectures. I have no idea who has listened to the lectures or where the recordings wind up. But I challenge anyone to find a lecture in which I proselytized students to my political or personal values. While professorial proselytization is accepted at most universities, I believe that to use one's classroom to push one's personal beliefs, particularly on immature students, is both immoral and academic dishonesty.
What's going on at the nation's colleges represents a threat to both liberty and academic excellence. It is a gross dereliction of duty for legislators, donors and decent Americans to allow it to continue.
Australian Muslim school: Student assault on teacher not reported to police
A student at a Sydney high school that has refused to take part in a deradicalisation program physically assaulted and threatened a teacher last year but the incident went unreported to police, an investigation has uncovered.
NSW Education Department head Mark Scott confirmed yesterday that the school’s ongoing reluctance to implement the state-funded deradicalisation program provided the catalyst for the investigation that culminated in last week’s shock removal of the principal and deputy principal.
The School Communities Working Together program — unveiled in November 2015 in the wake of the Parramatta terror attack in which police worker Curtis Cheng died — was designed to counter violent extremism and anti-social behaviour in schools by providing training and support to help identify students at risk.
It involved schools working closely with community leaders and local police and set out a protocol for schools to report incidents of violent extremist behaviour to the Education Department and police.
“The school was reluctant to have that program take place; they felt it was not necessary,” Mr Scott told 2GB radio yesterday morning. “So at the end of term four we made the determination at a senior level that we really wanted an appraisal of that school.”
The Australian understands that the school’s lack of co-operation was a significant concern to senior departmental staff, given that a previous audit of its lunchtime prayer group — carried out as part of a statewide audit prompted by revelations that extremist interpretations of Islam were being preached within Epping Boys High School — showed up several red flags, including the failure of organisers to take a roll-call.
Punchbowl, in Sydney’s southwest, has a large cohort of Muslim students and teachers.
As The Australian reported last week, Mr Griffiths and deputy principal Joumana Dennaoui were dumped from their roles in light of the department’s investigation. Both are on leave and Mr Scott declined to say whether they would be redeployed.
Sources close to the school say staff morale plummeted towards the end of last year in response to female teachers being denied official roles in the Year 12 presentation and annual awards day.
Since then, a picture has emerged of a school that was increasingly shutting itself off from the community.
The school’s relationship with police, which once played an active role in helping the school overturn its previous reputation for violence, had soured and police liaison officers had been unable to access the campus for the past 2½ years.
Meanwhile, allegations have emerged about teachers being threatened by students claiming to sympathise with terrorists and of senior staff encouraging the disrespect of authority, with one known to describe police as “pigs”.
The Australian understands that the departmental audit picked up one case in which a non-Muslim teacher was seriously assaulted and threatened but the matter was not reported to police.
Mr Scott said yesterday that some allegations aired about the school, including claims that Mr Griffiths had wished to allow only Muslim students in, were untrue.
He also described claims about female teachers being excluded from official ceremonies as “unsubstantiated”, which is contrary to the accounts of various school and departmental sources.
However, Mr Scott said it was a “serious matter” to remove a principal and deputy principal from a school. “We sent a very senior team in there and found a number of matters that were a concern,” he said.
“There was a significant lack of staff unity and there were a number of policies and procedures that were not being followed. It does seem to have lost its way in recent times and become more isolated from the community.”
Parents are understood to have been blindsided by the decision. A petition, started by Ahmed El-Hassan, called for the Education Department to explain the “unfair dismissal”.
A spokesman from the department last night declined to comment on the assault allegations or provide further details on findings from the investigation.
He also declined to say whether the deradicalisation program would be implemented by the school’s new principal, former juvenile justice educator Robert Patruno.
“The school’s new leadership will implement the recommendations from the appraisal,” the spokesman said.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:43 AM
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
UK: Budget to pave way for return of grammars [charters]
The prime minister will forge ahead with a new generation of grammars, earmarking £320 million to fund 140 new free schools.
The extra cash — part of a £500 million pot for education reforms to be announced in tomorrow’s budget — will include provision for selective secondaries to be built and for poorer pupils to be taken by bus to their nearest grammar.
Thirty of the schools are to be built before 2020, with the remaining 110 due to open in the next parliament. These could include the first new state-funded selective secondary schools in a generation, government officials said.
School funding is moving up the political agenda as cuts start to bite and concerns mount over a proposed reform of how cash is distributed. A consultation on the national funding formula closes this month, with Conservative MPs warning that they will rebel unless it does more to close the gap between the best-funded schools — typically in inner cities — and those, often in rural areas, that lose out.
Instead of focusing on day-to-day funding, however, Theresa May will launch a drive to win public support for one of her key public service reforms. Help for poorer pupils to travel to grammars is designed to underline her argument that access to good state schools is too often determined by postcode and wealth. “For too many children a good school place remains out of reach, with their options determined by where they live or how much money their parents have,” the prime minister said last night.
Secondary pupils from families entitled to free school meals or tax credits will in future be allowed free travel for up to 15 miles if they win a place in a selective secondary school. About 70,000 new places will be available in the expansion of free schools, which could include the first wave of new grammars.
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, will announce the additional £320 million and make a further £210 million available for the refurbishment of existing state schools. Some critics will say that the injection falls short of what is needed while others will question the decision to spend more on expanding the costly free-schools initiative.
The National Audit Office (NAO) reported last month that it would cost £6.7 billion to address a backlog of repairs at the 21,200 existing schools. So far 178 schools whose buildings were deemed to be in the worst condition have been replaced under the priority school buildings programme, with 359 scheduled to be rebuilt or repaired.
The spending watchdog said that the deteriorating condition of the school estate was “a significant risk to long-term value for money”. The NAO also warned that a lack of suitable land for new free schools was pushing up costs, noting that 24 plots had cost more than £10 million each.
The £6 million cost of transporting poorer children to grammars is likely to win attention. At present, local authorities must provide free transport for secondary pupils to travel to their “nearest suitable school” if it is more than three miles away. Under so-called extended rights, those from low-income backgrounds can claim free travel for up to 15 miles for a wider range of schools, including faith schools, but not — until now — grammars. The Treasury estimates that 1,500 pupils will benefit.
In a statement before the cash injection for education, Mrs May said that she had “much more to do” to build on reforms started under David Cameron and ensure a greater choice of schools. “As part of our commitment to creating a school system that works for everyone, we are confirming new investment to give parents a greater choice of a good school place for their child, and we will set out the next stage of our ambitions in the coming months,” she said.
For Boston charters, a record spike in applicants
Applications for Boston charter schools for the upcoming school year have more than doubled, shattering previous records, following the launch of a new online enrollment system allowing families to apply to multiple schools at once.
The 16 charter schools using the online application, including one school in Chelsea, collectively received 35,000 applications for about 2,100 available seats, according to the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, which launched the new system. By comparison, those schools received 13,000 applications the previous year, the association said.
The spike in applications, which could sharply raise the odds for admission, came months after voters statewide overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question that would have accelerated the opening of charter schools to meet pent-up demand in Boston and elsewhere. Charter schools are public institutions, most of which operate independently of local systems.
Most charter schools will be holding their admission lotteries Wednesday when they will be pulling names out of a hat, a spinning barrel, or some other kind of device.
Marc Kenen, the charter association’s executive director, attributed the increase in demand not only to the new online system but also to the publicity surrounding the referendum, which he said enabled charter supporters to educate more families about the benefits of charter schools.
“Coming out of the ballot question campaign and not seeing a decrease in interest is a good sign,” Kenen said. “What is clear: Demand is still robust for our schools.”
But it remains unclear whether more individual students are flocking to charter schools this year, as the numbers suggest at first blush; whether those applying are simply submitting applications to a broader number of schools; or some combination of both.
According to the charter association, about 9,200 individual students submitted applications for next fall, indicating that applicants on average were seeking out three or four charter schools.
It was not possible to compare that number with previous years because neither the charter association nor the state compiled that data.
But a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative suggests that students this year threw their names into the hat at more charter schools than in the past.
That study, which examined enrollment rates for Boston charters that served secondary-school students between 2009 and 2013, found that most students sought seats at just one or two charter schools, although the study noted a slight uptick in multiple applications during that time.
The apparent surge this year in students applying to a larger number of schools mirrors a trend that took place years earlier when many colleges moved to a common online application, making it easier for prospective students to apply to multiple schools at the same time.
Under Boston’s new online system, a drop box lists every charter school citywide that offers the grade level the applicant is seeking. Then, applicants check off as many of the schools as they want.
Previously, applicants would need to find out on their own what charter schools existed and fill out a separate paper application for each one.
Consequently, the odds of getting into a charter school for this fall are 16 to one, though that could vary greatly by grade level. By comparison, the MIT study previously found much lower odds: three or four applicants per seat.
“That is the hard part for me — the realization that the demand far outweighs the capacity. It’s extremely unfortunate,” said Mary Tamer, who oversaw the new online system as director of strategic projects for the association’s Boston Charter Alliance. “I truly feel for the families who will not gain access to schools they wanted for their children.”
Aisha Porcher said she is feeling confident about the upcoming lottery. She is seeking a kindergarten seat for her son and applied to four schools, including KIPP Academy Boston, which her daughter attends. The school gives preference to siblings and Porcher is hoping that will give her son an edge, but she doesn’t know how many other applicants have siblings.
“KIPP is very engaging,” Porcher said. “They pay attention to what my daughter needs to be successful in school, and I want the same for my son.”
Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union, which opposed the charter-school expansion measure, said he doesn’t put much stock in the new application numbers for the charter schools.
“They have inflated other numbers in the past,” Stutman said. “There is no reason to think this is a better and more accurate documentation.”
He was referring to the often-disputed accuracy of the state-generated wait list numbers for charter schools, which has 10,000 Boston students on it. The tally includes students who applied in previous years and students who could be enrolled at one charter school but are on a wait list for another.
And questions persist about whether there are duplicate names on the wait lists, even as the state has worked in recent years to weed out repetition.
Shannah Varon, executive director of Boston Collegiate Charter School in Dorchester, which saw applications double, defended the online system.
“I think it has been an overwhelming success,” said Varon, who also heads the Boston Charter Alliance. “I understand that voters have spoken, but we need to put our heads together and find a way to ensure all families have access to high-quality options.”
High Price of Israel's Segregated Educational System
On February 23, Israel's Education Ministry, Jerusalem District Police and Shin Bet security agency closed down a Hamas-operated school in east Jerusalem for teaching a violent, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli curriculum.
Which begs the question: How did a terrorist organization manage to infiltrate the Israeli school system?
Israel's balkanized public education was created almost 65 years ago, with the passage of the National Education Law that allowed Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, Religious Zionist and secular Jews to maintain separate school systems. The result has been a farcical testament to the folly of multiculturalism, which only encourages minority groups to adopt hyphenated identities, play grievance games and submit spurious victimhood claims.
With regards to the education of Arabs living in Jerusalem, multiculturalism morphed into straight out indoctrination in 1995, when the Oslo Agreement mandated that the educational system in east Jerusalem be run by the Palestinian Authority (P.A.). As a result, only eight of about 180 schools teach the Israeli curriculum and only two of those are public schools.
What's the danger of having the P.A. teach Palestinian kids? In 2015, an exhaustive report published by Palestinian Media Watch revealed that Israel's ostensible peace partner, the Palestinian Authority, is teaching its children to hate Israel and Israelis. The P.A.'s official educational system uses virulent anti-Semitic concepts and materials that are proving to be one of the greatest obstacles to peace.
And Israeli citizens are reaping the whirlwind of this strange exercise in segregated education. Most perpetrators of the 'knife Intifada,' a recent yearlong wave of Palestinian terror attacks, came from east Jerusalem.
Instead of teaching all Israeli students about the underpinnings of Israeli society-democracy, civil rights and national solidarity - Israeli education has veered into tribalism, ideological indoctrination and hatred of the "other." As a result, the alienation between students of these parallel educational systems is growing at an alarming rate.
Moreover, the segregated nature of Jerusalem's school system touches upon the festering issue of sovereignty. If Jerusalem is indeed the undivided capital of Israel, then there's can't be separate curricula for Jews and Arabs. More broadly, Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem means that "there are no separate laws for Israelis and for non-Israelis," as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently said.
If the goal of public schools is to develop well-rounded citizens who can think critically, process information, make good decisions, support themselves and serve the needs of society, what can Israel do to reform its divisive educational system?
One idea is to integrate public education in a manner that would both feature a morning core curriculum and include separate afternoon classes. Such a system would enable students from minority population groups to explore their distinct ideological values and religious teachings, while simultaneously obtaining a valuable all-around education.
Less grandiose but more realistic is the Education Ministry's plan to offer extra funding to east Jerusalem schools that switch from the Palestinian to Israeli curriculum.
Schools that either partially or completely adopt the Israeli educational plan will receive additional resources, for such things as counseling, music and art classes, teacher's continuing education and more.
Despite the incendiary rhetoric of autocratic, corrupt Palestinian leaders, most Arabs living in Israel quietly understand that the key to obtaining a higher education and entering the Israeli job market is to learn core subjects such as Hebrew, English, science and math.
But until an equal application of Israeli law is applied to all Jerusalem residents, regardless of national or religious background, the best bet for east Jerusalem schools is to choose real knowledge over incitement and accept the Education Ministry's offer.
As things stand, young Arab men and women going to schools in east Jerusalem today, instead of being prepared to win at the race of life, are all too often being brainwashed to take up arms and fulfill the Jihadist mandate to destroy Israel.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:45 AM
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Harvard Law Administrators Accused Of Stealing Money Meant For Students With Disabilities
Two former Harvard Law School administrators are accused of stealing thousands of dollars from an account meant to help students with disabilities.
In a criminal complaint the I-Team obtained, Harvard University police allege Meg DeMarco, 33, and Darris Saylors, 32, used the funds to purchase laptops, iPads, DVDs, jewelry, and even a few X-rated items. In all, the police investigation said the women stole about $110,000.
According to the court documents, things started to unravel in November 2013 when a new budget manager at the law school noticed some discrepancies.
Both DeMarco and Saylors resigned from their positions at the Dean of Students office while a lengthy police investigation ensued.
The probe revealed purchases of dozens of laptops, iPads, iPods and other electronics. Court documents say a subpoena to Apple traced the items to DeMarco’s home in Chelsea and Saylors’ apartment in Cambridge. Police also discovered items at the homes of Saylors’ friends and family in California, Washington and Tennessee.
Court documents say DeMarco used a mobile card reader to deposit school money directly into her banking account.
Meantime, Saylors is accused of frequenting Amazon for a long list of online purchases like purses, clothing and jewelry. The investigation even found she used the Dean of Students purchasing card to buy sex toys.
Police say she then tried to hide the purchases in budget documents by changing the descriptions to things like, “textbooks for disabilities accommodations.”
“What procedural safeguards were they lacking that allowed something like this to happen?” Vu wondered.
In a statement, Harvard Law School spokeswoman Michelle Deakin said the criminal charges stem from an internal financial audit. “As a result of this matter, the Law School implemented additional layers of controls governing the use of its credit accounts and purchasing protocols,” Deakin wrote.
Saylors, who now lives out of state, did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment.
However, the I-Team recently caught up to DeMarco as she arrived for work at Babson College. Instead of a defense, the former Harvard Law administrator offered an apology.
“It was a big job and I made mistakes,” DeMarco told the I-Team. “I never intended to harm the university. I’m very sorry and will do everything in my power to rectify the situation.”
Saylors and DeMarco are scheduled to be arraigned in Cambridge District Court on Wednesday.
Elsie Tellier is involved with the Harvard College Disability Alliance, a group that advocates for student accommodations. Tellier, a sophomore with cystic fibrosis, said funds allocated for those purposes are essential.
“Without it, we couldn’t be students,” Tellier told the I-Team. “Hearing this is just outrageous and extremely upsetting. I really hope this is a wake-up call for Harvard to take better account of where the money is going.”
Trump: ‘Education Is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’
President Donald Trump called on Congress Tuesday to pass an education bill that funds school choice so that disadvantaged children of all races can choose whatever school is right for them, calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.”
“Education is the civil rights issue of our time. I am calling upon Members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children,” Trump told the joint session of Congress.
“These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them,” Trump said.
He pointed out a woman in the audience named Denisha Merriweather, who “struggled in school and failed third grade twice.” “But then she was able to enroll in a private center for learning, with the help of a tax credit scholarship program,” he said. “Today, she is the first in her family to graduate, not just from high school, but from college. Later this year she will get her masters degree in social work.”
“We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Denisha, but to break the cycle of poverty, we must also break the cycle of violence,” he said.
“The murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century,” the president said.
He noted that 4,000 people were shot in Chicago last year alone and that the murder rate this year “has been even higher.”
“This is not acceptable in our society. Every American child should be able to grow up in a safe community, to attend a great school, and to have access to a high-paying job, but to create this future, we must work with –- not against -– the men and women of law enforcement,” Trump said.
“We must build bridges of cooperation and trust –- not drive the wedge of disunity and division. Police and sheriffs are members of our community. They are friends and neighbors. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they'll come home safe and sound,” he said.
The president said Americans must support law enforcement and crime victims.
Attack on speaker stuns Middlebury College
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Students and professors at Middlebury College were ashamed and embarrassed after an explosive protest Thursday night that has forced the school to reconsider what it means to embrace free speech.
The normally peaceful campus of Middlebury College, with its mountain backdrop and elite reputation, was shaken last week after violent student protesters shut down a talk by controversial conservative social scientist Charles Murray and injured a Middlebury professor who was with him.
Many on campus, including the college president and leaders of the student organization who invited him, disagree vehemently with Murray’s views on social welfare programs and race, but on Saturday they said the campus failed in its duty to exemplify how to debate unpopular ideas with civility.
Donald Trump’s presidency formed the backdrop for the protest, students said. The election has made people on campus dig their heels in ideologically, said Sabina Haque, a junior from Westford, Mass. They’re less willing to accept conflicting viewpoints, she said.
A group of demonstrators at Middlebury College in Vermont “aggressively confronted” guest speaker Charles Murray.
Middlebury’s president, Laurie L. Patton, said the incident demonstrates that elite schools are subject to the same dynamic that challenges the rest of the country — an inability to debate differences constructively.
“The liberal arts college is an idealized place. The actual liberal arts college is something where all of human differences are on full display,” Patton said.
Students and professors burrowed their faces into scarves as they rushed between buildings on a gray, frigid day on the Middlebury campus. They agreed the campus feels different than it did a week ago.
As they walked into the library, Elias Guerra and his friend Javier DelCid discussed the talk, which they did not attend.
“It’s essential that we be exposed to that way of thinking whether we agree or not,” said Guerra, a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y. “When people talk about the Middlebury bubble, that’s the Middlebury bubble.”
But the bubble is not unique to Middlebury. Since Trump’s election as president, and even in the long campaign that led to it, colleges across the country have struggled to balance free speech with an atmosphere that makes students feel safe and accepted.
Murray’s visit put the campus on edge even before he arrived. Patton made clear she disagreed with his views but welcomed him nevertheless. She offered remarks on stage Thursday, before chaos broke out in the auditorium.
Professors held discussions with students during the week before his visit, and some said students had questions ready to ask Murray during his appearance at Wilson Hall in the McCullough Student Center.
“This is a tragedy,” said Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor, who said Murray will now be considered a martyr rather than an extremely polarizing author.
Murray is best known as the author of “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” and “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.” He has theorized that social welfare programs are doomed to hurt those they aim to help, and, most controversially, wrote of ethnic differences in measures of intelligence. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Murray as a “white nationalist” who believes in the intellectual and moral superiority of white men.
When Murray was unable to speak because of the protesters’ interruptions Thursday night, administrators took him to a video studio in the same building and broadcast the event online.
But some protesters began pulling fire alarms, temporarily shutting off power to the live stream. When Murray finished his speech, he left the building with Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics, and other college officials, but was met by a group of protesters who wore bandanas to cover their faces.
College spokesman Bill Burger said he believed they were “outside agitators” who had been barred from the event, rather than Middlebury students. Flanked by security officers, Murray, Stanger and Burger moved toward Burger’s car.
By that point, more than 20 demonstrators had gathered. One threw a stop sign with a heavy concrete base in front of the car Murray was in, and several others rocked, pounded, and jumped on the vehicle. One protester pulled Stanger’s hair and injured her neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released.
The turn of events was perhaps most upsetting to those who invited Murray to campus, the student chapter of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Club leaders said they disagree with Murray’s views but wanted him to discuss his 2012 book “Coming Apart,” which explores the white working class in America.
“Free speech shouldn’t just be free for those who are with you,” said Phil Hoxie, a senior from California who studies economics and is a leader in the club. “It should be free for everyone.”
Hoxie and other club members said there is a problem at Middlebury, and they think it’s the same problem that plagues the nation: People are afraid to talk to each other about their differences of opinion.
Students have lost the ability to challenge one another in the classroom, they said, and in some cases are not encouraged to do so by professors.
“Students are afraid to be truthful in the classroom,” said Ivan Valladares, a senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., who is also a club leader.
Patton did not dispute the students’ diagnosis. Colleges must do more to encourage open dialogue,she said.
“We’re trying to find an educational space where people can have the tough conversations, and I think that’s incredibly difficult,” Patton said in an interview with the Globe Saturday afternoon.
“What this episode, I think, has shown, is that it is even harder to do, that in fact the task of a liberal arts education is even harder to do in the 21st century,” Patton said.
Harvey Silverglate, a Cambridge civil liberties attorney, said there’s a difference between the students disrupting Murray’s lecture inside and the individuals who damaged the car.
“I draw a serious line between rioting and other nondisruptive showing of disapproval,” he said. “One hiss and one boo is free speech. Twenty-five hisses and boos in a row is disruption and is illegal.”
Stanger called Thursday the saddest day of her life but said she doesn’t regret the experience. “Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country,” Stanger wrote on Facebook. “And on that, Charles Murray and I would agree.”
Posted by jonjayray at 1:54 AM
Monday, March 06, 2017
‘Anti-Racism’ Preschool Coming to Seattle
Another attempt to brainwash little kids
Seattle’s Columbia City, a self-described “neighborhood of nations” and “one of the country’s most diverse zip codes,” will soon feature an “anti-racism” preschool that “focuses on experiences of people of color,” according to Western Washington’s King5.com news.
The school will teach a curriculum that endeavors “to change biases” through stories of race and racism.
“When we’re telling stories to our kids, especially about people of color, we want to make sure that we’re showing them stories about people of color that aren’t just about people existing in the past,” said teacher Jasen Frelot.
“We’re looking to create the confidence,” teacher Benjamin Gore added, “that when these kids go into predominantly white schools that don’t highlight counter-narratives, that they bring that to the school.”
“I like the idea,” parent Taryn Coe said, “of these kids being exposed to role models that don’t look like them…there’s a lot of Disney princess culture that happens in our house.”
“They see white princesses and think, ‘I want to be like that,’” Ms. Coe continued, “and I think it’s really important that they see there are so many other ways you can accomplish other than just being a white princess.”
Set to open next fall, the school is currently holding a series of community workshops for children and parents at Columbia City Church of Hope. The church describes itself as a “progressive community of faith” where “everyone is welcome,” including “old, young, gay, straight, believers, doubters, fence-sitters, activists, scientists, poets, and slackers.”
“We work for justice,” the church’s website explains, “especially for those who are systematically denied it: people experiencing homelessness, those who identify as LGBT, People of Color, those who are economically marginalized.
On Education, the Left Protects a Miserable Status Quo
Walter E. Williams
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “The president’s decision to ask Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education should offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefitted from the public education system in this country.”
Expressing similar sentiments, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond said, “I expect that Mrs. DeVos will have an incredibly harmful impact on public education and on black communities nationwide.”
Those and many other criticisms of DeVos, the Department of Education secretary, could be dismissed as simply political posturing if we did not have an educational system that is mostly mediocre and is in advanced decay for most black students.
According to the Nation’s Report Card, only 37 percent of 12th-graders were proficient in reading in 2015, and just 25 percent were proficient in math.
For black students, achievement levels were a disgrace. Nationally, 17 percent of black students scored proficient in reading, and 7 percent scored proficient in math. In some cities, such as Detroit, black academic proficiency is worse; among eighth-graders, only 4 percent were proficient in math, and only 7 percent were proficient in reading.
The nation’s high school graduation rate rose again in the 2014-2015 school year, reaching a record high as more than 83 percent of students earned a diploma on time.
Educators see this as some kind of achievement and congratulate themselves. The tragedy is that high school graduation has little relevance to achievement.
In 2014-2015, graduation rates at District of Columbia Public Schools, just as they did nationally, climbed to an all-time high. At H.D. Woodson High School, 76 percent of students graduated on time; however, just 1 percent met math standards on national standardized tests linked to the Common Core academic standards. Just 4 percent met the reading standards.
The low black academic achievement is not restricted to high school graduates of D.C. schools. The average black high school graduate has the academic achievement level of a white seventh- or eighth-grader.
As such, it stands as unambiguous evidence that high schools confer diplomas attesting that students can read, write, and compute at a 12th-grade level when in fact they cannot. That means they have received fraudulent high school diplomas.
There are many factors that affect education that educators cannot control. But they have total control over the issuance of a diploma.
Educators often complain that there’s not enough money. Census Bureau data show that as early as 2009-2010, Washington, D.C., spent $29,409 per pupil.
Starker proof that there’s little relationship between spending and academic proficiency is in the case of Detroit’s public schools. In 2009-2010, the nation’s elementary and secondary public school systems spent an average of $10,615 per pupil. According to the Census Bureau, Detroit schools spent $12,801 per pupil. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy claims that Detroit actually spent $15,570 per pupil that year.
There’s not much payoff for education dollars. The National Institute for Literacy found that 47 percent of the city’s adults are “functionally illiterate.” The Nation’s Report Card reports that Detroit students score the lowest among the nation’s big-city schools, and Washington is not far behind.
I’d ask Schumer how it would be possible for DeVos to make education any worse than it is for many Americans. I’d suggest to Richmond that if the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan were the secretary of education and wanted to sabotage black academic achievement, he couldn’t find a better method for doing so than keeping our public school system as it is.
Many black politicians and educators would never have their own children attend the rotten, dangerous schools that are so much a part of our big cities. Many black parents, captured by these schools, would like to get their children out.
But that’s not in the interest of the education establishment, which wants a monopoly on education. Black politicians and academics are the establishment’s facilitators.
That explains their hostility to DeVos. She would like to give more parents a choice.
What happened when a primary school stopped giving homework to its students
It actually just gave different homework
Whether or not primary school students should be given homework is a longstanding – and polarising – debate.
Those in favour cite its benefits for consolidating what children have learnt during the day, while those against feel it cuts into family time – and that it's simply not a battle worth fighting when kids are exhausted after school.
For a primary school principal in Vermont, lingering questions about the effectiveness of setting homework led to him conducting an experiment. Students at Orchard School, which includes kids from K-5, were asked to read and play instead. And the results of their no-homework trial are certainly food for though.
School principal Mark Trifilio told the Washington Post that when the school year began, he sat down with his staff and gave them a proposal: what if we stopped homework in every year and replaced it with reading and outside play?
"All 40 voted yes," he said of his teaching staff, "and not just yes, but a passionate yes. When do you get 40 people to agree on something?"
The school then devised a no-homework policy, the details of which are listed on their website.
No Homework Policy: Student's Daily Home Assignment
1. Read just-right books every night – (and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play – that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family – and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night's sleep.
Six months later and the experiment has been a huge success. According to Mr Trifilio, the no-homework policy has not had a detrimental impact on students' academic progress and has given kids "time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions".
And while students are required to read, and are also given book recommendations, they're not required to fill out those dreaded reading logs. "We know that we all make up logs," Mr Trifilio said.
It's not only the teachers, however, who can see the benefits of binning formal homework: parents have also responded positively to homework-free afternoons. The "vast majority" of the 400 parents who responded to a post-experiment survey felt the change had resulted in their kids reading more and having time to pursue other activities.
Only a small number felt their children were missing out on further learning opportunities when formal homework ceased.
Research findings in the area certainly support Orchard School's approach. A review of studies conducted between 1987 and 2003 found little or no relationship between time spent on homework and academic achievement in primary school.
For high school students, however, the results were different. Time spent on homework for secondary school kids was associated with better academic outcomes.
Harris Cooper, who led the review and has studied the effectiveness of homework for over 25 years, cites the finding from cognitive psychology that there are age differences in children's ability to concentrate, when explaining the differences between homework for primary and secondary school kids. Primary school age kids, he explained, are more likely to be distracted by their home environment, making homework less effective.
It's a view shared by Richard Walker, associate professor of education at The University of Sydney. "There isn't much benefit in homework for primary school children," he told The Telegraph in 2015.
"There are some benefits for junior school students and around 50 per cent of senior high school students show some benefit when it comes to academic achievement. But not for primary school kids," he said.
Posted by jonjayray at 1:28 AM
Sunday, March 05, 2017
UK: Ministers set to announce plans for compulsory sex education lessons in schools for four-year-olds
Ministers are set to announce plans for compulsory sex education in schools for children as young as four, The Daily Telegraph understands.
Prime Minister Theresa May backs an overhaul of the sex education system to recognise threats to children from social media and sexual images on the internet, Number 10 said today.
Asked if the PM was concerned that teaching in classes had not kept pace with threats from the internet, the spokesman said: “There is a threat online and that threat we would all recognise has grown.
“That does mean that now is the right time to look at how we can ensure children have the access they need to the teaching in those subjects.”
It comes after a group of 23 Tory MPs, including five former ministers, backed a change to the law that would see Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) made a compulsory in the National Curriculum.
The change would see teenagers being what consent means in sexual relationships and how to protect themselves from sexting and online exploitation in compulsory classes.
Currently only council-controlled secondary schools are required to teach children about sex in biology classes. There is no such requirement on academies or free schools which make up the majority of secondary schools in England.
Ministers have faced mounting pressure from across the political spectrum to bring about the change following concerns children are being left ill-equipped to cope with the new realities of online porn, cyber bullying and sexting.
Justine Greening, the Education secretary, has already hinted that the Government wants to take action, but has yet to publish further information.
The changes - the biggest overhaul of sex education for 17 years - were proposed in an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill which was published in the House of Commons earlier this month.
A survey earlier this week by Plan International UK, the children’s charity found that the vast majority of parents are in favour of educating children about sexual consent, pornography and "sexting". Seven out of ten parents also backed the inclusion of education about different sexualities.
Government officials have insisted that any SRE lessons will be “age appropriate”.
Alarmed by Trump, New England schools protect vulnerable students
Alarmed by President Trump’s increasingly hostile stances, several local school departments have sought to reassure parents, students, and teachers that protections remain in place for immigrant and transgender students.
School officials from at least seven cities and towns — as well as the state Education Department — have sent letters home to parents or posted statements in the last several weeks, after Trump’s moves to restrict immigration and limit protections for transgender students.
In Needham, Superintendent Dan Gutekanst welcomed high school students back from February break this week with a statement noting that “collectively these actions and pronouncements impact us all by sending a message that an individual is not welcome or wanted.”
“And that,” Gutekanst wrote, “is simply unacceptable.”
Letters have gone out from Revere, Brookline, Lexington, Boston, and other communities, starting last month, days after Trump’s first executive order restricted travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. The letters continued as the administration moved aggressively to deport those in the country illegally. More messages came after the president revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity.
Some Massachusetts school leaders point to a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in their letters, saying, “states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education on account of their immigration status.” Some of the letters are written in several languages, owing to the highly diverse makeup of the student bodies in Greater Boston.
“We recognize the uneasiness and isolation many of you are experiencing due to the current political climate,” Mayor Brian Arrigo of Revere, who is also chairman of the School Committee, and Superintendent Dianne K. Kelly wrote in a Jan. 30 letter that was written in Spanish, Arabic, and English. “One of the ways we have measured our schools’ success has been by assessing how safe, welcomed, and included ALL of our students and families feel. This will not change.”
Brookline Public Schools began its Feb. 3 letter by quoting James Baldwin, the celebrated black author, essayist, and social critic: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
The broad, vehement backlash from states and individual school districts recalls the resistance to public school desegregation in the 1960s, said Preston Green, a professor of educational leadership and law at the University of Connecticut.
In that era, there was a “massive resistance” in Southern states and elsewhere to keep schools segregated.
“It’s ironic,” he said. “It’s now the Northeast and people pushing for inclusion who are now pushing against the federal government. In fact, you’re seeing the term ‘the resistance’ being used against the current administration, and this is the educational component of it.”
The day after Trump’s administration issued a letter ordering schools nationwide to disregard orders from the previous administration regarding the rights of transgender students, Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts’ commissioner of elementary and secondary education, wrote a letter to state school officials. He said that he “would like to affirm for you that Massachusetts remains dedicated to protecting the rights of transgender students even in light of recent federal actions.”
“No one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, and under existing state statute and regulations, protections for students and families will remain in place in the Commonwealth,” he wrote to superintendents, charter school leaders, and principals.
Chelsea Public Schools posted Chester’s letter to its website.
Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, echoed Chester’s comments, saying last week that he was disappointed with the Trump administration’s move and reaffirming that students in Massachusetts “are going to be protected.”
Under a Massachusetts law that went into effect last year, transgender people are permitted use of restrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities. The Trump administration’s guidance leaves such discretion up to local lawmakers, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrote in a statement.
In Lexington, Superintendent Mary Czajkowski wrote that “it has not been my practice to comment on political events or share my own perspective on such matters.”
But that changed with Trump’s executive order restricting immigration, she wrote.
“I feel it is important for me to emphasize again, that everyone belongs in Lexington Public Schools,” she said in a Jan. 31 letter. “Regardless of language, race, ethnic background, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, immigrant status, and any other manner in which individuals may identify — Lexington Public Schools remains fully committed to safety, equality and inclusivity for all .”
Trump’s order on immigration has been halted by the courts. He is expected to issue a new order Wednesday.
Explaining their correspondence to students, parents, and staff, the Brookline Public School Committee and Superintendent Andrew Bott said in a letter that they felt it “important to reiterate our policies and practices” as “critical national issues related to education emerge.”
“We acknowledge that this is a frightening and uncertain time for some of our community members, and we want to affirm that all students and families are valued, welcome, and important members of our inclusive and pluralistic community,” said the letter.
School officials in Cambridge issued two separate letters — one after the administration’s immigration ban, and another after federal protections for transgender students was revoked — telling Cambridge students and staff that they are valued and supported. Both letters provide resources for families with questions or concerns.
The district also plans to hold two “Know Your Rights” seminars in collaboration with the Cambridge Human Rights Commission and Cambridge Commission on Immigration Rights and Citizenship.
“Bigotry and intolerance have no place within Cambridge Public Schools’ educational environment and workplace,” Superintendent Kenneth Salim wrote in a letter posted to the district’s website on Saturday.
And Boston Public Schools created its own website, BPS: We Dream Together, that offers information on immigration in 15 languages.
“BPS stands in solidarity with all of you!,” Superintendent Tommy Chang wrote in a “Letter to the BPS Community” posted on the website.
He also issued a statement Thursday, the day after federal transgender protections were rescinded, saying that “transgender and gender nonconforming students” in Boston “will remain protected from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.”
The stance that the state and school districts are taking is not insignificant, said Green, the UConn professor.
“It’s a very big deal,” he said. “They are speaking out, in their positions as citizens and as employees. They are taking major stands by making these statements.”
Lurch to left raises concerns for campus free speech
British universities suffer from “group-think” with a strong left-wing or liberal bias among academics and an under-representation of conservative views, a report claims.
It argues that the trend poses a threat to higher education because it raises the possibility of future clashes with right-of-centre governments that may strip universities of funding. There is an increased risk of unconscious academic bias and a possible threat to free speech.
The study comes after universities found themselves on the losing side of the Brexit debate, in which vice- chancellors, academic and student leaders campaigned overwhelmingly to remain in the EU last year, despite several being based in cities or regions that voted heavily to leave.
The analysis, published by the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think tank, sought to look at the political opinions of British university academics over the past five decades and charted a threefold decline in support for the Conservatives in the period.
Although the underlying data is sketchy and not directly comparable, higher education experts said that the broad trend appeared to be correct and urged a wider debate on the issue.
The author Noah Carl, a research student at Nuffield College, Oxford, looked at results from an online survey of university staff published by the Times Higher Education magazine before the 2015 general election, which found that 46 per cent said they would vote Labour and 11 per cent backed the Conservatives. Another 22 per cent said they would vote for the Green Party and 9 per cent for the Liberal Democrats, with the rest backing other smaller parties. The online survey, in which 1,019 university staff took part, was self selecting and may have included some non-academic university staff.
The author compared these findings with a book written in 1995 by AH Halsey, an Oxford professor, called Decline of the Donnish Dominion which reported surveys of academics’ political views across three decades. These found that 35 per cent said they supported the Conservatives in 1965, falling to 29 per cent in 1976 and 18 per cent in 1989. Different survey methods will have been used and the university sector has grown since, so they figures cannot be directly compared but give an indication of past voting patterns.
The author concluded that discrimination may be a factor and said it was harder for universities to be places where perspectives and arguments were challenged if scholars shared a similar ideological outlook.
Mr Carl said: “It cannot have escaped the notice of anyone who has spent time in British academia, especially in the social sciences and humanities, that there is a sizable left-liberal skew. One rarely encounters a fellow academic who supports the Conservatives, and I have never met one who supports Ukip.”
Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “Conservatives have left the academy. You find a fair few libertarians — people with economically right-wing but socially liberal views — but hardly any who admit to being socially conservative.”
Their broad conclusion was endorsed by Nick Hillman, former special adviser to Lord Willetts, the universities and science minister between 2010 and 2014, who is director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.
“Although the picture is sketchy, the evidence that exists does suggest there is an imbalance in political views at our universities compared to the past,” Mr Hillman said.
“It is unsurprising that the cultural wars of the 1980s, which led to big cuts at specific universities and saw politicians attacking particular courses, left a permanent mark.
“In the past, when the political left have been in crisis, as in the late 1970s, more right-wing views have made headway on campus. That doesn’t seem to be happening so much this time around and there are some problems as a result.
“For example, on the day after the referendum, some pro-EU universities were shocked to find that they are in areas of the country that are deeply Eurosceptic and they have started to question whether they have sufficiently deep local roots.”
A spokesman for the University and College Union, which represents academics, said: “This sounds like a reds-under-the-beds scare story from a right-wing think tank. Whatever their politics, lecturers encourage debate and the challenging of perceived wisdom.”
Posted by jonjayray at 1:36 AM