Friday, March 31, 2017

Restoring a Christian influence in the schools

Although it is true religious Republicans have panted to make public education a theocratic endeavor for a few decades, it is probably true their efforts became paramount after a long-term study’s results last year confirmed their worst nightmare.

Just about the time the presidential primaries were heating up last year, results reported by San Diego State University News Center verified what many other, shorter-termed surveys, polls and general observations had been recording for a decade. The results contradict assertions by evangelical conservatives that Americans are highly religious and detest secularism on general principles, but that is not necessarily why religious Republicans demand that god, Christianity, and bible ascend to a dominant role in public life, including public schools.

The “General Special Survey” between 1972 and 2014 found that there is “a sharp decline in religious observance” among Americans. The report noted Americans were five times less likely to pray, and roughly half as likely to believe in god, or say the Christian bible was “divinely inspired.” In fact, of the nearly 59,000 respondents queried, most say they don’t even “privately practice religion or describe themselves as spiritual.” It is, in any universe, an acutely depressing downward trend for the religious right and confirmation that Americans support secularism in government precisely as the Founding Fathers intended in creating the U.S. Constitution.

That kind of news is likely what is driving the religious Republican efforts to force god-bible into public schools because they believe their godly mandate is “to make the United States a godly Christian nation.” In December there were reports of a policy manifesto from an influential Christian conservative group with ties to Trump and Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos calling for  dismantling of the Education Department to facilitate putting god and bible in public classrooms.

The manifesto calls for all K-12 public schools to teach bible classes, post the Ten Commandments in plain sight, recognize and celebrate holidays “from a Judeo-Christian” perspective and abolish secular-based sex education materials from public schools facilities. The manifesto, “Education Reform Report” is the product of the Center for National Policy, a “front for radical conservative Christians” with close ties to DeVos and several “top White House officials,” including Trump’s fascist master Steve Bannon. The report’s demands can be summed up thus; ”the restoration of education in America that promotes religious schools and enshrine historic Judeo-Christian principles as the basis for instruction.”

The radical Christian group laid down some “assumptions” to base the Department of Education’s theocratic agenda such as:

“All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.” And that “Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists,” and schools will “develop training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.”

Trump’s choice to dismantle public education and replace it with theocratic indoctrination, Betsy DeVos said her goal is to use the full force of the Trump government to “Confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance god’s kingdom.”

Over the past few years any number of pundits and commentators have claimed the religious right, like the Republican Party, is either suffering its death throes or already dead. Of course that may be every decent Americans’ wet dream, but it is not remotely true. What is true is that Americans are less religious, less Christian, and less likely to believe in an air-fairy controlling the universe. It is that “truth” that is driving the conservative Christian effort to make America more Christian and more godly by indoctrinating the next generation into accepting the idea that American education must proceed in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles without question and without choice.

Based on the study revealing that Americans are fleeing religion in droves, one can only assume that the radical Christian conservatives are thrilled that while the nation is mesmerized by the Trump’s espionage problems, their effort to theocratize the public education system is going unnoticed.


Georgetown University and Radical Islamists: It's a Family Affair

Georgetown University's Qatar campus is set to host Sami Al-Arian for a lecture tonight in Doha. According to a news release from the school's Middle Eastern Studies Student Association, Al-Arian is a "civil rights activist" who hopes to challenge students to "make it a better, and more equitable and peaceful world."

Those are charitable descriptions for Al-Arian, a documented member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Majlis Shura, or board of directors. According to the Islamic Jihad's bylaws, which law enforcement agents found during searches of Al-Arian's home and offices, there can be "No Peace without Islam." The group's objective is to create "a state of terror, instability and panic in the souls of Zionists and especially the groups of settlers, and force them to leave their houses."

It's an agenda Al-Arian took to heart. Following a double suicide bombing in 1995 that killed 19 Israelis, Al-Arian solicited money from a Kuwaiti legislator. "The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best guide and witness to what they believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy..." he wrote.

"I call upon you to try to extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue, so that the people do not lose faith in Islam and its representatives..." he wrote. Four years earlier, he spoke at a fundraiser in Cleveland, introduced as the head of the "active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine."

Why, then, is a Jesuit university, albeit at a campus in Qatar, hosting a leader of a designated terrorist group's "active arm"?

There's a family bond between Georgetown University and the Al-Arians. Son Abdullah is an assistant professor at Georgetown's Qatar campus, teaching history in its School of Foreign Service. He earned his Ph.D. at Georgetown, writing his dissertation about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during the 1970s, a time his father acknowledges being part of the global Islamist movement.

Jonathan Brown, Al-Arian's son-in-law, also works at Georgetown, as the [Saudi] Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization. Brown recently drew criticism for a lecture in which he argued that slavery isn't inherently "morally evil" if the slave is treated well. He also minimized sexual consent as a recent social more, arguing no one is really free enough to grant consent anyway.

Property records show Brown and his wife Laila Al-Arian bought a modest house just outside Tampa in 2015. Brown also owns a $1.1 million house in Mclean, Va.

Brown's boss, Georgetown University Professor John Esposito, has been a staunch Al-Arian defender. Al-Arian is "an extraordinarily bright, articulate scholar and intellectual-activist, a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice," Esposito wrote in a letter to a federal judge.

Brown's slavery and sexual consent lecture was hosted by the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Va. The IIIT was a prime financial supporter of a think tank Al-Arian founded in Tampa called the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE). It provided cover for at least three other members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Shura Council, including his brother-in-law Mazen Al-Najjar, an academic named Basheer Nafi and Ramadan Abdullah Shallah - the Islamic Jihad's secretary general since late 1995.

Federal prosecutors wanted Al-Arian to tell a grand jury what he knew about the IIIT's financial support for terrorists. He refused. Al-Arian was charged with criminal contempt after maintaining that stance even after a judge granted him immunity for his truthful testimony.

The case never went to trial. Al-Arian was deported to Turkey in 2015, pursuant to terms in his 2006 guilty plea connected to his Palestinian Islamic Jihad support. He now works as "director of the Center for Regional Politics at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University," the Georgetown Middle East students group's news release said.

The federal judge who saw all the evidence against Al-Arian, who watched him lie about his true identity and violent ambitions, called him a "master manipulator." Old habits die hard, apparently. The question in this case is whether Georgetown and its student groups are being duped or are witting accomplices in whitewashing a terrorist into a "human rights advocate."


Trigger warnings' come to Australia

Monash University has become the first in Australia to introduce a policy of trigger warnings.

But critics have blasted the move as a bid to implement a politically correct agenda under the pretence of protecting the wellbeing of students.

In the Melbourne university's pilot program, 15 course outlines contain warnings that the content could cause emotional distress to students, the ABC reports.

It involves academics reviewing the course's content and highlight any 'emotionally confronting material' related to sexual assault, violence, domestic abuse, child abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicide, pornography, abortion, kidnapping, hate speech, animal cruelty and animal deaths, including abbatoirs.

The university insists political correctness was not a factor in the introduction of the policy, which was the culmination of years of campaigning by the Student Association.

But critics insist it is conceding to the demands of students who want to avoid ideas they do not agree with – and is a reflection of what is happening on campuses across the United States.

Student Association president Matilda Grey insists the warnings are not there so students can withdraw themselves from challenging situations – but so they can prepare themselves for the material they will study.

She added the current generation of students are simply more aware of the traumatising experiences their classmates may have endured, such as sexual assault.

'We're not suggesting that they should be faced with difficult, discomforting topics at all,' she said.

Rather, it will allow those who may suffer anxiety or panic attacks from distressing content to prepare themselves and manage their response, she said.

Chris Berg, from the Institute of Public Affairs, is critical of the move and says it is harmful to education.

'We've seen how this has played out in the US and it can turn into a censorious, highly politically correct [culture] and highly harmful to the mission of education that universities exist for,' he told the ABC.

And Marguerite Johnson, an associate professor at Newcastle University, considers herself progressive and regularly warns her students ahead of explicit material.

However, she disagrees with the idea of university officials deciding when warnings are to be issued – and thinks Monash sets the bar far too low.

'The world is emotionally distressing and I find it quite absurd that the universities may see themselves as the guardians of emotionally distressing situations,' she added.

She also believes the warnings are a stepping stone to censorship and could lead to the application of warnings on specific works.

For example, the works of Roman poet Ovid, Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald have often been objected to by American students for their depiction of sexual violence.

Professor Johnson also noted that analysing texts that might disturb students can be for the betterment of society, citing the example of Australia's reform of sexual assault laws.

She said it was only because young feminist students in the 1970s saw the way women were represented in rape cases that they went on to become lawyers and advocated for the change in legislation.

'If they hadn't experienced the horrors of reading the materials as students, how would they know what to fight against, how would they know what to kick against?'


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Educational Sabotage

By Walter E. Williams

Nationally, black junior high and high school students are suspended at a rate more than three times as often as their white peers, twice as often as their Latino peers and more than 10 times as often as their Asian peers.

According to former Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the "huge disparity is not caused by differences in children; it's caused by differences in training, professional development, and discipline policies. It is adult behavior that needs to change."

In other words, the Education Department sees no difference between the behavior of black students and white, Latino and Asian students. It's just that black students are singled out for discriminatory discipline. Driven by Obama administration pressures, school districts revised their discipline procedures by cutting the number of black student suspensions.

Max Eden, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has written a report, "School Discipline Reform and Disorder: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, 2012-16." The new discipline imposed on public schools is called restorative justice. Rather than punish a student through exclusion (suspension), restorative justice encourages the student who has misbehaved to reflect on his behavior, take responsibility and resolve to behave better in the future.

The results of this new policy are: increased violence, drug use and gang activity. Max Eden examines the NYC School Survey of teachers and students and finds that violence increased in 50 percent of schools and decreased in 14 percent. Gang activity increased in 39 percent of schools and decreased in 11 percent. For drug and alcohol use, there was a 37 percent increase while only 7 percent of schools improved.

It's not just New York City where discipline is worse under the Obama administration's policy. Max Eden reports: "One Chicago teacher told the Chicago Tribune that her district's new discipline policy led to 'a totally lawless few months' at her school. One Denver teacher told Chalkbeat that, under the new discipline policy, students had threatened to harm or kill teachers, 'with no meaningful consequences.' ... After Oklahoma City Public Schools revised its discipline policies in response to federal pressure, one teacher told the Oklahoman that '[w]e were told that referrals would not require suspension unless there was blood.'"

Max Eden reports that in Oklahoma City a teacher said that: "Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors. These students know there is nothing a teacher can do. Good students are now suffering because of the abuse and issues plaguing these classrooms."

In Buffalo, a teacher who was kicked in the head by a student said: "We have fights here almost every day. The kids walk around and say, 'We can't get suspended — we don't care what you say.'"

Ramsey County attorney John Choi of St. Paul, Minnesota, described how the number of assaults against teachers doubled from 2014 to 2015 and called the situation a "public health crisis." Testifying before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a former Philadelphia teacher said that a student told him, "I'm going to torture you. I'm doing this because I can't be removed." Eden's report cites similar school horror stories in other cities.

Since most of the school violence and discipline problems rest with black students, there are a few questions that black parents, politicians, academics and civil rights advocates should ponder. Is academic achievement among blacks so high that black people can afford to allow miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process?

For those pushing the Obama administration's harebrained restorative justice policy, can blacks afford for anything to interfere with the acquisition of academic excellence? Finally, how does the Obama restorative justice policy differ from a Ku Klux Klan policy that would seek to sabotage black education by making it impossible for schools to rid themselves of students who make education impossible for everyone else?


More Leftist racism

Outrage has grown at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, as the school faces layoffs and increased class sizes due to a law limiting funds for schools with a higher white student body.

The Los Angeles Unified School District provides more funding for schools where the white population is below 30 percent.

In a letter to parents, the district noted the highly regarded middle school had been above the percentage for the past couple years.

The racial formula was a condition imposed by court decisions dealing with desegregation in the 1970s.

Parents, however, remain frustrated with what the cuts might mean for their children.

"When your class sizes are getting larger and you're taking resources away from students, I mean ss parents, you do want your kid to go out to college," one parent, Rosemary Estrada, said.

In an attempt to lessen the budget cuts, the district changed the school's spending formula to one based on the number of students.

"Thankfully we're going to keep our librarian. We're going to keep our nurse, but we may lose a few teachers, but not as many as we once thought," said Sheila Edmiston, one student's parent.

Several jobs will still be lost and class sizes could grow. For many parents, the race-based reason of "too many white students" has made the cuts more difficult to swallow.


Australia: 'It's destroying the innocence of childhood': Experts slam 'sexism' program aimed at stamping out gender stereotypes in preschools

A new program targeting four-year-old children who show signs of sexism in preschool has been slammed by education experts.

Thousands of early childhood educators in Victoria will be trained to implement Respectful Relationships programs in a bid to stamp out gender stereotyping in the state's kindergartens.

A tender to train 4,000 educators suggests four-year-old children can show signs of sexism and gender discrimination.

'As young children learn about gender, they may also begin to enact sexist values, beliefs and attitudes that may contribute to disrespect and gender inequality,' the document says, according to The Australian.

'Professional learning will ­increase the capacity of early childhood educators to understand and implement respectful relationships and gender equality into their program delivery.'

Senior research fellow at Australian Catholic University, Kevin Donnelly, told the Herald Sun children in preschool do not have the capacity to understand complex teachings on gender and sexuality. 

'It is far too early... It is quite outrageous and quite offensive to think that young children of that age will be indoctrinated with this very cultural, left gender and sexuality theory,' Dr Donnelly said.  'It really is destroying the innocence of childhood.'

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling has previously slammed Respectful Relationships programs.

'[Premier] Daniel Andrews should stop implementing ideological programs and forcing his values on other people's children, and start focusing on the basics such as teaching our kids to read, write and count,' he said.

The new program will reportedly cost the taxpayer $3.4 million.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In Wake of Rockville Rape, School Superintendent Accuses Parents of Racism

In the wake of an alleged brutal rape at Rockville High School in Maryland by two illegal aliens last week, Montgomery County Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith is accusing parents of racism and xenophobia. He also claims threats are being made against students and schools.

"While I know this tragic incident has become part of a national political debate, I want to remind community members that the lives of real students have been forever affected," Smith sent in an email Thursday morning. "While many have chosen to engage civilly in the conversation, far too many have crossed the line with racist, xenophobic calls and emails. MCPS is working with law enforcement to identify those who are making threats toward our students and schools. This behavior will not be tolerated in our community."

Nowhere in the email was it mentioned the suspects are in the country illegally, with at least one facing deportation.

Parents have been protesting outside of Smith's office in recent days and did not mince words about the situation during a public meeting Tuesday night. One parent said he took his daughter out of school last year because of an unsafe environment.

Smith avoided questions about the alleged sexual assault for days and had to be confronted by a reporter in the parking lot outside of his office before finally answering questions. He is in charge of 204 schools in the district.

Meanwhile, Republican Governor Larry Hogan is demanding answers.

"Why is an 18-year-old man in a class with 13 or 14-year-old girls? Why was his status not known to those folks? Why was he allowed to enter the country after he was picked up for illegally crossing the border—both of them? So there are a lot of questions,” Hogan told Fox 5. "My biggest concern is the Montgomery County School System and their lack of cooperation and the lack of information they've been providing. Not only have they refused to provide any information to us, but they've refused to provide information to the state Board of Education, which specifically requested more information."


The Consequences of Immigration for America’s Public Schools

It is difficult to overstate the impact that immigration is having on our nation’s schools.

In a recent report based on Census Bureau data authored by myself and colleagues Bryan Griffith and Karen Ziegler, we map the profound impact immigration has had on schools across the country.

We find that nationally, nearly 1 in 4 students in public schools is now from an immigrant household (legal or illegal). The number of children from immigrant households in schools is now so high in some areas that it raises profound questions about assimilation.

What’s more, immigration has added enormously to the number of students who are in poverty or speak a foreign language.

All of this has occurred with little debate over the capacity of our schools to educate and integrate these students into our culture.

As recently as 1980, just 7 percent of public school students were from immigrant households, compared to 23 percent today.

High-immigration states have seen even more dramatic increases: 8 percent to 35 percent in Nevada, 11 percent to 34 percent in New Jersey, and 10 percent to 31 percent in Texas. Even in states that are not traditional immigrant destinations, such as Minnesota, Alaska, and Kansas, 1 in 7 students are now from an immigrant household.

As large as the growth at the state level is, the local impact can be astonishing.

The Census Bureau divides the country into Public Use Micro Areas, each containing roughly six to 10 high schools.

Immigrant households are very concentrated: Just 700 of the nation’s 2,351 Public Use Micro Areas account for two-thirds of students from immigrant households, but only one-third of the total public school enrollment.

There are many Public Use Micro Areas in which the overwhelming majority of students are from immigrant households—for example, 93 percent of students in North Central Hialeah City, Florida, are from immigrant households, as are 91 percent in the Jackson Heights and North Corona parts of New York City, 85 percent in the Westpark Tollway neighborhood of Houston, and 78 percent in Annandale, Virginia.

In the top 700 immigrant-heavy Public Use Micro Areas, one sending country typically predominates. On average, the top sending country accounts for 52 percent of students from immigrant households in these areas.

So not only do students from immigrant backgrounds often live in high-immigration areas, they often come from immigrant communities that are not very diverse.

Immigrant households also add disproportionately to the number of disadvantaged students.

In 2015, 30 percent of all students living below the poverty line were from immigrant households, making it unlikely that tax revenue grows correspondingly with enrollment in areas of high immigration.

Immigrants often settle in areas of high poverty, adding to the challenges for schools in these areas. In the 200 Public Use Micro Areas with the highest poverty rates in the country, where poverty among students averages 46 percent, nearly one-third of students are from immigrant households.

Immigration has also added enormously to the population of students who speak a foreign language. In 2015, nearly 1 in 5 students in the country spoke a language other than English at home.

It is not just a simple matter of straining community resources. Perhaps the most important issue raised by these numbers is assimilation.

One way that assimilation works is that the predominance of natives and their children in a school, town, or neighborhood makes the absorption of American culture and identity almost inevitable among immigrants and their children.

If immigrants are a modest share of the local population, it makes identifying with America and its culture practically unavoidable.

But the level of immigration, most of it legal, has been so high in the last four decades that there are now whole sections of the country where U.S. natives and their children are actually the minority or nearly so. This may threaten assimilation.

Of course we need to provide education for children from immigrant households already in the country. Nearly 1 out of 4 children in public school is from an immigrant household, so how these children do is vitally important not only to them, but to the country’s future.

Moreover, the overwhelming majority of children in immigrant households were born in the United States, making them automatic U.S. citizens.

A key immigration policy question for our nation going forward is whether it makes sense to continue to admit 1 million legal permanent immigrants each year, and to tolerate widespread illegal immigration, without regard to the absorption capacity of our schools.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s recent bill, for example—which would reduce the chain migration of family members and increase the share of legal immigrants who are selected based on skills—is a promising reform to consider.


The Astronomical Cost of Higher Education

To demonstrate the outrageous nature of college education costs, consider a new study from the Institute for Higher Education Policy as reported in MarketWatch: “The study took 10 fictional students with incomes ranging from $2,706 for a student living independently from his parents to $162,995 for a student living with her family and calculated whether they could afford the net price — tuition minus any grant and scholarship aid — at more than 2,000 schools. What did they find? Even a student from a family earning more than $100,000 a year could only afford 41% of the schools. Students from poorer backgrounds couldn’t afford more than 90% of the colleges.”

Unfortunately, leftists keep pushing the wrong prescriptions for addressing this. Even “free” enrollment doesn’t cut it for some. In California, for example, lawmakers' solution to escalating debt is to expand aid coverage. According to Fox News, “California lawmakers are pushing what could be the most comprehensive college aid program in the country, pitching a bill that not only covers tuition payments but other expenses like books and transportation.” That’s a horrible way to make higher education more “affordable,” because it just means taxpayers pick up even more of the tab. And once that happens, tuition inflation is free to run more wild than it already has.

We could begin rectifying the problem by first recognizing that government involvement is the problem. Taxpayer dollars function as fuel for an out-of-control fire — that fire being escalating college fees. As economist Thomas Sowell has noted, “In a normal market situation, each competing enterprise has an incentive to lower prices if that would attract business away from competitors and increase its profits.” Universities function quite differently, and the result is enormous tuition. Students will need to determine if their safe spaces are worth it.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good Schools Aren’t the Secret to Israel’s High-Tech Boom

I am often asked how a country the size of New Jersey, with fewer residents than New York City, became a global high-tech force. In a dynamic world, where innovation and adaptation are crucial, everyone wants to know Israel’s secret educational ingredient.

Despite its small size, Israel lists 93 companies on the Nasdaq—more than India, Japan and South Korea combined. In 2016 investors sank $6 billion into Israel’s more than 6,000 startups.  All have research-and-development centers located here.

Many people look to the Israeli education system to explain this success. During my two years as minister of education I have come to understand that although Israel’s schools are good, our secret weapon is a parallel education system that operates alongside the formal one. This is where our children learn to become entrepreneurs.

Israel’s shadow education system has three components. The first is our heritage of debate—it’s in the Jewish DNA. For generations Jews have studied the Talmud, our legal codex, in a way vastly different from what goes on in a standard classroom. Instead of listening to a lecture, the meaning of complex texts is debated by students in hevruta—pairs—with a teacher offering occasional guidance.

Unlike quiet Western libraries, the Jewish beit midrash—house of study—is a buzzing beehive of learning. Since the Talmud is one of the most complex legal codes ever gathered, the idea of a verdict is almost irrelevant to those studying. Students engage in debate for the sake of debate. They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions. Multiple answers to a single question are common. Like the Talmud itself—which isn’t the written law but a gathering of protocols—the learning process, not the result, is valued.

The second component of our shadow education system is the peer-teaches-peer model of Jewish youth organizations, membership-based groups that we call “movements.” Teenagers work closely with younger children; they lead groups on excursions and hikes, develop informal curricula, and are responsible for those in their care. As an 11th-grade student, I took fifth-graders on an overnight hike in the mountains. Being given responsibilities at a young age helped shape me into who I am today.

The third component is the army. Because we are constantly defending ourselves from Islamic terror, 18-year-old boys and girls are drafted into the military for stints of two or three years. Young Israeli adults must literally make life-or-death decisions every day. As a 23-year-old officer in 1995, I led 70 soldiers behind enemy lines. The covert mission required me to prepare my troops, mobilize people and equipment, build contingency plans, and function under immense physical and mental pressure. These situations teach a person how to execute plans—or adapt and improvise.

Consider a hypothetical 19-year-old soldier in the intelligence corps, analyzing aerial photographs or intercepted communications. She must decide if the material in front of her indicates an impending attack or not. This isn’t a rare occurrence. Thousands of Israeli soldiers experience it daily.

 Good teachers in vibrant classrooms are necessary for children—and nations—to succeed. Schools provide a base of literacy, mathematics and social interaction. But Israel’s extracurricular system goes further. Peer-led debate and intellectual dialogue enhances learning. Actual responsibilities, like caring for younger children, nurture growth and maturity. Real-life tasks show young adults how much they are capable of achieving.

These are the principles that anyone wishing to replicate Israel’s success should emulate. Two qualities are needed to change the world: innovation, to think of new ideas, and entrepreneurship, to turn those ideas into reality. That is the essence of today’s economy.

The way to create citizens steeped in the ethos of both is to give children, at a young age, the room to try. 


If we’re repealing Obamacare, Congress might as well bring back private student loans, too

As high school seniors make their decision of which college to go to next fall, Congress has been working on its Obamacare decision; but what the American people might be missing, is that these two issues are extremely closely related.

As student loan interest payments fund the Obamacare subsidies, students are being forced further into debt while their tuition climbs.

The Obamacare legislation worked to cut banks like Sallie Mae out as the middle-man between lenders and borrowers, this sent 69 percent of student loan profits, roughly $8.7 billion a year, to pay for Obamacare programs.

The need to fund these programs has caused the federal government to spike interest rates on loans significantly.

The Hill’s Dick Morris explains that the federal government borrows the funds for student loan programs at 2.8 percent, and then lends it to students at roughly 6.8 percent; accounting for a 4 percent mark up in interest rates just to fund liberal health policy.

By hurting private sector job creation, Obamacare has in part made loan repayment even more difficult. The Consumer Federation of America in a study from early March found that a total of $137.4 billion in balances were in default in 2016, an increase of 14 percent from 2015. The report continues to explain that for the last 3 years, each year the federal government has increased the amount of loans owned or guaranteed by the government by approximately $80 billion.

By expanding the student loan program but not creating enough jobs for college graduates, Obama helped to increase student debt to a point where it is nearly impossible to pay them back.

Perhaps the largest concern, is that aside from costing students more on loan payments, these loans also spike the cost of college. The Wall Street Journal in July 2015 revealed that as student loan access and college aid increased from the federal government, cost of college has increased as well. The Journal notes, “for every new dollar a college receives in Direct Subsidized Loans, a school raises its price by 65 cents. For every dollar in Pell Grants, a college raises tuition by 55 cents. This is one reason tuition has outpaced inflation every year for decades, while the average borrower now finishes college owing more than $28,000.”

As the Hill’s Morris explained, “The nexus between the student loan program and Obamacare is purely opportunistic…The 16 million American students who now have student loans are paying for Obamacare out of their meagre incomes just at the point when they graduate from college and need funds to start their lives, buy their first homes and begin a family.”

Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that there is about $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, with more than 8 million Americans in default on more than $110 billion in balances.

Then-U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) fought against this practice in 2014, claiming that Obamacare had “nationalized the student loan industry.” As a first-time congressman, Cotton attacked the legislation for taking money from students to pay for programs that only generated more costs.

Cotton, now a senator since 2015, was absolutely right. Just like in our healthcare system, the student loan crisis can only be solved through returning choice to consumers and utilizing the private sector. contributor Preston Cooper argued in 2016 that student loans could be secured within the private sector through income based collateral. He offered a system in which lenders receive loans in exchange for portions of future income, verified from the IRS the same way mortgage lenders do.

By removing the government from the loan process, the private sector can set realistic rates and force universities to lower prices to an attainable place for students. Granting loans on the basis of a likelihood to be repaid, the traditional standard, will also direct capital to those majors that actually produce jobs.

However, currently, universities are encouraged to promote federal loan options to students first, so the private sector doesn’t even have a chance.

As long as the federal government squeezes the private sector out of the student loan process, the legacy of the Obama Administration will be that of higher prices and reduced opportunity. While students should be focusing on beginning their college education, Congress should be focused on removing Obamacare and reining in their influence over the student loan process.


Counteroffensive on the Western Front

As the West's liberal democracies are undermined from within by academia's cultural Marxism, they are also threatened by Islamic fundamentalism -- twin perils that make the establishment of a foundation to champion Western civilisation not merely timely but absolutely vital

There’s no doubt that Western liberal democracies such as Australia, the UK, France, Germany and the United States are under attack.  In Melbourne and Sydney Islamic extremists have killed innocents, and the Islamization of the UK and Europe is leading to ethnic ghettos and home-grown terrorism.

Given such threats the recent decision to establish a foundation to champion Western civilisation, funded by a bequest from the late entrepreneur Paul Ramsay and chaired by John Howard, is significant and timely.

As I argue in The Culture of Freedom whether it is the enemy within, preaching political correctness, identity politics and victimhood, or the enemy without, represented by Islamic terrorism, our way of life is facing an existential threat.

The traditional academic curriculum has been replaced by a rainbow alliance of radical Neo-Marxist, postmodern and gender theories in which Cardinal Newman’s ideal of a education championing “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom” is condemned as elitist, inequitable and obsolete,

As noted by the American academic Christopher Lasch, universities are no longer committed to independent critical inquiry “as it is no longer necessary to argue with opponents on intellectual grounds or to enter into their point of view.  It is enough to dismiss them as Eurocentric, racist, sexist, homophobic – in other words as politically suspect”.

Only this month American students at Middlebury College in Vermont violently disrupted a speech by Charles Murray, an academic who argues that genetics play a powerful role in academic performance, chanting “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Charles Murray go away!”

In England a report by the Adam Smith Institute based on the fact that “50% of the general public supports right-wing or conservative parties compared to 12% of academics” concludes “individuals with left-wing and liberal views are overrepresented in British academia”.

Australian universities, with the occasional exception, are not immune.  In his 1996 Boyer Lecture the ANU academic Pierre Ryckmans bemoaned how universities had also been captured by the cultural-left. After noting one incident where a young academic attacked a speaker, describing him as elitist and bourgeois for daring to make judgements of relative value and worth, Ryckmans concludes “to deny the existence of objective values is to deprive the university of its spiritual means of operation”.

More recently, John Carroll from LaTrobe University details how the cultural-left uses “neo-Marxist categories of exploitation and oppression to find ‘victims’ of their own country’s mendacity – so Australia becomes racist, cruel to refugees, misogynist, homophobic and increasingly riven by inequality.  The tropes endure, with Islam the current exploited and oppressed repository of virtue”.

The school curriculum has also been captured and is being used to promote identity politics and cultural relativism.  Students are told they must embrace diversity and difference and that all cultures must be equally acknowledged and celebrated. Except when it comes to Asian and Indigenous cultures that are given priority at the expense of Western civilisation — especially Judeo-Christianity, where in subjects like history, literature, art and music its treatment is scanty and superficial. As noted by the literary expert Barry Spurr the result is that while students get to study the contribution of Indigenous Australians there is little, if any, recognition of the central importance of the Western literary canon. Greg Melleuish, from the University of Wollongong, is also critical when he argues that the history curriculum does not give enough “importance to the place of Western civilisation in world history, especially over the past two hundred years”.

At the very time Western, liberal democracies are being undermined from within they are also being threatened by Islamic fundamentalism, currently best represented by Islamic State.  Extreme interpretations of the Koran, as detailed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in The Heretic, are committed to destroying Western nations by establishing an Islamic caliphate and sponsoring acts of terrorism. Incidents like 9/11, the Bali bombings, the attack on the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the subsequent 2015 attacks in Paris and the genocide against Coptic Christians in Egypt represent a concerted campaign to destroy what the Koran describes as “the unbelievers”.

While the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful and law abiding it is also true that there are elements of the Koran that are hostile to our way of life.  Fundamentalist Islam denies women the freedoms and liberties we take for granted and there is no division between church and state.

Unlike Western civilisation, where Christianity and historical movements such as the Reformation and the Enlightenment have led to the freedoms and liberties we now take for granted, Islam is not as accommodating.

Proven by Islamic terrorism and the cultural-left’s political correctness movement there is much to be done to strengthen and defend Western civilisation against enemies foreign and domestic and the establishment of the Ramsay Foundation provides a beacon of hope.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Trump’s Responsible Decision to End an After-School Program That Harms Children

President Donald Trump has clear justification for his recommendation to eliminate a $1.2 billion after-school program administered by the Department of Education.

Rigorous scientific evidence shows that the program, called 21st Century Community Learning Centers, harms children. Advocates of evidence-based policy should applaud the president’s fiscally responsible decision, part of his fiscal year 2018 budget request.

The role of the federal government in funding after-school programs increased substantially after Congress passed the Improving America’s School Act of 1994, which created 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Congress wanted to open up local schools so that communities could use the space more extensively beyond normal hours. The after-school program was intended to “support continuing education and lifelong learning opportunities to children and adults to help keep the country’s workforce competitive for the 21st century.”

In 1998, administrators altered the social program to provide activities in public schools during after-school hours, stating: “The goal of the program is to help students meet local and state academic standards in core subjects, such as reading and mathematics.”

Despite this lofty goal, the program has been proven to be ineffective and wasteful. Not only did the program fail to affect academic achievement, but an experimental impact evaluation at multiple sites in 2007 found a whole host of harmful effects.

Yet, Congress has continued to fund the program despite:

Failed impact on homework outcomes. From the perspectives of students and parents, the evaluation assessed the effectiveness of the after-school program based on 22 outcome measures regarding homework activities. It concluded the program failed to affect 21 out of the 22 outcomes.

For example, participation had no effect on homework and tutoring activities as reported by students. Only one outcome measure yielded a beneficial result. According to parents’ reports, participating students were more likely to be engaged in after-school tutoring activities, compared to students who weren’t in the program.

Otherwise, the program failed to affect tutoring and homework outcomes.

Harmful impacts on academic outcomes. The evaluation assessed 11 academic outcomes. Only two of these measures yielded statistically meaningful results. Startlingly, these two outcomes point to harmful impacts of participating in the after-school program.

According to their teachers, participating students were less likely to achieve at above average or high levels in class and were less likely to put effort into reading or English classes. Otherwise, the program had no effect on the other measures of academic achievement.

For example, participating students fared no better in math, English/language arts, and science grades than did similar, nonparticipating students. Further, the program did little to improve reading skills.

Harmful impacts on behavioral outcomes. Of the 12 behavioral outcomes assessed by the evaluation, six measures indicate that 21st Century Community Learning Centers produced more harm than good. Overall, teachers found participating students to have disciplinary problems that were confirmed by student-reported data.

These students were also more likely to have behavior problems in school than were their counterparts. Teachers were more likely to have to call the parents of participating students about misbehavior.

Participating students were also more likely to miss recess or be placed in the hall for disciplinary reasons. Their parents came to school more often to address behavior problems. Participating students were also more likely to be suspended than similar students.

The evaluation demonstrated scientifically that 21st Century Community Learning Centers not only was ineffective but harmful to students. Some members of Congress, however, ignore the ample scientific evidence of failure.

Responding to Trump’s budget cut, for example, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said: “This critical program provides a direct funding stream to allow children to have access to after-school programming. We ask that you reconsider this misguided proposal.”

Barletta’s assessment is not based on the evidence. American taxpayers deserve better.

21st Century Community Learning Centers is a critical failure. Trump’s recommendation to eliminate it is fiscally responsible.


School Lesson Compares Trump to Hitler, Mussolini

A group of moms in Saratoga Springs, New York has decided to fight back against what they call the radical leftwing indoctrination that has infested the local school system.

They call themselves the “Conservative Chicks” and one of their leaders contacted me after reading my new book, “The Deplorables’ Guide to Making America Great Again.”

She realized it was time to take a stand after a teacher at the local high school led a classroom presentation on fascism that included a graphic portrayal comparing President Donald Trump to Hitler and Mussolini.

That’s right, folks. A tenth grade teacher at Saratoga Springs High School led a discussion on the rise of fascism during World War Two by referencing President Trump.

“It’s total indoctrination,” said Melissa, the parent who contacted me. She asked that I not use her last name. “It’s not their place to indoctrinate our children. It’s their job to teach the facts. Healthy debate is one thing but this definitely crossed the line.”

The entire lesson plan was posted on the school district’s website. But once I started poking around and asking questions, the lesson was hidden behind a password protected wall.

“Trump has absolutely no relation to World War Two. There’s no reason why he should be included with Stalin, Mussolini or Hitler,” the mom said. They are trying to link him to the leaders of that time. That crosses a line.”

Another graphics listed “early warning signs of fascism”:


Transgender Challenges

By Walter E. Williams

Determining one's own sex or that of another used to be a simple matter. First, there was the matter of appearance, whether a person looked like a male or looked like a female. If appearance produced some uncertainties, one could determine sex by examining a person's birth certificate. If appearance and a birth certificate produced uncertainties, the ultimate, absolute proof of sex was a person's chromosomes; XX marked a female, and XY marked a male. Case closed.

But those old-fashioned simple methods of identifying sex have changed. In fact, relying on those old tried-and-true methods of sex identification qualifies one for opprobrium, with the charge of being homophobic. Today — independent of appearance, genitalia, birth certificate and chromosomes — one is a male or female based on how one labels oneself.

This new liberty applies to not only sex but also race. Rachel Dolezal, born Caucasian, chose to be a black person. By becoming a black person, she became the president of the Spokane, Washington, office of the NAACP and an instructor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. As far as she is concerned, she's still a black person now, and she has a new legal name, Nkechi Amare Diallo, which means "gift of God" in Ibo. A notable beneficiary of racial fakery is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who claimed that she was of Cherokee Indian ancestry. That helped her land a $430,000 job for a year at diversity-hungry Harvard University as a professor of law. If Diallo and Warren were not leftist, learned college professors and students would condemn their behavior as racial appropriation.

But let's explore further the idea of freeing oneself from the oppression of biological determinism. There is no better testing ground than America's colleges, which are at the forefront of transgenderism, for seeing how this might work. How tolerant would college administrators be of conservative male students, if they said that they feel womanish, going into the ladies' bathroom and showering facilities? Would these men, claiming to be women, be eligible for tryouts for the women's basketball or field hockey team?

Suppose a college honored the right of its students to free themselves from biological determinism and allowed those with XY chromosomes to play on teams formerly designated as XX teams. I would anticipate a problem competing with other colleges. An unenlightened women's basketball team might refuse to play against a mixed-chromosome team whose starting five consists of 6-foot-6-inch, 200-pound XYers. The NCAA should have a rule stating that refusal to play a mixed-chromosome team leads to forfeiture of the game. It's no different from a team of white players refusing to play another because it has black players.

It's not just college sports that would yield benefits for those escaping biological determinism. What about allowing XYers who claim they are women to compete in the Women's International Boxing Association? Then there are the Olympics. The men's fastest 100-meter speed is 9.58 seconds. The women's record is 10.49 seconds. What about giving XY people a greater chance at winning the gold by permitting them to compete in the women's event? They could qualify by just swearing that they feel womanish or suffer from gender dysphoria.

You say, "There you go, Williams, picking on colleges again!" I applaud the fact that some colleges are taking a leadership role in fighting biological determinism. Barnard College President Debora Spar wrote: "There was no question that Barnard must reaffirm its mission as a college for women. And there was little debate that trans women should be eligible for admission to Barnard." With that announcement, Barnard College joined a growing list of women's colleges — along with Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Mills College and Simmons College — that have updated their admissions policies to take transgender women's applications into consideration. The question that remains is just how much equality these enlightened colleges will permit between XXers and XYers. Will they sexually integrate all of their facilities? Or will they endeavor to develop the morally repugnant policy of "separate but equal"?


Sunday, March 26, 2017

New ‘Safe Space’ Guidelines at University of Arizona Treat Students Like Preschoolers

The University of Arizona is encouraging college students to cry "ouch!" when they hear something offensive, make artwork about race relations, have story time, play four corners, and take a "time out" if they feel uncomfortable.

A new guide for faculty on "Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom" offers tips for "inclusiveness" and how to establish a "safe space" in the classroom. The guidelines are voluntary for faculty and were first reported by the College Fix.

The guidelines offer "Strategies for Engaging Students," which include the "One Diva, One Mic" rule and allowing 20-year-olds to yell "ouch" and "oops" in class.

"Creating a safe space for students for engaging in dialogue about challenging topics is vital in promoting positive intergroup interactions," wrote Jesús Treviño, the author of the guide and vice provost for "inclusive excellence" at the university.

Ground rules for "personal and group affirmation" include "One Diva, One Mic," which stipulates that college students should not interrupt each other.

The guide also suggests the "Oops/ouch" rule. "If a student feels hurt or offended by another student's comment, the hurt student can say ‘ouch,'" the university said. "In acknowledgment, the student who made the hurtful comment says ‘oops.'"

"Ground rules help students feel comfortable being honest," the university said. "Students should be affirmed for being open, honest, and vulnerable about their perspectives and experiences."

The guidebook suggests games for students like "Four Corners," where students are split into each corner of the room based on how much they talk in class.

University faculty are encouraged to engage in storytelling so students can "learn to bond and understand each other."

"The objective of storytelling is for students to gain a deeper understanding of the different groups to which their peers belong," the guide states. "Stories are interesting and convey emotion, history, pain, joy, spirituality, friendship, forgiveness, and other ideas."

In addition to telling stories, professors should have students make "collages" and "art work," participate in "reflection sessions," and keep a journal about their feelings.

"Collages and other forms of art tap into students' creative and visual side," the guide states. "Here students might be asked to create a collage depicting intergroup relations or intergroup concepts and ideas."

Another tool is the "fish bowl discussion," where students sit in a circle in the classroom and talk about issues like diversity.

The university guide also explains what a metaphor is to faculty.

"A metaphor [is] ‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them' (Webster's Dictionary)," the guide states.

The university encourages professors to use metaphors to explain race relations in America.

"Someone might provide the following metaphor: ‘Race relations in America remind me of the relationship between the earth and the sky. The earth represents ethnic/racial minorities, which sends water (e.g., diverse cultures, perspectives, opinions) to the clouds through the process of evaporation, making the sky look beautiful. For their part, clouds (which remind me of Whites) return the water back to the earth and enrich it. Both the earth and the clouds are equally important and need each other in order to live and make life interesting.'"

The guide is meant to serve as a resource for "difficult or challenging topics in the classroom" and is not required.

The guide includes examples of "tension" that could occur in class, including a hypothetical where a straight religious student claims that "LGBTQIA+ individuals do not have the right to exist."

The university argues "inclusiveness matters," saying all classroom discussions should be done in a "safe, caring, and respectful atmosphere."

"Discourage the devaluation of emotions and feelings," the university tells professors. "We may laugh and cry together, share pain, joy, fear and anger."

An example of the guidelines in practice includes students and professors taking "time outs" during class.

"If you feel uncomfortable, you may need to take time out, but let the facilitator know," the guide states.

The guidelines teach about "microinsults" and "microinvalidations" in addition to the standard "microaggressions."

The university defines "microinsults" as "[b]ehaviors, actions, or verbal remarks that convey rudeness, insensitivity, or demean a person's group or social identity or heritage."

"Microinvalidations" are "[a]ctions that exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of people who represent different groups."

The university provides examples of microaggressions that faculty should avoid, like announcing a student's name—"Jesús Quintanilla"—wrong, "assigning class projects that are heterosexist, sexist, racist, or promote other oppressions," or using "heterosexist" language in class.

Professors also are encouraged to respect student's preferred pronouns in order to avoid committing a microaggression.

For instance, a professor should not say, "Alex, you use ‘they/them' pronouns. No, that's too confusing. They is plural. I'm going to use him for you."

Professors are told to stop "problematic behavior," such as "microaggressions," in the classroom immediately.

If "someone makes a joke that is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.," the guide recommends that professors respond, "I didn't think this was funny. I'd like you to stop."

Nevertheless, the guidebook states it is "okay to use humor in class."

"However, make sure that it is appropriate humor that does not target or degrade any student in the class or group of people overall," the university said.


Warning over segregation in England's schools

Thousands of state schools across England are segregated along ethnic or social grounds, according to research. More than a quarter of primary and four in 10 secondary schools are ethnically divided, the social integration charity, The Challenge, found.

It says almost a third of primary and a quarter of secondary schools are segregated along socio-economic lines.

The Department for Education says all schools are expected to promote social integration and British values.

Researchers from The Challenge - working with the iCoCo Foundation and SchoolDash - measured how segregated a school was by comparing its numbers of white British pupils and those eligible for free school meals with those of the 10 schools closest to them.  They used official statistics for the years 2011 to 2016, examining more than 20,000 state schools.

Areas singled out for particular concern were:

   * Kirklees in West Yorkshire
   * Lancashire as a whole, but especially Blackburn with Darwen
   * Rochdale in Greater Manchester
   * Birmingham

The researchers regarded a school to be "segregated" if the proportion of ethnic minority pupils or pupils on free school meals was very different to the proportions at the neighbouring schools.

They found secondary schools were more likely to be segregated by ethnicity than socio-economic status, while primary schools were more likely to be segregated along socio-economic lines.

Primary faith schools were more ethnically segregated than those of no faith (29% against 25%) when compared with neighbouring schools, the study found.

Faith-based primary schools were also more likely to have a wealthier student population, with over one in four (27%) having significantly fewer pupils from more disadvantaged homes than other nearby schools; this compared with 17% of non-faith primaries.

Grammar schools - which Theresa May's government wants to expand - were heavily segregated by social background, the research found.

Some 98% of these selective schools had low numbers of poorer pupils, compared with their local schools, and none had pupil populations with high numbers of children eligible for free school meals.

The study also suggested that in some areas the situation was worsening - with primaries becoming more ethnically segregated over the past five years in more than half of the 150 areas examined.

'Anxiety and prejudice'

Jon Yates, director of The Challenge, said: "At a local and national level, government needs to commit to doing much more to reduce school segregation.

"We know that when communities live separately, anxiety and prejudice flourish, whereas when people from different backgrounds mix, it leads to more trusting and cohesive communities and opens up opportunities for social mobility.

"We urge local authorities, faith schools and academy chains to consider the impact admissions policies have upon neighbouring schools and put policies in place that encourage better school and community integration."

Responding to the findings, a Department for Education spokesman said: "We expect all schools to promote social integration and the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for different faiths and beliefs.

"Our free schools programme already encourages applications for free schools which aim to bring together pupils from different ethnic or faith groups, and our consultation, Schools That Work For Everyone, includes faith schools setting up twinning arrangements with others not of their religion so that pupils mix with children from different communities and backgrounds.

"But we know there is more to do. The Casey Review highlighted a number of issues around levels of ethnic segregation in school intakes in some areas of the country. The government is considering the review and its recommendations and will respond in due course."


Good gravy for teachers in CA

Californians pay the highest state personal income taxes in the nation, but if state Senators Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) have their way, teachers will be off the hook. Galgiani and Stern’s Senate Bill 807 would provide teachers with tax credits for college tuition, certification expenses and other costs. If they remain in the classroom for five years, they gain complete exemption from state income tax.

The bill is supposed to remedy a teacher shortage, but taxpayers should not be fooled.

The tax exemption amounts to a pay raise of four to six percent for the state’s teachers, whose average salary is $69,324, by some accounts $84,489, highest in the nation, and much higher than California’s $61,818 median household income. California teachers are not underpaid and not overworked. The school year is 180 days, in some districts 175 days, so teachers in effect work only half the year. The benefits are all gold-plated and firing a teacher is nearly impossible, whatever the gravity of the offense.

Teachers also received another bonus in the form of the Local Control Funding Formula. The billions for “at risk” students and English learners is being spent on salary increases, and Governor Jerry Brown is okay with it, in the name of “subsidiarity.” It’s his payoff to the teacher unions and educrats who helped extend the “temporary” tax hikes of 2012.

Like the governor, legislators who want to exempt teachers from state income tax remain unwilling to lower taxes across the board, for every taxpayer. A single worker earning $51,530 pays a rate of 9.3 percent. Many of the top earners, who pay the highest rate of 13.3 percent, are high-tech entrepreneurs who generate jobs and revenue. As Senator Stern sees it, however, “teachers are the original job creators” and thus more deserving of a tax break. Stern and Galgiani’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017 would be more accurately titled the Separate and Unequal Tax Exemption Act.