Friday, April 07, 2017

Hungary’s attack on Soros-backed university

It's in Budapest but has its credentials from New York, deliberately avoiding Hungarian government regulation.  It is a big source of anti-government and Leftist agitation

An authoritarian nationalist regime in Hungary is threatening a renowned international university in Budapest. Legislation introduced last week by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban would fundamentally alter the legal status of Central European University and could force it to shut down or leave the country.

As CEU’s president for seven years until last summer, I marvel at what the university has become. In just 25 years since its founding, the university has grown into a bastion of free inquiry and an engine of opportunity for its 14,000 alumni in countries around the world, most of whom are the first members of their families and communities to achieve graduate-level education.

The university was created in 1991 to rekindle academic freedom in Central and Eastern Europe after decades of totalitarian suppression. It has focused on the social sciences and humanities, whose deep intellectual traditions and creative contributions in the region were badly twisted by fascism and communism.

CEU today is uniquely international. Its 1,600 masters and doctoral students come from 107 countries, with no dominant nationality. Its international faculty is drawn from 30 countries and the most prominent universities in Europe and the United States. Its students are competitively selected from across the globe, and it gives scholarships to 90 percent of its students.

In a very short period, the university has reached a level of excellence that places it near the top of international graduate education. The Times Higher Education review ranks the university’s international and political studies programs among the best 50 in the world. It has been awarded the highest number and largest amount of external competitive research grants of any university in Eastern Europe, and among the top five in all of Europe.

Ironically, by attacking CEU, the Hungarian government is undermining a major contributor to academic and economic life in Hungary. There is no arguing with the numbers. The university receives no funding from the Hungarian government, but contributes millions annually in employment, services, and taxes to the Hungarian economy. The university’s largest national group of students is from Hungary, and they receive more than 200 scholarships each year. Forty percent of the faculty and much of the staff is Hungarian, and leading Hungarian academics are attracted from abroad to return to their country to teach at CEU.

The international university has close ties with other Hungarian universities and the cultural community of Budapest. Last year it completed construction of a $37 million campus in downtown Budapest, further cementing its commitment to Hungary.

Why, then, has Viktor Orban decided to attack the university? The short answer is politics. Elections will be held in Hungary in 2018, and Orban’s self-proclaimed “illiberal democracy” needs a “liberal” bogeyman to be this year’s political target of its authoritarian nationalism.

CEU was founded with a generous grant from George Soros. The Hungarian government, having previously focused its political attacks and crippling regulatory restrictions on fleeing refugees, independent courts, and free media, is now aiming at Soros and the civil society organizations he has supported to advance democratic open societies.

On Friday, the Hungarian prime minister took a page out of Donald Trump’s protectionist playbook, accusing CEU of “cheating” by unfairly competing with Hungarian universities and issuing “fake” degrees without the authority of an international agreement between Hungary and the United States. Orban’s accusation is false. The university is operating under a formal agreement signed in 2004 between then Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy and Governor George Pataki of New York state, where the university is chartered in the United States.

In response to the Hungarian government’s attack on CEU, the US State Department on Friday issued a statement opposing “new, targeted, and onerous regulatory requirements” that would “negatively affect or even lead to the closure” of the university, which has “strengthened Hungary’s influence and leadership in the region through its academic excellence and many contributions to independent, critical thinking.”


The Northwestern University Rape Outbreak That Wasn't

Campus feminists whipped up a Category-5 frenzy over sexual assault allegations at a Northwestern University fraternity in February. But last week, the school's Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin was forced to muster up her best impression of "Saturday Night Live's" classic foot-in-mouther, Emily Litella.

Neeeeever miiiiind.

Picture Telles-Irvin squinting and grimacing sheepishly as she wrote an update on her breathless bulletin "that four female students attending an event at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house were possibly given a date-rape drug, and two of these students believed they were sexually assaulted."

Before I reveal the substance of her update, let me note that shrieking protests ensued after that initial alert. Tears flowed. Demands escalated. Northwestern's student government association called for SAE's suspension. The Chicago Tribune's headline on the brouhaha screamed "crisis." The Chicago Sun-Times' headline blared that "nerves are raw." Local TV stations spread panic over "date rape drugs." On behalf of the university, Telles-Irvin condemned "any such conduct in the strongest possible terms." The school offered support for "survivors."

But the hysteria was all based on anonymous phone calls. There were no actual victims, no witnesses and no physical evidence or electronic evidence or any other kind of evidence that any such an event involving any such women ingesting any such drugs or suffering any such sexual assaults ever occurred.

It was left to Northwestern professor Laura Kipnis, author of the new book, "Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus," to publicly caution against premature witch hunts. (Kipnis was the target herself of a social justice mob inquisition after penning an irreverent essay assailing oppressive campus sexual behavior codes, Title IX litigation run amok and "infantilized" student snowflakes.)

"If we've learned anything from the unraveling of Rolling Stone's now-retracted story about an alleged rape and cover-up at a University of Virginia frat a couple of years ago, it's that we need to slow down the rush to judgment until we're in possession of sufficient verifiable information to form solid conclusions," Kipnis warned eight weeks ago.

"If we fail to do that, we're guilty of what the commission that later investigated the Rolling Stone story excoriated as 'confirmation bias' — that is, forming conclusions in advance of the facts to justify our biases," she added. "I certainly hope we get updates as the investigation continues," she concluded, "but leaping to action — especially in the absence of verified (or perhaps even verifiable) complaints — is at best a failure of due process, and at worst vigilantism."

Indeed, as K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. document in "The Campus Rape Frenzy," the federal government and virtually all colleges and universities have "mounted a systematic attack on bedrock American principles including the presumption of innocence, access to exculpatory evidence, the right to cross-examine one's accuser, and due process" in the name of eradicating "rape culture."

Unfortunately, Kipnis is in the minuscule minority of the sane and responsible at Northwestern. When one brave student senator, who is an SAE fraternity member, stood up for the "rights of the accused" during debate over a resolution to condemn the "pervasive culture of sexual misconduct" on campus, he was chastised for his "privilege" and castigated for "victim-blaming."

And now for the denouement.

After a "prompt and thorough" investigation, Patricia Telles-Irvin revealed last week, "(n)o disciplinary action or further investigative action related to the reports of sexual misconduct will be taken at this time." Did investigators ever track down the anonymous callers who leveled the allegations that smeared the fraternity's rep and convicted its members in the court of public opinion? Will false accusers ever be held accountable? We'll never know. The case of the Northwestern rape outbreak that never happened is closed. Poof!

Now, instead of admitting the whole thing was a hoax, Northwestern is scouring the targeted fraternity for "other potential violations" of campus codes to justify putting them through hell in the first place. Victimized again.

Why any mom would pay to send their son into this anti-male maelstrom is beyond me. I'd ask famous Hollywood lefty Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose son plays basketball at Northwestern (and is an SAE member, I'm told), what she thinks of toxic "rape culture" zealots targeting innocent men on campus. But she's apparently too busy modeling her militant feminist pussyhat on Instagram to take notice.


Happily never after: 'Gender bias' fairytales facing the chop in one Australian State

"Children as young as four years old can show signs of sexist behaviour".  They sure can.  But it is inborn.  Even mothers of toddlers will often refer to their son as "my little man" -- indicating a recognition of sex-specific behaviour even at that young age.

Much loved fairytales and toys are at risk of being chopped from Victoria’s public schools after they were accused of promoting gender stereotypes.

The Respectful Relationship program wants the likes of Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel analysed and compared to modern stories that challenge gender norms.

The program argues that traditional tales can create unrealistic standards as well as a "sense of entitlement in boys and lower self-esteem in girls".

Children are set to play a decisive role in what gets the chop too, acting as "fairytale detectives" to compare the roles of male and female characters in their favourite stories.

It’s a message that is set to go begging on the young audience, according to one Melbourne teacher. "I would rather be teaching them how to read, write and count," the teacher told News Corp.  "We really don’t need to crowd out the curriculum with this social engineering."

The controversial program, which claims children as young as four years old can show signs of sexist behaviour, was introduced on the advice of the royal commission in to family violence.

"Men are supposed to be strong and brave and women are supposed to be beautiful and need rescuing by men," children are taught according to the study.

"If a man or woman does not fit this description, they are usually made out to be the ‘baddies’ or the villain — like a witch or an evil prince."

The program also encourages discussion of "gender bias statements" such as "good morning, princess", "boys don’t cry" and "girls can’t play with trucks".

The concept has so far been met with heavy criticism, with many insisting it is unethical to subject children to such political discussion at such a young age.

"My concern as an educator is, there is no real balance in the program. It is pushing a cultural left argument," Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Dr Kevin Donnelly said.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Rethinking the Plight of Conservatives in Higher Education: Findings that run against the grain of assumptions

My own experience as an academic teaching in a Sociology Department at a major Australian university largely corresponds to what Matthew Woessner reports of his experiences below. Most of my fellow academics were Marxists of some stripe but because I was appointed with tenure I quite cheerfully declared to them my opinion that Marx was simply an obsolete economist.  Yet I was always treated politely and they even invited me to some of their parties.

But, as Woessner found, the discrimination was still there.  It was most notable in the matter of promotion.  In most years I had as many academic journal articles published as the whole of the rest of the Department put together.  I should therefore have had an easy ride to promotion.  In fact, I had to put up quite a fight to get any promotion at all.

And Woessner also rightly raises the matter of getting journal articles published, something of great importance in academe. His description of the difficulties that lie in front of conservative authors is a good one.  Being very research-oriented I faced exactly those problems early on.  I found that the quality of my submissions had to be much higher than the norm to get them accepted. 

For example, articles that used available groups of students for questionnaire research would readily get published if the conclusions of the research supported Leftist orthodoxy.  My articles however tended to undermine Leftist orthodoxy. So articles from me would be rejected, usually on the grounds of inadequate sampling!  Sampling that would be fine from Leftists was not fine from me.

Being a hard worker, however, I accepted that challenge and set  about gathering much higher quality data than the norm.  I used random general population samples to get my raw data.  So when I submitted something with such unusual quality sampling, it would usually be the ONLY research on the subject that the referees had seen that was general-population-based. In the circumstances, my submissions were generally accepted, though with much grumbling and the occasional "Reply".

Even so, I had to restrict myself to "Gadfly"-like articles -- articles that did not fundamentally challenge Leftist assumptions.  When I wrote articles that were outspokenly conservative, none were accepted.

As far as students are concerned, Woessner's point that conservative students generally avoid heavily politicized courses is surely correct.  They are not much affected by Leftist bias in their teachers because they avoid such teachers.

I nonetheless think Woessner's view of how students are affected is too rosy.  I think he is insufficiently skeptical of what people say in response to questionnaires.  I worked with questionnaire-based survey research for 20 years and in the end concluded what LaPiere concluded in the '30s -- that what people report of their attitudes has little to do with anything much.  It certainly is a poor predictor of behaviour.  I now think that such surveys are largely useless.  You have to look at actual behaviour to find out what is going on.

I suspect that that problem is particularly acute in the USA.  The USA clearly has an approval-seeking culture and people constantly say what will get them kudos rather than what they actually think.  Ask almost any American woman what liars American men are and you will hear all about it.  So questionnaires are largely useless in that culture.  And Woessner does rely substantually on questionnaires.  I think he has been deceived by them.  Conservative students suffer much more from bias than his questionnaires reveal.

And, yes, I have heard of controls for social desirability responding.  I used them regularly.  But some lies are so entrenched that such controls do not catch them.  To take a stark  example:  The American Left is very authoritarian.  They want to control vast amounts of what we say and do and want to make us  behave in ways other than how we would naturally behave. As Obama famously said to wild cheers, they want to "fundamentally transform" America.  In that they are no different from other Leftists in other times and places -- from the French revolution through Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot. 

And Hillary Clinton's recent campaign slogan -- "Better together" -- was of course the exact idea behind the bundles of rods borne by the ancient Roman Lictors -- an idea revived and proclaimed by Benito Mussolini as his own political philosophy.  Hence the name "Fascism".  I say more about the large similarities between prewar Fascism and modern American Leftism here and here

But I very often have put in front of people questionnaires that asked quite a lot about attitudes to authority.  From their behaviour, you would think that Leftists would acclaim it.  But they do not.  They cannot face the blackness of their own motivations.  Their attitudes do not predict their behavior. And social desirability controls will not detect that.  Only an awareness of politics past and present will.

And when it comes to behaviour the reports of conservative student difficulties with ideologically opposed faculty are unending.  It is those reports that matter, not sunny declarations in response to questionnaires.

Within academia, I’m a rare breed: a conservative Republican who twice voted for George W. Bush. I supported the invasion of Iraq, and I deeply admire Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas for their originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution. Yet I am first and foremost a scientist whose singular devotion is to Truth. Whatever my ideological instincts, I have an obligation to examine social scientific phenomena impartially, striving at all times to form opinions based on empirical evidence rather than ideological articles of faith.

It is against this backdrop that my research into the politics of academia—conducted with my wife, April Kelly-Woessner—has led me to some surprising and, admittedly, somewhat difficult conclusions. Whereas my conservative colleagues tend to portray academia as rife with partisan conflict, my research into the impact of politics in higher education tells a different story. Although the Right faces special challenges in higher education, our research offers little evidence that conservative students or faculty are the victims of widespread ideological persecution. In waging their high-profile crusade against ideological bias in the academy, activists such as David Horowitz may be overstating the extent to which conservatives are mistreated on campuses. In so doing, the movement to promote intellectual diversity in higher education may be inadvertently discouraging conservatives from pursuing academic careers.

My own interest in the plight of conservatives within academia came somewhat late in my still-young academic career. Whereas some academics become fixated on research questions based on personal connection to the issue (something I once heard psychology professor John Ruscio refer to as “me-search”), it never occurred to me to study the politics within academia. Because everyone already knew conservatives were a persecuted minority, what was the point? So, after writing a doctoral dissertation on public reactions to presidential scandal, I spent my first few years as an assistant professor examining abstract questions in the field of public opinion and voting behavior. It wasn’t until my wife April (herself a political science professor at Elizabethtown College) came to me with an interesting research question that the focus of my work changed. “What impact,” she asked, “do perceptions of a professor’s politics have on student evaluations of the course?” Believing instinctively that all good academic questions have already been taken, I dismissed the idea out of hand: “Not only has that topic probably been done,” I remarked, “I’m guessing it’s been done to death.”

I was wrong. We found virtually nothing on the question and comparatively little on the impact of politics in the classroom more generally. Thus began a line of research that would consume all of our energies over the next six years as we adapted our skills as public-opinion specialists to the study of politics in higher education.

Taking our first tentative steps into the study of politics in the academy, we designed a large-scale survey to test how students reacted to perceptions of political bias in the classroom. In our July 2006 PS: Political Science and Politics article, “My Professor Is a Partisan Hack: How Perceptions of a Professor’s Political Views Affect Student Course Evaluations,” we found that when students perceive a gap between their political views and those of their instructor, students express less interest in the material, are inclined to look less favorably on the course, and tend to offer the instructor a lower course evaluation. The results, while not earth shattering, demonstrated that students do not passively accept disparate political messages but tend to push back against faculty members they perceive as presenting a hostile point of view.

Shortly after completing a follow-up article on perceptions of faculty politics for the Journal of Political Science Education, our research in the politics of academia took a new turn. April and I were asked to participate in a research conference on politics in higher education sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute. In an effort to generate original research for the 2009 edited volume The Politically Correct University, conference organizers asked scholars to consider how academia’s liberalism influences American higher education. April and I were asked to investigate why conservatives tend not to pursue PhDs. Drawing from the familiar narrative that conservatives are an oppressed minority group within academia, I assumed that the shortage of conservatives in doctoral programs was the result of their poor treatment within academia. Either conservative students had an overall less positive collegiate experience, making the thought of graduate school less palatable, or they failed to make personal connections with their leftist or liberal professors. Absent a mentoring relationship with the faculty, conservative students would be less likely to consider a career in higher education. Using survey data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, April and I set about testing these and other possible explanations for the ideological gap in American doctoral programs. The findings defied my expectations.

Quite surprisingly, whatever impact college might have on students’ academic ambitions, left-leaning first-year students begin their education with a far greater interest in eventually pursuing a doctoral degree than their conservative counterparts. Whereas liberal and conservative students have very similar grades and nearly identical levels of satisfaction with their overall college experience, right-leaning students are far more likely to select “practical” majors that are less likely to lead to advanced degrees. Their emphasis on vocational fields such as business and criminal justice permits them to move directly into the workforce.

In contrast, left-leaning students are more apt to pursue majors in the liberal arts, such as sociology and philosophy, which, absent additional graduate training, provide fewer career opportunities immediately on graduation. Even within a major like political science, college seniors of different political leanings have different expectations with regard to their forthcoming careers. Whereas students on both the left and the right place a premium on securing a comfortable salary and having the time to raise a family, conservative students consistently rate these priorities as more important than do liberal students. In addition, while neither liberal nor conservative students are particularly drawn to writing original works or making a contribution to science, liberal students tend to rate these priorities as more important to their future career. In every instance where students’ career expectations might encourage them to enter a doctoral program, liberal students enjoyed an advantage over conservative students.

In other words, from a purely rational perspective, students’ underlying preferences appear to lead more liberals into advanced degrees, thus creating a fairly large ideological gap. Our findings are by no means conclusive, as much of the ideological gap remains unexplained. However, the fact that the data did not support my initial assumptions compelled me to think more carefully about both the cause and the implications of academia’s ideological imbalance.

At roughly the same time that April and I were grappling with why conservatives get fewer PhDs, we began work on our second, more comprehensive study of politics within the classroom. Whereas our 2006 study looked only at student perceptions of the professor’s politics, our newest survey also permitted us to measure shifts in students’ political leanings relative to the professor’s political views. While our follow-up study was motivated in part by a genuine academic curiosity, the project itself was designed to settle a bet. As a conservative who has often encountered left-leaning professors, I assumed that the typical student’s politics would be influenced by his or her academic mentors. While I was not strongly influenced by my professors’ left-wing politics, I assumed most conservative students weren’t so resilient. April, whose politics are well to the left of my own, asserted that students would not be meaningfully influenced by their professors’ views.

April was fond of reminding me that “students aren’t sponges.” By the age of eighteen, she argued, most people are already set in their ways.

Sure enough, our research indicated she was right. In our next major article in the April 2009 edition of PS: Political Science and Politics, “I Think My Professor Is a Democrat: Considering Whether Students Recognize and React to Faculty Politics,” we provided evidence that while student views do shift over the course of a semester, they tend to move somewhat randomly, usually regressing toward the mean. While we observed a slight shift in favor of the Democrats (representing an average 0.06 points on a five-point scale), the change occurred irrespective of the professor’s political orientation. Thus, while students’ partisan orientations did shift over the course of time, the changes are hardly what one might expect if faculty members were systematically indoctrinating their students.

While our more recent findings ran against the grain of my ideological assumptions, I wasn’t yet prepared to rethink fundamentally the plight of conservatives in academia. To that point, our research focused entirely on the experiences of students. While undergraduates might be in a position to steer clear of hostile professors, we surmised, certainly conservative faculty members faced persecution as they sought to secure tenure in a system dominated by the Left.

Conservative—And Content—In Academe

The seismic shift in my view of academic politics came only in the last few years, as April and I embarked on our most ambitious project to date. While attending the aforementioned American Enterprise Institute conference on politics in academia, political science professor Robert Maranto introduced us to Stanley Rothman, a respected scholar and prolific author who had devoted much of his distinguished career to the study of elites. In what was designed as a follow-up study to their landmark research into the opinions of academics, Rothman, Carl Everett Ladd, and Seymour Martin Lipset collaborated to produce the first large-scale survey of students, faculty, and college administrators. The 1999 North American Academic Study Survey captured the values, views, and experiences of more than four thousand respondents drawn randomly from four-year colleges and universities across the United States. However, with the death of Ladd and Lipset, and Rothman’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, most of the data had not been thoroughly examined. Hoping to jumpstart the project, Rothman asked April and me to join him in writing a book-length manuscript that might capture the complex and often conflicting views of those within the academy.

The resulting book, The Still Divided Academy: How Competing Visions of Power, Politics, and Diversity Complicate the Mission of Higher Education, goes far beyond a look at politics in the academy. Following the outline sketched by Rothman, Lipset, and Ladd some years before, we examined the views within higher education on such issues as academic freedom, faculty-administration relations, campus diversity, and affirmative action. While working on the politics chapter I began to rethink my views about the plight of conservatives.

Looking at survey data from all of higher education’s primary constituencies, I began to realize that Republicans and conservatives, while vastly outnumbered in academia, were, for the most part, successful, happy, and prosperous. Fewer than 2 percent of faculty (Republican or Democratic) reported being the victims of unfair treatment based on their politics. Only 7 percent of Republican faculty believed that discrimination against those with “right-wing” views was a serious problem on their campus, compared with 8 percent of Democratic faculty who expressed concerns about discrimination against those with “left-wing” views. Asked to consider what they would do if given the opportunity to “begin your career again,” 91 percent of Democratic faculty and 93 percent of Republican faculty answered that they would “definitely” or “probably” want to be a college professor. Similarly, few rightleaning students or administrators claimed to have been the victims of political mistreatment. Like their Democratic counterparts, most were satisfied with their experience in higher education.

Gravitational Pulls

Whereas our results show that Democratic and Republican professors do differ on a number of issues outside of the realm of politics and policy (for example, the purpose of higher education, the importance of tenure, and the prevalence of racial and sex discrimination), the political gap on college campuses is less important than other sources of tension, which arise based on differences between faculty and administrators and differences in academic discipline, age, and gender. While Republicans on campus are members of a distinct minority, their political views are but one of many defining characteristics that permit them to form friendships and alliances with others on campus. These nonideological associations probably act to minimize conservatives’ social and political isolation.

From a personal standpoint, the most surprising part of the results outlined in The Still Divided Academy is that they correspond entirely with my own experience. Like the vast majority of the Republicans in our study, I’ve never been the victim of mistreatment as a result of my political views. On my campus, I’ve never considered discrimination against conservatives to be a problem. Although the work has its unique challenges, I can’t imagine any other job that I would love more. While it may sound odd to be surprised when scientific evidence comports with our personal observations, as a social scientist, I have a natural aversion to drawing generalizations based on my own idiosyncratic life experiences. Because the narrative of the besieged conservative minority appeared consistent with the ideological imbalance in American higher education, I simply assumed that I was the exception. I now realize that my story is not unique.

Yet while the results of our research cast serious doubt on claims that conservatives are besieged, it remains probable that conservatives face unique obstacles within the academic world. For students, these impediments are probably temporary and eminently navigable. For Republican faculty, particularly in the social sciences and the humanities, higher education’s profound ideological imbalance creates impediments that likely hamper their professional success.

Although we don’t have any reliable data on the percentage of faculty members who promote (directly or indirectly) an ideological agenda in the curriculum, since most undergraduates enjoy a remarkable degree of academic flexibility in their course selection, conservative students will tailor their education to avoid needless political conflict. Looking back at my own experience, I remember how, as a young conservative, I tailored my own course selection to the subjects and professors I found most agreeable. I recall that as a naive sophomore I enrolled in an introductory sociology course and was surprised that the professor was an avowed Marxist. Concerned that our ideological perspectives might ultimately affect my course grade, I tried unsuccessfully to lay low. However, noting that I cringed as she denounced Reagan’s economic policies, the professor asked if I had a different take on the issue. Somewhat reluctantly, I offered a defense of Reaganomics. To her credit, she listened attentively and, as far as I could tell, took my novel ideas seriously. In light of the fact that, by her own admission, she had never heard a spirited defense of conservative economic policies, it became clear to me that sociology was an ideological minefield. I never enrolled in another sociology course for the rest of my academic career.

While at UCLA I discovered a number of politically moderate professors, including political scientists like Leo Snowiss and John Petrocik, whose approach to the subject matter seemed largely nonideological. Feeling that political science was a discipline that was relatively tolerant of diverse political views, I elected to pursue a graduate degree and join the professoriate.

While the experience in one or two introductory courses may be a poor proxy for the ideological tenor of a major, it seems probable that conservative students use this type of snap judgment in charting their academic course. Indeed, our findings in The Politically Correct University that conservatives gravitate toward minimally ideological majors are consistent with this explanation. Whereas liberal and conservative students express similar levels of satisfaction with their college education, right-leaning students show greater dissatisfaction with their social science and humanities courses. Predictably, they gravitate away from majors in these fields and toward the more professionally oriented disciplines. While the underlying preferences of conservative students for “practical” fields contribute to their selection of majors, the extent to which the politics of the professoriate also influence these decisions is a question worthy of serious scholarly attention.

Whereas students can avoid conflict and select majors that suit their personal dispositions, right-leaning professors, particularly outside of the hard sciences, are forced to seek the approval of faculty whose ideological worldview may be at odds with their own. By this I’m not referring to overt political discrimination, whereby a left-leaning professor will actively undermine the promotion of a colleague because of a difference of opinion. Indeed, based on our own findings, conservatives have few complaints about unfair treatment based on their political views.

The more pernicious problem occurs when right-leaning scholars submit their work for blind review with prestigious publishers or in peer-reviewed journals. Even if we presume that most journal referees are sincerely trying to judge a work based on its scholarly merits rather than its social or political implications, a jury pool dominated by left-leaning scholars will almost certainly subject right-leaning papers to greater scrutiny, highlighting their methodological shortcomings and challenging their overall conclusions. If the academic universe were evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, the unconscious tendency to challenge dissenting viewpoints would hamper the publication of conservative and liberal work at roughly the same rate. However, with a vast majority of academics falling on the left side of the political spectrum, this is an issue that, in all probability, tends to hamper the publication of conservative-leaning ideas. Thus, professors whose political instincts are right of center must either focus on non-ideological scholarly questions or endure a special degree of scrutiny as they seek to secure publication of their ideas.

Again, while I remain reluctant to consider my own academic career in an effort to understand the plight of conservatives, I must confess that the ease with which my own work moves into print appears inversely proportional to its potential support for conservative policy positions. A journal referee’s propensity to fixate on seemingly trivial methodological flaws seems to increase dramatically if my conclusions undermine a leftist policy position. This observation is not a criticism of liberals in academia. An institution dominated by conservatives would be just as likely to scrutinize unfriendly findings more closely than sympathetic ones. In a field where the number and prestige of academic publications are key factors in tenure and promotion, this potential bias has important real-world consequences. The accusation of bias in the publication process was recently raised in Econ Journal Watch by David Gordon and Per Nilsson. Focusing on the 494 books with an ideological thesis, the researchers found that only 2 percent of Harvard University Press publications had conservative or classically liberal perspectives. While we don’t know the proportion of conservative manuscripts submitted for Harvard University Press’s consideration, it seems improbable that 98 percent of the requests had a left-leaning thesis.

The Drawbacks of a Left-Leaning Academy

We consider the special plight of conservative scholars in The Still Divided Academy. Replicating the earlier work of Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman, we find evidence that within the professoriate, social conservatives tend to teach at slightly less prestigious institutions than social liberals. Thankfully, we find that scholarly productivity is by far the most important predictor of the prestige of a professor’s institution. However, for women, black, and social conservative scholars, a modest gap exists between objective measures of performance and the reputation of the institution. Since there are potentially innocent explanations for the underperformance of these groups, this finding is hardly cause for alarm. Given the theoretical reasons that ideological minorities may have special burdens in navigating the publication process, it is quite possible that conservative scholars are in some fields at a real disadvantage.

Even if those on the right face special obstacles in the publication process, it is obvious from our results in The Still Divided Academy that many Republicans do work and thrive in higher education. To the extent that academia’s ideological imbalance is harmful either to higher education or to society as a whole, it is not at all clear how to improve the situation. Certainly, some of the imbalance is a matter of personal choice. Absent any external pressures, it is highly improbable that conservatives would ever be represented in higher education in numbers anywhere approaching their standing in society as a whole. Still, the mere perception that higher education is hostile to conservative values probably contributes to the Left’s dominance within higher education. Since it would be perfectly absurd (although beautifully ironic) to reengineer the politics of academia through quotas or special admission policies, there is no easy solution on the horizon. Nevertheless, one potentially important way of improving the Right’s representation in academia is to stop overstating the challenges conservatives face on campus. By promoting their peculiar brand of right-wing victimization, activists run the risk of exacerbating academia’s political imbalance by needlessly discouraging conservatives from considering careers in higher education. As much as I enjoy being one of academia’s token conservatives, I would prefer to see a bit more ideological balance within the professoriate. Whereas conservative students benefit from hearing the Left’s alternative worldview, too many liberal undergraduates complete their four-year degree unaware that educated and thoughtful people sometimes vote for political leaders like George W. Bush.


Polston Reinstated After Muslim Professor’s Claims Debunked By Rollins

A thorough investigation by Rollins College determined that Marshall Polston did nothing wrong, despite outlandish claims from his Professor Areej Zufari

By Jacob Engels

Last week, Central Florida Post broke the national story about Marshall Polston being suspended by Rollins College for vehemently disagreeing with his professor.

We showed how her story of Polston threatening her was incorrect. We showed that Polston was doing what any college student should do, disagreeing with his professor and questioning what seemed like a retaliatory grade.

We said Polston did not deserve to be suspended.

In response, we were lambasted by liberal websites. We were called obscenities on Facebook. Even the Orlando Sentinel got in on the act, with their star columnist, Scott Maxwell, calling us a “blogger” and “fake news.”

Just like when we were ostracized for scooping the mainstream media with Jeff Ashton’s Ashley Madison troubles and Ray Valdes’ profiting from his office, it has now been proven that we were correct again and the mainstream media is stuck looking foolish.

Rollins College, after a long and careful investigation, in a letter obtained by Central Florida Post, concluded that Polston did not violate the schools code of conduct and that he was not verbally, physically or mentally threatening.

Of course,  the school, still struggling with the reality of their massive mistake, employed mealymouthed jargon to discuss Polston’s innocence, swapping “Not Guilty” with a ruling of “Not Responsible.”

Rollins even chastised Mr. Polston for being disagreeable with the professor, but mentioned nowhere the severity of her false police report or claims about Polston. We’re hopeful that Zufari will have to answer for those false statements in the coming weeks.

Attorney Kenneth Lewis, who is representing Polston, praised the school for the thoroughness of their investigation.

Polston felt relieved when we talked with him on the phone, but was worried about the stress the whole ordeal had put on his family and friends.

“My Mom has been so supportive of me. In return, many on social media have targeted her. This decision is a first step of many to rebuild my reputation.”

The Orlando Sentinel should look hard in the mirror to see who is the real Fake News. They reviewed some court documents and came to a conclusion Polston was a threat.

Maxwell’s column praised the Sentinel reporter for examining all sides and said this was just a right-wing publicity stunt, in his opinion. He wouldn’t mention Polston’s name to avoid giving him more “publicity” and wouldn’t name the professor because she had been victimized too much.

Now that Rollins has found Polston not guilty, isn’t he the true victim? Regardless of the publicity, this is a college student who has been falsely accused by his professor. His other studies have suffered. He was temporarily suspended from school. All because a professor made accusations that Rollins found to be untrue.

There are still questions to be answered and we will continue to look closely at what happens next. The Central Florida Post will follow this story and continue to update our readers with new developments.


We the pupils: More states teaching founding US documents

Should U.S. high school students know at least as much about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist papers as immigrants passing a citizenship test?

In a growing number of school systems, having such a basic knowledge is now a graduation requirement. But states are taking different approaches to combating what's seen as a widespread lack of knowledge about how government works.

Kentucky last week and Arkansas on March 16 became the latest of more than a dozen states since 2015 that have required the high school social studies curriculum to include material covered by the 100 questions asked on the naturalization exam. Lawmakers in other states, including Minnesota, are hoping to foster even deeper understanding of the fundamentals of American democracy by adding a full course to study its most important documents.

"Rights might be inherent, but ideas need to be taught," said Maida Buckley, a retired classroom teacher in Fairbanks, Alaska, who testified last year to an Alaskan legislative task force on civics education. "When you have a system of government that's based on ideas, espoused in the Declaration of Independence and carried out with a working document in the Constitution, those ideas need to be taught."

It's a bipartisan cause, and in many states such bills are jointly introduced by Republicans and Democrats. But proponents' motivations vary from dismay about the lack of participation in local school boards and town halls to concerns about how Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters view the power of the executive branch.

"We clearly have seen there is a serious civics deficiency in this country, all the way up to the top, the very top," said Rhode Island Democratic state Rep. Gregg Amore, a longtime high school history teacher who is co-sponsoring legislation that contends the "survival of the republic" depends on Americans understanding its principles and history.

A campaign by the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Joe Foss Institute has led many states to pass laws requiring students to know what's on the citizenship test.

"It's not a panacea or silver bullet, but it's a step forward," said the group's Lucian Spataro, who said 17 states have adopted the model or something similar. "You have to learn the basics before you can have the higher-level discussions."

Other civics education boosters say such a mandate is too simplistic.

"If you do something like that, people are going to start teaching to the test and teaching a game of Trivial Pursuit," said Charles Quigley, executive director of the Calabasas, California-based Center for Civic Education. "Kids are already tested to death."

The Rhode Island bill, introduced by a Republican from North Smithfield, a conservative town where Trump is popular, is partly inspired by a ninth-grade class taught at North Smithfield High School. The honors class uses the "We the People" curriculum developed by Quigley's group. Students participate in a national competition in which they must orally defend their ideas.

On a March afternoon, teenagers stood at their classroom's lectern one by one, debating whether a California police officer can search a suspected gang member's smartphone without a warrant.

As they argued, some cited language from the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment. Others looked to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' 1928 dissenting opinion in a wiretapping case.

Their teacher, Natalie O'Brien, gently prodded them to think critically and tap into more than 200 years of American history and legal philosophy. She didn't tell them that, in 2014, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled in the California case that police may not generally search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.

"Someone's going to channel James Madison, right?" she said. "What would Brandeis be saying about this particular decision? What would the founders be saying?"

North Smithfield High student Megan Skinner said she didn't pay much attention to politics before O'Brien's class, but the 15-year-old now said she now uses the founding U.S. documents as a guide as family and friends debate the Trump presidency.

"It gives us an entirely new perspective on all the events that are going on," Skinner said. "You see all these things in the news, and especially about the election, and all the things that are going on with the executive orders he passed, the travel bans. Before this class, we wouldn't have understood these things."


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

No campus should be a ‘no go’ area for Jews

Last week, the London School of Economics hosted a talk on the Middle East conflict by Richard Falk. In case you don’t know Richard Falk’s past, he has suggested that “Tel Aviv” was responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.

He endorsed in glowing terms a book by notorious anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon which claimed the Jews were “the only people who managed to maintain and sustain a racially orientated, expansionist and genocidal national identity that is not at all different from Nazi ethnic ideology”, describing Atzmon as a man whose story was told with “unflinching integrity”.

He has refused to remove comments left on his blog page saying that the notorious Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was “an uncannily accurate description of what is happening right now”. And this is not all.

Falk was strongly condemned by then Prime Minister David Cameron for posting on his blog a cartoon showing a dog wearing a kippah and urinating on a statue of justice.

The LSE certainly did know who Richard Falk was and they were also aware of what he had written and endorsed about Jews.

We know this because we sent them a detailed dossier of the anti-Semitism he has uttered or supported.

We sent the same dossier to Middlesex University and to the University of East London, where Falk was also due to speak.

Both those universities were so shocked by what they read that they cancelled the scheduled Falk events. In stark contrast, the LSE decided to offer hospitality to Falk.

It did so knowing the unease and hurt this would cause to Jewish students on campus and the risk of his appearance acting as a magnet for antisemites to attend.

This is exactly what happened – Atzmon came and abused Jewish students, telling them to read Holocaust denial literature and informing them that “Jews had been expelled from Germany for misbehaving”.

Following Falk’s appearance, the Union of Jewish Students said that “the university failed in their duty of care to Jewish students”. I agree.

These students will have to go lectures this week with the knowledge that those responsible for their education will tolerate anti-Semitism and give a platform to those who whose aim is to promote it.

This is the reason that I recommended that Jewish students should, for the moment, look elsewhere.  If a university in this country cannot make its campus a safe place for Jewish students, how could we recommend it as a place for Jewish students to study?

We need to be absolutely clear that there is and should not be any campus which is a ‘no go’ area for Jews.

However, not only did LSE fail in its duty of care. It made a decision to ignore the concerns put to them by their own students. That is not just negligence. It is a wilful choice to utterly disregard the voice of Jewish students.

I expect to have discussions with the LSE in the near future at which I will put my concerns to them directly.

I will explain to them exactly why Jewish students have been hurt and offended by Falk’s presence and I would hope that the university would pledge to act on these concerns in the future.

There can be no room for complacency on this matter. If the LSE wishes to be seen as a welcoming place to students of all races and religions it must ban racism from its campus.

This is the minimum we should expect.


UK: Fear, lies and abuse: the private school cover-up

When Alex Renton wrote about being abused at school, he didn’t anticipate the huge response. Or that he’d end up breaking down in a police station

It is, they say, good to tell the story. Let it out: nightmares are best cured by daylight. But what do you do next? Three years ago I decided to come out as a survivor of abuse, physical and psychological, at boarding school. I’m a journalist, so I did what comes naturally: I published an article in a magazine. I went back to my famous prep school, where a police investigation had begun. Ashdown House had made the front page of the Daily Mail because Boris Johnson, Damian Lewis and the Queen’s nephew David Linley had been there.

In the piece I detailed some of the emotional and the physical violence that tinged all our lives. I told about Mr Keane, the angry young teacher who used to take us by the ears and throw us around. In calmer moments, Keane would give us sweets in return for a fumble inside our corduroy shorts. I made some wider points about the astonishing fraud practised on rich parents by the boarding school industry in the 20th century, in persuading them that their children would be cared for and safe. All the evidence — with scandal following scandal — now seemed to show that the children in the schools of the privileged were as preyed upon as those in the worst council-run care homes.

The reaction to my story was immediate — and shockingly personal. “You’re a class traitor,” said one friend, whose son had just started at Eton. I thought she might have been joking — but she wasn’t the only one. I was at a smart Edinburgh art gallery a few days after publication, standing with a glass of free wine in a group of people I vaguely know. “Don’t stand too close to Renton!” one of them, an old Etonian businessman, suddenly announced, grabbing my arm. “He might put his hand down your trousers!” Most of the group chuckled.

This — for anyone who needs the explanation — is a stiff-upper-lip joke. You may have to be posh to get it. If you care, or object, you’re not really one of us. At heart, it says: “Let’s not be too serious about things, old chap.” Showing excessive emotion, revealing one’s private troubles to the wider world is a failure, almost a blasphemy. “”It’s not what we do,” said an elderly relative of my revelations. These attitudes, some would say, are what made Britain great and kept the establishment in power. Others might say they are the source of an awful lot of unhappiness.

Beyond the “never did me harm” public school types, the article got an extraordinary reaction. The social media postings garnered thousands of shares and comments. In 25 years of investigative journalism, I’d never had such a response. Most of it was sympathetic. Of course, some readers were quick to point out the ironies in a story of “posh abuse”. “Sometimes we do not truly realise how blessed we were to be born into poverty,” said one. Others asked: “So what? Who’s surprised?” Auberon Waugh, the ex-public school boy and satirist, was quoted on the subject: “Of course, the English are famous throughout the entire civilised world for their hatred of children.”

Others made a fair complaint: nearly a quarter of a million children are sexually abused in the UK every year, according to the children’s commissioner, so why should these old stories take up our — and the police’s – time? But the counter view was important too: if this was how the ruling class cared for its children, no wonder the public institutions of Britain that they went on to run — from the BBC to the NHS — seemed so arrogant and so prone to cover-up. We needed to find out what went wrong in the schools of the elite, as much as in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where Jimmy Savile preyed.

Many people emailed to tell me what had happened to them, telling stories that were often of a lifetime’s sorrow and self-doubt. After a few weeks I had several hundred credible accounts of apparent criminal abuse by adults at boarding schools, private and state; three years later the emails are still arriving. Reading through this mail has never been easy. Some accounts are dozens of pages long; I get honed chapters of planned books and crude outpourings of emotion. Many begin: “I’ve never spoken of this to anyone . . .” Reading these can induce crude and obvious nightmares. I am asleep, but aware that something is amiss — many-limbed things scuttering around the room, crawling out from under the bed and on to it.

Our lives became contaminated with the information. I had to explain to my children, who were then 10 and 15, what I had unleashed and what they, both at day school, needed to know about adults. I felt I had to read the letters, and answer them, though my wife — who works in the child mental health services — and others were warning me to be careful. Not just of my own stability, but also with the needs of those who had contacted me.

Most of my correspondents were thoughtful and reflective, but some were angry, scratching at their scabs decades after they had escaped their schools and their abusers. There were stories of paranoia — child abuse breeds that — and others of quite justifiable suspicion. After all, the private school industry’s first recourse at the whiff of scandal was clearly to cover it up. Most importantly I was receiving information about men and women who were clearly still in a position to hurt and damage children. I told those correspondents, as gently as I could, that they should seek therapy and go to the police. But that simple advice was a challenge to me. I left Ashdown House, after five long years, when I was 13, in 1974. Why had I never done anything about what happened to me there — and particularly about the man who abused me?

The answer to that was complex. Like all of us who could, I had turned my back on my schooldays, deciding to ignore and forget the dark things that had happened. I knew I was marked, but Keane’s crude fumblings meant little compared with the anger I felt against Billy Williamson, the headmaster who had beaten and bullied me for most of my time. But what he did was not illegal. Many who wrote to me about the legacy of their schools said similar things — it was the unhappiness and the fear, not the violence, that had marked them most.

But I had to do something about Mr Keane. He was young, only in his twenties, when he taught me. Other ex-Ashdown pupils had written to me remembering his anger and violence as well as the sexual intrusions. This was a relief — because one of the things that bedevils people like me is lack of trust in your own powers of recall. After all, we were told so often as children that our feelings and fears were false. It’s not surprising that most victims of child abuse do not “disclose” for years, if ever: the NSPCC says the average wait is seven years and that one in three will never tell. My correspondents often buried the story until their own children reached the age they had been when adults first violated their childhoods.

I got hold of the Ashdown House Bulletin for 1972. “Mr Keane,” it said, in a list of boys and teachers departing that summer, “will be taking up a post at a boarding school in Bournemouth”. This was a shock. If Keane really had continued all that time in the classroom, this meant that my — and my parents’ — inaction had left children vulnerable to a violent sexual predator for nearly 40 more years.

I went to Sussex police, who already had a full inquiry — Operation Mitre — going on into events at Ashdown House. They sent officers to Edinburgh to take a statement. I was interviewed by two dark-suited middle-aged men in a suite of rooms especially designed for sexual abuse complainants. It looked like a Travelodge, apart from the video cameras. The officers were kind and painstaking, and we talked through in immense detail the afternoon that the maths master had held me to him while he groped in my shorts, then given me a sweet.

They asked where I was standing in the room when Keane assaulted me, what he was wearing, where the window was, what time of day it happened. I found out later that the minor detail is crucial for investigators trying to sort false memories from real in old cases: the sensory memory of assaults remains very vivid in the victim. But the thing that shocked me most was that for a while I could hardly talk for the tears. I cried like I hadn’t since I was a child much smaller than the one who went to prep school. I went on for 10 or 15 minutes. The officers were patient: they had paper tissues ready and an offer of formal counselling.

I cried because, quite simply, someone in authority was listening to me. At last. It was that simple. Others who have been through the process felt the same — it was a monumental moment for the unheard child, even 40 or 50 years later, to find an ear belonging to someone with the power to put things right.

At the police interview I cried like I hadn’t since I was a child
Of course, that was the best moment of my experience of seeking redress through the law. A little over a year later, a kindly female detective rang from Sussex and asked me to be ready to hear “some bad news” — so bad that in fact she would have liked to have flown to Edinburgh me to tell me it, had there been enough budget. She had to tell me that they had found that Mr Keane had died five years earlier. On his death certificate his profession was listed as teacher.

I was disappointed. I would have liked to have faced him in court. I would like to have my questions answered. I have not been able to find out what Mr Keane got up to, as a teacher, in the years between 1972 and his death in 2012 — I don’t know where he died; I still don’t know his first name. The detective promised to send me a copy of his death certificate, but she never did. But I was also relieved. The hundreds of accounts I’ve received from adults detailing the abuse they suffered at school often told of attempts to seek criminal investigations or formal apologies. Some wanted vengeance, some compensation, but most just sought to try to understand.

But that understandable urge meant, for the great majority of them, more pain. Schools, nervous of their liabilities, prevaricate and dodge responsibility. Police investigations drag on for years, then often come to nothing at the door of the court. I wrote up the awful story of two girls who were raped at Gordonstoun as 12-year-olds who found their case collapsed when it was decided that one of them was too mentally fragile to face her attacker in court; the accused is still at large in the community. When people write to me now, I tell them that the best way forward is through counselling. Going to the law is important, but it is rarely good therapy.

Like children still, we all want things to be fair. But they never will be. My inbox is still full of stories from frustrated, hurt people now convinced that the authorities have conspired against them, both when they were children and now. That is not irrational, looked at dispassionately. The law is not reliable. At Ashdown House a criminal investigation drags on and on, 14 years since ex-pupils first went to the police. A civil compensation case has stalled because the school’s present owner, Cothill Educational Trust, has not admitted liability for its predecessors. (This may be related to the fact that another school the trust owns also faces allegations.) The ex-pupils’ lawyers have been trying to identify Ashdown’s insurers with little assistance from the school.

In England and Scotland there are now public inquiries into the abuse of children in institutions. Many of the “survivors” groups have already given up hope in them — given the disastrous start that the inquiries have had, with counsel and chairpeople sacked and quitting, that’s hardly surprising. But we must have faith. In 2015 I offered both inquiries the evidence that I’ve gathered of cover-up and possible conspiracy. I’ve yet to hand it over. For me, and thousands of others seeking peace, the questions remain unanswered.


In Trump era, tech visas get a hard look

Does the technology industry have such a shortage of qualified Americans that it needs to import thousands of workers from halfway around the world?

For years, that’s been the sector’s central argument in favor of the federal H-1B visa program, which lets US employers hire up to 85,000 skilled guest workers each year, mostly in high-tech fields.

But some economists and labor experts say the numbers simply do not support claims of a broad talent squeeze. Rather, these skeptics argue, data suggest that the H-1B program is often a source of captive, lower-wage labor that displaces American workers.

“The notion that there just aren’t enough decently qualified people in the US, and that’s why you have to go overseas, I think is hype,” said John Bound, a University of Michigan economist.

On Monday, employers begin their annual scramble for H-1B visas, submitting applications for the upcoming federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Companies typically submit so many applications that officials must hold a lottery to determine which ones get the visas.

The process is under heightened political pressure this year as the Trump administration seeks to implement immigration and economic policies that create or protect American jobs. And that’s putting a new spotlight on the tech industry’s claims of a talent crunch.

Critics of the program have pushed for more regulations, including higher pay requirements, arguing that could keep H-1B workers from weighing down overall wages.

President Trump has seemed sympathetic to that argument, saying during the campaign that he would “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program.”

Many economists who are skeptical of the tech industry’s assertions still say the H-1B program is a net positive for the economy, allowing companies to grow quickly, keep prices lower, and produce software and gadgets that make other fields more productive.

But they also say there’s evidence of a large, underused pool of domestic workers who could be tapped instead of guest workers.

Census figures, for example, show that half of the nearly 2 million college graduates with degrees in computers, math, or statistics do not work in STEM, the sector that encompasses science, tech, engineering, and mathematics jobs.

Wages in some key tech jobs haven’t grown dramatically in years, indicating the industry isn’t holding on to pricey, experienced workers or jacking up pay across the board to woo employees from other fields, experts said.

Moreover, tech companies routinely lay off thousands of workers each year, creating a large potential surplus of workers who could be retrained. And the industry has made little progress in diversifying its mostly white, male employee base.

While there are probably tight supplies of qualified workers in certain technical subfields, experts said many H-1B workers are performing less specialized work that could easily be done by US employees.

“What the tech companies mean is ‘there aren’t enough domestic workers to fill the jobs at the current wage,’ ” Rutgers University economist Jennifer Hunt said. “They could find more native workers by raising wages, but at some point raising wages becomes unprofitable.”

Industry leaders maintain there are gaps in US workers’ skills, pointing to thousands of unfilled job openings and employer surveys listing hiring as a top concern. And there are economists who argue H-1Bs don’t necessarily crowd out US workers or depress wages.

But the tech industry also thinks criticism of the visa has become overheated, since the program amounts to 85,000 additional workers each year in a sector that employed more than 6.7 million people in 2016.

“We’re sometimes kind of shaking our heads about the consternation over this small fraction of the potential workforce that’s being impacted,” said Todd Thibodeaux, chief executive of the Computing Technology Industry Association, an influential trade group. “These people are not here taking any large numbers of jobs.”

The H-1B program requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and “highly specialized knowledge.” The visa allows companies to keep overseas workers in the United States for up to six years.

The government caps the number of H-1B visas for commercial employers at 65,000 annually, with another 20,000 available for workers who have a master’s degree from a US college. The cap, which has been higher in the past, has not changed since 2004.

The tech industry has lobbied to increase the visa cap and boost the domestic labor pool by improving US education and training programs. CompTIA, the trade group, recently called the shortage of qualified tech workers “our industry’s paramount challenge.”

The problem, skeptics say, is the numbers don’t necessarily back that up. For example:

 *  In 2014-2015, the average unemployment rate for recent college graduates with computer science degrees was 4.2 percent, roughly the same as for philosophy majors, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

 *  Tech companies also are prolific job-cutters. Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc., a job-search firm that compiles data on workforce reductions, found that technology companies have cut more than 413,000 jobs since 2012, including more than 96,000 in 2016.

 *  Despite years of discussion about the industry’s lack of diversity, women are still being left behind. Although they make up about half of the overall labor force, women hold just 25 percent of IT jobs, census figures show — and their share of the tech workforce has actually declined since 1990.

 *  Tech-industry wages, generous compared with those of other professions, haven’t shown dramatic growth.

Census figures compiled by William Lazonick, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, show that average inflation-adjusted pay for software publishing and computer system design jobs increased just 5.3 percent and 4 percent, respectively, between 2001 and 2014.

Pay for computer programming dropped 1.2 percent over the same span.

Average income for all households, meanwhile, dropped by 2.7 percent.

In a dire labor shortage, with companies desperate for workers, you instead might see much higher wages, higher worker retention and retraining, lower unemployment rates for recent graduates, and a rising number of women, said Ron Hira, an associate professor at Howard University.

“You’re not seeing any of that kind of corporate behavior,” said Hira, a prominent critic of the H-1B program.

Instead, some academics say, the tech industry’s claim of a talent shortage is mostly political cover for guest-worker programs that deliver tens of thousands of overseas workers who are paid low wages and crowd out domestic workers.

A 2011 Government Accountability Office audit of the H-1B program, the most recent such report, showed that 54 percent of prospective H-1B workers in 2009-2010 were considered entry-level, qualifying for the lowest possible pay. Another 29 percent were in the second-lowest of four pay brackets. Just 6 percent were considered “fully competent,” the highest pay grade.

Experts note the largest number of H-1B visa requests often comes from IT outsourcing firms, not employers seeking to build in-house talent. Outsourcing companies made 13 percent of the H-1B visa requests in New England from 2010 to 2012, higher than the national rate, according to a 2014 study by the Boston Federal Reserve.

Employers also benefit from the fact H-1B workers can’t easily change jobs because the company, not the worker, controls the visa.

“Claiming shortages works, politically,” said Michael S. Teitelbaum, a Harvard Law School demographer. “If you just say, ‘Well, we think it would be great to have more H-1B visas because it would increase our profits,’ that’s not going to work very well.”

Despite the arguments, employers still say restrictions can force them into expensive work-arounds.

Mohamad Ali, CEO of the Boston data-backup company Carbonite, said he hired about 250 people in 2016. This year, he plans to hire around 200 more. But if he can’t get them admitted to the United States, he’ll staff up at Carbonite offices in Canada and Europe. “If we are forced to have to do that, it’s bad for America,” he said.


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Thirty years of 'varsity academics'

by Jeff Jacoby

OF THE THREE R's, says Will Fitzhugh, the founder and publisher of The Concord Review, the middle R has long been the most neglected. It was true in his own case — when he arrived at Harvard as a freshman 61 years ago, he had never had to write a single term paper — and it remains true now. On the whole, American students graduate from high school incapable of writing a coherent, well-researched essay. Most of those who continue to college don't become competent writers there, either.

For years, blue-ribbon panels and high-powered commissions have bewailed this state of affairs, to little visible effect. The last time the federal government measured writing skills among middle- and high-school students, it found that nearly 3 out of 4 could not pass a test of writing proficiency. Employers are forced to spend enormous sums on remedial writing courses for their workers — by one estimate, as much as $3.1 billion per year.

Fitzhugh, who worked for the Apollo space program, Westinghouse, and the Peace Corps before finding his calling as a teacher, didn't have billions when he launched The Concord Review in 1987. All he had was $80,000 he had inherited from his father, some familiarity with desktop publishing software, and the fervent conviction that what works for high school athletics could work for writing: Promote and praise the top achievers, and other students will be inspired by their example.

Three decades later, Fitzhugh's journal has become the world's foremost showcase for first-rate history research by secondary-school students. To date, the review has published 1,230 essays by authors from 44 states and 40 other countries, on an astonishing variety of historical topics. These are not short compositions of a few hundred gauzy words. On average, papers published in The Concord Review run 7,000 words, along with detailed endnotes. Among the offerings in the latest issue are a paper on the Opium Wars, written by Stephanie Zhao; an essay on Ronald Reagan and the Cold War by Siddharth Tripathi; and a study of the Treaty of Trianon by Milan Kende Loewer.

Alas, the world's foremost journal for such exemplary writing is still the world's only such journal. And the vast majority of high school students have never heard of it.

That wasn't what Fitzhugh anticipated when he published his first issue.

During his years of classroom teaching at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Mass., Fitzhugh had always had a few students who did more than he asked them to do. Their research was more thorough, their analysis sharper, their writing longer and more careful. They earned good grades, but other students weren't encouraged to notice their work. While the school's best athletes were local heroes, the school's best students earned little acclaim.

Amid all the lamentation about the state of American education — and by the mid-1980s, the lamenting was considerable — Fitzhugh was repeatedly struck by the contrast between athletics and academics. High school athletes were held to very high standards, and those who met them were showered with encouragement. The best high school basketball players, swimmers, or runners were often profiled by the media in "All-Scholastic" special sections; the very best might even be recruited by college coaches, who kept abreast of the most impressive up-and-coming talent.

But there were no newspaper profiles of outstanding high school history students, no outreach from the chairmen of college history departments, no recognition from best-selling historians. No academic journal was interested in publishing the serious writing of high school students. No foundation offered lucrative prizes for top-notch scholarly writing by authors in their teens.

Fitzhugh decided to blaze a path. He quit his job, cashed in his pension, and devoted himself full-time to producing a journal that would show the kind of scholarly writing youthful students were capable of. He adopted "Varsity Academics" as his slogan and put out a call for excellent history essays. The journal's purpose, he says, was to serve as a new kind of peer pressure: to demonstrate to high school students everywhere what kids their age could achieve.

As word of The Concord Review trickled out, the superb history papers began coming in. So did tributes from supporters as varied as Albert Shanker, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., John Silber, and David McCullough. So did modest financial support from a handful of donors who grasped the potential of what Fitzhugh was doing.

But it has always been a hand-to-mouth existence. Fitzhugh never saw anything like the tens of millions of dollars that are poured into after-the-fact remedial writing instruction and into gimmicky feel-good campaigns by foundations more interested in boosting self-esteem than in challenging students to work hard. Over and over, Fitzhugh's grant applications have been rejected on the grounds that his journal is too elitist, or that it doesn't have a politically-correct edge, or that the study of history isn't, after all, nearly as important as he seems to think it is. A few high schools have embraced The Concord Review, but far more want nothing to do with a journal so committed to high academic standards.

Through it all, Fitzhugh persists, cheerful and determined — and passionate as ever about student achievement. It remains the case that most high school students are never required to write a serious research paper. But now there are 30 years' worth of Concord Reviews that open a window into an alternative universe. You want to see what high school kids can do? Spend some time with The Concord Review, and prepare to be inspired.


The non-Jewish students who fight BDS

As Apartheid Week rages in campuses around the world, there are students on UK campuses with no ties to Israel or Judaism who choose to fight for Israel. They talk about the accusations hurled at them ('You're Nazis'), the difficulty posed by pro-Palestinian groups disrupting pro-Israel events, and why they're defending Israel

Israel’s diplomats are working hard this month as events of the BDS Movement’s Apartheid Week take place in different places around the globe. These events, which began on February 28 and will continue through April 10, paint Israel in a negative light and expose tens of thousands of students to the boycott campaign and pro-Palestinian organizations that are operating on different campuses.

The discussions are mostly one-sided: Israel is hardly ever represented by anyone, and the pro-Palestinian organizations enjoy a monopoly in the battle for public opinion. Over the last few years, anti-Semitic groups have also made it onto campuses under the Apartheid Week guise, with swastikas and comparisons of Israel to the Nazi regime becoming commonplace.

But there has been an awakening over the past two years on several campuses in Britain, where students and activists started fighting for Israel’s image. They’re not only trying to balance the negative image of Israel painted by the boycott organizations, but they’re also organizing events and activities to present a different side of Israel.

The most surprising thing about these initiatives, though, is that many of the students at the forefront of Israel’s battle against Apartheid Week are not Israeli, nor even Jewish.

‘You support war crimes’

Khulan Davajab is one of them. She’s 21, one her first year studying Hebrew and International Relations at SOAS University of London, which specializes in Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. SOAS is considered one of the more prestigious schools at the University of London, but its campus is also considered one of the most anti-Israeli in Britain—a stronghold of the boycott movement.

Davajab was born in Mongolia, moved with her mother to the Czech Republic and arrived in London three years ago. Her affiliation to Israel started by chance.

“When I was 13, a friend of mine read a book about the persecution of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and recommended it to me,” she says. “I started developing an interest in Judaism and in the history of the Jewish people, and I noticed Israel was getting a very negative and unfair treatment in the world. I started writing a blog about Israel, won a prize in an essay content about Israel, and went to visit it. I finally saw the country with my own eyes and realized the way in which Israel is being portrayed in the media was unfair and doesn’t truly reflect it.”

Last year, Davajab decided to study international relations and Hebrew, though even Hebrew studies failed to provide her with a refuge in the hostile academic institution.”On the first week of school, when I told people I was studying Hebrew, one of them lecturers asked me ‘Why are you studying Hebrew? So you could read the Israeli propaganda?'” she recounts.

“During lessons, the lecturers tell the students that Israeli prison guards sexually abuse Palestinian prisoners. They present Israel as Satan and say that Iran needs a nuclear bomb so it could deal with Israel’s aggression. When I try to balance the scale, I’m told ‘You’re supporting war crimes.'”

And how do the students react to such things?

“The students agree with the lecturers. I feel a lot of hostility when I express my opinion. My only friends on campus are Jews. Even the Israeli students on campus hide where they’re from, lying and saying they were from France or the US. When I enter a classroom, I often hear whispering, ‘There, the Zionist is here.’

“We had an event for Israel recently and pro-Palestinian activists attacked me and my friends, stole my phone and snatched my purse. It almost deteriorated to physical violence.”

But Davajab didn’t let the pro-Palestinian activists discourage her. Several months ago, she joined a leadership program through StandWithUs, a non-profit organization working to improve Israel’s image in campuses around the world. The organization’s leadership program was launched this year, training 35 young leaders—several of them not Jewish—in campuses across Britain using seminars, lectures and workshops providing practical tools to aid them in organizing pro-Israel activities on campuses.

Tamir Oren, StandWithUs’s representative in London, arrived in the UK several months ago and saw the massive campaign against Israel.

“The resistance hasn’t been anti-Israeli in a long time,” he explains. “We see a situation on campuses in which Jewish students experience anti-Semitism and are afraid of wearing a kippah. Other students bemoan the fact that pro-Palestinian organizations disrupt pro-Israel events, and there are quite a few incidents where swastikas have been drawn on walls.”

But Oren and his organization also see some encouraging signs. “This week, during the Apartheid Week events, our students held the ‘Shabbat Shalom’ event meant to show the beautiful side of Israel,” he says. “Another student led a delegation of entrepreneurs to Israel. We’re starting a dialogue in places where until recently no one agreed to even listen to the Israeli side.”

‘Dialogue instead of boycott’

Davajab also started organizing pro-Israel events on campus. “We brought a delegation of activists from the Yesh Atid party and they spoke to students here,” she says. “We also brought a delegation of students from the Hebrew University to present the reality in Israel rather than the lies and distortions. We received a lot of good feedback. So far, everyone was exposed to one narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and suddenly they get to hear the other side. Students tell me these lectures opened their minds, and that they no longer thought Israelis were murdering Palestinians in cold blood. They now see there’s another side to the conflict. The program gave me tools, but more than that, it helped me feel I wasn’t alone; that there were students like me at other universities.”

One of those students is Jonathan Farrell, 22, a BA student for international relations and Arabic at the University of Exeter. He grew up in Buckinghamshire, far from any major Jewish community.”I had no clue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I knew Israel was a tolerant place in a sea of intolerance,” he says.

When he began his studies, he joined a Friends of Israel group on campus. “Ironically, there was a Jewish organization at the university, but when we tried to recruit them for pro-Israel activities, they said they were an a-political organization and refused. So we started our own group,” he says.

Over the past three years, he and his friends have been organizing pro-Israel activities and events on different campuses. One of the more successful ventures was when they invited a profession of history and theology who told the students about the Jewish people’s millennia-old connection to the Land of Israel.

“A lot of students said they had no idea that Jews had lived in Israel in the past. Until then, all they heard was that Zionism was a racist movement and that the white Jews invaded Israel without having any ties to the place,” Farrell says.During Apartheid Week, Farrell and his friends held Israel Peace Week, which promotes love instead of hate, dialogue instead of boycott. “We’re holding a fair with food tastings, lectures, discussions and other activities,” he says. “This is how we explain that the only way to make peace is through dialogue, not boycotts.”

Do you feel a change in the attitude towards Israel on campus?

“I can’t say that there’s a lot of support for Israel, but I definitely see more balance and hesitancy. The students who used to just eat up what they were being told are now asking questions. The conversations are no longer one-sided. We are able to help students see the problematic nature of the Palestinians. Even the Palestinians on campus were surprised by us. They lost the one-sided control on campus that they had taken for granted. Every time they hold an event against Israel—we’ll be there with leaflets, signs and Israeli flags.”

Joe Sigolo, 19, an international relations student at Queen Mary University of London, started supporting Israel after Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

“I started studying the situation, in contrary to the distorted and negative way in which Israel is being described in the media. I was shocked because people in London—including Jews—presented Israel in such a negative manner. I noticed activists were using the anti-Zionist stance as a cover for ugly anti-Semitic views and decided to show the Israeli side of the story.

“When I first arrived at the university, the situation on campus was terrible. You couldn’t even mention the name Israel, or hint that you were in favor of Israel. I kept being attacked. When one of the professors said Gaza was a giant prison, I mumbled to myself ‘That’s not true,’ and the student sitting next to me told me ‘These are dirty Jews and you have blood on your hands.’ He yelled at me, ‘I won’t sit next to you’ and left.”

But Sigolo wasn’t discouraged either. “Education is the way to peace, and if we want to have a chance of peace, we have to give people information,” he says. The narrative on campus “is that Israel is (sterilizing) Ethiopian women because they’re black, and you have to fight these made-up stories. The pro-Palestinian organizations are trying to sabotage our activity, and my job is to give people correct information.”

StandWithUs representative Tamir Oren says that while non-Jewish students taking part in pro-Israel activity is impressive, they often have to pay a price. “They have to give up on friends, parties and leisure time to defend Israel,” he says.

What about the Israeli government?

“We don’t receive government support, among other reasons so we don’t get accused of being a government branch spreading propaganda. The special thing about our program is that it gives students a platform to tell the Israeli story through their own eyes. No official body can match their levels of familiarity and credibility.”


Evidence needed before education changes

Comment from Australia

The working lives of people entering the Australian workforce in 2017 are different to those of the previous generation. Technology and automation, as well as the decline in industries where entry level positions have a low skill requirement, are reducing the employment options for people with low academic achievement and without post-school qualifications.

These developments have had several flow-on effects. Youth unemployment has been increasing, going up to 14% in February, putting pressure on job services and the welfare system. Rather than be unemployed, more young people are staying at school to Year 12 (84.3% of youth in 2016 compared to 75% in 2006), compelling schools to accommodate a cohort of senior secondary students who are not academically motivated. More young people are going to university, many of whom are not well-equipped for university level study, which perhaps helps explain the recent data showing around one-third of university students drop out of their degrees. In addition, they often choose degrees that have low prospects of employment.

The obvious reasons for these problems are structural change in the Australian economy, and a mismatch between the industries that have employment demand and the education choices being made by prospective employees. Indeed, the bright light in the current employment situation is apprenticeships — 92% of individuals graduating from apprenticeships and traineeships are employed full time post-completion. It is not difficult to understand why: there is a direct match between training and employment.

These are real problems and require a response from our education and training systems. A recent report from the Mitchell Institute sets out the problem well and acknowledges the reasons posited above, but devotes much of its space to arguing that the most ‘ready solution’ is for schools to prioritise the development of ‘competencies’ and ‘capabilities,’ like creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

It is hard to argue that these are not important capabilities but it is easier said than done. Schools are still struggling to teach the core curriculum, as shown by the decline in Australia’s results in international assessments. It is not at all clear that ‘capabilities’ can be taught in a general way, and whether they can be assessed. Further, no evidence is presented that employers see the lack of these capabilities as key impediments to youth employment.

A wholesale refocusing of the education system amidst the disruption of twenty-first century globalisation and automation without solid evidence is a big risk.


Monday, April 03, 2017

Why elite universities are so illiberal

The posher the campus, the more likely it will chill free speech

Middlebury College in Vermont has joined the growing list of illustrious universities in danger of becoming better known for hostility to free speech than for academic credentials or notable alumni. One unedifying evening last week saw a guest lecture by Charles Murray, notorious author of The Bell Curve, curtailed by protesting students while, in the middle of the fracas, the professor hosting the event was seriously injured. In the same week, six professors from Wellesley College wrote to faculty arguing for new guidelines to stop speakers who might cause students ‘damage’ from being invited on to campus. The missive was prompted by an invitation issued to feminist cultural critic Laura Kipnis, who has spoken out against legislation to regulate consensual relationships between academics and students.

Both Wellesley and Middlebury are highly selective liberal arts colleges. Middlebury is referred to as a ‘Little Ivy’ and Wellesley is one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ women’s colleges established in parallel with the Ivy League. These are academically elite – and expensive – institutions. As such, they join other top ranking universities at the forefront of eroding free speech. It was Yale students who infamously shouted down the professor defending their right to choose for themselves what to wear for Halloween. It was at University of California, Berkeley, the home of the original campus free-speech movement, that students rioted in protest at Milo Yiannopoulos’s planned visit. A look at spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings reveals a similar pattern in the UK. The more prestigious universities, those ranked highest in popular league tables, are nearly always the most censorious; the few green-ranking institutions are generally less highly esteemed.

It’s undoubtedly true that campus censorship attracts more media interest when it takes place at top universities. What happens at Yale or Oxford is newsworthy: these institutions educated today’s politicians and journalists and are currently shaping tomorrow’s leaders. But this is about more than just attention. On both sides of the Atlantic it is the most elite institutions, those that can take their pick of the brightest students, those that, in the US at least, are able to command the highest fees, that are leading the way in censorship.

Students in receipt of the best education money can buy are neither less capable of refuting speakers they find offensive nor inherently more sensitive than the rest of us. Perhaps what they do have is a more finely tuned sense of entitlement, stemming from their place within the academic elite and exacerbated by their status as consumers. All too often this is enacted as a demand for freedom from speech. Some seem to assume that the cost and effort that goes into securing a top university place gives them the right not to be offended once there.

The link between academic success and a fondness for censorship is more than just a mindset. It is precisely because they are the academic achievers that students at elite universities demand freedom from speech. They are the ones who have best imbibed the lesson that truth is a question of perspective; discourse is a reflection of power relations and oppression is intersectional. They’ve learned that language constructs reality, and that ‘words that wound’ can inflict ‘spirit murder’ on those who, according to their gender, ethnicity or sexual identity, are assumed to be forever powerless. The students who excel in elite universities today have come to embody the vulnerability they see in others.

According to their view, the psychic violence inflicted by hurtful words is not just equivalent to the physical violence that places people in hospital - it’s worse; it is considered a denial of someone’s very right to exist. When people are fragile constructs and symbolic violence is everywhere, shutting down speech, by any means necessary, comes to make sense. At Wellesley, the professors seeking new guidelines for campus speakers make this point clearly. Students feel compelled to protest against visiting speakers, they argue, ‘in order to affirm their humanity’.  The connection between the act of protest and being a good student is drawn out explicitly: ‘This work is not optional; students feel they would be unable to carry out their responsibilities as students without standing up for themselves.’

The ‘work’ involved in shutting down free speech on campus becomes necessary because the students at top universities are often not just an academic elite but a social elite, too. As such, they are forced to go to ever-greater lengths to defend the oppressed status of the identity group they seek to represent. For young people who’ve perhaps been privately educated, or received a generous scholarship, who have job opportunities and access to resources others can only dream of, demanding recognition for a particular experience of oppression is not easy. Defending your identity group against perceived existential threats provides an opportunity for you to show the world that you, too, suffer. By this reckoning, the more privileged a person is, the harder they must work to prove their claims to victimhood. Again, this point is made by the Wellesley professors, who write on behalf of those students ‘who often feel the injury most acutely and invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments’.

The Wellesley email brings into stark relief the extent to which it is not just some students who are to blame for campus censorship. No matter how ingrained a sense of entitlement they might have, few students arrive at university determined to close down debate. But once at university they act out the lessons of the classroom in protests that are often prompted, encouraged, led and defended by academics. If we want a culture of free speech on campus, academics need to lead the way in showing students how to challenge, not shut down, viewpoints they disagree with. University students are paying for education, not daycare, and that means having freedom of speech, not freedom from speech.


Codes won’t defeat campus censorship

Jo Johnson’s free-speech codes won’t give us free speech

The UK government, spearheaded by minister for universities and science, Jo Johnson, has announced plans to urge universities to commit themselves to freedom of speech. By encouraging universities to sign up to new governance documents and codes of practice protecting free speech, Johnson and others hope to halt the censorious culture sweeping the British academy. It sounds good, but those of us who believe in free speech on campus shouldn’t hold our breath.

There is unquestionably a crisis of free speech on campus, and it needs to be challenged. As the No Platforming of controversial speakers, Safe Space policies and bans on tabloid newspapers increasingly become the norm, Johnson is right to be concerned about the kicking free speech is getting at universities – the supposed centres of intellectual freedom. But the idea that government intervention and codes of practice will shake off this censorious culture is fanciful.

That students and universities would even need codes to prop up and endorse freedom of thought and speech shows how big the problem is. People in the academy should want to defend these freedoms, staunchly and passionately, in the name of allowing intellectual experimentation and debate to flourish. If we require bureaucratic codes to tell us these freedoms are important, then the freedoms themselves cannot exist in any meaningful sense. Johnson says his aim is to remind students and university officials that freedom of speech ‘should be at the heart of a higher-education community’ – but shouldn’t we know this, and shouldn’t we be demanding such freedom rather than waiting for the government to codify it for us?

Many universities already have codes of practice ‘ensuring’ freedom of speech, and they are most often used to inhibit speech rather than let it flow. These policies often have a very illiberal impact. Consider University College London, which has a code stating its commitment to freedom of speech. UCL has a ‘long tradition of seeking to safeguard freedom of speech’, it says. Except when people use ‘offensive’ or ‘provocative’ language, that is. Such speech should be avoided, the code says. Safeguarding freedom of speech clearly means safeguarding the right kind of speech, as decreed by UCL management.

Moreover, what moral authority does the government have to promote free speech on campus? This is the same government that has drafted and enforced the Prevent Strategy. Designed to tackle radicalisation, Prevent gives universities the power to ban ‘extremist’ speakers and to monitor students who say or read apparently questionable things. Prevent is inherently censorious. And Johnson has publicly backed it. When the National Union of Students took a very rare (and somewhat hypocritical) free-speech stance and criticised Prevent, Johnson said its position was ‘disappointing’. It is laughable for him now to pose as the free-speech hero British universities need.

It has become fashionable to lament the death of the free-wheelin’, boundary-pushing student and to mock modern students’ fragility. Student leaders definitely must be criticised, but this obsession with so-called snowflakes – a word spiked refuses to apply to millennials – overlooks the fact that officialdom often plays the same cautious, censorious game as groups like the NUS. When Johnson backs Prevent, in the name of protecting students from radicalisation, he is behaving no differently to SU officials who seek to No Platform Germaine Greer to protect students from ‘transophobia’ or who ban tabloids to protect students from their right-wing polemics.

The crisis of free speech on campus is getting worse. Both student officials and university management undermine this liberty. But intervention by government is not the answer. It is a contradiction in terms to try to foster free speech with government codes and regulations. Free speech shouldn’t need a code to ensure its existence, least of all on campus; it should be cherished day in, day out, as a real, lived experience. Let’s not look to government to ‘give us’ freedom of speech – students should be taking and running with this freedom every day.


NSW: Higher School Certificate students to study classic literature including Shakespeare and Austen - alongside Australian cinematic gem The Castle

Students studying for their Higher School Certificate (HSC) will now explore some of history's greatest works of literature - including the Australian classic The Castle.

High school students' minds will be broadened by literary gems from classic authors Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen as the Year 12 curriculum is given a new lick of paint.

A new list of prescribed texts for students was revealed by Education Minister Rob Stokes as a response to critics who claimed school kids could complete the HSC without reading a single novel.

The texts that will be devoured by teenagers includes work from literary talents Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot and George Orwell to modern writers and filmmakers including George Clooney, Al Pacino, Che Guevara and Australia's very own Rob Sitch.

Lovers of classic Australian film will be thrilled to learn the iconic movie The Castle is also on the list of prescribed texts.

The Castle had previously been studied in lower level English subjects during the HSC for the unit 'experience through language' - but it will now be a major component of the English course.

Australian novelists Henry Lawson, Tim Winton and David Malouf also made the list of texts HSC students will study from October next year.

'I am very pleased important works of literature by writers such as George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Albert Camus ­remain part of the HSC English syllabuses,' Mr Stokes said.

'Quality literature has ­always been a key component in every student's study of English and this will not change.

This decision makes clear that under the new syllabus students of year 12 English will have to study at least one novel.'