Friday, April 14, 2017

Bias Response Teams: campus censorship at its most sinister

US colleges now want students to snitch on their peers and professors

When you criticise the parlous state of free speech on campus these days, you’re often called hysterical. Disinviting speakers, banning microaggressions and clamping down on culturally appropriative parties is small fry, say the campus censors. ‘We’re not tyrants – go and criticise Turkey.’

This is just a ploy, of course – an attempt to shift the spotlight and avoid having to justify the not only censorious but patently unhinged behaviour of campus officials of late. But it’s also a crap one. Because with every year that passes, university administrations cook up more and more GDR-lite ways to cleanse campuses of disagreeable speech.

Just take Bias Response Teams (BRTs). According to a recent report by the American civil-liberties group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), these sinister-sounding groups of administrators operate on at least 231 US campuses (many colleges were less than cooperative with the researchers).

The University of Chicago defines its BRT as a group of ‘administrators who are available to support and guide students seeking assistance in determining how to handle a bias incident’. So-called bias incidents include any discriminatory ‘actions committed against or directed towards’ a person with protected characteristics.

In practice, these teams aren’t dealing with racist harassment or homophobic intimidation. Such things are rare occurrences on your average liberal arts college these days. Instead, they concern themselves with speech, opinions, sometimes just jokes. Most of which seem entirely innocent.

Reason’s Robby Soave waded through the University of Oregon BRT annual report last year. What he found was equal parts hilarious and terrifying. One student reported that a sign encouraging students to clean up after themselves was sexist. The sign was promptly removed. Another anonymous student complained that the student newspaper was giving insufficient coverage to trans and ethnic minority people. So the BRT went and had a word with the editor.

Things were stranger still at Bowdoin College, where students were placed on social probation and required to complete a re-education course for throwing a ‘fiesta’-themed party, with tequila and sombreros. An official of the student government labelled it a ‘racist incident’.

Professors are also getting it in the neck. Mike Jensen, an adjunct professor at the University of Northern Colorado, was hauled before campus authorities last year after one of his students filed a complaint with the campus BRT. Jensen’s crime? Encouraging students to debate controversial issues such as transgenderism.

According to a recording of the meeting, which Jensen gave to Heat Street, he had asked his class to read Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff’s seminal Atlantic article ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’. ‘This would be hilariously ironic if it wasn’t kind of sad’, Jensen told the BRT official. He was threatened with an investigation, and for reasons undisclosed was not invited back to teach the next semester.

Though BRTs are described as support mechanisms, aimed at resolving unpleasant incidents and fostering campus diversity, Jensen’s experience reveals the more sinister reality. The FIRE report notes that most of the BRTs surveyed only purported to provide ‘education’ to the offender, rather than punishment. But this, in itself, is deeply coercive. Not least because 42 per cent of investigations surveyed involved campus law enforcement. This is modern campus censorship at its most militarised.

Another irony here is that, as two professors pointed out in an article for the New Republic, BRTs are hitting the very subjects devoted to discussing issues of racial and sexual discrimination. Even a discussion about racism could be lodged as a bias incident. Fighting discrimination (no matter how illusory) has become the defining obsession of campus politics, and yet students are being encouraged to avoid learning about it or discussing it frankly.

Censorship is always, on some level, anti-intellectual. It presupposes that certain truths are best unchallenged, that certain opinions are better left unsaid, and that people are either too easily led or too easily shaken to participate in public life fully. BRTs make this plain. What’s more, they show that PC censorship has become a thoroughly neocolonial endeavour, devoted to looking after those black, brown, gay or trans folk deemed too wretched for the cut and thrust of academic debate.

The rise of BRTs remind us just how hollowed-out intellectual life on campus has become. As colleges have become bureaucratised, as services have swelled while academic staff have been squeezed, they’ve drifted further away from their intellectual mission. Diversity is now the ‘defining value’, an article of faith. Tragically, this preoccupation has if anything made campus life more tense and fractured. Encouraging students to snitch every time they spy a ‘racist’ tequila party is hardly going to make students from different backgrounds feel more chilled out around one another.

But this is not an internal coup by diversity-crazed bureaucrats - academia itself has a lot to answer for. For decades, victim feminism, critical race theory and Frankfurt school blather about the harm in speech, the power structures created by images, the idea that words ‘act upon’ women and minorities, has laid the groundwork for the BRT craze. These ideas, which have so long gone unchallenged, have lent campus bureaucracies a moral mission, a justification for their bloat and meddling.

It’s unclear whether BRTs are run by card-carrying ideologues or mere jobsworths, desperate to keep offended students happy and ‘racist professor’ headlines out of the press. But what’s clear is that campus authoritarianism isn’t just a figment of civil libertarians’ imagination. Colleges have created vast Byzantine bureaucracies which encourage students to snitch on their peers, which haul professors before committees for making off-the-cuff remarks, all in the name of protecting students from themed parties, sexist signage and, worst of all, debate. And they call us hysterical.


Arizona Universal School Choice Program
Arizona could soon become the first state in the nation to institute a universal school-choice program. And because the state already has a successful, but more limited, program in place - a funding system that has been expanded several times over the last few years - there is a solid foundation on which to build the effort.

The bill to expand the program could land on Arizona governor Doug Ducey's desk as early as this week. It has already passed the education committees in both chambers of the state legislature and, since there is just a month left in the session, a full vote on the bill is expected sometime in April. Because Ducey has approved developments to this school-choice program in past years, it is likely that he will support this latest expansion.

The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based think tank, has been on the front lines of Arizona's school-choice movement for the last decade. In 2006, the group introduced the concept of education savings accounts, and this idea was first enacted across the state in 2011 in a program for children with special needs. The Empowerment Scholarship Account program has used this savings-account model and expanded it every year since to include more students, including those in failing schools or adopted from foster care, as well as children of military members and children who live on Native American reservations.

The program now enrolls 3,300 students, and the new bill would expand access slowly over the course of the next four academic years by opening the program to students in a few grade levels each year. About half of the students currently enrolled are children with special needs.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts function in a similar way to health savings accounts, which help individuals or families save for health-care needs and are often partially funded by the government. In the case of Arizona's ESAs, the state deposits funding into each account, and a child's parents can use the funds for a wide variety of expenses, such as private-school tuition, college-savings plans, online classes, and tutoring.

For the 2015-16 school year, the accounts received about $4,600 for K-8th grade students and just under $5,000 for high-school students. Special-needs students can receive additional funding, the amount of which varies depending on the services required.

These accounts differ from vouchers in that parents can use the money to finance several educational needs simultaneously. This distinction is important. In 2009, the Arizona supreme court ruled that vouchers violate the state's constitutional provisions against using public money for private or religious purposes. But in 2014, the state supreme court upheld a lower-court ruling determining that ESAs are constitutional because they are fundamentally different from vouchers.

Though some worry that greater state support for school choice will detract from the public-school system, the examples of student success as a result of the ESA program tell a different story. "For those pleased with their local public school, carry on," says Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute. "But every child is different and learns at a different pace - so families should have the chance to find the best educational opportunities if an assigned school isn't working."

Consider Max Ashton, who has been blind since birth, but who nonetheless climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, and swam across the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island, all before graduating from high school. An ESA enabled his parents to afford private-school tuition and Braille materials, and he earned a scholarship to attend Loyola Marymount University in California.

Or take Tim and Lynn McMurray, who decided to adopt three unrelated children, all of whom are of Native American descent, and who have physical and developmental needs - Alecia suffers from fetal-alcohol syndrome, while Uriah and Valerie both have mild cerebral palsy. When all three children encountered serious challenges in the state's education system, the ESA program helped the McMurrays finance home-based instruction and educational therapy.

Meanwhile, Nathan Howard struggled in the public-school system as a child on the autism spectrum, and he barely spoke until he reached the age of six. Using an ESA, his family moved him to a school that offers special support for students with autism, and they also hired a one-on-one tutor for him. "For me, using an education savings account isn't a form of protest or an act of defiance against the school system," Nathan's mother, Amanda, wrote in a 2013 column in the Arizona Republic. "It's a chance to give Nathan a better future."

Butcher believes this latest expansion effort will be worthwhile for the state: "Instead of trying to predict all the problems ESAs are trying to solve, we should give students the chance to use an account if their assigned school isn't a good fit."

Some Arizonans might protest the continued growth of the state's school-choice movement, arguing that it's somehow harmful to public schools and under-privileged children. But as the results of the ESA program have shown thus far, diversity of affordable education options for Arizona's youth will nearly always lead to greater success.


University of Sydney investigates tutor’s racial attack on a News Corp reporter

Mr. Tharappel tutors human rights at Sydney University. He is involved with the Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies, a far-Leftist outfit.  So racist bigotry from the Left is no surprise.  The Left are obsessed with race. 

The name Tharappel is mainly from the Southern Indian State of Kerala, India's most Leftist state.  About a quarter of the population of Kerala is Muslim. In Kerala they speak Malayalam, not Hindi so Tharappel is himself from an Indian minority

Whether or not Syrian president Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical attack is having repercussions in Australian academia and media. The University of Sydney is investigating a casual tutor, Jay Tharappel, who launched a racial attack on a News Corp reporter to defend his mentor, pro-Assad lecturer Tim Anderson.

Anderson is a routine defender of the Bashar al-Assad government, and has dismissed any suggestion it was responsible for the recent chemical attack on civilians in rebel-held territory.

The academic said allegations the Syrian government was responsible were a “hoax”, and that Assad has been framed by the west.  He has visited Syria numerous times during the war, and met Assad in 2013, describing him as a “mild-mannered eye doctor”.

In an interview with state-run television posted online last year, Anderson praised “martyrs who died defending their beautiful country” in the bloody six-year war.

News Corp published a series of articles critical of Anderson this week. That prompted Tharappel, to attack a News Corp reporter, Kylar Loussikian, on social media.

“Devastating intellectual critique by Kylar Loussikian, the traitorous scum who desperately wants a second Armenian genocide. How much did they pay you, traitor? I guess stabbing Syria in the back with that surname is the best way of telling the world that you’re for sale, right?”

Loussikian is of Armenian descent.

The university confirmed on Wednesday that it was investigating the comments. “The University of Sydney has commenced an investigation into the behaviour of a casual staff member who is alleged to have made offensive comments to a journalist on social media,” a spokeswoman said.

“The university takes the allegations very seriously and is examining whether any breaches of its code of conduct have occurred.”

The code of conduct requires staff to act “fairly and reasonably” and treat people with respect and sensitivity. The spokeswoman said the university did not endorse Anderson’s pro-Assad views, but was committed to the “expression and protection of free speech”. “This means tolerance of a wide range of views, even when the views expressed are unpopular or controversial,” she said.

Tharappel was contacted for comment on Wednesday, but did not respond.

He posted on Facebook thanking people for their “overwhelming” support. “People ask me if I have been receiving threats. No, I’ve actually received nothing but love and support,” Tharappel wrote.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

CA: The silencing of Heather MacDonald by college Fascists

She writes:

Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand.

I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row last week, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA.

The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk about my book, The War on Cops, on April 6. Several calls went out on Facebook to “shut down” this “notorious white supremacist fascist Heather Mac Donald.” A Facebook post from “we, students of color at the Claremont Colleges” announced grandiosely that “as a community, we CANNOT and WILL NOT allow fascism to have a platform. We stand against all forms of oppression and we refuse to have Mac Donald speak.”

A Facebook event titled “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascist Heather Mac Donald” and hosted by “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascists” encouraged students to protest the event because Mac Donald “condemns [the] Black Lives Matter movement,” “supports racist police officers,” and “supports increasing fascist ‘law and order.’” (My supposed fascism consists in trying to give voice to the thousands of law-abiding minority residents of high-crime areas who support the police and are desperate for more law-enforcement protection.)

The event organizers notified me a day before the speech that a protest was planned and that they were considering changing the venue from CMC’s Athenaeum to one with fewer glass windows and easier egress. When I arrived on campus, I was shuttled to what was in effect a safe house: a guest suite for campus visitors, with blinds drawn. I could hear the growing crowds chanting and drumming, but I could not see the auditorium that the protesters were surrounding. One female voice rose above the chants with particularly shrill hysteria. From the balcony, I saw a petite blonde female walk by, her face covered by a Palestinian head scarf and carrying an amplifier on her back for her bullhorn. A lookout was stationed about 40 yards away and students were seated on the stairway under my balcony, plotting strategy.

Since I never saw the events outside the Athenaeum, which remained the chosen venue, an excellent report from the student newspaper, the Student Life, provides details of the scene:

    "The protesters, most of whom wore all black, congregated outside Honnold/Mudd Library at 4 p.m. to stage the action.

    “We are here to shut down the fucking fascist,” announced an organizer to a crowd of around 100 students. The protesters subsequently marched to the Ath around 4:30 while chanting. An organizer shouted “How do you spell racist?” into a megaphone; the marchers responded “C-M-C.”

    When they arrived, the protesters were greeted by around two dozen Campus Safety officers and Claremont police officers, stationed at various locations around the building. Protestors ignored the officers (who did not obstruct them) and the makeshift white fences sectioning off areas of Flamson Plaza, enveloping each of the Ath’s entrances with multiple rows of students linking arms. White students were encouraged to stand in front to form a barrier between students of color and the police.

    The protesters continued their chants, including “hey hey, ho ho, Heather Mac has got to go,” “shut it down,” and—most frequent and sustained—“black lives matter.” Some of the officers appeared visibly uncomfortable during chant of “from Oakland to Greece, fuck the police.”

    Keck Science professor Anthony Fucaloro pushed against and grappled with the crowd of protesters in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the door. Garrett Ryan CM ‘17 brought a large speaker to the Hub’s patio, blasting Sousa’s patriotic march “The Stars and Stripes Forever” to provoke the protesters. A woman who ran up to him managed to steal his audio cable after a brief scuffle, cutting off the music and garnering cheers from the protesters when she returned to the crowd.  “It was not well-received,” Ryan told TSL.

    Steven Glick PC ’17, the co-editor-in-chief of the conservative Claremont Independent publication, attempted to livestream the protest, but he was swarmed by protesters who blocked his phone.

    Several administrators attended the protest and stood to the side. They told TSL that they saw their role as ensuring student safety, but they also sympathized with the protesters’ views.

    “Black Lives Matter is really at my heart,” said Pomona Associate Dean Jan Collins-Eaglin.

Of all the chants, “How do you spell racist?” “C-M-C,” was the most absurd. “Racist” CMC is so desperate for “diverse” students that it has historically admitted black and Hispanic students with an average 200-point lower SAT score than white and Asian students. Such racial preferences satisfy CMC’s desire for racial virtue but set the alleged beneficiaries up for academic struggles, if not failure.

Shortly before 6 pm, I was fetched by an administrator and a few police officers to take an out-of-the-way elevator into the Athenaeum. The massive hall, where I was supposed to meet with students for dinner before my talk, was empty—the mob, by then numbering close to 300, had succeeded in preventing anyone from entering. The large plate-glass windows were covered with translucent blinds, so that from the inside one could only see a mass of indistinct bodies pounding on the windows. The administration had decided that I would live-stream my speech in the vacant room in order to preserve some semblance of the original plan. The podium was moved away from a window so that, as night fell and the lights inside came on, I would not be visible to the agitators outside.

I prefaced my speech by observing that I had heard chants for the last two hours that “black lives matter.” I therefore hoped that the protesters were equally fervent in expressing their outrage when five-year-old Aaron Shannon, Jr., was killed on Halloween 2010 in South-Central Los Angeles, while proudly showing off his Spiderman costume. A 26-year-old member of Watts’s Kitchen Crips sent a single bullet through Aaron’s head, and also shot Aaron’s uncle and grandfather. I said that I hoped the protesters also objected when nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee was lured into an alley in Chicago with the promise of candy in November 2015 and assassinated by gang enemies of Tyshawn’s father. The gangbangers’ original plan had been to cut off Tyshawn’s fingers and send them to his mother.

While Black Lives Matter protesters have in fact ignored all such mayhem, the people who have concerned themselves are the police, I said. And though it was doubtful that any of the protesters outside had ever lost a loved one to a drive-by shooting, if such a tragedy ever did happen, the first thing he or she would do is call the police.

I completed my speech to the accompaniment of chants and banging on the windows. I was able to take two questions from students via live-streaming. But by then, the administrators and police officers in the room, who had spent my talk nervously staring at the windows, decided that things were growing too unruly outside to continue. I was given the cue that the presentation was over. Walkie-talkies were used to coordinate my exit from the Athenaeum’s kitchen to the exact moment that a black, unmarked Claremont Police Department van rolled up. We passed startled students sitting on the stoop outside the kitchen. Before I entered the van, one student came up and thanked me for coming to Claremont. We sped off to the police station.

The previous night, I actually succeeded in delivering a talk on policing to the audience who had come to hear it; such heretofore ordinary circumstances are now noteworthy. My hosts, the UCLA College Republicans, had titled my presentation “Blue Lives Matter,” which campus activists viewed as an unspeakable provocation. After I finished speaking and welcomed questions, pandemonium broke out. Protesters stormed the front of the classroom, demanding control of the mike and chanting loudly: “America was never great” and “Black Lives Matter, They Matter Here,” among other insights. After nearly 10 minutes of shouting, one of the organizers managed to persuade some students to line up for questions. The College Fix paper captured the subsequent interaction:

    "A black female asked whether “black victims killed by cops” mattered.

    “Yes,” Mac Donald replied. “And do black children that are killed by other blacks matter to you?”

    At that the room erupted in gasps and angry moans and furious snaps, and the young lady who asked the original question began to yell at Mac Donald, pointing her finger and repeating the original question. . . .

    “Of course I care [that black victims are killed by cops], and do you know what,” Mac Donald said. “There is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police.”

    Again, gasps and moans filled the auditorium.

    “Bullshit! Bullshit!” a young woman off camera could be heard screaming. Mac Donald continued: “The crime drop of the last 20 years that came to a screeching halt in August 2014 has saved tens of thousands of minority lives. Because cops went to those neighborhoods and they got the dealers off the street and they got the gang-bangers off the street.”

    Mac Donald took more questions and at times was able to articulate her points during the Q&A, but was also often interrupted by angry audience members shouting out things such as:

    “I don’t trust your numbers.”

    “Why do white lives always need to be put above everybody else? Can we talk about black lives for one second?”

    “The same system that sent police to murder black lives . . . ”

    “You have no right to speak!”

    “What about white terrorism?!”

To the inevitable claim that poverty causes gun violence, I responded that if students really believed in that causation, they should be concerned that mass low-skilled immigration was driving down wages for the American poor. That provoked a new chant: “Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here.”

At 8 pm, the organizers decided to end the event, and I was hustled out of the room with a police escort.

To my knowledge, the UCLA administration has not addressed the disruption of my presentation and interaction with students. The Claremont McKenna administration did, however, respond. Two days before my speech, the director of the Rose Institute, Andrew Busch, sent out an email decrying the use of the epithet “racist” “as a bludgeon with which to shut up critics or keep friends in line.” Busch optimistically put matters in the conditional: “If we ever accept that approach we will have taken a giant step toward surrendering freedom of thought and expression”—as if intmidation via the R-word is not already routine on and off campuses. Busch graciously tried to provide a neutral summary of my views and noted that I, too, aim to protect black lives.

A few minutes after I was escorted out of the Athenaeum, a campus-wide missive from Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the Faculty Peter Uvin expressed disappointment that people could not attend the lecture, but lauded the fact that the lecture was live-streamed. Uvin, a government professor specializing in development and human rights, went on to establish his bona fides with the social-justice crowd. “I fully understand that people have strong opinions and different—often painful—experiences with the issues Heather Mac Donald discusses. I also understand that words can hurt. And in a world of unequal power, it is more often than not those who have a history of exclusion who are being hurt by words. I support everyone’s right to make this world a better one.” This may not have been the best moment to reaffirm the idea that undergirds such silencing protests: that speech can damage allegedly excluded or marginalized minorities.

The next day, CMC president Hiram Chodosh, a former international law professor, weighed in. He explained the failure to intervene against the protesters: “Based on the judgment of the Claremont Police Department, we jointly concluded that any forced interventions or arrests would have created unsafe conditions for students, faculty, staff, and guests. I take full responsibility for the decision to err on the side of these overriding safety considerations.” Chodosh said that students who violated school policies by blocking access to buildings would be held accountable.


College May Punish Students Who Disrupted Conservative’s Speech

Claremont McKenna College officials have announced possible repercussions for students who protested a conservative speaker’s speech last week.

Protesters successfully blocked students and professors from entering an on-campus building to hear Heather Mac Donald’s pro-police speech, as reported by The Daily Signal last Friday. Mac Donald is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

In response, Hiram Chodosh, the president of Claremont McKenna College, or CMC, released a statement Friday, saying, “Blocking access to buildings violates College policy. CMC students who are found to have violated policies will be held accountable.”

Joann Young, director of media relations for CMC, elaborated on Chodosh’s statement, telling The College Fix in an email that students could face a variety of repercussions, including “temporary or permanent separation from the college.”

Steven Glick, a senior at Pomona College, one of the five undergraduate institutions that make up the Claremont Colleges alongside CMC, covered the protests as editor-in-chief of The Claremont Independent, an “independent journal of campus affairs and political thought” that is dedicated to “upholding truth and excellence at the Claremont Colleges,” according to its website. The publication receives no school funding.

“I wasn’t able to speak with many of the protesters and about what they were doing,” Glick said. “Several protesters prevented me from conducting interviews by pushing me, putting their hands and clothing in front of the camera, and shouting over anyone who did try to talk to me. Another correspondent from The [Claremont] Independent was threatened with physical violence while he attempted to interview protesters.”

Glick’s interactions with protesters were shared on The Claremont Independent’s Facebook page through Facebook Live.

Glick said it was evident many protesters “had no clue what was going on.”

“They chanted about Palestine for quite a while, which had nothing to do with Heather Mac Donald’s planned lecture,” Glick said. “It seems that protesters simply viewed Ms. Mac Donald as an opponent of progressivism, and felt it apt to chant about any progressive cause they could think of.”

Since CMC is one of eight institutions that make up the Claremont Colleges, many of the protesters were not students of CMC, and some, according to Glick, were not students at all. “Some of the protesters were middle-aged people who were clearly just there to help organize the protest,” Glick said.

When asked how students have responded to the protest, Glick said, “I get the sense that most students were disappointed that the protests led to the cancellation of the event, whether they agreed with Heather Mac Donald or not.”

As The Daily Signal previously reported, Peter Uvin, vice president of academic affairs for Claremont McKenna College, said in an email to students after the incident that he understands that “words hurt” and “people have strong opinions and different—often painful—experiences with the issues Heather Mac Donald discusses.”

Uvin went on to add that he “could not accept” students’ attempts “to make it impossible for her to speak, for you to listen, and for all of us to debate.”

In reaction to the administration’s response, Glick said: "The CMC administration should have had a bigger presence at the protest and told the students what consequences, if any, they would face for their actions. By remaining largely absent from the scene, they effectively gave the protesters a free pass".


Australia urged to use phonics in reading strategy as British schools minister tours country

Amazing that this is still controversial.  All the studies show that phonics is a big help

British schools minister Nick Gibb is urging Australia to embrace phonics as part of a national strategy to help children read.

He is here to meet educators, teachers and politicians as the Turnbull Government moves to introduce literacy screening in Year 1 across the country.

Mr Gibb has toured a specialist literacy laboratory at Macquarie University in Sydney ahead of a meeting with federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham in Adelaide later this week.

Seven years ago, the UK Government embraced the explicit method of instruction known as phonics at a national level amid concerning national statistics.

Mr Gibb is responsible for English schools.

"We were worried that one in three primary school students were still struggling with reading, the basic building blocks of an education," Mr Gibb said.

"We wanted to make sure that schools were using systematic synthetic phonics in the way they taught children to read, because all the evidence from around the world showed that was the most effective way of teaching children to read.

"So we introduced this very simple check: children reading to their own teacher 40 simple words to make sure they were on track for Year 1 readers."

The idea is being considered by Mr Birmingham, who has appointed an expert advisory panel to give advice.
Phonics highly political in UK amid 'reading wars'

Mr Gibb's tour is being hosted by the conservative think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, which wants Australia to follow the UK example of more explicit instruction in schools.

The so-called reading wars have raged in the UK for more than half a century, and the phonics debate is highly political. The Conservative Government's schools reforms have been controversial.

There is also debate in Australia over the best way to teach reading to children, and while phonics is part of the teaching methods employed, critics say it is mechanical and does not help with comprehension.

Anne Castles is the deputy director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

The Macquarie University-based centre runs a reading clinic that examines children's cognition.

"The evidence is that a really key part of learning to read is learning the links between letters and sounds — what we might call phonics," Professor Castles said. "And what that allows a child to do is go from those unfamiliar squiggles on a page to the knowledge in their head, because they can sound a word out and get to its pronunciation.

"That's really important for getting children started in reading. It's not the only part of reading instruction, but it's a really important key part and lots of the research tells us that."
Calls for national conversation on phonics

Professor Castles said she supported moves towards more explicit instruction in our classrooms and said a national conversation about how reading is taught would be productive.

"Phonics is certainly not the only thing we should teach in teaching reading," Professor Castles said. "The controversy I think is because some people think that's what's being proposed.

"It's just one very small part of reading instruction, but it's a very important foundational part because that's what gets children on the path to reading independently."

Mr Birmingham's expert advisory panel is due to deliver its report by the end of April.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Educational Choice for California

California’s political establishment has a love-hate relationship with vouchers. When it comes to housing for low-income families—they love them. When it comes to the Electronic Benefit Transfer program and the federal WIC program—they love them. But when it comes to vouchers for school choice—they hate them. The double standard is especially disheartening because student achievement in California is so low—not only for high schoolers, but also for first-year state-college students.

“California eagerly promotes housing and food vouchers for the homeless and unemployed but denies school-choice vouchers to embattled K-12 students and their families,” writes Independent Institute Policy Fellow K. Lloyd Billingsley. “Parents might call it a crisis situation, but no politician is rushing to the rescue with a voucher plan.”

This may change, however. Independent Institute Research Fellow Vicki E. Alger has been a prolific advocate for school choice—especially for their most potent version, Educational Savings Accounts. (Stay tuned for reports on her efforts in California.) The battle ahead in the Golden State won’t be easy, however. As Billingsley notes, “Governor Jerry Brown empowered government employee unions in his first go-round as governor, and he remains a champion of the education establishment.


Hijacking the Field of History

There's no question colleges and universities have undergone seismic shifts in recent decades. The closing of the college mind means scholars like Charles Murray and conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro are stripped of their free speech rights by mobs on campus grounds. But why? At what point did everything go wrong? A fall speech by historian Niall Ferguson provides some telling insight. Take, for example, a history degree. According to Ferguson:

History as a share of all undergraduate degrees has fallen from 2.2% in 2007 to 1.7%. Taken together, the share of history and social sciences degrees has halved, from 18% in 1971 to 9%. And the decline seems likely to continue. . The data reveal a very big increase in the number of historians who specialize in women and gender, which has risen from 1% of the total to almost 10%.

As a result, gender is now the single most important subfield in the academy. Cultural history (from under 4% to nearly 8%) is next. The history of race and ethnicity has also gone up by a factor of more than three. Environmental history is another big winner. The losers in this structural shift are diplomatic and international history (which also has the oldest professors), legal and constitutional history, and intellectual history. Social and economic history have also declined. All of these have fallen to less than half of their 1970 shares of the profession.

In other words, we've drifted way off course. As fellow historian Daniel Pipes notes, "This means that the most significant events are ignored. Limiting oneself to modern Western history, courses barely cover such topics as the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War." Quite the contrary, it turns out. Ferguson cites the seemingly off-topic courses in which students can enroll at schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Three examples: "Emotions in History," "Witchcraft and Society in Colonial America" and "Madwomen: The History of Women and Mental Illness in the U.S."

"I do not wish to dismiss any of these subjects as being of no interest or value," Ferguson adds. "They just seem to address less important questions than how the United States became an independent republic with a constitution based on the idea of limited government, or how it survived a civil war over the institution of slavery." Indeed. Part of being a good student of history is taking to heart this dire warning: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We've triumphed over hardships. But those victories are being threatened by activists whose dreams, perceived through emotionally tainted lenses, can never be attained.


Harvard, founded by `stock of the Puritans,' wants them gone from storied anthem

Since the mid-1800s, incoming Harvard University students and those bidding farewell to the college have celebrated together at commencements and other major events by singing "Fair Harvard," a hymn known to sometimes bring its performers together, arm-in-arm, in a show of solidarity.

Now, Harvard is changing its tune and launching a contest that asks the university community to break with tradition by tweaking the revered alma mater. The goal is to replace the song's final line, "Till the stock of the Puritans die," with a phrase that is more inclusive and reflects the modern age.

"We are looking for the best poetic expression that the Harvard community can offer," said Danielle S. Allen, a professor in the department of government. "The only thing that is changing is that line."

The contest, first reported by The Crimson, was announced by Allen on Wednesday during "The Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging," a university-sponsored event at Harvard's Sanders Theatre.

The gathering, which brought together students, faculty, and staff, was part of a series of ongoing events headed by the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, an initiative launched by president Drew Faust in September to identify causes of academic, professional, and social isolation, and enact change.

Allen, co-chairwoman of the 53-person task force, said "Fair Harvard" was written in 1836, by alumnus Samuel Gilman. The song, composed for Harvard's bicentennial, has since been stitched into the fabric of many celebratory affairs.

The final verse, in full, according to the school's website reads:

Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!

To thy children the lesson still give,

With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,

And for Right ever bravely to live.

Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,

As the world on Truth's current glides by,

Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,

Till the stock of the Puritans die.

Allen said the point of the song is to highlight the commitment to the pursuit of truth. But the final line essentially makes the claim that achieving that goal is wholly linked to a specific ethnic group.

"The last few lines of the final verse do a wonderful job of connecting the student journey to the school's mission," she said. "But in fact, the pursuit of truth is for everybody."

A statement on the website announcing the competition echoed that sentiment, saying it's "time for a change."

"The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging launched this competition to affirm that Harvard's motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of our community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint," the website says.

The deadline for the text-only submissions for the contest is Sept. 15. A winner will be announced in 2018.

The prize? Well, "Eternal fame and the enduring gratitude of your fellow members of the Harvard community," according to the school.

A second component of the competition, Allen said, challenges the Harvard community to exercise its creativity, and come up with a new way to sing or perform "Fair Harvard," whether it be through rap, spoken word, or a choral tune.

The "new musical variant" would be an "endorsed alternative" to the traditional hymn, but would not replace it at major events.

"Let's see what the community puts out there," Allen said. "Let's take old things that we admire, and have some fun with them."

The text-change to "Fair Harvard" won't be the first time that the alma mater has been reexamined and revised to move away from Harvard's days of yore.

In 1998, Allen said, following a similar contest, lyrics that read "Thy sons to thy jubilee throng" were ousted in favor of the line, "We join in thy jubilee throng."

The move struck a gender balance - albeit one marked by criticism - that let female students know they, too, are a part of the community.

Allen hopes the new line that will be thrust into the closing text of "Fair Harvard" will similarly achieve that goal.

"A great line of poetry," she said, "that really brings home in a stirring way the aspirations that the pursuit of truth is a project for all of us."


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Academia is f*cked-up. So why isn't anyone doing something about it?

Comments from feisty German physicist Sabine Hossenfelder:

A week or so ago, a list of perverse incentives in academia made rounds. It offers examples like "rewarding an increased number of citations" that - instead of encouraging work of high quality and impact - results in inflated citation lists, an academic tit-for-tat which has become standard practice. Likewise, rewarding a high number of publications doesn't produce more good science, but merely finer slices of the same science.

It's not like perverse incentives in academia is news. I wrote about this problem ten years ago, referring to it as the confusion of primary goals (good science) with secondary criteria (like, for example, the number of publications). I later learned that Steven Pinker made the same distinction for evolutionary goals, referring to it as `proximate' vs `ultimate' causes.

The difference can be illustrated in a simple diagram (see below). A primary goal is a local optimum in some fitness landscape - it's where you want to go. A secondary criterion is the first approximation for the direction towards the local optimum. But once you're on the way, higher-order corrections must be taken into account, otherwise the secondary criterion will miss the goal - often badly.

The number of publications, to come back to this example, is a good first-order approximation. Publications demonstrate that a scientist is alive and working, is able to think up and finish research projects, and - provided the paper are published in peer reviewed journals - that their research meets the quality standard of the field.

To second approximation, however, increasing the number of publications does not necessarily also lead to more good science. Two short papers don't fit as much research as do two long ones. Thus, to second approximation we could take into account the length of papers. Then again, the length of a paper is only meaningful if it's published in a journal that has a policy of cutting superfluous content. Hence, you have to further refine the measure. And so on.

This type of refinement isn't specific to science. You can see in many other areas of our lives that, as time passes, the means to reach desired goals must be more carefully defined to make sure they still lead where we want to go.

Take sports as example. As new technologies arise, the Olympic committee has added many additional criteria on what shoes or clothes athletes are admitted to wear, which drugs make for an unfair advantage, and they've had to rethink what distinguishes a man from a woman.

Or tax laws. The Bible left it at "When the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh." Today we have books full of ifs and thens and whatnots so incomprehensible I suspect it's no coincidence suicide rates peak during tax season.

It's debatable of course whether current tax laws indeed serve a desirable goal, but I don't want to stray into politics. Relevant here is only the trend: Collective human behavior is difficult to organize, and it's normal that secondary criteria to reach primary goals must be refined as time passes.

The need to quantify academic success is a recent development. It's a consequence of changes in our societies, of globalization, increased mobility and connectivity, and is driven by the increased total number of people in academic research.

Academia has reached a size where accountability is both important and increasingly difficult. Unless you work in a tiny subfield, you almost certainly don't know everyone in your community and can't read every single publication. At the same time, people are more mobile than ever, and applying for positions has never been easier.

This means academics need ways to judge colleagues and their work quickly and accurately. It's not optional - it's necessary. Our society changes, and academia has to change with it. It's either adapt or die.

But what has been academics' reaction to this challenge?

The most prevalent reaction I witness is nostalgia: The wish to return to the good old times. Back then, you know, when everyone on the committee had the time to actually read all the application documents and was familiar with all the applicants' work anyway. Back then when nobody asked us to explain the impact of our work and when we didn't have to come up with 5-year plans. Back then, when they recommended that pregnant women smoke.

Well, there's no going back in time, and I'm glad the past has passed. I therefore have little patience for such romantic talk: It's not going to happen, period. Good measures for scientific success are necessary - there's no way around it.

Another common reaction is the claim that quality isn't measurable - more romantic nonsense. Everything is measurable, at least in principle. In practice, many things are difficult to measure. That's exactly why measures have to be improved constantly.

Then, inevitably, someone will bring up Goodhart's Law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." But that is clearly wrong. Sorry, Goodhard. If you want to indeed optimize the measure, you get exactly what you asked for. The problem is that often the measure wasn't what you wanted to begin with.

With use of the terminology introduced above, Goodhard's Law can be reformulated as: "When people optimize a secondary criterion, they will eventually reach a point where further optimization diverts from the main goal." But our reaction to this should be to improve the measure, not throw the towel and complain "It's not possible."

This stubborn denial of reality, however, has an unfortunate consequence: Academia has gotten stuck with the simple-but-bad secondary criteria that are currently in use: number of publications, the infamous h-index, the journal impact factor, renown co-authors, positions held at prestigious places, and so on. 

We all know they're bad measures. But we use them anyway because we simply don't have anything better. If your director/dean/head/board is asked to demonstrate how great your place is, they'll fall back on the familiar number of publications, and as a bonus point out who has recently published in Nature. I've seen it happen. I just had to fill in a form for the institute's board in which I was asked for my h-index and my paper count.

Last week, someone asked me if I'd changed my mind in the ten years since I wrote about this problem first. Needless to say, I still think bad measures are bad for science. But I think that I was very, very na‹ve to believe just drawing attention to the problem would make any difference. Did I really think that scientists would see the risk to their discipline and do something about it? Apparently that's exactly what I did believe.

Of course nothing like this happened. And it's not just because I'm a nobody who nobody's listening to. Similar concerns like mine have been raised with increasing frequency by more widely known people in more popular outlets, like Nature and Wired. But nothing's changed.

The biggest obstacle to progress is that academics don't want to admit the problem is of their own making. Instead, they blame others: policy makers, university administrators, funding agencies. But these merely use measures that academics themselves are using.

The result has been lots of talk and little action. But what we really need is a practical solution. And of course I have one on offer: An open-source software that allows every researcher to customize their own measure for what they think is "good science" based on the available data. That would include the number of publications and their citations. But there is much more information in the data which currently isn't used.

You might want to know whether someone's research connects areas that are only loosely connected. Or how many single-authored papers they have. You might want to know how well their keyword-cloud overlaps with that of your institute. You might want to develop a measure for how "deep" and "broad" someone's research is - two terms that are often used in recommendation letters but that are extremely vague.

Such individualized measures wouldn't only automatically update as people revise criteria, but they would also counteract the streamlining of global research and encourage local variety.

Why isn't this happening? Well, besides me there's no one to do it. And I have given up trying to get funding for interdisciplinary research. The inevitable response I get is that I'm not qualified. Of course it's correct - I'm not qualified to code and design a user-interface. But I'm totally qualified to hire some people and kick their asses. Trust me, I have experience kicking ass. Price tag to save academia: An estimated 2 million Euro for 5 years.

What else has changed in the last ten years? I've found out that it's possible to get paid for writing. My freelance work has been going well. The main obstacle I've faced is lack of time, not lack of opportunity. And so, when I look at academia now, I do it with one leg outside. What I see is that academia needs me more than I need academia.

The current incentives are extremely inefficient and waste a lot of money. But nothing is going to change until we admit that solving the problem is our own responsibility.

Maybe, when I write about this again, ten years from now, I'll not refer to academics as "us" but as "they."


Rahm Emanuel’s College Proposal Is Everything Wrong With Democratic Education Policy

Emanuel’s idea is the reductio ad absurdum of the “college solves poverty” idea…

On Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new educational proposal: starting with this year’s freshman class, every student in the Chicago public school system will be required to show an acceptance letter from a college, a trade school or apprenticeship, or a branch of the military in order to graduate. “We live in a period of time when you earn what you learn,” Mayor Emanuel said. (Democratic politicians’ attempts at folksiness are always pretty grim.) “We want to make 14th grade universal,” he also said. The proposed measure is almost certainly a publicity stunt which will have little effect in practice. But Emanuel has made it clear how he thinks educational problems should be solved.

The Emanuel plan is perhaps the stupidest idea a nationally prominent politician has publicly endorsed in the past decade. I hesitate to even explain why it’s stupid lest I insult my readers’ intelligence by belaboring the obvious. But it’s worth spelling out what’s wrong with this, because the fact that a major Obama-aligned Democratic politician is attempting to do this says a great deal about the worldview of the establishment Democratic Party. So here goes.

In Mayor Emanuel’s opinion, working-class kids are too stupid to recognize their own interests. They’re simply unaware that people who go to college earn more than people who don’t, which is why (silly them) they don’t go to college. If you just force them to go to college by flunking them out of high school unless they promise to go to college, they’ll all become highly compensated white-collar workers and America will be a wealthier place.

Allow me to propose an alternative model: working-class kids are not stupid. They’re aware that college grads earn more money on average than they ever will. They’re also aware that not all college degrees are created equal, and that a degree from a community college or some fly-by-night for-profit—the kind of school most working-class kids from Chicago might actually get into—is dramatically less valuable than one from Sarah Lawrence, where Rahm got his BA. They’re aware that college degrees aren’t what they once were, partly because so many degrees are from mediocre institutions; perhaps they’ve seen family members work hard to get that University of Phoenix diploma only to wind up little better off than they’d have been otherwise.

They’re also aware that college costs money, not only money for tuition but all the money you won’t be able to earn while you’re in school, and that people whose parents can’t support them, people who may in fact need to help support their families themselves, can’t afford to just not work for two to four years. Finally, they’re aware that college is hard, particularly for working-class kids with less academic preparation than their middle-class peers who also have less social support and need to work while their peers are studying, and that working-class kids are at a high risk of dropping out. They know that going into debt to attend a college and then dropping out with no degree can be financially catastrophic.

In other words, they know, unlike their mayor, that what happens to the average kid who goes to college—a middle-class kid from the suburbs with white-collar parents who can afford to subsidize his textbooks and partying for four years—is a very poor indicator of what will happen to them, personally, if they decide to go to college. Knowing all this, they make their choice; 62% of Chicago’s high school students decide to have a crack at college after they graduate, 38% don’t.

Now, it may well be that there are a few kids in that 38% who are making the wrong choice, just as there are a few in that 62% (very possibly more than a few) who are making the wrong choice and will just end up dropping out with debt or graduating with a worthless degree and more debt. It might be that a better school guidance program would push some kids into college for whom it’s the right decision. But Rahm isn’t proposing to nudge a few more kids into college; he’s proposing to hold the high school degree of every student in the system hostage until they all go to college, or sign up for the army, or enter an apprenticeship.

What’s likely to happen if his proposal passes? Well, trade schools and apprenticeship programs are bright enough to know that the world only needs so many plumbers, so not a lot of students are going to manage to go that route. Some will join the army, at which stage Mr. Emanuel can congratulate himself for having forced some working-class kids to die for their country on pain of facing the stigma of the high school dropout for the rest of their lives. Some will simply decide to leave high school without graduating. But many will be forced into a choice they know is the wrong one, and have a crack at whatever community college or awful open-admissions for-profit college they can get an acceptance letter from. Expect to see the already overburdened and underfunded community college system pushed to the wall. Expect to see a small boom in the for-profit college industry and the exploitative student loan industry that feeds it. Expect to see many, many students drop out of school with nothing to show for it but un-bankruptable education debt that will haunt them for years.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, expect to see those students who do manage to graduate from whatever bottom-tier school is willing to accept them quickly discover that the degree Rahm Emanuel forced them to earn at great personal expense isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. First, because college-educated workers, like any other commodity, are subject to the law of supply and demand, and Rahm’s plot to dump hundreds of thousands more of them onto the Chicago labor market will cause supply to greatly outpace demand and prices to crater. Second, because employers will recognize that people who got a college degree from a bottom-tier school that slashed admissions standards to take advantage of the Rahm-and-debt-fueled bonanza don’t have the same skill set or qualifications as the college students they now pay higher wages. In other words, producing a genuinely more educated workforce is a lot harder than Rahm’s plan to print a whole bunch more college diplomas, but even if you could produce a genuinely more educated workforce it wouldn’t raise wages; you’d just have more people competing for the same number of white-collar jobs., and wages would go down.

(Of course, middle-class kids who went to Sarah Lawrence would still do just fine.)

Emanuel’s plan, in other words, will be a disaster if implemented. But if the plan were just his own idiosyncratic idiocy, it would be beneath refutation. Unfortunately, it’s not. The mayor of Chicago is an utterly characteristic representative of the dominant wing of the Democratic Party, and his “you earn what you learn” claptrap reflects what has been a core element of its messaging and policy for decades: the notion that we can solve poverty through education. For most of my lifetime, the Democratic Party’s answer to the apparently permanent stagnation of working-class wages has been to advise the electorate that it’s a knowledge economy and only a better-educated workforce can hope to earn more.

This is terrible policy based on obviously shoddy reasoning: while it’s true that highly educated computer programmers make a lot of money, the notion that if everyone were a highly educated computer programmer everyone would make more money is absurd, first because not everyone can become a highly educated computer programmer and second because if everyone could then computer programmers would no longer make a lot of money.

It should be emphasized, though, that  on top of being terrible policy this is also terrible messaging. When voters hear that your analysis of the economy is that it simply has no place anymore for uneducated workers, and that your plan to increase working-class wages is “educate people better for the knowledge economy,” they get three messages: first, that if you’re a low-income thirty-year-old high school graduate with a family who can’t go to school, the Democrats’ plan for you is that you’ll die poor, because hey, it’s a knowledge economy, what can they do? It’s a knowledge economy. Second, that Democrats think your poverty is pretty much your fault for not doing better in school. And third, that Democrats are so completely out of touch that they genuinely believe that becoming a high-tech worker is a serious option for your working-class kids. In other words, what you hear is that Democrats don’t know you, don’t care about you, look down on you, and have no plan to help you. Is it any wonder that you don’t bother to vote, or that if you do you vote for someone who promises to bring the jobs back?


Claremont University Students Shut Down Conservative Speaker

Students at the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts colleges in Claremont, California, blocked entrances to the building that Mac Donald was scheduled to speak in.

Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, was giving a speech titled “The War on Police,” a reference to her 2016 book about how political rhetoric against police makes America less safe.

Mac Donald was forced to livestream her speech after protesters blocked students and professors from entering the building.

According to the school’s newspaper, The Forum, 250 students watched Mac Donald speak. Students had to submit questions via email.

“Among other chants, protesters yelled ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘How do you spell fascism? CMC!’ while banging on windows of the [Athenaeum],” according to The Forum.

Mac Donald was a guest of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, a research institute on the campus of Claremont McKenna College, a member of the Claremont Consortium.

Peter Uvin, vice president of academic affairs for Claremont McKenna College, said in an email to students after the incident: “I fully understand that people have strong opinions and different—often painful—experiences with the issues Heather Mac Donald discusses. I also understand that words can hurt.”

Uvin went on to condemn the students’ behavior, saying, “What we face here is not an attempt to demonstrate, or to ask tough questions of our speaker, all of which are both protected and cherished on this campus, but rather to make it impossible for her to speak, for you to listen, and for all of us to debate. This we could not accept.”

Many conservative speakers have been protested on college campuses in recent months.

In March, students protested Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, while he was giving a speech at Middlebury College. Milo Yiannopoulos, a former editor at Breitbart, was also violently protested when he attempted to speak at Berkeley this past February.

Murray was able to give his speech, talking over screaming demonstrators, while Yiannopoulos was forced to cancel his speech and leave campus, thanks to a police escort.

Mary Clare Reim, an education policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, cited a pattern, telling The Daily Signal in an email:

We can now add Heather Mac Donald to the long list of experts whose voices have been shut down on college campuses. From Middlebury to Berkeley, college students and administrators continue to treat conservative viewpoints with hostility and sometimes violence.

Reim went on to encourage institutions to re-evaluate their purpose, writing, “Universities have an obligation to protect First Amendment rights on campus. Unfortunately, recent events suggest that many universities no longer take that obligation seriously.”


Monday, April 10, 2017

Psychology professor: Little scientific evidence microaggressions are even a thing

Emory University psychology Professor Scott Lilienfeld is challenging the seemingly universally accepted concept of the microaggression.

After reviewing many studies on the topic, Dr. Lilienfeld argues in his paper "Microaggressions: Strong Claims, Inadequate Evidence"  that microaggressions lack scientific proof, and therefore should not be included in workplace or campus diversity training.

Moreover, he said he believes that the term microaggression is misleading, as it implies conscious intent to harm, and thus should be abandoned.

"The scientific status of the microaggression research program is far too preliminary to warrant its dissemination to real-world contexts," he writes in his 2017 scholarly article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Lilienfeld told The College Fix in a phone interview that he became interested in studying the microaggression phenomenon after noticing its ubiquitous discussion on college campuses, faculty meetings, and the corporate world.

"I began reading the literature, and became more curious and more concerned when I realized that there was hardly any evidence supporting the concept of microaggressions," Lilienfeld said.

When universities and corporations began providing microaggression detection and avoidance training, the underlying assumption was that the concept itself had been subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny.

Lilienfeld counters that this is simply not the case.

"We know that microaggressions are correlated with negative mental health outcomes, but that finding may be confounded with a person's pre-existing personality or mental health condition. Because microaggressions are determined by self-report, it is difficult to prove that they cause mental health problems," Lilienfeld said.

The fundamental flaw, according to Lilienfeld, is the self-reported nature of the microaggression coupled with its broad definition.

"Because they are totally in the eye of the beholder - anything you say could be labeled as a microaggression," Lilienfeld said. "In the current literature, if someone is offended by something, it is a microaggression. You simply cannot progress scientifically in this way or expect to resolve racial tensions on a college campus."

Moreover, Lilienfeld argues that research on microaggressions does not draw upon key domains of psychological science, including: psychometrics, social cognition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavior genetics, and personality, health and industrial-organizational psychology.

Ultimately, he recommends entirely eliminating the term microaggression from use.

"Though the study of microaggressions has revealed important biases, the term is a terrible one because it implies that the intention of the person is aggressive in nature and aggression implies the intent to harm," he noted in a phone interview.

Lilienfeld said he believes that racism does persist on college campuses and in the workplace, however he is concerned that an overuse of microaggression training may actually heighten racial tensions.

"Concern about microaggressions may make both sides more defensive," Lilienfeld said. "Minority individuals may become hyper vigilant to recognize any signs of danger from speech or action. Conversely, majority members may begin to feel defensive because they have to watch every single thing they say."

"Both sides need to talk to each other more not less. By handing out a list of phrases that you should not say because they are microaggressions stigmatizes speech and shuts down dialogue rather than encourages it," Lilienfeld said


Monk accused of running sex club allowed to stay at British Catholic school

A monk said to have run a weekly "sex club" for young boys was allowed to remain at the country's leading Roman Catholic school after multiple misconduct allegations against him.

Former pupils of the œ30,000-a-year Ampleforth College told police that they were summoned in their pyjamas to Father Jeremy Sierla's study, where they were given alcohol and said to have performed sex acts.

A criminal inquiry began in 2004 but no charges resulted. However, police were so concerned by the risk the monk posed that they wrote to the Department for Education the following year, asking that he be denied access to children.

Detectives believed that he should not be allowed "anywhere near a school"


Australian parents' outrage as schools remove the word Easter from their annual hat parades to be more 'inclusive'

Sydney schools have come under fire from angry parents after removing the word 'Easter' from annual hat parades to be more 'inclusive'.

Public schools including Bondi and Batemans Bay caused controversy after changing the event's name to call it 'happy hat day' or 'crazy hat day'.

Some schools have reinstated the wording this year in response to parents' criticism, while others have stood by the decision, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper reported that Bondi Public School is among those to backflip on their decision.

Reports last year said the school's principal Michael Jones changed the wording in 2011, telling parents the decision was made to be more 'inclusive'.

'As we are an inclusive community which celebrates our diverse range of cultures and beliefs, I have not called it an Easter Hat parade,' Mr Jones wrote in the school's newsletter in 2011.

'Many religious celebrations occur at this time of year but we want to include all students in any celebration at school.'

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reported Batemans Bay Public School principal Tom Purcell has held firm on his decision, despite an online petition with 600 signatures to reinstate the hat parade's original wording.

Sarah Culic created the petition, slamming the wording of 'happy hat day' as 'nonsensical political correctness'. 'The claim that celebrating Easter in a public school is exclusive of other religions is simply untenable,' she said. 'Everyone has and should have the right to partake in [Easter] according to our constitution and tradition.'

Mother Danielle Stevenson said she would like to meet the parent who made a complaint to Batemans Bay Public School, and called the decision to rename the event as 'pathetic'

The petition has 620 signatories from people who downplayed the connection of the event to the religious celebration. 'I went to this school and [Easter hat day] was a massive memory I still have,' one signatory said.

'If it had a different name I would have most likely remembered it as just another crazy thing we did at primary school, the name itself holds value to memory, and tradition.'

'It is a parade with an Easter theme that is held just before the Easter weekend. No matter what the reason for the change is, it is an Easter Hat Parade,' another person said.

Batemans Bay Public School renaming of their hat parade reportedly came after a parent complaint, saying it was offensive and not inclusive of all cultures and religions.

One mother said on Facebook she would like to meet the parent who made the complaint and called the decision 'pathetic'.  


Sunday, April 09, 2017

Critics to Ivy Leagues: 'Taxpayer gravy train needs to end'

Over a six-year period, Ivy League schools have received tens of billions in tax dollars, bringing in more money from taxpayers than from undergraduate student tuition. In fact, they received more federal cash than 16 state governments.

The stunning numbers are all part of a new report, first seen by Fox News, released Wednesday by Open the Books -- a non-profit group whose stated mission is to capture and post online all disclosed spending at every level of government.

The 43-page report shows the massive amount of money flowing into not-for-profit Ivy League schools, including payments and entitlements, costing taxpayers more than $41 billion from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2015.

The spending is controversial because these eight schools -- Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University -- have enormous resources at their fingertips, including endowment funds (money raised from donors) in 2015 exceeding $119 billion. Take that total and split it up among Ivy League undergrads and it comes out to $2 million each.

The study says another federal perk -- the schools pay no tax on investment gains on their endowment -- a tax break is estimated at $9.6 billion over the six years of the study.

In a statement, Princeton, suggested the study was flawed because it didn't take into account all the money the college receives and then reinvests. Robert Durkee, a Princeton vice president and secretary, said most of the tax incentives the college receives goes toward libraries, laboratories, classrooms, research and financial aid.

"The tax exemption for endowment earnings allows these institutions to use all of those earnings to support their missions of teaching and research, for this generation and for future generations," Durkee said in a statement. "This means that the universities spend earnings now, but they also reinvest a portion so they can continue to support their programs of teaching and research well into the future."

Yale said that rather than being a drain on taxpayers -- as the study suggests -- the college is a huge financial boon to the towns that surround it.

"Since 2000, over 50 startups based on Yale inventions and located in New Haven have attracted over $5 billion in investment to New Haven and surrounding towns," Tom Conroy, a Yale spokesman, told Fox News. "Alexion, which employs 1,200 people in New Haven, is a prime example of Yale’s impact."

Conroy also pointed out that Yale funds a large portion of its research.

Some question if these schools should receive any federal funding…much less, such a large amount.

Here’s a reality check list:

With continued donations at the present rate, the money could provide free tuition to the entire student body in perpetuity,

Without new donations, the endowment could provide a full-ride scholarship for all Ivy League undergraduate students for 51 years

The report also shows that in fiscal year 2014, the balance sheet for all eight Ivy League schools combined showed accumulated gross assets of more than $194 billion, or the equivalent of $3.35 million per undergraduate student.

“The Ivy League needs to pay its own way…The taxpayer gravy train needs to end,” Adam Andrzejewski, founder of Open the Books, told Fox News.

His report does say that Americans should be proud of the schools and “applaud the many contributions of Ivy League colleges and graduates.” But he told Fox News he feels that “they don’t need taxpayer help, they don’t need taxpayer assistance.”

Some of the federal spending makes sense, like the study of AIDs. But, he said, some are less defensible.

One grant was given to Cornell for nearly $1 million to study whale presence in the Virginia offshore wind energy area. Other grants to Ivy League schools were to study college binge drinking, ethics in Tanzania and sex chromosomes in turtles.

“They have got an endowment, right?” Andrzejewski said. “They can use their endowed funds – they don’t need public funds – to fund studies.”

He went on to compare what he calls Ivy League, Inc. to “a hedge fund with classes.”

Finally, the report dives into some of the big bucks being paid out to Ivy League employees. It shows more than $62 billion in salaries, benefits and reportable compensation to faculty, staff and other employees from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2014 and names four employees who made more than $20 million and three more who made more than $13 million.

Fox News reached out to every Ivy League school for comment Wednesday morning. Princeton, Brown and Yale replied, Dartmouth declined to comment, and the others have not responded.


Promoting Free Speech on Campus

Public controversies—even highly charged ones—are nothing new on American college campuses. Unfortunately, when institutions of higher learning become known for conflicts about freedom of expression itself, the greatest consequence can be what philosopher Allan Bloom called “the closing of the American mind.” The best known recent episodes involve scheduled talks by social critic Charles Murray at Middlebury College and former Breitbart gadfly Milo Yiannopoulos at several campuses around the country.

The good news is that oftentimes everything goes right, just as planned. Students get to see a controversial speaker, and discussion, although it may be heated, never degenerates into physical threats or violence. This was the case when Yiannopolous spoke at Florida State University. One faculty member who saw the events unfold, Independent Institute Research Fellow Samuel R. Staley, shares his take on how the school helped achieve what he reports was “a civil outcome.”

Staley discusses four elements of Florida State’s approach: (1) an administration committed to universal freedom of expression, (2) established protocols that prioritizes public safety, (3) close collaboration between the school’s event personnel and student leaders, and (4) a clear line for unacceptable behavior, the crossing of which triggers de-escalation measures. The result: a civil climate, in which the speaker was heard and protestors respected reasonable boundaries. It’s not a strategy that guarantees success, Staley notes, but it’s certainly one that increases the likelihood that people will get to hear—and properly debate—ideas that may challenge some of our deepest beliefs.


The Private Schooling Phenomenon in India: A Review 

Geeta Gandhi Kingdon


This paper examines the size, growth, salaries, per-pupil-costs, pupil achievement levels and cost-effectiveness of private schools, and compares these with the government school sector. Official data show a steep growth of private schooling and a corresponding rapid shrinkage in the size of the government school sector in India, suggesting parental abandonment of government schools.

Data show that a very large majority of private schools in most states are ‘low-fee’ when judged in relation to: state per capita income, perpupil expenditure in the government schools, and the officially-stipulated rural minimum wage rate for daily-wage-labour. This suggests that affordability is an important factor behind the migration towards and growth of private schools.

The main reason for the very low fee levels in private schools is their lower teacher salaries, which the data show to be a small fraction of the salaries paid in government schools; this is possible because private schools pay the market-clearing wage, which is depressed by a large supply of unemployed graduates in the country, whereas government schools pay bureaucratically determined minimum-wages.

Private schools’ substantially lower per-student-cost combined with their students’ modestly higher learning achievement levels, means that they are significantly more cost-effective than government schools.

The paper shows how education policies relating to private schools are harmful when formulated without seeking the evidence.