Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Student whistleblower: Diversity class presents multiple ‘isms’ as fact without allowing debate

Student whistleblower: Diversity class presents multiple ‘isms’ as fact without allowing debate
February 10, 2017 by NATHAN RUBBELKE

What does a fictional “Normal University” look like?

It’s a place full of racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity, white privilege and sexism, according to a diversity class currently taught at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

At UMass Amherst, students are required to take two “social justice” classes to earn diploma, and this course — Education 115: Embracing Diversity — fulfills one of those requirements.

In it, students must act out examples of racism to prove America is racist “from A to Z.” Students must also read about how society is dominated by “white privilege” and discuss ways to combat that. They’re charged with creating a mock sexual assault awareness campaign and taught U.S. society pushes male “domination” over women. Another assignment has them coming up with ways to make a university more welcoming to a low-income black lesbian majoring in engineering. New vocabulary words thrown at students include “internalized classism” and “cultural imperialism.” And a “Man Box” assignment teaches students that when men try to prove their masculinity it ends up “with frequently disastrous consequences.”

‘It was just these are the facts and that was it’

The class is led by Professor Benita Barnes, who has a definite liberal bias, a student who took the course told The College Fix.

“She really thinks that everyone [in the United States] is inherently racist or sexist, and I think she just thinks that the school is a subset of that,” said the student, who requested anonymity to speak freely on the course.

Barnes, both a professor and Director of Diversity Advancement, did not respond to a request for comment.

The student described the course as a “hostile” environment where the professor and some students would get agitated when comments were made pointing things out that might be false or when ideas were questioned.

“There were no real discussions. There [were] no debates or anything like that. It was just these are the facts and that was it,” said the student, who provided to The College Fix a stack of assignments from the course, which he took last fall.

According to the syllabus, “Embracing Diversity” is designed for first-year students and dedicated to how students can better see themselves and others “through an appreciation of attending college as a cultural experience, with its own unique set of rules, biases, and expectations.” The course, the syllabus adds, pushes to move “the discourse of diversity beyond mere tolerance, celebration, or appreciation.”

‘Embracing Diversity’

One reading assignment in the class, “Normal University and the Story of Sam,” tells the story of Sam, a low-income black lesbian who attends “Normal University,” an Ivy League-like university whose namesake had a role in the slave trade. Sam faces all sorts of oppression during her freshman year.

Her roommate’s friends make racist remarks, funds are diverted from the campus LGBTQ organization and a protest over the use of bathrooms remind her of stories shared “about the Jim Crow era.” To top it all off, she studies in a “male-centric” engineering department where a woman has never been promoted and tenured.

At the end of the reading, students in the course are tasked with choosing an option to make the university more welcoming for Sam.

This is one of many course assignments obtained by The College Fix that were included in the course and purport a society of racism, sexism and oppression.

The course, according to the syllabus, used a “team-based learning” strategy and included numerous in-class activities that pertained to the class’s five modules.

Here’s a few examples:

Module 2: ‘Men have domination over women thus they (women) become their property’

Covering “Inequality and Oppression,” module 2 included a reading about “Social Justice University.” The case study explained four “folk beliefs” regarding sexual assault and, at the end, tasked students with creating a mock sexual assault awareness campaign for the fake university.

Expanding on one of the four “folk beliefs,” the reading stated “our society has socialized both men and women to believe that men have domination over women thus they (women) become their property as well as are required to bend to their wants and wishes.”

The document goes on to say that when a man acts aggressive or possessive towards a significant other, “women internalize this (bad) behavior as acceptable and end up feeling ‘loved’ as opposed to harmed.”

Module 3: Racism ‘from A-Z’

Dubbed “Race, Racism, and (White) Privilege,” the course’s third module included readings titled “What is Racial Domination?,” “Understanding White Privilege” and “White Institutional Presence: The Impact of Whiteness on Racial Campus Climate.”

An in-class assignment told students “examples of racism can be found in our society from A-Z.” To prove it, students were given 15 letters and had to “identify an act, behavior, law, practice, etc., past or present, that exemplifies racism.”

Module 4: ‘Internalized classism,’ ‘privilege,’ ‘cultural imperialism’

Dealing with “Class and Classism,” a Module 4 class activity required students to define terms like “internalized classism, “privilege” and “cultural imperialism.”

At the end of the assignment, students were asked “what are the possibilities and restraints of what students can do to create a less classist environment on campus?”

The assignment also called for students to apply five of the defined words to the stories of Emily and Matthew, two Amherst College students profiled in the book “Speaking of Race and Class: The Student Experience at an Elite College.”

Emily came to campus unsure how to talk to black students and was once called “White Trash.” However, she forms a diverse set of friends but begins to see people back home as close-minded and judgmental.

“I would never want to bring my gay friend home or my black friend,” she said in her account.

Conversely, Matthew came from an affluent family but also broadened his social group in college.

“He embraced the exposure, the learning, and the people he met and liked, all the while while increasing the awareness of his relative privilege,” the book states.

Module 5: The ‘Man Box’

The course’s final module dealt with “Gender and Sexism” and students watched the film “Guyland: Where boys become men.”

According to a class assignment, the 36-minute film “maps the troubling social world where boys become men” and shows how men try to prove their masculinity “with frequently disastrous consequences for young women and other young men.”

Following the movie, students created a “Man Box,” which the assignment described as “a figurative box made up of acceptable qualities for men to possess and society’s expectations of how men must act.”

Terms inside the box included “objectifies women, emotionless, aggressive and dominant.” The assignment forced student to either pull six traits from the box or add six from a separate list of positive traits. Words on the latter included “honest,” “open minded” and “ambitious.”

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New Jersey School District Teaches Islam But Censors Christianity

New Jersey School District Teaches Islam But Censors Christianity
February 21, 2017 by AARON BANDLER

A New Jersey middle school has no problem teaching Islam to its students, but has censored students for bringing up the Bible.

Two mothers spoke up about their children’s experiences in at a Chatham Board of Education meeting in February. One of them, Nancy Gayer, voiced displeasure that her son’s fourth grade PowerPoint presentation from years ago was shut down because it briefly cited a line from the Bible in advertising for his efforts to gather gloves and hats for poor children. Gayer said that the teacher told her son that it “belongs in Sunday school, not in the classroom” and proceeded to claim that the computer wouldn’t allow the presentation to be shown to the class.

Gayer then took the matter to the school district, but the superintendent told her that the teacher’s actions were correct due to the district’s policy of prohibiting “proselytizing” in the classroom.

The line from the Bible her son cited was, “Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid.”

However, this same standard apparently does not apply to Islam, as Gayer pointed out that her son is being taught about the intricacies of the religion in a seventh grade class at Chatham Middle School, including being shown a video explaining the Five Pillars of Islam that featured lines like “Allah is the creator of everything, the one true God.”:

“In my opinion, I call this proselytizing, for by definition of this word it means convert or attempt to convert from one religion, belief or opinion to another,” Gayers said.

Another mother, Libby Hilsenrath, echoed Gayers’ sentiments, pointing out that the seventh grade class went into detail about the various aspects of Islam, but did not teach Judaism and Christianity. She also brought forth further course material that could be seen as proselytizing for Islam, which included a video providing an introduction to Islam that quoted excerpts from the Koran such as “And they say: Be Jews and Christians, then ye will be rightly guided. Say (unto them, O Muhammed) Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolators” and “Lo, we have sent thee (O Muhammed) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and warner.”

However, the superintendent, Michael LaSusa, refused to eliminate the course because “it is part of the New Jersey curriculum core content standards to teach students about the various religions of the world.” He also refused to meet with Gayers and Hilsenrath.

Gayers and Hilsenrath have since been smeared as Islamophobic by various people in the area.

“We were labeled as bigots immediately following the Board of Ed meeting in an op-ed,” Hilsenrath told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “and then all over Facebook with people who knew us or didn’t know us. Xenophobic, Islamophobe, I mean it went as far as the KKK, which I don’t know what that has to do with this.”

“Unfortunately I was stared down at a grocery store too,” Gayers added, “and I believe I was in the express line with just 10 items but yet I was still stared down. It was pretty unnerving.”

The op-ed that Hilsenrath referenced was a letter to the editor on Tap Into Chatham by resident Susan O’Brien, who called Gayers and Hilsenrath’s concerns as  “at worst veiled bigotry and at best sad and ignorant.”

“I believe that ignorance breads fear and fear breeds hatred; the more we understand about other cultures and religions the better we are equipped to deal with the issues we face in today’s world,” O’Brien wrote.

O’Brien did not attend the Board of Education meeting and nowhere in her letter did she address the glaring inconsistency of the district’s religion in the classroom policy.

As the mothers have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with being taught about the intricacies of world religions, but it’s a problem when only one religion is being taught and not others, especially when a presentation featuring a brief line from the Bible was shut down. In today’s politically correct society, voicing such concerns has resulted in Gayer and Hilsenbrath being “verbally bullied” and as smeared as “bigots,” as Gayers said in a press release sent to the Daily Wire.

The mothers’ speeches at the Board of Education meeting and their appearance on Carlson’s show can be seen below:

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Violent behavior is condoned—as long as the politics are correct

original article: There Really is Climate of Violence on Campuses
February 13, 2017 by WILLIAM M BRIGGS

Time for our News Quiz! How many were arrested and punished in Berkeley among those who rioted, vandalized and violently beat a man with shovels, almost killing him, when the right-wing comedian Milo was to visit that campus?

Hint: The total was the same as the number of student militants menacingly brandishing automatic weapons who violently occupied Cornell’s Willard Straight Hall in 1969 in protest of Cornell’s “racist attitudes” and “irrelevant curriculum.”

Still not sure? Then here, at the risk of being too generous, is another hint. The number of violent actors arrested at Berkeley is the same as the number punished for their violent storming of the stage at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to prevent mild-mannered Ben Shapiro from speaking on the subject of decency, an event at which “Campus police watched but did nothing to stop the interruptions.” Violent students also blocked Shapiro from UCLA.

If you still don’t have it, the number you’re looking for is the usual count of those arrested, expelled or otherwise punished for their use of violence to further political causes at colleges and universities all across this fair country. It is a number fewer than the fingers on your right hand to the left of your thumb.

No more clues. Unless you find the answer too distasteful to admit, you have at least an inkling of this circular figure.

The Violent in Charge

Now that we have finished the first question, it is time for our … Political Science Quiz! Ready?

What do we call those people in a society who are licensed or allowed to use violence?

No hints this time. We call these the people in charge.

Since the violent are in charge, and since folks regularly use violence on college campuses as a means of politics — violence that just as regularly goes unpunished or is countenanced — we can therefore say that there is an officially approved climate of violence many campuses in the United States.

It really is this simple. Violent students (and professors) are in charge, have been in charge, and will continue to be in charge as long as they are allowed to use violence.

Violence in and around universities is so commonplace that its presence is thought natural and necessary. Pepper sprayings, calls for muscle, assaults of speakers calling for free speech (another Berkeley incident), a brawl and students rushing the stage, students occupying by force various campus offices.

These violent actions are not only in protest of freedom and traditional morality. Sometimes plain old-fashioned greed is the excuse. As when students violently burst into and occupied various buildings at University of California at Davis to whine that tuition should not increase.

There isn’t any point in continuing the examples. The reports of violent behavior and temper tantrums of campus denizens appear in the news as often as storm reports, ever since the 1960s. Everybody knows this to be true. Everybody expects it. And except for noting these incidents, as I am doing now, few do anything about them.

Don’t Call Them Snowflakes

The mistake is to label violent, fit-throwing students as they crowd into “safe spaces,” fill their diapers and demand to be changed, with being “snowflakes.” Those who do so, says Anthony Esolen in his new book Out of the Ashes, “are wrong in their diagnosis and inaccurate in their criticism.”

It is also something of a mistake to point at the students and laugh at them for being weaklings. The students hold the hammer, and they know it … in our world of inversions, power is granted to people who claim that they have no power and who resent the greatness of their own forebears. They do not seek “safety.” They seek to destroy. The strong man is bound and gagged, and the pistol is pointed at his head — the seat of reason itself.

On paper, at least, university presidents, deans and trustees are in charge. Almost none of these people, duly accepting their office and possessing the right to administer punishment and keep order, fulfill their duties to maintain order and keep the peace. Sometime these officials share the political goals of the violent on campus, and so excuse the violence.

But often those purportedly in charge do not want the grief associated with doing the right thing. If a president expelled a violent student, the national media would be against him, a large part of his faculty would be against him, the student body would be against him, even the trustees buckling under the weight of publicity would be against him. It is easier to look the other way or issue a non-binding We-Love-Tolerance-And-Repudiate-Violence missive.

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New level of anti-diversity programming at college

original article: Stepford School: Princeton students forced to abandon individuality, freshman says
February 13, 2017 by JENNIFER KABBANY

Carrie Pritt, a freshman at Princeton University studying computer science, has penned a powerful piece illustrating the stranglehold political correctness has on her Ivy League institution.

Dysfunctional. Dystopian. Oppressive. Writing in Quillette, the picture she paints of her campus is chilling and creepy — think a Stepford School — with militant students and scholars creating an environment that ensures people say the right things, conform, avoid insulting others at all costs:

Like many other schools, Princeton has become disturbingly homogeneous because of this phenomenon. Not only that, but the pressure to respect other groups on and off campus is pushing my generation into left-wing uniformity. We are encouraged to mind our own business by mimicking politically correct values without ever thinking them through on our own. No one questioned the students and faculty members who disrespectfully walked out of Charles Murray’s lecture hall after he was invited to speak on campus this winter.

My teachers and classmates openly referred to Trump’s voters as uneducated bigots throughout the election season, while taking any criticism of Clinton as an attack against women. Anyone who dares to voice a religious opinion is regarded as unintelligent. The fear of being called racist draws our attention to a black woman’s skin instead of her character, and the fear of being called homophobic emphasizes a gay man’s sexuality over his personality. We have been trained to tiptoe around each other and distribute trigger warnings with generosity.

Where did this training start? Try mandatory freshman orientation. Pritt writes:

“Stand up if you identify as Caucasian.”

The minister’s voice was solemn. I paused so that I wouldn’t be the first one standing, and then slowly rose to my feet. “Look at your community,” he said. I glanced around the auditorium obediently. The other students looked as uncomfortable as I felt, and as white. ¨Thank you,” the minister said finally. After we sat down, he went on to repeat the exercise for over an hour with different adjectives in place of “Caucasian”: black, wealthy, first-generation, socially conservative. Each time he introduced a new label, he paused so that a new group of students could stand and take note of one another. By the time he was finished, every member of Princeton University’s freshman class had been branded with a demographic.

This doesn’t sound like a university — more like a re-education camp.

Writing about “Princeton’s Surreal ‘Diversity Training’ for Students,” Amelia Hamilton in Acculturated points out: “Academia is openly intolerant of diversity of thought, but exercises like the one Pritt experienced at Princeton are even worse. They strip students of one of the most important things for creating genuine diversity and intellectual rigor: individuality.”

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UC Berkley student paper defends violent protests

original article: UC Berkeley’s Student Newspaper Published 5 Op-Eds in One Day All Defending Violence at Protests
February 8, 2017 by William Hicks

In one day UC Berkeley’s student newspaper The Daily Californian published five opinion pieces defending the violent protests over last week’s Milo Yiannopoulos talk. At the protests, which turned into a riot, people were pepper sprayed and hit with sticks, a man was knocked  unconscious and beaten on the ground, and various buildings were vandalized.

Let’s see how they rationalize that.

Alumnus Nisa Dang demanded other students “check your privilege” when decrying violence at the protests. Student Juan Prieto claimed violence helped ensure the safety of students (just not the conservative ones). Neil Lawrence called the tactics by the black bloc antifa protesters not an act of violence, but one of self defense and said they were doing what the university should have done.

Desmond Meagley said condemning protesters was promoting hate speech. Josh Hardman questions whether breaking windows even counts as violence, while neglecting to mention the real people who were pepper sprayed and beaten up.

In fact, not a single one of the articles bothered to mention the real people who were physically assaulted on video, people who were neither fascists nor Nazis. The violence was completely written off as property damage, which is simply intellectually dishonest. You think one out of the five essays could have bothered to mention it, considering actual students were hurt by the protesters.

But thanks to The Daily California, next time Berkeley protests, the students will know the violence they use is not only effective but intellectually justified.

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Black student says teacher punched him, offered students extra credit for going to anti-Trump rally

original article: Black student says teacher punched him, offered students extra credit for going to anti-Trump rally
February 1, 2017 Dave Urbanski

Christian McKneely said he was messing around in his high school classroom in Houston last week when he told another student: “That’s gay.”

McKneely’s teacher apparently didn’t like that.

He said his teacher accused him — and Christians in general — of homophobia, KPRC-TV reported. McKneely added that his teacher punched him in the chest when he was on his cellphone trying to tell his father what had occurred, the station reported.

In addition to last Wednesday’s alleged incident, McKneely said the teacher offered students extra credit for going to an anti-Trump demonstration during the presidential campaign, KPRC reported.

“She gave extra credit for anyone who showed up for an anti-Trump rally being held downtown,” McKneely said during a Monday press conference outside Sterling High School. “I didn’t go, so I didn’t get extra credit. I don’t know if anybody got it, but that’s what she proposed for extra credit.”

The Houston Independent School District told KPRC only that it received reports of possible mistreatment of a student by a teacher at the school.

“We are continuing to work with the teacher and entire staff to ensure students are safe and teaching and learning continue uninterrupted,” a district statement said. “The safety of our students is always our absolute top priority.”

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Permit required to exercise constitutional rights

In all the voter ID objections I’ve heard the most prominent is the idea that no permit or ID should be required to exercise our constitutional right to vote – because it’s a constitutional right.

Keep in mind, our right to keep and bear arms is blatantly spelled out in the constitution but for some reason requiring permits for that meets little objection from the voter ID opponents. If being a constitutional right is in and of itself reason enough to oppose the requirement of a permit shouldn’t that apply to the second amendment as well as the right to vote? Most voter ID opponents have weak reasons for their objection but I actually like the argument that constitutional rights ought not require permits. Of course, when abuse occurs an intervention seems almost inevitable.

There are certainly reasonable limits to all our rights. For example, felons do not have the right to keep or bear firearms nor do they have the right to vote. The right to vote has an age limit, where one must be at least 18 years old before it becomes one’s right. But free speech is an entirely different matter. There seems to be two different standards on speech.

If you ever wondered what the next step would be after limiting the constitutional right of free speech to “speech zones” Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, MI has the answer: free speech permits. Yes, in the name of diversity and inclusion, institutions of higher education are pushing the oppressive absurdities even further without recognizing the irony of their own actions. Not only are college students often limited as to where they can express their opinions but apparently they must also have obtained official approval from the institution. KCC is not the only one.

So the next time someone complains about voter ID laws (supposedly an example of right wing extremism), ask them about gun rights and free speech rights, both of which are highly regulated and limited by left wing extremism.

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Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination

original article: Scholars warn higher ed seized by leftist indoctrination – but debate on fixing it unresolved
January 23, 2017 by KATE HARDIMAN

A new report suggests left-leaning professors have transformed the teaching of traditional civics with an emphasis on activism, creating a pipeline of students eager to serve the goals of secular-progressive causes.

But how best to fix the problem is one area that remains unsettled among some scholars.

“Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics” argues that “instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations.”

Universities in America have redefined civics to mean “progressive political activism,” and the notion of a “good citizen” is now synonymous with “radical activist,” according to the report, recently published by the National Association of Scholars, a right-of-center academic watchdog group.

After surveying curricula at four major universities as a case study the report finds they are teaching fewer traditional civics classes while placing a greater emphasis on directing free student labor to progressive organizations in large part through the rise of “service learning” and “community engagement” courses.

“The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of ‘fundamentally transforming’ America,” the report states, adding pet causes pushed include environmentalism, socialism, identity politics, expanding government bureaucracy, and teaching students to essentially despise America’s founding.

“I was most startled that a number of these service learning professors cited Maoist China as one of their models for instruction,” David Randall, the association’s director of communications and report author, told The College Fix in a phone interview.

Randall said the new way of teaching civics is “grossly politicized,” adding “this is a reason for the public to be alarmed.”

He pointed to a specific example at Pomona College where a service learning course, and its funding, contributed to an anti-Trump rally.

Joy Pullman, an education pundit writing on the report at The Federalist, defines this new civics as “actually anti-civics: it teaches students how to be bad citizens, how to dismantle rather than preserve and improve their country.”

“New Civics teaches young people to revolt against the country that, among other things, educated them, provided for their security against foreign aggressors, and secured liberties most people in the world never had and still don’t have: freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to a representative government dependent on citizen consent,” according to Pullman.

Reaction to the report has been mixed. Some agree it should sound alarm bells.

“It’s well-known that America’s K-12 schools are mediocre, when compared to the grammar schools of other countries. Less well known is just how mediocre our colleges are. The NAS report helps us understand why that is,” law professor Francis Buckley of George Mason University’s Scalia Law School told The College Fix via email.

But others are concerned about the report’s remedial recommendations, which include a coordinated civic literacy curriculum at the high school and college levels, a required course in traditional American civics, and a mandate that the traditional civics requirement be met only through classroom instruction. The report also suggests cutting all federal and state funding for service-learning and civic engagement at the university level.

Such recommendations pose “a severe threat to academic freedom because government officials would be imposing their judgments on college campuses rather than allowing universities to do what they think is best,” author and co-editor of Academe blog, John Wilson, told The College Fix via email.

“It’s particularly disturbing because the NAS wants the government to destroy purely voluntary programs of civic education that no students are forced to participate in,” Wilson said.

NAS’ Randall said he disagrees such oversight would hurt academic freedom.

“A state government has the right to determine what is being taught in a civics class. The setting of the syllabus is a matter appropriately governed by the state authorities,” he said. “The most basic thing is that I don’t believe the method, service-learning, has educational value. I think it is within the government’s right to provide funding only to those courses and programs that it believes have educational value.”

Another critique of the report came by way of respected law Professor Stanley Fish, who suggests the association’s call for the promotion of virtuous citizenship is akin to a political goal, much like the progressive left’s goals.

“Fostering intellectual freedom? Yes! Search for truth? Yes! Promotion of virtuous citizenship? No! Promoting virtuous citizenship is no doubt a worthy goal, but it is not an academic goal, because, like the programs the report derides, it is a political goal,” Fish argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece titled “Citizen Formation is Not Our Job.”

Meanwhile, some university officials have defended themselves in the wake of the report.

For example, a top official at the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the institutions focused on in the study, has issued a statement calling the NAS report “an opinion piece” and taking issue with the characterization of CU Boulder.

“CU Boulder offers students the chance to choose from a wide variety of classes and community experiences — from courses in Western civilization to working with local K-12 students experiencing poverty and homelessness,” Provost Russell Moore stated. “Our faculty, as required by regent law and academic custom, have developed a high-quality, balanced curriculum that helps us to shape tomorrow’s leaders and positively impact humanity.”

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Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Democrats demand the status quo in education

original article: Public School Is Often The Most Destructive Institution In American Life
January 18, 2017 by David Harsanyi

There’s something perverse about an ideology that views the disposing of a child in the third trimester of pregnancy as an indisputable right but the desire of parents to choose a school for their kids as “zealotry.”  Watching Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, answer an array of frivolous questions was just another reminder of this warped worldview.

Many liberals, for instance, tell us that racism is one of the most pressing problems in America. And yet few things have hurt African Americans more over the past 40 years than the inner-city public school system. If President Obama is correct, and educational attainment is the key to breaking out of a lower economic strata, then no institution is driving inequality quite as effectively as public schools.

Actually, teachers unions are the only organizations in America that openly support segregated schools. In districts across the country — even ones in cities with some form of limited movement for kids — poor parents, most typically black or Hispanic, are forced to enroll their kids in underperforming schools when there are good ones nearby, sometimes just blocks away.

The National Education Association spent $23 million last cycle alone working to elect politicians to keep low-income Americans right where they are. Public service unions use tax dollars to fund politicians who then turn around and vote for more funding. The worse the schools perform, the more money they demand. In the real world we call this racketeering.

Yet according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, it is people like DeVos who are “a grave threat” to the public schools “that made America great.”

Well, for starters, studies consistently show that minority groups in America’s largest cities are lagging in proficiency in reading and math. Most of them are at the bottom 5 percent of schools in their own state. There is only so much an education secretary can accomplish, but being accused of being a “grave threat” to this system is a magnificent endorsement.

And what were Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee most concerned with? Preserving the status quo. Sen. Elizabeth Warren forced DeVos to admit that she has never led an organization quite like the Education Department (with its nearly $70 billion budget, who has?). For some reason, Warren also made DeVos, a billionaire, admit that she’d never filled out financial aid forms. The Daily Caller News Foundation found that six of the 10 Democrats on the committee had attended private or parochial schools, or have children and grandchildren who do. So what?

Sen. Patty Murray, who has absolutely no understanding or regard for the constitutional limitation on the education department, pushed DeVos to promise that she would not personally defund public schools. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a tireless adversary of the first five amendments of the Constitution (at least), asked DeVos if she thought firearms had any place in or around schools. “I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide,” she replied, before offering a specific concern of a local rural district that Sen. Mike Enzi had moments ago mentioned. Cue: mocking left punditry.

In case you were unaware, Democrats on the committee stressed that DeVos was a Republican appointed by a Republican president who had given money to Republican organizations. They further pointed out that DeVos was a Christian who had given money to Christian organizations (often referred to as “antigay groups”) that didn’t meet with their moral approval.

Mostly though, the liberals on the committee attacked DeVos because she has a history of contributing her own money to help private and Christian schools expand their reach. She also supported school vouchers proponents and public charter schools that open doors to poor kids. Those dollars have likely done more to help minority students than all the committee members’ efforts combined.

As many Americans surely know, rich and middle-class Americans already have school choice. In most places, the whiter the neighborhood the better the school system, and the better the school system the higher the prices of homes, making it impossible for those who aren’t wealthy to escape substandard schools (rural school also often suffer.) This is the status quo Warren, Murphy, and Murray hope to preserve.

Yes, school reform is complicated and challenges vary from place to place. Many have shown improvement. But teachers unions and their allies opposed magnets, charters, home schooling, religious schooling, and virtual schools long before data about the effectiveness of these choices was in, and now long after quality research is indicating their improvement on the union-preferred system.

You can visit heavily Hispanic areas in Denver and watch mothers cry when their kids’ numbers don’t come up in a charter-school lottery. Or you can listen to technocrats in editorial board meetings, whose kids live in prosperous districts or attend private schools, telling you why too many of those parents have a choice.

By the parameters we often judge these sort of things, public schools are racist institutions — even if that’s unintentional. They have an even more destructive effect on communities than all the dumb words and racist (real and imagined) comments that upset the public on a regular basis. It’s not surprising that poll after poll shows minority parents support educational choice. Unfortunately, partisanship allows Democrats to take voters for granted and ignore the issue.

bureaucracy, children, culture, Democrats, diversity, education, elitism, government, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, progressive, public policy, reform, tragedy

Filed under: bureaucracy, children, culture, Democrats, diversity, education, elitism, government, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, progressive, public policy, reform, tragedy

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