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Published: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 23:22:32 -0400


Smith Students Get Lecture on Libertarian Connection to 'Traditional Bigotry'

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 09:31:00 -0400

At Smith College last week, students were treated to a discussion on the connection between libertarians and "traditional bigotry." The full title of the talk, from activist and academic Loretta Ross, is "Connections Between Far Right, Religious Right, Economic Conservatives, Libertarians, and Traditional Bigotry." (Perhaps "Everyone to the Right of Me in Any Capacity Is a Bigot" was already taken.) Ross is regularly an associate professor at Hampshire College, where she teaches a course called "White Supremacy in the Age of Trump." It's part of a four-week discussion series that Ross is leading at Smith, the historic Massachusetts women's college. Next month, Smith will bring Democracy in Chains author Nancy McClean—who hates libertarians so much she can't imagine anyone would be critical of her book without a Koch Brothers-orchestrated conspiracy—to campus. As a private educational institution, Smith can certainly offer whatever programming its administrators please. And far be it for me to judge Ross' talk by its title—that's the kind of illiberal nonsense that helped get my panel on Title IX booted from another private university campus last week. In an email, Ross tells me her talk is "about the way white supremacy infiltrates and affects all political parties, and races and genders of people, regardless of their political labels." In any case, it's odd to lump libertarianism, an ideology centered on natural rights and the inherent worth of the individual, in with more collective-oriented ideologies like those espoused by religious conservatives or the "far right." We also don't have much in common with either group when it comes to social and cultural concerns. Alas, this tendency is all too typical from Democrats and other liberals, who often can't or won't imagine a paradigm beyond the left/right divide. Hence libertarians—who defended marriage equality, ending the drug war, and demilitarizing police long before Democrats did—must be right-wing because we also favor deregulation and gun rights. Traditionally, libertarianism—like most movements—has included people all over the morality and tolerance scale. It's an intellectual and political tradition with roots in radical equality movements that also led to racist fever swamps like It's not a perfect movement, by any means, but its heroes include some of the most outspoken historical critics of traditional bigotry. And its current adherants have been vociferous opponents of alt-right bigotry and populist nationalism more broadly. For more of Reason's recent output on the subject, see: What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong Libertarianism Isn't a 'Gateway Drug' to the Alt-Right Is There Really an 'Insidious Libertarian to Alt-Right Pipeline'? Alt-Right Leader Richard Spencer Crashed a Student Libertarian Conference and Was Shunned [...]

College Isn’t Higher Education and May No Longer Be the Best Way to Deliver the Goods

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 00:01:00 -0400

There's a "deep partisan divide on higher education," reported Inside Higher Ed in July. A month later, Gallup got more specific, asking, "Why are Republicans down on higher ed?" Is that really true? Have our red/blue tribal loyalties actually split us over our views of the value of education beyond the high school level? Let's see. Well, the articles, based on separate polls from Pew and Gallup, found some strong partisan disparities. According to Pew, 58 percent of Republicans say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country (36 percent said they have a positive effect), compared to 19 percent of Democrats with a negative view of colleges and universities. Gallup found that only 33 percent of Republicans and those leaning Republican have a great deal of faith in colleges and universities (67 percent had some or very little), compared to 56 percent of Democrats and those leaning that way (43 percent had some or very little). So why do Republicans have so little faith in— Wait a minute. Those headlines said "higher education," but poll respondents were asked about "colleges and universities." That's not necessarily the same thing. Sure, colleges and universities have long been the traditional means of hammering learning into the heads of adults, but asking about the delivery system isn't the same thing as asking about the product. And the delivery system is looking a bit seedy these days. Pew shows a sharp flip in support for colleges and universities among Republicans from generally positive in 2010 to negative now (Gallup just added the question in its latest poll, so has no historical data). That flip occurred during years when colleges and universities have frequently featured in wince-worthy headlines about ideological intolerance, politicized instruction, and eroding due process. In recent weeks, Reed College, a private, liberal-arts college in Oregon, canceled classes after student protesters disrupted lectures over accusations that a humanities course is too Euro-centric. "A group of freshmen also got involved, complaining that their lecture had been taken over, and the conversation became a shouting match," according to Inside Higher Ed. At almost the same time, Bret Weinstein accepted a $500,000 settlement and he and his wife, Heather Heying, resigned from their positions teaching biology at Evergreen State College, in Washington. Weinstein was essentially chased off campus by activists for objecting to racially charged student protests. At the height of the controversy last spring, the campus closed amidst threats of violence and thousands of dollars in vandalism. Students infuriated over disagreement and dissent? Well, why not? Too many disciplines—and entire campuses--have been captured by ideology, making opposition increasingly rare and risky. In 2015, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt cautioned that "As psychology has become politically purified, its concepts have morphed to make them more useful to social justice advocates trying to prosecute and convict their opponents. This political shift poses a grave danger to the credibility of psychology." Two years later, sociologist Musa al-Gharbi echoed that warning, writing, "The fact that many US universities are so out of step with broader society is also contributing to declining public confidence in them—and a growing inability among social researchers to relate to ordinary people." That "out of step" quality bleeds out of the classroom and affects even students who might try to hide dissenting viewpoints, but still expect decent treatment. Amidst a tidal wave of lawsuits against colleges and universities for bypassing due process protections for the accused, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded a federal "dear colleague" letter that pressured college administrators to pursue sexual assault charges against students through campus kangaroo courts run according to dubious rules. The change didn't come out of the blue; prominent Harvard law faculty had warned in 2[...]

Feminist Group Loses Fight to Declare Yik Yak App a Civil-Rights Violation

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 15:30:00 -0400

A federal court in Virginia shot down one of the sadder displays of anti-speech authoritarianism in recent memory, a demand that the social-media app Yik Yak be declared a civil-rights violation on college campuses. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia this week dismissed a lawsuit filed against the University of Mary Washington (UMW) by a coalition led by the Feminist Majority Foundation. The suit contended that UMW allowing Yik Yak on campus constituted a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prevents sex discrimination at educational institutions receive federal funding. "As social media has proliferated, cyberbullying has become a national problem," and "solutions are not easy or obvious to anyone," the court noted. "In seeking solutions, however, schools cannot ignore other rights vital to this country, such as the right to free speech." The whole debacle stems from Yik Yak users at UMW harassing members of a campus feminist group (and branch of the Feminist Majority Foundation) in 2015. Yik Yak is now defunct, but at the time it was a popular app on college campuses, allowing users within a certain distance to broadcast their thoughts anonymously in a Twitter-like fashion. The students complained to UMW administrators, who told them they could not ban the app on campus because of free-speech concerns. That's when Feminist Majority Foundation and others asked the Department of Education to intervene. In an administrative complaint against UMW, the groups charged colleges with violating students' civil rights "by failing to adequately address the sexually hostile environment created by persistent online harassment and threats" on Yik Yak—a private platform students could download independently on their own phones or devices. Schools exerted no control over who downloaded the app or what they posted on it. The feminist groups proposed schools get around this by installing software that would block Yik Yak on school computer networks, a "solution" that would both fail on technological grounds (anyone using their phone's network or non-school wifi could still access the app) and First Amendment ones. Feminist Majority Foundation also filed a civil lawsuit against the school, alleging violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause. On Tuesday, the court explained its reasons for granting its motion to dismiss the suit. "To establish a Title IX claim, a plaintiff must show that a [school] acted with deliberate indifference to known acts of sexual harassment so severe, pervasive, and offensive that the harassment deprived the plaintiff of access to educational opportunities or benefits," explains the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decision. It's a standard that focuses on action or inaction by the school, not third parties, and is limited to situations in which the school has substantial jurisdiction "over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs." In this case, "the Title IX discrimination claim fails because the harassment took place in a context over which UMW had limited, if any, control—anonymous postings on Yik Yak," the court decided. And in realms where it did have control—like holding student assemblies and having a university police officer investigate a specific threat—it took swift action. "While UMW did not take the specific action requested by the plaintiffs, Title IX does not require funding recipients to meet the particular remedial demands of its students," especially when those demands may expose a school to liability under the First Amendment," the court ruled. It also noted that some of the campus feminists members received individual threats of physical and sexual violence, calling them out by name and revealing their addresses. In some cases, legitimate criminal charges may have been warranted. But instead of going after harassers directly, the aggrieved students and Feminist Majority Foundation lashed out at the school and the social-me[...]

Proposed Free Community College in Seattle Will be Anything But

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 15:50:00 -0400

No candidate ever lost an election by promising voters too much free stuff, something Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan is banking on with her proposal for tuition-free community college. Durkan—a former U.S. Attorney and one of two candidates competing for Seattle's November mayoral elections—unveiled her "Promise Seattle" program Monday. The proposal actually included two remarkble promises: two years of free community college for any Seattle high school graduate at no additional cost to taxpayers. Durkan says her goal is to get more low-income and minority students into post-secondary education. "We need to ensure students from all economic backgrounds, and from every neighborhood in Seattle, have the chance to earn a credential, certificate or degree." Free community college is becoming a popular promise among members of a certain political class. Four states having passed such schemes: Tennessee was the first in 2014; Oregon followed the next year. Rhode Island and New York passed community college giveaways in 2017, but have yet to implement them. If these examples hold true, the benefits of Promise Seattle will accrue mostly to the city's wealthiest students, while proving to be anything but "free." That's because promise programs offer tuition on a "last dollar" basis, meaning their subsidies don't begin to flow until after students have collected the federal and state aid for which they're eligible. State and federal aid programs already cover most of the cost of attending a community college for low-income students. Their wealthier counterparts are the real beneficiaries. Promise Oregon is a case-in-point. According to a 2016 review by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, students whose family income qualifies them for full federal and state grants would get $284 in Promise tuition assistance per term. Students whose family incomes disqualify them from state and federal aid get $1,084 per term. The same report found that the Promise Oregon spent only 7.9 percent ($860,000) of its funding on students expecting no assistance from their families. Meanwhile, 60 percent of Promise Oregon funds ($6.6 million) went to those students who're expected to receive over $8,673 in yearly family support—much more than the average tuition cost for an Oregon community college. Fifty three percent of Promise Oregon recipients were wealthy enough to be disqualified for federal Pell grants. The number is 47 percent for Tennessee's Promise Scholarships. Expect Durkan's proposal to follow the same pattern. Durkan's suggestion that the program could be run without tax increases is also questionable. Her outline suggests the program could be funded by revenue from a couple of Seattle's other recent bad ideas, including its soda tax and fees from the $54 billion ST3 light rail expansion. That could be enough, but only if the free tuition project stays within the suggested budget caps, something other Promise programs have failed to do. Spending on Promise Oregon has escalated, from $10 million for the 2016-2017 academic year to $40 million for 2017-2018. Even with that four-fold boost in funding, the program is still $8 million short of covering all applicants, requiring the Oregon legislature to at last means-test the program. While the evidence suggests nothing Durkan is promising is really free, it also suggests that hasn't stopped taxpayers from believing in and voting for it.[...]

Local NAACP Leader Defies Own Group, Supports New Florida Charter School

Fri, 25 Aug 2017 12:45:00 -0400

Somebody should ask American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten if it's racist for a bunch of Latino and African-American parents to band together to transform their ailing local public middle school into a charter program. That's exactly what's happening in Manatee County, Florida. Parents and staff (and teachers!) at Lincoln Memorial Middle School in Palmetto voted earlier in the year to begin the process of changing the school into a charter program. This week Manatee County's school board approved the transformation by a vote of 4–1. Starting with the 2018–2019 school year, the place will become Lincoln Memorial Academy. The school, the Bradenton Herald notes, was founded in the 1940s as a segregated high school serving the community's black students. It's more diverse these days—about 48 percent Hispanic, 28 percent African-American, and 20 percent white. According to demographic data, a full 100 percent of the students there qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Its test scores and overall performance, unfortunately, are not great. The school ranks worse than 84 percent of the middle schools in Florida. The staff of the school believe that transforming into a charter will allow them to do more. If their budget plan holds up, the school plans to actually add an hour of education to the school day. Weingarten drew a lot of media attention last month by using her bully pulpit to dismiss school choice as a tool of racists. In a blatant attempt at guilt by association, she pointed to ways some Southerners in the Jim Crow era tried to use school privatization to avoid sending their kids to school with black folks. But it's 2017, not 1960. Hundreds of thousands of minority families are taking advantage of school choice now. Weingarten and those who have a financial stake in maintaining control over the school system cannot and will not acknowledge that reality. It would be akin to admitting that they have protected the interests of teachers over the education needs of families and students. Somehow these interests have convinced the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to accept the misbegotten idea that access to charter schools and choice is harming African-America kids, despite the considerable evidence otherwise, and the group has been demanding a moratorium. Black advocates of school choice have been speaking out against the NAACP's decision, but the organization has been holding strong on its position. Awkwardly, the national organization may not even have the support of some of its own local chapters. Rodney Jones, the president of NAACP's Manatee County chapter, attended the school board meeting this week to declare his support for the charter transformation. This shouldn't be a surprise. These local chapters are full of people who live in these communities. They see what school choice and charter programs can do to place the emphasis back on serving students and away from shielding entrenched bureaucratic interests like the American Federation of Teachers. The Florida school choice outlet redefinED spoke with Jones, who explained why he turned away from the NAACP's formal position: "We are seeing kids go astray. They should be allowed the opportunity to give the child the best opportunity of success that they can possibly have. They will provide a very unique cultural experience for these students that they will not get anywhere else." The NAACP's position is fundamentally at odds with the experiences of many, many minority families in their own communities.[...]

Stossel: Private School Success Around the World

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:23:00 -0400

Star athletes earn far more than bench warmers—why can't schools adopt the same approach to remunerating talent? In most U.S. public schools, compensation is determined by one factor: years served in the classroom.

In South Korea, the best instructors are treated like star athletes. Some earn millions.

The late Andrew Coulson, a former senior fellow at the Cato Institute, partnered with the Free to Choose Network to create the film School, Inc., which examines some of these free market successes abroad.

But School, Inc. is three hours! So John Stossel made a two-part short-attention-span version. In part two, Coulson looks at private school innovation abroad. And he travels to India, where poor citizens pay to send their kids to private schools to keep them out of the dreadful public system.

Coulson passed away in 2016 following a 15-month battle with brain cancer. For more on his contribution to the field, read his classic 1999 book, Market Education: The Unknown History.

Produced by Maxim Lott. Edited by Joshua Swain.

Stossel on Reason

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Stossel: Government-Run Schools Crush Innovation

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:30:00 -0400

America's public schools fail our kids, and bureaucrats suffocate even the best teachers.

The late Andrew Coulson, a leading advocate of free-market education and a former senior fellow at the Cato Institute, partnered with the Free to Choose Network to create the recent PBS film School, Inc., which examines the problems with America's government-run schools and how to fix them.

But School, Inc. is three hours! So John Stossel made a two-part short-attention-span version. Part one of our abbreviated treatment explores why government-run schools are incapable of innovating, and retells the story of superstar teacher Jamie Escalante (made famous by the 1988 film Stand and Deliver), who was forced out by jealous colleagues.

In part two, which will run tomorrow, Coulson travels the world in search of ideas to fix America's public schools.

Coulson passed away in 2016 following a 15-month battle with brain cancer. For more on his contribution to the field, read his classic 1999 book, Market Education: The Unknown History.

Produced by Maxim Lott. Edited by Joshua Swain.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

Star-Crossed Student Athletes Torn Apart By Title IX Witchhunt at USC

Wed, 02 Aug 2017 09:46:00 -0400

A nosy neigbor's word was apparently all it took to get a University of Southern California (USC) student kicked out of school for abusing his girlfriend—abuse she vehemently denies ever took place. According to recent USC graduate Zoe Katz, the inquiry that prompted USC to expel Matt Boermeester, a former kicker on the USC football team, was "horrible and unjust." Katz said she is coming forward now to clear Boermeester's name and push for changes in the way Title IX investigations are conducted. In a statement provided to the press through her lawyer, Katz alleges that Boermeester was "false accused" of abusing her after a neighbor saw them roughhousing in her front yard. The two seniors had been dating for more than a year at that point; from the looks of Katz's recent social media posts, they're still together. Katz was a star on the school's tennis team, and Boermeester was the football player who had kicked the game-winning field goal for USC in this year's Rose Bowl. According to Katz, the neighbor told his roommate what he thought he saw, who told a coach in the USC athletic department, who reported the incident to the school's Title IX office (the unit tasked, per federal mandate, with investigating suspected incidents of sex-based discrimination and violence). The school began an investigation into the allegations in February, at which time Boermeester was suspended from the football team and from school. At the time, Katz tweeted: "I am the one involved in the investigation with Matt Boermeester. The report is false." Since then, she was mostly silent on the issue in public, until this week's statement. In it, she states unequivocably that she has "never been abused, assaulted, or otherwise mistreated by Matt." But the school refused to believe her, says Katz. Instead, investigators immediately cast her as someone in an abusive relationship who was too afraid to tell the truth about her situation. The Title IX crew was "dismissive and demeaning," said Katz. They told her she "must be afraid of Matt," a charge she denied. In classic witch-hunt style, any protestations on Katz's part were taken as further evidence of the exact opposite of what she was saying: When I told the truth about Matt, in repeated interrogations, I was stereotyped and was told I must be a 'battered' woman, and that made me feel demeaned and absurdly profiled. I understand that domestic violence is a terrible problem, but in no way does that apply to Matt and me. Ultimately, Katz felt "misled, harassed, threatened and discriminated against" by the school's Title IX office. During Boermeester's suspension, he was barred from returning to campus and from having contact with Katz. Eventually, he was told not to return. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, USC would only say that it had concluded its investigation and could not comment further. "Per the register, [Boermeester] is no longer enrolled at the university," it said. As Democrats attempt to depict any changes to Title IX policy as some sort of typical Trump attack on women's rights, Katz's story provides yet another example how wrong they are.[...]

Teachers Union President Thinks You’re a Racist if You Yank Your Kids from Their Crappy Schools

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 13:55:00 -0400

Ethnically diverse Los Angeles boasts a population that's nearly half Latino, 10 percent Asian, and 10 percent African American. The metropolitan area is also the home of the largest charter school program in the country. In May, Los Angeles voters put school choice supporters in charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, a show of support for parents' right to decide where to send their kids for an education. Demographic data across the United States show that charter schools are remarkably ethnically diverse. As of 2014, 27 percent of the charter school population was African American and 31 percent was Latino. These are parents who let the public school system know how they feel about the state of education by choosing to send their kids elsewhere. So it may seem absurd to try to paint school choice as a racist construct. Yet here we are: In what seems like an awfully desperate attempt to rally the public school establishment, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is attacking the school system's own customers. In a speech before the union, she dismissed school choice as a tool for racist parents to avoid desegregation: After the Brown decision, many school districts, especially in the South, resisted integration. In Virginia, white officials in Prince Edward County closed every public school in the district rather than have white and black children go to school together. They opened private schools where only white parents could choose to send their children. And they did it using public money. By 1963, African American students had been locked out of Prince Edward County public schools for five years. AFT members sent funds and school supplies. And some traveled from New York and Philadelphia to set up schools for African American students in church basements and public parks, so these students could have an education. And what about the schools Betsy DeVos appallingly called "pioneers of school choice"—historically black colleges and universities? HBCUs actually arose from the discriminatory practices that denied black students access to higher education. HBCUs are vital institutions, but that doesn't change the truth of their origins: They were born of a shameful lack of educational choices for African American students. So, let me see if I understand this properly: Racist government officials shut down access to schools, and as a result black children had fewer choices for eductation, she argues. Black colleges arose as a way of giving educational choices to black students they might not have had otherwise. So the problem here is private school choice? This was clearly a result of government officials being able to control which schools students were able to attend! In Weingarten's upside-down world, public schools need to be protected from choice, even though historically alternatives to government-run education systems actually helped minorities get access. Well, it's a good thing public schools have gotten rid of their segregation, right? Except they haven't. If anything, public schools are becoming more and more segregated, according to a Government Accountability Office study last year. And with school choice options, more poor and minority students are opting to leave, rendering them even less diverse. Let's not mince words: School choice is a boon for poor and minority students, giving them more possibilities that wealthy whites take for granted. It also represents a threat to the interests of Weingarten and the AFT, who have a significant financial stake in protecting their monopoly. Despite the tremendous power, finances, and political influence of education unions, she presented the school choice fight as an actual "David vs. Goliath" scenario where she and the AFT are "David." In 2016, AFT spent $20 million in contributions to political races, $7.3 [...]

UPDATED: Betsy DeVos Isn't "Enabling Rape Deniers" by Pushing for Due Process on College Campuses

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 11:15:00 -0400

Scroll to bottom for an update. Have you heard that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is "enabling rape deniers?" That's according to Jessica Valenti in The Guardian: Campus rape victims have long been treated abysmally in the United States. They're often disbelieved by peers, administrators and school adjudicators, shamed by campus police, or watch as their attackers go unpunished. Women tell stories of their accused rapists even academically flourishing as they themselves fail classes or drop out to avoid seeing their attacker. Under the Obama administration, that tide started to turn. We started to talk about Yes Means Yes initiatives and teach enthusiastic consent. There was a national conversation about how to best serve students who need our help. We all know that the Trump administration and appointees are eager to undo Obama's work – but it shouldn't come at the expense of rape victims, and of justice. That's not quite right. DeVos is actually bringing something approaching due process back to college campuses. Specifically, she is working to roll back a bad Obama-era policy. In 2011, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter to colleges and universities urging them to adopt a new, lower standard of guilt when it came to adjudicating sexual assault and misconduct charges under Title IX, the federal law barring discrimination by sex in education. At Reason, Cathy Young explained how the new standard worked in a particular case at the University of North Dakota: [The student] was found guilty under a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof—the lowest standard, under which a defendant is guilty if the disciplinary panel believes it is even slightly more likely than not that he committed the offense. Traditionally, most colleges have adjudicated charges of misconduct against students under the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence"—less stringent than "beyond a reasonable doubt," but nonetheless requiring an extremely strong probability of guilt. A few months ago, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education undertook to change that. On April 4, the OCR sent out a letter to colleges and universities on the proper handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment reports. One of its key recommendations was to adopt the "preponderance of the evidence" standard in judging such complaints. The OCR's letter is not technically binding, but its recommendations have been implemented widely since public and private colleges that receive federal funds (read: all of them) are afraid that their support might be yanked. The result has been an explosion in the number of stories in which students, administrators, and faculty find themselves brought before a tribunal that not only requires a much-lower burden of proof than in a trial but routinely denies anything like due process and legal representation to the accused. In one emblematic and disturbing case, Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis endured a bizarre on-campus Title IX hearing after publishing an article about her sexual exploits as a graduate student. A feminist and political progressive, Kipnis' experience led her to publish a book, Unwanted Advances, about how OCR's guidelines have given rise to what she calls "sexual paranoia" in higher education. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is now calling for OCR to return "to its role as a neutral, impartial, investigative agency...[because it] had descended into a pattern of overreaching, of setting out to punish and embarrass institutions rather than work with them to correct civil rights violations and of ignoring public input prior to issuing new rules." That is, she will allow colleges to use a higher level of proof before finding someone guilty of a crime or offense. That's not "enabli[...]

Chicago Schools to Students: Submit to Our Choices for Your Futures or No Diploma

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:20:00 -0400

Hey, Chicago parents: Are you ready for a bunch of government officials to decide whether your teen has appropriate post-high-school plans? If you're not, too bad. Your city's school district is pushing forward with its plan to demand—as a requirement to graduate—that seniors prove to the school that they have a plan for the future. What's more, this plan has to match what school administrators think your kid's future should look like. Reason previously warned that this order was in the works and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was fully supporting it. It is now officially in place, and it will start applying to students graduating in 2020. Here is a list of options that graduating seniors will be allowed to pursue: College acceptance letter received and returned Military acceptance/enlistment letter Acceptance into a job program (i.e., coding boot camp) Acceptance into a trades pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship Acceptance into a "gap year" program Current job/job offer letter The original version was less hospitable to the idea of teens entering directly into the workforce, so at least there's an improvement there. And it says waivers "will be developed" for students with "extenuating circumstances," however the district might eventually define them. But note the insistent attitude here that moving forward into adulthood and being "successful" at it is assumed to involve putting one's self right back under the control or authority of others. Personal entrepreneurship is not an option. If your kid is a wunderkind in crafts or 3D printing and is making bank on Etsy, that doesn't satisfy the Chicago school system. Will administrators see private contract work as a "job" under this system? The inclusion of military enlistment as a choice remains chilling, even when you take into consideration that obviously the school is going to have to award diplomas to seniors who decide to enlist. The message it sends to struggling students who might not be cut out for college and cannot find a job or one of the other options is pretty damn stark. Chicago school leaders don't really see that unintended consequence, because that's not their goal. As I noted the last time I blogged about it, this entire "plan" appears to be a mechanism to lobby for more money and more staff for administrative, non-education-focused purposes. The Washington Post's coverage of the policy on Monday makes it clear that this system is intended to shake out more money and support for guidance counselors and to create new programs that further entwine administrators into students' lives. Here's what's going on at Morgan Park High School: Given the new graduation requirement, seniors beginning this fall will take a year-long seminar on planning for life after high school. [Principal Carolyn] Epps said she hopes to reach younger students through assemblies, parent meetings and instruction in home-room classes. Janice Jackson, the school system's chief education officer, said that is how the new requirement is supposed to work—pushing principals to improve efforts to help students prepare for the future. About 60 percent of district students have postsecondary plans when they graduate, she said, and she doesn't think the schools should wait for more money to set an expectation that the remaining 40 percent follow suit. Would Chicago really withhold diplomas from students who meet every requirement except the new one? Jackson says it won't come to that, because principals, counselors and teachers won't let it. They'll go to students in that situation and press them to make sure they have a plan. The official description of this new demand notes that the mayor and district are attempting to raise $1 million to create new positions for "college and career coaches." This a jobs program for them. In[...]

Hey NYC Reasonoids: Come To School Choice Debate on July 11!

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:05:00 -0400

(image) The next Soho Forum debate, held monthly in New York City, will be about school choice. It's an Oxford-style debate, meaning the winner is the person who gets more people to move his or her way based on votes taken before and after the conversation.

The panelists are Bob Bowdon of (he's in favor of school choice) and Samuel Abrams of Columbia University's National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (against choice). They will debate the following proposition:

"Parents should have the choice to opt out of public schools and redirect the taxpayer tuition money for their children to other approved schools or educational options."

The Soho Forum provides one of the rarest things around: A rollicking, intellectually serious space for substantive and civil debate. As a participant in an epic debate with economist Walter Block about whether libertarians should vote for Donald Trump and as an attendee at several events there, I can't recommend it highly enough. Here are the details:

Cash bar opens at 5:45pm
Event starts at 6:30pm
Subculture Theater
45 Bleecker St,
NY, 10012

Seating must be reserved in advance.

*Moderated by Gene Epstein,
the economics editor of Barron's.

Featuring Lenore Skenazy, "World's Worst Mom" and author of Free Range Kids, in her world debut as a standup comedian before the debate.

Go here to buy tickets and reserve your seats. If you can't make it or are out of the area, each event is live-streamed and podcasted by the Reason Podcast (go here to subscribe).

Bonus video from the most-recent Soho Forum debate, with Mark Skousen and Gene Epstein arguing over Adam Smith's centrality to understanding capitalism:

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Why Government Schools Fail

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 03:02:00 -0400

Every year, almost every industry improves. We get more choices—usually better choices, for less money. "But of all the products we make and the services we provide, there's one that stands out as an exception," according to the Cato Institute's Andrew Coulson. "One activity in which excellence doesn't spawn countless imitators or spread on a massive scale: schooling." Why not? What can be done about it? These questions are asked and often answered by Coulson's new PBS TV series School Inc. It's a wonderful three hours, reaching back years to America's first experiments in education and traveling the world to look at schools in Chile, England, Sweden, India and Korea. In Korea, top teachers make millions. Why haven't American schools improved? The education establishment says, "We don't have enough money!" But American schools spend more per student than other countries. Spending tripled during Coulson's lifetime and class sizes dropped. But test scores stay flat. "Schools adopted all sorts of new technologies, from projectors to personal computers to 'smart' whiteboards," says Coulson. "None of these inventions improved outcomes ... Educational quality has been stuck in the era of disco and leisure suits for 40 years, while the rest of the world has passed it by." The main reason for that is that most schools are controlled by government. Government is a monopoly, and monopolies resist change. Actually, most of us resist change. We don't want to give up the way we've always done things. Certainly, few of us want to work harder, or differently. We get set in our ways. But when there is competition, we can't get away with that. If we don't adopt better ways of doing things, we go out of business. That forces innovation. But government-run schools never go out of business. Principals, school boards and teachers—especially union teachers—have little incentive to try anything new. One of the documentary's illustrations of this might be familiar because the story was also told in the movie Stand and Deliver. In that film, actor Edward James Olmos played math teacher Jaime Escalante. Escalante taught at California's Garfield High School. The student body was, and is, composed of some of the most "disadvantaged" students in America. Yet more Garfield High students passed advanced placement calculus tests than did students from Beverly Hills High. Escalante was the reason. He was simply a better teacher. Coulson interviewed some of his former students, who said, "Escalante worked as if his life depended on the success of his students." The results were beyond belief ... literally. His students did so well on the state calculus test that authorities accused them of cheating. They made them take the test again. The students aced the test the second time. What made Escalante a better teacher? One student tells Coulson, "He built a relationship with each student, knew them by name, knew their story... Students didn't want to disappoint him." The movie made Escalante famous, but he didn't change. He kept teaching at Garfield, telling students that even though they were poor, "With enough drive and hard work, the sky is the limit." "The lessons I learned from Jaime, I apply them every day," a former student told Coulson. "With my children I talk about Jaime and about ganas—desire. Nothing's for free. You have to work really hard if you want to achieve anything." Stand and Deliver has a happy ending, but what happened in real life was no fairy tale. Coulson says, "In any other field, we might expect this combination of success, scalability, and publicity to have catapulted Escalante to the top of his profession and spread his teaching model across the country." That isn't what happened. Garfield's union te[...]

Students Hold Free Speech Events, Get Denounced as White Supremacists

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:00:00 -0400

Faculty and students at Linfield College have compared the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to terrorists and denounced them as white supremacists. Why? Because the libertarian student group attempted to host a series of free speech events at the small liberal arts college in McMinnville, Oregon. The story begins in April, when YAL members set up a table on campus to promote both their newly formed group and a series of "speak freely" events they were sponsoring. Keifer Smith, vice president of the chapter, brought along an inflatable "free speech ball" and invited students to write whatever they wanted on it. "The majority of the things written on there were uplifting things, not political, not inflammatory at all," Smith reports: comments like "you're awesome" and "have a nice day." But one person drew Pepe—a cartoon frog that some alt-right trolls have adopted as a symbol—and so the YAL chapter quickly became the focal point of campus outrage. "Immediately we were deemed alt-right," says Smith. They were even called white supremacists. The Linfield Advisory Committee on Diversity responded to the Pepe doodle by inviting the chapter to a free speech forum. According to Smith, this was supposed to be an hour-long discussion of the general idea of open expression—but quickly morphed into a four-hour denunciation of him and his group for their supposed intolerance. Next the school declared that it would be cancelling an upcoming event in the "speak freely" series—a talk on ethics and free speech by the University of Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson. The libertarian group was told the paperwork for the event had been turned in a day late; the school also cited tweets from Peterson promoting what was supposed to be a private event for Linfield students and faculty. Meanwhile, faculty lashed out at the YAL chapter in the campus paper, The Linfield Review. "The agenda of groups like Alt-Right and campus clubs that are either supported by the Alt-right or providing a platform for the Alt-Right is clear," wrote Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, a professor of English and the co-coordinator of the school's gender studies program. "They want to challenge college campuses for their numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives that provide a legitimate space for ideas and knowledge base that have been historically marginalized and excluded." At the free speech forum, Dutt-Ballerstadt had accused Smith and his group of being funded by "alt-right dark money." Similar sentiments were expressed by Linfield's dean of faculty, Dawn Nowacki. Nowacki admitted that she didn't know any times anyone in the YAL chapter had expressed anything racist or misogynist, but she insisted they still posed a threat. "These efforts are a lot more subtle," she wrote. "Just as becoming a terrorist is a gradual, step by step process, people do not become part of the alt right overnight. These events represent a kind of soft recruitment into more extremist ideas." Undeterred, the chapter moved the Peterson lecture to an off-campus venue. "We were really only planning on having maybe 100 people, maybe 200 people," Smith recalls. Instead over 400 folks turned up, and a YouTube version has so far gotten nearly 90,000 views. Smith says he hopes to keep providing a forum for students to express otherwise maligned and unpopular viewpoints. As for the professors and students who have denounced him, Smith says their rhetoric is part of an open campus discourse too: "That's the price you pay for free speech."[...]

Brickbat: You Don't Say

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The principal of North Carolina's Southwest Edgecombe High School refused to give class president Marvin Wright his diploma at the graduation ceremony after Wright delivered a speech he had written rather than one written by school administrators. Edgecombe County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly had the principal deliver the diploma to Wright's home two days later and called the boy to apologize, saying he should have received his diploma.