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Published: Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

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The Case Against Education: Economist Bryan Caplan Says Government Spending of $1 Trillion a Year on Schooling Is a Waste

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 13:25:00 -0500

"It's absolutely true that school makes people show up, sit down, shut up and that these are useful skills for people to have in adulthood, " says Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, who blogs at EconLog, and is the author of the new book The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. "So the real question is if all we're trying to do is prepare people for a job, why not prepare them with a job?" Caplan argues that schools are not only overpriced, but that traditional education fails to prepare students with job skills that reflect the needs of the labor market. Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Caplan to make the case that the government needs to spend so much on education if it isn't relevant to our success in getting a job and earning higher wages. Reason is a proud media partner of National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education. Go here [] to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice--charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. For a constantly updated list of stories on education, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice". Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Mark McDaniel. AM Trans by Podington Bear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Mimas by Sounds Like An Earful is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: I'm Nick Gillespie for Reason and today we are talking with the author of what is almost certainly going to be the most controversial book of the year. Bryan Caplan is an economics professor at George Mason University, and his new book is The Case Against Education. Bryan, thanks for talking with Reason. Bryan Caplan: Thanks for such an exciting introduction. Gillespie: Well, let's get right to it. Early on you say flatly, you write flatly, 'This book argues that our education system is a big waste of time and money.' And now you're not simply saying that our schools are overpriced and uneven in quality, you are actually making the case that much of our traditional education system, especially higher ed, is literally a waste of time, right? Caplan: Absolutely. Gillespie: What do you mean by that? Caplan: What I mean is that people are going there to get a higher income, but they're actually not getting much in the way of job skills, which raises a big puzzle for an economist. How can they be getting a higher income if they're not getting much in the way of job skills? And my answer comes down to something called the signaling model of education that says that a lot of the reason why education pays isn't that you learn useful skills, but that you distinguish yourself. That you're getting stamped or labeled. You're getting a sticker on your forehead, Grade A worker. Gillespie: So it's kind of like you come out as a piece of steak. You're USDA prime, but you haven't been cooked yet. Well, you haven't ... Caplan: Precisely. And the the key thing about this is, selfishly speaking, it doesn't really matter why you're getting more money. But from a social point of view, from the point of view of is this a good use of taxpayer dollars, it matters tremendously because everybody just gets more years in education and all you're doing is showing off. Then you're just raising the bar for how [...]

The Case for School Choice Is Overwhelming From Every POV Except One

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 21:00:00 -0500

Today marks the start of National School Choice Week (NSCW), an annual event designed to promote awareness of and interest in K-12 educational policies that give parents and students more ways to personalize and individualize their primary and secondary learning experiences. Reason is a proud media partner of NSCW, which has helped to organize over 30,000 events around the country this week. NSCW is agnostic on the form that choice takes—could be charter schools, voucher programs, private-school scholarships, homeschooling, education savings accounts (ESAs), you name it. All that matters is that it put the needs of students front and center. Go here to find out information about events and activities happening in your area. Throughout the week, Reason will be publishing articles, commentaries, videos, and podcasts on education policy. Tomorrow, for instance, we'll release an interview with George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan, whose forthcoming book on school policy literally makes the case against education (seriously: His book is called The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money). On Tuesday, Reason's policy analyst Lisa Snell will host a panel discussion in Los Angeles with Matthew Ladner of the Charles Koch Institute and Jason Bedrick of EdChoice tacking the "most persistent arguments against school choice and why they're wrong." That event will be livestreamed via Hit and Run and Reason's Facebook page at 6:00 P.M. Pacific Time. John Stossel will be interviewing Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy is leading the way in charter-school success in New York City. Later in the week, we'll release a video expose of New York City's practice of paying millions of dollars in tuition to send kids with learning issues to private schools; we'll also publish a fascinating magazine story about the "microschool" movement. Consider it Shark Week, but for education policy. For past School Choice Week coverage, go here. For the latest education policy work from analysts at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, go here. The title of this post makes the claim that the case for giving students and parents more options for K-12 education is overwhelming. Here's some evidence about choice programs that get students into private schools from A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, by Greg Forster (Fourth Edition, 2016): Eighteen empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the gold standard of social science. Of those, 14 find choice improves student outcomes: six find all students benefit and eight find some benefit and some are not visibly affected. Two studies find no visible effect, and two studies find Louisiana's voucher program—where most of the eligible private schools were scared away from the program by an expectation of hostile future action from regulators—had a negative effect. Thirty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice's effect on students' academic outcomes in public schools. Of those, 31 find choice improved public schools. One finds no visible effect. One finds a negative effect. Twenty-eight empirical studies have examined school choice's fiscal impact on taxpayers and public schools. Of these, 25 find school choice programs save money. Three find the programs they study are revenue neutral. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact. Ten empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of those, nine find school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools, and one finds no net effect on segregation. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation. Eleven empirical studies have examined school choice's effect on civic values and practices, such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of those, eight find school choice improves civic values and practices. Three find no visible eff[...]

Throw Your Kid in the Scorpion Pit

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 06:00:00 -0500

"He has a class on race and emotional safety," an old friend of mine squealed with delight about her son's public school schedule. I am equally delighted to report that my own kid receives no such lessons. When it comes to Anthony's education, my goal is to de-emphasize, not ratchet up, the importance that race plays in his interpersonal dealings. I also don't think that focusing on emotional safety—whatever that is—is likely to build the kind of strong, resilient people who can handle life's curve balls. But I'm also glad that my friend is free to feed her offspring whatever nonsense she sees fit. The worst-case scenario is a world of homogeneous groupthink. Instead, if enough families do their jobs right, our kids will grow up in world of differing opinions and contending values—the sort of intellectual scorpion pit that fuels a free and open society. "An important part of critical thinking is being able to give reasons to support or criticize a position," argues Joe Lau, a philosopher at the University of Hong Kong who specialized in metacognition. "The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires citizens who can think critically about social issues to inform their judgments about proper governance and to overcome biases and prejudice." Critical thinkers "strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society," writes educational psychologist Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking. "They strive never to think simplistically about complicated issues and always to consider the rights and needs of relevant others." To support or criticize a position and consider the rights of others, you first have to be aware that ideas beyond your own exist, and that it's important to engage them. There's not enough of that right now. Echo chambers arise when children are raised in an environment kept scrubbed of disagreement. Many college students today never learned to defend their positions because they rarely encountered contrasting views. Given that, headlines about speakers being chased off campus, while troubling, are hardly surprising. In her May 2017 commencement speech, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust addressed the obvious disconnect between the students and faculty at elite universities, including hers, and recent political developments in the country. Too many people were simply blindsided by the degree to which a large percentage of Americans disagreed with them, and were willing to support a presidential candidate and policies that university dwellers overwhelmingly rejected. "From at least the time of Galileo, we can see how repressing seemingly heretical ideas has blinded societies and nations to the enhanced knowledge and understanding on which progress depend," Faust said. "We must work to ensure that universities do not become bubbles isolated from the concerns and discourse of the society that surrounds them." To avoid fueling this problem, I try to give my son contrasting viewpoints on controversial subjects in our home-school lessons. When he studied the Progressive Era, we worked from video lectures by a college professor sympathetic to the progressives' cause, alongside lectures from a broadly conservative point of view, readings from Thaddeus Russell's A Renegade History of the United States, and excerpts from Illiberal Reformers by Thomas C. Leonard—which is to say, a group of sources with very different takes on the same topic. My son knows where I'm coming from, but he also knows that a lot of people strongly disagree with me, just as he inevitably will on some topics. As a result, he's already better prepared at 12 than most of those Harvard students to engage with somebody with different views, such as my old friend's son. And that kid will hold his own a lot more effectively if his class on race and emotional safety similarly draws from a variety of ideas and arguments. There's a lot of talk about the value of educational choice—of experimenting with different teachi[...]

Misguided Preschool Mandate Will Cost D.C. Parents and Teachers But Won't Help Kids

Fri, 22 Dec 2017 09:00:00 -0500

Hundreds of workers at day cares and preschools in the nation's capital will have to get a degree in early childhood education or a related field by 2020, thanks to a mandate approved last year by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). The rule jeopardizes workers' jobs if they don't comply, and it creates a new barrier to entry for the child care business. It's also likely to hike costs for parents in a city where child care is already unusually expensive. The OSSE is now thinking of postponing the degree requirement until 2023. A public comment period on the possible change ended this week, and a decision is expected sometime early next year. Instead of merely postponing the new mandate, the OSSE should "scrap it entirely," says Jill Homan, whose 1-year-old daughter attends a day care program in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. "If you can push it out a couple years, then why not 2043? It becomes a very arbitrary date," she tells Reason. "If they're lacking a specific skill...teach them whatever they are missing. But if you can't articulate what skill they are lacking, then why require this additional degree?" Washington already has nearly universal pre-K programs, and teachers in those programs (aimed at four-year-olds) are already required to have a degree in early childhood education. The OSSE's new mandate covers those who provide care and basic education to children between birth and age three. The OSSE says it wants day care providers to have skills rivaling elementary school teachers. But the mandate's supporters haven't identified any specific deficiencies in the current child care workforce. Instead they focus on the supposed benefits of having trained early childhood educators working with children as young as 18 months. "This is a real opportunity to build the profession and set our young children on a positive trajectory for learning and development," Elizabeth Groginsky, the district's assistant superintendent of early learning, told The Washington Post in March. Apparently, "building the profession" may require pushing some qualified people out of it. Dale Sorcher has worked with children aged 18–24 months for more than two decades at the Gan HaYeled preschool in D.C. She has masters' degrees in education and social work, but those don't count for the OSSE's mandate, which requires a degree specifically in early childhood education. She has no intention of going back to school to take the 24 credits for an associates' degree—"which, quite frankly, I could teach," she says—on top of the continuing education requirements for her social work license. If the OSSE absolutely must implement mandatory education for existing teachers and day care providers, the regulatory board should provide it as part of teacher in-service training, Sorcher suggests. "Then it's done on-site during the day when your workforce is there," rather than forcing current workers to attend night school or otherwise a degree program into their lives. The requirement could also have the perverse consequence of exhausted caretakers watching the kids. Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a lengthy look at the consequences of the new mandate. One preschool teacher, Debbie James-Dean, talked about getting up at 4:15 a.m. each day to finish homework before working a full day and then taking classes until after 9 p.m. "After working a full day of caring for our daughter, now they have to go to night school," says Homan. "The last thing I want is her teachers and caregiver to be stressed or tired." The mandate's advocates claim that early childhood education is essential to success later in school and life, echoing the arguments used to expand pre-K programs across the country in recent years. "Early learning begets later learning, and we're really setting up a positive trajectory," Groginsky told The Atlantic earlier this year. Yet studies have found that most educational gains from early childhood education tend to wash out a[...]

Graduate Instructor Who Showed Gendered-Pronoun Debate to Class Is Basically Hitler, Says School

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:30:00 -0500

As Lindsey Shepherd was pleading her case before Wilfrid Laurier University faculty and staff, the 22-year-old Canadian grad student and teaching assistant seemed caught off guard by their demands. Her superiors weren't saying she couldn't show a televised debate over gender-neutral pronouns in the context of a classroom discussion on language—they just needed her to condemn one side of the debate first. To do otherwise, they said, was "like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos." Shepherd neither endorsed nor decried either side of the TV Ontario showdown between controversial University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson and Nicholas Matte, a professor in the Waterloo University women's studies department. In the clip that Shepherd played for first-year communications students, Matte and Peterson argue over whether it's appropriate for professors to address students by pronouns other than "he" and "she"—something Peterson refuses to do. The clip was shown in the context of a class discussion on how language shapes culture and how gender-specific pronouns have caused controversy. "I was not taking sides," Shepherd—who does not agree with Peterson's position—would later tell school authorities. "I was presenting both arguments." After an anonymous student complaint was filed, Shepherd was called into a meeting with her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, another communications school professor, and the university's manager of gendered violence prevention and support. They claimed that Shepherd was "transphobic" and that she needed to keep her "problematic" views out of the classroom. Shepherd pushed back, insisting that she didn't share in Peterson's pronoun point-of-view but thought it was important not to bring her own views into the discussion. "This is basically like playing—not to do the thing where everything is compared to Hitler—but this is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos from Gamergate," Rambukkana said in the meeting. "This is the kind of thing that, departmentally, in terms of critical communications studies, and in terms of the course, of what we're trying to do, is diametrically opposed to everything we've been talking about in the lectures." In a Monday interview with CTV News, Shepherd said she was told "that you can't debate something like this because it causes an unsafe or toxic learning environment. I ended up being called transphobic and someone who causes harm and violence." Going forward, she would have to file all lesson plans in advance and expect random drop-in reviews, the tribunal told her. Shepherd said she was speaking out because situations and attitudes like these hurt the core mission of college education. "I think it's dangerous to say that a topic is off the table just because it might be a little bit controversial," she told CTV. When Shepherd first went public with her story in early November, the Ontario-based university was both dismissive and defensive. In an initial statement, Wilfrid Laurier President Deborah MacLatchy said that "as a responsible employer," the university is "obligated to abide by government regulations, human rights legislation and our own university policies"; "to this end," it had hired a third party "to gather the facts of the situation and assess them in a deliberate, fair and respectful manner." The bizarre statement went on to suggest there are some ideas that may be worth discussing, but can't because of bureaucracy. "I believe that as a university community we need to have more conversations about how academic expression happens throughout our institution," wrote MacLatchy. But "to be focused and constructive, these conversations should take place outside of the specific contexts that, for good reason, are often constrained by privacy legislation, employer regulations, and other legal requirements." Shepherd was not impressed. "This was an opportunity for the uni[...]

Fearing 'Terrorism,' Middle School Cancels D.C. Trip

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 10:15:00 -0500

A middle school in Ohio has cancelled its 3-day student trip to Washington, D.C. Why? Because of terrorism, say school officials.

What the officials don't mention is their own inability to process the idea that just because the world is not perfectly safe does not mean that it is terribly dangerous. Not to mention their misguided sense that adults can control the entire world in all of its complexity simply by clutching kids closer.

As The Washington Post reports:

School officials told parents of the 320 eighth-graders at the beginning of the year that the trip would be canceled "if at any point we felt that the safety of our students and staff may be compromised," according to the letter sent Nov. 8 by North Ridgeville Academic Center Principal Amy Peck, trip adviser Brittany Cioffoletti and Jim Powell, the school district's superintendent.

"Sadly, we have reached that point," the letter continued. "Since our parent meeting, we have mourned with many across the country at the loss of lives in Las Vegas, Manhattan and Texas. [Recently,] a man was arrested near the White House after he made threats to the lives of our capital's police force. All of these incidents at 'soft targets' and public places have led to our difficult decision to cancel this year's trip . . . As you know, the safety of our students and staff is our main priority, and we feel that the risk of travel to Washington, D.C., is not worth the potential for tragedy."

Is allowing parents to drive their kids to and from school worth the potential for tragedy? Because the number one way that kids die is as car passengers, not as terrorism victims. As one Washington Post commenter asked, "Are there no math teachers at this school?" The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are astronomically low. So are the odds of being able to predict where the next "soft target" will be. What if the administrators cancelled the D.C. trip and said, "Instead, we're going someplace really safe: a small church in Texas"? We cannot predict everything that is going to happen.

It is not prudence at work here; it is the feeling that if anything terrible did happen, it would be the school's fault. Many parents can relate to that feeling. As the Post story continues:

"As a superintendent, every time we send kids on these kind of trips, I worry about it the whole time they're gone," [Powell] said. "It's a lot of responsibility."

But worry and responsibility are two different things. Responsibility is what you take to make the variables under your control safer. As superintendent, you put a stop sign in front of the school. You run some fire drills.

But it is not any human's responsibility—or ability—to predict and avoid the rarest and most random of fates.

Nonetheless, when something bad happens to a child outside the home, it is often framed as negligence—Why did the parents allow it?—though if a child falls down the stairs at home, it is usually framed as an accident.

That's why so many people are so scared to let their kids do anything, from playing outside to visiting D.C. They know that if something should go wrong, however unpredictable it may be, they are likely to be blamed.

Are Your Kids Too Fragile? How to Make the Next Generation More Resilient.

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:27:00 -0400

If you're a parent of a child under the age of 12, here's a question for you: When is the last time you let them walk to school by themselves, have an unscheduled play date, or—God forbid!—let them to go to the store to pick up a gallon of milk by themselves? Kids today are tagged, surveilled, and tracked like endangered species. Is it any wonder that our college campuses now rush to provide safe spaces and panic rooms to protect young adults from speakers and materials they might find disturbing? To discuss the changes in American childhood—and what to do about them—Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) and a contributor to Reason. Skenazy is launching a new non-profit called Let Grow, along with psychology professors Jonathan Haidt and Peter Gray, and Daniel Shuchman, who's the chairman of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Skenazy and Haidt make the case for Let Grow in a feature story in Reason's December issue. Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Meredith Bragg. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Gillespie: What has changed and what defines American childhood now? Skenazy: Kids are supervised all the time and the idea of letting a kid out unsupervised has become so unusual that that's when people ... when people see a kid walking outside, sometimes they call 911 'cause they don't know. I mean, should a child ever be unsupervised? Then the cops come and they don't know, isn't that dangerous? It's constant supervision of one sort or another. Gillespie: In the story, you mention an incident where a kid was outside chopping wood and the police end up showing up. Skenazy: Right. So a kid was outside chopping wood in the suburb of Chicago, which is, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He was in his teens and a person walked by, saw the kid, thought, 'Oh my God, a child, an axe, anything terrible could happen.' Called 911, the police came, 'Why do you have an axe, why are you chopping wood here?' And he's like, 'I wanted to build a fort, me and my friends were going to build a fort.' Well, they confiscated, the police confiscated, the axe and he had another tool and they gave them to his parents for safe keeping. To me, that's the land of Lincoln. There's a history of- Gillespie: Abe Lincoln would have been picked up on the first of 12 miles he was walking to school and put in the pokey until his parents came to pick him up. Skenazy: Right, or given a little extra homework and some reading or something that would really develop him because chopping wood and building something and doing something with your friends and having any autonomy, all those are terrible. What's really important is a little more homework. Gillespie: You've been writing about this for years now, calling attention to it and the story that got you started on this was when you let one of your kids ride the subway home in New York, which made you into the 'World's Worst Mom.' Skenazy: Right, first it made me America's Worst Mom and then it grew. Gillespie: Now you're battling it out to be the World's Worst Mom on Mars and the gas giant planet. Skenazy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, those aliens planets. Gillespie: Tell us about ... what was that story and why was that emblematic really of what you're talking about with Let Grow? Skenazy: I let my nine-year-old ride the subway alone because he had been asking if he could do it and we decided it was safe and smart and good cause he was familiar with the subways and so are we. We let him go, I wrote a column about it and two days later I was on the 'Today Show,' MSNBC, Fox News and NPR. I got described as America's worst mom. I struggled with why for a [...]

Just How Much Did Nancy MacLean Get Wrong?

Wed, 25 Oct 2017 09:10:00 -0400

Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, an error-filled screed against Nobel Prize–winning economist James Buchanan, is one of five finalists for a National Book Award. Is that honor deserved? It is worth considering, as the award's nominators did not, that nearly every reviewer with actual independent knowledge about her book's topics has pointed out a startling range of errors of citation, interpretation, narrative, and fact. (This includes my own review in the October Reason, in which I demonstrate that a central element of her historical narrative—that in the 1990s Buchanan's ideas became the secret influence behind the political machine run by billionaire Charles Koch—is based on an absurd and unsupportable reading of the only textual evidence she offers.) MacLean still refuses to engage any of her critics on points of substance. Economic historian Phil Magness, currently teaching at Berry College, has been one of MacLean's most diligent critics. In his review of her book for Modern Age, Magness explains that MacLean unambiguously presents the servicing of segregationist politicians as the raison d'être for the TJC's [Thomas Jefferson Center, which Buchanan ran] activities at the University of Virginia. She depicts Buchanan as having "taken his cues from [Virginia senator and leading segregationist] Harry Byrd and Jack Kilpatrick," the segregationist editor of the Richmond News-Leader. In that review and in a series of highly detailed posts on his blog, Magness has delved deeply into that portion of MacLean's book, and especially into her attempts to link the segregationist cause to the work Buchanan and collaborator G. Warren Nutter did pushing for school vouchers in post-Brown Virginia. As Magness notes, MacLean has a pattern of suggesting things she knows she can't prove: MacLean generally stops short of linking Buchanan and Byrd outright, and does so by necessity. There is no evidence the two ever crossed paths in any substantive way. So instead of calling Buchanan a segregationist, she simply contends that he utilized the opportunity of segregation to advance a libertarian school voucher agenda at the expense of black students. To get to Byrd, she advances historically unsupported claims of a connection between Buchanan and Byrd-allied newspaper editor James J. Kilpatrick. But even more so, she relies on Buchanan's own presumed silence on segregation to "read between the lines" of his voucher advocacy and discern a motive that is not evident from any straightforward reading. While taking MacLean's arguments apart, Magness turned up a good deal of evidence that she either missed or ignored: • As early as 1948, Buchanan was writing (as an economic analyst, not as a full-throated moralist) that racial segregation is an "inefficient" system that requires "improvement." As Magness summarized, Buchanan's analysis held that "forcing states with segregation to bear the costs of this inefficiency themselves could become an effective fiscal mechanism to incentivize integration." • The TJC hosted in 1958, and published in 1960, an explicitly anti-segregation talk by one of Buchanan's mentors, Frank Knight. (Among other things, Knight said that "Equality before the law means that there is equal opportunity for everyone to find or make his own place in society. This ideal was dishonored in the breach rather than honored in the observance for some time into the age of liberalism, notably by this country in the matter of racial discrimination.") As Magness explains, "Buchanan hosted Knight for these explicitly anti-segregationist remarks in the spring of 1958, which was also the high water mark of Sen. Harry Flood Byrd Sr.'s 'massive resistance' fight against Brown v. Board. If...Buchanan, Nutter, and the TJC were trying to service the segregationist political establishment of Virginia, as has been charged, then playing host[...]

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 col[...]

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 addre[...]

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.

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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.

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