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All articles with the "Education" tag.

Published: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 06:20:19 -0400


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.

A War on Teachers? Let’s Hope So.

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 00:01:00 -0400

"Are Trump and DeVos waging a war on teachers?" asks the Center for American Progress (CAP). A little reading reveals that by "teachers," the painfully establishmentarian CAP means one-size-fits-few, government-run institutions. Given that such institutions have spent decades waging their own sort of hostilities against children, innovation, and choice, we should certainly hope that the new Education Secretary has some sort of pushback in mind to give kids a better chance at a real education. What gets CAP so hot and bothered is that Secretary Betsy DeVos is a fan of allowing families to make decisions about their children's education with something like the freedom they exercise when deciding on food, clothing, housing, and most other areas of life. "Providing choices to parents promotes increased involvement in their children's education and empowers them to seek out the schools and services that best meet their children's unique educational needs—no matter their zip code, the color of their skin, their family's income, or their own educational backgrounds," she told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies last week. That, and the Trump administration has proposed (don't hold your breath for it to happen) to cut the Department of Education's budget by 13 percent and slightly reduce the federal role in education. DeVos explained these changes to the committee as the result of exasperation that the D.C. behemoth has failed to improve learning after years of wasted effort by bureaucrats who "tried top-down accountability systems driven by rigid rules and requirements, incentivized the adoption of the Common Core, and mandated the implementation of prescriptive school improvement models." And she has a point. "The latest global snapshot of student performance shows declining math scores in the U.S. and stagnant performance in science and reading," the Associated Press reported this past December, citing the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, which looked at students from 70 nations. "We're losing ground—a troubling prospect when, in today's knowledge-based economy, the best jobs can go anywhere in the world," complained DeVos's predecessor, then-Education Secretary John B. King Jr. Is that because government was too tight-fisted, as CAP and its allies would have it? Not so much. "The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects since the federal government began collecting trend data around 1970, despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K–12 system," a 2014 Cato Institute study found. But what about the federal role in all of this? Too tiny? Federal spending per student experienced "a 117 percent increase" between 1984 and 2014, adjusted for inflation, Politifact acknowledged in the course of parsing Rep. David Brat's (R-VA) claims about rising education spending. That means decades of rising expenditures on government schools, and stagnant results at best for students. So, what does work? It's worth noting that there's no one magic bullet, but allowing families to choose how their children are educated means that they can select options that please them, and abandon those that don't. Unsurprisingly, all options that parents can select--including private schools, charters, and homeschooling--are preferred over public schools by Americans when they're asked about their levels of satisfaction. They also produce results. "Students in poverty, black students, and those who are English language learners (ELL) gain significantly more days of learning each year in both reading and math compared to their traditional public school peers," according to a 2013 study. "Detroit charter schools are producing significantly greater gains than traditional public school alternatives — gains that are only slightly smaller than those in New Orleans," writes Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the U[...]

Jeff Sessions Says Social Media, Encrypted Apps Hamper War on 'Modern Slavery'

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 12:07:00 -0400

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a gathering of more than 1,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement agents that he was ready to follow President Donald Trump's orders and "make our country safe again." For Sessions, that entails "mak[ing] the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority." Both were major priorities for the Obama-era Department of Justice and FBI too, so Sessions' bluster is based on a bit of a false premise. But what difference does it make—prioritizing the protection of children and trafficking-victims can't be a bad thing, right? Alas: When it's done by the likes of the Justice Department, it can be. Beyond all the big talk about saving kids, the agency actually allocates most of its anti-exploitation agenda to arresting adult sex workers and snagging people in stings that involve no actual victims. That is, when it's not aiding in the arrests of exploited children themselves. If Sessions' June 6 speech—closing the National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation meeting in Atlanta—signals greater federal investment in status-quo solutions, expect to see even more "human trafficking stings" targeting adults engaged in prostitution, immigrants eligible for deportation, and asset-heavy escort-advertising sites, as well as any broader civil liberties they can plausibly grab along the way. In Atlanta, Sessions warned of the dangers of "emerging technologies," encrypted-communication platforms, social-networking sites, and "the so-called Darknet." These, he declared, are the tools of such "depraved people" as "child pornographers, sextortionists, and human traffickers." "We need to help our fellow citizens know what to watch for, and encourage them to tell us when they see something troubling," Sessions urged. "Nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation." Sessions finished his speech by presenting a video on "the importance of recognizing the signs of child sex-trafficking and reporting suspected crimes." It featured the tagline: "Modern day slavery exists. If you see it, report it." Even the aggressively neutral Politico couldn't avoid making drug war comparisons, describing the video as "hearkening back to the D.A.R.E era" with its "hyperbolic language" and its portrait of "a slippery slope of behavior leading to irrevocable consequences." The idea that every American child is just one smartphone app away from being snatched into sex slavery is absurd, and it bears no relationship to what both anecdotes and data tell us about such matters. But it does make a nice narrative if you want to wage war on pesky encrypted technologies that thwart all sorts of investigators; or to insert more Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security, and FBI agents into community policing; or to get everyone from flight attendants to truck drivers telling federal agents about anyone "suspicious"; or to ensure the continued relevance of an agency whose drug-war glory days are behind it. As Reason's Matt Welch pointed out in January, the Sessions confirmation hearing featured no lack of hysteria about human trafficking. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) began her interrogation by asking about sex trafficking, which she called the second-largest criminal industry in America—a "factually insane claim that will probably give [Sessions] more power," Welch noted: In order for "human sex trafficking" to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, it would at minimum need to supplant illegal narcotics (roughly $100 billion a year, according to a 2014 Rand Corp. estimate), or Medicare fraud (in the ballpark of $60 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office in 2015). So distant is reality from those numbers that even the commonly cited figure of $9.8 billion a year for all trafficking — and keep in mind that human smuggling dwarfs sex trafficking — was given "four Pinocchios" by Washingto[...]

Campus Sex-Crime Investigator Buys Porn With School Account, Gets Glowing Rec from Dean of Students

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 15:16:00 -0400

As deputy Title IX coordinator at the University of Florida (UF), Chris Loschiavo oversaw student complaints related to sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. Meanwhile, he was busy buying BDSM, cyborg, and "erotic torture" porn using his UF email account and publicly interacting with a porn-account on Twitter. UF eventually fired him for this activity, and for potential conflicts of interest involving a high-profile student assault case. Still, the dean of students saw fit to recommend him for a Title IX position at another public university in the Sunshine State. "Fantastic. Incredibly knowledgeable. Amazing work ethic. Strategic. Great collaboration. My very highest endorsement!!!" the recommendation stated. "Hope you get him. He will be a tremendous help to you as you continue to create Florida Poly." All of these adjectives could truly apply—this post certainly isn't meant to imply that purchasing kinky porn or palling around with porn Twitter accounts means one can't be a hardworking, fantastic human being. And while using an account tied to a work email address to buy porn shows a lapse in judgment, it's one that would hardly be worth commenting on were it not for one thing: Loschiavo is part of a regime that threatens students for writing a porn star's name on a quiz, drives professors out of their jobs for writing op-eds that students don't like or syllabuses that they misinterpret, and offers a platform for folks to demand that schools shut down everything from the anonymous social-media app Yik Yak to performances of The Vagina Monologues to fraternities in general. Loschiavo is also the person students are to turn to for reporting sensitive matters regarding sex, violence, and discrimination. When that is your role, going the extra mile not to air your adult-entertainment habits on Twitter or to colleagues doesn't seem like too big of an ask. When Loschiavo's firing became public, UF cited only a conflict of interest related to controversial Title IX case that Loschiavo was overseeing. (Loschiavo had done paid freelance work for a consulting firm on UF work time, and the attorney for a student in the case was associated with the same firm.) Last month, UF Communications Director Margot Winick told The Gainseville Sun that Loschiavo's employment was terminated when the university "learned he used his UF work computer account to purchase pornography." UF Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jen Day Shaw still recommended him for a Title IX coordinator position at Florida Polytechnic University, which he was hired for in April. But in May, after Florida Poly learned of his pornography purchases, it fired him for failing to disclose the information when he was hired. The whole situation seems to have come to light thanks to the Sun, which "received public records that included Loschiavo's emailed PayPal receipts for buying pornography on eBay." Day Shaw resigned from her positions last week after being informed her contract would not be renewed. This isn't the first time the former dean of students has been accused of questionable judgment or conduct. From the Sun: Amy Osteryoung of the law firm Johnson & Osteryoung, which has been involved with Day Shaw in several Title IX cases, said Tuesday's announcement is a positive move. The firm last year filed a complaint with UF alleging Day Shaw mishandled the Callaway case. "The university will be a better place without Ms. Shaw. We consider this to be step one in what we hope will be more steps to come," Osteryoung said. "We have no further comment although we will have in the future." [...]

Another Court Panel Allows Trans Teen to Use Bathroom of His Choice

Tue, 30 May 2017 17:15:00 -0400

Another federal circuit court has weighed in on whether transgender school students should be able to select which bathrooms to use and has ruled in the student's favor. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed an injunction in place telling Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin that it can't refuse to let Ashton Whitaker, 17, use the male facilities. The panel heard the case yesterday. Read the ruling here. Whitaker began transitioning into a male in 2014, is currently taking hormones, and has legally changed his name. His school district, however, is refusing to acknowledge his change unless he's had full reassignment surgery, according to the lawsuit. They've ordered him to use the women's facilities (even though he looks like a male) or a singular unisex bathroom far from his classes to which none of the other students have access. He has sued and today the panel unanimously decided in his favor. They chose Whitaker's interpretation of Title IX (They have to respect his gender identity under the law's restrictions against sex discrimination.) over the school district's interpretation (They're protecting the other students' privacy with sex-based segregation as permitted under the law). The judges were not impressed with the district's insistence they were protecting students from harm, dismissing it as all speculative. The school district had no problems with Whitaker using male facilities until they suddenly did: The School District has not produced any evidence that any students have ever complained about Ash's presence in the boys' restroom. Nor have they demonstrated that Ash's presence has actually caused an invasion of any other student's privacy. And while the School District claims that preliminary injunctive relief infringes upon parents' ability to direct the education of their children, it offers no evidence that a parent has ever asserted this right. These claims are all speculative. This particular federal case matters because it comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an executive branch interpretation of Title IX from under President Barack Obama's administration. Under Obama, the Department of Justice and Department of Education told schools they must accommodate transgender students based on some current court precedents related to sex-stereotype-based discrimination. The Supreme Court had been planning to hear this case, in part to look at whether the court should defer to the executive branch when deciding how to apply the law to transgender students. But after Sessions withdrew the order, the Supreme Court kicked the case back down to the 4th Circuit and ordered a new review. This ruling, then, is not based on any sort of deference to the executive branch on how to interpret Title IX. Instead, the court is using other previous court precedents that determine discrimination on the basis of whether somebody conforms to gender stereotypes is illegal. The panel today determined that Whitaker had a good chance of winning a case that extends that stereotype argument to transgender students. That's exactly what happened with the case the Supreme Court is considering. So the panel decided to leave in place an injunction allowing Whitaker to continue using the men's facilities. This panel ruling doesn't really change the math or arguments in this debate whatsoever. It's really more of a sign that this issue is going to continue coming up in the federal courts until the Supreme Court finally weighs in or until Congress passes some sort of legislation clarifying Title IX (and other sex-focused discrimination laws) one way or the other. Also worth noting: The 7th Circuit is also where the full court ruled that workplace discrimination against people on the basis of being gay or lesbian is also a violation of federal law for the same reason. Even though federal laws don't directly outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual[...]

Brickbat: Recognized for Her Potential

Tue, 30 May 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Officials with the Channelview Independent School District in Texas have apologized after teachers at one junior high school named a 13-year-old girl "most likely to become a terrorist." A school spokesman said the recognition was part of a mock awards ceremony that was supposed to be light-hearted

History Lessons Are Turning My Kid Into a Scofflaw (and I Couldn’t Be Happier)

Tue, 23 May 2017 00:01:00 -0400

"If I'd lived then, I'd have still gone to saloons," Anthony, my 11-year-old son, said as we watched the Ken Burns documentary, Prohibition. "But I'd have carried a gun in case I had to deal with police or militia." He commented after a scene in which Portland, Maine's Mayor Neal Dow—nicknamed "the sublime fanatic"—ordered troops in 1855 to fire on an angry crowd outside City Hall. They had gathered to protest the statewide ban on alcoholic beverages that Dow pushed through in his zeal to make the world a better place as he conceived such a thing. Like most fanatics, sublime or otherwise, the mayor didn't have a lot of patience for disagreement. One man was killed and seven wounded that day by the forces of mandatory sobriety. Interesting, well-produced, and drawing on multiple sources and experts, Prohibition lends itself beautifully to our homeschooling efforts. It does a thorough job of exploring the religious, reformist, and nativist roots of first the Temperance movement and then the push for full-on Prohibition. We've recently studied the Progressive Era and the fight for women's suffrage, and the documentary pulls in those histories, showing how social movements influence one another and often come together to achieve common goals—sometimes good, and other times leading to disastrous exercises in self-righteous presumption like Prohibition. The Prohibition website includes excellent additional material, too, including an activity asking students to decide between two conceptions of the role of government: In a democracy, people should have the freedom to make their own choices and be responsible for their actions. If they want to indulge in destructive personal behavior, that's their business, not the governments. A democratic government is made up of its citizens and a major responsibility of government is to guarantee equal opportunity for all. The government has a duty to alleviate social ills and guarantee that no one is in need. Those competing views of the state play an ongoing role through many of our lessons. Anthony knows my own opinions, and is no doubt influenced by them, but I always make sure to present him with competing viewpoints. Personally, I think the past speaks for itself as to which of those roles works better in practice, but I also see my job as raising my son to be a rational adult, not a clone of me. So when we studied the Progressive Era we worked with a series of Great Courses lectures by a college professor sympathetic to the progressives, online lectures from Hillsdale College that have a broadly conservative tone, readings from Thaddeus Russell's A Renegade History of the United States, and excerpts from Illiberal Reformers by Thomas C. Leonard. Anthony got an earful of would-be reformers decrying poverty and abuses in the world around them, but also disparaging individuals as "plastic lumps of human dough." He read pre-presidential Woodrow Wilson dismissing individual rights as "nonsense," and perused objections that adherence to respect for natural individual rights "prevent us from determining what social or individual tendencies we shall favor, what we shall depress; It will in general prevent us from imposing a social ideal, and compel us to leave a social anarchy." Anthony considered the Great Courses presenter too respectful of self-appointed shepherds who he found to be condescending and bossy, and the Hillsdale lectures overly deferential to religious authority—off-putting, to him, in its own way. To him, the pseudoscientific racism of the era, culminating in calls for eugenics controls and even elimination of whole populations, thoroughly tainted the confidence of the period's reformers that they were uniquely qualified to mold those lumps human of dough they saw all around them. The sort of molding that evangelical Protestants and progressives attempted during Prohibition, f[...]

School Choice Advocates Take Control in Los Angeles

Fri, 19 May 2017 10:45:00 -0400

Two school choice proponents won election to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board this week, and the outcome is going to be a big deal moving forward. Their additions to the board mean that supporters of charter schools and school choice now have majority control over the seven-person panel overseeing one of the largest school districts in the country. The response to the election helps illustrate some of the oversimplifications in analysis of school choice issues. Mother Jones, for example, wants to present it as a simply blue vs. red, Richie Rich-types versus the helpless poor. The headline emphasizes that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos must be thrilled at the election of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez. While it's true that DeVos is a massive fan of school choice and her leadership of the Department of Education will reflect as much, Melvoin and Gonez are hardly cheerleaders of President Donald Trump's administration. In December, Melvoin wrote a commentary at Medium criticizing Trump and DeVos, arguing that the president is using school choice as an excuse to make massive cuts to federal education funding. Gonez's campaign site home page features her in the embrace of a president, but it's Barack Obama (whose re-election campaign she served), not Trump. She champions an endorsement not by religious conservatives, but the Sierra Club. The fact is, Melvoin and Gonez are both Democrats. That school choice and charter schools are extremely popular in Los Angeles is not a reflection of some invasion from the right. Los Angeles remains solidly blue (Hillary Clinton claimed 72 percent of the vote for president across Los Angeles County). But that school choice supporters took the seats in an election held in May (where turnouts are significantly lower) shows precisely how much parents value the ability to control the educational destinies of their kids. Reporting may play up how expensive the race was and how much money wealthy charter supporters spent, but that also downplays how such high spending is necessary to compete with the massive amounts of money education unions in the state pay to influence election outcomes. The political scene in Los Angeles may be heavily dominated by union leadership, but it's also been an incubator for charter schools and school choice options. The school district boasts the biggest charter program in the country, with 250 schools serving 130,000 students. Despite the constant fights between school choice advocates and unions, the district has had charter choices for decades now. The tipping point motivating school choice-loving voters may well have come in April, when the LAUSD school board voted to support three state bills backed by teachers unions that could have severely impacted the operations of charter schools. One bill, which has been shelved for now, would have gutted the appeals process for charter schools rejected by districts and would have allowed a school district to reject a charter school if it would cause a financial hardship for the district. Whenever a student leaves a public school for a charter school, the public school loses some funding. Opponents of the bill argued that it would allow school districts to reject every single charter school that comes along. LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer voted in favor of endorsing the bill. Zimmer's the man Melvoin defeated in order to join the board. Melvoin tells Reason that he's hoping his victory and the shift in power on the board to pro-school choice means that the school board won't have to "re-litigate" the idea of whether the district should support charter schools at every single meeting. But to be very clear, Melvoin has no interest in shifting all LAUSD students into charters or privately operated schools. What he really wants to do is take the lessons learned by successful charters [...]

Wanted: A High School That Starts Classes at a Reasonable Hour

Tue, 16 May 2017 18:51:00 -0400

Via the Facebook page of Kendra Okonski comes a link to the 10-millionth study showing that adolescents need more sleep than regular humans, and that they are given to slow starts in the morning. One of the obvious implications of this is that kids would benefit if high school started later in the morning than it does for 99 percent of students. My own sophomore son gets up around 6:10 in order to show up at a school that gets things rolling at around 7:15 A.M. In a new set of guidelines, the American Society of Sleep Medicine recommends that kids between the ages of 13 and 18 get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Which nobody does, thus compounding the hormone-challenged years with sleep deprivation. Hilarity—and crying jags, fights, depression, bad performance, etc.—ensues. "Early school start times make it difficult for adolescents to get sufficient sleep on school nights, and chronic sleep loss among teens is associated with a host of problems, including poor school performance, increased depressive symptoms, and motor vehicle accidents," guideline author and former AASM president Dr. Nathaniel Watson said in a news release from the group. "Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later gives teens a better opportunity to get the sufficient sleep they need to learn and function at their highest level," he said. More here. For me, one of the surest signs of a state-enforced monopoly is that most schools, whether public or private, look the same and act the same. About 90 percent of K-12 students go to public schools and while charters, home schooling, and other forms of more personalized and individualized education are gaining steam and changing the status quo, the simple fact is that most kids go to schools that are not all that different than the ones I went to as a kid in the 1970s, or that my parents went to when they were growing up in the goddamned 1930s! School starts in late August or early September and lets out in late May or early June, with requisite vacations that don't take into account parental schedules or the well-observed loss of learning that takes place every summer. And schools start ridiculously early in the mornings and then let out in the mid-afternoon, for reasons that make no sense at all. Don't buy into the myth that we're prisoners of a agricultural-economy schedule, by the way. Even if that were true (and it ain't), those days have long since passed and even farmers these days don't work by an ag calendar. I know there are schools out there that have adjusted their schedules to better edumicate teenagers. It really shouldn't be so rare, though, and I can't imagine it would be if school choice were more robust than it is. The Libertarian Moment—increasing comfort with choice and personalization that is abetted through technological and cultural innovation—has remade and improved every aspect of our commercial, professional, and personal lives. We can produce and consume all sorts of cultural expression on schedules of our choosing, we can work from home or an office, we can live with whomever we want and eat an ever-increasing array of food. And yet when it comes to legally mandated school, our kids are still getting up in the dark at a time when they are not just battling darkness but biology. That should change, and yesterday. Related video: Libertarian Bob Luddy isn't waiting for the public system to change. He's building a chain of low-cost, private schools right now. src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Are American Colleges Racist? Come To a Debate at the Soho Forum

Mon, 08 May 2017 13:30:00 -0400

The next Soho Forum takes in New York City on May 16 and features what promises to be an intense, Oxford-style debate over whether higher education is biased against black Americans. Author Lawrence Ross (follow him on Twitter) thinks so and will argue with Fifth Column podcast co-host Kmele Foster on the topic.

Here are details about the event:

(image) Are American Colleges Racist?

Lawrence Ross and Kmele Foster go head-to-head on Tuesday May 16th, tackling the controversial topic of racism on college campuses. Are college campuses racist against African Americans?

They will debate the following resolution:

"America's colleges have fostered a racist environment that makes them a hostile space for African American students."

For the affirmative:

Lawrence C. Ross Jr. is an author of Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses, as well as many other books that range from history, to current affairs, to fiction. He worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Independent Newspaper and was managing editor of Rap Sheet, hip hop's first West Coast magazine. Ross has lectured at over 300 colleges and universities.

For the negative:

Kmele Foster is a telecommunications entrepreneur and TV host. He is the co-founder and vice president of TelcoIQ, a telecommunications consultancy firm. He is also the chairman of America's Future Foundation. Foster co-hosted Fox Business' The Independents, and currently co-hosts the libertarian podcast The Fifth Column.​

Tickets are almost sold out, so get in fast. This is not a debate to be missed!

Tuesday May 16, 2017

Subculture Theater
45 Bleecker St., NY, 10012
Doors open: 5:45pm
Meeting convenes: 6:30pm
Wine-and-cheese reception: 8:15pm

Tickets must be reserved in advance.

Check out the Reason Podcast, which includes versions of Soho Forum debates.

Last fall, I debated Loyola economist Walter Block about whether libertarians should vote for Donald Trump. Things got...interesting (Block denounced me as "vile" and a "nasty man" while explaining why libertarians should be pro-Trump. Take a listen. More details here.

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Seattle Mayor Proposes Soda Tax To Fight White Privilege

Fri, 05 May 2017 14:15:00 -0400

Determined to silence local critics who have suggested he isn't America's most progressive mayor, Seattle's Ed Murray has packed so much conflicted social justice into a simple soda tax no one in the Emerald City is quite sure what to make of it. After it was suggested to him his proposed two-cents-an-ounce tax on soda sweetened with sugar would be borne disproportionately by the poor and people of color, Murray lowered the levy and included all sweetened drinks, incuding diet soda. If it doesn't doesn't explode from the sheer weight of its daffy intentions, the City Council is expected to consider the proposal sometime in June. Diet drinks, Hizzoner reasoned, were more likely to be consumed by "upper middle class white people." It had become for him "an issue of equity," a way to tackle "white privileged institutionalized racism." Huh? Murray had originally proposed the soda tax during his state of the city address in February. He said he hoped to raise $16 million in its first year to fund everything from an additional year of early public education to subsidies for food stamp recipients to shop at farmers' markets. The rationale, as it has been in other cities silly enough to consider such taxes, was to"dramatically reduce the consumption of these unhealthy products" as an attack on health problems, primarily obesity, in Seattle. The tax, Murray said, would pay the second dividend in better educations and economic opportunity. "Healthy kids get better educations and are more likely to have a brighter future," Murray said. Then came the detractors and all their talk of a regressive tax falling disproportionally on low income and minority Seattle residents. "You know what is really regressive," a defiant Murray asked at an April 27 press conference. "You know what is really taking money out of African American communities? Tolerating an educational system that is failing kids of color everyday, leaving them without a future, and giving them food that will only lead to health problems." While confusing these pristine motives with a diet soda tax on privileged whites, Murray was still unable to stop mau-mauing beverage makers, accusing them of adopting tobacco industry tactics targeting communities of color with a product "that only undermines the health of young people." The people of Santa Fe were apparently unwilling to endure all of this false posturing, roundly rejecting a soda tax referendum Tuesday. City leaders had also dangled educational services funding for lower income families as a sweetener, so to speak. Fifty eight percent of voters rejected it. Voters in lower income districts voted most heavily against it. The supposed elitism of the tax turned many voters off, as did the financial intervention of billionaire Michael Bloomberg who donated $1 million in favor of the soda tax. One anti-tax activist told the Albuquerque Journal after the election that the city should try taxing tofu instead. Murray's case for a soda tax won't be helped by the disastrous results from cities that have gone ahead with these kinds of soda taxes. As Reason has reported, Philadelphia's soda tax—which went into effect in January—has seen price hikes of 30 to 50 percent along with job losses in the beverage industry. has reported that one of the city's largest drink distributors said it will cut 20 percent of its workforce, while an owner of several ShopRite stores said he will cut some 300 jobs. Similarly situated businesses and residents in Seattle are already pushing back on Murray's proposed soda tax. The local Teamsters Union has already come out against it with their Secretary-Treasurer saying that his union "will not support a tax that will put hardworking middle-class Americans out of a job, no matter how well-int[...]

A Better Chance for Native Education

Sun, 30 Apr 2017 06:00:00 -0400

"It's just the epitome of broken," former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said of the Bureau of Indian Education's abysmal track record with Native American students. "Just utterly bankrupt." After Betsy DeVos' recent confirmation to the post Duncan held under Barack Obama, and with the GOP holding majorities in both houses of Congress, the federal government has a rare opportunity to accomplish some much-needed reforms to help children trapped in this system.

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) receives funding from the interior, agriculture, and education departments, serving 48,000 students across 23 states. According to the Government Accountability Office, BIE day schools spent over $16,394 per pupil during the 2009–2010 school year, far above the national public school average of $10,295 per pupil. Despite this, BIE schools are some of the worst in the country, with a graduation rate barely topping 50 percent. In reading, students score an average of two grade levels lower on the National Assessment for Educational Progress than their Native counterparts in non-BIE schools. What's more, these students are disproportionately too poor to access better options.

As a school district under federal jurisdiction, the BIE is an ideal place for the new administration to put school choice into action without interfering with local control. Last April, Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) introduced the Native American Educational Opportunity Act, which would give Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) to eligible students attending BIE schools. Such individualized accounts give families control over the education dollars that would otherwise fund their children to attend public schools. And they're more flexible than vouchers, since they can pay for any approved educational expense, from private school tuition to tutoring, educational software, even therapy for students with special needs.

"School choice is a foreign concept to many tribal communities," testified former Arizona state Sen. Carlyle Begay in support of the bill, "yet it will play an important role in changing the outlook of education on reservations." Begay, a member of the Navajo nation, was educated in BIE schools. As a state senator, he was key to making students on Arizona Native American reservations eligible for the state's ESA. A longtime BIE reform advocate, Begay argues that school choice can help tribal communities reach the cultural self-determination they strive for.

The push for Indian ESAs may now get a second wind. Education Secretary DeVos supported McCain's bill last year, arguing it would "serve as a lifeline to students trapped in literally some of the worst schools in America—it is morally unacceptable to stand by and accept the status quo."

That Time New York's Department of Education Decided to Teach Kids What an 'Oreo' Is

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:35:00 -0400

For your "They Used to Do Children's Television Differently" files, here's a moment from the '70s show Vegetable Soup. Produced by the New York State Department of Education from 1975 to 1978, this multicultural-themed series aired on both PBS and NBC; the scene embedded below celebrates black slang. Not a bad idea for a segment. But at the 1:01 mark they casually throw in an expression that these days would've been vetoed long before the show got to air:

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For the full episode, which originally aired in 1975, go here. For a nightmare-nostalgia look back at the surreal and disturbing side of the show, go here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.

End the Ed? Rep. Massie Says Department of Education’s Days Could Be Numbered

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:35:00 -0400

In the days leading up to Betsy DeVos' confirmation to head the U.S. Department of Education, staffers for U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) were fielding dozens of calls every day from people urging the representative to vote against her nomination. Of course that was impossible. Confirmation votes take place in the Senate, not the House, where Massie is a member. Still, Massie says he was moved to action. On the same day—at nearly the exact same moment, thanks to text messages with Sen. Rand Paul, Massie says—DeVos got confirmed by the Senate, Massie deposited into the hopper on the floor of the House a one-sentence-long bill calling for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education. Now, when they receive complaints about DeVos, Massie's staff informs callers that the congressman is trying to get her fired. "I've got nothing against DeVos," says Massie. "It's really that I want to eliminate her position." In remarks delivered Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, Massie admitted that his bill has a "slim chance" of passing Congress in its current, terse form. He hopes the bill will "start a discussion" and believes there's a good chance of passing something that eliminates portions of the Department of Education or otherwise trim the department's budget or role in American education. Eliminating the department's 4,500 Washington-based employees would save more than $400 million annually in government overhead costs, something that might find some favor with lawmakers struggling to grapple with the federal government's dire financial situation. And then there's the man in the White House. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a new executive order directing the Department of Education to review its own activities and determine if it has overstepped its authority, as The Washington Post and others have reported. Trump and DeVos also have talked about plans to eliminate Title II funding for teacher and administrator training along with cutting other aspects of the department's budget. "We may have a president, for the first time since Reagan, who would actually sign this bill if it shows up at his desk," says Massie. "I think there is a reason to take it seriously." Catherine Brown, vice president for education policy at the Center for American Progress, disagrees. "It's one sentence," said Brown, who also spoke Wednesday at Cato's event. "In my view it's not a serious proposal. It would take much more than one sentence to dismantle this agency." It's true that a one-sentence bill does not allow for much detail about how the various functions of the Department of Education would be offloaded to other departments or handed down to the states. Practically, those details would have to be worked out during the legislative process, Massie says. There are likely three directions things could go, if the bill gets far enough for that debate to happen. Some programs in the Department of Education could be shifted to other parts of the government. Student loan programs could run through the Treasury, or job training programs could be moved into the Department of Labor, in the same way that school lunch programs are already run by the Department of Agriculture, for example. Brown says that would mean a lot of shuffling around and extra spending on moving trucks, but would not yield much budgetary savings. A second option would be block granting those programs down to the states, essentially letting each state decide whether it wants to prioritize, say, higher education subsidies or pre-K programs. That would allow for state-level experimentation, Massie says, letting state governments find new and bett[...]