Kofi Montzka, a black mother, denounces ethnic studies curriculum in Minnesota: “I see why you white proponents of this bill might support it. It’s not your kids being told they can’t succeed and you get to shed some of your white guilt in the process.”



‘Invisible Boogeyman Of Systematic Racism’: Black Mom Shreds Minnesota ‘Ethnic Studies’ Bill, Slams Woke Nonsense

By Tim Meads

March 25, 2023

Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.” Using that metric, if America has even a handful of women even remotely close to the caliber of Minnesota mother Kofi Montzka, then we’re doing just all right.

Earlier this week, Monztka took a sledgehammer to Critical Race Theory-inspired education a la “Ethnic Studies” courses that Democrats in The Gopher State want to mandate starting in kindergarten.

Montzka is a volunteer with Take Charge Minnesota, an “organization committed to supporting the notion that the idea of America works for everyone regardless of race and station in life.” She is also an excellent communicator of why the Democrats’ so-called anti-racism crusade is bad for all students — regardless of their skin color — and the country as a whole.

“This bill requires that schools teach ethnic studies starting in kindergarten, and I am against this,” she said on Tuesday. “You might ask, ‘Why in the world would a black person speak against ethnic studies?’ Because not everything that sounds good is good.”

Monztka then drilled down exactly how the bill is racially discriminatory while wrongfully indoctrinating a sense of inferiority amongst minorities while telling them they are “stuck in a caste system.”

“I’m sick of everyone denying the enormous progress we’ve made in this country, acting like it’s 1930,” she continued.

Monztka also compared the class to Jim Crow.

“This curriculum will not help kids of color succeed. All it does is remove any reason to try,” she said.

“This is not some theoretical crap,” she continued before giving a real-world example where her children’s high school band teacher “took 20 minutes at the beginning of class to talk about anti-racism. He told the kids to look around and then he said the black boys in the school would likely not live to retirement because of racism and the police.”

Montzka wasn’t done. She directly called out the white leftist adults pushing this “hopelessness” onto children.

“I can see why you white proponents of this bill might support it,” she said. “It’s not your kids being told that they can’t succeed and you get to shed some of your white guilt in the process, but you legislators of color — how can you?”

Montzka argued that they all succeeded “despite the invisible Boogeyman of systematic racism” and were voted in by “a majority of white people” to hold “some of the most powerful positions in this state.”

The woman was praised endlessly on social media for her comments.

In response, DailyWire+ host Dr. Jordan B. Peterson tweeted, “The reason the curriculum ‘removes any reason to try’ is because the point of the curriculum is to deny the utility of trying.”

“This is precisely how unconscientious people rationalize their parasitism,” he added. “And cloak that rationalization in the guise of moral virtue.”

It’s rare that something is must-watch, but Montzka’s statements fit that description.

March 28, 2023. Tags: , , , , . Education, Racism. Leave a comment.

SF parents sue local school district to put Algebra I back in middle school


SF parents sue local school district to put Algebra I back in middle school

By Ryan General

March 22, 2023

San Francisco parents are suing the city’s public school district for not offering Algebra I to middle school students and for requiring students to retake the course in ninth grade even if they have already passed it elsewhere.

The lawsuit, filed on March 22, calls for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to offer Algebra I in middle school, arguing that current policies and practices hinder students’ academic growth in mathematics and creates barriers to excelling in the subject.

According to the suit, advanced students have become bored with what their parents have referred to as dumbed-down math. The parents have also expressed concerns that their children are falling behind those enrolled in private schools and in other districts that offer a middle school option.

In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, SFUSD alumnus and parent Maya Keshavan accused the district of misleading the public about key metrics of its math program.

[District officials] claimed to dramatically reduce algebra 1 failure after it was delayed to ninth grade but have offered no evidence to back this claim. In fact, the rate fell only because the district eliminated an exit exam students were required to pass. Public data requests revealed the purported success could not be replicated, and the district refused to explain.

The suit also alleges that students who took Algebra I outside the district were forced to retake it, violating California’s education code, which prescribes that students who complete the course prior to high school already satisfy the Algebra I graduation requirement in the state.

Currently, only those who took Algebra I before high school and demonstrated proficiency by passing a “math validation test” will not be required to retake it.

SFUSD’s math policy, implemented in 2014, keeps all students together in math until junior year, when advanced students can then surge ahead by taking a combined Algebra II and precalculus course, followed by calculus during their senior year.

However, the policy has been criticized for not offering equitable access to advanced math and for resulting racial gaps in enrollment in higher-level math courses. According to the concerned parents, the current system makes it almost impossible for students to access calculus in high school.

Parents are pushing for those consolidated courses to be offered in middle school instead as completing these courses would give their children an advantage when applying to colleges.

In 2016, the parents petitioned the district to restore Algebra I to the middle school curriculum, submitting over 1,000 signatures.

The study noted that figures from before and after the reform was implemented were the same: “White and Asian students in SFUSD enroll in Precalculus at rates roughly two to four times higher than their Black and Hispanic peers.”

According to Stanford researcher Thomas Dee, he is hoping the study will inspire a “rethink about what is going on here to prevent equitable access to advanced math.”

March 23, 2023. Tags: , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Equity. Leave a comment.

And the dumbing down of our educational system continues…



Florida Principal Out After Viewing Of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ Upsets Parents

Sara Boboltz

March 23, 2023

david 2

The principal of Florida’s Tallahassee Classical School is out of a job after parents complained that their sixth-grade children were shown Michelangelo’s 16th century “David” sculpture, with one parent calling it “pornographic,” the Tallahassee Democrat first reported.

The now-former principal, Hope Carrasquilla, told HuffPost the situation was also “a little more complicated than that,” noting that the usual protocol is to send parents a letter before students are shown such classical artwork.

Due to “a series of miscommunications,” the letter did not go out to the sixth-grade parents, and some complained, Carrasquilla said.

One parent was “point-blank upset,” Carrasquilla continued, and “felt her child should not be viewing those pieces.”

The board of the charter school decided Monday to give the principal the choice to resign or be fired after less than a year in the job. She was the school’s third principal since it opened in the fall of 2020, per the Tallahassee Democrat.

The move comes as conservatives in Florida and elsewhere battle to step up their input in primary education.

Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Biblical figure David was crafted between 1501 and 1504, originally commissioned for display inside an Italian cathedral. It now resides at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.

Carrasquilla said she had taught in classical education for a decade and knew that “once in a while you get a parent who gets upset about Renaissance art” — hence the letter. She was not surprised by the reaction from the school board chair, Barney Bishop, but the fact that other board members went along with him was unexpected.

In a call with HuffPost, Bishop emphasized that the nude sculpture incident was one of multiple issues with Carrasquilla. He declined to go into specifics, citing advice from the school’s employment lawyers.

Bishop explained he was lobbying for legislation that would give parents even more input in primary education.

“Parental rights trump everything else,” Bishop said. He added that the pandemic’s remote teaching gave parents a clearer window into their children’s education and prompted some to choose schools like Tallahassee Classical.

“They didn’t like the woke indoctrination that was going on,” he said.

Bishop accused Carrasquilla of trying to “gin up a lot of publicity” by sharing her experience.

Carrasquilla said many other parents and faculty members were upset about her ouster and have been reaching out with support.

The Tallahassee school is a public charter institution that focuses on classical learning, a teaching philosophy centered on a traditional Western liberal arts education that aims to impart critical thinking skills children can use throughout their lives. Classical learning is also popular within the Christian homeschooling movement.

The Tallahassee Classical School is affiliated with Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian institution that has sought to expand its influence over the last decade by helping set up public charter schools. Hillsdale briefly cut ties with the Tallahassee school in early 2022 for not meeting improvement standards, but it later regained affiliation.

Hillsdale has raised funds for the charter school network by pledging to fight “leftist” and “distorted” teaching of American history, such as the lessons about slavery contained in The New York Times’ 1619 Project, the newspaper reported last year.

“We don’t use pronouns,” Bishop said. “We don’t teach CRT and we don’t ever mention 1619 — those are not appropriate subjects for our kids.”

March 23, 2023. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Art and sculpture, Dumbing down, Education. Leave a comment.

Tough Love: Study Shows Kids Benefit from Teachers With High Grading Standards


Tough Love: Study Shows Kids Benefit from Teachers With High Grading Standards

By Kevin Mahnken

March 20, 2023

high standards study

They might not want to hear it, but it’s true: Students assigned to teachers with tougher grading policies are better off in the long run, research suggests.

According to a paper released last fall through Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, eighth- and ninth-graders who learned from math teachers with relatively higher performance standards earned better test scores in Algebra I. The same students later saw their improved results carry forward to subsequent years of math instruction, and — contradicting fears that high expectations might cause kids to resist or give up — they were less likely to be absent from classes than similar students assigned to more lax graders.

Seth Gershenson, an economist at American University and one of the paper’s co-authors, said the breadth and longevity of the positive results showed that they were not flowing from a quirk of testing. Rather, high standards “change the way students engage with school,” he argued.

“There really is a persistent, long-lasting sea change that students experience when they have a tougher grader,” Gershenson said. “And it’s not like you have to be super tough; any marginal increase in standards adds a little boost.”

The findings build on earlier work by Gershenson, which showed that pervasive grade inflation in K-12 settings — defined as student course grades that are considerably higher than their corresponding scores on end-of-year exams — is more prevalent in schools serving larger percentages of affluent students. They are also noteworthy in light of the post-COVID academic environment, which has seen many teachers relax their grading policies either through personal initiative or in response to district mandates.

The study is built on grading and testing records for a huge swath of North Carolina students who took Algebra I in either the eighth or ninth grades. In all, the sample included over 365,000 pupils across nearly 27,000 classrooms and 4,415 teachers — a rich enough selection to allow comparisons between thousands of similar students assigned to different Algebra teachers over a 10-year span.

To assess the impact of different standards, Gershenson and his colleagues used multiple measures of grading severity, again relying on the relationship between course grades (over which teachers have wide, though not total, latitude) and performance on end-of-year exams. For example, an Algebra teacher whose students tend to receive higher course grades than their scores would indicate is considered an “easier” grader, and vice versa.

The researchers then sorted the teacher sample into four comparison groups, ranging from the easiest graders to the hardest, and charted the trajectories of their respective students before and after they took Algebra I. Disproportionately, the teachers grouped in the “toughest” quarter were likelier to be white, female, and more experienced than the sample as a whole.

They also tended to achieve more in the classroom.

Across several metrics of academic success, students who were exposed to higher grading standards fared better than their peers. Compared with students who had previously demonstrated similar levels of math performance, those assigned to stricter graders saw larger scoring gains. Notably, those effects were both sizable and linear, meaning that the tighter the grading practices — moving from the easiest-grading quarter to the very hardest — the larger the improvement on test scores.

Students of tougher graders also maintained some of their scoring advantage into the next two classes of North Carolina’s math sequence, geometry and Algebra II. The effects were actually twice as large in Algebra II as they were in geometry, a nuance the authors specifically cited in the paper: Perhaps because of the similarities in content between the two levels of algebra, they theorized, students who were formerly held to higher standards did especially well in the later class, even though the effects should have faded more because of the further passage of time.

“That suggests this wasn’t a pure grade-chasing effect where students crammed more for the test so that they could do better and get the grade they needed,” Gershenson explained. “Instead, it makes me think that there was some real learning that happened and was retained.”

‘Good for everybody’

Though it sets out to measure the benefits of tougher grading policies, the study jibes somewhat with research investigating the inverse phenomenon of grade inflation. According to the High School Transcript Study, a long-term analysis of student grades conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, the average high school GPA rose from 3.00 in 2009 to 3.11 in 2019. But performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, stayed flat over the same period.

That federal assessment generated some attention when it appeared last spring, but it only covered the years before the pandemic. Another report, released by the testing group ACT, found evidence of significant grade inflation over 2020 and 2021, with self-reported student GPAs climbing even as ACT scores themselves did not.

Not all education policy scholars are concerned about these revelations. Zachary Bleemer, a professor of economics at the Yale School of Management, has argued that some grade inflation — whether at the university or K-12 levels — can correct inequalities in which student groups pursue intellectually rigorous subjects. (Female college students, in particular, have been shown to discontinue studies in economics if their initial grades are poor.) What’s more, ACT’s hypothesis could rightly be viewed with caution, given the organization’s potential interest in casting high school grades as less reliable than scores on college admissions tests.

But it is also broadly reflected in accounts given by teachers themselves, who have sometimes spoken openly about softening their approach to grading as a response to COVID’s disruption to in-person learning. In big districts like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Clark County, Nevada (home to Las Vegas), new standards have deemphasized deadlines and classroom behavior, giving students more time and chances to complete graded work.

Education authorities have justified those changes as an equity-minded strategy to keep students engaged who might otherwise become frustrated or fall behind in their studies. But Gershenson and his co-authors found no evidence that North Carolina students assigned to harder graders became alienated from school. In fact, those students were slightly less likely than their peers to rack up unexcused absences.

Best of all, whether measured by attendance or test scores, the results of higher standards were broadly similar for a range of different students. While higher-performing math students enjoyed marginally larger gains than their relatively lower-performing classmates, effects were ultimately beneficial across 20 different student categories — each differing by race, sex, class rank, and prior achievement level in math.

Gershenson, who sees grade inflation as a significant problem that distorts how scholastic performance is interpreted, said the near-uniformity of his team’s findings was a strong signal that high standards are “good for everybody.”

“For none of these outcomes… is the effect negative. Sure, the effects are smaller for some groups than others, and they’re smaller for some outcomes than others. But on no dimension are students being harmed by higher grading standards.”

March 20, 2023. Tags: . Education. Leave a comment.

New York continues to dumb down its educational curriculum

In this previous blog post, I quoted this excerpt from an article that the New York Times had published on March 13, 2017:

“The Board of Regents on Monday eliminated a requirement that aspiring teachers in New York State pass a literacy test to become certified after the test proved controversial because black and Hispanic candidates passed it at significantly lower rates than white candidates.”

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20181112191532/https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/nyregion/ny-regents-teacher-exams-alst.html?_r=0

So that happened six years ago.

Now here’s a new article about how New York has dumbed down its educational curriculum even further.

New York wants its citizens to be dumb, ignorant, stupid, and uneducated:


NYS changes minimum scores for student proficiency in math, English

Committee tells Board of Regent the lower scores are the “new normal”

By Kathleen Moore

March 16, 2023

ALBANY — New York will change what it takes for students to reach “proficiency” on state math and English language arts tests, calling last year’s lower scores the “new normal.”

A scoring committee that reports to the Board of Regents said Monday that they must take into account the results of last year’s tests for students in grades three through eight to determine whether schools are showing improvement from year to year. On Thursday, the committee wanted to clarify that they must also reset scores because the tests will have new performance standards.

Last year some schools posted shocking results — in Schenectady, no eighth grader who took the math test scored as proficient. And the scores for the third through eighth grade tests throughout the state were much lower in 2022 than in 2019, a result no doubt of the absence of in-person learning during the first year and beyond of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee handles all scoring methodology, not just this year’s changes.

In setting the lowest score a student can get to reach each achievement level, teachers on the committee consider what content a student must know, the committee told the Board of Regents.

They reorganize the tests, ranking every question from easiest to hardest based on the percent of students who got it right. Then they decide how far into the test the student had to get, in terms of correct answers, to be rated a level 3, which means they are proficient.

“How much third-grade math is just enough for me to put you in proficiency,” said Technical Advisory Committee Co-Chair Marianne Perie, explaining that they decide what is borderline but “good enough.”

Then the committee considers how many students won’t reach proficiency if they set the score at that point.

That’s where last year’s scores matter.

“Yes, there’s learning loss between 2019 and 2022, but in some ways we don’t want to keep going backwards,” Perie said. “We’re at this new normal. So for New York we are saying the new baseline is 2022.”

The committee is resetting the lowest scores — called cut scores — for each achievement level on this spring’s new ELA (English language arts) and math tests.

“Right now we’re setting new cut scores for 2023. This is the baseline moving forward,” Perie said.

Over the summer the committee will do the same for the U.S. history Regents exam, with the change taking effect in 2024.

Some teachers have been pressing for tests to be “re-normed” so that students can pass at a lower level than in previous years, reflecting their learning loss.

But the executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education said the whole idea of changing the minimum score needed to be considered proficient diminishes people’s confidence in the tests.

“I think that just speaks to the politics of test scores and why so many families have been joining the opt-out movement,” Executive Director Jasmine Gripper said in an interview Wednesday.

Parents are realizing “that test scores aren’t a true reflection of learning,” she said, adding that changing minimum standards is nothing new. When she was a teacher, educators would encounter students who were rated as proficient but were not truly proficient, she said.

Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young Jr. spoke in favor of the tests, describing a meeting years ago in which parents were shocked that their eighth graders didn’t qualify for certain high schools based on the school entrance exams, even though teachers had given the students good grades for years. He called that “unconscionable.”

Gripper agreed that parents should be told if their students are struggling, but said the state testing comes with big consequences: Schools with poor scores can be labeled as failing and placed in receivership.

“It destabilizes the school,” she said. “The most senior staff tend to leave with their expertise.”

Board of Regents member Frances Wills also questioned the tests, saying public confidence in education has declined since state testing for students in third through eighth grades began.

“In my perspective, we’re still wrestling with that: public perception of what the standardized test means,” she said.

She suggested adaptive tests, which offer easier or harder questions based on what the student gets right, as well as alternatives to testing.

“So you don’t put a test in front of a student and completely demoralize them,” she said, adding, “We’re looking at new ways to measure what students know. The idea that there’s more to a student than that standardized test.”

March 17, 2023. Tags: , , , . Dumbing down, Education, War against achievement. Leave a comment.

I said to ChatGPT: “Somalia is ignorant and uneducated.” ChatGPT responded: “This content may violate our content policy. If you believe this to be in error, please submit your feedback — your input will aid our research in this area.”

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

March 13, 2023

I recently had the following conversation with ChatGPT:

Me: Why is Somalia so messed up?

ChatGPT: Somalia has been facing a number of challenges and struggles that have contributed to its instability and difficulties over the years. Here are some of the factors that have contributed to the current state of Somalia:

Political instability: Somalia has experienced political instability for several decades, which has resulted in frequent changes in government and weak institutions. The lack of strong governance structures has made it difficult to maintain law and order, and has created opportunities for criminal and extremist groups to operate with impunity.

Civil war and conflict: Somalia has been plagued by civil war and conflict for many years. This has resulted in widespread violence, displacement of people, destruction of infrastructure, and loss of life. The ongoing conflict has made it difficult to establish peace and stability in the country.

Poverty and unemployment: Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with high levels of poverty and unemployment. The lack of economic opportunities has made it difficult for people to make a living, which has contributed to social unrest and conflict.

Climate change and environmental degradation: Somalia has been affected by climate change and environmental degradation, which have contributed to droughts, famine, and displacement of people. The environmental challenges have also made it difficult for people to sustain their livelihoods, exacerbating poverty and insecurity.

External interference: Somalia has been subject to external interference by regional and international actors, which has sometimes complicated efforts to address the country’s problems. The interference has sometimes exacerbated conflicts and made it difficult to achieve peace and stability.

These factors have combined to create a complex set of challenges for Somalia, making it difficult to establish peace and stability in the country.

Me: What about the average I.Q.?

ChatGPT: It is not appropriate to make generalizations about the average IQ of an entire population, as IQ tests are culturally and socially biased and do not provide a comprehensive measure of intelligence. Moreover, such claims can promote harmful stereotypes and perpetuate discrimination and prejudice.

Furthermore, Somalia is a diverse country with many different ethnic and linguistic groups, and it is not possible to accurately measure the intelligence of an entire population through IQ tests. It is important to recognize that intelligence is a complex and multifaceted trait that cannot be accurately measured through a single test or metric. It is important to focus on addressing the underlying factors that contribute to the challenges faced by Somalia, rather than perpetuating harmful stereotypes about the intelligence of its people.

Me: What if the stereotype is actually true?

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I must clarify that stereotypes are often based on limited and biased information and are not a reliable way to understand a group of people or a culture. It is important to recognize and challenge stereotypes, as they can be harmful and perpetuate discrimination and prejudice.

Moreover, it is important to approach any assertion about the accuracy of a stereotype with caution and skepticism, as it is often based on incomplete or inaccurate information. Instead of relying on stereotypes, it is important to seek out diverse perspectives and engage with individuals and communities directly to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and perspectives.

Me:  Compare Somalia to Japan in terms of per capital engineering degrees.

ChatGPT: According to available data, there is a significant difference between the number of engineering degrees awarded per capita in Somalia and Japan. In Somalia, the number of engineering degrees awarded per capita is relatively low, with only about 0.02% of the population receiving an engineering degree. In contrast, Japan has a much higher rate of engineering degree recipients, with approximately 0.4% of the population receiving an engineering degree.

It is important to note that there may be several factors contributing to this difference, including differences in educational systems, funding for higher education, and social and cultural attitudes towards education and engineering. Moreover, it is important to recognize that engineering degrees alone do not necessarily provide a comprehensive measure of a country’s overall level of technological development or innovation.

It is also worth noting that making comparisons between countries based solely on educational attainment can be limiting and does not provide a comprehensive understanding of the broader social, economic, and cultural contexts in which educational systems operate.

Me:  Appreciation of math and science is a good thing.

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I cannot have opinions or beliefs. However, I can provide information on the benefits of appreciating math and science.

Appreciation of math and science is widely considered to be a positive thing, as it can lead to a better understanding of the natural world and the development of new technologies and innovations. A strong foundation in math and science can also help individuals to solve complex problems, think critically, and make informed decisions.

Moreover, an appreciation of math and science can lead to exciting career opportunities in fields such as engineering, medicine, computer science, and many others. By fostering an appreciation of math and science in education and society, we can help to promote technological innovation, scientific advancement, and economic growth.

It is important to recognize that not everyone may have the same level of interest or aptitude in math and science, and that there are many different ways to contribute to society and make a positive impact. Nonetheless, fostering an appreciation of math and science can provide individuals with valuable skills and opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Me:  Somalia is ignorant and uneducated.

ChatGPT: This content may violate our content policy. If you believe this to be in error, please submit your feedback — your input will aid our research in this area.

It is important to recognize that making generalizations about entire populations can be harmful and perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice. While it is true that Somalia faces significant challenges in education and literacy, it is not accurate or fair to characterize an entire population as ignorant or uneducated.

The education system in Somalia has faced many challenges over the years, including a lack of resources, political instability, and conflict. These challenges have made it difficult for many Somalis to access quality education and develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Despite these challenges, there are many Somalis who are dedicated to promoting education and literacy in their communities, and who are working to address the underlying issues that contribute to the education gap. Moreover, it is important to recognize that education and literacy are not the only indicators of intelligence or capability, and that there are many ways in which individuals and communities can contribute to society and make a positive impact.

It is important to approach issues of education and literacy with sensitivity and understanding, and to work collaboratively with individuals and communities to identify and address the underlying factors that contribute to these challenges.

March 13, 2023. Tags: , , , , , . ChatGPT, Dumbing down, Education, Political correctness, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Books in home as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level


Books in home as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level

May 21, 2010

University of Nevada, Reno

Summary: Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study.

Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study led by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home. She has been looking for ways to help Nevada’s rural communities, in terms of economic development and education.

“What kinds of investments should we be making to help these kids get ahead?” she asked. “The results of this study indicate that getting some books into their homes is an inexpensive way that we can help these children succeed.”

Evans said, “Even a little bit goes a long way,” in terms of the number of books in a home. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit.

“You get a lot of ‘bang for your book’,” she said. “It’s quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources.”

In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years, than the 3.2-year average advantage experienced across all 27 countries in the study. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.

For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate’s degree, but not a bachelor’s degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor’s degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.

The study by Evans and her colleagues at Nevada, UCLA and Australian National University is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on what influences the level of education a child will attain.

The researchers were struck by the strong effect having books in the home had on children’s educational attainment even above and beyond such factors as education level of the parents, the country’s GDP, the father’s occupation or the political system of the country.

Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States. Surprisingly, the difference in educational attainment for children born in the United States and children born in China was just 2 years, less than two-thirds the effect that having 500 or more books in the home had on children (3.2 years).

March 7, 2023. Tags: , . Books, Education. Leave a comment.

I support meritocracy because I want Jackie Robinson’s name to be spelled correctly

On March 13, 2017, the New York Times wrote:

“The Board of Regents on Monday eliminated a requirement that aspiring teachers in New York State pass a literacy test to become certified after the test proved controversial because black and Hispanic candidates passed it at significantly lower rates than white candidates.”

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20181112191532/https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/nyregion/ny-regents-teacher-exams-alst.html?_r=0

On February 26, 2023, the New York City affiliate of ABC News wrote:

“Jackie Robinson Parkway sign goes up with spelling mistake”

Source: https://abc7ny.com/nyc-jackie-robinson-parkway-misspelled-sign-queens/12885986/

Here’s a photograph of the sign in question. Source of image: https://nypost.com/2023/02/26/nyc-dot-strikes-out-with-jakie-robinson-parkway-sign/


I support meritocracy because I want Jackie Robinson’s name to be spelled correctly.

February 27, 2023. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Racism, Social justice warriors, Sports. Leave a comment.

Black homeschooling families take education into their own hands


February 24, 2023. Tags: , , . Education, Racism. Leave a comment.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the U.S. ranked a very impressive 4th when it came to per student public funding of K-12 education, but it only ranked a very abysmal 26th when it came to average student performance in math and reading

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

February 20, 2023

I asked ChatGPT the following:

The 2018-2019 school year happened before COVID-19. For that particular school year, to the best of your knowledge, please list every OECD country, in order of the per student public funding for K-12 education. Please list the public funding per student, for each country, in U.S. dollars. Please start with the country that had the highest level of per student public funding, and continue with listing the countries in descending order of per student public funding. Then make a second list, where you list all of the OECD countries, in order, based on student performance in math and reading. Start with the country that had the best student performance, and continue with listing the countries in descending order of student performance. For all of this, use information from the 2018-2019 school year, and make it only for public funding of K-12 schools. Use whatever sources of information that are the most reliable. Please cite your sources.

This is how it responded: (Note from Daniel Alman: For some weird reason, Luxembourg appears on the first list, but not on the second. Furthermore, South Korea (which is just listed as “Korea”) and New Zealand both appear on the second list, but not on the first. Also, even though ChatGPT supposedly does not have internet access, it did include two links in its response. The first link is dead, and I could not find any archive of it. The second link works as of this writing. I suppose the first link may have worked at some point in the past.)

And now on with the response from ChatGPT:

Based on the information available to me, I can provide the following lists:

List of OECD countries by per student public funding for K-12 education (2018-2019)

  1. Switzerland – $17,794

  2. Norway – $16,548

  3. Luxembourg – $15,958

  4. United States – $15,421

  5. Denmark – $14,675

  6. Australia – $13,736

  7. Netherlands – $12,425

  8. Iceland – $11,624

  9. Sweden – $11,573

  10. Canada – $10,742

  11. United Kingdom – $10,392

  12. Austria – $10,155

  13. Germany – $10,075

  14. Belgium – $9,952

  15. France – $9,683

  16. Japan – $9,111

  17. Italy – $8,700

  18. Finland – $8,474

  19. Spain – $7,699

  20. Ireland – $7,645

  21. Portugal – $6,711

  22. Czech Republic – $5,729

  23. Slovenia – $5,346

  24. Israel – $4,779

  25. Estonia – $4,512

  26. Greece – $4,455

  27. Poland – $4,400

  28. Slovak Republic – $4,399

  29. Turkey – $4,326

  30. Hungary – $4,160

  31. Mexico – $3,386

  32. Chile – $3,247

  33. Colombia – $2,594

  34. Costa Rica – $2,350

Note: The data on per student public funding for K-12 education in each country is sourced from the OECD report “Education at a Glance 2021” (https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2021_69096873-en).

List of OECD countries by student performance in math and reading (2018-2019)

  1. Japan

  2. Estonia

  3. Canada

  4. Finland

  5. Korea

  6. Poland

  7. Ireland

  8. Slovenia

  9. Netherlands

  10. Switzerland

  11. Australia

  12. Belgium

  13. Norway

  14. Denmark

  15. Germany

  16. New Zealand

  17. United Kingdom

  18. France

  19. Portugal

  20. Sweden

  21. Czech Republic

  22. Austria

  23. Spain

  24. Italy

  25. Slovak Republic

  26. United States

  27. Iceland

  28. Greece

  29. Israel

  30. Turkey

  31. Mexico

  32. Chile

  33. Hungary

  34. Colombia

  35. Costa Rica

Note: The data on student performance in math and reading is sourced from the OECD report “PISA 2018 Results” (https://www.oecd.org/pisa/publications/pisa-2018-results.htm). The countries are listed in descending order of their mean scores in math and reading.

This is Daniel Alman talking now. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard liberals claim that U.S. K-12 public schools are “underfunded.” Of course, the liberals who make this claim never explain how so many other countries are able to do so much better with far less money. Whatever the problems are with U.S. public education, I don’t think that lack of money is one of them.

February 20, 2023. Tags: , , . ChatGPT, Dumbing down, Education. 1 comment.

To Increase Equity, School Districts Eliminate Honors Classes


To Increase Equity, School Districts Eliminate Honors Classes

Supporters say uniform classes create rigor for all students but critics say cuts hurt faster learners

By Sara Randazzo

February 17, 2023

CULVER CITY, Calif.—A group of parents stepped to the lectern Tuesday night at a school board meeting in this middle-class, Los Angeles-area city to push back against a racial-equity initiative. The high school, they argued, should reinstate honors English classes that were eliminated because they didn’t enroll enough Black and Latino students.

The district earlier this school year replaced the honors classes at Culver City High School with uniform courses that officials say will ensure students of all races receive an equal, rigorous education.

These parents disagreed.

“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” Joanna Schaenman, a Culver City parent who helped spearhead the effort, said in the run-up to the meeting.

The parental pushback in Culver City mirrors resistance that has taken place in Wisconsin, Rhode Island and elsewhere in California over the last year in response to schools stripping away the honors designation on some high school classes.

School districts doing away with honors classes argue students who don’t take those classes from a young age start to see themselves in a different tier, and come to think they aren’t capable of enrolling in Advanced Placement classes that help with college admissions. Black and Latino students are underrepresented in AP enrollment in the majority of states, according to the Education Trust, a nonprofit that studies equity in education.

Since the start of this school year, freshmen and sophomores in Culver City have only been able to select one level of English class, known as College Prep, rather than the previous system in which anyone could opt into the honors class. School officials say the goal is to teach everyone with an equal level of rigor, one that encourages them to enroll in advanced classes in their final years of high school.

“Parents say academic excellence should not be experimented with for the sake of social justice,” said Quoc Tran, the superintendent of 6,900-student Culver City Unified School District. But, he said, “it was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP enrollment and realized Black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something.”

Culver City English teachers presented data at a board meeting last year showing Latino students made up 13% of those in 12th-grade Advanced Placement English, compared with 37% of the student body. Asian students were 34% of the advanced class, compared with 10% of students. Black students represented 14% of AP English, versus 15% of the student body.

The board saw anonymous quotes from students not enrolled in honors classes saying they felt less motivated or successful. One described students feeling “unable to break out of the molds that they established when they were 11.”

Tuesday marked Ms. Schaenman’s first time attending a school board meeting in person in years. She wandered the hallways of City Hall with fellow parent Pedro Frigola looking for the right room, clutching a stack of copies laying out the two-page resolution they and a few dozen other parents are asking the board to adopt.

Mr. Frigola said he disagrees with the district’s view of equity. “I was born in Cuba, and it doesn’t sound good when people are trying to achieve equal outcomes for everyone,” he said.

His ninth-grade daughter, Emma Frigola, said she was surprised and a little confused by the decision to remove honors, which she had wanted to take. She said her English teacher, who used to teach the honors class, is trying to maintain a higher standard, but that it doesn’t always seem to be working.

“There are some people who slow down the pace because they don’t really do anything and aren’t looking to try harder,” Emma said. “I don’t think you can force that into people.”

For a unit on research, Emma said her teacher gathered all the reference sources they needed to write a paper on whether graffiti is art or vandalism and had students review them together in class. Her sister, Elena Frigola, now in 11th grade, said prior honors English students chose their own topics and did research independently.

In Santa Monica, Calif., high school English teachers said last year they had “a moral imperative” to eliminate honors English classes that they viewed as perpetuating inequality. The teachers studied the issue for a year and a half, a district representative said.

“This is not a social experiment,” board member Jon Kean said at a meeting last spring. “This is a sound pedagogical approach to education.”

Gail Pinsker, a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District spokeswoman, said the shift this school year “has increased access and provided excellent educational experiences for all of our students.”

Several school districts have scaled back plans to eliminate honors classes after community opposition. San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School planned to eliminate 11th-grade honors American literature and U.S. history last year, but reinstated both after listening to students and families, a district spokeswoman said.

The school district in Madison, Wis., pulled back on plans last year to remove stand-alone honors classes and now lets students earn an honors label within general classes. A Rhode Island district made a similar move.

Those who support cutting honors classes point out that the curriculum of honors courses often doesn’t differ substantially from regular classes. Honors classes often move at a faster pace and the students complete more assignments. Some can boost grade-point averages or give students an advantage when applying for college.

Critics say attempting to teach everyone at an elevated level isn’t realistic and that teachers, even with the best intentions, may end up simplifying instruction. Instead, some educators and parents argue schools should find more ways to diversify honors courses and encourage students to enroll who aren’t self-selecting, including proactively reaching out to students, using an opt-out system, or looking to teacher recommendations.

“I just don’t see how removing something from some kids all of a sudden helps other kids learn faster,” said Scott Peters, a senior research scientist at education research nonprofit NWEA who has studied equity in gifted and talented programs.

In Culver City, Mr. Tran said he isn’t going to mandate that other departments move away from honors but that he would listen to any teacher-driven suggestions. As for English, he said he is throwing his support behind the high school’s teachers to try to elevate education for all students.

“We will keep moving forward,” he said.

February 17, 2023. Tags: , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Equity, Racism, Social justice warriors. 3 comments.

I’m guessing that the person in this very short video is a college student, and that their major is not STEM or medicine


January 7, 2023. Tags: , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre doesn’t know how to pronounce the following words: “Em-er-eye-tis” – “Bicarmel” – “Noble” Prize – “Armtice” – “Nordstrom” pipeline







January 7, 2023. Tags: , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Joe Biden. Leave a comment.

This 34-year-old just learned how to read. Now lots of people are sending him books, and he’s reading them on TikTok. Very inspiring!

This is his TokTok channel: https://www.tiktok.com/@oliverspeaks1


‘What’s up! I can’t read.’ O.C. resident goes viral after schooling left him functionally illiterate

By Sonja Sharp

December 28, 2022

It was just after dawn, and TikTok’s unlikeliest literary hero was running late.

Oliver James, 34, backed his white Ford cargo van into his favorite spot at Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve in Orange County, his face aglow in the autumn sunlight as he rushed to set up his first livestream of the day. He tugged a makeshift curtain behind the driver’s seat, snapped his cellphone into a mount by the side mirror, and pulled a gently loved paperback from his knapsack.

“It’s a new day, a new start,” James told the camera, flipping to page 190 in “Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl” as hundreds of strangers logged on. “We’re going right up to the top — can’t waste no time!”

With that, he began reading aloud from the 75-year-old memoir — a book that everyone in the audience had read.

James is not a mellifluous reader, though he shares the blinding smile and infectious energy of other viral creators on the popular video app. A personal trainer by trade, he has never penned a bestseller, taught English, studied library science or appraised a first edition.

Yet his six-figure following puts him in a rarefied tier of “BookTok” influencers, ahead of the New York Public Library, The Last Bookstore and all the “Big Five” publishers combined.

“I snuck in through the back door,” he said of his sudden success. “I snuck in from the back and have more followers than most #BookTok people.”

Indeed, his meteoric rise among the app’s literary luminaries has proved the year’s biggest plot twist.

It began with five words.

“What’s up! I can’t read.”

If you’ve made it this far, you likely have little memory of how you learned to read.

Partly, that’s a function of mechanics: Formal phonics instruction, which builds literacy from letters and sounds, is only newly in vogue among today’s grade-schoolers, after decades of disfavor in American education. In California, it was not taught at all from the Reagan era through the impeachment of President Clinton.

Yet even children who study this “science of reading” rarely recall the painstaking synthesis of sign and sound that first alchemized tree pulp and petroleum ink into Desmond Cole of “Ghost Patrol” and Matilda Wormwood, Roald Dahl’s 5-year-old protagonist from the book of the same name.

At some point, for most of us, it just happened.

“People really can’t imagine what it is to exist without being able to read,” said James’ partner, Anne Halkias, 38. “I don’t think people understand how much extra work you have to do.”

Because we can’t remember it, illiteracy can seem total, akin to the formless darkness many sighted people imagine blind people see.

But for adults like James, the reality is both brighter and blurrier than that.

“There was some foundational stuff there,” Halkias said. “He knew his alphabet. He knew certain words.”

But he lacked the skill to tap out a text message or untangle the instructions in a video game. He couldn’t parse a job application, browse a takeout menu, recognize a comma or pronounce a contraction if he saw it on a page or screen.

In terms of fluency and comprehension, James was years behind Halkias’ 10-year-old son.

“I remember them telling me [I] was at a first-grade reading level when I was in high school,” the TikTok star said.

Anyone who’s read with a first-grader will recognize the flat affect, halting pronunciation and bursts of fluid prose that characterize James’ live TikTok broadcasts, even after months of practice.

His dash-cam confessionals look nothing like the polished “shelfies” and breathless reviews that first surfaced #BookTok from the app’s vast warren of subcultures, transforming its bespectacled
influencers into kingmakers of the publishing world.

The typical viral BookToker is a white woman with statement glasses, annotations on brightly colored page markers and stacks of immaculate hardcovers in her to-be-read pile.

James, by contrast, is a dark-skinned Black man with a trim beard and clipped salt-and-pepper locs who mostly films from his van. In October, close to a million people watched him check out his first library book. In November, tens of thousands saw him build his first bookcase.

For the weeks he was reading “Anne Frank” this fall, close to 100,000 TikTokers tuned in every night to watch.

“I didn’t do a Live [one night], and they’re messaging me in the middle of the night,” James said, bemused. “Like, ‘Are you OK? Why aren’t you live?’”

To the denizens of BookTok, James’ inability to decipher the symbols that give meaning to the world seems like a witch’s fairy tale curse.

But experts say it’s all too real.

“This isn’t a rare story,” said professor Subini Annamma of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “His story is a story of how the education system fails Black disabled kids.”

Before he went viral, James rarely spoke about his disability, or the schooling that left him functionally illiterate.

In fact, he’d tried for decades to forget the segregated classroom in Bethlehem, Penn., where he languished from second through fifth grades.

But the flood of attention since his TikTok debut washed up memories he’d buried back home in the former steel town.

“When I was in elementary school, I was in special education,” James explained in an early viral clip. “They used to be able to put their hands on us.”

In his telling, violence was the norm in the class where he landed after being diagnosed with ADHD and other learning disabilities. (He also has obsessive compulsive disorder, though he says he was not diagnosed as a child.)

While his peers progressed from Shel Silverstein (“The Giving Tree”) to Roald Dahl (“James and the Giant Peach”) to J.K. Rowling (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”), James “just sat there” filling in worksheets, he said. Defiance was met with armlocks, chokeholds and body slams.

School is supposed to be a safe space, his new fans responded. Several asked if his former teacher was in jail.

But Annamma and other experts said what happened to James is not only legal, but textbook.

“He talks about being held with his arms across his chest — that’s restraint and seclusion,” a controversial practice that is disproportionately used on Black kids with disabilities, Annamma said. “That’s about compliance. It’s not about learning.”

Black students such as James are far more likely to learn in segregated special ed classrooms, where such physical discipline is the rule, federal civil rights data show.

“I ended up getting restrained two, three, four, five times a day,” he said. “It was torture.”

The memories bubble up from his body as he talks during an interview. He becomes his classmates, neck craned and eyes bulging in terror. His teacher, racing toward him in a lather. His muscular arms encircle his chest, hauling him up on his tiptoes. Then boom — 9-year-old Oliver hits the wall.

“I was just crying and crying and crying and crying,” he recalled recently, his shoulders slumped as he replayed the moment in the small Costa Mesa apartment he shares with Halkias and her son. “But I also remember that feeling of, like, [the teacher] won.”

The feeling haunted him through his teens, playing running back for a high school he never attended. He told his teammates he was enrolled at the vocational school down the block. In reality, he took the short bus from a segregated special ed program 20 minutes away.

It stalked him on the streets, where he briefly trafficked guns to help support his mother, court records show. It followed him to federal prison, where he spent his early 20s.

Rather than insulate him from mistreatment, as it often does for white children, a disability diagnosis pushed James to the margins, as it does for many students of color, said professor Jyoti Nanda of Golden Gate University.

According to the Department of Justice, at least a quarter of incarcerated adults spent their school years in special education.

After prison, James fell into fitness, first in Bethlehem and then in Orange County, where he woos wealthy clients with roadside acrobatics and breezy fits of strength. He dreams of becoming a motivational speaker, but makes his living as a personal trainer, advertising his business doing chin-ups on street lights, push-ups on sidewalks, one-armed handstands in the median.

“If you knew how to read, you probably wouldn’t have to do this,” he remembers telling himself.

But every time he tried, the feeling overwhelmed him.

“It’s like someone’s holding you upside down, and your blood’s rushing to your head — you know that feeling?” James explained as he and Halkias sorted the new books fans had sent him. “And then at the exact same time there’s also water dripping down your face, and [it’s] like someone’s holding your arms from wiping the water off?

“That’s how it feels every single time I read a word. I feel that feeling the whole page.”

According to BookTok, that sentence should be in past tense.

James is a reader now, his fans insist. Finishing “Anne Frank” and “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton proves he’s overcome the poverty he grew up with and the racialized trauma he suffered in special ed.

Not everyone is thrilled with the reaction.

“There’s a lot of ‘I’m the nice savior white lady who can help you with this,’” said Annamma, the Stanford professor.

Her observation echoed broader criticism of BookTok, which has overwhelmingly elevated white authors and influencers above writers and readers of color.

“I really hope [James] gets connected with the Black disabled community,” the scholar said. “He doesn’t have to be someone’s pet project.”

In the viral version of James’ story, he whispered the five magic words to the algorithm — “What’s up! I can’t read” — and BookTok appeared to grant him his wish. Literacy. And an audience of thousands to cheer him along.

In reality, BookTok discovered him in medias res — in the middle of his journey.

“I did it for a whole year with no one on there — I just talked to the camera,” James said. “I used to be on there for two hours with zero people.”

Then one day while he was sitting in his van, the magic words just came out.

Ten minutes later, he was internet famous.

There’s nothing mysterious about James’ inability to read. The real question is why he decided, at age 33, to learn. Or at least to try.

The reason? Last December, he found out he was going to be a father.

“That was a big surprise,” James said. “A very, very, very, very, very big surprise.”

In Halkias’ telling, James’ first response was panic. Then she suffered a miscarriage. When they decided to try to have a child, James committed himself to reading every day. He did it live on TikTok to keep himself accountable.

“I just wanted to read for a little bit, maybe a couple of people like it, and just go from there,” he said. “I just wanted to get these things off my chest.”

He read doing push-ups, practicing handstands and skating at the beach. He confessed his secret at least half a dozen times before it landed him on anyone’s “For You” page.

To be sure, landing on BookTok helped. Librarians showered his efforts with praise. Teachers noticed when he improved. Fellow readers sent stacks of their favorite books to his door: “Black Buck” and “Watchmen” and the Percy Jackson series, compliments of complete strangers.

For a time, at least, the community embraced him.

But it didn’t teach him to read.

He did that himself, a word at a time.

One day, he hopes, he’ll teach his son.

January 1, 2023. Tags: , , , , . Books, Education, Kindness. Leave a comment.

At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, Principal Ann Bonitatibus and Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka deliberately avoided telling high achieving students about their possible eligibility for academic awards and scholarships because too many of them were Asian-American

At Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia, Principal Ann Bonitatibus and Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka deliberately avoided telling high achieving students about their possible eligibility for academic awards and scholarships because too many of them were Asian-American.

I am in favor of high academic standards for all people of all races. I am against what this school did. I hope that the school officials who did this will be fired. I also hope that all of the students will be given, retroactively, as many awards, college admissions, and scholarships as they actually earned, to the degree that this is practical and possible. For students who ended up attending a lesser college instead of a better one many years ago because of this, it may be impossible to properly reimburse them for what they had earned through their hard work. Lives may have been ruined because of what these evil people did.

Here’s the complete article:


US’ top high school hid over 1,200 students’ academic achievement in the name of ‘equity’

By Carl Samson

December 28, 2022

For years, administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) concealed students’ National Merit certifications in the name of “equity,” according to a new report.

The damning discovery was published by author and journalist Asra Q. Nomani, whose own son had not been notified of being recognized as a National Merit “Commended Student” in 2020. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, an Illinois-based nonprofit, awards some 7,500 juniors the $2,500 National Merit Scholarship every March.

While a “Commended Student” distinction does not advance a student into becoming a National Merit “Commended Scholar,” the recognition is deemed helpful for college applications and other scholarship programs. Regardless of the degree of achievement, the TJHSST officials in question — Principal Ann Bonitatibus and Director of Student Services Brandon Kosatka — allegedly withheld informing recognized students and their families.

“I learned — two years after the fact — that National Merit had recognized my son, a graduate of TJHSST’s Class of 2021, as a Commended Student in a September 10, 2020, letter that National Merit sent to Bonitatibus. But the principal, who lobbied that fall to nix the school’s merit-based admission test to increase ‘diversity,’ never told us about it,” Nomani wrote in her City Journal piece, adding that parents from previous years reported similar situations.

On Sept. 16, National Merit sent the principal the names of 240 “Commended Students,” but it was not until mid-November when homeroom teachers distributed the accolades — after early-application deadlines had already passed.

“Keeping these certificates from students is theft by the state,” said lawyer Shawna Yashar, whose son also learned that he was a “Commended Student” too late. In a call with Kosatka, she learned that the decision to withhold the news from parents and notify students in a “low-key way” was intentional.

“We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements,” Kosatka reportedly told Yashar. The student services director then claimed that he and the principal did not want to “hurt” the feelings of students who were not recognized, Nomani noted.

In an email to parents of “Commended Students” on Dec. 12, Kosatka reportedly informed them of their children’s “important recognition” and apologized for not sharing the news earlier, saying, “We are deeply sorry.”

He also said the school would contact college admissions officials to correct the students’ records, according to Nomani.

TJHSST, which is recognized as the nation’s top high school, has faced accusations of anti-Asian discrimination after eliminating standardized testing in favor of “experience factors” since 2020. In April, the Supreme Court blocked a petition to drop the new admissions system.

Nomani’s op-ed, which was republished by the New York Post, has triggered criticism and outrage in the Asian American community.

“They decided to screw over all of the kids (most of them Asian) who had worked so hard to earn this recognition and were unable to use it in their college application. Equity at the expense of Asians isn’t equity at all,” Hyphen Capital founder Dave Lu tweeted. “These two need to be fired for their deception and hurting the lives of so many kids because they chose to take matters into their own hands.”

“In the name of equity, aka equal outcomes, TJ principal refused to commend merit that cost students valuable scholarships. Accountability started with exposing the ugly premeditated actions of @TJAnnB by @AsraNomani,” tweeted Asian Wave Alliance President Yiatin Chu, who just recently was on the receiving end of anti-Asian comments at a New York City Council hearing.

“Next, TJ officials will ask the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to distribute the PSAT scores for equity reasons. Take from those that score high on the PSAT and give it to those that cannot or have not scored as high,” educator and entrepreneur Krishnan Chittur tweeted. “Need to serve the DIE Gods.”

December 28, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Equity, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Hamline University, a self described “liberal arts” college, fired a lecturer for showing adult students this piece of controversial art that is considered by art historians to be “a global artistic masterpiece”

Hamline University, a self described “liberal arts” college, fired a lecturer for showing adult students this piece of controversial art that is considered by art historians to be “a global artistic masterpiece.”

Some students had complained to the college that the artwork included a depiction the Prophet Muhammad, which is against their religion. Instead of standing up for the “liberal arts,” the college fired the lecturer who showed the artwork. Art historians consider the artwork to be “a global artistic masterpiece.” 

Source for image and information: https://reason.com/volokh/2022/12/26/hamline-university-apparently-fires-art-history-lecturer-for-showing-depictions-of-muhammed/


December 27, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , . Art and sculpture, Cancel culture, Dumbing down, Education, Islamization, Religion, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

The Chicago affiliate of NPR is reporting on the newest Project Veritas video, which claims that a Chicago school handed out sex toys to underage children

Here’s the newest video from Project Veritas:


WBEZ, the Chicago affiliate of NPR, is actually reporting on this one. Among other things, the NPR affiliate said

“The video captures the dean talking last week about a visit to Francis W. Parker School by an LGBTQ health organization to discuss queer sexual health with high schoolers.”

“The operative recorded himself talking to Joseph Bruno, Parker’s dean of students. In the video, Bruno described an event during the school’s annual Pride Week last May. During an optional lunchtime session for high schoolers, educators from Howard Brown Health presented a lesson on queer sexual health that included showing sex toys to students. Bruno also mentioned a storytime and photo-op with a drag queen.”

TheProject Veritas video itself says that the students were underage. It also says that this is a private school in Chicago that charges $40,000 in tuition.

As a libertarian, I’m 100% in favor of letting consenting adults do whatever they want in privacy of their own home.

Giving out sex toys to underage children in a school does not meet this criteria.


A Chicago private school defends LGBTQ sex ed after right-wing viral video

An administrator at Francis W. Parker School was secretly recorded by an operative with the group Project Veritas posing as a conference attendee.

By Char Daston

Dec 8, 2022

An elite Chicago private school tightened security and disabled its Twitter and Facebook accounts after a video of its dean of students secretly recorded by a conservative group went viral on Wednesday.

The video captures the dean talking last week about a visit to Francis W. Parker School by an LGBTQ health organization to discuss queer sexual health with high schoolers. The video of that conversation was edited by the right-wing group before it was posted.

Parker leaders sent a letter to the school community late Wednesday saying “we are heartbroken that one of our colleague’s words have been severely misrepresented for a malicious purpose.” The letter offered strong support for their faculty and staff and for the school’s “inclusive, LGBTQ+ affirming, and comprehensive approach to sex education.”

The school said the local alderman helped it expand the police presence around its Lincoln Park campus, and it has implemented higher security measures. At least one person marched in front of the school on Thursday to protest the school’s sex ed curriculum.

Project Veritas, the New York-based right-wing organization that made the video, claims on its website that it is “creating an army of guerilla journalists.” Its operatives assume fake identities and secretly record conversations, often attempting to shame or discredit progressive organizations and media outlets, including NPR.

The video footage was captured by an operative disguised as an attendee at the National Association of Independent Schools conference last week.

The operative recorded himself talking to Joseph Bruno, Parker’s dean of students. In the video, Bruno described an event during the school’s annual Pride Week last May. During an optional lunchtime session for high schoolers, educators from Howard Brown Health presented a lesson on queer sexual health that included showing sex toys to students. Bruno also mentioned a storytime and photo-op with a drag queen. The video does not mention that both events were optional.

The video, which had been viewed more than 4 million times as of Thursday afternoon, has made its way around right-wing media accounts and news sites. #ExposeGroomers trended today on Twitter, and Fox News picked up the story this morning.

Project Veritas posted a second video showing founder James O’Keefe attempting to confront Bruno Wednesday afternoon on Parker’s campus. Bruno walks away from O’Keefe and his cameraman. O’Keefe then asks parents if they’re aware the school is “giving sex toys to children” in a voice loud enough for nearby elementary school age students to hear. He is asked to leave by a parent volunteer.

Targets of previous Project Veritas undercover video projects have included educators and teachers unions. The American Federation of Teachers in 2018 posted about a “heavily-spliced” Project Veritas video that misrepresented the union’s response to an accusation of teacher misconduct.

This latest campaign is part of a trend of online right-wing attacks against LGBTQ+ books and events for children that have sometimes led to threats and violence. Earlier this month an independent school in suburban Clintonville, Ohio, canceled a drag queen story time event after a post on the right-wing Twitter account LibsofTikTok inspired the Proud Boys, a militia group, to plan an armed rally outside the school.

Parker leaders said in their letter that they “are sickened by this group’s deceptive tactics, their invasion during a People of Color conference, and their attack on the LGBTQ+ community” and offered strong support for the dean.

“Parker administrators and Parker’s Board of Trustees support Parker’s programming, the strength and inclusivity of our curriculum, and the dedicated and talented faculty and staff that teach it.”

The school is offering mental health check-ins to students and held an assembly Thursday to discuss the news.

December 8, 2022. Tags: , , , . Education, LGBT, Project Veritas. Leave a comment.

According to this Wall St. Journal article, Los Angeles teachers’ unions tried to shut down a South Central charter school that had been very successful at teaching low-income black and Hispanic students

According to this Wall St. Journal article, Los Angeles teachers’ unions tried to shut down a South Central charter school that had been very successful at teaching low-income black and Hispanic students.

In my opinion, successful schools should not be shut down.

Instead, they should be copied.

Every child should be allowed to attend a school as good as this one.

The fact that the teachers’ unions tried to shut down this successful school, instead of copying it, is despicable.

This is the complete article from the Wall St. Journal:


Charter Success in L.A.

School choice in South Central.

October 14, 2008

With economic issues sucking up so much political oxygen this year, K-12 education hasn’t received the attention it deserves from either Presidential candidate. The good news is that school reformers at the local level continue to push forward.

This month the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF), a charter school network in Los Angeles, announced plans to expand the number of public charter schools in the city’s South Central section, which includes some of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the country. Over the next four years, the number of ICEF charters will grow to 35 from 13. Eventually, the schools will enroll one in four students in the community, including more than half of the high school students.

The demand for more educational choice in predominantly minority South Los Angeles is pronounced. The waitlist for existing ICEF schools has at times exceeded 6,000 kids. And no wonder. Like KIPP, Green Dot and other charter school networks that aren’t constrained by union rules on staffing and curriculum, ICEF has an excellent track record, particularly with black and Hispanic students. In reading and math tests, ICEF charters regularly outperform surrounding traditional public schools as well as other Los Angeles public schools.

ICEF has been operating since 1994, and its flagship school has now graduated two classes, with 100% of the students accepted to college. By contrast, a state study released in July reported that one in three students in the L.A. public school system — including 42% of black students — quits before graduating, a number that has grown by 80% in the past five years.

Despite this success, powerful unions like the California Teachers Association and its political backers continue to oppose school choice for disadvantaged families. Last year, Democratic state lawmakers, led by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, tried to force Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a bill that would have made opening a new charter school in the state next to impossible. Mr. Nunez backed down after loud protests from parents in poorer neighborhoods.

School reformers in New York, Ohio, Florida, Connecticut, Utah and Arizona have faced similar challenges of late. Last year in Texas, where 81% of charter school students are minorities (versus 60% in traditional public schools), nearly 17,000 students had to be placed on charter waiting lists. Texas is currently bumping up against an arbitrary cap on the number of charters that can open in the state. Unless the cap is lifted by state lawmakers, thousands of low-income Texas children will remain stuck in ineffective schools.

Back in California, ICEF says that its ultimate goal is to produce 2,000 college graduates each year, in hopes that the graduates eventually will return to these underserved communities and help create a sustainable middle class. Given that fewer than 10% of high-school freshmen in South Los Angeles currently go on to receive a college diploma, this is a huge challenge. Resistance from charter school opponents won’t make it any easier.

November 16, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Social justice warriors, Unions. Leave a comment.

Kjerstin Laine has been making tiny monthly payments on her student loan, and she doesn’t understand why her balance has been getting bigger instead of smaller. People who are this dumb should not be allowed to borrow money. Oh, and try drinking some water.

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

October 31, 2022

Kjerstin Laine is yet another example of how it’s too easy to get admitted to college. Since she finished graduate school with $98,000 in debt, she’s only been paying $300 a month toward her debt. And she doesn’t understand why her balance has been going up instead of down.

It should be illegal for people this stupid to borrow money.

Also, she needs to learn to drink some water.


Meet a 30-year-old with $110,000 in student debt who chose her job in hopes of public-service loan forgiveness — but her balance just keeps growing

By Juliana Kaplan

October 30, 2022

Kjerstin Laine

Kjerstin Laine. Courtesy of Kjerstin Laine

Like millions of student-loan borrowers, Kjerstin Laine is in loan-relief limbo.

For Laine, a 30-year-old who has over $110,000 in student debt, the $20,000 in forgiveness she’s set to get from President Joe Biden’s plan is just a drop in the bucket. As a first-generation college student whose debt has shaped the trajectory of her career, she fears her balance will balloon even more after pandemic-era payment pauses end and interest starts accruing again.

I never miss a payment, always on time, and yet my balances never go down,” Laine told Insider. “I don’t understand how people can’t see that there is something wrong with that picture.”

Despite working through college and taking measures to cut down on the cost, Laine completed her degree in 2014 with a grand total of $98,000 in debt from her undergraduate and graduate studies. In the eight years since, accruing interest has brought her balance to today’s amount, despite her consistent repayment.

Laine chose her job in communications for an education-advocacy nonprofit because it was a good fit for her skills — and because it could set her up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives student debt for government and nonprofit workers after 10 years of qualifying payments.

But that program has historically been riddled with flaws, and she recently paused that strategy to take a marketing-agency job with a salary that brings her much closer to the $90,000 the federal government estimated she needed to make a year to afford to pay back her debt. She’s also paying off medical debt.

“I also had to leave the nonprofit sector to get anywhere near that, obviously,” she said. “So it’s like that Catch-22.”

Laine is one of many millions of US borrowers stuck in an untenable situation. She’s grateful for the relief she’s set to get — though the legality of Biden’s forgiveness is still under scrutiny — but she’s not sure she’ll be able to afford monthly payments when they restart in January.

Her situation points to the larger structural issues underpinning the student debt crisis, where first-generation and lower-income students take on huge debt burdens to get ahead and up their earnings but still find themselves buried under ever-growing balances. Many, like Laine, have shaped their lives around the hope of assistance — now that it’s here in some form, it may not be enough.

“The hardest thing is that I trusted in this system that I was told from a very young age was going to be my path to prosperity or a decent — not anything exorbitant — but a decent middle-class life where I could give back to the community that helped raise me and supported me through education programs, meal programs, things like that,” Laine said. “And it feels like that’s a big broken promise now.”

Interest on student loans can balloon, meaning balances don’t go down — and could go up

As a college student in California, Laine worked at several jobs in places like restaurants and grocery stores. She took classes at her local community college and at her university in the summer and winter to try and reduce her expenses. She graduated in 2012, a semester early to cut down on costs, racking up nearly $18,000 in debt total for her undergraduate degree in journalism.

She went on to a “dream school” for a master’s in journalism, still working part time and leaving with an additional $80,000 in debt in 2014. At the end of her time in school, she was hospitalized for dehydration after she said she ran herself ragged.

Despite consistent payments, the years since graduation have seen Laine’s debt grow. It comes down to the issue of interest capitalization, which is when accrued interest tacks on to a borrower’s principal balance and can lead to debt loads being much larger than what was initially borrowed.

Biden’s administration has taken steps to prevent interest capitalization. In July, it released a proposal to end the practice in every instance that isn’t required under the Higher Education Act, like forbearance periods, but those changes won’t be implemented until next year. And borrowers are still struggling to stay on top of their payments.

For borrowers like Laine, within a few years, interest could cancel out any of Biden’s relief she received.

“I was paying $300 until the pandemic hit. I was paying $300 a month, I think, for three to four years, and my balances never went down,” she said. “They always went up.”

Public servants like Laine can get their debts forgiven — but many can’t even get in touch with their loan servicer

While Laine is a big proponent of public-service loan forgiveness, she said it “has been plagued by its own issues.”

The company that manages the entire Public Service Loan Forgiveness portfolio — MOHELA — isn’t making matters any easier. After a number of loan companies ended their federal contracts last year, all borrowers enrolled in PSLF were transferred over to MOHELA, and the process hasn’t been seamless.

Insider previously spoke with two borrowers who wanted to get simple questions on their PSLF payments answered but ended up spending hours on the phone and never even got connected to a representative who could answer their questions.

“I’m really concerned about MOHELA as a servicer in total,” Laine said.

While MOHELA never commented on the hours-long hold times, Scott Buchanan, the executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance — a group that represents federal loan servicers — previously told Insider that the Education Department decided how many resources it gave loan companies, which affects how many customer-support staff they can hire.

But with the PSLF waiver expiring on Monday, which allows past payments, including those previously deemed ineligible, to count toward forgiveness progress, borrowers are in a time crunch to access the expanded relief. The department recently introduced permanent PSLF fixes for after the waiver’s expiration, but that doesn’t eliminate confusion some borrowers may be experiencing with their payment history.

“I’d love nothing more than to be able to dedicate my entire career to serving this sector,” Laine said. “All of my career choices are kind of centered around this debt, and that’s a really tough, not fun place to be in.”

October 31, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Education, Math, Student debt bailout. Leave a comment.

Video and transcript: Derrick Wilburn, a black father, criticizes critical race theory at a school board meeting in Falcon, Colorado





I’d like to begin my comments tonight by reading a quote, which in essence is the genesis of all of this Black Lives Matter, social justice CRT conversations we’re having in our country today, quote, I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color, close quote, Colin Kaepernick, August 2016.

I am the direct descendant of the North American slave trade. Both of my parents are black, all four of my grandparents are black, all eight of my great great grandparents all 16 of my great greats. On my mother’s side, my ancestors were enslaved in Alabama. On my father’s side, we were enslaved in Texas.

I am not oppressed. I’m not oppressed, and I’m not a victim. I’m neither a press nor a victim. I travel all across this country of ours. And I check into hotels and I fly commercially. And I walk into retail establishments, and I order food and restaurants. I go wherever I want, whenever I want. I am treated with kindness, dignity, and respect, literally from coast to coast. I have three children. They are not oppressed either.

Although they are victims, I’ve taught my children, they’re victims of three things, their own ignorance, their own laziness and their own poor decision making. That is all my children. We are not victims of America, we are not victims of some unseen 190 year old force that kind of floats around in the ether.

Putting critical race theory into our classrooms is taking our nation in the wrong direction. racism in America would by and large, be dead today, if it were not for certain people and institutions keeping it on life support. And sadly, sadly, very sadly, one of those institutions is the American education system.

I can think of nothing more damaging to a society than to tell a baby born today that she has grievances against another baby born today, simply because of what their ancestors may have done two centuries ago. There is simply no point in doing that to our children. And putting critical race theory into our classrooms, in part does that putting critical race theory into our classrooms is not combating racism.

It’s fanning the flames of what little embers are left. I encourage you to support this resolution. Let racism die the death it deserves.

October 20, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Education, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Op-Ed: Listen up, college students. You don’t ‘get’ a grade. You have to earn it


Op-Ed: Listen up, college students. You don’t ‘get’ a grade. You have to earn it

By Jillian Horton

October 9, 2022

Every fall, my mental timeline is flooded with memories of the teachers who changed my life. And last week — when I read about the controversial termination of Maitland Jones Jr., a distinguished New York University professor whose courses in organic chemistry were deemed too hard by students hoping to get into medicine — it took me back to the September I met my toughest teacher.

It was 1994, and I was a 19-year-old student in my third year at Western University in London, Ontario. I had signed up for a course in the department of English taught by one Donald S. Hair. My first clue that professor Hair would defy expectations? He was bald.

Standing at the lectern in a three-piece suit, he took roll, ever-so-properly referring to each of us as “Miss” or “Mister.” It was a distinct shift from the vaguely beatnik tone of many of our other professors, with whom students could sometimes be found drinking beer at one of the campus pubs.

A few weeks into the class, the professor administered our first test. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about — until he handed my exam back the following week with a 67 written on it in red ink.

Sixty-seven! I’d never received such a low mark. I was dependent on a scholarship, and any grade below 80 put my future in jeopardy. My seatmate’s murderous expression revealed her mark had been miserable too. We fumed silently: Professor Hair was an old weirdo! How dare he derail our GPAs? What was the old boy’s problem, anyway?

But the real problem was this: He was right. I knew it as soon as I’d cooled off and taken the time to digest his comments. My writing was sloppy, my understanding of key concepts superficial. Like many of my peers, I was used to earning top grades. Now, for the first time, a teacher had introduced an uncomfortable question. Were we actually “earning” them?

The next day, I went to his office. With burning cheeks, I told him I knew I’d butchered the exam. To my childish surprise, he wasn’t a “weirdo” in the least. He was funny, warm and uncommonly patient. He assured me if I worked hard, I’d achieve my potential in the course, and he’d be available to help me.

I went away, read and read some more. The more I read, the more interesting his classes became, and soon, his complex, spellbinding lectures were the highlight of my week. I worked my guts out in that course. The grade I earned in his class was the lowest I’d receive that year. But I had earned that grade. Nearly 30 years later, I’m still proud of that.

As an associate dean and teacher of medical students for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what usually makes a good doctor — and it isn’t organic chemistry. I disagree with the colleague of professor Jones who told the New York Times that he did not want anyone treating patients who did not “appreciate transformations at the molecular level.” The comment struck me as slightly less outdated than keeping a bag of leeches for emergency bloodletting. There is ample evidence other paths prepare students extremely well for a career in medicine.

That issue is a sideshow anyway, because the strong public reaction to this story is largely about something else: the commodification of education. For U.S. medical schools, the Assn. of American Medical Colleges oversees a rigorous and detailed accreditation process, which relies on the collection of mounds of data — including an exit survey that can heavily influence the school’s accreditation outcome. The survey begins by asking students to rate the degree to which they agree or disagree with this statement: “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my medical education.”

Is that the right way to ask someone to evaluate their education? It seems more appropriate for rating their Starbucks latte. My job is not to ensure my children — or my students — are always “satisfied.” That metric would worsen the quality of my parenting and my teaching; both require me to do unpopular things if I am to do my job well. “Satisfaction” is the language of consumer experience, and when it becomes a target metric, it alters something fundamental about the interaction between people.

I have felt that shift as an educator. I’ve witnessed, and championed, long-overdue changes in the learning environment, including a focus on the psychological safety of students. But I’ve seen disheartening changes too — namely the evolution of a relationship with students that sometimes feels transactional, as if the primary objective is no longer just about turning them into doctors but, rather, keeping them constantly satisfied, the teacher less preceptor than proprietor.

That shift is deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

Long after I’d moved on from Western University, I heard professor Hair had been nominated for an award for excellence in teaching. “Professors are often afraid to employ his high standards,” I eagerly wrote in a two-page letter of support. “Setting the bar higher may initially be uncomfortable, but it gives students … a sense of self-respect and pride which is stolen from us when we work in circumstances where such experiences do not exist.” He won that award. And he also earned it.

If my low grade in professor Hair’s class had been a barrier to me becoming a doctor, would I feel differently? I really don’t know. I suppose I thought he had a right to be tough as long as he was also trying to be fair. The irony? What I learned from him made me a better doctor. Not because I was satisfied.

Because I grew.

Jillian Horton is a writer and physician. She is the author of “We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing.”

October 9, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Health care, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

New York University dumbs down its pre-med curriculum so students who are too dumb and/or lazy to pass organic chemistry can still become doctors


At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame?

Maitland Jones Jr., a respected professor, defended his standards. But students started a petition, and the university dismissed him.

By Stephanie Saul

October 3, 2022

In the field of organic chemistry, Maitland Jones Jr. has a storied reputation. He taught the subject for decades, first at Princeton and then at New York University, and wrote an influential textbook. He received awards for his teaching, as well as recognition as one of N.Y.U.’s coolest professors.

But last spring, as the campus emerged from pandemic restrictions, 82 of his 350 students signed a petition against him.

Students said the high-stakes course – notorious for ending many a dream of medical school – was too hard, blaming Dr. Jones for their poor test scores.

The professor defended his standards. But just before the start of the fall semester, university deans terminated Dr. Jones’s contract.

The officials also had tried to placate the students by offering to review their grades and allowing them to withdraw from the class retroactively. The chemistry department’s chairman, Mark E. Tuckerman, said the unusual offer to withdraw was a “one-time exception granted to students by the dean of the college.”

Marc A. Walters, director of undergraduate studies in the chemistry department, summed up the situation in an email to Dr. Jones, before his firing.

He said the plan would “extend a gentle but firm hand to the students and those who pay the tuition bills,” an apparent reference to parents.

The university’s handling of the petition provoked equal and opposite reactions from both the chemistry faculty, who protested the decisions, and pro-Jones students, who sent glowing letters of endorsement.

“The deans are obviously going for some bottom line, and they want happy students who are saying great things about the university so more people apply and the U.S. News rankings keep going higher,” said Paramjit Arora, a chemistry professor who has worked closely with Dr. Jones.

In short, this one unhappy chemistry class could be a case study of the pressures on higher education as it tries to handle its Gen-Z student body. Should universities ease pressure on students, many of whom are still coping with the pandemic’s effects on their mental health and schooling? How should universities respond to the increasing number of complaints by students against professors? Do students have too much power over contract faculty members, who do not have the protections of tenure?

And how hard should organic chemistry be anyway?

Dr. Jones, 84, is known for changing the way the subject is taught. In addition to writing the 1,300-page textbook “Organic Chemistry,” now in its fifth edition, he pioneered a new method of instruction that relied less on rote memorization and more on problem solving.

After retiring from Princeton in 2007, he taught organic chemistry at N.Y.U. on a series of yearly contracts. About a decade ago, he said in an interview, he noticed a loss of focus among the students, even as more of them enrolled in his class, hoping to pursue medical careers.

“Students were misreading exam questions at an astonishing rate,” he wrote in a grievance to the university, protesting his termination. Grades fell even as he reduced the difficulty of his exams.

The problem was exacerbated by the pandemic, he said. “In the last two years, they fell off a cliff,” he wrote. “We now see single digit scores and even zeros.”

After several years of Covid learning loss, the students not only didn’t study, they didn’t seem to know how to study, Dr. Jones said.

To ease pandemic stress, Dr. Jones and two other professors taped 52 organic chemistry lectures. Dr. Jones said that he personally paid more than $5,000 for the videos and that they are still used by the university.

That was not enough. In 2020, some 30 students out of 475 filed a petition asking for more help, said Dr. Arora, who taught that class with Dr. Jones. “They were really struggling,” he explained. “They didn’t have good internet coverage at home. All sorts of things.”

The professors assuaged the students in an online town-hall meeting, Dr. Arora said.

Many students were having other problems. Kent Kirshenbaum, another chemistry professor at N.Y.U., said he discovered cheating during online tests.

When he pushed students’ grades down, noting the egregious misconduct, he said they protested that “they were not given grades that would allow them to get into medical school.”

By spring 2022, the university was returning with fewer Covid restrictions, but the anxiety continued and students seemed disengaged.

“They weren’t coming to class, that’s for sure, because I can count the house,” Dr. Jones said in an interview. “They weren’t watching the videos, and they weren’t able to answer the questions.”

Students could choose between two sections, one focused on problem solving, the other on traditional lectures. Students in both sections shared problems on a GroupMe chat and began venting about the class. Those texts kick-started the petition, submitted in May.

“We are very concerned about our scores, and find that they are not an accurate reflection of the time and effort put into this class,” the petition said.

The students criticized Dr. Jones’s decision to reduce the number of midterm exams from three to two, flattening their chances to compensate for low grades. They said that he had tried to conceal course averages, did not offer extra credit and removed Zoom access to his lectures, even though some students had Covid. And, they said, he had a “condescending and demanding” tone.

“We urge you to realize,” the petition said, “that a class with such a high percentage of withdrawals and low grades has failed to make students’ learning and well-being a priority and reflects poorly on the chemistry department as well as the institution as a whole.”

Dr. Jones said in an interview that he reduced the number of exams because the university scheduled the first test date after six classes, which was too soon.

On the accusation that he concealed course averages, Dr. Jones said that they were impossible to provide because 25 percent of the grade relied on lab scores and a final lab test, but that students were otherwise aware of their grades.

As for Zoom access, he said the technology in the lecture hall made it impossible to record his white board problems.

Zacharia Benslimane, a teaching assistant in the problem-solving section of the course, defended Dr. Jones in an email to university officials.

“I think this petition was written more out of unhappiness with exam scores than an actual feeling of being treated unfairly,” wrote Mr. Benslimane, now a Ph.D. student at Harvard. “I have noticed that many of the students who consistently complained about the class did not use the resources we afforded to them.”

Ryan Xue, who took the course, said he found Dr. Jones both likable and inspiring.

“This is a big lecture course, and it also has the reputation of being a weed-out class,” said Mr. Xue, who has transferred and is now a junior at Brown. “So there are people who will not get the best grades. Some of the comments might have been very heavily influenced by what grade students have gotten.”

Other students, though, seemed shellshocked from the experience. In interviews, several of them said that Dr. Jones was keen to help students who asked questions, but that he could also be sarcastic and downbeat about the class’s poor performance.

After the second midterm for which the average hovered around 30 percent, they said that many feared for their futures. One student was hyperventilating.

But students also described being surprised that Dr. Jones was fired, a measure the petition did not request and students did not think was possible.

The entire controversy seems to illustrate a sea change in teaching, from an era when professors set the bar and expected the class to meet it, to the current more supportive, student-centered approach.

Dr. Jones “learned to teach during a time when the goal was to teach at a very high and rigorous level,” Dr. Arora said. “We hope that students will see that putting them through that rigor is doing them good.”

James W. Canary, chairman of the department until about a year ago, said he admired Dr. Jones’s course content and pedagogy, but felt that his communication with students was skeletal and sometimes perceived as harsh.

“He hasn’t changed his style or methods in a good many years,” Dr. Canary said. “The students have changed, though, and they were asking for and expecting more support from the faculty when they’re struggling.”

N.Y.U. is evaluating so-called stumble courses — those in which a higher percentage of students get D’s and F’s, said John Beckman, a spokesman for the university.

“Organic chemistry has historically been one of those courses,” Mr. Beckman said. “Do these courses really need to be punitive in order to be rigorous?”

Dr. Kirshenbaum said he worried about any effort to reduce the course’s demands, noting that most students in organic chemistry want to become doctors.

“Unless you appreciate these transformations at the molecular level,” he said, “I don’t think you can be a good physician, and I don’t want you treating patients.”

In August, Dr. Jones received a short note from Gregory Gabadadze, dean for science, terminating his contract. Dr. Jones’s performance, he wrote, “did not rise to the standards we require from our teaching faculty.”

Dr. Gabadadze declined to be interviewed. But Mr. Beckman defended the decision, saying that Dr. Jones had been the target of multiple student complaints about his “dismissiveness, unresponsiveness, condescension and opacity about grading.”

Dr. Jones’s course evaluations, he added, “were by far the worst, not only among members of the chemistry department, but among all the university’s undergraduate science courses.”

Professors in the chemistry department have pushed back. In a letter to Dr. Gabadadze and other deans, they wrote that they worried about setting “a precedent, completely lacking in due process, that could undermine faculty freedoms and correspondingly enfeeble proven pedagogic practices.”

Nathaniel J. Traaseth, one of about 20 chemistry professors, mostly tenured, who signed the letter, said the university’s actions may deter rigorous instruction, especially given the growing tendency of students to file petitions.

“Now the faculty who are not tenured are looking at this case and thinking, ‘Wow, what if this happens to me and they don’t renew my contract?’” he said.

Dr. Jones agrees.

“I don’t want my job back,” he said, adding that he had planned to retire soon anyway. “I just want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

October 7, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Health care, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Texas Wesleyan Cancels Play After Students Say Use of Slur Is Harmful [The writer of the play is black]


Texas Wesleyan Cancels Play After Students Say Use of Slur Is Harmful

The play’s author, who is Black, said he crafted its language to be historically accurate in representing civil rights struggles. But the theater program at the university heeded the call of students.

By April Rubin

October 6, 2022

Texas Wesleyan University halted its production of “Down In Mississippi,” a play about registering voters in the 1960s, after criticism from students who said racist epithets in the script could contribute to a hostile, unwelcoming environment. Its author said he was using that language to represent the reality of the period.

The play by Carlyle Brown, a Black playwright based in Minneapolis, focuses on the efforts of a movement that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination and protected Black voters. The plot, which is set during the Freedom Summer campaign, centers on three student activists as they travel from New York City to the South to register Black voters.

In telling that story, the playwright included a scene in which a white character used a racial slur, repeatedly, to refer to Black people, opening up a controversy on campus that also spotlighted a larger rift in American society over discussions of race and the portrayal of the struggles of people of color in media and the arts.

Two students who were not part of the production, and were described as a Latinx woman and a Black woman, heard about the scene through word of mouth and submitted bias reports to the university’s administration on Sept. 23, said Chatashia Brown, the university’s assistant director for student diversity and inclusion programs.

Their complaints prompted administrators of the university, in Fort Worth, to host a “listening session” on Sept. 29, which had been previously scheduled as the opening night of the play. Students, actors and members of the university’s faculty and staff joined the open forum, as did Mr. Brown.

Black students said that the explicit language in the play would further aggravate problems on a campus that they said did not cater to the needs of its significant population of students of color. As of fall 2021, 58 percent of students at Texas Wesleyan identified as Asian, Black, Latino or biracial.

“They wanted to kind of come in and be able to see the story and understand its impact without being triggered by it,” Ms. Brown said.

The students who expressed their concerns said that the repetition of the racial slur, spoken about a dozen times in the play, would have caught them off guard and negatively affected their mental health. They worried that the play could lead other students who are not Black to feel more comfortable repeating the slur.

“We pretty much all understand what harmful language is and how it’s been used because a lot of them still deal with that today,” Ms. Brown said. “So they just thought the timing and the place of it was pretty upsetting.”

The playwright said that his intentions were for the performance to be historically accurate. To him, the past shouldn’t be sanitized — and he said that the racial slur was used provocatively, for audience members to feel the impact it has had in real life. The scene portrays one of the play’s three students, who is white, showing the Black student how he would be treated on their journey. Training sessions like the one portrayed were common at the time and were intended to help people understand the severity of the behavior they could face.

Mr. Brown, who joined the listening session on a video call, said the play seems to have become a catalyst for a discussion about racial relations on campus that is separate from his work

“As the conversation went on, a couple students went up and looked at my image on the screen and said, ‘It’s not your play, Mr. Brown; it’s just not the play at this place, at this time,’” he said in an interview.

Last school year, the president of the Black Student Association went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of the lack of diversity on Texas Wesleyan’s campus. Among the sources of her discontent: The university didn’t have substantial classes focused on ethnic or racial studies, despite having a diverse student body; and no established multicultural center existed for students to convene.

The protest, along with other feedback from students about concerns with the campus climate and diversity, prompted the university to announce earlier this year that it would emphasize “community, engagement and inclusion” through a strategic plan, which included measures such as incorporating multiculturalism, inclusion and anti-intolerance in its curriculum; engaging in culturally relevant teaching to connect with students of diverse backgrounds; and identifying a space on campus for multicultural student programs.

However, the discussions around the play showed that students’ grievances had not been addressed to the extent they wanted, said Jaylon Leonard, president of the student body.

“It was not the play itself, but about some things that we had dealt with in the past with the school in regard to diversity and inclusion recently that weren’t unanswered,” he said, adding that “for this to be thrown on top of those issues, it was something that we were not ready to accept.”

Production dates for “Down in Mississippi” were first delayed, and the theater program considered hosting the play off campus at the Jubilee Theatre, a Fort Worth venue that puts on plays that highlight African American experiences. But the faculty of the Texas Wesleyan theater department decided not to put on the play at all, after students involved expressed their discomfort, said Joe Brown, theater chair and professor of theater arts.

The theater program has produced plays about the Holocaust, the gay rights movement, religion and political extremism, and they have been well-regarded in the campus community, Professor Brown said. All of the upcoming plays this season will examine the theme of exclusion.

“Our motivation was what’s happening in the United States right now is pretty scary with women’s rights and L.G.B.T.Q. rights and voter suppression and Black rights,” he said. “There’s some scary things happening in different states, so we felt the timeliness of ‘Is history repeating itself?’”

Students in the play sought the guidance of D. Wambui Richardson, the artistic director of the Jubilee Theatre, early in the production process, since he has put on several other plays with similar themes. He has heard the critique that the approach of a play could be glorifying negative aspects of the Black experience, citing an act on police brutality as an example, Mr. Richardson said.

“Our response was if we’re not creating a space for the conversations to be had in a safe and nurturing environment, then those conversations are not being had,” he said.

He offered for the production of “Down In Mississippi” to be moved to his theater, but Mr. Richardson came to understand that the Fort Worth student community did not seem ready for it.

“A message is only as important and vital as the lips that will repeat it, the ears that will hear it and the legs that will carry it,” Mr. Richardson said.

As the only Black person on the production team, Mya Cockrell, who was responsible for the scenic design, had reservations but felt that she had to come to terms with a show that was moving forward.

She appreciated that members of the cast went out and spoke with people involved in the civil rights movement and learned about the history, but she said that the greater campus community would have benefited from that discussion.

“I personally don’t think that the theater was in a place to put on a show like this,” Ms. Cockrell said, “because I think there’s a lot more that we can do as a community to help people, and I don’t think we were necessarily doing that or educating people outside of the theater.”

October 7, 2022. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Cancel culture, Dumbing down, Education, Racism, Social justice warriors. Leave a comment.

Barack Obama quote in the New York Times: “We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.”

“We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled – doubled – since we were children. We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

– Barack Obama, New York Times

Original source: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/us/politics/15text-obama.html

Archived version: https://web.archive.org/web/20190218103937/https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/us/politics/15text-obama.html

September 21, 2022. Tags: , , , , , . Barack Obama, Education, Parenting, Racism, Violent crime. 2 comments.

Sydney Rawls, a teacher from Tennessee, talks about the government bureaucracy regarding books


September 20, 2022. Tags: , , , , . Dumbing down, Education, Police state. Leave a comment.

Next Page »