Tag Archive for: education

Is Harvard hopelessly woke? What Harvard is really like

Like most things, Harvard is what one makes of it — and this can include experiences rooted in faith and friendship. 

Harvard is often seen as the archetypal American university, offering a model that many others seek to emulate. So, as a new school year and new application season begin, it seems fitting to ask: what is this storied institution really like anyway? Is it home to heroes or heretics? Maker of gods… or the godless? My response is quite simple: neither extreme is accurate. Harvard is not as heavenly as some think; fortunately, it’s not as bad either.

My college decision was practically effortless. Harvard, I was told, offered everything a motivated, book-smart student could want: challenging courses; fabulous research opportunities; world-class professors; and, most importantly, insightful, intrepid, intellectually curious peers.

I envisioned a campus alive with students who genuinely loved learning, who asked big questions and pursued them to their limits, who discussed Dostoyevsky at lunch and astrophysics at dinner, and who would challenge, shape, and inspire me over the course of our college journey.

Needless to say, this vision wasn’t entirely accurate. Arriving on campus last fall, I was surprised to find that many of my peers did not choose Harvard out of a deep, reverent hunger for veritas. Rather, their motives were primarily mercenary: they had enrolled for the degree and the connections. Almost every Harvard student I know really is a smart, accomplished individual; test scores and ambition, however, are not necessarily synonymous with intellectual curiosity.

Lowered standards, heightened biases  

Critics of Harvard tend to focus on academic standards and political bias. In terms of academics, it is telling that Harvard’s two most popular concentrations are economics and government. Read: wealth and power. Students with these two goals are incentivised to take easy courses whenever possible: between grade inflation and the competitive nature of consulting applications, a B from a fabulous but challenging professor just won’t do.

As such, students offset rigorous concentration requirements with “gems,” pleasant, untaxing courses in which A’s are guaranteed and learning is optional. Last fall alone, over 800 students enrolled in a gen-ed course fittingly entitled “Sleep,” though how many attended more than one lecture remains unclear.

Administrators, meanwhile, do little to counter this trend. Notorious gems (“Sleep” excepted) are occasionally identified and restructured, but with tuition-paying customers to please and a reputation to maintain, addressing lowered standards will be essentially impossible.

The real tragedy is not the proliferation of easy A’s but the slow suffocation of liberal arts education. In lieu of a robust core is a smattering of “distributional requirements” easily satisfied by niche, fringe, or downright non-substantive courses. In other words, “Sleep” might be the only science course a Harvard student ever takes.

Thus, it’s possible to graduate from Harvard without challenging one’s prejudices, without genuinely exploring different disciplines, and without ever diverting one’s gaze from the holy trinity of law, finance, and consulting. Alas, the utilitarian ethos prevails; it was never about veritas anyway.

Harvard critics’ true concern, however, is not academic standards but politics — just how radical is the “Kremlin on the Charles”? According to the numbers, very. While 82 percent of Harvard faculty identify as liberal or very liberal, a mere 1 percent identify as conservative, and none identify as very conservative. The student body, luckily, boasts slightly more ideological diversity: conservative or very conservative individuals made up 6 percent of the Class of 2022, and nearly 70 percent were progressive or very progressive.

Can academic freedom, civil discourse, or mere open-mindedness thrive in such an environment? Here are a few illustrative examples that make it tempting to view Harvard as a powerful brainwashing machine:

First, my hallmates and I attended a mandatory, dorm-wide meeting at the start of the academic year to discuss the hookup culture. We were tasked with creating explanatory posters exploring the hookup culture in its various dimensions. One group of students crafted a suitably vague definition of “hookup” for their poster, while another brainstormed adjectives to describe hookups (highlights include “exciting” and “experimental”). Not once were other approaches to sex and dating, let alone inconvenient biological realities (sex not infrequently makes babies), ever mentioned.

Second, this past semester I watched a trembling professor issue a formal apology at the behest of her outraged students and teaching staff. Her crime: reading aloud a passage from Invisible Man — a novel advocating civil rights and equality — that contained a racial epithet. Although this incident had occurred during a discussion section before a small subset of enrollees, critics swiftly and loudly demanded that she ask the entire class for forgiveness. Pressuring a professor to apologise for her language threatens academic freedom. Critics certainly deserve a voice, but not at the expense of their professor’s.

Finally, I saw a formerly well-liked friend ostracised by her residential housemates during her last month at Harvard. This jovial, whip-smart senior was a Latina Democrat; she volunteered regularly at a youth homeless shelter, vocally advocated racial justice, and actively disliked Trump. Just participating in two pro-life rallies, it turns out, was enough to outweigh all of that.

Faith, friendship, and signs of hope

While such everyday occurrences make it tempting to believe that Harvard is a lost cause, there are two important limiting factors that suggest otherwise. First, because Harvard is a very large institution — with twelve graduate and professional schools, fifty concentrations in the undergraduate college, and an extensive array of administrative offices — centralised or consistent strategic communication is next to impossible. Having many supervisors, counterintuitively, leads to little supervision — within this large bureaucratic institution are many conservative niches, ranging from a controversial pseudonymous publication to a philosophical debating society to a growing pro-life presence on campus.

The second limiting factor is Harvard’s inherent elitism. Prestige and influence require class distinctions; in a truly equitable world, Harvard does not exist. Thus, Harvard will continue to champion progressivism — but never enough to endanger its own future. Harvard students of all political stripes perceive this hypocrisy; if anything, they graduate not more liberal but more cynical. So much for the formidable brainwashing machine.

In addition to these two limiting factors, my first year — which was hands-down my happiest in a decade — suggests that Harvard is not a lost cause. I learned to read ancient Greek, solved triple integrals, and wrote an essay on Fredrick Douglass’s conception of the human soul. I kayaked on the Charles, explored Boston’s fabulous art museums, and attended a weeklong seminar in Oxford. I befriended the dining hall workers, learned how to swing dance, and performed Schumann with my chamber ensemble.

Despite the prevalence of secularism and credentialism at Harvard, faith and friendship were central to my joyful first year. In fact, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is alive at Harvard. Every morning, a dozen students attend daily Mass before eating breakfast together in a nearby dining hall. Weekly talks at the Harvard Catholic Center precede solemn adoration accompanied by a student band. And this past Easter alone, thirty-one members of the Harvard community were fully initiated into the Catholic Church.

Outside of the Catholic and Christian communities, Harvard students are very respectful of religion. Talking openly about my Catholic faith elicits not smirks and grimaces but genuine curiosity and the occasional request to join me at Mass. Although I attended Catholic school all my life, my faith life has never thrived as at Harvard.

Nor have I ever been blessed with such strong, beautiful friendships. Just one week into freshman year, I had already found a group of kind, intelligent friends. Yes, our everyday conversations are less intellectual than anticipated; yes, our educational goals differ significantly. But far more important is character. My friends at Harvard are truly virtuous and generous people.

What’s more, my experience is hardly singular. Personality is an important factor in Harvard’s admissions process — so while many admitted students are indeed ambitious and career-oriented, they are for the most part essentially decent people. This emphasis on personability combined with its unique housing system, active extracurricular life, and countless study abroad and fellowship opportunities means that Harvard intentionally and successfully fosters friendship.

One year into my Harvard career, I can report that no stereotype of the university is entirely accurate. By no means is Harvard an immaculate place: intellectual curiosity often suffers at the expense of utility, classes and administrators can be overly political, and students with unpopular views are often frightened into silence. Still, I have great hope for Harvard.

While it’s true that students can avoid Homer, Shakespeare, or Tolstoy if they wish, it is equally true that those fascinated by such literary giants will encounter first editions of their texts in the rare books library and brilliant professors eager to elucidate them.

Though Harvard students can graduate without having explored questions about God, morality, and the meaning of life, those brave enough to ask can consult prominent theologians and learned priests, travel to Jerusalem on Harvard’s dime, or simply walk down Bow Street to pray in magnificent St. Paul’s.

In the end, Harvard, like most things, is what one makes of it. It can never be perfect; what it can be is a haven for faith, friendship, and the pursuit of veritas.

This article has been republished with permission from The Public Discourse

AUTHOR

Olivia Glunz

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.

Reagan’s Goal to End the Department of Education Is Finally Gaining Momentum

Ending the Department of Education may seem like a radical idea, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds.


The debate over the federal role in education has been going on for decades. Some say the feds should have a relatively large role while others say it should be relatively small. But while most people believe there should be at least some federal oversight, some believe there should be none at all.

Rep. Thomas Massie is one of those who believes there should be no federal involvement in education, and he is actively working to make that a reality. In February 2021, he introduced H.R. 899, a bill that perfectly encapsulates his views on this issue. It consists of one sentence:

“This bill terminates the Department of Education on December 31, 2022.”

This position may seem radical, but Massie is not alone. The bill had 8 cosponsors when it was introduced and has been gaining support ever since. On Monday, Massie announced that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) decided to cosponsor the bill, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 18.

Though it may be tempting to think Massie and his supporters just don’t care about education, this is certainly not the case. If anything, they are pushing to end the federal Department of Education precisely because they care about educational outcomes. In their view, the Department is at best not helping and, at worst, may actually be part of the problem.

“Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development,” said Massie when he initially introduced the bill. “States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students.”

Massie is echoing sentiments expressed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, who advocated dismantling the Department of Education even though it had just begun operating in 1980.

“By eliminating the Department of Education less than 2 years after it was created,” said Reagan, “we cannot only reduce the budget but ensure that local needs and preferences, rather than the wishes of Washington, determine the education of our children.”

Before we rush into a decision like this, however, it’s important to consider the consequences. As G. K. Chesterton famously said, “don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.”

So, why was the federal Department of Education set up in the first place? What do they do with their $68 billion budget? Well, when it was initially established it was given 4 main roles, and these are the same roles it fulfills to this day. They are:

  • Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds (which comprise roughly 8 percent of elementary and secondary education spending).
  • Collecting data on America’s schools and disseminating research.
  • Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
  • Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

Now, some of these functions arguably shouldn’t exist at all. For instance, if you are opposed to federal funding or federal interference in education on principle, then there is no need for the first and fourth roles. As for the middle two roles, it’s clear that we need people collecting data, disseminating research, and pointing out educational issues. But the question here is not whether these initiatives should exist. The question is whether the federal government should pursue them.

On that question, there’s a good case to be made that leaving these tasks to the state and local level is far more appropriate. Education needs vary from student to student, so educational decisions need to be made as close to the individual student as possible. Federal organizations simply can’t account for the diverse array of educational contexts, which means their one-size-fits-all findings and recommendations will be poorly suited for many classrooms.

Teachers don’t need national administrators telling them how to do their job. They need the freedom and flexibility to tailor their approach to meet the needs of students. It is the local teachers, schools, and districts that know their students’ needs best, which is why they are best positioned to gather data, assess their options, and make decisions about how to meet those needs. Imposing top-down national ideas only gets in the way of these adaptive, customized, local processes.

The federal Department of Education has lofty goals when it comes to student success, but it is simply not the right institution for achieving them. If we really want to improve education, it’s going to require a bottom-up, decentralized approach. So rather than continuing to fund yet another federal bureaucracy, perhaps it’s time to let taxpayers keep their money, and let educators and parents pursue a better avenue for change.

This article was adapted from an issue of the FEE Daily email newsletter. Click here to sign up and get free-market news and analysis like this in your inbox every weekday.

AUTHOR

Patrick Carroll

Patrick Carroll has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and is an Editorial Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Senator Josh Hawley To Introduce Legislation Putting Universities On The Hook For Student Debt

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley will introduce legislation Wednesday that puts colleges and universities on the hook for student debt.

The bill was first obtained by the Daily Caller and is titled the Make the Universities Pay Act. The Legislation would require institutions of higher education participating in the Federal Direct Student Loan Program to pay 50% of any student loan balance that is in default.

The Make the Universities Pay Act would also allow student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy and allow undergraduate student loan debt to be discharged five years after the first payment is due, while graduate student loan can be discharged 15 years after the first payment is due. In addition, the bill requires each institution of higher education participating in federal financial aid programs to publish post-graduate outcomes, including mean and median earnings of graduates and student loan default rates, disaggregated by each degree or program of study.

The Biden administration is taking executive action to forgive $10,000 per borrower. The move would clear $321 billion of federal student loans and clear the student debt for almost 12 million people, according to CNBC.

Biden will also cancel up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients.

READ THE BILL HERE: 

“For decades, universities have amassed billion-dollar endowments while teaching nonsense like men can get pregnant. All while charging extortionary tuition. Now Joe Biden wants to give away another $1 trillion to prop up the system. That’s wrong. Instead, it’s time to put universities on the hook and give students the information they need to make informed decisions,” Hawley told the Caller before introducing the legislation.

Hawley plans on introducing the legislation later Wednesday afternoon.

AUTHOR

HENRY RODGERS

Senior Congressional correspondent. Follow Henry Rodgers On Twitter

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Caller column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Public Schools Are Spending Money Like Crazy, Despite Sharp Enrollment Declines

This pattern of spending is unsustainable. These schools are bleeding money.


The public education system has been failing students for years. From misappropriating funds to providing inadequate lessons and passing illiterate students; public schools are losing support. Despite this they continue receiving extensive budgets which do not properly represent enrollment rates, attendance numbers, or staffing issues.

While it is true that 2020 was an extremely difficult year for these taxpayer-funded institutions, those who blame the Covid-19 pandemic are using it as a scapegoat. Before the extensive government pandemic response, the nation was experiencing a teacher shortage and a political takeover of public schools — the likes of which had never been experienced — which has only increased during the political battle over public health issues.

Since 2013 conflicts between teachers and school boards have been reported. This specifically hindered interest in the teaching profession.

In 2015 student interest in the teaching profession dropped by 5 percent in just a year and has continued to decline. Although arguments over teacher pay have been brought to the forefront of the situation, elementary and secondary school teachers made an average of over $63,000 during the 2019-2020 school year, and since then districts have increased pay and added massive bonuses to attract educators back to the profession, inflating budgets, yet still the teacher shortage remains.

New students entering the teaching profession continues to decline as teachers unions and school boards not only battle themselves, but parents as well. Instead of listening to the communities they serve, these powerful organizations are pushing their own political ideologies in the classroom. Educational focus has shifted from teaching core classes like math, science, and history, to identity-based practices which promote critical race theory (CRT) and gender theory.

The National School Board Association itself has fought to persuade schools to adopt CRT and the 1619 project. These race-focused lessons have yet to produce successful results. Because of this, families have disputed replacing sound lessons with untested classroom theories. When expressing their concerns at school board meetings these parents were silenced, and even publicly smeared as “domestic terrorists.”

In addition, during the pandemic various school boards and teachers unions fought to keep children isolated and masked long after it was deemed safe for them to return to in-person learning. Yet, educators still wished to receive full pay as students suffered from widespread learning loss and achievement gaps. It was even discovered that the American Federation of Teachers influenced CDC reopening guidelines, indicating that their power held sway over school health policies, arguably even more than factual public health data.

Parents quickly recognized the harmful effects of lockdowns and long-term masking. Schools which remained locked down longer saw the sharpest enrollment declines. These are, coincidentally, in highly progressive areas where CRT and other identity based lessons have been adopted by teachers and districts.

In 2019 math was deemed a “racist” subject in the state of Washington. By 2021, 70% of students in the area were failing math and more than half failed English. In nearby Oregon, reading and writing requirements have been removed to offer more “equitable” education experiences, and even test taking was deemed “racist” by the National Education Association.

In addition, the Biden Administration is leading the Department of Education to bring race to the forefront of American education on a national level. Instead of allowing states to choose what is best for their populations, government grants are now being awarded based on the implementation of identity-based education practices.

Public school officials have been quick to blame the pandemic for increasing student failures, but teaching equity over performance has yet to lead students to academic excellenceLearning loss is plaguing students across the nation, and instead of utilizing COVID relief money to ensure that students achievement gaps are filled in before Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSR) expire, progressive states have allocated masses of these taxpayer dollars for identity based lessons.

Taxpayer funded ESSR money was swiftly approved and distributed with little to no oversight during the pandemic. Because of this, less than half of public schools have used COVID relief money to update HVAC units and reduce viral illness transmissions. Instead, districts in New York, California, Illinois, and Minnesota openly spent their pandemic dollars on political endeavors.

The California Department of Education received $15.1 billion in ESSR funding. Instead of focusing all of these taxpayer dollars on public health concerns the state funneled portions of this money into “implicit bias training,” “ethnic studies,” and “LGBTQ+ cultural competency.”

Similarly, New York gained $9 billion in emergency funding. This money was not primarily focused on keeping students healthy or improving classroom air quality but, “anti-racism,” “anti-bias,” “socio-emotional learning,” and “diversity, equity, inclusion,” lessons.

Illinois has also utilized masses of pandemic-relief money to institute equity plans with a specific focus on “anti-racism.” Minnesota took their $1.15 billion in ESSR funds and decided to use a portion of this massive payout for “culturally responsive” training and addressing “gender bias,” with a focus on gender affirmation.

COVID relief funds have been abused and directed to non-pandemic related educational services. All the while, students continue to fail at record rates and leave the public education system entirely.

Public schools are funded by local, state, and federal taxes. Funding is determined by varying factors which usually include student performance, enrollment rates, and attendance. Yet despite experiencing drops in all of these criteria, somehow states are still increasing budgets.

California — which has lost 2.6% of public school students since the start of the pandemic — has approved the largest education budget in the state’s history. This massive increase comes as California’s largest public school district has experienced a 40% chronic absenteeism rate. This reflects a national trend.

A third of Chicago schools are at least half empty, but that didn’t stop the Chicago Board of Education from increasing their 2022 budget from what was approved in 2021. In Washington DC, public school reading and math proficiency has dropped, and enrollment has stagnated, but the mayor proposed a 5.9% budget increase.

PennsylvaniaMinnesota, and other states have all continued spending more despite serving fewer students. These public schools are bleeding money and costing taxpayers billions in debt that will eventually have to be repaid.

Public schools received record amounts of funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, school boards and teachers unions have allowed politics to dominate their policies and teaching practices. As a result, student success rates have suffered, and families are walking away from the system while lawmakers are passing budget increases that only further tax communities.

This pattern of spending is unsustainable. These schools are bleeding money. There is currently no end in sight as districts continue this trend into the 2022-2023 school year and beyond.

AUTHOR

Jessica Marie Baumgartner

Jessica is an education news reporter, homeschooling mother of 4, and author of “Homeschooling on a Budget,” whose work has been featured by: “The Epoch Times,” “The Federalist,” “The New American,” “The American Spectator,” “American Thinker,” “St. Louis Post Dispatch,” and many more.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis Sweeps School Board Elections with 25 Wins!

The endorsement of Ron DeSantis for school board candidates has created a “red wave for parents rights” in the Sunshine State.

The Washington Stand’s Marjorie Jackson reported,

Just as school bells across the country begin ringing for another semester of class time again, Florida conservatives are running another victory lap around the school yard.

Tuesday night’s Florida primaries handed victories to 25 of the 30 school board candidates backed by the state’s Governor Ron DeSantis (R), and 35 of 49 candidates endorsed by school board-challenging 1776 Project PAC, flipping several school boards to have conservative majorities.

“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work,” Meg Kilgannon, Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Education Studies, told The Washington Stand. “It’s a reflection of Florida citizens’ anger at the school boards in red counties and a red state acting like they live in blue counties and blue states. A lot of these places very publicly and strongly pushed back on implementing the governor’s recommendations on masking for students and following the federal guidelines. This is a big part of why you’re seeing this big turnout right now.”

Read the full article.

Florida Research Council Action’s Matt Carpenter stated,

“The most important government is the government closest to home, so when parents stream to the polls to toss recalcitrant ideologues off their local school board they are sending a clear message: teach our children to read and write, not gender ideology or dividing them by race.”

According to an October 21st article in the Tampa Bay Times reporter wrote,

In October 2021 the National School Boards Association sent a letter to Biden raising concerns about “domestic terrorism” targeting boards. Although the association did not mention parents, and the Justice Department did not call for investigations, DeSantis and others have framed the issue as a federal attempt to curtail parental rights.

[ … ]

DeSantis said Wednesday that federal officials were trying to intimidate parents from speaking their minds on controversial issues at board meetings.

“As we continue to see the use of fear and intimidation to suppress opposition to the regime, we’re going to find new ways to be able to empower parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children,” DeSantis said. “Parents across the state should know that their freedoms are going to be protected here, and that the state of Florida has your back.”

Governor DeSantis kept his word and helped elect candidates to school boards in Florida that are dedicated to empowering parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children.

For example in Sarasota County DeSantis endorsed three pro-parental right to choose candidates for the school board and all three won, giving parents a voice on matters concerning how and what their children are being taught.

Public schools statewide are under the microscope in Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis is leading the charge to make sure the the voices of parents are heard, loud and clearly, by each and every school board.

Parental rights is now the key issue in Florida with Democrats saying parents have no rights and Governor DeSantis clearly supporting the rights of parents in their child’s education. This issue was a factor in the primaries and will be again in the midterm election for Governor of Florida.

©Dr. Rich Swier. All rights reserved.

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How Disruptive Innovation Is Accelerating the Growth of Alternative Learning Models

Disruptive innovation is reshaping how children learn and expanding access to alternative education models.


Disruptive innovation usually begins on the margins, with a few, intrepid users embracing a new product or service. Abetted by new technologies, a disruptive innovation penetrates the mainstream when its quality is proven to be as good, if not better, than more established models.

According to author and investor, Michael Horn, a classic example of disruptive innovation is Airbnb, which began on the margins as a couch-surfing tool and then, enabled by technology, upended the hospitality industry.

“Initially we thought [disruptive innovation] could be any low-cost innovation,” Horn told me on this week’s episode of the LiberatED podcast. “What we observed over time was that you needed some sort of technology enabler that allowed you to carry the original value proposition around convenience, affordability, and accessibility and allowed you to improve without just replicating all of the cost features of the incumbent.”

Horn should know. He co-founded the Clayton Christensen Institute with Clayton Christensen, who coined the term “disruptive innovation” back in the 1990s. Since then, Horn has studied the role of disruptive innovation in education and has written several books on the topic, including his newly-released book, From Reopen to Reinvent: (Re)Creating School for Every Child.

In our podcast conversation this week, Horn and I focused on the ways in which disruptive innovation is reshaping how many children learn, as well as accelerating the growth of alternative learning models.

For instance, while homeschooling began its modern revival a half-century ago, and microschools, or small, multi-age learning environments, have existed for decades—including some of the ones I highlighted in my Unschooled book—it wasn’t until the advent of new technologies that homeschooling and microschooling became a mainstream option for millions of families.

Virtual schools and platforms such as Sora SchoolsMy Tech HighASU Prep Digital, and Socratic Experience, enable students, many of whom may be registered as homeschoolers, to learn from anywhere and have access to a more personalized curriculum. Similarly, Khan Academy, Coursera, Udemy, and Outschool give students around the world access to content and curriculum experts to make it easier to choose an alternative learning path, or supplement a conventional one.

Fast-growing microschool networks such as Prenda and KaiPod are combining educational technology with small, in-person learning pods to enable many more families to have access to a personalized, flexible microschool experience. KaiPod has recently teamed up with virtual providers such as Sora Schools and Socratic Experience to offer pods tailored to families choosing a specific curriculum.

“Leveraging technology allows you to stay connected to the curriculum, learn from anywhere, learn from the best experts anywhere,” said Horn. “And then surround the child with a variety of novel supports that are customized to what that child needs, what the family needs, and unleashes all sorts of things.”

Blending new technologies with the personalization and flexibility of microschooling and homeschooling will continue to disrupt the education sector and turn alternative learning models into mainstream options for many more families.

AUTHOR

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and host of the weekly LiberatED podcast. She is also the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019), an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a regular Forbes contributor. Kerry has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.


​​Listen to the weekly LiberatED Podcast on AppleSpotifyGoogle, and Stitcher, or watch it on YouTube, and sign up for Kerry’s weekly LiberatED email newsletter to stay up-to-date on educational news and trends from a free-market perspective.


EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Teachers Unions Politicized U.S. Schools, Not Parents

Union leaders claim that “extremists” politicized US schools. This is blatant revisionism.


When voters were asked by Pew Research, prior to the 2020 election, what issues were most important to them, education wasn’t even among the top dozen.

But things have changed dramatically since then. Outlets ranging from The Washington Post, to ABC News, have identified education as a potentially significant factor in the 2022 midterms. Additionally, after education emerged as a defining issue in Virginia’s gubernatorial election last year — ranking as a top two or three issue — school choice became a litmus test issue for Republicans.

This is quite the swing in just two years.

Theoretically, education should not really be a political issue; but, as we have seen, it clearly has become one. Therefore, we must ask why exactly this has happened.

There are many possible answers to this question. One of them came from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers — the second largest teachers union in the country. In a recent tweet, she blamed “extremists” who are “attacking teachers” and focusing on a culture war that is “intended to undermine teaching and learning.”

“The culture wars are intended to undermine teaching and learning,” Weingarten wrote. “Extremists are politicizing schools and attacking teachers. Attacking teachers doesn’t help kids, it undermines everything.”

If that was not clear enough, she also linked to a news article where she gets a bit more specific about the kinds of people she is talking about: “the anti-public schools crowd, the anti-union crowd, the privatizers, the haters.” In other words, she is referring to the conservatives, libertarians, liberals who believe in school choice, and even parents themselves.

But are these groups really the ones politicizing education? Or, alternatively, are they simply responding to the overtly political forces that have controlled education for a long time?

The 2020-2021 school year should be seen as critical when considering the politicization of education. Two events occurred in the months preceding that school year that led to the extreme stances that eventually launched schools into the political limelight: the Covid-19 pandemic and the police murder of George Floyd. The former was taken advantage of by teachers’ unions with backward incentives, while the latter led to a nationwide racial reckoning that some took so far as to actually begin promoting regressive racial ideologies in the name of progress.

First, when the Covid-19 pandemic began, there was understandably a lot of uncertainty. But one of the first things that was known about the virus was that kids were the least vulnerable to severe infection. We also soon found out that schools were not a hotspot of Covid transmission. Yet, many K-12 schools started the 2020-2021 school year online — largely due to cynical activism by teachers’ unions. Prior to the school year, Weingarten threatened a strike, stating that “nothing is off the table” if school districts decided to reopen, and the Chicago Teachers Union tweeted later that the push to reopen school was “rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.” It is reasonable to point out that this is just rhetoric — not necessarily representative of what actual power the unions have to shape policy — but studies demonstrated that the strength of a district’s union, not the prevalence of Covid-19 in the community, was the best predictor of prolonged school closures.

More recently, the effects of these closures — caused by the exploitation of a crisis by public sector unions — have become clear. A study released by McKinsey & Company found that “by the end of the 2020-21 school year, students were on average five months behind in math and four months behind in reading.” The learning loss was even more severe among low-income students, as well as black and Hispanic students. Numerous studies — including the CDC’s own research — also show that the closures damaged students’ mental health, with rates of anxiety and depression rising.

Second, following our nation’s racial reckoning beginning in the summer of 2020, some schools began to include radical — regressive, even — teachings on race in their curriculum. Activist Chris Rufo has done deep reporting on this issue for City Journal, exposing example after example of racial essentialist messages surrounding race making their way into K-12 classrooms. Moreover, looking to spread this kind of instruction further, the National Education Association, which is the largest teachers union in the country, passed a resolution that explicitly endorsed the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom as a tool to understand America. And the American Federation of Teachers, which is the second largest teachers union in the country, announced a campaign to bring the writings of Ibram X. Kendi — a scholar who has written that “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” — into every single classroom.

In response to perpetual school closures driven by union power, as well as racially divisive curricula making its way into K-12 schools, a coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and liberals mobilized against such policies.

Parents showed up to school board meetings, politicians passed legislation, and heterodox news outlets reported on what was happening. So many people have left the traditional public school system recently that it is being referred to by some as an ”exodus” of sorts. This is the response that Weingarten is blaming for the politicization of schools. However, it should be noted that all of this came after both radical and unprecedented policies were implemented. So, while one may criticize aspects of the response — after all, I do not agree with every law passed or with every speech given by a parent at a school board meeting — it stretches credulity to claim that parents politicized schools when in fact it was the schools themselves, in tandem with the unions, who introduced these radical political elements.

Data show that more and more people are looking for alternatives to the traditional public school system. Earlier this year, PBS published a piece exploring the surge in homeschooling across the country.

“In 18 states that shared data through the current school year, the number of homeschooling students increased by 63% in the 2020-2021 school year, then fell by only 17% in the 2021-2022 school year,” wrote the Associated Press’ Carolyn Thompson.

The article tells the stories of multiple parents who started to homeschool their children over the past year, and they find that a common reason is that they were simply unimpressed by the quality of the instruction during school closures. Apart from homeschooling, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reported that enrollment went up by seven percent during the pandemic.

The reason is clear: the traditional public school system has been riddled with failures for a long time, but events over the past few years made people more aware of them. And these failures do not just exist in the heads of parents, conservative ideologues or school choice activists, as Weingarten suggests. They are very real. Parents want their kids to attend school in person, and they generally don’t want their kids to be indoctrinated into a particular ideological system by strangers who work for the government. According to the American Federation of Teachers’ own poll, 60 percent of likely voters in battleground states are dissatisfied with the way traditional public schools are teaching about race and 58 percent are dissatisfied with how they are teaching about issues related to gender identity.

People vote with their feet; so, as more and more people leave the traditional public school system, it will become more and more clear that something fundamental needs to change in the way the U.S. handles education policy.

The reason something fundamental must change is that the failures we are seeing do not just happen by chance; rather, they are the natural byproduct of a government monopoly on education coupled with power in the hands of a public sector union. Therefore, any real reform to the education system must address these two things.

First, it is generally understood that monopolies are bad for consumers. They lead to higher prices, along with lower quality and quantity. Figuring out why this happens isn’t difficult: firms have no incentive to innovate, nor provide a high-quality product, when consumers have no other options. The economist Thomas Sowell was correct when he observed that education is truly an outlier when it comes to how it is treated, as traditional public schools — as opposed to a grocery store or a summer camp — do not have to convince anyone that attending them is in their best interest. People are simply forced to attend. However, moving to a model that is characterized by choice will 1) empower families to choose a school that best fits the needs of their individual children and 2) incentivize every school, including traditional public schools, to prioritize the quality of the education they are providing and to continually improve. After all, if they do not, then people will simply decide to attend elsewhere.

Second, the job of a union is to protect, and accrue benefits for, its members. This can clearly be a worthwhile goal; but, when it comes to public sector teachers’ unions, the problems arise when advocating for the interests of teachers means advocating against the interests of students. The truth is that what is best for students is not always best for teachers, and vice versa.

For example, when Covid-19 school closures were being considered, it was clearly in the interest of students to learn in an in-person environment; however, teachers’ unions advocated against opening schools because their job is to look out for the comfort and safety of members. Another example is when a teacher’s job performance is egregiously sub-par. In such a scenario, it is clearly in the interest of students for that teacher to be removed, while it is in the interest of the teacher and the union to retain the teacher’s job. This is why in New York City it takes an average of 830 days and $313,000 to fire a single incompetent teacher.

A successful educational system cannot include cornerstones that, due to their very nature, work to the detriment of children. The good news is that by enacting policies that advance school choice, the power of teachers’ unions to advocate backward policy will weaken for two reasons. First, if that policy is detrimental enough, it may encourage students to leave for a school that puts students’ needs first; this could certainly cause the unions to begin to tread a bit lighter in their advocacy. Second, most charter schools and private schools are not unionized, which means that more students will be learning in schools that are not unionized after there is school choice if unionized schools fail to provide the education consumers want.

Steven Levitt, who co-authored the bestselling book, Freakonomics, explained the current problem with schools aptly. He wrote that “the problem (…) is not too many incentives but too few.” Right now, the schools and the teachers can really just “do whatever they want” in the classroom, regardless of what is best for students, because political forces are protecting the government’s education monopoly and the power of the unions to influence policy. In other words, because there is no competition, there can be no accountability.

This is clearly correct. And so the only solution is greater educational freedom. More people recognize this than ever before, but the work is only just getting started.

AUTHOR

Jack Elbaum

Jack Elbaum was a Hazlitt Writing Fellow at FEE and is a junior at George Washington University. His writing has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The New York Post, and the Washington Examiner. You can contact him at jackelbaum16@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Jack_Elbaum.

RELATED ARTICLE: Parent Sues School Over Transgender Brainwashing

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Learning Styles Don’t Actually Exist, Studies Show

According to many researchers, the learning styles theory is the biggest myth in education.


Are you a visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic learner? For millions of students, this question has become so familiar that they already have an answer ready to go. Some identify as visual learners, which means that, in theory, they learn best by seeing concepts in pictures and diagrams, perhaps on a blackboard or in a video. Others identify as auditory learners, which means they learn best by hearing, or reading/writing learners, which means they learn best by reading books and taking notes. Still others identify as kinesthetic learners, which means they learn best when they can physically engage with things, such as in a chemistry lab.

For most of us, the idea that different people have different learning styles is so obvious that it is simply common knowledge. But there’s a problem here, a big problem. No matter how hard scientists have looked, they haven’t been able to find any good evidence for the learning styles theory. Indeed, many academics who study this for a living consider learning styles to be one of the biggest myths in education.

“There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist,” write psychologists Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham in a 2010 paper titled The Myth of Learning Styles. “Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning.”

If that sounds far-fetched, well, there’s plenty more where that came from.

In a 2009 review paper entitled Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence, researchers investigated the “meshing hypothesis,” which is the idea that students learn better when instruction is provided in a format that matches their learning style. Their conclusion is a hard pill to swallow. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” researchers wrote. “If classfication of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.”

2006 study looking at multimedia instruction came to a similar conclusion. “There was not strong support for the hypothesis that verbal learners and visual learners should be given different kinds of multimedia instruction,” the authors concluded.

But perhaps this is just a few fringe studies? Perhaps there is still some debate on this within academia? Not so, says the American Psychological Association. “Many people, including educators, believe learning styles are set at birth and predict both academic and career success even though there is no scientific evidence to support this common myth,” the APA wrote in a 2019 press release titled “Belief in Learning Styles Myth May Be Detrimental.” The release goes on to say that “numerous studies have debunked the concept of learning styles,” and that there is a “lack of scientific evidence supporting them.”

This lack of evidence stands in stark contrast to popular opinion. Indeed, surveys show that 80-95 percent of people in the US and other industrialized countries believe in learning styles.

Having said all that, it’s important to be clear about what exactly researchers are criticizing when they talk about the myth of learning styles. They aren’t saying there are no differences between students, or that tailored teaching approaches can never be helpful. There are plenty of individual differences between students, such as talent, background knowledge, and interest in the field, and researchers agree that teaching with these differences in mind can have a positive impact.

There is also evidence that using multiple teaching approaches together (such as words and pictures) tends to improve learning across the board, a phenomenon known as the multimedia effect. Again, researchers don’t take issue with this. What they dispute is the idea that each student has a particular learning style, and that teaching to a student’s preferred learning style will improve their educational outcomes.

For many people, the idea that learning styles don’t have scientific support is likely a bit of a shock. How could we be so wrong about something so fundamental? And how could so many people believe this if it wasn’t true? These are good questions, and they’re worth exploring. But a more unsettling question also comes to mind.

If we could be wrong about this, what else might we be getting wrong about education?

What if there are other things we’re doing in the school system that are also seriously flawed, even though we don’t realize it? What if there are other widely-believed assumptions that would also prove untrue upon closer inspection? We fall so easily into habits and routines that we become slaves to the status quo. Is it really a stretch, then, to suggest that we might have missed something else as well? Is it a stretch to wonder whether we’re even getting this whole education thing right?

What if there are better ways to learn than typical schooling, ways we haven’t even thought of? What if we’ve been duped into thinking that what we have now is the best possible approach, but really the only reason we think that is because it’s all most of us have ever known? What if most of the stuff we think is “common knowledge” about education is actually straight-up wrong? These are questions worth seriously considering.

We’re told that sitting in a classroom 6 hours a day is what kids need. But is it really? We’re told that everyone should learn the same thing at the same age, but is that really best? We’re told that everyone needs at least 12 years of formal schooling, and that this schooling should take place between the ages of 6 and 18, but is that really true? Once you start questioning the fundamental tenets of schooling we all take for granted, you realize there’s a lot we might be getting wrong.

Fortunately, we live in the 21st century, with technology and insights that previous generations simply didn’t have. As such, now is a better time than ever to go back to the drawing board and question the fundamental assumptions that form the bedrock of the education system as we know it.

Change is hard, of course. When we start asking questions that no one has asked for decades, it can be uncomfortable. But in the end, not changing is harder. When we allow myths about education to fester, like the myth of learning styles, we only do a disservice to the next generation. So rather than seeking out validation for our pre-existing views, let’s be courageous and have an open mind about these things. Let’s put our theories about education to the test and see whether they stand up to scrutiny.

The education system has been stagnant for far too long, and the persistence of bad ideas like the learning styles theory is a testament to this fact. So rather than sticking with the status quo, perhaps it’s time to put our old education assumptions aside and seek out a better approach.

AUTHOR

Patrick Carroll

Patrick Carroll has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and is an Editorial Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Marxists Spoke! Sadly, We Listened.

Marxists spoke: Never talk about politics and religion.  Don’t trust your parents. Be the silent majority.  Sadly, we listened.


A newly released report from Steve Moore, states that there is no one, NOT ONE, ZERO person in the OBiden regime that knows anything about business. think about this: These people are pushing their untried, untested, complete failure policies on We the People because they don’t care about people or results. They only care about power.

It seems as though our SCOTUS believes in the US Constitution. We won great decisions in the Supreme Court but got screwed by the Gutless Outrageous Prostitutes = GOP. (Thank you Sally Baptiste for that great new name for the GOP.)   Are you still going to vote for the same traitors again? Chaney is out begging democrats to vote for her. I hope that even Wyoming Democrats are not that stupid.

To understand what’s going on today we really have to go back and look at the 60s-70s. Most Americans pushing abortion are Boomers from that era. The boomers, myself included were the hippies, the flower children, the rock n  rollers, anti-G-d, Anti-family and Anti-America.  Morality was tossed out the window when G-d was removed from public buildings, due to 1person complaining in Engel v. Vitale . Then we accepted perversion, drugs, liquor,  sex as the new lifestyle. We would do anything our parents didn’t do. We hated the establishment.

In the 60s-70s we were so despondent and in such despair at seeing our great American heroes being assassinated in front of our very eyes. We strongly believed that the assassinations were part of a government coup. Of course we were told we were conspiracy nuts. HA! John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King JR, Robert Kennedy, our hope for a bright future was slowly fading.  We were forced into a war by draft in Vietnam that no one wanted. We were forced to fight a war in Vietnam against communism while promoting communism at home in school. How sick was that?  We were taught to lay our hatred on the heroes that were forced to fight. While those who avoided the draft became teachers in this new education called Social Studies/sustainability aka communism.

And so like all other peoples of the world when we were abused we responded. We were angry .We demonstrated, we marched and we rioted. We destroyed statues, burned buildings and listened to the emotional news about the war even though we knew they were lying.

We were taught to divert our attention into sex and drugs which we learned in school through a variety of “new” SEX Ed courses and we learned fast. After all we learned in school so it had to be OK. We had multiple outlets to express our new found “free love” like Studio 54, Plato’s Retreat and Playboy Club.  We often took out our hostility in our music and art. Bill Ayers (Obama’s mentor and leader of the Weather Underground responsible for multiple bombings of federal buildings, now a professor) asked John Lennon to write a song for the revolution. John wrote “Revolution”. Bill was pissed. (Read the lyrics)

We took massive quantities of drugs and had Love Ins with sex, drugs and  lots of liquor hooking up at any time with anyone. Nothing has changed. Those teens, grew up and are now running America using their never tried utopian/Marxist theories that they write when under the influence of something. If they wanted the drug war over, they would end it instead of participating in it. These insane illogical theories don’t work, can’t work, will never work. They are instead designed to take forever and be way over budget.  If their programs worked, they couldn’t bleed us dry.

What did we learn? Well my group of teenagers were told never talk about politics and religion.  Don’t trust your parents after all anyone over 30 doesn’t know what is going on. Be the silent majority.  Never talk about the war. We were told the government knows best.  We grew up to being so anti-establishment that it didn’t matter what the establishment did or said we figured they were just lying. The GOP and DNC are filled with these globalists who vow to take down America’s greatness and steal everything they can’t get legally. . Check out the “GOP-Gutless Outrageous Prostitutes”  who just voted to take away the only protection we have with our guns while they bring terrorists into America. They hate Americans. They want us to suffer so we will be happy with their government crumbs. We will do more for less while they take everything and we will be happy with drugs and video games. Yuval Noah Harari from World Economic Forum describes their intent:

War makes their problem of too many useless eaters, easy to dispose of. These globalists will protect the border of Ukraine and provide Ukraine guns while disarming Americans. All they want is for us to DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity) so they can steal our property and keep power.

Where did we turn to vent our frustration and agree to transform America? Our educators took care of that. In 1989, Shirley Mc Cune from the McRel Foundation told the Governors Association:

We will change education from fact based to value based (on emotion) learning.

(Emotional people are easier to control using emotional triggers.)

We will stop focusing on the individual, and focus on the collective (we can conform everyone to the group mentality.)

We will train for work, not educate for life. (We need workers not thinkers or experts).

Communists learned that uneducated people are easier to control.

While all eyes looked at colleges, they infiltrated K-12 while convincing the family to “keep up with the Jones” by overspending so both mom and dad had to work ensuring the breakup of the family. The evolution of the family went from Father Knows Best to All in the Family to Married with Children showing how dysfunctional families are really the norm.

Today we suffer the results of those teachings as our government officials and experts are only capable of reading their talking points. I am just following directions, you will hear as their excuse for their third world actions of government against the people. Our police, after being emasculated (the goal of the feminist movement), will stand and watch as children are being slaughtered because they are just following directions.  The hell with the Americans.  They are just useless eaters. Less people is better they have been taught. According to Stalin, “Less people, less problems.”

We turned to a new type of government called socialism. It sounded so social, fun and inviting. It sounded so nice. All people will look after each other. Everyone would share. It will be wonderful. Everyone will all have the same stuff. And so the confused children turned to the communists who were so ready to open their arms for their new flock. The commies changed all the words and definitions to reflect Peace and Love. We followed Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and they offered the people exactly what Khrushchev said. I will feed you little bits of socialism and one day you will be a communist.

Now we have America’s new normal. How does that work?

Kevin Sorbo on  Twitter:

“Can I drive your car? No, you’re 5

Can I have a beer?  No, you’re 5

Can I have a cigarette? No, you’re 5

Can I have a gun? No, you’re 5

Can I take hormones and change my gender? Of Course, you know what’s best.”


My conversation (Italics) with a Greenie:   

Greenie: I am getting an EV. I will save tons of money on fossil fuel since it will soon be outlawed. I can depend on clean green energy from wind or sun. No dirty fuel for me.

That is great but what do you do if there is no wind or sun. 

It won’t matter because I will plug my car in the wall socket.

Where does the electricity in the socket come from?

It comes from the wires.

Where does the electricity in the wires come from?

It comes from the power company.

Where does the electricity in the power company come from? From the grid.  Where does the electricity from the grid come from? 

DUH! OOPS Ok Where?

Fossil fuel.


NO FOSSIL FUEL = NO ELECTRICITY.

We are assisting in our own failure.

CO2 is necessary to produce food not climate change.

America is having a food shortage crisis. CO2 helps plants aka food to grow.

CO2 is about .03% of the atmosphere and is a result of warming, NOT the cause.

Joe said he doesn’t know why or what to do about the food shortages but Joe has a plan. He increased ethanol aka corn aka soy in gas which burns our food for fuel resulting in less food at a higher cost for Americans and more expensive gas.

“Growing ethanol not food wastes: 5Billion tons of N Fertilizer; 68 Trillion BTU of natural gas; 57000sq MILES (not acres) of farmland.” Dr. Sarah Taber.

Joe has opened border for illegals to eat our food giving Americans less food; higher cost.

Then Joe wrote an EO forcing new furnaces to eliminate CO2. No CO2 = No Food.  Since over 20 processing plants were attacked, Joe signed an EO to give $1Billion to farmers to build new plants. Only the EPA regulations make it cost prohibitive.  Is it Joe’s intent to starve Americans so he can trade food for guns?

American government schools teach their students to be mediocre.  Multiple educators, myself included know that Common Core insures America’s children will be 2 years below average. Now we are surprised that they are.

Based on their IQ test results, the woman from the U.S. scored 16 points lower than that of her sibling in Korea.

This is a recent article regarding the low numbers of 3rd Graders who can read at proficiency level of 4 or 5 on the scale of 1-5

These programs DON’T WORK!

We just had LGBTQ month. Where is the Hetero Month? Or the Cisgender Month.  After all we are the majority and in a “Democracy” the majority wins. So why are we not recognized?  These labels are just used to divide the people. Really who cares what anyone does in their bedroom?

My question is: Can you do the job?

It is obvious in this failed regime the answer is No, but not to worry their departments met their DIE quota.

Now the big question:  Is America worth saving? What will you do about it?

©Karen Schoen. All rights reserved.

RELATED ARTICLE: San Francisco School Returns to Merit-Based Admissions

Arizona’s New School Choice Bill Moves Us Closer to Milton Friedman’s Vision

“Our goal is to have a system in which every family in the U.S. will be able to choose for itself the school to which its children go,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman stated in 2003. “We are far from that ultimate result. If we had that, a system of free choice, we would also have a system of competition, innovation, which would change the character of education.”

Last week, Arizona lawmakers moved us much closer to that ultimate result. Legislators in that state, which already had some of the most robust school choice policies in the US, passed the country’s first universal education savings account bill, extending education choice to all K-12 students.

The education savings accounts, or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts as they are known in Arizona, had previously been available to certain Arizona students who met specific criteria, including special needs students and children in active-duty military families. This new bill, which the Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign, extends education choice to all school-age children throughout Arizona.

Every family will now have access to 90 percent of the state-allocated per pupil education dollars, or about $7,000 per student, to use toward approved education-related resources, including private school tuition, tutors, curriculum materials, online learning programs, and more.

“Arizona is now the gold standard for school choice,” Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, told me this week. “Every other state should follow Arizona’s lead and fund students instead of systems. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution. School choice is the only way to truly secure parental rights in education.”

Several states have introduced or expanded school choice policies over the past couple of years, enabling taxpayer funding of education to go directly to students rather than bureaucratic school systems. In this week’s LiberatED podcast episode, I spoke with one education entrepreneur, Michelle McCartney, whose homeschool resource center is an approved vendor for New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts, an education savings account program for income-eligible students that was implemented last year.

While McCartney sees a fully private, free market in education as the ideal circumstance, she recognizes that education choice policies are an important first step toward expanding education options for more families, and reducing government involvement in the education sector.

“If it was up to me we wouldn’t pay any money to the government and school would be entirely privatized,” said McCartney. “That’s how I believe it should be, but it’s not. So I think we can all sit here and have discussions about what would be the ideal circumstance, but I think sometimes we’ve got to roll with what we have, and if we can get any of that money back to the families I think that’s an important first step.”

Indeed, Milton Friedman also saw school choice policies such as vouchers as a first step in education reform, not a final one. Friedman popularized the idea of school choice policies, specifically universal school vouchers, in his 1955 paper, “The Role of Government in Education,” and elaborated on his views over the following decades up until his death in 2006 at the age of 94.

Friedman and his economist wife Rose wrote in their influential book, Free To Choose: “We regard the voucher plan as a partial solution because it affects neither the financing of schooling nor the compulsory attendance laws. We favor going much farther.”

While Arizona’s new legislation now makes it the forerunner in education choice policies across the country, West Virginia is close behind and begins to address compulsory attendance. Lawmakers there recently passed legislation that loosens state compulsory school attendance laws for participants in learning pods and microschools, two emerging, decentralized K-12 learning models that are gaining popularity across the country. West Virginia also passed an education savings account program last year, known as the Hope Scholarship, that extends education choice to nearly all K-12 students.

The education disruption over the past two years has re-energized parents and taxpayers alike. They are demanding more options beyond an assigned district school, embracing innovative learning models, and loosening the government grip on education. As Friedman envisioned, a choice-based system of education weakens the government monopoly on schooling and sparks innovation and competition to ultimately “change the character of education.”

We are seeing that change occur right before our eyes.

Listen to the weekly LiberatED Podcast on AppleSpotifyGoogle, and Stitcher, and sign up for Kerry’s weekly LiberatED email newsletter to stay up-to-date on educational news and trends from a free-market perspective.

AUTHOR

Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and host of the weekly LiberatED podcast. She is also the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019), an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a regular Forbes contributor. Kerry has a B.A. in economics from Bowdoin College and an M.Ed. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. You can sign up for her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

$30K a year, and my kid can’t tell the difference between a boy and a girl

Parents must hold their local school systems accountable for what is taught to their children.


Everything has a price.

Like every American family, our family runs a constant cost/benefit analysis on our lives. There are the small decisions: is it worth the time to drive to Target for the cheaper diapers? Or should I just get the pricier ones at the grocery store? And there are the bigger ones: like, should I live in the suburbs and pay lower taxes but more for car expenses and gas? Or flip that decision?

For our family, one of the toughest decisions was where to send our kids to school. We could send them across the street to the poorly performing public school for free. They’d meet a wide variety of kids and learn some valuable self-advocacy skills, but they would not be academically challenged. For $30k, I could send them to the nearby private school, where they’d benefit from engaged teachers, kids, and families. We’d have to drop the music lessons and fancy trips, but hey — I don’t like Disneyland anyway.

So, with some scholarships, sacrifices, and family assistance, we made the choice to send our kids to a fancy private school. The benefits have been great: warm, caring, patient teachers; outstanding academics; beautiful buildings; even a pretty good lunch. But there’s been a hidden cost, beyond the incredibly painful tuition bills: my kids can’t tell the difference between a boy and a girl.

This seems shocking, I know. How can a concept so obvious, so instinctual that nearly every 2-year-old on the planet can master it, be an idea that my very expensively-educated children don’t understand?

Simple-minded educators

Because some teachers don’t understand it. Because some administrators don’t understand it. And this is where I have to remind myself of something true: half the world is dumber than average.

I know this sounds incredibly snobby. I know this sounds judgmental and awful, but this is true. And this fact helps me take a breath, find some compassion, and slow down.

These teachers are good people. They are kind. They like kids, and want the best for children. They believe that education can make the world a better place. And additionally, they were hired for their people skills: they are empathetic, good communicators, patient, and open-minded. Those are exactly the skills my tuition dollars are paying for.

But these teachers are not well-trained critical thinkers. They were not hired for their ability to analyse complex research studies, nor to follow the various paths of different complex scenarios. They are not philosophers, ethicists, or religious scholars. They are not lawyers or developmental psychologists. They are not endocrinologists or pediatricians. They are experts at connecting to kids and explaining the types of K-12 content that kids should learn. Thank god for teachers and their talents and skills. Our society needs them. But they are not the experts here. They are just trying to do their jobs.

So when faced with the concept of “gender identity” — the idea that “people have an innate feeling of being female or male,” the typical teacher will say “Sure — that makes sense. I’m female, I know it. That’s not a controversial idea.”

When faced with the diagnostic definition of “gender dysphoria”, the idea that “some people have great distress with their biological sex, and wish they were the opposite sex,” these teachers say, “Sure — I know about Jazz Jennings and Caitlyn Jenner. That’s a real thing.”

When faced with the fact of “Disorders of Sexual Development” (formerly known as Intersex conditions), the scientifically observed and natural phenomena of various biological sexual characteristics and markers, teachers say, “Yep — I learned about that once.”

And when urged to consider the negative impacts of the difficulty of being an outlier, and the impacts of social isolation and/or ostracism, the teachers say, “Not on my watch. My cousin was gay and poorly treated. I won’t let any of my kids be bullied or left out.”

So when teachers combine all these ideas and impressions and blend them into their natural “be nice” personalities and “open-minded” natures, they are primed to become believers and advocates of transgender ideology. If Johnny likes skirts and thinks he’s really a girl inside, who are we to judge? We really can’t blame the teachers. They were born this way.

So our society has laid yet another burden of expectation on teachers. They must educate kids, they must socialise kids, they must address and resolve the emotional and behavioural dysfunctions of these kids. And now they must be responsible for nurturing, protecting, and advocating for the “internal feeling of being female or male” for a kid, otherwise they’ll be held responsible for the kid’s ostracism.

This is nuts. These teachers don’t stand a chance.

To the top

So we can’t fight the teachers. We’ve got to get the administrators and school boards to stop, listen, and think. These people were hired to be critical thinkers, to balance different opinions, to consider the different consequences of different choices. They still aren’t likely to read the studies or think through the ethical or philosophical consequences of different complex scenarios, but they are primed to consider one thing above all: legal threats.

Right now, principals and school boards are hiding behind the guidelines that WPATH (an activist-led organisation), the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have created. These organisations have good intentions, but they are also human and flawed (and remember — half their members are below average). Even the ACLU seems to have lost its mind on this topic.

I suggest American parents adopt the “Maya Forstater Approach.” This strategy, based on the case in England, relies on fundamental and constitutional American legal rights: free speech and free religion. I don’t care if you haven’t been to church ever. This is what you say to your school board:

“For scientific, religious, and social reasons, I do not believe that you can change your sex, and I do not want my children to be taught “gender identity”, the belief that you have a gendered soul, and that your gender soul feelings trump your biology. How is your school protecting my family’s religious beliefs and our right to be free from compelled speech?”

Ask your school’s principal this question every Fall. Send it as a statement to your kids’ teachers every fall. Tell them to inform you of any lesson on gender identity before it happens so that your children can have a substitute lesson. Ask them what their policy on requesting pronouns is, so that your child does not feel compelled to use certain speech. Ask them how they balance different opinions on this topic in the community.

I can guarantee you they do not see this as a religious issue, but as a social justice issue. Say the magic words “freedom of religion/freedom from religion” and “freedom of speech” and see if that works. We’ve got a long history of protecting underdogs in this country, and right now the culture glorifies the status of victim. Use this knowledge wisely.

And here’s the thing: this is going to cost you. Be ready. Do the cost/benefit analysis. Whether your kids are getting a free public education or an expensive private one, when you ruffle the feathers of the principal, the winds blow. Then again, if you remain silent, your kid may not understand that sex never changes. Be prepared. Everything has a cost.

This article has been republished from Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans (PITT).

BY

Anonymous author

In exceptional circumstances, MercatorNet allows contributors to publish articles anonymously. Sometimes the author’s privacy or safety might be at risk. More by Anonymous author.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Without Logos, the West is lost”

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Why College Degrees Are Losing Their Value

The signaling function of college degrees may have been distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation.


The concept of inflation (the depreciation of purchasing power of a specific currency) applies to other goods besides money. Inflation is related to the Law of Supply and Demand. As the supply of a commodity increases, the value decreases. Conversely, as the good becomes more scarce, the value of the commodity increases. This same concept is also applicable to tangible items such as vintage baseball cards and rare art. These are rare commodities that cannot be authentically replicated and therefore command a high value on the market. On the other hand, mass-produced rookie cards and replications of Monet’s work are plentiful. As a result, they yield little value on the market.

Inflation and the opposite principle of deflation can also apply to intangible goods. When looking at the job market, this becomes quite evident. Jobs that require skills that are rare or exceptional tend to pay higher wages. However, there are also compensating differentials that arise because of the risky or unattractive nature of undesirable jobs. The higher wages are due to a lack of workers willing to accept the position rather than the possession of skills that are in demand.

Over the past couple of decades, credentialing of intangible employment value has become more prevalent. Credentials can range from college degrees to professional certifications. One of the most common forms of credentialing has become a 4-year college degree. This category of human capital documentation has evolved to take on an alternate function.

Outside of a few notable exceptions, a bachelor’s degree serves a signaling function. As George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan argues, the function of a college degree is primarily to signal to potential employers that a job applicant has desirable characteristics. Earning a college degree is more of a validation process than a skill-building process. Employers desire workers that are not only intelligent but also compliant and punctual. The premise of the signaling model seems to be validated by the fact that many graduates are not using their degrees. In fact, in 2013; only 27 percent of graduates had a job related to their major.

Since bachelor’s degrees carry a significant signaling function, there have been substantial increases in the number of job seekers possessing a 4-year degree. Retention rates for 4-year institutions reached an all-time high of 81 percent in 2017. In 1900 only 27,410 students earned a bachelor’s degree. This number ballooned to 4.2 million by 1940, and has now increased to 99.5 million. These numbers demonstrate the sharp increase in the number of Americans earning college degrees.

Today, nearly 40 percent of all Americans hold a 4-year degree. Considering the vast increase in college attendance and completion, it’s fair to question if a college degree has retained its “purchasing power” on the job market. Much of the evidence seems to suggest that it has not.

The signaling function of college degrees may have been distorted by the phenomenon known as credential inflation. Credential inflation is nothing more than “… an increase in the education credentials required for a job.”

Many jobs that previously required no more than a high school diploma are now only accepting applicants with bachelor’s degrees. This shift in credential preferences among employers has now made the 4-year degree the unofficial minimum standard for educational requirements. This fact is embodied in the high rates of underemployment among college graduates. Approximately 41 percent of all recent graduates are working jobs that do not require a college degree. It is shocking when you consider that 17 percent of hotel clerks and 23.5 percent of amusement park attendants hold 4-year degrees. None of these jobs have traditionally required a college degree. But due to a competitive job market where most applicants have degrees, many recent graduates have no means of distinguishing themselves from other potential employees. Thus, many recent graduates have no other option but to accept low-paying jobs.

The value of a college degree has gone down due to the vast increase in the number of workers who possess degrees. This form of debasement mimics the effect of printing more money. Following the Law of Supply and Demand, the greater the quantity of a commodity, the lower the value. The hordes of guidance counselors and parents urging kids to attend college have certainly contributed to the problem. However, public policy has served to amplify this issue.

Various kinds of loan programsgovernment scholarships, and other programs have incentivized more students to pursue college degrees. Policies that make college more accessible—proposals for “free college,” for example—also devalue degrees. More people attending college makes degrees even more common and further depreciated.

Of course, this not to say brilliant students with aspirations of a career in STEM fields should avoid college. But for the average student, a college degree may very well be a malinvestment and hinder their future.

Incurring large amounts of debt to work for minimum wage is not a wise decision. When faced with policies and social pressure that have made college the norm, students should recognize that a college degree isn’t everything. If students focused more on obtaining marketable skills than on credentials, they might find a way to stand out in a job market flooded with degrees.

COLUMN BY

Peter Clark

Peter Clark is a blogger and enthusiastic advocate of free-market economics. Find his work on Medium.

For more education related columns please click here.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

‘Loudoun County Protects Rapists’: Students Stage Walkout In Protest Of Loudoun County’s Alleged Sexual Assault Cover-Up

UPDATES:

Tucker Carlson Blows The Whistle On Virginia School Walkout Protesting School’s Protection of Rapist.


Students at a Loudoun County high school staged a walkout in support of recent sexual assault victims.

Broad Run High School, where the walkout took place, is the high school where an alleged attacker was transferred after he was charged with inappropriately touching a female student, Drew Wilder of NBC Washington reported. The teen was initially a student at Stone Bridge High School. A similar walkout took place at Riverside High School, also in the Loudoun County Public School district.

Students could be heard chanting, “Loudoun County protects rapists” and “why was a rapist allowed in our school?” One student said, “this isn’t a political issue, this is a human issue,” according to Wilder.

On Monday, a Virginia court ruled that there was enough evidence to find the teen accused of assaulting a female student in a bathroom guilty of engaging in “non-consensual sex.”

The teen, who identifies as “gender fluid,” is standing trial on two separate cases. The first involved an in-classroom incident at Stone Bridge, and the second involved a ninth-grader at Broad Run who accused the teen of sexual assault, originally reported by The Daily Wire.

The Loudoun County Public School board initially claimed it was not informed about the “specific claims” relating to sexual assault allegations, though reporting from WTOP uncovered that the district’s superintendent sent an email to the board members the day of the assault.

Five former Virginia attorneys general have since called on the state’s current Attorney General to investigate the board over its handling of the scandal.

COLUMN BY

CHRISSY CLARK

Contributor.

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Doctor Is In…on Educating America’s Children

Judge Finds Skirt-Wearing Teen Boy Guilty Of Sexually Assaulting Female Classmate In Loudoun County School Bathroom

Loudoun County Forces Parents To Sign NDA-Style Form To View CRT-Inspired Curriculum

Teaching Black History is Broken

A discerning look at public school history books, grades six through twelve, will reveal that the teaching of black history is, indeed, broken. Excluded are most of the exceptional accomplishments of blacks throughout American history. History textbooks are the dominant educational tool that shapes students’ views. Our children are missing some of the greatest inspirational stories ever told when American history books are inadequately represented and devoid of black history.

In recounting the history of the 1619 arrival of the first blacks, history books do not share that some were treated as indentured servants, as was Anthony Johnson. Anthony arrived on the English ship, White Lion, eventually became a landowner through the “headright system” and a slave owner. Anthony, a black man, won a court case in Northampton County Court on March 8, 1655, to keep his slave, John Casor. It was the case that changed the American landscape, for it was the first legal sanction of slavery in the Virginia Colony.

How many students know about the black heroes of the Revolutionary War? Thousands of free and enslaved blacks fought in every major battle from Lexington and Concord to Yorktown and served in an integrated army. Some blacks were fighting for the promise of freedom, while others were fighting for their country’s independence. By 1779, fifteen percent of the Continental Army was black. Peter Salem was born a slave and joined the Massachusetts Minutemen, and was a sharpshooter who played a vital role in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Salem was honored in John Trumbull’s painting, “Battle of Bunker Hill.” James Armistead posed as a runaway slave and gained the trust of the British and gave strategic information of troop movements to the Continental Army resulting in success at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781.

Students learn about the Abolitionist movement and Harriet Tubman, but what about Levi and Catherine Coffin, who helped more than 3,000 slaves escape to freedom? Or what about the escaped slaves Ellen and William Craft, who became active in the Abolitionist movement? Or the wealthy free black James Forten family of Philadelphia, who were instrumental in the fighting for slave freedom.

By the time the American Civil War commenced, more than 488,000 free blacks were in the North and South. Thousands of free and enslaved blacks fought in every major campaign in the last two years of the Civil War. Twenty-six blacks were Medal of Honor recipients. Landsman Aaron Anderson (U.S.S. Wyandank), enlisted at the age of 52, was singled out for courage under heavy fire; Sergeant William H. Carney (54th Massachusetts Infantry) received his award for the Battle of Fort Wagner; and Sergeant Christian A. Fleetwood (4th U.S.C.T.), a graduate of Ashmun Institute, said he enlisted “to save the country from ruin.”

Frederick Douglass was a great well-known orator, but what about Robert B. Elliott?  Robert B. Elliott was a U.S. Congressman whose speech “The Shackle is Broken” addressed the Civil Rights Bill of 1875, which enriched the meanings of liberty and citizenship. Elliott’s speech was so brilliant that some doubted if he wrote it.  Additionally, more than 2,000 black leaders during Reconstruction at the local, state, and national levels contributed invaluable leadership to America.

There are thousands of stories about inspirational leaders: inventors such as Granville T. Woods, called the black Thomas Edison, was awarded more than forty-five patents for his inventions, or the first black woman physician, Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, who graduated from medical school in 1864, or people in business such as the “Potato King” Junius G. Groves who produced more white potatoes than anyone in the world, or explorers such as the first black woman astronaut Mae Jemison, or the NASA pioneer mathematician Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures fame, and the gifted surgical teacher, Vivien Thomas who never went to college, but was awarded an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1976.

Yocum African American History Association (YAAHA) was founded by two women, one black and one white, who forged a partnership and began their journey to uncover hidden black history. These two women, Frances Presley Rice who is black and the undersigned, created YAAHA, a non-profit organization, to provide educational resources that celebrate black history and prove that black history is American history.

The founders of YAAHA co-authored “Black History 1619-2019: An Illustrated and Documented African-American History” that is an in-depth look at the events which shaped the lives and contributions of the African American community in the United States of America. Now in its third printing, the book is available at Amazon.com and through bookstores nationwide. Proceeds from book sales are donated to YAAHA.

The Headmaster of Bridgeport International Academy wrote:

“Our Academy refers to this excellent and objective review of Black History that sheds light on many chapters of American history in clear, objective, and precise language backed up by thorough research and many compelling photos and individual stories. It enables real conversation and constructive thinking about race in this country instead of the propaganda that seeks racial division for economic and political gain. I encourage other schools to use it when developing their American History courses, particularly during Black History month, as it is a wealth of resources for lesson planning.”  – Frank LaGtotteria, D.Min.,Headmaster, Bridgeport International Academy

The article “Let’s Celebrate America’s Black Patriots” by Burgess Owens, the U.S. Representative for Utah’s Fourth district, that was published in the Newsweek online magazine includes a reference to the book, plus information extracted from it.

For more information about the YAAHA educational resources, visit: www.YocumBlackHistory.org.

©Sandra K. Yocum. All rights reserved.

Racist Democrat Gov. Candidate Nikki Fried: Ron DeSantis Seeks ‘Race War’ With Critical Race Theory Ban

This is what desperation looks like. Nikki Fried knows that she can’t defeat Governor DeSantis on the issues. That is why she is playing the race card. A very typical tactic from the Left. When they can’t win an argument, they will more often then not accuse their opponent of racism. Here is the good news. It’s not going to work. Nikki Fried will get trounced by Governor DeSantis in Florida’s upcoming gubernatorial election. No matter how much favorable news coverage she gets from the mainstream media. That’s assuming she even wins her party’s nomination.

Nikki Fried: Ron DeSantis seeks ‘race war’ with critical race theory ban

By Florida Politics, June 14, 2021

Fried made the comments on Jacksonville radio Monday.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried contended Monday that Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks a “race war and a cultural war.”

Fried, appearing on WJCT-FM’s “First Coast Connect,” was answering a listener question about the recently instituted Board of Education ban on teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project, when she made the comment critical of the rule change.

“This is another opportunity for the Governor to create a race war and cultural war, inside of our state,” Fried told host Melissa Ross.

“I want everybody to rest assured. First of all, critical race theory is the new bogeyman of the Republican Party. It’s not something that’s taught in the state of Florida,” Fried noted. “But we need to let our teachers do their jobs and that’s teach.”

“This Governor and this Board of Education who is, again, appointed solely by Republican Governors like Ron DeSantis and the previous Governor as well, it is not their job to tell our teachers how to — sure, there’s parameters (and) policies, but this is a time when they have overstepped once again, government stepping into the job of educating, and not the teachers.”

“This is, again, a bogeyman the Governor is pushing out there to put fear into the people’s minds,” Fried continued.

“He did it intentionally, not because there’s a worry about something like this, but to create a culture war in our state. I know people in our state are smarter than this and aren’t going to fall for this political rhetoric spewed by Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party,” Fried said.

Fried’s criticism of DeSantis drew a response Tuesday morning from the Republican Governors’ Association.

“Nikki Fried’s accusations against the Governor aren’t just desperate, they’re dangerous,” said RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “Fried has shown repeatedly that she’s incapable of being truthful about pretty much anything. Her resorting to lies and malicious manipulations on her own liberal biography and views on critical race theory are just more of the same.”

Fried’s direct criticisms of the Board of Education’s ban on teaching critical race theory and like concepts comes after DeSantis, in the wake of the board’s decision, contended some teachers would rather teach critical race theory than reading.

“Some of the nonsense that you see in some of these places around the country, I mean, they will attack cops with this type of ideology in schools, and meanwhile, they have like 87% of the kids that aren’t even literate in some of these schools. So it shows you they’re not trying to educate; they’re trying to indoctrinate,” DeSantis said.

“We’re not going to let that come to Florida. And so I’m glad that they acted. I think it’s the right thing to do. We’re going to make sure that we’re providing access to education, but solid education, free of some of this ideology that people are trying to shove down everybody’s throats.”

Even as Democrats such as Fried object to the DeSantis agenda, donors flock to him.

DeSantis, who reported nearly $40 million cash on hand in his Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee as of the end of May, has been fundraising off the critical race theory ban for days.

“I will NOT allow this Cultural Marxism to Gain a Foothold in Florida Schools,” an email solicitation sent Thursday reads.

The new guidance for teachers certainly offers content guardrails.

American history is to be defined “largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” Teachers’ apparent efforts “to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” will also be banned, as is “fiction or theory masquerading as facts.”

RELATED ARTICLE: NASA Starts New Critical Race Theory Initiative

EDITORS NOTE: This Geller Report column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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