This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and Cara talk with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, founder of the AHA Foundation, and author of the books Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights, Infidel: My Lifeand Nomad: From Islam to America – A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations. Ms. Hirsi Ali shares insights from her upbringing and early education in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, as well as her courageous immigration to the West, where she experienced an intellectual awakening that led to human rights activism and a seat in the Dutch Parliament. They discuss why all human rights and free speech advocates should be concerned about the rise and growing militancy of political correctness and “cancel culture” in the West, its impact on reasoned public debate, and what educators need to teach young people about the importance of open mindedness and the free exchange of ideas. Lastly, Ms. Hirsi Ali reviews the central theme of her latest book, Prey, which explores the long-term ramifications of mass migration from Islamic-majority countries on the rights of women in Europe, given the different value systems between these countries and the West, with its commitment to the rule of law, rights-centered constitutionalism, science, and religious liberty. She concludes with a reading from the book.

Stories of the Week: The Biden administration is ordering states to continue federally required standardized tests this year, though there is flexibility on the exam format and accountability standards. Is this an opportunity for innovation in student testing? All members of a San Francisco-area school board resigned after mocking parents at a virtual meeting that they didn’t realize was already being broadcast live. Was this an isolated incident or a window into their general outlook toward families?

Why We Need Shakespeare Now More than Ever

 

Yes, the War Against Shakespeare has been going on for years now. But the Woke Supremacists in universities are stepping up the volume, because, you know, Shakespeare is not relevant today. It’s not just because he represents white-supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and all other -isms. No. He’s not relevant.

What can Shakespeare possibly have to say to today’s youth, or today’s young adults, or even today’s old adults? How can Shakespeare possibly be relevant to them? Let’s take a moment to imagine…

Join Jim and Greg as they serve up three good martinis, even if the last one is a bit iffy. First, they;re glad to see CVS reporting excellent progress administering vaccines to residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They’re also happy to see the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York investigating the Cuomo administration for covering up the number of nursing home deaths. And they welcome President Biden’s goal of having K-8 students in school five days a week within his first 100 days, although they’ll believe it when they see it.

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Gerard and guest co-host Kerry McDonald continue our celebration of Black achievements with Terry Teachout, drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, and author of such books as Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington. They explore how Louis Armstrong became such a brilliant, internationally beloved musician, and the indispensable genius of the distinctly American art form known as jazz. Teachout talks about the influence of Armstrong’s roots in New Orleans on his long career spanning several decades, from the Jazz Age of the 1920s-30s into the 1960s with his #1 hit, “Hello Dolly.” They then turn to Duke Ellington, described by Teachout as the greatest jazz composer of the 20th century, whose works were complex and ingenious, yet accessible, and whose demeanor was polished and elegant. Best known for classics like “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Mood Indigo,” he led the 1920s-30s-era orchestras at the famous Cotton Club. As a writer and former jazz musician himself, Teachout offers insights into what educators, students, and aspiring young musicians can learn most from these widely contrasting giants of jazz about their craft, as well as about race relations in early 20th-century America. The interview concludes with a reading from Teachout’s biography of Armstrong, Pops.

Stories of the Week: In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the school district reached a deal with the teachers union to reopen elementary and middle schools in March, after 10 months of remote instruction. Is there a correlation between school reopening and factors such as the strength of union leadership, or competition from private alternatives? Colby College in Maine will be the first small liberal arts school to launch a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) institute, that will integrate machine learning and big data into its instruction and research programs. AI could change teaching and learning forever – presenting both challenges and opportunities.

Join Jim and Greg as they applaud Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for speaking the truth that schools should be open and there’s only one reason why they aren’t. They also shake their heads as a brutal cold snap causes power system failures and rotating blackouts through Texas – and the lessons that should be learned. And they take a bite out of Bill Gates for wanting all “wealthy nations” to switch to synthetic beef.

 

Join Jim and Greg for a busy Presidents’ Day edition! First, they welcome Democrats in New York calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lose his emergency powers in response to the nursing home death scandal. But will the consequences get any more severe? They also shake their heads as the Biden administration offers dozens of new vaccine sites, but they’re missing one important thing? And they unload on CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci for drastically watering down their calls for schools to reopen – an obvious sign that politics is trumping science in the Biden administration.

The news might be all bad today but we’re still having fun! Join Jim and Greg as they discuss the Virginia Education Association strongly opposing Gov. Ralph Northam’s demand for in-person schooling by mid-March and none of the Democrats running for governor this year having the guts to stand up for the kids or the science against the union. They also cringe in recounting the opening arguments made by the Trump legal team on Tuesday, but will the quality of the lawyers have any impact on the outcome? And they unload on Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who won’t criticize China but is cancelling the national anthem at home games this season.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard celebrate Black History Month with Professor Valerie Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Georgia, and the definitive biographer of Zora Neale Hurston. Boyd discusses why Hurston is such an important novelist and cultural figure, and the influence of Hurston’s 1937 classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, on American literature. She describes Hurston’s early experiences as the daughter of a Baptist preacher and sharecropper, the granddaughter of ex-slaves in Eatonville, Florida, one of the first self-governing, all-Black municipalities in the U.S., and the profound influence that her upbringing had on her worldview. They also review the central role she played as the seminal female figure of the Harlem Renaissance, a flowering of Black art and culture in 1920s-era New York City. Boyd’s 2003 biography of Hurston, Wrapped in Rainbows, features the first published excerpts from Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” drawn from an interview with a survivor of the last-known transatlantic slave ship. Professor Boyd concludes with thoughts on Hurston’s legacy, and lessons for young people today.

Stories of the Week: Exam and magnet schools across the country, including the prestigious Boston Latin School, are eliminating their admissions criteria – at first, the change was temporary in response to COVID-19, but some are pushing for it to become permanent, to achieve racial balance. On the campaign trail, candidate Joe Biden made his opposition to charter public schools clear, supporting a ban on certain types of charters, and an increase in regulations – but anti-charter-school policies are already brewing in the states.

Join Jim and Greg as they discuss former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warning that the Biden COVID relief bill is way too big and could trigger the worst inflation in decades. They also shake their heads as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggests the CDC director’s recommendation to open schools is just her personal opinion and they have to wait for the science. And they react to news that Hunter Biden is writing a tell-all book and are pretty sure he plans to skip a lot of stuff.

Member Post

 

My son is in the honors program at his university, and I began following the Instagram account of the program. I have been dismayed to come to the conclusion that the student or administrator responsible for the account is an extreme leftist, as this person frequently posts radical political commentary that has nothing to do […]

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An avalanche of Executive Orders, the return of racial politics and Critical Race Theory, and a new war on the fossil fuel industry – and we are not even two weeks into the new Biden Administration! Censorship and the cancel culture continues unchecked, while bipartisanship dies at the feet of a $1.9 trillion bailout. Then there is the small issue of the real “enemy within”, China, which for some reason no one now wants to talk about. More unvarnished and uncensored analysis from The Troika – Robert, Jay and Bruce.

Cara and Gerard celebrate National Catholic Schools Week with Tom Carroll, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. He shares his view of the value that Catholic schools add; the reasons for their success at improving student outcomes and creating a sense of community; and their commitment to serving children from underprivileged backgrounds, regardless of religious affiliation.

They explore how Catholic schools have adapted to changes resulting from COVID-19, taking a proactive approach to closures and remote instruction, and re-opening in the fall while many public schools across the country have remained closed. They discuss the impact of these decisions on their enrollment, and the efforts they have undertaken to follow health protocols and ensure safe and clean classroom environments, leading to a minuscule COVID-19 case count. They also delve into why Superintendent Carroll is a strong supporter of tax credit scholarship programs, that would allow all families, regardless of income, to enroll their children in the schools that are best for them.

Join Jim and Greg as they close out the week with a double dose of good news. First, they’re happy to see Dr. Fauci contradict the Biden administration and push for a return to in-person schooling. But they also unload on teachers’ unions for constantly finding excuses not to be back in school. They also welcome encouraging news on two more coronavirus vaccines, even if they’re not quite as effective as the earlier ones. And they shake their heads as President Biden’s brother is already trading on the family name for business purposes.

Political Activism for Your Kindergartener

 

While our 2nd-grade son is Zoom schooling I work on my laptop nearby so I can occasionally listen in on the activities. Yesterday, during my son’s virtual “library time” what caught my attention was my son watching a video of a full-on political diatribe by a DC activist about the Dakota Access Pipeline under the guise of a “the making of” story of a picture book for 3-6-year-olds. After moving him rapidly on to another activity, I looked up the book in question. Titled “We Are Water Protectors,” it is the 2021 Caldecott Medal winner, sort of the Pulitzer prize for children’s picture books. This means that it is prominently featured in just about every public elementary school library in America, and it is a Best Seller on Amazon.

If you have five minutes, you can find YouTube videos of the entire book being read, including one by the author:

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard kick off National School Choice Week with Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick, co-author with Kate Hardiman of a new book, Unshackled: Freeing America’s K–12 Education System. Justice Bolick shares his experiences serving on a state supreme court, and how it has shaped his understanding of America’s legal system. They discuss his new book reviewing the country’s ongoing struggles with the often outdated, command-and-control structure of its K-12 education system and how state lawmakers can best craft legislation to expand flexible, parent-driven educational options. They also talk about the disastrous effects of COVID on student learning, and U.S. schools’ competitive disadvantage relative to international peers. Justice Bolick offers analysis of some of the possible legal, bureaucratic, and educational challenges and opportunities in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Espinoza case, including fewer impediments to school choice at the state level. They also talk about why religion and schooling remain such a third-rail issue in the K-12 system, in contrast to America’s decentralized and choice-driven higher-education model, in which students can access government scholarships and loans regardless of where they attend college or university.

Stories of the Week: With Catholic school enrollment declining across the country, Cara previews some of the key points in Pioneer Institute’s new book (which she co-edited), A Vision of Hope: Catholic Schools in Massachusetts. A number of President Biden’s appointees to the U.S. Department of Education have ties to First Lady Jill Biden, a former educator, or to teachers’ unions. Is a close White House linkage likely to improve results for students, or just continue the status quo.

Member Post

 

Dartmouth College, like any higher education institution, sends out all the usual periodic emails from administration officials, various academic departments, and the medical staff’s COVID-19 updates. To give you all an idea of the current intellectual climate and political views of the administration and selected members of the faculty, I’ve excerpted parts of some of […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a landmark trilogy on the Civil Rights era, America in the King Years. They discuss the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday the nation observed on Monday. They review Dr. King’s powerful, moving oratory, drawing on spiritual and civic ideals to promote nonviolent protest against racial injustice, and how, as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he shared leadership of the movement with organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They also discuss the pivotal role that school-aged children played in the successes of the Civil Rights Movement, and how to talk with schoolchildren today about those heart-wrenching images such as six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted by U.S. marshals as she desegregated the New Orleans Public Schools, and young students facing Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses in Alabama. Branch shares thoughts on how to ensure that the women involved in the movement, including Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Diane Nash, receive due credit for their contributions. He concludes with a reading from one of his books.

Stories of the Week: President-elect Biden is backing up his pledge to get kids back to school with a proposed $130 million in stimulus funds to cover the costs of reconfiguring K-12 classrooms, improving ventilation, personal protective equipment, and other social distancing requirements. Will the cash infusion work, and will support be offered to income-eligible private school students? A U.S. Government Accountability Office study takes a close look at school improvement efforts across all states, with some promising findings.

Join Jim and Greg as they serve up three crazy martinis! They slam New York City schools for scrapping the entrance exam to the kindergarten-level gifted program because the results “don’t reflect the diversity of the city’s population.” They also discuss the allegations of sexual impropriety against longtime campaign manager John Weaver that forced him to quit the Lincoln Project. And Jim shreds CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy for openly encouraging cable providers to dump right-leaning channels like OANN and Newsmax.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism. They also explore his warning to Western democracies in his historic “A World Split Apart” Harvard Commencement speech, about their own crippling “short-sightedness,” “loss of will,” and crisis of spirit. Ignat describes his family’s 20-year exile in rural Vermont, recounted in his father’s newly released memoir, Between Two Millstones, Book 2, in which Solzhenitsyn expounds on the vital importance of local self-government, the rule of law, liberty, and what he called “self-limitation.” Ignat describes the education he and his brothers received at home, his own impression of the strengths and weaknesses of American education, and what inspired him to become a classical musician and conductor. He concludes with a reading from one of his father’s works.

Related: 2018 op-ed by Jamie Gass: “As we mark 100th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth, we appreciate importance of historical literacy

Member Post

 

In less than 24 hours our high school staff received an email with ‘resources’ for speaking with the students about the ‘insurrection’ at the Capitol. Resources are from the National Education Association, Beyond the Stoplight (?), Child Mind Institute, TED talk, Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, and Education Week. Some are generic trauma related posts. […]

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