Drain the Real Swamp: Academia

 

Suppose for the past half century or so you’ve been forced to pay the Acme Swamp Company to engorge all lakes, caverns, rivers, streams, and puddles with effluents, along with enough reptiles to put Jurassic Park to shame. Then, after you’ve discovered that the Acme Company has also supplied Wile E. Coyote with Roadrunner-catching equipment since the Truman Administration, you decide to “drain the swamp.” And then—surprise! surprise! —you’re devastated to learn that the swamp you tried to drain simply filled up again from tributaries that cannot be shut off. And you’ve been paying for those tributaries, too, for a long, long time. In fact, you’ve discovered that these streams are not only exorbitantly pricey, but frequently destructive, parasitic, and virtually impregnable. Question is, what can you do?

The “swamp” in question of course is Washington DC, but also includes much of the bureaucracy, judiciary, and cultural command posts of the country, such as the media and entertainment industries. The tributaries comprise America’s educational system, long dominated by the radical left and protected by tenure and union power. It is this ideological effluent center that has done so much to poison the discourse of American politics, smearing every institution that contributed to the country’s greatness, and radiating hatred of all things most citizens hold dear—family, patriotism, free enterprise, free speech, freedom of religion, the Bill of Rights generally, and of course America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

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DeVos Nomination Is the Most Contested Because It’s About the Future

 

The Betsy DeVos nomination proved to be the most contentious; the hill Democrats have chosen to die on. Why? Because it’s about the future:

  • The future of the teachers’ unions, who had much of their power stripped from them in Wisconsin with the passage of Act 10, and who barely survived losing power in California due to 4-4 Supreme Court tie in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et. al.
  • The future of the Department of Education in whether it will be greatly scaled back or allowed to remain largely intact and in the future return to its practice of “Dear Colleague” letters to universities, school districts, etc. dictating the abandonment of due process for the accused and imposing radical social policy with the threat of federal lawsuits.
  • The future of whether states, municipalities, and most importantly parents will have the freedom to determine the opportunities available to children — charter schools, school choice, home schooling, in addition to public schools — or fewer choices due to further and further regulations dictated by federal bureaucrats in Washington beholden to the interests of teachers’ unions.
  • The future of what is taught to children — does the federal government know better than you what your children should learn in school? A federally determined curriculum reaches more students if more students are forced to remain in the public schools. Progressive ideology must be taught to the next generation. A DeVos-run Department of Education will hopefully abandon central planning style Common Core curricula and return that power to the states.

Betsy DeVos has the opportunity to do so much good and bring to an end so much Education departmental overreach and abuse of power. The Democrats were desperate to prevent this from happening. It’s all about the future.

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Ask Me Anything About School Choice

 

It’s National School Choice Week, which means there’s lots of buzz about expanding educational options — 2017 presents some great opportunities for doing so — but also a lot of “alternative facts” about choice policies being peddled by groups interested in protecting their bread and butter the district schooling status quo.

That’s why, in the tradition of previous reddit-style #AskMeAnything forums on Ricochet, I will be available until about 5:00pm EST today to (hopefully) answer any question you have related to school choice policies, such as charter schools, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts. (I’ll come back Sunday if there are some remaining questions.)

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Unions vs. Children

 

By and large, teachers are wonderful people who dedicate their lives to helping children achieve their full potential. Their unions, by contrast, have a very different mission.

Take the Great Chicago Library Lockout of 2017, for example. As a parent recently described in the Wall Street Journal, Pritzker Elementary in Chicago had to lay off its librarian due to a combination of budget cuts and lower-than-expected enrollment, so parents volunteered to help out to keep the library open. According to Michael Hendershot, whose daughter attends Prtizker, “There was so much interest that the parent-teacher organization created a rotating schedule of regular volunteers to help out.” That’s when the Chicago Teachers Union (and affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers) intervened:

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DeVos, Detroit, and a False Media Narrative

 

In advance of today’s confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education, defenders of the status quo have been spinning a narrative about her reform efforts in Detroit that runs contrary to all available evidence.

In op-eds, editorials, and editorials veiled as news, the New York Times has pushed the narrative that in Detroit, “charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.” However, as Max Eden and I show at Education Next today, all the available data show that charter schools in Detroit significantly outperform their traditional district counterparts.

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State Board of Education Ignores Pols, Parents; Rubber Stamps Common Core

 

After a raucous 2014 election year for Arizona’s office for Superintendent of Public Instruction, only 16,034 votes separated the outcome of the 2014 election results between Diane Douglas and David Garcia. One would like to suggest Douglas’ opposition to the top-down, federal, one-sized-fits-all standards helped ensure she was the victor. This was a coup for the parents who despised the unconstitutional federal outreach in their children’s classrooms – later only to learn the fox was in the hen house all along.

A quick history lesson on Common Core in Arizona. In 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted Common Core standards for all public schools throughout Arizona. As these standards were being implemented, parents and practitioners alike started to have difficulty learning and teaching them.

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DNA and Racism

 

Have you seen the recent commercials that promote people having DNA tests? They show a man who is shocked to find out he should be dancing in kilts instead of lederhosen. And there is the woman who clearly has an American accent who says when she travels, people ask where she is from—and she assumes they are asking about her cellular history. Several people report that they now feel “complete,” knowing their personal DNA. It’s fascinating to see how people respond to their results.

One teacher at West Chester University in Pennsylvania has identified a creative and educational way to use DNA tests: to explore questions about racism. Her name is Anita Foeman; she was doing consulting work in the area of race mediation and was using DNA testing as one tool. Her goal, rather than causing confrontation, was to help people recognize their biases and create an environment where people could speak about race in a constructive and positive way. She brought her experiences into the university environment.

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Want Satisfied Parents? Empower Them to Choose

 

Parents are more satisfied with their child’s learning environment when they choose it. Indeed, as economist Tyler Cowen put it recently, “the single most overwhelming (yet neglected) empirical fact” about educational choice programs is that “they improve parent satisfaction.” A slew of new reports add a number of hefty boulders to the mountain of evidence.

As I explained in greater detail last week, bureaucrats tend to focus excessively on test scores but parents take a more holistic approach to evaluating the quality of an education provider. As Cowen notes, “parents may like the academic programs, teacher skills, school discipline, safety, student respect for teachers, moral values, class size, teacher-parent relations, parental involvement, and freedom to observe religious traditions, among other facets of school choice.” Parents know their children are more than scores.

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A Strange New Respect for the Right? Part One

 

shutterstock_118040215Elections have consequences — above all, presidential elections, especially presidential elections that produce majorities in the House and the Senate for the party of the President-elect. Donald Trump’s election should have produced a bit of rethinking on the part of the Democrats in Congress. So far, however, there is little evidence for that. Instead, the Democrats appear to be circling the wagons and devoting their attention to what the feminists forty years ago called “consciousness-raising.” In the House, they re-elected as their leader the superannuated woman who drove them into a ditch, and there is a move afoot within the party, supported by the minority leader in the Senate, to select as chairman of the Democratic National Committee the most radical member of the House — an admirer of the Muslim Brotherhood who for a time flirted with Louis Farrakhan and who once compared 9/11 with the Reichstag Fire. In the mainstream press, what one reads from liberal commentators these days is mostly rant; and, on the campuses, there has been a descent into childishness, and temper tantrums seem the norm. With his tweets, Donald Trump seems to be playing the hysterical Left like a piano. Where, one is sorely tempted to ask, is the adult wing of the Democratic Party?

Here and there one finds a hint that there might still be adults in that hoary institution and that they suspect that it might be a good idea to stop demonizing their opponents and to begin examining their thinking. This is not happening anywhere on the campuses of our major universities, as far as I can tell. There, as never before, the wagons are being circled, and consciousness-raising has been mainstreamed. It is easy to demonize those who dissent — Barack Obama legitimized the practice by showing how it is done — and there is next to no one on any of these campuses capable of fighting back. For a very long time, the leading institutions of higher learning have been reluctant to hire, much less tenure, known conservatives. At a conference held at Harvard three years ago, one faculty member remarked to me that what he called “the entire Republican caucus of Harvard College” was in the room. They were three in number. At Yale, these days, there is, I believe, only one conservative on the faculty, and he is a computer scientist. When it comes to opening up minds and considering the arguments articulated by those who strongly disagree with current fashion, our universities will be last in line (if they get in line at all).

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Is the American Dream in Trouble? And If So, Is the Answer Opportunity or Redistribution?

 

stallingIn 2014 researchers had some reassuring news about whether America was still the Land of Opportunity. As the New York Times characterized the findings, “The odds of moving up — or down — the income ladder in the United States have not changed appreciably in the last 20 years.” So a pleasant surprise — of course it could be better — on the issue of relative social mobility. Stable was the new up.

But what about absolute mobility? It’s a slightly different question. Do kids earn more than their parents? Here, according to new research from the same group, the findings are disheartening. From the Wall Street Journal:

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