University removes ‘Straight Pride’ posters

“Straight Pride” posters proclaiming “nobody cares about what you want to have sex with” were removed from Youngstown State’s campus by university officials, reports the Huffington Post.

“With the help of a bunch of students, we quickly went out to take them all down,” (public information officer Ron) Cole said. “While we recognize the right to free speech, this is counter to our mission of being a diverse and accepting campus.”
straight pride

Tim Bortner, president of Youngstown’s LGBT group, YSUnity, said gay students now “feel unsafe.”

Some of the posters were pinned on top of YSUnity fliers advertising a May 9 rally for marriage equality, said Lisa Ronquillo, the group’s vice president.

It went way further than a free speech issue,” said Student Government President Michael Slavens. “There were swear words and took it a little further than the average free speech should go.”

Further than the average free speech should go.

The First Amendment protects anti-gay speech as well as pro-gay speech, writes Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor.

Speech is protected even when it runs “counter [to] the school’s mission to create a diverse campus.” Speech is protected even when it “miss[es] the point of minority activism.” And speech is protected even when it contains vulgarities, as the famous “Fuck the Draft” jacket case, Cohen v. California, makes clear.

In a public forum, such as bulletin boards open to all, “the government cannot discriminate based on viewpoint in choosing what is posted,” Volokh writes.

A policy to ban vulgarity — on a college campus? really? — would be OK, only if it was applied to all viewpoints. So would a policy saying posters can’t be placed over existing posters.

This is so incredibly obvious. How could university officials not know this?

College pays — in different ways

It’s hard to estimate the labor market returns of college, concludes a new Aspen Institute report.

A Harvard graduate who becomes a teacher may earn less than a community college-trained engineer or nurse. A bachelor’s in history may have little market value — till it’s used to earn an MBA.

An associate of arts degree has no stand-alone market value, but it can be a low-cost step to a four-year degree that raises earnings.

Career-tech students — especially adult workers — improve their earnings even if they don’t finish their community college programs.

The Onion reports on Maryland senior Kevin Grant, who doesn’t realize that rejection by his first-choice college means his future is over.

“It sucks, but the good news is I did get accepted to Rutgers and Maryland, which are both really solid schools,” said Grant, somehow managing a smile even though his inability to attend his top-choice university has obliterated any possibility he will ever get into a good graduate school, embark on a satisfying career, or make enough money to support himself, let alone a family. “Tufts was probably a long shot, anyway, but I’m still glad I applied.”

“I’m sure I’ll be happy wherever I end up,” added the student destined for a life of limited opportunities, unending frustration, and bitterness.

It’s satire.

The upwardly mobile barista


Alicea Thomas is a full-time shift supervisor at Starbucks — and a full-time online student at Arizona State.

Going to college is easy. Nearly all U.S. high school graduates enroll somewhere. Completing college is hard, especially for first-generation and lower-income students.

“Thirty-five million Americans now have some college experience but no degree, writes Amanda Ripley in The Upwardly Mobile Barista. Starbucks has teamed with Arizona State to help employees finish their degrees online.

As long as they worked 20 hours or more per week, any of the company’s 135,000 employees in the United States would be eligible for the program. Those who’d already racked up at least two years’ worth of credits would be fully reimbursed for the rest of their education. Those with fewer or no credits would receive a 22 percent tuition discount from Arizona State until they reached the full-reimbursement level.

As it turned out, the tuition aid wasn’t the most critical part of the plan, writes Ripley. Starbucks enrollees were promised “an enrollment counselor, a financial-aid adviser, an academic adviser, and a ‘success coach’ — a veritable pit crew of helpers.” A special orientation course teaches time management.

Advising has been critical. Baristas need lots of help to pry transcripts out of former colleges, track down missing paperwork and overcome their fears, writes Ripley.

Alicea Thomas, 23, works 35 hours a week as a shift supervisor, earning $11.46 an hour. When her computer was stolen, she dropped out of orientation. How do you take online courses without a computer?

But then she did something crucial. She reached out to her academic adviser at Arizona State, who got her signed up for another orientation class happening later that month and encouraged her to find a way to get online.

That’s when Thomas began taking her classes on her iPhone. She was amazed at how much she could do on the device. After work, she’d take it to Applebee’s, get a margarita, and start doing her reading and tapping out her discussion posts. Problems arose only when she needed a webcam to take the remotely proctored quizzes. In those cases, she usually borrowed a computer from a relative.

In her first semester, Thomas earned two A’s. She’s majoring in communications with hopes of working in public relations.

Only a small percentage of Starbucks workers have applied to ASU so far, but 85 percent of those who did were accepted. So far, persistence and pass rates are similar to other ASU online students.

Job retraining is the focus of today’s Upskill Summit at the White House.

Remediation + job training = success

Jason Broad and Yalchen Abdulkhaliq work on making a scissors clamp in the machine shop during a class at Shoreline Community College. Machining requires students to have a solid understanding of algebra, calculus and trigonometry. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)
Jason Broad and Yalchen Abdulkhaliq make a scissors clamp in the machine shop at Shoreline Community College, where they’re also learning algebra. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

When community college students have to pass remedial math before taking college-level courses, most give up, writes Katherine Long in the Seattle TimesTeaching basic skills with job training has raised success rates at Washington state community colleges.

The grinding sound of metal on metal filtered through the walls of Chris Lindberg’s math class at Shoreline Community College, but his students had no trouble tuning out the noise.

“We’ve got a 10-inch-diameter grinding wheel, and it’s turning at 1,910 revolutions per minute,” Lindberg said, jotting the numbers on a whiteboard. “What is the surface speed?”

Students will use their new algebra skills in the shop next door, “setting up complex lathes and milling machines, each the size of a small SUV,” writes Long.

Shelley Campbell measures a part she made for a final exam in her I-BEST machine shop class at Shoreline Community College. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/TNS)

Shelley Campbell measures a part she made in her I-BEST machine shop class at Shoreline Community College. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/TNS)

I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) students “are nine times as likely to earn a workforce credential as students who follow the traditional path of taking remedial classes first,” she reports.

Troy Briones, who struggled with math in high school, served in the Army artillery. Now 25, he’s training to be a machinist. “Math is everything in machining,” he said. “The best part of the program is it’s very hands-on. As soon as the lecture ends, you go straight into the lab and try it … the instructors are with you every step of the way.”

Shelley Campbell, 53, is retraining after being laid off by Boeing.

Students can earn a basic manufacturing certificate in one quarter, preparing them for an entry-level job, or go longer to master higher-level skills. Machinists start at $15 to $35 per hour.

In Building paths to the middle class, the American Enterprise Institute looks at four high-quality career tech programs in high school and community college.

Ohio’s 3rd-grade reading law: Is it working?

Two years ago, Ohio required third graders to pass a reading test to be promoted. Ninety-six percent now pass the test, reports PBS.

But how well do they read? A fourth-grade teacher says only half her students read at grade level. Students can try the test multiple times and the bar has been lowered.

Mom: Kids get ‘terror-based sex ed’

Alice Dreger, a sex researcher, sat in on her ninth-grader son’s sex education class, she writes in The Stranger. It wasn’t supposed to be “abstinence-only” sex ed, but sex was depicted as shameful and birth control as so unreliable as to be pointless, she found.  It was “terror-based sex education.”

A P.E. teacher supervised while visiting speakers told students that sex leads to “consequences” — always bad ones.

“Jerry” said he’d started using alcohol and drugs at a young age, then got his girlfriend pregnant when her birth control failed. After 11 years of drug abuse and failure, he met a beautiful, abstinent girl, wooed her chastely, married her and then fathered two children. “If you find one who says ‘no,’ that’s the one you want,” Jerry told the students.

. . . we had learned that sex is associated with drug abuse, drug overdose, disease, unwanted pregnancy—pretty much every horror you can name except shingles and Lawrence Welk.

And that good girls say “no,” and you don’t want you no slut who says “yes.”

The other visiting speaker, “Ms. Thomas,” warned that “it takes only one act of sex to get pregnant.”

I wanted to raise my hand and blurt out, “Not if it’s anal or oral!”

She moved on to a “game.” The game involved everyone getting a number from one to six. She rolled the dice. If your number came up, your condom failed. But your condom didn’t just fail. A pregnancy resulted. And from the pregnancy came a baby. When your number came up, you raised your hand and Ms. Thomas handed you a paper baby.

It took all my willpower not to go up to the regular teacher at this point and ask if there weren’t some scissors in his desk we could use to hand around for paper abortions to prevent all these unwanted paper babies. But I didn’t. Within a few minutes, the entire class was preggers. Even the boys.

In “a progressive school district in a liberal college town,” students are taught to fear sex, Dreger complains.

Some parents protest breakfast in class


At Mosk Elementary, a Los Angeles school, all students are served breakfast in class. Photo: Nick Ut, AP

Serving breakfast in first-period classes to all children is fueling a backlash from parents and teachers, reports AP. “They contend that it takes up class time that should be devoted to learning and wastes food by serving it to kids who don’t want or need it.”

Lilian Ramos, a mother of two elementary school children in a working-class Los Angeles neighborhood, said she takes offense at the district’s assumption that she hasn’t fed her children: She serves them a traditional Mexican breakfast each day.

“They say if kids don’t eat they won’t learn,” Ramos said. “The truth is that many of our kids come to school already having eaten. They come here to study.”

The number of school breakfasts served has more than doubled in the last 20 years. There’s more federal money available if everyone is served, even those who don’t come early to school and don’t qualify for a free or reduced-price meal.

Los Angeles Unified is serving in the classroom in almost every school. Parents at wealthier schools were allowed to opt out if less than 20 percent of students fall below the poverty line.

At Stanley Mosk Elementary, regarded as having a model breakfast program, teachers help distribute the meal, check off which students are eating and show a video to incorporate a nutrition lesson, all in 10 minutes. On a recent morning, students were given apples, cereal and a small, packaged breakfast sandwich. At the end of breakfast, there was a large cooler filled with uneaten breakfast sandwiches.

At UCLA Community School, where Ramos’ children attend, parents complained the in-class meals “took away instructional time from low-income and English-learner students,” reports AP. The district delayed, but will start serving in class soon.

A tale told by an idiot

‘Opt out’ of test prep, not testing

Opting out of standardized tests doesn’t help improve schools, argues Robert Pondiscio in U.S. News. Instead, parents should pressure schools to stop wasting time on test prep.

Instead of refusing the tests, I’d love to see parents march into the principal’s or district superintendent’s office with a simple proposition (or a threat, if you prefer): “You don’t like tests; we don’t like tests. You don’t want to narrow the curriculum; we don’t want that either. You hate the pressure of testing; we hate the pressure put on our children. So here’s the deal. Teach our children a rich, robust curriculum – science, history, art, music, gym and recess. Don’t bother with test prep. Don’t narrow the curriculum to make more time for tested subjects. If you do, our kids aren’t taking the test.”

Test prep “can suck the life out of a school’s curriculum,” Pondiscio writes. Furthermore, “it’s ineffective – particularly when it comes to reading comprehension.”

But standardized testing has created data that’s “shined a bright light on the dismal job we have done as a nation educating low-income children, black and Hispanic children, and other underserved subsets of kids.” That’s “birthed a flowering of choice and charter schools, and driven an age of education dynamism that while far from perfect, has generally benefited low-income children.”

Nimbi: Mysterious, ephemeral and on the test

New York’s Core-aligned tests are too hard, teachers are complaining.

One version of the sixth-grade test asked students to answer questions based on a Smithsonian article, Nimbus Clouds: Mysterious, Ephemeral and Now Indoors, on a Dutch artist who creates and photographs indoor clouds.

Berndnaut Smilde’s favorite picture uses the architecture of the D’Aspremont-Lynden Castle in Rekem, Belgium. “The contrast between the original castle and its former use as a military hospital and mental institution is still visible” the artist writes. “You could say the spaces function as a plinth for the work.”

Nimbus D’Aspremont. © Berndnaut Smilde.

Others complained of a sixth-grade passage from That Spot by Jack London, which included “beaten curs,” “absconders of justice,” surmise, “savve our cabin,” and “let’s maroon him,” writes Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post column.

One version of the eighth-grade test required 13-year-olds to read a New York Times‘ story, Can a playground be too safe?  with vocabulary such as “bowdlerized, habituation techniques, counterintuitive, orthodoxy, circuitous, risk averse culture, and litigious,” writes Strauss.

The story quotes a journal article by Norwegian scientists on why kids love risky play:

Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology.

Without seeing the questions, it’s hard to tell whether the test is unreasonably difficult. Is it possible to infer meaning from context? Or to ignore the “hard words” and still get the meaning?