Updating the 1st Amendment

From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

“Disagreement is not oppression,” writes Nicholas Christakis, the Yale professor accused of not creating a sufficiently safe space for students troubled by insensitive Halloween costumes. “The answer to speech we do not like is more speech,” he writes. Christakis and his wife have stepped down as what used to be known as “house masters.”

At the University of Northern Colorado, two professors were reported to the Bias Response Team for asking students to discuss controversial issues, reports Heat Street.

One professor “asked students to read an Atlantic article entitled The Coddling of the American Mind, about college students’ increasing sensitivity and its impact on their mental health,” reports Heat Street.

The professor then asked his students to come up with difficult topics, including transgender issues, gay marriage, abortion and global warming. He outlined competing positions on these topics, though he did not express his personal opinion.

In a report to the Bias Response Team, a student complained that the professor referenced the opinion that “transgender is not a real thing, and no one can truly feel like they are born in the wrong body.”

The team told the professor to avoid transgender issues.

Another professor told students to pick from a debate topic from a list that included homosexuality and religion. A student complained students were “required to listen to their own rights and personhood debated.”

Supremes say UT can use race in admissions

The University of Texas at Austin can continue to consider race in admissions, thanks to a 4-3 Supreme Court decision in the Fisher case.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities “considerable deference” in “defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,”  reports the New York Times.

Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, lost her challenge to the use of race in admissions. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, lost her challenge to the use of race in admissions. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a passionate dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. called the ruling “affirmative action gone berserk” and “simply wrong.”

“We are told that a program that tends to admit poor and disadvantaged minority students is inadequate because it does not work to the advantage of those who are more fortunate,” wrote Alito.

Under the Top 10 Percent program, top graduates at every high school in the state — including many high-minority, high-poverty schools — are guaranteed admission to any state university. That’s increased the number of Latino and black students.

But, unlike most other Texas universities, UT-Austin uses race and ethnicity, and other factors, to fill the remaining seats. The beneficiaries tend to be middle-class blacks and Latinos at integrated high schools.

The Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg said the decision will “give universities more leeway to simply use race as a way to get racial diversity and ignore economically disadvantaged students.”

Alito also noted discrimination against Asian-Americans, who need much higher SAT scores to get a place at UT-Austin. That undercuts the diversity argument, writes Hans Bader. There are fewer Asian-Americans than Latinos at UT-Austin.

As the Asian American Legal Foundation noted, the university’s policy reflected the untenable and racist assumption that “Asian Americans are not worth as much as Hispanics in promoting ‘cross-racial understanding,’ breaking down ‘racial stereotypes,’ and enabling students to ‘better understand persons of different races.’”

Texas A&M more than doubled the percentage of black and Latino students without affirmative action, notes the Texas Tribune. At both A&M and UT-Austin, blacks and Latinos make up 23 percent of enrollment.

A&M strengthened its recruiting at high-minority schools and improved financial aid.

In Australia, kindergarten gives ‘gun’ licenses

Children can play with toy guns, if they have a license, at a Queensland, Australia kindergarten.

Playing with toy guns is OK at an Australian kindergarten — with a “license.” Kilkivan Kindergarten, located in a rural area where many parents own guns, decided to teach responsible gun play, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Australia’s gun control laws make it hard — but not impossible — to own handguns and rifles.

Children must understand and agree to follow the “safe play rules” or lose their gun for the day.

“We don’t allow projectile guns, I think that is one thing that is a little bit risky, but they have handmade wooden guns that Dad’s made for them or a water squirter gun [with no water],” said Anne Bicknell, the school’s director.

Guns are locked in a cabinet when not in use. “When they want to play with it they get their licence first and then come and ask for their gun,” she explained. “They’re not allowed to lend their gun to anybody else; it’s their gun and their licence to use it.”

Game boosts preschoolers’ math skills

Playing a “number sense” math game improves young children’s math skills, concludes a Johns Hopkins study.

Preschoolers were shown a split screen that flashed blue dots on one side and yellow dots on the other.  They were asked to identify the side with more dots.

. . .  kids who participated in the dots activity performed better in a follow-up test of more discrete math skills assessed with questions like: ”Count backward starting from 10.” Or ”Joey has 1 block and gets 2 more; how many does he have altogether?”

Researchers also assessed the children’s ability to say which of two numbers is bigger and to read and write numerals.

“Among the children who practiced with the dots, those who practiced with easier dot problems first and then progressed to harder ones did even better than kids who did the problems in a random order,” writes Lilian Mongeau in Education Week.

‘Informal care’ is popular, inferior

Most infants and toddlers are cared for by babysitters in unregulated or very lightly regulated settings, writes Brookings’ Susanna Loeb.

“Over half of all one- and two-year-olds are regularly cared for by caregivers other than their parents but only about half of those, i.e., a quarter of this age group, are in a licensed formal care setting,” she writes. Four-year-olds are more likely to attend licensed centers and preschools, “but still many primarily experience informal, non-parental care.”

Babysitters spend less time on reading and math activities. Kids spend a lot more time watching TV.

“Four-year-olds in home-based, informal care watch an average of almost two hours of television per day, compared with fewer than 7 minutes in formal care,” writes Loeb.

Children in informal care learn significantly less in literacy and math, she concludes. These differences are not explained by differences in family background.

Preschool teachers: Can they close the gap?

Teaching preschool pays peanuts. At a median salary of $28,570, the average preschool teacher earns about half what kindergarten and other elementary teachers make, according to a new federal report. Education and training requirements are rising. Pay is not, except for preschool teachers who work in elementary schools.

Many hope preschool can launch children on a “successful academic-and-life trajectory, no matter what is happening at home,” notes the Teacher Quality Bulletin. However, research is “mixed,” at best, on the lasting benefits of preschool.

Preschool teachers’ inadequate training could explain why early education often fails to achieve its promise. That’s why many are pushing to make a bachelor’s degree a requirement for teaching preschool.  In 33 states, teachers in state-funded preschools must have four-year degrees.

However, future preschool teachers working on a bachelor’s or master’s degree usually train with teachers heading for older grades, according to a new NCTQ report, Some Assembly Required. Only a small fraction of the content focuses on teaching three- and four-year-olds.

Forty percent of programs don’t teach how to develop preschoolers’ language and 60 percent don’t teach how to introduce math concepts such as comparing shapes, exploring patterns, and measuring objects, the report found. Only a third show how to teach science to young children.

In addition, many programs don’t evaluate future teachers on their ability to manage a preschool classroom. Only half evaluate student teachers on whether they help children build executive functioning skills, such as paying attention.

Know before you go

Colorado universities aren’t happy about a new web site,  launchmycareercolorado.org, which helps potential students estimate the return of investment on college based on their major, school and degree.

For example, a dental hygienist with a two-year degree can expect to earn considerably more than a sociologist with a four-year degree.

Dental hygienists with a certificate or two-year degree earn more than many non-technical college graduates.

Dental hygienists with a certificate or two-year degree earn more than many non-technical college graduates.

The site includes survey of graduates’ satisfaction with their jobs (often low) and with their lives (typically quite high).

A graph shows graduates’ earnings vs. a high school graduate with no college credential. Some college grads take many years to equal and then surpass the earnings of less-educated workers.

“There are many degrees that don’t have a return on investment, and you should know before you go,” said Mark Schneider president of College Measures, which helped launch the site.

What colleges don’t teach: How to get a job

Twenty years ago, Aimée Eubanks Davis taught low-income, black students in a New Orleans middle school, reports Gabrielle Emmanuel on NPR. She was proud when former students earned college degrees, but many first-generation college graduates “didn’t know how to get that good, first job,” the teacher discovered. They didn’t know successful professionals. They had no career networks.

Black and Hispanic college graduates are less likely to find employment than white classmates and earn less over their careers, researchers have found.

Eubanks Davis created a nonprofit called Braven, which has partnered with San Jose State and Rutgers. Professionals from the working world teach workplace skills to small groups of college students.

Yannick Kpodar, a consultant by day, teaches Braven students in an evening class at San Jose State. Students do most of the talking, while he critiques their presentation skills.

Jalil Ahmad, a Braven student at San Jose State, was inspired by a tour of Google.

Jalil Ahmad, a Braven student at San Jose State, was inspired by a tour of Google.

Acting as consultants, Braven students analyze data, conduct interviews and recommend solutions to the student debt crisis.

One group says colleges should solicit corporate sponsors to pay some of the costs, while another plans to itemize everything — the gym, the library, the student union — so students pay only for what they use. A third group proposes giving students a lifetime to repay college loans.

The top team won a tour of Google.

Braven students are more likely to stay on track to graduation, reports San Jose State, which has made the program a for-credit course. Braven students are twice as likely to find internships and other work experiences.

“It’s extremely difficult for college graduates to figure out what they need to do to best prepare for the workforce,” writes Jeffrey Selingo. “One recent study predicts that nearly half of American jobs are at risk from automation and artificial intelligence.”

Daniels: You make your luck

“Earned success” is the key to a fulfilling life, said Mitch Daniels, former Indiana governor and now Purdue president, in this year’s commencement speech at Purdue.

Mitch Daniels told Purdue graduations to own their achievements and failures.

Mitch Daniels told Purdue graduations to own their achievements and failures. Photo: Mark Simons/Purdue

One of the most dangerous ideas of our time is that “we are less masters of our fate than corks floating in a sea of luck,” Daniels said. “Or, even more absurd, that most of us are victims of some kind, and therefore in desperate need of others to protect us against a world of predators and against our own gullibility.”

Though “we all get important help along the way,” ultimately, “your successes, and your failures for that matter, are, like your diplomas today, really up to you,” he said.

That’s a very different message from the one President Obama stressed at Howard’s commencement, six days earlier, writes columnist George Will.

President Barack Obama told Howard graduates, "You didn't do nothing." Photo: Alex Getty

President Barack Obama told Howard graduates they’ve succeeded due to luck. “It wasn’t nothing you did.” Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Obama said: “Yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.”

Daniels conceded that luck plays a role, writes Will. However, except for “tragically bad luck,” it rarely “decides a life’s outcome.” People can improve their odds by making wise choices, Daniels said.

Daniels quoted Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” And movie pioneer Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” And Frederick Douglass: “We may explain success mainly by one word and that word is work.”

This year, “the presumptive Democratic nominee is a progressive committed to government ambitious enough to iron the wrinkles of luck out of life, and to distribute equity to life’s victims, meaning to everyone,” writes Will.  “The presumptive Republican nominee is a world-class whiner” who is telling Americans they’re victims.

“Daniels’ argument confuses what’s possible with what’s probable,” writes Eduwonk. Purdue graduates have the skills and credentials to make their own luck, for many born in poverty, economic mobility is a longshot.

Who opts out?

Opt-Out Reflects the Genuine Concerns of Parents, argues Scott Levy, a New York school board member and parent, in an Education Next forum.

New York State’s high opt-out rate reflects parents’ worries about testing time, test quality, transparency and the link to teacher evaluation, he writes.

Outside of New York City, where nearly all students took the tests, the opt-out rate reached 30 percent, he estimates.

This Issue Is Bigger Than Just Testing, counters Jonah Edelman, who runs Stand for Children, which advocates for college and career readiness.

ednext_XVI_4_forum_fig02-smallAlthough 2015 opt-out students were much less likely to be economically disadvantaged or English Language Learners, they also tended to be modestly lower-achieving than those who took the test, he writes.

Stand for Children works with many low-income parents who think their children are doing well because they earn good grades, writes Edelman. Without standardized test scores, they don’t know their kids are behind.

“I’m talking about the African American grandmother in Memphis who was horrified to discover after we taught her how to interpret standardized test results that her four grandchildren—all of whom were getting As and Bs in school—were up to three grades behind in reading. With the assistance of Stand for Children, she found the children extra help right away, and they’ve caught up.”

Latino immigrant parents in Phoenix’s Murphy School District “were dismayed to learn their district was chronically failing to educate their children,” he writes. “Armed with that information and empowered by the state’s open-enrollment law, they moved their children to better public schools.”