UO tells students what’s OK to say, write

4 Posters with biased comments crossed out and corrected.
University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team has designed posters showing what not to say.

At the University of Oregon, “thought police” step in when one person’s “constitutionally protected speech has offended” another person, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. The Bias Response Team, made up of seven administrators, is fond of staging “educational conversations” and is “not shy about referring its cases to university agencies with more robust enforcement powers.”

The BRT’s annual report lists 85 incidents, including a faculty member’s insulting comment on a blog, a poster that “triggered” bad feelings about “body size” and a complaint about a “culturally appropriative” party.

“Students, faculty, and staff who feel threatened, harassed, intimidated, triggered, microaggressed, offended, ignored, under-valued, or objectified because of their race, gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability status, mental health, religion, political affiliation, or size are encouraged to contact the BRT, writes Soave.

When a student reported that a sign in a dorm encouraging cleaning up after oneself was sexist, the BRT Advocate “empowered” the student to contact Housing staff. “A BRT Case Manager followed up to ensure that the sign was removed, and the program staff had an educational conversation about the issue.”

An anonymous person thought the student newspaper wasn’t providing enough coverage of  transgender students and “students of color.” So “university administrators had ‘an educational conversation’ with student-journalists about what kinds of stories they should be printing,” reports Soave, who finds it “positively Orwellian.”

These “conversations” the BRT sponsors reflect a massive power imbalance between students and administrators, since the administrators appear to have the authority to punish the students.

. . . Would a student in such a situation feel like he could invoke his First Amendment rights without facing reprisals?

“It’s troubling to see the university policing and micro-managing students’ every day interactions,” Azhar Majeed, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Soave. “One can imagine the chilling effects this would have.”

A “swollen campus bureaucracy, empowered by intrusive federal regulation,” has usurped the faculty’s “prerogative to shape the educational mission and to protect the free flow of ideas,” writes Camille Paglia.

“The entire college experience should be based on confronting new and disruptive ideas,” she writes. “Students must accept personal responsibility for their own choices and behavior, and university administrators must stop behaving like substitute parents and hovering therapists.”

Why my Catholic schools are opting in to testing

As superintendent of Partnership Schools, a network of six urban Catholic schools in Harlem and the South Bronx, Kathleen Porter-Magee is opting in to state testing.  Results are used to “benchmark . . .  our students’ academic growth, and to ensure we are keeping expectations high,” she writes on The 74.

At St. Mark the Evangelist in Harlem, students take New York state tests, but don't do test prep.

At St. Mark the Evangelist in Harlem, a Partnership school, students take New York state tests, but don’t do test prep.

Union-backed organizations are trying to persuade parents to reject testing, she writes. One letter claims that “excessive standardized testing is consuming a child’s academic year” and that it “forces [teachers] to ‘teach to test’ and takes the joy out of learning”

New York state’s English and math tests take up less than one percent of the school year, writes Porter-Magee.

The test doesn’t “force” anything, she adds. “Decisions to scrap core content instruction in favor of test prep are leadership decisions, not policy decisions.”

“Independent measures” are needed to “ensure all students are being held to the same bar regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” writes Porter-Magee.

Recently, a Johns Hopkins University study found that “when evaluating a black student, white teachers expect significantly less academic success than black teachers,” and that “this is especially true for black boys.”

Moreover, “for black students, particularly black boys, having a non-black teacher in a 10th grade subject made them much less likely to pursue that subject by enrolling in similar classes. This suggests biased expectations by teachers have long-term effects on student outcomes.”

Relying only on “teacher-created tests and teacher-conferred grades” risks “systematizing the kind of unconscious bias that holds our most vulnerable children back,” she concludes. Standardized testing is “the best tool we have to expose” inequality.

Kids copy: ‘There is no god but Allah’

In Virginia, a World Geography teacher told students to practice Arabic calligraphy by copying script that said: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

The Muslim statement of faith “was not translated for students, said the district in a statement. The copying assignment was meant to teach the “artistic complexity” of written Arabic.

I think copying Arabic is a waste of time — kids can tell it’s artsy by looking — but if it’s worth doing, there’s no need to use a religious statement. (Why not “Death to America!”? Just kidding.)

The teacher showed students a Koran, but didn’t provide a Bible because she believed they’d all read or seen one, parents said on The Schilling Show.

Female students were also encouraged to wear a hijab, parents said. School officials said girls were invited to try on a scarf as “part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”

The district closed its schools today because of the outcry. Which is nuts.

In rural Tennessee, where nearly everyone is Christian and few have met a Muslim, parents and school board members are worried about Islamic indoctrination writes Emma Green in The Atlantic.

Seventh graders in the state study world geography and history, including a unit on “the Islamic world” up to 1500.

Beth Burgos, a school board member in Williamson County, questioned why textbook ignore jihad and portray Islam as a fundamentally peaceful religion.

In White County, Citizens Against Islamic Indoctrination advertised a meeting with an anti-tolerance graphic.

It’s not just Tennessee, writes Green. Last spring, parents complained when a history teacher in Union Grove, Wisconsin, assigned her students to write from the perspective of an American Muslim, giving examples of “what you do daily for your religion and any struggles you face.”

“This assignment is problematic because it required the students to adopt and adhere to Islamic religious activity and viewpoints,” argued the American Center for Law and Justice in a letter to the principal.

Study: Teachers underrate minority achievers

Teachers give lower ratings to high-achieving black and Latino students than to white classmates with similar test scores, concludes a new University of Texas study published in Social Science Research.

However, teachers gave higher ratings to low-performing blacks and Latinos then their scores indicated and judged low-performing whites more harshly.

Sociologist Yasmiyn Irizarry compared first-graders’ scores on a series of cognitive and literacy tests to how teachers ranked the students’ abilities, reports Education Week.

Teachers rated average-performing students as average, regardless of race or ethnicity.

. . . high-performing students of color were underrated by their teachers in comparison to white high-achievers. Black or Latino students who scored in the top 10 percent of all 1st graders, were 7 to 9 percentage points less likely to be rated “far above average,” and they were generally rated one to two rankings lower (out of five) than white students who scored the same.

The gaps in teachers’ expectations did not close until minority students were in the top 1 percent of all students.

Muslim students feel safe, welcome

Fifty-five percent of California’s Muslim students say they’ve been bullied at least once because of their religion, according to a report by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA).

However, more than 83 percent said they feel “safe, welcome and respected” in school and felt “comfortable” telling classmates they are Muslim.

Of the 29% of girls who wear hijabs, xx% say they've been touched in appropriately.

Of girls who wear hijabs, 29% reported being touched offensively and 27% say they’ve experienced discrimination by a teacher.

CAIR surveyed 600 Muslim students, ages 11 to 18.

Three-quarters report feeling comfortable discussing Islam in the classroom, a slight drop from the 2012 survey.

“Girls who wear the hijab are often stereotyped . . . as uneducated or oppressed for wearing it and must constantly affirm to others that it is their choice to wear it,” the report said.

Backlash cancels hijab event

At a Cincinnati high school, Muslim students invited girls to wear a scarf or hijab for a day to build cultural awareness. Mason High’s Student Activities Department sent out an email promoting the “Covered Girl Challenge.”

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

After massive backlash, the principal apologized for the message implying this was a school-sponsored activity and canceled the event.

I think that’s a shame. What’s wrong with student group inviting girls to see what it’s like to look a Muslim? (Some Orthodox Jewish women also cover their hair with a scarf — or wear a wig.)

If the school required it, that would be a different story, but there’s no church-state issue here. Just hijab hysteria.

Sometimes, A is for alike

The Teacher's Pet
LA Johnson/NPR

Teachers overestimate the abilities of students who resemble them in personality, according to a newly published paper. They downgrade students who are different.

Teacher bias could hold students back, writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR.

This study looked at a group of 93 teachers and 294 students in eighth grade in Germany. Everyone took a short test to establish basic features of their personalities: extraversion, agreeableness and the like.

They gave the students reading and math tests too, sharing the test items with the teachers. Then they asked the teachers two questions: How good is this student compared to an average eighth grader? How well will this student do on this test?

Teachers’ judgment was linked to their personality match on the first question. However, they were more accurate in estimating the results of a specific test.

“A recent study from Israel showed that teachers gave girls lower grades on math tests when they knew their gender,” writes Kamenetz.

If teachers give students who are similar to them better grades, or even just maintain higher expectations of those students, what does that do for the students who don’t look or act like their teachers?

It’s important to balance teachers’ “holistic” evaluations with assessments that aren’t graded by a student’s own teacher, says Tobias Rausch, one of the researchers. He also thinks teachers should be trained to notice their biases.

Rejected Asians sue Harvard for bias

Asian-American students are suing Harvard, charging they were rejected because of affirmative action policies that discriminate against Asians.

According to a 2009 Princeton study, the average Asian American applicant needed a 1460 SAT score to be admitted, a white student with similar GPA and other qualifications needed a score of 1320, while blacks needed  1010 and Hispanics 1190.

Project on Fair Representation, which filed the suit,  also has filed suit against University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for discriminating against both whites and Asians.

“The College considers each applicant through an individualized, holistic review having the goal of creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide-range of differences: background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations,” wrote Robert Iuliano, Harvard’s general counsel in a statement.

“Asian-American students benefit greatly from attending the racially and socio-economically diverse campuses that affirmative action helps create,” said Julie Park, assistant professor of education at the University of Maryland and author of When Diversity Drops.

It reminds me of the quotas against Jews back in the day. Ivy League schools feared they’d end up with too many Jewish students if they admitted based on academic qualifications.

Is it legal? asks Slate? “In remanding the case of Fisher v. University of Texas to a lower court in 2013, SCOTUS held that schools have a responsibility to attempt race-neutral means of achieving diversity (giving a leg up to low-income applicants, say) before turning to race-conscious means, and it’s not clear whether the Court would agree that Harvard and UNC have met that test.”

Stupid question on smart atheists

An Ohio State psychology quiz tells students that smart people probably are atheists:

Theo has an IQ of 100 and Aine has an IQ of 125.

Which of the following statements would you expect to be true?

• Aine is an atheist, while Theo is a Christian. 

• Aine earns less money than Theo.

• Theo is more liberal than Aine.

• Theo is an atheist, while Aine is a Christian.

“Every group is protected from offensive speech on campus except for conservative Christians,” University of North Carolina Professor Mike Adams told Campus Reform. “So would it be permissible to force blacks to take a class teaching that blacks would have a lower IQ than white people?” he asked.

All four answers are false, writes Jim Lindgren on the Washington Post‘s Volokh blog. “Even if atheists score 3-4 points higher on IQ tests than Christians, there are so many more Christians in the population that it is much more likely that someone with a 125 IQ score is a Christian than that such a person is an atheist.”

On an IQ-derived analogies test,  8 percent of those with a score corresponding to a 125 IQ were atheists, he writes, while 83 percent were Christians.

Ohio States probably doesn’t teach students that Jews score 13.2 points higher on IQ tests than atheists. (Muslims score the lowest, but it’s a small sample size.) Republicans score slightly higher than Democrats. Oh, and Ohioans score lower than Iowans.

College: Radiation therapy is no place for the religious

When Brandon Jenkins was interviewed for a spot in the radiation therapy program at Community College of Baltimore County, he was asked what’s most important to him. He said, “My God.”

“This field is not the place for religion,” wrote program director Adrienne Dougherty in an email explaining his rejection. Now — surprise! — Jenkins has filed a First Amendment lawsuit charging he was rejected because he expressed his religious beliefs.