Teaching 'Critically' About Science
The first state law passed to protect public school teachers who teach students to think critically about controversial scientific topics easily survived its first challenge in May in Louisiana. The Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to kill a bill intended to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which permits teachers to use supplemental materials in addition to state-approved textbooks for topics such as evolution, global warming, and cloning.
Ads are provided by Google and are not selected or endorsed by Eagle Forum
Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D- New Orleans) sponsored the repeal bill at the request of Zack Kopplin, a recent high school graduate from Baton Rouge. Kopplin said he spearheaded the repeal effort because he believed the LSEA "makes it harder for Louisiana students to get cutting-edge science-based jobs" after they graduate because companies would not "trust our science education with this law on the books."
Repeal supporters made much of a letter signed by 43 Nobel laureates stating that the LSEA creates a pathway for creationism and other nonscientific instruction. That assertion ignores the fact that the LSEA explicitly prohibits promotion of any religious doctrine or "discrimination for or against religion or non religion."
Louisiana College biology professor Wade Warren countered by presenting a letter signed by 15 scientists who asserted that the Nobel laureates urging repeal "do not speak for many scientists who support open and objective inquiry." Their letter accused LSEA opponents of "seeking to confuse the issue" by mislabeling scientific critique of evolution as creationism. "If science educators follow the approach of LSEA critics, science education will become science indoctrination," they warned.
Professor Wade refuted the LSEA critics' repeated assertion that there is no real controversy and no credible critique of evolution to present in science classes. He testified about a previous hearing where one anti-LSEA biologist had the "audacity" to claim "there is no controversy among professional biologists about the fact of evolution," right after other scientists had spoken about problems with evolution.
Legal professionals also came to defend the 2008 law. Retired judge Darrell White read a letter from Southern University law professor Michelle Ghetti advising that there are no constitutional grounds for repealing LSEA because both the language and intent of the law pass constitutional muster.
The victory for academic freedom and free scientific inquiry in Louisiana may prove important because it has the potential to embolden other states to adopt similar laws. In fact, since January, legislators in nine states have proposed bills that promote critical analysis of evolutionary theory and ensure academic freedom for faculty regarding contentious scientific issues, but all of them either died in committee or have been postponed until the next legislative session.
Research (nola.com, 5-26-11; washingtonpost.com, 4-22-11; evolutionnews.org, 5-27-11)
Feds Overreach into Higher Education
The K-12 public school system isn't the only education arena the Obama administration has set its sights on. Though less publicized, the Department of Education has enacted major changes in higher education over the past year, most of which expand government's reach and punish for-profit competitors, say critics.
Student Loan Takeover
In the biggest change to the federal student loan program since it began in 1965, the federal government eliminated its private sector competition. Previously, students and their colleges could choose to borrow through a local lender or the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In 2008, 15 million students opted for nongovernmental lenders while only 4 million chose to borrow directly from Washington. Since July, the ED is the sole originator of government-backed student loans.
President Obama and congressional Democrats claim that cutting out the fees paid to banks will save the government more than $61 billion that can be spent on expanding Pell Grants and other government programs. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), former U.S. education secretary under George H.W. Bush, said the government bureaucracy was unlikely to realize such dramatic cost savings, and would in any case offer students inferior service as compared to private lenders. He suggested that if the Obama administration's only motive was to save student borrowers money, it would have simply reduced the interest rate by 1.5%.
America's Student Loan Providers (ASLP), a trade group representing leading providers of higher education loans, claims that the federal Direct Loan program has historically not saved the taxpayer "a single dime," but instead has spent $10.7 billion more on interest payments than it has collected from students in interest and fees. In contrast, private lenders who participated in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program - now eliminated by the new law - returned more than $12 billion to the U.S. Treasury because the government significantly overestimated costs of the program. ASLP's website also notes that more than 500 schools left the federal Direct Loan program in order to return to the FFEL program, providing a clear indication that schools and students preferred FFEL lenders over the government-administered option.
The new law also tries to steer students into government and other public sector employment by providing substantial financial incentives. All borrowers who keep up their payments for 20 years will have their remaining principal forgiven, but those who choose fields such as teaching, nursing or military service will have their loans forgiven five years earlier. Moreover, under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, students who go to work for federal, state or local governments can have their loans forgiven after only 10 years, a compensation perk the private sector is unlikely to be able to match. (New York Times, 3-21-10; Washington Post, 3-7-10; Heritage.org, 10-11-10)
Onerous New Regulations Restrict Competition and Harm Students
As bad as the takeover of student loans may be, that law was at least considered and passed by the legislative branch. In contrast, the Department of Education (ED) has proposed to subject every college and university in America to 14 new rules through its regulatory powers. Two of the regulations that have generated the most resistance from education stakeholders are outlined below.
State Authorization of Higher Ed Institutions
One regulation would require schools to obtain operational authorization from state governments in order to participate in federal financial aid programs. Very few postsecondary institutions could maintain financial viability if not permitted to enroll students who utilize federal grants and loans, so they will have no choice but to comply.
The ED's rationale for this drastic increase of government intervention ostensibly stems from allegations of unethical marketing and the falsification of loan applications at some institutions. Critics point out that there are already laws in place to prosecute such bad actors, and it is therefore unreasonable to subject thousands of reputable schools to state authorization because of the unscrupulous behavior of a very few.
Historically, independent regional agencies have been entrusted with ensuring that schools that receive federal funds meet at least minimal standards of educational quality. Though this system has significant shortcomings, the proposed state regulatory scheme would not address current failures and would cause additional problems, according to Heritage Foundation analyst Matthew Denhart.
According to Denhart, mandating state licensing would raise institutional costs without providing commensurate benefits, restrict competition, discourage innovation, and ultimately raise education costs for students. Most troubling perhaps, authorization could easily become politicized, and could lead to state control of course curricula.
The specter of politicization is of particular concern to private and religious institutions, because they often have unique educational missions. Former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, now president of Colorado Christian University, told WorldNetDaily that this regulation is "the greatest threat to academic freedom in our lifetime." In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Armstrong warned of an "all-out politicization of American higher education, endangering academic freedom, due process and First Amendment rights."
Two Colorado Republican Congressmen also sent letters to the ED with similar concerns. Representative Doug Lamborn said the new rule would undermine "long-established independent accrediting agencies." Representative Mike Coffman said it would potentially give government unwarranted authority to set "course requirements, quality measures, faculty qualifications and various mandates about how and what to teach." (Tribune Media, 9-22-10; wnd.com, 10-3-10; Heritage.org, 11-4-10)
Gainful Employment Regulations
Another regulation targets for-profit institutions only, and will harm employment prospects for minority and low-income students in particular, say critics. The rule is supposed to protect students from incurring heavy debt loads for educational programs that don't prepare them for "gainful employment." It attempts to meet that goal by restricting or eliminating federal aid to for-profit institutions whose student populations don't meet specified loan repayment rates, or whose debt ratios are greater than 8% of their estimated annual earnings. Never mind the fact that a philosophy major at a pricey nonprofit institution may leave school with dismal job prospects and average debt of $24,000; nonprofit schools are exempt from this regulation.
For-profit educational institutions generally teach specific job skills instead of offering a liberal arts education, and their students are more likely to be low-income, racial minorities, high school dropouts with GEDs, or first-generation college students. If allowed to stand, this regulation will eliminate approximately 67 associate's programs for medical assistants, 22 culinary arts programs, 21 health technician programs, and 18 programs in accounting and bookkeeping, according to an analysis by education think tank Education Sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the very fields expected to experience the largest job growth between 2008 and 2018. These careers, and others like mechanic and electrician, are also the fields most nonprofit colleges and universities don't include in their educational offerings.
Independent analysts such as the Parthenon Group assert that the regulations could cause 400,000 students to leave post-secondary schools each year, resulting in a 15% average loss in lifetime earnings, $400 million in lost tax revenue, and additional taxpayer burdens for that population. All told, Parthenon estimates that this regulation would lead to an annual net loss of $3.4 billion for taxpayers, despite a possible $1.9 billion reduction in federal student loan defaults.
Operators of for-profit schools say they are being unfairly singled out. It is true that tuition and therefore loan balances are generally higher at these schools than at community colleges. This is so in large part because for-profit schools are not heavily subsidized by taxpayers as nonprofit schools are, and because they must pay taxes, unlike their nonprofit counterparts. Both of these factors increase tuition rates, but they also reduce the overall taxpayer burden for this student population.
Despite charging higher tuition, private education companies appear to be filling a need for concrete job skill training, because enrollment has tripled to around 1.8 million in the past decade, far outpacing that of nonprofit rivals. If graduation rates are any indication, private education companies also deliver superior outcomes, with 65% of students completing their degree programs as compared to only 44% at community colleges. (Heritage.org, 11-4-10; Wall Street Journal, 8-27-10)
Feds Overreach into Higher Education
The finalized rules for higher ed institutions, released by the ED in late October, appeared to offer some concessions in response to strong public and congressional criticisms of the original proposal. Bill Armstrong told WorldNetDaily that "'religious and tribal institutions' will be exempted from state oversight . . . according to a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education." Nonetheless, Armstrong was cautious about declaring victory until he had a chance to digest the 82 rule changes scattered throughout the nearly 900-pages of fine print. "It's too soon to declare victory because, as always, the devil is in the details," he said. "It will take awhile to sift through this massive document and understand exactly what has happened. However, one thing is sure — more control over students, faculty, staff and nation's colleges and universities. What a pity!"
Though the ED considers these rules "final" — except for the "gainful employment" rule, which will not be published in its final form until early 2011 — the new Congress has the authority to overturn the ED regulations if it so chooses. According to Armstrong, at least three members of the Senate committee that oversees the ED are "as upset as we are about what's going on." (wnd.com, 10-30-10)
Resource: The Eagle Forum and various news media as listed below articles
Living Under the Green Thumb on Campus
From the Eagle Forum……...
Living Under the Green Thumb on Campus….One of the hottest topics on college campuses right now is sustainability. The sustainability movement is about using the earth's limited resources in a way that keeps them available for future generations. Saving energy, money, and other resources is only rational and responsible. Many colleges, however, are using their educational clout to push an extreme sustainability agenda of environmental, economic, and "social justice" programs.
The sustainability movement was well planned and is supported and funded by some of the top leaders in the U.S. and the world. It began with college presidents giving sustainability a prominent place in campus culture, and eventually pressuring professors to incorporate the ideology into classrooms.
After attending the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, Senator John Kerry, his wife, and a few others created an organization called Second Nature. Second Nature's mission is "to accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education."
Second Nature's agenda, already adopted by 270 college presidents, has been quite successful. Using a top-down approach, Second Nature supports organizations such as America's College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) who share their vision. One of ACUPCC's goals is "integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience."
Another organization, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), has set goals that include getting more than 50% of students to attend colleges which have signed the ACUPCC and to get 10% of courses to use a curriculum that will "enable students to synthesize an understanding of environmental, economic, and social forces of change and apply that understanding to real world problems."
The UN, still very much involved since the 1992 conference, created the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Its goal is to "integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of education and learning."
These organizations have been very effective in making the movement a part of the college pop culture by integrating sustainability into every aspect of the students' lives, just as they set out to do.
The problem with the sustainability movement on college campuses is not that it encourages recycling or saving energy. Peter Wood, of the National Association of Scholars, wrote in "Critiquing Sustainability" that sustainability "is not so much a subject as an ideology. It mixes together psychological dispositions, beliefs, scientific premises, social activism, government funding, and campus bureaucracy into a heady brew."
The ideology of the sustainability movement is in opposition to many long-held beliefs of conservative Americans. For instance, college campuses were traditionally places of academic inquiry and discovery, not places to push an agenda on a captive audience. Although sustainability theoretically promotes tolerance, it leaves the college student little choice but to conform. As UNH states, "education in our time can, should, and must promote sustainability."
For sustainability to work, everyone must believe the same thing and get with the program. This is why colleges have largely bypassed academic inquiry into the scientific facts behind sustainability and moved directly into making it a part of students' everyday lives and way of thinking. Universities should be catalysts of invention, discovery, and technological progress, not centers of indoctrination.
The necessity for control of resources in the sustainability movement has led to anti-capitalistic leanings. Peter Wood explains that the movement "appropriated environmentalist rhetoric to push something akin to international socialism. It is, even in its mildest versions, allergic to free markets and has a strong attraction to international treaties and NGOs as the best means of advancing humanity toward the new sustainable Eden."
Sustainability relies on government control to fulfill its goals instead of on consumers to freely invent better ways of using available resources. With backing from the UN and a focus on a "whole world" approach to change, it seems that the only thing that is left unsustainable is an independent America.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of the sustainability movement is its quasi-religious character, focusing more on faith in the movement than scientific fact. Many people pushing the movement in colleges believe that our lives and the lives of future generations depend on sustainability.
Morality, then, is based on sacrificing time and convenience to sustain the earth. From UNH's perspective, "Sustainability presents the inescapable questions of 'what is the good life' and 'how do we organize society to sustain a good life now and for generations to come, for everyone?' People have been asking these questions for thousands of years and so sustainability is not a new concept. But when we talk about sustainability, most of the old, familiar rules no longer apply: this is the case not only for organizational boundaries, but for moral, ethical and intellectual boundaries as well."
College elites want to change the worldview of their students, ridding them of traditional values and instilling instead the values of sustainability in the environment, economy, and society. Almost anything they want to push can be hidden behind the mask of sustainability. Homosexuality, radical feminism, and racism fall in the social justice division; socialism and government control in the economic division; and, of course, a wide array of extreme conservation programs in the environmental division. Whatever it is, college students are eager to grab up the idea, not to be left behind in the cause of saving the world and bringing in Utopia.