Patterico's Pontifications

8/9/2023

This Week in Education News

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:36 am



[guest post by JVW]

In the run-up to our annual back-to-school season, let’s take a look at some issues pertainin’ to the learnin’ of our young’uns.

First Period
The Biden Administration is back in court over its attempts to unilaterally forgive student debt:

A federal court on Monday put a pause on new Biden administration rules that would forgive the debt of student borrowers who were defrauded by colleges that misled them or closed suddenly.

[. . .]

While federal law previously allowed for the cancelation of student loans for borrowers who had been misled or defrauded, the Biden administration’s new borrower defense rules that took effect last month look to make it easier for borrowers to seek relief.

The new policy would allow borrowers to submit claims if they believe they were misled by their college and would offer automatic relief for borrowers whose institutions were closed. The new standards ease limits on when borrowers can file an application and also increase the types of violations that would make them eligible for debt cancellation. The rule include a ban on arbitration agreements that for-profit colleges often include in enrollment contracts.

[The Career Colleges and Schools of Texas], which filed its lawsuit on behalf of more than 70 for-profit Texas schools, argues the new rule was created “with a thumb on the scale to maximize the number of approved claims and, ultimately, further the administration’s loan forgiveness agenda.”

The court will hear the case on November 6. The order means the new standards cannot currently be applied to claims pending on or received after July 1.

Remember when all those people who had mortgages with flim-flam financial institutions which crashed and burned were told that they could have vast chunks of their home loans forgiven through the beneficence of the federal government? Yeah, neither do I.

Second Period
The good people of Oberlin College have a problem. It seems that after recklessly attempting to intimidate a venerable business within their community and in return getting eviscerated in civil court, they now face the reluctance of their insurance companies to reimburse them for their folly:

Oberlin College is embarking on another legal battle now that it has finally paid out $36.59 million in damages to a local bakery for falsely accusing the business owners of racism. This time, the college is suing four of its insurance providers after they failed to reimburse the school for the multimillion-dollar judgment in the Gibson’s Bakery case.

[. . .]

Now the college is pursuing legal action against Lexington Insurance Company of New York; United Educators Insurance of Bethesda, Maryland; Mount Hawley Insurance Company of Peoria, Illinois; and StarStone Specialty Insurance Company of Cincinnati.

The school filed the suit in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in April accusing the companies of wrongfully refusing to “to honor promises they made in their respective policies to protect the interests of Oberlin College” and the school’s former vice president and dean of students, Meredith Raimondo.

The college had $25 million in commercial umbrella liability coverage from Lexington and another $10 million from Mount Hawley. The school had an additional $5 million from StarStone and $25 million in overlapping educators legal liability coverage from United Educators, according to the lawsuit.

“These policies were intended to provide seamless coverage for lawsuits like the Gibson litigation,” the complaint says. “Unfortunately, the defendant insurers have failed to pay a penny toward the $36,590,572.48 sum that Oberlin paid the Gibson plaintiffs. They also have failed to pay for the full cost of Oberlin’s appeals, which were pursued at the behest of the insurers in order to reduce their collective exposure.”

Oberlin claims that they wanted to settle the case for $10 million, but the insurance companies demanded that they fight it out in court. But Oberlin has lied about so much of this controversy that it would be silly to grant them any credibility in their claims. For their part, United Educators counters that they never promised to cover abject stupidity:

The company wrote in the filing that the policy at hand “potentially provides coverage in relation to ‘personal and advertising injury,’ defined to include defamation and/or disparagement in certain circumstances” but that it “excludes any such coverage if ‘personal and advertising injury’ is caused ‘with the knowledge that the act would violate the rights of another … ,’ or if the insured published material it knew to be false. Further, the Lexington policy provides coverage for punitive damages insurable by law, but only where the corresponding award of compensatory damages is also covered by the Lexington policy.”

If you have a moment, check out the comment section on the NRO piece for some pretty good bon mots, such as “So I guess you can’t take out insurance so that you can just slander and defame people. Who knew?” and “Oberlin has done the seemingly impossible: drummed up sympathy for insurance companies.” and my favorite, “Can an article in the Oberlin student paper linking the concept of insurance with the slave trade be far off?” Funny stuff.

Third Period
Yep, Harvard is going to continue to flout the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Students for Fair Admissions case from six weeks ago which held that colleges cannot use race as a factor in admission. Period. An editorial at National Review Online calls out Harvard’s chicanery:

[. . .] Last Tuesday, Harvard University — one of the two named defendants in the Supreme Court’s ruling — revealed its new set of required admissions essays for fall 2024, and the very first (and thus presumably most important) prompt is as follows: “Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?”

[. . .]

The next several years of behind-the-scenes racial tinkering in college admissions will be done in defiance of the law, not openly but dressed up in a new “adding diversity to our community” admissions-essay language. (The “video essay” is but a matter of time, and for the most cynical of reasons; Columbia Law School recently backtracked after briefly listing such a proposal on its website.) Numerical scores vulgarly grading applicants in racial categories may be formally dispensed with; the balance will instead be tabulated mentally, and the results disguised elsewhere. But Harvard has signaled its defiance as openly as it can. Neither it nor its peer institutions (nor the long-embedded bureaucracies within them) will stop attempting to build the image of a “racially ideal student body” merely because the Supreme Court of the United States told them in no uncertain terms it was against the law.

Fourth Period
CalMatters has a good deal of data regarding achievement disparities among various racial and ethnic groups in California from 2015-19. During the second reign of Governor Jerry Brown, the state switched its funding formula so that more state dollars were funneled into schools which had greater numbers of low-income families, English learners, foster children, and children with disabilities. The state education establishment likes to claim that this switch in focus led to better results for those students in the pre-COVID era, but it is widely believed that any progress was fully wiped out during Gavin Newsom’s draconian school closures undertaken at the behest of his teachers union masters. Naturally we don’t know, because California so thoughtfully cancelled standardized testing for 2020 and 2021, and 2022 results are still being embargoed — er, compiled. Read the article; it’s not a pretty picture.

Lunch
Washington and Oregon will join USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. Colorado and Arizona have bolted to the Big 12, and are now to be joined by Utah and Arizona State, and in a surprise move, the Atlantic Coast Conference is expressing interest in California and Stanford (sucks to be you, Washington State and Oregon State). Instead of a Power Five conference alignment, we’re due to have a Power Four, which perhaps paves the way for a better college football playoff system.

But how good is it really going to be for the schools involved? Ohio State will no doubt love a November game at the Rose Bowl in 67 degree weather, but what will USC think when it has to travel to Penn State and play in snowy sub-freezing weather? And what will happen when West Coast teams need to make an East Coast road swing for basketball? Will Stanford fly east on Monday then play on Tuesday night at Clemson, Thursday night at Georgia Tech, and Saturday afternoon at Miami before flying home Saturday evening? Can you really justify having — ahem, ahem — student athletes miss an entire week of class four or five times per season to make these sort of road trips? The new president of the NCAA, former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, says that he is concerned about these sorts of issues but the reality of the situation is that it is the football conferences themselves with their television alliances, not the NCAA, which is calling the shots these days. Blame Notre Dame for opening the floodgates some 33 years ago when they signed their own television deal with NBC.

Fifth Period
It’s not looking so great for math education in the Golden State:

The California State Board of Education’s new math framework, adopted last month, has drawn intense public criticism. Most critics have focused on the framework’s overt political content or its aims to achieve “equity” by holding back advanced students, but there is an arguably even more fundamental problem: an approach to education called inquiry learning, which has virtually zero grounding in research. There is little in the framework that resembles real mathematical learning.

The framework has roots dating back to the “math wars” of the 1990s. Then as now, reformists and traditionalists argued over the best way to teach children math, and California’s math curriculum was a focal point. Reformists encouraged students to discover and construct knowledge with little guidance from the teacher; traditionalists emphasized the need for step-by-step practice of procedures and memorization of basic math facts. In 1997, California adopted compromise standards—a pedagogical hodgepodge of both approaches.

The new framework, clocking in at 1,000 pages, represents a complete victory for the reformists. It’s astounding in both its breadth—including learning goals, instructional “best-practices,” and class sequences—and its mediocrity.

And here’s the concluding paragraph of the article, which helps explain why California tends to favor the new and untried over the tried and true:

The California math framework is the latest chapter in a long-running story in American education: the rejection of proven instructional fundamentals in favor of fashionable but untested theories. We’ve already been down this road in reading education. Proponents of whole-language literacy bristled at the structure and formalized nature of phonics; though evidence for the effectiveness of phonics was abundant, schools avoided it, and legions of students struggled to learn to read under pseudo-scientific literacy models. California looks set to repeat this error in math, ignoring sound research in favor of romantic notions about learning and childhood.

Sixth Period
Here’s an incredibly heartbreaking and disturbing article about DEI nonsense pushing a sensitive white principal past his breaking point:

In mid July, a former Toronto District School Board (TDSB) principal, Richard Bilkszto, took his own life in a story that made international headlines. According to a statement released by his lawyer at the behest of family members, Bilkszto’s bullying at the hands of equity consultants hired by the school district played a part in his eventual suicide.

Bilkszto’s reputation was destroyed in front of hundreds of fellow educators when KOJO Institute facilitators — including founder, Kike Ojo-Thompson — accused the venerated teacher of being an “apologist” for white supremacy during a training session conducted over Zoom. “We are here to talk about anti-black racism, but you, in your whiteness, think that you can tell me what’s really going on for black people?” Ojo-Thompson shot back at Bilkszto after he challenged her assertion that Canada’s racial history resembles America’s.

The article goes on to detail some of the “training” that these grievance-mongers foisted upon their customers, which came to light when ten hours of recordings of these seminars were given to NRO. It’s absolutely the sort of mindless nonsense that you have come to expect, and teachers in Ontario (and, we well know, in lots of places throughout the U.S.) are being bullied into accepting it as true. It’s up to all of us to root this out in our own communities and make sure that no more fragile minds are put through this sort of Maoist indoctrination.

– JVW


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