Archive for the ‘CA community colleges’ Category

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If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one – if he had the power – would be justified in silencing mankind.
John Stuart Mill
English economist & philosopher (1806 – 1873)

While mostly arising from conservative circles, the multitude of concerns being expressed regarding the hyper-liberalization of colleges and universities seems to rise exponentially on a daily basis.

While I do believe the university should be an institution of free thought, encouraged via the professors and teaching staff, evidence abounds that anything other than politically correct authoritarianism is being discouraged and squelched with extreme prejudice by the very leaders of these institutions who are taxed with ensuring the minds of students remain open and flexible to many ideas and ideals whether those leaders agree with them or not. Pushing one’s own singular vendetta on impressionable minds, while not offering alternatives to one’s personal beliefs is deservingly ignominious.

A tenet such as (x+5)(x-3) = x2+2x-15 isn’t really debatable. It just is. But the free exchange of ideas is being threatened on the campus and in the classroom. According to recent study conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), more than 70 percent of universities and colleges ban protected First Amendment speech. Some go even further.

Michigan State University has been under fire for the creation of their Student Accountability in Community Seminar (SAC) program. SAC exhibits an overtly Orwellian approach to “unacceptable” speech and/or actions by forcing students who participate in such conduct into an “early intervention” or thought reform designed to strip them of their distasteful morals. Students can even have their university account frozen if they refuse to attend a required SAC seminar. Of course, what might be considered worthy of a timeout in the SAC chair is rather abstruse as presented by the MSU program. Needless to say, if it isn’t politically correct, it isn’t protected by the freedom of speech provision in the First Amendment. With SAC, Michigan State University has in essence, and without any reservation what-so-ever, entirely disregarded the First Amendment. This is a particularly heinous policy to support for any higher education institution in the United States.

The Gates of Vienna blog has posted a particularly potent and well-written piece concerning the subject of free speech in the west–on university campuses and in general. The writers’ intent to offend the reader is obvious. This does not in any way overshadow the importance of the message. In fact, the message is stronger in its timeliness because of the offense.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Free to Say What?

by Baron Bodissey

We have freedom of speech in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

We’re free to say anything we like, with notable exceptions carved out after 220 years of jurisprudence — direct incitement to violence and shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Free speech must be punishedAnd we are about to add another exception: “hate speech”. A generation of college students has come to maturity under a regime in which free speech most emphatically does not include the right to say anything that might be construed as hateful towards minorities, women, gays, disabled people, animals, trees, etc.

These students are in the revolutionary vanguard of the softened-up, so that by the time Congress slips through a law that actually criminalizes “hate speech”, the constant repetition of the mantra “hate speech is not free speech” will have taken its toll. Everybody will already be used to the idea, will accept it as a given, and, after the required Supreme Court decision, the new, leaner version of the First Amendment will become the law of the land.

If you think I’m being paranoid or overreacting, then you haven’t seen Rep. John Conyers’ proposed kid-gloves-for-the-Koran resolution, H. Res. 288 (the full text is here):

Resolved, That the House of Representatives —

1.   condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith;
2.   declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected;
3.   recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and
4.   calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.

This is pernicious on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. It asserts that one person’s right to be respected overrides another person’s right to speak freely. It singles out a single religion, Islam, for special treatment. It accords the holy book of the Muslims more respect than is owed the flag of the United States.

This is a CAIR-sponsored Trojan horse, ready to be rolled through the gates into the First Amendment. And its sponsor is about to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When I defend the right to free speech, what am I defending?

The Founders weren’t thinking about the right to print gay porn. When they crafted the First Amendment, they most emphatically intended to protect political speech. A lot of what passed for political speech in those days was insulting, libelous, vicious, and mendacious, but the framers of the Constitution were determined to leave it unrestrained.

But what about today? What words are so dangerous, so foul, so beyond the pale, that the force of law is required to protect them?
– – – – – – – – – –
The example I am about to give is so offensive that I will be in hot water for posting it here, even though I don’t subscribe to it myself, even though I find its appalling and repugnant, even though I would not willingly share the room with someone who uttered it. The amount of trouble I bring down upon myself will illustrate my point.

I’m displaying it here as an image, so as not to be indexed for the obnoxious phrase by the search engines:


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Also, here’s more information on SAC at Michigan State University.

Michigan State University Engaged in Thought Reform

December 14, 2006

FIRE Press Release

EAST LANSING, Mich., December 14, 2006—It may be almost 2007, but it feels more like “1984” at Michigan State University. The university’s Student Accountability in Community Seminar (SAC) forces students whose speech or behavior is deemed unacceptable to undergo ideological reeducation at their own expense. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is challenging Michigan State to dismantle this unconstitutional program, which presents a profound threat to both freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.

“Michigan State’s SAC program is simply one of the most invasive attempts at reeducation that FIRE has ever seen, yet it has been allowed to exist at the university for years,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “As bad as it is to tell citizens in a free society what they can’t say, it is even worse to tell them what they must say. Michigan State’s program is an immoral and unconstitutional program of compelled speech, blatant thought reform, and pseudo-psychology.”

According to the program’s materials, SAC is an “early intervention” for students who use such “power-and-control tactics” as “male/white privilege” and “obfuscation,” which the university cryptically defines as “any action of obscuring, concealing, or changing people’s perceptions that result in your advantage and/or another’s disadvantage.” Students can be required to attend SAC if they demonstrate what a judicial administrator arbitrarily deems aggressive behavior, past examples of which have included slamming a door during an argument or playing a practical joke. Students can also be required to attend SAC for engaging in various types of constitutionally protected speech, including “insulting instructors” or “making sexist, homophobic, or racist remarks at a meeting.” When participation in SAC is required, “non-compliance typically results in a hold being placed on the student’s account,” an action that leaves the student unable to register for classes and thus effectively expelled from the university. Students are required to pay the cost of the SAC sessions.

Once in the program, students are instructed to answer a series of written questionnaires. In their answers, students must specifically describe how they are taking “full responsibility” for their offensive behavior and must do so using language that the director of the session deems acceptable. Most students will be asked to fill out this questionnaire multiple times, slowly inching closer to what administrators deem to be “correct” responses.

In a letter on November 20, 2006 to Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon, FIRE pointed out the stark contradiction between the SAC program and the values of a free society: “[A]t the heart of all concepts relating to freedom of the mind is a recognition of our own limitations—like us, those in power are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and therefore have no right to dictate to others what their deepest personal beliefs must be. Concern for free speech and freedom of conscience is rooted in the wisdom of humility and restraint. The SAC program, which presumes to show students the specific ideological assumptions they need to be better people, crosses the boundary from punishment into invasive and immoral thought reform. We can think of no way in which the SAC program can be maintained consistent with the ideals of a free society.”

FIRE’s letter to President Simon also underscored Michigan State’s legal obligation to abide by the First Amendment. FIRE reminded her of the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), a case decided in the midst of World War II that remains the law of the land. Justice Robert H. Jackson, writing for the Court, declared, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

Michigan State has informed FIRE that it will be reviewing the SAC program, but FIRE is calling for nothing less than its total dismantling.

“Michigan State’s SAC program shows a breathtaking lack of respect for individual dignity and autonomy. I urge anyone who cares about the rights of students and the sanctity of private conscience to take a long, hard look at the SAC program’s materials,” Lukianoff said.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process rights, freedom of expression, and rights of conscience on our campuses. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at Michigan State University and elsewhere can be seen by visiting www.thefire.org.

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While I’m not a fan of our Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, I don’t really blame him for taking drastic measures in order to fix the city’s failure that is the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), despite the fact that his plan is based on New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s flawed school takeover. At least Villaraigosa is trying to do something.

If one needs proof that LA public schools, and California education standards in general, require some major rehabilitation tactics, then one only needs look at student failure rate on the California State Exit Exam (CASEE.)

42,000 students failed the standardized test. Even the few students who had enough initiative to repeatedly take the test still could not pass either the math portion, or the English portion, or both.

Is the CASEE too difficult? Certainly not. You know why? Because it tests at an 8th grade level. I don’t want to get into the politics of the exam here, especially considering I already tread this ground back when the exit exam had been foolishly deemed unconstitutional by a moron of a judge (thankfully, that decision was then overturned and graduating seniors in California were required to pass the CASEE in order to receive a diploma.) But there’s something absolutely rotten with California schools if a student can make it through all four years of high school, maintain an A- grade average, and still fail the exit exam to the point of not graduating.

Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School… finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

Awww… but she had an A- average. She’s obviously a good student, right? I say, no. Is it her fault? Probably not. Whose fault is it? I’m going to step out on a limb here [sarcasm] and say the reason Morgan couldn’t pass the CASEE, and ultimately couldn’t graduate, is because the California school system sucks so fucking hard. Her teachers let her coast through high school believing she was an exceptional student. When it came time to truly test that assessment Morgan was tossed to the wolves, confused and abandoned by those who were taxed with her success.

Now The Los Angeles Community College District and other community colleges around the state are opening their arms, ready to embrace to the failures of the California public school system. Failed the CASEE? Didn’t graduate? Who cares. Just hand over enough money and you too can get a first class… er, 2nd class… um… 3rd rate. Hmmm…. anyway… You too can get edumacated at any of a multitude of California community colleges.

Gee. That sounds like a swell idea–offering an education to those who couldn’t pass the state exit exam. But wouldn’t those students who just proved to the California public school system they couldn’t compete at an 8th grade level, simply be doing the same thing in a community college?

“Hrumph! Of course not! Our instructors are of a higher caliber at Shittown Community College. Those students who failed the CASEE will receive at least a 3rd rate education.”

But wouldn’t those teachers still have to lower their education tactics and standards in order to instruct students who can’t pass 8th grade level math and English? In essence, they would have to dumb down the course work in order to raise students to a level of minimum acceptability for college-level studies, cramming four years of high school into two years of community college, while still maintaining an obligation to guide those students towards a path that will lead to a four-year college, or god-forbid, an honest-to-god university.

Sounds like a daunting task, especially when there are students like this…

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Hmmm. She wants to be a dentist but she can’t pass an 8th grade English test. Riiiiight. Of course, this brings up another issue–becoming an American citizen is many parts assimilation. If you can’t take the time to learn the language, how can you hope to pass an exam designed test that fundamental concept? Simply, you can’t.

Exit Exam Not the End for High School Seniors

By Stuart Silverstein and Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writers
June 25, 2006

High school seniors who failed California’s new exit exam are being welcomed into two-year colleges for another shot at a diploma.
Community colleges have long offered a second chance to students with lofty ambitions but lousy high school grades. Now many two-year colleges are trying to attract a new group seeking a fresh start: seniors leaving high school this month without diplomas because they couldn’t pass California’s new exit exam.

The Los Angeles Community College District, the state’s largest, and others around California are welcoming many of the nearly 42,000 high school seniors tripped up by the exit exam.
By one estimate, 15,000 to 20,000 of those students will enroll in basic skills courses or other classes at the colleges.

Some state officials and education analysts question whether those efforts eventually could divert resources from other needed programs at two-year colleges and become a permanent crutch for failing high schools.

Concerns also have been raised that, in a few cases, community colleges are providing students a loophole letting them earn high school diplomas without passing the California High School Exit Examination. (Among educators, it’s known as the CAHSEE, pronounced “KAY-see.”)

For the most part, however, educators along with many students and their parents are embracing the initiatives aimed at the 9.6% of this past year’s high school seniors who have fallen short on the exit exam.

The supporters point out that one of the longtime missions for the colleges has been to serve students lacking high school diplomas and needing basic skills instruction.

“These students have always been coming to us,” said Marshall “Mark” Drummond, the state community colleges chancellor, noting that admitting students without high school diplomas is nothing new for California’s community colleges.

“We have to be sure that kids know that failing the CAHSEE is not the end of their future,” he said.

Students such as Morgan Saunders, 18, who maintained an A-minus average during her four years at Oakland’s Dewey High School, are taking that message to heart. She hopes to earn a university degree and launch a web design business.

But Saunders finished high school without a diploma. She passed the English section of the exit exam on her first try but failed the math portion four times, stumped by the geometry.

“I was very angry,” she said. Noting her high GPA, Saunders said, “For a test to say I didn’t make it, that’s wrong.”

Still, she said she was relieved to find out that she could enroll at Laney College, a two-year school in Oakland.

Saunders will participate in a partnership between Oakland public schools and community colleges. Students who enroll in an afternoon exit exam prep class can also take a morning course for college credit, free of charge. The students can continue in community college even if they don’t pass their next exit exam.

“We thought it might be practically and psychologically a really good way to help motivate kids who might be feeling kind of depressed or frustrated because they hadn’t graduated, and might just be inclined to drop out or hang their heads,” said Brian McKibben, an Oakland school district administrator.

Idalia Albarran, an 18-year-old from Santa Ana, also is looking to her local community college for help.

Albarran, who immigrated to Orange County from the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2002, passed all of her courses over the last four years at Century High School and maintained a B average.

But when her school held its commencement this month, she received a certificate of completion but no diploma because she failed the English portion of the exit exam five times.

Albarran, who relies mainly on Spanish in conversation, said in Spanish that she was “really sad” about falling short on the exam. “I had done so much work and it didn’t pay off,” she said.

Yet Albarran, who hopes one day to become a dentist, said she was thrilled to learn that she could enter a program at Santa Ana College tailored to students who failed the exit exam.

Without a second chance, she said, “I would have to work and I wouldn’t have a career.”

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed, and legislators have supported, including $10 million in the new state budget for community college programs that serve students who fail the exit exam.

Separately, state Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation that would permit students who have not passed the exit exam to receive Cal Grant funds for college-related expenses.

Among the beneficiaries of the proposed spending would be students in Los Angeles’ community college district.

All nine of the system’s campuses will offer “Bridge to College,” a new summer program beginning in July, for an estimated 1,200 students overall, including an estimated 150 to 250 who failed the exit exam. (A flier for the program declares, “No CAHSEE? No Problem!” )

In addition, three of the district’s schools the City College, Trade Tech and Southwest campuses will have a related “Learn and Earn” program providing part-time campus jobs for students who failed the exam and want to continue their studies.

The Schwarzenegger administration, though generally supporting community colleges’ efforts for students who failed the exit exam, objects to one practice.

A few community colleges around the state have already offered adult high school programs and awarded diplomas to students who complete them. The Schwarzenegger administration is now pushing, so far unsuccessfully, to prevent those colleges from awarding diplomas to students who failed the exit exam.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Schwarzenegger administration, called that practice “a loophole that lets you get past or get through the requirements that the majority of other high school students in California have to meet.” The standards enforced by the exit exam, he said, are intended to help students and “prepare them for their next step in life.”

Yet officials at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, one of the two-year schools offering high school diplomas without requiring the exit exam, reject the loophole characterization.

Madelyn Arballo, the school’s director of basic skills, said its high school program imposes reading, writing and math requirements that match or exceed the exit exam standards. “We know that it’s just as rigorous and just as tough as getting a diploma” at a regular high school, she said.

Currently listening:
Jou Hou
By Discordance Axis
Release date: By 27 January, 2004

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