Title IX is being terribly abused

When three eighth-grade boys in Wisconsin referred to a girl as “her’ instead of ”them” as she preferred, they were accused of sexual harassment under Title IX (“The Pronoun Police Come for Middle Schoolers,” The Wall Street Journal, May 23).  I think the charge will be dismissed, but it’s worthwhile taking a closer look.

The issue is whether calling another person by a pronoun that the person finds offensive rises to the level of harassment. The entire matter illustrates just how far any statute can be tortured to advance an agenda. I don’t understand why school officials decided to punish the boys over such an absurd thing.

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Teaching kids to read is the best antiracist policy

Instead of teaching social justice to children, I believe teaching them how to read is far more important (“How Really to Be an Antiracist,” City Journal, Spring 2022). Their entire future depends overwhelmingly on that single skill.

Yet “worship of the written word” has become synonymous with white supremacy. It shortchanges children starting as early as the third grade. Charter schools post far better reading outcomes because they largely rely on phonics, which has proved itself time and again the most efficient way to help students to read.

The reading wars will never abate because it is ideologically driven.  That’s a pity because it leaves too many children far behind.

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Don’t blame teachers’ unions for school performance

Time and again, charter schools post far better student outcomes than traditional public schools (“The Biden Administration’s New Salvo Against Charter Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 26). The usual reason is that they are free of the hated teachers’ unions.

But the truth is that charter schools operate by a completely different set of rules.  They do not have to admit by law all those who show up at their doors anytime during the school year.  As a result, traditional public schools are the schools of last resort.

I maintain that if traditional public schools were allowed to operate the same way, there would be very little difference between the two.  It’s time to conduct an experiment to test my assertion.

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The correct use of standardized tests

The debate over standardized tests never ends because it can be used to serve all agendas. The latest argument in favor of their use is based on the assumption that the tests are the only objective way of knowing what students have learned (“The US Test Mess,” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Apr. 22).

Although there is truth in that position, I believe that such tests are best employed as providing feedback to teachers.  Finland, for example, which is known for the quality of its schools does not engage in naming and shaming.  Therefore, the results of the tests are confidential.  But many here in this country want to use the tests as punishment.  That’s counterproductive.

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Community college pays off

What students major in at community college determines if it is worthwhile (“When Community College Is a Good Investment – And When It Isn’t,” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Apr. 18).  The same thing can be said for four-year colleges.  Liberal arts degrees at both have the lowest financial yields.  The only difference is that it is less expensive getting a degree at a community college.

The field of study is the No. 1 factor in determining the return on investment. Yet the myth persists that a bachelor’s degree in any field contains a wage premium.  I doubt that is true.  A bachelor’s degree in gender studies will not carry the same salary weight as an associate degree in nursing.  It’s time to question the pecuniary value of a bachelor’s degree.

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Reward talent as heavily as book smarts

Not all students perform well on tests linked to subject matter.  Instead they are talented in other areas that deserve recognition (“Start struck by NYC Fame school,” New York Post, Apr. 16).  I’m referring now to La Guardia High School, which is dedicated to students who are talented in music and the performing arts.

It makes little sense evaluating the success of the school by the usual standardized tests because such tests do not measure talent.  Yet pressure is forcing La Guardia to administer such tests.  It’s a mistake that will only deter talented students from applying.

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Is religious neutrality in public schools anti-Christian bigotry?

The wall between church and state is being eroded never more so than in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (“How the Right Is Bringing Christian Prayer Back Into Public Schools,” Slate, Apr. 14).  The case is based on the right of school officials to practice their religion during the course of their formal duties.

When Joe Kennedy, a football coach refused to pray with his players in a less public location than the 50-yard line, he sued the school for violating his First Amendment rights. I don’t understand Kennedy’s argument. If prayer is between him and his God, then why does it matter if he prays in a private setting?  He wants it both ways. Given the present makeup of the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised that Kennedy will prevail.

Lost in the controversy is the right of students who do not share Kennedy’s beliefs. Who will protect them from religious coercion?

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Gifted classes to expand in New York City

New York City has come up with a compromise for its gifted and talented classes for elementary children (“New York Will Expand Gifted-Student Classes, But Cut Entrance Test,” The New York Times, Apr. 15). Rather than rely solely on an entrance exam, it will let teachers nominate candidates to be entered into a lottery.

I think that’s the best solution to a controversial issue.  Whether it will work the way it is intended is another story however. Teacher recommendations are always subjective, which means that some children will not be able to handle the advanced work.  Nevertheless, I say it’s the best way to appeal to both sides.

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Book bans on the rise in schools

The American Library Association reported that there were 729 challenges to 1,597 books in schools and libraries last year, which compares with 156 challenges to 273 books in 2020 (“More Than 1,000 Books Banned From Schools Since July 2021, Study Finds,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 8).  The increase is a setback to critical thinking.

I maintain that young people today are far more sophisticated than their counterparts in past decades because of their exposure to images on the internet.  As a result, they are quite capable of handling material that their parents think would be inappropriate.  So many students are disengaged in school because the curriculum has not kept up with changes in society.  No wonder so many drop out or act out.  They are bored to death.

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The SAT debate will never end

Now that MIT has decided to reinstate the SAT in its admissions, the controversy over the test has reignited (“MIT Leads the Way in Reinstating the SAT,” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 6). I maintain that the debate will never end for reasons not clearly understood.

Those in believe in democratization in higher education vilify the SAT, while those who believe in differentiation applaud it.  That’s the fundamental reason too often overlooked.  I made that point in a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal on April 8.  Yes, there are reasons to oppose it on technical grounds, such as how the test is constructed, and on socioeconomic grounds, such as why low-income students don’t ace it, but those are secondary.

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