Civitas Review

Political Correctness on Steroids in "Modern Educayshun"


A video by Neel Kolhatkar, an Australian comedian/actor/social media extraordinaire (+4), does a fantastic job lampooning modern-day education.  Social Justice Warrior students (and teacher) weed out new classmates by judging them on their feelings as they share grades and require "tolerance" .

The video is funny, but really sad and quite frightening, because we are currently watching the real thing happen on U.S. campuses – take the social justice fiasco on the University of Missouri campus last month.

Watch the video to get an idea of what +4 means.

Interstate Authorization of Online Programs is a Big Step Forward


By Jay Schalin

Online education has not yet had the impact many expected. There are some intrinsic problems with it, such as the fact that it is much easier and quicker to explain difficult concepts face-to-face than by typing.

But one of the reasons for its slow progress is completely unnecessary: protectionism by states that have, until recently, insisted that all online programs offered to their residents undergo their own state authorization processes. This is time-consuming and costly, and has greatly limited the online options for students as many schools offering online courses don’t bother fighting through the red tape.

But now there is SARA—the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement. Once a program is authorized by one state, it is authorized by all the member states, eliminating the protectionism. Jenna A. Robinson discusses SARA and calls for the state of North Carolina to adopt it immediately.

Jay Schalin is director of policy analysis at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Look Who Wrote the N&O's Front Page


When I glanced at the front page of the Sunday N&O, I thought, Oh, more global warming propaganda.

Little did I know. This wasn't just more of the same, this was a new and sad development in the decline of  newspapers into propaganda vehicles.

The article's headline blared: "UN climate change summit could bring first progress in years." (Sister paper the Charlotte Observer ran the same piece.)  The content was the usual rant about the dangers of global warming — with no attempt to give outside sources for its claims, except for favorable comments from fellow greenies. But this morning I was told who the "reporter" was.

The byline was by one Justin Catanoso. You'd assume he's a staff reporter, but you'd be wrong. He is identified only at the very end of the article as "director of journalism at Wake Forest University. His reporting is sponsored by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in Washington and the Center for Energy Environment and Sustainability (CEES)  at Wake Forest." The first organization proclaims, "From the Arctic Ocean to the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are becoming impossible to ignore. Ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the very chemistry of the seas is undergoing change." CEES is, obviously, a pro-global warming organization; Catanoso is one of its faculty affiliates.

In short, Catanoso is not a reporter, striving for a fair picture, but an unabashed advocate for the environmental cause. Yet there's nothing at the top to alert the reader of that: no tag "commentary" or "opinion," no editor's note to that effect. Ninety-nine percent of readers probably assumed it was a news story, when in fact it was an opinion piece. It can't even claim to be one person's take: it's paid for by two outside organizations with an agenda.

Once newspapers maintained walls between the editorial page and the front page. The N&O has now torn that down.

It can't even offer the feeble alibi that the writer offered some special perspective on the Paris talks. His main source was John Knox — another Wake Forest professor who is also a faculty affiliate of CEES and a long-time environmentalist. Catanoso didn't have to go 4,087 miles to Paris to get this scoop; he just had to walk about a half-mile from his office on the campus to Knox's office.

As a formerly ink-stained wretch, I'm saddened by how low the N&O and other newspapers have fallen. At one time, when you read a big story in a newspaper, you could figure that the staff would at least try to separate fact from opinion, and let you know which was which. Apparently, no longer. If you see a "news" story in your local paper, it might well be in fact an editorial from an activist, and funded by outside organizations with an ax to grind.

What's next? Maybe a front-page article about the gubernatorial race, written by Roy Cooper, including a big interview with some big-shot politics professor … say, Bev Perdue of Harvard.

The saddest note: papers are jettisoning staff right and left. Maybe they'll get rid of that unneeded expense and just have political hacks and ideological fanatics send in their screeds to be published as news.

Much More Needed to Address NC's $25.5 Billion Unfunded Retiree Health Benefit Liability


At a Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee meeting Monday, legislators discussed ways to address the state's $25 billion unfunded liability for state retiree health care benefits. The primary recommendation at the meeting was to "force all retirees on the State Health Plan to enroll in Medicare Advantage. The federal plan, a basic version of which is free to retirees over 65, offers some drug coverage.Backers say the move would save the state up to $64 million per year by shifting costs from the State Health Plan to the federal government."

While its a good sign that legislators are recognizing this massive and growing liability, this proposal hardly amounts to a drop in the bucket. I wrote back in 2012 about this topic and how the generosity of NC's health benefits for retirees is a driving force behind this growing taxpayer liability:

For the (State Health Plan) SHP offers perks that many employees in private industry and even in government in other states might well envy. Consider the following:

  • The active employees’ portion of the SHP premium they are now asked to share for the 80/20 plan is roughly 5 percent of the total cost of the premium (the state picks up the rest of the costs). For the basic 70/30 plan, employees can still enroll at zero cost to insure themselves. For comparison:

    • Employees of large private sector firms pay an average of 19 percent of premium costs for their individual health coverage.

      State and local government employees in the South Atlantic region pay an average of 13 percent of premium costs.

    • Few employers in the private sector offer medical benefits to both active workers and retirees, as North Carolina state government does. In 2010, only 28 percent of large private sector firms offered medical benefits to both employees and retirees.

      • Of those large private employers that do offer medical benefits to both active workers and retirees, 40 percent require the retiree to pay the full premium for coverage while another 30 percent have capped the employer’s subsidy at a fixed dollar amount.

      • Roughly 70 percent of states require retirees to contribute more than a nominal premium, which is all NC now asks.

      • Only seven other states offer to pay 90 percent or more of retiree’s health insurance premiums – even after a maximum qualifying number of years of service.

      • North Carolina is one of only ten states that offer retirees a significant health insurance premium subsidy after only 20 years of service.

The Fourth Estate Needs More Econ and History, Not Less


books-1012088_1920By Jesse Saffron

“If the people who are supposed to keep us aware are unaware themselves, how can we know how to stand up for ourselves?” asks Jay Schalin in today’s Pope Center feature, titled “Ignorance Is Not Bliss for Journalism Majors.”

Schalin, the Center’s Director of Policy Analysis, is a former reporter who understands how important it is for professional journalists to have knowledge of basic economics, history and political theory. That’s why he was shocked to learn that UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism recently eliminated its economics, U.S. government, and American history course requirements.

Instead, journalism majors will be able to substitute dubious general education courses, such as “Drama 470: Survey of Costume History” and “Women’s Studies 410: Comparative Queer Politics.” “Is [this] decision based on an astonishing lack of awareness…. Or is it due to cynical pandering to students who complain about challenging requirements that force them to expand their horizons?” asks Schalin.

Jesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the Pope Center. In addition to writing articles and editing website content, Saffron manages the Pope Center's summer internship program. He also is a frequent contributor to the National Review’s higher education blog, Phi Beta Cons.

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