What Silicon Valley Could Use More of: Inefficiency – The New York Times

Worth reflecting upon:

Hypocrisy thrives at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in the heart of Silicon Valley. This is where Google executives send their children to learn how to knit, write with chalk on blackboards, practice new words by playing catch with a beanbag and fractions by cutting up quesadillas and apples. There are no screens — not a single piece of interactive, multimedia, educational content. The kids don’t even take standardized tests.

While Silicon Valley’s raison d’être is making platforms, apps and algorithms to create maximum efficiency in life and work (a “friction-free” world, as Bill Gates once put it), when it comes to their own families (and developing their own businesses, too), the new masters of the universe have a different sense of what it takes to learn and innovate — it’s a slow, indirect process, meandering not running, allowing for failure and serendipity, even boredom.

Back in 1911, the English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead said that “civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” By that metric, Uber and Google and Amazon Prime have given us a whole lot of civilization. And there’s no doubt our lives are better for it. (Ordering Chinese takeout in 30 seconds on an app might not be up there with Shakespeare or the incandescent light bulb, but it’s pretty great.) This unrelenting drive for efficiency has, however, blotted out a few things we all know intuitively but seem to be forgetting.

To create a product or service that is truly efficient often involves a lot of inefficiency — more like learning to knit than pressing a button. Likewise, gadgets built with a single-minded focus on efficiency can often backfire, subverting their purpose. Algorithms designed to dish up the news and information we most prefer end up blinkering us to all but a narrow slice of political and social reality. Our smartphones untether us from the office, saving us energy on travel, but also allow our lives to be interrupted nearly 24 hours a day, chewing up any productive idle time.

This all seems fairly obvious. But, as Edward Tenner writes in “The Efficiency Paradox,” “we sometimes need to be reminded of the obvious.” Tenner has made a career worrying about unintended consequences. His 1996 book, “Why Things Bite Back,” dealt with phenomena like the overuse of antibiotics leading to resistant bacteria and the introduction of football helmets causing an increase of neck and spine injuries. In 2003, he published “Our Own Devices,” in which he turned to what he called body technologies — sandals, office chairs, computer keyboards — and how they had impaired as much as enhanced us. In short, for every three steps forward, he sees the two steps back.

With the internet now a dominant social force, Tenner is ready with his wet blanket. But he is not a cyber-pessimist or a fetishizer of the analog. He is, instead, a staunch moderate: “Silicon Valley’s mistake is not in developing efficient algorithms from which we all benefit, but in encouraging the illusion that algorithms can and should function in the absence of human skills.”

The dehumanizing effects of big data are well known and Tenner adds no groundbreaking insight here. (Books like Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction” and Evgeny Morozov’s “To Save Everything, Click Here” were more pioneering on this front.) But what Tenner brings is a new frame. Unlike critiquing the denizens of Silicon Valley for deepening social and economic inequality, destroying our brains or helping to undermine democratic norms (issues that seem to matter to us more than them), questioning efficiency is truly kicking the geeks where it hurts.

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Drawing on an eclectic bunch of anecdotes and studies, Tenner makes his way through four sectors in which “intuition, skill and experience” have been effectively crushed by “big data, algorithms and efficiency”: media and culture, education, transportation and medicine.

A few of his examples:

Search algorithms have extended the ability to find scientific journal articles and books dating to the 19th century. In principle, this means scholars may encounter a broad range of research and discovery, dredge up forgotten work and possibly connect important dots. But in reality, as one sociologist found after studying citations in 35 million scientific journal articles from before and after the invention of the internet, researchers, beholden to search algorithms’ tendency to generate self-reinforcing feedback loops, are now paying more attention to fewer papers, and in general to the more recent and popular ones — actually strengthening rather than bucking prevailing trends.

GPS is great for getting from one point to another, but if you need more context for understanding your surroundings, it’s fairly useless. We’ve all had experiences in which the shortest distance, as calculated by the app, can also be the most dangerous or traffic-clogged. Compare the efficiency of GPS with the three years aspiring London cabdrivers typically spend preparing for the arduous examination they must pass in order to receive their license. They learn to build a mental map of the entire city, to navigate under any circumstance, to find shortcuts and avoid risky situations — all without any external, possibly fallible, help. Which is the more efficient, ultimately, the cabby or Google Maps?

In the early 2000s, electronic medical records and electronic prescribing appeared to solve the lethal problem of sloppy handwriting. The United States Institute of Medicine estimated in 1999 that 7,000 patients in the United States were dying annually because of errors in reading prescriptions. But the electronic record that has emerged to answer this problem, and to help insurers manage payments, is full of detailed codes and seemingly endless categories and subcategories. Doctors now have to spend an inordinate amount of time on data entry. One 2016 study found that for every hour doctors spent with patients, two hours were given over to filling out paperwork, leaving much less time to listen to patients, arguably the best way to avoid misdiagnoses.

Faced with all these “inefficiently efficient” technologies, what should we do? Tenner wants more balance. Let’s not put the brakes on the drive for efficiency. These tools are good. But they should give way a bit to human sensibility, to our own instincts and insights, which could help them work even better. “Analog experience can enhance digital efficacy,” he writes. “Digital tools can improve analog access. We don’t have to choose between the two.”

His recommendations are sensible, if hard to imagine actually coming to pass. He wants us to spend more time in the physical world, in the “terrain” of our cities or between the paragraphs of a printed book. We need to get a little lost, pursue “productive and instructive disorientation, distraction, wild-goose chases, dead ends.” He likes the idea of systematically educating high school students in the skill of online searching, so they can make the algorithms work for them rather than slavishly accepting their results. He wouldn’t mind if we returned to the days of the dial-up modem, when we waited patiently for the pixels to materialize on the screen one by one. Instant gratification has dulled our senses. He’d put us all in Waldorf schools if he could.

If this sounds like Tenner is a man impassioned, I should be clearer: This is no manifesto. There is not much blood flowing through this book, which reads more like a report issued by a concerned think tank. Maybe it’s just that preaching moderation doesn’t lend itself to writing that pulls your face to the page.

But it would be unfortunate if Tenner were dismissed as just a cranky man in his 70s who thinks we spend too much time on our phones. What he is asserting is something we all know to be true. It’s bigger than the tyranny of efficiency. What he’s really asking is that we remember that the tools we’ve invented to improve our lives are just that, tools, to be picked up and put down. We wield them.

via What Silicon Valley Could Use More of: Inefficiency – The New York Times

Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

More on increased radicalization in Indonesia and the influence of Islamic schools, with a useful breakdown of the different types:

A series of terrorist acts has rocked Indonesia in the past week. Starting from a clash in a detention centre at the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java, last week, attackers then bombed three churches in Surabaya, East Java, last Sunday, followed by another terrorist bombing at Surabaya Police Headquarters. Dozens were killed and wounded.

In response, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has reiterated the government’s commitment to exterminate terrorism down to its roots.

We must appreciate Jokowi’s statement. However, terrorism is a complex issue because there is no single factor that can explain why a person becomes a terrorist.

The importance of schools to prevent radicalism

One of the strategies that the government can use to stop terrorism in Indonesia is to take preventive steps using educational institutions to promote tolerance, which can eventually stop the spread of radical thoughts.

But what is happening in Indonesia is the opposite. Many schools in Indonesia have become fertile ground for radicalism.

The latest surveys from the Wahid Institute, Pusat Pengkajian Islam Masyarakat and the Centre for Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) and Setara Institute have indicated the spread of intolerance and radical values in educational institutions in Indonesia.

A student tolerance survey from Setara Institute in 2016 revealed that 35.7% of the students showed a tendency to intolerance in their minds, 2.4% were involved in acts of intolerance, and 0.3% had the potential to become terrorists. The survey was based on 760 respondents who enrolled in public high schools in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java.

Surveys from the Wahid Institute and PPIM have shown the same worrying trend.

The characteristics of schools prone to radicalism

In 2017, I was involved in research on efforts to respond to radicalism at 20 private Islamic schools in Central Java. The research involved academics from Monash University in Australia, Walisongo State Islamic University in Semarang, Central Java, and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta with funding support from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

We managed to identify three types of schools that are prone to radicalism. In accordance with confidentiality principles, we will not publish the schools’ names in this article.

These three types of schools are:

1. Closed schools

Instead of embracing changes, this type of school offers students a narrow perspective and tends to shut them off from foreign ideas.

We interviewed one of the headmasters from these schools. He explained the importance of Islamic civilisation to protect students against Western values.

Aside from see Islam and the West as being in conflict, closed schools also stress the importance of practising their version of Islamic teachings and reject the moderate Islam that most Muslims adhere to in Indonesia.

2. Separated schools

These schools can be identified from their teacher recruitment system and their limited participation in social activities.

The teacher recruitment process in these schools is very strict, especially the recruitment of religion teachers. In addition, these schools do not want to participate in social activities that they deem to be against their values.

This type of school is very different from other Islamic schools that are affiliated with the country’s more traditional Muslim organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) or Muhammadiyah. Whereas separated schools recruit religion teachers from their own groups only and will use their networks to recruit alumni who share the same Islamic values, NU and Muhammadiyah schools will not consider differences in their teachings as an issue. For example, one of the headmasters from a NU-affiliated school stated that his school also recruited teachers from Muhammadiyah.

NU and Muhammadiyah schools are also active in social activities, including interfaith activities. Separated schools are not.

3. Schools with pure Islamic identity

The third type can be identified by the way they create students’ Islamic identity. The schools that are prone to radicalism tend to build in a student a single Islamic identity, refusing other identities.

This understanding is different from other Islamic schools, which tend to consider that a person’s identity as a Muslim is not against his/her other identity. Moderate Islamic schools do not see a conflict between their students’ identity as Muslims and as Indonesian citizens.

When a school builds this single Muslim identity, that school will also foster radical attitudes among students as they only believe in a single Islamic interpretation that is in line with their values.

Headmasters from this type of school usually order their students to follow all religious rituals at schools, despite the students’ different religious background.

A headmaster told us that his students with a NU background must abandon their prayer ritual in the morning called qunut when they are enrolled in his schools.

This policy is different from other schools that allow flexibility for their students in their religious practices.

In addition, the rejection of other identities creates a “we versus them” attitude not only between different religions but also within the larger Islamic community itself.

What we can do

These three types of schools contribute to the growth of intolerance as well as radicalism at schools, which can lead to terrorist acts.

Therefore, we believe that the recent terrorist attacks should give momentum to the government to plan preventive measures to promote diversity, social integrity and diverse identities in various schools across the country.

The government’s campaign on tolerance should reach different educational institutions via the Culture and Education Ministry as well as Religious Affairs Ministry.

The government must also provide platforms and programs to promote tolerance. Apart from that, related government institutions in the regions must develop the capacity to identify schools that are prone to radicalism and apply persuasive approaches to prevent the spread of radicalism in those schools.

via Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

Immigrants are largely behind Canada’s status as one of the best-educated countries

The difference among visible minority groups, including gender, is one of the more interesting aspects of this study:

Canada can credit immigrants for making it one of the best-educated countries in the world.

Not only do many newcomers arrive with university degrees, their high expectations for their children’s academic achievements also appear to lead to the pursuit of higher education among their children, according to a new internal government analysis.

The Immigration Department report, obtained through an access to information request, found 36 per cent of the children of immigrants aged 25 to 35 held university degrees, compared to 24 per cent of their peers with Canadian-born parents.

Among the top immigration source countries, more than 50 per cent of the children of immigrants from China and India graduated from university, while one-third of those born to Filipino immigrant parents finished their degrees.

By comparison, between 30 and 37 per cent of children to immigrants from Western Europe completed university, followed by those from Latin America and the Caribbean at a rate ranging from 23 to 28 per cent — about par with children with Canadian-born parents, the report said.

“The educational attainment of the parents matters; children with highly educated parents are more likely to be highly educated themselves. And immigrant parents in Canada tend to have higher levels of educational attainment than Canadian-born parents,” said the report by researcher Garnett Picot for the department’s research and evaluation unit.

“Parents’ expectations regarding education matters, and immigrant families, particularly Asian families, tend to have higher educational expectations for their children, on average, than families with Canadian-born parents.”

Picot, who declined the Star’s interview request, said family income did not seem to play a role in the gaps in educational attainment.

“This is important because many immigrant families struggle economically,” he wrote in his article, titled The Educational and Labour market Outcomes of the Children of Immigrants: A Success to be Preserved.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Canada second only to Korea as the highest educated nation in the world in 2016, with over 60 per cent of Canadians with a post-secondary education.

An Immigration Canada spokesperson said Picot’s study was part of the government’s attempt to monitor the long-term performance of immigration policies and programs by looking at how the children of immigrants are doing in terms of their educational and economic outcomes.

via Immigrants are largely behind Canada’s status as one of the best-educated countries | Toronto Star

A Conservative Case for Identity Politics – The New York Times

Jon A. Shields, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, makes a convincing argument:

How should professors respond to the trend of identity politics that is now roiling American college campuses? Although I am a conservative professor, I recommend making a concession to it by explicitly assigning writers of different races and social backgrounds. Let me explain.

When I was in college, I took a class in logic. There I learned that one should never reject an argument because of the characteristics of the person making it. Instead, one should assess the argument itself on its rational merits. And while I agree that the power of an argument should not depend on the person making it, nonetheless, it does.

I learned that lesson during my first year as a visiting professor at Cornell University. I taught a course on American evangelicals, which attracted a mix of secular and religious students. When we discussed “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” a 1994 book by Mark A. Noll about anti-intellectualism in the evangelical tradition, my evangelical students were critical of it. But they were willing to take the book’s thesis seriously because the author was an evangelical.

Perhaps Mr. Noll’s identity shouldn’t have mattered. His historical evidence and the power of his arguments would be worth considering even if he were Catholic, Jewish or secular. But his identity did matter. It mattered because my evangelical students could not simply assume bad faith on the author’s part. They knew Mr. Noll cared about evangelicals as a group of people. Instead of dismissing Mr. Noll as a bigot, my students thoughtfully engaged with his work.

Since then, I have taken identity into account every time I have assigned new books for one of my courses. I currently teach a course called Black Intellectuals, which is focused on debates around racial inequality in the post-civil rights era. It tends to attract progressive students who, in analyzing racial inequality, are drawn to arguments that stress structural obstacles to equality and the enduring power of white racism, especially in our criminal justice system. The course features black authors who do defend that view, but I also teach the work of others who depart from it in some measure, including heterodox thinkers like Thomas Chatterton Williams and conservatives like Jason Riley. Much like my conservative evangelical students at Cornell, my progressive students at Claremont McKenna College are less likely to assume these contrarian black thinkers are acting in bad faith or are motivated by bigotry — even when the thinkers criticize hip-hop culture or defend white police officers. So the students engage the challenging arguments and ideas instead.

As conservatives have long observed and psychologists have since confirmed, human beings are hive-minded animals whose moral judgments are shaped more by sentiments than by reason. Thus, when we are confronted by arguments we disagree with, we can easily find reasons to reject them. The search for disconfirming evidence, however, can sometimes be short-circuited, especially when we feel close to the person making an argument we disagree with. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt concluded in his 2012 book, “The Righteous Mind,” if we have “affection, admiration, or desire to please” other people, we lean toward them and attempt to “find the truth” in their arguments. Social proximity matters.

If we want our students to consider the work of authors they’re inclined to disagree with, we professors must take the identity of those authors into account. This doesn’t mean scrubbing all white men from our syllabuses. But when we design an education for our students, we should remember that humans are partial, tribal beings — not rational automatons.

Some readers — especially those on the right — may suspect that embracing identity in this way will only embolden campus radicals. But that objection ignores an important truth: Practicing the new identity politics in the right way can subvert the dogmas that drive its excesses. When students read books by a broad intellectual range of evangelical or female or black authors, for example, they learn that there is no single evangelical or female or black perspective. Disagreements about ideas transcend these social categories.

The left has often placed too much faith in the power of human reason. Conservatives make the same error when they insist that the identities of intellectuals should never matter. The fact is, they do. And they would, even absent new movements on campus.

via A Conservative Case for Identity Politics – The New York Times

Funding religious schools: the majority of Canadians say at least some public dollars should be provided – Angus Reid

Suspect support would vary if questions were posed with respect to different religions as the 2007 Ontario election showed given concern in particular over Muslim schools:

Should religiously affiliated schools receive taxpayer dollars? And if so, what amount, and under what circumstances?

This ongoing debate in Canadian education – one complicated by the historical position of Catholic schools as a key provider of publicly funded education in many provinces – has been revived most recently in Saskatchewan, where legal challenges are underway to a court ruling that the provincial government cannot fund non-Catholic students’ attendance at the province’s Catholic schools.

Recent polling from the Angus Reid Institute – part of a year-long partnership with Faith in Canada 150 – finds Canadians more amenable than not to this particular intersection of church and state.

Asked a broad question about public funding of private, faith-based schools, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say such institutions should either receive support equal to that enjoyed by public schools (31%), or at least some amount of government funding (30%).

More Key Findings:religious school funding canada

  • Those favouring partial funding were asked a follow-up question about roughly how much money religious schools should receive. More than half (51%) in this group say funds should be less than 50 per cent of what public schools get
  • Younger respondents – those ages 18-34 – are more likely than their elders to say public funds should be appropriated to religious schools (38% favour full funding, and 35% prefer partial)
  • Residents of the three provinces where separate, publicly funded Catholic school boards still operate – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – are more likely to support full funding than people in other parts of the country

How much funding should religious and faith-based schools receive?

As mentioned, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say faith-based education should receive government funding, though they disagree about how much money religious schools should receive in comparison to the public system. Three-in-ten (31%) say faith-based education should receive government funding on par with public schools. Another three-in-ten (30%) say religious schools should get only partial funding, while the plurality (39%) say they should receive no public money at all.

Respondents who said religious schools should receive partial funding were asked how much money they would allocate to such institutions, relative to public school funding. Slightly more than half (51%) said they would provide less than 50 per cent of the amount public schools receive to religious schools, while one-in-five (20%) said they would provide more than 50 per cent of what public schools receive. The rest (29%) were unsure.

Taken together with those who would provide full funding or no funding at all, the group that would provide partial funding can be broken down as seen in the following graph.

religious school funding canada

Notable differences by region, age, and gender

Three provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – currently provide separate streams of public funding for Catholic schools. These separate schools have their own publicly funded school boards, and have historically educated Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Given the prominent ongoing role of publicly funded religious schools in these three provinces, it’s perhaps not surprising that the three are the only regions above the national average in terms of the number of residents supporting full funding for religious education.

It’s worth noting, of course, that in no region of the country does a majority of the population reject all public funding for faith-based schools. Quebec – where the religious neutrality of the state is a recurring and salient political issue – comes closest, as seen in the following table:

Age and gender are also key drivers of opinion on this question, with men more likely to say religious schools should receive “no funding at all” and women more divided, as seen in the graph that follows.

Looking at responses by age, it becomes clear that those closest to their own school days view public spending on religious education most favourably. A plurality (38%) of those ages 18 – 34 say religious schools should receive full funding, while among older age groups “no funding at all” is the plurality choice:

religious school funding canada

One demographic characteristic that – perhaps surprisingly – doesn’t have much impact on responses to this question is whether a person has children living in their household or not.

Parents and guardians are only marginally more likely to favour full funding (33% do, compared to 30% of those without kids in their households – a difference that is not statistically significant). Likewise, people with children are no more or less likely to favour partial funding, nor are they more or less inclined to say this partial funding should be above 50 per cent. See summary tables at the end of this report for greater detail.

Via: http://angusreid.org/funding-religious-schools-majority-canadians-say-least-public-dollars-provided/

Census 2016: Where is the discussion about Indigenous education? John Richards

Valid points:

Recently, Statistics Canada released the final batch of results from the 2016 census. It included education statistics for Canadians – including Indigenous Canadians.

Perhaps Indigenous education outcomes are the most important findings in this final batch, and among Indigenous education outcomes, perhaps the most important are high school completion results among young adults. They provide a snapshot of how Canada’s K-12 school systems are performing. For the record, among non-Indigenous young adults (20-24) in 2016, 92 per cent have at least a high school certificate. (Canada is above the overall OECD average.) Among Métis, 84 per cent have completed high school. Among First Nations young adults living off reserve, 75 per cent. But among those living on reserve, only 48 per cent have done so – less than half.

Regardless of race, children who do not complete at least high school are unlikely to gain regular employment and are probably doomed to poverty as adults. Arguably the best way to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and “settler” populations is to close unacceptably large education gaps, starting with high school.

Admittedly, both on and off reserve, First Nations results are five to six percentage points better than in the 2011 census. However, if any other sizable group of young Canadians realized such large high school completion gaps relative to the Canadian average, there would be a hue and cry.

Earlier in the decade, there was. Shawn Atleo, at the time national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), spoke eloquently about the importance of education. Despite some serious disagreements between them, Atleo and then-prime minister Stephen Harper succeeded in negotiating legislation for the organization of reserve schools, plus a large increase in federal funding. Rather than look at the Atleo-Harper agreement as a glass half-full – which could be topped up – most chiefs and Liberal MPs denounced their efforts. Atleo resigned, and Harper let the legislation die when the election writ was issued in 2015.

While I think the legislation was a decent compromise, perhaps I am wrong and the legislation deserved to die. In 2016, the new, Liberal government quietly increased funding for reserve schools in line with the Atleo-Harper agreement, but there is little evidence of urgency on this file from either Ottawa or most Indigenous leaders. Among the 94 “calls to action” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), only seven concerned K-12 education and only one referred explicitly to the provinces, the order of government responsible for almost all Indigenous students in high school.

It is important to realize that only half the Indigenous population are “registered Indians” entitled to live on reserve, and fewer than half of those “registered” actually live on reserve. Since there are few on-reserve high schools, most children living on reserve attend provincial high schools.

The AFN, the TRC and everyone else involved in K-12 education should be raising a hue and cry with provincial governments and their education ministries. The census shows which provinces deserve the most aggressive prodding. Among the six with large Indigenous student cohorts (Quebec to British Columbia), B.C. stands out as by far the best, Manitoba as the worst. In 2016, 70 per cent of on-reserve First Nations young adults in B.C. had completed high school; in Manitoba, only 36 per cent. In B.C., among First Nations young adults living off reserve, 81 per cent had a high school certificate; in Manitoba, 61 per cent. Some interprovincial differences are due to variations in social conditions – but only some.

As a generalization, both on-reserve and provincial schools are doing things better in B.C. than in the other provinces. Not perfect, but better. While B.C. has no “silver bullet” to close the gaps, it can point to many incremental initiatives over the past quarter-century that, cumulatively, have succeeded.

If the on-reserve high school completion rate rises six points every five years, then in 35 years it will match the rate for non-Indigenous young adults. That’s a long time to wait.

via Census 2016: Where is the discussion about Indigenous education? – The Globe and Mail

The Daily — Labour, Education in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census [immigration excerpts]

Immigration excerpts (looking forward to exploring the various data tables):

Immigrants accounted for almost one-quarter of the labour force

From 2006 to 2016, about two-thirds of Canada’s population growth was the result of migratory increase (the difference between the number of immigrants and emigrants). Similarly, the labour force was growing in large part due to increased immigration, with immigrants accounting for 23.8% of the labour force in 2016, up from 21.2% in 2006.

In 2016, half of the workforce in the CMA of Toronto were immigrants. The CMA of Vancouver had the second-highest proportion of immigrants in its labour force at 43.2%, followed by the CMA of Calgary at 32.5%.

The contribution of immigrants to the Canadian labour market is an important component of strategies to offset the impact of population aging, which might otherwise lead to a shrinking pool of workers and labour shortages. Many immigrants are admitted into Canada based on their skills and education.

In May 2016, among recent immigrants aged 25 to 54, 68.5% were employed, compared with an employment rate of 79.5% for core-aged immigrants who landed more than five years before the census, and 82.0% for the Canadian-born population. Among recent immigrants in this age group, 79.6% of men were employed, compared with 58.6% of women.

Although the employment rate for core-aged recent immigrants was lower than that of other immigrants and the Canadian-born, it increased from 67.1% in 2006 to 68.5% in 2016. For core-aged recent immigrant women, the employment rate increased from 56.8% in 2006 to 58.6% in 2016, and for core-aged recent immigrant men, the rate increased from 78.7% to 79.6%. In contrast, employment rates for core-aged Canadian-born men, as well as for non-recent immigrant men and women, declined over this 10-year period.

via The Daily — Labour in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census

Over half of recent immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher

Immigrants contribute to Canada’s economy by bringing their skills and high levels of educational attainment. Canada’s immigration system highly values education. In recent years, new programs have made it easier for international students who have completed their postsecondary education in Canada to immigrate into the country. As of the 2016 Census, 4 in 10 immigrants aged 25 to 64 had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison, just under one-quarter of the Canadian-born population aged 25 to 64 had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Recent immigrants who landed in the five years prior to the 2016 Census were especially well-educated, with over half having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Recent immigrant women were more likely than recent immigrant men to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016. The reverse was true in the 2006 Census.

The percentage of all immigrants with a master’s or doctorate degree is twice that of the Canadian-born population. Among immigrants aged 25 to 64, 11.3% had a master’s or doctorate degree compared with 5.0% among the Canadian-born population. Recent immigrants were even more likely to have a master’s or doctorate degree, with 16.7% of them holding these graduate degrees in 2016.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 with selected degrees, by immigrant status and period of immigration, Canada, 2016
Percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 with selected degrees, by immigrant status and period of immigration, Canada, 2016

Chart 5: Percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 with selected degrees, by immigrant status and period of immigration, Canada, 2016

…Close to one-third of refugees have upgraded their educational credentials in Canada

For the first time, the census included information on the admission category under which immigrants to Canada have arrived. The Canadian immigration system has three broad goals: to attract educated and skilled immigrants, to reunify families, and to provide humanitarian and compassionate refuge. Immigrants admitted under the refugee category face particular challenges as they are not admitted based on education, language or other assets, and may not have all of the skills required to find employment in their new country.

Close to one-third of refugees (31.5%) who have received their permanent resident status, upgraded their educational credentials by completing their highest postsecondary qualification in Canada. When looking only at those who arrived as adults (aged 18 and older), about 22% upgraded their education with higher qualifications in Canada, slightly more than immigrants admitted under either the economic or family categories, both at about 20%. The majority (71.1%) of refugees who immigrated to Canada as adults and upgraded their educational qualifications in Canada completed a trades or college diploma. In comparison, among economic immigrants who upgraded their education in Canada, the majority (56.5%) completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Via: Education in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census 

How Legos helped build a classroom lesson on white privilege

Good read (remember that under the Conservatives, the multiculturalism program would not fund any organization that explicitly mentioned white privilege):

Are the yellow Minifigures in the Lego universe white people? A Grade 8 social-studies class at Allan A. Martin Sr. Public School in Mississauga mulled this existential question on a recent afternoon while their teacher delivered a lesson on one of the most politically charged topics addressed in Canadian classrooms.

Mandi Hardy stood in front of a whiteboard and asked students to list what they believed to be the most important jobs in the world, then asked them to list people – real or fictional – who hold those positions. Almost all the doctors were from TV, among them Derek Shepherd from Grey’s Anatomy and Dr. Phil. The same was true for the scientists and emergency-service workers that the students listed. Then, without explanation, Ms. Hardy began putting stars beside nearly all of the names – pausing when she reached a Lego character – and students quickly caught on to what she was doing.

“They’re all white!” one called out.

The lesson of the day was white privilege, the idea that white people enjoy unearned advantages due to their race. Her exercise was meant to show that white people receive greater public profile for many of the occupations society deems to be the most important. This isn’t a required subject, but one Ms. Hardy has elected to teach for the past four years.

While students in social-studies classes in B.C., Ontario and Manitoba must learn about the disturbing history of the residential-school system, and those in Nova Scotia are taught about how black people in their own province were enslaved, the specific term “white privilege” is so charged that provinces have steered clear of explicitly addressing it in their curriculums.

Just three years ago, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) caused a furor when it advertised a workshop for educators on teaching white privilege. During the municipal election that same year, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he does not believe it exists. Some teachers who have dared to deliver lessons on it have invited angry complaints from parents and the wider community.

But a growing number of educators, those who train them and the unions that represent them are taking on the challenge.

In the eighties, a white woman named Peggy McIntosh wrote a piece titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, which listed particular privileges white people have that many racialized people do not. It has become one of the key teacher resources on the subject in North America. She enumerated the daily effects of white privilege in her own life in the piece, among them: “I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”

When a Grade 11 anthropology teacher at a high school in Caledon, Ont., passed out Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack to her class last spring, one of her students, Logan Boden, was skeptical. He declared white privilege to be a racist ideology. The teacher responded, “Coming from a white male …,” according to Mr. Boden.

When he got home from school, he told his mother, Rebecca Knott, about what had happened. He’d encountered the term “white privilege” before that day and was surprised his teacher was bringing it up in class.

“I’ve seen a lot of social-justice warriors and feminists use the term … to shut people down, to say their opinion isn’t valid because they’re white,” he said. “It’s a term basically coined to make you feel bad for being white.”

Ms. Knott contacted the teacher, the principal and the school board to complain about the lesson and said “the other side” should also be shared with students – suggesting the teacher screen videos from Rebel Media, a conservative outlet well-known for its anti-Muslim content that was roundly criticized for sympathetic coverage in August of white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville, Va.

A spokesperson for the Peel District School Board said the board investigated after Ms. Knott’s complaint and reviewed the matter against the board’s equity and inclusive education policy. The teacher and principal in question did not want to comment for this story.

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has been developing resources for decades similar to the one Mr. Boden’s teacher used. As a result, BCTF president Glen Hansman has received e-mails from community members, among them parents, that accuse his union of racism against white people.

“I think we have to reject that as absurd,” he said. “We have to challenge our assumptions and work through them and sometimes that can be uncomfortable for people for a long period of time, especially if they’re the ones who are benefiting from that privilege.”

It’s not just students and parents who have taken issue with the subject, but educators, too.

Mohammed Saleh, a teacher in Southern Ontario, leads workshops on white privilege for ETFO throughout the province. Many have elected to attend but others have been sent by their superintendents and don’t hide their skepticism around the topic.

Some say this isn’t an issue for them because all their students are white. Mr. Saleh tells them those students likely will venture beyond their homogeneous communities as adults.

The issue with the workshops is that only the truly committed turn what they learn into lessons for their students, says Sam Hammond, ETFO’s president, and that’s not enough.

“White privilege should be incorporated into the curriculum both at the faculty of education level and in the curriculum across the system in a non-colonialized way,” he said.

The Ontario curriculum does cover the subject of privilege for students in grades 9 to 12 (relating not just to race, but also socioeconomic status, gender and religion among other things) but does not specifically identify “white privilege.” In other provinces, the greater emphasis is put on inclusion, diversity and pluralism.

Several compulsory courses at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of education address white privilege, and associate dean of teacher education Wendy Carr says many teacher candidates are uncomfortable with those discussions.

“And that discomfort can range anywhere from guilt to shame to anger,” she said. The goal is not to make these would-be teachers feel guilty about their own race, but to recognize the obligations that come with being from a more privileged place than some of their peers and students.

Back in Mississauga, after the whiteboard exercise in Ms. Hardy’s class, she led a discussion about white privilege with students, all of whom seemed receptive to the idea. Then she gave her class an assignment: Find a person of colour who has contributed something impressive to the world and create a poster about them. Students pulled out phones and tablets and began their work, typing some version of the query “people of colour who have done something amazing” into Google.

One student simply searched “top most influential people” and landed on a magazine cover from 2010, featuring a grid of faces labelled 100 Most Influential People. Her eyes scanned the image, hopping from person to person, and then she called Ms. Hardy over to show it to her. Nearly all of the faces were white.

Source: How Legos helped build a classroom lesson on white privilege – The Globe and Mail

Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)

Interesting analysis:

Germany has voted. Angela Merkel is weakened, but she remains chancellor and is now seeking new coalition partners for government.

Instead of focusing on what the election means for German higher education and research policy – which probably won’t become clear until months of coalition negotiations have concluded – I want to highlight some interesting voting patterns among German graduates.

In the United States and the UK, it’s now a commonplace observation that voters seem increasingly divided by levels of education rather than traditional cleavages like levels of income. In the ballots of 2016 and 2017, graduates tended to take the side of more open, pro-cosmopolitan parties and politicians (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, Hillary Clinton, Remain in the UK’s EU referendum) against more closed, nationalistic forces (Theresa May’s Conservatives, Leave, Donald Trump).

You can certainly quibble with these groupings, but the overall trend is unmistakable.

For example, in this year’s UK general election, graduates were 10 percentage points less likely to back the Conservatives, and nine percentage points more likely to vote for Labour, than the broader voting public.

The divide was even starker last year during the EU referendum, when 68 per cent of graduates voted to remain.

Meanwhile, in the US election, Clinton won college graduates by a nine percentage point margin, while Trump won everyone else by eight points. “This is by far the widest gap in support among college graduates and non-college graduates in exit polls dating back to 1980,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Is the same thing happening in Germany? Ostensibly not – German graduates seem more in line with their fellow citizens than in the UK or the US. This is most clearly visible when you look at the graduate vote share for Germany’s political parties arranged on the left to right political spectrum:

In terms of the bigger parties, graduates were a little less likely than other voters to vote for Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU) – but exactly the same was true of the social democrats (SPD).German graduates voting patterns

Graduates were both more likely to opt for the radically left-wing Die Linke – and the almost diametrically opposed (at least on economic matters) Free Democratic Party (FDP). This feels very different from the US and UK, where graduates have come down heavily on one side or the other in the votes of the past two years.

Why might this be? A couple of potential reasons spring to mind. Germany is famed for the quality of its vocational education, which, although under pressure, still offers the hope of a well respected and remunerated life course that does not require university. Non-graduates are perhaps less likely to be economically “left behind” than in other countries.

There is also still no real equivalent of the Ivy League, Oxbridge or the grandes écoles in Germany, meaning that attending (a certain type of) university is arguably less of a prerequisite for power and influence.

But have a look at the chart again – there are nonetheless signs that educational polarisation is beginning to take root in Germany.

Graduates heavily backed the Greens, who, aside from their environmental policies, are known as supporters of multiculturalism, and have several high-profile leaders with a Turkish family background. The AfD on the other hand are emphatically against multiculturalism and have leaders who have made a series of brazenly racist statements; they were largely shunned by voters who have been to university.

As the AfD’s entry into parliament shows, Germany is not immune from the divisions afflicting the UK, the US and many other European countries. It will be interesting to see if the country becomes just as polarised on educational grounds as well.

Source: Germany’s election and the educational polarisation of voters | Times Higher Education (THE)

ICYMI: Ontario to begin collecting data on students’ race, ethnicity, hoping to boost achievement

The Toronto District School Board has been doing this for some time – expanding this across the province makes sense given its overall high diversity:

The provincial government will begin collecting and analyzing data on the ethnicity of students in an attempt to improve school achievement, CBC News has learned.

The move will be announced today by Education Minister Mitzie Hunter as just one part of the province’s new equity action plan, according to a government source.

The decision to gather demographic data such as race and ethnicity and to analyze its relation to school achievement will help the government make better education policies, said the source.

Word of the decision comes just as students across the province return to the classroom — and after complaints of discrimination and racism made headlines during the past school year.

In April, Hunter issued a sweeping list of directives to the York Region District School Board after two high-profile incidents of racism and Islamophobia within the YRDSB: one in which a school trustee used a racial slur when referring to a black parent, and another in which a principal posted offensive material on Islam and refugees to her Facebook page.

Those two incidents were set against a backdrop of mounting complaints of systemic racism in the board.

That was followed by the YRDSB thanking the ministry for the report, albeit pointing out it contained “significant errors of fact,” and making assurances it would take action immediately.

Also in April, news emerged that almost half of Toronto District School Board students expelled over the last five years are black. That finding was one that TDSB executive superintendent Jim Spyropoulos said left him “alarmed.”

A report out of York University found that a similar phenomenon reverberated across the Greater Toronto Area, with black students routinely being streamed into applied programs rather than academic ones, and suspended at much higher rates than their counterparts.

Led by professor Carl James, the study made several recommendations which the TDSB said it would review.

And in June, an investigation into allegations that a high school teacher in Whitby, Ont., referred to a group of black students with a derogatory term using the N-word with no punishment for the teacher, according to a parent who attended a meeting with the Durham District School Board.

Source: Ontario to begin collecting data on students’ race, ethnicity, hoping to boost achievement – Toronto – CBC News