Authorities in Missouri seek immediate closure of right-wing Christian ranch for boys

The Agape ranch boarding school in Missouri describes itself as “a non-profit boarding school designed to show God’s love to teen boys struggling with behavior issues that can threaten their future.”

In what surely must be starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to right-wing religious institutions which abuse children, Agape is being described by authorities in Missouri as a place so dangerous to kids it should be closed immediately:

The Missouri Attorney General and state child welfare leaders filed an amended complaint Friday afternoon, saying students must be removed from Agape Boarding School because of a long pattern of abuse.

The complaint, filed in Cedar County Circuit Court, contained additional details that the AG’s office said provided explicit evidence of systemic abuse of students at the unlicensed school near Stockton that has gone on for years.

Those new details also include allegations that Agape provided “incomplete information” to the state in recent days. And it said multiple people still working at the school are appealing their substantiated findings from the Missouri Department of Social Services that they physically abused students. State law allows the staffers to keep working while they appeal the findings.

The Kansas City Star has independently learned that Agape director Bryan Clemensen is one of those who was notified by DSS that he had a substantiated report of abuse against him. Multiple sources also said that Scott Dumar, the school’s longtime medical coordinator, also is among those appealing a substantiated DSS finding. Dumar is also one of five staff members who were charged last year with physical abuse of students.

Speaking of broken records, must anyone point out again that the reason members of the extreme religious Right see grooming sexual abusers behind every liberal curtain is because so many of the right-wingers turn out to be abusers themselves?

I should stress that many of these charges are still allegations. But it’s not every day that law enforcement officials seek the immediate closure of an established Christian boarding school, so they must feel something is terribly amiss.

If the allegations turn out to be true…well, the abuse of kids who’ve already had such tough lives must involve the worst kinds of people.

I was in foster care for the latter part of my childhood, and I had a couple of male authority figures who tried to take advantage of me at different stages of my adolescence. Fortunately, I was cynical and street smart enough to realize they were grooming me. I toyed with them by appearing as if I was falling for their ham-handed attempts to lure me through trust and deception. It was pedophile cat and mouse. Except the cat didn’t know the mouse was in control.

I should have contacted authorities, but it didn’t cross my mind at the time. I thought they were pathetic and put them out of my mind once I got rid of them by becoming angry and making it clear I knew what they were doing. Nothing chases away a pedophile faster than calling them what they are to their face.

But I also ached for the father figure I never had in my life, and I can understand how, if I were a little more naïve and trusting, those encounters could have gone south pretty quickly.

And to do these things under the guise of “God’s love”?

Horrible. Just horrible.

It’s not just loan forgiveness; Biden also re-wrote loan repayment terms for many students

One of the things I try to stress to conservative boomers my age is the fact that, when we were young in the 1960s and ’70s, corporations paid something resembling their fair share of taxes, at least with federal taxes.

The federal corporate rate was graduated, with top rates on corporate income over $25,000 topping out between 48 and 52 percent. (It’s now 21 percent tops.)

And that system in the 1960s and ’70s seemed perfectly normal to everyone, and a lot of corporations just paid their taxes because there weren’t all of the overseas tax havens where corporations could claim a post office box in Malta as their headquarters.

(An aside: Malta had been effectively taxing foreign corporations at a rate of 5% even if their “headquarters” was a single-person office above a laundromat. Malta is being punished, at least for now, because of the way it encouraged these kinds of tax crimes. Great article here.)

The point of all of this is that, when corporations were good civic citizens, cities and towns and states had plenty of money to have people on their payrolls who were paid livable wages. Teachers weren’t paying for school supplies, schools had plenty of books and school nurses and guidance counselors and music/art programs. Public parks and street/bridge repairs were adequate to what was needed.

Public universities and colleges were well-funded by the state and federal governments and, in fact, got much of their operating budgets from public funds. So tuition was also low.

Then the Republican Party started to be taken over by right-wing billionaires who financed candidates and ad campaigns to convince Americans that corporate taxes were too high, that private sector workers were somehow inherently more efficient than government employees (they’re not) and that every dollar spent on government was a dollar that corporations could not spend to improve their profits that those corporations would magically “trickle down” to average workers.

Of course none of that money trickled down and today we know that record corporate profits end up nowhere remotely close to average workers, but instead make fabulously rich people even richer.

I bring all this up because my fellow boomers seems to forget how well government functioned before Ronald Reagan was elected. How much more fair it was– to everyone.

And once you realize how much better you had it than college students today, perhaps you can actually be happy about the things outlined in this CNBC article:

The day the Biden administration unveiled its highly anticipated student loan forgiveness plan was a “celebratory day” for Justin Short.

Short, 34, graduated from the University of Missouri in 2012 with a degree in hospitality management, $47,000 in federal student loans and $5,800 in private student loans. Like many borrowers, his college debt has plagued his personal and financial decisions for years.

So while he found relief in many of the announcements coming from the White House on Aug. 24 — $10,000 in debt forgiveness, another payment pause extension through the end of the year — Short was most interested in the announcement of proposed changes to income-driven repayment plans.

The Department of Education’s new plan would cap monthly payments on undergraduate debt to 5% of discretionary income, down from the usual 10% to 15% on existing plans.

The proposal also raises the amount of money considered non-discretionary income and shielded from being used to calculate student loan payments.

It would cover any accrued unpaid interest so that no borrower’s balance would grow if they made a qualifying payment.

And it would forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of the usual 20, for those with original loan balances of $12,000 or less

This “sleeper” detail of the loan forgiveness plan could be “a game-changer” for millions of borrowers with remaining balances, says Julie Peller, executive director at Higher Learning Advocates, a bipartisan higher education nonprofit.

“I wish people were talking about this more than the $10,000 piece,” Short says, “because this will put more money into the pockets of everyday, middle-class Americans who need that extra help, especially when student loan payments resume on Jan. 1.”

“This has huge implications,” he adds.

As I said earlier, college was cheap for most boomers who attended public universities. So cheap that student loans tended to be small — if you had one at all — and the terms favored students instead of the banks. Unlike today where even some student loan borrowers who pay regularly on their loans watch in horror as the principal barely goes down. (See this article about student loan borrowers who are now paying on student loans into their retirement years.)

If you had suggested to boomers when we went to college that we would have to borrow $100K or more, on terms that meant we would be paying until after we retire, we would have thought you were crazy.

So loan forgiveness seems like simple fairness to today’s students whose only real mistake is that they were born too late to benefit from the way things used to — and still should — operate.

Because, even those of us boomers who had students loans and paid them off were still recipients of government educational assistance. We just never saw it because it went to the universities and colleges to subsidize our low tuition.

College students in the 1970s.

Why have the Republicans not yet filed suit against Biden’s student loan forgiveness program?

Thus far no Republicans (or their conservative front groups) have filed suit against President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, although they are preening for any reporter who will listen about how the program is the end of constitutional government as we know it.

The New Republic’s Matt Ford takes a look at the reasons why the GOP might have a hard time coming up with ways to battle the student loan forgiveness program in court — including a law originally meant to forgive the student loans of people directly affected by 9/11:

Student loan relief appears to be different. No such lawsuit has been filed against the Biden administration to stop the order from taking effect. It’s far from clear whether one can even be properly filed to challenge it. And even if one is filed, the Biden administration has good reason to think it can win. For this apparent victory, Democrats can thank the unlikeliest of duos: former President George W. Bush and the “war on terror.”

From where does Biden claim the power to wipe away so much student debt? The White House pointed to the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, or HEROES Act for short. The law sprang from the September 11 attacks and a temporary measure passed by Congress in 2001 to allow the president to waive certain student loan requirements for those affected by the attacks. In 2003, Congress passed a broader version of the law in light of the then-ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the large number of U.S. servicemembers who would have to repay loans while serving overseas. Though it was temporary at first, Congress later extended it in 2005 and then made it permanent in 2007.

From their we go to another TNR article, this time by Julian Epp, who writes that he is one of the fortunate who will be aided by the loan forgiveness program. But Epp also writes of the people who will be left behind. Good piece.

And, finally, Epp links to this New Yorker article I managed to miss: The Aging Student Debtors of America: In an era of declining wages and rising debt, Americans are not aging out of their student loans—they are aging into them.

Crazy how the student-centered student loans from when I went to school have morphed into the blood-sucking vampires of debt that I never would have faced or even thought possible to face.

Two-thirds of Americans think Biden’s student loan plan is correct or didn’t go far enough

The Republican playbook since the time of Reagan has been to take a bunch of billionaires and use their money to elect pro-Wall Street politicians from Harvard and Yale, then teach those politicians to espouse rhetoric about their love of the working class and “real Americans” those same politicians ultimately despise and work against.

Ted Cruz is currently on tour saying about student loan forgiveness, “What President Biden has, in effect, decided to do is to take from working-class people, to take from truck drivers and construction workers right now, thousands of dollars in taxes in order to redistribute it to college graduates who have student loans.”

The New York Times‘ always excellent Jamelle Bouie has a column posted that reminds all of us how ridiculous this is for so many reasons:

Now, as I noted over the weekend, this way of thinking betrays an ignorance of working-class life in this country. To work as a truck driver or a medical technician or a home inspector or any number of other similar blue-collar jobs, you need training, licenses, certifications. People go to school to meet these requirements. They apply for the same federal student loans and take on the same debt as someone going to college. And many of these Americans labor under the burden of that debt because of high costs and lower-than-expected earnings. (To say nothing of those who attended college, took on debt, but didn’t graduate.)

The idea that student loan relief is a handout to a small minority of affluent college graduates is simply a myth.

But even if you put all this aside, there is also the fact that these would-be spokesmen for working-class and blue-collar Americans aren’t actually speaking for working-class and blue-collar Americans. The polls, so far, make this clear.

The first poll since the plan was announced, from Emerson College, shows broad approval from across the electorate. When asked about loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 for borrowers making under $125,000 a year — one of the key planks of Biden’s plan — 35 percent of respondents said it was “just about the right amount of action.” This might not seem like much, but then consider the 30 percent of respondents who said $10,000 worth of relief was “not enough.” Presumably, this group will support the current plan but wishes it would go even further — bringing the total number of supporters to almost two-thirds of Americans. Just over a third of respondents, by contrast, said that Biden’s plan went too far.

That’s right: 2/3 of Americans think that Biden’s student loan plan was “just about right” or didn’t go far enough. Don’t let the right-wing tell you otherwise.

You can read the rest of Bouie’s column at this link.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), the Harvard-educated lawyer who falsely portrays himself a hero of the working class, shown as he was famously escaping to Cancun while people in his state were freezing to death.

A bit of good news about Catholicism and Omaha

People love to bash the Catholic Church. But, Catholicism in America is, operationally speaking, controlled largely by each diocese and its bishops and cardinals. Those leaders exist across the left-right spectrum.

Then there are the Jesuits, who ultimately answer to the Pontiff and Rome, but who often chart a more progressive path independent of local diocesan bishops who do not control the Jesuits or their schools.

Such is the case in Omaha, of all places, where the panic over transgender students reared its ugly head when the Diocese of Omaha issued an edict about transgender issues in local schools.

Under the new policy — set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — students may be expelled, and teachers could be fired, if they ask to be identified as transgender. 

But the biggest names in Catholic schools in Omaha, including Duchesne (all girls) and Creighton Prep (all boys) have made it clear they will not be following the rules of the archdiocese:

“We exist to care for our kids. That’s why we’re here,” said Father Matt Spotts, president of Creighton Prep High School.

Spotts told 6 News he’s had to emphasize this point repeatedly after the Archdiocese of Omaha issued a new transgender policy requiring staff to treat people according to their biological sex at birth.

Spotts said Creighton Prep has different guidelines and doesn’t plan to make any changes.

“Every single student that walks through our doors is created in the image and likeness of God. That’s one of our most important and fundamental values,” he said.

Like most Catholic high schools in the Omaha metro area, Spotts said, Creighton Prep is independent and not required to follow the new policy.

“That is something that’s hard for a lot of folks to grasp,” he said.

Other independent Catholic high schools in Omaha include Duchesne, Marian, Mercy, Mount Michael, and the Jesuit Academy. Only three high schools are governed by the Archdiocese of Omaha: Gross, Roncalli, and Skutt.

The new transgender policy has caused so much confusion that many schools are sending out emails to parents to clarify.

It should also be noted that 9,000-student Creighton University, arguably the most prestigious 4-year university in the region if you’re not considering football prominence, had last year its first openly gay undergraduate student body president. That didn’t cause so much as a ripple in the area.

Creighton also was a leader in local COVID responses, requiring all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated. The university fought (and won) when several students took Creighton to court over the requirement.

You can read the rest of the article about the trans policy, and the schools’ letters sent out to parents, at this link.

Catholics and Catholic thought are not monolithic, although they are often presented as such. That these schools and this university are pushing back against conservative policies proves that.

An aerial view of part of the Creighton campus.

These WSJ reporters do a good job of answering student debt forgiveness questions

I’ve seen a few articles thus far which purport to give you “Six Takeaways About Student Debt Forgiveness” or something like that.

However this Q&A with Wall Street Journal personal-finance reporter Julia Carpenter and WSJ podcast host host J.R. Whalen cleared up more questions I had than any other:

J.R. Whalen: All right. So first of all, Julia, who’s eligible to have part of their student loans forgiven?

Julia Carpenter: Borrowers with federal student loan debt are eligible for up to $10,000 in relief if they earn less than $125,000 a year or under $250,000 a year for couples. The other thing is people who received Federal Pell Grants in college will also be eligible for up to $20,000 in forgiveness, and Pell Grant recipient graduates hold about $4,500 more in debt than other graduates.

J.R. Whalen: Yeah. And usually Pell grants are usually awarded only to undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need. Now, how about people with private loans?

Julia Carpenter: Unfortunately, only federal student loan borrowers are eligible for this loan forgiveness.

J.R. Whalen: Okay. So how about Parent Plus Loans, where families borrow money to help a student pay for their education? How do they work into this?

Julia Carpenter: So the forgiveness applies to borrowers of both Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs. Families can borrow the total cost of attendance, that’s room and board, other expenses. And this forgiveness applies to federal loans for both undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as to Parent PLUS Loans.

J.R. Whalen: Now, we should also mention that the pause on student loan repayments that’s been in place since early in the pandemic, that’s also been extended. And now the date that payments are set to resume is December 31st. But I want to ask about the timing for the debt forgiveness. When does that kick in?

Julia Carpenter: The Department of Education says we’ll get more details in the next few weeks, but the timing’s a little unclear right now. We know that this will definitely happen before student loan payments are set to resume in January 2023.

J.R. Whalen: Okay. So what does a borrower have to do to take advantage of the forgiveness?

Julia Carpenter: Nothing yet. Wait until you receive a notification from your loan servicer. Before that happens, beware of any friendly-sounding phone calls or suspicious-looking emails from addresses you don’t recognize. Even before the announcement was made official on Wednesday, I personally received two different phone calls with voicemails and friendly-sounding people saying, “Hi, I’m your student loan servicer. Just call me. I have to confirm some details with you.” So this might be an opportunity for some scam calls, spoof messages, anything from people trying to get your personal data. And in the meantime, double check the information you’ve already shared with your loan servicer and the website. If you’ve recently moved, or if you’ve changed any of your contact information, you’re going to want to make sure that they have the most up-to-date addresses.

J.R. Whalen: Oh, okay. Now what if somebody owes less than $10,000 in federal loans?

Julia Carpenter: So if you owe less than $10,000 on your loan, congratulations! You’ll now be student debt-free.

J.R. Whalen: Well, that’ll be a relief to some people. Now how about those who have already paid off their student loans?

Julia Carpenter: Unfortunately, the forgiveness isn’t retroactive and won’t apply to balances that have already been paid off.

J.R. Whalen: Julia, debt forgiveness is often treated as income and has to be accounted for on tax returns. What’s the situation in this case?

Julia Carpenter: Fortunately for borrowers, this canceled student debt is federally tax-exempt, and we’ve seen that in other federal student debt forgiveness programs. And so in this case, you would not have to account for this federal forgiveness on your tax return.

I had student loans I paid off, and I do not feel at all cheated that someone else is going to get something I didn’t. That is how the world works, time marches on, and I am happy that anyone is able to spend $10K or $20K in what are likely to be more productive ways for the economy than sending the money to loan servicers every month.

After all, as many others besides me have noted, Wall Street and the GOP didn’t think twice about giving massive economy-busting tax breaks to business in 2017. And some of the loudest voices in the right-wing echo chamber screaming about a piddling $10K to students, got hundreds of thousands of dollars in government COVID relief loans forgiven 100% — just wiped out. They didn’t have to pay a penny, no matter how much profit they are making.

Conservatives and big business love when the government gives them money. When it goes to average Americans? That pisses them off.

NC Lt. Gov. comes out in favor of abolishing science, social studies, in grade schools

In case you are wondering where the GOP and its Breitbart/QAnon nutjobs are heading with their, thus far, highly successful efforts to eviscerate public school systems to point that there is a serious qualified teacher shortage across the country, look no further than North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

Robinson, you may recall, worked at a furniture factory and was basically a political nobody. That is, until April of 2018 when the Greensboro (NC) City Council was debating whether to cancel a gun show in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

Robinson gave an unhinged gun rights speech, which was shared by a a right-wing congressman on Facebook, and that, my friends, is enough to qualify you for statewide office in NC.

Robinson is mulling a run for NC governor in 2024 and, to that end, he released a “memoir” full of his whack job political stances.

For instance, education is perhaps the top policy priority for Robinson. Because, as any fevered right-winger can tell you, honest public education leads to kids questioning whether America was chosen by God to lead the world, whether women can do more than birth babies, and whether the Grand Canyon is really only 4,000 years old and created by Noah’s flood.

Robinson said he’d work to keep history, science and a number of other subjects out of first through fifth grade curricula and instead prioritize reading, writing and math.

“In those grades, we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” he writes. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.”

Robinson also reaffirms personal views on climate change that became a major issue in the 2020 election. “Guess what? Most of the people of North Carolina know global warming is junk science,” he writes.

As lieutenant governor, Robinson is a voting member on the State Board of Education. He nonetheless says he’d like to eliminate the department if he could.

“I would get rid of it,” Robinson writes. “We need to have one entity, one person, where the buck stops. Right now we have at least three: the school boards, the state superintendent of education and the local school systems—and none are truly answerable to the others. We need one entity to be in charge of education in the state so that when the legislature has questions and concerns, they can go to that single institution and expect to influence the way education is done.”

Yep. There you have it. They really do want to get rid of public education, although the marginally smarter among them tend to not say it so clearly out loud.

These kinds of things are coming out more and more because these types of people are not from the, shall we say, genius end of the political spectrum. Now we have a Supreme Court that makes lesser wingnut minds among them feel more protected, more bold. Eventually they think saying this stuff out loud is going to mark them as truth-tellers and thrust them into the spotlight and right-wing stardom.

Hey, it worked for North Carolina’s Lt. Gov.

BTW, Robinson also writes in his book about how women “love to be able to talk a man into submission.”

Eeeew, eeew, TMI, TMI!

Robinson also noted on Facebook when the movie Black Panther came out:

It is at once funny and sad how African Americans need Hollywood to VALIDATE them. I have been bitting my tongue about this silly Black Panther comic book movie, but I can’t any longer. It is absolutely AMAZING to me that people who know so little about their true history and REFUSE to acknowledge the pure sorry state of their current condition can get so excited about a fictional “hero” created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist. How can this trash, that was only created to pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets, invoke any pride? You want something to be proud of? How about pulling your heads out of the sand and start speaking up and telling the HARD TRUTHS about the excesses that are destroying many black communities? How about you stop doing the heavy lifting for Democratic politicians during elections, only to have them pay you in crumbs and ignore you till they “need” you again. And how about some of you men go home and take your rightful place in that 70% of homes where you are SORELY NEEDED. I know a lot of people here will not like this message. But guess what, I DON’T CARE! I’m not here to please you. I don’t need your validation….

and I certainly don’t need Hollywood’s.

(Emphasis added.)

As the good Dr. Angelou noted, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

You can read the rest of the article at this link. If you dare.

NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

High tech is stepping-in to closely monitor students with hall passes

Some schools are using wireless technologies and a company called e-HallPass to track students and the amount of time they spend out of class on a hall pass. The trend has some in education worried, notes writer Joseph Cox in this Vice article:

Admins can then access data collected through the software, and view a live dashboard showing details on all passes. e-HallPass can also stop meet-ups of certain students and limit the amount of passes going to certain locations, the website adds, explicitly mentioning “vandalism and TikTok challenges.” Many of the schools Motherboard identified appear to use e-HallPass specifically on Chromebooks, according to student user guides and similar documents hosted on the schools’ websites, though it also advertises that it can be used to track students on their personal cell phones.

EdSurge reported that some people had taken to with a petition to remove the “creepy” system from a specific school. Motherboard found over a dozen similar petitions online, including one regarding Independence High School signed nearly 700 times which appears to have been written by a group of students.

“We are expected to be young adults and by this E-HP system taking place this year we have a great amount of freedom and independence being taken away,” the petition reads. “Many students that attend Indy have come together and decided to petition against this new system that has been created. We, as the students feel as if we’re being watched and monitored at all times throughout our school day, which is extremely uncomfortable.”

Eduspire did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

My biggest problem with this, aside from invasion of privacy concerns, is that any new policies used as a form of control, coercion and punishment for students have always landed most heavily on students of color. I would also be concerned that it would be a way for cash-strapped schools to easily rid themselves of students with behavioral issues, rather than being forced to provide services that might help those students overcome their difficulties.

On the other hand, schools are different places from when I went to school.

During my public education years, angry kids with loud mouths and chronic anti-social opposition to authority almost always came from angry parents with loud mouths and chronic anti-social opposition to authority. But those kids and their parents were outliers.

The internet has created vast new pools of angry parents with loud mouths and chronic anti-social opposition to authority, presumably making kids like that more common in schools than they used to be.

That has to have created untold new headaches for teachers and administrators. Perhaps the old honor system of hall pass monitoring is obsolete in this day and age.

That part about TikTok challenges in particular caught my attention.

I feel as if I had it easy to have gone to school in a time when wearing the right things and saying the right things only occupied my time during school and not during nights and weekends.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Editor at right-wing publication says in NYT opinion piece that the problem with universities is their campuses

Americas Quarterly (AQ) magazine styles itself as the unbiased “policy journal of the Western Hemisphere.”

In reality the magazine is the primary right-wing mouthpiece for multinational corporations in Central and South America, especially for fossil fuel extractive industries that have laid waste to huge swaths of public and indigenous lands in ecologically sensitive areas, especially the rain forests.

The magazine is an offshoot of Council of the Americas (COA).

According to Brasilwire:

Originally called “Business Group for Latin America”, COA was set up by David Rockefeller, then president of Chase Manhattan Bank, at the request of President Kennedy in the years following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, to help combat the spread of Leftist Governments in the hemisphere. Rockefeller remained at its head until his death in 2017. Other notable staff include former Deputy US Secretary of State, first Director of National Intelligence, key plotter in Venezuela’s failed 2002 Coup and overseer of war crimes in Central America, John D. Negroponte.

These are not good people.

Yet, somehow, inexplicably, one of the editors at AQ has a piece in the New York Times today which posits that universities and university students are so out of touch because their campuses are too nice:

To put it another way, what’s most dangerous for the health of America’s intellectual elite is not that most professors have similar cultural tastes and similar liberal politics. That will probably always be the case. It’s that the campus setup makes it easy for them to forget that reasonable people often don’t share their outlook.

Student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse in recent decades, but that shouldn’t fool us into thinking elite universities have become microcosms of society: The highly educated are far more liberal than average Americans. The divide isn’t just political: Whatever their socioeconomic backgrounds, students and professors have daily routines that are very different from those of lawyers, shopkeepers or manual laborers — and that shapes their worldviews.

Life at a university with a dominant central campus can also narrow students’ views on the world, especially at colleges where most undergraduates live on campus. Letting the university take care of all of students’ needs — food, housing, health care, policing, punishing misbehavior — can be infantilizing for young adults. Worse, it warps students’ political thinking to eat food that simply materializes in front of them and live in residence halls that others keep clean.

It also takes away the chance to encounter people with different roles in society, from retail workers to landlords — interactions that would remind them they won’t be students forever and open questions about the social relevance of the ideas they encounter in the university.

The author of that piece, Nick Burns, is described by the Times as “an editor at Americas Quarterly,” with no context whatsoever as to what AQ actually is. It sounds like just another magazine. No mention of the fact that AQ speaks for dictators and fascists propped up by the one percent — billionaires — the most insulated population on earth when it comes to rubbing shoulders with the common man and understanding the needs of the average wage earner.

Aside from that, the idea that university students do not understand the real world is ridiculous. I’ve worked at three universities, all in urban areas.

To be sure, there is a small subset of students, coming from the economic elite, who are not exposed to the rigors of real life. But that is not true for most students. Most students during a 4-year degree program struggle with work, school, money, food and the rest of the things that the people who fund AQ — Nick Burns’ bosses — will never have to worry about.

But even students from financially favored backgrounds, if they are serious at all about college, will be part of programs that take them out into the world to learn about the social discontents and inequalities of the larger world.

One suspects that is the real problem that Burns and his overseers at multinational corporations have with universities, and the whole “campuses is too nice” argument is just another right-wing bullet point to put out into the world to stoke resentment of the young and the educated.

Universities tend to make people more liberal precisely because so many of the people who teach and study at them are forced by internships, fellowships, field work and four years of pedagogy to confront society’s problems in ways that Nick Burns and AQ never will.

Add to this the fact that young people are more open to learning and new ideas, and of course they will become more liberal when confronted with the truth of how much of capitalism steals from the larger society to distribute to the rich. They learn that a lifetime of servitude to the rich is not the freedom that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were brainwashed into believing.

Finally, the mere fact that Burns thinks students are cloistered on campuses, never venturing into the outside world, proves how out-of-touch and pointless his right-wing Times hit piece on universities really is.

But this is the way the right-wing media machine works. Consistently, in publication after publication, slip these ideas into the mainstream where they get picked up as talking points on Sunday news shows and, suddenly, reasonable-sounding centrist Democrats are wondering if the problem with universities is that the campuses are too nice.

You can read the rest of Burns’ ridiculous thoughts at this link.

UC-Boulder, which is apparently too nice for students to learn anything about the real world.

The GOP goes after LGBT kids and their school lunches

There is no level to which Republicans will not stoop in their hatred of LGBT folks:

Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service updated its nondiscrimination policies to cover sexual orientation and gender identity for the department’s nutritional programs, including the National School Lunch Program. A coalition of 22 Republican-led states sued USDA this week to reverse the update. In the lawsuit, the states sought to assuage the court about their intentions. “To be clear, the states do not deny benefits based on a household member’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” they insisted.

That would be somewhat comforting if the states didn’t have a “but” to add in the next sentence. “But the states do challenge the unlawful and unnecessary new obligations and liabilities that the Memoranda and Final Rule attempt to impose—obligations that apparently stretch as far as ending sex-separated living facilities and athletics and mandating the use of biologically inaccurate preferred pronouns,” the states went on to say. The USDA does not generally have authority over student athletics or pronouns, and the agency told Politico last month that it would only enforce the rule for discrimination that was directly tied to the school lunch program.

The lawsuit itself is only the latest chapter in the GOP’s legal war on LGBTQ rights at the state level. Indeed, in a separate battle, many of those same states are also directly challenging the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX for public schools, in the wake of a major Supreme Court ruling on LGBT rights two years ago. Some legal conservatives have suggested that their primary concern is transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ sports. But the USDA case shows how far some Republican-led states will go to resist any legal recognition of LGBTQ rights whatsoever.

You can read the rest of The New Republic article by Matt Ford by clicking on this link.