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Locals play principal for a day during 25th SCV Education Foundation event

About 50 community members took on a new role as principal, making themselves at home in the principals’ offices and visiting classrooms, for the SCV Education Foundation’s Principal for a Day event on Friday.

Through sponsorships and donations, the foundation raised approximately $20,000 to give back to the schools for classroom grants and college scholarships during the 25th annual event.

“People really have a great time,” Jim Backer, President of the SCV Education Foundation and Principal for a Day at Hart High School said. “They generally find that schools are first, dealing with a lot more things than they think they’re dealing with and then secondly, it’s pretty obvious the commitment to the people that you meet around this valley.”

As the founder of the event, Backer has seen it flourish from its start as a $600 fundraiser. He has gone to schools across the valley every year to serve as the principal and enjoyed this year at Hart High School where his three children currently attend.

“It gives us the chance to see school in real-time,” Backer said. “You get to see the kids, visit a few classrooms and understand from them how they got to where they are.”

From the Education Foundation’s perspective, Backer said it helps them get better informed about the challenges schools face while helping them make connections with the schools and community.

Jim Backer and Chris Fall read notes on an encouragement wall at Hart High School for the SCV Education Foundation’s Principal for a Day event on Oct. 13, 2017. Gina Ender/The Signal

Spending a few hours at the school gave insight into what it entails to be principal, according to Chris Fall, a Hart High School father who served as the school’s other Principal for a Day.

“I’ve learned a lot about the roles and responsibilities, their challenges on a day to day basis in managing students,” Fall said.

With his daughter currently attending Hart High, Fall took the opportunity to interact with a lot of students he knew. He has served as Principal for a Day for his other children in the past and said he has always enjoyed himself.

“I don’t know how much change we can evoke in two hours, it’s really more fun,” he said. “It’s more for us learning what each school with their administration is able to do.”

Though Fall did not implement any changes in the school, he did offer all the students he encountered a piece of encouragement.

“Make good choices and be a kind friend,” Fall said as he exited several classrooms, citing advice his wife often gives his children.

Jim Backer (left) and Chris Fall (right) walk with Principal Collyn Nielsen (center) at Hart High School for the SCV Education Foundation’s Principal for a Day event on Oct. 13, 2017. Gina Ender/The Signal

Collyn Nielsen, Hart High School’s principal every other day of the year, said he was glad to convey what students and staff experience each day and show how hard they work.

“Being able to share what happens behind the scenes, the big concerns and focus is at a high school is a lot of fun and a very meaningful experience,” Nielsen said.

The temporary principals were curious about Nielsen’s biggest challenge in his role, which he said was the shift in curriculum and the change in how students are taught.

All three agreed the best part of being principal was spending time with students all day.

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Former Florence school board member apologizes for slur in emails





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Cultures fuse for International Education Week


International Education Week

The Center for Global Exchange will host International Education Week Oct. 16–20 for the Tulane community, with panels, a study abroad fair and international food to help Tulanians explore the benefits of international exchange. (Photo by Sally Asher)


Starting Monday, the Tulane community is invited to celebrate the benefits of international exchange during the university’s annual International Education Week (IEW).

IEW takes place Oct. 16–20 and is sponsored by the Center for Global Education (CGE). This year’s theme is “Together Tulane.” Coming together as a Tulane community will be emphasized throughout the week, including at Monday’s International Art Showcase, during which live performances representing various international cultures will entertain the audience.

“We’re trying to highlight the ways that connections between international students and American students help make for a more vibrant community,” said Emily Capdeville, CGE communications coordinator.

“We want to infiltrate everyday spaces with international experiences.”

Emily Capdeville

Another new event coincides with regular “Wednesdays at the O” programming (Oct. 18). The Diversity Abroad organization will engage students who are underrepresented in study abroad opportunities.

Every year, IEW’s study abroad fair (Oct. 18) presents worldwide study experiences, and the careers abroad panel (Oct. 20) offers a career discussion panel, résumé workshop and professional job-seeking advice.

Each day of IEW, Bruff Commons and the 1834 Club will feature international cuisine, such as Thai beef with peppers or yassa poulet, a Senegalese dish. Capdeville said the Center for Global Education works each year with Sodexo staff to create a menu based on the cultures of Tulane’s international community and study abroad countries.

“That’s part of what we’re getting at for International Education Week,” Capdeville said. “Some of the events are really big … but then we also want to infiltrate everyday spaces with international experiences. It’s a way that the average Tulane student who’s going to eat at Bruff gets the exposure without having to break out of their routine.”

Other events are planned throughout the week. IEW will end on Friday afternoon with festivities in Pocket Park, including food and live samba music. For more information about the week’s full schedule of events, visit the CGE’s website.

Like this story? Keep reading: The hidden beauty of studying abroad



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‘A Practical Education’

Randall Stross earned his bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Chinese history. His career path, however, does not fit the stereotype offered up regularly by politicians and pundits that those who focus on the liberal arts are destined for careers as baristas. He is a professor of business, teaching courses on business and society and on strategy at San Jose State University. And Stross believes a liberal arts education is the best preparation for college students — including those who aspire to work in business and other areas seemingly far from the liberal arts.

He makes the case in A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees (Stanford University Press). In the book, Stross particularly focuses on the career success of humanities majors. Via email, he answered questions about his book and the state of the liberal arts.

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A: Once I arrived for the first day of kindergarten, I never left school. I went to Macalester College and received an outstanding education, double majoring in history and in Chinese and Japanese languages and cultures. But I knew I was headed to a Ph.D. program in modern Chinese history at Stanford and I never confronted the Great Unknown After Graduation. The book arises from my recent wish to learn about the experiences of those braver than me, who major in the liberal arts and with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in hand, head out in the marketplace. For this project, I selected graduates who had overcome a higher degree of difficulty in landing well than would economics majors: I ended up only looking at humanities majors, who had sought professional jobs outside of teaching and that had no visible connection to the content of the major. No English majors who ended up in corporate communications, for example. I sought out those like the religious studies major profiled in the first chapter, who would end up as a professional programmer and today is the chief executive of a cloud software company.

Q: Many admissions leaders at liberal arts colleges report increasing difficulty in making the case for the liberal arts. What is your advice for them?

A: If it seems difficult to make the case now, imagine how difficult it would have been in the depths of the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate was 16 percent and headed for 24 percent and market demand for liberal arts majors had evaporated. The talk in the air was of the need for more vocational education. Yet William Tolley, in his inaugural address as the president of Allegheny College, did not falter. He made the case for a broad liberal education in 1931 whose contemporary relevance should hearten all of us who advocate for liberal education. “Specialists are needed in all vocations, but only as long as their vocations last, and vocations have a tendency now to disappear almost overnight,” he observed. He reasoned that in an ever-changing world the broad knowledge covered at a liberal arts college is “the finest vocational training any school can offer.” The argument is no less powerful today. But to make it seem well grounded, admissions leaders should have at their fingertips stories to share of graduates who left their schools with liberal arts majors and have gone on to interesting professional careers.

Q: Politicians seem to love to bash the liberal arts, asking why various majors are needed. How should educators respond?

A: Many politicians — perhaps most politicians — view the labor marketplace in terms defined entirely by “skills”: employers need workers equipped with specific skills; students either arrive with those skills or lack those skills. This is new, historically speaking. In a bygone era, 60 years ago, many large corporations hired college graduates in bulk, paying little heed to their majors, and spent the first years training the new hires themselves. So the defense of the liberal arts today must be delivered using the vocabulary of “skills.” Fortunately, conscientious students in the liberal arts can demonstrate great skill in many things: learning quickly, reading deeply, melding information from diverse sources smoothly, collaborating with others effectively, reasoning logically, writing clearly. I will resist the temptation to point out the apparent absence of these skills among those who are doing the bashing.

Q: What information about career options should liberal arts colleges (or departments with liberal arts majors at institutions with a range of programs) provide?

A: I’ve become convinced that conventional career counseling — setting out the most traveled paths for a given major — has not been particularly helpful to students. The well-trod destinations are obvious to students anyhow, and the opportunities that they remain unaware of are best uncovered by the students’ own investigations in the real world. Career centers can best help by redoubling their efforts to enlist alumni to serve as peer counselors: current students listen to recent graduates with the greatest interest. In the book, I call attention to how a number of the students I followed found first jobs via connections that were not found through the career center, or even through roommates or the closest of friends, but from less than closest of friends. (This was nicely anticipated long ago in sociologist Mark Granovetter’s “The Strength of Weak Ties” published in 1973.) One student, a history major, would be most helped in landing a job at Google by a woman for whom she babysat.

Q: Many employers say they care more about skills such as critical thinking, ability to work in a team, ability to write well, etc., more than a major. These factors should boost confidence in liberal arts study. Why hasn’t that been the case?

A: Chief executives tend to advocate for hiring graduates with the analytical and communication skills that a liberal education sharpens, but the managers or teams who make the actual hiring decisions have in recent years sought instead something else, what they like to call the ability of a new hire “to hit the ground running.” This drastically shrinks the pool of prospective candidates. It’s also shortsighted in its failing to acknowledge the usefulness of having more people who, once they have learned what they need to about the particularities of an entry-level position, are going to be able to make more creative, or more clearly explained, contributions on day 180 compared to many of their running-on-day-one peers. I hope that the detailed stories of 10 humanities majors who were able to make outsize contributions in their first professional jobs will serve to nudge more hiring teams at other companies to expand their nets and give liberal arts majors the chance to show how quickly they can learn and what they then will be able to do.

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What College-Bound Seniors Don’t Know About College Does Hurt Them

Do you have a college-bound teenager? If so, you are in the midst of the annual college application bonanza in the United States, one of our country’s biggest aspirational rituals, including months of test taking, campus visits and essay writing. Given the time, money and stress the college application process requires, choosing where and what to study is important. Conventional wisdom holds that college applicants rely a good deal on formal sources such as guidance counselors or websites about colleges for information on what to study. However, reality confirms that applicants rely more on other sources of information and that this choice has a lasting impact on the student’s future prospects.

A recent survey of 22,000 Americans conducted by Gallup and Strada Education Network finds that the majority of college-bound students consult informal sources of information such as family and friends when deciding what to study. This is especially true for students with college-educated parents. Nearly two-thirds of students whose parents have a graduate degree cite family and friends as their main source of advice.

While students whose parents did not go to college are much less likely to rely on family and friends for advice, they still consult them more than formal sources such as guidance counselors and official college data websites. The survey also found that roughly one-third of all respondents rely on informal sources in high school, such as a coach or teacher, and one in five on average rely on informal sources at work such as a coworker.

It is somewhat surprising, then, that survey respondents said informal work-based and school-based sources of information were the most helpful, followed by family and friends. Least helpful were formal sources such as guidance counselors and online college information.

How we get information about college and career choices matters a lot. Research by Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby and Harvard’s Christopher Avery has shown that low-income, high-achieving high school students often do not apply to selective colleges in part because they are less likely to interact with high-achieving peers and teachers who have been exposed to selective colleges. They have the scores to get into selective schools. They just don’t have the same networks as their higher-income peers.

Students could also be better served by better information about jobs and earnings. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper found that while expected earnings influence the decisions community college students make about what to study, they don’t have accurate information about how much particular jobs pay. Other studies have found that lower-income students who hope to go to college end up not applying for reasons, again, related to levels and sources of information. They simply don’t have the best information about how the college application process works, and neither do people in their networks.

Given the role that social capital — family, friends, classmates, coworkers and trust — plays in people’s college and career choices, creative policymakers should rethink how public resources are used to provide guidance to students navigating the higher education landscape. Our current education and workforce training institutions mostly rely on formal sources of career advice such as guidance counselors, one-stop centers and websites to disseminate career advice to aspiring teen and adult college students. Rather than hoping students ask the right guidance counselor the right questions, or visit a one-stop career center or a website, why not send them, their families and their teachers, personalized information telling them where students in their city with scores like theirs have been admitted to college? And why not inform people directly, in real time, about which jobs requiring which level of education are paying what? The technology exists to do this. It’s now a matter of creatively using it for the benefit of everyone, but most of all, for those who are disadvantaged by an information deficit in their informal networks.

Some companies are already providing real-time wage data in regional labor markets, and thanks to better state-level and college data, tools such as Launch My Career and College Abacus are available to help aspiring students understand the true cost of college and expected earnings in specific professions. Research by Ben Castleman at the University of Virginia has shown that individualized outreach to students through text messages can improve college enrollment and completion.

While formal information sources about college are still important, policymakers should be shifting public resources toward individualized outreach to prospective students, their families, teachers, coaches and employers. New technology combined with the trust that comes along with social capital could do more to help low-income students make smart career choices than one-stop centers, guidance counselors and ads on billboards and busses.

Ryan Streeter is the Director of Domestic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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Boys ‘will not attend class with those they have abused’

The government will introduce rules to stop boys who sexually abuse other children at school from being allowed back in the same classroom, schools minister Nick Gibb told a committee of MPs investigating sexual harassment and violence within schools.

Gibb said official guidelines needed to be clear that abusers could not return to classes alongside their victims, and told the Commons women and equalities committee that the government will shortly launch a consultation to make the required changes.

Gibb was pushed to explain the present policy by Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, who suggested the guidance could be made clearer if it said that pupils who committed peer-on-peer sexual abuse could not be placed alongside their victim.

“Where there is such a case, the perpetrator and the victim should not be in the same classroom,” Gibb said, adding that the guidance “cannot anticipate every single possible circumstance that could occur”.

Last year a report by the committee called for urgent action to end widespread sexual harassment of girls by their peers at school.

“Do you think it is acceptable, either to the girls, or the schools, that two years will have passed for this guidance to come into force when we called for immediate action?” Phillips asked Gibb.

Gibb replied that the general election had slowed down the government’s response, and pledged that interim advice would be issued shortly.

Sarah Green, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said the group was pleased the government had finally responded to the committee’s recommendation.

“In the worst cases our members come across, schools are worried about being seen to treat an ‘unproven’ allegation seriously and girls commonly leave school. Adult women in good workplaces would never be treated this way,” Green said.

“We hope the minister’s commitment to new guidance is fulfilled without delay. And we hope schools are able to use the experience and skills of specialist sexual violence organisations to help them respond to this endemic abuse.”

Maria Miller, the committee chair, told Gibb that the panel had been told of schools that “do not routinely report these things to the police”, citing figures from a BBC Panorama documentary suggesting a 70% increase in school-based peer attacks.

“The lack of a protocol, or information or guidance on how you then deal with that situation, seems to be something that is leaving headteachers flummoxed,” Miller said.

“I find it extraordinary that young girls are being asked to go back into school, into class, with people who have raped them.”

Since the committee’s 2016 report was published, the Children and Social Work Act has made relationships education compulsory for all primary and secondary school pupils, as well as sex education for secondary pupils.

The recent Panorama documentary revealed that about 30,000 instances of children sexually assaulting their peers – including 2,600 attacks that may have taken place in schools – had been reported to police in the past four years.

The data from 38 police forces in England and Wales found that reports of sexual abuse and attacks rose from 4,600 in 2013 to nearly 7,900 in 2016.

Miller said: “The committee is perplexed as to why the government is not acting with more urgency.

“I understand that the education wheels move slowly, but we are talking about children being abused in schools on our watch and that just has to change quicker than I think we are hearing.”

Gibb told the committee that the advice to schools is regularly updated, and that the government will also be publishing specific guidance for headteachers on peer-on-peer abuse within schools.

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Florida education news: Anti-bullying voucher, board battles, enrollment and more

ANOTHER CHOICE: Suggesting that bullied children shouldn’t have to remain in the schools where they’ve been victimized, Florida House Republican leaders propose a new tax credit scholarship to allow those students to transfer to another public or private school of their choice. “When you put a kid in a good, safe learning environment, good results happen,” Speaker Richard Corcoran said. Early reaction to the idea was mixed, with backers praising the expansion of options and critics wondering why not punish the bully rather than encourage the victim to leave. Senate leaders said they were open to the proposal, the Times-Herald Tallahassee Bureau reports.


  • Florida education news: School leadership, testing, third-grade promotion and more

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  • Florida education news: Teacher transfers, student rights, testing and more

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INFIGHTING: A lack of trust surfaces among Hillsborough County School Board members during a training session on listening and respect.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? Palm Beach County School Board members take issue with a legal defense strategy that contended third graders might have borne responsibility for sexual abuse by their teacher, the Sun-Sentinel reports. “I don’t think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,” member Frank Barbieri said.

ENROLLMENT IN FLUX: Florida lawmakers wonder how to best count and fund students in schools with the comings and goings caused by hurricanes, the News Service of Florida reports. More from Politico Florida.

POST-IRMA RELIEF: Contributions continue to flow into Monroe County schools to support employees, students and families who suffered losses during the storm, the Keynoter reports.

TESTING: The Clay County School Board refuses to adopt the superintendent’s testing calendar, Clay Today reports.

CLOSER LOOK: A Brevard County School Board member who was cleared after a sexual harassment investigation announces he will seek reelection and wants to scrutinize the district’s investigation practices, Florida Today reports.

TAKE A KNEE: Manatee County activists prompt the School Board to reopen discussion about how to deal with students who silently protest the national anthem or pledge of allegiance, the Bradenton Herald reports.

SUPPORT GROUPS: The Bay County School Board will exempt booster clubs and parent organizations from needing insurance to use district facilities, the Panama City News Herald reports.

FINANCIAL ADVICE: The Polk County School Board overrules a committee’s recommendation for financial adviser, the Ledger reports.

GRADE FIXING? A Palm Beach County district administrator is removed during an investigation into whether as principal he allowed an A-student to take a low level course for no grade to protect the student’s GPA, the Palm Beach Post reports.

SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATIONS: The Volusia County School Board debates the best way to review their superintendent’s performance, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Two charter school operators will seek to become local education agencies with greater control over federal funding, Redefined reports. • A struggling Leon County charter school has its improvement plan approved, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

ACHIEVEMENT GAP: The Alachua County school district hires its first equity director to find ways to overcome the racial achievement gap among students, the Gainesville Sun reports.

TODAY IN TALLAHASSEE: House Higher Education Appropriations, 8 a.m. • House PreK-12 Quality, 8 a.m. 

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How Wilson Cruz’s Coming Out Story Mirrored His My So-Called Life Character’s — and His Advice for Gay Youth

Wednesday marks National Coming Out Day, and actor and LGBTQ activist Wilson Cruz — who was the first openly gay teen to star as an openly gay teen in the cult show, My So Called Life — is opening up about his own experience.

He’s also sharing hi personal advice for those who are thinking of coming out today.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was hard,” says Wilson, now 43 and starring on Star Trek: Discovery.

Still, he credits Ricky Vasquez, his My So Called Life character, with changing everything.

“My parents knew I’d auditioned for a gay character, but that’s all the knew,” he tells PEOPLE of his Puerto Rican mom and dad. “I made a deal with myself that if it got picked up, I would come out.”

Before the show began airing, he came out to his mother, which he says didn’t go so well. “But she got over it pretty quickly, because that’s her,” he says.

ABC Photo Archives/Getty

His father was a different story. “He chased me and kicked me out of the house,” Cruz says. It was Christmas Eve, and without anyplace to go, Cruz wound up sleeping in his car and couch-surfing until they began filming the show.

“My character Ricky Vasquez went through the same experience on the show, and was kicked out of his house,” Cruz says. “I didn’t know my father was secretly watching the show, and when the credits rolled on the Christmas episode, he called me and said, ‘Maybe it’s time we had a talk.’”

Cruz says he went back home and proceeded to have the most heartfelt, loving conversation with his dad. “It was difficult, uncomfortable, but I told him, ‘If we’re having this conversation, you need to ask questions you’re afraid to ask, and I need to answer questions I’m afraid to answer,’” he says.

They did, and with a greater understanding of one another, it brought them closer than ever.

Choking up at the memory, Cruz says, “My dad is now an incredibly important ally of mine. I’m so impressed with him. He’s a hero to me because he put love and his family first.”

But Cruz has advice for those hoping to have a positive experience when coming out.

“When I think about people coming out, especially young people, my first concern is, ‘Are you safe? Is this a safe time? Are you in a safe place?’” he says. “Do you have a network of people outside of your parents you can go to if this doesn’t go as well as you hoped?”

Cruz says his second concern is for their education and wellbeing at school.

WATCH: Orange Is the New Black Star Lea Delaria Says ‘It’s Taken Everybody’ to Achieve Diversity for LGBT Television Characters

“When you’re 14, 15, the most important thing in your life should be education, because that’s what’s going to set you up for success as an adult,” he says. “So if coming out now will hinder your education, maybe we take some time to think about whether the time is right or not. Those are my concern.”

Cruz says he still has people approach him several times a week on the street to tell them what Ricky Vasquez meant to them, or how it inspired them to be okay with coming out. And he understands what they mean completely.

“The show changed my life. When I tell you that I am just as grateful for Ricky Vazquez as much as anyone else?” he says. “I mean that.”

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October smorgasbord — read to the end for your challenge!

By Sarah Glorian

Ok, as I always note, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, or as Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence has recoined it “Domestic Violence Action Month” and they provide various ways you can become involved in your community to talk about the issues and to support domestic violence victims, survivors and advocates. Check out for downloadable window signs for supportive businesses, suggested calendars and activities to start the conversation, social media banners, etc.

Grays Harbor County has had a domestic violence homicide in both 2016 and 2017. And anecdotally, from our work, and the work of local providers and law enforcement, I assure you domestic violence remains prevalent in our community, along with sexual assault and child abuse.

Nationally, U.S. Senate Resolution 566 in September 2016 acknowledged (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics):

• 1 in 5 women, and up to 1 in 7 men in the U.S have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner;

• on average, three women are killed by a current or former intimate partner every day in the U.S.;

• National Domestic Violence Counts Census found during one day during September 2015, more than 71,828 victims of domestic violence received services, but 12,197 requests for services went unmet due to a lack of funding and resources; and in September 2016, the count was 72,959 and 11,991, respectively.

To seek help, please contact:

• Domestic Violence Center of Grays Harbor County / (360) 538-0733 (Facebook)

• Crisis Support Network in Pacific County / (800) 435-7276 /

• Connections / (360) 249-0005 /

• Beyond Survival / (360) 533-9751 / (888) 626-2640 /

• Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence /

• Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline / (800) 562-6025 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

October also recognizes this as a time to raise awareness through National Bullying Prevention, National Disability Employment Awareness, Global Diversity, and LGBT History. I long for a day when no month need be designated for any issue relating to equality and access; however, until then, I continue to poke, prod and cajole family, friends, foes, and the occasional stranger to consider striking up conversations about issues that we may find uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or downright scary.

I find it remarkable how many people, from the left, middle and right claim and assume they are unbiased about these and other issues, but I challenge you to start the conversation. First, try a little self-reflection work to identify your implicit biases, which are prejudices we hold unconsciously and unintentionally, that operate automatically. Implicit bias does not make you a racist, sexist, ageist, etc. Researchers have found most, if not all, of us have some implicit bias, even if they are a member of the “non-preferred” group, as with the Brown v. Board doll test where both white and black children preferred white dolls over black dolls.

Are you uncomfortable? Good.

Test your implicit bias by taking a range of the Implicit Association Tests regarding race, age, religion, gender, disability, weight, and other stereotypes. Reflect, start a conversation. Take the tests again in six months or a year. You may find by bringing the bias out of your subconscious may help you be more conscientious in the future.

Go to: Take at least three tests. I DARE YOU!

To find out if you are eligible for Northwest Justice Project services:

For cases including youth (Individualized Education Program and school discipline issues), debt collection cases and tenant evictions, please call for a local intake appointment at (360) 533-2282 or toll free (866) 402-5293. No walk-ins, please.

For all other legal issues, please call our toll-free intake and referral hotline commonly known as “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) at 1-888-201-1014, Mondays through Fridays 9:10 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. If you are a senior, 60 and over, please call 1-888-387-7111; you may be eligible regardless of income. Language interpreters are available. You can also complete an application for services at Be sure to also check out our law library at:

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Former polytechnics should lose university status, says Adonis

The former Labour education minister Andrew Adonis has reignited one of the oldest controversies in British education by calling for the clock to be turned back on polytechnics granted university status.

Lord Adonis told a House of Lords committee that the government’s decision 25 years ago to allow more than 30 polytechnics to take the title of university was a mistake, and argued for the removal of the status from what he termed “the lower-performing former polytechnics”.

“I do think it was a very serious mistake – and I would never have done it as minister – to have rebadged all of the polytechnics as universities in 1992, which was a reform done without any proper consideration or advice,” Adonis told the committee, during a hearing on education funding.

“I think we’ve lost a very great deal of the edge and focus of vocational, particularly technical, higher education as a result of it.

“I think there is a very good case for reversing that reform, in respect of the lower-performing former polytechnics and doing it in the context of a very significant reduction in the fees they are allowed to charge students, so we can offer a much better deal to students as part of a new reform.”

Adonis’s radical proposal, which would be fiercely opposed across the higher education sector, is the latest in a string of controversial proposals by the peer, a former education special adviser to Tony Blair and later a minister in Blair and Gordon Brown’s administration.

Adonis has regularly crossed swords with senior university leaders on the issues of vice-chancellors’ pay and the tuition fees charged by universities in England.

Asked by the committee for his view on Theresa May’s recent decision to raise the income threshold that triggers graduate repayment of student loans from £21,000 to £25,000, Adonis said he thought the whole system of loans and fees would soon be scrapped.

“It looks to me as if the whole system is a pack of cards waiting to collapse,” Adonis said.

“It reminds me of the poll tax, [as] each bolted-on reform trying to make it more acceptable simply added to the costs and made it more baroque, and hastened the day when the whole system was going to collapse.”

But Adonis clashed politely with Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, over his repeated claim that universities in the UK had formed a cartel in setting tuition fees at the maximum level.

Johnson said it was “extremely logical” for universities to exploit the way the government set funding, while Adonis later confessed he had no evidence of collusion between institutions.

David Willetts, the former Conservative higher education minister who introduced the £9,000 tuition fees backed by income-contingent student loans, told the committee it was “very regrettable” how the new system had put off part-time students since 2012.

“I would have to accept that is one of my biggest regrets about my time as minister,” Willetts said.

“The loans model has not worked for them, and I accept that.”

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