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31 March, 2012

The criminalization of school misbehavior marches on

Schools are not allowed effective means of discipline so calling the cops is their way out

What may have started as the time-honored yet unruly tradition of a high school food fight landed a few students in a place they never expected tossing today’s lunch would get them: the slammer.
WXYZ reports:

"Four juniors and seniors from Jefferson High School in Frenchtown, Mich., walked into a courtroom Wednesday wearing striped jail clothes and handcuffs where they were charged with a misdemeanor for inciting a disturbance in a public building.

All the teens were released to their parents on a $500 recognizance bond, except one whose parent couldn’t leave work so he had to spend a second night in jail.

The local ABC affiliate reports that 16 other students were given 10 day suspensions. Cory Long, 16, who is among those suspended and friends with the boys who were arrested, said he wasn’t sure who started the fight but that “food just started to fly.”

Tina Long, Corey’s mother, is reported as saying the situation is being blown out of proportion by officials:  “Every one of us did something goofy in high school. And now they want to do this to the kids?” said Tina Long.

Superintendent Craig Haugen issued a statement that said the school “will not tolerate this type of behavior.” He said that damage done to the property and potential for student injury is what “caused us to treat this more seriously than just some cafeteria horseplay.”

The Monroe Evening News reported Monroe County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Plath as agreeing that the fight warranted arrest of the students. He called it an “organized event.” Tables and chairs were said to have been overturned and thrown.

All we can assume is that if it were an epic enough food fight to land these boys in jail with a misdemeanor, it had to have been as good as the famous cafeteria food fight scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House.


Let's roll out the grammar (selective) schools across Britain: Call for nationwide expansion after a breakthrough in Kent

New grammar school classes could open around the country after the first major expansion of academic selection for 50 years was given the go-ahead yesterday.

A call went out to ‘roll out the grammars’ after Tory-controlled Kent took advantage of new Coalition rules to announce the expansion of existing schools with ‘satellite’ campuses.

The move is the first significant boost for the pro-grammar lobby since the Labour government of the 1960s launched its still controversial drive to turn the country’s 1,300 grammars into comprehensives.

Campaigners hailed Kent’s decision as a ‘small but important step’ towards the creation of a grammar school in every area where there is parental demand.

Under plans approved yesterday by councillors, a grammar school annexe will open in Sevenoaks under the umbrella of at least one existing selective school located in a nearby town.

The satellite school will cater for 120 first-years students, rising to a full capacity of about 840 pupils.

Laws introduced by Labour still outlaw the creation of entirely new grammars but the Coalition brought in powers in February that allow schools to expand in response to parental demand.

They can operate satellites on separate sites as long as they retain the same catchment area and staff.

    164 grammars remain under the 36 councils that stood firm in retaining selection

    The name comes from 6th century schools that taught Latin grammar to monks

    They exploded in number with the arrival of the nationwide 11-plus exam in 1945

    In their 1950s heyday, up to 1,300 grammars across England and Wales educated the top 25 per cent of pupils, with secondary moderns and technical schools teaching the rest

    Harold Wilson’s Labour government began dismantling grammars in 1965, with education secretary Tony Crosland vowing: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every ******* grammar school.’

    The remaining grammar schools were able to protect selective admissions by applying for grant-maintained status under 1988 laws introduced by the Tories which allowed them to opt out of council control

More areas that have retained selective schooling are expected to follow Kent’s lead as competition intensifies for places.

A grammar in Torquay has already looked into expanding and schools in Buckinghamshire are said to be interested.

Sixty-six Kent councillors backed the expansion plan yesterday, with just three against. Councillor Jim Wedgbury declared: ‘We can make history and start the roll-out of grammar schools across the nation.’

Jennie Varley of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: ‘This is excellent news. This may now encourage other grammar schools to do the same.’

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said his ‘foot is hovering over the pedal’ of allowing full-scale expansion of grammars.

Tory MP Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, said: ‘The Government is going some way to satisfying the enormous pent up demand for more selective education.’

But he added: ‘These arrangements will do nothing to improve choice for the very many people living in areas which currently have no grammar schools.

‘Those people, may just wonder why they are not allowed the same kind of choice as parents in Kent. The whole logic of this must really push in the direction of further relaxation of the rules.’

Kent’s announcement follows a three-month campaign by husband and wife Sarah and Andrew Shilling, who highlighted the severe shortage of selective places in Sevenoaks.

The town is served by one comprehensive. More than 1,000 pupils make a round trip of 25 miles a day to grammars in nearby towns.

The Shillings’ petition attracted 2,620 signatures, prompting the council to act. Mrs Shilling, a mother of three, said: ‘This is great news for the children of Sevenoaks.’

Under the plan, two forms of entry for girls and two for boys who pass the 11-plus would be created, either in two separate annexes or one on the same site.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘The over-riding objective of this Government’s reforms is to increase the supply of good school places so parents have real choice.’


British university drop-out rate soars by 13pc in a year

Record numbers of students quit university courses last year as the higher education drop-out rate soared above 30,000 for the first time, official figures show.

More than one-in-five undergraduates are failing to compete the first year of their degree at the worst-performing universities, it emerged, prompting fears that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted on unwanted courses.

At some universities, an estimated four-in-10 students will fail to finish the course they started after either dropping out, switching to another institution or graduating with a lesser qualification.

In England, the University of Bolton had the worst drop-out rate with 21.4 per cent of students quitting higher education after just a year. An estimated 45 per cent of undergraduates will fail to complete their full degree course, it emerged.

Drop-out rates were as high as a third at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland and hit almost a quarter at the University of West Scotland.

Across Britain, the number of students dropping out increased from 28,210 to 31,755 last year – a rise of almost 13 per cent.

It was the first time since records began a decade ago that the rate had crept above 30,000, fuelled by an increase in the overall student population.

The rise – in data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency – comes despite the Government spending £1bn on initiatives designed to improve student retention.

The University and College Union warned that the drop-out rate would soar in coming years following a decision to increase the cap on student tuition fees to £9,000.

Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, said undergraduates would be tempted to chase places on the cheapest courses, even if they fail to fit their requirements.

“Over the past five years, in England alone, over £1bn has been spent on measures to improve student retention in higher education,” she said.

“Sadly, today’s figures show that too many students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, are still failing to complete their studies.

“We have real concerns that the new funding regime with hugely increased tuition fees may force some students onto courses that, although cheaper, do not best suit their abilities.

“That scenario is likely to lead to further drop outs, which will not benefit the student, the university or society.”

Figures from HESA show the number of students dropping out of university each year along with the proportion expected to complete the degree they started.

In all, 8.6 per cent of students quit higher education after 12 months last year compared with 7.9 per cent a year earlier. Some 21.6 per cent are expected to fail to complete their degree.

According to data, the worst performer was Highlands and Islands where 32 per cent dropped out last year and just 48.6 per cent of students are expected to finish the degree course they started.

More than one-in-seven students dropped out of higher education altogether at eight other British universities, including West Scotland, Bolton, West London, London Metropolitan, Swansea Metropolitan, Middlesex, University Campus Suffolk and Salford.

By comparison, Cambridge and St Andrews had the lowest drop out rates last year with just 1.4 per cent of students quitting, following by Oxford at 1.4 per cent.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Although our student completion rates compare well internationally, we want to reduce the number of students who don’t complete their studies.

“We are improving information for prospective students so that they can make more informed choices and we are committee to a better overall student experience."


30 March, 2012

Indiana:  Another authoritarian school that thinks it owns its students even after hours

The free speech rights of students on social networks and the extent to which they could potentially be punishable by an educational system for what they say online has been cropping up more and more in local news.

Syracuse University recently discussed expelling a student for a Facebook complaint. In Nov. 2011, a Kansas high school senior was forced by her school to apologize, which she refused to do, after she issued a tweet against the state’s governor. In January, the Supreme Court ruled Pennsylvania school officials could not punish students for fake MySpace profiles they created of their principals.

These are just a few cases, but here’s yet another example out of Garrett, Ind., where a senior has been expelled — just months before graduation — for tweeting the F-word. Indiana News Center has more:
    “One of my tweets was, BEEP [F-word]  is one of those BEEP words you can BEEP put anywhere in a BEEP sentence and it still BEEP make sense,” said Austin Carroll, student.

    Austin was expelled from Garrett High School after tweeting the F-word under his account. The school claims it was done from a school computer. Austin says he did it from home.

    “If my account is on my own personal account, I don’t think the school or anybody should be looking at it. Because it‘s my own personal stuff and it’s none of their business,” said Carroll.

    “I totally didn‘t agree with what Austin said but I didn’t agree with an expulsion either. I mean if they suspended him for 3 days or something, I would be fine with that but to kick him out of school, his senior year, 3 months to go, wrong,” said Pam Smith, Austin’s mother.

According to the report, the school tracks activity conducted on school-owned computers and laptops. But Carroll is saying he didn’t use a school computer to post the tweet:
    “I didn’t post the thing at school but their computer is saying that I did post it, and I shouldn’t be getting in trouble for stuff I did on my own time, on my own computer,” said Carroll.

Journal Gazette columnist Frank Gray reports superintendent Dennis Stockdale saying the school wouldn’t punish students for things they said online on their own computer and time and off the school’s network. The Journal Gazette states that the tweet in question was posted at 2:30 a.m., suggesting it would be outside the school’s jurisdiction if Carroll had done so on his own laptop, as he claims.

INC states that Carroll’s fellow classmates threatened to protest the expulsion.

According to the Journal Gazette, Smith believes that previous conflicts including other tweets that were sent from the school laptop may have targeted her son. INC states that Carroll will be finishing the year at an alternative school and will be allowed to graduate. Still, Carroll said he feels he is missing out of activities he would like to participate in, such as prom.


Pay children to attend top private schools, British Government told

Dozens of top private schools are calling on the Government to provide state subsidies to allow bright pupils to be admitted irrespective of family background, it emerged today.

Eighty schools including Westminster, Manchester Grammar, City of London School and King Edward’s, Birmingham, are urging ministers to fund places for bright children whose parents cannot afford full fees.

The “Open Access” programme – proposed by the Sutton Trust charity – would create a system in which schools operated fully “needs blind” admissions.

It would represent a partial return to the “assisted places” scheme – when local councils provided parents with subsidies to take their children out of state schools – 15 years after the programme was axed by Labour.

Headmasters claimed the move would be cheaper than funding places in the state sector and boost levels of social mobility by allowing pupils to attend institutions with some of the best academic records in Britain.

But the move is likely to be fiercely resisted by teaching unions who claim it would divert cash away from the state education system.

It is also unlikely to be backed by the Conservative-led Coalition for fear of reigniting claims of “elitism”.

But Sir Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust chairman, said: “Opening up these schools would result in over 30,000 children attending them based on merit who now cannot afford to do so.  “This would transform social mobility at the top.”

In a report, the Sutton Trust suggest that education at a top private day school can be provided for around £11,000 per pupil each year.

Under the plan, it is proposing that the Government provide an average of £5,500 for each pupil to attend – around £500 less than a state school place – and parents pay the remainder.

The subsidy would be higher for the poorest pupils and lower for the very richest families, creating a system in which parents pay sliding fees based on their annual income.

Other schools supporting the programme include Lady Eleanor Holles in Hampton, the Grammar School at Leeds and the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle.

David Levin, headmaster of the City of London Boys’ School, said: “Despite our extensive bursary programme, we have to turn away many highly able students from low and middle income homes who would thrive in our school.

“Open Access would allow us to be truly needs blind in our admissions.”


Australia:  Leftist minister under fire over nanny slur

Stupid woman

CHILDCARE Minister Kate Ellis has been accused of inciting class rivalry after saying the childcare rebate should not be extended to nannies because they were chauffeurs and chefs hired to do the ironing.

Ms Ellis accused Tony Abbott of intending to cut assistance for low-income families by extending the non-means-tested rebate - which allows families to claim 50 per cent of approved childcare costs, with a cap of $7500 - to the unregulated nanny sector.

"I think that when we have a look at nannies we see that they're often chauffeurs, they're often chefs . . . some of them do ironing, some of them do the washing and the household chores," Ms Ellis said yesterday. "Tony Abbott has made clear that any nanny subsidies will come from 'the existing funding envelope'. That means cutting the assistance given to families through the childcare benefit or childcare rebate. The nanny industry is unregulated and there are no quality assurance requirements in place. This new policy is undeveloped and uncosted and will hit hard-working, low-income families who rely on childcare the hardest."

Opposition childcare spokeswoman Sussan Ley accused Ms Ellis of inciting class war and said she was wrong to say the Coalition wanted to deprive women of existing resources. "I'm sure Labor would be delighted to make this some sort of class war; well, it's not, and again proves why Kate Ellis shouldn't be in the job," she said. "The Coalition's call for a Productivity Commission report is simply reading that mood and looking at what real families are saying and doing to care for their kids. What is the minister scared of? Whether it is using a nanny, grandparents or occasional care, parents are voting with their feet to find realistic and affordable options."

Former University of Canberra chancellor and director of McCarthy Mentoring, Wendy McCarthy, said childcare centres did not always meet the needs of working women, citing the 24-hour childcare centre established at Star City when she was a director of the Sydney casino. "We put in 24-hour childcare but we found . . . most people don't want to take their kids to work and pick them up at 4 o'clock in the morning," she said. "I think we should demolish the argument about nannies being just for rich women . . . (It's) such an old argument, it's just horrible. The system assumes that we still live a life of Monday to Friday, nine to five, and I just think you've got to get over it."

Feminist academic Eva Cox said subsidising nannies could lead to calls for cheap labour from overseas.

The director of Melbourne's Leading Nanny Agency and mother of three Annie Sargood slammed Ms Ellis for what she said was inverted snobbery.  "The childcare benefit is actually paying for chefs in childcare centres and cleaners who come in after hours, so why can't a nanny come in and do the same thing in a home environment?" she said.

Mr Abbott yesterday said the Coalition, if elected, would ask the Productivity Commission to consider how childcare could deliver for families in regional and remote areas, and for shift workers.


29 March, 2012

NYC madness:  PC student tests forbid dance, dinos & lots more

In a bizarre case of political correctness run wild, educrats have banned references to “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween” and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests.  That’s because they fear such topics “could evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.”

Dinosaurs, for example, call to mind evolution, which might upset fundamentalists; birthdays aren’t celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses; and Halloween suggests paganism.  Even “dancing’’ is taboo, because some sects object. But the city did make an exception for ballet.

The forbidden topics were recently spelled out in a request for proposals provided to companies competing to revamp city English, math, science and social-studies tests given several times a year to measure student progress.

“Some of these topics may be perfectly acceptable in other contexts but do not belong in a city- or state-wide assessment,” the request reads.

Words that suggest wealth are excluded because they could make kids jealous. Poverty is likewise on the forbidden list.  Also banned are references to divorces and diseases, because kids taking the tests may have relatives who split from spouses or are ill.

Officials say such exclusions are normal procedure.  “This is standard language that has been used by test publishers for many years and allows our students to complete practice exams without distraction,” said a Department of Education spokeswoman, insisting it’s not censorship.

In fact, sensitivity guidelines recently published by a group of states creating new high-stakes exams also caution against mentioning luxuries, group dancing, junk food, homelessness or witches.  Yet a comparison shows the city’s list, at 50 topics, is nearly twice as long and has fewer exceptions.

The city asks test companies to exclude “creatures from outer space,” celebrities and excessive TV and video-game use — items that are OK elsewhere.

Homes with swimming pools and computers are also unmentionables here — because of economic sensitivities — while computers in the school or in libraries are acceptable.

City officials also specified that test makers shouldn’t include items that are potentially “disrespectful to authority or authority figures,” or give human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects.

Terrorism is deemed too scary. Slavery is also on the forbidden list.

Officials said there isn't an absolute ban on the items, in that they do get included on some exams on a case-by-case basis.

“The intent is to avoid giving offense or disadvantage any test takers by privileging prior knowledge,” said Robert Pondiscio, a spokesman for the Core Knowledge Foundation, an education group.

“But the irony is they’re eliminating some subjects, like junk food, holidays and popular music, that the broadest number of kids are likely to know quite a lot about.”

Columbia University Teachers College professor Deanna Kuhn said, “If the goal is to assess higher-order thinking skills, controversial topics, for example, ones that are the subject of political debate, are exactly what students should be reasoning about.”


Education Animal Farm

Public school education systems, methods and procedures today are bad enough to make George Orwell’s Animal Farm read like a Libertarian themed novel. Any semblance of personal freedom, individuality, critical thinking and human dignity has been thrown out the school house window.  Herewith is just a tiny sample of the proof:

An 11-year-old Lancaster, Pennsylvania girl – 11 years old, mind you -- has been denied her right to participate in her elementary school choir, chorus and orchestra, as well as every other extracurricular activity available to her sixth grade peers, both academic and athletic.

Is that because she’s a vicious unmanageable problem child, a bully perhaps, who presents a clear and present danger to fellow pupils at her school? 

Not at all; it’s solely because she and her parents refuse to allow the statist administrators in her school district to force her to piss into a bottle so they can test her body fluids for the presence of illegal drugs.

They have the temerity to complain that the district’s scheme to randomly drug test students in this manner is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and a violation of the child’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures, not to mention her Fifth Amendment due process rights.

But what do local school districts in America today care about constitutional rights? They think they can force kids to attend school and make them give up all their rights in the process. That’s the American way these days.

A ninth grade Australian schoolboy was suspended from classes because he shaved his head as part of an effort to raise funds for a cancer charity and support a friend who is battling leukemia.
Going beyond a "number two" haircut is against the school's uniform and grooming policy, explained his school principal. After his suspension he’ll be allowed back only if he agrees to wear a cap until his hair grows back.

"He took it on himself to shave his head for a very good cause, he didn't go through school procedures and deal with us first," said the statist principal. "I've always told students who wanted to support World's Greatest Shave it was OK, as long as hair length was within acceptable levels -- a number two. Then we can also then support them with publicity."

The kid took it upon himself to decide his hair style. That’s something kids today can’t do without official permission from the educational authorities. I suppose the kid with cancer was suspended too after all his hair fell out from the chemotherapy and he could no longer comply with the “number two” hair code policy.

A Chicago sixth-grade writing and social studies school teacher at Murray Language Academy was suspended for leading a class discussion about the "N-word," race relations and racism.
He explained that, using advice given by the Southern Poverty Law Center to help guide discussions about the word, he turned a bad classroom situation - in which one student wrote a rap calling another student the (n-word) - into "a teachable moment."
The problem here, of course, is that the teacher is a white guy, and white guys are not supposed to utter that word under any circumstances in public schools nowadays. Black teachers, yes; white teachers, no.

So forget about his First and Fifth Amendment rights to freedom of speech and due process of law; white people are prohibited from using the n-word even when it is done in language and social studies class for the purpose of teaching students why the n-word is bad.

I myself don’t even feel comfortable articulating that particular word in my blog for fear that the American language police will come crawling down my back. I’m white and that word is a no-no for me.

Republicans in the United States Congress are proposing a new School Lunch Bill in which pizza and French fries would stay on school lunch lines, and they’re fighting the Obama administration's efforts to take “unhealthy foods” out of schools.

The bill aims to circumvent Agriculture Department school lunch standards limiting the use of potatoes, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. It would also keep counting tomato paste on pizzas as a vegetable.

Are all these die hard statist politicians doing this out of caring magnanimity, and altruistic desire to enhance the health and welfare of all the little school bunnies of America?

Hell, no! They’re doing it because American food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes and have lobbied Congress. You see, school lunches in America that are subsidized by the federal government must include a certain amount of vegetables, and USDA's proposal could have pushed pizza-makers and potato growers out of the school lunch business.

The USDA and congress have taken on the responsibility to reduce childhood obesity and thereby future health care costs. The government wants to decide what kids can eat at school. Tomorrow it will be decisions about what they can eat at home if the politicians have their way.

"While it's unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America's children, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals," sniffed a USDA spokesperson.

Meanwhile, a group of retired generals, called Mission: Readiness, advocating for healthier school lunches, also criticized the bill, calling poor nutrition in school lunches a national security issue because obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

"We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program," the director of the group, said in a letter to lawmakers. "It doesn't take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace."

Yes, French fries and pizza in school lunches is a matter of national security these days – not because the little school prisoners are adversely impacted – but because if they get fat they won’t qualify for military service. That’s truly a national disgrace. America wants its slaves when they’re kids, and later when they’re adults too. It wants its slaves for all their miserable lives. That’s why the government is telling us what we can eat.

If all this isn’t enough, now there are several school districts all across the U.S. suing their respective state governments, asking courts to order more spending on public education, and contending they face new pressures as states cut billions of dollars of funding while adding more rigorous educational standards.

In Washington State, the Supreme Court recently ordered the state legislature to come up with a plan for additional funding. Democrat Gov. Christine Gregoire agreed, explaining that without ample funds it is "difficult for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to compete in today's global economy."

School districts everywhere need more and more cash so they can perpetuate the statist Education Animal Farm.


British trainee teachers facing harder three Rs tests in bid to root out applicants not fit for the job

Trainee teachers face tough new tests in the three Rs to root out those unable to do the job.  Ofsted inspectors found some staff, particularly in primary schools, have a poor grasp of subjects, leading to gaps in children’s knowledge.

Ministers fear entrance exams are too easy and allow trainees with a poor mastery of English and maths to slip through.

While new tests are being devised, the pass mark for existing tests in literacy and numeracy will be raised in September with fewer resits allowed.

One in five trainees fails to pass either literacy or numeracy first time around while one in ten trainees has to take the numeracy tests three times or more.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced yesterday that an expert panel will review the current tests with a view to devising new-look assessments.

‘International studies show that rigorous selection of trainee teachers is key to raising the quality and standing of the teaching profession,’ he said.  ‘It helps ensure trainees are committed to becoming teachers.

‘Strengthened trainee tests and an end to constant re-sits will mean parents can be confident that all teachers have the basic skills needed.’

The review will be led by Sally Coates, principal of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, and will report back to ministers by June, to allow the new tests to be introduced in September 2013.

From this September, the pass mark for the current tests will be raised.  Trainees who fail one or both of the tests at the first attempt will be limited to two resits for each test.  They will also have to pass the test before starting their course, so those without the right skills cannot start the training.

The Coalition has already announced plans to give out bursaries worth £20,000-a-year to students with first-class degrees who train to teach so-called shortage subjects such as maths and languages.  Lower bursaries will be available to students with 2.1s and 2.2s.

Heads are also being handed tough new powers to sack incompetent staff.

The skills tests were introduced by Labour amid concerns that teacher training did not guarantee a thorough grounding in literacy, numeracy and comprehension.  Passing the numeracy test has been a requirement of Qualified Teacher Status since 2000, and literacy the following year.

Students currently sit the online tests during their teacher training.  They were originally allowed only four or five attempts to pass the tests.  But Labour scrapped the rule in 2001 and gave trainees unlimited resits.

The numeracy test lasts 48 minutes and contains 12 mental arithmetic questions to be completed without the aid of a calculator.  Candidates are allowed to use pen and paper.

There are also longer questions involving interpreting statistical information and working out basic percentages and ratios.

The 45-minute literacy test is in four parts - spelling, grammar, punctuation and comprehension.


28 March, 2012

French call for boycott of homework

Children would be better off reading a book rather than doing tasks at home which are useless and tiring, parents and teachers say.

A group of French parents and teachers have called for a two-week boycott of homework in primary schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children.

They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book.

"If the child hasn't succeeded in doing the exercise at school, I don't see how they're going to succeed at home," said Jean-Jacques Hazan, the president of the FCPE, the main French parents' association, which represents parents and pupils in most of France's educational establishments.

"In fact, we're asking parents to do the work that should be done in lessons."

Homework is officially banned in French primary schools and has been since 1956. But many teachers ignore this and send children home with exercises.

Catherine Chabrun, president of the teachers' organisation Co-operative Institute of Modern Schools, says homework also reinforces inequalities.

"Not all families have the time or the necessary knowledge to help their offspring," she said.

The protesters calling for the ban say no one is contesting the idea of children being given "devoirs" - or exercises - just that they should be done during the school day and not at home. "Teachers don't realise the unbelievable pressure they are putting children under," Mr Hazan said.

The question of whether young children should do homework has been a matter of fierce debate and disagreement in France since 1912. The anti-homework campaigners stand little chance of banning it, even for two weeks, but their blog, which has already had 22,000 visits in the past fortnight, hopes to put the perennial controversy back on the political agenda.

A statement from the FCPE said: "Either a pupil has understood the lesson and succeeded in doing the exercises in class, in which case homework is a waste of time and stops them reading, for example, or they haven't understood and it's not at home in the absence of a teacher that they're going to do better."

Not all parents agree. Myriam Menez, general-secretary of PEEP, another school parents' association, told Le Parisien giving primary school children homework prepared them for secondary school.


British schools earn more money from students taking media studies than maths

Schools and colleges receive more money if their A-level pupils take subjects such as media studies or psychology instead of maths, MPs will be told today.

Maths is losing out in  ‘subject premiums’ worth hundreds of pounds per pupil, Tory Elizabeth Truss will tell the Commons during a debate on the crisis in England’s maths education.

It comes at a time when the number of sixth-formers studying maths in England is the  lowest in the OECD group of advanced nations.

Under a sixth-form funding  formula known as ‘weighting’,  lessons in less traditional subjects such as media studies receive 12 per cent more funding.

Calling for an overhaul of the system, Mrs Truss said: ‘Britain has a serious issue with maths education.

‘Government funding should reflect the value of mathematics and the difficulty of recruiting teachers into the subject.’

The MP for South West Norfolk, who has previously written a report on academic rigour and social mobility, added: ‘I would argue subjects like media  studies should not be getting  an extra weighting at all.’

Mrs Truss said the subject  premium should instead be applied to maths and further maths in an attempt to boost numbers of pupils studying the subject. Students at comprehensive schools are half as likely to study maths as their privately-educated peers but considerably more likely to study media studies.

Mrs Truss added only half of comprehensive sixth-forms offer further maths, which puts  thousands of students out of contention to study science and maths at top universities.

Under the funding formula, each sixth-form pupil attracts a basic sum of £2,920. This is adjusted upwards or downwards depending on the subjects studied and factors including the school or college’s location.  A-levels in media studies and psychology and lab-based  sciences such as physics  and biology receive 12 per cent more than maths, English or foreign languages.

A pupil studying three A-levels in the higher funding bracket would attract £350 more than a classmate taking three in the lower.

Non A-level subjects with practical content – such as floristry and bricklaying – are given even higher weightings.

The Young People’s Learning Agency, which funds sixth-form subjects, said the reason for the weightings is that some subjects involve buying more equipment or are taught in smaller groups. But Mrs Truss points out that schools are forced to pay  significantly more to secure good maths teachers than in the  subjects with higher weightings.

She said maths should be given a 30 per cent higher weighting and further maths 50 per cent.

Her call came as plans are being drawn up for a range of maths qualifications to be made available to sixth-formers to encourage almost all youngsters to study the subject until the age of 18.

Teenagers would be able to pick from an ‘a la carte’ menu of qualifications including the traditional maths A-level and other courses which are more demanding than GCSE maths but short of a full A-level.

A recent report by Professor Alison Wolf found those holding a maths A-level, at any grade, go on to earn ten per cent more than their peers who do not.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We consulted on changes to 16-19 funding at the end of last year, and we are considering the responses.

‘We are undertaking a root and branch review of how maths is taught in schools, attracting the best maths graduates into the profession by offering bursaries of up to £20,000, and strengthening training through our network of specialist teaching schools.  ‘We are also overhauling GCSEs and A-levels to make sure they are robust and in line with the best education systems in the world.’


Australia: Expert argues university degrees overrated

HAVING a university degree may be "grossly overrated", a leading education research body says.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research wants to debate the merits of university degrees because it will advance thinking around expanding the tertiary sector.

It is partnering with St James Ethics Centre to bring the live debate, Intelligence Squared Australia, to Adelaide in July to debate the idea that "having a university degree is grossly overrated".

Managing director Dr Tom Karmel said the purpose of the debate was to tease out the issue, because while there were many benefits to having a university degree there were other paths to consider as well.

"Are we looking at credentialism, where everyone will have a degree when they don't really need one," he said.  "There are many jobs around you do not need a degree for and wouldn't want a degree for."

The Federal Government wants 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 to have a bachelor degree by 2020.

Skills Australia has estimated that in the five years to 2015 Australia will need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with a vocational education qualification at Certificate III level or higher.

"When the Government make these decisions you always have to check against reality and make sure people are getting a good return from their degree," Dr Karmel said.

"(But) as we expand the number of people with degrees, on the whole, the return is holding up."

National Tertiary Education Union assistant secretary Matthew McGowan said degrees were very important for Australians to compete intellectually on an international stage but that did not mean everyone needed one.


27 March, 2012

Texas mom plans to sue school district after she says daughter with cerebral palsy is told to ditch her walker‏

No prizes for guessing that the underlying agenda is to get a handicapped kid out of the school. Spasticity is unsightly

The mother of a child with cerebral palsy is preparing to file a lawsuit against a school district after she says a special education director told her that her five-year-old daughter can no longer use her walker at school.

Kristi Roberts, the girl’s mother, reportedly recorded the conversation with the director Gary Lemley and uploaded it to YouTube. She said she did so as a last resort after two years of arguing with the district about her daughter's care.

"Basically she can't use the walker because we don't think it's safe," Lemley is reportedly heard saying on the audio recording.

Lakay Roberts, 5, has been using a walker at Kings Manor Elementary School in Houston for the past two years. She recently fell in the parking lot when the equipment collapsed.

"How many kids fall down at recess? Do you make them take their shoes off and buy new ones?" asked Roberts. "No ma'am. They're not using walkers," Lemley said, according to the report.

The school district, New Caney ISD, issued a statement to that said its main goal is to protect students. It cited student privacy laws and would not comment further on this particular issue. "While a parent may choose to share information about his or her child, we cannot."

The statement goes on, "It is important to know that the video and audio recording at issue was not sanctioned or authorized by the District to be released for public dissemination. Furthermore, the District does not agree that the recording at issue here is a complete recounting of the entire underlying confidential discussion and is therefore neither representative nor accurate towards explaining the District's ongoing efforts to serve its students."

The recording, meanwhile, has been clicked on more than 10,000 times, and Roberts says support is pouring in online in the form of comments. "The ones I read really touched me, that strangers care about this," she said.

Ana Calvo, president of the Ms. Wheelchair Texas Foundation, was born without arms and legs. She said, "The law states she has the right to go to school in the least restrictive environment, and if it's a walker that's her accommodation to get from point A to point B then that is what she needs.”


Will Your University be Subject to a Conscience Tax?

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about new federal regulations requiring employer and student health care plans to pay for abortion inducing drugs, as well as contraception and sterilization. Most religious universities – including faith-based schools and para-church organizations – will be required to provide things like abortion-inducing drugs to their employees and students – even if it conflicts with the religious beliefs and teachings of the school. Any school that is open to students of all faiths and doesn’t just teach religious subject matter is governed by this mandate. Those who refuse for religious reasons will be be fined approximately $2,000 per employee and/or student, per year. This is effectively a Conscience Tax.

Obviously, many faith-based schools, food pantries, hospitals, and other community service organizations are threatened by this disregard for religious freedom because they are open to everyone. Some commentators have opined that this isn’t a very big deal, and is just about making sure women have access to contraception. But if the federal government can force religious schools and other faith-based organizations to act in a way that is completely contrary to their religious beliefs, it can punish religious students who act according to our religious convictions by doing such things as refusing to have student fees fund abortions, objecting to sexual immorality in class, or seeking exemptions from course work that requires them to act contrary to their faith.

All students and school administrators need to be very aware of how this new mandate will affect them. You can learn more about it here. And if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact us here at ADF by logging on to, or calling us at 1-800-TellADF.


Australia: Catholic schools to educate more non-Catholics

THE Catholic Church will spend more than $1 billion over the next 20 years buying land and building classrooms across NSW to expand its network of schools.

The Sydney Catholic Education Office intends to offer more places to non-Catholic families who have become increasingly dissatisfied with the performance of public schools.

A budget of $50 million every year for the next 20 years has been allocated to opening new schools and expanding the grounds of established schools across the inner west, south-west and eastern suburbs.

Taxpayers will fund some of the new schools, with all Catholic schools eligible to apply for federal government building grants.

Dr Dan White, executive director for the Sydney archdiocese schools, said more than 2000 prospective students were turned away from schools in 2012 simply because there was no room for them.

Bigger grounds were needed at most schools to accommodate extra classrooms for growing student numbers, Dr White said.

Cardinal George Pell described the proposed expansion of the Catholic education system as a healthy outcome for the Church and said much of the demand came from non-Catholic families.

"It is a healthy outcome for us. The demand for places in Catholic schools is high. They are happy communities, in literacy and numeracy they are almost invariably above the national average," he said. "I think the biggest compliment is the number of non-Catholics who would like their children to attend a Catholic school.

"We hope the Catholic school system will reinforce the faith and good work of the students. It certainly does make them socially aware, keen to contribute to society and strengthen their faith also."

Principals across Sydney Catholic schools have been directed to look for vacant land or houses for sale close to their schools. "Catholic education in Sydney is going through an unprecedented period of growth," Dr White said. "Our enrolments have grown by over 1000 children every year for the past three years.

He said many parents were taking their children out of public schools because they believed Catholic schools provided a better quality education.

"We find parents are looking for a school that has a spiritual base to it and provides a real values-for-life framework for their children," he said.


26 March, 2012

College education economics

For previous generations, the dream of a college education for their children was a primary motivation. Gaining access to the teachings of higher learning is certainly a laudable objective. While this goal still holds true, there is a systemic disconnect from attending institutions that cost a king’s ransom and having marketable skills to earn a generous income in the post industrial economy. When government employment becomes the most sought after occupation, the economic future of the country sinks into deep decline. The old correlation with the higher your education, the greater your income, is no more.

Proof for such a conclusion is provided by the following list, Shocking Facts About Student Debt And The Great College Education Scam.

1) Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards

2) Since 1982, the cost of medical care in the United States has gone up over 200% but that is nothing compared to the cost of college tuition which has gone up by more than 400%

3) The unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is over 9%

4) There are about two million recent college graduates that are currently unemployed

5) There are about two million recent college graduates that are currently unemployed

6) In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees

7) The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 Americans graduated from college with more than $40,000 in student loan debt during 2008

8) In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail sales persons have a college degree

9) Total student loan debt in the United States is now increasing at a rate of approximately $2,853.88 per second

10) Total student loan debt in the United States is now increasing at a rate of approximately $2,853.88 per second

11) There are 365,000 cashiers in the United States today that have college degrees

12) Starting salaries for college graduates across the United States are down in 2010

In 1992, there were 5.1 million "underemployed" college graduates in the United States. In 2008, there were 17 million "underemployed" college graduates in the United States

13) In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees

14) Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor's degree within four years

15) According to a recent survey by Twentysomething Inc., a staggering 85 percent of college seniors planned to move back home after graduation last May

The incurring debt that saddles students is unsustainable. The Business Insider reports in The $100 Billion Student Debt Bubble May Finally Blow, "As it stands, no matter how deep borrowers find themselves buried in student loan debt, they can't discharge it in bankruptcy court – all because it doesn't qualify as an "undue hardship." As the economy struggles and minimum wage employment becomes the norm, how can attending college retain its glow?

The cost of college is not uniform. The College Board reports,
"In 2011-12, 44 percent of all full-time undergraduate college students attend a four-year college that has published charges of less than $9,000 per year for tuition and fees.

At the other end of the spectrum, approximately 28 percent of full-time private nonprofit four-year college students are enrolled in institutions charging $36,000 or more yearly in tuition and fees."

The value of attending a prestigious private institution especially has a real harsh impact, if student loans are necessary to pay for that experience. "College tuition increases about 8 percent annually or doubles about every nine years, according to" The continual increase in college costs is the persistent dilemma that challenges the ultimate benefit of attending university.

America has become a society for elites. The embodiment of success, sold under the mantra of achieving degrees of higher learning, no longer works. For all the "so called" professionals that act as gatekeepers for the establishment, the rewards from the system flow, as long as their loyalty, to the corporatist institutions remains. However, for all the ordinary college graduates that seek a better life through hard work, the prospect of entering the inner circles of the "golden parachute" is elusive.

Earning your way to the top may motivate the most competitive of type A personalities, but the survival of the most ruthless is no standard for a free society. The wisdom that college is supposed to share is not valued much in global business.

Some will conclude that only practical disciplines like engineering, accounting or medicine have pragmatic worth. Nevertheless, the systematic dismantling of the domestic economy is intrinsically responsible for the lost opportunities that can benefit from a work force of college graduates. Look no further than to the study of law for a primary reason for the sharp delineation in the lower ing of living standards.

The economics of college do not work for most students because the costs of the educational electives are void of entrepreneurial content. Transacting business commerce is still the fundamental activity in earning a living. As with any economic deal, both parties need to come away from the undertaking with a sense of satisfaction. Where is the gratification from flipping burgers in order to make your student loan payment?

The knowledge gained from the university exposure of classic studies is invaluable in the life of any adult. However, the cruel costs many colleges charge for that experience, have more to do with inflated institutional egos, than teaching developing intellectual minds.

As long as college graduates are prime victims of declining middle class prospects, the indebtedness of tuition bills will burden their futures. The solution is to grow a domestic economy based upon independence in manufacturing and self-sufficiency. Attending college on loans is a very bad decision. The money spent for a useless degree is better spent on buying or starting a business.


University Under Fire For Forcing Students to Choose Between Celebrating Religious Holidays & Going to Class

Students and faculty who embrace personal faith at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, are in for some tough decisions when it comes to observing faith-based holidays that fall during school hours: Either attend school and forget observance of religious holidays or skip school and risk missing important work and information.

The public university has decided to ditch days off on these special days (aside from Christmas, causing some to charge anti-Jewish bias), leaving students and faculty, alike, with the aforementioned dilemma. Earlier this month, The Jewish Week reported:

"To hear some parents, students and faculty members tell it, Stony Brook University’s new academic calendar in September is withdrawing the “welcome” mat to Jewish students. [...]"

To ensure that some religions are not given preferential treatment, he said, the university is discarding the previously prepared calendar for next year and replacing it with one that keeps school open on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and Holy Week. The discarded calendar had the spring vacation coincide with Passover and Holy Week, wherever possible; the new calendar is crafted to have the spring break divide the second semester in half, no matter when Passover and Holy Week occur. As a result, the break next year occurs one week before the holidays.

Arthur Shertzer, president of United University Professions, which represents 2,500 faculty and staff, said he is mystified by the university’s actions. “The logic is that if we celebrate no one, we honor everyone,” he said.

Now, a debate is heating up both on the Stony Brook University campus and off of it. Norman Goodman, a sociology professor at the university, for one, didn’t hold his opinions back on the matter when asked to weigh in:

“It stinks. It was done without any input except from the administration — and it was done in secret,” he said. “It does not take into account the variety of needs of faculty and students, and it shows no respect for religion. I’m concerned that fellow faculty members and students who are observant will be put at an unnecessary disadvantage.”

But the school’s vice-provost, Dr. Charles Robbins, defended the decision as an element that would bring increased fairness to the entire student body. He also pledged that students who did take off for religious holidays would not be penalized for practicing their beliefs, going on to say that officials will ”…make sure that no exams or papers are due on these religious holidays.”

“Our goal is to maximize available class time for all of our students and to really make a calendar that’s predictable and standardized that makes the most sense academically,” Robbins said.

In a follow-up article, also published in Jewish Week, Robbins penned his own response to the original pieces, calling it “rife with inaccuracies.” He wrote, in part:

"Indeed, the need to redesign Stony Brook’s academic calendar became obvious after the university’s administration received numerous complaints in the Spring 2011 semester when there was only one week between the end of classes and finals due to spring break being scheduled to coincide with Holy Week. The calendar was redesigned to provide maximum instruction time for students in a way that did not favor or punish any religious groups. Stony Brook has always been respectful of all religions, and we embrace and celebrate our diversity. [...]

The bottom line is that religious observance is, and must always be, a personal choice, not an institutional mandate."

Robbins claims that Christmas is off due to a union contract provision.


Schools are 'last bastion' of traditional values in Britain

Feeble though they are

Schools are the "last bastions" of traditional values in a culture where children are increasingly faced with poor role models, school leaders said today.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that today's youngsters need to be taught to sort out their differences in a "rational and restrained" way.

At the same time they are surrounded by TV programmes, such as soaps, that show people constantly shouting at each other and reality shows that suggest there are "quick" ways to become successful.

Speaking at ASCL's annual conference in Birmingham, general secretary Brian Lightman said: "Children are faced with a lot of different role models these days, not all of which are the most positive. They see examples on TV, in celebrity culture, of people not speaking the right way and not interacting in a way we would expect people to.

"In many ways schools are the last bastions of those traditional values. "We do assert old fashioned standards of discipline and we do that unashamedly because we do see it as our job to educate children in that way."

He said that soap operas show "people shouting at each other, using very, very emotive language, everything's very dramatic, histrionic."

Schools try to teach pupils to "understand people's differences in a much more rational and perhaps restrained way," Mr Lightman added.

In her speech to the conference, ASCL president Joan McVittie suggested that schools are teaching many pupils good values because they are not learning them at home. "Many young people learn their values in schools," she said.

"Sadly some of their parents are unable to provide guidance and often the values provided by their peer groups takes precedence over all else. "This is a huge responsibility for all of us and top of the responsibility of educating.

"It is a great deal to ask of us, and not neatly pinned down and packaged in sound bites and performance tables. "And yet this is what we constantly try to do and for which - perhaps the most important part of our job - we gain so little credit."

She added: "So not only do we have to teach about values and responsibility; we have to try and understand the context in which our young people are living and help them back on to the right path when they fall by the wayside."

Mrs McVittie raised concerns that TV talent or reality shows promote a "quick fix" in terms of how to be successful.

"We've run an assembly looking at statistics of how many people are successful on the X Factor and then at the same time running the statistics on the relationship between attendance in school, how that impacts on overall GCSE results, and how that then leads on to earning power later on in life.

"We try to work students through the fact that, actually, it's mostly through hard work that you're successful and attain the things that you need. "Very few people are actually able to walk on to the X Factor and achieve that instant success."

As well as running assemblies on values, many schools also teach lessons where pupils work through various scenarios and discuss how they would respond to them.

Mrs McVittie, who is headteacher of Woodside High School in Wood Green, north London, close to where rioting took place last summer, said: "When we talk to our students about rights and responsibilities, what they have to remember is that their rights are not entitled to override those of everybody else - they have a responsibility to think of other people."

Mr Lightman said pupils have to learn that sometimes they have to "restrain your feelings, that you can't just sound off every time you're a little bit angry".

"I think that these things are desperately important in terms of employability skills. Because you're going to have to work with all kinds of people, to learn how to work with people who you may not want to have as your best friend."

In her speech, Mrs McVittie told delegates she had experienced behaviour similar to that seen in last summer's riots when she worked in Moss Side, Manchester, in the 1980s.

"The 2011 riots had a very different feel to them," she said. "Watching television and seeing young adults looting and carrying home their spoils made me wonder what has happened in our society."

She added: "I was worried in case my own students had been caught up - perhaps affected by peer pressure and carried away with the intoxicating excitement of the moment.

"Fortunately I discovered that none of my students had taken part. The local area was devastated and the impact mostly on our young people had been to frighten them."

Mrs McVittie also warned that it has become "fashionable to criticise school and college leaders for all the ills in society".

"This is wearing and risky: if we aren't careful it will drive good people out of the profession." Mrs McVittie said there have been "many times" that she has almost walked away from teaching because of such criticism. "We must support our colleagues, particularly when they are experiencing hard times," she said.

Mrs McVittie also told delegates: "Nothing short of walking on water is expected of us on a daily basis.

"Expectations - whether they be from the Government, the media or the Chief Inspector - have never been higher. And the price of failure has never been greater.

"And yet... school leaders are right up there with doctors at the top of the list of people trusted by the public, while our political masters languish at the bottom with estate agents and bankers."


25 March, 2012

NJ Middle School Now a Hug-Free Zone?

A New Jersey school superintendent says there’s no policy against hugging in the district, and says the issue of middle schoolers being told by their principal not to hug each other anymore is being blown out of proportion.

The district says Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School Principal Tyler Blackmore made an announcement that its 900 students were in a “no hugging school” following some “incidents of unsuitable, physical interactions.”

School Superintendent David Healy said the district has the responsibility to teach children about appropriate interactions. But he said no one would be disciplined for hugging.

“There is no policy specific to hugging, and we have not, nor will we be, suspending students for hugging,” he said in a written statement. “It is unfortunate that there are those who find purpose and humor in sensationalizing such a routine school-related issue at the expense and inconvenience of our children and our school community.”

The superintendent said he believes the principal acted responsibly in making the recent school announcement regarding hugging. The district’s Board of Education does have policies in place to address bullying, inappropriate relationships and inappropriate conduct, he added.

Students range in ages from 11 to 14 in grades six to eight.

This isn’t the only instance of schools trying to ban behavior that might be perceived as affectionate. The New York Times reported on a trend in 2010 of educators trying to discourage the idea of “best friends.” This trend has recently found real-life expression in the United Kingdom, where teachers have been outright telling students not to have best friends.


US education mediocrity threatens national security

The U.S. education system’s mediocrity threatens national security and economic prosperity, concludes a report out this morning from a task force co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former New York City Chancellor Joel Kline.

“The State Department and intelligence services lack sufficient linguists and analysts for critical regions,” the report says. “By almost every measure, U.S. schools are failing to provide the kind of education our society will need to ensure American leadership in the twenty-first century.”

While many people know how education system failure impacts the economy, few consider its impacts on national security, the Council on Foreign Relations report says. It claims 75 percent of young adults don't qualify to serve in the military because they are physically unfit, have criminal records, or an inadequate education.

The report cites many statistics illustrating the country’s increasing deficiency: Nearly a quarter of students do not graduate from high school in four years, only a quarter rate proficient on the national civics exam, less than a quarter rate college-ready on the ACT.

Its recommendations to remedy this problem: incorporate national-security-essential subjects into national and state education requirements, increase school choice, and “launch a national security readiness audit.”

Well, items one and three sound dubious. The first requires expanding the Common Core set of grade-level education standards, an enterprise manipulated by the Obama administration and of dubious legality. And the “national security readiness audit” the report writers envision would hold “educators and policymakers responsible for meeting national expectations in education.” Not sure what that would look like, but as with the Common Core, it’s illegal and unconstitutional for the federal government to interfere with curriculum, and experience with No Child Left Behind indicates trading federal money for state testing requirements is a loser.

School choice, though, is a worthy and long-ignored idea.

“It’s an American solution to an American problem,” Klein told Bloomberg. “Competition and choice have the greatest potential to stimulate innovation.”

Little in the report is truly new. Its innovation lies in linking a decline many have observed for decades to American life and limb. This, and the obvious ties between education and the economy, is another reason education policy needs to become more prominent in the presidential and national discussion. We cannot solve national security and economy problems without solving the education problem.


British Nursery workers so illiterate they struggle to read stories aloud

Nursery school workers and childminders are being allowed to look after children despite having such poor literacy skills they would struggle to read a story aloud, a Government-commissioned review has found.

Childcare qualifications often don’t insist on basic numeracy or literacy skills while pupils with the poorest academic records are pushed towards working with children as an alternative to hairdressing.

And some nurseries are taking on staff without any qualifications at all, according to the Nutbrown Review’s interim findings which were published last week.

Anne Longfield, the chief executive of 4Children, the national charity that campaigns for children’s services, said that the findings were a “wake-up call”. “This is a shocking oversight that parents would be very unhappy about. It is shameful that you need higher qualifications to get into hairdressing or animal care,” she said.

Dr Hilary Emery, National Children’s Bureau chief executive said, 'The report echoes what our networks are telling us, that there is much confusion and concern over the level, quality and variation of child care qualifications.”

Cathy Nutbrown who wrote the report concluded that the profession was seen as “low-status, low-paid and low-skilled” and was a turn-off for the brighest pupils. Professor Nutbrown said there needed to be well taught courses leading to reliable qualifications.

“Expectations of learners in terms of literacy and numeracy are unduly low,” she wrote.

“The 'hair or care’ stereotype still exists for many considering a course in the early years, yet many other sectors have raised their expectations in relation to enrolment.”

She added: “My interim report sets out the shared concerns among the workforce about their qualifications system.”

Prof Nutbrown will set out her recommendations in the summer but has suggested raising entry requirements for courses and bringing a licence for nursery workers similar to that of nurses.

Mrs Longfield, added, “'The suggestion of introducing a licence to work in early years is brave and forward thinking and we fully support this. The care and education of our children is of utmost importance and it seems only right that we provide children and their parents with the kind of assurance of quality that we have come to expect as a norm in other professions and positions of trust.

Children’s minister Sarah Teather said, 'I welcome Professor Nutbrown’s interim report. We know the earliest years of a child’s life are so important to their development so it’s vital we have a workforce with the right knowledge and skills.’


24 March, 2012

Swedish Fascism hits homeschooling family

I have pointed out elswhere that Sweden has many of the characteristics of a Fascist state

It's been called one of the worst cases of government abuse ever committed against a home schooling family: the abduction by Swedish authorities of Domenic Johansson, a happy, healthy, 7-year-old boy taken from his parents Christer and Annie Johansson in 2009 as they waited to leave Sweden on a flight to India.

After the abduction, the Johanssons' story spread quickly on the Internet. But three years later, Domenic is still being kept from his parents, and Swedish authorities keep finding new reasons for why the child can't go home.

The Abduction

"This is about the most fundamental right you have. You have the right to your own children, or you should have," Christer told CBN News during the first television interview he and his wife have given since their only child's abduction.

In 2008, Christer and Annie were making plans to leave Sweden for humanitarian work in Annie's native India.

They decided it would be best for Domenic to be home-schooled during the final months before their departure, rather than enroll him in public school.

Christer says Sweden's Ministry of Education told him they could home-school, but local officials levied steep fines and threatened the couple to discourage them from doing so.

Then, as the parents sat on a plane at Stockholm airport for their scheduled trip to India, police came aboard and took Domenic away.

"They took Domenic from the plane," Christer recalled. "Then he threw up until they took him to ER. That's how severe the trauma is. If someone throws up so you have to take him to the hospital, that's severe."

"I have no clue what went on," Annie added. "There was just a stampede. My child had no clue, and I have no clue still what's going on. I can just hear the screams of my child all the time."

Cat and Mouse

According to Christer, the couple was supposed to have Domenic back a few days later. But when they went to pick him up, authorities changed their story. Officials decided Domenic was "at risk," because he had cavities and did not have every recommended vaccination. They also noted he was shy.

Gotland Social Services then found more problems -- claiming the Johanssons' home didn't have enough furniture, and that Christer was a drug addict with a mental illness, even though he passed a drug test and psychiatric examination.

"I went to psychiatric clinic and said, 'Check me thoroughly,' and they did. So I took that paper to court and it had no effect whatsoever," Christer recalled. "I said, 'I'm healthy,' but the Social Services and Social Services' lawyer said 'No, you are suffering from personality disorder.'"

Social Services said Domenic was developmentally delayed, although videos show him flying a plane on a flight simulator before being abducted at age 7, and also speaking clear English.

Authorities were also disturbed that Domenic was too affectionate with other children, greeting his friends with a hug and kiss on the cheek. They called this "deviant behavior."

Christer was then labeled a "human rights fanatic."

Christer said authorities have resisted all attempts to reunite the family. And evidence showing that the pair are good parents has been completely ignored. "It doesn't matter if we have professors or doctors to speak for us. It just doesn't matter," he said.

Swedish Soviet Union?

Exasperated, Christer brought Domenic home without permission in Nov. 2010. Police then raided their home with guns and dogs and took Domenic away again. Christer was put in jail for two months.

"The Domenic Johansson case is the home-school tragedy of Sweden. I believe this was simply a mistake," Jonas Himmelstrand, who heads the Swedish Homeschooling Association (Rohus), told CBN News.

"Officials didn't realize they couldn't take a child on home schooling charges alone. So after they took him, they invented all kinds of other reasons -- and also pride, which is well-known among Swedish authorities, that once they've made a mistake to never admit it," he said.

Michael Donnelly, an attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is helping the Johanssons, said, "It's astonishing to me that free governments who know about this case have not done more.

Donnelly compared the Swedish government's behavior to the Soviet Union. "This local government, backed up now by Swedish courts, have demonstrated that they are capable of visiting the most totalitarian acts on their own citizens, reminiscent of the Soviet Union and communist countries in recent history," Donnelly said.

The Emotional Fallout

Annie and Christer were only allowed to visit Domenic for one hour every five weeks, but even that has stopped. Christer said the son who so obviously loved his parents before the abduction, now no longer wants to see them.

"We haven't had any contact with him since Nov. 2010 - not a phone call, not one. We don't know how he is. We don't know anything," Christer said.

Annie suffered an emotional breakdown after the abduction and now suffers from panic attacks when she talks about what happened.

The Gotland Social Services Board has told the media that secrecy prevents it from discussing the case. But Sweden's ambassador to the United States has defended his government's actions.

Meanwhile, the Johanssons' attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson says the police abduction of Domenic from the plane was illegal, and another court hearing is scheduled for May.

But photos of Domenic before and after the abduction show what Christer describes as boy who has already been "broken into a million pieces." Annie and Christer keep hoping this nightmare will end.

"How can you live without your children?" Annie asked. "It's devastated our life. This has in fact devastated everything in our life."


Va. middle-schoolers assigned opposition research on GOP candidates

A Virginia middle school teacher recently forced his students to support President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign by conducting opposition research in class against the Republican presidential candidates.

The 8th grade students, who attend Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County, were required to seek out the vulnerabilities of Republican presidential hopefuls and forward them to the Obama campaign.

“This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” one frustrated father, who asked for his family to remain anonymous, told The Daily Caller.

The assignment was for students to research the backgrounds and positions of each of the GOP candidates for president and find “weaknesses” in them, the parent explained. From there, students were to prepare a strategy paper to exploit those weaknesses and then to send their suggestions to the Obama campaign.

Liberty teacher Michael Denman, who declined to comment, unveiled the assignment in mid-January when he broke the Civics Honor’s class into four groups, one for each Republican candidate. The students were then to collaborate as a group and research the backgrounds of their assigned candidate.

Denman assigned two kids to write a paper revealing the identified “weaknesses,” two to write the attack strategy paper and two others to locate an individual inside the Obama campaign to whom they could send the information.

“My classmates don’t actually know a lot, but a few of us tended to agree that the most recent instruction on this project just didn’t seem right,” one of the students told TheDC. “Mr. Denman didn’t tell us where to find the information, just to research on them.”


Some TOP British middle school graduates can't master the three Rs

Teenagers are still struggling with the three Rs despite achieving top grades in GCSE English and maths, the schools minister warned yesterday. Nick Gibb told MPs that some students arrive in the workplace or at university with literacy and numeracy problems.

His warning to the Commons’ education select committee comes amid growing concerns about grade inflation and the ‘dumbing down’ of exams.

Mr Gibb said that, in part, the problem lies in how the curriculum is turned into exam specifications. Exam boards draw up specifications, outlining exam content and assessment criteria, which are scrutinised by exams watchdog Ofqual. He said the current system ‘appears to incentivise’ boards to ‘dumb down’ their exams in order to increase their market share.

‘It’s also to a certain extent an assessment issue for Ofqual about is it possible to pass exams yet not be fully conversant with the whole syllabus?’ he said.

Concerns that children are leaving school ‘not as well prepared for the world of work’ and lacking ‘fundamental knowledge’ for university courses need to be addressed, he said

Gibb added: ‘Education is... about leaving school as educated as you can be. If our certificate awarding process is hampering that, we need to do something about the... process.’

Earlier, Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, told MPs that the watchdog will be ‘crawling all over’ exam boards to ensure their services are up to scratch.


23 March, 2012

Georgia charter school decision could set national precedent‏

The Georgia Legislature is hotly debating a bill that would allow the state to cover the costs of charter schools even if local school boards reject them, setting up a case that could set national precedent on educational reform.

The legislation to amend the state constitution would allow the Peach State to create its own parallel K-12 system to local boards, drawing on the same limited pool of Georgia's taxpayer funds -- a decision that the Georgia Supreme Court said was illegal just one year ago.

"In the education reform battle often times things boil down to a turf battle, and that's what we have here. We have some local school systems that are worried that by virtue of having state charter schools that some of their turf is getting interfered. But it's about the children and the choice," said state Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta. "It's a control issue, and it always has been."

The amendment would codify the authority of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, an organization created by the state in 2008 after complaints that school boards were turning down charter school applicants, preventing competition. But the commission began approving and funding charter schools even at the objection of the local boards, illegal under current law. That's when the Georgia Supreme Court stepped in.

"The Georgia Constitution says local boards control where local dollars go, so if a charter school only gets state approval and not local approval, no way can they receive local funds. They can only receive state funds," said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators or PAGE, which opposes the funding. "The people who are putting this constitutional amendment on the ballot are trying to do that in our Senate right now -- are really trying to do a run-around the Supreme Court ruling."

Critics say the move to create a state board will damage the public education system because the amendment would allow the state to siphon money from cash-strapped districts at a time when they're facing almost $1 billion in cuts.

"Our state is very strapped in terms of funding," Callahan said. "We have cut by over $2 billion the education budget over the past eight years or so, and we have a funding formula that dates back to 1985 (and) has not been updated for inflation."

Education spending accounts for almost half of the state's yearly budget but GOP leaders promise no money will be taken from school districts.

"This bill in no way touches any kind of local funding," Lindsey said. "In fact we put in to the Constitution a specific provision that guarantees there will be no local money used for these state charter schools. But keep in mind also that these schools that are in the more rural areas. It's a lot of these kids that need charter schools the most and it's the children in those areas we're most concerned about."

Lindsey said charter schools are a beneficial addition to the education world -- they build, not break down, community education.

"Charter schools are part of an overall tool in the tool box for education reform," Lindsey said. "It, along with the myriad of other programs, is extremely important in terms of giving parents and students a greater choice in what is the best education for a particular child and it encourages education achievement and success along the way. It creates innovation."

But Callahan said Georgia charter schools don't outperform public schools.

"Parents are hungry for the latest thing -- whatever may be the best for their children," he said. "And that's understandable, but we all need to step back a little bit and take a deep breath. The best research we've had on charter schools and its pretty comprehensive says that only 17 percent of charter schools actually do better than the public schools they replace."

The amendment is supported by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who has gotten involved in the push to get the legislation passed. Lindsey said he is confident the bill will pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support as it did in the Georgia House. "This is somewhere we can all find common ground," Lindsey said.

If it passes the Senate, the constitutional amendment would go on the ballot in November for voters to decide.


‘Johnny No Friends’: the new role model in British schools

Some UK schools are banning ‘best friends’ to spare children the heartbreak of falling out. Bad move

Will Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer soon be banned from school libraries in England? Not because it contains the word ‘nigger’, which has led it to be censored in some US schools, but because it contains a heinous example of young boys being best mates.

In some English schools, having best friends can now get you in serious trouble with teacher. At the weekend, it was reported that primary school children in certain areas are being discouraged from having best friends to avoid the ‘pain of falling out’. Gaynor Sbuttoni, an educational psychologist working with schools in south-west London, told The Sunday Times, ‘I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn’t have a best friend and that everyone should play together… They’re doing it because they want to save the child the pain of splitting up from their best friend.’ Sbuttoni is not the first to speak out against this trend in the UK, and ‘no best friend’ policies have been in place in some US schools for quite a while.

Reading the reports, it might seem like this is just a silly intervention by meddling teachers, which simply needs to be stamped out. But that underestimates what is going on in our schools. The teaching profession is being reformed as a therapeutic profession, often prioritising the delivery of therapy over education to ‘vulnerable’ children and young people. As this new therapeutic profession develops, more and more interventions like ‘no best friends’ will arise, either spontaneously in classrooms or as a result of conscious intervention by school heads, local authorities, government and, of course, Ofsted, which runs with every fad and fashion.

Meddling in young children’s emotional lives is the worst feature of contemporary schooling. Children are now trained to have ‘appropriate’ emotions through emotional literacy classes and so-called subjects like SEAL - the ‘Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning’. The training on offer in such sessions is nothing short of emotional manipulation. Children are taught to be moderate; empathy is good, anger is bad. They are taught to be emotionally dead, out of touch with all the emotions that make up human relationships, passion, anger, jealousy, hatred and even love, which is sentimentalised and sanitised. This is the anodyne therapeutic ethos that now dominates education at all levels.

The excuse given by advocates is that this is all done in the name of protecting children from harmful emotions and emotional relationships. Here’s an example that shows just how manipulative this concern with emotional literacy can be. A friend’s daughter told her that she didn’t like SEAL, but she understood that ‘some of the children in my class have problems with anger management’. She is nine years old and worryingly in danger of becoming an emotional police officer.

These emotional interventions are well meant, but their impact is a dysfunctional one. They create ‘can’t cope’ kids. In this way, teachers are in fact creating the situation that they fear - that kids won’t be able to cope with falling-out, not only with best friends at school but with other friends later in life and then perhaps with girl- or boyfriends. Keeping children together in emotionally safe packs where no one gets too close to anyone else is scary, like something from Brave New World.

Despite the negative effects, teachers adopting therapeutic approaches, expressing concern with emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and emotional wellbeing, will often find they are lauded by parents, schools and local authorities. Schools promoting such therapeutic initiatives can be rewarded with better funding and increased status. This may seem a cynical view, but there is an explanation for it. As teachers have given up their commitment to teaching the traditional subjects, all sorts of fads and fashions have filled the vacuum. The emotional meddling that many of these initiatives involve has an added advantage for teacher and pupils when there is nothing being taught or learnt. The assumption is that children are the best authorities on what they feel. No need to teach them anything!

In the past, children learned their emotional sensitivity and robustness not just from the playground and friends, but also from literature. Poetry, plays and novels teach a range of emotions and feelings that go far beyond the limited and often vulgar interactions of the playground. As their immersion in literature has diminished, children are instead taught lists of ‘appropriate’ feelings. What hope have they of experiencing the higher emotions, those once induced by art and literature?

Many of the best-friend models that we encounter in literature would be damned as ‘inappropriate’ today. Christopher Robin and Pooh; Tom Saywer, Jim and Huck Finn; Iago and Othello; Macbeth and his Lady - all of these relationships have qualities that make them eternal and yet ban-happy teachers would probably find them objectionable.

In the past, therapeutic interventions at school were often about helping Johnny or Sarah ‘No Mates’. These were sometimes effective, helping lonely and sad children to get a best friend. Now it seems that for some emotionally meddling teachers, Johnny and Sarah No Mates are becoming the ideal role models for all our children.


Australia: Victorian Government gives power to school principals

PRINCIPALS are being given greater power to run their own schools under measures to remove red tape.

Education Minister Martin Dixon has announced a series of measures he claims will cut bureaucratic interference and provide more support for schools that are struggling, in line with the recent Gonski review.

The State Government's reforms include handing responsibility for teacher professional development back to principals, as well as funding leadership arrangements.

Principals will also be in charge of the purse strings for services such as speech therapy, psychological services and behaviour therapy.

Mr Dixon said onerous reporting requirements would be abolished to free up principals' time, while new roles would be created to monitor underperforming schools and intervene where required.


22 March, 2012

Some apt comments on America's ever-worsening education system

With some rejoinders, mostly lame

  1. “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.” The campaign trail has historically been a place where reason and common sense go to die, and in the 2012 election that seems to be holding true. GOP candidate Rick Santorum recently made headlines by calling President Obama a “snob” for supposedly saying every American should go to college so that he could “remake people in his image.” Apart from the fact that the president never said that, Mr. Santorum happens to hold three degrees — one more than President Obama.

  2. “Like his colleagues in the faculty lounge who think they know better, President Obama demonizes and denigrates almost every sector of our economy.” Presidential candidate Mitt Romney would like you to note that he was making odd jabs at education well before Rick Santorum. In September 2011, Romney attempted to paint a picture of the president drinking brandy with east coast intellectuals while mocking blue-collar workers. The “faculty lounge” in question was apparently another reference to Harvard’s faculty lounge, the first coming in August. Romney told veterans Obama’s foreign policy is weak, saying, “That may be what they think in that Harvard faculty lounge, but it’s not what they know on the battlefield.” There’s just one problem, Mitt old chap: you went to Harvard and Harvard people donate money to your campaign.

  3. “Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school.” Your 9-year-old doesn’t have enough money, you say? Well has he thought about being a janitor at his school? Thus proposed candidate Newt Gingrich at a Harvard (big surprise) speech in November 2011. Newt Gingrich was born 70-years-old with white hair and a tie, which explains why he had no idea it would be excruciatingly embarrassing to be a janitor at your own school. Or that the suggestion was pretty darn offensive.

  4. “The idea that they’re telling us how to educate our children or how to deliver health care or how to, for that matter, clean our air is really nonsense.” The notion of getting the government out of, well, pretty much everything has been en vogue with Republican presidential candidates this season. Before his campaign crashed and burned, Texas Governor Rick Perry was making the least convincing argument of the group. He said he doesn’t think the government has a role in children’s education, a very controversial idea considering the millions of low-income students who depend on government Pell grants to defray the rising cost of higher education.

  5. [The] Department of Education … has eviscerated the constitutional understanding that the control of education truly lies with the parents.” Another GOP flame-out, another controversial quote. Rep. Michelle Bachmann jumped on the ditch-the-department-of-education bandwagon, saying in September 2011 that the Constitution intended for parents to control their kids’ education. Of course, this begs this question: how does federal government involvement in education preclude parents from educating their kids? Is she saying because someone got a Pell grant you can’t homeschool your kid now? We’ve never heard anyone wish that American parents would get less involved in their children’s learning.

  6. “There’s no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to be dealing with education. We should get rid of the loan programs. We should get rid of the Department of Education and give tax credits, if you have to, to help people.” Never one to shy away from controversial statements, Ron Paul has been calling for the abolishment of the Department of Education for some time. Paul is much more of a respected Constitutional scholar than, say, Rick Perry, and it bears mentioning that some distinguished scholars agree with him. However, Paul’s statement that poor students pay for college with tax credits doesn’t make sense when many of them likely pay no taxes as it is.

  7. “I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union are a group of political thugs.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a lot of weight with conservatives, and he doesn’t back down from tough talk if he thinks it will tip the scales in his favor. He has conducted a very public heavyweight bout with Jersey’s teachers unions, calling them “thugs” and claiming they care more about “putting money in their own pocket and in the pockets of members than they care about educating our most vulnerable and needy children around the country.” So teachers are in it for the money. That’s rich.

  8. “Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.” This one came from the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. Sen. John McCain’s camp claimed in a TV ad that Barack Obama wanted to teach sex ed to kindergartners, making grandmothers across the nation spit their tea out all over their Reader’s Digest. The accusation came of a controversial bill Obama voted for as a senator that the left claimed was intended to protect kids from sexual predators, a claim the right denied.

  9. “People should not be coming into the state trying to intimidate lawmakers, offer up threats or anything else. That’s just not the way it’s done, at least not in the Midwest. And thankfully, again, our lawmakers stood up to those sorts of thuggery attacks, and we’re not going to allow that here in the state of Wisconsin.” Although Chris Christie may have dropped the “thugs” tag on teachers unions, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker never actually went there. Still, his reference to “thuggery” has been widely misremembered by many who were offended by what they considered a controversial statement against teachers unions.

  10. “People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around … Brown or black versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem.” He’s not a politician, but Bill Cosby sailed away from the continent of political correctness when he basically said the civil rights advancements that have been made in education have been for naught. “We have million-dollar basketball players who can’t write two paragraphs,” he said. “We, as black folks, have to do a better job.”


British deputy headteacher fired for carrying pupil, 6, out of playground wins pay-out after becoming so impoverished she had to take work as a cleaner

A deputy head who was sacked for carrying a pupil back to his classroom has won a pay-out after becoming so impoverished she had to take work as a cleaner. Debbie Ellis, 51, and another teaching assistant lifted the boy by the armpits after he refused to leave the playground.

Mrs Ellis had taken action because a sex offender had recently been spotted at the school gates.

But the teacher was sacked after school governors launched an investigation. She then brought a claim for unfair dismissal against the governors of Hafod-y-Wern primary school at Wrexham, North Wales, following the 'grave injustice.'

At an employment tribunal yesterday her solicitor Tudor Williams announced that a confidential pay settlement had been reached.

Mrs Ellis, who has worked as an office cleaner since her sacking in February last year, said : 'It’s a massive weight off my shoulders. I’m pleased and relieved. 'What happened has had a huge impact on my life and my family’s life. It affected my health initially. I’m pleased it is all done and dusted.

'I will take a breather and put life back into perspective and look at my options. I don’t want to go back into teaching right now after what has happened. I need a while to think.'

Mrs Ellis, who was supported by her daughters Claire, 31, and Nicola, 29, at the hearing, added : 'I loved my job. I was very dedicated and was shattered when this happened. I’ve had letters of support, and the support of my husband Edwin throughout.'

Mrs Ellis, from Mold in Flintshire, said her troubles began when she had been in charge of Hafod-y-Wern because the headmaster was away for a day. When the boy refused to come inside after playtime, staff phoned his mother, but she was not able to come to the school, which has 250 pupils, straight away.

So Mrs Ellis and a teaching assistant went outside, lifted the boy under his armpits and carried him indoors.

The incident was reported to the headmaster and the local education authority became involved. She was suspended.

Her solicitor said last year : 'My client decided she had to do something and asked a teaching assistant to go with her. They lifted him under the armpits and carried him to the classroom.

'It’s shown on CCTV footage but the school governing body thought it showed gross misconduct by physical and emotional abuse of the pupil - it doesn’t.'

Mrs Ellis was dismissed a year ago after a two-day disciplinary hearing. She said she had a 20-year teaching career until her life was shattered by the dismissal. Another teacher was also sacked and two teaching assistants disciplined.

Mr Williams, an employment solicitor based in Wrexham, said Mrs Ellis would now have to wait to hear if the General Teaching Council for Wales will take any action. 'The council referred the dismissal to the GTCW,' he explained.

Mr Williams said the financial settlement, before any evidence was heard by the tribunal, was 'very acceptable to my client.'

The solicitor added : 'This school playground had been used as a shortcut and two weeks earlier a man had been spotted performing a sex act outside the school gates. 'Any teacher would be concerned about a pupil being outside in the playground on his own. Anything could have happened.

'Just imagine if he had been allowed to stay there and wandered off on to the main road or a stranger came in and abused or abducted him. All these things weighed on my client’s mind.'

Wrexham council have not yet commented on the settlement.


Government schools as middle-class welfare

Australian commentator Gerard Henderson is really stirring the pot below. But what he is implicitly advocating would move even more kids into private schools, which would undoubtedly be a good thing

These days, it's all the fashion to condemn middle class welfare - except when such largesse is enjoyed by relatively well-off parents who educate their children in a government school.

Last week, a friend who lives on Sydney's lower north shore received a wanted-to-buy letter from a real estate agent. The agent had a client "who is currently looking to buy a 3-4 bedroom house in the North Sydney area". The potential purchasers have two requirements: first, "they are looking to spend $1.3 to $2 million". Second, they are "looking to move into the catchment area for North Sydney Demonstration School".

So the purchasers expect to spend up to $2 million on a house. Good luck to them. And they expect that taxpayers will fund the education of their children virtually free of charge at a well-regarded comprehensive government primary school. After that, the children would still be in the "catchment area" for one or more of the well-regarded government secondary schools on the lower north shore.

If well-off Australians choose to forgo private health insurance and rely on Medicare and the public hospital system, they are required to pay a higher Medicare levy. However, when well-off Australians avoid private education and rely on the government system for the education of their children, there is no financial disincentive of any kind. The taxpayer pays all.

The concept of free education is so ingrained in the Australian national psyche that it is rarely, if ever, challenged. So even the rich can have their children educated for free without economics journalists who bang on about middle class welfare saying a word.

The expert panel headed by David Gonski, whose final report on the Review of Funding for Schooling was recently handed to the Gillard government, did not tackle this issue. Why? Well, it was not in their terms of reference because this is not a discussable matter. That's why.

Gonski and his colleagues recommended that "in a new model for funding non-government schools, the assessment of a non-government school's need for public funding should be based on the anticipated capacity of the parents enrolling their children to contribute financially towards the school's resource requirements".

This is a fair point. However, if the parents' capacity to pay is a relevant criterion when assessing government funding of private schools, why is it irrelevant when assessing the taxpayer funding of government schools?

In other words, why should a person who lives in a $2 million house in North Sydney pay nothing to educate his or her children - while a person of modest means living in a rented flat be required to make a financial contribution to educating their children in the local Catholic primary school or some similar entity?

The question is never answered because it is rarely asked. I made this point some years ago when I received a rare invitation to address a literary festival. The atheist-inclined, sandal-wearing Byron Bay set became most upset when I suggested that in a truly egalitarian society the middle class should make a contribution to the education of their children, perhaps even grandchildren, attending government schools.

The issue of state aid to non-government schools was an issue throughout much of the 20th century. The demand came from Catholics who had established their own separate education system in the late 19th century. A convenient brief account of this controversy can be found in the book A History of State Aid by, among others, Ian R. Wilkinson and published by the Education Department in 2006, when Julie Bishop was the federal minister.

The Catholic campaign achieved two major breakthroughs in the 1960s, when the governing Liberal Party was anxious to ensure preferences from the Democratic Labor Party, which had substantial Catholic support in Victoria and Queensland.

In late 1963, Robert Menzies announced that the Commonwealth would provide all secondary schools with money for science laboratories. Then, in 1967, Henry Bolte's Liberal government in Victoria provided per capita funding for children attending non-government schools. In time, all non-government schools benefited from these initiatives.

Initially, opposition to state aid came from those opposed to Catholic schools. In more recent times, opponents of state aid have consisted of individuals opposed to non-government schools - sometimes because they oppose religious schools, whether Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or Protestant - and sometimes because they believe government always knows best.

What the critics of the non-government sector overlook is the fact that less well-off parents who make a contribution to their children's education reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer. Whereas well-off parents who send their children to comprehensive or selective government schools get a free ride on the taxpayer. Not only on Sydney's lower north shore.


21 March, 2012

Collective Bargaining Curbs Save Wisconsin Schools Millions

The very legislation that nearly provoked riots inside Wisconsin’s capital also saved many school districts from financial ruin or having to fire significant numbers of teachers, concludes a report released this morning from the Education Action Group.

The Wisconsin legislature and Gov. Scott Walker (R) passed Act 10 in early 2011. It sparked a weeks-long, raucous protest in Madison’s streets and the capitol building, as well as a recall against Walker, his lieutenant governor, and four state representatives. The law limits most public-sector collective bargaining to salaries, not benefits, and caps public employee’s annual raises at the rate of inflation.

“Act 10, or at least some form of it, was desperately needed,” the report quotes from Glenn Schilling, superintendent of Hartland-Lakeside schools. “Collective bargaining is outdated. Things that made sense 20 or 30 years ago no longer make sense. But to get things out of the contract and make needed changes was impossible.”

Facing a $3 billion budget deficit, Walker cut state school spending by $555 per student, advocating the collective bargaining restrictions as a door to balanced budgets for districts that had to then cover their own shortfalls.

Act 10 also let districts require public employees to contribute up to 12.6 percent of their salaries to health insurance and 5.8 percent to pensions. Both figures are just below the averages of what private workers in the state pay for the same benefits.

Because of these requirements, just the ten school districts that saved the most this fiscal year together saved $85.6 million, according to figures from the MacIver Institute.

“Hundreds of school districts saved a great deal of money,” the report says, “which helped them absorb the blow of reduced tax revenue. Those savings would not have occurred without Act 10.”

Freedom for School Districts

Before Act 10, unions could negotiate with districts on nearly any detail of school organization or spending they liked. The report details how pre-Act 10 arbitration systems locked school districts into unwanted, unwieldy practices and high spending.

“The tools given to us were absolutely necessary,” New Berlin finance director Roger Dickson told the report authors. “We could have been facing cuts in programs, increasing class sizes and a watered-down curriculum.”

In New Berlin, the teacher salary schedule was set so that teachers could move from a $38,000 salary to $78,000 annual salary in nine years. Union officials refused to revisit the schedule or an expensive early retirement program, even though the school district was broke, until Act 10 went into effect. Using the act as leverage, the school board was finally able to renegotiate.

Union Budget Obstruction

Since 1998, teacher benefits more than doubled statewide, to $27, 053 per year, while teacher salaries increased by approximately one-quarter, from $37,897 to $50,627. Both increased every year, despite the recent recession, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

“Arbitrators could force school districts to give their union employees large raises without strongly considering whether the schools or local taxpayers could afford such an expenditure,” the report notes.

The report lists many instances across the state of union officials obstructing school boards’ efforts to balance budgets, keep taxes low, and maintain education quality for students. It also discusses many bargaining agreements required schools to purchase expensive, union-affiliated health insurance, rather than shopping around.

This school year, despite cuts but able to negotiate health costs and more, districts hired 1,799 more new hires than teachers they laid off or saw retire, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.


Church of England schools 'to expand to combat secularism'

Hundreds of new Church of England schools are to be opened to spread Christianity and combat “aggressive secularism”, it emerged today.

At least 200 Anglican primaries and secondaries could be established within the next five years as part of a major expansion plan outlined by the Church.

A report – to be published later this week – will also recommend rebranding existing Anglican schools to “reinvigorate” them in the face of competition from new academies and free schools.

The Church will also propose a more structured programme of advice to secular schools on improving their religious education and boosting exam results.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s board of education, said major reform was needed to tackle “the level of religious illiteracy in our society”.

He also said the changes – to be formally outlined in a report released on Friday – would allow faith leaders to confront the growing influence of secularism.

It follows comments last month by Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, that British society was under threat from a rising tide of “militant secularisation”.

Bishop Pritchard said: “The whole national context is one in which secularist debates, whether it be on equality, gay marriage, employment in schools, a whole range of things, are bringing up the issues of secularist versus [religious] approaches to society’s life.”

Currently, the CofE runs 4,800 out of 23,000 state schools in England.

But the Church is keen to expand its influence on the back of the academies and free schools programme, which takes schools out of direct local authority control and places them in the hands of charities, entrepreneurs and faith groups.

Speaking before the publication of the report, Bishop Pritchard told the Sunday Times that around 200 new schools could be opened under the reforms in just five years.

The report will also suggest joining with other religions to open a new wave of multi-faith schools.

A group of Church officials is also to be created to design a re-branding strategy for existing Anglican schools, which could result in a new name or logo, internal reorganisation and a campaign advertising the benefits of a faith-based schooling.

Bishop Pritchard, who has led the review, accused the Government of failing to prioritise religious education.

“Successive secretaries of state have discovered that [religion] is such a contentious area and because the level of religious illiteracy in out society is so high, that we don’t know how to handle religious diversity,” he said.


Furious parents withdraw children from Italian nursery after it's revealed teacher posed for glamour calendar

The fathers probably did not object

Furious parents have pulled their children out of an Italian nursery school after it emerged that one of the teachers posed for glamour calendars as part of her extra curricular activities.

Brunette Michela Roth, 38, sparked fury among mothers at the school but - unsurprisingly - not fathers, after news leaked out that she had posed in sexy see through underwear.

American born Miss Roth, who has lived in Italy for more than ten years, has also won several beauty contests including 'Miss Mamma Italiana' and 'Miss Cultetto D'Oro' (Miss Golden Bottom) and has been the talks of TV chat shows and newspapers since the story broke.

In a country which at times still struggles to throw off its sexist attitude and its obsession with scantily clad women it is the latest in a series of stories which have focused on the attractiveness of protagonists.

Only last month a bar owner who served in skimpy tops and short skirts made headlines around the world after her local newspaper printed several pictures of her.

Miss Roth, is a teacher at Castello di Serravalle near Bologna and today was not at all fazed at the fact parents has pulled their children out of the nursery.

She said: 'For me being a model is my second job. I do shoots when school is over and especially in the holidays when I am back in the United States. I am always dressed in the pictures and never naked.

'Maybe I could have been a model but I just love being a teacher. I think there is a little bit of envy going on here and it has gone over the top - there are also mums who tell me that their children can't wait to see me in the morning.'

Miss Roth found herself in the spotlight after posing for a Harley Davidson calendar and after news leaked out furious parents began pulling their children out of the school with one telling the local newspaper: 'She is too attractive and I don't want her teaching my son.'

However Miss Roth hit back and said: 'You just have to ask anyone at the school who will tell you that I am a complete professional when it comes to being a teacher and a model.

'I've heard that the parents who have withdrawn their children are in the park trying to convince the other parents to do the same - I imagined I might get some criticism but I never thought parents would take their children out of the school.'

On her Facebook page their are pictures of the mother of one at the beauty contest as well as her kick boxing in micro-shorts and vest, while she describes her status as 'complicated.'.

Her favourite quotation is: 'Women would like to have more children than that have but if they do they have to turn their back on their careers and professional life. In Italy there is a problem of feminine liberty that affects the possibility of procreating, of having children without being penalised.'

As of today Miss Roth's Facebook page had been inundated with requests for friendship with more than 2,500 subscribers while her local newspaper Il Resto del Carlino ran an online poll which showed 82 per cent of readers backing her.

The head of the school was unavailable for comment but a meeting to discuss the situation is due to be held with parents later this week.


20 March, 2012

Harsh Rhetoric Tempts Bad Law

The governor of Utah recently vetoed a law that would have banned schools from teaching contraception in sex education classes in the state. I have mixed feelings, both about the veto and the proposed law. As a conservative, I dislike the idea of passing laws that reduce free speech and the flow of information in the classroom. At the same time, as an advocate of a parent’s right to govern the education of their children, I can understand the frustration that makes such a law tempting in the first place.

All things being equal, I would desire decisions about teaching policy at individual schools to be made at the lowest possible level, with the greatest possible deference given to the parents unless some truly indispensable knowledge is at stake. The history of court decisions in this country, most notably in the 9th Circuit, tells a far different story. Parents are increasingly feeling left out of decisions that affect their ability to educate, discipline, or even raise their children without some form of government interference. The spirit of this problem is reflected in the statement of one of the comments of one critic of the proposed laws:

Is it not categorically absurd to think that if we don’t teach our children about it, they will operate effectively from a paradigm of ignorance and make good decisions?

It would indeed be absurd were that what was actually being proposed. It is not. The statement assumes that only the public school system is willing and qualified to provide children and adolescents with a reasonable level of knowledge pertaining to sex. The history of public schools, particularly in recent decades, hardly shows them to be the last bastion of capable instruction. Indeed, parents teaching students at home have begun to show that parents are quite capable of instructing students better than teaching professionals when available. This is not to denigrate the work of teachers. This simply recognizes that public school settings can seldom match the attention and motivation that parents are able to give their own children. To insist that they are incapable of educating their children with regards to some of the most important decisions they will make in life is arrogant and presumptuous, and does nothing to promote the kind of partnership between parents and teachers that would truly benefit everyone.

Posted by Gary Baker

Antisemitic students at University of California San Diego (UCSD)‏ supported by faculty


California campuses have become the epicenter for anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-American activism, student groups at UC San Diego led by Students for Justice in Palestine introduced — for the third time — an initiative aimed at divesting university funds from “U.S. companies that profit from violent conflict and occupation.”

In the end, the student groups who had sponsored this odious divestment resolution actually lost their bid to implement it.

Supporters of the divestment initiative immediately proclaimed that the initiative had failed because opponents of the resolution were “racists” and bigots. They claimed opponents pressured the student government representatives to vote down the campaign in a manner that created a “hostile campus climate … for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities,” suffering victims who are now “hurt, [and] feel disrespected, silenced, ignored and erased by this University.”These victimized students and faculty also self-righteously proclaimed in a letter to the UCSD administration that the pro-Israel faculty and staff who spoke against the resolution at the meeting should not even have had a voice in the proceedings: “The fact that they can state whatever they like at public meetings because of academic freedom but while also using their positions of authority as professors or staff for power and intimidation is not acceptable.

Letter from The Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East:

We are the members of the board of Scholarsfor Peace in the Middle East (SPME), a grass-roots community of more than 50,000 academics on 4,000 campuses all over the world, who have united to promote honest fact based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We have noted with concern the degradation of civil discourse on campus and the increasing harassment and intimidation of pro-Israel and Jewish students and faculty in Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
In response to that concern, the SPME Legal Taskforce recently produced a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Speech.

Recent events at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) are a case in point. On February 29, 2012, after having tabled it in the two prior years, the Associated Students of UCSD (ASUCSD, the student government) defeated a resolution calling on the University system to divest from US companies, specifically General Electric and Northrop Grumman. UCSD's Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had proposed the resolution, alleging that those companies supply components of Apache Helicopters that are sold to Israel and used by Israel's defense forcesagainst the Palestinian "population."After seven hours of contentious public statements and debate, the ASUCSD voted against the resolution.

One of the speakers who opposed the resolution was UCSD University Professor Shlomo Dubnov of the Music department, who heads the campus chapter of SPME. He reported to us that pro-divestment students at the meeting had used abusive language toward anti-divestment students and had called him a racist.

On March 2, leaders of five student organizations (SAAC, MEChA, KP, BSU, MSA, SJP) who had led the pro-divestment initiative sent a letter to faculty, administrators, and members of the UCSD Campus Climate Council "to address the hostile campus climate being created for students of color and students from underserved and underrepresented communities." The letter alleged that pro-Israel speakers at the meeting who referred to themselves as ‘UCSD staff' or ‘UCSD professor' used their positions as University employees to verbally attack students and to even "erase the existence of many individuals in the room."

Their letter also states: "Students report that at this meeting one particular Music Department faculty member verbally harassed a student outside of the 4th floor Forum," presumably referring to Professor Dubnov, who was the only member of the Music Department at the meeting. He asserts that he never engaged in any direct conversation with pro-divestment students in that setting and that numerous faculty, staff and UCSD students can verify that. Professor Dubnov shared the letter and his denial of the allegations with the head of the UCSD Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, who is investigating these allegations and verifying the specifics with others who were in attendance.

The complaints were never officially filed but sent publicly in a series of emails to the UCSD departments of Ethnic Studies and Critical Gender Studies and to the San Diego Faculty Association (SDFA). Without any fact-finding, the SDFA immediately endorsed the allegations and issued a public statement accusing pro-Israel faculty, and Professor Dubnov specifically, of verbally attacking "students of color."

SPME believes that the SDFA has violated the UCSD code of conduct and compromised its integrity by publishing unproven allegations. We urge UCSD to determine which individuals present at the February 29 meeting were actually using abusive language, and to implement whatever procedures the UCSD codes specify.

Received via email

Work experience is key to gaining a place on top British university courses

State school pupils could be missing out on places at top universities because they are not doing enough work experience, a study suggests.

Work placements are seen as essential or desirable for large numbers of prestigious courses at Russell Group universities, particularly medicine, dentistry and veterinary science.

But state school pupils are less likely than those from independent schools to undertake such placements, the Manchester University study found.

Researchers found university applications from independent school pupils drew on 55 per cent more examples of work experience than those from state school pupils, and the nature of the work was also different.

State school candidates were more likely to cite unskilled work, such as Saturday jobs, than a placement or internship, while independent school pupils were six times more likely than their state school counterparts to cite work ‘experiences’ instead.

Dr Steven Jones, who conducted the research, said debates on university access must ‘recognise that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement’.

Dr Jones studied admissions requirements at the Russell Group of leading universities and found that work experience was desirable for all veterinary science courses, 91 per cent of dentistry, 88 per cent of medicine, 37 per cent of law courses, 28 per cent of engineering courses and 21 per cent of business and economics courses.

Presenting the findings at a seminar staged by the Education and Employers Taskforce, Dr Jones said: 'There is a need for debates surrounding university access to recognise that work experience is important in the admissions process, and that independent school applicants are at an advantage because they have both access to high quality placements and the know-how to exploit it in their personal statement.'

He said state school A-level students with good grades could end up 'missing' from top universities due to a lack of good quality work experience.

Dr Anthony Mann, director of policy and research for Education and Employers Taskforce said: 'Dr Jones's research provides new evidence demonstrating the high importance of work experience to HE admissions.

'It makes a difference to who gains admission to highly competitive courses which are gateways to attractive professional careers. 'It is important that state schools are aware of its importance and helped to access the sort of placements which independent schools routinely source through their alumni.'

Chris Sydenham, head teacher of the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, a comprehensive in West London, said: 'Young people want to do meaningful work experience but placements are often hard to find for those without family or other accessible and usable connections with the working world.'


Australia: Private schooling is clearly better

Randwick Boys High and Randwick Girls High are next door to each other yet separated by a wide divide in academic performance. The boys school ranks 458 on the MySchool website while the girls school ranks 231. So close yet so far apart. Just how distracted are the boys for them to lag so behind the girls in performance?

According to data on the MySchool website, the schools have very similar socio-economic catchment areas, as expected, while Randwick Boys received $1220 more per student than Randwick Girls last year. So why was there such a gap in overall results as measured by the federal government's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) scores?

I hadn't realised the difference between the aptitude and attention spans of girls was so much greater than boys of comparable social background. Unless there is more to the story. There is. Randwick Boys High is not unusual. It is emblematic of a broad divergence in performances when like-for-like comparisons are made via the MySchool data base and its socio-economic index known as ICSEA.

The disparity is stark when public and private high schools with comparable scores on the ICSEA socio-economic index are compared.

Just down the street from Randwick Boys is the Catholic boys school Marcellin College. Again, the schools are close in every way except academic ranking. They are close on the ICSEA index. Randwick Boys also received $614 more per student than Marcellin College last year.

Yet in the overall NAPLAN scores, Marcellin ranks 122, far ahead of Randwick Boys at 458. Marcellin's ranking is also more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls, which wipes out the female superiority factor. Another nearby Catholic boys schools, Waverley College, also ranks much higher than both Randwick Boys and Randwick Girls, at 165.

It's not just about money. Although Waverley rated higher than Marcellin in the ICSEA index, and received almost 30 per cent more income per student, Marcellin delivered more bang for the buck, outranking its Catholic rival by 43 places.

Overall, the MySchool is telling us that private schools are producing a better education than public comprehensive schools even when they have similar resources and similar socio-economic catchment areas. The disparity in performance does not change when the comparison is shifted to girls schools.

Again, the distance between Randwick Girls High and a nearby Catholic girls school, Brigidine College, is not great except in academic rankings. The two schools are a couple of streets apart. They are very close on the ICSEA socio-economic index, with a slight advantage to Brigidine. Financially, they are almost identical. Brigidine received $11,337 per student last year and Randwick Girls received slightly more, $11,444 (both below the state average of $12,539).

Brigidine used its similar modest resources to excel, ranking 120 on MySchool, more than 100 places ahead of Randwick Girls. Another nearby Catholic girls school, St Clare's, Waverley, again with a socio-economic index similar to Randwick Girls, also ranks much higher at 152.

An even more striking gap exists between Randwick Girls and St Catherine's, an Anglican girls school in Waverley. They are only 2.7 kilometres apart and there is not a great socio-economic distance, with St Catherine's ranking 10 per cent higher (wealthier?) on the ICSEA index.

The similarities end there. St Catherine's ranks 52, an elite performance among the state's 783 secondary schools. It also received $21,020 per student, almost $10,000 more than Randwick Girls. That explains a lot.

The difference in incomes came from the pockets of parents, who paid a stiff premium in the expectation of their daughters receiving a markedly superior education than they would at a comprehensive public school. Parents of Brigidine and St Clare's girls also received superior performances for their investment, which usually involves financial strain. These are not rich schools.

Obviously, it is only fair to acknowledge that comprehensive schools are being strip-mined of their best and most motivated students (and parents) by selective public schools and private schools, which now have 40 per cent of the student population.

It is also important to note a wide discrepancy in the percentage of students who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds in the seven schools mentioned here: Randwick Boys 75 per cent, Randwick Girls 55, Brigidine 28, Marcellin 23, St Clare's 21, St Catherine's 13 and Waverley College 7.

The high percentage of non-English-speaking-background students at Randwick Boys would appear to account for the drag in the school's relative performance. But this in itself is not a marker of disadvantage. Many of the best schools in the state have very high percentages of such students.

The top academic school in NSW, James Ruse Agricultural High, has 96 per cent of its students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The MySchool data offers an overall conclusion: when private schools and public schools are handed a similar cohort of students and income, most private schools produce clearly better results.

For those with reservations about the MySchool rankings, I share those reservations. However, this is transparency at work.

This is a Julia Gillard-driven initiative that is designed to drive improvements in performances. Soon, the NSW government will introduce a momentous change, giving independence to public school principals.

Headmasters will have to spend a lot more time on management and budgets than they do now. But they will be largely liberated from the NSW Education Department. They will have the flexibility enjoyed by private school principals, and resources can be shifted from the bloated central bureaucracy to front-line schooling.


19 March, 2012

Governor Jindal’s School Voucher and Tenure Reform Bills Pass Louisiana House Education Committee

Voucher and Tenure Reform Bills Pass House Committee by Wide Margins, Head to Senate Committee

In two landslide votes, the Louisiana House Education Committee passed a voucher reform bill, HB.976, and a teacher tenure reform bill, HB.974, by margins of 12-6 and 13-5, respectively. The bills are part of a larger education reform package proposed by Governor Bobby Jindal, which includes vouchers for students in under-performing public schools, performance-based tenure, and tax credits for individuals and businesses to sponsor tuition for the schools that best meet a child’s educational needs.

“This is great progress for the hundreds of activists engaged in the campaign for school choice in Louisiana,” commented David Spielman, Campaigns Coordinator for FreedomWorks. “We have been working tirelessly to educate taxpayers on the merits of competition in the educational marketplace, especially in a state that currently ranks 49th in the nation. We will be at the Capitol today to urge the Senate Education Committee to pass their versions of the voucher and teacher tenure reform bills today, and to remind them that children are worth challenging the status quo for.”

FreedomWorks and its network of 15,000 volunteer activists in the state of Louisiana launched a grassroots campaign this week to support Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform package. To advance these reforms, a broad coalition of local activists, tea party groups, and educational reform groups have been visiting district offices, phone banking, door-to-door neighborhood walking, as well as hosting strategy calls, education seminars and campaign meetings throughout the state. FreedomWorks plans to maximize the efforts of the activists on the ground with voter education materials, targeted door hangers, yard signs, t-shirts, and bumper magnets. FreedomWorks is confident that these measures will pass both legislative chambers, and despite protests from the unions, end up on the Governor’s desk for his signature soon.


Campus Paper Won‘t Print Horowitz Response to ’Anti-Muslim Bigot’ Charge‏

When David Horowitz, famed pro-Israel and anti-radical Islam activist, spoke at the University of North Carolina, he received a famously chilly reception from the students, including one whose father has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. But UNC wasn’t done with Horowitz – he was also hammered by no less than three people in the campus paper, the Daily Tar Heel for alleged anti-Muslim feelings.

Horowitz isn’t taking it lying down. In a letter originally sent to (and apparently rejected by) the Daily Tar Heel, obtained exclusively by the Blaze, Horowitz throws down the gauntlet for his critics and challenges them on the idea that speaking out against radical Islam necessarily makes one a bigot:
Bronson Brim
Chairman Daily Tar Heel Board
University of North Carolina

Dear Bronsom,
I am appealing to you as the chairman of the Tar Heel Board to honor the principles of journalistic integrity that are included in the statement of Tar Heel policy. I note that the Tar Heel policy commits the Tar Heel to embracing standard journalistic ethics and to serving opinions that are not generally heard in the UNC community.
I have been slandered by three opinion columnists of your paper as anti-Muslim bigot. Your own reporter accurately quoted the statement I made in my speech at UNC two days ago that there are good Muslims as well as bad Muslims. I also said in a passage she didn’t quote that the majority of Muslims are decent, law abiding people who want peace. I made no statements in my speech that could be construed as anti-Muslim. I asked your editor Steven Norton to publish a short letter in which I defended myself. So far I have not heard back from him despite repeated attempts to reach him. Is it your policy to allow people to use your pages to defame others without evidence and have no opportunity to respond and clear their name? Consider that the UNC students who invited me now stand accused on their own campus of inviting a religious bigot. Surely, politics aside, the Tar Heel community should have the decency to recognize when an injustice is being done not only to an invited visitor but to UNC students to correct it.

This is my the letter I sent to Steven Norton responding to the slander by Josh Orol and Stephen Mitchell which appeared your paper:
Dear Steven,

While the Tar Heel reporter wrote a fair-minded piece about the circumstances surrounding my speech (and I applaud you for that), two op-ed columns and a letter also appeared which misrepresented what I said and defamed me in the process. I would very much appreciate it if you would run the following as a letter to the editor, or preferably as an op-ed column:

Apparently, it is easier for the presidents of campus Hillel and the Muslim Students Association to condemn a defender of Israel than to condemn those who call for the destruction of Israel and America, and the murder of their inhabitants. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah has called for “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” publicly as have Mahmoud Achmadinejad, the president of Iran, Mahmoud al-Zahar, the founder and leader of Hamas and Ahmed Bahar, a lesser known member of Hamas who was chairman of the Gaza Parliament. The spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusef al-Qaradawi has publicly said that the Holocaust was a just punishment for the Jews and wished that the followers of Allah would finish the job that Hitler started. On campuses across America, members of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association along with assorted leftwing groups have chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The Jordan River is Israel’s eastern border; the Mediterranean Sea is its border to the west. In other words these students are chanting “Destroy the Jewish state.”

In their Tar Heel columns, the presidents of MSA and Hillel accuse me of being an anti-Muslim bigot. This is a lie exposed by the Tar Heel’s own reporter who quoted me accurately saying in my speech, “There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims.” I also said that “the majority of Muslims [are]… “decent, law abiding citizens…who want peace.” I then pointed out that there were also good Germans but that in the end they didn’t make “a damn’s worth of difference.” This is a true statement, and no one would accuse me of being anti-German for making it.

Unfortunately, conflating Muslim terrorists with all Muslims is a typical tactic of campus apologists for jihadists who are at war with Israel and the United States. Opponents of the Islamic jihad against the West, like myself, are routinely accused of being “anti-Muslim,” which is a term designed to shut down debate and make opponents of genocidal movements seem the indecent ones — instead of those who make excuses for them. This concerted assault on a civil exchange of ideas does not prevent these same students from forming groups like “The UNC Committee on Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue” whose founder walked out of my speech when it had barely begun.

The closed-minded students – mainly but not exclusively members of MSA – who came not to listen to what I had to say but with the intention of walking out on cue exemplified an attitude that is all too common on campuses today. The intent of these “protests” is to defame a speaker whose views they oppose but cannot answer intellectually.

The Environmental Studies major who joined their walkout and wrote a letter about it to the Tar Heel is apparently hard of hearing. I did not say that Palestinians were descended from red-headed Philistines. I said the geographical term “Palestine” is an appellation that was given by the Romans to the historic homeland of the Jews to humiliate them since it was indeed from derived the word “Philistine,” their historic enemies.

Mahmoud Al-Zahar, the co-founder of Hamas and one of its current leaders has said, “There is no place for you Jews among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.” If the Muslim Students Association on this campus does not support Hamas or this statement, its leaders should say so. If the student co-president of campus Hillel is appalled by this statement he should not call someone who is also appalled by it “anti-Muslim.” The majority of Muslims, as I said in my speech, are law-abiding, decent and peaceful people who would (or should) be appalled by it as well.

David Horowitz

For those curious what Horowitz is responding to, this sample from UNC Hillel President Josh Orol’s article should sum it up nicely:
To make the broad claim that Arabs want to kill Jews — and that Islam is a militant religion bent on the destruction of Israel and the United States — is to destroy the principle of pluralism that the freedom of speech is meant to uphold.

Horowitz’s remarks marginalize Muslims and their faith, undermining the respect for minorities that makes possible UNC’s diverse but unified student body.

We will not stand for discriminatory generalizations directed toward any group of students on this campus, especially ones with whom we have such a good relationship. UNC Hillel students stand in public solidarity with the UNC Muslim Student Association and all those whom Horowitz has offended. Hate speech has no place in our community.

Orol has yet to author any pieces condemning the anti-Jewish bigotry of many prominent Arab leaders in the third world. Nor is it clear why the Tar Heel has refused to print Horowitz’s reply.


Bullied to death in an Australian school

Indiscipline bears fruit. Guess why 39% of Australian High School students are in private schools?

THE family of teenager Alex Wildman, who took his own life after being beaten and bullied at school, is to receive a six-figure payout from the New South Wales Education department.

The 14-year-old died by suicide on July 25, 2008 at his family's home at Goonellabah, near Lismore, after being bullied by other pupils at Kadina High School.

Alex, described as a "highly intelligent and sensitive young man", endured attacks and threats at Ingleburn High School in Sydney in 2007 and the bullying started again when he moved to Kadina.

A coroner found bullying had contributed to his suicide and made various recommendations, including that the department ensure students at large high schools have access to full-time school counsellors.

The family began a civil case against the department, claiming it breached its duty of care owed to Alex.

But on Friday - the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - a District Court judge was told the case had been settled in favour of the family.

The figure, believed to be close to $1 million, will be held in trust until the youngest of Alex's three siblings turns 18.

A departmental statement later said the death of Alex was a tragedy.

"The NSW Department of Education and Communities offers its condolences to Alex's family and friends," it said. "The recommendations from the coronial inquiry into Alex Wildman's death are being implemented by the department.

"The terms of settlement in this matter make further comment inappropriate."


18 March, 2012

The Supreme Court can’t fix university admissions policies

Universities have a history of ignoring the law to engineer the right ethnic mix on campus

The charming assumption of the plaintiffs in Fisher v. University of Texas—a case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear—is that if five robed justices behind mahogany desks tell universities to stop discriminating by race in their admissions policies, universities will stop. (Fisher involves a white female student allegedly passed over for admission in favor of less-qualified minority candidates.) Yet regardless of what the justices say, university officials will give up their firstborns before they let go of their beloved racial preferences.

Fisher backers hope that the presence of John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the bench means that the Supremes will shut the door that their ruling in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger flung open to racial preferences. In Grutter, the Court accepted the University of Michigan’s argument that “diversity” was a compelling state interest. And consideration of race on an individualized basis was constitutionally acceptable to promote it.

After Grutter, the University of Texas went to town.

A little history: The 5th Circuit Court’s 1996 Hopwood ruling had banned the University of Texas from explicitly using race in admissions, prompting then-Gov. George W. Bush to sign Texas’ pioneering “10 percent solution,” a race-neutral way to help state schools keep their minority numbers up. Under his solution, Texas automatically admits the top 10 percent of every school’s graduating class, including inner-city schools. Even liberals admit that this strategy was better for campus diversity than the regime of straight-up preferences.

But once Grutter gave the green light to race-based admissions, UT decided that the 10 percent strategy was not yielding a “critical mass” of minority students in every major and every classroom. Hence, it tacked its old race-based standard onto the new scheme. The upshot? The university’s Hispanic and African American population went up from 23.23 percent to 26.65 percent—a whopping 3.42 percentage-point bump.

Racial preference opponents are hoping that the Supreme Court will overrule the racial component of Texas admissions and—if they get lucky—the Grutter decision itself. But what if they get their wish? Will that usher in a new era of colorblind campuses?

Not a chance.

For starters, the 10 percent solution is something of a scam, one that seeks a specific racial outcome via race-neutral means. But the instructive case of Michigan’s public universities offers more evidence as to what happens when race-ban activists get what they want: nada. In 2006, outraged by the Grutter ruling, Michigan voters approved Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that outlawed race in government hiring and college admissions. Undeterred, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman defiantly declared that she “will find ways to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity.”

She wasn’t bluffing.

She enlisted the College Board, the company that administers the SAT, to develop Descriptor Plus, a geo-demographic tagging service, to filter applicants. This involves using demographic factors other than race to identify under-represented “neighborhood clusters.” Here’s how it works, in theory: Descriptor Plus could identify, say, two clusters of low-income students living in single-parent homes, one cluster in a predominantly black Detroit ZIP code and another in a majority-white ZIP code in upper Michigan. The University of Michigan could then decide that it wants to give the Detroit cluster greater preference than the one in upper Michigan, thus achieving a racially balanced student body without openly using race.

Such flouting of voter will would be bad enough. But UCLA law professor Richard Sander maintains that the university’s claims that it had given up the explicit use of race for Descriptor Plus were “total bulls***.” Sander, a self-avowed liberal who opposes preferences because he believes they harm minorities, filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain Michigan’s admissions data for 2008. The university’s minority numbers had barely budged, something that was hard to explain, even with Descriptor Plus. The only way this could have happened was if the university was still explicitly using race, Sander’s regression analysis revealed.

This demonstrates that universities will use proxies, subterfuge and outright violation of the law in their quest for the “right” student mix. And it raises a troublesome question: Is there some way to get them to stop? There’s nothing foolproof, unfortunately. Going through courts and legislatures is an exercise in futility. For example, getting the University of Michigan to give up race requirements would require more time-consuming FOIA requests to gather information, then filing lawsuits (in which the university would outspend and out-lawyer its opponents). Meanwhile, the legislature would have to engage in an intrusive examination of the university’s books, inevitably inviting accusations of abrogating academic freedom.

The best option might be to open up university admissions to public scrutiny through full-disclosure laws. Just as publicly traded companies are required to disclose accurate financial information to investors, public universities should be required to declare what admission standards they use for which groups (including, incidentally, children of alumni and donors, the other big beneficiaries of preferences) along with each group’s graduation rates. This would force the universities to defend any blatant double-standard in public. And smart kids who felt that the university was diluting its standards too much might choose other schools—as might minority students who feel the university is setting them up for failure.

This solution is far from ideal, of course. But realism might be a better friend in fighting this battle than starry-eyed appeals to the Supremes.


Girl, 12, 'interrogated' by school staff until she gives up Facebook password

This is a disgrace. How is this caring for the children?

A 12-year-old girl is suing her school district after staff at Minnesota middle school searched her Facebook and e-mail accounts.

The sixth-grade Minnewaska Area Middle School student, named in court documents as R.S., claims she twice suffered humiliating punishment for things she had written on Facebook.

She was also pressured by school officials to given them her password.Her complaint, back by the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges that the girl's First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

It states: 'R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room' as she watched a counsellor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The girl claims she felt that one of the school's adult hall monitors was picking on her, so she wrote on her Facebook wall that she hated the monitor because she was mean. The message was not posted from school property or using any school equipment or connections, the lawsuit states.

Somehow, the school principal got a hold of a screenshot of the message, and punished R.S. with detention and made her apologize to the hall monitor.

She was in trouble again shortly thereafter for another Facebook post, which asked who turned her in, using an expletive for effect. She was given in school suspension and missed a class ski trip.

In the third incident, according to the complaint, R.S. was called in by school officials after the guardian of another student complained that R.S. had had a conversation about sex on Facebook.

The girl was allegedly called to a meeting with a deputy sheriff, school counsellor and an unidentified employee, where she was intimidated into giving up her login and passwords to her Facebook and e-mail accounts.

‘R.S. was extremely nervous and being called out of class and being interrogated,’ the lawsuit says. It adds that the officials did not have permission from R.S.'s mother to view her private communications, and gave her a hard time about some of the material they discovered.

The school district maintains that such searches did not cross any boundaries. A spokesperson said: ‘The district is confident that once all facts come to light, the district's conduct will be found to be reasonable and appropriate.’


British regulator says English standards in primary schools 'too low'

Standards of English in primary schools should be dramatically raised because too many pupils start secondary education with poor reading and writing skills, Ofsted warned today.

In a damning report, the education watchdog said almost a third of pupils who reached national targets at 11 failed to gain good GCSEs in the subject aged 16. It claimed that standards had been “flat” since 2005 because the demands put on children were too low.

Ofsted told of key weaknesses in the way the subject was delivered at all ages, with schools often shunning creative and extended writing tasks and failing to teach the basics of spelling and handwriting.

It also emerged that many schools were placing an “increasing emphasis” on analysing non-literary texts such as holiday brochures and complaint letters to pass exams instead of requiring pupils to read whole novels and poems.

The conclusions were made as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector, prepared to outline a 10-point plan to drive up standards of reading and writing.

In a speech on Thursday, he will call on the Government to set tougher English targets for all 11-year-olds amid fears current demands in primary schools are too low – leaving children struggling with the basics in secondary education.

In a further move, Sir Michael will say that more specialist English teachers should be parachuted into primary schools – or clusters of small primaries – to drive improvements.

He also recommends:

* Giving parents regular updates on their children’s reading age – showing whether they are reaching the basic standard expected for their peer group;

* Prioritising Ofsted inspections in schools with the lowest levels of achievement in English;

* Sharpening up the inspection process to ensure all trainee teachers are being taught how to deliver phonics – the back-to-basics method of reading;

* Tightening up regulations for childminders and nurseries to ensure they place a greater emphasis on promoting speaking and listening skills among under-fives.

In a speech at a primary school in west London, Sir Michael will say: “There can be no more important subject than English. It is at the heart of our culture and literacy skills are crucial to pupils’ learning for all subjects.

“Yet too many pupils fall behind in their literacy early on. In most cases, if they can’t read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school careers.

“As a result, too many young adults lack the functional skills to make their way in the modern world. We are no longer a leading country in terms of our literacy performance: others are doing better.”

Currently, the average pupil is expected to achieve at least “Level 4” in exams taken at the end of primary school. This means they can write complex sentences and spell accurately in English.

Figures show around one-in-five children – more than 100,000 – currently fail to reach the benchmark each year. Results have only marginally increased between 2005 and 2011, it was revealed.

But Ofsted warned that hitting the target was no guarantee of success in secondary education. According to data, 45 per cent of pupils who just passed Level 4 at 11 failed to go on to gain at least a C grade in GCSE exams last summer – the result expected of the average 16-year-old. Some 29 per cent of the total number of Level 4 pupils missed out on a C grade.

In a report on the teaching of English, published to coincide with Sir Michael’s speech, Ofsted said that “too few schools gave enough thought to ways of encouraging the love of reading”, with many pupils failing to read whole texts.

A common activity in many English lessons was the "teaching of features of a persuasive text", said Ofsted, but this was involved "studying holiday brochures or writing letters of complaint" instead of reading novels and poems.

The teaching of writing was also “variable in quality, with too little attention given to spelling and handwriting”, Ofsted warned.

The Department for Education said it was already assessing English standards as part of a wider review of the National Curriculum and was introducing a reading check for all six-year-olds to pick out those struggling the most at the start of school.

“We want England to move back up the international league tables and for children to leave school with the knowledge that will stand them in good stead for their future careers and adult life,” a spokesman said.

But the comments were condemned by teachers’ leaders who accused Ofsted of attempting to undermine schools. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Both Ofsted and the government need to get the balance right between labelling pupils and their teachers as failures, and helping them improve learning. “Countless tests and stressful inspections are not the answer.”


17 March, 2012

UNC Students Walk Out of Pro-Israel Talk — Led by Student Whose Father Is Tied to Muslim Brotherhood

David Horowitz has never been one for making Muslims feel comfortable. His anti-Sharia activism on college campuses, especially, has yielded interesting results, sometimes including open support for extermination of Jews, as with what happened at the University of California San Diego.

But now Horowitz might not even be getting the chance to speak. In fact, the pro-Israel activist’s Monday speech at the University of North Carolina (UNC) led to a mass walkout by students, which left almost no one in attendance to hear Horowitz’s talk. The Daily Tar Heel picks up the story:
In Monday’s lecture, Horowitz argued that Palestine is trying to destroy Israel and that Israel fights back only in self-defense.

Horowitz criticized groups like the Muslim Students Association, linking them to various terrorist groups. He also compared Muslims to Nazis.

“There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims,” he said. “But there were good Germans too, and in the end they didn’t make a damn difference.”

The walkout has since spawned multiple disavowals and apologies on the part of other pro-Israel groups, including the campus chapter of Hillel.

But was Horowitz that far off? Information about one of the students involved in the walkout, who has since spoken publicly on behalf of those who did choose to walk out, suggests that there may have been more afoot than simple reaction to “bigotry.”

The Daily Tar Heel article quotes one Mariem Masmoudi, a co-founder of the University of North Carolina’s Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, as calling Horowitz’s words “completely insulting and destructive.”

This sounds innocent enough until you realize that Masmoudi is more than an innocent, offended college student. She is, in fact, an experienced student revolutionary who has blogged about her experiences fighting in the Tunisian “Jasmine” revolution at her aptly named blog, “Youth in Revolt.” She describes herself this way:
My name is Mariem Masmoudi, and this site is the electronic equivalent of my life for the 6 months between January and August, 2011.

I withdrew from my last semester at UNC-Chapel Hill before my planned-May 2011 graduation to do what I can in the pursuit of real and lasting democratic reforms. [...]

This is a blog about youth in an ACTUAL revolution.

As it turns out, not only is she a former youth revolutionary, but her own father runs an organization which arguably has deep ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Meet Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, former engineer turned co-founder of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). CSID’s bio describes him thusly:
Radwan has written and published several papers on the subject of democracy, diversity, human rights, and tolerance in Islam. In recent years, Radwan has visited, organized events, and spoken at major international conferences in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan, Nigeria, the Philippines/Mindanao, Germany, South Africa, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

Sounds like Dr. Masmoudi might be one of those Muslim equivalents of the “good Germans,” right? Maybe, maybe not. Many of Dr. Masmoudi’s efforts have received glowing coverage from the Muslim Brotherhood, including a little gem titled “Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts.” The leader of these experts? Radwan Masmoudi. His organization, CSID, also coordinated with the Muslim Brotherhood to host a Tunisian terrorist leader in June of last year.

In the interests of fairness, it should be noted that Masmoudi and his daughter may simply be too naive to know who their friends are. Some might say they have the wrong enemies, if the younger Masmoudi’s response to David Horowitz is any guide.


Warning over acute shortage of primary school places in England

The education system is at crisis point because of a lack of primary school places, a leading academic has warned. Prof John Howson, senior research fellow at Oxford University, said the shortage of places for five-year-olds was the “biggest problem” facing schools in England.

He warned that successive governments had failed to properly prepare for the surge in applications, which has been caused by rising birth rates and the effects of immigration.

The comments came as figures showed that more than 800,000 extra places would be needed in state-funded nursery and primary schools by the end of the decade.

According to official forecasts, the number of under-11s in the education system will rise from 4m to 4.82m by 2020 – taking the primary school population to its highest level since the early 70s.

It is feared rising numbers of children will be placed in mobile classrooms or taught in converted church halls to ease the pressure on places in some areas, particularly parts of London and the south-west.

Prof Howson, managing director of, an Oxford-based research company, said schools “have known this boom was coming for quite a long while and both the last government and this government have been very tardy in dealing with it”.

“I think it is probably the biggest problem that is facing schooling in Britain at present,” he said. “The last government was fixated on rebuilding every secondary school when it should have been diverting some of that many into building places in the primary sector.”

The Coalition has pledged to invest £4bn over the next four years to create additional primary school capacity.

But there are fears it will not be enough to ease the pressure on places in some areas. Sutton Council in south London recently appealed to the Government to increase the maximum class size for infants – from 30 to 32 – because of the demand for places.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Prof Howson added: “Many parents are anxious that their child will not be able to go to the local school; that they may be separated from people who live next door to them.

“In some cases, there will be a lot more demountable classrooms taking up space in school playgrounds because we haven’t built enough new primary schools. And in some cases, that may mean that we have to take emergency measures like converting other buildings into primary schools.”


Sydney university perceived as being in the world's top 100

Since I have a large document issued to me by USyd, I am rather pleased by this. Rankings are all very arbitrary but perception is arguably the most important criterion -- JR

The University of Sydney is among four Australian universities ranked in the top 100 by reputation, in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2012.

Sydney was ranked 50, up from last year's position in the 51-60 slot, but behind the University of Melbourne and Australian National University, which were placed 43 and 44 respectively. The University of Queensland also moved up, to be listed in the 71-80 block.

Each of the four improved their positions from last year, the first time Times Higher Education published the peer-voted list.

The elite, "super group" of universities in the top 10 is dominated by American and British institutions with one Japanese university breaking into the top tier. Harvard tops the list and the University of Cambridge is third, with the University of Tokyo coming in to eighth position.

Melbourne and ANU are ranked more highly on the performance rankings at 39 and 40 respectively, while Sydney and UQ have a better reputation than performance, listed 60 and 76 on the list of top performers.

California Institute of Technology is the top performer on the traditional rankings, which has Oxford ahead of its long-time rival Cambridge.

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings, said Australia's position on the reputation list was good news for the country, showing that its global reputation was improving, while some of the most distinguished universities were falling in stature.

"This reputation-only index is very good news for Australia – all four of its representatives in the world top 100 have risen up the table, with three of the four now making the global top 50. This is clear evidence that Australia's universities are rising in stature internationally, while competitors in the US and UK are seeing their global brands suffer."

More than 17,000 academics from 137 countries were surveyed about "the best" institutions in their own field of expertise. The list is intended to complement the Times's traditional performance ranking, which it publishes in October.

"This is a subsidiary of the world rankings, it's based only on reputation alone," Mr Baty said. "It's a very quirky exercise - and it's purely based on academics' perception so it's a subjective opinion only."

Mr Baty said Simon Marginson, an academic at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education, had been a helpful adviser on improving the way universities are represented.

"Funnily enough, the origins of this is Simon Marginson from the University of Melbourne - he often has been a great critic of rankings but he's been a very helpful adviser to us on how we make our rankings more rigorous and more transparent.

"With the main rankings which we publish in October we use 13 performance indicators: research impact, we look at income, we look at research productivity, we look across a real range of indicators, and he always used to argue that we separate the subjective part of the main rankings."


16 March, 2012

Student Loans: America's Next Debt Bomb

I understated things earlier when I wrote that the student loan bubble “may” explode in taxpayers’ faces, as law professor Glenn Reynolds pointed out. An explosion seems increasingly likely. The Washington Post recently concluded that student loans could be America’s next “debt bomb“: “Bankruptcy lawyers have a frightening message for America: They’re seeing the telltale signs of a student loan debt bubble,” notes the Post. “Bankruptcy lawyers have seen a substantial increase in the number of clients seeking relief from student loans in recent years.” Many of the “parents or guardians who co-signed the student loans face the prospect of losing their life savings, cars or homes to collection agencies.” In recent years, student loan debt has skyrocketed from $100 billion to $867 billion, “surpassing the $704 billion in outstanding credit card debt,” says UPI. There has been a massive “spike in” student loan debt owed to the Education Department over the “last three years.” Will these skyrocketing financial burdens lead to a clamor for massive bailouts at taxpayer expense?

This massive student loan debt is not buying much of an education for many students. At Minding the Campus, Mary Grabar discusses the slanted, error-filled writings used to teach English majors in America’s politically correct universities, where ignorance of history is apparently a selling point. Texts for English students celebrate Obama’s speeches, like his Cairo speech that contained historical errors, and treat them as if they were on par with the Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. As Grabar notes, in the English texts that venerate Obama’s speeches, “Obama’s historical inaccuracies in” his Cairo “speech go unchallenged, like attributing the invention of printing to Muslims (it was the Chinese) or crediting Morocco with being the first to recognize the United States ( No–Russia, France, Spain and the Netherlands did it earlier).” As Grabar points out, “Obama’s claims in his Cairo speech are presented without any skepticism” by English textbook writers, despite the factual errors, and the fact that even the liberal Huffington Post noted the speech’s “lack of substance.”

As USA Today noted earlier, college students learn less and less with each passing year, according to recently-released research. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learned little in four years of college, and students now spend “50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

Actions by the Obama administration have increased college costs and driven up tuition. The administration has discouraged vocational training needed for high-paid, skilled factory work, contributing to a severe shortage of skilled factory workers — thus making it harder for factories to expand their operations and hire workers, including the unskilled workers among whom unemployment remains highest.


The Big Hoax of equal treatment in the schools

Thomas Sowell

There have been many frauds of historic proportions -- for example, the financial pyramid scheme for which Charles Ponzi was sent to prison in the 1920s, and for which Franklin D. Roosevelt was praised in the 1930s, when he called it Social Security. In our own times, Bernie Madoff's hoax has made headlines.

But the biggest hoax of the past two generations is still going strong -- namely, the hoax that statistical differences in outcomes for different groups are due to the way other people treat those groups.

The latest example of this hoax is the joint crusade of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice against schools that discipline black males more often than other students. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, this disparity in punishment violates the "promise" of "equity."

Just who made this promise remains unclear, and why equity should mean equal outcomes despite differences in behavior is even more unclear. This crusade by Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is only the latest in a long line of fraudulent arguments based on statistics.

If black males get punished more often than Asian American females, does that mean that it is somebody else's fault? That it is impossible that black males are behaving differently from Asian American females? Nobody in his right mind believes that. But that is the unspoken premise, without which the punishment statistics prove nothing about "equity."

What is the purpose or effect of this whole exercise by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice? To help black students or to secure the black vote in an election year by seeming to be coming to the rescue of blacks from white oppression?

Among the many serious problems of ghetto schools is the legal difficulty of getting rid of disruptive hoodlums, a mere handful of whom can be enough to destroy the education of a far larger number of other black students -- and with it destroy their chances for a better life.

Judges have already imposed too many legalistic procedures on schools that are more appropriate for a courtroom. "Due process" rules that are essential for courts can readily become "undue process" in a school setting, when letting clowns and thugs run amok, while legalistic procedures to suspend or expel them drag on. It is a formula for educational and social disaster.

Now Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder want to play the race card in an election year, at the expense of the education of black students. Make no mistake about it, the black students who go to school to get an education are the main victims of the classroom disrupters whom Duncan and Holder are trying to protect.


The cost of ‘fair access' in Britain will be higher fees

Last time I posted here, I attacked Professor Les Ebdon’s plan to poison the well of British higher education by subjugating the admission criteria of our best universities to ‘progressive’ political priorities.

However, before and after that article I’ve found that ‘merciless meritocracy’ is insufficient to sway some of my progressively-minded student friends. Equalising university access chances between high-achievers and the rest is ‘fair’. So entrenched is their opposition to selective and private education, or even the ‘internal market’ of parent choice, that the argument that it is schools that have failed similarly go nowhere.

So we who support the continued excellence of our top-flight universities need a new argument. One less vested in meritocratic principle not shared by our opponents, and grounded in something that both sides understand. Something like money, for example.

The case is fairly simple. Since Tony Blair engorged it, higher education in this country has become very expensive for the government to provide. As a result, governments have had to introduce fees, which have not been popular with students. Yet the fees for enfranchised domestic students have been held down by the much higher fees charged to international students.

International students are one of the financial keystones of UK higher education, worth “billions” of pounds per annum. The Guardian figures from 2009 show that foreign students were facing fees of up to £20,000 a year.

International students are willing to pay such fees, for now, because the UK’s best universities rank amongst the best on earth. With access criteria designed to ensure global competitiveness and attract the best and brightest from around the world, universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College et al are maintaining their global position despite the slump in the UK’s relative performance in secondary education exams.

However, if we start channelling less capable students into these institutions in the name of ‘fairness’, what do we think will happen?

For a start, the universities will have to expend ever more time and resources bringing their entry-level students up to the standards required for rigorous undergraduate study. It is also probable that the standards of attainment by graduates will fall as people who weren’t ready pass through the system.

Sure, in domestic terms the government can undoubtedly nobble these results: we will doubtless start seeing ‘value added’ degrees to maintain the illusion of attainment if the likes of Ebdon have their way. But in international terms, our comparative results will slump.

Much more directly than secondary education results, this will matter. If our universities are not internationally competitive, they won’t attract the same quality or volume of international students. The cost in global connexions and revenue could be astronomical.

Once the universities lose this lucrative source of funding, the only ways to make up the shortfall will be higher fees for students or higher taxes on the general population. Poorer students will find themselves taking on more debt for degrees whose value is decaying.

All in the name of ‘fair access’.


15 March, 2012

The Higher-Education Bubble Has Popped

A college degree once looked to be the path to prosperity. In an article for TechCrunch, Sarah Lacy writes, "Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe."

But the jobs that made higher education pay off during the inflationary boom, kicked into high gear by Nixon waving goodbye to the last shreds of a gold standard, came primarily from government and finance.

In 1990, 6.4 million people worked for federal, state, and local governments. By 2010, that number had grown almost 6 times — to 38.3 million — with many of these jobs being white-collar.

In 1990, the financial sector was less than 7.5 percent of the S&P 500. By 2006, this sector had grown to 22.3 percent of the S&P, and that year the financial sector constituted 45 percent of the index's earnings.

In fact, all this amazing wealth is fragile, a castle built on sands of illusion. It cannot last. There is no means to substitute banknotes and deposits for nonexistent capital goods.

Times have changed.

Last week, HSBC Holding Plc announced plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs worldwide by the end of 2013. The job cuts will affect "support staff where we believe we have created an unnecessary bureaucracy in this firm over a number of years," HSBC chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver said.

Goldman Sachs plans to cut 1,000 positions. Bank of America is laying off 1,500 employees and closing 600 retail branches.

At the same time that banks are trimming their fat, according to a Labor Department report released earlier this month, from May 2010 to May 2011 local governments shed 267,000 jobs and state governments 24,000. Local government employment in May, at 14.165 million jobs, was the lowest since July 2006.

An increase in the amount of real savings, which induces a fall in the interest rate and a lengthening of the production schedule, increases an economy's productive capacity, creating genuine growth brought about by the investment in higher-order goods such as factories and other production assets.

Conversely, easy, cheap credit fools entrepreneurs into believing that society's collective time preference has fallen, enticing them into investing in higher-order goods, such as land, factories, and the like — when in fact the collective time preference hasn't changed, and the demand for higher-order goods is merely a mirage. The result is booms and busts rather than genuine growth.

College degrees are similar to what the Austrians call higher-order goods. It's thought that a student will gain knowledge and seasoning in college that will make him or her more productive and a candidate for a high-paying career. The investment of time and money in knowledge pays through higher productivity and is translated into higher income. Higher education is the higher-order means to a successful career.

PayPal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, questioning the value of higher education, tells TechCrunch:

"A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It's like telling the world there's no Santa Claus."

The excesses of both college and homeownership were always excused by a core national belief that, no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated.

The New York Times' David Leonhardt even claims:

"Construction workers, police officers, plumbers, retail salespeople and secretaries, among others, make significantly more with a degree than without one. Why? Education helps people do higher-skilled work, get jobs with better-paying companies or open their own businesses."

Using data from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, Leonhardt asserts that dishwashers with college degrees make $34,000 a year while those without make $19,000.

No employer in their right mind would pay nearly double for a dishwasher with a college degree. However, there are plenty of fresh college graduates cobbling together multiple low-level jobs just to make ends meet.

"More college graduates are working in second jobs that don't require college degrees," writes Hannah Seligson in the New York Times, "part of a phenomenon called 'mal-employment.' In short, many baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers and bartenders are overqualified for their jobs."

Nearly 2 million college graduates were mal-employed last year, up 17 percent from 2007. Nearly half of all college graduates are working at a job not requiring a degree.

In the United States, 80,000 bartenders as well as 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees. Nearly a quarter of all retail salespersons have a college degree. In all, 17 million Americans with college degrees are working at jobs that do not require a bachelor's degree.

"Young college graduates working multiple jobs is a natural consequence of a bad labor market and having, on average, $20,000 worth of student loans to pay off," said Carl E. Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

"The median starting salary for those who graduated from four-year degree programs in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000, down from $30,000 for those who graduated in 2006 to 2008, before the recession," Seligson writes, adding, "Try living on $27,000 a year — before taxes — in a city like New York, Washington or Chicago."

Like all booms, higher education has been fueled by credit. In June of last year, total student-loan debt exceeded total credit-card debt outstanding for the first time, totaling more than $900 billion.

All of this credit has pushed the average cost of tuition up 440 percent in the last 25 years, more than four times the rate of inflation. But while the factors of production on campus have been bid up, just as they are in any other asset boom, the return on investment is a bust. In 1992, there were 5.1 million mal-employed college graduates. By 2008, the number was 17 million.

Not only are the returns poor, but the quality of the product is poor (as in the case of new-construction quality in the housing boom). According to the authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, 45 percent of students make no gains in their critical reasoning and thinking skills, as well as writing ability, after two years in college. More than one out of three college seniors were no better at writing and thinking than they were when they first arrived at their campuses.

Many projects contemplated and started during the real-estate boom are never completed, as prices are bid up, and owners run out of capital. Such is the case for many attending college, as over 45 percent of those who enroll as freshmen ultimately give up, realizing they lack the disciplinary and mental capital, and do not graduate.

Similar to the government push for increased homeownership, government is foursquare behind having more young people attend universities. One of President Obama's top goals is to increase the number of Americans attending college.

But why? "Among the members of the class of 2010, just 56 percent had held at least one job by this spring, when the survey was conducted," reported the Times recently. "That compares with 90 percent of graduates from the classes of 2006 and 2007."

And because they can't find jobs, 85 percent of college grads move back in with their parents after they graduate. According to a poll by Twentysomething Inc., a marketing and research firm based in Philadelphia, that rate has steadily risen from 67 percent in 2006.

Perversely, while the market tries to clear away malinvestments in finance and real estate, plus the jobs that supported them, colleges continue to turn out more business majors than any other discipline. In 2007 and 2008 there were more than 335,000 business degrees granted — 100,000 more than a decade before, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

At the same time as law schools have a building boom underway, many new law grads can't find work or are working temporary jobs at $15 an hour.

David Segal reports for The New York Times:

"As other industries close offices and downsize plants, the manufacturing base behind the doctor of jurisprudence keeps growing. Fordham Law School in New York recently broke ground on a $250 million, 22-story building. The University of Baltimore School of Law and the University of Michigan Law School are both working on buildings that cost more than $100 million. Marquette University Law School in Wisconsin has just finished its own $85 million project. A bunch of other schools have built multimillion dollar additions."

And while law grads can't find work, law schools are enrolling more students than ever before at tuition rates of $40,000+ a year. Segal explains that law-school tuition has increased at 4 times the rate of undergraduate education, which itself has increased 4 times the CPI. "From 1989 to 2009, when college tuition rose by 71 percent, law school tuition shot up 317 percent."

Students and their parents are investing in the higher-order good of a college degree, in the mistaken belief that plenty of jobs await college graduates at the end of four or six or seven years. However, time preferences haven't changed. The demand for consumer goods remains, and that's where the jobs are. The boom in demand for bankers, barristers, and bureaucrats is over.


Most British children still in mixed-ability classes, despite endless promises from ministers

Most classes in secondary schools are still mixed-ability, despite repeated Conservative and Labour promises to increase the use of streaming. Ofsted figures show that state school pupils are taught in streams or sets for just 45 per cent of their lessons. The split was the same 15 years ago.

Tony Blair’s decision to drop Labour’s historic support for mixed-ability teaching in 1997 was seen as an acknowledgement that the practice had failed a generation. Labour education ministers repeated the commitment, claiming that sorting pupils by ability helped ‘raise standards’.

While in opposition, the Conservatives also demanded changes. David Cameron called for a ‘grammar stream’ in every subject in all comprehensives, saying he was ‘passionate about the importance of setting by ability within schools, so that we stretch the brightest kids and help those in danger of being left behind’.

Despite this claim, his party has said little on the issue since entering into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Responding to a Commons written question, Tory schools minister Nick Gibb said last week: ‘The Department [for Education] has not provided specific guidance to schools on setting. However, case studies showing the effective use of setting in schools are available on the Department’s website.’

Figures show that just 36 per cent of year seven lessons – for 11- to 12-year-olds – observed by Ofsted inspectors in 2010/11 were organised into ability groups. The rate rose to 48 per cent among 15- to 16-year-olds, and averaged 45 per cent across all age groups. In 1997/98, the average was also 45 per cent. Year seven pupils had 31 per cent of their classes split by ability, while in year eleven the rate was 46 per cent.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘Teachers should have high expectations for all pupils regardless of ability, with brighter pupils stretched and weaker students given the support they need.

‘It is for schools to judge how and when to group and set pupils by ability – they are best placed to know exactly what their students need.

‘Parents would expect teachers to keep control of their lessons regardless of if it is mixed-ability or not – that’s why we have given them tough, new powers to restore their authority.’


New Australian Distance Education curriculum makes kids cry, mothers claim

REMOTE families are looking to move closer to town or leave Distance Education as a new curriculum plays "absolute havoc" with their lives.

Parents say children have been left in tears and are losing their self-confidence because of Distance Education curriculum material that contains factual errors, technical language even parents cannot understand and incomprehensible jumps in its content.

Education Queensland is being accused of playing "absolute havoc" with remote families' lives over its Distance Education version of Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C) - computer-based documents written to support the roll-out of the Australian Curriculum.

Cairns School of Distance Education Queensland Teachers' Union representative Mark Hollands said he was embarrassed by factual errors in the documents, the material assumed children had learnt concepts they hadn't, and it was too technical for parents.

Brisbane School of Distance Education agreed dozens of mistakes were made in their original package but said these were few overall and more explanations would be sent to parents soon.

Executive principal Neil McDonald said the package had a "95 per cent-plus rate of functionality on our first run".

Isolated Children's Parents' Association Queensland president Andrew Pegler said he acknowledged the hard work of curriculum writers to fix C2C problems but more resources were needed.

Far north Queensland mother-of-four Fiona Mitchell said children were in tears over the material, which they couldn't understand.

QTU president Kevin Bates said there were often problems in the beginning of any new curriculum roll-out.


14 March, 2012

Peter Thiel, university-hater, heads to campus

Peter Thiel, the superstar Silicon Valley investor, has famously dismissed university as a waste of time and money, and even offered students cash to drop out. But his views apparently do not apply to himself - or to Stanford University.

Thiel, 44, will teach at the elite university this spring, sharing pearls of entrepreneurial wisdom in a class called "Computer Science 183: Startup." The course is already oversubscribed, with Thiel's return to his alma mater sparking both enthusiasm and skepticism on a campus increasingly obsessed with start-up success.

"It's puzzling to us what he has to say," said Nruthya Madappa, a senior in electrical engineering who saw rumors of Thiel's class explode on her Facebook news feed on a recent evening and rushed to sign up "several minutes" after course enrollment went live.

"He's famously known to make people furious with his views and the way he questions things," she said. "But he's challenging us to look at our education here in a different way."

Thiel, who co-founded online payment processor PayPal and later reaped billions with bets on gilded names like Facebook, LinkedIn and Zynga, is known for his maverick ways, even emerging recently as the main financial backer for libertarian presidential contender Ron Paul. Thiel has argued that the brightest young minds should strike out on their own and start companies rather than take on crushing debt to pursue a college degree.

Never mind that Thiel himself holds both a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a law degree from Stanford; he has backed up his talk with his checkbook. Last year, Thiel started a fellowship that offered $100,000 to 20 budding entrepreneurs between the ages of 14 and 20 who would drop out to focus on their ventures.

But Thiel last year also submitted a formal course proposal to Stanford after approaching Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford computer science professor, to discuss the possibility of teaching. (Thrun has since left the university to work on an online education project.)

"If I do my job right, this is the last class you'll ever have to take," Thiel said through a spokesman.

Mehran Sahami, the department's associate chair for education, said the curriculum committee debated whether Thiel would use the class as a conduit to recruit students to his companies. Other faculty voiced concerns that they were "not sure of his motivations given his history with respect to universities," Sahami said.

"We went into this with eyes wide open," said Sahami, a former research scientist at Google. "But on balance, this would be something our students would benefit from."

Still others, like Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford's Rock Center of Corporate Governance, were not so sure.

"It's hypocritical, but I'm not surprised," Wadhwa said. "The same people who go around bashing education are the most educated. What's he going to do? Tell students, ‘When you graduate from my class, drop out right after that?'"

Jim O'Neill, the head of the Thiel Foundation, which administers the entrepreneurship fellowship, said that the investor has been concerned for several years about the skyrocketing cost of tuition and the burdens of student debt for many graduates.

"He's only said that college is good value for some people, it's just not necessarily a good value for everyone," O'Neill said. "He's not calling for the abolition of college."

Thiel chose to deliver his message in the classroom because he "wants to reach out to people in many different spaces," O'Neill said, adding that Thiel chose Stanford, his alma mater, because the university's startup culture made it a "natural fit."


British School exams subjected to equality checks to stamp out bias

Examiners are closely vetting primary school test papers to ensure they do not discriminate against children on the grounds of race or gender, it has emerged.

They have resorted to counting the number of black and white children pictured in exams to reduce “potential bias” in this year's tests, it was revealed.

Test developers analysed papers – sat by up to 600,000 children in England – to ensure they do not prejudice ethnic minorities, the disabled and boys as opposed to girls by using images that promote one group over another.

But Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, says examiners should go even further to minimise bias for "protected" groups. This could result in exam bosses monitoring the performance of gay and bisexual pupils in English, maths and science tests.

Critics have attacked the recommendations and claim that Ofqual should concentrate on monitoring exam standards instead of promoting equality. Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “It's political correctness gone mad.

“Of course, there shouldn't be any huge bias for any group but going into this sort of detail, such as counting the number of black children in diagrams, is a waste of someone's time and taxpayers' money.”

Pupils aged 11 currently take Sats tests in the final year of primary education in England. Test developers contracted by Standards and Testing Agency – an executive agency within the Department for Education – have already prepared for this year’s exams.

A report into the preparations – by Ofqual – said examiners had attempted “to identify items/questions which may be potentially biased against particular groups, such as boys in comparison to girls (and vice versa)”.

It also said they had analysed “the number of images of black and minority ethnic children appearing in the test paper versus the number of images of white children, the representation of children with a range of physical disabilities and the choice of personal names used in the questions”.

But is said examiners should go further by carrying out a “detailed analysis of the performance of children who fall within protected characteristics [of the Equalities Act 2010]”. This includes children of different sexual orientation, age, race, religion and those with disabilities.

An Ofqual spokeswoman confirmed that was recommending that the Standards and Testing Agency undertakes the additional analysis after the tests have been sat by all students.

She said that “previous studies have looked at the performance of different groups of pupils in tests under development, but not the actual performance of students when the tests are administered nationally”.

Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said that while equality was important, it was “absurd to pursue it to this extreme”.

“This pursuit of 'fairness' is getting in the way of the essential purpose of the tests, which is to look at the extent to which the young person can use words and numbers fluently,” he said. “Essentially, there's a balance to be struck between excellence and equality but it looks to me that political correctness has tipped us too far in the direction of equality.”


Australia: Bureaucracy of the NSW Department of Education will be stripped back under the state's biggest education revolution

NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli at Griffith North Public School. Picture: Nathan Edwards Source: The Sunday Telegraph

THE unwieldy bureaucracy of the Department of Education will be stripped back under the state's biggest education revolution in 50 years.

The move will potentially save millions of taxpayer dollars, which could be pumped back into schools but Premier Barry O'Farrell and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli have promised there will be no cuts to teaching staff or overall front-line school funding.

The sweeping changes announced yesterday will arm principals with unprecedented powers to hire and fire staff, control 70 per cent of school budgets and see teachers paid on performance - not years of service.

Mr Piccoli said the reforms were designed to de-centralise control and cut red tape by shifting decision-making from head office to school level.

"We're putting our principals and teachers back in the driving seat - allowing them to exercise their professional judgment and making them accountable for their decisions," he said.

The reforms will also fundamentally shatter the age-old allocation formula where school funding was based on student numbers.

This has long been criticised because a small change in students - of which a principal's salary is also pegged - can have a big effect on an individual school's budget and number of teachers.

Instead schools will control a budget that separates staffing and non-staffing funding and reflects not only its student population but a school's "complexity".

The Secondary Principals Council has welcomed the move to slash more than 200 policies governing administration, reporting and centrally run programs in favour of greater autonomy.

A spokeswoman said schools had a good track record for managing their accounts, whereas within the department "you do wonder where the money goes?"

It comes as the Opposition, Teachers Federation and the Greens warned the reforms were a "smokescreen" for the government to slash school funding and leave principals to shoulder the blame.

Opposition education spokeswoman Carmel Tebbutt said the decision to "break the nexus" of funding based on pupil numbers offered nothing to hold the government to account. Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the real motive was to slash up to $700 million from the education budget and leave principals holding the can when schools deteriorated.


13 March, 2012

School Threatens to Remove Student From Honors Society Over Church Work‏

A Virginia high school is threatening to remove a student from the National Honor Society because she completed her community service work at a local church.

The 17-year-old senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology filed a federal lawsuit claiming that she is a victim of religious discrimination.

“In essence, she was targeted and discriminated against solely because of the religious nature of her community service work,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund. Sharp is represented the unidentified student in her lawsuit.

“There’s no honor in penalizing an honors student’s community service to children just because it happens to be faith-based,” Sharp said. “Positive community service and leadership like this should be encouraged by schools, not subjected to unconstitutional discrimination.”

The trouble started last fall when the student submitted her required hours for membership in the National Honor Society. Students are required to perform at least 12 hours of service to maintain membership. Sharp said his client had more than 46 hours of service – working with children in her church’s “Kids Quest” Sunday school program.

However, the faculty adviser told the student that her hours would not count because her work was done in a church and was in violation of district policy.

According to the ADF, the Fairfax County School Board’s Faith-Based Service Policy states that in order to be considered for credit, faith-based activities “must have a secular purpose…and may not include preparation or participation in the performance of religious services.”

The National Honor Society addressed the issue in a memorandum dated April 2010 and titled, “Can activities done for a religious group be counted as service hours for members completing NHS or NJHS chapter service requirements?”

In short, the NHS said the answer is “yes and no.” According to the memorandum, teaching Sunday school at church “may be readily fall under the aspect of leadership experiences also required of members. Assuming the responsibility for preparing and presenting lessons and supervising a group of students for an hour would generally be seen as evidence of demonstrated responsibility and leadership skills for an individual student.”

However, the NHS defers final permission to the individual school district, noting “One can argue both sides of this question.”

A spokesperson for the school system said they were not aware of the lawsuit and would be unable to comment.

Sharp said the school system’s behavior has been outrageous. “It’s the school policy that prohibits any credit for community service done at church,” he said. “She sees a need and is passionate to help these children. But because it’s done through her church she was told her hours would not be recognized, but if she had gone to the local Boys and Girls Club and done the exact time of work she would have been given credit.”

Unless his client makes up the 12 hours of community service along with four additional hours, her name will be submitted for removal from the NHS.

“This really is an outrageous example of targeting religious community service and religious beliefs for discrimination,” Sharp said.


Australia: Wage bonus for top teachers planned under NSW education shake-up

THE greatest revolution to hit NSW education in 50 years will mean teachers are paid for their performance.

In a massive power shift from bureaucrats to principals and teachers, not only will high-achieving teachers be paid more, principals will be able to hand-pick staff and control school budgets from Kindergarten to Year 12.

The sweeping set of O'Farrell government reforms will be announced today, Sunday. Implementation will begin in April and be complete by 2015.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said principals would receive salary incentives to work in remote and disadvantaged parts of the state and would take charge of 70 per cent of school budgets, up from the present 10 per cent.

The moves are likely to spark revolt from education unions because the government is dumping the old formula of setting teachers' pay by years of experience.

Instead, pay will be linked to professional standards - so a brilliant 23-year-old teacher could earn more than a 40-year-old colleague. The reforms cover Kindergarten to Year 12.

Director-General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

From next month, principals will have unprecedented control of school budgets, and staff will be paid more to teach in remote and disadvantaged areas, under the reforms, which Education Minister Adrian Piccoli will have fully implemented by 2015.

The reforms are separate to the federal government's proposed changes to the funding models following a report by businessman David Gonski.

The reforms cover all schools and all students from Kindergarten to Year 12 and will mean the Education Department will allocate school funding on a wide range of factors - including the school's location and students' special needs - rather than the present formula where funding is determined simply according to the school's number of students.

Principals will control 70 per cent of their funding budget rather that the 10 per cent they are responsible for now.

They also will be able to source school supplies locally rather than from head office.

School funding will be simplified from 600 separate streams to just two - one for staff and one for equipment. Principals will have the flexibility to take funding from the equipment budget and use it to hire additional teachers if they are required, but they will not be permitted to use funds meant for staffing to purchase other items.

The reforms will start to kick in following the Easter Holidays, for Term Two of the school year, and be gradually phased in for all schools over the next three to five years.

A pilot study of 47 schools is already underway and that will be expanded to 229 schools next year.

Director General of Education Michele Bruniges said the reform was the biggest in at least 50 years and would result in NSW schools moving from being the nation's most "centralised and bureaucratic" to the most "progressive and innovative".

Work on the reforms began in April 2011 following Mr Piccoli's appointment as education minister.

They follow consultations with 1800 principals, as well as the close examination of successful models in countries such as Finland.

Ms Bruniges said the reforms were designed to put teachers and principals front and centre in the education of the state's children.

"The reforms give principals the licence to innovate and their passion for teaching will drive that," she said.

"The situation where the principal of a school must take all direct responsibility, but have no control, is not a good place to be when you are in charge of the teaching and learning of other people's children."

Mr Piccoli said he had formed firm ideas on the best way to drive the state's education needs forward after meeting with more than 200 principals.

"I'm convinced on the feedback from principals and the advice from the Director General that this is in the best interests of students in public schools in NSW," he said.

The state's 2242 principals will have to adhere to new leadership capabilities and standards for principals, and teacher salaries will be based on meeting professional standards that are already in place.

Ms Bruniges said the government expected some resistance from the Teachers Federation, but said the position was non-negotiable from the government's point of view.

"The alignment to salary is a really big item, it's a big change," she said. "Just because you've spent time in the job doesn't mean you deserve a pay rise. You have to achieve certain standards."


Australia: Some kids just need to be flogged

It worked for many years but is no longer allowed

THE victims aren't the only people affected by bullying. Katrina worries for her son, but also for his victims.

"Seth has been involved in a number of different situations, which are disturbing," she said. "Only a few weeks ago, a situation at school escalated where my son strangled a disabled girl, leaving hand marks on her neck and slapped a Year 1 child."

Katrina said she doesn't know what to do about her son's behaviour, which is ruining the lives of her family. "I have tried everything, counsellors, psychiatrist, pediatrician, and no one has the answer," she said.

"Seth is 10 years old and has been to four schools. He is now in a special school, best equipped to deal with his behavioural problems and we are having the same issues."

Seth said his actions come from frustration. "Kids pick on me, they poke me and hit me and that's when I respond," he said. "The other week, a boy was hitting me in the back of my head and kicking my chair. I hit him back and I got in trouble. I don't mean to do it, I just get so frustrated and do things."

Katrina said she feels her efforts to help her son have been a failure. "I feel like many of the professionals I have sought guidance from have simply liked my money," she said. "One doctor said straight to my face, 'Your son's problems are too difficult to be solved'."

Katrina has tried to get Seth involved in sports at the advice of a counsellor but his behaviour has seen him excluded from these facilities as well.

"I have four other children, who all miss out because of one child," Katrina said. "I am lucky to have a husband I can lean on. I feel sorry for anyone who is out there trying to do what I am on their own."


12 March, 2012

The Beautiful, Perky Buffalo Teachers, Courtesy of Taxpayers

Every so often, a story comes along that is so outrageous, all one can do to soothe the rage is to laugh. And shed a tear. That’s the case in Buffalo, New York.

There – for years – teachers in the government education system have enjoyed free plastic surgery procedures, courtesy of taxpayers. Teachers don’t pay a dime and the entire cost is borne by the school district. So a school district that recently announced it is operating with a $42 million deficit paid $5.9 million last year for teachers to get boob jobs, tummy tucks and facelifts.

I’m sure the union just wants its members looking their best for the kids. How thoughtful. But the Buffalo school district has a graduation rate below 50 percent. What a shame there are fewer students to see the gussied-up teaching staff. It makes the $5.9 million the school district spent on plastic surgery last year an even bigger jaw-dropper. Could those dollars have been put into programs designed to keep more kids in school?

There are two reasons this continues to happen: school leaders are too weak to do anything about outrageous expenses written into teachers union collective bargaining agreements. They apparently refuse to take a moral stand and at least give the appearance of trying to end the financial drain. They just continue paying the bill.

They should display some backbone, force a confrontation with the union over this outrageous expense, and force a judge to order the school district to pay for the surgeries. That will help the public better understand how unions siphon millions of crucial dollars from school budgets.

The second reason is known as an evergreen clause, which is a provision in many teachers union contracts which states the terms of an expired contract remain in effect until a new contract is approved. Buffalo’s contract has been expired for 6 years. But fearing concessions – like no more free skin peels – the union drags its feet and won’t agree on a new deal. The deck is stacked against the taxpayers and politicians aren’t doing anything about it.

Remember this example the next time you hear President Obama or other politicians say we need to “invest” more in education. Remember this when your local school board is pleading with you to increase your taxes to avoid layoffs or pay for necessary technology upgrades. This is the sort of outrageous crap your taxes are funding.

On the other hand, as we hear about sagging teacher morale, perhaps schools can give some thought to perking up teachers’ spirit by paying for a little plastic surgery. Since Buffalo Public Schools and many like it are a public works project for adults anyway, why not make the population a little more youthful? Randi Weingarten, what say you?


Brightest British students tempted by £3k university scholarships

The universities concerned, however, appear to be mostly jumped-up technical colleges so very bright students would be ill advised to go there. Bright students should be going to Britain's very good top 20 universities (the "Russell Group") in order to realize their potential

Universities are attempting to “bribe” bright students into applying by offering cash incentives of up to £3,000 a year, it has emerged.

Scholarships worth a maximum of £9,000 for a traditional three-year degree are being made available to candidates who gain the best A-level results this summer, it was revealed.

The awards, which are not means-tested, underline the lengths to which universities are being forced to go in an attempt to recruit and retain top students when tuition fees soar in September.

It follows the introduction of new Government rules that allow universities to take unlimited numbers of sixth-formers gaining at least two As and a B at A-level.

An analysis of prospectuses, shows universities such as Bradford, East Anglia, Liverpool Hope, Northumbria, Worcester, Salford and Surrey all offer bursaries for students who gain AAB grades. Most awards are for around £1,000 a year and some are handed out in the form of tuition fee discounts.

One of the most generous scholarships is being offered by Bedfordshire – the university run by Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of the Office for Fair Access – which allows some students to claim as much as £3,000 a year.

It is only open to those who gain AAB grades at A-level and remain on course for at least a 2:1 throughout their degree.

City University in London is also offering an extensive performance-related scholarship programme. Students applying for many engineering degrees can gain £1,000 for AAB grades, £2,000 for three As and £3,000 for an A* and two As.

Experts said universities were keen to increase the number of students with the best A-level results to improve their academic record and boost their position in official league tables, which often give institutions points based on recruits’ average entry grades.

But Deborah Stretfield, a London-based careers adviser, insisted many sixth-formers were “cynical about the advertising toys and targeted bribery” used by some universities.

“The status and ranking of the university is more important to students and parents,” she said. “Some students also point out that they would feel 'overqualified' if they went to a university that was lower in the league table.”

From this September, the cap on tuition fees in England will almost triple to £9,000 a year.

To coincide with the fee rise, ministers are allowing all universities to recruit an unlimited number of AAB students, almost of whom go on to higher education anyway.

It is feared that the move will hit middle and low-ranking universities the hardest as bright students migrate towards courses at leading research institutions.

Speaking last year, Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said many universities were “vulnerable to losing some of their AAB+ students to more selective, more prestigious, institutions”.

"This is likely to give rise to an arms race of 'merit-based' scholarships,” he said. “If one university offers them others will be obliged to do so."

A City University spokesman said: "In setting the level of these scholarships we have been determined to offer the best possible financial package to prospective students and have also taken into account strategically important and vulnerable subject areas and hence the size of the scholarships vary."


Australia: School's in for more four-year-olds, but experts argue that's too young

It should depend on the kid's mental age, not his chronological age

WHEN Eleni Savva had to decide if she would enrol her son in school as a four-year-old, she worried he might struggle. Alexander started prep at Keilor Primary School this year and is smaller than many of his classmates.

But Ms Savva felt Alexander was ready to start school, based on the advice of his kindergarten teachers. By late last year she could see he had developed the independence and social skills that would help him get by in the classroom. "Alexander is a very confident, assertive boy," she said. "He feels confident enough to stand up for himself."

Alexander turns five this month and belongs to a mini-boom of children who have reached school age, according to The Saturday Age Lateral Economics index of wellbeing. It means more parents are facing tough decisions about whether their children are ready to start school. Keilor Primary School enrolled 81 children in prep this year, compared with 65 last year.

Alexander started school a year after his sister Katerina who is seven. Ms Savva and her husband Nick decided their daughter should do a third year of kindergarten so she could better prepare "socially and emotionally" for school.

"From what I could see in her development, she needed at least another eight months of pre-school before she was ready for school." Keilor Primary School principal Sue Seneviratne said kindergarten teachers were best placed to judge when a child was ready to start school. "If the kindergarten is saying they're ready, rarely do they get that wrong," she said. Children should be independent and resilient when they begin prep.

Monash University senior education lecturer David Zyngier said Australian children are too young when they start school. He said seven was a better starting age. "Children are just not ready for regimented schooling. They should be playing and socialising," he said.

Children in countries such as Finland start school at seven and achieve better results, he said. "But they have free, available and professionally staffed childcare."

Ms Savva said starting children in school when they are older would help them become better students in later years. "Our system in Australia doesn't really allow for that, but I think it's a great idea," she said.


11 March, 2012

Higher Education Bubble May Explode in Taxpayers’ Faces

by Hans Bader

“61 percent of folks with a student loan are not paying,” notes Andrew Gillen, Ph.D., of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Many of the non-payers are still in school, but many others have long since graduated, but are failing to make payments on their student loans. “To give you sense of how unhealthy this is, consider that after the worst housing price crash in our history, 28% of mortgages were underwater.” In short, it looks like there is a huge higher education bubble about to explode in taxpayers’ faces.

Gillen notes that there is a whopping “$870 billion outstanding balance” on student loans. Only “$85 billion” is technically classified as “past due.” But that’s because there is a “massive contingent (47%) in deferment (mostly current students) or forbearance (mostly unemployed or under-employed?).” That’s in addition to at least 27 percent who “should be repaying but aren’t,” since they aren’t in deferment or forbearance.

No one really knows exactly how many people with student loans have effectively defaulted, even though the number appears to be skyrocketing, because the government’s data is such a mess that it seems designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate the problem. Until recently, government data lumped together completely-unrelated loans into

a bucket of random obligations called “Miscellaneous”, which included things like utility bills, child support, and alimony. And it turns out that if you went burrowing in that miscellaneous debt, there was actually a pile of weirdly-categorized student loans in there. [AG: And these mis-categorized student loans were not included.] Meanwhile, the official cohort default rates from the Department of Education were even more useless. Until recently, only the two-year rate was reported. Moreover, those in forbearance or deferment were counted as repaying their loans, and it took 270-360 days of not making payments to be classified as in default. When combined with the grace period, this means that to a first approximation, the “cohort default rate” was not a default rate in any meaningful sense of the term, but rather a measure of how many students never made any payment at all.

Although for-profit colleges have been demonized by the Obama Administration (which has forced some of them to jack up tuition through tightening of the 90-10 rule, and subjected career colleges — but not traditional colleges — to “gainful employment” rules), education expert Richard Vedder says that “the for-profits care more for their students” and care more than other colleges about whether their students get jobs and are able to repay their student loans. The Obama administration has also done other things that increase college costs and drive up tuition, and has harmed American industry and students who choose not to go to college by discouraging vocational training needed for well-paying, skilled factory work, contributing to a severe shortage of certain types of skilled factory workers.

Even as Obama pushes for students to pursue white-collar rather than blue-collar jobs, 12.8 million people are unemployed, some of them people with economically-useless college degrees in majors that teach few useful skills. Government subsidies have encouraged colleges to raise tuition, and to dumb down their courses to attract marginal students who once would not have attended college. Meanwhile, college students learn less and less with each passing year. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learned little in four years of college, and students now spend “50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”


British headteacher 'humiliated' pupils by putting mug shots of those who failed their exams in rogues' gallery on canteen wall

A bit crude. Penalizing children who are not very bright is unlikely to have any positive outcome

A head teacher has been forced to back down after pinning up a photo gallery that named and shamed pupils who failed to meet GCSE targets.

Thirty pupils with low results in mock exams had their names and pictures posted on the wall of the school canteen as motivation to work harder – but parents and pupils reacted angrily and it was taken down after just two days.

Chris Harris, head of Larkmead School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, admitted the gallery had been ‘misconceived’ but insisted the intention was not to ‘name and shame’.

He said: ‘It was done out of a desire to support and help them, not to humiliate. The intention was good but it was clearly having the opposite impact. ‘I genuinely regret any untoward feelings we have created.’

The pupils were featured in the rogues’ gallery if their grades were borderline for meeting the Government’s GCSE performance target – five A* to C grades including English and maths.

Mr Harris said a similar wall chart, with every pupil grouped according to their attendance and without photographs, had led to increased attendance. Teachers will explain the decision to put the chart up to pupils at an assembly tomorrow.

One mother, 38, who did not want to be named, said her 15-year-old daughter had been left humiliated at her inclusion on the gallery of underachievers. ‘This could be seen as bullying people to get higher grades,’ she said. ‘The school should be ashamed. They shouldn’t let the children become statistics.’

Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for schools and improvement, said: 'I am sure they did it in good faith and I am sorry it has backfired. 'It was probably meant as a wake-up call and somebody has taken it the wrong way.'

David Lever, chairman of governors at Larkmead, said: 'The school has an excellent reputation and it is very keen to do the best for all the students and support them. 'Chris is an excellent headteacher and I have total confidence in him.'

Gwain Little, secretary of Oxfordshire National Union of Teachers, said: 'It is important when there are children underachieving that we look at supportive ways of tackling it.'

He said there was too much pressure on schools to perform and move up the league tables, adding: 'It is unsurprising it sometimes filters down into the school itself.'

Mike Curtis, Oxfordshire branch secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the motive would have been to encourage the pupils. But he added: 'In most schools we try to celebrate the successes and not highlight the failures.'


Australian universities are dumb, say foreign students

Asians tend to have high standards in mathematics so Australian levels of competence in that would undoubtedly be disappointing

SOME Australian university courses are like being "back in grade 2", the head of an international students group says. Council of International Students Australia president Arfa Noor told an education conference the country would not attract the best and brightest from overseas until universities lifted their game.

"I don't mean to be harsh or anything but universities need to make sure that they are good enough to attract a very intelligent student," the Pakistani business student told more than 100 academics at the Universities Australia conference.

"You do hear sometimes from students who come from very good institutes back home, who work a lot, and they come into university and they say it feels like they're back in grade 2 because the things that they are being taught at a master level ... I covered at a postgraduate level."

The Melbourne Institute of Technology student said her organisation had complaints some tutors could barely speak English, class sizes were too big, and lecturers simply stood and read from slides.

"If you're from a country, especially from the Asian region, where education is very competitive ... you would have a certain level of expectations, and a lot of students are disappointed by the quality of education," she said.

But Ms Noor said students came to Australia for the experience, not just a degree, and she had loved her three years here.

However, she said universities and governments should fix accommodation and public transport issues so struggling students did not have to cram 10 to a house to save money.

About 550,000 international students study in Australia each semester and last year contributed $13.9 billion to the economy.


10 March, 2012

Woman teacher suspended after colleagues 'find footage of her moonlighting as a porn star'

It's not illegal and she does it in her own time so it's hard to see why she should be fired

A teacher has been suspended from her job after she was allegedly discovered starring in a 'hardcore pornography' by students at her school. Stacie Halas, 31, who teaches science at Richard B Haydock Intermediate School in Oxnard, California, but has allegedly been put on paid administrative leave while officials decide her fate.

Officials at the school sent a letter out to parents telling them to monitor their child's internet usage and they were urged at school not to search porn sites for videos which may star the teacher.

The school held a meeting last night so parents could come and voice their concerns. But not one parent with a student at the school showed up to the meeting, CBS reported.

Though it has not been confirmed, Jeff Chancer, Oxnard School District superintendent, said that an office worker at the school believes the teacher is the one seen in the videos. He said: 'Maybe it's not a crime as far as the penal code is concerned, but we feel it's a crime as far as moral turpitude is concerned.'

The letter to parents stated: 'It has been alleged that one of our teachers is depicted in at least one pornographic video and possibly others on the Internet. 'We are asking teachers to discourage the children from searching for and/or visiting these inappropriate sites.

'We ask that you be particularly vigilant over the next few days with respect to the Internet content being accessed by your child on his or her telephone or other Internet-ready device.'

The California Education Code outlines teacher employment conditions that could lead to discipline or termination, Mr Chancer said. 'We’re trying to determine if there’s a nexus on what she does on her own time and what she does in the classroom,' he told the Smoking Gun.

He confirmed he had seen parts of one video after rumors started sweeping the school last week and said it was 'hardcore pornography'.

Halas could face disciplinary action including losing her job.


British University access watchdog 'should be abolished', says peer

Leading universities should select students on merit without fear of appearing elitist, one of Britain’s top lawyers warned today.

Institutions should resist tailoring admissions to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds amid fears that crude targets can damage standards, according to Baroness Deech, chairman of the Bar Standards Board.

She said that showing preference towards particular groups of students was the “hallmark of totalitarian regimes” over the last 100 years.

Lady Deech, the former principal of St Anne’s College, Oxford, called for the abolition of the Office for Fair Access, which was set up by Labour to ensure poor students were not put off higher education.

She also said universities should use the courts to protect their independence.

Currently, each university in England is obliged to set admissions targets designed to increase the number of places for students from deprived backgrounds, state schools or areas with a poor record of going on to university in exchange for the right to charge up to £9,000 in tuition fees.

Last month, Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of OFFA, pledged to subject universities to heavy penalties for failing to hit their benchmarks.

But writing in Times Higher Education magazine, Lady Deech said: “In considering the make-up of university students, there should be no place for talk of ‘over-representation’ or ‘under-representation’, any more than there should be when considering the make-up of the Cabinet or Olympic teams.”

She compared the use of admissions targets to “quotas” imposed on schools and colleges by China during the Cultural Revolution and Eastern European states in the Cold War. “Historically, restrictions against and preferences towards particular groups of students have been the hallmark of totalitarian regimes,” she said.

“They had in common the practice of handicapping the children of the intelligentsia in university admissions and jobs, and favouring the children of the ‘peasants’ and the ‘workers’.”

Lady Deech, a crossbench peer, insisted that universities had a duty to use outreach programmes to aid the poor and help boost social mobility – but not through admissions targets.

She said schools and families remained the biggest barrier to leading universities, adding: “There are too many teachers who are anti-elitism and who discourage pupils from aspiring to enter top universities, and there are too many students who choose a local university so as to remain at home or who have families that discourage their ambitions.”

Lady Deech called for universities to treat OFFA “with resistance”, saying they should “press for its abolition”.

But Sir Martin Harris, the current director of fair access, said the comments displayed a “misunderstanding about how OFFA actually works with universities to help them achieve their access aims”.

“We allow universities a great deal of autonomy in how they approach improving access, allowing them to set their own access targets in line with their access plans,” he said. “Universities spend significant sums of money on access measures – over £390m of their additional fee income according to our most recent monitoring – and it’s only right and natural that they should want to have ways of measuring their progress and evaluating what is working best.

“OFFA has always been clear that raising aspirations and attainment among school pupils from an early age is critical to giving everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education the opportunity to do so.

“However, universities have an important role to play in this and, quite rightly, there is not a university in the country that feels they should duck this responsibility.”


Australia: Apartheid not the answer for Aboriginal (black) schooling

Sara Hudson

Koori schools in Victoria are a prime example of how throwing money at a problem is ineffective. According to The Age, the Victorian government is wasting millions of dollars on schools with tiny enrolments, abysmal attendance rates, and poor academic performance.

Initial findings of an independent review of the schools are due to be presented to the Victorian Department of Education on 26 March. However, it shouldn’t take a review to figure out the concept is flawed and does not provide value for money or a decent education.

The four Koori schools in Victoria (in Glenroy, Morwell, Swan Hill and Mildura) receive $3.9 million in funding a year even though they educate less than 1% of Indigenous students in government schools. The total enrolment in all four schools was only 65 students in 2011. Ballerrt Mooroop College was recently closed by the education department: The school was receiving more than $1 million in funding and employed 13 staff despite having only one full-time student!

Funding for each student in these schools was among the highest in Victoria, with one school, Woolum Bellum College in Morwell, receiving more government funding per student than any other school in the state. According to the My School website, the school received $82,277 per student, eight times the state average of $10,946 per student.

At the same time, student attendance rates in the Koori schools languish between 44% and 64%. Two Rivers College, the only Koori school to post its NAPLAN results on My School, performed substantially below the national average in all categories.

Clearly, taxpayer dollars are being wasted on providing separatist schooling for a few Aboriginal children in Victoria rather than giving more resources to help disadvantaged Indigenous students in mainstream schools.

Indeed, Chris Sarra made the same recommendation in 2009 in a report on the Koori education system. But the state education department ignored Sarra’s advice and spent another three years wasting public funds propping up failing Koori schools.

How long will it take the Victorian Department of Education to realise that separate is never equal?

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 9 March. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

9 March, 2012

Teacher Suspended Over Chicken Nugget Incident

School district official says substituting a preschooler’s lunch was against district policy

The teacher involved in “supplementing” a preschooler’s lunch with chicken nuggets in Hoke County has been suspended indefinitely.

Parents of students in the Pre-Kindergarten program at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford got a letter from Assistant Superintendent Bob Barnes last week saying a substitute teacher would take over the preschool class until the “issue” is resolved.

It remains unclear why the teacher’s actions violated district policy. State officials responsible for monitoring homemade lunches for preschoolers have told Carolina Journal that the Jan. 30 incident that caused a nationwide uproar satisfied state policy.

The letter from Barnes, dated Feb. 28, reads as follows:

“As I am sure you are aware, we recently experienced an unfortunate situation where a failure to follow district policy resulted in the substitution of a Pre-K student’s lunch at West Hoke Elementary School.This letter is to inform you that Ms. Emma Thomas will be a substitute in [your child’s] classroom until we can bring resolution to this issue. We are pleased that [your child] is enrolled in our Pre-K program and we are confident that Ms. Thomas will continue to provide [him or her] with a very positive educational experience.”

The mother of the 4-year-old girl whose turkey sandwich was replaced by chicken nuggets says the teacher is not to blame and shouldn’t be punished.

“We are concerned for Ms. Maynor [the teacher] and want her back in the classroom, as she was only following guidelines,” the mother wrote in an email to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County. “It’s the government that needs to be reprimanded and changed. Teachers should not be put in a situation to overrule the parent’s lunch of choice.”

Giving the girl a full cafeteria tray, which included chicken nuggets and milk, was not a violation of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ policy, according to DHHS spokeswoman Lori Walston. “The rules require that the provider at least ensure the missing items are offered,” Walston wrote in an earlier email exchange with CJ. “It would not be a violation for a child to be provided more than what was needed. It is the provider’s choice as to their specific process.” It is unclear why giving the girl the cafeteria tray violated “district policy.”

“[DHHS] can’t offer comparison between our policy and [that of] any district or childcare center or family childcare home, as we would not have the staffing to compare policies of all programs in the state,” Walston said Monday,.

As CJ reported Feb. 23, Cecelia Ellerbe, a child care consultant who works for the DHHS division, noticed a violation of the state’s nutrition policy at West Hoke Elementary Jan. 26. Walston told CJ Ellerbe “observed the lunch routine” at the preschool, which “would typically include walking through the cafeteria area. She could have seen any items that had been placed on tables, but might not have seen all lunches,” Walston said.

Principal Jackie Samuels sent a letter home with students the next day, informing parents that homemade lunches lacking any of the items required under state regulations and U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines — fluid milk, two servings of fruit or vegetables, a serving of grain or bread, and a serving of meat or meat alternative — would have the missing items supplemented by school staff.

The following Monday, Jan. 30, the incident reported Feb. 14 by CJ occurred. A teacher offered a 4-year-old girl a cafeteria tray with chicken nuggets, a sweet potato, bread, and milk to replace the turkey and cheese sandwich, potato chips, banana, and apple juice her mother had packed for her.

When the girl got off the school bus with her untouched lunch box that day, her mother wanted to know what happened. “She came home with her whole sandwich I had packed, because she chose to eat the nuggets on the lunch tray, because they put it in front of her,” her mother said. “You’re telling a 4-year-old, 'Oh, your lunch isn’t right,’ and she’s thinking there’s something wrong with her food.”

Neither Samuels, Barnes, nor Superintendent Freddie Williamson responded to requests for comment from Carolina Journal.


Infinite Affirmative Action?

In Eric Holder’s world, the need for racial preferences will never end.

By John Fund

Later this year, the Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the use of racial preferences in college admissions in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The battle lines will once again be drawn over the meaning of the equal-protection provisions of the Constitution. So it’s noteworthy that Attorney General Eric Holder has just made it clear he’s never bumped into a racial preference he didn’t like, and that he sees no time limit on such policies.

Last month, in an appearance at Columbia University, his alma mater, Holder made a jarring statement in support of racial preferences, saying he “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.” “Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices,” he declared. “The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin. . . . When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?”

Holder certainly made his statement on friendly territory. He was interviewed as part of a World Leaders Forum by Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president. In 2003, Bollinger made news when as president of the University of Michigan he was the named defendant in two affirmative-action cases. In Gratz v. Bollinger, the justices by 6 to 3 struck down the university’s policy used for undergraduate admissions, which blatantly sorted students by race and applied different academic standards to achieve desired racial admission outcomes. But in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the court upheld by a 5–4 vote the law school’s preferences policy. The only difference between the two cases was that in the latter case the university was upfront about the preferences it was giving; in the former case it kept them hidden.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the deciding vote in allowing racial preferences to continue, but she made it clear that their days should be numbered. She wrote: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” In Eric Holder’s world, that day will never come.

Some say Holder has already been presiding over the most race-absorbed Justice Department in history. Career civil-rights attorneys such as former Voting Rights section chief Christopher Coates have resigned in disgust, citing the administration’s repeated refusal to apply civil-rights laws evenhandedly. In his book Injustice, former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams has documented with eyewitness accounts that then-deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights Julie Fernandes told Justice lawyers that the new administration was only interested in “traditional civil rights work,” which to her meant “helping minorities.” As she put it before her appointment: “The law was written to protect black people.” More recently, the Holder administration’s affirmative-action guidelines for colleges and universities, issued in December, are clearly intended to increase the use of race-preferential admissions policies. Could it be that Holder has not yet begun to fight?

If so, it makes the need for the Supreme Court to make the correct constitutional call in Fisher all the more imperative. In places where the use of racial preferences has largely ended because of state law, such as California, universities have thrived and have been able to recruit diverse student bodies. But in places where preferences remain the order of the day, there is real harm done. As Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity noted on National Review Online, “The casualties of these discriminatory policies are not only the white and Asian students who are discriminated against, but also the African American and Latino students who are supposedly their beneficiaries, because their academic careers and professional lives are damaged by the resulting academic mismatches.”

This conclusion is supported by an amicus brief filed in Fisher by three members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights — Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow, and Todd Gaziano — which cites mounting empirical evidence that racial preferences do considerably more harm than good.

“If this research is right,” they write, “we now have fewer minority science and engineering graduates,” “fewer minority college professors,” and “fewer minority lawyers” than we would have under race-neutral admissions policies.

How can it be that affirmative action reduces the number of minority professionals? The extensive research cited by Heriot, Kirsanow, and Gaziano shows that as a result of racial preferences, minority students are overwhelmingly at the bottom of the distribution of entering academic credentials at most selective schools. That’s what it means to get into a school on a preference. One’s entering credentials will be below those of the typical student.

These studies show that going to a school that one got into by the skin of one’s teeth is not a good idea. Academic credentials matter, not just in the absolute sense, but also in a comparative sense. Students who attend a school where their entering credentials are similar to the rest of the students are more likely to follow through with an ambition to major in science or engineering, more likely to decide to become a college professor, and more likely to finish law school and pass the bar.

Put differently, if you have two identical students and one goes to Penn State and gets A’s and the other goes to Princeton and gets C’s, the Penn State student is likely to be more successful regardless of his race. And he is likely to be a lot happier.

Indeed, polls show most Americans are rightly uncomfortable with racial preferences. But affirmative action — the kindler, gentler term — has been around so long now that many have forgotten the origins of that peculiar institution. Some don’t realize that the 1964 Civil Rights Act that is cited as the authority for mandating preferential treatment for racial minorities actually forbids all racial discrimination. It all happened before many Americans were even born.

Blame the courts for the perversion of the well-intentioned Civil Rights Act. In employment law, the Supreme Court started out sounding the right note with regard to so-called “reverse discrimination.” It ruled in McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (1976) that Title VII means just what it says and applies to whites as well as African Americans. But to its everlasting discredit, the Supreme Court endorsed preferential treatment for minorities in United Steelworkers v. Weber (1979). In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Justice Brennan, writing for the majority, managed to hold that Congress would have wanted to permit Kaiser Aluminum and its union to establish quotas for black candidates for highly sought-after training programs. Justice William Rehnquist dissented, refuting the majority’s reading of the statute with clear evidence from the legislative history and repeatedly comparing the majority’s opinion to George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities, partly motivated by ideology and partly by concern over the violent race upheavals of the late 1960s, were engaging in similar race-preferential policies. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and in Grutter, the Supreme Court reluctantly acquiesced in those policies as well.

Shortly before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Urban League executive director Whitney Young called for “a decade of discrimination in favor of Negro youth.” Congress clearly and unequivocally rejected that advice, opting instead for a complete ban on race discrimination in employment and at colleges, universities, and other institutions that accept federal funds. Nevertheless, Young got his way — and more. And more. Before the ink was dry on Title VII of the 1964 Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was making plans to pressure employers to hire more African-American employees. Within just a few years, colleges and universities were violating Title VI’s prohibition on race discrimination by substantially lowering their academic standards for African-American applicants. Young’s decade of discrimination in favor of African Americans had begun. That “decade” has now stretched into its sixth decade.

Here’s hoping that later this year the Supreme Court repairs its previous mistakes and, following Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s advice, draws the curtain shut on racial preferences, even if it is a little earlier than her own timetable — which has 16 more years to run.


More than 40 teachers at under-achieving British school strike over 'dangerous' pupils

Teachers at an under-achieving school walked out on strike yesterday in a row over ‘out-of-control’ pupils. The staff claim the headmaster and board of governors have failed to support them in tackling dangerous behaviour by unruly children. Incidents highlighted include a firework being let off in a corridor and a knife being brought into class.

Teachers have also reported pupils regularly fighting during lessons and verbally abusing staff.

Castle Vale Performing Arts College in Birmingham is rated ‘satisfactory’ by Ofsted – the third of four possible rankings awarded by the inspectorate. But last year just 29 per cent of students gained five A*-C grades, including maths and English, in their GCSEs – compared with a national average of 58.2 per cent.

Headmaster Clive Owen yesterday said he was ‘disappointed and disturbed’ by the decision of some 40 staff to strike. But the NASUWT teaching union claimed its members had been left with no option but to walk out and called for an investigation into management at the school.

Union representative Ben Ball, who has taught at the school for 32 years, said behaviour was so bad at times that the school resembled a ‘battlefield’. ‘The behaviour of the pupils has got to a stage where action must be taken,’ he said. ‘There is a core group whose behaviour is completely unacceptable, and downright dangerous, who prevent us from teaching the rest of the children.’

He said the school’s behaviour policy was not followed through by senior management, with the result that ‘the kids know that nothing will happen to them if they continue to behave the way they are doing.’ Yesterday morning, most of those on strike manned a picket line outside the school in the city’s 1960s Castle Vale housing estate.

NASUWT has pencilled in March 20 and 21 for two more days of strike action, but said it would suspend these in the event of an approach from the school for further talks.

A teacher on the picket line, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘The children are out of control, they are bringing blades into school, smoking openly and even bully some teachers. But kids will get sent home by the management for not having a pencil case and then when a teacher’s been sworn at by a pupil nothing’s happened.’

The strike meant the school, which has around 800 pupils and 75 teachers, was closed to all but Year 11 students, who are set to take GCSE exams in the summer. Parents had mixed reactions to the action. Some condemned the teachers for walking out, but others had sympathy for their situation. One said the school was ‘like a zoo’ where children ‘run riot’.

Mr Owen said: ‘A number of meetings with the union have been held to avoid this.’ A spokesman for Birmingham Council said it would convene a meeting with all parties in an effort to head off the two further planned strikes.


8 March, 2012

CO: 11-year-old girl handcuffed for being “rude” at school

Sounds like a pompous and inept assistant principal might have been a large part of the problem

An 11-year-old Colorado girl was handcuffed and taken to a holding facility at her school for disobeying orders and being "argumentative and extremely rude," reports.

An Adams County Sheriff's Office incident report said Yajira Quezada, a sixth-grader at Shaw Heights Middle School, was found walking in a hallway during lunch by the school's assistant principal, according to the station. The child reportedly claimed she was in the hallway because she was cold and needed a sweater from her locker.

The report said that when the principal began speaking to the child, she "turned and walked away saying, 'I don't have time for this,'" the station reported.

After a counselor tried unsuccessfully to mediate, the girl was reportedly handcuffed and taken to a juvenile holding facility called "The Link."

While the Adams County Sheriff's Office claims handcuffing students in such a manner is standard procedure, the girl's mother blasted officials for treating her daughter like a "criminal."

"They're treating them like criminals. And they're not, they're kids," the girl's mother, Mireya Gaytan, told the station.


A better way of learning

One problem with the usual approach to education at all levels is that it mostly consists of having someone learn something not because he at the moment has any need to know it but because someone else told him to learn it, possibly on the grounds that the knowledge or skill will be useful at some time in the future. It is much easier to get someone to actually learn something if it is of immediate use to him. The best way of learning a computer language, in my view, is not to start by working your way through the manual but to start with a program you want to write. You then have an immediate incentive to learn what you need to write it, and immediate feedback as to whether you have succeeded.

That approach works in a wide variety of other contexts. When my home schooled son was about eleven or twelve, he was running a weekly D&D game for a group of other home schooled kids. It was good training in responsibility. Each week, when the other players showed up, he had to have already done all of the work of preparing that week's session—otherwise the game, his project, would fail. Each week he did. It was, I think, better training than if he had been a student with homework due on a regular schedule. The homework would have been someone else's requirement, with no justification other than someone else's orders. This was his project—and it was obvious what he had to do to make it work.

Suppose you are a comfortably well off parent. Almost everything your child wants—toys, books, games—is available to be bought at what is, in terms of your income, a trivial cost. That makes it hard to do a believable job of teaching your child the importance of saving, of deciding which things he really wants and which he can do without, skills that he will need, as an adult, to function in a world of limited resources.

If your child plays World of Warcraft, he will learn the relevant lesson with no need for you to impose arbitrary limits. He will have a limited amount of gold and a considerable variety of things he would like to spend it on. Increasing that amount will require him to spend time doing daily quests, figuring out what he can craft and sell at a profit and crafting and selling it, or perhaps, if he is a mage, running a magical taxi service teleporting other characters hither and yon for pay. Whatever his effort, he will probably not end up with enough gold to buy everything he wants. Here again, the lesson works because it is, in its own odd way, real. These are the things he has to do in order to achieve the objectives he has himself chosen.

I was reminded of the same point today in a very different context. At lunch there was a talk on the Northern California Innocence Project, which is run out of, and largely staffed by, the law school I teach at. The purpose of the project is to identify people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit and get their verdicts reversed and them released. While the project involves some lawyers and at least one faculty member, a lot of the work is done by law school students. Seen from one side, the purpose is to get innocents out of prison. Seen from the other, it is to help educate our students.

Considered as education, it is a strikingly successful example of the approach I have been discussing. The students are learning legal skills, how to interview witnesses, convince judges, prosecutors, juries, file the right paperwork, make the right legal arguments. They are learning those skills not because someone else has told them they will need them five years from now to do the work someone then will pay them to do, but because they need the skills now to do something they very much want to do, to right a wrong, to rescue someone unjustly imprisoned.


Britain's Faith schools 'using covert selection to reject the poor'

Children from poor families are more often poorly behaved and that could quite rightly lead to their rejection by schools trying to inculcate high behavioral standards

Faith schools were accused of covert selection today as it emerged they are more likely to be dominated by children from middle-class families than ordinary state schools.

Figures show that schools backed by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church take a smaller share of poor pupils than other primaries and secondaries nearby.

Data from the Department for Education reveals that three-quarters of Catholic schools had a lower proportion of children from the most deprived backgrounds – those eligible for free meals – than the average for their local authority last year.

At the same time, some three-quarters of Anglican primaries and two-thirds of secondaries also took a smaller share of poor pupils.

Church leaders defended the figures saying that schools often had wider catchment areas than other schools.

But the disclosure prompted claims from secular groups that middle-class families were allowed to cheat often complex selection criteria to make sure their children secured places.

Richy Thompson, from the British Humanist Association, said: “Repeated academic studies have shown that, in state schools that select on religious grounds, there end up being fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds and that any selection favours more affluent parents who know how to play the system.”

Currently, faith schools make up around a third of state-funded schools in England.

In the latest study, the Guardian analysed data from recent school-by-school league tables to assess the extent to which they reflect their local communities.

According to figures, some 73 per cent of Catholic primaries and 72 per cent of Catholic secondaries have a lower proportion of pupils eligible for free meals – those with parents earning less than £16,000 – than the average for the local authority.

It was also revealed that 74 per cent of Anglican primaries and 65.5 per cent of secondaries failed to properly represent the local area.

By contrast, just 51 per cent of non-religious primaries and 45 per cent of secondaries had a smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals.

The Catholic Education Service insisted that schools often failed to reflect their communities because catchment areas were much wider than those for other schools, with religious children often travelling from miles around to attend.

It pointed to separate DfE data that showed 18.6 per cent of children at Catholic primary schools lived in the most deprived 10 per cent of areas of England, compared with only 14.3 per cent of primary pupils nationally.

A spokesman for the CofE rejected claims of backdoor selection, saying local authorities controlled the admissions of more than half its schools.


7 March, 2012

Military service doesn't count when it comes to extra points for education, DOE tells New York principals‏

New York City principals are up in arms over a new plan that gives bonus points this year to high schools based on graduates going to college — but doesn’t count those who join the military.

Department of Education officials met with a group of principals last week to explain changes in Progress Reports coming out this fall. Schools that send more kids to community or baccalaureate colleges within six to 18 months will get extra credit.

When a principal asked about points for grads who choose to enlist in the armed forces, he was shot down. “The military isn’t college. It doesn’t count,” the group was told.

In response to criticism, DOE officials say they are working to gather military enlistment records and eventually credit schools for grads who sign up to serve the country — which spokesman Matt Mittenthal called a “strong career track.”

The DOE recently got access to the National Student Clearinghouse, which lists those enrolled at 70 percent of the nation’s colleges, including CUNY and SUNY.

The extra points for college enrollment can help improve the letter grade given to each school — from “A” to “F” — and polish its image.

But principals are shellshocked that young heroes who may be sent to battle won’t get, for now, the same nod as peers who head for the dorms.


Bishop McFadden and “Totalitarian” public schooling

“In a totalitarian government, they would love our system [of public education],” Bishop James McFadden of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told WHTM-TV. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all of them tried to establish — a monolith, so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

McFadden’s remarks touched off a firestorm of complaints from the usual suspects.

Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said McFadden “should not be making his point at the expense of the memory of six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust,” arguing that the bishop had “inappropriately [drawn] reckless comparisons” to that horrific event.

Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, declared McFadden’s comments “completely inappropriate.”

Harrisburg University professor Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, who is also vice president of the local World Affairs Council, told WHTM, “As soon as you throw in those words and you take the debate and the conversation to another level and another context, it is not right.”

In a statement responding to his critics, McFadden apologized to “those who may have been offended by [his] remarks.” He is not, however, retracting them, pointing out that he “purposely did not mention the holocaust” to avoid giving offense — an assertion backed up by the TV station, which stated that “in the 20 minute interview he never mentioned the word holocaust.”

“The Church recognizes the holocaust as a terrible atrocity and evil emanated against humanity and especially those who were the victims of these crimes,” McFadden wrote. “I would never minimize or trivialize the devastating suffering that took place.”

He also elaborated on his analogy:
The reference to dictators and totalitarian governments of the 20th century which I made in an interview on the topic of school choice was to make a dramatic illustration of how these unchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children. Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that bests suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past.

[An] absolute monopoly in education, where parents do not have a right or ability to choose the education that best suits their children due to economic circumstances or otherwise, runs counter to a free and open society.

McFadden could not be more correct. “In 1936,” writes the History Place,
all of the Catholic parochial and Protestant denominational schools [in Germany] were abolished. Christian holy days which had usually meant a day off from school were now ignored and classroom prayers were banned. Celebrations of Christmas and Easter were discouraged, replaced by pre-Christian Yule or Solstice celebrations. The Nazis later forced all teachers to renounce any affiliation with professional church organizations.

Moreover, says the article, indoctrinating students with Nazi ideology became the sole purpose of the schools, to the detriment of genuine education:
National Socialist teachers of questionable ability stepped into grammar school and high school classrooms to form young minds, strictly abiding by the Party motto: “The supreme task of the schools is the education of youth for the service of Volk and State in the National Socialist spirit.” They taught Nazi propaganda as fact which was then recited back by their students as unshakable points of view with no room for disagreement or discussion.

Fascist dictators weren’t alone in recognizing that controlling the schools meant controlling the minds of the youth. “Free education for all children in public schools” is one of the demands of the Communist Manifesto; and Karl Marx’s disciples in the former Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, and elsewhere have always abolished private schools in favor of state-run indoctrination centers.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that the public schools of 21st-century America are turning out students thoroughly steeped in environmentalism, socialism, and moral relativism but unable to read their own diplomas. The objective of government schooling is to produce cogs for the state machine, not well-rounded, independent thinkers.

With the facts on McFadden’s side, his critics have been forced to attack his remarks’ propriety rather than their truthfulness, which also reveals the critics’ true agenda: sticking up for government schooling.

The bishop, meanwhile, is seeking to allow parents more options in schooling their children. Believing it is unfair for parents to have to pay twice to send their children to parochial and other private schools — once in taxes and again in tuition — and faced with declining parochial-school enrollment, McFadden and other church leaders are calling for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enact a school-voucher program whereby parents’ tax dollars that are earmarked for education can be directed to whatever school, public or private, parents choose for their children. (A proposal that would have allowed that under certain limited circumstances was rejected by the state legislature in December.)

McFadden’s diagnosis of the problem is correct; his proposed solution, however, leaves much to be desired. School vouchers might very well end up co-opting private schools into serving the state, which would be an even worse situation than the one that currently exists. Private colleges — minus a handful of brave resisters who have chosen to forgo federal dollars — have been forced to obey Washington’s dictates in exchange for accepting federal student aid. Why would anyone expect state governments to hand out money to schools with no strings attached? Instead, private schools would very likely become dependent on such aid and would compromise their integrity by bowing to the state’s demands, ultimately becoming the state’s handmaidens in training the youth to serve Leviathan.

McFadden and other Christians, of all people, ought to recognize the dangers inherent in mixing the state with the private sector. Separation of church and state — in the sense that neither controls the other — has served Americans well over the centuries. Why not separation of school and state as well?


Key dates from history that every British pupil should know: Cambridge don says GCSEs should embrace ALL of the nation's past

Thirty-one key events in British history that all teenagers should study were outlined yesterday by a leading historian.

The dates cover the sweep of British history from the Dark Ages to the present day and include events such as the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, the 1649 execution of Charles I and the abolition of slavery in 1833.

Professor David Abulafia, of Cambridge University, said current GCSE studies were disjointed and ‘deadened interest in the past’.

He also pointed out that the exams reward pupils who memorise and regurgitate mark schemes and penalise youngsters who try to demonstrate originality and insight.

Instead he proposes a curriculum which encompasses the nation’s story – and requires exam candidates to write at length.

There is evidence that a generation of university students – including those starting at Cambridge – have lost the ability to write essays.

The professor’s proposed curriculum – produced for the think-tank Politeia – will be submitted to a major review launched last year by Education Secretary Michael Gove. The Government is considering introducing a new curriculum for history and other subjects in September 2014.

Criticising the current syllabus, Professor Abulafia, an expert in Mediterranean history at Gonville and Caius College, said: ‘The lack of continuity is a fundamental problem. ‘What one actually wants is a sense that things join up, a sense of context.’

Under current GCSEs, pupils might jump between units such as Elizabethan England and Germany 1919 to 1945. Units covering a historical sweep often focus on a specific theme, such as ‘Medicine through Time’.

The professor said pupils were too often required to interpret sources instead of studying history itself. This had ‘deadened interest in the past among students’, he said.

His proposed curriculum – published yesterday in draft form – ensures ‘continuity across long expanses of time’. Linked to each event, or ‘transformational moment’, are studies of key people, places and innovations.

Pupils studying the 1066 Norman conquest, for example, would learn about the role of William the Conqueror and might visit the Tower of London. This could act as a spur to learn about the Domesday Book.

Professor Abulafia added that exams also needed reform because some candidates learn mark schemes ‘by heart’. ‘That is not what education is about,’ he said.

‘Writing essays involves making judgments. At the moment examiners don’t know how to cope with judgments. All they seem to know how to cope with is very exactly and precisely placed bits of information.

‘A very important part of any examination even at GCSE level – and you might only be talking about a couple of sides of script – is to be able to present a connected argument and to do it independently.’

Professor Robert Tombs, also a Cambridge University historian, said students appear to have been drilled to write essays in a particular way, making particular kinds of arguments in a particular order, and not writing their own ideas and responding to questions in a fresh or original way.

Politeia is planning to publish curriculum pamphlets written by academics on different subjects, beginning with history, later this month. Professor Tombs, of St John’s College, who is also working on a curriculum proposal, criticised current arrangements.

He said: ‘A curriculum ought to be coherent and not just miscellaneous. It shouldn’t be the sort of thing that enables you to know about Hitler and not Mussolini or Stalin.’

John McIntosh, who was head of the London Oratory School when it was attended by two of Tony Blair’s sons and now sits on the advisory committee of the Government’s curriculum, warned: ‘I find that teachers have become increasingly robotic, they have worked slavishly to the prescribed curriculum.’ ‘A lot of the teaching is simply the minimum required for whatever the next test or examination will be,’ he added.


6 March, 2012

Santorum's 'snub' about education was no gaffe

by Jeff Jacoby

COMMENTATORS, NOT ALL OF THEM DEMOCRATS, have been having a field day since GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum charged Barack Obama with snobbery for pushing the idea that everyone needs a college education.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum told an Americans for Prosperity forum in Troy, Mich. "What a snob!" Critics, mocking and incredulous, reacted as if the former Pennsylvania senator had uncorked the most boneheaded gaffe since Dan Quayle misspelled potato.

"Ridiculous? Offensive? Hypocritical? Manifestly, all of the above," wrote Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. On The Daily Show, the inimitable Jon Stewart was beside himself: "Just to be clear," he said, "you're coming out against people educating their kids because it's – fancy?" Vice President Joe Biden assured a radio interviewer that Santorum had managed to separate himself from "all of America on this."

I'm not so sure.

Even the formidable messaging prowess of the Obama machine will have a tough time convincing voters that the triply-degreed Santorum -- B.A. (Penn State, 1980); M.B.A. (University of Pittsburgh, 1981); and J.D. (Dickinson Law School, 1986) -- is opposed to higher education. In fact, Talking Points Memo, a liberal website, pointed out that as a Senate candidate in 2006, Santorum touted his support for "loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable."

Santorum's "what a snob!" rebuke was certainly strident, an example of how little his tone on the campaign trail has in common with the sunny graciousness Ronald Reagan deployed so effectively. Like Newt Gingrich, Santorum often speaks as if he believes that political rhetoric, to be convincing, must be intemperate and polarizing. But were his comments about higher education a blunder? The crowd in Troy sure didn't think so: It burst into applause and approving laughter.

Santorum made two points that plainly resonated with his audience. One was that college isn't for everyone: "Not all folks are gifted the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people ... want to work out there making things." In a country where more than two-thirds of adults don't possess a college degree, a president who suggests that there's something inferior in having just a high school education, as Obama arguably has done, opens himself up to a charge of elitism.

Much more explicitly ideological was Santorum's second point -- that American academia skews heavily to the left, and that Obama sees colleges as indoctrination mills for generating more Democrats.

"There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to tests that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them," Santorum said to cheers. "Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."

Too shrill by half for my taste -- red meat for Tea Party Republicans and a guaranteed hackle-raiser for liberal Democrats. William F. Buckley Jr. made the point far more deftly nearly 50 years ago: "I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University." Santorum's gibe, sad to say, had none of the wit or elegance of Buckley's formulation.

William F. Buckley: "I should "sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University."

But a gaffe? Hardly. The left-wing tilt of American universities is by now a self-evident truth. Surveys have long confirmed that liberals heavily outnumber conservatives on college faculties. Does anyone doubt that the Obama campaign will collect vastly more in campaign contributions from people working in higher education than will the GOP nominee, regardless of who that nominee turns out to be?

Politically and culturally, America's colleges don't look like America. They resemble, in George F. Will's phrase, intellectual versions of one-party nations. On campus, as in such nations, dissidents may thrive -- and it is the dissidents who are most apt to tell the truth about the stifling orthodoxies that reign around them.

To the chattering class and establishment elites, Santorum's "snob" remark may come across as weird, fanatic, and disconnected from reality. But when you look at the video of his appearance in Troy, it's clear that plenty of ordinary voters understand just what he means, however inelegantly expressed. And not only understand, but cheer.


"Homophobia" disappearing in British schools, claims expert despite increasing use of word 'gay' to denounce something as rubbish

The stigma attached to being gay is finally beginning to disappear from classrooms around the UK, according to a leading sociologist.

Dr Mark McCormack, from Brunel University, spent six months in each of three different schools in the same town to study how attitudes have changed among 16 to 18-year-olds. His book, The Declining Significance of Homophobia: How Teenage Boys are Redefining Masculinity and Heterosexuality, explores how homophobia in Western cultures is decreasing in educational and sporting settings.

He believes pro-gay references are now held more highly and the phrase 'so gay' - a phrase used by some to criticise, is not viewed as homophobic by teenagers.

He said: 'In this research on three high schools in the United Kingdom, I documented that gay and straight male students used pro-gay discourse as a way of bonding.

'A growing body of research documents that homophobia is decreasing in sport settings. This corresponds with a trend of decreasing homophobia in British and American cultures.'

The sociologist also found that teenagers today are more open about their sexuality. But he said the battle is not over against homophobia but that it is getting better. He said: 'These young people see homophobia as wrong. Guys used to prove they were straight by being homophobic. Now, when young guys want to show they're straight, they do it in a more positive way by joking about being gay.'

However, some groups disagree with Mr Cormack's findings.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jess Wood, of youth support charity Allsorts, said: 'It is definitely not our experience, I'm afraid. It remains the second-highest reason children give for bullying.'

She added: 'I do think to try and eradicate the word "gay" is a waste of time; it's embedded in the language, but it's a bogus argument to suggest it's anything other than hideous for gay people to hear the negative associations of the word.'


Australian universities teaching quack medicine

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC health courses are undermining the credibility of Australian universities, according to an editorial in a leading medical journal.

Homeopathy, iridology, reflexology, kinesiology, healing touch therapy, aromatherapy and energy medicine are offered at more than a third of the nation's universities.

But some academics are angry about what they see as a dumbing down of universities by offering courses that lack scientific credibility.

"Pseudoscientific courses sully the genuinely scientific courses and research conducted at the same institution," say professors Alastair MacLennan and Robert Morrison, who co-wrote the editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia.

They call on all tertiary institutions to review their health-science teaching.

"Their scientists and students should be concerned by any retreat from the primacy of experimental, evidence-based approach in science and medicine.

"Academics at these institutions need to stand up for science."

The professors say acupuncture and chiropractic claims of being able to treat a broad array of afflictions are flimsy.

"The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best, and such randomised controlled trials of these therapies as exist mostly do not support their efficacy," they say.

"As the number of alternative practitioners graduating from tertiary education institutions increases, further health-care resources are wasted, while the potential for harm increases."

Chiropractic is cited as an area of particular concern, with the editorial warning that people in the field are extending their role beyond the treatment of musculoskeletal problems related to the back.

"Some self-regulated chiropractors' associations have a more extreme vision that chiropractic should become the major primary-care discipline," the editorial says.

"Alarmingly, some chiropractors now extend their manipulation of the spine to children, making claims that this can cure asthma, allergies, bedwetting, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, colic, fever and numerous other problems, and serve as a substitute for vaccination ...

"We respect those who distance themselves from such unproven beliefs."

The professors say federal funding is wasted on universities that support pseudoscience health courses.


5 March, 2012

California college students protest education cuts

But they are too dumb to agitate for something that might produce the needed funds -- such as firing half the "administrators" on college payrolls

Students, educators and Occupy Wall Street activists held demonstrations Thursday across California to protest state budget cuts to education, partially shutting down at least one college campus.

Hundreds of students blocked entrances to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and prevented cars and buses from entering the coastal campus, school officials said.

"The campus has been effectively closed to vehicles," said campus spokesman Jim Burns. "Clearly it's had an access impact for many students, staff and faculty."

School administrators had warned the campus about the protest. Many classes were canceled or rescheduled, and administrative offices were not fully staffed, Burns said.

The Santa Cruz blockade was among the demonstrations held on about 30 college campuses across California to protest rising tuition and call on lawmakers to restore funding to higher education. Rallies, marches, teach-ins and walkouts were scheduled to coincide with state budget negotiations, organizers said.

In San Francisco, about 200 demonstrators holding signs that read "Tax the Rich" and "Refund Education" held a teach-in in the lobby of the California State Building before attending an afternoon rally outside City Hall. College students and Occupy activists around the country held demonstrations as part of a "National Day of Action for Education."

About 15 of the demonstrators were taken into custody when they refused an order to disperse around 6:30 p.m., said California Highway Patrol Sgt. Diana McDermott. The 15 were cited on suspicion of trespassing and released.

At California State University, Los Angeles, about 300 students marched through campus blowing whistles and chanting, "No cuts, no fees, education should be free," according to the Los Angeles Times. At a rally in front of the campus bookstore, the group held signs that read "Stop Privatization" and "Defend Public Education."

The California protests are a prelude to a major "Occupy the Capitol" rally in Sacramento on Monday. Students and faculty members planned a "99 Mile March for Education and Social Justice" from Oakland to the state capital over the next few days.

The protesters are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to reject any budget deal that includes higher education cuts or tuition increases. They also want the governor to support a ballot measure that would raise taxes on millionaires to pay for education and social services.

"We've destroyed our tax base and we stopped funding the most important parts of our society," said Josh Brahinsky, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and union representative who helped organize the action. "We're calling on the state to tax the wealthy and use that money to build services for all of us."

The campus demonstrations were coordinated by ReFund California, a coalition of student groups and labor unions that organized a series of sometimes rowdy campus protests during the fall.


British education boss scraps homework rules

Schools have been given the go-ahead to reduce the amount of homework they set for pupils after complaints from parents that studies are cutting in to family time.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has scrapped national guidelines which set out how much time children should spend doing homework each night. Instead, head teachers will decide how much extra study, if any, their pupils require. Officials said that the aim was to cut bureaucracy, and insisted that homework would remain an important part of education.

However, the move was welcomed by parents who have called for less homework to be handed out. Kirstie Allsopp, the television presenter who has campaigned against homework in primary schools, last night welcomed Mr Gove’s move and said: “Getting rid of the guidelines might free up teachers to think a bit more creatively about it”.

Under the old guidelines, introduced by Labour in 1998, primary schools were told to set an hour of homework a week for children aged five to seven, rising to half an hour a night for seven-to-11-year-olds. Secondary schools were told to set 45 to 90 minutes a night for pupils aged 11 to 14, and one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours a night for those aged 14 to 16.

While the rules were not statutory, teachers came under pressure to follow them as they were said to give “a clear idea of what is reasonable to expect at different ages”. They also allowed parents to challenge teachers who set more, or less, than the recommended level. Many schools reproduced the guidelines in their own homework policies.

Supporters of homework warned scrapping the guidelines could lead to some schools abandoning it altogether, to spare teachers the trouble of extra marking.

Opposition has grown towards the guidelines, fuelled by an anti-homework movement in the United States and research questioning the efficacy of such assignments, particularly in primary schools.

Teachers complain about chasing up missing work and argue that it causes upset among the youngest pupils, while parents have claimed that too much study is making children anxious and reducing the time available for sports and play.

Some primaries have already abandoned traditional homework. Since September Frittenden Church of England Primary, in Kent, has replaced it with an optional weekly 45-minute homework club.

Elizabeth Bradshaw, the head teacher, said: “We had feedback from parents, or notes to the teachers, saying 'my child is very worried that they haven’t completed it on time’, or the child would come in to the classroom in tears because they had left it in the car. We simply wanted to remove that stress and focus on the learning for that week in a homework club where it is done, marked, and informs the learning of the next week.”

Ryde School, a primary in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, regards activities such as a walk in the countryside, playing board games and cooking as “homework”.

Its policy states: “Children are not little adults and therefore cannot be expected to study at home as adults do. Children spend six hours a day at school and are usually tired or 'filled’ with school learning by the end of the day. Homework must be kept to a minimum and be of a light, relaxed nature.”

The Department for Education said yesterday that the shake-up formed part of the Government’s plan to give more autonomy to schools.

Allsopp, who has two children and two stepchildren, said: “If you have three children, what happens to the other children while the parent is settled in the corner helping each one with their half an hour of homework? Eating a pizza alone. It ends up separating families at that key time.

“Learning at home should be about people doing things together as a family – reading a book, eating, watching an interesting documentary, attending an exhibition that ties in with what the child has been doing at school. These things are incredibly important. What I am 'anti’ is the silly task set by a teacher to tick a box.

“Sometimes homework can set child against parent. I remember someone I’m very close to was in Sainsbury’s and the child was in tears saying 'We’ve got to go, mummy – if I don’t do my homework I won’t be allowed in the playground tomorrow’. It is very important that parents back up what goes on in school, that is paramount. But some homework is almost adversarial.”

But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, warned that scrapping the guidelines could send the 'wrong message’ to schools. He said: “The danger is that schools will use this as an excuse to dilute the amount of homework. Middle-class children will do their homework anyway. Guidance for children who are coming from more deprived backgrounds is probably more important.”

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said: “I’m all in favour of trusting schools but I hope that Ofsted will check that appropriate amounts of homework are being set. “There’s a risk in abandoning the guidelines that some schools and some teachers will see it as the green light to get rid of the unwelcome burden of marking lots of homework.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Homework is part and parcel of a good education, along with high quality teaching and strong discipline. “We trust head teachers to set the homework policy for their school. They know their pupils best and should be free to make these decisions without having to adhere to unnecessary bureaucratic guidance.”

The shake-up comes as a new study by London’s Institute of Education reveals that homework, even in small amounts, boosts the academic attainment and social skills of secondary school pupils.

The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project showed that homework was linked to improvements in 14-year-olds’ academic prowess and social skills as well as reductions in levels of aggression and impulsiveness.


Australia: Means-test selective school parents

Smart people will always tend to get rich and will pass on their smarts to their children so this is how it always will be. But rich people already pay more tax. Why penalize them again?

THE families of children attending selective public high schools are among the most affluent, prompting questions about the equity of the system and whether parents should face a means-tested levy.

Entry to a selective school is based on academic performance, but data from the federal government's My School website shows that children whose parents are from higher social and educational backgrounds are over-represented, while those from disadvantaged backgrounds are significantly under-represented.

Educators call it apartheid within the public school system, and a leading private school principal, Timothy Hawkes, has suggested wealthy families with children in selective public schools should make an extra financial contribution to the education system through a means-tested levy.

My School publishes every school's distribution of students across the different quarters of socio-educational advantage from top to bottom. For example, At James Ruse Agricultural High School, the state's top performer academically, almost 60 per cent of its students come from the top quarter while only 4 per cent come from the bottom.

Hornsby Girls High School has the highest proportion of students from affluent backgrounds in the selective system with 68 per cent. Just 1 per cent of students come from the lowest quarter.

Normanhurst Boys High School has a similar profile with just 2 per cent of students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and 66 per cent in the most advantaged.

Selective schools in less affluent areas of the state are not immune from the pattern. Penrith High School takes 5 per cent of its students from the bottom quarter while 56 per cent come from the top.

A strong supporter of public education, former principal of Asquith Boys High School Chris Bonnor, now fellow of the think tank Centre for Policy Development, said equal access to the selective system based on academic merit was a fallacy.

"There is a bit of an urban myth which has been peddled that selective schools take students from a wide range of social backgrounds but in reality they don't," he said.

"There is a disproportionate number of children from high socio-educational families in selective schools and that doesn't change when you look at selective schools in middle- to lower-class suburbs."

The social status of children attending selective schools is similar to those attending some of the state's most exclusive private schools.

Mr Bonnor called for a review of the selective school system.

The headmaster at The King's School in Parramatta, Dr Hawkes, said the wealthy parents of children attending selective schools should make a fairer financial contribution through a payment that would work in a similar way to the Medicare levy.

"There is an imperative for parents who send their children to selective schools to make a contribution if, and only if, they have the financial means to do so," he said.

"There is no question that there will be a number of families who are doing it tough and have children in selective state schools.

"These examples will invariably be trotted out and presented as a reason why this idea is inappropriate but these sorts of parents are often in the minority."

NSW has the highest number of selective schools in Australia with 17 fully selective schools, 25 partially selective schools, four selective agricultural schools and an online selective program.

A specialist in school systems at the University of Melbourne, Professor Richard Teese, believes the high number of selective schools in NSW has led to a two-tier public system.

"It's a form of social segregation based on academic selection," he said. "Selective high schools are a way of multiplying social advantage."

"There is an intensification of disadvantage at the other end."

The deputy chairman of the Public Schools Principals Forum, Brian Chudleigh, said David Gonski's federal school funding review, which recommended a student-based, rather than school-based, funding model would help close the gap between the haves and have-nots.

"In theory, enrolment at a selective school is based on academic merit," he said.

"Unfortunately, that nexus between socio-economic status and enrolment in selective schools is plain for all to see. The Gonski approach to funding would go a long way to helping that situation.

"It's clearly an equity issue. Children from less fortunate backgrounds, while they may be just as intelligent as children from more affluent homes, struggle to compete right from the word go."


4 March, 2012

Diversity: The Road to Hell for Black Americans Is Paved With White Benevolence

Often, kindly people believe foolish things, and in her 2003 opinion Justice O’Connor received, unexamined, the foolish notion bequeathed to the Court almost 35 years ago by Justice Powell in Bakke that “student body diversity is a compelling state interest.”

The theme of diversity runs throughout her opinion in the Michigan Law School case. Indeed, it is the basis of her opinion: “…respondents [the law school] assert only one justification for their use of race in the admissions process: obtaining ‘the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.’ In other words, the law school asks us to recognize, in the context of higher education, a compelling state interest in student body diversity….Today, we hold that the law school has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.”

There are many reasons that argue against O’Connor’s opinion, but what seems to have been most neglected is an examination of O’Connor’s use of the concept of Diversity itself in the context of higher education. Although it is used dozens of times in her opinion it remains vague and enigmatic.

She accepts unquestioningly the school’s educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission, and that diversity will “in fact yield educational benefits.” This despite the fact that a study by the National Association of Scholars has shown “that the only educational benefit of proportional representation is…proportional representation itself.” Despite the doubtful claims made by the school that racial diversity “promotes learning outcomes…and better prepares them [the students] as professionals…” these claims remain unexamined in her opinion.

When one searches the decision for some description of the way racial diversity could educationally benefit students one looks in vain. The best that you can come up with is “students who will contribute most to the robust exchange of ideas.” Or “classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting when students have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.”

What does this tell us about the notion that racial diversity enhances discussion—any kind of discussion, educational or not? First, it tells us how stupid the idea is that there is such a thing as a Black point of view or an Hispanic point of view. Eminem does not have the same view of the world as Colin Powell, or Phil Ivey, the world class poker champion, any more than my white point of view is the same as my daughter’s point of view.

Secondly, capacity for discussion is largely determined by thinking, and articulation skills, not by race. Educated individuals are better at discussion because the process of education occurs by means of verbal communication. Different occupations allow individuals to practice verbal skills more or less—teachers more, farmers less. Some families encourage verbal skills, some encourage sports skills. But how can having Blacks, or Hispanics in a class enhance robust discourse, by virtue of their ethnicity alone?

The only educational courses in which uninformed opinions are welcomed, are what is known among students as bulls..t courses—courses in which no education takes place because there is no tradition of knowledge that must be communicated to the student. All opinions are equal, all views are acceptable. These courses are usually centered on some multicultural, or ethnocentric subject—Discrimination in America 101. Such courses will be greatly enhanced by testimonies of racial discrimination from Blacks and anybody else who feels discriminated against.

Any program or course that teaches a discipline which has a body of knowledge, a method, a set of principles, and a body of facts acquired empirically will not have “bulls..t” courses in its curriculum. The teachers of such courses, if they are responsible, will be obligated to use class time to minimize discussion which is not focused on doing the job at hand—teaching the curriculum. Such teachers are not interested in a student’s opinions about the material, only that he or she understands it. Discussion in such classes exists for the purposes of clarifying the material, and only that.

Let’s take a course in neuroscience 101. The professor is not interested in the students’ opinion about the Amygdala (a part of the brain) but only that they understand that its function appears to be storing affective memories and the evidence for that currently accepted hypothesis. There could not possibly be any value in encouraging debate or discussion from the students about this matter simply because their opinions would not be informed opinions. Such a teaching attitude is not repressive, nor does it lead to crushing students’ imaginative or creative impulses. It is just common sense.

You wouldn’t want to learn about the way the brain works from your teenage son or daughter. You would want to hear the story from someone who really is well informed about it. And educational time is a precious commodity. The attitude of the professor of neuroscience towards robust discussion and disagreement is altogether different in a post-doctoral seminar on the Amygdala. There, free discussion is highly desirable, because the discussants are well-informed and the discussion occurs on the very cusp of what is now known.

The fact is that “higher education” is not very high. What passes for education in college is in reality an introduction to knowledge. Even in professional schools, like medical school, the student spends most of his or her time and energy in learning the most basic things in a vast array of clinical and non-clinical science. This is what a cancer cell looks like under a microscope. This artery is called the carotid artery. The signs and symptoms of inflammation are such and such. Baby medicine really. And there is not much room for robust discussion here either; you better know the stuff cold or you don’t get out of medical school—or if you just squeak by you won’t get an internship or residency. Or your colleagues won’t send patients to you. Real medicine starts when you start practicing. Nothing focuses the attention more than having a patient come to see you with a symptom you recognize is serious.

Now let’s turn to the University of Michigan Law School and their claim that racial diversity benefits the educational process by encouraging classroom discussion that “is livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting.”

Here is a description of the course in the law of property at the University of Michigan’s Law School:

“A basic survey of the law of property which examines the forms and methods by which property interests are held, used, and transferred, with emphasis on real estate. Includes present and future estates, concurrent ownership…. bailment, easements, promises respecting the use of land, water rights, control of air space, nuisance, adverse possession, gifts of personal property, vendor and purchaser, conveyances of land, land title insurance….”

A more spirited discussion on the law of easements? You must be joking. Clearly this is a survey course with much basic material to be got through in the time available, not much time for robust debate.

Now everybody who has seen the film “The Paper Chase” knows that one of the techniques in the teaching of law school is the Socratic method. The trouble is that anyone familiar with Socratic dialogues understands that the furthest thing from Plato’s mind in writing Socratic dialogues is a free flowing bull session in which every one’s opinion is equal. Students seek Socrates out to be enlightened, because he has the power to lead them from their error to his truth and wisdom. The same is true in law school. The professor has the right idea, and he engages the students in questioning to see if they have the right idea. And since some of the ideas are complex and subtle, many of the students must expose their ignorance or error in order to be corrected. The professor is not really interested in dinner party conversation, or even a more lively, spirited discussion by the students. He is interested in getting the basic ideas across, and if, in the bargain, out of his narcissism and exhibitionism he can present himself as being spirited, lively, and interesting, all the better.

The University of Michigan makes clear that the work of the first year of law school is the standard curriculum taught in most law schools. “Most of the work for the first year is required. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that there are some basic principles which any serious and thoughtful student would choose to study early in his or her career. The study of this fairly traditional material has become one of the experiences shared by almost all lawyers.”

And here is part of the Law School’s statement on the course in civil procedure: “This course is similar to the introductory civil procedure courses taught at most law schools for the last two or three decades…. In common with most courses, this course covers the basic institutions of civil litigation…. At least the rudiments of claim and party joinder and res judicata also are covered. Unlike most first-year civil procedure, however, this course does not cover any of the variety of topics loosely described as jurisdiction. Those topics have been moved into the upper level elective course in Jurisdiction and Choice of Law.”

The fact is that there is big chunk of basic learning that has to be accomplished in law school and there is little time or use for bull sessions—lively or otherwise. The classroom discussion is primarily for clarification, getting the concept right—not for spirited debate.

The basis for O’Connor’s decision was her unexamined acceptance of the idea that racial diversity in itself in some way has educational benefits. This notion is largely a sham, an empty suit, meant to disguise the same old, same old un-American social engineering practices, stacking the deck in favor of preferred groups—often made up of individuals who have never suffered discrimination—and against groups whose members may be innocent of discrimination themselves. Fairness requires getting rid of state empowered favoritism in all its forms.


British University targets 'discriminate against private schools'

Almost half of elite universities are setting targets to boost the recruitment of state school students, it has emerged, prompting fears privately-educated pupils face being penalised.

An analysis of official documents shows 15 out of 32 leading research institutions in England want to increase the proportion of places handed over to state pupils over the next five years. This includes Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, University College London and Warwick. Some universities such as UCL are seeking a 10 per cent rise in admissions from the state sector.

It also emerged that a number of institutions are barring students educated in independent schools from applying for lucrative scholarship programmes worth thousands of pounds.

The disclosure is made in a series of agreements drawn up between individual universities and the Government’s Office for Fair Access, which was set up by Labour to ensure the poor are not put off by higher tuition fees. It is likely to prompt fresh concerns over attempts to “socially engineer” university admissions.

The move follows claims from Prof Les Ebdon, the incoming head of OFFA, that universities failing to hit their targets could face “nuclear” penalties, including huge fines.

Last night, independent school leaders warned against “generic discrimination”, insisting they would fight any attempt to downgrade student applications “just because of the kind of school they come from”.

In recent years, the number of privately-educated pupils admitted to top universities has grown, with early indications that admissions will rise again in 2012. But Tim Hands, master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, said universities should resist attempts to “politically manipulate” results.

“It’s no secret that top universities resent interference with their admissions,” he said. “They don’t see why tertiary education should be forced to compensate for problems which government incompetence over secondary education has created in the first place.”

From this September, universities in England are able to charge up to £9,000 in annual tuition fees – almost three times the current total. Any institution attempting to charge more than £6,000-a-year must draw up an “access agreement” – signed off by OFFA – outlining targets and initiatives designed to ensure students from disadvantaged groups are not deterred by fee hikes.

In many cases, academics are targeting pupils from deprived families, those living in postcodes with a poor history of going on to university and schoolchildren previously involved in summer schools and other outreach programmes.

But an analysis of documents shows that many selective universities are also setting targets specifically relating to state schools. In all, 15 out of 32 mainstream English universities belonging to the Russell Group and 1994 Group – the two main organisations representing research institutions – want to increase state school admissions by 2016.

UCL, which currently has two-thirds of places going to state students, is targeting a 10 per cent rise, while Warwick is proposing an 8.5 per cent rise. Cambridge wants to increase the proportion from 59 to 62 per cent, while Durham is proposing a similar hike.

Other universities targeting state pupils include Exeter, King’s College London, the London School of Economics, Bath, Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London.

Private schools claim the move amounts to discrimination because it fails to account for the large number of independent pupils from poor homes who receive bursaries and those whose parents go the extra mile to cover fees. It also wrongly implies that all students from state schools – including those from sought-after comprehensives and academically selective grammar schools – are disadvantaged, it is claimed.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, attacked the enforced use of targets, saying more emphasis should be placed on raising achievement of state schools instead of tailoring admissions. But she added: “We know that even with good grades state school students are much less likely to apply to top universities than those at independent schools. “We cannot offer places to those who do not apply.

"By encouraging more qualified students from state schools to apply to us through outreach and access schemes, our universities will have a wider pool of applicants from which to select the brightest and the best.”

Prof Michael Farthing, Sussex University vice-chancellor and chairman of the 1994 Group, said: "Every institution faces a unique set of fair access and widening participation challenges and must be trusted to respond in the most appropriate way."

A UCL spokesman said admission was “only ever based on academic merit”, adding: “All successful applicants are required to satisfy our programmes' rigorous entrance requirements. Our access agreement does not contradict that fundamental principle.”

Cambridge said it set its target because a “representative balance between the [state] maintained and private sectors would be achieved if between 61 and 63 per cent of UK entrants come from the maintained sector”.


Major British universities reveal explosion in student cheating over the last three years

The number of students caught cheating at top universities has surged over the past three years, figures reveal. Thousands were found guilty of plagiarising, taking notes into exams or buying essays on the internet.

Nearly 1,700 students at 20 leading institutions were disciplined for academic misconduct in the year 2010-11 alone, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. Around 100 were expelled.

Offences on the rise include cutting and pasting essays from the internet, bringing mobile phones into exams, impersonating other candidates and copying from classmates.

At Oxford University, one student was fined £100 for taking revision notes into an exam, while last year Cambridge stripped a graduate of his history PhD for ‘multiple instances of plagiarism’.

Cambridge also revealed instances of cheating recorded during this academic year, including the case of a land economy student who had their degree reduced from a 2.1 to a 2.2 after being found with a textbook in the exam hall.

And last October a medicine student was found guilty of plagiarism after using material from a sample exercise published as a learning resource.

The Freedom of Information request was sent to the country’s top 30 universities, as ranked by the independent Complete University Guide 2012. Of those, 20 supplied figures.

The University of Lancaster had the worst record with 194 incidents of cheating during the last academic year – up from 175 in 2009-10. It was followed by the University of East Anglia, which recorded 187 incidents of academic misconduct compared with 175 the year before.

Bath reported 182 incidents, a sharp rise from 66 in 2009-10.
Newcastle, where Princess Eugenie is studying history of art, English and politics, had 166 incidents – marginally down from 169 the year before.

‘Academic misconduct’ covers a range of offences including plagiarism, submitting work bought from essay banks, handing in the same piece of work for separate assignments and impersonating another student.

Sanctions range from docked marks to expulsion. In the last academic year alone, 100 students were expelled from the 20 universities for serious academic misconduct. King’s College London has expelled the most – 44 over the past three years.

In the last academic year, 1,665 students were found guilty of academic misconduct, a slight fall from 2009-10 when the figure stood at 1,849 students from 21 universities. The year before, 1,597 students were disciplined for the offence, making a total of 5,111 over the past three years.

The surge in cheating has been attributed in part to the cut-throat job market, which is piling pressure on graduates to do well.

There has also been an explosion in the number of websites that sell coursework – and universities are becoming more adept at spotting such plagiarism, thanks to specialist software.

The figures will fuel concerns over slipping academic standards, at a time when universities are also facing criticism for dumbing down degrees. A report last month found that English universities are ‘not keeping pace’ with international standards. For example, some have dropped maths from certain degree courses because students and their lecturers cannot cope with it.


3 March, 2012

Black Eighth Grader Defends Essay about slack white teachers

When 13-year-old Jada Williams was given a copy of Frederick Douglass’ book “The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass,” she was inspired. So inspired that she decided to write an essay that drew a parallel between the abhorrent illiteracy in city schools and slavery. And she took aim at her teachers.

But that, apparently, is where she went wrong. The teacher took exception to the essay — which was supposed to be for a contest but was never submitted — and even confronted her. And according to her mother, that started a chain of hostility by the school — located in Rochester, NY — which eventually forced the mother to remove Jada from the school.

“My advice to my peers, people of color, and my generation, start making these white teachers accountable for instructing you,” Jada wrote. “They tooled this profession, they brag about their credentials, they brag about their tenure, so if you have so much experience then find a more productive way to teach the so called ‘unteachable.’”

On Wednesday, Jada and her mother, Karla, joined Glenn Beck on GBTV to discuss those words and the incident. It was an emotional interview that covered Jada’s original intent, the school’s reaction, and even her thoughts on what she’s learned.

You may be wondering what young Jada meant by singling out “white teachers.” That’s exactly the question Beck was wondering, and one that sparked debate among his staff. Jada’s response?

She was simply using the language of Frederick Douglass’ book, published in the 1800s.

“I feel misunderstood, because most grownups are making it a racial issue, when it’s a learning issue,” a tearful Jada said later. “I also feel hurt, because I’m not in school right now. They’re taking from me the one thing that I do love, and I feel confused because I thought I lived in a country of freedom of speech.”

“I know this is absolutely not about racism, it’s about the education of our children, and that’s what needs to be the focus,” Jada’s mother added, later saying “if that’s all it’s about [color] then how far will we ever get?”

Beck agreed with Jada’s remarks on freedom of speech. “Jada, I’ve been talking about this this week, about freedom of speech, and they’re trying to get people to sit down and be afraid,” Beck said. “If there’s one thing you should get from Frederick Douglass is, her’s a man that refused to be a slave.”

“Don’t you let them bully you, and don’t you give up on the promise of America,” Beck concluded later. “It is always just over the horizon, but it requires each of us to reach for it.”

In the end, Jada’s essay did make it into the essay contest for the Frederick Douglass Foundation, and they recognized her essay with an award. As for the school, Rochester School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas acknowledged Wednesday to local media that Williams‘ teacher didn’t encourage the free-flow of ideas.

“Of course that’s not the best way to handle a situation like this,” he said. And while he didn’t address specific disciplinary action, he did say, “Suffice it to say I am addressing the situation.”


Can American universities help break down Britain's social barriers?

As the cost of going to university soars, British students may find Ivy League colleges a cheaper alternative.

There used to be, in the not-so-distant past, stereotypes of American and British university education that went something like this: American students, except for the really rich ones, had to borrow their way through higher education, flipping burgers into the wee small hours just to make ends meet. British students, by contrast, were lucky. Even wealthy ones had their tuition fees paid by the state, and most could expect help with living costs in the form of grants. They left university virtually debt-free, ready to enjoy the fruits of a career bought with a solid 2:1 in Economics and Something Else. That situation is being turned on its head.

Britain is now the place to acquire a socking great graduate debt, with tuition fees commonly £9,000 per year and loans taking the place of grants. A British student can borrow up to £50,000 from the taxpayer to finance his or her degree, ensuring a relative level of indebtedness not unlike that confronting the Greek finance minister. But win a place at Harvard or Yale, or one of the many wealthy higher education institutions in the United States, and you could walk away with no debt at all. So generous are the scholarships available at Ivy League universities that some even cover flights home.

Sir Peter Lampl wants to offer this opportunity to talented youngsters from British comprehensives, and has organised a summer school at Yale to help potential applicants master the US system. The founder of the Sutton Trust, which aims to extend educational opportunity to those from low-income households, the businessman believes American universities are part of the answer to a British higher-education funding regime that threatens to re-erect social barriers.

“We are not talking about the kid who will go to Liverpool John Moores or the University of East London, we are talking about those who can make it to Oxford, Cambridge or Bristol,” he says. “We are aiming at the very selective American universities, the Ivy League. I think people who come out of these universities are better prepared for a career. They have more breadth and depth and have studied a wider range of subjects. You get to look at another culture, and you also become part of a very powerful alumni network. A lot of parents are choosing to send their kids to an American university rather than a British one.”

Each year some 4,500 British students take up undergraduate places at American universities and colleges, 80 per cent of them from private schools. That is a drop in the ocean compared with the half-million applicants of all ages accepted each year by Britain’s 300 universities and colleges, but it is significant in terms of elite institutions, such as those of the Russell Group.

A quarter of sixth-formers at Wellington College in Berkshire are expected to opt for an American university this year, but for pupils from state schools the US entry system is a daunting prospect. The summer school at Yale is meant to help, providing advice on the SAT –the Standard Aptitude Test – which applicants must sit. Applicants must also provide a school record, personal statement and references.

Josh McTaggart, from Weston-super-Mare, studied at sixth-form college and was offered a place at University College London, but chose Harvard instead. He receives some £35,000 a year in help from the university, which this year will award £100 million in “needs-based” grants to 60 per cent of its students.

“It’s cheaper to study in the US than London,” says Josh, who hopes to graduate with debts of hundreds rather than thousands of pounds. “Studying at Harvard has opened up a world of opportunity, yet in doing so I haven’t been crippled by debt. I receive a financial aid scholarship that covers the entirety of my costs. This aid is needs-based and, since my household income is under £30,000, I am entitled to full cover.”

In opting for Harvard, Josh has bypassed a British system that threatens to become more polarised as costs escalate. Pupils whose parents earn less than £25,000 a year are eligible for maintenance grants to help meet living costs, but the prospect of a debt measured in the tens of thousands can only be a deterrent to poor families.

The middle classes are also beginning to suffer. There has been a 2.5 per cent fall in university applications by pupils from the wealthiest fifth of households, part of a five per cent decline overall.

“Loading up low and middle-income kids with debt is not a good idea,” says Sir Peter, who after grammar school and Oxford made millions in management consultancy and private equity. “I talk to American friends and they say, 'What are you doing loading up these kids with debt? We wouldn’t do that.’ The average level of graduate debt in America is far lower than people think – £16,000. So it’s lower than for our kids.”

At £40,000 a year for some courses, Harvard’s fees are vastly higher than British ones, but the university’s wealth allows it to indulge students it considers worthy of admission. Harvard’s endowment fund – investments bought with donations from alumni and other bodies – stands at more than £20 billion, greater by far than all the endowment funds controlled by British universities.

Those of Cambridge (£4 billion) and Oxford (£3 billion) are the only ones in the UK that bear comparison with the US sector. Edinburgh, in third place, comes in well below £200 million. Yale, second to Harvard in wealth, enjoys an endowment of some £12 billion, the fruit of long-term relationships with alumni and generous tax breaks for donors.

“If you go to Yale and you come from a family earning less than £40,000, you come out of there completely debt-free,” says Sir Peter. “If your family is earning over £150,000 a year, you pay full whack. In between, they means-test. For a lower-income kid it is very attractive.

“Kids who haven’t been lighting up the school board with A-levels can do very well on the American SAT. I spent half a day on the Harvard selections committee and saw how much they take background into account. The Ivy League universities don’t get many applications from British comprehensive kids and they would like more.

“A diverse student body is one of their objectives. You don’t have a class system over there like you do here. It’s much easier for a working-class kid to integrate into an American university because he’s not pigeonholed in the same way.”

Not that American higher education is free of social elitism. There has long been a taste, never expressed overtly, for “library builders”, applicants from super-wealthy families prepared to stump up the cost of an infrastructure project to ensure admission. Preference is also given to children of alumni.

“This is going to be a big success,” says Sir Peter of the summer school. “We’re doing what the Americans call soup to nuts, getting the kids in for orientation in London in June, then out to the States in July.”

He hopes it will be the beginning of something big. But the question is, why should it be necessary?


British school music lessons with no… music

Thousands of school music lessons involve barely a note of music, a damning report revealed today. Ofsted inspectors condemned poor standards of music education in English schools after discovering that classes are dominated by teachers talking and written exercises. Pupils are given few opportunities to play or listen to music or sing, they found.

‘Put simply, in too many cases there was not enough music in music lessons,’ the report said. ‘In many instances there was insufficient emphasis on active music-making or on the use of musical sound as the dominant language of learning. ‘Too much use was made of verbal communication and non-musical activities.’

Inspectors observed music lessons 184 primary, secondary and special schools. They found that standards had barely improved since the last inspection of music provision three years ago.

Nearly two thirds of schools were failing to provide a good standard of music education - and lessons in one in five were ‘inadequate’.

‘In too many of the lessons observed, teachers spent significant amounts of time talking pupils through lengthy learning objectives that were not related to the language of musical sound,’ the report said.

‘Survey evidence showed, very clearly, that pupils made the most musical progress when they were taught in music, rather than about music.’

Even in instrumental lessons, too much teaching was poor. Inspectors found examples where ensembles were allowed to carry on making a ‘dreadful sound’. In some cases, teachers had not shown children how to hold instruments correctly - and couldn’t even hold them properly themselves.

Boys were significantly less likely to take part in orchestras, choirs and ensembles than girls. Just 14 per cent of primary school boys were involved, against 32 per cent of girls.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said: ‘Inspectors looking at music teaching in nearly 200 schools saw quality ranging from outstandingly good to extremely poor.

Too often, inspectors simply did not see enough music in music lessons. ‘Too much use was made of non-musical activities such as writing without any reference to musical sound.

‘Too much time was spent talking about tasks without teachers actually demonstrating what was required musically, or allowing the pupils to get on with their music making.’

In one lesson seen by inspectors, pupils simply copied down information about Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash rather than taking part in a musical activity.

The report said: ‘In one class seen by inspectors, pupils spent the first 20 minutes of a one-hour lesson - the only music lesson of the week for many students - completing “written tasks about the life and work of Eric Clapton and Johnny Cash, using printed ‘factsheets’ from which they had to extract and copy information”.’


2 March, 2012

Too Little, Too Late

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to repeal two Department of Education regulations that intrude on the authority of the states to set education policy.

The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117) repeals certain Department of Education regulations that for purposes of determining whether a school is eligible to participate in programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA): (1) require institutions of higher education and postsecondary vocational institutions (except religious schools) to be legally authorized by the state in which they are situated, (2) delineate what such legal authorization requires of states and schools, and (3) define “credit hour.”

The bill also “prohibits the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any regulation or rule that defines ‘credit hour’ for any purpose under the HEA.”

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.):

"At the end of the day, the unnecessary state authorization and credit hour regulations will reduce local control and create uncertainty in postsecondary education. Instead of over-regulating the nation’s higher education system, we should focus our efforts on simplifying federal involvement and streamlining regulatory burdens."

Although advocates for the Constitution, decentralization, and limited government are rightly cheering this brief bill, it is unfortunately too little, too late.

The current cabinet-level federal Department of Education began operation in 1980. It was cobbled together from elements of the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare; Defense; Justice; Housing and Urban Development; Agriculture; and some other federal agencies.

The department’s mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Its current budget is about $68 billion.

Headquartered in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building in Washington, D.C., the Department of Education employs a total of about 3,600 bureaucrats in the nation’s capital at that and five other locations. There are also about another 1,400 staff members who work in ten regional offices. Thirteen of the D.C. education bureaucrats are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. There are also about 110 other political appointees.

Ronald Reagan proposed abolishing of the Department of Education while campaigning for president in 1980. The Republican Party platforms of 1980 and 1996 likewise called for the department’s elimination:

We understand and sympathize with the plight of America’s public school teachers, who so frequently find their time and attention diverted from their teaching responsibilities to the task of complying with federal reporting requirements. America has a great stake in maintaining standards of high quality in public education. The Republican Party recognizes that the achievement of those standards is possible only to the extent that teachers are allowed the time and freedom to teach. To that end, the Republican Party supports deregulation by the federal government of public education, and encourages the elimination of the federal Department of Education.

Our formula is as simple as it is sweeping: the federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the work place. That is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning. We therefore call for prompt repeal of the Goals 2000 program and the School-To-Work Act of 1994, which put new federal controls, as well as unfunded mandates, on the States. We further urge that federal attempts to impose outcome- or performance-based education on local schools be ended.

But forget for a minute the Republican rhetoric and look instead at the Republican record.

During Reagan’s first six years as president, the Senate was controlled by the Republicans. The budget for the Department of Education increased from $14.7 billion in fiscal year 1981 (Jimmy Carter’s last budget) to $22.8 billion in fiscal year 1989 (Reagan’s last budget).

During George H.W. Bush’s term in office, Congress was in the complete control of the Democrats. By his last fiscal year (1993), the education budget had increased to $32.5 billion.

During Bill Clinton’s last six years in office, the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. Yet the education budget ballooned to $42.1 billion by fiscal year 2001 (Clinton’s last budget).

Under George W. Bush, the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate for more than four years. During his term in office the education budget increased all the way up to $100 billion in fiscal year 2006 before leveling off in the $60 billion range.

That means that Republicans participated in the expansion of the Department of Education with a Republican president and one house of Congress controlled by the Republicans, with a Republican president and both houses of Congress controlled by the Democrats, with a Democratic president and both houses of Congress controlled by the Republicans, and with a Republican president and both houses of Congress controlled by the Republicans.

Contrary to the image that the Republican Party likes to put forth, it is just as committed to socialized education as the Democrats are. Just as it is just as committed to Social Security and socialized medicine.

The Department of Education should be eliminated, but not because it is too expense, not because it has too many bureaucrats, not because it is too intrusive into state and local affairs, not because it has failed to improve education, not because it is too beholden to the teachers’ unions, and not because it promotes a liberal agenda. The Department of Education should be eliminated because the federal government has been given no authority whatsoever by the Constitution to have anything to do with education.

That means no Elementary and Secondary Education Act, no Higher Education Act, no Education for All Handicapped Children Act, no Improving America’s Schools Act, no No Child Left Behind Act, no Race to the Top fund, no National School Lunch Program, no Head Start, no federal student loans, no Pell Grants, no mandates, no vouchers, no initiatives, no directives, no requirements, no regulations, and, of course, no Department of Education.

All of the fifty states have provisions in their constitutions for the operation of K-12 schools and colleges and universities. Of course, libertarians argue against government intrusion into education at all levels — federal, state, and local — on a philosophical level. But on the federal level, that doesn’t even matter. Because there is nothing in the Constitution that grants the federal government the authority to be involved in any manner with education, the immediate elimination of the entire education department and its bureaucrats shouldn’t even be an issue for Democrats and Republicans to fight over.

For the Republicans to now seek to repeal some Department of Education regulations is too little and too late to mean anything.


The great social engineering flop: Billions spent, but poor miss out on British university boom

The billions of pounds spent on expanding universities over the past 20 years has failed to help the poorest children, a study shows. The failure of the comprehensive system was blamed for the stubbornly low proportion of undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to researchers.

The boom in places has mainly benefited the middle classes, leaving behind an ‘underclass’, and indirectly precipitating social problems such as the disorder on our streets last summer.

Peter Elias, a Warwick University employment expert who helped lead the research, called on the Government to take urgent steps to improve social mobility.

But he said attempts to engineer university admissions to favour poorer pupils were unworkable. The study, which covered 34,000 Britons, found that teenagers with white-collar parents have taken up university places twice as fast as peers with blue-collar parents.

This is despite a widely publicised drive to boost the proportion of working-class youngsters in further education.

Professor Elias said the dramatic expansion of higher education from the early 1990s had widened the gaps between social groups. ‘There was an opportunity to do something, and it’s clearly been missed. ‘Over the next three, four, five years we are going to need to make significant progress. If we don’t, the whole concept of the underclass is going to reappear.

‘We only need to look at what happened last summer to see what problems lie in wait if we have an unequal distribution across society.’

Professor Elias said reforms aimed at giving parents a wider choice of secondary schools including specialist schools, academies and free schools should help to boost social mobility.

‘Some comprehensives are extremely good – and parents who pay for private education are wasting their money – but clearly some were failing,’ he said.

He said the lowering of university entry requirements for disadvantaged students was a ‘nightmare scenario’. Just as some parents have been caught faking addresses to beat school catchment areas, there would be fake backgrounds in university admissions, he said. ‘If you try to translate these things into quota systems, straightaway people will try to get around the quota,’ he said. ‘You can have fake backgrounds – “my dad was a brickie and my mum a cleaner”. It’s unworkable administratively and politically undesirable.’

The rise in tuition fees and abolition of grants for poor college students could prove a ‘huge obstacle’ to boosting social mobility, he added.

The study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research based at Essex University analysed two groups of adults – one aged 22 to 34 and the other 37 to 49. The older group would have been able to attend university prior to the expansion that began in 1992.

Of these 25.7 per cent had a degree – a figure that rose to 34.3 per cent among the younger group. When the researchers examined the backgrounds of the graduates, they found stark differences.

The rise among teenagers with managerial and professional parents was ten percentage points. Among intermediate occupations, including clerical jobs, nursing and directors of small businesses, it was 11 points. But among families with routine or manual jobs the rise was only five points.


Benign neglect is good for kids

In Japan, kindergarten kids walk home from school without adults

PICTURE this. It is 2005, I arrive for the first time in Tokyo. I am making my way across the busy city when I encounter a small group of kindergarten children walking home from school. They are oblivious to my presence as they busy themselves crossing streets, picking up autumn leaves and chatting. There is not a supervising adult in sight, no older siblings. As a parent I feel a sense of foreboding - I worry about their safety.

I recount my experience to a Japanese colleague and exclaim, "There were no adults watching out for them." He is taken aback. "What do you mean, no adults? There were the car drivers, the shopkeepers, the other pedestrians. The city is full of adults who are taking care of them!"

On average, 80 per cent of primary-age Japanese children walk to school. In Australia the figure in most communities is as low as 40 per cent. Why? What happens in Japan that makes it so different?

At a community seminar recently I asked the audience to imagine themselves aged eight in a special place and to describe it. Most recounted being outside in their neighbourhood, with other children, out of earshot of parents: "My friends and I would go to this vacant lot and build our own cubbies" (Richard, 36); "We used to get all the neighbourhood kids together and go out on the street and play cricket" (Andrew, 39).

Author Tim Gill would call this parenting style "benign neglect" and for many of us, growing up in baby-boom suburbia, this was our experience. It made us independent, confident, physically active, socially competent and good risk assessors.

I asked the audience if they would give these same freedoms now to their own children. They all said no.

The big issue for parents around children's independence in the streets is "stranger danger" and child abductions. Statistics show almost all abductions are by family members, and the numbers have been going down for a decade. When I tell my audience the odds of a child being murdered by a stranger in Australia are one in 4 million, they answer like Andrew: "I know the chances are slim but I just couldn't forgive myself."

So is there a middle ground between "benign neglect" and "eternal vigilance"? There is in Japan and in Scandinavian countries, where children's independent mobility is high. While parental fear of strangers is still high in these countries, rather than driving children to school or other venues, parents and the community have initiated activities to increase their safety.

In inner Tokyo, a neighbourhood has parent safety brigades that patrol the streets around schools, shopkeepers are signed up as members of the neighbourhood watch program and the local council has provided a mamoruchi, a GPS-connected device that hangs around a child's neck and connects them instantly to a help call centre. These strategies are reliant on one critical cultural factor: a commitment to the belief that children being able to walk the streets alone is a critical ingredient in a civil, safe and healthy society.

If we want to start claiming back the streets and local parks for children then it's our role as community members to let parents know we are willing to support them and play our part.


1 March, 2012

Separate school & state, even at the local level

Why won’t conservatives ever go to the root of the statist problems that face our nation? A good example involves education, an area that most conservatives will admit has long been mired in crisis. Yet, all that conservatives end up doing is dancing around the problem, as they do in so many other areas where statism produces crises.

I generally avoid listening to talk radio because I find it so boring. Leftist talk radio does nothing but extol the virtues of the socialism and the welfare state, despite the manifest economic harm they have done to society, especially the poor. Moreover, with Obama’s embrace of President Bush’s infringements on civil liberties and imperialist foreign policy, most liberal talk-show hosts have gone silent in these areas out of some sense of misguided political loyalty.

But conservative talk shows are just as boring, not so much because their mantras and analyses are wrong but because they are never able to take their principles to their logical conclusion. The hosts will exclaim how “pro-free enterprise” they are and they’ll show how the free market is superior to socialism. But then comes their solution, and that’s where they’ll put you to sleep. Their solution inevitable is, “The system needs reform” or “We have to get Republicans into office so that they can run government like a business.”

I was listening to a conservative talk radio show the other day. The topic was whether public schools should be providing free breakfast and lunch for poorer children. The host was arguing the standard conservative mantras. “It is not the business of the state to be feeding children! That is the responsibility of parents!”

There were two guests on the show, a conservative and a liberal. The conservative agreed with the host. The liberal argued that helping the poor was a societal responsibility and suggested that without the free meals, the children of poor families would be suffering serious malnutrition.

Not one single time did the conservatives challenge the liberal on the basic point of coercion — that it’s morally wrong to force people to care for others. Just because there might be a moral, religious, or ethical duty to help the poor doesn’t mean that it’s okay to force people to do so. Whether to help the poor or not should left entirely to the realm of freedom of choice.

But what was most frustrating was that the conservatives could not see the real issue, which was the proverbial elephant in the room. They could see that it isn’t the role of government to be feeding people but they had a total blind spot on what is just as big an issue, if not bigger: Why should it be the business of government to be educating people, including children?

Boiled down to its essence, the conservatives and liberals on that talk show were debating how public (i.e., government) schools should be run. Should there be free meals in public schools or not?

Why not instead to the root of the problem: Should there be public schools? In other words, why get bogged down over how to run statist enterprises? Why not challenge the existence of statist enterprises themselves?

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, with no public schools the issue of whether there should be free meals provided in public schools disintegrates.

One of the favorite campaign positions in Republican presidential campaigns is to call for the abolition of the federal Department of Education (even though once they’re in office they decide against it). Republicans correctly claim that the federal government has no legitimate or constitutional authority to be involving itself in education. They want to return authority over education completely to the states or localities.

But notice that that doesn’t get to the heart of the matter — the mandatory, state-provided, or state-monitored educational system known as public schooling. The real solution is simply to free the education market from all government control, including at the local level.

That would mean the repeal of all compulsory-attendance laws and the abolition of all school taxes. The school districts would divest themselves of ownership of the school buildings and dissolve the school districts themselves. People would be free to have their children educated in the manner they deemed best. Entrepreneurs would be free to offer whatever educational vehicles they desired to consumers.

Public schooling, even at the local level, is really nothing more than a socialist enterprise, which conservatives claim to oppose. It is a system that is based on central planning, coercive attendance, and mandatory funding. Its methodology is based on memorization and rote learning. The regimentation that is inherent to the system produces mindsets of deference to authority, mindsets that end up accepting the premises of the established order and that end up just trying to reform or fix it.

Most everyone acknowledges that the free market provides the best of everything. Compared to socialist enterprises, the free market provides superior products and services at lower cost. It would do the same in the field of education.

Most parents want only the best for their children. That’s in fact why many parents, including President Obama and his wife Michelle, refuse to send their children into the public-school system. Why not let children have the very best education possible? That can only happen in a free-market educational environment, one in which we separate school and state just as our ancestors separated church and state.


Don't bother getting a good degree: Now Britain's PC brigade says bosses shouldn't just hire best students as it 'discriminates against average graduates'

Companies hiring graduates with top degrees could be discriminating against students with average grades, according to a Government-commissioned review. Jobs that require applicants to have a minimum qualification of a 2:1 degree may prevent firms meeting diversity targets, the report said.

Many sought-after positions - particularly in the corporate sector - require a certain standard of academic achievement and even attendance at a certain set of universities. But the review for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said the system was 'flawed'.

Professor Tim Wilson, who carried out the review, said: 'A filter that limits recruitment to a particular set of universities, a "2-1 standard" and a defined UCAS entry threshold to the corporate sector are not uncommon requirements. 'In the context of reducing the applications to manageable proportions this is understandable, but it has flaws.'

He said companies who filter on academic achievement need to carry out regular reviews of their screening processes, based on the types of graduates they have hired.

'An algorithm that includes a profiling filter may reduce the selection task to manageable proportions and hence an acceptable cost, but it also has the potential to exclude graduates with skills profiles that are appropriate to company needs.

'Graduate recruiters using filtering mechanisms should undertake a systematic and frequent review of screening algorithms in the light of the qualities of the graduates that the company has recruited and the diversity objectives of the company.'

He added that the recruitment cycle is normally undertaken before graduation, so the degree classification is projected, not actual. This may minimise the cost risk, he added, but not necessarily manage the risk of diversity imbalance.

The review said that many employers were concerned about not attracting the right mix of graduates and that companies were often not doing enough to communicate with prospective candidates.

Sir Tim made 54 recommendations, including a number on how to encourage more so-called 'sandwich' degrees which involve some form of work, and ways of increasing internships.

He said that where internships are unpaid, universities should use funds they receive from the office for Fair Access, which encourages students from poorer backgrounds to go to university, to support eligible youngsters rather than condone a policy that could 'inhibit social mobility'.

He suggested universities should only charge students on a work placement year £1,000 rather than the permitted maximum of £4,500, and interest charges on student loans should be suspended.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said the world's best universities were building deeper links with business, adding that the Government will now 'carefully consider' the report's recommendations.

The conclusions are likely to increase fears the professions are dumbing down in order to widen access and concerns this could damage Britain's already unstable economy.


One reason why 39% of Australian teenagers are sent to private high schools

Both episodes below occured at government schools

A BULLIED teenager who suffered horrific injuries when he attempted suicide has died more than two years after his tormenters drove him to despair.

Dakoda-Lee Stainer, 14, suffered brain damage when deprived of oxygen for more than 20 minutes after he tried to take his own life in 2009 following severe bullying.

Left in a wheelchair, unable to speak or walk, and taking food and liquids through a tube to his stomach, the teen died on Valentine's Day this year.

After Dakoda-Lee's tragic story was revealed in The Daily Telegraph last year, close family friends launched a campaign against bullying of the kind that drove the north coast teenager to try to end his life.

Sharon Grady of Yarravel, near Kempsey, yesterday said no one deserved the treatment Dakoda-Lee had suffered, but bullying was still happening. "We have now lost this precious, loving and caring young man who was talented in so many areas," Ms Grady said.

On the day he tried to end his life, the teen, who attended Melville High School at Kempsey, had been accosted by a gang of youths on the school bus after months of relentless attacks by bullies.

About a year earlier another 14-year-old, Alex Wildman, took his own life at Lismore after violent run-ins with fellow students, forcing education authorities to investigate how effectively schools were combating bullying.

Alex's stepfather, Bill Kelly, is suing the Department of Education and Communities for damages, claiming it breached its duty of care to the student.

A major offensive against cyber bullying has been launched in schools.

It involves graphic videos showing the dangers of online bullying designed to frighten students out of using the internet as a weapon to attack other children.

The graphic films, using male and female teenage actors to depict savage bullying scenarios, are so realistic they have shocked children into changing their online behaviour, parents and educators said.


Primarily covering events in Australia, the U.K. and the USA -- where the follies are sadly similar.

TERMINOLOGY: The English "A Level" exam is roughly equivalent to a U.S. High School diploma. Rather confusingly, you can get As, Bs or Cs in your "A Level" results. Entrance to the better universities normally requires several As in your "A Levels".

MORE TERMINOLOGY: Many of my posts mention the situation in Australia. Unlike the USA and Britain, there is virtually no local input into education in Australia. Education is mostly a State government responsibility, though the Feds have a lot of influence (via funding) at the university level. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

There were two brothers from a famous family. One did very well at school while the other was a duffer. Which one went on the be acclaimed as the "Greatest Briton"? It was the duffer: Winston Churchill.

The current Left-inspired practice of going to great lengths to shield students from experience of failure and to tell students only good things about themselves is an appalling preparation for life. In adulthood, the vast majority of people are going to have to reconcile themselves to mundane jobs and no more than mediocrity in achievement. Illusions of themselves as "special" are going to be sorely disappointed

Perhaps it's some comfort that the idea of shielding kids from failure and having only "winners" is futile anyhow. When my son was about 3 years old he came bursting into the living room, threw himself down on the couch and burst into tears. When I asked what was wrong he said: "I can't always win!". The problem was that we had started him out on educational computer games where persistence only is needed to "win". But he had then started to play "real" computer games -- shootem-ups and the like. And you CAN lose in such games -- which he had just realized and become frustrated by. The upset lasted all of about 10 minutes, however and he has been happily playing computer games ever since. He also now has a degree in mathematics and is socially very pleasant. "Losing" certainly did not hurt him.

Even the famous Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci (and the world's most famous Sardine) was a deep opponent of "progressive" educational methods. He wrote: "The most paradoxical aspect is that this new type of school is advocated as being democratic, while in fact it is destined not merely to perpetuate social differences, but to crystallise them." He rightly saw that "progressive" methods were no help to the poor

I am an atheist of Protestant background who sent his son to Catholic schools. Why did I do that? Because I do not personally feel threatened by religion and I think Christianity is a generally good influence. I also felt that religion is a major part of life and that my son should therefore have a good introduction to it. He enjoyed his religion lessons but seems to have acquired minimal convictions from them.

Why have Leftist educators so relentlessly and so long opposed the teaching of phonics as the path to literacy when that opposition has been so enormously destructive of the education of so many? It is because of their addiction to simplistic explanations of everything (as in saying that Islamic hostility is caused by "poverty" -- even though Osama bin Laden is a billionaire!). And the relationship between letters and sounds in English is anything but simple compared to the beautifully simple but very unhelpful formula "look and learn".

For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

A a small quote from the past that helps explain the Leftist dominance of education: "When an opponent says: 'I will not come over to your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already. You will pass on. Your descendents, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time, they will know nothing else but this new community.'." Quote from Adolf Hitler. In a speech on 6th November 1933

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

Discipline: With their love of simple generalizations, this will be Greek to Leftists but I see an important role for discipline in education DESPITE the fact that my father never laid a hand on me once in my entire life nor have I ever laid a hand on my son in his entire life. The plain fact is that people are DIFFERENT, not equal and some kids will not behave themselves in response to persuasion alone. In such cases, realism requires that they be MADE to behave by whatever means that works -- not necessarily for their own benefit but certainly for the benefit of others whose opportunities they disrupt and destroy.

Many newspaper articles are reproduced in full on this blog despite copyright claims attached to them. I believe that such reproductions here are protected by the "fair use" provisions of copyright law. Fair use is a legal doctrine that recognises that the monopoly rights protected by copyright laws are not absolute. The doctrine holds that, when someone uses a creative work in way that does not hurt the market for the original work and advances a public purpose - such as education or scholarship - it might be considered "fair" and not infringing.

Comments above by John Ray