Friday, February 12, 2016



Democrats love universal pre-K — and don’t seem to care that it may not work

It's neither as effective nor cost-effective as people tend to think

By Kevin Huffman

As campaign issues go, promoting preschool for poor kids is about as close to a no-brainer as it gets among progressives.

Indeed, when Hillary Clinton officially launched her campaign last summer with a call for expanded access to prekindergarten, the New York Times reported, “Of all the issues Mrs. Clinton could have delved into, early childhood education is perhaps the most obvious and among the safest.”

Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders have made universal, school-based pre-K a centerpiece of their platforms. Meanwhile, they’ve demonized any opposition. “They aren’t just missing the boat on early childhood education,” Clinton said, “they’re trying to sink it.” Sanders, not to be rhetorically outdone, claimed that “to turn our back on children at that period is disgraceful.”

And why shouldn’t we all fall in line on this issue? We know that children from low-income homes enter kindergarten already significantly behind their wealthier peers. Research shows that they hear about 30 million fewer words, they have significantly lower exposure to books, and their impulse control and self-regulation — often called executive function — tend to be less developed than in higher income children. So it makes absolute sense to look for meaningful interventions between birth and age 5.

Unfortunately, the predominant remedy advocated by those on the left is neither as effective, nor cost-effective, as people tend to think.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have spent the past six years comparing cohorts of Tennessee pre-K students with their peers who applied to the statewide pre-K program but were lotteried out. The results are not stellar. The pre-K students entered kindergarten with a decided advantage over the comparison group, but that advantage diminished over time. By the time the children reached third grade, the pre-K attendees actually underperformed the comparison group.

Welp.

As the state’s education commissioner from 2011 to January 2015, I can’t help being disappointed. Low-income children in Tennessee struggle in school, and like many, I have been hopeful that the school-based pre-K program would boost achievement and, eventually, be expanded.

Still, I’ve been surprised with how pre-K advocates rushed to defend their sacred cow.

Some, including Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, have dismissed the unwanted results as a product of flawed methodology. This is odd given the impeccable credentials and the extraordinary care of the researchers. In fact, based on my multiple conversations with the Vanderbilt team, I would posit they were genuinely hoping for good results and were surprised and discouraged by what they found, but nonetheless committed to honesty in their analysis.

In another defensive maneuver, some pre-K advocates have suggested the reason Tennessee’s pre-K isn’t working is because Tennessee isn’t doing it the right way. “If your program isn’t very good, you can’t expect it to have long-term benefits,” sniped the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.

That’s funny, because pre-K advocates for years told me how great the Tennessee pre-K program was based on their own metrics. We were in the upper tier of states, meeting nine out of 10 quality standard benchmarks on a well-regarded rubric from — guess who? — the National Institute for Early Education Research.

I understood, though, that Tennessee’s pre-K was roughly analogous to all of its schooling. Like most states, we have some good programs, some bad and a large smattering of average. (We score slightly below average on national tests, though scores are climbing faster than in most other states.)

The studies showing that pre-K “works” are based on small, high-quality pre-K programs. Indeed, if you parse the language of pre-K advocates, you will often find the words “high-quality” when they describe what we need. See, for example, Clinton’s campaign promise that “every 4-year-old in America [will have] access to high-quality preschool in the next 10 years.”

That’s great, but what leads us to believe that we can take small, high-quality pre-K programs and blow them out into a statewide or nationwide intervention? Why would we think we can build a “high-quality” program for all the nation’s 4-year-olds when decades of effort have failed to produce universal high-quality in any other grades?

This matters because, as the Vanderbilt study shows, an average pre-K program doesn’t seem to have academic impacts.

It’s important to note a couple of caveats here. The study is ongoing, and we don’t know how results will ultimately wind up. Also, there is good evidence from other studies that pre-K programming has a positive impact on non-academic results. Pre-K can improve executive function, eventually resulting in better behavior and even higher graduation rates. The Tennessee study is too preliminary to measure these effects.

But while we wait for a full accounting, given the doubts the study has raised so far, and given the urgency of improving early childhood interventions, let’s park the highly politicized groupthink on pre-K and have a real conversation about solutions.

We should consider a wider range of interventions. I would love to see apolitical research comparing school-based pre-K, private day care, church preschool and Head Start. In the same way that public charter schools have become an important addition to traditional public schools, are there ways to let dollars flow to early childhood programs based on effectiveness?

Instead of advocating for universal school-based pre-K, let’s advocate for 3- and 4-year-old children and be open to different possibilities. If our goal is to help them rather than simply to add another grade level onto our public schools, then let’s stop demonizing opposition to pre-K, attacking the bearers of bad news and making pre-K just another tool of partisan orthodoxy. We owe it to our low-income families and the schools that ultimately serve them.

SOURCE 






I can't stand that 'Caesar' Rhodes: Oxford student who said statue left them feeling 'under assault' knew so little about him he didn't know his first name

An Oxford student who complained of feeling ‘under assault’ by memorials to Cecil Rhodes knew so little about him that they thought his first name was ‘Caesar’, documents show.

Responding to a questionnaire about racism at the prestigious university, the student said they objected to having to go to ‘Caesar Rhodes House’ to visit a library.

They added that paying ‘homage’ to a ‘great colonialist’ like ‘Caesar Rhodes’ made them feel ‘uncomfortable’ and helped ‘perpetuate racial inequality’.

The comments were contained in a survey of students at Oxford by the university’s branch of the National Union of Students.

It was carried out by representatives of the union’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE), which has supported calls for memorials to Cecil Rhodes to be torn down.

The blunder has remained for over a year in the online report, which has been used repeatedly by campaigners to accuse Oxford of racism.

It is likely to prove an embarrassment to those campaigning for the removal of memorials to Cecil Rhodes at the university, as it calls into question how much students really know about the 19th century politician’s life.

The student, writing anonymously, said: ‘Caesar Rhodes was a great colonialist after whom northern and southern Rhodesia was named.

‘He got rich of [sic] the labours of southern African mine workers under the colonial regimes that he helped to house.

‘We have a whole building off of South parks road that is essentially an homage to Caesar Rhodes…when I go there, I feel very uncomfortable and under ideological assault, as though I’m made to feel like this guy did something good or deserves to be honoured with his own entire building.

‘To me, that shows a really glaring example that, at Oxford, there are institutional structures that perpetuate racial inequality and oppressive historical figures.’

The building in question – called Rhodes House – housed the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies until 2014, when it was moved.

The student made the comments as part of the 100 Voices Report, an ongoing project which was completed just over a year ago and is displayed on the student union website.

The report author said: ‘Despite the fact that BME students can and do thrive in the stimulating environment of Oxford, many experience significant racism on a structural and interpersonal level during their time here.’

Following publication of the report, CRAE declared in November that it ‘stands in full solidarity’ with Rhodes Must Fall Oxford – a now failed campaign to remove a statue of Rhodes at Oriel College.

It said: ‘The violence of the statue’s presence is part of a broader exclusion of the experiences of students of colour at this university.’

The college originally said it would have a six-month listening exercise, but last month announced it had decided the statue should stay.

In a statement, Oriel College said it had received an ‘enormous amount of input’ from students, academics and other individuals and groups during its consultation.

The college said after ‘careful consideration’ it had decided the statue should remain but it would add ‘a clear historical context to explain why it is there’.

Rhodes, a British imperialist in southern Africa in the 19th Century, left money to the college on his death in 1902.

A scholarship programme in his name has so far been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students.

The university has always denied it is ‘institutionally racist’ and has said it is committed to supporting potential and current ethnic minority students.

The student union has been contacted for comment.

SOURCE 





British secondary schools face teaching crisis: Classrooms can't keep up with the immigrant baby boom

Schools are suffering from a teacher shortage driven by rising pupil numbers fuelled by immigration, figures suggest.

A report by the Government's spending watchdog found that while the number of teachers in the system has increased over the past ten years, pupil numbers are also growing.

The National Audit Office said that recruitment of teachers would have to increase over the next few years to keep up.

Local councils have repeatedly complained that they are struggling to accommodate a bulge in primary school numbers caused by a baby boom following high immigration.

The swelling of primary school numbers is set to transfer onto secondaries and council leaders have warned of an urgent need to expand schools.

The NAO report said while secondary school teacher numbers had remained stable since 2005, the number of primary teachers has increased by 19,000, 'reflecting changing pupil numbers'.

It warned that a similar increase was needed in secondary schools soon, but that teacher recruitment is now more difficult because of the improving economy.

The report said: 'Between 2011 and 2014, the number of pupils increased by 7 per cent in primary schools and fell by 3 per cent in secondary schools.'

It added: 'Primary schools have had to recruit more teachers to keep up with rising pupil numbers. Secondary schools may now have to do likewise as pupil numbers start to increase.'

The watchdog also said that more teachers were now leaving before retirement age, suggesting 'retention' was likely to become an issue.

It said: 'Overall, the number of teachers has kept pace with changing pupil numbers.

'There were 21.6 pupils to every teacher in primary schools in 2008 compared with 21.0 in 2014.

'In secondary schools the pupil teacher ratio was 16.2 to 1 in 2008 compared with 15.8 to 1 in 2014.
Last year, the head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) warned that schools were struggling to cope with an influx of migrant pupils and needed more 'capacity'
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Last year, the head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) warned that schools were struggling to cope with an influx of migrant pupils and needed more 'capacity'

'There are, however, growing signs of shortages. Most commonly discussed are shortages in maths and certain science subjects.'

Last year, the head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw warned that schools were struggling to cope with an influx of migrant pupils and needed more 'capacity'.

In 2013, a leaked paper prepared by the Department for Education revealed that a steady increase in the number of babies being born has helped fuel the schools places crisis. The report said there were 120,000 more born in 2011 than in 2002, in addition to a 'threefold increase in net long-term migration since the mid-1990s'.

The document cited evidence collected by the Home Office that the 'impact of immigration has been substantial', adding that it was seen 'as an important contributory factor, through both the arrival of migrant children and the high birth rates of some migrant groups'.

It said an additional 35,000 secondary places will be needed by 2015, adding: 'This shortage of places is the direct result of the increase in the birth rates since 2002 and the surge in net migration since the mid-1990s.'

Official figures released last year showed the proportion of primary school pupils who do not have English as a first language increased from 18.1 per cent to 18.7 per cent. In secondary schools, the proportion rose from 13.6 to 14.3 per cent.

÷More than a fifth of British 15-year-olds are so poor at maths it could hinder their ability to take part in society, according to an international report.

Twenty-two per cent were 'low performers' in arithmetic – while 17 per cent had fallen behind with reading and 15 per cent in science.

One in ten of this age group struggled across all three subjects, the study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found. They were classed as low performers if they scored below Level 2 on tests by the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment.

This is considered the baseline proficiency required to participate fully in modern society.

SOURCE 


Thursday, February 11, 2016



Harvard Medical School students decry lack of diversity

These students are seeking a reputational decline for their school.  Brainless

Students in white coats marched through Harvard Yard last week to call attention to a lack of diversity at Harvard Medical School, as the Black Lives Matter movement rolls into the next storied Harvard institution.

Three dozen Harvard medical and dental students in a newly formed Racial Justice Coalition delivered a petition to the office of President Drew Gilpin Faust, who is leading a search to replace the outgoing medical school dean, Dr. Jeffrey Flier. The petition, signed by over 300 students, calls on Faust to choose a dean who will address the lack of diversity among staff and students, and who has shown commitment to racial equality in health care.

The action took place as nationwide protests about racial inequality ripple through university campuses and medical schools. Late last year, as race-related protests rocked Yale and the University of Missouri, students at Harvard Law School confronted their dean about the treatment of minorities. And Harvard has agreed to retitle the “masters” of its undergraduate residential houses, as well as its medical school societies, because of the connotation of slavery.

Harvard Med’s Racial Justice Coalition was inspired by a national student group called White Coats for Black Lives, part of the Black Lives Matter movement that erupted from national outrage over police brutality. The White Coats group coalesced in December 2014, coordinating a 2,000-person “die-in” at over 70 medical schools that was aimed at framing “police violence as a public health issue, and institutionalized racism as a problem in medicine,” said organizer Dorothy Charles, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania.

So far, students from White Coats for Black Lives have claimed some small victories: They have spurred the University of California, San Francisco, to expand bias training for incoming students, for instance, and helped shape an anti-racism initiative at Mount Sinai’s medical school. Last December, students at over 20 medical schools, including Harvard Med, pressed their schools to commit to admitting more minorities and ensuring people of color who live near teaching hospitals aren’t turned away because they can’t afford the care.

Harvard Med has come a long way since it admitted its first three black students in 1850. While many students at the time supported the move, a vocal minority threatened to quit if they had to share lecture halls with blacks. The dean, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, kicked the black students out, saying the “experiment” had proved to the faculty “that the intermixing of the white and black races in their lecture rooms, is distasteful to a large portion of the class and injurious to the interests of the school.” Harvard Med did not graduate a black doctor until 1869.

Since then, Harvard has improved its track record: It graduated 574 black physicians from 1980 to 2012, the eighth highest number in the nation, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. But blacks remain far outnumbered in medicine — they comprise 13 percent of the US population but just 4 percent of the physician workforce — and Harvard is no exception.

In their petition, students noted that just 5.9 percent of Harvard Med’s 9,453 full-time faculty are black, Hispanic, or American Indian, while those groups make up 32 percent of the US population. Little progress has been made since 1980. Meanwhile, the share of Asians and Pacific Islanders, who are not considered “underrepresented” by the AAMC, has shot up from 4.4 percent to 18.9 percent in that time period, according to Harvard Med.

Harvard’s case mirrors the nation: 5.3 percent of US medical school faculty are underrepresented minorities, a figure that has changed very little over the past decade, said Marc Nivet, chief diversity officer at the AAMC.

Nivet said historically, “the rationale to diversify medicine has been to get [minority] medical students to go back to their community and work in primary care.” That’s important, Nivet said, but it has had an unintended consequence: Few minority doctors become faculty members at medical schools.

Another problem, Nivet said, is that the pool of medical students is diversifying too slowly. The number of black medical school graduates in the United States rose by just 3.9 percent from 2002 to 2011.

Harvard Med’s student body is much more diverse than its faculty: 21.7 percent of students are black, Hispanic, or American Indian. But just 11 of the 165 first-year students are African American, and students say the school has a long way to go.

Edirin Sido, a first-year Harvard dental student of Nigerian and Cuban descent, is training at Harvard Medical School as part of her dental education. She said she has noticed a lack of diversity in the doctors who train students in clinical settings as preceptors. When there aren’t many minority faculty, she said, they experience what’s known as a “minority tax” — they get pulled into lots of extra committees and other duties in which an institution is seeking diversity.

“The only way to address that is to have more minorities in the profession,” she said.

Danial Ceasar, an African-American Harvard Med student from Compton, Calif., said he has had just one black teacher in his five months at the school. He has noticed something missing in the curriculum, too.

Sitting in infectious disease class, he saw slide after slide of rashes, and noticed that “there were some days where we would just see white skin.” He said the lessons left him poorly equipped to work with dark-skinned patients.

“I look forward to going back to [treat] communities that are full of black people. I will need those pieces of my education,” he said. Ceasar said Harvard Med has been very responsive to student feedback, however.

The petition that Ceasar and others signed urges Faust to make sure at least 25 percent of interviewed candidates for the dean job come from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine.

Faust, who wasn’t available to receive the petition in person and declined comment to STAT, told the Harvard Crimson she’s skeptical of the quota the students proposed.

“I think that the point that the person who leads the med school ought to be a person with a deep commitment to diversity is absolutely right,” Faust said. “How we accomplish that I don’t think comes through quotas on interviews.”

Harvard provost Alan Garber, who is leading the dean search with Faust, said in a statement that he had met with student organizers and shared their petition with faculty on the dean search committee.

Meanwhile, students received support from one Harvard Med professor, Dr. Augustus A. White III, a longtime champion of diversity who in 1978 became the first black department chief at a Harvard teaching hospital.

“I would sign it in a heartbeat,” he said of the students’ petition.

White wrote a book, “Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care,” outlining how a prejudiced health care system fails minorities. For example, if you’re a Latino man in Southern California with a long bone broken into two parts — a problem that’s easy to diagnose, very painful, and hard to fake — you have 50 percent less chance of getting narcotics to control your pain than a white patient, White said.

“If we had more diversity, we’d have less disparate care,” he said.

White said he would like to see “a greater sense of urgency and outrage” over what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the shocking and inhumane” injustices in health care.

“Diversity is not a panacea,” White said, “but certainly an important element in helping to address that unconscionable reality.”

SOURCE 





Reflections on National School Choice Week

Last week was National School Choice Week, with more than 16,000 events from coast to coast shining a spotlight on effective education options for students.

Today, parental choice in education encompasses a variety of education options:

Eight states and the District of Columbia allow parents to enroll their children in any public school they wish, regardless of where they live.

Another 43 states and DC allow public charter schools. Altogether more than 6,700 charter schools enroll over 3 million students.

Public magnet schools, 3,200 nationwide, enroll over 2.6 million students in all 50 states and DC.

Parental choice in education also includes a growing number of private and online learning options as well:

Fully 27 states and DC offer private school parental choice programs, including publicly-funded voucher scholarships, privately-funded tax-credit scholarships, tax credits, and tax deductions. These programs are helping more than 1.2 million students and their families nationwide.

Students in 41 states and DC are also benefiting from fully or blended online learning options, some 2.6 million students.

Finally, more than 2 million students are currently homeschooled (3 percent of American students).

California is also home to a unique parental choice option. It became the first state in 2010 to enact Parent Trigger legislation through the Parent Empowerment Act. Under the law, if a majority of parents whose children attend failing schools sign a petition, school leaders can be replaced, students can transfer to better performing schools, or the school can be converted to a charter school under different leadership.

As Gloria Romero, former state Senator and author of California’s Parent Trigger law, told the Orange County Register:

    "School choice means that we are more than a default ZIP code, automatically assigned to remain trapped in failing schools when bureaucrats refuse to transform...School choice means that parents truly have the power to become the architects of their own children’s educational futures and opportunities".

Romero is right —but there is more work to be done when it comes to empowering parents.

It makes no sense that California students are still largely assigned to schools based on where their parents can afford to live. It’s time California expanded parental choice over how —not just where— their children are educated by enacting education savings accounts, or ESAs.

Two of California neighbors, Arizona and Nevada, have already enacted ESAs, as well as Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Missouri and Oklahoma are also among the first states this year to consider enacting ESAs.

The ESA concept is simple. Parents who do not prefer a public school education for their child simply inform the state and 90 percent of what the state would have spent is deposited into that child’s ESA instead. In most programs, parents are issued a dedicated-use debit card for approved education expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring, online courses, testing fees, and special education therapies. Funds are disbursed quarterly, but only after parents have submitted expense receipts for verification. Any leftover funds remain in students’ ESAs for future education expenses, including college.

California is home to important reforms, including Parent Trigger and the local control funding formula (LCFF) enacted in 2013–14 (see here, too). However, simply spending more money—not to mention the stark absence of accountability measures—is no guarantee of improved student outcomes.

ESAs would empower parents, localize funding, personalize student learning, and put immediate academic and fiscal accountability measures in place.

National School Choice Week underscores that parents, the ones who know and love children best, should be in charge of their education every week of the year.

SOURCE 






Learning to read requires direct instruction and parental involvement

Jennifer Buckingham, writing from Australia

Reading seems so straightforward. Skilled reading is unconscious and automatic ­-- most people are not aware of the complex cognitive processes taking place. Few adults remember how they learned to read, so when it comes to working out how to help their children they will often look to the experts. Unfortunately, advice to parents is often confusing and contradictory.

It is not simply a case of 'read to children and they will learn to read'. This is the trap of whole language teaching methods. For children to make the connection between the strange black shapes on the page and the words they hear and say, they have to be explicitly taught.

But even before this happens, children need to develop a large store of words that they can understand and use -- a large 'receptive' or oral vocabulary. Recent studies found that around 20% of Australian children starting school have poor language skills. They do not speak clearly, and they know and use a limited number of words.

The best way to develop these skills in children is through adult-child spoken interaction and through shared reading. Both of these are important. Spoken interaction provides children with models and guidance of how to pronounce words properly and gives them immediate information about the world around them. Clear speech also develops phonological awareness -- the ability to identify the distinct sounds in spoken words -- which is strongly related to the ability to decode words using phonics.

Shared reading -- defined as reading with rather than reading to children -- is essential; firstly because it introduces the concepts of the written alphabet and printed text, and secondly because books expose children to a wider range of words and language structures generally used in speech. Vocabulary can be conceived broadly as general knowledge. To know what the word 'planet' means, is to know what a planet is. Vocabulary and general knowledge are fundamental to reading comprehension, which is the end-game for learning to read.

Parents should not be expected to teach their children to read. But it will help to break the cycle of low literacy if children arrive at school well prepared to learn to read. If, ideally, they then have evidence-based reading instruction in the first few years of school, Australia will be well on the way to fixing its persistent literacy problems.

SOURCE



Wednesday, February 10, 2016



The biggest problem with "free college for all" is that college degrees would become as expensive and meaningless as many high school diplomas are today

There's no such thing as a free lunch, or free college. But that didn't stop President Obama from pushing it (again) in his final State of the Union Address, or presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a recent interview. The biggest problem with "free college for all" is that college degrees would become as expensive and meaningless as many high school diplomas are today.

American public elementary and secondary schools spend more than $13,000 per pupil per year on average — slightly more than two-year colleges spend. That's hardly the kind of "free" any of us can afford, even if public secondary schools were getting results — which they do, of course, but the wrong kind.

The national high school graduation rate may have reached an historic high of 82 percent, but for many students their diplomas are "tickets to nowhere that provide false assurances of academic readiness for success in college and career," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. In fact, more than 50 percent of students entering community colleges today need remedial classes, and most of those students wind up dropping out.

National Assessment of Educational Progress results for 12th-grade public-school students also show that just one-quarter of students score proficient or better in math and only slightly more than one-third (36 percent) are proficient in reading.

The upshot is that American public high schools are awarding diplomas to millions of students who haven't mastered the basics. There's no good reason to believe that academic quality — much less college affordability — will improve by expanding the federal government's reach into higher education or taxpayers' wallets.

At last count our national debt was approaching $20 trillion. Mounting evidence indicates that student debt, which now exceeds $1.2 trillion, is threatening economic growth. Decades of government "financial aid" have done little to help and, according to any number of studies, have probably made matters worse, encouraging colleges and universities to increase tuition and fees. The last thing we should be doing is spending another $80 billion or more over the next decade on public two-year colleges where barely one in five students earns a degree in three years.

Better incentives, not billions more in "free" top-down government giveaways, are needed to ensure that students are prepared to earn their degrees on time without bankrupting themselves or taxpayers.

Instead of funneling hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars annually to public institutions that let costs skyrocket with impunity, we should fund students directly through performance grants.

To qualify for these grants, students would have to demonstrate financial need and complete their chosen degree programs as stipulated. Otherwise, their grants would convert into loans that must be repaid.

With this reform, schools, two- and four-year alike, would have to compete for students and their associated grant funding, which would exert powerful pressure on schools to control costs, keep program quality high, and offer more generous institutional aid — or risk losing students to other institutions.

"Free" college — just like virtually every other "free" lunch — is a lie we'll all wind up paying more for sooner or later. Only this time the price will come in the form of higher taxes, watered-down degrees, more government intrusion into degree choices, and a weakened economy.

SOURCE 






Cultivating Ignorance and Arrogance

"No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity," wrote Thomas Jefferson.

Millions of Americans remain puzzled by the legions of fellow citizens who would trade capitalism and exceptionalism for the siren song of "free" stuff proposed to varying degrees by Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and, to some extent, Donald Trump. They shouldn't be. A pernicious combination of civic illiteracy, coupled with a growing sense of entitlement, especially among Millennials, is rapidly approaching critical mass.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has released a sobering report regarding civic illiteracy. "The Crisis in Civic Education" reveals that numerous surveys show "recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America's history and heritage," the report's summary states. "They cannot identify the term lengths of members of Congress, the substance of the First Amendment, [or] the origin of the separation of powers. They do not know the Father of the Constitution, and nearly 10% say that Judith Sheindlin — 'Judge Judy' — is on the Supreme Court."

This is no accident. ACTA surveyed more than 1,100 colleges and universities, and discovered that only 18% of them have course requirements in government or civics. High schools are equally deficient. A 2014 civics test administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed that only 23% of high school seniors had "proficient" or better level of knowledge in civics, and a dismal 18% are at the same level with regard to history. Both percentages represented "no significant change" since 2010.

Moreover, as the Washington Examiner's Eric Bledsoe explains, attempts to address civic deficiencies "conflate rhetoric with results. The Department of Education's 'A Crucible Moment' and the Lumina Foundation's 'Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP)' emphasize 'civic engagement,'" amounting to "little beyond verbose abstraction."

Yet perhaps the most devastating illustration of what is really occurring was revealed by Glen Fairman in a 2012 American Thinker column. Fairman recounts his time as a graduate student working as a substitute teacher at Puente High School in Southern California. One day he was assigned to cover a social studies class while the regular teacher was on a field trip. During that assignment he discovered a "set of thirty-year-old textbooks from the mid-1960s" whose contents "burned themselves into my brain."

"As I flipped through the pages, I was astonished to find what I would now consider an upper-level college textbook under color of what in the high schools used to be termed 'civics,'" he reveals. "This text contained a very detailed understanding of political theory, constitutional law, macroeconomics, American history, and comparative political systems. I spent the rest of the day in slack-jawed amazement, perusing what a student in a working-class town was expected to know before the mavens of education began tinkering with the curricula of our schools."

That would be the overwhelmingly "progressive" mavens of education.

When he asked the returning instructor why those books were no longer in use, the instructor explained they were no longer comprehensible by the vast majority of students. When he asked other older teachers regarding whether education had been "dumbed-down," he discovered "this question unleashed volatile diatribes on how dull children had become since the responders had begun as idealistic young men and women in the field."

In short, what former President George W. Bush once referred to as the "soft bigotry of low expectations" has been institutionalized.

And not just at the high-school level. Fairman adds, "Campus speech codes and filtered curricula have denuded the classical goal of the acquisition of a free and analytic mind."

Unfortunately, that is somewhat of an understatement. College campuses are now citadels of safe spaces, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, and speech and sexual conduct codes, all designed with the purpose of teaching students what to think, not how to think. As historian Victor Davis Hanson so deftly explains, "[T]oday's campuses mimic ideological boot camps" replete with tenured professors who "seek to indoctrinate young people in certain preconceived progressive political agendas," and grade-conscious and indebted students willing to make the "necessary ideological adjustments" that ensure their survival. Those adjustments include embracing "the glories of larger government, income redistribution, greater entitlements, radical environmentalism, abortion, multiculturalism, suspicion of traditional religion, and antipathy to the international role of the United States in the past and present."

In other words, every agenda you would find being championed at any Clinton campaign stop or "feel the Bern" rally.

Couple the "blame America" attitude to an audacious sense of self-entitlement, civic and historical illiteracy, and ideological insulation that embraces censorship of competing ideas. Is it any wonder why the siren song of big government, and living off the "unjustly" acquired wealth of others — promoted as "free" — resonates?

"An honest and comprehensive study of (America's) history and constitution is the only guarantee of the cultivation of an informed electorate," Bledsoe warns.

No doubt, but Bledsoe may be laboring under a false assumption. An informed electorate, and by extension a nation of people willing to both think and do largely for themselves, is utterly anathema to the big-government and collectivist ambitions of the American Left. Ambitions that require the "fundamental transformation of the United States of America" to be realized.

SOURCE 






Australia's biggest Islamic School loses $20 MILLION in government funding after failing to show how they spent the money

Apparently, some of the money was going abroad and I think we can guess where

Australia's biggest Islamic School has been stripped of millions of dollars in government funding following allegations that its money was not being used just for education.

Malek Fahd Islamic School in Greenacre, south-west of Sydney, which has more than 2,400 students, could be forced to close its gates after the Federal Government said it would withdraw $20 million funding.

On Monday, the Department of Education issued a notice to the Islamic institution - revoking its Commonwealth funding - with the move placing hundreds of teaching jobs on the line.

The revocation comes after a review into six schools authorities affiliated with the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) after concerns were raised about their financial management and governance.

'I am committed to ensuring that all school authorities meet the requirements to ensure that our taxpayer dollars and any private investment by parents is being spent to benefit Australian students,' Mr Birmingham said in a statement to Daily Mail Australia.

'Unfortunately, the authority that operates Malek Fahd Islamic School was not able to demonstrate to my department that they had addressed the significant concerns about their financial management and governance arrangements raised during the formal compliance review of their operation.

'Last year, the department issued a formal compliance notice when it found that the school authority was not complying with fundamental governance, financial and accountability requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013.

'After carefully considering the response to the issues raised in the compliance notice, my department had to make the difficult decision to revoke the funding approval.

'My department will work with New South Wales school authorities to help ensure students and families that are impacted by this decision receive the appropriate support.'

A NSW Department of Education spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia that they are continuing to work with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training. 'Due to ongoing litigation, it is inappropriate for the Department to provide further comment,' the spokesperson said.

NSW and ACT secretary of the Independent Education Union John Quessy told ABC News the school could face closure following the revocation.  'We'll need to seek a meeting with the school to find out will they still be operating,' Mr Quessy said.

'It's quite a dramatic move, recurrent funding is usually used to pay teacher and staff wages.  'Malek Fahd is quite a big school, we're talking about hundreds of jobs.'

SOURCE


Tuesday, February 09, 2016



The sexism of Safe Spaces

Students' unions that want to ‘protect women’ are turning the clock back so I am rather in favour of it.  Safe spaces for men were once numerous -- private clubs etc.  And in Australia many public bars in hotels were "men only" -- places where men could relax without risking female criticism.  Let's revive all that!  If safe spaces are OK for women, they must be OK for men too

Safe spaces first appeared on campus in the Seventies as ‘women’s centres’. Back then, a safe space was designed to protect women from physical harm, as well as helping with academic problems. Today, the safe space has taken on a much more ethereal and wider-reaching role, protecting students from mental harm – from words, feelings and images.

In the past, safe spaces were confined to one area – a building where supposedly troubled students could go. The contemporary safe space sprawls across entire campuses, following students into classrooms, bars and even bedrooms. Take the following from Bristol University students’ union: ‘Being a safe space means that each and every member feels welcome to participate in empowering, non-judgemental and non-threatening discussions, activities, services and events.’ The safe space is no longer a specific hiding space for students; it’s a general way of life at university.

Safe spaces mirror the sexism women fought against in the past. Universities and students’ unions now deem women too vulnerable, too weak and too scared to manage university life without bureaucratic structures to protect them from other students. Living on many UK campuses today is like living in a Jane Austen novel, except it’s not a patriarchal society confining women to the safety of the drawing room; it’s their own peers.

In October 2013, the University of Swansea students’ union refused to give the Pole Fitness Society official SU status. SU officials ruled that female students didn’t realise how ‘pole fitness’ was damaging them: ‘Although “pole fitness” is sold as an empowering activity, we believe that women have been deceived into thinking this is a way of taking charge of their sexuality and their own decisions.’

Not only did Swansea think women were stupid enough to be hoodwinked into joining the ‘multimillion-pound sex industry’ — they also passed bans on lads’ mags and ‘pre-loading’ (drinking), because they decided that women needed a ‘student experience free from inequality, sexual oppression and objectification’.

In November 2014, a debate on abortion was cancelled at Oxford University because protesters objected to the two speakers being male (one of them was spiked editor Brendan O’Neill). First-year student Niamh McIntyre, who instigated the protests, told the Independent that she had decided to shut down the debate because ‘it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman’. As a woman, McIntyre felt threatened by the fact that two men were going to have a conversation, that ‘their words and views might hurt women’. Not that their words would hurt women, but might hurt women.

In October 2015, the University of Cardiff students’ union made the headlines for trying to ban feminist Germaine Greer. Greer’s talk, entitled Women and Power: the Lessons of the 20th Century, was protested against because of Greer’s ‘misogynistic views towards trans women’. According to the SU’s women officer, Greer had ‘no place in feminism or society’ (despite her longstanding work as a feminist).

Previously, Cardiff had banned un-PC comedian Dapper Laughs for the same reason – his presence on campus would supposedly marginalise and threaten women. Quoting its ‘Anti-lad-culture policy’ and ‘Zero-tolerance policy’, which protect women from being exposed to rude words and pictures, the SU stopped Dapper Laughs from performing.

In the past three years, UK universities have also banned pop songs, costumes and sunbed advertisements in accordance with safe-space policy and in the name of protecting women from mental harm.

Safe spaces undermine the freedoms women have fought for. Arguing that women are ‘triggered’ by words, sounds or images revives the sexist clich√© that women are hysterical, unpredictable and unable to control their emotions. The idea that magazines, naked boobs or racy chants make women feel unsafe suggests women are too weak to slap a man if he says something unpleasant.

But the most reactionary function of the safe space is that it closes women off from public life – shutting them back in the metaphorical home. Women are big enough, tough enough and ugly enough to be exposed to just as much public life and debate as men are. For decades, women fought for the same freedoms as men – safe spaces turn back the clock.

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Why must David Cameron insult Oxford, when it gave him so much?

Charles Moore

In 2000, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, accused Magdalen College, Oxford, of class bias in failing to admit a student called Laura Spence, a pupil at a Tyneside comprehensive. This was grossly unfair — how could the Chancellor know the details of a particular case? It was also outrageous in principle: why should a politician tell a university whom to admit?

This Sunday, David Cameron did much the same thing. In the middle of his EU negotiations, the migrant crisis and the other genuinely important things the Prime Minister must deal with, he found time to offer an article to the Sunday Times, headlined ‘Watch out, universities; I’m bringing the fight for equality to you’.

He attacked his own university, Oxford, for admitting only 27 black men and women in 2014, and said he wants to legislate ‘to place a new transparency duty on universities to publish data routinely about the people who apply to their institution… and who gets offered a place.’ This ‘will include a full breakdown of their gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background’.

Why? Why does a Conservative Prime Minister want, like apartheid South Africa, to classify people according to race, and, like a state socialist, to engineer the composition of free institutions? Why does he, who benefited so much from Oxford, unjustly insult it? Why does he question the motives of one of the few British institutions which the world still recognises as outstanding?

What is the cultural rottenness, the mental cowardice which leads this well-educated, moderate man to assail the glories of his own country? Almost nothing depresses me more than this weird urge to foment a cultural civil war which no one needs.

SOURCE 






Reply to "Rhodes must fall" agitation at Oxford university

Give it a break with your puerile, ill-informed, 'war criminal" drivel! You've previously tried to link Rhodes’ sponsorship of the Jameson Raid, which was reprehensible and undoubtedly catalyzed the 2nd Boer War, to culpability for what transpired in the camps as a consequence of Roberts and Kitchener's ‘scorched earth’ tactics.That is historically inaccurate rubbish. It is also highly improbable that either of Kitchener or Roberts, whilst acquainted with Rhodes, would have sought his advice on military strategy after his actions during the siege of Kimberley. If you are looking for a "hidden hand" behind Roberts or Kitchener then Milner, who was Governor at the time and a close confidante of Roberts, is a far more likely candidate.

Accumulating a fortune through being an astute businessman does not make one a war criminal. There were no indigenous peoples forcibly removed from the semi-arid landscape around the de Beer's farm that became the focus of the diamond rush that was already in full swing when Rhodes got to Kimberley and where he made his fortune by buying up small claims and consolidating them. Not stealing but purchasing with money borrowed from financiers.

The reason that the statue is has nothing to do with Rhodes political views or attitudes but simply because he left an amount of around $3billion in today's money to his alma mater Oriel on his death in 1902.

If you want to get your knickers in a knot over statues or memorials to politically incorrect people there are plenty to choose from. In the hypocritical Mr Qwabe’s home province in South Africa, Shaka Zulu [the borderline psychopathic Zulu leader who killed two million around 1820] is memorialized by having an airport, complete with statue, named in his honour. This is a man who laid waste to an area the size of France during his bloody rise to power having murdered his half brother who was heir apparent. He certainly had no qualms about executing vanquished foes or even 7000 of his own people when he deemed them to be insufficiently distressed at the death of his mother Nandi in 1827. Rhodes was a veritable choir boy on the genocide front compared to him. Our Mr Qwabe is curiously silent on this statue but perhaps that is because his ancestors, the Qwabe clan, re-invented themselves as relatives of the Zulu during Shaka's rise to power.

Closer to home, there is of course the magnificent Wellington memorial on Pall Mall. A brilliant general, Arthur Wellesley, but also vehemently opposed to extending the franchise in the Reform Act of 1832. That wonderfully politically correct monarch Henry VIII adorns St Bartholomew, and there are any number of statues of Roman emperors scattered around Europe including the UK and notably one of Caesar, conqueror of the Gauls, in front of the Louvre.

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Monday, February 08, 2016



UK: State schools grow in popularity among wealthy parents as experts warn poorer children could miss out on good education

Not mentioned below is that many British State schools are now "academies" (charters)

State schools have become more attractive to wealthy parents in comparison to 30 years ago, according to the editor-in-chief of the Good Schools Guide.  Ralph Lucas, an old Etonian and hereditary peer, said state schools had improved beyond all recognition since the 1980s.

While in 1986, his publication only included 10 state schools, last year there were 264 – representing almost a third of the total recommended institutions.

His comments come amid growing evidence that well-heeled parents are increasingly turning to state schools amid inflation-busting rises in private school fees.

Many of the best state schools now sit in the wealthiest areas of the country, where parents pay a premium on their homes to be within the catchment areas.

Often families view it as an investment because the money they spend is less than paying for an independent education.

However, critics have said the trend has meant less good school places for poorer children.

Lord Lucas told the Times Educational Supplement there could be a ‘shrinkage’ in private schools in the coming years.

The independent sector, he said, was set to reduce as parents realised that they could get a good education for their child in the state sector for free.

He added: ‘The trend over the next 50 years will be for the independent sector to reduce. ‘The rise of the state system and it being free is a very difficult thing for the independent sector, as a whole, to resist.

‘Some of them will respond very well. I’m not pessimistic about it, but I think the general trend, the baseline that they are up against, is of slow shrinkage and that they will have to run really hard to stay where they are and run even harder to make progress.’

Wealthy parents pay up to £675 for personal advice from Lord Lucas’ organisation on the best state schools.

He added that in the 1980s, he disregarded two London state schools for his own children but these had now improved so much that he had included them in the Good Schools Guide.

SOURCE 






Gun Free School Zone? Not in THIS District

In the gun friendly state of Oklahoma, one school isn't messing around when it comes to making criminals think twice.

In the town of Okay, school district officials have purchased signs that read, "Attention: Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students." The signs are posted outside of schools for everyone to see.

More on the background for the signs from Muskogee Phoenix writer Harrison Grimwood:

    The Okay Public Schools Board of Education passed an “Armed School Employees” policy in August. On Monday, the district publicized that policy with signage in front of the school.

    “The signs are more or less a deterrent,” Superintendent Charles McMahan said. “We don't want to be a soft target.”

    McMahan said his administration looks for ways to keep students safe and secure, particularly since the Okay Police Department was disbanded in December 2014. Although Wagoner County sheriff's deputies are available, McMahan said it is “seconds, not minutes, that matter.”

    Student Richard Antosh and several of his peers supported the policy, trusting their teachers should a threat arise.

SOURCE 





Non-religious ethics classes growing in NSW schools

NSW school children are facing unprecedented hurdles to get into ethics classes in schools, the state's provider of ethics classes has warned.

For the first time this year parents of kindergarten students do not have to be informed of the availability of ethics classes by the school principals until after they have been through at least four different steps.

"It is a deliberately difficult process for a parent to access ethics classes and give students an alternative to developing their critical thinking and moral reasoning," said Mr Hogan.

Despite the hurdles, Mr Hogan said the classes had continued to grow in popularity throughout the state.

The classes received some high-profile backing last year when the Dalai Lama spoke out in support of their inclusions in NSW schools as a way of keeping people who did not engage with religion on a moral path.

"We will start in 400 schools this year," Mr Hogan said. "In the end, parents always win when it comes to their children's best interest."

Marrickville mother Theona Bustos said that despite being Catholic she still wanted her five-year-old son Xavier to enroll in an ethics class at Wilkins Primary School.  "If I want my children to have a religious education, I don't want it to happen at school, we can go to Sunday mass for that," she said.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said that as not all NSW public schools offer ethics classes, it is up to schools to provide parents with the options at their school. Some schools openly advise parents of the availability of ethics classes.

Last year, NSW Premier Mike Baird denied the removal of ethics classes from enrolment forms was part of a deal with Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile to secure the passage of legislation through the NSW upper house.

The changes to the enrolment form were rushed through the Department of Education after the Premier was lobbied by faith groups, documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws showed.

The government's recommendations were in line with those of an upper house inquiry into ethics classes chaired by Mr Nile in 2012.

A spokesman for the Catholic Conference of Religious Educators in State Schools said: "Special ethics education is not an enemy or a threat to special religious education and the volunteer teachers in both groups are offering valid and valuable choices for parents for education in faith and ethics."

SOURCE




Sunday, February 07, 2016



UK: University free speech group set up to counter campus censorship faces being BANNED by students in ‘breath-takingly ironic’ move

A free speech society at the London School of Economics faces being banned over claims it is ‘self-important’ and ‘seeking to play the victim’.

The student union is due to debate a motion to ban the group later this month after a member complained they were ‘ill-informed’.

A number of bizarre bans have been imposed by student unions on speakers, events and publications which they consider to be ‘offensive’.

Organisers of the group say their aim is to have an open debate about whether bans are appropriate, but they now face calls to be banned themselves.

Connor Naylor, 19, second year International Relations student and spokesman for the LSE Speakeasy, said: ‘Originally, we thought the person calling for us to be banned was just joking.  ‘Now it turns out he is actually going ahead with it.

‘We know that there are some individuals who oppose us. However, I find it hard to believe that people will not see the breath-taking irony of banning a free speech society.’

The motion has been proposed by law student Maurice Banerjee Palmer, 20, who said it would be ‘hilarious’ to ban an anti-ban society.

He told student newspaper The Beaver that the LSE Speakeasy was 'naive to the limits on freedom of expression' and 'pretty much endorses hate speech' – a claim the group denies.

He claimed they were ‘ill-informed’ and ‘self-important’ and said union bans may be valid to help stop discrimination which women, ethnic minorities and the disabled face in society.

‘They [the LSE Speakeasy] seem to fall into a group of people who don't like a perceived focus on women and minorities,’ he added.  ‘They seem to be looking for a victim card to play and to confuse a loss of advantage with an act of oppression.

'The maligned SU measures are aimed at solving a problem which they don't seem to find serious and for which they explain no alternatives.'

When contacted by the Daily Mail, Mr Palmer said that despite his motion, he did not want to ban the Speakeasy but had raised the issue simply because he hoped it would prompt people to debate it.

He said: ‘I agree with many of the things that LSE SU Free Speech/Speakeasy say in principle. You can see that from my only other involvement in student politics.  ‘What I'm looking for is a bit of common sense in the debate.

‘I don’t deny that the current trend of what is being called “campus censorship” ought to be debated. But let’s do it with a bit of accuracy and fairness.’

He pointed out that he has himself in the past resisted campus bans, including one on meat products being sold on campus on Mondays, proposed last year.

The Speakeasy plans to invite speakers who have been ‘no-platformed’ – or prevented from appearing – by student unions.

Organisers also hope to raise awareness of the history of free speech and hold debates on ‘uncomfortable’ topics.

According to an investigation by Spiked, an online current affairs magazine affiliated with the group, LSE is among ‘the most ban- heavy universities in the country’.

The student union recently suspended the rugby club for a year because it gave out sexist and homophobic leaflets.

The Sun newspaper was also temporarily banned in union shops and the student paper refused to publish an article about upcoming elections because it was too political.

So-called ‘trigger warnings’ were recently placed in front of the Palestine society’s stall, saying their content may be upsetting.

And the atheist society has been prevented from wearing T-shirts showing Jesus and the prophet Mohammed holding hands.

Mr Naylor added: ‘There is a clear appetite for what we are doing. We’ve become representatives of the movement against censorship on campus.  ‘People want to speak up but often they don’t for fear of going against the grain.  ‘We want to have a debate about campus censorship, no-platforming and safe spaces. ‘We want to have a dialogue on that instead of accepting it at face value.

‘Nothing should be dictated to us. We shouldn’t be told what we should and shouldn’t discuss.’

A spokesman for the SU said: ‘It’s unfortunate that it has gotten to this stage, as the Students’ Union did approve of the society which goes to show that in fact, we are facilitators of free speech rather than opposing it.

‘However, the real question is around how members of the Students’ Union want their Union to work and what they want it to facilitate. It is up to students voting through their democratic structures as to whether things should be “banned” or not and where bans are in place, it is a reflection of the will and opinions of students rather than a “ban heavy” SU.’

SOURCE 






S.C. May Let Teachers Carry Firearms in School

The South Carolina State Committee on Education and Public Works is set to review a bill allowing teachers in the state to carry guns in school.

The measure allows any personnel at the school to carry a gun if they passed the appropriate training to be considered “School Protection Officers.”

Under the bill, a School Protection Officer keeps the weapon on his person at all times while on the premises except when locked in a school firearm safe and uses only frangible bullets.

Frangible bullets are designed to disintegrate upon impact to limit danger around an intended target and avoid ricochets.

According to WPDE, bill sponsor State Representative Phillip Lowe (R- Florence) said since schools are gun-free zones, that makes them targets.

"The people who are deranged and want to inflict pain chose a school because it's a gun-free zone, and they can inflict the most punishment on innocent people," said Lowe.

"It doesn't force the district to participate, and it doesn't force them to take every candidate who may want to be a protection officer," said Lowe.

The school boards would work with each school and choose administrators who would go through the extensive training that would allow them to have a gun on school property.

SOURCE 








Parents need more choice in schooling, says new report

Australia's three school sectors – government, independent and Catholic – have far more in common than generally believed, with diversity within the sectors often exceeding the differences between them.

That's the finding of a report, One School Does Not Fit All,  by the Centre for Independent Studies. The report said there is a wide variety of schools in each sector, with diverse student populations.

"Broad-brush comparisons between the school sectors based on average results are not useful, either for policy decisions or for parents choosing a school," said the report, which was co-authored by Jennifer Buckingham and Trisha Jha.

"There is substantial overlap in the student populations in each sector – none exclusively serves any particular demographic."

One finding is that the majority of independent schools do not conform to the private school stereotype of being well funded compared to government schools.

The report said 83 per cent of government schools, 94 per cent of Catholic schools and 76 per cent of independent schools have total funding levels below $20,000 per student per year (in 2013).

And independent schools, like government and Catholic schools, are bunched around the per-student incomes of between $10,000 and $15,000 a year. Only 7 per cent of independent schools were very wealthy, with per-student incomes over $30,000 a year.

However independent schools are clearly better off in one respect: hardly any independent schools had per-student incomes (from both public and private sources) below $10,000, a year, while about 20 per cent of government and Catholic schools are in this category.

"There is no such thing as a typical government, Catholic or independent school," the report said.

"Some government schools more closely resemble high-fee independent schools in terms of their student demographic and level of resourcing than a public school in the next suburb."

SCHOOL FOR THE EXPELLED

Dr Buckingham said there were many independent schools that did not conform to the picture people had of these schools. One example is the Berry Street School in Victoria, which caters to children who have been expelled or excluded from mainstream education.

"Very often the Berry Street School is their last option for gaining a secondary education," the report said. The school deals with poor literacy and numeracy by devoting about half the teaching time to these areas, and follows the "no excuses" approach, which attracts controversy but has produced results in some US charter schools.

Berry School uses explicit instruction methods, and believes that "students who are struggling need more support and structure, not greater flexibility," the CIS report said.

Dr Buckingham and Ms Jha also believe that governments should promote further diversity and choice in schooling by developing charter schools and exploring home-schooling options.

Charter schools – which are well-established in the US and other countries – receive government funding equivalent to public schools, but operate independently of the government system and are generally not religious.

The report says that introducing charter schools in Australia would offer more secular schooling options for parents beyond the existing public school system.

"Choice is currently restricted for families who can't afford non-government school fees, or those who do not want a religious education or who do not subscribe to alternative educational philosophies. The majority of non-government schools fit into one of these two categories," the report said.

Similarly it says that lack of consistent government support limits home schooling as an option in Australia.

"The ease with which home-schoolers can access government distance education courses varies across states and territories," it says.

Over 12,000 students were registered as being home-schooled in 2012. However, the report urges more research in this area to discover how effective home schooling is and how many unregistered students are being home schooled.

SOURCE



Friday, February 05, 2016


Christian Family Sues Over ‘Islamic Indoctrination’ Homework

A Maryland couple are suing their county school system, the school board, and their daughter’s high school principal over what they claim was “Islamic indoctrination and propaganda” in a world history class.

John Kevin Wood and his wife, Melissa, say they are Christians and were upset to learn their 16-year-old daughter brought home homework that characterized Muslims as having “stronger” faith than Christians.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, the Woods also took issue with the assertion that “Islam, at heart, is a peaceful religion.”

They say their daughter was forced to write out and say the Shahada, the Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based Christian nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on the couple’s behalf in federal District Court in Maryland.

The Woods are suing Maryland’s Charles County public school system, the Board of Education, La Plata High School Principal Evelyn Arnold, and Vice Principal Shannon Morris.

“The Wood family’s case is important, and indicative of developments throughout the country where schools are teaching Islam in ways that are denigrating to other religions,” Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, told The Daily Signal.

He added:

"Teachers of Islam are doing things that would never be tolerated for other religions, like spending more time on Islam, reciting its five pillars, and making its confession of faith. That would never be tolerated for other religions. There is no memorizing of the Ten Commandments or the Nicene Creed, which is the statement of faith for Catholics and many Protestants."

Wood is a former Marine and firefighter who fought and lost comrades in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

In October 2014, Wood was angered when he saw the world history homework that read, in part, “Most Muslim’s [sic] faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

He said he told La Plata High officials he planned to pursue “lawyers and the media” if the school continued to “retaliate against” his daughter “for her adherence to her Christian faith.”

In response, he said, the school’s vice principal barred Wood from setting foot on school property.

“We are here to vindicate the rights of John, his wife, and their daughter,” Thompson said. “We are here to vindicate their right to religious beliefs and the freedom not to violate [those beliefs].”

It’s not that simple, says Andrew Kloster, a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Kloster said in an email:

"If you look at the school materials, it is sometimes unclear if the student is being asked to fill in statements related to how Muslims view themselves (this would be unobjectionable), or whether the statements are considered ‘objective’ (which would be factually wrong, but within the right of a school board in terms of setting curriculum), or whether the student is being asked to personally endorse the statements."

Ultimately, whatever the legal result, the tone of the worksheet is extremely problematic and smacks of political correctness and Islamic theology. To avoid lawsuits and bad publicity like this, schools should generally have policies in place to accommodate reasonable requests by religious students—it would take only a few minutes to come up with alternative questions that are more sensitive and less biased.

Thompson said Thomas More Law Center will file a preliminary injunction for the ban against Wood’s visiting the school within the next two weeks so that he may attend his daughter’s graduation.

SOURCE 





Dept. of Education Is an Informational Security Threat

The Department of Education sits on millions of Americans' sensitive data, and the chief information officer of the agency acts as though protecting that data is a part-time job, The Wall Street Journal reports.

On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing into Education’s informational security and to scrutinize CIO Danny Harris' conduct because House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz thinks the Department of Education is vulnerable to the kind of hack that the Office of Personnel Management experienced last year. If you recall, the hack that was blamed on Chinese hackers netted the sensitive data of every federal employee, past and present — 21.5 million people.

The Department of Education keeps 139 million Social Security numbers in its records and gives out billions of dollars in grants and loans. In fiscal year 2015, it failed to detect a hack performed by the department’s inspector general auditing Education’s compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. In other words, these records lying within the Department of Education are fat targets for foreign governments or organized crime.

Meanwhile, the CIO Harris has been in hot water in 2013 for running side businesses. Year over year, the Department of Education has expanded its role in education by giving out money so American youth can attend college. Now it has shown it can’t handle the responsibility of managing the information of some of the nation’s brightest.

SOURCE 






A debate over transgender students using opposite-sex bathrooms erupts in South Dakota

South Dakota could soon become the first state in the nation to pass legislation that would ban students from using public school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers that are opposite from their biological sex.

“I’m concerned about what I see happening in schools across our country,” said Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from Florence who introduced a bill last week that would ban transgender students from using school facilities opposite from their biological sex.

    "Federal bureaucrats, without the force of federal law, are threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that do not allow transgender students full, unrestricted access to facilities of the opposite biological sex. I don’t want that to happen in South Dakota. And I especially don’t want our children to be required by the federal government to shower, change or use restrooms with other young people of the opposite biological sex"

The bill, HB 1008, passed the House last week by a vote of 58 to 10. The measure is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week.

Left-leaning groups like the Human Rights Campaign said the bill is “nothing more than a vile attack on students who are already vulnerable to high rates of discrimination and harassment.”

“The South Dakota House of Representatives’ vote in favor of discrimination against transgender students is alarming and appalling,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for Policy and Political Affairs at the Human Rights Council, in a press release. “Fair-minded South Dakotans absolutely must stand up now and demand their lawmakers in the Senate stop this hateful legislation from moving any further.”

The legislation requires that a “reasonable accommodation” be made for students asserting their gender is different from their biological sex, and described a reasonable accommodation as “one that does not impose an undue hardship on a school district,” “a single-occupancy restroom,” “a unisex restroom,” or the “controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”

Deutch views his legislation as a necessary response to what he considers “aggressive” actions on behalf of the Obama administration to ensure schools comply with guidance they issued in April 2014.

That guidance states that Title IX protects transgender students from sex discrimination.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program that receives federal funding. Prior to the 2014 issued guidance, it was unclear whether or not the law applied to students using sex-segregated facilities.

If schools do not comply with Title IX laws, they could be at risk of losing their federal funding.

Last year, a school in Palatine, Ill., experienced that first-hand, when the Department of Education threatened to strip them of millions of dollars in federal funding for refusing to grant a transgender student who was born male but identifies as female full, unrestrained access to the girls locker rooms.

In its investigation, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ruled that Township High School District 211 had discriminated against the student “on the basis of sex.”

However, that ruling conflicts with two decisions handed down in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where courts ruled that Title IX does not apply to the issue of transgender students using sex-segregated facilities.

A similar case in Fairfax, Va., could elevate the legal debate. There, a teen who was born female but identifies as male is taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where its decision could have a national impact.

SOURCE