Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Professor writes entire nonsense paper using Apple autocomplete app only for it to ACCEPTED for an academic conference

Professor Christopher Bartneck never believed his research paper, written by Apple's iOS autocomplete, would be accepted for a nuclear physics conference

Professor Christopher Bartneck never believed his research paper, written by Apple's iOS autocomplete, would be accepted for a nuclear physics conference

An academic who jokingly wrote a research paper written entirely by Apple's iOS autocomplete - and was subsequently filled with nonsense - has been accepted to present his findings at a nuclear physics conference.

Christopher Bartneck, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology laboratory in New Zealand, was stunned to discover he had been successful in securing a place at the conference, which takes place in America next month.

'I started a sentence with 'Atomic' or 'Nuclear' and then randomly hit the autocomplete suggestions,' wrote Bartneck in a blog post on Thursday. 'The text really does not make any sense.'

Bartneck's mischievous side was fired up after receiving an invitation from the International Conference on Atomic and Nuclear Physics, which will be held in Atlanta in November.

'Since I have practically no knowledge of Nuclear Physics I resorted to iOS auto-complete function to help me," explained Bartneck.

The resulting paper is complete gobbledygook.

'Nuclear weapons will not have to come out the same day after a long time of the year,' it states.

'The atoms of a better universe will have the right for the same as you,' it adds, before continuing: 'Physics are great but the way it does it makes you want a good book.'

In case that hasn't baffled readers enough, the paper concludes: 'Power is not a great place for a good time.'

The paper's title is also the brainchild of Apple iOS, with the incomprehensible: 'Atomic  Energy will have been made available to a single source.'

Bartneck added the first picture he came across on Wikipedia to illustrate nuclear physics and created a not-so-subtle fake name, Iris Pear - a play on Siri Apple.

Not thinking anyone could possibly take him seriously, he even made up 'Umbria Polytech University' located in 'Infinite Loop' in Cupertino, California.

But within just three hours he received an acceptance email in his inbox. 

'I know that iOS is a pretty good software, but reaching tenure has never been this close,' he wrote.

However, Bartneck drew a line under his prank when he was asked to register for the conference at a cost of $1,099 (£898). 

Speaking to  The Guardian Australia, he said: 'My university would certainly object to me wasting money this way. My impression is that this is not a particularly good conference.' 


The Value of Education

by Sean Gabb

I went yesterday evening to a seminar arranged in London by the Social Affairs Unit. This began with a brief lecture by Theodore Dalrymple, a doctor who writes an occasional column forThe Spectator. His theme was “The Proletarianisation of British Culture”. He explained how notions of politeness and restraint were vanishing from the middle classes, being replaced by an increasing vulgarity of thought and behaviour; and that this was not a vulgarity copied from the working classes, but was part of a general decline also affecting them. It was a brief lecture, and was intended as no more than a summary of the problem. The discussion was then thrown open for others to supply answers or other pertinent comments.

These seminars, I think, have been arranged to allow free discussion in private; and so I will not report the discussion, or even say who else was there. Instead, I will give my own thoughts on the problem. I believe that much of the vulgarity of thought and behaviour can be traced to a failure throughout the English speaking world, since about 1960, to understand the meaning and value of education.

I will not presume to say what is the purpose of life. Though I wish it were otherwise, I suspect there is no objective purpose, and it is up to us as individuals to supply our own. But whatever the case, I think it reasonable to say that our purpose ought to be to make ourselves as happy as we can, and to contribute as much as we can to the general stock of happiness.

Now, happiness comes in many forms and is found in many places. If we want ecstatic pleasure, that can be found in any number of legal and illegal substances. If we want uncomprehending contentment, there are lobotomies or courses of electric shock therapy. But given that most people reading this article are at least moderately intelligent, I will not bother with criticising these kinds of happiness. For us, happiness surely includes understanding and even wisdom. This requires some subordination of present to future objectives, and in particular getting the best education of which we are capable. I will define an educated person as someone who can hold an interesting conversation with himself throughout the whole uncertain course of his adult life—someone with a fair knowledge of human nature, a tolerance of the milder follies, an understanding of the limits of what is possible, a calm equanimity of temper, and, ideally, with a sense of humour. Some of these qualities are innate. Others must be acquired.

A person who possesses these qualities cannot fail to be an interesting and a pleasing companion to himself through life. And the existence of many such people, largely connected with each other, gives rise to what the economists call a positive externality. A country in which the tone of life is set by such a class of people is invariably a more pleasant place to be than a country where such a class does not exist. That country will be more beautiful in its arrangement of material objects, and more gentle in its courtesies. Its laws will be more humanely framed and more humanely applied. Its politics will be steadier in their course and more temperate in their ends. It will go to war less often, and then mostly for the pursuit of legitimate interests. Because of the greater security of life and property, and the greater respect for thrift and sobriety, it will also be richer and more powerful.

Such an education means a training in habits of thought and the exercise of general intellectual ability. It may require the acquisition of specific skills—for example, learning at least one of the classical languages and few modern languages, and learning some of the technical aspects of music and the visual arts. It may also require an understanding of mathematics and of the natural sciences. It certainly requires a long study of literature and history and philosophy and law and political economy. But none of this may be useful in any direct financial sense.

This is not to disparage purely technical or professional training. These are not at all to be despised. Some while ago, I took a course in bookbinding, and was filled with respect for the skill and dedication of the old man who taught me. Accountancy and legal practice and medicine and the ability to see and make use of previously undiscovered business opportunities, are all of high value. But they are not in themselves education. My instructor in bookbinding was a man of wide culture. Not only did he know how to put books together, but he also had a strong appreciation of what he was putting together. I know accountants and lawyers and physicians who can keep me happily awake until three in the morning as we discuss the state of the world. That, however, is because they are not just what they have trained to become. It is because they are also educated men.

The problem we are now facing is largely the outcome of a decline of respect for humanistic education. My dear friend Dennis O’Keeffe is famous for his denunciations of what he calls socialist education—this being a denial that there is any value in the traditional curriculum, and that the cultures of all social classes and of all racial and national groups are equally valuable; and even that ours is inferior, so far as it contains within itself at least the implicit claim to general hegemony over all others. With this goes the dangerous absurdities of structuralism and post-modernism.

Of course, Dennis is right. But it is not only Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser and Herbert Bowles and Samuel Gintis who are to blame for the attack on humanism. It is also the intellectual philistinism of our own intellectual allies. When I was a boy, I got into an argument with my mathematics teacher, an Armenian Marxist who wore jeans in class an long leather boots spray painted green—this was the 1970s. I asked him one day what was the value of the simultaneous equations he was trying to teach us how to solve. He made what I now realise was a good attempt to explain their value, but began to lose his temper when I failed to understand him. Many years later, I read of a similar exchange in Alexandria between Euclid and one of his students. Euclid, it seems, did not even try to explain himself. Instead, he told his assistant to give the man his money back and throw him into the street.

I now understand the value of knowledge that has no immediate or obvious use. Sadly, many others who call themselves libertarians or conservatives do not. With their talk of “vocational learning” and “learning based outcomes”, they deny the value of any education that is not directed to the gaining of marketable skills.

I know of schools that teach information technology but not history. Again, I do not dispute the value of technical skills. I am proud of my ability to build computers and to make software work: my own website is almost entirely crafted by hand in HTML. But history also is important. An accountant who is ignorant of the French Revolution, or cannot recognise sonata form, or knows not a line of poetry, is nothing more than a skilled barbarian. In a nation where only a small minority is truly educated, legal equality becomes a hard concept to maintain, let alone political equality. In a nation without even that minority, public life must inevitably become savage and arbitrary—a thing of wild, inconstant passions, led by those unable to perceive or follow longer term goods.

That is where, I think, we are now fast approaching. We have a Prime Minister who cannot spell, and is not ashamed of the fact. We have a political class in general that lacks nearly all skill of persuasive speech and seems ignorant of the past. Of the first Ministers appointed to serve under Tony Blair, apparently, the majority listed football as their main hobby in their Who’s Who entries; and not one listed any humanistic pursuit. I doubt if the Conservatives are much better. Perhaps the Judges and permanent heads of department will soon follow the trend. Little wonder our freedoms are being given up, one at a time, to moral panics and appeals to administrative convenience.

Is there anything to be done? I am not sure that there is in the short term. It takes centuries of moral evolution to achieve the level from which we have now declined. Between the renaissance vulgarities of behaviour described by Norbert Elias to the gentility of life in the 1900s lie 500 years of gradual improvement. To suppose that the present decline can be arrested and turned round in one lifetime is perhaps too optimistic. But there are certain steps that may easily be taken towards an eventual improvement. One of the participants in the seminar last night described how he had thrown out his television set, and how this had already contributed to the moral tone of his household. There is an example to be followed—and cheaply followed, bearing in mind the decadence of broadcasting.

Aside from this, we can hope for a collapse of the universities. There are always exceptions, but most are nowadays a combination of training schools for narrow professional disciplines, and academies of falsehood. George Orwell once declared of some absurdity “you need to be an intellectual to believe that”. This needs now to be amended to “You need a degree to believe that”. I am not sure the universities, taken as a whole, can be reformed: better, I suspect, either to wait for their natural decline into irrelevance or to shut them down at the first opportunity. One of the first acts of the Ayatollah Khomeini after taking power in Iran was to close all the universities for three years. The bloody revolution of which this was a part is, of course, to be condemned. But I have no doubt that Shiite theology and law were much closer to the humanistic ideal than the western sociology they replaced. Perhaps historians will one day trace the growing stability and democratisation of modern Iran to this educational reform.

But as my readers may have noticed, I tend to be better at describing problems than giving solutions to them. I can only conclude by thanking the Social Affairs Unit for inviting me to so stimulating a discussion, and to hope that I shall be invited to others in future.


Racial Indoctrination at School

“To be white is to be racist, period.” This statement was made by a high-school teacher to his class in Norman, Oklahoma. The statement was recorded by a student when she became offended by what her teacher was saying. The teacher continued, “Am I racist? And I say ‘yeah.’ I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist, but do I do things because of the way I was raised?”

The student’s parents confronted the school over the issue, and the school responded by saying that the topic of racism is an important issue, though conceding, “We regret that the discussion was poorly handled.” The Norman Public Schools superintendent pledged to immediately address the issue, saying that members of the school board “are committed to ensuring inclusiveness in our schools.”

To conflate social standing and past injustices with ethnicity is racist. The Left’s demand that Americans accept their Marxian view of equality — that societal injustice is inherently tied to ethnicity — is the same argument used by the eugenicists of the 1930s. Those who venture down this road can then be easily persuaded to accept the conclusion that for the sake of social justice there are certain ethnic groups of people — white, conservative Americans in this instance — who for the good of society need to be at best suppressed and at worst eliminated.

Teaching children to view everything through the lens of race will only lead to more mistrust, division and conflict rather than greater unity. What has always united Americans has been those shared values espoused in our Constitution. The Left’s utter obsession with race can only divide us.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Charters used to enjoy bipartisan support. Not anymore

Massachusetts’ 23-year-old charter school experiment has long enjoyed bipartisan support. Just a few months ago, polls showed Democrats and Republicans alike supported an upcoming ballot measure that would allow for more of the schools.

But recent surveys show Democrats turning against the question — breaking the broad consensus on charters and threatening to stall one of the country’s most ambitious efforts to reshape public education.

A new WBUR poll out Wednesday morning has the ballot measure failing by 11 points overall, with Democrats opposing it 64 to 30 percent.

“It didn’t used to be a partisan issue, really,” said pollster Steve Koczela, who conducted the survey for WBUR and has worked for charter advocates in the past. “Now, it is.”

In recent weeks, with Election Day approaching, a handful of prominent Democrats like US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Martin J. Walsh have come out in opposition to Question 2, which would allow for the creation or expansion of 12 charter schools per year.

Approval of Question 2 would greatly increase the likelihood of school failures that hurt kids and discredit the education reform movement.

But political operatives say that high-profile opposition does not appear to be the driving force in liberal voters’ mounting worry over charter schools, which have a freer hand with budgets and curriculum than traditional public schools and are frequently not unionized.

Instead, they point to a teachers-union-backed “No on 2” campaign that has hammered home a simple message — that charters drain traditional public schools of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The opposition of over 180 school committees and hundreds of individual teachers has been powerful as well, they say.

That’s evident in places like left-leaning Brookline, where blue-and-yellow “We Trust and Support Brookline Teachers” signs are on lawns all over town.

The placards refer to an ongoing contract fight, not the Question 2 campaign. But Democrat Anne-Marie Codur, a Tufts University researcher who sends her son to Brookline High School, said conversations with local teachers played a central role in building her opposition to charter expansion.

“I didn’t know, at the start, [where I would land on the issue],” said Codur, standing in her doorway on a recent morning. “But I read, I listened to NPR, and I talked to educators here — I know many teachers here, and they are the ones who really made up my mind.”

Of course, it’s not just Democrats who are talking with their children’s teachers about charter expansion. But for liberals, concerns about Question 2 carry a particular resonance because they bump up against some core beliefs.

Codur, who has planted a “No on 2” yard sign between her “Clinton-Kaine” and “Joe Kennedy for Congress” signs, cast her opposition as a defense of public education itself. And for many Democrats worried about the growing influence of “dark money” in politics, the flood of anonymous donations to the “Yes on 2” campaign — some donors can keep their names concealed by law — has hit a nerve.

Democrats make up just one-third of the electorate, with more than half of voters independent and about one in 10 Republican. But Democrats’ sharp turn against the question seems to be having a real effect on its overall chances.

In April, a Western New England University Polling Institute survey of 497 registered voters in Massachusetts found 45 percent of the Democrats polled supported charter expansion and 34 percent were opposed.

By the end of September and beginning of October, a survey by the same group found just 29 percent of Democrats in support and 54 percent opposed. The gap was even wider among likely Democratic voters, a more select group than registered Democrats.

The Western New England poll had Republican and independent support for charters declining, too, reflecting an overall tightening of the race. But those shifts, if substantial, were not as dramatic. Overall, 47 percent of likely voters opposed Question 2 and 34 percent supported it.

Even the one recent public poll that had the “yes” side winning showed Democrats opposed by a small margin.

Massachusetts Democrats’ shift against the ballot measure puts them at odds with the national leaders of their party. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton are charter school supporters, something organizers of the “Yes on 2” campaign frequently invoke in their efforts to win over liberals.

And pro-charter strategists remain sanguine, overall, about their chances with Democrats and the broader electorate.

A recent analysis by the Center for Public Integrity showed supporters of the ballot initiative are outspending opponents on television advertisements by a two-to-one margin, in what has emerged as the most expensive ballot-question air war in the country.

Many of those ads dispute the opposition’s claim that charters are a financial drag on traditional public schools, citing newspaper editorials that say otherwise. Strategists say their polling shows the effort is working.

And in recent days, the “Yes” campaign has opened a new front: appealing directly to the conscience of white, suburban voters with a new ad that asks them to imagine what it would be like to have a child trapped in a struggling urban school.

“If you like your public school, Question 2 won’t affect you,” a narrator says, as a picture of a white family fades to images of black and Latino families. “But for kids stuck in failing school districts, Question 2 will let parents choose something better — and give all our kids hope.”

Massachusetts charter schools have performed well with low-income, minority students. A recent Brookings Institution report found that “test-score gains produced by Boston’s charters are some of the largest that have ever been documented for an at-scale educational intervention,” better than the Head Start early education program, for instance, or a small-class-size experiment in Tennessee.

That explains why one crucial bloc of the Democratic electorate — nonwhite voters — has consistently been in favor of charter school expansion in Massachusetts, even as white Democrats have begun to oppose Question 2 in greater numbers.

Reginald Gay, a black retiree who sent three of his four children to Boston charter schools, said they are “much better” than the traditional public schools in the city. “Most charter schools,” he said, eating breakfast at Brothers restaurant in Mattapan Square on a recent morning, “the children are pretty much guaranteed to go to college.”

Charter proponents say they dread the idea of black and Latino, inner-city families voting for more of the schools, only to be swamped by white, suburban voters opposing the measure. “I’m going to feel sick about this if that’s where we end up,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a recent radio interview.

Philip Johnston, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who opposes Question 2, said the struggles of urban families do weigh heavily on left-leaning voters in better-off communities.

“Many of us are well aware of the fact that in minority neighborhoods ... public schools are suffering very badly and parents see the charter schools as their only alternative,” he said. “But I think many of us also feel it’s a sad day when society isn’t willing to put more resources into making those neighborhood schools . . . as good as the ones I went to in an affluent suburb.”

Johnston said it may ultimately take court action to steer more funding into traditional public schools in Boston, Springfield, and other urban centers. But many Democrats, he suggested, believe improving those schools, rather than expanding a separate charter system for the few, is the best approach.


The “Black Lives Matter at School” rallies attracted hundreds of students, parents and teachers on Wednesday

About 2,000 Seattle educators wore Black Lives Matter shirts at their schools Wednesday to call for racial equity in education.

Schools across the district held “Black Lives Matter at School” rallies before classes began for the day. Students, parents and teachers also wore stickers and buttons emblazoned with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan.

The purpose of the day was to affirm that “black lives matter in the public schools,” according to organizers, who are members of Social Equality Educators, a group of educators within the Seattle teachers union. Teachers also wanted to show their support for John Muir Elementary, which had its “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative” event canceled last month after receiving a threat over teachers’ plans to wear Black Lives Matter shirts.

Before school started Wednesday at Chief Sealth International High School, dozens of educators and students gathered outside the building and held up banners and signs.

About 60 Chief Sealth educators had ordered the shirts beforehand. Some of the shirts said “Black Lives Matter” and “#say­hername,” a reference to Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody in Texas. Those shirts had an image of a fist. Others wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” and “We Stand Together” with an image of a tree.

Teacher Diana Romero said she decided to wear a shirt “to support our black brothers and sisters in support for justice.” As a Latina, she said she has seen firsthand the unfair treatment of people of color by police officers.

A sixth-grade class from nearby Denny International Middle School, whose teacher brought them to the Sealth rally, wore Black Lives Matter stickers. Teacher Ben Evans said he wanted them to see how their voices can be heard. Many of his students are aware of racial inequities already, he added.

“Black Lives Matter At School” wasn’t sponsored by the school district, but it coincides with Seattle Public Schools’ “day of unity,” aimed at bringing more attention to racial equity in education. The district said in a statement that it has asked students, family, staff and community members to “engage and join the conversation in our united efforts to eliminate opportunity gaps.” As a public institution, the district doesn’t take official positions on social or political movements, district spokesman Luke Duecy said in a statement earlier this week.

Because Wednesday’s rally at Sealth was not an official district event, teachers were told to leave before students started arriving for school. But members of the Black Student Union (BSU) remained until the start of classes.

For BSU President Precious Manning, 17, the rally and shirts represented the international school coming together in solidarity. Black Lives Matter means making sure everyone is included, she said. “Black Lives Matter means ‘don’t leave us out,’ ” she said.

Each school planned its own events for “Black Lives Matter at School” day. At Leschi Elementary, for example, participants taped notes on a banner that asked “What does Black Lives Matter mean at Leschi?” Lowell Elementary’s front sign read “Black Lives Matter at Lowell.”

In addition to Seattle schools, staff at Highline’s White Center Heights Elementary wore shirts.


UK: Banning chav costumes? I’m offended...

A chav is a young lower-class person typified by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of colorful clothes

As a working-class student, there are many things that worry me. Deadlines, budgeting and balancing a work and social life all weigh on my mind. In fact, these are things that concern most students. One thing that isn’t keeping me up at night is a chav-themed social. But, according to Bristol Students’ Union (BSU), it should be.

The BSU equalities officer has reprimanded the Bristol cheerleading society for planning a chav-themed social. Apparently, dressing up as a chav is ‘appropriating working-class culture’. And, as we have seen countless times in cases of campus censorship, the society has had to back down and cancel the event. Middle-class outrage has prevented students from having a bit of fun.

I have a message for BSU officers: how dare you presume being a ‘chav’ is part of my culture. How dare you think that because I am working class, I will be scared and offended by a little piss-taking fancy dress. To my mind, the truly offensive thing about this entire debacle is the fact that students – many of whom are working class – are being told what they can and cannot wear. Even though the organisers of the social pointed out to the offended officer that they themselves were working class, BSU decided that it knew best.

This cultural policing needs to stop – it’s patronising and insulting. No one owns a copyright to a culture. I know this may come as a shock to some students’ union officers, but some middle-class people like to relax in tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie. Are they appropriating working-class culture? Would I be appropriating middle-class culture if I turned up suited and booted to a black-tie event? No, of course not. People should be free to wear whatever they damn well like.

Never mind the cheerleaders, the BSU officers are the real snobs here. These white knights protesting against so-called cultural appropriation don’t give a damn about what working-class students want. No, they only care about their virtue-signalling crusade to implement what they think is acceptable forms of fun on campus. This means clamping down on banter, jokes, and now, Vicky Pollard-style get-ups.

So, students, dress up in whatever the hell you like. You’re adults at university. If someone tells you you can’t dress like a chav, tell them to do one


Sunday, October 23, 2016

A vast educational failure

American education is failing thousands of students every year. But this crisis is not just about poor scores in math and reading. It is a deeper failure, leaving entire generations of Americans without the most basic knowledge of the country’s past and its civic institutions.

As The Daily Signal reported, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” showed that just 42 percent of millennials view capitalism favorably compared to 64 percent of Americans over 65.

Perhaps more disturbingly, a third of millennials believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism.

These findings are merely the latest in a pattern of documented cluelessness on the part of the American population about history and civics—even among those with college degrees. This failure to teach citizens puts America’s future at risk and puts us out of step with the vision of the Founding Fathers.

In his advocacy for American education, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence (for those who got the Stalin question wrong), wrote about the necessity of grounding young Americans in a solid base of knowledge about history, lest our republican form of government risk the rise of scheming demagogues and tyranny.

To Jefferson, the people were the ultimate guardians of their liberty—a tall order for those who remain completely in the dark about what liberty means or how it has been curtailed in the past. He wrote of the need to teach students history early in their lives, that “by apprizing them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and nations; it will qualify them as judges of the ambitions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume, and, knowing it, to defeat its views.”

It would be unfair to pin modern historical ignorance on the “stupidity” of millennials, who are generally entrepreneurial, and certainly tech savvy. There is certainly some blame to be shared by education institutions—K-12 and higher education alike.

Instead of merely lamenting the results of this tragic failure, concerned Americans can and should use the tools at their disposal to make things better for the next generations.

The educational choice movement, launched by economist Milton Friedman just over 60 years ago, has done a great job of opening up education options for American families using vouchers, tax credit scholarships, charter schools, and education savings accounts.

These programs have already produced some incredible results, but those who believe America needs to make a serious pivot toward a better civics education should look to growing freedom in the education sector as a way to reinvigorate civics.

“An education system that allows parents … to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.” —@InezFeltscher

For example, The Federalist author Joy Pullmann recently wrote about how a number of K-12 charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run, have returned to focusing on a “classical education” for students. A Hillsdale College project called the Barney Charter School Initiative has founded 16 schools that focus on distributing “knowledge for and habits of self-government.”

As Pullmann noted, the purpose of these schools is to create an “academically coherent curriculum … that helps form a common culture and an attendant sense of national unity” that has not existed for generations.

Charter schools are not the only opportunity to improve civics education for young people. Innovative  education savings account programs, which give parents control over the money used for their child’s education may open up enormous opportunities for parents of all backgrounds to seek out the right situation for their child.

If states move toward a more universal education savings account  system, all parents will have the ability to seek out customized, quality education options, including civics and history courses. Imagine being able to pay for a history lesson being taught at a local university or on location at a historical site such as Gettysburg or Mount Vernon. Or, imagine, as education savings accounts allow, being able to hire a private tutor to teach a civics lesson, or to pay for on online history course.

Additionally, schools would have to compete for students and would have more pressure to give children a civics education their parents find satisfactory.

As American Legislative Exchange Council’s Inez Feltscher, my wife, noted in a paper about 21st century education savings account reform:

In an [education savings account] world, Hillsdale College, BJU Press [a source for Christian education materials], and college and career-ready standards would compete alongside dozens of other educational visions, from Howard Zinn’s ‘People’s History’ to hands-on learning to STEM-focused blended learning. An education system that allows parents, not politicians and bureaucrats, to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.

The depressing studies demonstrating rampant historical and civic illiteracy should provoke a sense of urgency rather than hopelessness. Future voters have a right to know what has gone before and we have the tools to make that happen, and parents should have the right to place their children in an educational environment that aligns with their values, civic and otherwise. The turnaround starts with educational choice.


NAACP Votes to Keep Students Enslaved

Charter schools are one of the few bright areas of America’s otherwise floundering education system. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons they are also the subject of fierce opposition. The Left’s utter hostility to school choice was on full display this weekend when the NAACP agreed to ratify “a resolution … adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” The board listed four conditions that must be met in order for it to retract its position on charter schooling:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

The response from lower-income Americans should be nothing short of outrage. For many children — particularly minorities — charter schooling offers one of the few options they have of escaping the systemic problems associated with inner city public schools. But it seems leftists are more concerned with eliminating all options that don’t include public schools than they are on fixing the problems of their own making. As The Wall Street Journal editors put it, “If these gentry progressives are waiting for urban schools to reform without competition from charters or vouchers they are consigning generations of children to diminished lives.”

Another person who seems willing to cosign generations of children to diminished lives is Hillary Clinton, who columnist John Goodman says “has been inching ever closer to the teacher union view of the world” even though the evidence points to significant improvement in charter schools. According to Goodman:

A Stanford University study found that charter schools significantly improve the performance of children in urban areas and this is especially true for black, Hispanic, low-income and special needs students in math and in reading. Even the very liberal New York Times editorial page endorses charter schools. Yet I have seen no mention of how charter schools benefit students in Clinton emails so far. Oh, but of course. The kids don’t get to vote.
No, but parents can. And they “vote for charters with their feet when spaces are available,” the editors at WSJ write. At the rate the NAACP is going, there’s going to be a lot more stomping in the months and years to come.


Furious parents slam British school after pupils as young as 11 are asked to research essay on ABORTION

Furious parents have hit out at a school after pupils as young as 11 were asked to research and write an essay on abortion. Parents have criticised teachers at Murray Park School in Mickleover, Derby, for setting the project on the controversial subject.

Year 8 pupils - aged between 11 and 13 - were asked to look into UK laws and Christian beliefs on the matter.

They were then set an essay titled: 'The abortion laws in the UK are wrong and should be changed.

'Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain and justify your opinion.'

The class was given the homework a week ago and told to complete it by the end of the half-term holiday next week.

But some parents have slammed the school for setting the essay on such a sensitive subject at a young age and refused to let their children complete it.

One mother, who didn't want to be named, said her son deliberately left his homework on the window sill so she would find it and ask about it.

She added: 'He didn't want to bring the subject up himself and when I saw what it was about, I understood his reluctance.

'Myself and several other parents are concerned that this subject was not age appropriate and in researching the subject, the youngsters would be exposed to issues surrounding abortion such as rape.

'I am not sure that every child will have been taught sufficient sex education to put abortion into context. 'This seems morality-based rather than informative.'

Parents said they had been in touch with the school but received no response and had checked whether similar projects were set at other schools.

The mother added: 'I do not think other schools asks their pupils to do this kind of project on this subject at the age of 12.'

Father Paul Kennedy, 38, of Derby, added: 'I think it's a disgrace that they are teaching such a controversial subject at such a young age.

'They are barely teenagers and yet they are being exposed to extremely sensitive matters, which I don't think are appropriate at their age.'

Other parents took to social media to express their dismay at the decision to set the abortion homework.

Writing on Facebook, Sven Gem said: 'This isn't right yes, especially when 12 year olds shouldn't even be thinking about babies never mind abortions.'

Tania Wilson added: 'My son is 12 in January. He isn't aware of abortions or the consequences/thoughts on this and I don't want him to either.

'I ensure he doesn't experience things that are not age appropriate but understands things like sex ed as we discuss it at his level. 'I agree children need to be aware of how other religions view issues but I feel this is slightly too much for a young age.'

But other parents defended the school and said pupils aged 11 should be mature enough to learn about abortion laws.

Suzey Fletcher wrote: 'My son is in year 8 at this school and he has been set this homework. Initially he said I'm not doing it as no one else in the class is doing it.

'But then we sat down and discussed it so he understood what abortion was and what the UK rules are and how it's viewed in different religions and the reasons why people may choose this option. It was then down to him to pen an informed view of the subject armed with the relevant information.

'I don't see it as a bad thing that kids this age know the facts, I would rather this than subjects that are awkward getting swept under the carpet and becoming a taboo resulting in ill-informed young adults -who god forbid ever find themselves in a situation where abortion is an option and don't even know what it is.'

Michelle Hawley added: 'I don't see a problem with this personally as children now days are having sexual encounters at a young age so surely it's a good thing to teach them consciences and the options available if they did get into that situation.'

The PSHE Association - which provides materials for personal, social and health education in schools - was not involved in this particular project.

But a spokesman said: 'We aren't able to provide information on this particular school and situation.

'But the Department for Education's statutory sex and relationship education guidance from the year 2000 states that 'young people need to be aware of the moral and personal dilemmas involved in abortion and know how to access a relevant agency if necessary'.

'Parents have a right to question what goes on in their child's school but we would expect the best way to resolve issues or differences of opinion is for parents to communicate with the school and governing body directly.'

Murray Park School is a mixed secondary school in Derby which caters for boys and girls between 11 and 16. It had 860 pupils on the school roll when it was rated as 'good' at its last Ofsted inspection in June 2014.  The school previously hit the headlines in 2007 when it became the first in Britain to offer skateboarding on its PE curriculum.

A spokesman said asking Year 8 pupils to research an essay on abortion was 'entirely reasonable'.

They added: 'The delivery of moral and ethical education to young people at the school has been praised by various parties over many years and we are always concerned to reflect on what we do and get this right.

'In this case we have, entirely reasonably, used this topic as part of the KS3 syllabus which requires us to 'explore significant moral and ethical questions and choices' where we feel that groups are ready and able to discuss such matters.

'The task was presented in such a way as to allow students to provide a balanced argument in a response to a statement which is common practice. 'Students were also provided alternative tasks if they chose.

'Whilst we are confident we have acted reasonably and in line with guidelines in this instance, we are keen to ensure that we always work in partnership with parents and will now review the curriculum content in this area across the school.

'We will continue to respect parental rights to withdraw their children from elements of the curriculum and to listen to their views about how our curriculum is structured if they raise these concerns with the school.'


Friday, October 21, 2016

NOTE:  My normal posting time has come, only to find me  under the influence of both health and cable problems.  The cable problems seem by now to have been banished but too late for me to read much. There is a fair chance that I might be back in normal action by this time tomorrow.

My health problem is a post operative infection in the wound site -- most probably golden staph.  I am on 300 mg of clindamycin 6 hourly so that should help. I can control the pain with di-gesic pretty well but I have to be cautious about sepsis so my next recourse may have to be a vancomycin drip.

Either the infection or the remedies seem to be making me very drowsy so I sleep for long periods, which is probably a good thing on the whole.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This Lawsuit Isn’t an Answer for Detroit Students Wanting a Decent Education

Detroit school students, represented by the Los Angeles-based public interest firm Public Counsel, filed suit last month against the state of Michigan, claiming a legal right to literacy based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Ninety-three percent of Detroit’s predominantly black public school eighth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 96 percent are not proficient in mathematics. According to the lawsuit, “decades of state disinvestment in and deliberate indifference to Detroit schools have denied plaintiff schoolchildren access to the most basic building block of education: literacy.”

In terms of per-pupil expenditures, the state does not treat Detroit public school students any differently than it does other students. According to the Michigan Department of Education, the Detroit school district ranks 50th in state spending, at $13,743 per pupil. This is out of 841 total districts. That puts Detroit schools in the top 6 percent of per-pupil expenditures in the state.

Discrimination in school expenditures cannot explain poor educational outcomes for black students in Detroit or anywhere else in the nation. Let’s look at routinely ignored educational impediments in Detroit and elsewhere.

If the Michigan lawsuit is successful, it will line the pockets of Detroit’s teaching establishment and do absolutely nothing for black academic achievement.

Annie Ellington, director of the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, reported that 87 percent of the 1,301 Detroit public school students interviewed in a survey last year knew someone who had been killed, disabled, or wounded by gun violence.

According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, 80 percent of teachers surveyed nationally in 2011 had been victimized at school at least once during that school year or the prior year. Detroit Public Schools are plagued with the same problems of violence faced by other predominately black schools in other cities.

In Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. In February 2014, The Baltimore Sun reported that more than 300 Baltimore school staff members had filed workers’ compensation claims during the previous fiscal year because of injuries received through assaults or altercations on the job.

A 1999 Michigan law requires school districts to expel any student in sixth grade or above who physically assaults a school employee. The Lansing Board of Education ignored the law and refused to expel four students for throwing chairs at an employee, slapping a teacher, and punching another in the face.

It took a Michigan Supreme Court ruling to get the board to enforce the law. The court said the law was enacted “specifically [to] protect teachers from assault and to assist them in more effectively performing their jobs.”

Colin Flaherty, author of “Don’t Make the Black Kids Angry,” has compiled news stories and videos that show how black students target teachers for violence. He discusses some of it in his Jan. 12, 2015, American Thinker article, titled “Documented: Black Students Target Teachers for Violence.”

As a result of school violence and other problems, many teachers quit when June rolls around. Every year, Detroit loses about 5 percent of its teaching positions (135 teachers). According to a Detroit schools representative, substitutes, principals, and other staffers must cover classes, a situation not unique to Detroit. In California, signing bonuses of $20,000, “combat pay,” aren’t enough to prevent teachers from leaving altogether or seeking out less violent schools.

The departments of Education and Justice have launched a campaign against disproportionate minority discipline rates, which show up in virtually every school district with significant numbers of black and Hispanic students. The possibility that students’ behavior, not educators’ racism, drives those rates lies outside the Obama administration’s conceptual universe.

Black people ought to heed the sentiments of Aaron Benner, a black teacher at a St. Paul, Minnesota, school who abhors the idea of different behavioral standards for black students. He says: “They’re trying to pull one over on us. Black folks are drinking the Kool-Aid; this ‘let-them-clown’ philosophy could have been devised by the KKK.”

Personally, I can’t think of a more racist argument than one that holds that disruptive, rude behavior and foul language are a part of black culture.

Here’s my prediction: If the Michigan lawsuit is successful, it will line the pockets of Detroit’s teaching establishment and do absolutely nothing for black academic achievement.


British parent shares bizarre note from his child's Italian school telling children to bring their own loo roll

Pens, pencils, files... These are all normal things to expect a child to bring along on their first day at school. But one school in Milan is so short on funds it has started asking pupils to supply four rolls of toilet paper, according to a note shared by a bemused British parent.

William Hardy, whose child goes to Scuola Primaria Casati, a state primary school in the centre of the city, the wealthiest in Italy, was also asked to bring paper and cups.

He received the message at the start of the school year and shared it with The Local. It read: 'We've run out of toilet paper. So that this great friendship can continue we have to bring one packet of four rolls of toilet paper (each)!'

At the bottom was an image of a smiling poo and toilet roll.

Unfortunately, such desperate measures are not particularly uncommon among schools in Italy.  Marilena Lombardi, whose child goes to an elementary school in Campania, in the south of the country, was told to bring paper towels and soap.

She told MailOnline: 'We were asked to bring all these necessities to the school because of the cuts the government had on the schools from north to south.

'So we did, each one of us parents bought toilet paper, paper towels and soap for the school.

'We were all willing to participate and didn't make a fuss, we want our children to have all they need in school but still we found it unfair that we had to do this


Freshers' week is now 'more like entering a convent': Professor says university crackdowns on student freedom stops them growing up

The freedoms once enjoyed by students are under threat from universities obsessed with micromanaging students' personal lives, a top academic has warned.

Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, says starting university now resembles an induction course 'into a convent'.

Writing in his book, What's Happened to the University, Professor Furedi said universities are now infantalising students rather than treating them as adults.

Speaking to MailOnline, Professor Furedi said: 'University overall is becoming increasingly paternalistic. Increasingly, instead of being treated like young men and young women [students] are being treated like they are in nursery.'

Professor Furedi points to the widespread availability of counselling and support services available to students as part of the problem.

He said: 'There is an assumption that you have the psychological or moral resources of a youngster.

'Even before an exam there are all these resources, you can cuddle pets and cuddle soft toys. These are the types of thing I would do with my five-year-old.

He added: 'The university has become a clinic that assumes they are dealing with emotionally confused youngsters.'

Professor Furedi argues such services encourage students to turn to others when faced with even basic personal challenges such as homesickness.

He also warns such widespread use of these services threatens to trivialise the needs of students struggling with genuine mental health issues.  'In life, we have bad things happen to us, we are disappointed and those are not issues that need medical care,' he added.

This fixation on managing and protecting new students is also filtering down to Freshers' week, once the symbol of the freedom of university life.

Professor Furedi said: 'A lot of kids are still drinking dancing making new friends but there is a mean spirited culture which assumes that having fun means you are going to have disruptive behaviour in the future.'

He said the message is 'don't go drinking and dancing because things may go wrong', rather than encouraging students to explore their new environment independently.

He added: 'It's like coming into a monastery or convent, you almost have to choose not to let loose for that week.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Proof grammar schools boost poorer pupils: Youngsters are twice as likely to go to top universities as rich children at comprehensives

Poor pupils from grammar schools are almost twice as likely to get a place at an elite university as richer children at comprehensives, figures show.

When compared with other disadvantaged children in comprehensives, the difference is even more stark – with those at grammars more than three times more likely to attend a top university.

The Government statistics come amid a drive to increase the number of children from deprived backgrounds at the elite Russell Group universities.

In her maiden speech, Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of the injustice of white working class boys being the least likely group to attend university.

And yesterday’s data suggests selective schools multiply poor children’s chances of being able to parachute themselves into a better life.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: ‘We want to build a country that works for everybody and that means an excellent education for every child. These figures show grammar schools open up fantastic opportunities for their pupils, no matter what their background. Too many children are currently held back from fulfilling their potential purely because of where they live or how much their parents earn.

‘We need to level the playing field and our proposals to create more great school places are a step towards this.’

The statistics show 71 per cent of poor sixth formers at grammar schools go on to university.

This is much higher than the 56 per cent of similarly poor children at comprehensives.

And 29 per cent of disadvantaged grammar school students go to Russell Group universities. This compares with just 9 per cent of poorer sixth formers and 15 per cent of better off ones at comprehensives.

The figures published by the Department for Education show the positive outcomes from grammar schools for children from all backgrounds. However, there are only 163 left in the country following a ban on new selective schools imposed by Tony Blair in 1998.

The Government is currently consulting on scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, and allowing them to open where parents want them.

In return, grammars will be expected to improve the education of pupils in other local schools, ensuring there is no return to the binary education system of the past.

The news came as the House of Lords debated the plans yesterday – with several peers voicing their support for the scheme.

Tory peer Lord Framlingham said teaching pupils of similar ability was the only way to deliver effective education. He said: ‘Children are stronger than we sometimes think and often understand better than we appreciate what the world is like.

‘Can our national educational policy really be that because some will not succeed none must try? How depressing.’

But Lord Blunkett, who was Labour education secretary when the ban was introduced, slammed the idea of new grammars. He said: ‘It’s morally wrong, it’s philosophically wrong, it’s practically impossible to implement.’


Millennials Are the School Choice Generation, New Survey Says

Millennials support equal opportunity and a society without borders. School choice delivers on both fronts.

Good news for supporters of school choice: millennials are just as likely as older generations to say that kids and parents should have more options when it comes to education.

For some aspects of school choice, such as voucher programs and education savings accounts, favorability rates are arguably strongest among millennials (albeit with some caveats that I'll get to in a minute).

That's according to a survey released by EdChoice (formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice), a public policy organization that supports school choice.

Overall, 63 percent of millennial respondents were in favor of charter schools, and just 19 percent were opposed. The national average was 59 percent and 23 percent. This means that millennials were actually slightly more pro-charter than the average, though the difference is within the survey's margin of error.

That should be reason enough for school choice reformers to cheer, though some caution is still warranted: millennials held initially hostile views toward vouchers—just 33 percent supported them. But the survey asked the question twice: after it explained what vouchers were, support for them rose to 61 percent.

Indeed, lack of information about education policies might be the biggest obstacle to making millennials even more supportive of reform. Two out three millennial respondents said the country wasn't spending enough money on education. But according to the poll results, they badly underestimated how much money schools receive from the government. After being given the correct per-pupil funding numbers, some millennial respondents changed their minds. The percentage of respondents who thought per-pupil spending was too low dropped from 55 percent to 37 percent, and increasing percentages of respondents answered that current funding was "too high," "about right," or "didn't know."

Obvious disclaimer: This poll was produced by a pro-school choice organization. That said, I'm not at all surprised to learn that millennials are just as excited about school choice as older generations—if not more excited. They're against arbitrary borders (zip codes, in this case), deeply concerned about structural racism in public institutions (like police departments and traditional public schools), and motivated by principles of fairness and equal opportunity. School choice delivers on all these fronts.


Surrender? US schools to REQUIRE Muslim indoctrination

I'm not an alarmist but I will present hypocrisy when I see it. There are many who've labeled a recent action in Kansas City as some sort of submission to Islamic supremacy. I don't see it in such an alarmist fashion, but I am rather perplexed by the liberal progressive socialist hypocrisy.

As reported by WND.com, "One of the nation's largest school districts has adopted a resolution banning "hateful speech" against Muslim students while accusing America of having "a long history of racism and xenophobia."

The controversial resolution, unanimously approved by the Kansas City Board of Education on Sept. 28, states that there are 30,000 Muslims living in the greater Kansas City area, "making invaluable contributions to our economy, our social and political life, and our culture."

It goes on to state that discrimination on the basis of religion, "and against Muslims in particular, is deeply embedded within our country's long history of racism and xenophobia."

The Sept. 28 meeting was reportedly packed with local Muslims seeking to show their support for the resolution. Shaheen Ahmed of the Crescent Peace Society, a Kansas City interfaith organization, requested the board adopt the resolution and the Muslims were hoping that other school districts would follow the lead of Kansas City and adopt similar resolutions, according to a post on social media by Mahnaz Shabbir, an adviser to the Crescent Peace Society who also attended the meeting. More from the "anti-hate" resolution is quoted below:

WHEREAS there has been an unprecedented backlash since the September 11th attacks in the form of hate crimes and employment discrimination toward Arab and Muslim Americans and those perceived as Muslims; and WHEREAS Muslims, Muslim Americans, and those perceived as Muslims, are frequently the targets of abusive and discriminatory police practices sanctioned by the state including surveillance in their neighborhoods and places of worship."

The document further resolves that Kansas City school "condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived as Muslims, immigrants and people of color." The board promises to provide special training for teachers and staff to make sure they have right attitudes toward Muslims, and it also commits to "instituting school policies and setting an educational curriculum that reflects the values expressed in this resolution via training of staff and teachers, the inclusion of diverse resources to supplement in-class curricula, and the creation of safe spaces for students to address in-school bullying."

The resolution was passed with an 8-0 vote and one board member absent. It is signed at the bottom by Superintendent Mark Bedell and Board Chair Melissa Robinson."

Now, if this is something the Kansas City School Board wants to do, fine. However, what's rather hypocritical to me is that we have this concerted effort by secular humanist groups to eradicate Christianity from our schools and our public spaces.

As well, Christians are persecuted for their faith...no safe spaces for them. Why is it that Christians are deemed hateful when they wish not to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies? Yes, consider the Christian bakers in Oregon who have lost their business. They were savagely assailed and fined by the state - as was the Christian photographer who declined to do portraits of a same-sex marriage because of her Christian faith.

I just have to ask, will there be any special training for anyone in these cases? Oh yeah, it'll be for the Christians who NEVER denied anyone service because of sexual orientation, they just wished to not be a part of a certain ceremony.

Christians cannot pray openly in our schools, we have a football coach in Seattle attacked and condemned by the school board there because he prayed with his players. At West Point, the superintendent expressed a "valid concern" about the coach asking for a team prayer.

Now, does anyone consider this to be a violation of separation of church (mosque) and state? Seems to me there's a blatant violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and free exercise thereof - yet we have a state - governmental - agency establishing specific policies and protections for certain citizens based on religion.

Can you just imagine what would happen if a school board voted 8-0 for a resolution that promoted "instituting school policies and setting an educational curriculum that reflects JUDEO-CHRISTIAN values?"

No, I cannot. Doggone, the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison Wisconsin sent a letter to my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, to cease and desist giving a prayer before our home football games. In our military, our men and women in uniform are not allowed to openly display a Bible on their desks.

So when are we having special training to make sure there are the "right attitudes towards Muslims?" First of all, who defines what are "right attitudes?"

What type of educational curricula meets the values expressed in this resolution, and who develops this curriculum? Furthermore, what type of external resources are needed to compliment this curriculum? Seems to me the Kansas City School Board is advocating for specific and favorable religious indoctrination for Muslims. Does that mean revisionist history and erasing any references to Islamic terrorism?

This is right along the lines of UN Resolution 16/18 sponsored by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) criminalizing any language deemed "offensive" to Muslims. Again, I'm not alarmist but I have to ask, are we moving towards a declaration of Muslims as a protected class? Could it be that one day, if I say "radical Islam," I can be carted off to "reeducation training" to make sure I have the "right attitude" towards Muslims?

Why is it that some folks are just so anxious to declare all things are bad about America - a "history of racism and xenophobia?" And can someone please quantify this "unprecedented backlash" since 9-11? Just off the top of my head: Ft. Hood, Texas,; Boston marathon; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Moore, Oklahoma; St. Cloud, Minnesota; San Bernardino; Orlando and James Foley...not to mention the foiled Islamic terrorist plots on our soil...so tell me about the "unprecedented backlash" against Muslims in America since 9-11.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm growing really tired of the American people, the victims of Islamic terrorism, being portrayed as the attackers. Here we cannot utter the words "radical Islamic terrorism" because that will upset the Ummah, and spread the recruitment of Islamists worldwide. So what we must do is take a position of submission, subservience, and acquiescence and accept the blame upon ourselves...instead of looking at the Muslim community and demanding accountability and responsibility for these actions.

You see in the land of progressive socialists, we are to blame, America is bad, and the real threat are Christians, the true hate mongers. You know, not baking a cake or taking pictures of a same-sex wedding are so threatening to our domestic and global security. The regular response from the left when it comes to Islamic terrorism is the moral equivalency argument that Christians are just as bad - yep, right, and that's exactly what I heard at St. Louis University from students there.

This resolution says Muslims are "frequently the targets of abusive and discriminatory police practices sanctioned by the state including surveillance in their neighborhoods and places of worship." Folks, it's called "trend analysis" and if there were Islamic terrorists living in Jewish retirement homes, guess what, the police would conduct surveillance there. However, let's not talk about the problem in Minnesota in the Somali refugee, community which has seen some nine Islamic terrorist convictions in the past two years...and a series of military-aged males leaving the area to fight for Islamic jihadists overseas.

I know there'll be the normal accusations of "Islamophobia" but I will not cower to any psychological intimidation by a Muslim Brotherhood associated organization such as CAIR. If there's one thing I will say about the Kansas City School Board, it's that they're Islamapologists who fail to see the insidious nature of this resolution. I'm waiting for the day when America has a leader who will declare our American citizens a protected class and finally eradicate the scourge that is Islamic terrorism from our shores, and destroy their global sanctuaries.

Oops, there's a knock on the door. Looks like it's time for my reeducation and sensitivity training...


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sacré bleu! English now de rigeur at Ecole Polytechnique

Defenders of the French language have always been keen to protect it from the scourge of English infiltration.

Unfortunately, they have lost a key battle. In a move that would have Robespierre rotating in his grave, one of France’s most esteemed universities has announced that it will teach courses in English for the first time.

Ecole Polytechnique was a product of the French revolution, founded in 1794 to train up a generation of engineers and officials (after so many had come to an unfortunate end at the hands of the sans-culottes).

Napoleon Bonaparte granted the institution military status and gave the school its motto, “Pour la patrie, les sciences and la gloire” — for the nation, science and glory. Although foreign students began attending in 1798, and today come from 60 different countries, they have always been taught only or mostly in French.

Now the institution, France’s leading university of science and technology, is launching new academic programs taught exclusively in the language of les rosbifs. Five new graduate degree programs are starting this academic year and an undergraduate degree will begin next autumn.

The use of another teaching language is likely to horrify the Academie Francaise, which has for years warded off insidious anglicisation and the adoption of modern words and phrases, such le cashback, le weekend and le email (or courrier electronique, as they would prefer).

The president of the university said that English-taught degrees were being introduced so that it could become more diverse and compete globally.

“It’s a business consideration,” Jacques Biot said. “We want to gain a market share of the best students in the world. And if we want to do that, we have to adapt to these sort of customers, and need to have an offer fitting what the best students in the world would expect.”

The university already has some courses taught partly in English but they would be inaccessible to those unable to speak French.

Mr Biot said: “With the new courses we will recruit and teach in English. We will, however, teach them French language and culture.”

He said that the introduction of the English-taught courses had the full support of the government, but added: “I expect some people at some stage will protest about it — being French, I wouldn’t discard the possibility.”

The five new graduate degree programs are two years long and offer high-level scientific training for graduates wanting to lead tech companies.

Students on the courses are from Italy, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Russia, Asia and Africa.


British Secondary schools are being 'crippled' by a baby boom fuelled by migration as applications for places soar by 50 per cent

More than half of England's secondary schools are now oversubscribed as they are 'crippled' by a baby boom fuelled by high migration, new figures show.

The proportion of secondaries with more applications than pupil places rose to 50 per cent this year for the first time in a generation, according to research by the FindASchool website.

And the rate – which stood at just 43 per cent two years ago – is expected to get worse still, due to the bulge in secondary pupil numbers over the next five years.

Headteachers are already complaining of the 'struggle' that schools face because of oversubscription.

They warn taking on more pupils will cause a lack of funding and a shortage of teachers in key subjects.

There are also fears that staff rooms and offices will have to be converted into extra classrooms for the extra children.

Rob McDonough, headteacher of the West Bridgford School in Nottinghamshire, told the Times Educational Supplement that the costs of being oversubscribed were 'extraordinary'.

He said: 'What's crippling me is funding the pupil expansion. That's worrying me now because [the reserves are] gone.'

The FindASchool study analysed the admissions arrangements of 87 per cent of England's state secondaries.

Data is still missing from some schools that control their own admissions, but the researchers expect the proportion of oversubscribed institutions to rise above 50 per cent when all the figures are in. And they say that changing demographics will worsen the situation for secondaries in the future.

Ed Rushton, founder of FindASchool – a school-checking service run with 192.com – said: 'Our figures, which, incidentally, the government does not collect, suggest the problem is getting worse.

'Given the large bulge in primary school numbers, this trend is likely to continue unless lots of extra schools are opened and more school places are added where they are most needed.

'Over the next five years, there will be more of a crunch because of the bulge. I would say it is likely that this is the first time it has gone above 50 per cent.'

The analysis reveals that the problem is most acute in London, where two-thirds of secondaries are oversubscribed - but the difficulties extend nationwide, with at least half of secondaries oversubscribed in the West Midlands, East of England, the North West and the South East.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 'The overall planning has never been brilliant in getting the right number of school places in the right place at the right time.

'Schools often cannot quickly expand to deal with an increase in numbers.'

Dealing with appeals for places has become another significant problem for schools, alongside building work, squeezed budgets and staff shortages. Burnt Mill Academy, in Harlow, Essex, had more than 100 children on its waiting list last year and receives about 40 appeals annually.

Last month, new government statistics revealed that there were 62,301 appeals made by parents in 2016, compared with 54,600 the year before – a rise of 14 per cent.

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'We are delivering good-quality school places to ensure that every child has an excellent education that allows them to reach their full potential.

'Our latest data shows that nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, and we are investing £7 billion in new places up to 2021. Thanks to that hard work and investment, 1.4 million more pupils are now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.'


Stop whining and just do your exams: Why a lot of kids these days need to suck it up

Comment from Australia

IT’S HSC [Higher School Certificate] time and I’ve never been happier to not be involved in something. Not because of the studying or the stress of exams, but because of the Facebook groups.

I’ve just lost an hour of my life trawling the posts and comments on “HSC Discussion Group 2016.” And while there are the usual notes of encouragement, musings about exams frustrations and memes that make me realise I’m completely out of touch with the next generation, there’s also some pretty disturbing comments in there.

Here are some of the kids who need to suck it up and grow up.


One girl wrote a lengthy essay suggesting to the Board of Studies that HSC students should be provided with free counselling for having to endure the “wrath of the HSC”, an extra hour to complete the paper and the requirement that all HSC teachers sit the exam themselves before teaching the course.

Might I suggest that if you believe the Board of Studies should be providing free counselling for the “wrath of the HSC” you may as well lock that therapist in for a standing appointment, because life outside school is going to be a real wake up call.

Surely we’ve been through this enough to realise the HSC is difficult. It’s supposed to be, it’s an exam. I doubt there’d be a single person who wouldn’t have wanted more time, but even if the Board of Studies granted an extra three hours people would still be complaining.

Oh, and everyone who teaches HSC subjects HAS taken the exam. That’s how they ended up in the privileged position of teaching someone who thinks they’re the only one who’s ever been through it. Lucky them.


A young man posted a photo of himself smiling with his arm in a sling with the comment “How to get out of HSC 101: Break your wrist after the first exam ends by jumping off a moving car.”

This post was followed by almost 3000 likes and comments that were mostly versions of the word “LEGEND!”

If this kid ends up building an app that makes $30 billion, I give up.


To anyone stupid enough to post the question “How can I cheat on the HSC?” with your real name on a public page, or provide a genuine answer to that question, there is little to no hope for you.


And now we get to the less amusing and more disturbing comments. Most of them aren’t fit to write and include horrible digs at other kids whose only crime appears to be that their memes weren’t funny enough.

One of the most disturbing posts was a screen shot of a direct message sent to Board of Studies director, Tom Alegounarias that reads: “You’re about to cop a f***‘in left right goodnight from about 70 000 angry c***s yeah the boyz.” Again, cleverly posted from this kid’s personal Facebook page.

This kind of behaviour is so pathetic I don’t even know where to start. The idea that it’s applauded by other students in the comments and that people are jumping on the bandwagon by sending their own messages is even worse.

Is the HSC a punish? Yes. But from my experience the people who find it most difficult are often the ones who didn’t spend enough time preparing and are looking for an excuse to blame anyone but themselves for their own lack of discipline.

Unfortunately life isn’t all about posting on Snapchat and hanging out with your mates. If you want to do something with your life other than whinge about how everyone’s out to get you, you’re going to have to put in a little hard work.

The whole reason the HSC is difficult is because it’s the way we control competition for university placements.

Are there potential flaws in the system we’ve got? Of course. Are there other ways to do what you want if you don’t get the mark you hoped for? Absolutely.

But is there anything wrong with being asked to dedicate a couple of months of your life to preparing for an exam, regardless of what you decide to do with the mark at the end of it? No.

The idea that the HSC is some kind of conspiracy cooked up by the establishment to break defenceless teenagers and make their life a misery is ridiculous. Exams aren’t meant to be easy. If they were, there’d be no point.

While they’re frustrating and stressful, they prepare you for the harsh reality that if you want to achieve anything in life you need to work for it. And if you spend your entire existence whining on Facebook you’re not going to get very far.

With more exams to go might I advise students who are spending most of their time trolling the Board of Studies and whingeing about the injustice of it all that your time might be better spent focusing on a book with some actual pages in it.

Oh, and one more thing …. grow up.