Sunday, October 11, 2015

Virtue in team sports?

The comment below is a bit on the frivolous side.  Quite overlooked is that the claim on behalf of success in team sports may be that it is predictive of success in jobs where teamwork is needed.  There are many such jobs -- from McDonalds to the armed forces.  The army has a very long record of personnel selection research -- around 100 years -- and have over that time developed methods that work well.  And, as a former army psychologist, I don't think I am revealing too much when I note that a history of participation in team sports is very favourably viewed when it comes to officer selection

The idea that sports – and team sports in particular – are good for the soul, as well as the body, is deeply ingrained in the British psyche. It is often cited as one of the reasons why our public schools (the only ones left with proper playing fields) churn out such a disproportionate number of high-achievers. Running around in the mud chasing funny-shaped balls is supposed to cultivate “character” – that vaguest and most expensive of virtues.

But an unlikely new Fotherington-Thomas is challenging this orthodoxy. Neil Rollings, chairman of the Professional Association of Directors of Sport in Independent schools, has written a report arguing that the “days of compulsory team games are numbered”.

Forcing children to participate in competitive sports such as rugby or hockey is, he says, an outdated practice based on “an unsubstantiated view that pain and discomfort somehow 'makes a man of you’ through a process unknown to science”.

Instead of inflicting this misery on all pupils, regardless of athletic ability, schools should offer them a range of competitive and non-competitive sports, including zumba classes, cycling and jogging.

While there is something undeniably dispiriting about the words “zumba class”, the man does have facts on his side. The few studies that have been done on the subject (most of them in America) suggest that playing a team sport has no beneficial effect on a child’s moral development. In fact, the opposite may be true: one study found that qualities such as honesty, fairness and civility were more evident among young people who played no team sports at all.

Nor does victory on the playing field necessarily translate into adult life. Nerds and bookworms tend to come into their own once they leave school, storming the higher eschelons of law, medicine, politics, technology, media and the arts. It’s as though they store up all their competitive drive, only unleashing it once there is no danger of mockery or bruised shins.

You could argue, in fact, that compulsory team sports are character-building after all – just not for the people who enjoy them. It’s the rest of us, the wimps and dreamers, who benefit. Always being picked last for the netball team teaches you to handle rejection. Missing every goal builds your immunity to failure, while the fury of your team-mates is a lesson in the ugliness of group-think.

When you’re never really part of the team, you have no choice but to be an individual. You have to work out your own opinions, and find the strength of character to defend them.


Which Interest Group Has Democratic Candidates in their pocket?

The teacher’s unions are one of the biggest supporters of Democrats. They’re also very strongly opposed to education reforms such as school choice and charter schools.

One of the biggest critics of teacher’s unions and particularly of teacher tenure is former CNN host Campbell Brown. She hosted an education forum in New Hampshire featuring six Republican presidential candidates. She was planning on hosting a similar one in Iowa featuring the Democrat presidential candidates.

However, according to Politico, not a single Democrat decided to appear with Brown.

    “What happened here is very clear: The teachers unions have gotten to these candidates,” Brown told POLITICO. “All we asked is that these candidates explain their vision for public education in this country, and how we address the inequality that leaves so many poor children behind. … President [Barack] Obama certainly never cowered to the unions. Even if they disagree with the president’s reforms, you would think these candidates would at least have the courage to make the case.”

    [...]American Federation for Children executive counsel Kevin Chavous, a former Democratic city councilor in Washington, D.C., complained that the unions are trying to turn opposition to school reform into a litmus test for Democrats. He pointed to surveys by Joel Benenson, an Obama pollster who is now helping Clinton, suggesting that many Democratic voters, especially minority voters, support reform.

    “It’s shameful how my party is being held hostage by the unions,” Chavous said. “I see no difference between their strong-arm tactics on the Democrats and the gun lobby’s tactics on Republicans. And for the candidates to refuse even to discuss these issues, I think it’s insulting to the Democratic base of black and brown voters.”

On the other hand, nearly all Republican presidential candidates support school choice and education reform. The country is full of successful charter school and school choice experiments. In New Orleans, nearly all students attend a charter or private school. Republicans would be stupid not to exploit this.

President Obama has been a surprising supporter of many education reforms. His administration has encouraged charter schools and his supported accountability for teachers based on test scores. The unions say those have failed and are calling for a return to traditional public schooling.

Brown still plans on having an education forum in Iowa, but Instead of having Democratic candidates for president, she will try and have other Democrats participate.


Massachusetts governor seeks some expansion of charter schools

Governor Charlie Baker proposed legislation Thursday that would allow more charter schools to open statewide, setting the stage for a Beacon Hill battle on one of the most divisive issues facing lawmakers.

The bill would permit 12 new or expanded charter schools each year but only in districts performing in the bottom 25 percent on standardized tests. Such districts include Boston, Fall River, New Bedford, Randolph and Salem, as well as the state’s two districts placed into receivership: Holyoke and Lawrence.

It would also authorize districts to unify enrollment systems to include both charter and district schools, removing roadblocks to plans like the one unveiled last month by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Baker said expanding access to charter schools, especially in low-performing districts, would provide relief for the families of 37,000 students on waiting lists.

“This is Massachusetts. . . . We’re like the home and the founder of public education. We should be able to make sure that every kid in Massachusetts gets the kind of education that they deserve,” Baker said at a news conference outside the Brooke Charter School in Mattapan.

The bill would also allow charter schools — publicly funded schools that often operate independently of local districts — to give preference in their lotteries to applicants who come from low-income families, live in specific areas, have special needs, or are learning English. Critics have contended that charter schools do not do enough to serve special education students and non-native-English speakers.

Baker’s measure faces an uncertain path in the Legislature, where some members said they had no comment because they had not had a chance to read the bill. Last year, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would have raised the cap limiting such schools to 120 statewide, but a similar measure foundered in the Senate.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who supported the charter expansion effort in 2014, said he looks forward to hearing testimony on the governor’s submission as well as on a refiled version of the previous bill.

“I’m pleased that Governor Baker is similarly focused on finding ways to ensure at-risk students in our lowest performing districts have access to high-quality learning opportunities,” DeLeo said in a statement.

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg has been tight-lipped publicly about his views on charter schools. In a statement Thursday, he said the Senate “is hearing from all sides of this issue and is taking a deep dive into all legislation dealing with charter schools.”

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education, said in a phone interview that it is hard to predict the fate of the push to allow more charter schools, with Rosenberg likely to encourage lawmakers to vote their consciences, as his predecessor, Therese Murray, did last year.

Chang-Diaz praised Rosenberg for establishing “a very robust process this fall for the Senate to grapple with education reform policy . . . to give a maximum chance for members to really dig into details.”

Opponents of charter school expansion, including teachers’ unions and many parents, argue that such institutions drain funding from school districts and use rigorous discipline policies to drive out low-performing students, assertions that proponents dispute.

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance — which represents teachers, parents, students, and community members — voiced opposition to Baker’s bill.

“His plan would accelerate the dangerous direction in which we are already headed: toward being a state with a two-tiered education system, one truly public and the other private, but financed with public dollars,” Barbara Madeloni, president of the MTA, said in a statement.

But Paul S. Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, hailed Baker for showing that charter expansion is not just a priority on his education agenda but a major priority for his administration.

“What he’s doing to elevate this issue is incredibly positive, but it’s also a moderate proposal,” Grogan said. “It doesn’t propose to end the charter cap entirely; it allows for further growth in the inner cities where charters are doing the most good and are the most in-demand.”

Baker’s bill technically would not remove the current cap but would effectively render it moot, allowing the number of charter schools to increase gradually over time.

Such “incremental growth” makes sense, said Christopher Anderson, a past chairman of the state Board of Education and a supporter of a proposed ballot measure that would — like Baker’s bill — authorize the creation or expansion of up to a dozen charter schools per year.

“Rather than having a static cap that ignores the demand for the product,” Anderson said, “the modernization of the state charter school statute would now include . . . what I would term a ‘growth cap,’ which provides for sustained increases in the number of charter schools, but in a way that is eminently manageable.”

If the Legislature approves Baker’s bill or a similar measure, Anderson said, proponents would not pursue the proposed ballot measure.

That measure has helped spur action on Beacon Hill, as has a class-action lawsuit filed separately by three prominent Boston lawyers who argue that the charter cap unfairly denies thousands of students their constitutional right to a quality education.


Friday, October 09, 2015

College Belatedly Learns Why Bathrooms Try To Keep Naked Men Away From Naked Women

Even Leftists can learn from experience sometimes

A Toronto college is rolling back its use of gender-neutral bathrooms after two women at the school were victims of voyeurism by a man using a cell phone.

Whitney Hall, a dormitory for University College at the University of Toronto, houses about 250 students and used co-ed bathrooms exclusively until recently. “Co-ed” means both men and women in the complex would use toilet and shower stalls right beside one another.

Eventually, somebody took advantage of the situation to engage in a bit of voyeurism. Toronto Police said Monday there were two separate instances of girls seeing a cell phone reach over the shower stall dividers in an attempt to record them, according to the The Toronto Star. No one has been caught and the investigation is ongoing.

In response, the University has concluded that pushing everybody into shared bathrooms might have been a bad idea. While the Hall will continue to have some gender-neutral bathrooms for those who want them, several others are being set aside to be exclusively male or exclusively female.

Some students argue that reverting to single-sex bathrooms could somehow make voyeurism even more likely.

“It’s not very hard to be of [another] gender and sneak into the single-gender washrooms if they know it’s in the wee hours of the morning, or if they know that there’s only one person in there, who actually might happen to be in the shower,” student Tessa Mahrt-Smith told The Varsity, the school’s newspaper. “So I do feel that while [gendered washrooms] may help, there’s also the potential that [this system] could provide easier targets for the voyeur.”

Gender-neutral bathrooms are popular among many queer activists, some of whom say they reject the gender binary (identifying as neither male nor female). They’re also often used by transgendered individuals who fear being “misgendered” because they still look like their biological sex.


Apologizing for America Day

Whether it’s ethnic pride, gay pride or what have you, we’re all about pride in America these days — unless it’s pride IN America.

The latest outrage from the Village Academic Curriculum File is a Wyoming school that canceled “America Day” because some immigrant students might feel excluded. True story. “Many different students could have felt singled out,” Activities Director Mike Hansen told the local newspaper. “We’re trying to be inclusive and safe, make everyone feel welcome.”

Well isn’t that sweet. Maybe they’re taking a page from Barack Obama’s book on “fundamentally transforming” or apologizing for our nation.

But this is America, and some of us won’t be cowed by the politically correct Left. Many teens showed up to class decked out in patriotic garb and waving American flags in defiance of their “educators.”

Besides, as Todd Starnes notes, “There was a time when immigrants came to America because they loved freedom. They loved this land of opportunity. They wanted a better life for their children.” The Left doesn’t want students to hear that message, though. It might lead to, well, American pride.


The Australian school so violent it’s patrolled by police

Very unusual in Australia. But what's the missing word below?  I guessed it right first time.  Answer at the foot of the report

Escalating violence has lead the government to install a permanent police presence at this school – but not everyone agrees with the decision.

Students and teachers are so terrified about attending Walgett Community College, in northwest NSW, that it has become the state’s first school to have police patrolling the grounds.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the education department and Police Citizens Youth Club have signed an agreement to station two officers inside the school following escalating violence.

Among the incidents are a leaked video showing a 13-year-old girl being savagely beaten by fellow students in May, a teacher at the school taking out an apprehended violence order against a student, and four teachers resigning in the last few weeks of Term 2.

“It’s not uncommon for the police and schools to work together,” education minister Adrian Piccoli said.

“Recently officers have been working with students and staff from Walgett Community College at a PCYC centre in the school. They have access to the school hall before and after school, and during school holidays, and run positive engagement PCYC-related programs during those times.

“The feedback so far has been encouraging. There are no police stations on NSW public schools.”

However, Opposition education spokeswoman Linda Burney describes the move as another example of the government mismanaging problems at the troubled school.

“I do not believe having police present in the school is a good use of police resources, particularly in a community that has the second highest domestic violence rate in NSW,” Burney said.

“I think it sends a dreadful message, not only to children at Walgett, but also the Walgett community — that the only way to manage the school is if police are there.”

However, Acting Superintendent Tony Mureau insists the strategy is working.

“Over the past month there’ve been no incidents,” he told ABC News.

“What we’ll see is police in the classroom sometimes dealing with kids not necessarily in a negative way, but bringing them into the hall, playing sport. Just engagement strategies.”

The police will also be running anger management courses for students.


The missing word is "Aboriginal".  The school has a 97%  Aboriginal enrollment, as officially defined.  At the risk of prosecution for hate speech, however, I think I should note that most of those are of mixed ancestry.  The really black ones rarely go to school at all. The average Aboriginal IQ is very low and low IQ people tend to be more violent for various reasons

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The 1-in-5 Rape Statistic That Could Be True

One in 5 accusations are false

It is simply anecdotal evidence, notes commentary writer Ashe Schow, who has written story after story about the sexual assault witch-hunts happening on college campuses. However, two studies of sexual assault, one at Harvard University and the other at the University of Miami, call into question the oft-repeated claim that one female student in five on college campuses is the victim of sexual assault.

At Harvard, 33 students told officials they were raped in 2014, only 0.15% of the campus of 21,000. But the kicker was that in six of those cases, officials decided that the accusations of rape were “unfounded.” For those of you crunching the numbers, that works out to about 18.1% — or nearly one in five — of those accusations of campus rape turning up false.

The University of Miami discovered a similar situation. The people worried about sexual assaults on campus always talk about how there is a culture of victim blaming. But in their hunt to find anecdote after anecdote of sexual assault, they are creating reason to be suspicious of someone who comes forward to say they were a victim — exactly opposite the intended effect.


UK: School chiefs branded a 'disgrace' after they decide not to expel teenage boy, 13, convicted of sexually assaulting pupils because he is a 'low risk'

Because he is black, one imagines

School chiefs were branded a 'disgrace' when they claimed a teenage boy convicted of sexually assaulting female pupils did not pose a risk.

One 15-year-old girl needed counselling after being repeatedly molested by the boy on the school bus. She was groped and abused by the youngster, who was 13 at the time, 'on a weekly basis' during the 20-minute journey.

But after carrying out a risk assessment it was decided he wouldn't be expelled from the school in Derby because he represented a 'low risk' to fellow students.

The girl felt 'too embarrassed' to come forward and tell anyone what was happening and was only questioned by her school and the police after a second teenage victim made allegations against the schoolboy.

The boy, who cannot be named, was arrested and questioned over the allegations and pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually touching underage girls without their consent.

Today the victim's mother criticised the school for its handling of the matter and said she is moving her daughter to another school.

'The fact that the school said he is a low risk of reoffending and that he is walking the same corridors as my daughter is nothing short of a disgrace,' she said.

'If that had happened in any job or any other walk of life, that person would have been suspended from their job while the matter was being investigated.'

The girl will be taking her GCSEs at the end of next year and her mother said she will be moving her to a different school. 

The teen, who is from Derby, and also cannot be named for legal reasons, said: 'It was horrible.

'It happened on a weekly basis for around a year. It would only be on the journey home from school because I had friends with me on the way to school.

'He would grab my chest and put his hand up my skirt, but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what was happening because he was in the year below me.'

She said another girl had told her friend what he was doing before it was reported to the school. 

As well as the two sexual abuse victims, the offender and the school cannot be named because of a court order.

The teenager said the second victim had also moved to another school since the boy pleaded guilty to the offences.

She said that, because the boy is in the year below her, the only time she comes across him is occasionally when they move from class to class or at break times.

The teen added: 'I don't like it, I find myself staring at him because of what he has done to me and I go to counselling for what happened.'

A spokesman for the school said it does not disclose details regarding its dealings with students or discussions with parents.

He said: 'A parent made the school aware of the conclusion of an investigation involving one of its students.

'As a result, the school actively sought and is following advice from the police and the other agencies involved in this case to achieve an appropriate level of safeguarding for all of its students.'


University equality officer who allegedly tweeted ‘kill all white men’ is charged with sending a threatening message

She's really pleased with herself

A university equality officer who allegedly tweeted 'kill all white men' must appear in court charged with sending a threatening message, it has been revealed.

Bahar Mustafa, a student union Welfare and Diversity Officer at Goldsmiths, University of London, has been charged after a complaint of 'racially motivated malicious communication'.

The 28-year-old was caught in the centre of a racism and sexism row earlier this year after she allegedly told white people and men 'not to come' to an event.

Scotland Yard said today that Mustafa must now attend Bromley Magistrates' Court to answer charges of sending a threatening message.  She must also answer a charge of communicating obscene or menacing messages at the court on November 5.

A Met spokesperson said: 'A woman interviewed under caution regarding a complaint of racially motivated malicious communication made on a social media network has been summonsed to court.'

The charges cover the period between November 10, 2014, and May 31, this year.

A petition from the union at the university based in New Cross, south east London, previously called for her to be removed from her post.  The union alleged that Mustafa, of Enfield, north London, tweeted '#killallwhitemen' and called someone 'white trash' on Twitter.

A post on her Facebook page in April appeared to show her inviting BME women and 'non-binary' people to an event but asking men or white people not to attend.

She graduated from Goldsmiths earlier this year with an MA in gender and media studies.


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Are mobile phones affecting YOUR daughter's grades?

Texting can affect teenage girls' school grades, but has no effect on the academic performance of boys, a new study has claimed.

Researchers found that while girls do not text more than boys, they use text messages to interact with friends and nurture relationships, while boys use them more to convey basic information.

Scientists found that as girls become more compulsive in their behaviour, texts disrupts their schooling, resulting in poorer academic performance.

Dr Kelly Lister-Landman of Delaware County Community College said: 'It appears that it is the compulsive nature of texting, rather than sheer frequency, that is problematic.

'Compulsive texting is more complex than frequency of texting.

'It involves trying and failing to cut back on texting, becoming defensive when challenged about the behaviour, and feeling frustrated when one can't do it.'

Previous studies have found that teenagers send and receive an average of 167 texts per day and that texting is their preferred method of communication.

Research has also shown that 60 per cent of adolescents text daily, while just under two fifths used their mobile phones for voice calls.

This new study is the first to identify compulsive texting as significantly related to poor academic adjustment.

Scientists analysed the behaviour of 211 girls and 192 boys in grades eight and 11 from schools in a semi-rural town in the American Midwest.

Most came from households with two parents (68 per cent) and were primarily white (83 per cent), which was representative of the demographic characteristics in the school district.

Dr Lister-Landman designed a Compulsive Texting Scale to examine whether texting interfered with study participants' ability to complete tasks.

Experts monitored how preoccupied they were with texting; and whether they tried to hide their texting behaviour, among other factors.

The students also completed a questionnaire that focused on their academic performance and how well-adjusted they were in school.

Only girls showed a negative association between this type of texting and school performance, which included grades, school bonding and feeling academically competent.

Dr Lister-Landman said: 'Borrowing from what we know about internet communication, prior research has shown that boys use the internet to convey information while girls use it for social interaction and to nurture relationships.

'Girls in this developmental stage also are more likely than boys to ruminate with others, or engage in obsessive, preoccupied thinking, across contexts.

'Therefore, it may be that the nature of the texts girls send and receive is more distracting, thus interfering with their academic adjustment.'

A larger study was needed with teenagers to explore their 'motivations for texting, as well as the impact of multitasking on academic performance.'

The study was published by the American Psychological Association.


‘If Islamists can speak on campus, why can’t I?’

Iranian Communist, Maryam Namazie, on how she took on the campus censors and won

This week, a crucial blow was struck for freedom of speech on British campuses. Maryam Namazie, Iranian-born secularist campaigner and spokesperson of Ex-Muslims of Britain, took on the campus censors and won, providing a bit of hope for students across the land trying desperately to debate, discuss and broaden their minds under the cosh of students’ union bureaucracy.

Namazie was due to give a talk at an event organised by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (WASH) on Monday. But, earlier this month, the student organisers received an email from Warwick SU informing them that their external-speaker application had been denied. ‘After researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised’, read the message. ‘There are a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external-speaker policy.’

Neither Namazie nor WASH took it lying down. In a series of posts and press releases they ripped apart the union’s risk-averse reasoning. Namazie, a fierce critic of Islamism, Sharia courts and the veil, is certainly controversial in these increasingly sensitive times, but, as she coyly pointed out in one fiery post, ‘the Islamists incite hatred, not us’: ‘It’s a topsy-turvy world when “progressives” who are meant to be on our side take a stand with our oppressors and try to deny us the only tool we have to resist – our freedom of expression.’

Under the weight of bad press and social-media indignation, the union issued a statement on Sunday night, announcing that it would issue Namazie a ‘full and unequivocal apology’. Ever the bureaucrats, the SU officials claimed that protocol, in this case, was not followed properly. Talking to Namazie yesterday, I asked her what she thinks this victory means for the fight for free speech on campus; I found her in a measured rather than triumphant mood.

‘It’s not just a problem with Warwick, but one that we’re seeing across the board’, she said, reminding me that this wasn’t the first time she’d come face-to-face with the campus thoughtpolice. In March she was forced to pull out of an event organised at Trinity College, Dublin after college security said it would be ‘antagonising’ to Muslims and tried to place restrictions on who could attend. ‘Sometimes the student groups who have invited me have preferred not to make it an issue. But, after a while, I made the decision that I will try to fight it through where I can’, she continues. ‘Luckily, this time the student group [at Warwick] worked closely with me on it.’

Given that so many speakers and societies end up giving in to the ridiculous restrictions placed on them, this kickback was heartening. Not least because the dodgy arguments that prop up student censorship so often go unchallenged. ‘The main crux of [Warwick SU’s] argument was that I will incite discrimination against, and intimidation of, Muslim students’, Namazie says. ‘First of all, which Muslim students are they talking about? They’ve bought into this idea that a Muslim equals an Islamist, and that there’s no difference between Islam, the religion, Islamism, a part of the religious right, and Muslims, who are people with as different a range of beliefs as anybody else.’

Dodgy thinking and double standards permeate modern campus bans. Despite the flurry of softly-softly censorship on British campuses in recent years, in which everything from newspapers to sombreros to pole-dancing societies has been banned in the name of creating a ‘safe’ and ‘inclusive’ space, SU politicos have been more than happy to libel lads, rough up student organisers they disagree with and allow the anti-Semitic disgrace that is Israel Apartheid Week to take place every year with impunity while pro-Israel speakers are deemed dangerous and discriminatory. Still, the biggest double standard of them all surrounds the issue of Islam. The National Union of Students (NUS) has taken up arms against the British government’s plans to clamp down on Islamist speakers, despite the fact that the backward views many of them espouse would be in breach of any Safe Space policy in the land.

I put this to Namazie – who, as a feminist, human-rights campaigner and strident leftist, would, you’d think, have more in common with Warwick SU than, say, the gaggle of genuine hate-spewers they have happily hosted in recent Islamic Society events. ‘The things [SUs] want for themselves, whether it’s gay rights or women’s rights or equality, it seems that it doesn’t apply to the rest of us’, she says. ‘Part of that has to do with multiculturalism. Not, of course, the fantastic lived experience where we have people from everywhere living together, but as a social policy which separates groups into homogenised communities. Hand in hand with that comes this idea that it’s their culture, it’s their religion; they are different from us. And to demand equality is therefore somehow discriminatory and racist. It’s a scandalous thing to say.’

‘Islamist groups are organised, through Islamic Societies, on university campuses’, Namazie continues. ‘They are funded and they do use threatening and intimidating behaviour to stop much-needed debate.’ And herein lies the crucial issue. While Islamist speakers have largely been spared the full brunt of campus illiberalism, the tightening up of debate around them and the constant insistence on tip-toeing around the issue of Islam have allowed certain enclaves of Islamism to flourish. When free debate is stifled, not only are some backward ideas driven underground, but others are insulated from criticism, as dissidents, like Namazie, are silenced.

Having fled Iran with her family after the revolution, and worked on human-rights causes in Islamist-run countries across the Arab world, Namazie is, perhaps understandably, cagey about continuing to allow Islamists to run loose on campus. Incitement to hatred, she hints at one point, is somewhere where the law could play a role. I’m not convinced: as Namazie herself has found out, accusations of ‘incitement to hatred’ are often used to silence those who simply have very unpopular views. But before we part ways she makes clear that what we really need is more debate, not less: ‘Freedom of expression means nothing if it’s just for people you agree with. Even people with the vilest views, who deny the Holocaust or defend the Caliphate, they have a right to speak, as do we. The problem is that they’ve always had the right to speak and we never have.’


Schools minister: Focus on phonics is working

Thousands of children are now on track to become excellent readers as a result of the Government’s focus on phonics, vindicating reforms to transform the way young people learn to read, writes Nick Gibb

In October 2007, the Daily Telegraph reviewed a Channel 4 documentary called ‘Last Chance Kids’. In the programme, an inspirational teacher named Ruth Miskin turned one young boy’s life around using a teaching method called ‘synthetic phonics’. ‘Within two-weeks’ the Telegraph reviewer wrote, ‘previously illiterate Christian was reading to a mother weeping with joy at the transformation.’ As Christian said at the end of the documentary, ‘It has changed my life’.

At the time I was Shadow Minster for Schools, and this powerful personal story confirmed what the overwhelming weight of evidence was already telling us: the teaching of initial literacy in schools had to change. When we came to office in 2010, we set about establishing a phonics screening check for all pupils at the end of Year 1.

This morning, results from the fourth year of the phonics screening check were announced and showed a fourth year of consecutive improvement. In 2012, 58 per cent of six-year-olds met the national standard for decoding simple words. This year, that figure has risen to 77 per cent, the equivalent of 120,000 more 6-year-old children on track to read effectively.

This simple test asks pupils to read 40 words, identifying for teachers which pupils can decode words, and which are in need of further support. We introduced this test because too many pupils at the start of primary school were not being taught the fundamental letter sounds which are the basis of reading, known as ‘phonics’.

The consequences of this were scandalous. The 2012 PISA international league tables showed that 17% of our 15-year-olds had not reached a minimum level of proficiency in reading, despite ten years of schooling.

Imagine what it would be like to be one of the roughly one in five school leavers excluded from the written word, unable to read anything from mortgage agreements and instruction manuals, to daily newspapers and the latest William Boyd novel.

Phonics is not just one method amongst many. It is the single most effective means of teaching young children to master the basics of reading. Reviews of the academic research from around the world point in this direction. To quote one recent example, the 2005 Australian National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy concluded:

“The evidence is clear… that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read… Moreover, where there is unsystematic or no phonics instruction, children’s literacy progress is significantly impeded.”

Systematic phonics requires whole class teaching, much chanting in unison, and pupils committing the different letter sounds of the English language to memory. Such teaching methods sit uncomfortably with some educationists who remain wedded to romantic, child-centred notions of learning to read.

This states that children should teach themselves to read by first recognising whole words, and working backwards to divine individual letter sounds.

Known as ‘whole word’, this method encourages children to run before they can walk, resulting in frustration and disengagement. In 2014, a number of educationists sent a letter to TES urging the government to ‘abolish’ the phonics screening check. The following week, a response was sent to TES countersigned by 24 signatories, 11 of whom were teachers, giving their firm support for the test.

Teachers like phonics because it works. We could not have raised standards of reading so effectively were it not for the advice and expertise of classroom teachers, in particular those who formed the Reading Reform Foundation during the late 1980s. This is a valiant organisation which has fought a long, hard battle to save phonics from being side-lined and bring it back into mainstream practice.

Literacy does not stop with decoding. Reading with speed and fluency, and developing a love of literature, are the crucial next step for giving pupils a lifelong passion for reading. That is why the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, alongside the comedian and children’s author David Walliams, have launched a national campaign to get children reading. We are funding primary schools to set up book clubs for key stage 2 pupils, and have asked all schools to arrange public library membership for every eight-year-old pupil.

The 2012 PISA research revealed a national scandal that we dedicated ourselves to tackling. Today’s announcement of four years of improved pupil performance in the phonics screening check shows that we are one step closer to giving every child the best start in life, and achieving real social justice in Britain.


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Arne Duncan will step down as education secretary after seven years in post

Arne Duncan, who followed President Obama to Washington to serve as his education secretary, announced Friday that he will step down after a seven-year tenure marked by a willingness to plunge head-on into the heated debate about the government’s role in education.

Sidestepping a confirmation fight in Congress, Obama tapped John B. King Jr., a senior Education Department official and former cofounder of a charter school in Boston, to run the department while leaving the role of secretary vacant for the remainder of his presidency.

One of Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet members, Duncan is among the few to form a close personal relationship with the president. After his departure in December, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be the sole member of Obama’s Cabinet still in his original role.

"Arne’s done more to bring our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century than anybody else," Obama said, praising Duncan at the White House as one of the most consequential secretaries in the department’s history.

Duncan, who plans to return to Chicago to join his family, choked up as he reflected on his run in Washington and his roots as the child of Chicago teachers. "All our life we saw what kids could do when they were given a chance," Duncan said.

In an unconventional move, Obama asked King to oversee the Education Department, but declined to nominate him to be secretary, which would require confirmation by the Republican-run Senate. Elevating King in an acting capacity spares Obama a potential clash with Senate Republicans over his education policies as his term draws to a close.

Duncan’s tenure coincided with a roiling debate on perceived federal overreach into schools that remains an issue as he leaves. Navigating a delicate divide, Duncan sought to use the US government’s leverage to entice states to follow Washington’s preferred approach to higher standards, prompting resistance from all sides.

On the right, Republicans and state leaders accused Duncan of a heavy-handed federal approach that sidestepped lawmakers and enforced top-down policies on local schools.

Critics blasted the department for linking federal dollars to state adoption of standards such as the Common Core, a controversial set of curriculum guidelines.

His signature initiative was Race to the Top, in which states competed for US grants, with strings attached.

On the left, Duncan clashed about policy with teachers unions, including the largest, the Education Association — which once called on him to resign.


Universities: not out of the safe space yet

The free-speech fightback is promising. But there’s a long way to go

The new academic year has got off to a flying start for supporters of free speech on campus. Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s critique of trigger warnings and safe spaces (‘The coddling of the American mind’) drew widespread attention to the problem of universities acquiescing to students’ demands for protection from words and ideas. Then, no less a figure than Barack Obama came out against turning universities into intellectual safe spaces. In response to a question from a student at a meeting in Iowa, the president declared: ‘I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view… Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say”.’

Most recently, faculty at the American University in Washington DC unanimously approved a resolution on freedom of expression. It commits the university to ‘protecting and championing the right to freely communicate ideas – without censorship – and to study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that some members of our community may find disturbing or that provokes uncomfortable feelings… As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn, or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place that is open to diverse ideas and free expression.’ This inspiring defence of free speech should be replicated at every institution worthy of the title ‘university’.

This resolution is a challenge to the recent trend for academics to provide trigger warnings for course content that might provoke a traumatic emotional response. Trigger warnings send a message that students are emotionally vulnerable and should not be forced to confront ideas that make them feel uncomfortable. The expectation from university managers that students should be satisfied at all times means that trigger warnings are often a first step to removing material from the curriculum altogether. The American University is clear on this: ‘The faculty senate does not endorse offering “trigger warnings” or otherwise labelling controversial material in such a way that students construe it as an option to “opt out”.’

For anyone who believes in free speech, or for that matter education, this emergent backlash against trigger warnings is to be welcomed. However, over the past couple of weeks, New York University investigated a student’s anti-racist art installation for racism, and women’s studies students at North Carolina State University were told they will be marked down if they use sexist words like ‘mankind’ in their essays.

In the UK, the academic year has barely started and already Manchester students attending a fancy-dress club night have been banned from wearing bindis and feather headdresses. The NUS organisers, backed by the Black and Minority Ethnic Students Campaign, argued that ‘to wear an item or to attempt to embody a culture that does not belong to your own personal systems of traditions can be perceived as mockery of others’ culture’. The same argument has been used to ban sombreros from the University of East Anglia. Meanwhile, the human-rights campaigner Maryam Namazie was all set to talk at Warwick University courtesy of the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. She was then disinvited by NUS officers who feared her talk might ‘incite hatred’ and ‘violate its external-speaker policy’, only to be re-invited after press coverage of celeb-academics threatening to boycott the university led to a decision that the ‘proper process’ had not been followed.

That restrictions on students’ freedom of expression continue to mount up at the same time as trigger warnings and the culture of ‘coddling’ is being challenged calls into question whether faculty resolutions or even presidential declarations have the power to turn the tide on campus censorship. Current demands for protection from words and ideas stem from the perception of students as emotionally fragile and the proliferation of identity politics within the academy. Unfortunately, neither of these trends is being taken up to any significant extent.

Many of today’s students arrive at university infantilised and unable to cope independently with everyday life. Professor Peter Gray, author of the blog ‘Freedom to Learn’, notes that ‘students’ emotional fragility has become a serious problem’. He argues: ‘They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realise they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention.’ Rather than encouraging students to grow up, universities reinforce this infantilisation through low academic expectations, compulsory workshops in relationships and sexual consent, restrictions on the sale of alcohol and even newspapers, and a proliferation of childish wellbeing initiatives such as petting zoos.

In the classroom, especially within humanities and some social-science departments, the vulnerable student all too often meets an assumption from academics that they cannot – and indeed should not – distance themselves emotionally from the subject content under investigation. Instead, a focus on identity places feelings at the heart of the university. Students are encouraged to see themselves as representatives of their group, speaking only on behalf of, and from the perspective of, group members. Students are taught that truth is contested, multiple and subjective. The focus on identity appears to empower students who have traditionally not been represented or had their views heard in academia. However, it does so in a way that rejects any aspiration towards universal values.

Identity politics encourages a focus on a concept of the self that is far removed from the rational, autonomous individual that had traditionally been assumed to be both the creator of, and audience for, academic work. The focus on subjective responses and personal truths leaves little emotional distance between the student and the topics covered on the curriculum. Without this, criticism of an opinion is easily construed as criticism of its proponent. The more higher education prioritises sensitivity and respect for feelings above everything else, the more difficult objectivity and the practice of criticism become. Emotionally fragile students then demand to be protected from words and ideas that challenge their particular worldview.

Over several decades, the academy has led the way in legitimising the notion that the personal is political. Too often, students, already infantilised and prone to consider themselves vulnerable, are rewarded for revelling in the emotional and subjective, and dissuaded from striving towards the universal and objective. Today, there is little intellectual or political challenge to these ideas. Indeed, some of the people questioning trigger warnings in one sphere are proponents of identity politics in another.

It is good to see that the trend towards trigger warnings and intellectual safe spaces in higher education is being called into question. But to prevent campus censorship creeping back in different guises we need to confront the view that words and ideas can cause emotional harm to fragile individuals. We need to expect students, as rational and independent adults, to be capable of engaging with the world in a way that goes beyond subjective responses and personal truths.


Former head of Eton calls for a return to nursery rhymes to help children master the history that matters

Nursery rhymes should be reinstated as part of the learning curriculum to help children memorise British history, the former headmaster of Eton has said.

Tony Little claims school children are no longer taught a broad understanding of history and suggests mnemonics are the best way for children to learn it.

Mr Little worked as the headmaster of the prestigious boarding school Eton for 13 years before stepping down this summer.

According to The Telegraph, he told Cheltenham Literature Festival: 'I was well versed in British history by the age of 12 - 13 - I could mug up and quote the names of every King and Queen of England. 'One is tempted to say "get a life" but that’s the way it was then, we learnt these things.

'I wouldn’t entirely dismiss the business of factual recall, the ability to hold information in the head, and more to the point the great sweep, some general idea of what happened and when.'

It comes just months after Mr Little launched a scathing attack on 'exasperating' GCSE and A-level exams and the wider teaching system.

He claimed individual subjects were taught well but exams do not make pupils think laterally, and teacher training systems were a 'mess'.

The headmaster warned that schools are controlled by a university admissions system that focuses only on results - leaving teachers to follow a 'rigid' system to avoid risking a pupil's chances of winning a place.

Speaking to Insight magazine, published by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, Mr Little said: 'We need to see the breaking down of the silo mentality that exists in all schools.

'My school is typical. Each subject is very well taught in itself, but I am exasperated by an exam system which makes it difficult for teachers to make links and pupils to see things in different ways. It's about encouraging them to see things laterally and be more nimble.

'The exam system is like an egg timer. There is a wealth of experience and learning at the top, then it is all squeezed through the narrow bottleneck of exams and pushed out of the other side. I am not against exams or rigour, quite the contrary; it's the way exams are designed.

'And we are controlled by a university admissions process focussed solely on exam results. No one wants to prejudice students' chances, which locks us into a rigid system.'


Monday, October 05, 2015

Oxford: where free speech goes to die

A student magazine called No Offence has been banned for being offensive

No Offence – founded by Oxford student Jacob Williams and Oxford local Lulie Tanett – is a magazine recently set up to ‘promote debate and publicise ideas people are afraid to express’. According to Williams, it grew out of a Facebook group called Open Oxford – a ‘non-partisan Facebook discussion group’, which claims to welcome all viewpoints and encourage vigorous discussion.

Receiving a ‘Red’ rating in spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings, Oxford has repeatedly been at the centre of controversies over freedom of expression. In February, students wishing to hear Marine Le Pen speak at the Oxford Union were besieged by a violent mob, and formally denounced by the Oxford University Students’ Union (which issued no apology for the protests, despite its extensive involvement). Similar protests also took place when former EDL leader Tommy Robinson and the then Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub each came to address the Oxford Union.

Last November, an abortion debate (featuring spiked editor Brendan O’Neill) was prevented from taking place at Christ Church College after student threats of protest. The college called it off, citing ‘welfare concerns’, and to this day it has been unable to take place. It was this event that precipitated the ‘Stepford Student’ phenomenon, which – despite being widely lambasted in the national press – has only grown in influence over the last year.

It is this climate in which OUSU operates. The intention of No Offence’s founders was to hand out copies of the magazine to freshers from the magazine’s stall at the university fresher’s fair (on which the students’ union has a monopoly). Upon having sent OUSU digital copies of the magazine, however, Williams was informed in an email that, due to a breach of ‘regulation 13 of the Student Stallholders Regulations’, he would not be permitted to hand them out.

Regulation 13 is available to view on the OUSU website, and states that ‘OUSU reserves the right to remove any materials, or to prevent any activity, which in the view of OUSU officers is likely to cause offence’. It goes on to stress the infallibility of its own decisions: ‘[The choice] will be taken at the discretion of OUSU and will be final. This applies for the duration of the fair.’

In practice, this rule means that OUSU is entitled to remove any material at any time from any stall, without giving further explanation or issuing refunds to stallholders. No Offence will still have its stall – the £40 cost of which will not be reimbursed – but will not be able to distribute the magazine, rather undermining the point.

In response to No Offence’s prohibition, Williams replied to OUSU informing it that he was willing to consider alterations to the magazine on the proviso that these did not ‘completely change its character’. OUSU’s response did not even acknowledge this offer. It told Williams (who stated that, were OUSU to decline to work with him, he would contact student press) that it had already contacted the Oxford Student – a publication funded and overseen by OUSU themselves. In fact, OUSU is paying for copies of the Oxford Student to be distributed for free at the freshers’ fair.

‘There is nothing offensive about healthy debate’, Williams told me. ‘To ban us from promoting it on the grounds that people might be offended proves everything the free-speech movement has been saying. No offence, OUSU, but you just shot yourself in the foot.’

Tanett added: ‘We’re not inciting violence – as many people do with impunity. We’re not revealing national security secrets – as many people would applaud. We’re not even campaigning for any particular view to be listened to. All we’re doing is campaigning for events and magazines like ours not to be shut down. For the free exchange of ideas.’

Interestingly, the OUSU-backed Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality, whose co-chair was at the centre of an anti-Semitism storm and has since refused to resign, will be present and distributing materials at the fair.

When asked about their new plans for distributing No Offence, the pair chose to stay mysterious. I for one will be watching this space.


Wesleyan and the "Black Lives Matter" blasphemer

‘There is more than one way to burn a book’, wrote Ray Bradbury.

Well, Wesleyan University’s ideological enforcers couldn’t possibly burn wrong-thinking publications (one must be an eco-friendly authoritarian, after all), so they found a green alternative: recycle them!

This is the news that students and administrators at the Connecticut university are ‘boycotting’ the Wesleyan Argus student newspaper for publishing an op-ed that was mildly critical of some aspects of the anti-police-brutality group Black Lives Matter (BLM). Their petition reads: ‘This boycott includes recycling the Argus and demanding [its] funds… be revoked.’ According to the op-ed’s author, Bryan Stascavage, hundreds of papers have already been stolen, some possibly burned or shredded.

To paraphrase a favourite movie of mine: You keep using that word, ‘boycott’. I do not think it means what you think it means.

So this looks bad. Really bad. But reason has not completely left college campuses yet. Stascavage has previously praised professors and students at Wesleyan for being open and challenging his conservative views: ‘[R]ather than trying to protect the ideological bubble around their classrooms, the professors are ecstatic when a view is brought up that is diametrically opposed to standard liberal beliefs.’

Most students on college campuses are open to opposing views and welcome ideological battle. And, despite the flurry of campus censorship of late, the forces of sanity have begun to break through. President Obama has spoken out (albeit hypocritically) about campus coddling, and reason prevailed at the University of Warwick this week when the students’ union lifted its ban on anti-Islamist campaigner Maryam Namazie.

Alas, the censorious still seem to drown out the sane. At Wesleyan and elsewhere, students (and sometimes administrators and faculty) cry ‘blasphemy!’ and demand the heads of unbelievers.

Two things stick out here. First, as noted, the methods being used at Wesleyan are downright scary. Protesting views you disagree with is acceptable. But trying to stop yourselves and others from encountering views you disagree with undermines the purpose of a college education, and the battle of ideas that is so crucial to democracy. What’s more, arguing with views you disagree with makes you a sharper thinker; those boycotting the newspaper are mostly hurting themselves.

Demanding the withdrawal of a newspaper’s funding for airing a contrary opinion in an op-ed is despicable. But stealing and confiscating newspapers so others can’t read them is downright authoritarian. If that wasn’t enough, the petition called for ‘social justice/diversity training for all publications’ once a semester. This is mandatory ideological cleansing of the student press. It’s just plain wrong.

Second, going on Stascavage’s statements, he is clearly a moderate, even conciliatory, individual. In his article, he expresses support for BLM generally, asking merely whether different strategies and rhetoric might better advance its goals. He writes of BLM: ‘There is a reason why so many have shown up to protests across the country: there is clearly something wrong, and wrong enough to motivate them to exit their homes and express their frustration publicly. That is no small effort. The system is clearly failing many.’

Stascavage did not call BLM a terrorist group, or racist against whites, or a supporter of cop-killing. So why the venomous reaction?

My take is that this type of uproar is a symptom of cult politics. In a secular age, students channel the religious impulse into political causes. With zeal, students purge heretics, punish blasphemers and demand genuflection to their idols.

The campus left is a mirror image of the censorious religious right, but it derives its intolerance not from gospel, but postmodernism, critical theory, environmentalism and so-called anti-racism. The new orthodoxy is as fanatical as the old.


Benham Brothers: ‘There’s a Direct Assault on Christianity in America’

 Business entrepreneurs, authors and twin brothers David and Jason Benham said on Friday that the real threat to religious liberty is the threat faced by Christians.

When asked what they felt posed the greatest threat to religious liberty, Jason Benham said, “The first thing that we’re saying is we don’t believe there’s a threat to religious liberty. We think there’s a threat to Christian liberty, because all other religions seem to be fine right now in America.”

Benham, who spoke at the Family Research Council Action’s Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., referred to news report about Islam being taught in U.S. schools while Christianity is targeted.

“We’ve even got elementary schools now starting to teach Islamic prayers – but Christian prayers – how dare you have a Christian Bible in the schools,” he told “There’s a direct assault on Christianity in America. That’s why we’re encouraging Christians to stand.”

Earlier this month, a parent at a middle school in Tennessee complained after her daughter created a school project featuring the Shahada, or the Five Pillars of Faith in Islam: prayer, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage and creed, according to a Sept. 3 report posted on Home Page Media Group’s website.

Brandee Porterfield said that her daughter and other students at Spring Hill Middle School were asked in translating the Shahada to write “Allah is the only God.”

Mark Cook, managing editor of the website, told that in the wake of the controversy that the state has decided to review its standards for middle school social studies over the next two years instead of the original start date for review of 2018.

David Benham told that Christians are partly to blame for the ongoing assault on their religious beliefs.

“The greatest threat to that is the silence of Christians,” he said. “As Edmund Burke once said, the only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”


Sunday, October 04, 2015

American Colleges Pay Agents to Woo Foreigners, Despite Fraud Risk

Like many U.S. colleges, Wichita State University wants more foreign students but isn’t a brand name abroad.

So the school, whose mascot is a muscle-bound wheat bundle, in late 2013 started paying agents to recruit in places like China and India. The independent agents assemble candidates’ documents and urge them to apply to the Kansas school, which pays the agents $1,000 to $1,600 per enrolled student.

Overseas applications “shot up precipitously,” says Vince Altum, Wichita State’s executive director for international education.

But there is a down side: Wichita State rejected several Chinese applications this year from an agency it suspected of falsifying transcripts, Mr. Altum says, adding that it terminates ties with agencies found to violate its code of conduct by faking documents.

Paying agents a per-student commission is illegal under U.S. law when recruiting students eligible for federal aid—that is, most domestic applicants. But paying commissioned agents isn’t illegal when recruiting foreigners who can’t get federal aid.

So more schools like Wichita State are relying on such agents, saying the intermediaries are the most practical way to woo overseas youths without the cost of sending staff around the world. No one officially counts how many U.S. campuses pay such agents, most of whom operate abroad, but experts estimate at least a quarter do so.

“Using agencies to help connect with talented, qualified prospects has been very helpful,” says Michael Heintze, associate vice president for enrollment management at Texas State University, which began using agents in 2012.

Critics of agent use like Philip Altbach, a Boston College professor who studies higher education, say it is rife with abuses and conflicts of interest, and may eventually degrade the quality of U.S. higher education. “The growing reliance on agents is a terrible development, and it’s very widespread,” especially at less-elite schools needing help boosting enrollment, says Mr. Altbach, whose institution doesn’t use agents. “Why are American universities doing this? The answer is very simple: money.”

The agent debate is dividing U.S. higher education. Concerns about recruiting through paid agents—they range from freelance operators to firms with hundreds of employees—are deepening as the foreign-applicant flow grows.

A record 886,052 overseas students enrolled in U.S. universities and colleges in the 2013-2014 school year, versus 573,000 a decade earlier, with nearly one-third from China, says the nonprofit Institute of International Education. Chinese enrollees were up 41% in the year from two school years before.

The increase is driven partly by schools offsetting budget cuts. Nationwide, per-student funding at public colleges fell 13% in fiscal 2014 from 2009, says the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. Foreign students usually pay full nonresident tuition. At Wichita State, that is $12,681, versus $6,022 for in-state tuition this school year.

Hugo Hu, U.S. deputy director of EIC Education, a Chinese agency that recruits for American campuses and also takes students as clients, says it is hard for Chinese students, who often don’t have college counselors, to navigate the maze of applications on their own. “There are so many U.S. schools out there,” he says, “and that’s where we can help students.”
Phony applications

Skeptics say agents, whether paid by a school or an applicant, can open the door to falsified applications that make admission easier for unqualified candidates, such as those with poor English or spotty academic records.

For a college, poorly qualified students can add burdens—requiring professors to bring them up to speed in class, say—or jeopardize accreditation.

North Dakota’s Dickinson State University says its accreditor sanctioned it after an audit found most of its agent-recommended students weren’t fulfilling graduation requirements. “We’re still working to recover our reputation,” says D.C. Coston, who called for the audit as Dickinson State’s president in 2011 and retired this August. Interim President Jim Ozbun says the school has stopped using agents.

For a foreign student, an agent’s guidance may mean landing on a campus that doesn’t offer the appropriate curriculum or support. And when an unqualified student gets a college slot with a falsified application, it can mean a lost college prospect for a qualified applicant.

“We find third-party recruiting agents to be not just not cost-effective, but dangerous,” says Dale Gough, international education services director at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The debate intensified in 2013, when the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which previously barred use of commission-based agents among its members, changed its ethics code to permit them for foreign applications if schools ensured integrity and transparency.


PC has become pandemic at universities

Peter Kurti

Universities used to challenge conventional ideas. But today they have become bastions of political correctness where the fragile sensitivities of students are cuddled and protected from emotional and psychological maladies.

Now US social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and academic freedom advocate Greg Lukianoff have warned that restricting free circulation of thought actually endangers students' mental health.

Vindictive protectiveness prepares students poorly for professional life and can even engender patterns of thought similar to those that cause depression and anxiety, Haidt and Lukianoff say. The therapy of 'political correctness' may only make things worse.

When political correctness, or PC, emerged in universities in the late 1980s, it was motivated by a desire to eradicate discrimination. But PC has morphed into a different beast. Twenty-first century PC is concerned with emotional well-being.

On campus, PC presumes an extraordinary fragility of the student psyche and aims to protect the eggshell sensitivities of students from psychological harm. That's why there are calls to control what can be taught, what can be encountered, and what can be experienced on campus.

And that's why many students also require their professors to issue 'trigger warnings' before covering any topics which may invoke negative feelings - such as when studying the crime of rape.

So here's a trigger warning about upcoming medical themes: the arteries of learning on our universities have become sclerotic and clogged with the plaques of PC which stifle debate. Excessive PC irradiation zapped in Australian universities is killing free speech in the name of protecting the vulnerable.

When today's students enter the workplace they will need qualities of strength, resilience, confidence and compassion to address the challenges our country faces. Instead, Australian students are being failed by universities trying to protect them from things they will inevitably encounter later.

Attempting to force the world to conform to your desires is never going to be the way to achieve happiness or success. It's time to remove the strictures of political correctness, to free up the minds of students, and to help equip them with the skills to master their desires, fears, and habits of thought.  


Sir Anthony Seldon: Private schools lead the way in 'teamwork, empathy and grit'

Independent school pupils are "dominant across society" not because of their academic achievements but because of their "grounding in soft skills", Sir Anthony Seldon will say.

In a speech at a schools conference tomorrow, the former Master of Wellington College will argue that independent schools are "taking the lead" in preparing students for the jobs required for the 21st century.

Sir Anthony, the current vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, criticised the state education system, saying that its "remorseless drive for exam success" was no longer "fit for purpose".

Speaking at the Tatler Schools Live! conference on Friday, Sir Anthony will say that the state sector has "much to learn from the success of the British independent school model."

"Twenty-first century employers need much more than the skills developed in exams: they also need what are patronisingly called “soft” skills," he will say. "These are skills of creativity, teamwork, empathy, grit, resilience and honesty.

“The remorseless drive in state schools for exam success is no longer fit for purpose. Students certainly need to be skilful at maths, science, languages and humanities. But they also need those skills that computers cannot replicate."

His comments follow findings published by education charities the Sutton Trust and upReach, which revealed that three-and-a-half years after leaving university, those who went to a fee-paying school take home almost £4,500 more.

Researchers put the difference down, in part, to soft skills, like articulacy and assertiveness, saying that privately-educated graduates "blagged" their way to high salaries.

Earlier this year, the Department for Education launched a new award, to recognise schools that encourage the development of character traits including "perseverance", "resilience" and "grit".

The awards were announced as part of the Government's £5 million Character Innovation Fund announced last year – a project designed to support the development of character education in schools.

Speaking at the time, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said that being academic "wasn't enough in the modern world" and that character education remained a "priority" for the Government.

"Nicky Morgan is the first secretary of state to fully appreciate that schools can excel at academic rigour and at teaching character," Sir Anthony will say tomorrow. "Though the best state sectors manage to teach both for exams and for skills, the state sector overall has much to learn from the success of the British independent school model.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “It is vital that every child, regardless of their background, gets an education which allows them to realise their potential. That’s why we have placed high expectations at the heart of our schools, with a rigorous new curriculum, world class exams and an accountability system that rewards those schools which help every child to achieve their best.

“Alongside this we are investing £5 million in character education to help pupils develop the grit and resilience they need to succeed in school and later life, while giving teachers the freedom to develop lessons that will excite and inspire their pupils.”