Friday, October 31, 2003

30 October, 2003

Exit exams rightly expose grade inflation as a cruel fraud. -- but it is a disgrace that they are needed at all: "Instead of leading to success, grade inflation is more likely to lead to failure, dashed hopes, broken dreams, and public humiliation. Just ask Bridget Green, who in May was looking forward to completing her education at Alcee Fortier Senior High School in New Orleans by graduating as the class valedictorian. ... But despite her superior grades, Green could not pass a math proficiency exam required for graduation ..."

29 October, 2004

I posted a big excerpt on PC Watch recently from the now much-noted NYT story by Bob Herbert about black education in NYC schools. A central point was that the no-hoper students sat at the back of the class, were ignored, learned nothing but still got a pass mark. I think from memory that Ogbu's book about the poor performance of black students in middle class neighbourhoods reported much the same phenomenon in school classes so it is not solely a NYC problem. It has all just stirred a memory in me of what my education many years ago in a small Australian country school was like. There it was the GOOD students who sat at the back. The slower and naughtier students were at the front for greater teacher attention. That was a healthy educational system, unlike the diseased NYC abomination. But of course "slow" and "naughty" students no longer exist in the politically correct world of modern-day U.S. public schools. The policy of the ostrich prevails -- though saying that that is probably unkind to ostriches.

26 October, 2003

Most Americans would choose private schools: "A new Gallup poll conducted for Phi Delta Kappa International, whose education surveys command high respect in the teaching profession, reveals a compelling motivation for the fierce opposition teacher union leaders and most public school officials show toward school vouchers: Most students wouldn't attend public schools if they had a voucher."


Wow! THIS NYT article tells it like it is in NYC public schools. And I don't blame the teachers one bit for not caring. It is the most reasonable response in a system which has given up on discipline. I feel sorry for the kids who want to learn, though. Political correctness has certainly destroyed what little chance a lot of black kids had of getting a decent education.

Some excerpts:

"I've been talking recently with a handful of dedicated teachers about the classroom conditions that have festered over the past several years at some of New York City's least successful high schools. These are places where fear and loathing take up the space that could have been occupied by progress and reform. You'll find these noisy, chaotic classrooms in almost any of America's big cities, not just New York. They are ruthlessly destructive, and scary to students and teachers alike. They are places where childhood dreams all too frequently expire.

The teachers would not go on the record. They were afraid of being punished by school officials for speaking out. And some worried about reprisals from their own union because of comments critical of teachers.

"What goes on in these classrooms, that's the story of urban education," said a teacher from Brooklyn. "You've got kids playing dice in the back of the classroom. You've got kids listening to their Walkman, or writing rap rhymes. And rapping to girls. And also practicing gang signs.... The teacher just teaches the ones in the front."

"You have violence in some of our schools, and people react to violence in different ways," he said. "You have teachers who have categorized all of the students as a problem. So they walk into the room afraid of the students without ever knowing them. To them, the students are one-dimensional. Everybody's a thug. Everybody's a problem. So they don't require anything of any of them.

"Meanwhile, the students themselves are scared. The class becomes undisciplined, and therefore dangerous. So the good students cut out because they don't want to be in that environment. That's one way you lose the good kids. You have a lot of students who are not thugs, but who left school because they couldn't learn _ they couldn't even hear _ in that noisy, disruptive atmosphere."

But there are many, many [teachers] who are not remotely interested in these kids. They tell the kids to their faces: `I don't care what you do. I'm still going to get paid.' "They mean it. They don't care. The kids pass classes they don't even attend, and attend classes they aren't even assigned to."

19 October, 2003

This article points out that making education ever more available to more and more people at lower and lower cost to them is basically a bottomless pit. Education is such a popular cause however that nobody seems to know how put a stop to the crazy spiral involved. That most of the extra credentials earned are meaningless bits of paper and that some of them actually reduce a person's employability, nobody wants to admit: "Americans, it seems, have never been better educated. Between 1970 and 2000 the number of individuals enrolled in institutions of higher learning increased from about 8.5 million to 15.3 million. Likewise, from 1971 to 2001, the percentage of 25- to 29-year olds in the United States holding at least a bachelor's degree rose 71 percent. So why, as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal law governing higher education, are policy makers so unhappy?"

18 October, 2003

A good summary here of the "briefing note" put out to journalists by some moronic White House staffer in connection with the forthcoming visit to Australia of GWB. Many Americans must be embarrassed at the obviously low intellectual level of their bureaucracy. Giving the Guardian good cause to laugh at you is not exactly clever. It's all a pretty good comment on the shambles that is American education. No doubt the klutz who wrote the crap had a degree of some kind.

16 October, 2003


What "compassion"! (From the WSJ)

"Caney Creek High School of Conroe, Texas, has decided to expel 15-year-old Brandon Kivi because he let his girlfriend, Andra Ferguson, use his asthma inhaler when she had an attack after forgetting to bring her inhaler to school. Although the two teens both use the same prescription medicine, the school deemed Kivi's actions a violation of its zero-tolerance antidrug policy. (We noted the case Thursday.)

"On Friday, school officials decided to expel Kivi but not press criminal charges," reports Houston's KPRC-TV. Says Kivi: "I'm happy. Everything's final. I'm expelled till after Christmas and I can come back after Christmas, but I won't." He and Ferguson are both leaving Caney Creek High to be home-schooled."

15 October, 2003


Stalin would approve. He said: "There is complete freedom of speech in Russia -- as long as you agree with me

"Attacks on free speech in the name of political correctness have proliferated on and off the college campuses for more than two decades. The attempt to ban public displays at the University of Alabama was so blatant and so crude that it was relatively easy to galvanize opposition to it. A more censoring atmosphere lurks in the larger society, inhibiting debate and inflicting great harm because it operates under the radar of public consciousness. This is true particularly true of public and private opinions about blacks and women."

More here

12 October, 2003


"America has an educational system worthy of David Duke. Its effect is to perpetuate and exacerbate the country's racial divide, disadvantaging blacks (and Hispanics) and blighting their prospects."

More here

4 October, 2003


A number of left-of-center columns have pointed out the Republicans already control all branches of Colorado government -- so why do they want to control colleges, too? This is obviously an anti-democratic argument, given legislators are popularly elected and Republicans outnumber Democrats in Colorado.

At the same time, Republicans have argued persuasively that conservatives are the minority in college humanities and social sciences departments. But this minority is not one that merits special legal protection, the left argues, for various reasons. Which minorities do so qualify? The "oppressed" ones, of course. And who decides what counts as "oppression?" The left does, of course.

More here

1 October, 2003


Thomas Sowell has a useful short review of the new book about education called No Excuses by A & S Thernstrom. I liked the bit about U.S. university graduates not being able to get teaching jobs in the public schools because they do not have one of those dreary teacher's certificates. I had the same experience myself here in Australia once. I taught matriculation level Economics and Geography in two private schools with excellent results but was then rejected for a teaching job in a government school because I did not have one of those useless teaching diplomas. Results counted for nothing. Phony "credentials" were all that mattered.

Another point the Thernstoms make is confirmed by the OECD -- which reported last week that there is no correlation between increased education funding and achievement and there is no correlation between smaller class sizes and achievement.

How surprising! "Alyssa Edmonds's report cards have been a string of paper trophies -- grades of 'E' for excellent, 'VG' for very good. But when her mother saw her 11-year-old's poor state test scores last year, she worried for the first time that the North Adams schools might be failing her children. 'I would like to know why my daughter ... didn't test at grade level but passed all her subjects and was passed into the next grade,' said Mary Edmonds, 40, a mental health worker who grew up in North Adams. 'I want to know why my kids aren't being taught what the state thinks they need to know to graduate and get a diploma.'"

Why American students don't love this country: "A report from the Albert Shanker Institute says that American school students are getting a slanted view of our nation's history. ... It would be hard to have pride in your country, if you realized that your government handed down orders within itself to launch a military-style operation, tanks and all, against American citizens who were simply acting out their non-violent religious beliefs..... But there's something else, something this report fails notice or point out. While going on at length about the lack of positive education regarding American history and principles, nowhere does it mention that the schools are active instruments of socialist indoctrination."

Good to see USA Today editorializing in favour of the Washington D.C. voucher program. And they have done it again here.

And some Australian schools in Muslim immigrant areas are pretty bad too.


27 September, 2003


Thomas Sowell on the reason for the disastrously low educational results of American blacks:

"American schools waste an incredible amount of time on fads, fun and propaganda for political correctness. Those students who come from homes with highly educated parents, or parents whose values stress education, get a lot of what they need outside of school, as well as making the most of what they get within the school.

It is those children who do not come from these kinds of homes whose futures are forfeited when class time is frittered away. Low-income black students are the biggest losers when educators fail to educate and when courts create so many legal obstacles to enforcing school discipline that a handful of classroom clowns or hoodlums can prevent everyone else from getting a decent education.

More money won't cure any of this."


Sowell says: "With all the abysmal results in ghetto schools in general, there are nevertheless particular schools serving low-income minority students with test results well above the national average. What is the difference? The biggest difference is that successful schools teach in ways that are directly the opposite from what is fashionable in the public schools in general. Successful schools spend their time on the three R's, they teach reading with phonics, they memorize multiplication tables, and -- above all -- they have discipline, so that a few disruptive students are not able to prevent all the others from being educated.

26 September, 2003


In a public school in St. Louis, a teacher spotted the suspect, fourth-grader Raymond Raines, bowing his head in prayer before lunch. The teacher stormed to Raymond's table, ordered him to stop immediately and sent him to the principal's office. The principal informed the young malefactor that praying was not allowed in school. When Raymond was again caught praying before meals on three separate occasions, he was segregated from other students, ridiculed in front of his classmates, and finally sentenced to a week's detention.

More here

23 September, 2003

How desperate the America-hating Leftists get! This Leftist report claims that the USA is way down (compared to other countries) in the amount it spends on education and concludes therefore that the USA is not "kid-friendly". But they only count FEDERAL spending on education -- whereas most U.S. education spending is at the State or local level. It's not even a clever lie!

That wonderful public education: "There are, of course, many reasons why so many students can't qualify for college. Most of them never get the cultural support to overcome the general debasement of public education. Nobody knows this better than the teachers, which is why so many public-school teachers send their kids to private schools."


"The deterioration of public school education is most prominently observed in social studies, where, as education scholar Chester E. Finn, Jr. observes, "the lunatics have taken over the asylum."

The attitudes of elite educationists have reduced education to ideology, and a venomous ideology it is: America's contribution to humanity is an odious conspiracy of dead white males. The pedagogues worry that attentiveness to the details of democracy might cause children to discover that the ideology is false, that democracy actually is the best way mankind has found to organize a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

J. Martin Rochester, a professor of social studies at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, in an essay in the book "Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong," turns up the heat on those responsible for dumbing down education and collapsing discipline.
"Co-operative learning" is the euphemism for reducing learning to something only the least among us can master, something like making it up to a crippled child by breaking the legs of everyone else. "Co-operative learning" draws on the free labor of smarter students to bring up low achievers, which reduces average learning abilities for everybody. "Constructivism," the theory that children can "construct" their own meaning from personal experience, is pushed on youngsters who can't construct a proper sentence.

"Multiple intelligences theory" searches for "the specific genius" within each child, equating the skill of slam-dunking a basketball, for example, with the ability to perform open-heart surgery. The reliance on fun-filled, action-packed, visual media over fact-filled textbooks and lectures treats whole classes as though suffering attention deficit disorder.

Textbooks, such as they are, make matters worse. They not only give the visual equal space with the words, but lack authority and we pretend that uninformed students can think critically, with informed judgments, when they have no stored knowledge.

One textbook directives instructs teachers: "We must stop exhorting students to be 'good citizens' according to our own unquestioned view of good and help them instead to ask 'good questions' about their own values and those of others. Controversies, rather than fixed knowledge and values, will play a central role in the structure of social studies education."

This is an education theory from Alice in Wonderland: "Verdict first, trial later." How can students create "controversy" when they haven't learned what to criticize?"

More here

18 September, 2003


When the Labour government came to power in Britain it did all the politically correct things with British schools -- totally removing most powers of discipline in the process. The result: The UK school system has now become such a sink of aggressive behaviour among the pupils that nobody is willing to teach in some schools. So in desperation they now have totally unqualified people "teaching":

"The shortage of good teachers in the core subjects is still one of the biggest problems in British education, especially in greater London. Twenty-nine per cent of GCSE physics teachers do not have an A-level in the subject. At my previous school in a London suburb, which was not considered tough, a maths teacher from Romania who barely spoke English was employed. She quit after two days. A-level biology students had no teacher for the three months prior to their exams. The English department advertised for two terms without receiving one suitable applicant."

17 September, 2003


As a former academic myself I can tell you that the average Professor really hates it that he has to sit in a crowded office churning out great ideas for only an average salary while someone else in business with little education and just one good idea can make a million dollars. In other words our average academic thinks that the existing system cheats him of the money and recognition that he deserves -- and that makes him want to change that system: It makes him a Leftist. And that is the big reason why academics with no alternative market for their skills and "wisdom" -- i.e. professors in the humanities and social sciences -- are so overwhelmingly Leftist. A small number of academics however -- including me -- are so constitutionally conservative that they defy the Leftist consensus all around them. Mostly, however, they have to do it very cautiously in case they lose their job over it.

A good example of such caution seems to be "Conservativenet" -- an online discussion group for conservative academics. I get the impression that the moderator, Richard Jensen, is very careful to screen out any posts that might upset the Leftists. He defines his censorship guidelines with the following bromide: "Conservativenet refuses to publish lies, hate speech and incoherent arguments". Any Leftist Political Correctness advocate would defend HIS policies in the same way. Because the list seems to be so censored, I myself have never bothered with it but readers of this blog do occasionally send me stuff off it (plus news of posts that have been rejected).

Recently a reader noted that the list had posted on it the NYT article on Facism that I mentioned on this blog here. The NYT article did of course have that paper's characteristic Leftist bias so my reader suggested that I post a reply on Conservativenet to set the record straight. I therefore submitted my "Front Page" article on Fascism for posting on the list. My article points out the most inconvenient truth that Fascism originated on the Left, not the Right. In a fit of rashness, moderator Jensen did in fact post it on his list.

He soon seemed to regret his rashness, however. When another contributor to the list posted some points of disagreement with my article and I endeavoured to reply, Jensen refused to post my reply on very superficial grounds. Fear reasserted itself.
I have however posted here the censored reply (plus Jensen's feeble excuse) for the benefit of those who have less to fear. If anyone thinks my reply contained "lies, hate speech and incoherent arguments", please let me know.


14 September, 2003

"The story of America's heroes, accomplishments and ideals is getting surprisingly short shrift in a place of great influence: the nation's public schools. That's the theme of a provocative report about U.S. civics and history education"

8 September, 2003


The logical outcome of "all men are equal": "A LOTTERY-style system could soon decide which students get into university. Applicants .. would be selected using a random number generator. The [U.K.] Government plan is aimed at creating equal opportunities for applicants from all backgrounds. It is being considered by a working party of education experts set up by Education Secretary Charles Clarke to review university admissions and establish an Office for Fair Access."

7 September, 2003

The Supreme Court again has institutionalized the second-class citizenship of African Americans with a strange twist on the old segregationist policy of reserving some privileges for "whites only." Only, this time around, the court seems to be saying that high standards in education are permissible only for white people.

Good if it happens: GWB says that his new education law aims at raising the bar for student achievement "The law sets a clear goal for American education: Every child, in every school, must perform at grade level in reading and math, which are the keys to all learning." The initiative "seeks to improve achievement, particularly among poor students, through expanded testing, tougher quality requirements for teachers, yearly monitoring of student progress and sanctions for schools that fail to improve."

6 September, 2003


How to Save the World is the name of a relatively recent Leftist blog. The very name encapsulates the vast ego needs of the typical Leftist intellectual. He needs to be a world-saving hero. And what are the ways this one plans to save the world? Take a look at his trite "ideas" on education for instance: "The 'teacher's' role in all of this is facilitation, not instruction". So he does not want teachers to teach! No wonder the kids learn so little in school off their Left-leaning teachers these days!

In his desperation to have something to say that seems marginally different he is just trotting out hoary old "progressive" education ideas that never stop being tried somewhere and which always self-destruct after a few years -- Bertrand Russell's "Beacon Hill" school of the 1920s being just one example of such failure. But Leftists rarely know much history. They can't afford to. It makes such asses of them.

I myself taught in a "progressive" school once so I saw it all close up. The kids who had self-discipline or some pressure from home did OK but the other half mostly played cards and learnt nothing.


5 September, 2003


(Really a well-planned escape from an insane bureaucracy)

A lucky escape: "Almost three decades after Boston's bruising school desegregation battles, nearly half of the white children in the city attend private schools and most minority children remain walled off from suburban school advantages, according to a report released yesterday. The report ... depicts a region with stark divisions between school districts. Students in Boston public schools are mostly black and Hispanic. Hispanic children are concentrated in schools in the blue-collar, satellite cities such as Lowell and Lawrence. And suburban schools are predominantly white. White children have almost entirely escaped the city of Boston... "

I wonder why? "In nearly every state, the number of children being educated in their homes is rising about 10% a year."

4 September, 2003


A rare victory for sanity over PC in the Australian State of New South Wales. They might even make it safe for men to become teachers again eventually

"Trivial and vexatious claims of child abuse against teachers - including shouting at students or comforting them - will be largely eliminated by legal changes before State Parliament. An estimated 2000 teachers have been reported for "child abuse" since 1999, when the Commission for Children and Young People Act began operating. Investigations have included allegations of teachers glaring in an intimidatory manner, restraining violent students or hugging distressed children.
The Premier, Bob Carr, who flagged changes in July to "strengthen the authority" of teachers to manage and discipline students, said yesterday that the term "child abuse" would be removed from two laws and replaced with "reportable conduct"."

2 September, 2003


Just in from another reader:

"I had first hand experience with what came out of Harvard. I worked for a US Investment bank which did it's annual recruitment program from the Ivy League and the better schools.

I have to tell you that the Harvard grads and under grads I ended up with on my trading desk had to be as bad as they could be. As someone who is interested in probability theory, after a while it became apparent to me that this was not just a cluster of "bad data" coming through the works. These people came out of Harvard with the worst attitude towards work I have ever imagined. Not one recruit from Harvard ever turned into a success. In fact there was an almost pass the parcel attitude between desk managers as to who ended up with the Harvard batch. It got so bad that the department which had been the lest profitable for the year ( this being Wall Street) ended up with Harvard people.

And the best: for those who are curious were Wharton Kids.

I tried to figure out why this was so and the only thing I came up with is that Wharton kids were taught properly."



There has been lots written about what a poor education the Left-leaning teachers of U.S. High Schools give to their students these days. But sometimes deeds speak louder than words. And the deeds of adminstrators at Harvard speak very loudly indeed. Harvard gets the cream of U.S. High School graduates so at least those students should be 100% as educated as you can get -- right? Wrong! One of my readers writes that the reality is much, much worse than that:

I attended Harvard in the early 80's and knew my way around campus fairly well, and was aware of all the academic programs they offered. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the University has an active "remedial English" program that at least 20% of incoming freshmen are required to use. Larger minority enrollment, and foreign students are not driving this program, all students seem to be equal offenders. Harvard's black student body have SAT scores within 90 points of their white and Asian peers; Which is excellent. Harvard will not tell you they have this program; and it has a fancy name to hide its purpose, but it is a Community College style remedial English program.

It is a full remedial program with instruction in spelling, grammar, and the lost art of essay writing. From what I understand, essay skills -- or the lack of them -- is what tipped the University off to these problems.

This program is housed under the Freshman Student Union. They use this like a referral system.... they send the kids to the Union, and then they get moved into this informal, formal program.

There is a whitewash of the program here asserting that it is NOT a remedial program but even that does not tell the whole story. The really bad students are funnelled through there to even a more simplified program.

Can anyone now deny that vouchers are the only hope for the U.S. school system?

And if you read what Jeff Jacoby has to report about Harvard's ethics, the coverup should surprise no-one.