Saturday, October 23, 2004


If they are stupid enough to agree, they deserve what they get

Voters generally oppose tax increases, but opinion polls often show they will support them if they believe the money will go to support education. The state of Washington will test that theory on November 2.

Initiative 884 would impose a 15.4 percent increase in the state's sales tax to raise an additional $1 billion a year for education in Washington. According to the League of Education Voters, the primary organization backing I-884, the measure will create 16,000 pre-school slots for children, reduce class sizes, raise teacher pay, provide additional classes in high school, fund 32,000 slots in colleges and universities, and expand college scholarships for graduating high school seniors. Give the drafters of I-884 credit: they have given something to every level of education in the state, thereby uniting most of the education community in support of the measure.

As with most initiatives, the devil is in the details. Teachers who meet certain standards receive an annual bonus of $5,000. Teachers who meet those standards and teach in a "high need" school receive an annual bonus of $15,000!

So what are these standards? Dramatic improvement in test scores? Boosting the graduation rate? Remember, this is something the education establishment supports -- so nothing so rigorous. Rather, they simply have to be certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This requires completion of six essays at an "assessment center" on a Saturday morning, submitting elaborate portfolios with three examples of student work and extensive teacher commentary on the work, video documentaries of the class in action, and documentation of professional commitment outside the classroom. Supposedly this will improve teacher quality and thereby boost student performance. The one little problem is there is no academic evidence that National Board Certification increases academic achievement.....

In the bigger scheme of political things, I-884 means very little if it passes, but a whole lot if it fails. If it succeeds, then it can be dismissed as voters in a relatively liberal state voting for higher taxes. But if it goes down to defeat, then both opponents of high taxes and school-reform proponents will have a big feather in their cap. Tax opponents will be able to point to Washington and say that even voters in a liberal state won't stomach tax increases, even if they are earmarked for education. School-reform proponents will be able to say that the public is tired of "business-as-usual" in education.

Whatever the outcome on election day, Washington is proving that the education establishment's plan for public education is just "more of the same."

More here


At a history class, a professor mockingly tells a female Jewish student she cannot possibly have ancestral ties to Israel because her eyes are green. During a lecture, a professor of Arab politics refuses to answer a question from an Israeli student and military veteran but instead asks the student, "How many Palestinians have you killed?" At a student meeting on the topic of divestment from Israel, a Jewish student is singled out as responsible for death of Palestinian Arabs.

Those scenes are described by current and former students interviewed for an underground documentary that is causing a frisson of concern to ripple through the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University, where the incidents took place. The film, about anti-Israel sentiment at the school, has not yet been released to the public, but it has been screened for a number of top officials of Columbia, and talk of its impact is spreading rapidly on a campus where some students have complained of anti-Israel bias among faculty members. "The movie is shocking," one Columbia senior, Ariel Beery, said. "It is shocking to see blatant use of racial stereotypes by professors and intimidation tactics by professors in order to push a distinct ideological line on the curriculum," Mr. Beery, who was interviewed for the film, said.

The film is the creation of the David Project, a 2-year-old group based in Boston that advocates for Israel and is led by the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, Charles Jacobs. The David Project, which is refusing to make the film public, has screened it for Barnard College's president, Judith Shapiro, and Columbia's provost, Alan Brinkley, according to sources. Neither Ms. Shapiro nor Mr. Brinkley would return calls seeking comment about the film, though at a meeting in Washington this week with women active in Jewish charitable work the Barnard president is said to have spoken of how emotionally affected she was by the film.

With versions at 11 minutes and 25 minutes in playing time, the film consists of interviews with several students who contend that they have felt threatened academically for expressing a pro-Israel point of view in classrooms. One of the scholars discussed most in the film, according to a person who has seen the film, is Joseph Massad, a non-tenured professor of modern Arab politics, who is teaching a course about Middle East nationalism this fall. Mr. Massad, a professor at Columbia's department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures, has likened Israel to Nazi Germany and has said Israel doesn't have the right to exist as a Jewish state.

In the film, a former Columbia undergraduate, Tomy Schoenfeld, recalls attending a lecture about the Middle East conflict given by Mr. Massad in spring 2001. At the end of the lecture, Mr. Schoenfeld prefaced a question to the professor by informing Mr. Massad that he was Israeli, Mr. Schoenfeld told The New York Sun. "Before I could continue, he stopped me and said, 'Did you serve in the military?'" Mr. Schoenfeld, who served in the Israeli Air Force between 1996 and 1999, recalled. He said that he told Mr. Massad he had served in the military and that Mr. Massad asked him how many Palestinians he had killed. When Mr. Schoenfeld refused to answer, Mr. Massad said he wouldn't allow him to ask his question.

Mr. Massad did not return phone calls for comment yesterday. Mr. Schoenfeld told the Sun that his encounter with Mr. Massad was not representative of his dealings with Columbia professors and that the Middle East-Asian department is "usually balanced." Mr. Beery, the senior at the school, told the Sun that anti-Israel bias is prevalent in the department and said the documentary film demonstrates how many students at Columbia have been affected by it. "You would be surprised," Mr. Beery said, "to find the number of students who were willing to stand up and be counted as members of the student body who oppose the intimidation of students in the classroom, especially on topics related to the Middle East."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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