Saturday, September 04, 2004


The major Leftist opposition party in Australia, led by Mark Latham, is remarkably responsible by Leftist standards. They mostly manage to keep their loony Leftists on a leash. Their latest schools policy is an example. A policy that stresses incentives for good teachers, promises to tackle discipline problems and guarantees a high level of Federal funding for non-government schools is probably about as good as can be expected from a Leftist party without totally alienating the Leftist teachers who form a big part of their base

MARK Latham has pledged that "the best" teachers will be paid around $70,000 a year to work in poorly performing schools, but warned the ALP had no plans to reverse the trend of parents choosing private schools.

Unveiling the first instalment of his election pitch on education, the Opposition Leader yesterday announced details of his plan to find 750 "great teachers" and pay them above current salary scales to teach in schools with low retention rates or literacy levels and areas of high unemployment, truancy and poverty.

Mr Latham pledged his $315 million plan would also tackle out-of-control kids and ensure that "better values" and discipline are taught.

Saying he had never wagged a day of school, Mr Latham said the ALP would find teachers who specialised in improving the results of vulnerable students and pay them extra money to teach.

"We are talking about schools with low retention rates and literacy levels, disadvantaged communities, high levels of poverty in surrounding districts and a high number of students with special learning needs," he said.

Mr Latham has pledged to guarantee overall spending on private schools but redistribute money within the sector and increase spending on public schools. However, he declined to say yesterday which private schools could face funding cuts in favour of low-fee independent and Catholic schools.

Asked if he wanted to reverse the switch to private schools, which teaches 30 per cent of students, Mr Latham said: "We don't have a target for changing the distribution between government and non-government. We have policies aimed at better schools in both sectors."

More here


"More than six of every seven delegates to the July 3-7 Representative Assembly of the National Education Association (NEA) supported the recommendation of U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) for president of the United States. The 86.5 percent endorsement margin falls short of previous margins for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, but nevertheless constitutes a pretty firm alliance between NEA's most active members and the Democratic Party. Two weeks later, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) also approved a resolution endorsing Kerry for president at its July 14-17 convention." More here.


Leftists have still not accepted Australia's long tradition of Federal subsidies for non-government (mostly church-run) schools

"Thankfully, long gone are the days of the acrimonious debate over state aid. The overwhelming majority of Australians support the existence of both government and non-government schools and accept that parental choice in education is a democratic right.

Not so the Australian Education Union, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens. All, to varying degrees, argue against non-government schools and seek to penalise those parents who send their children to independent schools. The union's 1998 curriculum policy argues: "that the resources of governments should be wholly devoted to the public systems which are open to all" (4.5).

As might be expected from a left-wing union, the belief is that education should be a state monopoly and parents choosing the non-government system should be made to pay more.
Evidence of the union's continued antipathy to non-government schools is easy to find. The union is embarked on a campaign to destroy the Howard Government based on the (mistaken) premise that independent schools are over-funded (visit campaigns/).

The Labor Party also is a critic of nongovernment schools and, while acknowledging their right to receive some government funding, argues that many receive too much money and that priority must be given to government schools. To quote Opposition Leader Mark Latham, when interviewed on ABC radio: "We'll be taking money off the overfunded schools..."

While many associate the Greens with koalas and the environment, the party's schools policy is far from soft and cuddly. If in a position of power after the next election, the Greens pledge to abolish the SES system of funding non-government schools and reintroduce the Labor-designed New Schools Policy. The New Schools Policy was introduced by Labor to bolster the ailing government school system by making it almost impossible to establish new non-government schools. The Greens also wish to abolish funding to the so-called wealthiest non-government schools, categories 1 and 2 under the old funding scheme, and to significantly reduce funding to category 3 schools.

The union, the ALP and the Greens also argue that the Howard Government fails to properly fund government schools. Ignored is that the overwhelming responsibility for funding the public system resides with state governments and that, over the past five to six years, such governments have drained schools of resources.

That such attacks on non-government schools are illogical and counterproductive is easy to prove. Every time a parent decides to send a child to a non-government school, more money is freed up for the government school system. With government schools, the average student government recurrent funding (2001-2002) is just under $9000.

On average, students attending nongovernment schools receive approximately $5000 in government recurrent funding - a saving to government of $4000 for each student. Not only are parents who make the choice saving governments money, their taxes also fund the government school system.
Based on research carried out by the Productivity Commission, it is estimated the financial sacrifice of non-government school parents amounts to a S4.2 billion annual saving to governments across Australia. Money that can be spent in other areas such as welfare and health. As demonstrated in 1962 in Goulburn, NSW, when the local Catholic authorities closed their system and 2200 additional students suddenly knocked on the door of their overcrowded public schools, the government system would collapse if not for the presence of non-government schools.....

Notwithstanding that non-government schools save governments billions of dollars, such schools have become a target of the Left in the federal election. Why is this so? One reason is because teacher unions define non-government schools as elitist and guilty of promoting a "competitive and culturally biased system of education". While the Berlin Wall may have collapsed, those running the union still believe in the class war and non-government schools are an easy target.....

Ignored is that parents are voting with their feet (32 per cent of students now attend non-government schools, up from 22 per cent in 1980)..."

(The above is excerpted from an article by Kevin Donnelly that appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" on September 2nd., 2004)

3 September, 2004


Dangerous deficits: "If we continue to let kids get high school diplomas when they're functionally illiterate, and if colleges continue to pump out grads that can't communicate well or properly (to be fair, colleges are having a heck of a time giving remedial English classes to incoming freshman who are nowhere near high school graduate level), we're all going to lose something important. After all, it's the ability to communicate clearly that keeps us all informed of things large and small, from office parties to our medical care, and from funny stories to urgent warnings."

Even the elite of students produced by America's Left-dominated High Schools are clueless: "Since this is Emory, there are no re-enactments of "The Blackboard Jungle," and most in the class strive for an A, in their fashion. But the ignorance, laziness, sense of entitlement and lack of basic rhetorical skills are stunning. One student thinks that "books" and "novels" are the same. Another identifies the Granite State as "New Hamster." Few are familiar with the rules of language, many spell poorly and all are confused by tenses and apostrophes and complain bitterly when Prof. Allitt marks them down for grammatical errors."

And it's no wonder how ignorant the students are when you see how dumb the "educators" are: "The town of Hempstead, NY, has a message for Gwinnett County school administrators: Before you target a student wearing a Hempstead shirt, look at a map. Terrell Jones, a student in Gwinnett County's [GA] Grayson High School, was weeded out of a classroom by a school administrator because he wore a shirt that read: 'Hempstead, NY 516,' a reference to the Long Island town and its telephone area code. According to Jones' family, which moved from Hempstead to the Atlanta suburb, the school thought the shirt referred to marijuana. Jones wasn't allowed to return to class until he persuaded school officials to search the Internet for the town name. The town's Web site says the area may have been named for Hemel-Hempstead, England. Another theory cites the Dutch city of Heemstede, because settlers had come years earlier from the Netherlands."

Education has been dumbed down in England too: "Nearly 20 years ago I studied A-levels in English literature/language, history and sociology at a local FE college in the West Midlands. In recent years I've been teaching both A-level sociology, and government and politics, at a variety of inner London FE colleges. I'm also an A2 government and politics examiner for the examination board Edexcel. David Miliband blithely suggests it's 'a myth' that A-levels are getting easier, but from my experience it's the unavoidable and uncomfortable truth".

And it happens in Australia too: "Analyst and author Kevin Donnelly says Queensland has led Australia in dumbing down the curriculum for state schools. And he says students are being indoctrinated with left-wing ideology. "Queensland wrote the Study of Society and the Environment national curriculum and it was re-written at national level because people could not believe the new-age loony stuff in it," Dr Donnelly said. "Unfortunately, it's still used in Queensland." Dr Donnelly said: "I felt that Australia's approach to the curriculum, particularly in Queensland, was fundamentally flawed and obsolete and the result is that students have been put at risk because the curriculum has been dumbed down.".... Queensland's approach to the curriculum was "very politically correct", he said. "The SOSE curriculum promotes a left-wing view of things like multiculturalism . . . and peace studies. It's all about indoctrination...."

High School teacher Dave Huber has some very sarcastic comments on the latest "resolutions" of the NEA. "Illegality is good" seems to be part of their story. A great way to educate kids! How about if a few people "illegally" shot some NEA members? Would that be good too? Or should we encourage respect for the law after all? Lamebrains! If people only have to obey the laws they agree with, I foresee a lot of dead Leftist fanatics. They rely on other people being more decent and responsible than they are.

Amtrak? "A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad." - Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-sixth US president (1858-1919)

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

28 August, 2004


"Just look at how some of the winners are responding to this year's U.S. News & World Report college rankings. No sooner did it emerge that Princeton was tied with Harvard for America's best college than the Princeton PR office issued a statement sniffing that rankings "cannot capture the distinctiveness of any institution."....

Others object to the whole idea of ranking. Take Mount Holyoke President Joanne V. Creighton, who wrote this for USA Today in 2001: "Not only should we refuse to give lip service to this specious and oversimplified labeling of our institutions, we should resist labeling our students with numbers, too. There are insidious parallels between the bogus ranking of colleges and universities by U.S. News and the ranking of students by their SAT scores. "

Insidious, indeed. The academy is increasingly reluctant to acknowledge distinctions in merit. This plague of indecision is yielding larger numbers of co-valedictorians and co-salutatorians and often puts students in the dark about how they really stack up against their peers. Grade inflation hasn't helped. "We're all different" has somehow morphed, within the protective confines of the ivory tower, into "we're all equally good." "

More here.

25 August, 2004


A college would rather expose its degrees as meaningless than face the fact that there are important inequalities between people

"Two untenured science professors at Benedict College in South Carolina were fired for refusing to adhere to a grading policy that makes effort 60% of the course grade for freshmen. The policy applies only to the first two years of school (the sophomore year applies a 50/50 formula), and then the students are allowed only in the junior year to be "judged strictly on academic performance." The professors, Milwood Motley and Larry Williams, had gone along with it for awhile, but finally could not accept the consequences of the policy.

Motley, who came to Benedict five years ago from the Morehouse School of Medicine, said he was uncomfortable with the concept from the beginning. But he went along with it grudgingly until he was confronted with an academic dilemma: giving a passing grade to a student he believed had not learned the course material. Awarding a C to a student whose highest exam score was less than 40 percent was more than he could tolerate. There comes a time when you have to say this is wrong," he said. This spring, he defied the SEE policy, as did department colleague Williams. Neither has tenure. Williams would not comment for this story. "I did it (awarded grades) strictly on academic performance," Motley said. "They told us to go back and recalculate the grades, and I just refused to do it."

Despite a faculty grievance committee vote to recommend reinstatement, college president David Swinton refused".

More here

22 August, 2004

Another triumph for America's Leftist educators: "He said Americans had a reputation for being ignorant of world affairs. The annual National Geographic Survey had thrown up the sad fact that only 23 out of 56 young Americans knew the whereabouts of the Pacific Ocean".

20 August, 2004

"What is liberalism all about?: Regardless of whether the particular issue is race, agriculture, housing, or a thousand other things, liberalism is about the government telling people what to do in their lives and work.... It has been said that knowledge is power but, politically, power trumps knowledge. When government agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the courts take statistical differences in the "representation' of various ethnic groups in an employer's work force as evidence of discrimination, they don't have to prove their belief to anyone. They have the power. Employers have to try to prove their innocence to them. When the people who run our schools and teachers colleges prefer the "whole language' and "whole math' approaches to teaching English and mathematics, it doesn't matter how many studies show that these approaches don't work. The education establishment has the power and power trumps knowledge".

"Hispanic" Maths? 2+2=5?: "The University of Arizona will be the site of a Center for the Mathematics Education of Latinos and Latinas. The National Science Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant to create the center, which will team math and education researchers at the University of Arizona with the Sunnyside and Tucson unified school districts. The goal of the five-year grant is to advance math education by developing a model that connects math instruction and learning to the cultural, social and linguistic contexts of Hispanics, UA officials said"

19 August, 2004

Teacher's union misrepresents Charter schools: "Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often called the nation's report card, show students in charter schools doing less well than the nationwide public-school average, which includes middle class students from well-heeled suburbs.... Big deal. These results could easily indicate nothing other than the simple fact that charter schools are typically asked to serve problematic students in low-performing districts with many poor, minority children. Indeed, if the AFT believes these findings, it must also concede that religious schools excel. According to the same NAEP data from which the AFT study is taken, religious schools outperformed the public schools nationwide by nine points, a gap that is as large as the public school-charter school difference AFT is trumpeting".


He led British sailors to a stunning victory over the powerful Spanish Armada in 1588. He is renowned for his naval cunning. He is a true British hero. He is Gandalf.

Well, not really. But in the minds of one out of every 20 British young adults, J.R.R. Tolkien's white-robed wizard has replaced Sir Francis Drake. This and other wildly wrong answers in a recent survey here about British history (half of 16- to 34-year-olds did not know that the Battle of Britain took place during World War II), point to a staggeringly poor grasp of cultural heritage.

The survey is prompting noisy accusations about the dumbing down of the nation that gave the world such luminaries as William Shakespeare, Charles Babbage, and Stephen Hawking.....

Educators point to failings in the school system. History courses, for example, focus too heavily on the 20th century, they say, neglecting earlier periods. Shakespeare students often do not have to read the full play - they just watch a video and read a few scenes that may come up in examination questions.

Exams are a pale imitation of the tests set 20 or 30 years ago, according to teacher Chris Brotherton. "Exams are getting easier," he says, anticipating another set of inflated results when marks are awarded for 16- and 18-year-olds later this month. "Because we have 45 percent going on to university now, compared to 15 percent a generation ago, it has to be easier to get an 'A' grade."....

A surge in university admissions suggests that youth see value in acquiring knowledge. But Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, says professors complain that the academic standard of incoming students "is nothing like what it was 10 or 15 years ago."... "Undoubtedly, traditional standards in this country have dropped markedly over the last 20 or 30 years and a lot of it we would put down to the cultural change in the education system where content has been thrown out in order to allow more young people to achieve success," Mr. Seaton says.

More here

16 August, 2004


And a Leftist State government (NSW) in Australia has had to come to terms with that

"Selective schools are public education's most effective weapon against the drift to the private sector. But the proliferation of these academic hothouses is sucking the lifeblood out of the greater public system, critics argue, by draining local comprehensive high schools of their best and brightest.

NSW has embraced the selective school system. In 1988 there were 12 selective high schools, including five with a specialist bent such as agriculture and music, out of a total 381 government high schools in the state. By 2002 there were 28 academically selective or partially selective high schools, two performing arts schools and 30 specialist schools that selected some students, the Vinson inquiry into public education found.

At the state's recent schools expo in Sydney, the principal of Riverside Girls High School, Judy King, spent two days manning the Department of Education's booth. "The only question I was asked ... was 'how can I get my kid into a selective school?' It drove me bats. When I said 'I'm here to talk about all types of the government system, comprehensives and so on', they weren't interested."....

This year, the State Government added three more schools to its growing list of comprehensives offering selective streams. And principals like Sydney Secondary College's Mark Anderson need no convincing that such programs are an effective weapon against the private school juggernaut. At his previous school, enrolments had dropped from 1145 to 484 in a decade....

But when Mr Anderson left in 2001 the school had grown to more than 600, simply through the introduction of a gifted and talented program."

More here

13 August, 2004

Highly educated Catholic dinosaurs: They still have not caught up with the triumph of capitalism. "Diotallevi and Cipriani interviewed a selection of persons largely representative of the Italian Catholic intelligentsia.... When questioned on politics and economics, a great number of them demonstrated an orientation markedly in favor of state intervention: 44 percent of those interviewed held that the state should provide jobs for everyone; 48 percent held that the labor market should be made more rigid and less flexible; a very great number of them want the state to have control of the most important businesses. And the closer those interviewed are to the heart of Church organizations, the greater is their opposition to economic liberalism. It is the same in the field of health care. Here as well, opposition to the free market increases with the level of education and religious participation of those interviewed..... The political battles for which Italian progressivist Catholics fight also have little or nothing distinctively religious about them. This is true both for interventionism and for the pacifism that opposed the war in Iraq.

12 August, 2004

An excellent summary of the voucher education record here. Excerpt: "Critics of school choice often argue that private schools have an unfair advantage because, unlike government schools, they can select the "cream of the crop" and expel disruptive students. But St Adalbert's experience has decisively disproved this view.... More than two-thirds of her students have come from families below the poverty line. Yet, thanks to a solid core curriculum, minimal bureaucracy, and disciplined and structured classrooms, St Adalbert's has seen more than 90 per cent of its pupils go on to post-secondary education or to paid jobs."


The Leftist influence in Australia's public schools makes them a tolerant, accepting, pleasant, learning environment for kids, right? Australian parents are voting with their feet over that one. And escaping all the Leftist propaganda is only part of it. Parents know the importance of discipline and have this strange idea that their kids should not have their learning disrupted by having behaviour-problem kids thrust into their midst

"A demand for better discipline and a hankering for tradition, smart uniforms and moral values are driving parents out of public education and into private schools, exclusive research for the Herald reveals. School culture - not academic results - is the main reason parents select private schools, according to the study by the Australian Council for Educational Research, based on a national poll of parents of high school students.

"One factor stood out: the extent to which the school embraced traditional values to do with discipline, religious or moral values, the traditions of the school itself, and the requirement that a uniform be worn," the study says. Concern over discipline is the reason a third of the public school parents surveyed would switch their children to private schools if they could afford the fees. "This suggests that if private education was more affordable, the drift away from government schools would continue," concludes the study, Why Parents Choose Private or Public Schools.....

In the 10 years to 2003, enrolments in public schools increased nationally by 1.2 per cent, compared with a growth spurt of 22.3 per cent in private schools. Each year, the NSW public education system loses about 5000 existing or prospective students to private schools.

The fastest growth is in non-government high schools. Every capital city, except Darwin and Hobart, has at least 40 per cent of students in private secondary schools. In Sydney, the rate is 41.7 per cent.....

"Traditional values are probably the best predictor of the people wanting to select a non-government school. That's what they're after." Professor Masters said the mantra of discipline for choosing private schools was often a general comment about the "culture of the school being focused on the core business of learning". Parents do not want their children's study interrupted by disruptive students."

More here

5 August, 2004


A great cry that regularly emanates from politicians who want to sound "caring" is the need for more "investment" in education (which means of course more of that lovely government spending and hence more taxes). The cry is usually justfied as an investment in "human capital". The claim is that more education leds to more capable people (don't laugh!) and hence more productivity and a wealthier community generally. It has been known since the 1973 work of Ivar Berg (review here) that this is utter horse-sh*t. The educational system has long been so airy-fairy that most of it is already more a hindrance than a help to worker productivity and income generation. If we wanted to do something useful for people we would be cutting education-spending back to the low level that actually works (like such revolutionary policies as making sure nobody gets out of grade school until they can read and write) -- not increasing it. Berg's studies (recently updated and reissued) focused on microeconomic indices (differences between people within a given population), however, so it is a welcome update to read this recent article, focusing on macroeconomic comparisons (differences between countries). The different methodology, however, leads to the same conclusions. For an extended look at the dubious value of a humanities education in particular see here.

And here is the latest example of such a boneheaded cry -- a summary of the promises from the recent Democrat convention: "George Bush's increase in national education spending, the largest since the program's inception, wasn't enough. The Democrats want to raise elementary spending at least $27 billion but, of course, spend nothing on educational vouchers for those who need to escape the failed government monopoly school system. And Democrats want the same priority for college education spending, at least $25 billion more yearly."

Reality finally bites: "Chicago is closing 60 failing schools, opening 100 new schools and letting private managers run most of the new schools with no union contract. Chicago business leaders used the prospect of federal sanctions under No Child Left Behind "to pressure the city to put many schools into private hands, outside union jurisdiction," reports the New York Times. The local teachers' union is distracted by charges of fraud in the recent election for union president. With nobody in charge, the union hasn't done much to fight the plan."

Degrees for sale: "Cash-strapped British universities are awarding degrees to students who should be failed, in return for lucrative fees, The Observer can reveal. The 'degrees-for-sale' scandal stretches from the most prestigious institutions to the former polytechnics and includes undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, foreign and home students. In the most extreme case, The Observer has evidence of a professor ordering staff to mark up students at risk of failing in order to keep the money coming in. Lecturers at institutions across the country, including Oxford, London and Swansea, told The Observer the scandal is undermining academic standards, but they cannot speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs." This sort of thing has long been an ongoing scandal in Australian universities too. Why should government employees care about degrading their product?