Saturday, October 09, 2004


"I should start with the premise that I don't think a degree makes anyone a better person. I don't even think it makes you a cleverer person. Intelligence is not measured by exam or diploma, although it's certainly true - or was - that a university course would tend to offer more to those who are, even remotely, academically inclined. But the way the education system is going, it would be more honest simply to raise the school leaving age to 22. University is just something you do when you've finished your A-levels, no matter how badly you might have done or how bored you've been doing them. To suggest to those who are not cut out for even rudimentary academic life that university might not be the best place for them, is to consign them to non-person status.

It's not as if a degree even helps getting a job: all it means is that you've spent longer waiting to find yourself unemployed. If anything, I feel it might impede your prospects. You're just one among a pile of applicants, similarly qualified, none of whom has anything extra or interesting to offer. I think it's the middle classes that have to start the move away from tertiary education. Concerned parents now insist, ever more anxiously, on finding a university place when they would be doing a lot more for their children by refusing to fund the whole enterprise.

Everyone believes that it's no longer possible to work your way up as it always used to be, but no one gives it a chance: they all believe in starting at management level. Nor is it true that everyone used to be able to work their way up: the editors and big bosses who started off as messenger boys and delivery-drivers were the exception even then. But one thing is constant: talent is always in short supply.

So to start off with the premise that 50 per cent of the population should have further education - and, moreover, at academic institutions rather than pursuing vocational training - can have no other result than to lower the standards overall. I know that that might seem to be stating the obvious, but the more glaring it is, the more people attempt to deny it."

More here.


"Now, I'm no grammar maven, but I've put a great deal of time into editing papers for my friends. In one particular case, I put two posters up over one's desk. One said, "could HAVE - should HAVE - would HAVE" and the other said "SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT". This, of course, was after reading several of her papers riddled with "could of" and long compound sentences where the subject and verb lost each other completely.

(When I mentioned "subject - verb agreement" she said, "oh, like in Spanish!" - it's sad most of us poor public school kids learned more grammar from our foreign language classes than our "English" classes.)

John McWhorter argues in Doing Our Own Thing that a lot of the degradation of language is due to the increasing visual orientation of American culture and society. Since spoken grammar is very different from written grammar, I see his point. Not everyone has their spoken grammar corrected every other sentence by Mom Flip (an annoying habit, especially when one is older than 6 - just try to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition while speaking. I dare you). And soon enough, the way we speak becomes the way we write. Read the book, because I really can't do it justice (lack of PhD, etc.).

There's also a great argument to be made here against the whole-language approach to learning reading and writing. I know I learned how to write from my extensive reading habit - one which Sister Flip doesn't share after being subjected to a whole-language approach. Yes, Mom Flip did teach her the phonetic method, but it was counterproductive as her earnest teacher kept correcting and reprogramming, as per the district's instructions".

More here.


"A girl from Haberdasher's (private) school is accepted at Exeter University if she gains three As in her A-level exams. A state school pupil for the identical course requires only an A and two Bs. This discrimination has spread to several universities, and the government is strong-arming the rest into doing it. What is going on? The reasoning is that it is harder to gain three As at a state school. It is indeed. It's not a problem at the best state schools, many of which are grammar or selective schools. The problem is that the overall quality of state schools is not good enough.

Lowering the standards is one way of concealing the failure of the state system. It is akin to hiding the symptoms in a patient rather than tackling the illness. Measures to improve the quality of state education would be a more appropriate response than measures to conceal it.

The Conservative Party is looking hard at the Swedish school system, in which parents are free to choose a private school, and transfer their state funding to it. It is effectively a voucher system, though parents cannot add to it at more expensive schools. The private schools created in response to it now educate 6% of Sweden's children.

Some education reformers suggest that Britain should be fostering low-cost private schools as an alternative to the very expensive private sector and the sometimes very poor state sector. A Swedish-style voucher might do just that. Given the dissatisfaction with UK state education, the chances are that the new type of private schools would soon far exceed their numbers in Sweden.

The problem is not to hide the underachievement of state education, but to bring it up to a standard where no discrimination is needed."

From the Adam Smith blog


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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Friday, October 08, 2004

Homosexual advocacy disguised as education: "A new same-sex marriage curriculum for high schools is running into scholarly opposition from three authors led by noted sexual orientation researcher Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D. Warren Throckmorton, Gary Welton, Ph.D. and student Mike Ingram wrote a white paper that examines the curriculum produced by The Gay Lesbian Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) entitled "At Issue: Marriage. Exploring the Debate Over Rights for Same Sex Marriage.... The white paper found ...."The curriculum would more aptly be titled 'How to Advocate for Gay Marriage: A Teachers Guide.' The curriculum clearly points students to one conclusion: A truly fair and educated person will support same sex marriage... The white paper recommends that schools pass on adopting the GLSEN curriculum.


Buck-passing: Stuff kids should have learnt in Grade School does not get taught in High School either

"Three-quarters of high school seniors never get writing assignments in history or social studies, according to a 2003 report. Even in their English classes, many students only get short writing assignments. A few weeks before Rachel Vosika graduated this year from Pacific High School in San Bernardino, she worked on the biggest research paper she'd ever been assigned - a three-page biography of Virginia Woolf. She needed at least four sources, all of which could be from the Internet.

The effects of this trend show up in college classes. Fewer than half of students turn in papers relatively free of language errors, according to a 2002 survey of professors at California's public colleges and universities. Jim Cataneso could see that coming. His students' research papers got so bad that about seven years ago he, too, stopped assigning them. "I don't have time to get through the grammar, punctuation, spelling," said Cataneso, a history teacher at Apple Valley High School. "The frustration level for me was too much of a burnout."

While most history teachers value student research papers, three out of five never assign any longer than 3,000 words (about 11 double-spaced pages), according to a 2002 study sponsored by the Concord Review. John Fitzsimmons, who teaches U.S. History at Carter High School in Rialto, is one who does. "They're going to be doing it in college, plain and simple," he explained. But Fitzsimmons has an advantage over other teachers - a speed reader, he can grade a 10- to 15-page paper in about 15 minutes. Plus, he doesn't fix spelling and commas. "I teach history, not English," Fitzsimmons said. "I just don't have time to correct grammar and English. I just go through and mark factual areas and the big ideas."

Jennifer Norton has to correct grammar - she's an English teacher at Kaiser High School in Fontana. So she assigns shorter papers - none longer than three or four pages. Grading longer papers from each of her 175 students would be impossible".

More here. (Via Joanne Jacobs).


"I regret that I am now unable to intelligently analyze what these election results mean for Germany, the EU, and the European right wing in general.

That said, I would like to consider why a student majoring in politics at an American college could have graduated said program without any knowledge of the European political climate other than : "They hate Bush. They oppose the war. They hate the U.S. because we're imperialist bastards and ignore the U.N."

Now, your fabulous Flip once took a course that purported to be about Radical Political Theory. One would presume that "radical" would in fact address both political poles, a presumption backed up by the full title of the course and the course description (neither of which will be reproduced here in order to avoid unnecessarily blaming a single professor and/or school for what I see as an institutional problem). A quick look at the course syllabus, however, confirmed that "radical" in fact meant Marxists, Socialists, Communists, and the neo- forms of all the above. When questioned, the professor confirmed that fascism or any far-right extremism would not be covered, and implied that they were irrelevant to our study of political theory and its practice in history.

Now, Flip may be a little dense, but she's not quite sure how a form of extremism that facilitated a world war is historically and theoretically irrelevant, but maybe I'm laboring under a false impression here. Oh, and weren't the Oaklahoma City bombers affiliated with a right-wing militia movement? More false impressions, I guess.

I would like to know why Fascism and the sort of right-wing zealotry that is, apparently, politically and historically irrelevant is largely ignored by the (American) academy as a legitimate topic of study."

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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Thursday, October 07, 2004


Charles Clark is the minister in charge of British education under the present Labour government there

"Charles Clarke vowed to launch a "crusade" to reform education today, listing a catalogue of problems currently blighting schools.... He gave a frank assessment of the education system's failings, particularly for 14 to 19-year-olds. "Too much of the work does not stretch the ablest pupils enough," he said. "Too much of the work leads some pupils to switch off entirely and to turn to truancy and disruption. "Too much of the assessment is an excessive burden rather than a stimulation. "Too many students leave school without knowing their grammar and being properly numerate," he said. "There is too much of a division between the academic and the vocational streams of study.

Mr Clarke insisted that work-related qualifications would take a much higher priority when the eagerly awaited Tomlinson review of 14-19 education is published in the next few weeks. "Too little of the education is relevant to the world of work and the real lives of 14 to 19-year-olds."

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of teachers' union NASUWT, said it was "a robust address setting out an impressive record of achievement" [Huh?? Failure = achievement?? Good Leftist thinking, I guess.]

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said it was "a welcome relief" that Mr Clarke announced no new initiatives, given the Government's already "massive agenda for reform". [At least the Head-teachers recognize it all as empty talk].

Shadow education secretary Tim Collins dismissed what he called Labour's increasingly "outlandish" rhetoric. "Charles Clarke is talking about it as his `crusade', but once again this is all talk," he said. "Ministers are now running from one desperate measure to another as the evidence of falling standards mounts daily.""

More here.


Urban public school teachers are nearly twice as likely as other parents to send their kids to private schools, a study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education-reform group, found last month.... The report should serve to mobilize educators and communities to intensify efforts to improve public schools. Instead, teachers unions and many school officials dismiss the report as a flawed ploy by an interest group intent on diverting resources from public schools to private ones.

While there's no instant panacea for fixing failing schools, a first step requires recognizing the problem, not denying it. Political leaders and school officials in some cities, such as New York and Chicago, acknowledge that their schools are in crisis. They've shaken up their systems by closing dozens of chronically low-performing schools and opening up dozens of new ones, many under the charter-schools concept, which promotes greater innovation. More needs to be done. Other reforms worth considering:

Expand school choice. More than 750,000 students are enrolled in 3,000 charter schools, public schools that operate free of many bureaucratic rules in return for the promise of higher student achievement. Chicago's 17 charter schools outperform their adjacent neighborhood schools, and most have waiting lists, says Chicago public schools CEO Arne Duncan. Five states have voucher programs that offer public money for low-income students to attend private schools. Supporters say such competition will prod public schools to improve.

Merit pay. Union contracts often make it difficult to reward excellent teachers and get rid of poor ones. But linking teacher pay to student performance has produced solid academic gains in pilot programs in Denver and Phoenix. Ending tenure for teachers who fail to meet accountability standards also can improve classroom instruction, as can bonuses paid to encourage effective teachers to work in poor-performing schools. In Chattanooga, Tenn., a bonus plan reduced teacher turnover by 50% during two years, and student scores improved dramatically.

Teachers unions and some school officials point to studies that question whether charter schools and voucher programs improve student performance. By contrast, reformers cite other studies showing progress. What is clear, however, is that too many traditional public school systems are failing, and too few alternatives are being tried.

The latest study ought to create a new sense of urgency for opponents to get on board the reform movement. After all, if so many teachers think public schools aren't good enough for their children, why should anyone else have faith in the current system?

From USA Today.


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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Wednesday, October 06, 2004


NOTE: This column by libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan originally appeared at "Tibor's Place on the Web" under the heading, "R. C.'s Nemesis-Again", but was subsequently taken down. I am reproducing it in full below:

The papers where most of my columns are published are owned by a company whose founder, R. C. Hoiles, had a particular dislike for what he called "government schools." These are, of course, all the public schools our children are coerced to attend-unless their parents or guardians are willing to accept the double jeopardy of paying for some private alternative that must also meet government requirements- and that all property owners must fund. And by "must" I mean if they do not , the law comes down on them good and hard.

Many, many people, of course, are so used to these government schools that to suggest that they are a bad idea is nearly sacrilege. Just like Europeans were used to public TV and radio until recently. Most of us attended these schools- more like indoctrination centers, actually- or our kids attend them just now. And they are "free," and it is where we can park the kids for most of the day, so we can go on earn a living or do other things while they linger there. How could anyone in his or her right mind question the value of such an institution?

Well, R. C. did, as do I. And, yes, I attended government high school and university myself, both in Europe and here. But does that really refute a skeptical stance toward this well entrenched part of our society? Even our radical, revolutionary Founders had urged something like universal public education- Thomas Jefferson, of all people, thought citizenship couldn't flourish without them. So, how could one object?

Well, in the spirit of consistency, I wish to argue that the Founders should not have advocated government schooling, not if they seriously meant what they approvingly wrote in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we all have unalienable rights to our lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness. "Unalienable" means that whatever is so may never, under any circumstances, be lost or taken from us. To alienate is to make a stranger, to be divorced from. No one, by the words of the Declaration, can ever be divorced from his or her fundamental rights. And the Declaration was correct about that, given that no one has the authority to rule another person, no king, no politician, no one.

Now whenever government coerces parents to enroll their kids in school, public or private, this violates their unalienable right to liberty. As parents, it is they, not those in government, who have the responsibility to raise kids properly. It could be argued that totally depriving them from education is child neglect, but just when they should attend, just what curriculum they should follow, and all the other details are certainly not government business.

Having government impose education on kids is no different from having it impose a religion on them! There should, accordingly, be a total separation of state and education, as there is between state and church or press. (Oh, are you suggesting religion or the press is less important than schooling? Well, but that has rather drastic consequences, does it not?)

Then there is the matter of government extorting money from property owners so as to pay for this institution they unjustifiably have annexed from us all. If we are free, have an unalienable right to our liberty, surely this also means we may not be coerced into spending our resources against our will. Yet in this and innumerable other cases the government of this allegedly free country coerces citizens to spend resources not as they deem correct but as these government officials do.

Yes, some of this has majority support- or at least the support of some majority of voters at some point in US history, usually that of a minority of eligible voters and citizens. But even if 99% of the population approved of the coercion, it would be wrong. A free society accepts neither dictatorship of one person nor that of zillions of people. Dictatorship is out, period, even for what may well be for some cases a worthwhile purpose.

So, in fact, R. C. Hoiles was right. The American Founders, though a revolutionary bunch, had carried off but an incomplete revolution. Just as they didn't manage at first to abolish slavery, they also didn't manage to abolish another feudal institution, namely, taxation. Nor did they fully grasp that the government of a bona fide free society stays out of the business of how parents must raise their kids, barring making sure they are not abused. It is time that their revolution be made complete!


The cad!

"Philip Green, the retail billionaire, is planning to build the country's first fashion and retail academy in an attempt to "produce the next generation of entrepreneurs". The owner of Bhs, Top Shop and Miss Selfridge has donated 5 million to what would be the first specialist college to train 16- to 19-year-olds for a career in fashion retail. The college will train 200 school-leavers a year in marketing, finance and fashion buying and Mr Green - who recently tried to buy Marks & Spencer - hopes it will open for business in September 2005.

Mr Green, who left school at 16, said he had been driven to invest in the scheme by his difficulties in recruiting good staff for his own business. "We need to do something to produce the next generation of entrepreneurs," he said. Mr Green said it was often difficult to tell the difference between graduates and those who had left school with only A-levels. "If you ask a lot of these people why they went to university they don't really know. It's either because they think it's what you are supposed to do or because it gives them another three years before they have to go out to work. "If you get underneath it all some of it really defies logic. We take on A-level people and graduates who are three years older but are only earning 500 pounds more. That's quite scary given that it probably costs them 30,000 pounds or 40,000 pounds to get there.""

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Junk schools exposed: "Nearly two-thirds of 2004's graduating high school seniors now enrolled in Houston-area [TX] community colleges are taking remedial classes because they weren't prepared for college. ... Although the problem is generally worse among school districts with high poverty levels, such as Houston and Aldine, some of those with wealthier populations, including Spring Branch and Katy, face the same predicament. And it's not just community college students who are struggling. Even those attending four-year universities lack many of the basic skills necessary to tackle college-level work as freshmen. A report released this spring by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board found that half of the state's 2001 high school graduates needed remedial help in college."


And they proclaim it

Communism was an abject failure in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. In textbooks, doctoral dissertations, and campus lectures, it works flawlessly. College students have such choices as Amherst College's "Taking Marx Seriously" and UC-Santa Barbara's "Black Marxism." Such classes don't just represent the views of lone, eccentric academics longing to expand their diminishing base of fellow believers. Entire institutions of higher learning seek to mainstream Marxism by endowing academic chairs, establishing scholarship funds, and dedicating buildings in honor of long-dead communists - in some instances, with taxpayer dollars.

Fifty years ago, Alger Hiss was serving the final months of a prison sentence for perjuring himself about his life as a communist spy. Today, Bard College honors the disgraced State Department official with an Alger Hiss Professor of Social Studies.

An institute at Harvard, a dormitory at the University of Hartford, and UMass-Amherst's skyscraper library are among the things named for W.E.B. Du Bois on American campuses. Du Bois eulogized Stalin as a "great" and "courageous" man and called the Soviet Union's intolerance of religion its "greatest gift" to humanity. The propagandist, who is currently doted upon by scores of colleges and universities, won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1959, shortly thereafter joined the Communist Party, and then renounced his American citizenship.

Singer, actor, and athlete Paul Robeson proudly accepted the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952. Penn State and Rutgers now proudly feature campus cultural centers bearing the name of the fervent communist. Columbia University has a civil liberties chair that strangely honors Corliss Lamont, an apologist for Stalin, Mao, and their B-list impersonators.

Harry Bridges, leader of the West Coast International Longshoreman's and Warehouseman's Union, was an underground communist. This was strongly suspected for the 40 years that Bridges ran the union until his retirement in 1977. It is known definitively today. He perjured himself repeatedly about involvement in the party, excused Stalin's atrocities, and subordinated the interests of union members to the dictates of the Soviet Union. No matter - the University of Washington houses a Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, as well as an academic chair named for the Australian Stalinist.

In the 1990s, UMass-Amherst gave the Communist Party's official historian Herb Aptheker an honorary degree, the University of California awarded three-time Communist Party vice-presidential candidate Angela Davis $90,000 and its highest academic honor, and a branch of the City University of New York even doled out Ho Chi Minh scholarships until an uproar put a stop to it.

Just as the massive class time dedicated to Marxism isn't matched by any discernable professorial interest in offering courses on the teachings of Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, or Milton Friedman, the number of communists institutionally honored on campuses is predictably unmatched by tributes to Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, J. Edgar Hoover, or other prominent anti-Communists. Too many faculty and administrators want students (most of whom have no memory of the struggle between the West and communism) to believe the bad guys were the good guys in the Cold War.

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Monday, October 04, 2004

Churches the last hope? "Paul Vallas has been spending Sunday mornings in the pulpit recently, but he's no preacher. As CEO of the 210,000-student School District of Philadelphia, he's been speaking at weekend services in houses of worship across Philadelphia, extolling the potential of the school-faith partnership, and asking congregants for help with everything from tutoring and mentoring to hallway patrols and discipline. Vallas's goal is to have each of the district's 276 schools adopted by at least one nearby church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, which he expects will bring moral heft, human capital, and familiarity with the streets to the job of educating the city's children. Embraced by such faith communities, Vallas believes, students will better navigate the often-volatile home and neighborhood environments that threaten learning and imperil character development. But, as is often the case in politics, the reality is more complicated than that."


It would be a mistake to treat seriously everything said by that that whimsical Welshman, Prof. Christie Davies. He is, after all, an authority on humour. But amid the comic exaggerations there are some good points. I have tried to excerpt them below. If he ever reads this, I wonder will he forgive me for using "excerpt" as a verb?

"Science we are told is something that every child should and must study. Most children hate it, fail to master it and never use it or think about it again after they have left school. It is forced upon unwilling and inept pupils because it is supposed to be good for them. Science is the twenty-first century's version of Latin.

A knowledge of science we are assured is essential for a proper understanding of the modern world. It is not. Very few English people whether adults or teenagers have any serious knowledge of the sciences but this does not hinder them in any way when it comes to earning, buying and selling, taking care of their children, playing elaborate games on their computers, tinkering with their car engines, giving up smoking or choosing between one fool and another at election time.....

Faced with science even pupils who sparkle during History or English retreat into dull carelessness. A youngster may have something, if only an inane opinion, to contribute in these subjects but science is text book truth. Who can contradict the laws of motion or challenge the coloured beads that make up a molecule of glycol? Worse still there is the tedium of lab work with its twiddling of pipettes, peering down polarizing microscopes or at warped mirrors and dissecting of frogs. Worst of all are field trips in search of the lesser spotted flitter mouse, the fragments of a Silurian trilobite or some vile sludge from a long dead moraine. Both lab work and field trips are an expensive and useless fetish whose main purpose is to force out of existence small private academies that can not afford the capital outlays and high premium insurance policies they require.

Elementary science can be taught more cheaply and effectively using videos shown to small classes, but that is heresy to the big science, big comprehensive minds that control the curriculum. For most pupils field trips are the equivalent of day trips to Bologne pour le shoplifting et le questioning par les flics, a pointless and unappreciated frill that pushes up unit costs and produces no extra revenue.....

In the Soviet Union where great emphasis was placed on science education scientists were respected and relatively well paid and the economy collapsed from an inability to innovate. For most scientists there is no money in science nor in big team science is there any fame. Who wants to be third named author out of seventeen in a specialist journal that few people read let alone understand? What social standing does the phrase 'northern chemist' convey? A tedious life and an ill-paid one, Pennyfeather".

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Sunday, October 03, 2004


"Simply put, modern schools are not boy-friendly. This can be seen from the time boys enter school, when many of them are immediately branded as behavior problems. The line of elementary school kids who used to gather every day after school in my son's class for their behavior reports--all boys. The names of kids on the side of the chalkboard who misbehaved and would lose recess--all boys. The nine million children, many as young as five or six, who are given Ritalin so they will sit still and "behave"--almost all boys.

Girls get better grades than boys, and boys are far more likely than girls to drop out of school or to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. Boys are four times as likely to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as girls, and the vast majority of learning-disabled students are boys. By high school the typical boy is a year and a half behind the typical girl in reading and writing.

Modern K-12 education is not suited to boys' needs and learning styles. Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet and complete work. The fact that many young boys are bodily kinesthetic learners who crave physical, hands-on and energetic lessons is inconvenient, and is thus largely ignored.

The trend against competition and the promotion of cooperative learning strategies run counter to boys' natural competitiveness and individual initiative. Group projects and lessons in which there are no right or wrong answers, and from which solid conclusions cannot be drawn, tend to frustrate boys, who often view them as pointless.

Efforts to make schools gentler and to promote women's writing, while understandable, have pushed aside the action and adventure literature which boys have treasured for generations. In their place are subtle, reflective works which often hold little interest for boys.

The dearth of male teachers--particularly at the elementary level, where female teachers outnumber male teachers six to one--is a problem for boys. The average teacher is a well-meaning and dedicated woman who always did well in school and simply cannot understand why the boys won't sit still, be quiet and do their work. Instead, boys need strong, charismatic teachers who mix firm discipline with an understanding and good-natured acceptance of boyish energy".

More here


The British authorities seem to regret it but are still not doing anything about it -- such as indemnifying teachers who take on extra responsibilities

Children are missing out on life-changing adventure pursuits because teachers fear they will end up in court if things go wrong, says Ofsted. "Outdoor activities such as canoeing, rock climbing, archery and sailing are in decline as schools opt for less risky courses or drop adventure training altogether, says David Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools. Teachers have been prosecuted, and one was imprisoned for 12 months last year, over the drowning of a boy on school visits. Schools also fear compensation claims from parents if children get injured.

The reduction in outdoor education is part of the wider trend of limiting risk that has led to the banning of "dangerous" playground games, such as marbles and skipping, and the curtailing of sports such as rugby. A fall in the number of educational visits to give pupils a taste of challenging pursuits such as mountaineering or abseiling has been fuelled by the decision of the second largest teachers' union to advise its members against taking responsibility for them.

Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said Mr Bell's comments were "unsympathetic and dismissive" of schools' very real fear of litigation. The union was dealing with a long list of cases where teachers had been unfairly blamed when things went wrong or been victims of malicious allegations from pupils on residential visits. While some tragic cases involved the deaths of pupils, others were unsubstantiated allegations of abuse, she said.

In one case, a member of the union was taken to court after a mother complained he had spilt fruit juice over her son's head in a farm's dining room. The case was later dropped when the CPS offered no evidence.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "The fact is that accidents can happen. With so many parents turning to the courts at the first sign of a problem, schools are right to be extremely cautious in their approach to the organisation of outdoor activities. "Regrettably this has created a situation in which many teachers have felt unable to take on the additional responsibility. This has led to a reduction in the number of visits which are a vitally important part of the educational experience, especially for children from families that could not otherwise afford them."

More here


"Schools will be required to issue all students with report cards in plain English and give children a grade from A to E if the Coalition wins Saturday's federal election. The Government will also introduce new national numeracy and literacy tests for year six and year 10 students. The results sent to parents will show how their child ranks against a national benchmark.

The overhaul of reports, to be announced today, would be introduced for the 2005 school year and Prime Minister John Howard wants the system to apply in government and private schools. The Government believes plain-English report cards and gradings will be extremely popular with parents. Schools and state governments will be asked to sign up in return for their share of the $31 billion in federal funding for schools.

The new report cards will give students a grade of A, B, C, D or E. There will be no F-grade. The cards must also show how the child compares against national standards and against the other children in the school. The requirement for schools to make a national comparison aims to guard against a parent being told their child is top of the class but not that the school is underperforming.

The move is likely to anger some states and teacher unions who oppose class rankings and believe students should be measured against academic standards and not the performance of their classmates.....

Mr Howard and Education Minister Brendan Nelson are driving the changes to school reports because they say parents have asked them to do it. Mr Howard believes some school reports are "meaningless" and give parents no real idea how their child is progressing. He wants them to give parents a simple, easily understood explanation and is scathing of some report cards that say a student is "almost achieving" or "working towards" a goal.

Government insiders were confident all schools would sign up to the reports, arguing that schools and teachers that refused would face pressure from parents to provide the information. Some educators are bitterly opposed to a system of ranking students, saying they believe it can be "harmful" to children.

Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said in July that school reports should show whether students were improving and how they measured up against the standards they were expected to achieve. But she also acknowledged that parents wanted to know how their child compared with other students".



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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here