Saturday, November 20, 2004

THE PRINCE OF WALES GETS IT RIGHT

Prince Charles's penchant for memo-writing caught up with him today when his uncompromising opinions about the state of education in Britain found their way onto the front pages. "What is wrong with everyone nowadays?" wrote the 56-year-old heir to the British throne to a member of his staff in March 2003 after a secretary asked about prospects for job promotion. "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?" the Prince of Wales continued. "This is to do with the learning culture in schools as a consequence of a child-centred system which admits no failure.

"People think they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary work or having natural ability. "This is the result of social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially engineered to contradict the lessons of history." The memo concludes: "What on earth am I to tell Elaine? She is so PC (politically correct), it frightens me rigid." "Elaine" is Elaine Day, who served as a secretary for the prince's household, helping to organise his activities and helping to write speeches, from March 1999 until last April

More here





HOW WE LOST THE PLOT IN READING

For an understanding of why our teaching of literacy is under attack, turn to history, says Kevin Donnelly

The genesis of today's debate about literacy standards can be traced back to the late 1960s and early '70s - a time not only of Woodstock, moratoriums and flower power. Radical educators such as the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire and the English sociologist M. F. D. Young argued that the then education system preserved the power of society's status quo. Approaches to learning that stressed examinations, traditional subjects such as history, literature and science, and the authority of the teacher were criticised as obsolete and instrumental in oppressing so-called disadvantaged groups. This idea built on the works of US educational theorist John Dewey, who died in 1952. Dewey was more interested in learning by doing than rote learning and instruction.

At the same time, across the English-speaking world, more traditional approaches to teaching English were attacked as ineffective and the preserve of the elite. Freire argued that literacy could no longer be restricted to the ability to read and write. Children had to be empowered as individuals by being taught to be socially critical and to deconstruct language and texts in terms of power relationships. American writers such as Donald Graves and English educators such as James Britton argued that teachers should free students to be creative and that self-expression was more important than learning correct spelling, punctuation and grammar.

This whole-language approach was based on the assumption that learning to read was as natural as learning to speak and that all teachers needed to do was to immerse children in a rich language environment and success would follow. Subject associations such as the Australian Association for the Teaching of English became staunch advocates of the new orthodoxy. Overseas gurus, including Graves and Britton, as well as Freire, were invited to Australia and their texts became compulsory reading in teacher training courses. Radical teacher unions such as the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association and the NSW Teachers Federation argued that it was wrong to test students or to assume that standard English was superior to a student's own language use.

A more recent variant of the progressive approach of the new status quo can be found in the work of the Australian Council of Deans of Education. Those responsible for managing teacher training, in New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education, argue that teaching correct spelling, grammar and punctuation is obsolete (because spell-checking programs remove the need for correct spelling). The deans also argue that there are no right or wrong answers and that what the report describes as good learners, in the jargon much loved by educrats, "will not come to any situation with preordained, known answers. Rather, they will come equipped with problem-solving skills, multiple strategies for tackling a task, and a flexible solutions-orientation to knowledge."

The result? In Australia, England and the US, many argued that standards fell and that the new approaches had failed. Many parents also voted with their feet in favour of non-government schools as these, compared with government schools, were seen as more academic.

Today it's claimed there is a literacy crisis in our schools. Those defending the new educational status quo argue that all is well and Australian students are performing at the top of the table, based on measures such as the OECD's program for international student assessment test and the results of recent national literacy benchmarking tests. Unfortunately, not all agree. Earlier this year 26 literacy researchers wrote to Education Minister Brendan Nelson arguing that Australia's whole language approach to teaching was flawed and, as a result, thousands of students left school illiterate. There is also the concern that, if the PISA test had, as well as testing reading, also corrected faulty spelling, grammar and punctuation, most Australian students would have failed and, according to the Australian Council for Educational Research, about one-third of Year 9 students lack adequate literacy skills.

In Australia, a 1996 national survey of reading. initiated by the Howard Government against the wishes of teachers unions and the AATE, discovered that 27 per cent of Year 3 and 29 per cent of Year 5 students failed to reach the minimum standard. It should be noted that concerns about literacy are not restricted to the school sector. A study in 2000, Changes in Academic Work, found that almost half of the academics interviewed agreed that standards had fallen over time.

In California, after the introduction of whole language in the late '80s, student performance, as measured by national tests, also plummeted. Such was the angst that, in 1996, the Board of Education ruled in favour of phonics and against whole language. In Britain as well, such was the concern about falling standards, especially among boys, that the Blair Government at the beginning of 1998 stipulated that schools had to adopt a structured and systematic phonics approach to literacy learning.

In opposition to whole language, a phonics approach argues that learning to read is decidedly unnatural and students have to be taught phonemic awareness - that is, spoken words and syllables are made up of elementary speech sounds. Instead of looking at a word such as dog and guessing how it might be read, students should be taught to sound out the individual letters. d-o-g. Students also need to memorise the alphabet and be taught the relationship between letters and sounds and clusters of letters. Contrary to whole language, the argument is also put that teaching students to skip words or to guess their meaning leads to illiteracy.

Again and again, research suggests that children must be taught how to read in a structured way. In the US, a study titled What We Know About How Children Learn, carried out by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in the words of Bonita Grossen, concluded: "This lack of phonemic awareness seems to be a major obstacle to reading acquisition. Children who are not phonemically aware are not able to segment words and syllables into phonemes. Consequently, they do not develop the ability to decode single words accurately and fluently."

The US study, involving more than 100 researchers over 30 years, also concluded that many of the tenets of whole language - that learning to read is natural and that children will learn to read when they are ready - are misplaced and counterproductive. The US study is supported by comments made in an Australian paper titled 100 Children Turn 10. Recent research is described as concluding that: "The level of phonemic awareness ability in preschool [is] a powerful predictor of reading and spelling performance in school."

Such is the overwhelming case for teaching phonics that even wholelanguage advocates argue that their approach was never meant to exclude the more structured and systematic approach to literacy learning. Is this true? First, how extensive is whole language? Based on the 1992 House of Representatives report, The Literacy Challenge, the answer is that whole language is widespread. The report, after hearing teachers and experts across Australia, concluded: "The current approach to literacy learning in Australian schools focuses on the whole language or natural learning approach. It has gained Australia-wide support and virtually all curriculum guidelines on primary school literacy are based on this approach."

As to whether whole language, in fact, includes phonics, the answer is less clear. At the level of Australian education departments, the House of Representatives 2002 report Boys Getting it Right concluded that the answer is no: "The research supporting the more explicit teaching of phonics, especially in remedial literacy instruction, does not appear to be receiving sufficient attention by most education departments." It is also certainly the case that an examination of English syllabuses and frameworks prepared across Australia during the '80s and '90s reveals a failure to treat phonics in a comprehensive and systematic way.

At the level of teacher training it is also true that phonics is underrated and many teachers enter classrooms, through no fault of their own, without a proper grounding in the subject. As noted by Ruth Fielding-Barnsley in her research looking at 340 Queensland-based teachers and how successful teacher preparation is, most teachers showed "poor knowledge of metalinguistics in the process of learning to read".

In 2002 US President George W. Bush introduced a $USl billion program titled "Reading First" in an attempt to address literacy problems. An essential part of the program is that, to be funded, literacy programs must be based on sound research and be proven to be successful. One can only hope, as a result of the proposed inquiry planned by Nelson, that Australian authorities will adopt the same requirements.


This article originally appeared in "The Australian" newspaper of November 13, 2004. The author, Kevin Donnelly, is director of Melbourne-based company Education Strategies and author of Why Our Schools are Failing (which was commissioned by the Menzies Research Centre)

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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, November 19, 2004

CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITIES NOT TOO DIFFERENT FROM HITLER'S GERMANY

"The U.S. government's Office for Civil Rights has launched a formal investigation into the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine, following a complaint submitted by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)'s Center for Law and Justice.

The Office for Civil Rights, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, has officially notified the ZOA, in a letter dated October 28, 2004, that it "will proceed with an investigation of this complaint."

Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin by recipients of federal funding, and since UC-Irvine receives such funding, it is obligated to provide students with an educational environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: "It is appalling that the UC-Irvine administration has failed to take meaningful steps to protect the civil rights of its Jewish students. The UC-Irvine administration certainly safeguards the civil rights of other minorities on campus; why aren't Jews, as a minority group, afforded the same protection? We look forward to a timely investigation by the U.S. government's Office for Civil Rights, so that action will be taken against those who are fostering a climate of hostility to Jews, Israel, and Zionism on campus."

The original complaint, sent by the director of the ZOA's Center for Law and Justice, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., pointed out that "for the past three years, the environment for Jewish students at UC-Irvine has been hostile, and at times, threatening." Among the many incidents cited:

* In February 2004, a Jewish student with an Israeli flag pin on his lapel was followed into the office of the Dean of Students by a group of Muslim students, who cursed at and threatened to kill him. The student filed a police report and reported the episode to the administration, but no action was taken.

* In January 2004, a rock was thrown at - and barely missed - a student with an identifiably Jewish t-shirt who was walking by the Muslim Student Union's table.

* Rallies by radical campus groups such as the Muslim Student Union, and articles in the Muslim student newspaper Alkalima, frequently equate Israel with the Nazis.

* In April 2003, a swastika was carved onto a table at the Jewish students' Holocaust Memorial ceremony.

* In May 2004, the Society of Arab Students sponsored an "anti-hate rally" to which it invited all student groups except the Jewish ones. Despite this discrimination, the Vice Chancellor of the university was one of the speakers at the event.

* Also in May 2004, Muslim students announced their intention to attend graduation ceremonies wearing green sashes bearing the "Shahada," the Islamic declaration of faith which is used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations to glorify suicide bombers. The administration disregarded Jewish students' concerns and permitted the wearing of the sashes.

Source




Actions must speak louder than words

The article below refers to Australia but could as well be about most places in the Anglosphere. Brendan Nelson is the reformist education minister in Australia's conservative Federal government -- and LOTE is a program for teaching foreign languages to grade-school children

Sure, let's have this national inquiry into the ways children are taught to read - or, sadly, not read - in primary school. But Education Minister Brendan Nelson should have gone much further on Monday for the sake of our children. Why didn't he broaden this new inquiry into literacy by asking how it is that clearly insane fads in education - such as the "whole-language recognition" technique of teaching to read - were allowed to spread throughout our schools, crippling the education of thousands of children? Why not ask how the equally nutty "new maths" got through the school gate? And "new music"? And compulsory LOTE instruction in languages of little interest, relevance or use to millions of children? Why not also ask how children came to study trash books and films for literature? Or fact-free apocalyptic environmentalism? Why not an inquiry into the virulent spread of soft-discipline teaching and don't-correct instruction, and the decline of "hard" subjects such as real history, real geography and the rules of grammar?

But this inquiry is a start, I guess, and will tackle perhaps the most destructive and persistent education fad of them all. For 30 years or more, "whole language" recognition has spread through our schools, replacing phonics as the technique for teaching children to read. Instead of teaching children what sounds each letter makes, and how those sounds combine to form words, this new teaching "immersed" children in language, asking them to guess from looking at the whole word instead. With clues from the pictures, and the words that came before. You can see why this appealed to parents who'd grown up in the '60s. There would be fewer rules, less disciplined instruction, and a lot more close-enough guessing. Strange, how so many new fashions seem to be excuses for laziness. The trouble is, of course, that this seems a pretty lousy way to teach English, and so it has proved.

Nelson says surveys now show almost a third of Australian students lack basic reading skills by the time they reach Year 9. How much this is caused by poor teaching techniques, and how much, say, from too-busy parents no longer staying home to teach the children their alphabet, I do not know. But this year, 26 of our top literacy researchers sent an open letter to Nelson warning that the "whole language" teaching had no scientific credibility. As America's National Reading Panel, set up by President Bill Clinton, reported in 2000, there was no doubt the old way of teaching children - C-makes-a-cuh-sound phonics - was still the best.

I KNEW that. You knew that. And yet 77 per cent of Victorian primary school teachers still use the "whole language" method instead, according to an Australian Council of Educational Research survey. The trouble may be much as a former education mandarin gloomily admitted when I asked why formal grammar was now rarely taught - "We'd first have to teach it to the teachers." Or as Nelson said on Monday: "Some of the research we've done has found that our trainee teachers themselves are having trouble to (sic) read." Just as Nelson has trouble to (sic) speak.

Naturally Labor is again grabbing for a union-friendly excuse - that children really need more teachers with more money. But no. What they need is better teaching, using better methods. The old ways are not working, as auditor-general Wayne Cameron reported after discovering that despite spending $662 million over seven years on teacher-intensive Early Years and Reading Recovery programs in Victorian primary schools, our literacy results barely shifted. The "new" theories must now be rooted out. The big question is: How did they ever get to grow in our schools and what must be thrown out with them?"

(The above article was lifted from Andrew Bolt)

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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, November 18, 2004

"COLORBLIND RACISM"??

Dave Huber thinks the gobbledegook below is another Sokal Hoax. If so, it has certainly hoisted "Education News". But if it's seriously meant, I wouldn't be surprised either.

"The American racial project is the cornerstone of an overarching paradigm of white supremacy or a white racial order that has matured within our racialized society since its birth some 350 years ago. Today, the operation of our racialized social systems is most obviously articulated in the push for privatization, and expressed through the propaganda of colorblindness. It is also camouflaged (or coded) by the ideology of colorblindness that insists we now live in a race-less or race-neutral state in which the color of one's skin makes no difference in the attainment of society's fruits. The basis or defining features of the reigning ideology itself hints at the association being disguised, that is, the relationship between whites and blacks in which the historically raced and now race-lessed are black people (categorically, conceptually, or as construct-those person who cannot or will not whiten). The binary positing of identity formation and the meaning of conceptual blackness and whiteness in the development of commonsense understandings remain unchanged. Colorblindness allows the masking of immigration issues, housing segregation, etc. to be discussed without the mention of race.

In this colorblind condition we are at task to deconstruct or decipher the latest version of Johnson's ESEA, that is, President GW Bush's NCLB, in whose title itself begins the subterfuge, as we all know which children are being referenced, though never mentioned. Use of coded language is also visible in the heading of Title 1, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, where again the Disadvantaged are never raced, and at most are referenced according to economic status, i.e. the poor. The admiral goal of closing the achievement gap has also been pitted as the latest panacea for racism and all social ailments; an almost absurd proposition in a society with institutionalized racism, and a history of schooling in the service of business interests. These seemingly benign examples of language manipulation appealing to a white-normed commonsense highlight the real danger of NCLB, that is, all the ways in which it reinforces and contributes to colorblind racism..... "

(From "Education News". More here)




BRITAIN'S NEW WORD FOR ENFORCED EQUALITY: "INCLUSION"

Education or social inclusion? A teacher argues that you can't have both.

'This National Curriculum includes for the first time a detailed, overarching statement on inclusion which makes clear the principles schools must follow in their teaching right across the curriculum, to ensure that all pupils have the chance to succeed, whatever their individual needs and the potential barriers to their learning may be.'

The above statement from Britain's National Curriculum online shows that inclusion has been placed at the heart of the UK's school curriculum. Today, cradle-to-grave educational initiatives are justified in terms of social inclusion.... In schools, teaching in an inclusive style is a compulsory requirement of the curriculum, to be inspected by the Office For Standards in Education (OFSTED). Teachers will be checked to ensure they 'plan their approaches to teaching and learning so that all pupils can take part in lessons fully and effectively'. The logical consequence of this is either individualised tasks for each pupil, or a lesson that lacks challenge for anyone.....

What is social inclusion? Writers have commented that the term social inclusion is being used with such frequency that it has become a politically correct cliche - according to one author, 'obligatory in the discourse of all right thinking people'. An irony is that the more frequently the term is used, the more difficult it becomes to pin down exactly what is meant by 'social inclusion'. Projects aiming to promote social inclusion have a wide array of aims: to tackle teenage pregnancy; obesity; high unemployment rates; low literacy levels; low life-expectancy rates; higher incidences of criminality or non-participation in elections.....

In education, the social inclusion debate emerged from policies aimed at integrating children with special needs or behaviour problems into mainstream schools. From the mid-1980s onwards, campaigns by parents and teachers gathered momentum to keep children with learning difficulties, Down's syndrome or a range of physical disabilities, in mainstream schools. 'Special schools' began to close. Including special needs children within the mainstream of the education system was considered to benefit not just the individual concerned but all the other children in the class who would gain 'a greater degree of understanding, more knowledge about certain disabilities and a generally more positive outlook towards those who have them'.

Today, the debate has moved on. Ever-expanding definitions of 'special needs' mean that, incredibly, in 2001 21 per cent of primary school age children in England and Wales were on the special needs register. The concept of special needs has been relativised to such an extent that all children are now considered, to apply the euphemism, 'special'. This may mean the child has special gifts or talents or has any one of a long list of learning or social difficulties from ADHD to dyslexia via Asperger's Syndrome. Teachers concerned with special needs are finding more and more parents queuing at their doors demanding labels for their child.....

Today, inclusion is no longer about how best to teach special needs pupils: it is about how to foster certain values in every child. Where inclusion policies are challenged, it tends to be in cases of older pupils with behaviour problems. Previously, expulsion from school was the punishment of last resort for head teachers. Now, with the closure of Pupil Referral Units and Home School Services, head teachers are under pressure to keep such pupils within the mainstream. For the most part, however, it is assumed that 'anything other than the total integration of all pupils is tantamount to supporting a form of educational apartheid'....

The obsession with self-esteem is the second major consequence of building education around social inclusion. This is a very recent phenomenon; when I trained to be a teacher 10 years ago, not one reference was made to our self-esteem or the self-esteem of the pupils we were to meet. Low self-esteem was never articulated as being a problem. Today, every pupil a teacher comes into contact with is deemed to be at risk of low self-esteem and it is the assumed responsibility of teachers to do all they can to challenge this epidemic.

Kathryn Ecclestone exposes the common assumption that 'education plays a fundamental role in remedying the apparently growing problem of low self-esteem'. A widespread fear of confronting students with failure results in teachers suppressing anything considered too challenging for pupils: the role of the teacher is now not to challenge but to praise and ego-massage pupils. This inevitably results in a focus on pupils' feelings as opposed to pupils' learning. Teachers become therapists, counselling pupils about their state of mind; the danger is that, 'therapeutic pedagogy starts where learners are and leaves them and their teachers in the same 'safe place'....

Teaching and including are two distinctly different aims. Including involves promoting values, boosting self-esteem and seeking whole group participation in an activity that may be essentially contentless; teaching, by contrast, involves rigorously challenging pupils with new and unfamiliar material, pushing them to the boundaries of their understanding and potentially making them feel uncomfortable with their limited understanding of the world. Teachers cannot use the same finite pot of time and money to do both. Put simply, while I'm organising a whole class litter-picking activity or investigating playground squabbles I am not teaching literature.

But there is more to it than this. Teachers are not expected to teach and include as separate activities but to turn teaching itself into an exercise in social inclusion. Yet because including and teaching are fundamentally contradictory aims, it is just not possible to fulfil the requirement of the National Curriculum and teach in an inclusive manner. I cannot include everyone in my mixed ability class and create an environment that is stimulating and challenging to all. It is impossible to boost the self-esteem of my pupils while simultaneously making them feel uncomfortable as they are pushed to the limits of their understanding. It is impossible to inculcate a prescribed list of values while undertaking a rigorous analysis of academic content. To include everyone means no one gets challenged and lessons are reduced to the lowest intellectual common denominator.

More here

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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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

LOCKSTEP SOCIAL WORK ACADEMICS

Bill Felkner, 41, is a husband, a father and a student of social work. He is also a political libertarian who says he has liberal views on social issues and conversative views on economics. Felkner, of Hopkinton, says his political beliefs have put him in conflict with the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, where he is pursuing a master's degree. The department, he says, has a liberal bias with little tolerance for ideas that deviate from the progressive "norm." Further, Felkner sees himself in the middle of a much larger debate over free expression at college campuses across the country.

Last fall, the president of Roger Williams University temporarily froze funds for a student newsletter after a group of conservative students published several antigay articles and images that the college deemed offensive. Three years ago, Brown University made national headlines when a band of students stole 4,000 copies of the student newspaper after it ran an ad by conservative author David Horowitz opposing slavery reparations. At Rhode Island College, the controversy began with a movie, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary deeply critical of the Bush administration. A professor in the School of Social Work showed the film to his students. Felkner, who was not in a class where the movie was showed, rented it. Afterward, Felkner asked one of his professors, Jim Ryczek, to show a movie called FahrenHYPE 9/11, which challenges Moore's point of view.

Ryczek, in an e-mail to Felkner, declined to show the movie in his class, but said Felkner was welcome to show it on campus. (FahrenHYPE 9/11 was later shown in several classes taught by another professor.) Then Ryczek sent an e-mail to Felkner telling him: "I will be the first to admit a bias toward a certain point of view. . . . In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases. So I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them. . . . " Ryczek concluded by saying, "I don't want you to think that I am suggesting that you are such a person. But then again, you may be. Only you can make that determination."

Felkner says the e-mail made him very angry: "Knowing Jim, I doubt he meant it as a threat. I think he was saying, 'This is a world of liberals. You won't feel comfortable here.' "

Ryczek says he never meant to imply that Felkner wouldn't make a good social worker. "My message was, 'Let's talk about your point of view.' I wasn't saying he should leave the profession," he says. According to Ryczek, social workers are committed to helping poor and oppressed communities become empowered to make positive changes. That theory, he says, "is not consistent with the most conservative views." Ryczek believes, for example, that a comprehensive welfare state is the optimal form of government. "I talk about my views," he says. "The students need to decide whether they agree with them and whether they belong in social work."

Meanwhile, Felkner e-mailed the chairs of the graduate and undergraduate schools of social work and contacted the president of the college, John Nazarian. Late last month, he met with the two chairs, Lenore Olsen and Mildred Bates, to discuss what he called the "liberal agenda exhibited by the faculty and how these implicit pressures from authority figures can be oppressive.".......

"I would say that the department has a liberal core of values," says Olsen, who chairs the master's of social work program. "It comes down to whether someone is able to balance their beliefs with the values of the profession." According to the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics, social workers should "pursue social change, particularly on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people."

Bates, who chairs the bachelor's program, says, for example, that the profession supports abortion rights because it believes that every person has the right to make choices about his or her life. A student could feel differently as long as she didn't impose her personal values on her clients. Dan Weisman, the professor who showed Fahrenheit 9/11, says most social workers believe that government plays an important role in securing the well-being of all its citizens -- a position that conservatives might oppose.

Marc Genest, a political science professor at the University of Rhode Island, says liberal orthodoxy is the standard at most colleges and universities in the Northeast. "I am the only conservative in my department," he says. "And I can only name three or four moderate to conservative faculty in the liberal arts." A colleague once asked Genest to speak to her graduate class because none of her students could understand why anyone would be a conservative. Whenever a student presents a conservative view, Genest says, "the labels come out," and he or she is called a racist or a sexist......

More here

The amusing thing is that social workers are great supporters of welfare programs and claim that conservatives cannot be social workers because they do not support welfare programs. The fact that the first big government welfare programs in history were introduced by Prince Otto von Bismarck, the arch-conservative "Iron Chancellor" of Prussia (See his pic on the Social Security Administration website) and that the biggest welfare expansion in recent American history was largely the work of George W. Bush entirely escape them. Just because conservatives oppose the huge and mindless handouts of the Left takes nothing away from the fact that conservatives have long supported intelligently targeted welfare programs





BRITAIN'S CONSERVATIVES ARE LOST SOULS

"Britain's Conservatives have got themselves into a right stew over higher education. Not content with making university places free, now they propose to actually pay students to take unpopular courses like chemistry, physics, and modern languages. Barmy.

Going to university should be a market choice, just like any other. The state doesn't run a chain of supermarkets offering free food to all comers. And it certainly doesn't pay people to walk out with the kinds of food that most people don't care for. Food is no less essential than education - so why the difference in policy?

The answer is that we are distorting, disastrously, the entire education sector in the name of access. The fear is that students from less wealthy backgrounds would not be able to pay university fees: that would be unfair, and the country would lose good talent.

But instead, we should be subsidizing the people who need help, not ruining the market. Universities should charge whatever they like for academic courses. Some universities and some courses would be in worldwide demand, and would be expensive. Others may be less in demand, and would be cheaper. But students could make a rational decision - perhaps they believe they would have more fun, derive more intellectual value, or improve their work prospects more, by choosing an expensive course. It's really up to them. And not much different from the same young people taking out a mortgage on a more expensive home because it is nearer where the jobs are than some cheaper place out in the sticks.

That will give us a competitive world-class university system. If the state has a role, it is to give help to deserving students who can't afford to buy access. But ideally, the universities themselves should build up scholarship funds for that purpose. So that's ideal: a solid higher-education sector, students making rational decisions about investing in themselves, nobody left behind. The Tories know they are wrong. Why can't they admit it?"

(Post lifted from the Adam Smith Blog)

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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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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION (1)

No doubt Leftists will say that "more funding" is the solution

"A 48-year-old teacher in Seminole County, Fla., is accused of torturing her autistic students, including allegedly rubbing a child's face in vomit and slamming another child's head so hard that he lost his front teeth, according to Local 6 News. The Casselberry Police Department received information several weeks ago that South Seminole Middle School teacher Kathleen Garrett allegedly struck several students.

When police investigated, witnesses said she had battered the children who are unable to communicate well. Witnesses told police that Garrett punched a student in the head for wetting his pants and grabbed another student by the back of the neck after he vomited and shoved his face into the vomit. Garrett, who weighs 300 pounds, also reportedly pinned a special needs student facedown on his desk until he choked before two assistants reportedly jumped in to save the child, according to an arrest report. Witnesses also said that Garrett rubbed her body against a child and repeatedly told him to "cry for mama."

Authorities said all of the victims have special needs and that Garrett was their primary caregiver. Police believe that Garrett used threats, intimidation and bodily harm to physically and mentally control the disabled victims, Local 6 News reported. Garrett was arrested Wednesday and charged with nine counts of aggravated child abuse on the special needs students in her classroom. Garrett was booked into the Seminole County Jail but released Wednesday night."

Source




QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION (2)

"While parents may have a reasonable expectation that their child's public school -- as a facility owned and operated by the government -- would be a safe structure that has passed local construction and fire inspection requirements, recent reports from Florida, Illinois, New York City, and Los Angeles indicate negligence and fraud in school construction and maintenance can severely compromise the safety of children in school."

More here:

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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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ANOTHER FASCIST UNIVERSITY IGNORES THE LAW

A university student evicted from his dormitory and forced to undergo psychological counseling for posting a satirical flier that offended women has been restored after intervention by a national free-speech advocacy group. Apparently seeking a resolution to clogged dorm elevators, University of New Hampshire sophomore Timothy Garneau posted a hastily made flier joking that women could lose the "Freshman 15" by walking up the stairs instead. Basing it on an advertisement posted at the school gym, Garneau wrote: "9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10 - 15 pounds. But there is something you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor takes the stairs..Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont [sic] be sore on the eyes."

Turned in by an angry residence hall director, Garneau was charged with offensiveness including "acts of dishonesty," violation of "affirmative action" policies, "harassment" and "conduct which is disorderly, lewd." He was sentenced to expulsion from student housing, given extended disciplinary probation, required to meet with a psychological counselor to discuss his "decisions, actions, and reflections" and made to write a 3000-word reflection paper about the counseling session. The school rejected any appeal by Garneau, who lived out of his car for three weeks, and he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

After a protest from the North Carolina-based group, the university reduced his sentence from eviction to "relocation" to another dormitory, extended disciplinary probation and a single "ethics" meeting with UNH Judicial Officer Jason Whitney.

"We are relieved that UNH has discovered its obligation to the Bill of Rights and that Tim is back indoors," said David French, president of FIRE. "But the university should never have put a student on trial and evicted him merely for posting a flier." In a letter to UNH President Ann Weaver Hart, FIRE contended "forcing a student out of housing for posting a satirical flier is both outrageous and unlawful," pointing out even material far more offensive than Garneau's message is protected by the First Amendment.

FIRE also disputed the "harassment" charges, arguing that hanging a flier was hardly "sufficiently serious -- i.e., severe, persistent, or pervasive -- as to limit or deny a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program," as is required by harassment law. Calling it "harassment"dangerously trivializes real harassment, the group contended.

Garneau acknowledged he initially denied his responsibility for the flier to dorm director Brad Williams but said he confessed a few minutes later. The student explained he was afraid Williams would punish him severely and unlawfully for his expression. "After being kicked out of the dorms for three weeks, it is clear that his fears were completely justified," said Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "Williams had no business 'investigating' constitutionally-protected speech in the first place."

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A FUN CASE

In a case that could pave the way for school vouchers, the California Department of Education is opposing a 14-year-old prodigy's bid to receive government funds so he can continue his schooling at a state university -- the only suitable education, his mother argues. The education department confirms that the lawsuit, brought by the mother of University of California at Los Angeles student Levi Clancy, hinges on the constitutionality of vouchers, making it the first case of its kind in the nation, says Clancy's attorney Richard Ackerman of the Pro-Family Law Center, which filed papers in court yesterday.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Clancy, who was reading high school-level books in two languages at age 5, enrolled at Santa Monica Community College at 7 and, earlier this year, entered UCLA. His mother Leila Levi, a single parent, says she cannot afford the more than $9,000 it costs to attend UCLA each year and filed a lawsuit in February in Sacramento Superior Court. She argues her son is of mandatory attendance age, and the California constitution requires he be provided a free education. Having the state pay for his tuition at UCLA is the only possible remedy, insists Ackerman, who notes that if the boy is not in school, he is regarded as truant. "You can't send him back to public school, because they don't have the means to educate a kid this gifted," he told WND. "The only way his intellectual needs can be met is if he goes to a high-level, four-year college."

In recently filed papers, the California Department of Education acknowledged Clancy's mother is "attempting to obtain the functional equivalent of a voucher for her son's university-level education," but insists the agency does not owe a "constitutional duty" to the child in this case.

Ackerman argues any failure to provide a suitable education is a violation of the federal Equal Protection Clause. "The one size fits all approach to education is failing the plaintiff in this case," Ackerman says. "At some point in time, we are going to have to realize that it is intellectual torture to require a highly gifted child to maintain compulsory attendance in a failing system that doesn't even work for average students." Ackerman asserts that at "a bare minimum, the CDE ought to be required to fund Levi's education to the same monetary level as provided on a per-student basis for every other child in the public schools, which happens to be between six and seven thousand dollars a head."

Regardless of who wins the Sacramento case, it likely will end up being appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ackerman believes. "This case has the potential to overhaul a failing educational system, and may open the doors to a truly suitable education for each child within the public school system," he said.

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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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here

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Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Black Hole of Public Education

"Whenever I hear of a need for more money to fund public education, I envision a big black hole sucking away our tax dollars to further line the pockets of useless UniServe directors. These union employees are allegedly paid to bargain favorable teaching contracts for the overworked teachers whose subsequent contracts charge them with an impossible educational agenda based on faulty methodology and politically correct ideas.

For the most part, teachers begin their educational careers idealistic and excited about their role in the learning process. At first, money is of no concern in the mind of a person who serves in the caretaker profession. It isn't long, though, before the rookies begin to realize that direct instruction is frowned upon and that no significant amount of learning can take place given the often impossible circumstances with which teachers are faced. Low expectations, subsequent grade inflation, misbehavior all becomes the fault of the instructor; not the students or the administration -whose policy set the educational climate for the school. Only at this point do teachers start complaining that no amount of money is worth the aggravation that they are dealt while trying to do their job.

The public is catching on, though, with NCLB drawing attention to the failure of the schools to produce and the purse strings being attached to public accountability. So now the schools have to figure out alternative methods to keep the money coming in to pay for teaching methods which are cumbersome, unproven, and depend on an extremely small student teacher ratio to be effective.

In comes eminent domain. What a unique way to make money. First you grab a parcel of land with the excuse that it is for the public good (generally, building or improving a school falls under this category). You sit on the land for a few years and then sell it for much more than you paid. Even if you make a mere $12 million, you are not breaking any laws if you can prove that you didn't purchase the property with the intention of turning it around for a profit.

The San Diego Unified School District sure got a good deal when it took possession of a piece of property formerly owned by San Diego-based West RNLN, LLC, and later deemed, "unsuitable for a school and there is no other school district use for it." 1 This is using a favored status for a very shady and completely wrong purpose -to make money. Martha Stewart just went to jail for this type of dishonesty. It is essentially "gaming the market". They used their status under the law of eminent domain to work against other people by taking their property for no other reason than to make a profit.

I'm tired of hearing how the schools need more money. I'm tired of the public paying for their "habitual problem" with mismanagement and poor educational practice. Let's break up this monopoly"

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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 blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here

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