Saturday, December 25, 2004

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

To all those who come by here on this great day

And may all those who recognize Jesus as Lord always walk in his wisdom






JEFF JACOBY GETS IT RIGHT:

"Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney described education reform the other day as "the great civil rights issue of this century." That is shorthand for the appalling racial gap in learning, whereby the average black high school graduate reads and writes at the level of the average white 8th-grader. The problem has been vividly chronicled by Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom in their recent book "No Excuses," and there is little question that black academic unerachievement is a key impediment to racial equality. As long as blacks learn less than whites do, they will continue to accomplish less than whites do, and to earn less, and in many eyes to be regarded as less.

Still, I would disagree with Romney. The great civil rights cause of the 21st century is the same as it was in the 20th: the struggle for a colorblind society. Part of what sustains the wretched learning gap is the glaring double standard of affirmative action. So long as blacks aren't held to the same criteria as whites in the competition for jobs or admission to college -- so long as racial preferences mask the harm caused by the learning gap -- the demand for reform will never boil over. The truest key to black equality is what it has always been: an insistence on seeing each other first and foremost not as members of racial classes, but as individual human beings".

More here




A U.N. curriculum in local schools?

If you have a serious discussion with almost any public school teacher, principal, superintendent or trustee, you are likely to hear about the importance of local control and of protecting school curricula from outsiders who want to promote their particular set of values. Yet a new curriculum gaining steam nationwide, known as the International Baccalaureate program, confirms what critics of public schools have long suspected: a) educators embrace local control only when it suits them; b) they are more than willing to promote particular values, provided they are politically correct values.

IB is an international K-12 curriculum designed to promote world peace, multicultural understanding, environmental sensitivity, human rights and democracy. It sounds like inoffensive pabulum, but such lofty goals conceal troubling agendas. Instead of local control, the curriculum actually is devised by bureaucrats in Geneva, Switzerland, and Cardiff, Wales. Instead of guarding against outside agendas, school officials are inviting into their K-12 school systems a curriculum that, by its own admission, is not about academics but about changing worldviews and molding the minds of impressionable pupils.

There is much debate about IB, but a few things are unquestionably true. IB was originally funded and sponsored in part by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was once so corrupt and anti-American in its advocacy that the United States withdrew its membership in 1984. Reportedly, UNESCO has improved itself, which has prompted renewed support by the Bush administration, but UNESCO's fundamental philosophy has never changed. IB programs are not academic. The goal is to promote the equality of all cultures, "sustainable" development and pretty much everything else you would expect from a UNESCO-related program. Check it out yourself at www.ibo.org ......

The Earth Charter (www.earthcharter.org) is radical stuff. It ignores the idea of property rights, promotes the notoriously corrupt United Nations as the key instrument of world peace, denounces the "dominant patterns of production and consumption," and promotes universal health care and the "equitable distribution of wealth." The IB curriculum and the Earth Charter are separate, but the charter gives you a good idea of the values that lie at the heart of the IB program. A lot of the IB curriculum is of the "be nice to your neighbor" variety. But a lot of the rest of it is propaganda.

The November issue of IB World magazine, for instance, includes a typical story of a primary school IB program. The students visited an animal sanctuary and took part in a debate organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, in which they debated whether it is OK to keep animals in captivity. That's a politically charged agenda for grade schoolers, especially since they probably are not offered another side to the animal-rights story. Maybe this isn't that much worse than what kids are taught in U.S. public schools today - a point one Reagan administration official made in the Times article. But I'm astonished by the in-your-face social objectives of IB. Most troubling to me - and this is a fundamental IB doctrine - is the idea of the equality of all cultures.

I appreciate and respect most cultures. But all societies are not equal. America is better than Swaziland, where the life expectancy hovers around 40, or North Korea, which is run by a totalitarian cabal, or Iran, with its fundamentalist Islamic political and legal system. Those nations that value individual freedom are far better and more successful than those that enforce sharia or coddle dictators. Why should kids be taught anything else but that unvarnished truth?....

There's much to value in other cultures, much to be gained by understanding how other peoples view the world. I would never argue that the American perspective is always the right perspective, or that students ought to be indoctrinated with pro-American jingoism, or that problems in America should be sugar-coated or ignored. But students should not be taught that America is prosperous because of some geographic accident. The nation has succeeded because of the decisions of our founders, who created a Constitution that protects individual rights, private property, free markets, the rule of law and limited government.

Those are the true international values, likely to succeed in any nation where they are implemented. They are the values most likely to lead to the worldwide peace, harmony and prosperity that IB says it wants to advance. Why look to international bureaucrats for the right lessons, when they can be found so much closer to home?

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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Friday, December 24, 2004

CHARTER SCHOOLS HELPING NATIVE AMERICANS

Throughout Indian country, tribal officials are turning to charter schools as their best opportunity to reach a generation of Indian students who've dropped out or drifted through traditional public schools. Charter schools receive public money, but are free from many of the rules and restrictions that apply to other public schools. The idea is to encourage experimentation in education. The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, which tracks charter schools, counts at least 30 Indian charter schools in the country. Arizona has the most, with 12, followed by California with six. Indian charters have also opened in Minnesota and Michigan. Some have achieved results in a short time. The San Diego-area Barona Indian Charter School, for example, posted big gains in student performance on standardized test scores in the 2003-2004 school year, besting the state average.

But a tribal charter school was recently shut down after authorities had trouble with federal special education requirements and an audit, said Onnie Shekerjian, who sits on the Arizona State Board for charter schools.

Still, more Indian charter schools are in the planning stages, including a school in Alaska. Besides the standard curriculum it would offer "hunting, harvesting, building canoes, berry-picking - all different activities to reinforce native culture," said Sharon McConnell Gillis, executive director for the Doyon Foundation, one of the groups working on the proposal.

In Oregon, the idea for Nixyaawii Charter School had floated among the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation for more than a decade before the tribe decided this year to seek charter status. Principal Annie Tester was brought on board in July and hired her three teachers in August, only a month before the start of school, housed in a community center. Forty-eight students showed up for the first day of class. In the first few months at Nixyaawii (pronounced Nick-yah-we), a group of teenagers has emerged as a linchpin, helping to hold together a school on which the hopes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation rest. "We have to learn how to govern ourselves," said the group's de facto leader, 20-year-old Jess Stone. "You guys are leading by example. You have to lead yourself before you lead others."

Some come from high poverty families and have relatives who have battled with alcoholism and drugs, Tester said. Others have been tuning school out since junior high, one reason officials are hoping to eventually add seventh and eighth grades. The school emphasizes Indian culture. Students learn traditional beadwork and basketry in art classes, discuss native fables in English and, instead of Spanish or German, are getting instruction in the almost-lost Indian languages spoken by their ancestors.

Teachers are trying to emphasize learning through group projects, rather than the more traditional method of a teacher lecturing while students take notes. But teachers say there are too many times when students doze off in class, leave to get a drink of water and don't come back, or turn in an assignment weeks late. "We are doing a lot of unlearning before we learn," said Tre Luna, who teaches social studies at Nixyaawii, his first full-time job. Even some students say classroom behavior needs more work.

But Eddie Simpson, an 18-year-old born on the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, reservation said he's determined to get his remaining high school credits and graduate. He wants to train to be an EMT and sees Nixwaayii as his last, best chance. "If I don't do this, what's there for me?" Simpson asked. Tester and others said Nixyaawii's first year is a work-in-progress. After this year, she said, staff will know where their students stand and where they need to improve. At the start and end of each day, students and teachers gather in a circle for announcements and to talk about the day ahead or the day gone by. There's a perceptible weariness among students and teachers at the end of the day. "Even with the chaos today, it was a good day," teacher Luna told the students. "To those of you who had patience and stuck it out, thank you."

More here




Let The Market Work!

All colleges have classes where the demand for the course is greater than the available supply. Sometimes the constraint is material (no rooms big enough), other times it is related to the instructor (who doesn't want to grade more than 30 exams, or who knows from experience that a seminar of 12 people is the optimum size for a particular topic). The mechanisms that schools use to deal with these shortages vary in effectiveness and fairness, but always end up making people unhappy.

Professor Bainbridge half-jestingly suggests in these cases - open the process up to bidding, and let the high bidders into the class.

I think this is a fine idea. When I worked as a peon in the Records office at UCCS (which also handled registration), wait lists and staggered registration dates/times were a constant source of complaints and unhappiness. "But I have to get into this class!" was heard more frequently in our office than just about any other complaint. Of course, there's justification there - some people who didn't make it in really do need the class to graduate, while others are just taking it on a lark.

My suggestion was always the same: trash the wait lists and trash the staggered registration dates. Issue every student $1000 in registration scrip and let them bid for their class placement. (Give seniors $1500 instead of $1000 so that they have an edge over people who have more flexibility.) And then - this is key - sell additional scrip. Use the scrip revenue to fund scholarships, or long-deferred physical plant maintenance, or whatever problem area you currently have. If every student at UCCS bought $100 worth of scrip every semester to jockey for position, we'd pull in a million five per year.

Is such a system fair? If you really absolutely positively have to get into a class, then obviously it's worth more to you. Under the system of computer-assigned dates and random numbers, the fact that your desire or need for something is huge has no bearing on whether or not you get into the class. Under a market system, it does. The people who really didn't need the class will bid low, and not purchase extra scrip; the people who really do need it will bid high. We know that markets work; we should let them work in academia, too.

Source

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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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Thursday, December 23, 2004

MORE DESTRUCTION OF BLACK CREDENTIALS

When first-year students at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, receive their grades, they may see As or Bs, even if their academic performance doesn't merit it. Under Success Equals Effort (SEE), a controversial new grading policy, freshman grades at the historically black university are calculated on a 60-40 formula: effort counts for 60%, academic performance for only 40%. In their second year, the formula is 40-60. Only in their third junior year will students be judged strictly on academic performance.

The SEE programme, which is being scrutinised by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges, was introduced a year ago by Benedict's president, David Swinton, who went to Harvard himself, but insists that incoming students lack the study habits and other skills necessary to succeed. It has caused an uproar among faculty members, and alumni too have wondered whether the quality of their own degrees will be questioned.

The fuss about the SEE policy has crystallised worries about black education in general (blacks score lower in normal exams than whites and Asians) and about "historically black" universities in particular. Benedict College is one of 105 such institutions that educate some 300,000 students. Many of them were founded in the South in the late 19th century to serve black students banned from attending segregated state universities. Martin Luther King, Spike Lee and Toni Morrison all attended black colleges. They may account for only 2% of America's student population, but they award a quarter of all bachelor's degrees given to blacks.

Black universities are still around 90% black.... Black colleges often take on students who might not otherwise go to university. Such students are often not just poorer, but need more time to achieve a degree. At North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, only a quarter of the students who entered in 1992-99 had graduated after four years. When such students leave, they tend to be more in debt.....

More here





US education gets low grade on ALEC report card: "'Overall, the facts presented by this year's Report Card on American Education give us no cause for celebration. In fact, they confirm the same trend presented in past years' reports: increased spending without corresponding improvement in student performance. Over ten years have passed since the Goals 2000 agenda was proposed, and America has failed to reach these goals, despite increasing per-pupil expenditures by more than 50 percent over the past twenty years.' That is the sobering conclusion of the American Legislative Exchange Council's 11th edition of the Report Card on American Education: A State by State Analysis: 1981-2003, released in September 2004."

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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, December 22, 2004

A GOVERNMENT-RUN SELECTIVE SCHOOL IN AUSTRALIA

Selectivity provides good grades but the grades are achieved despite don't-care adminstration

One of NSW's oldest boarding schools, Hurlstone Agricultural High School, maintains "traditions of bullying and preferencing" where senior students claim privileges over younger ones, a Department of Education review has found. The presumed right of older boarders to the first use of facilities meant that younger students were "preferenced" out of using the laundry and "could not ensure basic hygiene". Supervising teachers had also turned a blind eye to boarders using alcohol and possessing pornographic material. In extreme cases parents had removed their children after receiving an inadequate school response to complaints of physical and psychological harm.

It is the second scathing assessment of the boarding house since May. The latest report suggests cutting the year 7 intake by one-third over the next six years to allow for "cultural change". The review of the government selective school in Glenfield, ordered in August by the department's director-general, Andrew Cappie-Wood, found Hurlstone's 947 students had excellent academic results despite teachers paying little attention to the wealth of student performance data available. "There appeared to be little use of data to improve programs or identify areas for improved teaching," the review said. Some subject faculties had a "particular resistance" to using value-added data, the standard measure of how schools improve students' results over their years of study. The review recommended a shake-up of the school's discipline, welfare and assessment policies and said teachers who wanted to leave should be given priority transfers.

Mr Cappie-Wood said the review was "signalling a change" needed in the school. Teachers who "don't feel comfortable with those changes" might take up the rare priority transfer option. "It clearly is stating that if Hurlstone is to maintain that proud tradition, then things are going to have to be done," Mr Cappie-Wood said yesterday. "But what comes through in talking to the kids is they feel the school is serving them well and they really like the school." He said the issues in the boarding house, which now accommodates 287 students, were "clearly a concern".

Parents complained to the review team of a lack of specialised teaching for gifted students and that too many students were taking the easier HSC subjects. Nevertheless, the academic results were "sound and above state average" for the School Certificate, HSC and other external tests. Hurlstone also compared well against a random sample of other selective school students. Mr Cappie-Wood said the lesson for all schools from the review was to make better use of student results data. These should also be shared with parents to build confidence and pride. "The diagnostic tools that are available are extremely good and getting better every year," he said.

The review found that a vicious student website discovered in July was not initially reported as a "critical incident", as required under departmental policy, because staff felt it was "the technological version of graffiti painted on walls". The website - the third set up by Hurlstone students in the past two years - named teachers as pedophiles, thieves and drunks, recommending that two be "executed" and another set alight

Source






BORED EDUCATORS

This is the best explanation that I have yet heard for the criminal way literacy is mostly taught -- or not taught -- these days

My old guitar teacher has a saying: "You can educate yourself into boredom."... What he means is that you can study the classical guitar repertoire so thoroughly and for so many years that you simply become bored with it.... The same phenomenon may explain why so many education professors (and hence public school teachers) gravitate towards trendy educational methods that deny children a good foundation in reading. Not necessarily because of ill-will, stupidity, or ignorance. Boredom is the thing to look for.

As Professor Plum (a pseudonym for an education professor at a major university) writes on his blog, there is no mystery about how to teach children to read. What works is making sure that children are rigorously and systematically instructed in the basics: letter identification, sounding out phonemes (i.e., phonics), learning how to piece phonemes together into words, and then reading words that are progressively harder:

"[F]aced with quantitative data (1) from four different instruments; (2) measuring achievement (in math, reading, and spelling), self-esteem, and perceived control over one's own learning; (3) with tens of thousands of students; (4) in well over a hundred schools across the country; (5) comparing outcomes yielded by nine kinds of curricula, systematic and explicit instruction did the best for kids in the short-run and long-run. In stark contrast, the so-called child-centered, constructivist, wholistic, teacher-as-facilitator curricula actually worsened the percentile ranking of disadvantaged children in relation to the larger population. "The data meant nothing to the education establishment -- except as a threat."


Instead of settling on what demonstrably works, some education professors have pushed "whole language" instruction, in which children are taught to memorize the forms of whole words, rely on contextual cues, etc. But when they lack the ability to sound out individual letters and sounds, children inevitably run into difficulty whenever they face a word that they have not memorized wholesale. After all, it is hard to read entire words unless you are able to read their components: What six-year-old could distinguish between "phonograph" and "photograph" without sounding out each word's second syllable?

And yet, despite the obvious superiority of rigorous training -- whether in phonics or anything else -- successful methods are not always acknowledged. For example, consider the experience of a kindergarten-through-2d-grade school in Wisconsin: "Lapham [Elementary] bucked the Madison district's reliance on the Balanced Literacy reading program in favor of a grounding in explicit phonics for nearly all first-grade students. The results have been impressive. They have also been ignored." The results are indeed impressive: "In 1998, just 9% of Marquette black third-graders were considered 'advanced' readers, as measured on the third-grade state reading comprehension test; by 2003, 38% were 'advanced.'"

But why would such results be "ignored"? Why would the education establishment be reluctant to rely on something that works? In a word: Boredom. Professional educators have educated themselves into boredom with traditional methods. The tried-and-true methods of teaching children start to feel trite and routine, while newer methods seem more exciting, creative, and trendy -- even if ineffective. Plus, if you're an education professor who must "publish or perish," the most promising prospect is to come up with something new. (There is very little reward in academia for publishing yet another version of the same old thing that was found to work 40 years ago.)

But the purpose of education is not to satisfy education professors' desires for grand, tenure-worthy theories. Nor is the purpose to give teachers a chance to experiment with their own creativity. It would be far closer to the mark to say that education -- at least learning to read -- is about (1) finding a method that works, and then (2) repeating it ad nauseam for every group of children who come through the classroom. Similarly, any obstetrician does her best to deliver babies in a routine and normal fashion; she would never deliver a baby head first just because it was a creative thing to do.

It's a sad state of affairs when educators have become bored with the very methods that are effective. At least when classical composers become bored with beauty and write a piece whose raison d'etre is trendiness, the worst that can happen is that people refuse to listen to it. But when educators reject an effective method because they think it is too mundane or boring, their choice of new and unproven methods can ruin people's lives. As Martin Haberman of the University of Wisconsin notes, "Miseducation is, in effect, a sentence of death carried out daily over a lifetime. It is the most powerful example I know of cruel and unusual punishment and it is exacted on children innocent of any crime."

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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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

CHEATING TEACHERS

Post lifted from Mahalanobis

High-stakes testing, like school choice, has become an increasingly prominent feature of the educational landscape. Every state in the country, except Iowa, currently administers state-wide assessment tests to students in elementary and secondary school. Federal legislation requires states to test students annually in third through eighth grade and to judge the performance of schools based on student achievement scores.

The debate over high-stakes testing traditionally has pitted proponents arguing that such tests increase incentives for learning and hold schools accountable for their students' performance against opponents who argue that the emphasis on testing will lead teachers to substitute away from teaching other skills or topics not directly tested on the exam. Along with Brian Jacob, I have written two papers that explore a very different concern regarding high-stakes testing -- cheating on the part of teachers and administrators. As incentives for high test scores increase, unscrupulous teachers may be more likely to engage in a range of illicit activities, such as changing student responses on answer sheets, or filling in the blanks when a student fails to complete a section. Our work in this area represents the first systematic attempt to identify empirically the overall prevalence of teacher cheating and to analyze the factors that predict cheating.

To address these questions, we once again turn to data from the Chicago Public Schools, for which we have the question-by-question answers given by every student in grades 3-7 taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) over an eight year period. In the first paper,(4) we develop and test an algorithm for detecting cheating. Our approach uses two types of cheating indicators: unexpected test score fluctuations and unusual patterns of answers for students within a classroom. Teacher cheating increases the likelihood that students in a classroom will experience large, unexpected increases in test scores one year, followed by very small test score gains (or even declines) the following year. Teacher cheating, especially if done in an unsophisticated manner, is also likely to leave tell-tale signs in the form of blocks of identical answers, unusual patterns of correlations across student answers within the classroom, or unusual response patterns within a student's exam (for example, a student who answers a number of very difficult questions correctly while missing many simple questions).

Empirically, we find evidence of cheating in approximately 4 to 5 percent of the classes in our sample. For two reasons, this estimate is likely to be a lower bound on the true incidence of cheating. First, we focus only on the most egregious type of cheating, where teachers systematically alter student test forms. There are other more subtle ways in which teachers can cheat, such as providing extra time to students, that our algorithm is unlikely to detect. Second, even when test forms are altered, our approach is only partially successful in detecting illicit behavior. We then demonstrate that the prevalence of cheating responds to relatively minor changes in teacher incentives. The importance of standardized tests in the ChiPS increased substantially with a change in leadership in 1996. Schools that scored low on reading tests were placed on probation and faced the threat of reconstitution. Following the introduction of this policy, the prevalence of cheating rose sharply in classrooms with large numbers of low-achieving students. In contrast, schools with average or higher-achieving students, which were at low risk for probation, showed no increase in cheating.

Our second paper on this topic(5) reports on the results of an unusual policy implementation of our cheating detection tools. We were invited by ChiPS to design and implement auditing and retesting procedures implementing our methods. Using that cheating detection algorithm, we selected roughly 120 classrooms to be retested on the Spring 2002 ITBS. The classrooms retested include not only cases suspected of cheating, but also classrooms that had achieved large gains but were not suspected of cheating, as well as a randomly selected control group. As a consequence, the implementation also allowed a prospective test of the validity of the tools we developed in our first paper on the subject.

The results of the retesting provided strong support for the effectiveness of the cheating detection algorithm. Classrooms suspected of cheating experienced large declines in test scores (on average about one grade equivalent, although in some cases the fall in mean classroom test scores was over three grade equivalents) when retested under controlled conditions. In contrast, classrooms not suspected of cheating a priori maintained virtually all of their gains on the retest. As a consequence of these audits and subsequent investigations, disciplinary action was brought against a substantial number of teachers, test administrators, and principals.





U.K. TAXPAYERS GET A BREAK

Note that nobody could point out where the usefulness in the criticized courses might lie

Charles Clarke, the education secretary, has continued his assault on the great subjects of academe by revealing that he regards medieval history as "ornamental" and a waste of public money. Not long after expressing the view that he didn't think much of classics and regarded the idea of education for its own sake as "a bit dodgy", Mr Clarke, who read maths and economics at King's College, Cambridge, went one further. "I don't mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them," he said on a visit to University College, Worcester. He only wanted the state to pay for subjects of "clear usefulness", according to today's Times Higher Educational Supplement.

Michael Biddiss, professor of medieval history at Reading University and a former president of the Historical Association, said: "Perhaps Mr Clarke and his spinners at the DfES are hoping to inspire the band of political yahoos who, in making New Labour ever more illiberal, must feel increasingly tempted to parrot Khrushchev's lament that 'historians are dangerous people - capable of upsetting everything'." Gillian Evans, a Cambridge University medievalist, said: "With a philistine thug like that in charge ... we need to protect the jobs of all the historians of thought and all the wordsmiths we can."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "The secretary of state was basically getting at the fact that universities exist to enable the British economy and society to deal with the challenges posed by the increasingly rapid process of global change."

Jane McAdoo, president of the Association of University Teachers, said: "I cannot believe that a secretary of state for education can ... have such a terribly narrow view of what education is."

Source

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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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Monday, December 20, 2004

FROM THE BEGINNING, PUBLIC SCHOOLS MAINLY BENEFITED THE TEACHERS

Excerpt from here:

If public schools and compulsory attendance laws did not lead to increases in attendance, then why advocate either one? Or maybe a better way of phrasing the question is to ask how a system of public and compulsory education would benefit the educators and politicians who advocated such a system.

One benefit of compulsion to teachers was hinted at above-to increase their salaries. An increase in demand leads to an increase in price, ceteris paribus. So an increase in the demand for education, whether natural or coerced, raises the price of an education. These new students have to be educated by someone. And since the education system is being funded by tax dollars rather than by the demanders themselves, it becomes much easier to increase salaries (regardless of competence).

So by making the school system public rather than private, teachers and administrators also insulate themselves from the wishes of students and parents-the ultimate consumers of education. This insulation from market forces solidifies the power of the elite group of educationists for years to come. The suppliers, not the demanders, choose the curricula, the textbooks, decide the certification process for teachers, etc. They run the whole show, and only have bureaucrats to please rather than consumers. Not only are bureaucrats easier to please since they don't spend their own money, but if the politician/bureaucrat needs information to placate angry demanders, to whom do they turn? The educationists, in the positions of power, have all of the "relevant" information.

And what of the bureaucrat-what does he get out of this system? Public education, with the added feature of compulsion, reduces the cost to politicians of making wealth transfers. The cost of making transfers is diminished by reducing the opposition to transfers. If politicians can reduce the cost of transferring wealth by reducing the opposition to them, then they can continue to authorize transfers to interested parties for a price.

Public education reduces opposition to wealth transfers by teaching students that redistribution, public works, and democracy are the American way. War and crisis increases the size of government. Public education tells us we need government all the time. Public education introduces the mantras of democracy to the young. Democracy keeps the two major parties in power, keeps their spoils flowing in, and tells us that intervention is okay because the majority voted for it.

The conclusion is that public schools and compulsory attendance laws benefit educators, administrators, and politicians more than citizens or their children. But one could draw deeper conclusions. Through the Mises Institute and other free market organizations, one can find books on the evils of all kinds of intervention and democracy, and how once instituted these evils begin to destroy us as individuals, then our families, and even society itself.

Public education is the glue that holds all of these ideas together. It is how these ideas are spread to society at large. Thus, one might argue that public education is the greatest evil of all, and that it must be struck down in one mighty blow before we begin to find ourselves as persons, families, and a people again.





REFRESHING HONESTY ABOUT DEGRADED EDUCATION IN UK

Teachers shriek

The government's targets for extra university places must not be met by increasing the numbers on "mickey mouse" courses, the higher education minister, Margaret Hodge, warned yesterday. Mrs Hodge tried to reassure traditionalists, but angered the National Union of Students, by condemning unnamed courses which she said had little intellectual content and were not related to employment needs. She promised that most of the expansion in higher education would come from an increase in new vocational-based foundation degrees, two-year courses below the level of traditional bachelor's degrees, now being studied by 15,000 students. She said she could see some universities teaching only vocational subjects.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, Mrs Hodge hailed early successes with foundation degrees, being phased in through extended pilots. She added: "Simply stacking up numbers on mickey mouse courses is not an acceptable way forward." She refused to "name and shame" courses, and in the past Mrs Hodge has defended media studies, which most critics usually cite, as getting graduates into employment. She told reporters later that a mickey mouse course was one "where the content is perhaps not as rigorous as one would expect and the degree itself may not have huge relevance to the labour market".

But in her speech Mrs Hodge linked the phrase to unpopular courses which she predicted would eventually be forced to close. She believed widespread publication of student surveys as part of the government's new quality assurance regime for universities would encourage students to vote with their feet. "Once we publish far more open data about the nature of courses and how they help you lead to a job and we are asking students to contribute towards the cost of their teaching, I think students themselves will ensure that what is offered by universities not just meets their aspirations but also meets labour market needs," she said.

At the seminar, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said no one would call engineering a mickey mouse subject, yet it was suffering from a shortfall in student numbers. Mrs Hodge said that was not what she had in mind. Mandy Telford, president of the NUS, said: "NUS is dismayed by Margaret Hodge's comments, especially at a time when higher education needs all the support it can get. "It is appalling that the minister for higher education, who should be championing our cause in the run-up to the white paper, can make such a disparaging remark. NUS challenges her to define what a 'mickey mouse' course is."

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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Sunday, December 19, 2004

EVEN VERBAL PUNISHMENT NOT ALLOWED

Another lesson on how to destroy discipline

A New Jersey nun has been fired for allegedly threatening to discipline a mouthy sixth-grader by knocking out his teeth. Sister Catherine Iaouzze, an assistant principal at St. Cecilia's School in Iselin, caught the 11-year-old boy walking down the wrong staircase on Nov. 11. She allegedly told him he would "have no teeth left in his mouth if he had an attitude with her again," according to a harassment complaint filed by the boy's father.

The 69-year-old Iacouzze was fired Dec. 7 by the Diocese of Metuchen after an internal investigation. "The Diocese of Metuchen's first priority is the safety of our children, and we regret that one of our teachers spoke to one of our children in a threatening manner," diocese spokeswoman Joanne Ward said.

Iacouzze had worked at the school for about five years and served as an algebra teacher, guidance counselor and school disciplinarian. She could not be reached for comment yesterday. Her attorney, James Mackevich, said Iacouzze was misunderstood. "There was never any indication she was going to hit him. It was more sarcasm. She caught a problem child breaking rules. In that she used politically incorrect language, so be it. She did not make any physical threat to the child in any way shape or form," he told the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick.

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Florida: Teachers who fail : "More than half a million Florida students sat in classrooms last year in front of teachers who failed the state's basic skills tests for teachers. Many of those students got teachers who struggled to solve high school math problems or whose English skills were so poor, they flunked reading tests designed to measure the very same skills students must master before they can graduate. These aren't isolated instances of a few teachers whose test-taking skills don't match their expertise and training. A Herald-Tribune investigation has found that fully a third of teachers, teachers' aides and substitutes failed their certification tests at least once."

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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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