Saturday, February 12, 2005

Creating a climate of fear

Crafty college and university professors have figured out how to intimidate their students and get praised for it. Thankfully, some students are no longer standing for this. By manipulating public respect for the First Amendment, some professors disguise intellectual pressure tactics as mere expressions of opinion offered in the spirit of open debate. What they are really doing is using their positions of authority to bully students into agreement. And for this they often are praised by their peers and bosses.

Take, for example, Keene State Professor David Stowell, who has some 15 political statements (left-wing, of course) displayed on his office door. The anti-war slogans (such as "How many Iraqi children did we kill today?") angered Shane Calchera, a veteran who happened to have Stowell as a professor. Calchera alerted the college that Stowell was creating an atmosphere that amounted to harassment of veterans. If Calchera's door had been plastered with anti-woman slogans, a student would have won easily. But making veterans feel bad about themselves by calling them baby killers is still considered OK on campus. Calchera lost.

Stowell, in turn, has filed a complaint with the ACLU, saying, "I was investigated because of my political views because someone objected to them, and that's frightening."

No, professor, you were investigated because you used your position to create a climate of fear. There is a huge difference between stating your views on your own time and using public property and a position of authority to badger people whose academic destinies you partially control. Professors, no matter their political views, ought to act like professionals and refrain from political sloganeering in the workplace. It is a breach of decorum, even if done with the most innocent motives. It is deliberate intimidation of subordinates (students) when done with malice. Of course, removing open politicking from professors' offices and the classroom will never happen. So at the very least professors ought to consider the effect their proselytizing might have on students who disagree with them and do it with the utmost tact - assuming they have any.



NYC now has to pay such high salaries to get teachers for its public schools that it makes the parochial schools unable to compete for teachers without raising salary costs to unaffordable levels

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will close 22 elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens at the end of the school year in the biggest round of Catholic school closings in the city's history. Falling enrollment and rising salaries for teachers and administrators made the closings necessary, Monsignor Michael J. Hardiman, a diocese education official, said Wednesday.

The 4,000 affected students can enroll in the remaining 125 schools in the diocese. Officials told The New York Times they expect many of the 250 teachers will find work at the other schools. "It's wrenching to see this happen," Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, told the newspaper for Thursday editions. "We know how much good has been accomplished in those schools for so many students, by dedicated teachers, for so many years. But the reality of the situation now requires this kind of action."

The decision does not affect schools in Manhattan, the Bronx or Staten Island, which fall under the Archdiocese of New York.


If higher spending is sure to improve schools, why hasn't it done so in past?

At a press conference last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell once again called for higher taxes on parents as the putative remedy for California's lagging student performance. In so doing, he attempted to perpetuate the myth that more education dollars will mean a better education product for California taxpayers. The bad news for Mr. O'Connell is that taxpayers and voters are wising up. The education establishment has in the past repeatedly asked for more money with promises of better performance and has been consistent only in disappointing us.

As to the current condition of California's educational product, there is little debate. A recent study by the Rand Corp. analyzed national standardized testing and ranked California public schools at the bottom of the 50 states. Asked for an explanation, Superintendent O'Connell blamed Proposition 13, asserting that if his agency had more money, schools would improve. The Rand study found that the amount California spends on public education falls in the top half of the 50 states. California is one of the highest-taxed states, and public education consumes $50 billion of the state's $109 billion total budget. If there were a correlation between governmentspending and student performance, then California schools should at least score in the top half of the nation, not dead last.

In his press conference, Superintendent O'Connell announced his plan to improve California school performance in response to the Rand study. Does this plan have anything to do with the curriculum, accountability, grading policies, student discipline or reducing state bureaucratic and union control over local schools? No. Instead, Mr. O'Connell said he "will focus on increasing state money [by a] campaign to reduce the threshold necessary to pass local parcel taxes."

In other words, he wants to gut Prop. 13 by making it easier to raise property taxes, then send the money to Sacramento.

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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