Thursday, March 03, 2005


What is wrong with leaving school at 16? It was good enough for Sir Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson, who are now worth billions of pounds between them. It was good enough for Sophie Okonedo, who may receive an Oscar tonight for her performance in Hotel Rwanda; and good enough for Delia Smith, who made a fortune from telling people how to cook simply.

But it is not good enough for Ruth Kelly. The Education Secretary said last week that she plans to "effectively" raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18, forcing youngsters to find an academic or vocational course to see them through to 18, whether they like it or not. At the moment many of them do not. Only 71 per cent of 16-year-olds stay on in full-time education, putting Britain 24th out of the top 28 industrialised nations. Ms Kelly wants the percentage staying on to be above 90.

Kayle Cavalla chose to leave, and does not regret it. She has worked as an assistant hairdresser at a Toni & Guy salon since finishing school in south east London last year. She is 16.... Kayle believes staying on would have been wrong. "It felt the right time for me to leave," she says. "I was happy at school but I wanted to get out there and do what I wanted to do. If I had gone to college for three years to train then I might have ended up going to work in a hairdressing salon then, only to find that I hated it. This way I get to train a day a week and the rest of the time I'm earning money, I'm getting used to the environment and I'm getting hands-on experience. "Some of my teachers tried to persuade me to stay on to do A-levels, but I can't imagine I'll regret not taking their advice. If I ever want a job that needs more qualifications, I'll just go back to college."...

Moving to sixth-form college suits many youngsters who want to continue their education but are ready for a change: Nazimah Muhammad, 17, says life at Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow is a lot more relaxed than school and there's more independence. She is against making it compulsory to stay on, though. "It would cause a lot of disruption - at the moment, people are there because they want to learn." Not everyone agrees: Nicola Owusu-Akontoh, 16, who's in the sixth form at Trinity Catholic High School in Woodford Green in Essex, says the friends she knew who left school last summer aren't all thriving. "Some are still looking for work or aren't happy in their jobs and keep moving from one thing to another. Most jobs these days need qualifications, so what's the point of letting young people leave school without them?"

John Doyle, head of the 1,500-pupil Ormskirk School, an 11-18 comprehensive in Lancashire, says it is only worth keeping young people at school if they want to stay there and if there is something useful for them to do. "At the moment the curriculum doesn't engage everyone effectively - it doesn't cater for the aptitudes of every student. "There's also a problem about schools being expected to be all things to all people: my school is big enough to be able to provide a vocational curriculum, but that isn't available everywhere," he adds.

Before the Second World War it was not uncommon for people to leave school at 14. After the war ended, the expectation was that most would finish at 15 or later 16, while the brightest went on to study for A-levels and university. But since the massive expansion of the university system, which has yet to be matched by funding for students or colleges, the expectation has become that most pupils will want to stay on. Now Ruth Kelly is making that formal.

More here


Any parent with a child in a public school has likely discovered our education system is little more than a means by which liberals indoctrinate children with socialist ideology. If this seems a radical assertion, I assure you it is not. In fact, examples abound indicating its accuracy.

Take the "community box," for instance. How many elementary school kids across the country show up the first day of school, only to have their brand-new supplies pilfered by their teacher and thrown into one big box, to be distributed henceforth as said teacher sees fit? (Karl Marx also had very little regard for private property rights.)

Or how about "cooperative learning" methods of instruction? I use quotation marks to point out how impossible it usually is to get kids to cooperate or learn when they sit in groups a pencil length from their neighbors. But if a teacher is blessed with darling little angels who would never think of misbehaving, students who have "more" knowledge are regularly expected to help those with "less." (How's that saying go again? "From each according to his ability.")

Ever heard of social promotion? This egalitarian concept is standard procedure at most public schools, where students are promoted from one grade to the next regardless of academic aptitude. It practically takes an act of Congress to retain failing students these days, lest we give them the impression they are responsible for their accomplishments.

These are not isolated examples, nor is this short list exhaustive. This is business-as-usual in many American public schools. But as ridiculous as these concepts are, one would think some ideas would be beyond the pale. Not anymore. According to a WorldNetDaily report, California schools have been barred from informing parents if their children leave school grounds "to receive certain confidential medical services that include abortion, AIDS treatment and psychological analysis, according to an opinion issued by the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer."

It may come as a surprise, but it's not altogether uncommon for high schools to allow students -- namely, seniors -- to leave campus for various reasons during the normal schoolday without informing the front office -- say, at lunch time or to attend local college courses. But I would bet my lunch money parents are made aware of any such policies.

Make no mistake, this decree handed down by Attorney General Lockyer is not some unambiguous legal maneuver to protect the public school if it loses track of a student, or to safeguard a student's doctor-patient privilege. To the contrary,Mr. Lockyer is announcing his intent to protect organizations like teachers' unions and Planned Parenthood, who have resisted efforts to require parental notification policies for medical procedures like abortions. Think about this for a second. If California's attorney general gets away with this absurd policy, your kid's geometry teacher essentially has more right to know your child is pregnant -- or has contracted HIV, or is potentially suicidal -- than you do. And how is a "medical service" still confidential if someone other than a doctor and patient is aware of it?

In plain English, it isn't. But this hasn't stopped school officials and liberal lawyers from assuming they know better than parents what's best for their own kids.

It is irrefutable there are many outstanding teachers, and still more who are appalled by the actions of people like Bill Lockyer. But alas, this has not prevented public school districts from believing they have the right to act tyrannically, even if usurping authority from abusive or irresponsible parents generates policies that apply equally to the vast majority who are not abusive or irresponsible.

In the "perfect" society, there is no private property because everything belongs to the state (or the "village," in Hillary Clinton's mind) -- even your children. It is a sad day in public education when teachers and administrators -- who so adamantly proclaim their love for "the children" -- would even consider actively deceiving parents by concealing matters that pose such clear emotional burdens to youngsters.

What's worse, we're not even talking about forcing schools to report such distressing information, as we do if they suspect child abuse. We're talking about encouraging, even requiring, schools to intentionally withhold vital student health information from parents even if the parents ask for it. Public schools can't even take students on field trips or hand out Tylenol without consent of a parent or guardian, but if they want to toss out condoms and, apparently, schedule abortions for teenagers, why, that's just not our business. If this doesn't convince you that parents practically forfeit all control over their kids upon subjecting them to the draconian fancies of today's state "education" facilities, nothing will.



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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