Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Top universities are setting targets that favour state pupils over independent pupils in return for being able to set higher fees, The Times has learnt. Despite ministers' assurances that top-up fees would not affect admissions, vice-chancellors have told the official regulator that they would take more state pupils as long as they could charge maximum fees. The move was attacked last night by senior academics for making social engineering part of the admissions process rather than pure academic merit.

Plans sent to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) by Cambridge, Exeter, Leeds, King's College London and York all pledge to change their student intake in return for being able to raise annual fees to œ3,000. Charles Clarke, in his letter of guidance to Offa as Education Secretary last year, said that it should have "nothing to do with admissions" but focus on efforts to increase applications from students in under-represented groups. Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: "It is very foolish of the universities to tie themselves to these targets because they may have to widen admissions on social background rather than academic ability to meet them. They will then weaken themselves as universities."

A spokesman for the Independent Schools Council, which represents more than 1,000 fee-paying schools, said: "Admissions targets or benchmarks or quotas based on the type of school an individual went to are a clear breach of the principle that students should be treated on their individual merits and not as representatives of a group. Any targets based on this . . . might lead in individual cases to unfair discrimination." Clarissa Farr, the president of the Girls' Schools Association, said that efforts to widen the pool of qualified applicants to top universities should not extend to social engineering of admissions.....

Cambridge told Offa that it planned to raise state school admissions from 57.6 per cent to 60-63 per cent. It acknowledged that it already had four applicants for every place. Oxford set no admissions target and limited itself to increasing the proportion of state school applicants from 57 per cent to 62 per cent. This will require it to attract another 270 state candidates per year. King's College London included an admissions target after declaring that it "fell short" of government performance indicators for state school entrants. It promised to revise selection procedures if necessary to raise the proportion from 70 per cent to 76 per cent.

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Several centuries ago, some "very light-skinned" people were shipwrecked on a tropical island. After "many years under the tropical sun," this light-skinned population became "dark-skinned," says Biology: The Study of Life, a high-school textbook published in 1998 by Prentice Hall, an imprint of Pearson Education. "Downright bizarre," says Nina Jablonski, who holds the Irvine chair of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Jablonski, an expert in the evolution of skin color, says it takes at least 15,000 years for skin color to evolve from black to white or vice versa. That sure is "many years." The suggestion that skin color can change in a few generations has no basis in science.

Pearson Education spokesperson Wendy Spiegel admits the error in describing the evolution of skin color, but says the teacher's manual explains the phenomenon correctly. Just why teachers are given accurate information while students are misled remains unclear.

But then there's lots that's puzzling about the science textbooks used in American classrooms. A sloppy way with facts, a preference for the politically correct over the scientifically sound, and sheer faddism characterize their content. It's as if their authors had decided above all not to expose students to the intellectual rigor that is the lifeblood of science. Thus, a chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin (2000), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: "Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return. April is the month of Sprouting Grass Moon." Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth--not by the return of the crows. Houghton Mifflin spokesman Collin Earnst says such tales are included in order to "connect science to culture." He might more precisely have said to connect science to certain preferred, non-Western, or primitive cultures. Were a connection drawn to, say, a Bible story, the outcry would be heard around the world.

Affirmative action for women and minorities is similarly pervasive in science textbooks, to absurd effect. Al Roker, the affable black NBC weatherman, is hailed as a great scientist in one book in the Discovery Works series. It is common to find Marie Curie given a picture and half a page of text, but her husband, Pierre, who shared a Nobel Prize with her, relegated to the role of supportive spouse. In the same series, Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, is shown next to black scientist Lewis Latimer, who improved the light bulb by adding a carbon filament. Edison's picture is smaller.

Jews have been awarded 22 percent of all Nobel Prizes in science, but readers of Houghton Mifflin's fifth-grade textbooks won't get wind of that. Navajo physicist Fred Begay, however, merits half a page for his study of Navajo medicine. Albert Einstein isn't mentioned. Biologist Clifton Poodry has made no noteworthy scientific discoveries, but he was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Indian reservation, so his picture is shown in Glenco/McGraw-Hill's Life Science (2002), a middle-school biology textbook. The head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, and Nobel Laureates James Watson, Maurice H.F. Wilkins, and Francis Crick aren't named.

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Today, former graduate student Scott McConnell filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., because it expelled him from its education master's program based on his personal beliefs. In January 2005, administrators summarily dismissed McConnell because he had expressed views that opposed "multicultural education" and had stated in an academic assignment that "corporal punishment has a place in the classroom."

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took up McConnell's case, reminding Le Moyne, a Jesuit college, that its actions breached its own promises to respect students' academic freedom and due process. When Le Moyne refused to address these concerns, FIRE publicly exposed Le Moyne's repressive actions.

McConnell is represented in the suit by New York civil rights attorney Samuel A. Abady and by the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C. "Le Moyne has had multiple opportunities to right this wrong," remarked David French, president of FIRE. "If Le Moyne College had followed its own policies and procedures regarding freedom of expression and due process, it would not only have done the right thing but also would have saved itself a lot of time, money, and embarrassment."

During the Fall 2004 semester, Scott McConnell submitted a paper advocating strong discipline in the classroom for a course taught by Professor Mark J. Trabucco. Trabucco gave the paper an "A-" and wrote a cryptic note to McConnell that his ideas were "interesting" and that he had shared the paper with Cathy Leogrande, the graduate education department chair. Then, without any warning, Leogrande expelled McConnell from the graduate education program in a Jan. 13, 2005, letter, in which Leogrande stated that she had "grave concerns" about a "mismatch" between McConnell's "personal beliefs" and "the Le Moyne College program goals." At the time of his expulsion, McConnell had earned a 3.78 grade-point average for the fall semester and an "excellent" evaluation for his work in a Syracuse elementary school classroom.....

McConnell's lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of Onondaga, asks for McConnell's reinstatement to Le Moyne's graduate education program and for millions of dollars in damages for violations of civil rights laws and New York state law. "As we said before, the fight for the academic freedom of Scott McConnell and for all Le Moyne students will not end just because administrators don't feel like addressing the issue," commented Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "FIRE, along with Scott McConnell and his attorneys, will pursue this issue in the court of public opinion, and now in the courts of law, until Le Moyne College honors its own commitments and this injustice is corrected."

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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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