Sunday, December 18, 2005


Except for affirmative action, there would be even fewer of them

More middle-class children are attending Britain's elite universities, despite government schemes aimed at widening access for poorer students. The class system is being perpetuated by teachers advising pupils according to their own university experiences, say the authors of a new study. From The Margins To The Mainstream, a report on widening participation in higher education, will raise pressure on top universities before tuition fees of 3,000 pounds start next year.

In spite of institutions paying lip service to improving opportunities, in reality only the newer universities are embracing the agenda, as "equality of participation by students from lower socioeconomic groups remains a challenge", the authors say. The study found that last year the Russell Group of 19 top universities accepted 30.5 per cent of their students from families of higher managerial and professional occupations, compared with 33.5 per cent in 2000. They took 11.9 per cent from families of lower managerial positions last year, compared with 11.2 per cent in 2000. The report stated: "Applicants from the highest socioeconomic groups have increased their share of applications to the more selective institutions."

For 2005-06, universities were granted 284 million pounds by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to widen participation and increase retention rates. At least 30 million was meant to help to target students in worse-off areas. In 2002-03 England had the lowest rate in the UK of poor children at university, with 28.6 per cent, compared with 41.6 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Part of the reason, says Liz Thomas, of the Higher Education Academy and an author of the report, is that teachers who select pupils for outreach programmes are out of touch and projecting their own memories on to the universities. "If they are thinking what higher education was like when they went there, they may be directing their students to the same institutions and so perpetuating the class system," she said. One way to change that, Dr Thomas said, would be to engage teachers better with top universities' open access schemes.



An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English, which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday tasks, a federal study shows.

From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels.

The adult population did make gains in handling quantitative tasks, such as calculating numbers found on tax forms or bank statements. But even in that area of literacy, the typical adult showed only basic skills, enough to perform simple daily activities.

Perhaps most sobering: Adult literacy dropped or was flat across every level of education, from people with graduate degrees to those who dropped out of high school.

Inside the numbers, black adults made gains on each type of task tested in the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, run by the Education Department. Hispanics, though, showed sharp declines in their ability to handle prose and documents. White adults made no significant changes except when it came to computing numbers, where they got better.

The results are based on a sample of more than 19,000 adults, age 16 or older, in homes, college housing or prisons. It is representative of a population of 222 million adults.

The 11 million adults who are not literate in English include people who may be fluent in another language, such as Spanish, but are unable to comprehend text in English.



They have become the victims of a desperate attempt by an Australian university to cover up a threat to its reputation

Clara He was the respected head of a University of NSW medical research laboratory based at Liverpool Hospital in western Sydney four years ago. Today she is in a cubbyhole buried so deep in the hospital bowels that mobile phone radio signals usually cannot reach her. To get her pay, she has to report her hours to the cleaning manager of the hospital, her direct employer. But He counts herself luckier than colleague Juchuan Chen, who doesn't even have a desk and who is on a UNSW [University of New South Wales] contract that runs out at the end of this month.

Most days Chen visits He, who has been banned from her former laboratory and does little research for the university. They have a cup of coffee together and quietly rue the day they became whistleblowers. UNSW has maintained Chen, its direct employee, has been treated well. After much soul-searching during an extended university investigation of their complaints, He and Chen (and a former PhD student at the laboratory) went public with allegations against their boss, respected immunologist Bruce Hall. They said he had bullied them and, more seriously, had mis-stated some of his research findings and details of a research-funding application.

After they made their allegations, which continue to be all strongly denied by Hall, He says they were the subject of rumours and threats, possibly by some opponents of their complaints - not by Hall himself. "We first complained to the hospital and university shortly after 9/11 and we were called terrorists," He says. "Then they [the opponents] played the racist card, as I was told our complaint was really about the Chinese denigrating Australian research. This is total nonsense. It was about the vital principle of scientific integrity." After she went on television, He says, she received threatening phone calls and her house was stoned.

There had been difficulties at Hall's laboratory for some time, and in October 2001 some staff members at the immunology and transplant laboratory complained to He as head of the laboratory. "When I approached Professor Hall about this he was very abrupt," she says. "Instead of taking me into his office to discuss the situation, he abused me in the hall in front of my colleagues and other hospital staff."

Some complaints revolved around Hall's managerial style, but most of the more serious scientific allegations arose from Chen, a veterinary microsurgeon who performed surgery and carried out experiments on test rats at the laboratory. Hall, a physician, is an expert in immunology, the body's defence system for fighting disease and foreign bodies, including foreign organs commonly transplanted today, such as kidneys, hearts and livers.

Human transplant patients are given powerful drugs to suppress the body's immune response and usually have to take them for the rest of their lives, opening them to the possibility of infections and even cancers. But Hall believes he has detected certain immune cells that are the main ones responsible for tolerance of foreign organs. This is the holy grail of the transplant world; if he can turn on these cells, patients will not have to take powerful drugs for the rest of their lives. Hall's experiments have involved injecting treated cells into test rats that have had heart transplants to see if they can tolerate the transplants better than control rats that do not receive the cells. "The problem was that repeated tests showed that the controls [rats] had the same reaction as the treated rats," Chen says. "Whenever I tried to talk to Professor Hall about this, he berated me and told me I was doing it incorrectly, that I was incompetent. He never questioned whether his hypothesis was right or not."

Then Hall wrote a scientific paper for the Transplant Society of Australia and New Zealand and put Chen's name on it, even making him the point of contact, allegedly without telling Chen. Chen disagreed with the paper and claimed it included "embarrassing inaccuracies" - such as an experiment that Chen believed had not occurred - that "ruined my scientific credibility". These problems soon led to even more serious allegations that other tests in another paper were false; were not done. These results were used in the laboratory's applications for grant money from the federally funded National Health and Medical Research Council, the supreme research body.

He initially complained to the hospital about Hall's management style and these scientific matters, but she says she was told she should go to university administration because Hall was a member of university staff and funded mainly through the university. He and the two other laboratory members then made an official disclosure about the operations of Hall's unit, particularly about the scientific allegations, to the university administration under the Protected Disclosures Act, which is supposed to protect whistleblowers. The university, then under vice-chancellor John Niland, appointed the then dean of medicine, Bruce Dowton, to investigate it. He says they felt isolated and ostracised and that their side was not being listened to fully by the university. UNSW denies this. After more than four months passed without any decision, He and Chen went to the ABC and publicly revealed their grievances, which were also reported in The Weekend Australian.

Dowton's report came out only after the media reports. It criticised Hall's management style and recommended he apologise to certain staff members and undergo management training. It also criticised him over the authorship issue, but on the more serious charges it found that Hall was not guilty of any wilful scientific fraud or misconduct. But members of the university's governing council, who by then had heard the allegations in the media, were not satisfied with this and they forced a report by an independent group of eminent experts. That group consisted of former High Court chief justice Gerard Brennan and three medical professors: John Chalmers from the University of Sydney; Judith Whitworth, director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research; and David Weatherall, Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University. They concluded - in a report that was made public after Hall took the university to court to stop its publication - that Hall had behaved with a "reckless disregard for the truth" and had "deliberately deceived" and "seriously deviated" from "commonly accepted" scientific practices.

But that was not the end of the saga. Hall maintained his full innocence and said that the investigating committee had been misled and "did not understand the science". The university management then organised its own committee of experts to examine the Hall allegations. This report, accepted by the then vice-chancellor, Rory Hume, found that Hall was guilty of academic misconduct but not the more serious charge of scientific misconduct. Hall was not dismissed and UNSW paid the rental for a new research unit for Hall and his wife, neurologist Suzanne Hodgkinson, at the Australian Technology Park in inner Sydney.

Chen is now effectively redundant and the university has indicated it will not review his contract at the end of the year. Chen says: "I would advise people to think very, very carefully before they become whistleblowers." But He is just as determined as she was four years ago. "I'm not leaving," she says. "I'm not going to give them the satisfaction. I believe in the principle and I believe I was right." The NSW Ombudsman's Office has been investigating the handling of UNSW whistlelowers including Chen and He and it's understood a report on its findings will be released early next year.



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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