Saturday, January 22, 2005


I know it is AWFUL of me to mention it, but would it have anything to do with the "dumbing down" of British university courses in recent years? Could universities have become a new, easier version of the old "finishing schools"?

The increasing dominance of young women at university was revealed yesterday in a report examining social class differences in higher education. Teenage girls of all social classes entered university in much greater numbers than boys, with the rate of increase greatest among those from the poorest backgrounds. They were only 6 per cent more likely than young men to go to university in 1994 but the advantage tripled to 18 per cent by 2000, research by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) showed. Once drop-out rates at university were taken into account, women were 27 per cent more likely than men to get a degree.

The growing inequality of the sexes was most stark in the poorest areas, where working-class girls were 29 per cent more likely than boys to enter university. The findings emerged from a study by Hefce that showed that Tony Blair has failed to narrow the class divide at university. Youngsters from the wealthiest 20 per cent of homes were six times more likely to go to university than those from the poorest 20 per cent. The gap between the classes remained “deep and persistent” despite major expansion of higher education and government demands for universities to accept a broader range of candidates. Working-class boys, in particular, formed an increasingly isolated rump with little prospect of a degree. “If you want to go to university, choose your mother carefully,” Sir Howard Newby, the chief executive of Hefce, said. “This report highlights just how entrenched the divisions are between advantaged and disadvantaged areas.”.....

Children in low-participation areas typically lived in rented council homes with parents on benefits or in poorly paid manual jobs, who did not have a car and were unlikely to have taken a foreign holiday. The nearest secondary school had only a small proportion of pupils passing five good GCSES. Those from the highest- participation areas were “frequently near schools, often fee-paying, where very nearly all the pupils gain these grades”. They lived in large detached and semi-detached homes in affluent areas, with parents who had professional careers and had usually been to university themselves

More here


This was written a long time ago by an opponent of government schooling but is still pretty right

Now, what are the things that government schools dare not teach?

They dare not teach the spirit of the Constitution as set forth in the first official document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence. They dare not teach it because it says that all men, not just the majority, are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A man isn't free to pursue happiness when the majority in any school district, state or nation can coerce him to pay for a school that he believes violates the principles upon which this government was formed. The school teachers dare not emphasize this part of the Declaration of Independence. They dare not explain the true meaning of this statement. If they were successful in explaining and teaching the true meaning of these ideologies, there would be no gun-run schools.

Again, they dare not teach that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed. They have to completely repudiate the ideas of the American way of life. They have to teach the old-world philosophy of the divine right of governments, only now they call it the divine right of the majority rather than the divine right of kings.

They dare not teach in government schools the meaning of liberty. It is doubtful whether any teacher in gun-run schools dares define the kind of liberty the Founding Fathers mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to support. If the government schools successfully taught the meaning of the liberty our Founding Fathers had in mind, there would be no government schools that starve the intellects of our children.

The government schools dare not teach the meaning of the Golden Rule. If they were successful in getting their pupils to understand that they should not force other people to pay for something they did not want, then they could see that it was a violation of the Golden Rule to force others to pay for their schooling.

They, of course, dare not teach their pupils to believe that if it is wicked and a violation of the Golden Rule for one man to do a thing, it is still wicked and a violation of the Golden Rule if 49 per cent or 99 per cent of the people do the same thing. They, thus, dare not teach the youth that the ideal government, the only kind of government that can be of value to mankind, is one that is limited to the use of defensive force and never has a right, under any circumstances, to initiate force.

They dare not teach the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me" because they are bowing down and worshipping the will of the majority rather than the eternal laws of God that no man made and no man can unmake.

They dare not teach "Thou shalt not covet," because they are violating the Coveting Commandment.

They believe they do not need to teach well enough that people will voluntarily pay their salaries. They get their pay by violence rather than by rendering service well enough so that those who pay them believe they are benefited by their employment.

They dare not teach discipline and self-reliance because they are not disciplining themselves enough to render such service that they can be paid voluntarily. The teachers take the shortcut and use a police club to get their money. That certainly is not discipline, nor is it self-reliance.

They dare not teach thrift and the harm that comes from getting into debt. They dare not do this because the government burdens every child and every person in the United States with a monstrous debt.

They dare not teach respect for individual initiative because government schools are based on lack of respect for other people's initiative. They are based on the theory that "We've got the power and the individual is helpless and we're going to make him pay for anything our agents think is education."

They dare not teach humility and meekness because the means used by government schools are the exact opposite of humility and meekness. Are believers in tax-run schools so sure they are right that they are willing to initiate force to make people support their ideas of education? They see themselves as so exalted that they have lost all humility and meekness. And remember, "He who exalts himself shall become abased."

They dare not teach children to reason. They have to teach them not to recognize a contradiction or a dilemma. If the pupils were taught to reason, they would recognize the tyranny that is bound to follow making people pay for things and ideas they abhor.

They dare not teach the harm that follows socialism, communism, collectivism and fascism for to do so would let pupils realize that aggressive force is part of socialism, communism, collectivism and fascism.

They dare not teach that what man wants must be obtained on a voluntary basis. They dare not teach this because they get what they want on an involuntary basis.

They dare not teach the difference between socialism and private ownership of property. They dare not explain that under socialism the only way a man can benefit is by injuring another, as in the case in compelling people to pay for schools they think will destroy the country.

They dare not explain that in free enterprise, including free enterprise in education, the gain of one is the gain of all.

Tax-run schools dare not teach love and charity because they are using aggressive force. They seem to think that aggressive force is better than persuasion by love and charity.

They cannot teach patience because they are so impatient about getting what they seem to believe is an education that they dare not wait to persuade those who should employ them to pay their salaries.

They cannot teach peace and goodwill because they are an example of the opposite of peace and goodwill. They are an example of initiating force, of threatening to get from others by aggressive force what they think they should get.

They cannot teach that the government is a servant of individuals because they believe it should be supported by giving it a monopoly to use aggressive force to make people pay. They can only teach that it is a master of the individual.

They cannot teach justice because their method of supporting the schools is based on injustice - arbitrary, initiated force.

They cannot teach that each man is responsible for his own life because they deny that by using force to take part of man's energy against his will, and man cannot be responsible for his life unless he has the right to choose.

There is nothing more important for parents than their duty to see that their children are treated fairly and have an opportunity to learn from schools that can teach these great moral principles and axioms. It is not the money we're wasting in our tax-run schools that is so important, but it is that our children are not being taught the moral laws that tax-less schools can teach.

It is because children can be taught what is right in tax-less schools and they cannot be so taught in tax-run schools that I am obliged to do what little I can to get parents to see that they are not doing their duty to their children by sending them to tax-run schools.

What we need above everything else is more people devoting more time to seeing that the youth of the land are instilled with belief in the great moral laws, the Golden Rule, and the Declaration of Independence. Government schools cannot teach successfully the will to learn. The best way to teach anything is by example. But the superintendent and managers of the schools themselves are not enough interested in the will to learn to be willing to answer questions as they would before a court to determine whether what they are doing is in harmony with what they profess to believe. If there is anything a man of integrity should want to learn, it is whether what he is doing is in harmony and consistent with what he says.



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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, January 21, 2005


the Los Angeles school distict has a population that is three quarters Hispanic. It also has some special high-quality schools called magnet schools. The whole point of these schools is to give a better education to minorities. So those schools are full of Hispanics, right? WRONG! Less than 50% of the students are Hispanic. Instead the magnet schools have disproportionate numbers of whites, Asians and blacks. How come? It seems to be an outcome of all the twists and turns they need to do in order to get blacks in. So favouring one minority disadvantages another. What a surprise! An excerpt from a recent report below:

"Thousands of parents vying to get their children into some of Los Angeles' most sought-after public schools find themselves caught in a byzantine bureaucratic process with strict racial quotas and almost insurmountable odds.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's 162 magnet schools, designed to be among the best campuses in the district, mostly are as competitive for applicants as any popular private school. Of the 66,000 applications last year, only about 16,000 new students were admitted. Applications for next year are due Friday.

The district advertises the program in a 12-page booklet called "Choices." In reality, however, L.A. Unified allows parents to select just one school. Most parents barely have a chance, let alone a choice.

"We tell parents it's a little bit of the lottery," said Sue Becker, the magnet coordinator of 32nd Street/USC Performing Arts Magnet. More than 4,000 students applied to the school last year for about 100 spots, making it by far the most popular school in the district.

The magnet program was established in 1977 as Los Angeles Unified's court-sanctioned answer to forced busing and a way to prevent racial isolation in the district. Designed to better integrate district schools, the magnet program sought to move white children into schools in predominantly minority neighborhoods, and vice versa, by luring them with specialized classes in science, communications and the arts, among other subjects.

Because of high demand, the district selects students by computer, using a complicated points system that awards more points to students whose neighborhood schools are overcrowded or located in predominantly minority neighborhoods. Under stringent racial guidelines, each magnet school should be 60% to 70% minority and 30% to 40% white.

More here


Bolstered by statistics showing students who are held back benefit from remedial education, the Florida Board of Education decided to ask lawmakers to end "social promotion" at all grade levels. Board officials said Tuesday it would be an important step in ensuring students are prepared when they are promoted to the next grade. However, details of how the state would handle the tens of thousands of children who wouldn't advance have not yet been worked out.

Right now, only third-graders in Florida have to show they read at the appropriate skill levels before they are promoted to the fourth grade. Those who are held back can attend summer reading camps or repeat the third grade.

The issue is a touchy one for parents, who often fight having their children held back. It also would require the state to adopt a more widespread, and likely expensive, system of providing remedial education throughout public schools. But board Chairman Phil Handy said ending social promotion is necessary to ensure that children graduating from Florida's public schools have mastered basic academic skills. Students who get to high school with only elementary reading skills have no real chance of success, he said. "That's not right," he said. "We need to find an alternative to that."

Last year, almost 39,000 of the nearly 190,000 third-graders failed to meet state reading standards . More than a third were sent on to the fourth grade anyway because they qualified for an exemption, including spending less than two years studying English as a second language or demonstrating reading proficiency in other ways. Of those held back, 60 percent brought their reading skills up to par. The others either needed additional help, or eventually were promoted because state policy allows a child to be held back only two years.

Education Commissioner John Winn said if lawmakers adopt a policy ending social promotions, the board would phase it in over several years.


Teachers with a graduate degree are no better: "Although Linda C. Cavalluzzo's recent study of teacher-student data from the Miami-Dade County School District was designed to throw light on the value of certification by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, her study inadvertently exposed how little value graduate degrees add to teaching performance. While teachers with National Board certification had a size effect on student achievement of about 7 percent, teachers with a major in the subject they were teaching -- in this case, math -- showed a much larger size effect of 11 percent. Teachers with graduate degrees had a size effect of only 2 percent. In other words, teacher graduate degrees -- which are rewarded with much higher pay -- make virtually no difference to student achievement."


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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, January 20, 2005


Project Follow Through was a research project started by the Johnson administration. Its goal was to find the best educational methods for breaking the cycle of poverty. Still today, Project Follow Through remains the world's largest scientific education-research experiment. Despite not officially ending until 1995, by 1976 it had produced exceedingly clear findings.

The project worked like this: Architects of various educational approaches were invited to submit applications and serve as sponsors for model projects. After some 22 educational approaches were selected for testing, parent groups from schools that served kids from poor families were allowed to select the model that their school, for the next several years, would follow. Eventually, more than 70,000 kindergarten through third grade students from some 180 American schools, both rural and urban, participated in the project. The students learned to read through the various educational approaches being tested, then were followed through succeeding years with additional tests and measurements.

The final Follow Through report showed that 20 of the models were outright failures. Virtually all of those approaches to teaching reading were developed by university education/school academics and based on the educational dogmas of John Dewey and Jean Piaget.

The one clear winner of the trial -- the only model that brought children close to the 50th percentile in all subject areas -- was a model called Direct Instruction. Developed by a preschool teacher from Illinois, it was subsequently sponsored by the then-tiny University of Oregon.

Although the results of Project Follow Through were clear, the U.S. education establishment fled from those results in conspicuous panic. The Ford Foundation hastened to do an evaluation suggesting it was inappropriate to even ask which model worked best. Then a co-author of that particular white paper wrote another report, this one for the then-Carter administration. He argued -- bizarrely, given the quantitative scientific underpinnings of the entire Follow Through project -- that "The deficiencies of quantitative, experimental evaluation approaches are so thorough and irreparable as to disqualify their use." Finally, the Carter administration, deep in political hock to the National Education Association and eager to retain its support through the coming Democratic primaries, chose to not even disseminate the results of Project Follow Through. This, even though the federal government had paid some $40 million to learn precisely what the project had proven, and though the quality of life of millions of youngsters was at stake.

Today, new research projects continue to show that Direct Instruction and phonics produce results far superior to those of the Deweyite and Piaget-ish ed-school theorists. Yet the education establishment remains deeply wedded to its failing methodologies and openly hostile to those ratified by scientific measurement. To justify such hostility, the educational bigfeet extend their antagonism to objective science itself, opting instead for subjective and "descriptive" studies. It's a ploy that allows them to willfully ignore results that do not flatter the methodologies their ideologies may anoint.

The University of Oregon's Douglas Carnine sees this as symptomatic of a field that has not yet matured into a true profession. From his post at the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, he notes a parallel between education today and medicine before outside pressures compelled doctors to adhere to rigorous science. "In education, the judgments of 'experts' frequently appear to be unconstrained and sometimes altogether unaffected by objective research," writes Carnine. "Many of these experts are so captivated by romantic ideas about learning or so blinded by ideology that they have closed their minds to the results of rigorous experiments. Until education becomes the kind of profession that reveres evidence, we should not be surprised to find its experts dispensing unproven methods, endlessly flitting from one fad to another. The greatest victims of these fads are the very students who are most at risk."

More here


Berkeley High is among the most racially diverse public high schools in the nation, and one of few that offer an ethnic-studies course. In 2003, 42 percent of its students were white, 31 percent African American, 13 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 10 percent Asian, according to California Department of Education data. The requirement, however, has been controversial since its student-driven creation in the early 1990s. While school administrators and some students, parents, and faculty have been staunch ethnic-studies supporters, others have tried to do away with it over the years. In 2003, more than one thousand students, about one-third of the school, signed a petition to abolish the class.

Because the course lacked a set curriculum, many students griped that it varied wildly according to who taught it. At best, it was viewed as less than academic. "I didn't find the class very helpful," sophomore Julia Brady says. "There were a lot of things about making posters of your identity and writing poetry and things like that." At worst, current and former students say, teachers brought their personal biases into the classroom and created a divisive atmosphere. One instructor reportedly taught that the Holocaust didn't happen; another, that the US government developed AIDS to kill Africans. "It was insensitive, not politically neutral, and lots of indoctrination," says Bradley Johnson, the 2003-2004 student director who represented Berkeley High students on the school board. "It was not even a mainline liberal point of view." Johnson, now a freshman at Claremont McKenna College, adds that he surveyed students last year and found the majority wanted ethnic studies eliminated.

Some teachers left whites feeling villainized and everyone else feeling victimized, according to Johnson, who is black. "You would think it would be more a study of black culture," he recalls. "It was only referred to in the context of it being oppressed, never of it succeeding." White kids, meanwhile, reported that they were made to feel like the oppressors. "It was a recap of random events in history that were supposed to be linked, but they weren't linked except that they were all about how bad white people were," says Ellie Lammer, who took the class in 2000 and is now a freshman at Tufts University....

Then, last March, the school board approved the latest name change and a new course outline. Administrators hired an outside consultant to help create curriculum guidelines, and Freshman Seminar teachers convened in planning workshops over the summer. Among other things, the resulting proposal called for a more standardized and rigorous curriculum. "I love the program," says Freshman Seminar teacher James Dopman, who helped lead the redesign. "I have a solid curriculum, it's very dynamic, and it's very rich." .... A key component in Dopman's curriculum is teaching students how they can become active on the social issues discussed in class. "Effecting change can range from actively working in your community with volunteer work to calling attention to a friend's racist or homophobic comments," one assignment reads.

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


In spite of the "school wars," parents have felt safe taking their children to Sunday School to help build a solid moral foundation. But, have you looked at your church's Sunday School curriculum lately? You may be shocked to find tree-hugging, earth-worshipping paganism intermixed in the Christian lessons. Many churches are now using a Sunday School curriculum created by an organization in Colorado called "Group." There is nothing in Group's publications that tells who they are, what they believe in, or anything about the backgrounds of the creators of the materials. But Group curriculum is now sold in most Christian bookstores. The Group material offers "Hands-on Bible curriculum" and advocates a "new approach to learning."

A close inspection of Group's materials and teaching methods, however, shows it bears a close resemblance to the behavior-modification techniques of OBE. For example, under the sub-head "Successful Teaching: You can do it!" the teacher's manual asks the question - "What does active learning mean to you as a teacher? It takes a lot of pressure off because the spotlight shifts from you to the students. Instead of being the principle player, you become a guide and FACILITATOR." This is basic OBE classroom organization where students are not taught by a teacher, but are guided to learn on their own, as the class FACILITATOR simply suggests and gently directs toward a pre-programmed, psychology-driven lesson plan.....

And how about that pagan earth-worshipping? In a Group lesson entitled "hug a tree" students are led outside to an area with trees. A child is blindfolded and led to a tree where he/she is to hug it, and then feel the tree very carefully. "Try to learn everything about the tree that you can without looking at it." The student is led back to the group, spun around three times and the blindfold is removed.

The Group tree-hugging lesson goes on to instruct the facilitator "after everyone has hugged a tree, been spun around and sat down, remove the blindfolds and find out how many kids can identify the trees they hugged. If it's a nice day, sit down on the grass and discuss the experience." Questions for the "facilitator" to ask:

* How did it feel to hug a tree?
* How did you feel when you recognized the tree you hugged?
* What do you like about trees?

Here's another part of the lesson called "Life Applications." Children are to be taken on a walk around the outdoor area of the church. Once back inside "ask about the natural surroundings and human-made sounds. Talk about natural beauty and human-made pollution. If you want, have the kids go back outside and pick up any trash they saw on the walk." Question to ask: "How do you think God feels when he sees how people have messed up the beautiful world he created?" Children are then given a game to play to simulate pollution.

In a Group Workbook entitled: "Sunday School Specials" a chapter tells students that "real conservation means remembering to turn off lights, hiking or biking instead of hitching a car ride, and cooling off in the shade instead of in the air conditioning. Kids are often tempted to do things the easy way instead of the 'green' way. They need lots of encouragement and affirmation to develop and stick to an environment-conscious lifestyle..." That one line demonstrates an important key to the purpose of Group's Sunday School curriculum-to promote a political agenda based on pagan earth worship rather than Christian values.

More here


Throughout 2003 and into 2004, a surge of protests roiled American campuses. You probably think the kids were agitating against war in Iraq, right? Well, no. Students at UCLA, Michigan and many other schools were sponsoring bake sales to protest . . . affirmative action. For white students and faculty, a cookie cost (depending on the school) $1; blacks and Hispanics could buy one for a lot less.

The principle, the protesters observed, was just that governing university admission practices: rewarding people differently based on race. Indignant school officials charged the bake-sale organizers with "creating a hostile climate" for minority students, oblivious to the incoherence of their position. On what grounds could they favor race preferences in one area (admissions) and condemn them in the other (selling cookies) as racist? Several schools banned the sales, on flimsy pretexts, such as the organizers' lack of school food permits.

The protests shocked the mainstream press, but to close observers of America's college scene lately they came as no surprise. For decades, conservative critics have bemoaned academe's monolithically liberal culture. Parents, critics note, spend fortunes to send their kids to top colleges, and then watch helplessly as the schools cram them with a diet of politically correct leftism often wholly opposed to mom and dad's own values.

But the left's long dominion over the university--the last place on earth that lefty power would break up, conservatives believed--is showing its first signs of weakening. The change isn't coming from the schools' faculty lounges and administrative offices, of course. It's coming from self-organizing right-of-center students and several innovative outside groups working to bypass the academy's elite gatekeepers.

Today's right-leaning kids sure don't look much like the Bill Buckley-style young Republicans of yesteryear. "Conservative students today will be wearing the same T-shirts, sneakers and jeans that you find on most 19-year-old college kids," says Sarah Longwell of the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which promotes the Western intellectual tradition on campuses. Jordana Starr, a right-of-center political science and philosophy major at Tufts, tartly adds that you can spot a student leftist pretty fast: "They're the ones who appear not to have seen a shower in some time, nor a laundromat."

The new-millennium campus conservative is comfortably at home in popular culture, as I've found interviewing 50 or so from across the country. A favorite TV show, for instance, is Comedy Central's breathtakingly vulgar cartoon "South Park." "Not only is it hilariously uncouth, but it also criticizes the hypocrisy of liberals," explains Washington University economics major Matt Arnold. "The funniest part is that most liberals watch the show but are so stupid that they're unaware they're being made fun of," he adds, uncharitably. The young conservatives, again like typical college kids, also play their iPods night and day, listening less to Bach and Beethoven than to alt-rock, country-and-western and hip-hop.

Yet the opinions of these kids are about as far from the New York Times as one gets. Affirmative action particularly exasperates them. Chris Pizzo, a political science major who edits Boston College's conservative paper, the Observer, points to wealthy Cuban-American friends from his native Florida, "raised with at least the same advantages and in the same environment that I was," yet far likelier to get into the top schools. Where's the justice in that?"

Worse still, many students argue, preferences carry the racist implication that blacks and Hispanics can't compete on pure merit--an implication that holds minorities back. "Affirmative action has a detrimental effect on the black community, whether or not we're willing to admit it," says Jana Hardy, a biracial recent Claremont McKenna grad now working in urban planning.

The war on terror, including in Iraq, drew strong support from most of the students. Typical was Cornell classics major Sharon Ruth Stewart, mildly libertarian--except when it comes to fighting terror. "We have to use any and all means to defend ourselves from the terrorists, who hate the American way of life even more than the French and Germans do," she says. "That means bunker-busters, covert ops--whatever ensures America is safe." University of Maryland junior Nathan Kennedy is just as tough-minded. "I am full-fledged on board with the Iraq war," he says. "We've brought the fight to the terrorists' door, dealing with the radical fundamentalist Arabs who want us all dead."

What accounts for the growing conservatism of college students? After 9/11, many collegians came to distrust the U.N.-loving left to defend the nation with vigor. As of late 2003, college students backed the war more strongly than the overall American population. Notes Edward Morrissey, "Captain Ed" of the popular conservative blog Captain's Quarters, these kids "grew up on . . . moral relativism and internationalism, constantly fed the line that there was no such thing as evil in the world, only misunderstandings." Suddenly, on 9/11, this generation discovered that "there are enemies and they wanted to kill Americans in large numbers, and that a good portion of what they'd been taught was drizzly pap."

Yet a deeper reason for the rightward shift, which began well before 9/11, is the left's broader intellectual and political failure. American college kids grew up in an era that witnessed both communism's fall and the unchained U.S. economy's breathtaking productivity surge. They've seen that anyone willing to work hard--regardless of race or sex--can thrive in such an opportunity-rich system. "I'm only 20, so I don't remember segregation or the oppression of women--in fact, my mother had a very successful career since I was a kid," one student observed in an online discussion. "I look around and don't see any discrimination against minorities or women." Left-wing charges of U.S. economic injustice sound like so much BS to many kids today.

The destructive effects of "just do it" values on the family are equally evident to many undergrads, who have painfully felt those effects themselves or watched them rip up the homes of their friends. They turn to family values with the enthusiasm of converts. Even their support of homosexual civil unions may spring from their rejection of the world of casual hookups, broken marriages and wounded children that liberalism has produced. "Heterosexuals have already done a decent job of cheapening marriage on their own," observes Vanderbilt's Miss Malinee.

The leftism that so angers these students includes the hey-ho-Western-civ-has-got-to-go theories that inform college courses from coast to coast. "In too many classrooms," says former education secretary William Bennett, "radical professors teach their students that Western thought is suspect, that Enlightenment ideals are inherently oppressive and that the basic principles of the American founding are not 'relevant' to our time."....

Conservatives still have a long, long way to go before they can proclaim the left's control over the campus broken. The professorate remains a solidly left-wing body, more likely to assign Barbara Ehrenreich than Milton Friedman, Michel Foucault than Michael Oakeshott, and nothing, not even David Horowitz's indefatigable activism, is going to change that soon.

More here


More so than in most professions, teachers don't particularly like teaching. Consider this: an astonishing 20 per cent of Australian teachers leave teaching within their first three to five years. In some parts of Australia, 50 per cent leave. The University of Sydney's Dr Jacqueline Manuel describes teaching as "the profession that eats its young".

Some of those who leave come back later. In fact, leaving, trying something else, and then returning is common in teaching. Some leave to start families, some leave to broaden their experience, and others treat teaching as a job of last resort.... If only there was a way to make teachers more serious about staying teachers. The Teachers Federation suggests higher salaries. Surprisingly, it's a proposition not strongly supported by evidence.

Melbourne University's Dr Michael Shields has examined the movement of teachers in Britain. He finds that most teachers who leave go to jobs that pay less than they got teaching, typically 22 per cent less expressed as an hourly wage. The new jobs have longer hours as well. Teachers are prepared to give up money and work longer hours in order to get out. Shields has modelled the effect of a boost in teacher salaries of 10 per cent. He finds it would cut resignations by less than 1 per cent.

That isn't to say that higher salaries might not be important as part of a broader package of measures designed to get teachers to feel better about teaching. The 2001 Vinson report into public education described higher pay as a "gesture" and said that morale among teachers was so low that no other gesture could substitute for improved salaries.

But by itself higher pay would be wasted. There is something fundamental about the job or the way we ask people to do the job that makes teaching unsustainable for so many of our teachers. For some it's a love-hate thing. Teachers report both greater levels of job satisfaction than other people and higher levels of stress. My father told me that teaching was the only job he knew in which every day he faced people trying to stop him achieving what he was employed to achieve. They were called students.

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Can American education go any lower?

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. The Herald-Tribune found teachers who had failed in nearly every school in each of the state's 67 counties.

But it is the neediest of children who most often get the least-prepared teachers. Students in Florida's rural outposts and inner cities, those from housing projects and migrant camps, and those from black and Latino families were far more likely to have a teacher who struggled. An analysis of the test scores of nearly 100,000 teachers found that children from Florida's poor neighborhoods were 44 percent more likely than their wealthier peers to have a teacher who failed the certification tests.

The findings raise questions about Florida's education reforms, which require students to pass standardized tests to advance, yet allow teachers to fail exams dozens of times and still stand at the front of a classroom. And they highlight challenges that have dogged public schools across the country for years: How to attract more of the nation's top minds into a profession where salaries are low, and how to steer those teachers into inner-city and rural neighborhoods where children need the most help.

A state education official said Friday a recent study confirms that student learning suffers under teachers who repeatedly fail the tests. The Department of Education study, the first of its kind, found that students learn less under teachers who had failed more than three times, said DOE spokesman MacKay Jimeson. Nine percent of teachers failed portions of the tests at least four times, according to the Herald-Tribune study.



Import Indian teaching over the net

Twice a week, Ann Maria, a sixth grader at Silver Oak Elementary School, California, logs on the Internet from home. She's not chatting up with friends, but connecting to her personal tutor-already online, armed with a headset and a pen mouse-in a cubicle almost a timezone away in Kochi. Your neighbourhood tuition teacher, riding on the Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES) wave, has now gone global and his monthly pay packet has turned meatier-anywhere between $10 and $40 an hour. ``We started last year with three teachers and around 10 students. There are 17 teachers now and around 160 students,'' says Bina George, manager, HR and Administration of the Canadian subsidiary.

What Bina adds up in numbers is actually a business model which is slowly transforming neighbourhood classroom models across India into global education outsourcing hubs. As the education season goes into the second leg across US and Europe, the demand for tutorial assistance only stands to increase, say industry observers. And with schools recommending additional training for students performing below-average, tutors across Asia stand to gain. Says Shanthanu Prakash, CEO, Educomp Datamatics Ltd, a company which tutors students from the Santa Barbara school district in the US: ``The demand abroad is growing as there is a huge dearth of tuition teachers, especially in the USA, UK and Middle East.''

Around a year old in India, more players are in the line to pick up this model in 2005, coinciding with new outsourcing contracts from foreign shores. And investments for an organised set-up-infrastructure, networking and brainbank - could be around Rs 4 to 5 crore. ["crore" is an Indian number meaning 10 million so "Rs 4 crore" is 40 million Rupees] Satya Narayanan, chairman of Career Launcher says the time has finally come for India to emerge in this domain. ``This year and the next will see a lot of action in terms of new contracts between international education companies outsourcing tutorial teaching contracts to India, more so from the US market.''

His logic: superior intellectual power compared to competitors like China, Phillipines, Singapore and other Asia Pacific countries, and a huge English-speaking teachers community. Says Kiran Karnik, president, National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM): ``Foreign countries today acknowledge India's intellectual brand thanks to efforts of institutes like IIMs and IITs. This model could be one of the best service exports which could finally globalise the education industry.''

Says 20-year-old Ruchi Dudeja, one of the 10 online brains who guide the school district of Massachusetts at Career Launcher: ``Tutoring Americans on their own syllabus is never tough as we Indians are easily intellectually superior.''

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The teachers unions have more influence over the public schools than any other group in American society. They influence schools from the bottom up, through collective bargaining activities that shape virtually every aspect of school organization. And they influence schools from the top down, through political activities that shape government policy. They are the 800-pound gorillas of public education. Yet the American public is largely unaware of how influential they are -- and how much they impede efforts to improve public schools.....

The sources of their power are not difficult to discern. With three million members, they control huge amounts of money that can be handed out in campaign contributions. More important, they have members in every political district in the country, and can field armies of activists who make phone calls, ring doorbells, and do whatever else is necessary to elect friends and defeat enemies. No other interest group in the country can match their political arsenal. It is not surprising, then, that politicians at all levels of government are acutely sensitive to what the teachers unions want. This is especially true of Democrats, most of whom are their reliable allies.

When the teachers unions want government to act, the reforms they demand are invariably in their own interests: more spending, higher salaries, smaller classes, more professional development, and so on. There is no evidence that any of these is an important determinant of student learning. What the unions want above all else, however, is to block reforms that seriously threaten their interests -- and these reforms, not coincidentally, are attempts to bring about fundamental changes in the system that would significantly improve student learning.

The unions are opposed to No Child Left Behind, for example, and indeed to all serious forms of school accountability, because they do not want teachers' jobs or pay to depend on their performance. They are opposed to school choice -- charter schools and vouchers -- because they don't want students or money to leave any of the schools where their members work. They are opposed to the systematic testing of veteran teachers for competence in their subjects, because they know that some portion would fail and lose their jobs. And so it goes. If the unions can't kill these threatening reforms outright, they work behind the scenes to make them as ineffective as possible -- resulting in accountability systems with no teeth, choice systems with little choice, and tests that anyone can pass......

If we really want to improve schools, something has to be done about the teachers unions. The idea that an enlightened "reform unionism" will somehow emerge that voluntarily puts the interests of children first -- an idea in vogue among union apologists -- is nothing more than a pipe dream. The unions are what they are. They have fundamental, job-related interests that are very real, and are the raison d'etre of their organizations. These interests drive their behavior, and this is not going to change. Ever.

If the teachers unions won't voluntarily give up their power, then it has to be taken away from them -- through new laws that, among other things, drastically limit (or prohibit) collective bargaining in public education, link teachers' pay to their performance, make it easy to get rid of mediocre teachers, give administrators control over the assignment of teachers to schools and classrooms, and prohibit unions from spending a member's dues on political activities unless that member gives explicit prior consent.

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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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Monday, January 17, 2005


When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented, during his State of the State address this month, that California's political system "is rigged to benefit the interests of those in office, not the interests of those who put them there," he might have been referring to the Borking of Reed Hastings.... Hastings was Borked in the state Senate Rules Committee this week after Schwarzenegger reappointed the high-tech entrepreneur to the state Board of Education. Hastings - a Democrat, incidentally - drew vitriolic opposition from advocates of bilingual education who accused him, preposterously, of having, in the words of one, "bias against English learners ... and bias against their parents."

Hastings' crime: He favored more emphasis on English instruction, which put him not only in the political mainstream, as evidenced by voter approval of a ballot measure to that effect, but also on the side of common sense. Children who lack English proficiency are disadvantaged not only in school, but in life, as their dropout rates and test scores indicate.

Hastings, however, has not been a single-issue advocate, unlike his critics. He has devoted his adult life and much of his personal fortune to improving a public education system that, by all measures, is shamefully inadequate. And he made enemies on the right when he advocated lowering the voting margins for school bond issues. Jack O'Connell, the one-time teacher and Democratic state legislator who now serves as state schools superintendent, and Republican Schwarzenegger offered remarkably similar evaluations of Hastings. "This is the kind of person you want in public service," O'Connell told the committee. "He's a true public servant (and) on behalf of 6.2 million kids I'm asking for his confirmation."

"It is always unfortunate when political litmus tests are put before what is in the best interest of our children," Schwarzenegger said later. "What signal do you send to parents and children when a qualified and well-respected community leader like Reed Hastings is sacrificed to advocates of a narrowly focused agenda who wield power in Sacramento?"

Blocking Hastings' confirmation became a cause for the Legislature's Latino Caucus ...... In the Hastings case, events were driven by the most extreme liberal position that bilingual education should he maintained even though voters, in Proposition 227, declared that English should be taught to students as rapidly as possible - as Hastings reminded the committee.....

The victims of these ideological jihads are common sense, the public interest - and students, whose interests always seem to come last when ideology and public education collide.

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Who can fault the teachers for playing it safe with all the crazy regulations around and all the rush to blame someone if anything goes wrong?

Health and safety concerns are putting a dampener on school science practicals. A survey of teachers and scientists finds that everything from keeping snails to swabbing for cheek cells, running model steam engines to burning peanuts, is now being avoided because it is seen as too risky. The result is that children are being turned off science - with experts fearing for the next generation of chemists and physicists. Julian Wigley, who has taught science at a Birmingham comprehensive for the past decade, says that he has noticed a 'move away from experiments considered too risky'. When practicals are carried out, they tend to involve kids observing the teacher rather than doing it for themselves. According to Tony Ashmore, head of education at the Royal Society of Chemistry, 'experiments are more often demonstrated than carried out - and teachers are more cautious about what they might demonstrate'.

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) has noted a decline in science practicals, and an increasingly 'narrow and mechanistic' approach, with teachers doing the bare minimum to fulfil national curriculum requirements (1). Risk assessment procedures encourage teachers to stick to standardised experiments rather than try anything a bit different. Children's curiousity is curtailed, says Wigley. 'In the old days, when kids asked "what happens if...?", teachers could often say "try it out". Now they might say "I will tell you what happens", and draw a diagram on the board.'

Jack Pridham, emeritus professor of biochemistry at Royal Holloway, University of London, says it was the 'smells and flashes and bangs' that drew him to chemistry as a boy. 'Now all the exciting stuff has gone out of the window.' Teachers say that they are increasingly cautious about old explosive favourites - burning hydrogen gas in air to create water, the thermite reaction (producing iron from a mix of iron oxide and aluminium), or the reaction between phosphorous and oxygen. The fractional distillation of crude oil (to show its different components) is avoided, because crude oil is considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing) - apparently some schools use ink and water instead. Others have replaced mercury with spirit thermometers, although spirits are not generally as accurate.

In physics, there is a wariness of anything involving high pressures, and even model steam engines are seen as risky. Meanwhile many biology teachers steer away from dissections, worrying about BSE and other infections. Taking blood from a finger prick is generally avoided on the grounds of AIDS risks, as is taking cells from a cheek swab. Sampling spit - to develop bacteria, or demonstrate the activity of saliva enzymes - is viewed with caution.

Yet most of these fears are groundless. Peter Borrows, director of the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services (CLEAPSS), says that in fact 'almost the safest place for any child to be is the school laboratory'. According to Borrows, statistics going back to the 1960s show that science contributes a steady 0.8 per cent of all serious pupil accidents in schools, compared to 60 per cent in PE and one percent in toilets and cloakrooms. Given that there are generally between 4000 and 5000 serious accidents per year, this means that only around 35 take place during science lessons, even though millions of pupils spend several hours of every week in science classes.......

Whoever is responsible, kids are definitely the losers. Science becomes about dead facts learnt out of a textbook, rather than live conclusions derived from testing and experiment. Peter Atkins, professor of chemistry at Oxford University, says that 'if you treat chemistry as a theoretical subject it becomes very dry - some of its pleasures were its stinks and bangs'.

Today's top scientists say that (official and unofficial) practicals sparked their interest in the subject. One talks about his experiments 'in the kitchen at home, doing all sorts of things with chemicals that you can no longer obtain'; another confesses: 'I spent a lot of my youth making explosives.' Today's young people are turning cold on science, with universities closing their chemistry departments and falling numbers of pupils opting for science A-levels. Pridham, who runs the website Chemophilia to promote interest in chemistry, believes that 'the serious decline in interest in chemistry could be partly rectified by an improvement in practical work'.

The demise of the practical bodes ill for the next generation of scientists. Atkins worries that 'chemistry is a very practical subject - if that skill isn't developed early, there is a risk that children won't go on to become great chemists'. His antidote? 'Teachers should go back to doing the things that they used to do, which captured the imagination of their kids.'

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.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Sunday, January 16, 2005


If parents and students are right to be alarmed by the results of recent national tests that show U.S. schoolchildren falling behind Latvia in math scores and doing even worse in science education, then they will really be puzzled by the latest initiative at the University of Michigan: requiring that all students take a mandatory course on gender and sex. The same people who brought you racial preferences in college admissions, "hate speech" codes and mandatory courses in race and ethnicity now want another official captive audience so they can hector their charges about "oppressive" heterosexual dominance, homophobia, male harassment, "antiquated" religious beliefs about sex, and the usual laundry list of liberal enthusiasms. Students who might refuse to take the course cannot graduate.

Behind this effort is a small group of students who call themselves the "Gender and Sexuality Requirement Committee," who gathered about 1,000 signatures over the past year. A proposal was then presented to the University's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA), with the idea that the course would be taught primarily by the faculty of the women's studies department. The next hurdle involves making a formal pitch to the LSA curriculum committee later this semester, the first step to getting approval by the entire LSA faculty.

Proponents of this scheme tip their hand when they indicate that their preferred faculty to teach such a course would be that of women's studies, possibly the most politicized department at the university. A haven for "feminist scholarship," women's studies course descriptions make no bones about where their objectives and politics lay: "The course does not merely provide analyses of women's oppression, however, but suggests strategies for ending that oppression." Or "This course will also encourage students to consider ways in which [the] texts both reflect and participate in the construction of sexuality, sexual identity, gender, and desire." The proposal declares that such a course "will create new dialogues, challenge hegemonic discourse, break taboos and stigmas, and open up realms of communications among all students."

Given that 60 percent of Michiganders voted to ban gay marriage in the recent referendum, it would seem that courses that tub-thump for liberal sexual mores would go against popular opinion. Not to worry, says the student committee co-chair Catherine Malczynski, "We think [these things] are very important today and that people should be educated on, [sic] like they are educated on race and ethnicity." But after the gay marriage vote, striking a note of pessimism, she added, "it showed a lot of homophobia and that people might not be willing to do this."

If Tom Wolfe's scathing indictment of out-of-control sex on college campuses in his new book, "I Am Charlotte Simmons," is close to the truth, it would seem that the kind of course recommended by the student committee might make the problem worse, since conventional morality doesn't seem to be part of the approach. Rather, course advocates seem transparently only to want to shape student attitudes about gender and sex issues, to get them to think like they do. They assume, mistakenly, that because some might not, then they are wrong. Making such a dubious course mandatory is just a more convenient yet heavy-handed way to wield their ideological club.

I suspect that if such a course were offered simply on a voluntary basis, it would wither on the vine from lack of interest. One can only speculate whether the instructors would demand congruity with their views for successful completion of the course.

In a national educational environment where overall student achievement is comparatively low, and where most students (and their parents) must cough up considerable sums of money to get an education and prepare for their future careers, it seems highly questionable that they should be burdened with a course with little actual academic substance, and motivated by those only wishing to proselytize. It's high time that colleges and universities get out of the attitude-shaping and indoctrination business, and pretending that they are "promoting diversity," "widening their knowledge" and other pious, empty and specious claims.



Milford, Connecticut at present allows people to graduate from High School who once would not have been allowed to progress beyond third grade

The Board of Education signed off Tuesday on a much-heralded plan to make reading the next graduation requirement for the city's high school students, designating the Class of 2009 the first to be subject to the new rules. The decision allows Associate Supt. of Learning Larry Schaefer to form a task force that will explore how the new standard could be implemented at Jonathan Law and Foran high schools. The group will be comprised of city educators. Schaefer's committee will report its recommendations to the Board of Education, which will vote to either accept or reject the criteria.

Board Chairwoman Joan Politi, R-1, said the majority of the board members felt the new requirement would improve learning while helping the district deliver on its "performance promises," a set of educational goals that serves as a mission statement for Milford Public Schools. "The board understands that reading is essential to lifelong learning and is in conformance with our performance promises," Politi said.

The only official of the 10-member board who declined to vote on the proposal was Ronald Funaro, D-2. Attempts Wednesday to contact Funaro were unsuccessful. Last month, Funaro was one of at least two board members who questioned why the district was focusing on high school reading when such learning problems existed in the middle schools, too. "We are talking about teaching reading in high school. When did we miss it in elementary school? When did we miss it in middle school?" Funaro asked at the Dec. 14 meeting.

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Fighting Against Intellectual Corruption

Bruce Thornton at VDH Private Papers has a great discussion of the just-released on-line guide by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on Free Speech on Campus ( FIRE has been working tirelessly to protect the free speech rights of students caught up in the repressive intellectual atmospheres of many university and colleges these days.

Universities are vocal in their assertions that they are protected spaces nurturing of "free inquiry," "academic freedom," "diversity," "dialogue," and "tolerance," and that they welcome all views, no matter how far from the mainstream. The prospective student is led to believe that, as the Guide puts it, "Regardless of your background," college is "the one place where you could go and hear almost anything-the one place where speech truly was free, where ideas were tried and tested under the keen and critical eye of peers and scholars, where reason and values, not coercion, decided debate."

But when the sometimes impressionable and naive freshman actually arrives on campus, he or she finds a different reality. The student quickly learns that "America's colleges and universities are all too often dedicated more to indoctrination and censorship than to freedom and individual self-government." The loudly lauded ideals of "diversity" and "tolerance" in fact often camouflage a rigid orthodoxy that only the most confident and assertive of young adults are likely to challenge.

In true Orwellian fashion, "In order to ensure 'diversity' and 'tolerance,' [the university] will censor and silence those who are different or independent."

This is sad, but true. Having spent a good portion of my intellectual life on campus, I have witnessed firsthand how "diversity" works in practice-- and it ain't a pretty picture.

As the Guide puts it, quoting John Milton,

"If any institution on earth should be 'the mansion house of liberty,' trusting in 'a free and open encounter' of truth and error, it should be higher education in a free society." It is a sad indictment of our intellectual corruption that higher education has taken the lead in attempting to make sure that "free and open encounters" occur only within strictly defined and ideologically biased parameters. But it is heartening to know that organizations like FIRE are actively fighting to make colleges and universities live up not just to their own ideals but also to the fundamental values of our republic.


(Post lifted from Dr. Sanity)


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 is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here