Saturday, February 05, 2005

Marxism Dying Hard on College Campuses

Written by Hans Zeiger

"Marxism is dying globally," writes columnist and recent UCLA graduate Ben Shapiro. "But it's alive and kicking at America's universities." Shapiro's list of communist courses, texts, and activities in American higher education spans a chapter in his new book Brainwashed: How America's Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth.

Students can minor in Marxist Studies at University of California Riverside. A class in "Marxist Literary Theory" is offered at Rutgers University. There is "Black Marxism" at University of California Santa Barbara, and "Taking Marx Seriously" at Amherst College. "Engaging Cuba: Uncommon Approaches to the Common Good" is a course at the Evergreen State College that glorifies Castro's Cuba for its successes in education, health care, and agricultural production. These courses are more than partial to communist theory - they are actually like Red propaganda sessions. Capitalism - along with its accompanying institutions - is roundly portrayed as the source of all greed, inequality, and evil in general.

It would seem that the university communists have difficulty reconciling their belief that capitalism is evil with their other contention that there is no good or evil at all. A 2002 Zogby poll of 401 college seniors for the National Association of Scholars revealed that classroom relativism is overwhelming. Seventy-three percent of seniors said that the most frequent ethical position of their professors was: "what is right and wrong depends on differences in individual values and cultural diversity." Only a quarter of a college seniors replied that in their classrooms, "there are clear and uniform standards of right and wrong by which everyone should be judged."

At first glance, it may seem that the majority of college students are mindlessly following the lead of their professors. "Acceptance is the easiest road, and the road most often taken," writes Shapiro. "If the professor says that the sky is green, the sky must be green." Voting patterns suggest that college students become increasingly liberal as they move through their years of higher education. And one study between 2000 and 2003 showed that while 52 percent of students reported having attended church on a regular basis prior to college, only 29 percent were still going to church in their junior year. As William F. Buckley wrote in Up From Liberalism, "There is a correlation between the length of time one spends studying at the feet of liberals and the extent to which one comes to share their views."

Yet there are signs that today's students are not following everything their professors believe. According to a 2003 study by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, most college and university students consider themselves spiritual, but find that their campuses do little to encourage their spirituality. Researchers surveyed 3,680 students at 46 institutions to discover that 73 percent of American college students find religion and spirituality to have helped in the development of their identity. But 62 percent report that their professors never encourage discussion of religion or spirituality. The report found that "students have deeply felt values and interests in spirituality and religion, but their academic work and campus programs seem to be divorced from it."

Still, the percentage of students who consider spiritual matters to be "very important" or "essential" in their lives rose from 51 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2003. In addition, those who consider a full personal worldview to be "very important" or "essential" rose from 43 percent to 52 percent, and those who believe that it is "very important" or "essential" to demonstrate compassion by helping the less fortunate climbed a remarkable fourteen points from 60 percent to 74 percent. Despite the efforts of the professors to sterilize their campuses of spiritual concerns, discussions, and practices, the growth in importance that students attach to their spiritual lives is significant.

Perhaps the most instructive gulf between professors and students is over the issue of abortion. According to the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Luntz Research Associates, about one percent of college professors support a legal ban on abortion. A 99 percent pro-abortion professoriate is a powerful majority. But every year since 1990, with the exception of one, the support of college freshmen for abortion has fallen. In 1990, 64.9 percent of freshmen supported a right to abortion. By 1999, that number had fallen to 52.7 percent. According to a 2000 Gallup poll, 40 percent of 18 to 29-year olds - a higher percentage than any age group surveyed - believed that abortion should be restricted to a greater extent than it is now. And in 2004, 60 percent of 18 to 29-year olds said they supported a complete ban on abortion or minimal exceptions, according to a Zogby poll.



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Friday, February 04, 2005

British schools crisis as discipline standards fall in classrooms

A growing discipline crisis and thousands of persistently failing schools are undermining efforts to raise education standards, the head of Ofsted gave warning yesterday. David Bell said that one in ten schools had made no real progress between inspection visits in the past three years. Of the 10,000 schools visited since 2001, a tenth had made "unsatisfactory, poor or very poor" progress. Applied to England's total number of state schools, this would produce a figure of 2,500 schools that had made no real progress nationwide.

Mr Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, cast doubt on the Government's approach to weak schools and suggested that it was time for more aggressive action. He also highlighted rising levels of classroom disruption a day after Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, promised "zero tolerance" of even the mildest forms of misbehaviour by pupils. There had been a sharp increase in the percentage of schools where discipline was "unsatisfactory or worse". Levels of good behaviour were at their lowest since Labour came to power. Behaviour was good in only two thirds of schools compared with three quarters in 1997. Discipline was poor in 9 per cent of schools compared with 5 per cent a year ago. Mr Bell said that no schools were free from low-level disruption caused by a minority of pupils. He added: "All schools, to a greater or lesser extent, even if they are otherwise orderly or successful, have to deal with a number of pupils who cause disruption. "You can have relatively small numbers of pupils having quite a substantial and disproportionate effect on the others."

Presenting his third annual report as Chief Inspector, Mr Bell said that the proportion of schools where behaviour was poor "shows no sign of reducing". His findings come just months before a general election, expected in May, in which discipline and classroom standards are set to be key issues of controversy between Labour and the Conservatives.

Tim Collins, the Shadow Education Secretary, said: "Conservatives are convinced that schools which perform poorly in their teaching assessment are those with the worst discipline record. It is therefore no surprise that Ruth Kelly has decided to raise this problem just weeks before an election - having ignored it for nearly eight years. We will not make the same mistake. "On Day 1 one of the new Conservative government, we will bring forward measures to restore head teachers' authority over pupil behaviour and teaching, so that the people who know and care for our children are put back in charge."

Mr Bell said that inspections in 2003-04 showed that England's education system was improving and contained "many of the preconditions for further improvement". But Ofsted's report still showed that the number of failing schools jumped by 18 per cent to 332 in 2003-04, the second successive increase. Mr Bell said that more schools had failed because Ofsted had raised its expectations.

From The Times


Surely Americans of all points of view can agree that in an age of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the military can use the best attorneys it can get. So it's a disgrace that some of the nation's law schools, objecting to the Pentagon's "discrimination policies," refuse to permit military recruiters to make their pitch on campus, relegating them instead to unofficial off-campus venues. Law students pondering their first career move can be wined and dined by fancy firms that set up recruitment tables at campus job fairs, but they have to stroll over to the local Day's Inn to seek out the lonely military recruiter.

To put it another way, the same liberals who object that the military includes too many lower-class kids won't let military recruiters near the schools that contain students who will soon join the upper-class elite. It's almost enough to make us contemplate restoring the draft, starting with law school students.

Needless to say, such scholastic shenanigans don't go down well with Congress, which in 1994 passed the Solomon Amendment, named for the late New York Republican, Gerald Solomon. The law requires schools that receive federal funds to provide equal access to military recruiters. Today, the House is scheduled to vote on a resolution brought by Alabama Republican Mike Rogers that would restate the House's support for the Solomon Amendment. Something similar passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins last year and was incorporated into the Defense Authorization bill.

The impetus for Mr. Rogers's move is a November ruling by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia in favor of a group of law schools and legal scholars that had contested the Solomon law. The 2-1 opinion found that the Solomon Amendment violates the schools' First Amendment rights to free speech and association. Next stop is the Supreme Court, which is expected to take the appeal that the Justice Department plans to bring.

There are many peculiarities to this lawsuit, starting with the fact that the group that brought it--the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights--declines to release the names of the 26 law schools and faculties that belong to its coalition. Some of the participants (New York University and Georgetown, for example) have outed themselves since the suit was brought in 2003, but others steadfastly maintain their own don't-ask-don't-tell policy

In any event, there should be no legal question about Congress's right to put conditions on grants of federal funds to universities. It does this all the time--including requirements that colleges adhere to certain civil rights and gender standards. With a few exceptions, universities have no trouble going along and courts have no problem letting them.

If, as is likely, the Supreme Court overturns the appeals court decision, that will be the end of it. Almost all universities, public and private, take millions of dollars in federal money that would be next to impossible to give up. That's especially true of the elite schools, both public and private. Still, it would be nice to think that the nation's universities would welcome the military for reasons other than the mercenary. Patriotism, perhaps?



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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Thursday, February 03, 2005


So no wonder kids learn so little

To this day, I believe those Dick and Jane readers are mostly what did me in. I did not like to read back then, and I think it was because of them. They were not only boring, they were excruciatingly boring, and so was nearly everything else throughout my years in school. Not liking to read is a little odd, because I started to teach myself to read when I was four.

Fortunately, when I was 11 years old, I found a tattered, falling-apart ACE 1963 copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Fighting Man of Mars ("Hidden Menace on the Red Planet"), and boom!, just like that, I understood the importance of imagination, and how the purpose of school is to, however unwittingly, destroy it. Whoa, I thought, what is this book? Gigantic Martian-eating apes, with six arms?! Cackling Mad Scientists? Huge spiders, with fangs? Heroes, villains, damsels in distress? Sword fights, disintegrator rays, invisibility cloaks? Battles galore, in warships floating in the sky? Wow! I was in a tizzy. I had never experienced anything like this. I was in awe, a condition I describe as a combination of love and wonder and fear. And I liked it. Why, I wondered, wasn't I given stuff like this to read when I was six, instead of Dick and Jane? I don't care if they went on adventures with Spot and found a toad in the bushes, that was nothing compared to Tan Hadron of Hastor using his sword to defend the woman he loved from the insane cannibals of U-Gor!

Years later, when I started reading fairy tales, I was surprised to find the ones that aren't bowdlerized (which are the ones most people are familiar with) are blood-thirsty horror stories. In the unexpurgated "Cinderella," for example, her sisters cut off parts of their feet to try to make them fit into the slipper (which points out what greedy people will do for money and power and fame). You'll never see that in a Walt Disney film--and Walt admitted he knew he was altering the original tales. Cinderella was, of all things, a very feisty girl, one who would never give up. How's that for some "Grrl Power"?

I was puzzled about these old children's stories; I really was. These are what adults in the past read to kids? And I got Dick and Jane and their boring white-bread lives in the suburbs, with their parents dressed like Ward and June Cleaver in a suit and tie, and pearls? But weren't kids supposed to be kept innocent as long as possible? Weren't they supposed to not know about awful things like violence and battles and swords and guns and death and destruction and romance and even--yuck--kissing? Wouldn't these terrible stories give them nightmares and permanently damage their tender six-year-old psyches? Well, it seems to me that Dick and Jane and all the rest of those innocent boring stories are what damaged me. Those blood-thirsty stories with the swordfights and all the killings not only didn't damage me, they introduced me to a world of wonder I didn't know existed, one so amazing I actually felt grateful about my luck. And if there is one (actually two) thing(s) I am absolutely convinced is an inherent component of happiness, it's gratitude, and a humility that comes from that gratitude.

What's worse--being bored all the time as a kid in school, or having an occasional nightmare, if that nightmare is the price of being introduced to wonder and amazement and awe? Personally, I'll take the nightmare. I'm an adult, and I still have nightmares. Only now, the only regular one I have is about being stuck in high school on the last day and not being allowed to graduate. They're so bad they wake me up. I've never woken up from the Mad Scientist Phor Tak chasing me with a disintegrator pistol, or a huge spider gnashing its fangs and chasing me down a valley. Not yet, at least.

If stories for kids are boring, kids certainly aren't going to want to read. And if they don't read, then they can't take much advantage of all the knowledge available in literature. That's saying bye-bye to all the accumulated wisdom of the human race. So, in order for children's stories to be interesting and exciting, they have to contain all that "awful" stuff. On top of that, kids like the stuff.

As an experiment, read some dumbed-down stories to young children, and then read some of the real fairy tales, and watch how they react. I've done this many times. They quickly get bored with the first, but always remain fascinated by the second. And they want more, even if they don't fully understand everything.

I remember the first time I read "The Little Match Girl" to some kids who were less than five. I've never seen such looks on their faces before. They learned about pity and mercy and horror from that story, about how lucky they were to have parents and a home and warmth and enough to eat, unlike the little match girl. And such things are why those stories are so important, because kids learn to deal with all sides of life in the safety of their imaginations.

Bruno Bettelheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, claimed fairy tales and similar stories were necessary for children because they allowed them to work through various feelings they all had. I won't go so far as to agree with his Freudian intrepretation, but I understand his point. I am reminded of that modern-day mythic movie, A Christmas Story, in which Raphie has to deal with bullies, boring school, a nutcase for a little brother, a harried mother, a goodhearted but somewhat dense father, and the various problems all kids have to deal with. Eric Rabkin agrees with Bettelheim, commenting upon the importance of the storytelling function in his book, The Fantastic in Literature. He explains that the cruelty in fairy tales indeed can be beneficial to children because "they can see danger handled safely and symbolically and thus, their own fears can be mastered."

We are never going to see truly interesting and educating stories for kids in the schools. If kids came home and told their parents about about those great stories they were being told--the old fairy tales--some of them would throw fits and call the schools right then. To which I say: bah. You have no idea what you're doing.

I see no solution to any of these problems except to get rid of the government schools. Unfortunately, private schools aren't going to be any better if they imitate the government schools. But at least they'll stand a chance, something that's never going to happen in schools run by the government. It has now become a truism that every time the government gets involved in something, it doesn't make it better; it makes things worse. These days, nearly everyone complains about the schools, and what all these schools have in common is that they are "public"--read "government run"--schools. Most of these schools seem to have become masters at making kids hate them. Most kids see their time in them as a prison sentence to be served. What they learn is to dislike school, and, quite often, reading and learning.

More here


School reformers are attempting to shore up an existing educational system which is, by its very nature, destined to fail. Misguided policy solutions for American education attempt to salvage a system that is unsalvageable--a system that is intellectually, socially, and economically backward. Reformers refuse to admit or to understand that the American system of compulsory public education has foundered precisely because it is public--that is, government-controlled. The only solution to the serious education problems in America is to proclaim the separation of school and state, and allow education to be bought and sold through the free and unhampered market process.

Public schools--like all public agencies--are inherently unable to evaluate their own performance accurately in terms of the satisfactions derived by their constituents, i.e., students and their parents. The absence of proper evaluation lies in the inability of the educational bureaucracy (or any government agency) to calculate profits or losses in terms of numerical assignments to monetary units. In other words, public bureaucracies cannot perform economic calculation.1

Economic calculation is the process of comparing and contrasting opportunity costs (prices) among a variety of choices facing an individual actor or group of actors regarding the means to achieve a desired end. For a private firm operating within the parameters of a market economy, economic calculation consists in comparing and contrasting the outputs (expenses) and inputs (revenues) in order to arrive at the most efficient use of scarce resources in the satisfaction of the consumers' most urgent wants.

In the market sector, outputs and inputs (expenses and revenues) are linked through the determination of profit or loss. A profit indicates that the private firm succeeded in providing a commodity or service that consumers valued more than the costs expended in bringing it about. A loss indicates that the private firm failed to provide a commodity or service for which consumers were willing to pay more than the costs expended in its creation. Profits are an implicit declaration by consumers that the scarce resources used for the creation of a given commodity were prudently applied. Losses are an implicit declaration by consumers that scarce resources were squandered and should have been employed in a manner more conducive to their satisfactions. Regardless the profit or loss outcome, however, all private firms, operating within the confines of an unhampered market economy, are offered the ability to positively or negatively evaluate their own performance for the immediate accounting period precisely because they have the use of economic calculation.

Government bureaucracies have no such ability. The essence of bureaucracy is that it cannot evaluate performance in terms of consumer satisfaction because of the absence of economically calculable profits or losses. This is why bureaucracies are encumbered with regulated structural procedures. By their very nature, government educational agencies cannot link outputs (expenditures) to inputs (tax revenues). There is no relationship between the taxpayer who is coerced into financing all educational expenditures, and the student who is the consumer of what such expenditures have created.

Because the educational bureaucracy exists within a sea of capitalist economic calculation, bureaucrats can calculate and budget expenses. But, because government agencies do not operate on a profit-and-loss basis, these administrators have no way of relating expenses to tax revenues to determine if the expenses were prudently applied. They do not know whether the resources taken from taxpayers were employed according to the most urgent demands of consumers. Government agencies are deprived of profit-and-loss accountancy methods, precisely what is necessary to economically evaluate past performance and make changes based upon the information provided.

From an economic point of view, then, the government education system in America is like a ship lost at sea with neither a compass nor a lighthouse to guide it. Absence of evaluative information in the form of profits or losses makes rational navigation impossible......

Market-based schools would have the incentive to provide a top quality educational experience to students at a competitive price. If a school did not enforce rigorous programs and a thorough curriculum, their graduates would be ill prepared to compete in their respective fields. The school would earn a poor reputation as its graduates would be unable to command respectable incomes, thus discouraging prospective students, causing financial loss, and forcing the school to re-evaluate its performance. Conversely, those schools providing the best education to their students would earn profits, thus reflecting their proper employment of scarce resources. In either case, economic calculation in terms of profits or losses would enable schools to accurately evaluate their performance in terms of the demands of education consumers.

Competition among educational entrepreneurs would tend to weed false prophets and educational quacks from the market. The general nonsense which now pervades most government school systems would not long survive the market-driven search for truth and excellence. Students would no longer be captive to the ideological or political biases of teachers and administrators. Rather, teachers and administrators would be required to provide a valuable educational experience to their students in a peaceful learning environment or find themselves unemployed.

Americans must begin to realize that the separation of education and state is equally as important as the separation of church and state. Only then will American students begin to experience academic diversity, intellectual growth, and a crime-free learning environment. Only then will we be liberated from the bureaucratization of the mind.

More (much more) here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005


And it might just take a Republican governor to do it. Remember that old lie about Republicans being the party of the status quo?

There is no question that California's education system is looking a lot like the Titanic, and there is also no question that our current superintendent of public instruction, Jack O'Connell, has a lot of experience in the education world. In the Senate, Superintendent O'Connell chaired the Education Finance Budget Subcommittee. He had more to do with how and how much our schools spent than any other single individual for eight years prior to becoming superintendent. He was an important member of the Assembly's governing leadership in the years before he went to the Senate. He had the ability to take an active role to turn our education system around. If any one person was positioned to restore our education system to excellence, it would have been him.

In fact, during his time, education spending has gone up, and the quality of the education system has gone down. So his recent comments that the governor is trying to undermine the "restoration" of our school system's excellence by "starving our schools" rings hollow. He claims that we are not "investing in our future" by spending more money on schools.

First, his comments are false. The governor is spending more money on schools than last year, just not as much as O'Connell wants to spend. Second, if money were the problem, as I have demonstrated before, California would have solved this crisis long ago. The state has almost doubled per pupil spending in the last ten years, and test scores have gone down, meanwhile, salaries for the adults making money off the system have skyrocketed. School superintendent salaries are approaching $200,000 per year, and O'Connell whines that the schools don't have enough money. He advocates raising your taxes and spending more money on our current failing system. He also wants to make the system bigger by including pre-school in the current system. That's real smart-we should give the system more of our money and more of our kids so they can mess things up even more.

Perhaps if O'Connell would have held school bureaucrats accountable for their failures in the Legislature, or even in his current position, the state's system would not be in the mess it is in now. But rather than demanding more from the adults and unions who are making lots of money off the system, O'Connell has chosen to become their apologist and chief cheerleader. Like Captain Smith, O'Connell would drive the ship into greater danger following the common wisdom rather than thinking outside the box. Maybe he should just do his job, and let the governor fix the system. Our kids would be better off if he did. To twist a clich‚ a little bit, continuing to spend money upgrading the deck chairs on the Titanic is missing the point.

More here


People once thought that home schooling was a result of extremist-religious groups and isolationism. Today, home schooling enrollments double each and every year in the United States and internationally. The reasons why are that the quality and variety of curriculums and programs are truly remarkable, and because virtual classrooms are the future of public and university education.

You can continue, year after year, to deny that children are stressed by dull 10-hour days, curriculum work loads, homework over-loads, harried teachers, and proficiency tests, or you can educate your child without stress, with literally a world of curricula, including a host of proficiency test aids, very superior programs in art, music, foreign languages, and physical education, and completely flexible school hours and styles. Parents must investigate today's home schooling opportunities. They employ the latest technologies, award-winning on-line curriculums and educational models, and they are being accessed by the brightest and most gifted children in the nation because they are superior programs.

There's a whole world of educational opportunity for children. There are many options to over-crowded and noisy classrooms and parents forced to sign documents swearing their children have mastered weekly or monthly subject matter. Parents, however, must be responsible for the quality education.

Always remember that public schools are, first and foremost, government institutions. This means agenda, agenda, agenda. This year, two agenda items were clearly global warming and controlled burning of forests. These two topics were squeezed into every subject, including math, and in every grade level. Obviously, the concepts of global warming and controlled burning of forests are to be forced into the consciousness of the upcoming generation, and all but guaranteed we will see these topics over and over again in public school curriculum as sustainable development takes root in the United States.

If you want superior education for your children, and you want them to compete in tomorrow's universities, you are going to have to educate your children with efforts that far surpass the passing of proficiency tests alone. Proficiency tests will soon be used to label and certify your children in particular subject areas. These certifications will determine the higher education tracks, college loans and grants, and career potential for your kids.

Form information-spreading groups, and educate your children far beyond what government curriculum is offering to them. It is imperative that you do if you have hopes for their attendance in fine universities or for them earning masters and doctoral degrees. Most children who now attend public schools will never have these degrees because their proficiency ratings will disqualify them.

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, February 01, 2005

Liberate us from the Educators

The state’s monopoly on education is perhaps the worst thing that has ever happened to children in America. From the earliest days of the republic, education was provided by parents, churches, and local communities. The first proposals for state-supported schools were merely calls to address an absence of schools in isolated pockets of rural poverty. No one suggested that parents could not or would not be responsible for their own children’s learning — in fact, throughout the discussions of school funding it was always understood that the group targeted by such funds was only a minority of the poorest children.

Over time, the education bureaucracy — particularly teacher-training institutions — and affiliated interest groups began to lobby for a greater role for the state in education. Despite claims that public schools were established to serve the children of the poor and working class, it was not uncommon for people within those groups to resist such measures, for they feared the effects of allowing “elitist” interests to control their children’s learning. These elites were often very explicit about their desire to use the schooling establishment to mold children like “pieces of clay” to serve the interests of the state.

John Holt, a radical proponent of school reform and children’s rights, writes in his excellent book, Freedom and Beyond, that “universal compulsory schools are not and never were meant to be humane institutions, and most of their fundamental purposes, tasks, missions, are not humane.... There is one prime, legitimate, humane mission or function of the schools,” he continues, and that is “to promote the growth of the children in them.”

Holt spent years teaching in both public and private schools in Colorado, Massachusetts, and California, and found that most people’s definition of “education” is far from this ideal. Schools are seen essentially as giant cookie cutters — and children are the dough. We’ve locked our children in a giant bureaucracy where they and their parents have very little, sometimes absolutely no, say over their own development and learning....

Carlisle Moody, Ph.D., a professor of economics at William & Mary College, wrote in April 2003 that “in Virginia, the average per pupil expenditure in the public school system is approximately $7450, of which the taxpayers of the Commonwealth pay 86 percent. So, it costs Virginia taxpayers roughly $6400 (.86 x $7450) to educate one child for one year, not counting the capital costs of the buildings.” And that does not even include hidden costs. For example, if all of those who currently homeschool or privately educate their children were to instead send their children to a public school, and those who have no children were to have children and send them to public schools, the public school system would have to raise taxes radically to maintain this per-pupil expenditure. In short, education officials depend on taxes extracted from those who do not even use their system — and even with this windfall they cannot seem to make ends meet. They are hiding the true cost of their system from taxpayers.....

Most important, there’s the cost that cannot be measured in dollars. Students face a one-size-fits-all approach to learning that they must endure whether they like it or not, whether it is good for them or not. The grades he receives from this system will haunt the student throughout his academic life....

If many children have nothing better to look forward to in life, as Holt feared, than “pointless, stupid, stupefying work,” then the public schools are an excellent preparation for this eventuality. For 12 years, children are force-fed a diet of subjects they often neither understand nor care anything about, but must digest in order to avoid the wrath of their teachers. Schools are typically unresponsive to the most basic needs of students (except perhaps to label the child a problem and administer the appropriate behavior-modifying drugs), and, despite claims that they foster individuality, they instead demand rigid uniformity.

Holt describes “the business of the schools” as being “to make Robert MacNamaras at one end and Lt. William Calleys at the other. They are, each in his own way, perfect products of schooling: the one unshakably convinced that his cleverness and secret knowledge give him a right to exercise unlimited and godlike powers over other men; the other, ready at an instant to do without question or qualm everything, anything anyone in a position of authority tells him to do.” Doesn’t this sound a little bit like the typical teacher-student relationship? ....

It is time to liberate parents and children from this system. Government officials and large segments of the population are often quick to denounce so-called monopoly business practices, yet somehow tolerate a government that has monopolized the most precious of spheres — the growth and development of the individual child. Let’s get government out of the education business and let parents and children chart their own course in the learning process.

More here


Arizona state senator Thayer Verschoor emerged as an unlikely hero to many Arizona high schoolers this week, announcing his intention to dismantle the state’s AIMS test, an accountability measure that essentially acts as an exit exam for potential graduates. Verschoor, a Republican who favors school choice and private school vouchers, is being embraced by many parents and teachers’ union officials who have alleged that the test is unfair and even discriminatory. Standardized tests are anathema to school bureaucrats loath to be held to account for the quality of education they provide.

According to the Arizona Republic, Senator Verschoor believes that graduation requirements “should be a local control issue,” stating, “This should not be mandated by big government and a state school board. To me, we are saying that we don't trust our teachers." Senator Verschoor is correct, inasmuch as our responsibility for providing public education should not fall under the auspices of the federal government. Indeed, the best thing we could do with the U.S. Department of Education would be to turn it into a parking garage.

But the Senator’s claim that administering high school exit exams implies that we don’t trust our teachers misses the point. Tests such as the AIMS exam are implemented by many states precisely because we often cannot trust many of our public school teachers and administrators, who have methodically dumbed down academic standards over the past few decades through their condemnation of fact-based instructional methods and student discipline.

Similar outcry erupted in 2003 over Florida’s FCAT exam, when some 13,000 high school seniors failed to pass the test that year and were in danger of not graduating in the spring. Amazingly, students only needed the relative equivalent of a 40 percent to pass the FCAT -- a benchmark that was originally set higher, only to be lowered to save about a thousand more students from failing.

Overnight ideas like high school exit exams are nothing new. Education reformers have tried for years to convince taxpayers that standards in America's schools are not disastrously low. For instance, syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell has written that several years ago Virginia required its students to pass a state exam in order to retain its accreditation. When 93 percent of all students failed to pass, the requirement was waived.

It is counterproductive to lower standards to the point where our children fail to gain the knowledge that society demands. Only when we focus more on instilling academic values in students instead of worrying constantly about hurting their feelings or damaging their almighty self-esteem, will our schools finally begin to recover ground lost to the specter of low expectations. Doing so will do more to account for increased standards than any exit exam ever could.

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


Monday, January 31, 2005


Strict Leftist orthodoxy is enforced in academe

The question of whether Intelligent Design (ID) may be presented to public-school students alongside neo-Darwinian evolution has roiled parents and teachers in various communities lately. Whether ID may be presented to adult scientific professionals is another question altogether but also controversial. It is now roiling the government-supported Smithsonian Institution, where one scientist has had his career all but ruined over it.

The scientist is Richard Sternberg, a research associate at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The holder of two Ph.D.s in biology, Mr. Sternberg was until recently the managing editor of a nominally independent journal published at the museum, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, where he exercised final editorial authority. The August issue included typical articles on taxonomical topics--e.g., on a new species of hermit crab. It also included an atypical article, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories." Here was trouble.

The piece happened to be the first peer-reviewed article to appear in a technical biology journal laying out the evidential case for Intelligent Design. According to ID theory, certain features of living organisms--such as the miniature machines and complex circuits within cells--are better explained by an unspecified designing intelligence than by an undirected natural process like random mutation and natural selection.

Mr. Sternberg's editorship has since expired, as it was scheduled to anyway, but his future as a researcher is in jeopardy--and that he had not planned on at all. He has been penalized by the museum's Department of Zoology, his religious and political beliefs questioned. He now rests his hope for vindication on his complaint filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) that he was subjected to discrimination on the basis of perceived religious beliefs. A museum spokesman confirms that the OSC is investigating. Says Mr. Sternberg: "I'm spending my time trying to figure out how to salvage a scientific career."....

Worries about being perceived as "religious" spread at the museum. One curator, who generally confirmed the conversation when I spoke to him, told Mr. Sternberg about a gathering where he offered a Jewish prayer for a colleague about to retire. The curator fretted: "So now they're going to think that I'm a religious person, and that's not a good thing at the museum."...

In October, as the OSC complaint recounts, Mr. Coddington told Mr. Sternberg to give up his office and turn in his keys to the departmental floor, thus denying him access to the specimen collections he needs. Mr. Sternberg was also assigned to the close oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements unrelated to evolution. "I'm going to be straightforward with you," said Mr. Coddington, according to the complaint. "Yes, you are being singled out." Neither Mr. Coddington nor Mr. Sues returned repeated phone messages asking for their version of events.

Mr. Sternberg begged a friendly curator for alternative research space, and he still works at the museum. But many colleagues now ignore him when he greets them in the hall, and his office sits empty as "unclaimed space." Old colleagues at other institutions now refuse to work with him on publication projects, citing the Meyer episode....

Intelligent Design, in any event, is hardly a made-to-order prop for any particular religion. When the British atheist philosopher Antony Flew made news this winter by declaring that he had become a deist--a believer in an unbiblical "god of the philosophers" who takes no notice of our lives--he pointed to the plausibility of ID theory.

Darwinism, by contrast, is an essential ingredient in secularism, that aggressive, quasi-religious faith without a deity. The Sternberg case seems, in many ways, an instance of one religion persecuting a rival, demanding loyalty from anyone who enters one of its churches--like the National Museum of Natural History.

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"In the two weeks since Harvard University president Lawrence Summers suggested that innate differences between the sexes may partly account for male dominance in science and math, the ensuing frenzy of discussion has become a kind of national Rorschach test. Editorialists excoriate his sexism or applaud his candor. The National Organization for Women has called for his resignation. Academics are poring over studies that deal with nature, nurture, and gender differences. Dr. Summers's comments -- which he said were intended to provoke discussion about why women were underrepresented in top science posts -- have ended up raising an even larger question: Have universities become so steeped in sensitivities that certain topics can't be openly discussed?"

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American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.


Sunday, January 30, 2005


The reasoning given below for abandoning a spelling bee is totally specious of course. The real commandment being obeyed is the perennial Leftist one: "All men are equal"

Karen Adams always enjoyed receiving her invitation. The WPRI-TV news anchorwoman and Lincoln resident looked forward to penciling in the school district’s spelling bee in her appointment calendar. But there’s no note in her calendar this year. The Lincoln district has decided to eliminate this year’s spelling bee -- a competition involving pupils in grades 4 through 8, with each school district winner advancing to the state competition and a chance to proceed to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Linda Newman said the decision to scuttle the event was reached shortly after the January 2004 bee in a unanimous decision by herself and the district’s elementary school principals. The administrators decided to eliminate the spelling bee, because they feel it runs afoul of the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "No Child Left Behind says all kids must reach high standards," Newman said. "It’s our responsibility to find as many ways as possible to accomplish this."

The administrators agreed, Newman said, that a spelling bee doesn’t meet the criteria of all children reaching high standards -- because there can only be one winner, leaving all other students behind. "It’s about one kid winning, several making it to the top and leaving all others behind. That’s contrary to No Child Left Behind," Newman said. A spelling bee, she continued, is about "some kids being winners, some kids being losers." As a result, the spelling bee "sends a message that this isn’t an all-kids movement," Newman said.

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They would not know how

Less than two months after Hamilton College tried to hire a former Weather Underground activist who was indicted in the 1981 Brinks murders, the Clinton, N.Y., liberal-arts college plans to showcase a cheerleader for the 9/11 attacks. Just the sort of thing parents pay nearly $40,000 a year in tuition and board to have their children hear.

At issue now is a panel set for Feb. 3 on "Limits of Dissent?" to be hosted by the college's Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society and Culture. Among the invited panelists is Indian activist Ward Churchill, who teaches ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. While Mr. Churchill has caused controversy in the past--founders of the American Indian Movement denounced him as a "white" and a "fraud"--his screeds usually attract little notice outside obscure Marxist Web sites and the like.

On Sept. 12, 2001, however, Mr. Churchill performed an act of extraordinary crepitation, even for him. In "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," he saluted the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck the Pentagon and World Trade Center, asserting that the people who worked there ("braying . . . into their cell phones") and died that day deserved what they got.

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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.

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