Saturday, April 16, 2005

Forget preferences — educate

Latino and African American professionals can get pretty worked up defending affirmative action. I know this firsthand. Whenever I mention to a group of them that I oppose racial preferences in college and university admissions, I get a tongue-lashing.

Not that I buy the argument that giving minority students a boost in admissions amounts to reverse discrimination against whites, especially white males. I don't. But I am convinced that preferences hurt intended beneficiaries by lowering academic standards and masking deficiencies in the education given to Latinos and African-Americans at the K-12 level.

I usually have trouble selling that line of reasoning to well-educated and well-off affirmative action beneficiaries, many of whom are so loyal to the program and so grateful for all it has done for them personally that they defend it with everything they've got because they're convinced they wouldn't have gotten anywhere without it.

But defending affirmative action is the wrong fight. Latino and African Americans should worry less about the admissions policies of college X or university Y and more about the everyday practices at elementary and secondary schools in this country. What should concern them is that so many public schools fail so dismally at educating minority students that relatively few will ever be in a position to benefit from affirmative action in the first place.

Just look at the depressing situation in California where, a recent Harvard study concluded, many of the schools that service primarily black and Latino students have become little more than "dropout factories." Some of those schools are in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where just 39 percent of Latinos and 47 percent of African Americans graduated with their class in 2002. That is compared to 67 percent of whites and 77 percent of Asians. Statewide, according to the report, just 57 percent of African Americans and 60 percent of Latinos graduated on time, compared with 78 percent of whites and 84 percent of Asians......

We have this all backward. It is astounding and troubling that at the very moment when society demands more from those who come through our educational system, the trend among educators and public officials alike seems to be to demand less from students. And the way public education works, the less you ask for, the less you get. Now that's an argument that should resonate with Latinos and African Americans. Who knows? It might even convince them that the time has come to shift their concern away from defending affirmative action and toward fighting a battle that's really worth fighting — one to improve the entire educational system.

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The academic growth that students experience in a given school year has apparently slowed since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the education law that was intended to achieve just the opposite, a new study has found. In both reading and math, the study determined, test scores have gone up somewhat, as each class of students outdoes its predecessors. But within grades, students have made less academic progress during the school year than they did before No Child Left Behind went into effect in 2002, the researchers said.

That finding casts doubt on whether schools can meet the law's mandate that all students be academically proficient by 2014. In fact, to realize the goal of universal proficiency, the study said, students will have to make as much as three times the progress they are currently making.

The study was conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association, which develops tests for about 1,500 school districts in 43 states. To complete it, the group drew upon its test data for more than 320,000 students in 23 states, a sample that it calls "broad but not nationally representative," in part because the biggest cities, not being Northwest clients, were not included. One of the more ominous findings, the researchers said, is that the achievement gap between white and nonwhite students could soon widen. Closing the gap is one of the driving principles of the law, and so far states say they have made strides toward shrinking it. But minority students with the same test scores as their white counterparts at the beginning of the school year ended up falling behind by the end of it, the study found. Both groups made academic progress, but the minority students did not make as much, it concluded, an outcome suggesting that the gaps in achievement will worsen. "Right now it's kind of a hidden effect that we would expect to see expressed in the next couple of years," said Gage Kingsbury, Northwest's director of research. "At that point, I think people will be disappointed with what N.C.L.B. has done."

The findings diverge from those of other recent studies, including a survey last month by the Center on Education Policy, a research group. It found that a significant majority of state education officials reported widespread academic progress and a narrowing of the achievement gap. "This new study should give everybody pause before they run off and say, 'We're marching to victory,' " said Jack Jennings, the center's president. "Maybe we're not." ....

Still, the Northwest study tracked student performance at a level that others did not, a factor that may help explain why some of its findings appear unorthodox. Rather than relying on test scores at just one point in the year, the Northwest study looked at how students fared in the fall and then again in the spring, in an effort to see how much they had learned during the year. With this approach, Northwest found that test scores on its exams did, in fact, go up from one year to the next under No Child Left Behind, typically by less than a point. The reason successive classes appear to do a little better than those before them may stem from the fact that younger students have grown up during a time of more regular testing than their immediate predecessors, the researchers said, and are therefore higher achievers.

But rising test scores tend to mask how much progress individual students make as they travel through school, the researchers found. Since No Child Left Behind, that individual growth has slowed, possibly because teachers feel compelled to spend the bulk of their time making sure students who are near proficiency make it over the hurdle. The practice may leave teachers with less time to focus on students who are either far below or far above the proficiency mark, the researchers said, making it less likely for the whole class to move forward as rapidly as before No Child Left Behind set the agenda

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Friday, April 15, 2005


Dan Horwich's English class is a bastion of clean language, where students read the classics and have weighty discussions free of invective and profanity. But when the bell rings and they walk out his door, the hallway vibrates with talk of a different sort.

"The kids swear almost incessantly," said Horwich, who teaches at Guildford High School in Rockford, Ill. "They are so used to swearing and hearing it at home, and in the movies, and on TV, and in the music they listen to that they have become desensitized to it."

In classrooms and hallways and on the playground, young people are using inappropriate language more frequently than ever, teachers and principals say. Not only is it coarsening the school climate and social discourse, they say, it is evidence of a decline in language skills. Popular culture has made ugly language acceptable and hip, and many teachers say they only expect things to get uglier.

Horwich said he won't tolerate vulgarity in his classroom, and he tells students on the first day of school what he expects. But the 31-year-old teacher said he feels as though he is waging a losing battle -- and he isn't alone. Many teachers say that even if they can control their own rooms, only schoolwide efforts can make a real difference.

Teachers say their principals often don't give them support on the issue, and principals say they can't because administrators are worried about "bigger" problems. Many parents are no help, cursing themselves or excusing their children's outbursts, teachers say. And though many school systems ban profanity, not much happens to most offenders. Many teachers say they no longer bother reporting it.

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Here are a few snapshots of what's been happening on campuses in the last six months that has many parents I know up in arms: Duke University found itself in a crossfire after voluntarily hosting an anti-Israel group's annual national conference. The president of Columbia University had to appoint a commission to look into student charges that certain professors, with whose views on the Middle East conflict the students disagreed, were attempting to indoctrinate and intimidate them. Hamilton College issued a speaking invitation to a University of Colorado professor who had written an essay arguing that the 9/11 attacks were a justified reaction to U.S. policies abroad. And locally, a ruckus broke out at George Mason University after it invited filmmaker Michael Moore to campus -- and then disinvited him after receiving political pressure from Virginia lawmakers to cancel the speech.

Colleges have long been hotbeds of political agitation, of course. But where it was once students who did the acting out, as they spread their intellectual and philosophical wings, now the professors and administrators are more likely to be playing politics -- and more and more Americans with college-age kids are getting fed up with it. In 18 years of in-the-trenches experience counseling kids on their college choices, I've never seen the unhappiness as widespread as it is today. If colleges don't tone down the politics, and figure out how to control ballooning costs, they run the risk of turning off enough American consumers that many campuses could marginalize themselves right out of existence.....

As a consultant, I feel the need to advise my clients to cover all their political bases. Recently, I was advising an Eagle Scout who was justifiably proud of his accomplishment and wanted to highlight it on his college applications. But I worried that the national Boy Scouts' stand against homosexuals as scout leaders might somehow count against him in the admissions process at some schools. So I suggested that he get involved in an AIDS hotline to show his sensitivity to an issue often linked to the gay community. The need for this kind of double-thinking is good for my consulting practice, but I find it troubling. Yet trying to anticipate potential concerns about my students' backgrounds or qualifications is something I increasingly feel I have to do.

When I started counseling in the 1980s, many of my students told me that nothing but an Ivy League school would do for them. Now, many aren't sure that the Ivies -- where the political battles on campus are fiercest -- are worth the money. Last year, one of my students chose Lehigh over Columbia. It wasn't just that Lehigh offered him a full scholarship; he also thought the craziness of campus politics and the divisiveness at Columbia would distract the faculty and administration and hinder him in his goal of getting a solid education.

This year, the mother of one of my students reacted so negatively to the controversy at Columbia that she encouraged her daughter to apply early decision to the University of Virginia. She told me she felt that if the university was brushing intimidation by professors under the rug, then they must also lie about the crime rate on campus. A couple of weeks ago, a father called reacting to the fallout from the anti-Israel conference at Duke. He asked me outright whether Duke was anti-Semitic. I jokingly assured him that the school wasn't being run by the Ku Klux Klan. Nevertheless, he decided that if his son really wanted to go there, the boy could find a way to pay the $30,720-a-year tuition himself.

A large part of the alienation I'm seeing stems from the widening economic disparity between the middle class and the universities. While the median income for a family of four is just a little over $62,000, middle-class families are regularly expected to come up with nearly $200,000 per child for four years of college. And tuition rates keep soaring. Brown University's yearly tuition, which was an already-hefty $14,375 in 1989, reached $30,672 last year. Loans are now 70 percent of financial aid packages, making college an increasingly sour deal for students, who are saddled with debt once they graduate. Meanwhile, 321 colleges and universities are sitting on endowments of $100 million or more, and scores of university presidents earn in excess of $400,000 a year.

But the sheer number of outlandish political controversies at universities across the country, coupled with escalating fees, is alienating parents from the very institutions they have been supporting through tax and tuition dollars. I'm not arguing that universities should teach only engineering, business and computer science. Liberal arts courses, taught in the context of free speech, have always helped open young minds to the excitement of the marketplace of ideas and to the value of even unpopular opinions. But that tradition seems to have been stood on its head. There is a world of difference between challenging students to think more broadly and trying to shoehorn them into a more narrow spectrum of thought, which many parents feel is happening.

To many consumers of higher education, colleges have lost their way and have strayed outside the mainstream. And the backlash is upon us. State governments, strapped for cash, see higher education as one place to cut costs; the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation to rein in tuition in 2003; and there is now an advocacy group in Washington, College Parents of America, that lobbies for the increased involvement of parents in university communities. Even loyal alumni are pushing back -- in part, I believe, because of recent professor-led campus political battles. The national percentage of alumni donating to their alma maters has declined for three years in a row and is now below 13 percent....

Maybe we can learn from recent campus incidents. Maybe we can ask ourselves what we would like our universities to actually do. Maybe university communities can engage in real soul-searching to figure out how they can benefit both their students and the country in ways that the broader public can support. If they don't at least try, the university as an institution may have seen the heyday of its influence.

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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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Thursday, April 14, 2005


"Parents must not abdicate their parental responsibilities to their child's public school," says Finn Laursen. Laursen is executive director of Christian Educators Association International (CEAI). He is himself a product of public schools and worked 32 years in public schools.

Founded in 1953, CEAI became the first national organization of professional Christian educators working in public, private and charter schools. From the beginning, the group has served the education community by encouraging, equipping and empowering Christian educators in public and private education.

For many, CEAI is the perfect alternative to the National Education Association, a teachers union that has been leaning hard to the political left for decades. Like NEA, CEAI provides many benefits for its members, such as professional liability insurance. It also views teaching as a God-given calling and ministry and promotes the Judeo-Christian ethic in public schools.

CEAI does not become involved in local school debates. However, when moral concerns or parental rights are at stake, CEAI is eager to see parent-friendly results. For example, in Lawton, Oklahoma, CEAI regional director David Williams learned in January that the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was attempting to form an affiliate at his son's high school. Lawton is a city of 81,000 in southwest Oklahoma.

Williams, who teaches in another school district, went into action. First he sought prayer from believers in the area. The local paper published his letter to the editor, and he enlisted the help of KVRS radio station manager Dan Allen. KVRS is the local American Family Radio station. Next came a local TV story addressing equal access and parental involvement. Local church members distributed materials by former homosexuals to students at the high school. Hundreds of e-mails went to local politicians, school board members, teachers and parents.

"To make a long story short," says Williams, "the club was voted down by the student government. What was intended to quietly appear without parent notification was thwarted." One result of the project was a practical 10-step plan of action that Williams will furnish to others who face the homosexual agenda in local public schools. (Williams can be contacted at

As a former public school counselor and administrator, Laursen agrees that teachers legally function in the role of parents when they supervise and teach children during the school day. However, he says schools should always respect the parent-child relationship.

As an example Laursen recently commended the school board in Roseville, California, for its decision regarding students leaving campus for medical procedures, including abortion. The school board was expected to amend district policy to allow students to secure such procedures without parental knowledge. However, when parents learned of the proposed change, they packed the January 4 board meeting and found the board responsive to their concerns and rights.

School spokesman Larry Brubaker told AFA Journal that, while this issue is certainly divisive in many school systems, the Roseville board stood with their parents. "The school will not release students for medical reasons without parental permission," he said. The city of 45,000 is near Sacramento and has 8,000 students in its school district.

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A great stimulus for Leftist bigotry

"So what's it like to teach in a uniform?" asked the Post-Colonialist as he turned ever so slightly, revealing UC-Whatever on his nametag.

"Gee, I guess I've never thought about it. You first; what's it like to teach in jeans and Birkenstocks?"

Silence (and no more Camembert on the plate); he has no answer simply because there could be no answer to such an inane question. Obviously the Post-Colonialist links his professional persona to his teaching and his research, not to his wardrobe. Who among us does not?

But the professional activity of academics that teach at a military school always comes second - if at all - to curiosity about the institutional aspects of our positions, especially in juxtaposition with the accepted archetype of the American professor, molded by the political activity of the sixties and cultivated by the visibility of the left-wing power structure within higher education.

"I think it would be far too stressful for me to teach children of Republicans," the Multiculturalist commented over cappuccino in Padua, after expounding on profiling as a bigoted, narrow-minded policy of Eurocentrists.

I was tempted to ask if children of Republicans, indeed, young Republicans themselves or - God forbid - conservative professors were forced to stay in a closet of their own at her college, whose mission statement, after all, stipulates diversity in regards to race, gender and religion, but makes no mention of political affiliation. Would she have them wear a bright red R lest they enroll in her classes or sit next to her in the faculty lounge?

I shuddered to think how any of us would react to a colleague making the same statement, substituting party preference with an ethnic, gender or religious denomination: "It would be far to stressful for me to teach children of a gay couple . to teach children of Arab immigrants . to teach children of "fill-in-the- blank" (then run for cover). Yet no one else at our table seemed to view her statement as bigoted or even the slightest bit outrageous, as the comment encompassed a group considered marginal but not conceded full minority privileges; no hyphen, no prefix, no slashes or parentheses.

"So," remarked the Feminist, cutting her breakfast sausage into tiny little morsels with both purpose and vengeance, "you lived in Spain during the Franco years and now you're back to fascism." The effortlessness with which she had established her analogy between a totalitarian regime imposed through a military coup and the academic environment in which some of her colleagues and their students have freely chosen, far surpassed arrogance to border frighteningly on ignorance. I imagined her at countless rallies, proudly marching behind her sign "Keep Your Laws Off My Body," and wondered how many times she had become infuriated with the small-mindedness of those who do not respect the right of each individual to do with her life as she chooses.....

Ours is the honor of teaching young men and women who have vowed, like generations before them, to uphold and defend those liberties all Americans hold so dear but too often take for granted. Many of them may be asked to pay the ultimate sacrifice so that the Queer Theorist can continue to speculate over wine and cheese; so that the Post-Colonialist may never have to wear a uniform, unless it be of his own choosing; so that the Multiculturalist may continue to enjoy a cappuccino in Padua, some Bordeaux in Paris, or a mate in Patagonia; and to ensure that no one ever deny the Feminist her First Amendment right to label them "fascists".

But the differences between college students and cadets, mainstream teaching assignments and ours, extend beyond the temporal and spatial characteristics of our respective professional environments and are best represented by the ethical code and personal sacrifices that intrinsically define the four-year cadetship. Cadets live by an Honor Code, which they themselves enforce. They answer questions truthfully, even if it means personal embarrassment or disciplinary consequences, because they have vowed not to lie as part of their Honor Code, and they leave a twenty-dollar bill laying on the street if it is has not fallen from their pockets, lest they violate their pledge not to steal. Having sworn to choose "integrity over personal gain," cadets do not copy, plagiarize, or cheat in any other way, and the few that do face the shame of dismissal. Professors at VMI do not take attendance, inflate grades or even proctor exams.

The cadets' rigid schedule requires a strong mind, body, and spirit, and the discipline needed to meet expectations permeates the classroom atmosphere as much as the parade ground or the obstacle course. Cadets thrive on inquiry and debate, exuberantly entering the open forum of intellectual exchange where their opinions, contributions, and inquest are not only accepted, but welcomed. They realize that understanding another language, other cultures, and respect for different value systems and ideologies will be as vital to their success, maybe even survival, as the firing of a weapon or the flying of a plane....

It is not the uniformity of the ranks, but the individual commitment and selflessness of each cadet there that inspires the profound respect and admiration I hold for them. This nation owes so much of its greatness to a series of Others - there have been many. Our cadets are this century's campus Radicals; I revel in their Otherness and they teach me to cherish my own.

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Direct loan taxpayer ripoff: "This year marks the 40th anniversary of the guaranteed student loan program for college students. The program, created by Lyndon Johnson as part of the Great Society, has made college affordable for thousands of students. But it also has had a scandal-plagued past, with billions of dollars of unpaid loans and massive taxpayer losses and has contributed to the runaway inflation in college tuitions. In theory at least, student loans are supposed to be paid over time once the students graduate and start working. Through the 1970s and '80s, the student loan default and delinquency rates were scandalously high. Tens of thousands of financially successful professionals walked away from their loans with relative impunity. Stories of highly paid doctors, engineers and lawyers defaulting on loans were commonplace. ... Taxpayers got socked with a multibillion-dollar tab."


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, April 13, 2005


During his 14 years at DePaul University, Thomas Klocek dwelled in adjunct-professor purgatory, quietly coming and going times a week from his Loop classroom and his home on the city's Southwest Side. His evalutions from students in the university's School of New Learning were consistently positive-and that, apparently, was enough for his bosses because nary a supervisor visited his classroom. Klocek's invisibility ran out, however, one day in September when he got caught up in a heated debate at a student activities fair on the school's downtown campus. He stopped at a table where two student groups-Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead-were distributing literature likening the Israelis' current treatment of Palestinians to Hitler's treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.

Klocek recalls telling the eight students present that "technically speaking, there is no such country as Palestine." An impassioned exchanged followed, culminating in Klocek scoffing at the students' literature and thumbing his chin in a way they interpreted as an offensive hand gesture. "I said that the term `Palestinian' was a fairly newer phrase that came into vogue in the 1970s, with Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization," whereas people from that part of the Middle East previously identified themselves as Arabs, he says.

The students complained to the university, and within 24 hours Kloceck was called into the office of his dean, Susanne Dumbleton, and asked to withdraw from his fall class with pay. Kloceck, who has been working on his PhD at the University of Chicago while teaching, felt his free speech had been violated and sought out a lawyer, John Mauck, who specializes in First Amendment and free-speech issues. Since then, the matter has received attention nationally on conservative talk radio and the New York Post, but not much in the local news.

Mauck said he decided to take the case after reading an October 8 letter from Dumbleton printed in the school's newspaper, The DePaulia, after Dumbleton advised Klocek not to speak to the press. Mauck took particular umbrage at a passage that focused on the content of Klocek's speech rather than his conduct toward the students: "No students anywhere should ever have to be concerned they will be verbally attacked for their religious belief or their ethnicity," Dumbleton wrote. "No one should ever use the role of teacher to demean the ideas of others or insist on the absoluteness of an opinion, much less press erroneous assertions."

Says Mauck, "That's what got me going," he said. "This was about content, not conduct."

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It's getting hot in here - on the planet, that is. And anyone who doesn't believe global warming is a serious problem might just as well argue that Earth ends at the horizon line. That's the message from a group of students at Vermont's Middlebury College, who set up the first annual Flat Earth Award during their recent winter-term class on climate change and activism. Visitors to the website ( can vote to give the mock award to one of three nominees targeted as global-warming naysayers: radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, scientist Fred Singer, and novelist Michael Crichton. The "winner" will be announced April 18 by the Green House Network in Oregon, the nonprofit group that oversaw the student project.

In this month leading up to Earth Day on April 22, students on campuses across the country are getting in touch with their inner activist - whether it's by "ticketing" SUVs or starting a dialogue with local auto dealers about the need for fuel efficiency.

Middlebury's class tapped into students' intensifying concerns about the environment and was one response to a paper presented last year by two environmentalists - one a pollster and the other the head of a progressive organization - raising the provocative idea that environmentalism is dead. Through hands-on projects, students were challenged to help broaden the movement by reaching out to people who might not consider themselves activists or environmentalists.....

Setting up the award was a refreshing counterpoint to her typical academic work in sociology, Ms. Brown says. "You always talk about Marx's ideas of social movements or kind of abstract ideas ... [but in this class] you actually see people getting involved and getting really excited about changing things."

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UC Berkeley's new chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, sounded the opening priority for his administration Thursday by issuing a call to action on a student diversity crisis at the highly ranked university. Citing the drop in under-represented minorities on campus, especially African Americans, Birgeneau called for research into refining admissions standards and finding the best ways to create a more multicultural campus. "Part of what I'm trying to accomplish as a new chancellor here is to say this really is a crisis," Birgeneau said in outlining his agenda to reporters at a campus faculty club. Birgeneau's diversity campaign -- including an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times on March 27 -- represents his first major public initiative since becoming chancellor in September. The former University of Toronto president will have his formal inauguration ceremony on April 15. "We're not meeting our obligation as a public institution because we're underserving in an extreme way a significant and increasingly important part of the population, which actually is going to be the majority population," he said.

Birgeneau blamed the drop in numbers on Proposition 209, the 1996 voter- approved initiative that banned affirmative action based on race and gender for state and local agencies, including the university. The number of African Americans in Cal's 1996-97 freshman class, before Prop. 209 took effect, was 260, while the 2004-05 class has only 108, with fewer than 40 males, he said. "Out of 3,600 freshman students, that's just a shocking number," he said. Even more striking, he said, is that there is not even one African American among the approximately 800 entering students in engineering, whose faculty was ranked best in the world [coincidence, of course] in a recent survey by The Times of London newspaper. He said enrollment numbers for Latino and Native American students were similarly deplorable.

Former UC regent Ward Connerly, who headed the Prop. 209 campaign, sharply criticized Birgeneau in a recent newspaper column. Noting that the initiative won 55 percent to 45 percent, Connerly wrote, "In the private world, Birgeneau would either be fired or taken behind the woodshed for revealing such disregard for the people who pay the bills."

He said he had no intention of flaunting [flouting?] the law but said he wanted to explore whether more could be done under the current "comprehensive review" admissions process, which considers a variety of factors besides test scores.

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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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Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Reality has got too much to ignore in England

A secondary school in Hampshire is to become the first state school in England to allocate all children to lessons by ability rather than age. From September, pupils at Bridgemary School, in Gosport, will be taught in mixed-age classes in a radical initiative aimed at stretching the most able and helping pupils who have fallen behind. The experiment abandons the decades-old convention of teaching in age groups and is being closely watched by the local authority, the Office for Standards in Education and other schools.

Under the plan, which signals that streaming by ability is back in favour with head teachers, bright 12-year-olds will be encouraged to begin GCSE or even A-level courses with older pupils. Conversely, 14- or 15-year-olds with literacy or numeracy problems will share classes with pupils who have just transferred from primary school.

Cheryl Heron, the head teacher, said the radical departure was necessary to raise standards because most pupils at the school fail to gain five good GCSEs. "This is a challenging school in a deprived area," she said. "We need to do something about raising standards and to do that, we need to try something different. About a quarter of children are getting five A* to C GCSEs but that is not good enough. We need to offer these children individual curriculums in smaller groups. We have children here who are capable of doing A-level work but we also have pupils who still struggle with the basics. Their ability is not necessarily age-related. Some are bored because they are not being challenged in classes with their own age group, while others are turning off school because their lessons are too difficult for them. The normal way of doing things is not getting the most out of children."

Pupils who are currently in year groups will be allocated to one of five levels, depending on their ability in each subject. All pupils will take accredited academic or vocational qualifications, whatever their level. Ability is assessed by results in national tests taken at age 11, teacher judgments and children's performance in tests which the school carries out when they join. Termly assessments of the classes, which will have 20 pupils each rather than the current average of 28, will be carried out to gauge whether children should be moved up or down in various subjects.

Mrs Heron said the school, which has 1,100 pupils, had tested the plan when it transformed traditional tutor groups into mixed age "learning groups". "We found there were no problems with having older and younger children together. In fact, we were surprised about how well they bonded and learnt together," said the head, who was described by Ofsted as an "excellent leader who was driving the school forward".

The school's plan takes streaming to a new level and is part of the resurgence in support for differentiating by ability, once condemned as anti-comprehensive. Many schools had moved to mixed-ability classes because it was claimed they would help less able pupils by removing the stigma of being in the lowest set and encourage them to aim for the standards achieved by more able classmates. As schools at the bottom of the league tables have struggled to raise standards, however, a number have returned to streaming in some or all classes. It is estimated that 60 per cent of secondaries now employ some form of streaming.

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The Leftist government of the Australian State of New South Wales certainly doesn't care at all. No wonder 40% of Australian teenaged students go to private schools

Almost 16 months after their school was ravaged by fire, students from a Sydney primary school are still having lessons in makeshift classrooms while they wait for repair work to start. Parents are outraged at what they say is an unacceptable delay in rebuilding Carlingford Public School, gutted after an arson attack in December 2003. The fire was one of 77 blazes in NSW schools in 2003-04, causing more than $26 million in damage. The cost of repairing Carlingford Public has been estimated at $2.5 million, a small fraction of the capital works backlog in NSW schools.

While the NSW auditor-general revealed in November a maintenance backlog of more than $115 million in the state's public schools, the Department of Education does not keep figures for capital works projects that have not been approved or submitted.

Opposition education spokesman Jillian Skinner said anecdotal evidence suggested the backlog of capital works projects was "hideously severe", adding that buildings were "falling down and need to be replaced".

The 310 students at Carlingford are housed in demountable classrooms, and temporary rooms have been set up for the library, hall, canteen, staff room and administration. Adding insult to injury, 17 of the school's new computers, bought to replace those damaged in the fire, were stolen two weeks ago from one of the demountable classrooms which was inadequately secured.

Carlingford Public's Parents and Citizens Association president James Vianellos said the temporary classrooms had created a security issue at the school, and the appearance of the blackened building had damaged enrolment numbers. "The building is quite an eyesore," he said. "We had people last year who pulled their kids out of the school because they believed it couldn't function and wasn't going to be an adequate educational institution for their children."

A spokesman for Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said tenders for the rebuilding of Carlingford Public would be put out next month, and he expected work to begin in early July.



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, April 11, 2005


By a student

"On its official Web site, Northwestern offers an impressive biography of Law Prof. Bernardine Dohrn, detailing her work in children's law, her educational background, her academic appointments and other notable accomplishments. The university's profile curiously omits one of her most significant leadership positions: She was a principal organizer of the Weathermen, a radical cabal, during the late 60s and early 70s.

Among its many criminal exploits, the group claimed responsibility for no fewer than 12 bombings between 1970 and 1974, and Dohrn spent a decade hiding from federal authorities to avoid prosecution for assaulting a police officer.

A basic Internet search turns up additional details regarding Dohrn's checkered past, including a New York Times article which, ironically, hit newsstands on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The story featured Dohrn and her husband, Bill Ayers, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, about their days as domestic terrorists. In one of several outrageous statements, Ayers said he "did not regret setting bombs," concluding the Weathermen "did not do enough" in the way of violence. A search also turns up Dohrn's mug shot from when she was on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives in 1970.

Offended by Dohrn's statements and actions, and concerned that my tuition may help to pay the salary of an unrepentant former terrorist, I tried to contact her to set up an interview. I hoped Dohrn would be willing to condemn some of her crimes and strike a note of reconciliation. Dohrn would not even speak to me, however, and her assistant informed me that she only discusses her radical days with "certain magazines." ......

Dohrn's presence at NU can hardly be classified as breaking news. However, the fact that NU employs someone with Dohrn's past is astounding, and her stonewalling has not assuaged my concerns."

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Our educational institutions at all levels are under the wing of the National Education Association, which controls teacher certification, resists higher standards and has great influence on curriculum at all levels Our Boards of Education, across the country, are as putty when acting as balance wheels to the onslaught of the teachers union. As Mark Twain Wrote, " In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards." They have become as irrelevant to being productive administrative forces in school systems as a Volkswagon is to moving forward while an 18 wheeler sits on top of it.

Boards are comprised of nice people in a community who want to do good, are generous with their time, are civic minded and love children but are usually untrained for the task assigned. They generally are no match for the hard core union pros and the end result has been over 50 years of allowing outsiders with secular and socialist intentions to develop the minds and the thinking of the nation's children. In terms of meeting the needs of students for having the tools to compete in the outside world we have as impotent a force in trying to educate as we have in a United Nations pretending to meet human needs around the globe.

There was a time when the schools were considered standard bearing agencies of American culture, ethics, mores and values along with such institutions as churches and charities but not anymore. When parents allowed political correctness, multiculturism, secularism and collectivism to permeate the hallowed halls of learning it thus allowed education to become a godless pop culture with a faddish regimen rather than a viable and intellectual spiritual force to aid in productive learning.

The whole object of education allegedly is to develop the mind but in too many schools across the country they are leaving the buildings which we call schools quite unprepared for the variances of life.

We cannot escape the past nor can we foresee the future. In molding the minds of children you determine the fate of a nation. Political correctness is and has been a disease with both stultifying and repressive pressures. The proof is in the present results of an educative discipline which is organized chaos but has definitive political goals.

We have found that teachers, whether they be hard core socialists, groupies who are robotic followers, the meek who can't be bothered or the solid ones who only wish to teach and be left alone are and have been supporting a Union which has spent millions upon millions of dollars to support and abet a Bill Clinton in the nineties and a John Kerry in the recent past. Now these are not just run of the mill aspirants in politics. These are people who openly and effectively worked solidly against their country in whatever way they could in order to gain personal and political power.

At a time when his country was at war Clinton fled to England and then to Russia where he groveled at the feet of the communists. He was said to be in England as a Rhodes Scholar but he didn't stay long enough for his second cup of tea. It is not known whether he ever attended a class since the posse was on its way. During the Iraq war he actually toured Europe and spoke against his own country. Kerry is of the same breed. He encouraged the Vietnamese during that war and helped to subvert the military while joining hands with Jane Fonda against his own country. After losing the presidential election in November of 2003 and while we are still at war in Iraq this man has had the gall to visit and speak to our troops against our country. Both of these men emboldened the enemy in time of war thus causing overtly and surreptitiously more deaths of our own soldiers.

Both of these men have been energetically supported by the teachers Union. What does that tell you? What kind of faith can you possibly keep relative to those who are teaching your children. Where is the focus on the learning process. . Is it no wonder that students today are graduating with deficiencies in reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and all the basics for which they are being sent to school?

You might find, especially in the blue states, pockets of schools where they have fine management, dedicated teachers and competent Boards of Education but their location, at times, are like seeking the page numbers in the Reader's Digest. As William Lowe Bryan once reported, "Education is one of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get." The whole object of education allegedly is to develop the mind but in too many schools across the country youth is fleeing the buildings, which we call schools, quite unprepared for the variances of life.

Across the country there has been no set pattern but there has been an underlying ideology aimed at creating values foreign to our culture and to our way of life. The examples are too numerous for these pages but there may be room for a few. There are schools which have eliminated the Valedictorians and the Salutatorians at graduation since their ability to excel would most assuredly destroy the self-esteem of their peers. Classrooms have indicated that a child has given the correct answer if responding that 2 + 2 equals 5. Thus self- esteem is protected. Prayer in school had to be abolished whether in a group or individually since others should not be subjected to such a mundane act. A number of schools across the country quit using red ink on papers because red is too shocking and traumatic for children. The school district in Fairfax, Virginia (of all places) strictly prohibits reciting the Lord's Prayer but during the Islamic holy month the students were exposed and indoctrinated in that religion's customs, practices and prayers. In other schools students could be sent home for wearing a necklace with a cross. There are schools which no longer display the American flag nor pledge allegiance. There are schools which have taken down the picture of George Washington. There are schools which teach a secular and socialist revision of American History and where the space for Marilyn Monroe is in excess of the limited pages for Washington or Lincoln. In Ypsilanti, Michigan a wrestling coach had to stop leading his team in prayers or the ACLU would sue. In other schools the Declaration of Independence cannot be exposed since the word God is in it. It has been an ongoing credo in a huge number of public schools that students be promoted whether they passed the grade or not. A high school graduate with a second grade education thus is sent out to fight the battle for his livelihood quite unprepared.

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What's wrong with politics in the United States? "It is commonly argued that education is too important to leave to market forces. However, I take the position that education is so important that it must be left to market forces. Education cannot markedly improve without diversity. Without consumer demand to set the price structure it cannot be known which teaching methodologies are the most effective. Without diversity and consumer choice in education any reform is a shot in the dark. Throw in teacher union lobbying and other politicizing that we see today and the result can only be increasing costs for decreasing quality. The children lose most of all."


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, April 10, 2005


Parents would be given more control over their children's education, with the "ultimate sanction" of ousting the management of failing state schools, under plans being unveiled next week in Labour's election manifesto. The proposal is designed to correspond with similar measures for expanding the private and voluntary sector's role in the NHS, as well as giving people more say in the operation of police and local authority services. Tony Blair believes the radical nature of such third-term reforms will show that the scale of new Labour's ambition remains undimmed after eight years in government.

The manifesto is understood to have been agreed with Gordon Brown in unexpectedly trouble-free negotiations over recent days. This reflects an apparent rapprochement between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. Friends deny there is any formal succession deal, but Mr Blair is privately acknowledging Mr Brown as his heir apparent.

Although most of the policy platform has been announced previously, the "parent power" plan goes further than last summer's five-year education plan. This had proposed allowing the private or voluntary sector to take over management of failing schools put into "special measures" by Ofsted inspectors. In February David Bell, the Chief Inspector of England's schools, said that 332 - 1.5 per cent of the total - were in "special measures". This figure is almost double that for last year. Labour's manifesto will now promise that "parental satisfaction surveys" should also be one of the key determinants of judging whether a school is failing.

Groups of parents will be given the chance to apply to run the school and appoint a new head teacher. Teaching unions and local council leaders have expressed reservations about these "independent specialist schools". The policy is based on a similar system in Sweden where parents have set up schools and taken over responsibility for running others. Ministers say that closure of a school or the replacement of its management should be only the last resort. Instead, they want parents to be more closely involved in their children's education by giving them e-mail addresses for teachers and more places on school governing bodies.

Labour will guarantee that there will be no extension of academic selection in state schools and that equal access to NHS care will remain free at the point of delivery. John Reid, the Health Secretary, has already assured unions that he does not foresee the proportion of NHS operations being performed by the private sector rising above 15 per cent.



The wife of an influential Muslim cleric was sentenced to house arrest and probation Monday in a corruption investigation that became public when an FBI bug was discovered in the mayor's office. Faridah Ali was convicted in October on charges she conspired to defraud a city community college of about $224,000 by setting up an adult-education program involving ghost students and nonexistent classes. She was sentenced to five years' probation, one year of which she must serve under house arrest. She also must pay $30,000 in restitution and a $2,300 fine. [Why only $30,000?]

The case was based partly on financial records, and partly on FBI wiretaps that recorded Ali discussing the scheme on the telephone. It was related to a broader federal corruption probe that became public when a listening device was found in the office of Mayor John F. Street. Street has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but the city's former treasurer and several others are now on trial over how they negotiated government contracts.

Ali is married to Shamsud-din Ali, a Muslim leader known for his close ties to city Democrats. Both Alis are awaiting trial on racketeering charges more closely related to the corruption probe.


Why equal education funding isn't as easy as apple pie: "When a judge in February ordered New York State to spend an extra $5.6 billion to bring New York City school funding up to the level of surrounding counties, he left a question unanswered: How much difference will all those billions make for children in failing schools? Unfortunately, based on studies of spending patterns in New York and other big-city school systems, the answer is 'not much.' That's because of the dark secret that our research has uncovered: Some big-city schools get plenty of money. We have studied actual spending on every school in six big urban districts. Knowing that districts' official budgets ignore many factors that drive spending -- for example, differences in the salaries paid teachers in one school versus another, or differences in the services particular schools get from the central office -- we followed every dollar."


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